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The Runes of Elsewhere - 3

Discovery


James slowly opened his eyes.


Every part of his body ached, especially his head—it hurt like hell.


The last thing he remembered was putting his ear to the ground, hearing a crack, then tumbling into the darkness and then—nothing.


He looked around, seeing nothing but darkness. Just the circle in which he lay, illuminated by the hole he had fallen through. 


A thought then struck him—the dust had settled and there was no moving air down in this hole. Obviously, he had lost consciousness, but for how long?


He rolled to his left to retrieve the phone out of his back pocket as a layer of dust fell off him. His extremities still worked, so he might not have any broken bones. His body hurt, though, so he rolled back once he had retrieved the phone.


He glanced at the clock and calculated he’d been unconscious for over an hour—and noticed there was No Service.


His head throbbed as he stared at the sky through the hole—over 30 feet above—with no way to climb out.


Despite his throbbing head, he could faintly hear shouting.


It was Hiro.


James tried to call out, but couldn’t. Upon sitting upright, he felt woozy as he dug out his water bottle, rinsed the dust from his dry mouth and quenched his parched throat.


He shouted to guide Hiro’s search, but with each shout, his head throbbed more.


He rubbed his temples and then the back of his head, where he felt a huge bump and moisture. He saw his blood covered hand and looked back at where his head previously lay; it was just a patch of bloody mud.


It took several more minutes and shouts before Hiro found the hole and asked, “James, are you down there?”


James breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes!”


“I don’t want to get too close in case more of it caves in. Are you OK?”


“I’m not sure. Everything hurts and my head is bleeding, but I don’t think I broke anything.”


“I can’t see anyone else, and I have no cell signal out here. I’ll toss you one of my walkie-talkies. Hopefully, they will work. Let me know when you’re ready to catch it.”


James pulled himself into a standing position and told Hiro to toss it down. He caught it and they did a radio check.


It worked well and was much less painful than shouting.


Hiro asked James several questions as he flagged the spot and recorded his GPS coordinates.


While Hiro was working top-side, James pulled out his flashlight to explore the cave. Immediately spotting three skeletons leaning against the wall—with what appeared to be chain armour beside each.


Initially, he thought maybe they had all killed each other, but the position of their swords and amount of decay led him to believe that each were here at different times and committed hari-kari, rather than dying slowly from hunger or thirst.


The radio crackled to life as Hiro informed James that he was going for help.


“Thank you, Hiro! When you call 9-1-1, tell them I’ve fallen about 30 feet down into a hole that could be unstable. Also, inform them that there are 3 skeletons down here, and by the looks of them—they have been here for a long time!”


“Wow! 30 feet! You’re lucky you’re still alive, let alone not breaking anything!” Then a few seconds later. “Wait, did you say skel—”


At least Hiro got the message.


A few seconds later, the radio crackled again. “I guess these things have limited range from that far underground. I’ve setup another mark where the limit of the radios are, the range is about a football field.”


“I figured as much. Go get help.”


Feeling woozy, he sat down and got out the first aid kit, using one of his water bottles to clean his head wound and then put ointment on some gauze and bandaged his head. All the while, he was thinking about the skeletons. How did they get here? If they got in, why didn’t they just leave the same way? When was the medieval period?


All the questions running through his head just hurt more. He sat down and relaxed by sipping some water and eating an energy bar. Only then remembering the vibrations which drew him to the area.


In the relaxed silence, he could sense the vibrations again and traced them to a black, triangular rock sitting on a rock ledge directly across from the skeletons.


As he looked back at the skeletons, he noticed the daggers from each of the skeletons were pointing toward the rock.


It was a very unusual rock. Not only by its markings, but also its shape—a near perfect tetrahedron.

James wanted the unique stone for his collection. He took a bunch of pictures of the cave and skeletons before further disturbing the site.


With pictures taken and flashlight in hand, he tried to inspect the area around the hole, but couldn’t since he was looking toward the major light source.


Instead, he investigated the cave.


Near the centre of the cave were remnants of a small fire ring, so likely the dead guys had burned their clothes or whatever they had with them as they tried to find an exit. There was a tunnel between two of the skeletons that went about 30 feet and ended in what looked like a cave-in. On the other end, near the rock, there was a tunnel that went for about 50 feet before it caved in. So this cave was likely a former underground aquifer, but it obviously hadn’t seen water in centuries.


