Monthly Archives: July 2013

No. 420

Sam had lost most of his sister’s prized seashell collection in an ill-advised trade with a girl who lived on the next street over.

When his sister found out, Sam reacted like anybody else in his situation would have.

He ran away.

No. 419

“Archimedes is down! The hedgehog has crashed!” the radio squawked.

Several voices asked in unison if the pilot was safe.

“He’s OK,” explained the marshals. “But his plane is wrecked. He’s out of the race.”

 

Carlisle, the flying frog, smiled at the news.

His position had just changed from ninth, to eighth.

 

No. 418

The equivalent of millions of dollars had been spent on the observatory. Now the builders had an opportunity unparalleled in their history to learn the secrets of the larger world. Only one task remained.

Thousands of laborers pulled with all their strength. Millimeter by millimeter, the giant rock shifted. Finally, it moved enough to reveal a vast, blue sky.

“That’s it!” shouted the foreman. The laborers stopped pulling and the rock settled into its new position. Massive clumps of dirt dislodged from the side and fell, crushing those unlucky enough to be caught underneath. Their deaths were ignored. There were many more where they came from.

The lead scientist stepped up to the viewing platform, and placed his segmented eye against the lens of the telescope.

“What does he see?” the crowd whispered to one another.

The scientist held up one of his legs, motioning for quiet.

“There’s something there,” he said, his attention still locked on the view. “It’s only got four legs! It’s so big. And gross!”

No. 417 – Part 3

The driver was chatty. Too chatty, for Katy. The drive to the office was supremely uncomfortable. The worst part was, the driver seemed to know more about what Katy was delivering than she did.

Finally, after 30 minutes in traffic and constant nattering, with no sign of reaching their destination in the near future, Katy’s resolve cracked.

“What’s in the bag?” she asked from the back seat.

Her eyes met the driver’s in the rear-view mirror.

For the first time, the driver was quiet, as the car lurch forward another length.

“You don’t know?” the driver replied, suspiciously.

Katy could see one raised eyebrow.

“That’s right. I wasn’t supposed to even be here today. Hadley got sick and I was the only one available,” she told the driver.

“Really?”

Now Katy was confused. What had happened to the constant talking from a few moments ago? The driver was silent, and extremely attentive.

“Why don’t you open it?” The driver suggested.

Katy was taken aback. The driver’s proposal was so bold. “I can’t say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind,” she stammered.

With the tacit permission of somebody else, the bag was suddenly less taboo. Katy couldn’t believe she hadn’t already looked inside.

She took a deep breath, and pulled back the zipper.

“Newspaper,” she yelped as crushed pages spilled out onto the floor of the car. “But the bag is so heavy. It can’t be full of scrap paper?”

The driver shrugged.

Katy dug deeper. Her hands clasped around a solid cube-shaped object that had been packed in the middle of the bag. She pulled it out and examined it closely. “It’s a brick,” she told the driver. “Just some sort of plain, metal brick.”

The driver laughed, now. “That’s not what the others had. Are you sure your bag didn’t get switched on the plane?”

“I’m sure,” Katy confirmed, double-checking the distinctive scuff mark she’d put on the bottom by dragging the bag down the stairs at her house.

“I guess they must want that brick pretty badly, then,” the driver observed.

“Right.”

With her curiosity satisfied, Katy could relax the last few blocks to the office. The driver said nothing else for the remainder of the delivery.

 

When Katy stepped out of the car in front of the giant glass windows of the Seattle office, she made sure that the brick was packed back inside the bag. Most of the shredded newspaper strips, she left for the driver to take care of.

Katy breezed through security and was directed to a corner office on the top floor.

She walked in and placed the bag on the vast desk with a satisfying thump.

The man behind the desk opened the bag immediately and rummaged around. He removed the brick and discarded it. “Where’s the rest?” he asked, threateningly.

“I’m sorry,” said Katy. “What rest?”

The man was very angry, now. “The rest of the contents of this bag.”

He didn’t raise his voice, but nonetheless, Katy was  frightened.

“I don’t know,” she told him. “Hadley was supposed to be here.”

