“This is you getting back at me for dragging you to the Temple of Black Water, isn’t it? I knew it was coming.”
“Why on the War God’s Earth would I want to willingly run through the desert? No, this is not payback. This is me wanting to get paid. The reward is a good one.”
“But the desert is awful.” Absinthe groaned, looking over the paperwork that Alnyx had put in front of him. “It’s so hot and dry. Not to mention that the sand gets-Wait that many zeroes?”
“Yes. That many.” Alnyx preened the feathers of the hawk that had delivered the papers and then perched on his shoulder. “But you are right. We can always tell Garnet that we are not-”
“Fine fine, we can go to the bloody desert.”
“Should the heat really bother you that much? I mean…You are a demon so…You come from a plane of fire, do you not?
“Oh my Darling-”
“I told you not to call me that.”
“Mildly racist elf. Yes, I’ve got demonic blood. But, we aren’t ALL from planes of fire. My line hails from the plane of darkness.”
“I have literally seen you incinerate large groups of people.”
“We’re fire plane adjacent.”
Alnyx rolled his eyes, picking a scrap of meat from his plate to give t the bird. Once it swallowed, the creature flew out the open window it had come in through. Alnyx took the paperwork back from Absinthe, rolling it up carefully so not to tear or smudge anything.
“If we leave in the morning, we should have more than enough time to get there, complete the task ,and get back home in time for the new recruits ceremony. Malja will be so happy.”
“I hate those stupid things. The robes are so damn stuffy. There’s a reason I don’t like to stay in the Red City.”
“Yes, but Malja was our first LIttle Bird. So we have to be there.” Alnyx shook his head, the massive wolf at his feet standing as he did the same. “Try to get some sleep tonight. You are more of a pain when you do not.”
“Bed already? It’s barely half past ten. The night is so young.” Absinthe frowned at the elf. “Surely you can manage to stay up a little longer, Grandfather.” he batted the lashes that protected those bright, green eyes.
“We have a job to do. You can feel free to be exhausted and put yourself in danger. I have no such desire.”
“Does the stick ever come out of your ass?”
“You will never know.”
“Never say never, Al. I love a challenge.” Absinthe licked his lips as he watched the elf go. “And you are a fantastic one.”
As Alnyx had predicted, Absinthe was far from well rested for their ride to the southern desert. The elf constantly had to wake his companion who fell half asleep in the saddle at every chance.
“We are not taking the horses into the desert with us.” he warned. “And I doubt a camel will be as good about following order from you half asleep.”
“What are we even romping into the stupid sand for anywhere?” Absinthe shifted uncomfortably as Alnyx stared at him. “I didn’t actually read the contract. Just the number.”
“You…I am not surprised.” Alnyx shook his head. “We are going to find the tomb of an ancient wizard who was a religious leader. A collector is paying well for artifacts from the old world. The one attached to all those zeroes you saw was a very specific one. A wand, likely buried in the hand of the wizard’s corpse.”
“So we’re grave robbing?” Absinthe arched an eyebrow. “From a powerful dead wizard.”
“Grave robbing is such a strong series of words. The contractor is from the same religious tradition as the wizard was. Think of it as….Securing holy relics.”
“And I’m the evil bastard.”
It took them almost four days of travel by night to get to the site marked on their map. Alnyx rolled the parchment back up, lowering his hood.
“The entrance should be here.” he squinted his eyes. “Probably a rune on one of these stones. Start looking.”
“That’s hardly helpful.” Absinthe wrinkled his nose. “There are like a hundred rocks here.”
“If it was easy, they would not be paying us to do it.” Alnyx shook his head. “It will likely be some sort of warding glyph. You know what those look like, right?”
“I’m not an idiot.”
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Just get to looking. You too Fish.”
The wolf let out a single park before starting to sniff at some of the smaller rocks. Absinthe shook his head, waving his fingers to cause small whirlwinds that blew sand off of the stones.