That made little sense, though. If either of the tunnels used to be the entrance and it caved in, that would explain only one skeleton, not three! How did the other two get in here?


As he pondered the explanations, his head throbbed again, so he returned to studying the odd-looking rock. It was lodestone, which explained the vibrations—and being on a rock ledge had amplified the magnetic waves through the solid ground.


His head still hurt, so putting the rock into his backpack, he read a book on his phone while he awaited rescue.


 

Nearly an hour later, the radio crackled to life and Hiro’s voice came through. “We’re back, James. How are you doing?”


“I’m OK—just bored—these guys don’t say much.”


Seconds later, he could hear motors approaching. The solid rock really transmitted vibrations well.

James then talked to one of the rescue guys via the radio. They asked him to inspect the opening once they blocked the light coming into the hole.


They threw a tarp or something over the hole to block the sun and, using his flashlight and the radio, James informed them that the area around the hole appeared to be much thicker than the area he had fallen through.


When they uncovered the hole, he could see a beam of some sort over the middle of the hole.


They informed him to back away from the opening, and they were sending someone down. 


James stood in the tunnel entrance between the two skeletons and a guy was being lowered into the hole with a second safety harness.


When he reached the floor, he gave James a quick check before helping him get the harness on.


Once hooked up, they began hoisting him out of the hole while the rescue guy setup a much brighter work light and began taking all the same pictures James had taken before starting his investigation.

Except their pictures wouldn’t have the black rock.


Upon reaching the surface, they guided James to an off-road vehicle that was serving as a medical station. They brought him into the back, removed the blood-soaked bandage, and got the wound cleaned up properly. Then stitched the wound closed and bandaged him up properly.


They were going to take him to the hospital as a precaution and would likely keep him overnight.

Local law enforcement then took James’ statement and contact information, simply because he had made the discovery and they would credit him with it—if it turned out to be important. Then they allowed his friends to talk to him before taking him away.


Hearing that James was going to a hospital for the night, they offered to take his backpack, but James refused, saying he had a battery powered phone charger in there and that he would text them when they discharged him. 


They then wished him well and said they would see him tomorrow. James actually pulled Hiro in for a hug and thanked him for the rescue.


The search and rescue people then transported him off to the hospital.


 

The night spent in the hospital bed was uneventful. They had checked him in and gave him another going over, then gave him some pain medication and it was night-night time.


He was glad he got the travel medical insurance now, after the professor had recommended it. Reasoning that when wandering around in the desert, there were lots of poisonous snakes and spiders, plus some areas didn’t have the most stable rock formations. Kevin probably never expected something like this, but—shit happens! 


It’s just a good thing they used the buddy system when rockhounding.


James was up a lot earlier than most others in his ward. His body was still sore, but better than it was last night. Fortunately, they didn’t have any wires on him as he exited his room in search of coffee. 

Less than a dozen steps outside his room, a nurse ran up, asked him what he thought he was doing and then told him to go lie back down and she would bring him some coffee. 


A few minutes later, the nurse came in with a little styrofoam cup of coffee—warning him that the coffee sucked as she handed it to him.


The doctor came in a few minutes later to check him over one last time, removing the bandage and inspecting the stitches they had sewn the wound together with. He had a good-sized lump on his head, but he’d be OK.


Seeing James drinking the coffee, the doc joked. “We might have to keep you another day. Maybe order a psych eval? There might actually be something wrong with your head if you enjoy that coffee.”


James laughed. “This coffee sucks! There’s just a lack of options.” 


The doctor laughed as he took the cup of coffee out of James’ hand. “Nope, your faculties are all there, but we best send you on your way before you ingest any more of this crap. Just take it easy for a couple of days.”


It was barely past 7:00. Sure Kevin and Cory were probably already up, but they likely wouldn’t have the RV ready to go, so he simply called for an Uber and a few minutes later a little green Kia Soul pulled up and he got a ride back to the resort.


 

As expected, Kevin and Cory were both up and they had one of those instant coffee makers in the RV—it was much better than the shit at the hospital.


James opted out of going rockhounding near Camp Verde—roughly half an hour away—and was just going to hang out at the cabin and rest, as the doctor ordered.


