“Open it,” Morgan nudged his best friend, dirty blonde hair flopping over his muddy brown eyes.
“You open it,” Salima responded, nudging him back, dreads swaying with the movement.
“I found it,” Morgan retorted.
“So the honour should be yours,” Salima grinned, passing over the crowbar.
Morgan glared at her, “Dammit, fine.”
He took some steadying breaths and looked again at the lid of the stone seat.
They had stumbled, way off the paths in the woods, into an old mausoleum, clearly long abandoned and forgotten, and decided to force open the thick iron gate and make their way inside.
The five sarcophogi each contained the shape of what looked to be human bodies, though, Salima was the first to note, their heads bulged, misshapen, and their limbs were elongated. Further examination was impossible, as the shapes collapsed to full dust as soon as they were touched.
Looking around, the duo saw the walls had once been covered in carvings, now faded with time. Salima brought out her phone, torch on, and took as many photos as she could, as Morgan explored further.
At his shouts to come and look, Salima had joined him by a reliquary. Whatever had once been saved in the five ceramic jars was long lost to time, but as they reached the furthest edge of the room, they found a stone bench, with a padlock inset into a slightly overhanging lip.
The bench was carved with more fading symbols, and Salima took more photos, before they began to argue over who should open it.
As Salima focused her light for him, Morgan slid the crowbar behind the padlock and pulled, easily shattering the brittle lock.
Shoving it next beneath the lid, he heaved, but the lid stayed still.
“Gonna help?” He panted.
“Weakling,” Salima rolled her eyes and came to help.
With the two of them heaving, the lid slid off and hit the floor with a boom that they felt through their boots.
Before they had the chance to look inside, black smoke billowed out, filling the room.
Salima and Morgan turned to run, but the smoke thickened, holding them in place as a face formed, lit from below by the phone torches they clutched tightly in their hands.
“Thank you, my children, for freeing me,” the voice boomed, appearing directly into their heads without bothering to go via their ears.
Morgan and Salima gulped and looked at each other, their eyes wide in fright.
“T-there’s a happy ending to this, right?” Morgan whispered.
“Uh…not likely, no,” Salima whispered back.
The being sent laughter at them, “The ending depends entirely on you, my children.”
“What are you? Why were you locked in there? What do you want?” Salima asked quickly.
“What I am is of no concern of yours. I was locked in there by foolish mortals who feared the gifts I could give. And what I want…is to repay you, who freed me, before I take my leave of this pathetic realm.”
“Hey, we don’t need repaying, j-just let us go, and you can leave, and we’ll be good, right?” Morgan looked sideways at Salima, who nodded.
The being chuckled, “You will regret not taking me up on my offer one day, my children. But for you, my rescuers, I extend this boon. Hold out your hands.”
Glancing at each other again, Salima and Morgan did so.
The smoke shaped itself into two hands, and into each palm dropped a small, solid crystal, each filled with swirling smoke.
“When you decide to take me up on my reward, break the crystal. I offer each of you one wish, and my promise that, for you at least, there will be no…tricks.”
“O-okay, thank you, sir. We’ll keep these til we need them,” Salima gave a grimacing smile.
The being laughed again and the smoke thickened further, spinning around them and taking their breath away, before slowly siphoning off until the mausoleum was clear once again.
The pair both raised the crystals, staring into them, before tucking them away.
“Leaving now?” Morgan begged.
Salima nodded emphatically, “Uh-huh!”
Together they left the crypt, emerging into the twilight and setting off home, with an unspoken agreement to never speak of this again.
In the void between realms, the smoke swirled and danced, freedom playing on the being’s mind like a drug. Time meant little, they or someone else would shatter the crystal and invite them back in. They could wait.
Until then, there were countless other realms to play their games in.
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