photo of a road in between trees

Session 6: Divide and Conquer

Chapter III: Unexpected Meeting

Selene waited a moment after the voices stopped, unsure what to think. Eventually, she decided it best to accept there was some kind of game at play and the voices hoped she would help them win. 

Of course, Selene wasn’t certain she wanted either side to win in this game, but at least the voices made her realize the wound in her arm was fake. Even if it still hurt, it was no longer affected by moving her arm.  She could use it again.

At least that means I can fight now.  Should double the likelihood of not dying.

She approached the end of the chamber, listening intently for any sounds outside. After a few minutes of ambient cave sounds, she decided it was safe to leave. Slowly, she made her way out from the now darkened chamber, and returned to her travel through the leftmost corridors.

For a time, she travelled unhindered, but every now and then she would stumble across another group of those humanoid creatures running through the halls in small groups. They were not stealthy, so Selene found she always had time to evade them or hide in between crossroads. She was tempted to use Shadowstep against them again, but she was worried if her body could handle it. 

Instead, the old tactics of a thief would have to do.

Eventually the corridor gave way to a more ornate hallway with a high arched ceiling and countless holes along the walls, similar to the one she used to get here.

Huh, this place looks a lot like that temple we stumbled across. Well, before it collapsed. 

Cautious, she looked around and peered into some of the other tunnels nearby. She did not see or hear anything, but she did notice that the hallway itself appeared open and unguarded.

Now, I could keep skulking around in the dark tunnels with no way to hide from the monsters, or I could see if there’s anything fancy around I could swipe before making my way back to everyone. 

It’s not stealing if the place is crawling with monsters, right?

A grin, the first since she was separated from the party, tickled her lips. She knew she had to give it a go. Outside her greed, she also considered it may lead to another way above ground, which could be crucial information once she found the rest of the party.

The hall was larger than the area she could see in the dark, so she assumed it might stretch on forever. In reality, it only stretched a couple hundred feet from the hole she left.  Past the hallway, she found herself in a large room.  She glanced around and saw this room seemed only to lead to a dead end. The only other exit within was a stairway blocked by fallen debris.

Even in the dark, the room reminded Selene of the first floor of Jezran’s tower, in no small part due to the contents. Within the room, a wall of decaying tables and desks were strewn about with rotted manuscripts, creating a pungent aroma. Selene paid it no mind, it honestly reminded her of home.

Finally, all those years of living surrounded by filth and decay has paid off. Selene thought dryly as she searched this new room for anything worth taking.

Glancing through everything, there was very little salvageable. Most of the wood and manuscripts were falling apart, which was only exacerbated when Selene grabbed or moved anything in the room.

As she inspected a particularly interesting growth of mould near the back of the room, footsteps came from outside. Quickly and without thinking, she leapt behind one of the dilapidated desks she had been inspecting.  Biting back a gasp, she drew both her knives, and waited.

As the sound approached, she could tell it was only one set of footsteps.

With both my hands, I can take just one of these guys..right? Especially if it’s a smaller one. 

About time I got some payback.

Her grip tightened, and she prepared to pounce.

The footsteps ceased as the thing entered the room. Whatever it was began looking around.

Now’s my chance.

With practiced speed and alacrity, Selene leapt over the furniture and rushed toward the thing with knives drawn. The creature quickly prepared a spell, but missed as Selene ducked behind another piece of broken desk. Before another spell could be shot, Selene rushed the little creature and tackled him to the ground. As they landed she raised her daggers above her head, poised to strike.

The thing squeaked as it hit the ground, covering its face as it cried, “Selene? Selene! Stop!”

Selene lowered her daggers and rose to stand over the cowering figure. As she rose, it pushed away from her, covering its face with one hand and holding the other out in surrender.

The voice sounded familiar…like a certain wizard she knew, “Jezran?”

Relief washed over the wizard, he rose up to his feet and turned to face her, “Thank heavens, I thought you were going to-”

He stopped mid-sentence as he saw her grip tighten on daggers as they were brought up into a defensive stance. 

The voice coming from this person sounded right, but the face was all wrong. It was all soft and squishy, like a baby’s face. This figure looked almost younger than Selene.

“W-what’s going on, Selene?” the figure asked nervously.

 “You’re not Jezran,” Selene growled, trying to sound intimidating.