“Don’t give me that,” said the man. “I know what was packed.”

He leaned forward. “Where are the papers?”

“Oh,” said Katy. “Those.”

 

To be continued…

No. 417 – Part 2

The landing was uneventful, although the taxi to the gate seemed to take forever. Once the plane had come to a complete stop, Katy was the first one out of her seat.

She retrieved the bag, and hurried to disembark.

Moving as quickly as possible, she made her way to the arrivals pick-up area. She’d been told to expect a driver to ferry her on the last leg of her journey.

She did not see her name on a signboard.

Keeping the bag close, she found a relatively quiet corner of the concourse to phone from. All she managed to connect with was an automated message that told her the number that she’d dialed wasn’t in service.

She cursed the hurried preparation for the trip. She’d probably entered the wrong digit during her rush to leave.

“Fine,” she cursed at her phone. “Be that way.”

She called her home office to get the right contact information.

They told her that she had the right number, but couldn’t say why it wasn’t working. Rick from downstairs promised to contact the proper department in Seattle to have her collected from the airport.

After she ended the call, Katy sat down on a bench to wait. She checked her watch and resolved to stay for an hour. After that, she’d make her own arrangements, mystery bag, o r not.

Now tired and bored, she fought the urge to open the bag, merely as a way to pass the time.

 

55 minutes later, her driver arrived.

“You must be Katy,” said the smartly-uniformed woman.

“Of all the people in the arrivals hall, how did you know it was me?” Katy asked.

The driver pointed at the bag, clutched between Katy’s knees. “I’ve seen a few of those in the last week. You guys are coming in from all over. Where are you from?”

Katy’s first instinct, oddly, was to lie, but she told the truth. “Wichita.”

The driver simply nodded. “Come on, then. I’m sure you’ll want to drop it off and the get to your hotel.”

“That’d be great,” said Katy. “Lead the way.”

 

To be continued…

No. 417 – Part 1

The in-flight movie was terrible and, besides that, only one side of Katy’s headphones worked. It was an inauspicious beginning to the trip that she hadn’t wanted to take, to begin with.

 

She’d been tasked with delivering a bag to the Seattle office. It was currently safely stowed in the overhead bin. Katy did not want to risk having the airline lose it.

Especially since she didn’t know what was in it.

She’d tried to catch a glimpse as the bag had gone through the x-ray machine, but she hadn’t wanted to draw attention, or be asked the awkward question “Did you pack this bag yourself, today?”.

 

But now, several hours into the journey, a vile combination of the film, chicken lunch, and reduced legroom had conspired to strip Katy of any such curiosity. Her only desire was to get off the plane, deliver the bag, and return home.

 

To be continued…

No. 416

It was Tuesday. The food court was busy, like usual. I waited in line for Chinese, and waited again for a table to open up.

She sat down beside me, all short-skirt and flippy hair.

“Hi,” she said. “Mind if we share?”

I shrugged. It’s the mall. I’m on my break. I’m trying to finish my lunch before I have to go back to work. I’m not going to be fussy if there’s an attractive lady who wants to sit in the empty seat next to me. I have to wait until I finish a mouthful of chow mein to answer. “Sure. Go ahead.”

It wasn’t the best line, but whatever. Everybody’s happy.

I notice that she doesn’t have a tray. Maybe she’s just taking a shopping-break. I almost start to say something when she speaks first.

“So, what do you do?”

There’s something fishy going on here. I can feel it. I’m about to get set-up for a sales pitch. I’m in no mood. “I’m a spy,” I tell her. “A secret agent.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Really?” she gasps. “That’s just what I was looking for! Come with me!”

Before I can protest, she grabs my arm and we’re off toward the parking lot. I guess my lunch is over. To be honest, I’m a little bit too surprised to resist.

She hustles me toward a small, blue hatchback. She opens the passenger door and guides me inside. She shuts it and goes around to the driver’s seat. Reaching into her purse, she pulls something out. I can’t tell what.

Suddenly she lunges at me. I catch a brief glimpse of a syringe before I feel it jab into my neck. There’s a burn as she injects the contents.

I scream loudly. And probably not loudly enough, either. It hurt.

