The colours of the jungle seemed even more vibrant to Cordelia when she got up that day. The world around her hadn’t changed, and yet it all seemed so different. Up until last night, she’d had no idea it was possible for her body to feel all those things… she felt dizzy just thinking back on it.
Morgyn hadn’t mentioned any of it during breakfast. Their attention was fully back on the ancient temple, it seemed. According to the sage, they were only an hour or two away from reaching the entrance. And so they packed up the camp and continued towards their destination.
Cordelia tried hard not to get distracted, or at least, not visibly distracted. The last thing she wanted to do now was to get on Morgyn’s nerves again. But how could she possibly not think about their time together? She felt so giddy and light, almost as if she could fly…
She wondered what the sage made of it. Even though they said nothing, they had to feel something, didn’t they? Then again, perhaps not. After all, she wasn’t sure if what they ended up doing would have been all that satisfying for Morgyn. Not the same way as for her, that was for certain. She almost felt selfish, but then, it wasn’t her who decided to-
She almost tripped over her own feet. There weren’t even any vines along the path.
Focus, Cordelia, she forced her mind to shut up. If she kept going this way, she would definitely wind up annoying the sage, Cordelia knew.
So she better suck it up, quit replaying last night over and over in her head and concentrate on finding the stupid temple and its stupid secrets or whatever they were supposed to uncover inside.
The staircase finally led them up to the temple. Cordelia had never seen anything like it. But Morgyn seemed pleased.
“So… do we go in?” She asked uncertainly.
“Obviously,” Morgyn smirked. “Not so fast.” They stopped her as she was about to head up to the entrance.
“There’s likely to be items that inflict magical curses inside, so be careful.” The sage told her. “It’s not so much of an issue for me, of course, I can just ask L Faba to perform the trial of elements on me when we get back. You on the other hand…”
“You’d have her do that?” Cordelia interrupted them. She still remembered the trial of elements. Not something she would undergo again willingly, knowing what it involved.
“She enjoys electrocuting me and setting me on fire, so how could I deny her that delight? You know me, ever the people-pleaser.” Morgyn said brightly. “Anyway, my point was that that you should watch out for yourself. I won’t be able to have my eyes on you the whole time.”
“Of course.” Cordelia shrugged. Her heart could sing. Morgyn was concerned for her… it gave her all kinds of butterflies. She better not mess up and trip on the last few steps…
The first thing they were greeted by was some kind of barrier. The sage got closer to it to investigate.
“Can you break it with your magic?” Cordelia came closer cautiously.
“I don’t think so. It’s more of a riddle.” Morgyn said, almost as if to themselves rather than to her. They did not seem fazed. “There will be a mechanism to crack it close by.”
And sure enough, they did soon find a room with some sort of totem. Morgyn spent a long time examining it. They didn’t exactly explain their process, but eventually, they moved some of the cubes around, pulled a lever, and the path ahead opened.
Little did Cordelia realise that that was just the first of many puzzles ahead.
At first, she found it fun, watching Morgyn studying the old statues, even taking notes. They looked cute when they were all studious, she thought.
Not to mention she could take advantage of some of the views as Morgyn leaned ahead to examining the glyphs. Her mind would just wander back to last night aimlessly…
But as they progressed through the ruin, the riddles got more and more intricate, requiring the sage to spend more and more time on them. Cordelia had all kinds of expectations and fears before they headed into the jungle, but she never anticipated that delving into the old temple would be so… boring.
“You’re doing it again.” Morgyn stopped their scribbling.
Cordelia perched herself up. She hadn’t really been paying attention, so she wasn’t sure what they meant. “Doing what?”
“I know it’s difficult for you to not stare at my fabulous posterior, but it’s very distracting. I have work to do.” The sage’s tone was teasing, but it still felt like they were scolding her.
If you didn’t want me staring, you wouldn’t be wearing those shorts, she thought. But she didn’t say anything.
“Sorry.” She muttered instead.
“You’ll be pleased to know I’m done with this one.” Morgyn said with a slight sigh. She jumped up to her feet and followed them through the now open doorway.
A grin spread across the sage’s face as they entered the next chamber. “Now that’s more like it.”
Cordelia didn’t exactly share Morgyn’s enthusiasm. The long hallway that opened up in front of them was lined with strange skeleton warriors. They looked like guardians of some kind.
They were just statues, she knew that. But she still half-expected one of them to come to life any minute.
While she kept looking over her shoulder, Morgyn hopped from chest to chest, opening one after the other. As far as Cordelia could tell, there was nothing tangible inside them, just some kind of golden glow. Was this that pure raw magic that Morgyn talked about following their visit to the strange magical shop?