Eventually, Hiro and the girls came out to the RV to dish up their French toast and bacon.


It surprised them to see James back already, and it disappointed them he wouldn’t be coming along on their trip today—although they understood why.


They had all agreed not to eat in the RV. Instead, dishing up out there and bringing it inside where they had more elbow room and a full-size sink for washing dishes and cutlery. Plus, they had also stocked the larger cabin fridge with orange juice, water, and soft drinks.


While everyone was eating their breakfast, Kevin had been busy getting the RV ready to go.


James offered to do the dishes, since he was staying behind. 


Haley and Cory both volunteered to stay with him, but he insisted he’d be fine and they could go do what they came here to do.


Everyone thanked him as they filed out to the RV and were soon on their way.


After James cleaned the dishes, he sat out on the deck studying the rock. The lodestone itself looked like a normal lodestone. Black magnetite with streaks of light brown, likely maghemite or maybe hematite. What made the stone unique was its shape and lines.


Sure, at one time the cave was likely part of an underground aquifer, which would explain the fairly smooth faces and the rounded points and edges, but the perfect tetrahedron shape and the straight streaks that followed the edges between the symmetrical sides. Lodestone just doesn’t form that way—at least not naturally!


He did a ton of researching on the Internet. The only explanation for the shape and texture was if someone had cut and shaped the stone from a larger piece, but there was no way to explain the lines. Lines form in layers, not in the multiple directions visible on this stone.


Eventually giving up, he had a shower and then grabbed a soda and what was leftover from last night’s pizza. Then he sat down and watched a movie to pass the time.


 

The others returned mid afternoon, thoroughly exhausted from walking in the blistering sun. After checking in with James, they immediately changed into their swimsuits. Then grabbed their towels and headed for the pool, since that was the quickest way to cool down.


James changed and went to the pool with them, although he simply stayed along the edge—keeping his head, stitches and bandages out of the water. After the quick dip, they went back to the cabin and ordered Chinese food, each having showers while waiting for delivery.


Everyone enjoyed the early supper and then relaxed around the propane fire pit that evening. Once the conversation came around to what everyone had found. The professor asked everyone to go grab the specimens they had kept and to bring them out for some show and tell.


They placed their finds on the picnic table, which the professor could reach from his chair. He inspected each specimen and then asked whose it was. Then he asked them to identify it, before passing the stone around.


James only had the lodestone, while the rest of them had found various agates, moqui stones, rose quartz, and Hiro had even found a petrified fossil.


Once the specimens had passed around, the professor had returned them to the picnic table, except the lodestone, which was the last stone. He held onto it, scrutinizing it as it intrigued him.


The lodestone was eventually returned to the table, but as they sat around the faux fire, much of the discussion continued about how it possibly got formed, such as it was. They dismissed suggestions about being manufactured as preposterous. After all, it could have been potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of years, since it got buried in that hole. A true conundrum likely never to be answered.


 

They played some campfire games and had a good time under the light of the full moon and the small gas fire bowl.


A noise from the picnic table caught their attention as the lodestone was vibrating and the sides appeared to glow with a rune of some sort.


Everyone was staring at the glowing rock as a purple spot of light appeared to exit the stone, zipping around the campsite before a beautiful flying woman suddenly popped into existence. 


Possibly a fairy of some sort? She was wearing a sheer white dress that really didn’t leave much to the imagination. She was maybe 4’ tall, AA-cup sized breasts, purple eyes, blonde hair, hairless pussy and 4 transparent wings that looked like a dragonfly.


She looked around the group and asked, “Qui inventus est lapis?”


Everyone was silent, still in a state of shock at seeing a fairy-like woman appear out of nowhere and fluttering in front of them. Her speaking another language just added to the confusion. 


Again, she asked, “Qui inventus est lapis?”


James thought he had recognized some words she spoke. This time, he listened intently to her question. He thought qui was who, and he knew lapis was Latin for stone, so he guessed at the other words as they pertained to the lodestone she came out of, and said, “I found the stone.”


Everyone looked at James, surprised that he actually understood what she had said.


A smile came across her face as she turned to look at James. “English it is!” 


She then flew around the campsite and high into the sky before returning to the group—landing directly in front of James. She seemed confused and a bit sad. “This realm differs greatly from what I remember.” 


