Anything You Can Do: Part Three
“Feels like yesterday we were last here, huh? Having that scuffle, falling into the wall...” Hannah said idly, peering inside the entrance to the long hidden Ice Caves.
“Ah... no, not really. Feels like years to me,” Kanrik replied idly, pushing himself off the icy floor. Despite jutting down for miles into the mountain face, the cave was extraordinarily well lit and cast a faint blue glow onto anything that entered. Kanrik noticed immediately that the inside of the cave was much warmer than the exposed air of the mountain peak; despite being covered in ice, the caves retained warmth incredibly well. They made perfect homes for anything seeking refuge from the harsh storms Terror Mountain often conjured up.
“...Be on the lookout for Snow Beasts, alright?” Kanrik muttered quietly.
“You don’t need to tell me, Kanrik. I do this kind of thing for a living, remember?” The Usul waved off Kanrik’s concern and skipped ahead of him, looking as if she knew where she was going. Remembering complex cave layouts was a breeze to Hannah, Kanrik reminded himself, and with that reassurance he followed after her.
“...I assume you’re leading me to treasure,” the Gelert enquired, scouring the walls for signs of treasure.
“You assume right! There’s one section of this place I never got the chance to explore last time, so I’ll let you have the honour of relieving it of its treasure.” Hannah seemed somewhat reluctant to relinquish all that glorious, untouched treasure to her companion, but a bet was a bet. Besides, her true reward would be the look on Kanrik’s face when he realised Hannah had pick pocketed him with all the skills of a seasoned thief... Hopefully. Her reverie was soon broken by a soft sound of surprise from Kanrik.
“Is this...?” Kanrik pointed to a tiny, red glowing vein running along the wall behind the sheet of ice.
“Gemstone? Yep. Veins like this are slim pickings, but following it to the source is the easiest way to find treasure.”
“Huh. So all the gemstones are in the walls?”
“Well...” Hannah sang, suddenly looking downward. “Not all the gemstones, no.” She rooted around the rocks on the floor with a foot before picking up a rather misshapen lump of stone. A well-aimed throw against a hard spike in the wall split the stone in two; the inside was coated in opalescent quartz, beautiful enough to draw a gasp from the Gelert beside Hannah.
“...That’s impressive,” he conceded, suddenly interested in the rocks littering the cave floor. “Are all these rocks like that on the inside?”
“Nope. Takes a trained eye to spot which rocks have hidden gems in them. All comes with being an experienced treasure hunter... It’s not all about arrow traps and spike pits,” Hannah chimed, looking quite proud of herself as she turned over her new prize in her hands. Her smile grew when she noticed Kanrik nodding in agreement.
“All right. What I said in the Dubloon about treasure hunting was uncalled for. Happy?”
Hannah’s smile was threatening to fall off the edges of her face. “Very! And maybe what I said about thievery was a little under informed. Pick pocketing still looks easy to me, though.”
“That so?” Kanrik said, not sounding offended in the slightest. His attention was taken almost entirely by the rock Hannah had been holding only a second ago. The Usul started to answer, then noticed that her hands were substantially lighter and that her new prize was gone.
“You—How—I was holding onto that!! How did you...?!”
Her only response was a smirk from Kanrik. He handed the rock back to Hannah and tucked his arms inside his cape, taking his turn to look extremely pleased with his endeavours.
“...Point taken,” Hannah relented, allowing herself an embarrassed giggle. She threw her hands up in defeat, an astonishingly rare thing for her to do. Kanrik gasped in a mocking way, smirking from ear to ear.
“Virtupets above, was that Hannah the Great conceding defeat? Stay still while I paint a portrait of this momentous occasion.”
“Shut up, you.” Hannah stifled a snort, shoving Kanrik into the wall. The pair shared a chuckle before pressing onward, their movements jovial. Kanrik noticed the veins of gemstone becoming increasingly more common the further down the tunnel they went, and their footsteps started to echo down the tunnel in a different manner; they were reverberating in another chamber, further down the shaft.
The thin tunnel soon expanded onto an immense room; the ceiling stretched impossibly high, and Kanrik wondered if it went all the way up to the top of the mountain. The ice they were stood upon peaked to a zenith in the centre of the room to overlook a gargantuan lake, separating them from another sheet of ice on the other side. The veins of red gemstone that had lined the walls of the tunnels also lined this room, practically covering the wall in streaks of glittering red that culminated at the far end of the room, and for good reason; they framed a massive deposit of gemstones on a small mountain on the other side of the lake. The gems jutted from the ground like a field of rubies, casting a glow on the walls of the cavern that rivalled the beauty of auroras.
The intrepid adventurers took a moment to admire the view, and Hannah whistled approvingly. “Almost a shame you’re going to uproot them all, huh?”
“Yes. Almost—hands out of my pocket, Hannah.”
Hannah groaned in defeat, taking her hands from Kanrik’s various pouches. “So close, too... Pick pocketing is difficult.”
Kanrik huffed. “I told you as much...” The Gelert started looking for any way across the lake that wouldn’t involve swimming. His keens eyes caught a tiny ledge on the side of the cavern, peeking out just above the water’s surface. He strode over to inspect its width; his face fell slightly when he saw that the ledge was extremely narrow.
“...This could take a while.” Kanrik bent down to check for weaknesses in the ledge. It wouldn’t do to have it collapse midway, after all.
“Why don’t you just swim over there, Kanrik? It’d be a lot faster. Colder, yes, but—”
“I’m not swimming over there. My armour would weigh me down,” Kanrik replied sharply, taking a tentative step onto the tiny ledge.
