Keet the Adventurer, brazen hunter of priceless antiquities, famed discoverer of ancient artifacts, and five-time winner of Glamor Goblin’s Hottest 20 Under 20 award, lightly bounced the bag of sand in one hand while closely eyeing the intricately carved stone pedestal in front of him. Moisture beaded lightly on his olive brow and his brimmed hat sat slightly askew upon his dark hair, accentuating his rakish good looks. Coming to a decision, he smirked, gave a shrug, and grabbed the golden idol in front of him, quickly switching it with the bag of sand in his other hand.
Momentarily, all was still. The dust from the movement of the idol settled and Keet breathed out a sigh of relief.
Then the floor of the room buckled in, sending rocks, pedestal, and Keet falling simultaneously into a dark pit.
Keet let out a strangled yelp and reached for the lasso at his hip. Falling, he gracefully twirled the rope and sent the loop sailing out of the pit to loop around a stone torch holder on the wall. His momentum carried him in an arc, depositing him on the lower platform from which he’d ascended to the idol room. He rolled, detaching his lasso from the torch holder with a backwards flick of his arm and jumping back to his feet in the middle of the platform.
The upper platform where the idol had rested finished crumbling into the blackness below. Keet observed this with some satisfaction. He tossed the idol into the air, flipping it before inserting it securely into the leather satchel hanging around his shoulder. With a final adjustment to his hat, he stepped off the platform onto the rickety wooden bridge leading back towards the cave entrance.
As his foot left the ground, the pressure plate he’d carefully avoided on the way in popped back into place. Flaming arrows shot from the walls on either side of the bridge, peppering the creaking wood making up the ancient structure, which promptly caught on fire. Keet sprinted for the end of the bridge, dodging arrows as he ran.
He nearly reached the end of the narrow strip when he saw the final segment give away before him. One step, two steps, three, and Keet leaped with all the strength of his legs, reaching out for the rock ledge on the other side of the gap.
His calloused green fingers passed within inches of the ledge before the rest of his body impacted the wall and slid down the sharply angled slope. Scrabbling for a hold, Keet managed grasp a thick vine snaking its way down the side of the pit and halting his fall.
Hand over hand, he hauled his body up the vine, pushing with his feet wherever he could find purchase. The muscles of his arms and shoulders were trembling with exhaustion as he finally pulled his body over the edge of the pit. He rolled into the late afternoon sunlight shining through the cave entrance and lay on his back, panting.
After a recovery period, Keet stood up gingerly and limped out of the cave. The luscious jungle scenery was interrupted by a deep ravine with a river at the bottom carving its way through the trees. Keet carefully removed the idol from his satchel and held it up for examination in the daylight. What he saw must have pleased him, for he grinned and bestowed a kiss upon the idol’s brow.
“Your Goddess has need of you,” called a voice from behind him.
Keet startled and lost his grip on the idol, juggling it between hands. One flailing elbow knocked the idol up into the air and over the edge of the ravine. It fell for a long time, knocking stones loose and creating a miniature rockslide that chased it into the river hundreds of feet below.
Keet’s hands grasped his face in horror, eyes bulging as he fell to his knees beside the ravine.
Suddenly, he whirled around to face the source of the voice, his normally handsome face twisted into a murderous expression. He brandished a knife from his belt and narrowed his eyes. He could see no one, but a bright ball of blue light bobbed cheerfully in the air several feet in front of him.
“Goddess’s greetings, Adventurer Keet,” spoke the cool voice emanating from the ball. The voice conveyed calm, stature, and a sense that it knew things far beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.
“I don’t know who you are or what you want, but you’d better have a mountain of gold or a top-tier team of river-dredging goblins to make up for what your interference just lost me.” Keet continued to menace the ball with his knife, edging closer as he spoke.
“Oh come now, Keet, don’t you recognize my voice?” came the ball’s teasing reply. “You seemed to remember my name just fine at the blessing ceremony for the artifacts of the Goddess that you ‘recovered’ from that little Dwarven town west of the mountains.”
Keet’s face paled as the voice continued in an imitation of his own big-city accent. “Deirdre! Deirdre! Harder! Faster!”
“Listen,” said Keet, “I may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but Deirdre was a foxy priestess, not a fuckin’ fairy light. I think I know the difference between an elf and a will-o-the-wisp, thank you very much.”
The voice bobbed closer, getting right up in the goblin’s face. “It’s High Priestess now, fucko. And the ball is a projection, you absolute moron.”
Keet blinked, uncomprehending.
“I’m. Not. Really. There.” Deirdre sounded out slowly, then sighed tiredly. “Anyway, The Pure and Chaste Order of the Goddess has need of you. You will attend me at the High Temple in three days’ time. No excuses.”
With that, the ball of light popped into nonexistence. Keet stared at the space it used to occupy.
“Shiny moonball owes me a fuckin’ idol,” he said before turning his back to the cave and beginning his long journey down the mountain.
Keet shimmied along the window ledge, his back to the white marble that formed the High Temple of the Pure and Chaste Order of the Goddess. The moonlight shone down into the courtyard beneath him, illuminating marble figurines of unclothed men and women. He tugged the hood of his cloak forward, ensuring its shadow ensconced his features in darkness.
He jimmied the window open and slipped in through the gap, making his way silently through the room. Off-tune humming and splashing water could be heard emanating from a lit doorway. Keet braced himself on the wall beside the doorway before rounding the corner and stepping inside the lit area.