Her demeanor changes. Now she’s all business.  “I’ve tagged you with a tracking chip.” She leans across me to open the door again and kicks me out.

“Find Melville,” she orders. “And eliminate him.”

She holds up what looks like a transmitter. It’s blinking and she shakes it threateningly.  “I’ll know if you don’t,” she warns.

Then she peels off in the car, leaving two streaks of rubber in the parking spot.

I scratch my neck and begin to wonder just how on Earth I’m supposed to track down this Melville character.

Next time I’m just going to tell the truth.

I work at the pet shop.

No. 415

David Soames entered the Reading Room of the British Museum and was immediately overwhelmed. He was quite sure that he’d never seen so many books in the same place ever before. They stretched up above him on three tiers of shelves under the immense gold and blue dome.

Summoning all of his concentration, David managed to find an open seat at one of the long desks that made up the center of the room. From his briefcase, he removed the list of titles that he needed for his latest paper. Instead of stopping at the information centre in the middle of the vast floor, he decided to try to find some of his books by himself. If he couldn’t, he could always get help later.

As he made his way past the rows of shelves, reading the titles on the old books, he tried to imagine some of the famous people of the past who had been where he was now walking. George Orwell, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, and countless others, had all researched here.

Lost in thought, David did not notice that he’d already been inside the library for an hour. He was closing in on the section he needed when something caught his eye.

It was a small book, and completely ordinary, yet, it almost called to David. “Pick me,” it seemed to whisper. “I’m the one you want.”

David reached for it, acting purely on reflex. It didn’t cross his mind that the volume had nothing to do with what he was here for. He turned it over in his hands. For a book so thin, it was heavier than he expected.

The title was “The Further Journeys of Thomas Hill” and the picture on the faded cover was of a fantastic map.

David had the feeling that nobody had touched “The Further Journeys of Thomas Hill” in a long time.

He opened it.

There were no words on the first page. Or the second. In fact, the pages were completely empty except for one, right in the middle.

David shivered as he read what was written there.

“Kind soul who found this tome, your work is now half done. Far from here, a twin awaits. Your travels will be difficult, but you are bound to follow. Join the two, and lift the curse. Go, without delay.”

David was not impressed. Someone, perhaps even long ago, had played a prank. David wanted no part of it. He tried to put the book back, but it wouldn’t fit. Some invisible force was preventing him from returning it to its place.

Shaking his head, David tried to leave it on the nearest table. Once again, he was unsuccessful. It would not leave his hand. It wasn’t stuck. It was more like there was some part of David that didn’t want to put it down.

He opened it back to the appropriate page and reread the strange greeting.

“Curse,” he whispered out loud. Was he cursed, or was the book? Both options were unsavory. He decided to speak to the woman at the information counter.

She didn’t notice him as he approached. David tried several times to get her attention, stopping just short of yelling at her. Nothing he did had any effect on her, and she showed no indication that she knew he was there.

Still holding “Thomas Hill”, David realized that she couldn’t see him.

“Fine,” he said aloud, to the book. “You’ve got me. What am I supposed to do?”

After waiting a few moments, he opened it back up. Flipping to the middle, he saw that the message had changed.

“Leave now. Cross the sea.”

No. 414

When Sasquatch arrived at work, he was surprised to find Lake Monster already there.

“Morning,” Sasquatch said to his friend. “What are you doing, up so early? This isn’t like you, at all.”

Lake Monster sighed heavily before he replied. “I got called in. Seems that Head Office is going to a more land-based-monster approach. Me and Sea Serpent are out. They told us that, if we wanted to, we could scare two more boaters, each, before we need to be on our way.”

“Well, that blows,” Sasquatch said, sitting down in the corner. “Did they say why?”

“I don’t know,” Lake Monster. “There was something about an online video but, by then, I was tuned out.”

“I’m going to go talk to him,” said Sasquatch about his boss. “This isn’t fair.”

“I wouldn’t,” Lake Monster warned. “He’s in a bad mood, already.”

“Nonsense,” said Sasquatch, as he stormed through the door to the manager’s office.

 

Several minutes later, Sasquatch returned to the foyer.

