The Trial of the Dungeon Mistress: Part IX

An Espresso Tale

By

Accipiter G. Goshawk

Here is Part IX!

The story continues from where we left it in Part VIII.

We have finally reached the end of this portion of the Dungeon Mistress’ tale. Maybe one day I’ll write more…

I hope you enjoyed it!

A.G.G

She awoke to the sound of someone stirring soup in a metal pot.

Her eyes wandered over the domed ceiling of the Under-Tower as somewhere nearby, the spoon clinked repeatedly against the side of the bubbling container.

She was back.

She had left Hala behind in the world of fantasy, and with her, she had left her fear and her self-doubt. Her eyes sparkled as they found the colourful images hanging from the wall, the endless shelves of carefully arranged miniatures.

She smiled, as she came back to her life, whole but changed.

She grimaced, as a shock of pain caressed her cheek. Carefully she tried to smile again, and the pain blossomed once more on the right side of her face.

“Steady dear,” came a kind voice to her left.

She sat up and looked over to the fire, just in time to see a grey-haired woman turn and carry a steaming bowl of soup to her cot. She had a kind triangle of a face, adorned with laugh lines and dark merry eyes.

“Have some of this; it helps with the after-effects of the potion…and I’ll put some more salve on your wound as well.”

She swept from the room and returned a few moments later with a small pot of white cream. The young woman winced as she applied it liberally on the long gash that went from her forehead to her chin.

Then, she ate.

“What happened?” she managed to ask between gulps of the delicious broth.

“Only you can answer that,” said the older woman with an encouraging smile.

“I…I think the dragon grazed me with one of its claws,” she said hesitantly, looking for signs of ridicule in the other’s eyes.

“Hm. Impressive,” the woman murmured thoughtfully. “I only faced a bunch of trolls on my first try…you must be quite gifted. Or maybe your demons are meaner than mine. No matter; you succeeded, that’s all that counts. He’ll be here soon to give you your bandoleer of chance. Well done.”

She winked and then left, striding deeper into the tunnels beneath the World-Building.

She waited for a while, until she heard the gentle tapping of approaching feet, and the old man appeared from the same side passage, his long white hair falling like water around his face.

He smiled at her, the warmth of emotion causing her to grin back.

“That was fantastic. One of the best Trials I have seen in a long time,” he said. “I had fun…I hope you did as well.”

She saw the question in his eyes and nodded.

“Good. You’ve been through quite a journey, and although you didn’t come through completely unscathed, you defeated your inner monster. That makes you ready to wear this.”

He pulled the bandoleer from beneath his robes and she sighed.

“Come, let me put it on you.”

She stood up and turned. Delicately, he strung the bandoleer around her lithe frame and fastened the strap above her right shoulder.

Then he turned her gently to look into his sky-blue eyes.

“You have chosen a hard life, but I think you are truly made for it. Bring stories to the far reaches of the world; bring hope. But never forget to weave your own tale into the tapestry. It is what makes us human, and what makes stories great, Dungeon Mistress.”

He bowed low and then took her hand, escorting her out into the dawn of the unforgiving Wasteland.-

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