After the Altador Cup: Part Three
The three trekked for a while under the afternoon sun that tried to peek from behind the tall treetops, but they finally came across a small shack. It reminded Mirsha of Sophie’s shack deep in the Haunted Woods, but this one looked slightly more welcoming, with blooming flowers planted around it and the windows were not broken. They all stayed hidden behind clustered evergreen trees, not wanting to risk being caught. Vonde nodded to Garven and Mirsha and silently approached the window, peeking in, then ducking and running back to his place. “That evil dancer is sitting by a fire reading in what seems to be the living room, and there‘s a kitchen too. I think I saw six doors, too. I don’t see them anywhere.”
“Readin‘? I bet she’s readin’ on how to be a better dancer,” Garven laughed. “There ain’t a way that watchin’ her dance casts ye under a spell. It’s like her only power is in her blasted tambourine.”
Mirsha lit up. “Garven! That might be the answer to her spell casting!”
“Let me meditate for a second,” Mirsha protested, then sat crossed-legged on the dusted ground with her eyes closed. “I learned how to sense anything with a strong aurora of power when I trained during Yooyuball season. If Garven‘s right, I should sense her tambourine.”
“Sensing auroras of items with power? So that’s how you’re so good you got to be MVP!” Vonde chuckled.
She stuck her tongue out and peacefully drifted off into a distant world for about two minutes. When the Gnorbu opened her eyes, they knew she found the answer.
“I sensed a strong aurora coming from something... it glittered in the sunlight and made a clanking noise, but it was a rather blurry image.” She beamed. “It was her tambourine, definitely! Garven was right! It has some power in it. If we can just take it and destroy it, I think we’re safe.”
“I saw the tambourine,” Vonde recalled. “It was on the mantel.”
“But how’re we gonna snatch it?” Garven asked.
“Yooyuball formation!” Vonde piped up. Garven and Mirsha stared at him. “Come on, it’s easy. Mirsha, you’re left wing, and I’m right. Garven, you’re goalie. Think of it as a Yooyuball game, and the tambourine is the Yooyu.” He finished discussing the exact details. There was a moment of silence, but Mirsha broke it.
“Strange plan, but it might work.”
“All right, I be headin’ over,” Garven instructed. “Follow behind me.”
The braveness and determination Garven gave off was too strong to behold. Mirsha and Vonde let the goalkeeper march in front of them down the dirt path covered with patches of grass and weeds. He stomped up the rickety two steps that led to the porch so hard that he almost went through them. He wasn’t hesitant to ram the door down with his shoulder, either.
There was a brief silence after the door crashed to the floor, dust kicking up. As it settled, the person Garven was seeking set their book down gently on the ground, rose slowly out of her chair and turned around. The Court Dancer let out a laugh at the sight of Garven. “You seem to want something. Can I help you?”
Garven approached the dancer, towering over her. “I’d like me friends back.”
“You wish!” she giggled, snatching a long, sharp stick that was leaning against the fireplace. Garven realized that that stick was the same one Dasher used as a hiking stick and as a device to poke Vonde.
Suddenly, it swiped at him.
Garven jumped back, silently wincing at the deep wound in his left arm. The Court Dancer twirled the stick above her head, almost like she was showing off, and then jabbed it at the Bori’s stomach. He took a rather harsh blow, but could still stand even when the stick sliced through the surface of his knee.
“I will not break my spell,” she chuckled. “But I might as well put you under it... where is my tambourine? The more the merrier.”
“Hey Court Dancer, do you need this?” Mirsha retorted, dangling the tambourine in her hand and leaning against the stone mantle.
The Court Dancer seethed. “How did you get all the way over there? And give me that!” she lunged, but Mirsha ducked and passed it to a waiting Vonde that was by the door, who caught it swiftly The dancer ran at him, swiping the stick at his arm. Vonde yelped, but like the all star he was, he tossed the tambourine to Garven, and it clanked as the Bori snatched it with his giant paws.
The fire pit crackled and popped behind him. “Mirsha,” he tossed the tambourine to her across the room and motioned to the fire. “Show us why yer the MVP of Altador Cup IV.”
Nodding, Mirsha took a few steps, jumping up with incredible levitation, swung her arm back and then released the tambourine. It whizzed by the Court Dancer’s head and crashed into the fire.
“NO! My tambourine!” the dancer cried out, rushing over to the fire and bending down to try and save it. But the flames grew brighter as they swallowed the wooden frame and the tin cymbals began to melt.