“This is ridiculous.” he huffed, kicking one of the stones. “MOrtal wizards hiding their toms…If you were any good you wouldn’t have died in the first place!”
“As he kicked another stone, the ground under them rumbled. Fish lowered his ears, growling as his master rolled his eyes.
“Yes. Kick rocks outside the dead wizard’s tomb. An excellent idea. You certainly are not an idiot.”
“Move!” Alnyx lept, tackling him as the ground opened under where he had been standing.
“Wow that was-”
“You are annoying but I need you alive. Alnyx dusted himself off as he stood, shaking sand out of his hair. “That is all.”
He walked to the edge of the hole as Absinthe pulled himself back onto his feet. Fish sat on the ground beside Alnyx, peering into the hole as well with a tilted head.
“Should be easy enough to climb down if we anchor a rope up here.” Anlyx nodded to himself, removing the backpack he wore and setting it in the sand. “Would you stop staring?”
“You save me.”
“Hardly the first time. It is not a big deal.”
“You normally just let me fall.”
“Would you like me to cut the rope as you go down? It would have the same effect.”
“Good let us go then.” He started by trying off one end of the rope to a larger, half-buried stone. “FIsh, you stay here. You know what to do if anything comes up.” The Dog barked once after his master before the two began their climb.
“Better than the temple, right? No spider women.”
“No, just a wraith and his undead minions. The blood loss is making you delirious.”
“Maybe a little.”
They had managed to retrieve the wand, safe in its box within Alnyx’s cloak. But, in doing so they manage to wake the dead wizard from his “slumber,” along with the small army of skeletons that were buried with him.
“The way up should be this way.” Alnyx grabbed Absinthe’s arm before he could go the wrong way again. “Come on.”
He could nearly see the rope now. But, unfortunately, so could the wraith. Alnyx growled, pulling Absinthe harder as they sprinted down the corridor.
“Get up it. I can hold them back. Once we are in the sun, it should be easier for us to fight them off.”
Alnyx turned to face the oncoming skeleton horde, drawing the two short swords that were at his sides. He’d much have preferred having Fish down here with him. The wolf-
He felt the fireball before he saw it soar over his head. THe skeletons turned to ash before him, the wraith dissipating into smoke with a howl. He covered his mouth with a sleeve, smirking behind it.
“Is there a reason you didn’t so that a few minutes ago before you got chewed up?” he put his swords away, frowning when there was no biting response. “Absinthe?”
As he looked up, the man was limp, barely hanging on to the rope only a few feet above his head. Cursing under his breath, he climbed up and managed to get Absinthe on to his back, and carefully on to the ground. He head a single bark and a whimper from Fish above them.
“We are fine. Down boy.” Alnyx spoke calmly as he located Absinthe’s pulse. “Shit.” Faint. Very faint. “Come on you bastard.”
He moved and straddled Absinthe’s hips before digging into his bag for bandaging. They has a single tonic left that would help as well. Making a mental note to pick up a few more with their earnings, he undid the ridiculous clasps on the chest piece. He wrinkled his nose as he smelled more blood than he had before.
Working quickly, he bound the gashes tightly in order to stop the bleeding. With a pop that echoed in the empty tomb, he uncorked the small bottle of tonic. Alnyx leaned over his mostly unconscious partner, pouring it down his throat and coaxing it down with his fingers. He relaxed only when he finally saw his throat move as he swallowed.
“‘s that a wand in your pocket,” the acidic green eyes cracked open just to slits as he croaked the words out. “Or are you just happy to see me?”
“You great stupid bastard. You know well-”
The kiss silenced Alnyx faster than any argument in the last three years ever had.
“I…” the elf stood quickly, high cheekbones suddenly very pink.
“Bit of both I’d say.” Absinthe picked up the ruined chest armor from the ground, grabbing the rope. “Comeon. I hate the damn desert.”
The silence that followed him up the rope made him smirk. Nearly dying aside, it was quite the successful mission indeed.