I wrote a fanfic in my friend Seth's D&D campaign universe. He streams one of his campaigns on my other friend Sam's twitch every Sunday. I play in his home game on Thursdays. I drive 40-90 minutes every week just to play D&D at his house. I'm crazy. Anyway, enjoy this weird short story.
Men and women dressed in plain, long, white Dhoti work tirelessly moving the earth to reveal ancient ruins, their heads wrapped in Pagri. Dust has turned the whites of the plain, unstitched cloth a light brown. A young man with a long silver and brown beard in a loose fitting blue robe adorned with yellow and white stars stands atop a dune looking out over the dig site. Several small leather pouches and satchels hang from his waist. He carries a large scythe, worn with dirt and sand on his back.
He rambles to his companion, “Have you ever heard of the Eternal Return theory? The idea that the history of Aarklash exists in cycles marked by the contention? The last contention could have been the third or even the fourth! As you may have surmised, Obkrin, this theory is quite contentious.”
He giggles to himself for a moment before continuing.
“I believe The Sunken Library was built and lost in a previous cycle — a previous contention. If we find it, we’ll have proof of the cyclical nature of existence. We might even learn the cause of The Contention or a secret to stopping all existence from resetting! No longer will we mortals be at the whims of the gods and their petty squabbles!”
Obkrin stands tall, towering over the utterly average sized Tendeliath. He scratches his tall, blonde hair, speaking calmly through a thick, burly moustache, “Tendeliath, I didn’t understand a word you just said.”
“It is no matter. I need you for your brawn, not your brains,” barks Tendeliath.
With a shrug, Obkrin sighs.
Waving his arm across the horizon gesturing to the workers below Tendeliath proclaims, “I believe The Sunken Library lies here, beneath the hungry sands.”
A worker runs hurriedly down the sand dune to the north momentarily losing his footing as he slips into a tumble before picking himself up at the feet of Tendeliath and Obkrin. “Tendeliath, Sir! We’ve found something. A doorway.”
“A doorway!? Fascinating. Obkrin! We must investigate at once!” He dusts off his pointed blue and gold-starred hat, returns it to his already balding head, pushes off the sand with his staff and takes his first step towards a new discovery.
The worker leads them to a stone staircase descending to a corridor ten feet wide and ten feet deep with walls of sandstone bricks. A rectangular passageway at the other end rests beneath a semi-circular archway housing a stone statue of a creature with the head of a woman, body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and a serpent-headed tail. One of the workers lies restless beneath the archway, his flesh beginning to turn to sand.
“Fascinating. Obkrin, do you see it!?”
“Yes, the body is turning to…”
“Not just any monster, it is a legendary creature — a sphinx!”
Pointing to the body, the worker stumbles over his words, “Sir, J-Jeremiah tried to enter. I t-told him n-not to b-but he insisted. H-he…”
Tendeliath rests his hands on the man’s shoulder, “One must temper the lust of discovery with discipline lest one lose oneself to the throes of nonexistence, boy.”
“W-wha-what!? Sir? I’m older than you. What?”
Obrkin shakes his head and lets out a deep sigh.
“No matter, Jerry there must have failed the test! Do you know what a Sphinx is?”
“A legendary ugly ass mother fucker,” exclaims Obkrin
“A Sphinx is a guardian. It asks questions — riddles, peering deep into the soul of the questioned to determine their worthiness of entry.”
“And if they aren’t?” Obkrin questions.
“Well… that,” Tendeliath points to the body of Jeremiah now a skeleton surrounded by a heap of clothes and sand, “Fascinating, the way he is decomposing…”
He etches a rune into the sand with the butt of his staff uttering a choice few guttural syllables. His eyes flash and a pale blue glow remains in his irises.
“Tendeliath, what was that? Another one of your spells?”
“Detect Magic to be precise. It allows me to see if anything is magical. The statue is most definitely magical, though I can’t tell what school.”
“What about Jeremiah?”
“Why, yes, the body IS magical — the school of Necromancy to be exact. A powerful spell, very powerful. Fascinating. I would advise not failing the test. Fortunately, I am quite good at riddles,” Tendeliath pulls a book out of is bag titled, The Riddle and the Fiddle - A Dummy’s Guide to Logic Puzzles and Stringed Instruments, by Tendeliath. “I published this when I was fourteen. It’s how I was admitted to the University of Cadwalon.”