“Get over here.” Garven snapped and grabbed the back of her shirt. “Yer gonna pay for everything.”
Someone shouted, but it sounded muffled, almost like it was coming from another room. Listening closely, Mirsha tried to hear where it was coming from. She opened a door that was near the kitchen, and out stumbled Dasher.
“Where are we? Mirsha, that you?” He sounded in a daze.
“Yes, Dasher, it’s me,” she said in the most calm way she could. “You were under the Court Dancer’s spell... when the tambourine was destroyed, the spell was broken.”
“What? Oh... aye, I remember seein’ her dancin’ like a lunatic.” He yawned and hastily rubbed his eyes.
“Cap’n, she’s right here.” Garven motioned to the dancer that was held back by the goalkeeper’s strength. “Don’t wanna offend her, right?”
Everyone laughed, except the Court Dancer, who pouted. Vonde abruptly spoke up. “Where’s everyone else?”
“Arrr... I ain’t sure,” Dasher confessed, leaning against the wall and trying to keep his balance. “Miss Lunatic Dancer, ye mind showing where everyone else be?”
The Court Dancer looked like she was about to say no, but then thought about the consequences. “The Moehog and Mynci are behind those two doors." She gestured. "And the Lutari is in the cellar.”
“Where’d the cellar be?” Garven demanded.
“I’ll lead the way.” She rolled her eyes and began walking forward with Garven’s grip still on the back of her dress. She gestured to two doors across the room, and Mirsha opened both, trying to stop Nitri and Foltaggio as they stumbled out. There was a door left of the mantle, and the dancer opened it. There were stairs that led down, but it was so dark halfway that they seemed to disappear.
“Hello?” a voice said rather softly from the bottom.
“Xana!” Garven shouted down into the darkness. “It’s Garven... where are ye?”
“I think I’m near the stairs. It’s so dark... I can’t see a thing.”
The sound of tiresome footsteps on a creaking stairwell grew closer and closer until Xana appeared from out of the shadows, looking like she had just awoken from a deep sleep.
“Xana, are ye all right?” Garven released his grasp of the Court Dancer and hugged the Lutari.
“Yeah, I think I’m all right. It was lonely down there...” she sighed and returned the hug. “Last thing I remember, I was watching the Court Dancer... and then everything went black. Why am I so tired... I feel like I‘ve been asleep for years.”
“I can explain that,” If one looked quickly they would not have noticed how the Court Dancer had suddenly changed her appearance. It was like everything about her had become different. Her eyes grew softer, her hair became a light copper color, and her stance was more tiresome. “I’m sorry. After the spell lifts, everyone is quite tired. It should wear off in an hour or two. You all must forgive me. That was not the same person I am now.”
Everyone glared at the dancer, but Mirsha stepped forward. “Care to elaborate?”
“The spell cast on me when Lord Kass was invading Meridell had not entirely faded since then,” she began. “Sometimes I turned to my normal self, but other times I would turn evil, like I was a puppet and someone pulled my strings any time they wanted to. The remains of the spell... they were in my tambourine. Every time I was near my tambourine, I was overtaken by evil. Part of me wanted to get rid of it, but the other part wanted to keep it. It’s because of you, Vonde, Garven, and Mirsha, that I am free. I thank you.”
“You‘re welcome,” Mirsha and Vonde replied cheerfully, but Garven didn’t buy it.
“What if yer fakin’ bein‘ nice and all that?” he muttered.
“If I am,” the Court Dancer sighed, “then I would come out of hiding in Altador and put the whole place under a spell. But I can’t anymore, thank goodness. I hope you all will see me as a nice person from now on.”
“It's going to take quite a while, but we will.” Mirsha smiled. “Well, I guess we should drag these sleeping logs back to the hotel.” She noted that Dasher was lying on the chair that the Court Dancer was sitting in before, snoring even though Vonde was laughing at him, Nitri was leaning against the wall with her eyelids drooping, Garven was carrying a sleeping Xana in his arms, and Foltaggio was behind her.
“Hey, we never found the treasure,” Foltaggio murmured, half awake. Mirsha caught him as he was about to fall to the ground from being so exhausted.
“Treasure? You mean, the Treasure of Altador?” the Court Dancer perked up. “That was buried by King Altador years and years ago. If it was ever dug up, the culprits would have bad luck for the rest of their lives. Think... no more Altador Cup wins...”
Vonde crumpled up the map and threw it in the blazing fire.