Jesk stumbled backwards, crashing into the teetering door. His hand scraped along the roughly mortared surface of the wall until the momentum of his fall pulled it away. The warm trance that had calmed him vanished and the Jesk's heart jumped into his throat as he landed hard on the soggy floor of the meadow. The door swung dangerously from its rusted hinge and then smashed to ground with a bang that echoed thunderously through the clearing. As Jesk prepared for the worst to come out of the darkness a familiar form appeared in the empty doorway.
Eryana erupted with laughter as she found her friend lying terrified in the grass.
"What'd you do that for?" Jesk snapped scrambling to his feet and thrashing his cloak widely about trying put it back in its rightful position. When Eryana barely acknowledged his irritation he turned to leave.
"Oh, Jesk," she rushed, "I'm sorry—it was just a joke—you know, part of our adventure. Don't leave."
"I don't like it here. I think we should go back," he declared, stomping back towards the willow.
Eryana hurried after him and caught his arm, pulling him towards her. "Jesk, I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it—I won't do it again." Jesk tried to shrug off her grip but she held fast. "Coming here is the whole point of our adventure; you can't leave now. At least come inside for a minute—you wouldn't believe the things I have found in there!"
"What's to see? It's dark inside," Jesk remarked, looking warily back at the cottage.
"Just give me one minute. Come in and if you don't like it after one minute we can leave and I won't ever mention this day again," Eryana pleaded, returning to the cottage with Jesk unhappily in tow. She stepped through the doorway and dropped Jesk's hand, disappearing into the darkness.
Jesk could hear her stumbling around in the gloom and he crossed his arms, rolling his eyes. "Eryana, what are you looking for?"
"You'll see." There was a crash and then the sound of breaking glass. Eryana giggled and then continued running her hands roughly over the uneven surface of a dusty shelf. "I know it's here," she said as she knocked something else over, barely saving it before it crashed to the ground.
"Aha! I found it!" Eryana reappeared from within the deepest shadows carrying a small glass orb filled a quarter of the way with black dust. Smiling, Eryana held out the globe for Jesk to see, but doubtful green eyes received the gesture. "I call it a glow-globe. I don't know what it's called really," she explained, ignoring her friend's skeptical gaze. "I found it the first time I came here."
"The first time?" Jesk questioned, finding it hard to believe that anyone want to come back to such a place.
Again, Eryana ignored him. "Watch." Holding the orb up to her lips, she blew gently across the small opening at the top, stirring the ebony powder within.
Jesk blinked and stared harder at the orb. Had the dust glowed just then?
Eryana blew again, more slowly this time. The dust glistened and swirled suddenly around the orb, glowing brighter with every rotation until it spun so fast that the dust became a glowing blur of blue light. Satisfied, Eryana held the glowing entity away from her body.
Then all went black. The momentary stupor vanished and Jesk turned away, rubbing his eyes as blue specks danced beneath his eyelids.
"Wait for it…" Eryana coaxed through the darkness, pulling Jesk deeper into the cottage. He immediately stopped his fussing as he realized that the bottom of the orb glowed dimly within her hands. As Jesk watched, the glow grew brighter, transforming into a small blue flame. Eryana grinned and set the glow-globe on a table that had appeared out of the darkness.
Startled by the table's sudden appearance, Jesk looked quickly around the room. Other objects had taken shape in the shadows as well, and still more appeared as his eyes adjusted to the silver-blue light of the glowing orb.
Shelves appeared on the walls, and on the shelves hundreds of scattered articles. Jesk's eyes fell upon one shelf overflowing with small leather pouches, which after closer observation he determined to be filled with rotten herbs. Decanters and dozens of vials and glass tubes hanging from decayed wooden brackets filled numerous other shelves. An entire wall hid behind a myriad of books, some so ancient that when Jesk opened the covers, pages crumbled to dust; those that did not disintegrate reeked of mildew and age old history long forgotten. In a far corner of the room he found several broken chairs, a moth-eaten rug bulging on top of warped floorboards, as well as a mushy pile of rotten straw covered by what little was left of a wool blanket.
But something about the rug drew Jesk's attention, and he stepped closer.
"What do you see?" Eryana asked attempting to follow her friend's gaze through the dim blue light. Jesk bent down to examine a particular bulge in the fabric.
"Jesk?" Eryana crouched down next to him, curious of his sudden distraction. He ignored her and pulled away deteriorating rug.
"It's…it's a trap door!" Eryana stammered clenching Jesk's arm. He shrugged her off and reached for the rusted metal ring—the cause of the bulge that had drawn his attention.
"Should we open it?" Jesk asked glancing at Eryana unsurely. "This is your adventure."
She nodded slowly and reached for the ring. Together they pulled upward with all their might. The trap door protested loudly as the ancient wood pulled free of its casing. The two friends heaved the hatch aside, heedless of the rusted hinges that crumbled to dust with the sudden strain. A blast of acrid, stale air rushed from the exposed opening, causing Jesk and Eryana to shy away, covering their noses and eyes.
As the wind abated Eryana hurried to the table and picked up the glow-globe, returning to the hole in the floor with a grin stretched ear to ear. The silver-blue light reverberated off the walls of the hidden stairway.
"You don't think we should go down there!" Jesk protested, capturing her intent all at once.
"You're the one who wanted to open it," she retorted
"But…I…I don't think it's a good idea! You don't know what's down there. It could be the lair of those creatures—those monsters my uncle always tells stories about."
"Jesk, you can't be serious. Those stories are just told to scare us. They don't really exist." Eryana dropped a foot onto the first step.
"Well, they served their purpose if you ask me."
"Oh stop it, Jesk. Nothing bad has happened." Without looking back, Eryana set off down the stairs.
"Yet!" Jesk grumbled and followed quickly behind her, barely catching the light of the glow-globe before it disappeared around a corner.