Shaking her head, she smiled and refocused her attention on James. “I am Amaranth, the voice of the stone. Do you like adventures?”


James nodded and said, “Of course!”


His legs were parted, as most guys normally sit, allowing her to step right up to him, touching her left hand to his right temple and putting her right hand on his heart as she leaned close and gave him a chaste kiss. She smelled and tasted like grape soda. “Mmm! Your spirit is strong!”


With a mischievous grin, she waved her hand and said, “Indumentis auferet!” 


Suddenly, his clothes vanished in a poof of purple dust.


James’ cock was already rapidly approaching full mast as she grabbed his cock and began performing fellatio, without even asking permission.


The blowjob felt incredible—the fairy definitely knew what she was doing. Unfortunately, blowjobs didn’t really do it for James. Only a couple of women had ever made him cum that way, and it took some effort on their part. 


After a few minutes, she stopped and smiled. “Wow, such stamina!” Changing tactics, she straddled his waist and worked his cock into her tight little pussy and fucked him. It didn’t take long until James was erupting cum deep inside the little fairy.


Amaranth quickly got off and, with a smile, went down and resumed her fellatio to get any remaining cum.


Licking her lips like she was tasting a fine wine, her eyes went wide and a huge grin formed on her tiny face. “Wow, you’re a 9! You possess all the skills of a master adventurer. I look forward to giving you my gift!”


She then glanced around at the others, who had been sitting there flabbergasted that she had fucked James right in front of them. “A cabal is unnecessary—but allowed.” She turned back to James and asked, “Would you like to form a cabal, Master?”


James, still a bit confused, asked, “Is it safe?”


“There is no reward without risk. Trials are safer than quests since you can’t actually die, but you might be amazed by what you can survive! You can always bring others with you on your adventures. Although I would warn you—unless they have useful skills, inexperienced adventurers are often a hinderance.”


James looked around at the group, then shrugged his shoulders and nodded. “I’m up for a cabal.”

Amaranth smiled as she turned to look around the group. Haley was sitting immediately to James’ left and Kevin to James’ right—although there was a bit of a gap to the professor because of the picnic table.


She stepped over to Haley. “Do you like adventures?”


Haley nodded yes.


Amaranth touched and kissed Haley; then recited the spell to remove her clothes and performed cunnilingus until Haley orgasmed.


“You’re a 5. You have spirit and potential. Although you lack key adventuring skills, but I sense you learn fast. You could be a pleasant addition to the master’s cabal, but you will need help to survive.”


Amaranth continued on to Vina. “Do you like adventures?”


Vina nodded yes and Amaranth touched and kissed her. She then removed Vina’s clothes and then licked Vina to orgasm. 


“Mmm, you’re a 7! You have spirit and most of the adventuring skills, you would be a very worthy addition to the master’s cabal.”


Amaranth moved on to Hiro. “Do you like adventures?”


Hiro asked, “What type of adventures?”


Amaranth furrowed her brow and again asked, “Do you like adventures?”


Afraid he wouldn’t get a blowjob or get laid, Hiro nodded yes. 


She touched and kissed him; then removed his clothes and gave him a blowjob. He lasted longer than the other night, but barely.


“You are intelligent, but if you go adventuring, you will need to rely heavily on your companions if you hope to survive!”


Hiro tried to justify his performance. “I didn’t last very long because I just watched you bring two women to orgasm! How is it that the girls rank higher than me? You didn’t even tell me what my score was.”


She ignored Hiro as she looked at Cory. “Do you like adventures?”


Cory looked at her husband. Kevin just smiled and nodded his approval as Cory then smiled and nodded.


Amaranth touched and kissed her, then removed her clothes and licked her to a squirting orgasm. 

“Mmm, you’re a 6! You might be a useful addition to the master’s cabal.”


She moved on to Kevin. “Do you like adventures?”


Kevin looked at his wife. Cory just smiled and said, “Go ahead, see if you’re worthy!”


Kevin nodded. Amaranth then touched and kissed him before removing his clothes and giving him a blowjob. She looked like she was just about to change to fucking him, but he finally came.


“Mmm, you’re an 8! You have an excellent selection of adventuring skills. You would definitely be a worthy addition to the master’s cabal.”