In any case, Cordelia was ready to get out of there. A feeling of unease quickly replaced her initial boredom.
“Is there much more?” She asked Morgyn as they walked through another doorway – oddly, this one had no barriers blocking it.
“No. I believe we have reached the final chamber.”
Cordelia looked around the room. There were no chests. “So… what happens now?”
Morgyn gestured towards a pedestal directly across them. “That looks like what we came here for.”
“What is it?” Cordelia frowned. The statuette seemed unassuming. A llama, by the looks of it?
“The omniscans had three kinds of relics, balampalosh, zazatotl and totelcallam. I believe this is the latter.”
None of those words meant anything to her. “Right…”
“Of course, within those families, there are different types of relics as well.” The sage continued, clearly unaware of how lost she was. “But I’ll need to take a closer look to see which one this is…”
“Ok.” Cordelia nodded. They’d just grab the relic and then they’d finally be able to get this whole thing over with, she figured, heading towards it.
“Cordelia, wait!” She heard Morgyn call out after her, but it was too late.
A blinding light enveloped her as she stood on the first of the ornate tiles below the base level.
Everything else was a blur. She felt Morgyn grabbing onto her to shove her out of the way, charging ahead of her. The sage’s body blocked the ray of light. And just like that, the beam subsided.
It was only then when she noticed something shiny and golden poking from Morgyn’s back.
As if in slow motion, she watched the sage’s head turn down towards to look at the arrow in their chest.
Morgyn let out a cough. “That’s… inconvenient.” They reached for the arrow shaft.
Cordelia felt sick. “Are you ok?” She walked around to have a closer look, and immediately regretted the decision. The sage was practically impaled. “Oh my god, Morgyn…”
“It’s… fine.” Morgyn managed. “I just need to… lie down.” And with that, they fell to the floor with a loud thud.
“Morgyn!” She felt powerless. What should she do? What could she do?
“Should we get it out?” She asked, kneeling next to Morgyn.
“Great idea. Wouldn’t have… thought of that.” The sage scoffed, managing a little sarcastic smirk.
Morgyn finally managed to pull the arrow out of their body, exhaling sharply.
“Don’t touch it. The arrow.” They added.
Why would her touching the arrow be a concern? Surely the sage’s wound was the real issue… Cordelia didn’t understand. “Why?”
Poison. The arrow was poisoned, Cordelia’s brain caught up. Morgyn sounded so calm, as always. But how could they be? Her head was spinning. If the sage had any crazy untamed magic spells planned, surely this was the time.
“Morgyn… what do I do?” She turned to them, cupping their face in the palms of her hands.
“Nothing.” She could tell it was getting harder for Morgyn to speak. “Grab the relic… get out of here. Glimmerstone… in my pocket. Use it. Get home.”
“What? No!” She could feel her whole body shaking. “We’ll both go! I can’t leave you here…”
The sage didn’t say anything, but the look in their eyes was soft, softer than she’d ever seen it. The look that was saying they weren’t leaving this place at all.
“No… you can’t die!” Cordelia protested.
“It’s fine… I won’t…” Morgyn managed between heavy breaths. “I’ll cheat… death… I am the… master of the… untame-“
But the sage never finished their sentence.
“No!” Cordelia cried out, pulling them closer to her. “No, no, no… Please… come back… you’ve just said you can’t die… why would you lie to me?”
Except that Morgyn was no longer there to answer her question.
She wasn’t sure how long she stayed like this, holding Morgyn’s lifeless body in her arms.
It seemed something in the chamber moved. A cold descended on her. Was it a skeleton that moved? It couldn’t be. All of the guardians seemed still. But something was off.
It was then she realised that Grim Reaper was probably in the room. But she couldn’t see them, or bargain with them. Not that she’d had any luck with that before.
She gently placed Morgyn’s head on the ground. She could almost pretend the sage was sleeping. But of course, that wasn’t the case. All she could do was what they wanted her to.
Nothing happened when she lifted the relic from its pedestal. Cordelia didn’t understand what all of this was for. But there had to be a reason…
She returned to the sage’s body and crouched down to take the glimmerstone. Was this really goodbye? She stroked Morgyn’s cheek gently, wishing she knew more about what Morgyn’s plan here was, what they had wanted to do with the relic. Wishing they’d just open their eyes.
A part of her wanted to believe that if she just did what Morgyn asked her to, take the relic and leave, everything would somehow be ok, and Morgyn would be back again. But seeing their lifeless body on the ground was making that hard to believe. She had to get out of there now.
However this glimmerstone worked… she hoped it would. Maybe once she left here it would all turn into a bad dream.