WDH Vignette #4

Blue Alley Respite

Jaina reached the archway at the apex of the stone staircase and cocked an eyebrow. Before her, surrounded by walls of brightly painted stone and resting under a clear blue sky, was a four hundred square foot field of waist-high tan grass. Never mind the fact that it was actually autumn and raining. Never mind the fact that Jaina and her companions were actually in the middle of the metropolis city of Waterdeep. And nevermind the fact that this was not actually the strangest room Jaina had walked into today. The rumors of Blue Alley, an alleyway created by some long-forgotten wizard, being a maze of funhouse chambers filled with deadly traps and monstrous creatures had been accurate. They had wandered and circumvented and fought through rooms with deep pits and large spikes, with puzzling riddles and riddling puzzles, with hidden blades and heinous magic, with false floors and suspicious doors, with oily minions and shambling undead, and with fake treasures and insufficient compensations.

So, no, a room with a miniature prairie inside it did not surprise Jaina. But it did make her sigh.

“Everythin’ okay, Jaina?” My’ra asked, stepping up beside her. “Oh wow. This room is really nice. Nothin’ like the other ones we’ve been in.”

Jaina pinched the bridge of her nose, and said, “Its beauty will be how it tries to kill us . . . somehow.” She stepped aside and sat on the top step. As Findol and Din walked up, she said, “I think I’ll let you all take this one. I need a small break from the wizard’s shenanigans.”

My’ra nodded, and said, “Sounds good. I got this one. Leave it to me.” She strode into the prairie. Din shrugged and followed.

Findol made no move to follow them. Instead, he looked down at Jaina, and whispered, “Are you okay?”

“I’m just tired,” Jaina said. “Been a long day.”

The elven cleric frowned.

“I’m fine. I promise.” Jaina offered up a small smile. “Spending a day traipsing through an alleyway performing physical feats of endurance and acrobatics to avoid deadly traps has been a bit more than I’d thought it be. I’m starting to get a bit too old to be doing this sort of stuff.”

Findol did not seem entirely satisfied, but he nodded.

Jaina smirked. “Don’t ever get old Findol. Your body starts to betray you.”

Findol rolled his eyes but smirked. “I won’t be getting old any time soon. Comparatively anyway.” He looked into the chamber but he still made no move to enter it. Like always, his expression was difficult to read.

After a few seconds, Jaina asked, “So, what do you think of Din?”

“I’m not sure. He has shown himself to be quite capable, but beyond that, I cannot yet say. We’ve only known him a day after all . . . what do you think of him?”

“He seems nice enough if not a little on the broody side. Does not appear to have the most amicable relationship with the Harpers. Its almost as if he is afraid or resentful of them.”

A mooing sounded from somewhere in the prairie.

Jaina glanced over her shoulder. “That was . . . odd,” she said. Looking back to Findol, she asked, “Is My’ra also able to turn into a cow?”

Findowl raised his eyebrows. “I do not know.”

“You better get in there before those two get themselves into trouble.”

“Hmph, like they have not already found it.” Findol stepped up to the edge of the grass and paused. More mooing emanated from somewhere Jaina could not see. Findol shook his head and pushed into the prairie. 

Jaina splayed her feet straight out in front of her and bent forward trying to touch her toes. She sighed in both pain and pleasure at the burning stretch she felt in her calves and lower back. Images of a steaming bathtub and a glass of wine filled her mind. She groaned and whispered, “That would be nice.”

A loud and gruff bellowing issued from the prairie. Before Jaina had a chance to react, something hard slammed into the back of her head and sent her tumbling forward. She caught herself, jumped to her feet . . . and almost fell down again. Her vision swam and it was as if the stairway was spinning. The back of her head pulsed with pain. Bracing herself against the wall, Jaina fumbled her dagger from its hilt and blinked up at the archway. It had been shuttered with a stone door. From the other side of the door came muffled yelling, grunting, and . . . hooves?

“Well, that’s probably not good.” 

Fighting through her imbalance, Jaina staggered back up the stairs hoping she would find a way to reopen the door. Preferably before her companions perished to whatever crazy contraption or magical beast unleashed upon them by the psychotic wizard who created this alleyway of horrors.

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