“How’d it go?” asked Lake Monster.

“Now they’re doing ‘flying creatures only’.”

“I told you,” said Lake Monster, shaking his head. “What did I say?”

“That’s not even the worst thing,” said Sasquatch. “This time he said they’re downsizing because of ‘science’, but I saw new applications on his desk. They’re hiring, all right. New creatures. Forcing out us classics.”

“I got the two scares. Did you manage to come away with anything?” said Lake Monster, trying to change the subject to something slightly more positive.

“Ah, yeah,” said Sasquatch. “Oh, what does it say here?” he continued as he unfolded an official-looking piece of paper. “I can be involved in one sighting, or I can leave behind three instances of ‘physical clues’. I’m not even sure what that means. I think they want me to get caught, or something.”

“Hm,” said Lake Monster. “Now that you mention it,” he trailed off.

“What?”

“I was just thinking. If we’re not working for the Agency anymore, does that mean we can go freelance? I don’t remember signing a non-compete.”

“And if we went freelance—,” said Sasquatch, catching on.

“—Then we could turn ourselves over to the humans. Put the Agency right out of business, once folks had proof we existed,” Lake Monster concluded.

“I’m in,” said Sasquatch.

“I hope they don’t do too many experiments on us,” said Lake Monster. “I could probably handle, like, a week, tops.”

“I don’t know,” said Sasquatch. “I think I’d be able to get through an awful lot, to stick it to these guys,” he finished, waving his arm around the room.

The Molten Kingdom

1.

“I have heard of it. They say the volcano is three days from here, to the east.” said the man, pointing into the distance. “You won’t make it that far, by yourself,” he cautioned.

Clue Restacks nodded. “That would be true. But I’m not alone.”

Mr. Mouse appeared on her right shoulder and cast his wily gaze on the surprised guide.

“A rat?” asked the man incredulously. “You are going to cross the Great Desert with a rat? You will surely die.”

“He’s a mouse,” Clue clarified. “And I think we’ll be fine.”

“I hope so,” said the man. “If you return, I will be waiting here.”

 

Clue and Mr. Mouse bid him farewell, and began the long trek toward their goal. Clue used her powers to create a bubble of lowered temperature around them, protecting the duo from the potentially lethal rays of the blazing sun.

“He sure was grim, wasn’t he?” she asked her fuzzy companion. “This is nothing we haven’t seen before.”

Mr. Mouse made a sound that seemed affirmative and Clue smiled. Then he squeaked a reminder.

“That’s right,” she told him. “I forgot.”

Summoning a greater level of concentration, she forced a high pressure zone of air under her feet. She wobbled slightly as she rose a short distance off the ground. “Let’s go,” she said as she propelled herself forward with a focused gust of wind.

 

Travelling in this manner, the adventurers reached their destination by nightfall.

The volcano towered above them, a deep glow emanating up into the dark sky from the lava at the bottom of the crater.

Clue picked her way slowly to the summit, deflecting airborne boulders with well-timed blasts of lightning.  “A walk in the park,” she remarked to Mr. Mouse.

He wasn’t sure if he shared her enthusiasm for the task.

“Do you want to come with me, or stay here?” she asked him after reaching the shore of the boiling pool of rock.

Mr. Mouse chose immediately. He would remain right where he was.

“Your loss,” Clue told him as she shrugged off her pack. She reached behind her back and pulled a small bundle from the waistband of her pants. “Take care of this while I’m gone,” she said to Mr. Mouse as she tossed the contents toward her partner.

A diamond twice his size rolled to a stop in front of the surprised rodent.

Then Clue encased herself in a thick layer of ice and launched herself into the fiery lake.

 

 

2.

Mr. Mouse waited alone on the windswept mountain.

He looked at the diamond that Clue had left behind. Its presence unsettled him. He’d noticed that Clue had been acting differently, lately. Her control over her powers had increased, but she was using them so casually that it frightened him. The diamond’s sudden appearance also reminded him that he didn’t even know exactly what they were seeking on this trip.

Still, he watched the roiling lava, and hoped she would be back soon.

