Early morning was kind to the City of Reshingham. It was a large city, the third largest in fact, located in the centre of the country of Southern Varea. It was also known all over the world as a great home of magic, history, and culture. Great architecture, pieces of art, and sights to see all around, surrounded by green fields, hills, and forests. People would come from all over to explore and learn from what was available only here.
Clear skies, warm sun, and light breezes made it a wonderful day to visit the markets at the centre of the city, located just outside of a large church. A teen with messy, blonde hair and bright blue eyes browsed a stall filled with charms and jewellery, his expression filled with excitement as he focused on a small, silver double-winged pendant hanging from a thin, rope necklace. He felt it would go perfectly with his outfit; a brown, faux-fur collared pilots jacket with the sleeves rolled up over a black shirt, grey jeans, and red canvas shoes.
"Ya have a good eye!"
The voice came from the stall's owner, a girl with wavy silver hair and bright violet eyes wearing a purple denim jacket, white shirt, and a long, yellow scarf. She looked to be similar in age to her potential customer, and she could tell this fact may work to her advantage for a sale.
"This here will protect ya from the effects of foul weather! Never have ta worry about catching a cold or sickness from the cold damp days with this!"
The boy was far too busy being distracted by the freckles on the cute girls' face to notice his twin sister calling over for him from a few feet away. After the third attempt she gave up and grabbed him by one of his ear, dragging him away to the seller’s dismay. She stopped a little ways down a quiet alley-way, somewhere her brother couldn’t be easily distracted.
“Lex’! Why’d you do that?!” He rubbed at his ear, it was red from the lobe all the way up to its pointed helix; a sign they weren’t full human.
"We need money to buy things, Xander. There’s no point in even looking right now."
Lexi was a little shorter than her brother, but only a couple of inches, and held a more serious expression versus his own carefree look. her light-brown, short-sleeved jacket and black vest both stopped a few inches above her belly button, leaving bare skin between where they ended and her black jeans began. She shifted her canvas messenger bag and crossed her arms over her chest, one of her black boots tapping the ground impatiently.
"Don't remind me," He sighed.
"Who was it that spent our week's Sterling on a magical pineapple that was, in fact, just a pineapple?"
"They told me it granted wishes!" He exclaimed.
Lexi groaned, rubbing her temples.
"I wish you'd been born with a brain."
Meanwhile, in a tavern not too far from the squabbling twins, something was afoot.
"So this is definitely it?" A blonde-haired Elven woman with thick-rimmed, circular glasses over bright blue eyes sat at a table looking over a rather old looking scroll with markings and circles drawn upon it. She reached into the pocket of her long white coat and pulled out a small magnifying glass to help her inspection of the item at hand.
"Yeah, we acquired it from a man travelling from Desia. They had all sorts of black market items, this being one of particular interest."
The voice came from a rather rotund, balding man. The look of pride could only be matched by that of a pig having found its very own mudpuddle to wallow in.
"Something seems to be off.." the woman spoke, causing a look of concern for the man and the two thuggish-looking 'muscle' he had with him. Likely the duo who actually put the effort into convincing the traveller to part ways with his wares.
"This doesn't match any of the Relic Rune Scrolls I've seen before. I believe this fellow had been deceived.."
"What?! But the treasures—"
"Will not be reached with such attempts of forgery as this." She rolled the scroll up and shook her head before holding it out to him. "I wish you better luck next time."
As the woman made her way out of the tavern, the trio looked at each other with dismay. He placed the scroll down on the table and groaned. There was a pause, as the balding fellow's mind seemed to make a realisation. He went to open the scroll up to discover it was merely leaves! She had swapped it out somehow. But... if this wasn't the scroll, where had it gone..?
"That bitch swapped it! Go get her!" He pointed at the door angrily and the hired muscle ran outside. As they stepped out into the daylight they grabbed a woman who was standing nearby.
"You! Have you seen a blonde with round glasses?" The elf woman, black haired with green eyes mostly hidden under dark sunglasses, looked at the two of them in silence for a moment before responding.
“Y-yes! She went around the market towards the Chaplace."
Before another word could be said, the men rushed off leaving her behind.