She then returned to James and straddled his lap, as she gave him another kiss and stroked his still hard cock. “There’s only been 3 other 9s in history! I look forward to seeing what you can do! Assemble your cabal tomorrow at midnight and we will begin the trial. If you succeed, I shall give you my gift.”


As she looked around at everyone, she smiled. “Indumentis reditus!” 


Everyone’s clothes reappeared. With a smile and wave, she turned back into a speck of purple light and vanished into the rock as the runes slowly faded away.


The rest of the night, they discussed what just happened and about what the trial might be. Although they seemed more curious to go, since she mentioned they couldn’t actually die during a trial.


Cory and Kevin eventually retired for the night as the rest of them went into the cabin. 

Hiro was depressed and embarrassed that he came prematurely in front of everyone again, so he just went to bed as well.


 

The next day they went rockhounding near the Montezuma Castle National Monument, before going on a tour of the ancient dwelling.


While rockhounding, everyone stayed within sight of each other—not wanting a repeat of what happened to James. With the closer proximity, it also facilitated discussions about what the trial might actually entail.


Returning to the resort mid afternoon, they dug out their phones and tablets instead of going to the pool.


As a group, they started listing what they thought adventuring skills were from the results of a myriad of Internet searches.


Most of their search criteria derived from small things Amaranth had said that James had pieced together. Such as there being only 3 other 9s—James deduced they might have been the 3 skeletons that were in the cave with the rock. The skeletons all had medieval type armour and swords.


Through the searches, they came up with several scenarios for medieval quests and possibly something with magic. After all, Amaranth had used magic to make their clothes disappear. They also came up with a list of skill sets for those sorts of scenarios. None of the scenarios involved modern guns, those introduce too many variables and take away from the challenge and sport.


James was by far the most rounded. He had studied a few different martial arts, although none to the elite level, but some of them included weapons training with knives, staffs and swords. He was also a skilled outdoorsman, able to live off the land, build shelters, and trap. Plus, he was a skilled tactician and former squad leader for his competitive paintball team, and had experience hunting with both rifles and bows. He also—kind of—understood the language that Amaranth spoke.


Vina was a black belt in kung fu, having trained since she was 5 and it included weapons training. Her dad was an avid outdoorsman, so before she left Japan, they had gone out into the woods several times and he had taught her some basic survival skills.


Haley had taken self-defence courses and was still active in kickboxing. The only weapons training she had was that she did fencing, and she had tried archery twice.


Kevin was also an avid outdoorsman, and could live off the land. He was into karate way back in his younger days, but he doubted he could remember much of it. He and Cory had also recently started archery as they wanted to bow hunt. Cory, like Haley, had taken some self-defence courses and had done kickboxing quite a few years ago.


After everyone had listed their survival skills, Hiro realized his low score was because he had never done much outdoors or any fighting, except in video games. His parents were always against violence of any sort and anything outdoors resembling ‘roughing it’ was not their idea of fun.


Haley then reiterated what Amaranth had said: ‘you might be amazed at what you can survive.’ So, even though they couldn’t physically die during the trial, they could experience excruciating pain and torture. This brought a more sombre mood to the conversation, and they realized they may have to actually kill people, but James, Vina, and Haley still said they were going. Kevin and Cory weren’t interested in tempting fate, and Hiro was still undecided.


Not knowing what the adventure would entail, each of them put various small survival items in the pockets of their pants, knives, compass, string, matches, food bars, flashlight, phone, etc.


Just before midnight, they assembled around the campfire with the stone on the picnic table beside James. Kevin and Cory had already decided they weren’t going, but Cory had her phone at the ready to record this potential once-in-a-lifetime event. 


The stone eventually started vibrating and glowed with the same runes as the previous night—announcing Amaranth’s return.


“Greetings, Master!” She said as she kissed James before looking around at everyone else. “The cabal must touch the stone first. Once the master touches the stone—the trial will begin.”


Vina and Haley immediately stood up and touched the stone. Hiro still looked pensive, and Kevin and Cory were both shaking their heads, although Cory had started recording the event as soon as the rock started glowing.


Looking at Hiro, James slowly reached for the stone—giving Hiro a moment to decide.


At the very last second, Hiro rushed over and touched the stone just before James did.


To Kevin and Cory, they all just appeared to collapse as they rushed to prevent any of them from falling on the fire bowl, but to everyone else…

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