 

Clue, meanwhile, had descended into the mountain’s core. As she pushed deeper, she continually replenished her icy shield. Upon reaching the correct depth, she moved sideways and then kicked upward, surfacing in an underground chamber. She pulled herself out of the magma and onto a solid, rocky shelf.

She lit the cave with her powers, and used the same levitating technique from the desert-crossing to float down the tunnel that stretched out before her.

As she rounded the last corner of the corridor, she came face-to-face with a set of enormous metal doors. Covered in elaborate carvings, they stretched up three times as tall as Clue, into a pitch-black cavern.

Clue shut down all of her powers and approached the gates carefully. She hesitated slightly before she raised her arm to knock.

 

 

3.

She did not have a chance to land a blow. The doors began to open on their own accord. Clue lowered her hand and stepped back as they swung toward her.

A tall, thin man appeared in the entry way. At least, he seemed to have once been a man. His skin was covered in dark scales that seemed to shine with the faint orange glow of cooling lava, and his proportions were wrong, somehow. In his hand was a vicious sword, which he held pointed at Clue. He began to talk and, although Clue was almost certain that he wasn’t speaking English, she understood him. “Why have you come, surface dweller?” the words boomed throughout the chamber.

Clue bowed slightly and replied. “Your people have something that I need. I am willing to trade for what I want.”

“We need nothing from your world,” the guard told her. “Go.”

“I think that I have something you’ll want,” said Clue. She produced another diamond, twin to the one she’d left with Mr. Mouse. She held it out. “This, and the other.”

The guard leaned closer. “Where is it?” he asked.

“Someplace safe.”

There was no reply for several seconds, then the guard lowered his sword and stepped aside. “This way,” he told Clue as he opened the door completely.

Clue returned the stone to her pocket and walked ahead. “Take me to your leader,” she said to the guard with a smile that she fought to keep to herself.

 

Mr. Mouse had, by now, decided that he had a bad feeling about the entire situation. He cast one more long glance toward the lava pit before making up his mind.

Pressing the diamond forward with his nose, he made for a small patch of black sand. Once there, he scraped out a shallow hole and shoved the gem into it.

After burying the treasure, he scrambled up the steep walls of the crater to the rim. Without the ability to survive in the lava like Clue, he was going to have to find his own way to the center of the volcano.

 

 

4.

Clue was ushered to the throne room of the underground citadel.

The queen of the underground beings sat on a throne chiseled from a single piece of volcanic stone. She did not wait before addressing Clue. “I have been told that you possess the Eyes.”

“That’s right, your highness,” said Clue, bowing low. “I have one here. The second is close by.”

“That is good,” said the Queen. “We will not have to kill you immediately. Now, show me.”

Clue held up the diamond. Another guard took it from her and carried it to the royal dais.

The Queen inspected it closely before setting it down on the arm rest of her throne. “Tell me what you have really come here for, outsider.”

Clue didn’t have a chance to answer. There was a commotion outside the door to the throne room, and a group of soldiers entered with a small cage.

“A mouse was found in the fortress,” they reported. “It has come from the surface. There is a breach in our defenses.”

The Queen turned to Clue. “Did you bring an animal with you?” she asked.

Clue shrugged. “What would I do with a rat?” she said dismissively.

The Queen considered the answer.

“Take this one to the dungeons,” she ordered the soldiers. “Kill the creature.”

The soldiers grabbed Clue roughly and hauled her toward the deeper corridors of the stronghold.

“But the other Eye,” she yelled as they took her away. “You won’t find it without me.”

“I am not concerned. It must be nearby,” said the Queen. “And perhaps, before long, you will consider revealing where you hid it.”

“No!” screamed Clue. “You can’t take me.”

But it was no use. She was soon locked away, deep beneath the earth.

Exactly where she wanted to be.

 

 

5.

Clue surveyed her cell. There wasn’t enough room for her to sit, so she leaned against the back wall, looking for a weakness in the bars. Unlike the majority of the settlement that she’d seen so far, the bars were not rock, but metal that had been cast into place. In the hall beyond, Clue could see a single guard who had been left to watch her.