A screech echoed through the room and Keet fled back into the darkness, his cheeks burning with embarrassment. There was some more splashing and then a tall elf wearing a fluffy white bathrobe appeared in the doorway. He snapped his fingers and blue balls of light distributed themselves around the room, illuminating the goblin where he hid behind a life-sized stone bust of a female troll’s heavy bosom.
“Idiot! I can see you, Keet! Come out from there and explain to me what you’re doing here at ass o’clock instead of opening hours like a normal person.” Deirdre’s voice rose in volume as he spoke, peaking near the end as he gestured from the troll bust to the rest of the room.
Keet poked his head out from behind the bust. “Oh, Deirdre! I didn’t see you there. Great, er, statue, you’ve got here.” His lasso caught on the corner of the display stand and he tugged at it, awkwardly stumbling away from the gigantic stone breasts as it pulled free.
“I was just obeying your summons, Priestess,” he explained. “How was I supposed to know that the holy bath time is approximately,” he glanced out the window at the descending moon, “half past midnight?”
Deirdre lifted her nose in the air to stare disdainfully down at the goblin. “My status as the high priestess requires nightly ablutions to keep my body pure and prepared to channel the Goddess’s will at all times.”
Keet tugged at the collar of his shirt. “See, about that,” he began. “Don’t you have to be, I don’t know, a virgin or something to be a high priestess of the Pure and Chaste Order of the Goddess?”
The elf glared and the balls of light illuminating the room swooped in toward Keet menacingly. “Chastity is an expression of the soul. I wouldn’t expect a heathen like you to understand the core tenets of the Order, but my goddess knows every facet of my soul and has judged me pure above all others.”
“Or you threatened the members of the selection committee until they agreed to elect you. Because you sure weren’t expressing chastity when we met at the blessing ceremony.” One corner of Keet’s mouth rose and he took a confident step forward.
“No matter.” Deirdre’s eyes narrowed and he turned on his heel, striding a few paces away from the goblin to rummage through a large wooden desk. “I didn’t call you here to relive very old memories—”
“Last month,” Keet interjected under his breath.
“—I brought you here because we share a common interest, you and I.” He found the paper he was looking for and unfolded it on the desk, gesturing for Keet to join him.
The goblin moved closer but didn’t look down at the desk. “We sure do,” he agreed, suddenly animated. “You owe me a golden idol! Do you have any idea how much work I put into recovering that before you practically chucked it down a mountainside? Do you know how much it was worth?”
The priestess grabbed his chin and angled his head to point down at the paper below. “We both know that wasn’t my fault. You’ve got butter fingers and I don’t care how many Glamor Goblin reporters you’ve convinced otherwise. Now look at this. Do you recognize it?”
Keet finally glanced down at the paper. It showed a drawing of a crown and several rings. “I hate to break it to you, priestess, but you can buy these crowns for a length of twine and a rotting fish down at the market. What did you pay for it?”
Deirdre turned his eyes upwards and muttered a prayer for patience. “Savage animal idiot. This is not a replica. This is a schematic of the actual crown of the Lich King. I need you to steal it from him.”
Keet’s eyes widened and he backed away slightly. “Woah, hold on there. I’ve got no reason to fuck with the Lich King. That undead monstrosity is one mean sonnuva. Not to mention, you know, crazy as a halfling addled on pixie dust.”
“In the eyes of the Goddess, his necromancy is a foul blemish upon the purity of our world and must be scoured from it.” Deirdre paused and observed Keet’s doubtful expression.
“…and he’s been buying up all of the city’s tallow. The Order needs it to make candles for our purification ceremonies! Why does he even want so much tallow? He can see in the dark!” The priestess took a breath and collected himself. “So you need to steal his crown, robbing him of his enchantments and immortality and rendering him a useless pile of bones.”
Keet looked taken aback. “Er, not to be critical of this clearly highly thought-out plan, but couldn’t you just ask the Lich King not to take all the tallow?”
Deirdre’s face returned to its default haughty expression. “As emissaries of a light Goddess, we are not permitted to negotiate with dark creatures. We cannot compensate you for your work at this time, but you may keep any artifacts you find in his lair or on his person. We know for a fact he possesses many valuable and arcane items.”
“That’s all very well and good,” the goblin responded, “but the risk of death and subsequent undeath is just too high where the Lich King is concerned. Find someone else to do your dirty work.” He removed his lasso from his belt. “Shoot me a light ball if you’re ever interested in trashing that purity principle. Otherwise, leave me the hell alone.”
With that statement, he looped his lasso around one sagging troll breast, swinging back out through the window and back down to the courtyard below. The priestess watched the lasso detach and trail out the window after the goblin, stroking his dark beard.
“Unfortunately, more desperate measures are in order.”
The following evening saw a familiar green-skinned figure in a cloak knocking on the door to the Lich King’s dark palace. The heavy metal door creaked open a crack and a skeleton dressed in tattered black rags stood in the gap. The goblin palmed a gold coin and sneaked it into the skeleton’s hand. It fell through the finger bones and clattered noisily to the stone floor. The skeleton looked down at the coin, then back up at Keet. Its eyeless holes bored into his head. Then it slammed the door in his face.
“Who knew skeletons don’t accept bribes?” he wondered, before wandering off into the street.