The box contained a variety of treasure, but most precious was a thick silver chain with a large heart-shaped pendant. As soon as I pulled it out, Cedic warned us: "That is a magic item." Unfortunately he did not have any Detect Magic spells available, so he could not tell us more. He could not even tell if it was a curse or a helpful spell.
I ran the chain through my hands fretfully. The only other way to tell what a magical item does is to just put it on and find out. I thought about just trying it out, but I was also afraid of the potential curse it might carry. Then Jonah spoke up bravely, "I'll put it on."
He tried on the necklace, and immediately the magic item told him what it did. It allowed the wearer to literally rise from the dead. Upon being killed, the wearer would remain a ghost for only 30 minutes -- they he would be magically whole and alive once again. Now that's an impressive piece of jewelery.
My box also contained some chocolates, which I distributed among the group as we left the gypsy camp. Rutger saved his to give to the Anders. He told me that Esmerelda had not been very helpful, and they hadn't come up with any way to help her yet. They had learned a little bit more about her though.
Next we came across a couple of nobels on the path. They invited us to visit the royal palace with them! I'd never been in a palace before. I felt very dirty, awkward, and out of place in such a grand room, so I just kept to the back wall, quietly near the door, and let the more charismatic and sophisticated members of my party do the talking. And after some conversation that I didn't really listen to, one of the nobles gave Lauren a perfect sphere of air.
Things were looking up -- on the walk up to the palace, Lauren's sharp eyes spotted another treasure box on a hill. It had a pretty nasty trap protecting it, and it was only barely that I had avoided stepping on the trip-wire and setting it off. I was able to pick its lock pretty quickly, so we now had two perfect spheres and plenty of treasure! It was a good trip.
Next we returned to the gypsy's camp. The professor was there again, and we talked to him for awhile. We had leads on every item we sought, except for the token from the Court of Mirrors. Nobody seemed to have any idea where this alleged court could be found. I was especially worried, because that was the item that I was designated to hold during the summoning ritual.
When I mentioned this to the professor he said, "Oh the Court of Mirrors, of course I know where that is!" This was really weird, because earlier that very morning he couldn't remember anything about it. But he had also been really forgetful, in the morning. But now... "I remember everything," he insisted confidently. Very strange -- he was practically the opposite of who he had been that morning.
Strange memory issues aside, this was good news. I would have hated for it to be my part that ruined the ritual! We pulled out our map and headed up to where the professor had told us to go. On the way we passed more townspeople behaving very strangely indeed, but we didn't have time to worry about it.
The Court of Mirrors. I still have nightmares about that place -- strange that I so fear a place I have never seen.
We didn't know what we were to face, only that we had to somehow retrieve a token from this mysterious place. We stood before a door without windows, and called in unison the password we'd been given. I was in the back of the group, the last to enter. We were told to close our eyes, and I felt myself being led up a few steps and into a cramped room. I felt my companions pressed around me, and I furtively opened my eyes quickly to glance around. It was very very dark, which is the last thing I saw before a blindfold was placed over my eyes.
My sword was taken away from me. I stood, blind and unarmed, for what seemed like an eternity. But the things I heard! At first, there was nothing. Then a sound of hissing arose, like we were surrounded by dozens of angry beasts. Then through the hiss I heard whispered words barely made out. "...darkness... ...fear..." The ghosts of my childhood, my fears personified, nameless voices of a hundred agonized souls, luring me to join their torment.
Then I heard a friendly voice -- Rutger, I think it was. Stronger than the whispers, and confident, cutting through the terror. He was giving directions. To Sunflower. "Two steps to the left," he would say. "Forward just a few inches. Now kneel..." I didn't understand what was happening.
I heard the hissing get louder suddenly, a jubilant moan, then a dark voice said: "You feel no pain now, but when you leave this place, you will feel as though hundreds of knives are stabbing you in this leg."
The hissing quieted as Rutger continued in his patient and strong voice, "It's all right, just stand up here slowly. Now one side-step to the right..."
This continued on; I listened and tried to discern what was happening. I heard the chorus of voices get louder then sigh, a wistful disappointed moan, and I realized that Sunflower must have made it through -- whatever it was she had been going through.
Then Cedric's voice began, and I heard him giving directions. To Lauren. I began to understand that Sunflower and Lauren must be blindfolded as I was, and they were inching, crawling, blindly picking their way through some sort of ghostly gauntlet, guided only by the voices of our friends.
There were only 6 of us. Since I could not see, I realized that I was probably going to be next, to try to work my way through... whatever it was. Still blind, my hands found my money-pouch which danged from my belt. I carefully opened my shirt and stuffed the pouch inside, closing my shirt securely around it. I moved the water hanging from my belt to my back. I suspected that, whatever I was about to be asked to do, anything dangling or swinging from my belt would make things more difficult.
I heard another mournful chorus of sighs, and I knew that Lauren must have it through alive. I steeled myself. "Okay Raven," said Jonah. And I began my descent into the gauntlet.
Aside from doing whatever Jonah told me, I tried to keep myself as still as possible. It was hard. I heard the voices, those dark whispering nightmares, all around me. Several times the angry hisses were right in front of my face, and I flinched involuntarily. I could feel the creatures, whatever they were, just inches from me. I felt every muscle in my body tensed to flee -- but I didn't. I trusted Jonah, and I followed his directions. He took care of me, got me through untouched.
After I'd walked several cautious steps, I was right in the middle of the chaos. "Kneel," he told me, "without letting the rest of your body move forward or backward." Slowly I sank to my knees. "Lean forward, so you're almost on your belly. I crawled several feet this way, trying to make myself as tiny as possible, my hands feeling my way in front of me, my knees practically tucked into my armpits. I heard the angry hisses, the loud whispers in my ear, frustrated that I was avoiding them.
Then I stood, and he directed me as I walked a few more paces. Sideways, the forward, to the side, then I felt a doorway -- the hisses increased in volume, and as I heard the agonized escape-sigh I echoed it with a relieved gasp of my own. How long had I been holding my breath? I didn't remember, but I was through.
My sighted companions traveled the gauntlet next. Several minutes later I was allowed to remove my blindfold, and a Black Lady came out of a mirror and handed me a small token. We had crawled through our own nightmares and succeeded.