Her plan had always been to end up here. There had been no other way she would have been able to infiltrate so deeply into the subterranean fortress. However, the arrival of Mr. Mouse had accelerated her timeline. She had hoped to have learned the location of the artifact from the Queen, first. But Clue knew she was close by, now, and escape would not be a problem.

First, Clue ionized the air around the guard, and then directed a charge of electricity to the back of the woman’s neck. It wasn’t fatal, but, if the underground people were anything like humans, the guard would have a miserable week.

Then, Clue coated the bars with moisture from the air. Using alternating currents of cold and hot wind on the wet metal, she was able to rust through them in minutes.

With a solid kick, she was out.

She took a moment to remember the way she’d been brought down to the prison level, and then went in the opposite direction at a light jog.

 

Mr. Mouse was not happy. He was still in the cage that had been presented to Clue. He’d already tried to gnaw through his bars, but they proven to be resistant to his sharp teeth.  Presently, he was anxiously awaiting the shift change of the soldiers, after which he’d be thrown into the lava pool.

He’d guessed that Clue’s capture had been deliberate after he’d seen her dragged off without so much as a flicker of her powers. Now he hoped that she’d be back for him before his execution. Still without a clear understanding about what Clue was up to, all he could do was twitch his tail and wait.

 

 

6.

Clue reached the heart of the complex. Along the way, she’d had to incapacitate several more of the Queen’s soldiers. When she’d been too close for lightning or flash-freezing to work, she’d temporarily blinded some with bursts of light. In the back of her mind, she knew that Mr. Mouse wouldn’t approve of the more forceful methods she’d taken to using, but she told herself that she’d have that debate with him on the journey home.

She turned the last corner and arrived in the treasure chamber. There was only one piece. A golden, jeweled crown was set on a pillar in the middle of the room. A moat of lava separated the small island from the door where Clue was standing. Clue could see the empty settings on the crown where the two diamonds had come from.

But she wasn’t interested in the priceless metals or gems. Around the band of the crown was an inscription. The tiny words twisted their way through the elaborate decorations, and anybody who didn’t already know that they were there would easily miss them. Although the writing wasn’t in English, Clue knew that it was the location of the sunken continent of Atlantis.

Clue lowered the temperature of the air, and a solid crust of rock formed at the top of the lava as it cooled. Once it was thick enough, she simply walked ahead and picked up the crown. She clutched it close as she crept back up the passageway. She had very little time to rescue her friend.

 

She didn’t get far.

Suddenly, two thick slabs of rock fell from the ceiling, one in front and one behind, trapping Clue in the narrow hall.

She heard the Queens voice, carried through some trick of the acoustics.

“Outsider, do not think that you will escape with our secrets. We have noted your powers, but they will not help you, now.”

The roof began to lower. Clue could feel the vibration of some massive mechanism working behind the walls. She ducked as she was squeezed down toward the floor.

For once, she couldn’t think of a way to get free.

 

 

7.

Desperately, Clue tried to recall any one of her powers that could save her. The thick stone and the enclosed space severely limited her effectiveness. Any plan she came up with was quickly discarded.

She had only a few inches of clearance from the crushing ceiling when she realized that she was mistaken. She thought back to the rudimentary hovering that she’d used to speed her journey to the volcano. The key was not to choose a single power, but to combine several at once. It would take all of her concentration to do so.

She began by creating two columns of high-pressure air to act as supports for the descending roof to buy herself some time. The volume of oxygen in the chamber made this a dangerous gambit. She would have to hold her breath during the next phase of her plan.

Slowly, she began to raise the temperature of the air around her hands, as well. The heat then spread to envelop her entire body. She rolled to face the ceiling. Placing her hand on the bare rock, she pushed lightly. The stone began to melt. Molten drops fell toward her face, but Clue froze them out of mid-air.

She had soon hollowed out a cavity large enough to stand up in. She was amazed by the thickness of the barrier, but now she was well on her way to escaping. With careful timing, she released the invisible support pillars and used the resulting wind to propel herself up and away from the snare.

She was flying through the earth, leaving a scorched and melted hole behind her.

Reaching down, she felt the crown in a pouch at her side. All that remained to complete a successful mission was to find Mr. Mouse and exit the underground kingdom.