Tendeliath approaches the Sphinx resting two meters above the archway, Obkrin trailing a pace or two behind.
“Slowly now!” exclaims Tendeliath as he points to the dusty remains of what was once Jeremiah. “We don’t want to end up like Jerry there.”
“This Jerry thing is killing me…” laughs Obkrin.
“GIVE ME A MOMENT OBKRIN, I’M TRYING TO FOCUS!” Tendeliath barks as he walks up an invisible staircase to eye-level with the Sphinx and holds out his hand.
Though Obkrin follows, he fails to find a foothold and falls flat on his face.
“WHAT DID I JUST SAY OBKRIN! DO NOT DISTRACT ME! Do you desire to hurl us all screaming into the nine hells?”
Obkrin sighs again as he pulls himself up, dusting off his brown leather boots and green tabard with a lion’s crest. Across his barrel chest he wears a thick, black leather bandolier clasped by a large silver badge of a skull struck by a smith’s hammer holding: a chisel, hammer, nails, wrench, pick, crowbar, pitons, tinderbox, torches, and waterskin. Strapped to the side hangs fifty feet of hempen rope.
As Tendeliath’s hand makes contact with the stone creature’s torso, a voice manifests in the back of his mind, barely discernible from his own inner dialogue. Who seeks the knowledge sealed within?
“Fascinating,” ruminates Tendeliath, “Obkrin, are you hearing this?”
“Hearing what? I only hear your arrogance,” quips Obkrin.
Who deems themselves worthy?
Striking a pose Tendeliath proclaims, “The greatest scholar of our time, Tendeliath of course!”
Obkrin rolls his grey, faintly purple eyes.
What would this Tendeliath do with the Power lost beneath the sands of time?
“I would end the cycle, end the contention - make peace with the gods!” Tendeliath says proudly. “Peace in our time.”
Very well, prostrate thyself and be judged.
Tendeliath slowly descends to the ground like a feather tossed down a well. He bows before the Sphinx, face in the dirt. A flapping comes from the northeast as a large shadow descends upon the dig site. Workers scream and run for cover. A large winged creature lands atop the archway just above the statue of its likeness. A sunburst around her left eye. From its perch it speaks in a booming, frightening yet soothing, feminine voice, “There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters?”
Obkrin’s reaches to close his own drooping mouth.
Tendeliath turns from his prostrated position and condescends, “Relax Obkrin, this is a Sphinx. It will only harm us if we fail to solve the riddle. Everything is fine though, I literally wrote the book on riddles.”
“I’m overflowing with confidence,” Obkrin retorts rolling his eyes.
Ignoring Obkrin, Tendeliath mutters to himself, “There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first… a snake? No. A mother? No.”
He pauses, scratches his beard.
“A nun? No. Time? No. A dragon? Perhaps… But I must be completely sure or we will be dehydrated.” Obkrin takes a drink from his canteen as Tendeliath rips open his book on riddles that he wrote himself and furiously flips through its pages, “There has got to be something in here…”
Obkrin claps his palms together slamming them into the ground. A pillar of stone raises him eye-level to the statue. He places his left hand on the effigy of the Sphinx noticing for the first time a crescent moon around its left eye. “The craftsmanship is remarkable. Stonework of this caliber is a treat to behold. A moon? Strange.” He questions looking up at the winged beast. “This isn’t a statue of you is it?”
The Sphinx stares deep into Obkrin’s eyes. A small tear collects below her left eye falling to the sand below, crystallizing on contact.
“I think I’ve got it,” Obkrin declares stoically, “Day,” pointing to the Sphinx, “and Night,” pointing to the statue.
Tendeliath stands violently turning towards Obkrin, “You fool! You have doomed us all!”
“Your answer is correct. Obkrin, you have passed the test. You may enter,” declares the Sphinx.
Tendeliath’s jaw drops from a wounded ego.
Obkrin kneels before the Sphinx, “Mistress Day, I thank you, but I must insist you permit my companion to enter as well. You see, we are a team, and the knowledge locked within this library is very important to him, and he is very important to me. Would you allow him access as well?”
After a moment of silence that feels like eternity, the strange creature’s grim, expressionless face twists into a soft smile. Like a mother watching her child sleep. “Your words are true. Your heart the same. I will grant your request. The way is open.”