"Ijits." She muttered to herself, pulling the thick-rimmed spectacles out of her pocket and tossed them into the alleyway nearby before walking down it, "If you can't spot a glamour up close then it's your own fault, really."
She’d rushed to remove her disguise as soon as she’d made her escape, fortunately the white coat had done a wonderful job of hiding her usual outfit underneath; black ankle boots and shorts, a leather sports-bra style top that zipped up at the front, and a brown leather pouch affixed to her waist. As she made her way down the alleyway, she picked up the red vest-jacket she’d stashed away slipped it on. Once she felt she was in a place where nobody could see her, the woman pulled the scroll out of a her pouch that now seemed like must've been far bigger on the inside than out. She looked it over for a few moments, sighing. Hmm... might need a few extra bodies to help me with this. She thought to herself.
Siarra stood there, trying to think herself the quickest and easiest ways of recruiting someone to lend a hand, but found her train of thought being ruined by two people not too far away in a rather heated discussion, blonde teens who seemed to be talking about being in need of money. She grinned broadly, What perfect timing.
"Excuse me!" She called over as she walked towards the duo, "I couldn't help but overhear your predicament, and I think we could be of use to each other."
Xander looked to the woman and smiled sheepishly. Lexi rolled her eyes before speaking on his behalf.
"How do you mean?"
The woman held out her hand, smiling warmly.
"Siarra. Great relic hunter for Reshingham's Architectural Society. I have a scroll that leads to a ruin containing various artefacts and scrolls. I couldn’t help but hear your predicament and, well… I was just on my way back to the society headquarters to grab a few members for a job. If you're willing to help me out, the society will happily pay you for all your hard work."
"What's the ca-"
Lexi was interrupted by an overly excited Xander reaching out for her hand to shake.
"Fantastic!" She exclaimed, "My car is parked outside the city gates. We can get to the nearest Rune Circle pretty quickly from here that way. Oh, excuse my manners. Who are you both, by the way?"
"I'm Xander, and this is my sister Lexi. We're from Hemport!" He grinned broadly.
"Pleasure to meet you. Let's hope for a successful venture." Siarra pointed the way towards the city gates and let the two take lead. She smirked to herself, A couple of kids from some outback fishing town. This'll be the easiest con yet.
It wasn't far at all by car, the trio arrived at the stone circle within no time. Siarra parked not too far from the ancient looking circle of giant stones. These places were revered, and sticking a car right inside them would probably invoke the wrath of some god or other. At the northern part of the circle, two tall stones held up another which formed a sort of doorway, and at the centre was a much smaller, flat-topped stone next to another smaller, rounded stone with engravings on it. Siarra lead the twins to the centre, placing her hand on the rounded stone first. She stood in silence for a few moments before returning her focus to the task at hand.
"Here we are." She looked over the stone in front of them before handing the scroll over to Xander, "Here. Hold it open so I can copy the runes from the parchment."
He took it and let the scroll unfurl, holding it steady for Siarra to copy down. She pulled out a small knife from her pocket and etched the markings perfectly onto the stone, "There. This should open the gate. Just one more thing needed.."
The knife slide across Siarra's palm, allowing her life force to start pouring out, much to Xander's dismay.
"Wh-what're you doing?!"
He yelled, dropping the scroll. Siarra ignored him as she placed the bloodied hand onto the stone before them. The markings and runes seemed to absorb the blood as it poured out, beginning to glow. Lexi watched in amazement. After all, this was new to the twins. Nothing like this ever happened back in Hemport. Siarra pulled her hand back and turned her attention to the stone 'doorway' as it began to glow in response. Soon enough a pale blue portal began to open in the space, tall and narrow. It was wide enough for two of them to venture through simultaneously at most.
Siarra spoke with a smile before heading on through. Xander and Lexi looked at each other for a moment before following.
It felt like soft silk sliding across their skin, somehow cool and warm at the same time. The feeling lasted only a few moments and they were through. Lexi stepped through first, gazing up at the room before them. It looked old and abandoned, easily for hundreds of years. Moss and weeds had grown through the walls and carpets, and there was no other signs of life anywhere. Xander appeared shortly after, almost bumping into a distracted Lexi.
"It should be at the centre of the ruin, the vault of relics." Siarra started to walk forward.