The figure’s jaw dropped, gobsmacked, “Wha-? Yes I am!”

“You don’t look like him,” Selene muttered, suspiciously.

“What do you mean I do-” the figure stopped mid-sentence, touching his face and feeling the smooth baby skin, “Oh.”

“Ah-ha! You admit you’re a fake,” Selene declared, crossing her arms as she smirked. She imperceptibly winced at the phantom pain in her shoulder flared.

Really hope that goes away soon.

“No! It is me just…with my…real face.” Jezran touched his face sadly. He sighed, and looked to Selene as if he was about to reveal a tragic story about his past, “The truth is…I can’t grow a beard. That was a fake.”

Selene was silent for a moment, her hands dropping to her sides as the smirk dripped off her face, “…what?”

Jezran frowned, “I can’t grow a beard, okay?!?”

“Easy, easy,” Selene said, raising her hands up in surrender, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He sighed again, sinking to the floor, “I know…it’s just…” 


He sighed, turning away from her, “You have no idea how important a beard is to a wizard. It’s a mark of mastery and wisdom, the fact I can’t grow one is a mark of shame on my whole academic career.”

“Oh, it can’t be that important.” She said nonchalantly, sheathing her daggers.

“Have you ever seen a famous wizard without a beard?” Jezran asked, looking her in the eye.

She turned away, she didn’t want to say it, “Well, you’re the only wizard I’ve ever met, so I can’t say I know how they should look.”

“How about in your stories?” Jezran said.

Selene bit her lip, then sighed.  She turned to face him.

“…they all have beards. Big ones.” Selene said in defeat, stretching her arms downwards for emphasis.

Jezran nodded, “Exactly.”

The two were silent for a moment. Not sure what either one should say.

Selene finally said, in an awkward attempt to console the wizard, “…not sure if it makes you feel better, but the beard never looked right on you. Kinda always sat on your face funny.  You know?”

Jezran chuckled, “Yeah…you’re right. Doesn’t make me feel better, but you’re right. Probably what I get for making it from my own mana.”

“Your beard was made of…mana?” Selene asked, confused, “You mean it was a magical fake beard?”

Jezran nodded, “Yeah, I use it as a backup magic source. Things were so crazy, guess I’ve had to use it all up.”

“Yeah, things have been crazy…” Selene trailed off, wanting to ask the real question on her mind, but afraid of what she’ll hear. 

I need to know what happened. 

Selene steeled her resolve, and managed to mumble out, “Um, do you…um…know where…everybody…”

As she was struggling to find the words, Jezran picked up on what she was asking, “Oh! Um…I…don’t know…either. Last I saw them was when we got separated in that chamber with the…”

“Yeah…” Selene nodded, “Same here.”

Both were quiet a moment as they wrestled with the implications.

“So…” Jezran finally said, trying to change the subject, “Find anything useful in here?”

Selene shook her head, “Just a bunch of rotted paper and desks.”

Jezran nodded, “I see. A pity, the place looks like it might have been important back in the day.”

He was about to head out of the room, when he stopped, “Then again, if it is important, maybe the real secret is better kept hidden.”

Spinning around, he scanned the room with the Orb in hand, the light blue hue illuminating his face in the darkness. 

“See anything?” Selene asked after a moment.

“Lots, but this whole place is still over that giant beast, right? So parsing through all the magic so I can find the magic only in this room is a little difficult,” he explained, but a moment later he exclaimed, “Ah, found something!”

“What?” Selene asked, excited.

He rushed to the opposite wall, feeling around it, “I have no idea. I just know this wall has an enchantment on it.”

“Oh,” Selene said, bored, but then a thought occurred to her that made her jump toward Jezran, “Wait, is it a good idea to be feeling up an enchanted wall if you have no idea what the enchantment is? What if it’s a trap?”

His hands stopped roaming the wall as she said that, “…it might be a trap.” 

After he considered it a moment further, he shrugged, “Too late for that now…probably already tripped it. So I might as well see if this wall also has an off switch.”

Selene was suddenly hit by the strong urge to run as far away from this wizard as possible. She decided to put a hold on this thought, however, when the stone under the wizard’s fingers lit up.

Jezran stepped back and watched the wall fade away, as if it had never existed in the first place.

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