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The Greatest Treasure of All

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Between the two of them, they managed to lift the sarcophagus lid high enough to slide it off the pedestal, where it landed first on its side with a thunk, then on its back with a heavy whump.  The latter displaced a cloud of dust, which Faris endured and Butz sought to dispel with a wave and a cough.

Entombed within, as the dust settled, was a body that had been enshrouded in bright, vibrant armor layered over colored clothing that bespoke of joviality.

It... didn’t look that old...

Haaaa!” the body spoke, a sound straight from the ki.

...or dead, for that matter.

Butz echoed the cry in surprise, stumbling back down the dais stairs as the body sat up.  Faris stared at the very much alive man’s back and shoulders – what most she could see of him.  She squinted as he turned his head this way and that, leaving her with a view of his face in profile – first one side, then, as if in case she hadn’t caught it the first time, the other.

Faris swore.

Her weight shifted marginally, and the square of her shoulders relaxed.

Butz hadn’t caught on yet.  He was trying to find his way around to Faris’ side of the sarcophagus without attracting attention when the man leapt out with a clatter of armor, right in front of him, bringing him up short.

Gilgamesh took a deep breath, and set his gaze upon him, leaving Butz in rabbit-eyed shock.

“Ah!” Gilgamesh bellowed.  Clasping Butz shoulders, he lifted him to his toes.  “My friend!”

Faris tensed.  Her hand hadn’t left the hilt of her sword.  But the demon tree was dead, and Gilgamesh... didn’t seem all that dangerous.

Not... intentionally, anyway.

“Put me down,” Butz said.  He barely thought in time to tack on a polite, squeaky, “Please.”

Gilgamesh dropped him to his feet, and Butz shakily, and with great care, made his escape down the steps, one step at a time.  Faris followed, taking longer, more comfortable strides down to stand beside him.  Once she had distance, she glanced up at Gilgamesh, who stood soaking it in on the dais.  Theatrically.

The question remained.

How did he end up down here?

Or perhaps, more bewildering, how in the powers of hell did he escape the Void?

Shaking her head, Faris kept on.  Leaning on the bulwark of the tomb’s grandiose entrance archway, she dug out her pipe and her pouch of smokeweed with which to fill it.

Butz could deal with it.  Or not.  She’d decided she was on break; while she was on break, she didn’t care.

“Long have I awaited-...”

Really didn’t care.

Standing rooted and enraptured by the monologue, Butz finally blinked.  Glancing after her, he tried to get her attention, silently, to no end.  Taking a chance, he inched backward over to her.


Summoning enough of a spark to set the smokeweed aflame, she ignored him.

“Faris, what are we going to do?” he asked, “We can’t just-...”

“Don’t come cryin’ a’ me, mate,” Faris told him.  “Thi’sh were one o’ ye’r leads.”

“This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to find,” Butz whispered.  Rather unnecessarily, she thought; Gilgamesh had already planted himself within the conversation, covertly huddled between them like he was a participant of it.

Which he was, just not on the inside.

“Be fair!” Butz hissed, maintaining the hush for no reason other than plausible deniability, “tell me anyone could have predicted... this.”

She licked her lower lip as she stared him down, then turned her head to breathe a plume of smoke into the shifting dust of the adjoining hall before again meeting his eyes.

Butz didn’t offer up any suggestions.

She didn’t have any better idea than he did.

“May I suggest withdrawal in order to regroup and refresh resources in preparation for future engagements?”

The next cloud of smoke went directly into Gilgamesh’s face.

He didn’t even seem to notice.

Tossing the coals to tuck her pipe away into a pocket, she ignored Gilgamesh to focus on Butz.

“Lad, ye promised me a treasure hunt,” Faris pointed out, before rolling off the arch.  She left the obvious unspoken between them: Festively fashionable though he may have been, Gilgamesh was neither something shiny she could display in her cabin, nor could he be sold for a tidy profit.

She took a single step, and swore at letting down her guard when she found herself inexplicably shoulder to shoulder with Butz and back to Gilgamesh as he crushed them together into a quasi-group hug.  Wincing, Butz struggled to dislodge her sword hilt from jabbing into his ribs.

“Ah, but the greatest treasure was friendship all along.”

“That’s...” Butz squirming stalled; he blinked at Faris, then glanced up and over his shoulder, “...actually very poignant.”

Faris shot Butz a glare; her show of teeth had nothing to do with friendship.

“Thank you,” Gilgamesh remarked graciously.

“Swamp rot,” Faris snarled, tearing herself away and continuing her break for freedom.

“Faris, hey-...”

But for the shake of her head, she ignored him.  Butz started after her, but before he could catch her, Faris swirled on her heel, resting her wrist on her sword.  “C’mon, even you can admit it; that was a nice sentiment...”

“Then bunk with ‘im t’night,” she suggested, turning to disappear into the darkness past the flickering sconces that illuminated the chamber.

Her footfalls echoed until she turned the distant corner, and Butz’ shoulders slumped.

“You’ll... have to forgive her,” he said.  Turning back to Gilgamesh, he scratched the back of his neck as he explained, “Really, she does have a heart.  Of gold.  That she keeps locked away in her hideout with everything else she’s gotten her hands on that’s made of gold.”

“Yes, I do remember,” Gilgamesh remarked, staring after her with his hands on his hips, “A real man of the sea, that woman.”

“I... um...” Butz thought about it, then acquiesced.  “Okay, yeah, something like that.”

They stood in silence for a full minute, possibly two, until it became uncomfortable.  Rather, until Butz became uncomfortable, while Gilgamesh stood grinning companionably.

“I think... maybe we should go?”

“Yes,” Gilgamesh agreed.  “Enough of dark, lonesome eternity.  Lead on.”

Swallowing his misgivings, Butz nodded decisively, starting back through the ancient tomb.

The awkward had only just begun.