"One sec!" Xander called before rushing over. He reached down to the bottom of his shirt and tore a thin strip off from the front before handing it to her, "For your hand."
She took it and looked to the tear in the boy's shirt, noticing an interesting mark just above his left hip.
She raised a brow, wrapping the cloth around her cut palm. To be honest, it had already stopped bleeding. She decided she’d at least act the part of a grateful partner. Xander looked down sheepishly. It was a black circle, with a curved section cut out of it on the right side.
"It's a family birthmark. Lexi has one too."
His sister nodded, tapping the space just below her neck.
“Right. Anyway. Let's move on." Siarra ventured up a decrepit staircase to their right, “Oh, and mind your step. These ruins are aptly named."
The second floor was in just as much disarray as the room they entered into. No signs of life up here, either.
The three stopped at a partially open doorway. Unfortunately, the ceiling had long since collapsed and blocked it. It didn't look safe enough to climb, and far too many large stones to try and move without more people. Siarra frowned, trying to think.
"Don't worry, I’ve got this." Xander chimed in, stepping forward. He walked over to the side of the rubble and took a deep breath. He clasped his hands together and chanted something under his breath. It wasn't long before his skin began to lightly glow. He loosed his clasp and grinned before placing each hand on parts of the rubble. Another deep breath was taken before he started to push the stones out of the way as if they were lighter than air. Once he'd moved enough to allow passage through the doorway he nodded to himself and the glowing faded, “There we go!”
"Physical enhancement magic. That was unexpected." Siarra canted her head to the side as she watched Xander, "nice work."
He beamed at her and bowed dramatically. Lexi simply rolled her eyes at him.
"You know, I think this place is so decrepit that any of the trials may not even be active anymore."
Siarra seemed to give a sigh of relief as she spoke. After all, the less work you have to do the better.
"However..." she stopped, overlooking a large expanse. On either side were two rather rotten wooden poles in the ground, pieces of rope and plank hanging down from either end, "A lack of bridge is always problematic."
Siarra tutted under her breath, before looking to Xander.
"I don't suppose you have some spell to fix this issue, too?"
Xander shook his head, but thumbed in the direction of his sister.
"She may, though."
Lexi frowned a little, being offered up without even a request first.
"I can try something."
The girl made her way to the expanse and held her hands out, palms facing the depths below. She closed her eyes and focused, chanting quietly like her brother had previously, as her fingertips began to glow. Deep within The expanse, unknown how far down, a green glow shone before a strong gust of wind flew up. Along with it came planks, rocks, and other pieces of debris.
“Air magic. Huh." Siarra was definitely impressed. She thought she'd just roped in a couple of hicks who'd be good decoys, but they could actually pull their own weight. Using her magical ability to control the wind around the better looking debris, Lexi formed a sort've makeshift bridge over the gap, “You both are full of surprises.”
"We're just lucky there were enough pieces that aren't too decrepit. Brother, go test it out."
Xander stepped forward and started to hop between the planks and rocks, safe in the knowledge his sister could catch him with her element of choice if there were a problem. Fortunately, he made it across. Siarra followed soon after, and Lexi hopped across gently before cancelling her spell.
"You've got some talent there for sure," Siarra nodded to her, "but I have to ask.."
Lexi tilted her head, awaiting the question.
"If you could lift and control all those pieces, why didn't you just float the three of us over."
Lexi just stared in silence at Siarra, before her cheeks flushed a bright red. Xander simply laughed.
"My sister is really smart, but she has no common sense."
"Shut your face."
Lexi grumbled as she walked past the duo through the doorway ahead of them. Siarra tried not to laugh at their interactions, managing to contain herself before following suit.
"We should almost be there now. The room we’re after will be just up ahead."
True enough, down the last winding hallway the found a large closed doorway. It was immaculate compared to the rest of the ruin, and a large gem shone brightly above the archway. Across the door itself was a glowing rune, somewhat similar to an 'e' with a strike through it.
"Magic seal. That's easy enough."
Siarra nodded to herself, it was her time to shine. Out of her pouch, she retrieved a piece of parchment and a pen. On it she drew a series of small runes and slapped it onto the door, then used her knife to pierce a fingertip before wiping the blood over the runed paper. It shone brightly and absorbed the large sealing rune before the paper disintegrated into nothingness.
