Flash Friday 14/03/2014: Chalice Checkout
Hannah’s idea of a ‘good day out’ usually didn’t involve raiding old, enchanted tombs. Given that she was stuck in one, she figured she might as well make the best of it.
Not like she could go anywhere else right now. She was in the very heart of the tomb now, and going back would mean going over the snake pit, dodging the wall spikes, and trying not to be creeped out over the corpses again. The goal was literally within sight, with Kat running on ahead towards it in the excitement.
“This is it,” she breathed. “This is the chalice of immortality.”
Hannah picked up one of the several chalices on the stone table. “Doesn’t look so great to me. Does it get us home before dinner?”
“Oh, shush up.” Kat snatched it from her hand, looking over the chalice as if searching. “I give you one day of excitement and you already want to go home.”
“We almost died to a scorpion trap.”
“The key word is ‘almost’. See here?” Kat dropped the subject entirely, pointing to a series of line etched within the chalice. “This is the key. Now, see the eye on the wall, just to the left of the table?”
“Yeah.” Hannah looked past Kat to see it. “But it’s closed.”
“And that’s exactly why so many explorers before us thought this was merely decoration. However, if we take the chalice, and hold the lines on the chalice up to it…”
The eye opened the moment the chalice was raised to its level, a bright red light bursting from its iris and flooding the entire room with a crimson glow. Hannah could hear a deep, guttural chanting as the eye observed, before it closed again with a sudden thud.
Hannah rubbed her eyes. It was the first time she saw a strong light for hours. “What the hell was that?”
“A judgement. The chalice has now been granted worthy of being a vessel.”
“The elixir. When explorers came down here for the chalice of immortality, they saw these empty chalices and assumed the whole thing was a big myth. An ancient PR drive, if you will. But they didn’t do the ceremony first. First, the chalice is judged by the Spirits of the Tomb as a worthy vessel. Now that it is worthy, all we have to do is place it…here.” Kat placed the chalice within an alcove in the wall, to the left of the eye, guarded by two tall and fearsome-looking statues.
A wrathful, deep female voice bounced around the chamber, causing the dust to unsettle. “Who has placed the chalice within the recepticle?”
“Uhm…I did.” Kat gave a small wave to the disembodied voice, wherever it was. “Hello.”
A long silence, and then: “Unexpected chalice in dispensing area. Remove chalice before continuing.”
Kat frowned, staring up at the ceiling as if someone was there. “What? But I thought I did the process correctly. Hold on.” Kat took the chalice out of the alcove.
“Chalice removed from dispensing area,” the voice said. “Return chalice to dispensing area.”
“But it was just there.” Kat replaced it.
“Unexpected chalice in dispensing area.”
“Oh for sod’s sakes.” Kat tore the chalice out again. “There must be something wrong here.”
Hannah pointed to the eye. “Maybe scan it over the eye again?”
Kat waved the chalice in front of it. “Nope, nothing. Not even waking up again.”
Hannah peered into the alcove. “There’s a button here labelled ‘using your own chalice?’. Should I press it?”
“Heavens, no. That button only makes things worse. Maybe if we try another chalice, it will–”
The booming voice returned. “Please wait for assistance.”
The alcove began flashing red.
Kat looked over to Hannah, like a dog caught eating the newspaper. “Oh, bollocks.”
“Assistance?” Hannah looked around. “What kind of assistance is it calling? Anyone that could have assisted this bloody thing would have died a long time ago. Do you think we could find its corpse and give it a nudge?”
One of the statues began making loud snapping noises. With a heave, it dragged itself out of the wall, leaving a trail of broken rubble behind it. It looked down at the two explorers with red, gleaming eyes.
“Hello,” Hannah managed, giving a wave. “You must be the assistant.”
The statue said nothing, instead choosing to walk over to the alcove. It waved a hand within it, causing the red light to change to a green one with a cheerful ‘bwop’ sound. Once finished, the statue turned back to the two explorers.
“Bloody thing always does that,” it said, a voice like a landslide. “No worries.”
“Right.” Kat nodded with a pale face. “Thanks.”
The statue gave a sombre nod, walking back to where it had torn itself out of the wall. It took a while to get comfy in the hole it left in the wall, but it eventually managed.
Kat gingerly placed the chalice into the alcove again. This time, a silver liquid poured from a hole at the top, filling the chalice to the brim. With a shaking hand, Kat withdrew the chalice again.
“This is it,” she said. “The secret of immortality. One sip of this, and the bearer is promised an eternity of life.” She took a delicate sip of the mixture, tasting it on her tongue for a while.
“Well?” Hannah said. “How was it?”
“It’s a bit off, to be honest,” Kat said, smacking her lips. “What’s the Best Before on this?”
Hannah peered at some text above the alcove. “January twenty-third, two-thousand and fifteen.”
“Oh, so we still have a few years–”
“Oh, bugger.” Kat spat out the liquid, pouring the rest on the floor. “Well, sod that for a lark. If we’re quick, we can raid King Sallamah’s tomb for the Staff of Grand Wisdom. Should be able to make it before closing time.”
“Great,” Hannah said, rolling her eyes. This was so much more fun in movies.