“Then just take it off?” Hannah replied just as curtly, crossing her arms. Her question was met with silence from Kanrik, who seemed eager to avoid her watchful gaze. As Hannah watched him cautiously shimmy his way onto the ledge, back pressed tightly against the icy wall, a thought struck her.
“...You can’t swim.”
Kanrik grumbled. “I’d prefer to word it as ‘an aversion to water’.”
Hannah sighed angrily and joined Kanrik on the ledge, grabbing a handful of his cape to steady him in case he fell. “Why didn’t you tell me?! You should’ve taken those arm bands!”
Kanrik didn’t reply but instead shoved Hannah back off the ledge, giving her his version of a reassuring look- which wasn’t very reassuring at all. “I doubt this ledge would hold both of us. I’ll be fine, alright?”
Hannah didn’t look convinced, but resigned herself to waiting on the peak overlooking the lake. “I’ll just be on my guard to rescue you, then!”
Kanrik side eyed her, unimpressed. “A little trust in me wouldn’t go amiss, Hannah,” he muttered, quickening his pace as best he could. The safety of the other side drew ever nearer, and once he was within range he jumped from the ledge and clung onto an icy stalagmite to stop himself from slipping into the water he had worked so hard to avoid.
“What was that about needing to rescue me, Hannah?”
Hannah grumbled and looked away, tapping her foot impatiently. “You going to get those gems or what?”
The Gelert chuckled, pleased at his little victory. The miniature mountain behind him didn’t seem too much hassle to climb; an angular path was carved into the side of the iced rock, stretching halfway up, and the rest of the way had smaller, less valuable clusters of gemstones that made excellent grip to climb on. Kanrik enjoyed the ease of climbing up the first half, finding it all a breeze.
“So where are all those arrow traps and spike pits, then? This seems a little too easy to me,” Kanrik chided, starting his climb up the second half of the peak.
“Good question. There are usually loads on the way... “ Hannah conceded, on edge. She whirled around to look for anything resembling a trap; no dynamite hidden under ice, no arrow traps hidden inside holes in the walls, nothing resembling a trap door concealing a spike pit. There were always traps before today.
“Kanrik, be as quick as you can, okay?”
“That could be a problem,” the Gelert called back, wonderment in his voice as he peered over the top of the peak, holding onto an icy outcrop for balance. “I think we’re going to have to make multiple trips for all this...”
Were it any other trap-laden cave, Hannah would’ve been jumping for joy before passing out in sheer happiness at those words. But the lack of traps had disturbed her so, and she felt incredibly anxious. “Seriously Kanrik, just grab what you can hold and come back!”
Kanrik tutted, obviously annoyed. “Fine, but you’re coming over here to help get the res—”
The rest of Kanrik’s sentence was drowned out by the bone-chilling sound of the iced outcrop he had been holding onto cracking as it cleanly split off the rest of the rock face. Kanrik had only a moment to make a small sound of surprise before he fell. He heard Hannah scream, she sure he was going to hit the icy floor, and he couldn’t do anything save brace himself for the impact as best he could, hoping whatever injuries he sustained wouldn’t hinder their escape from the Ice Caves too much.
It came as a surprise to Kanrik when the floor gave way in a manner most unlike an iced over cave floor. It was only when he was suddenly drenched and unable to breathe or see clearly that he realised he had fallen into the lake he had tried so hard to avoid falling into. He struggled madly, trying to power his way up to the surface, and found that his armour and multiple layers of clothing were only dragging him down agonisingly slowly.
His flailing foot suddenly found a boulder rested on the lake bed, and he instinctively kicked against it with all his might. The momentum powered him up to the surface; the gulp of air he drank in was immense, echoing loudly off the walls. His wandering arms found a floating chunk of ice, likely having broken off the cliff along with the outcrop, and he held onto it for dear life as he coughed icy water from his lungs.
“Kanrik!” Hannah called out, shedding her backpack and heavy coat as she prepared to dive in after him.
“Don’t! I can manage from he—oh...”
Hannah furrowed her brows at Kanrik, noticing that rather than staring at her, he was staring straight past her. She followed his gaze, whirling around expecting to see the entrance they had come in through. Her nose instead brushed against the clumped fur of a gargantuan Snow Beast looming over the comparatively tiny Usul, growling quietly. Hannah figured the beast’s growling wasn’t in a welcoming manner. She could only back away slowly, laughing nervously as she tried to placate the beast’s rage.
“Eheh, heh... So that’s why there are no traps... You got rid of them, huh...?” Hannah made a vague effort to try and hide her backpack; adorning the front was all the tools one would need to extract gemstones from rocks. And for a few, terrifying moments, there was complete silence as Hannah tried desperately to predict the beast’s next move.
Kanrik was slowly edging his way back to land, teeth chattering as the icy water froze him to his core. He tentatively took one hand away from the iceberg he was clinging onto and slid his hand down to his belt, resting his hand upon his dagger in preparation to throw it to Hannah. It didn’t go unnoticed by the Snow Beast; it suddenly reared up and let out an immense roar, shaking the room hard enough to loosen stalactites from the ceiling.
Kanrik’s shout was followed by a clanking sound as his dagger hit the floor by the Usul’s feet. Hannah scrambled to pick it up, quickly unsheathing the blade and holding the dagger with both hands; one hand for grip, and the other to calm her shaking. It took her a moment to notice that the sharp, curved edge of the dagger was facing upwards, and she hurriedly turned it over to hold it properly.
With that small blunder, Hannah realised for a third time that thievery and defending oneself was a little more complex than originally thought.
To be continued...