"Would you do the honours?"
She turned to Xander who made swift use of his strength enhancing magic to push the large stone doors open with ease. He stepped aside to let her through before following with his sister.
Inside, there were jewels and chests all around. It seemed to be a treasury just as much as a storehouse for relics and scrolls. In the back of the room, a little to the right and on a wide pedestal were three scrolls.
"There they are! These are ancient magics and texts that have been long since forgotten. They'll be worth a fortune..." Siarra caught herself as she spoke "in historical knowledge, of course."
Lexi raised a brow at the pause, but Xander didn't seem to think anything of it. Siarra turned to the two, tucking two of the three parchments under her arm, handing one to Xander.
"Great work. Hold onto this one for me. Let's get out of here and we'll get you your payment as thanks as soon as we’re back at the Society building."
She pulled a blue ribbon out of her waist-pouch and placed it on the pedestal where the scrolls had been previously. Another quick use of her knife to let a little of her blood drip onto the ribbon and it began to glow. Siarra stepped back and a gateway similar to the one they'd used to arrive formed.
"See you on the other side!"
She saluted the two before hopping on through. Xander grinned and nodded to his sister before they both took the portal back out.
Outside, the twins found themselves back at the stone circle. The gateway was now gone, but so was Siarra and her car.
"Where'd she go?"
Xander looked around confused.
He turned to his sister who was pointing towards the scroll in his hand. He glanced down, noticing it had changed form. Now it was a rolled up piece of paper. Xander unfurled it, looked it over, and read the note out loud.
Thanks for all your hard work!
As you can see, this isn't a scroll and there is no such society.
You were a great help, though.
I hope you don't mind, but I imbued a spell on the parchment so you may soon realise you've been standing there for about an hour, can't have you chasing after me.
No hard feelings,
"We... Did all that for nothing..." Xander sat down upon the ground and let out an exasperated sigh, "I can't believe it."
"Well..." Lexi spoke up, a sly grin on her lips, "I'd not say for nothing."
She reached into her messenger bag and pulled out several of the jewels that had been scattered around the final room.
"Who has no common sense, brother?"
Xander beamed up at her, "Have I told you that I love you lately, sis~"
He laughed and hopped up onto his feet.
It took them close to an hour to get back to Reshingham by foot, but they were still back in good enough time to trade their newly acquired riches in at the City Market’s Guild Hall for a pleasant sum of Stirling. With it they managed to buy fresh food, a new shirt for Xander, some supplies including items known as Endless Pouches (these were very similar to the one Siarra had affixed at her waist to store all her items), and a few nights at the local inn. Oh, and of course Xander was sure to return to the cute merchant's stall and purchase the charm he'd been eyeing just that morning. Lexi treated herself to some small, stud earrings that were meant to enhance wind affinity.
Evening had set in. In their room they had been on a call back home to their elder sister, Maria, telling her all about the adventures they'd had on that day. Her voice rang through a purple flip-phone set to loudspeaker on the room’s desk.
"Well, I'm glad you made it there safely and are already making new friends."
"I'm not sure if I'd say friends.. But Xander was definitely taken."
Lexi smirked and eyed her brother.
"Anyway!" Xander spoke up, "It's getting late so we should call it a night. Tell Nia we said hi!"
"I will. Rest well and hope to hear from you soon."
"Definitely, love ya!"
The call ended with a beep. Lexi closed the flip-phone and slipped it back into her messenger bag on the table. Xander threw his torn shirt and jeans onto the floor, then dove into his bed. Lexi, far less recklessly, swapped her clothes out for her pyjamas before tucking into her own.
"I wonder if this was what it was like for dad..."
Xander spoke softly, he was more-so thinking aloud than making conversation. That did not, however, stop his sister from responding.
"Leaving his children to take care of themselves for ten years to chase women and treasure, without thinking about the consequences? Probably."
She responded dryly, it was obvious that he was not a topic she enjoyed discussing.
"I'll never forgive him for that, but it makes you wonder..."
Lexi rolled into her side, refusing to comment.
"Sorry. Night, sis." Xander rolled the opposite way and closed his eyes, “See you in the morning.”
She snapped her fingers and the lights began to dim until they were out, leaving only traces of light peeking through the curtains.