That would not present a problem.

Clue knew she was now almost invincible.

 

Mr. Mouse could detect a dull roar, growing louder as it seemed to approach him. He couldn’t recognize it and, abstractly, felt annoyed that this would be the last sound that he would ever hear.

His guards had carried out their task, and his cage was falling toward the searing lava.

Mr. Mouse closed his eyes and hoped his demise would be painless.

 

 

8.

An instant before Mr. Mouse was incinerated, Clue burst through the wall and projected a sheet of ice between her falling partner and the lava. The cage impacted heavily on the makeshift safety net, then slid to Clue’s feet.

Mr. Mouse squeaked his appreciation for being saved.

Clue nodded at him. She turned to face the would-be executioners. “You’re going to pay for that,” she growled at them, stepping forward menacingly. Her hands were still superheated from her trip through the rock, and she reached out to burn the cowering guards.

Mr. Mouse chirped frantically. He had no intention of watching Clue kill for him.

She heard his protest. She lowered her arms suddenly. Shaken by what she had almost done, she slumped to the floor.

The terrified guards scrambled to leave the room.

“Thanks,” Clue whispered to her friend.

His reply was short. Clue understood that he was very cross with her, but that, right now, they needed to leave the underground kingdom.

“Just one more thing,” Clue told him. “Come on.”

She opened her pocket for Mr. Mouse to ride in. Slowly, he made his was up and tucked himself in. He knew the ride home was going to feel very long, indeed.

Clue powered up, and resumed burning through the ground. Her next destination was the throne room.

 

Moments later, she arrived. Her unexpected appearance stunned everyone in the vast chamber.

The Queen was the first to speak. “It seems that you were never truly our prisoner,” she observed. “I assume you have the crown?”

“Yes,” said Clue.

“And you’ve come for the Eye?”

“That’s right.”

“It seems, then, that you’re going to tell me that I have no choice but to hand it over,” the Queen said, regretfully.

Clue didn’t hesitate. “Or I’ll melt a hole into the lava chamber. You and all your subjects will drown in fire.”

The Queen sighed. “So dramatic. I don’t believe you, though. I have been receiving reports about your escape. You haven’t killed yet. Even the ones that tried to kill your beast are still alive.”

Mr. Mouse popped his head up and glared at the Queen. If only she knew how close her people had come to death. He wasn’t mad at her, though. He was worried that Clue wouldn’t be able to handle being taunted like that. He wasn’t sure if he could talk her down for a second time.”

Sure enough, Clue was very close to carrying out her threat. She lifted herself off of the ground and floated toward the outer wall. She placed her hand squarely in the middle and pushed gently.

The Queen watched in horror as rivulets of liquefied earth began to trickle toward the ground.

Mr. Mouse tried desperately to change Clue’s mind, but he began to shiver as she began to build up her icy armor in preparation for being immersed in the lava.

The Queen couldn’t hear the mouse’s pleas. Sensing, now, that Clue wasn’t bluffing, the Queen changed her mind.

“Stop,” she said, her voice as commanding as ever, despite facing possible death. “Here is what you seek.” She produced the diamond and threw it disdainfully at Clue.

Clue caught it.

Without a word, she turned away from her excavation, and launched herself toward the surface, leaving the molten kingdom behind, for good.

 

After retrieving the other diamond from the hole where Mr. Mouse had stashed it, Clue took the crown from its bag.

She mounted the two jewels into the empty claws on the rim of the crown. Once she had them in place, she held the crown up against the glow from the lava in the crater.

Two beams of light, focused through the gems, flashed out and illuminated a spot on the inside of the headpiece. Clue made a note of the location and turned the crown over, examining the writing carved onto the outside.

“That’s where we start,” she told Mr. Mouse. “We should be there in a few days.”

She replaced the crown in its pouch and began to head down the mountain towards home.

Mr. Mouse sat quietly in her pocket, thinking about how close to disaster the quest had come. This time, once Clue arrived at the edge of the desert, he did not have to remind her to use her powers to glide.

It did not make him happy, at all.

 

 

Clue Restacks will return.