“You sure this is gonna work, Jonas?”
“Have I ever steered you wrong before, Boy?”
Peter muttered, “Only for a higher purpose. Or so you say.”
Jonas grinned, his double row of needle-sharp teeth glinting in the cavern’s incandescence. His hearing was quite acute, even for a centuries-old creature as himself.
Peter raised the gnome-forged hammer and tapped again at the second’s sliver of lightning. It sparked with each careful blow, but made its way into the crevice within the waterfall.
The hammer slipped.
“Careful!” Jonas’ brow lifted. “Too hard and the cure within the waters will be lost.”
“Do you want to have a go at it?” Peter straightened, blew a ginger forelock off his sweaty brow. “I’m doing my best to balance, but I’m only human.”
“The prophecy states that you are the only human–the right human—for this task. I translate and quote ‘What evil’s been by human done, can only be by Ginger won.’”
“You just made that up.”
“I did,” Jonas’ laughter rang through the cave. He gathered his cloak of winter leaves around him. “But it was only to encourage you. You’re doing just fine. Just…be careful.”
Peter sighed, lined up the hammer and tapped again, but slower. He was getting weary.
There was a pestilence that swept the globe, moving from one creature to another. A touch, immediate or delayed from object to object, was enough to spread the contagion that left even the healthiest Human or Halfling gasping for air, weak and feverish on pallets in dark rooms, because bright light hurt too much. Full Magicals were safe from the disease, as was this one human boy. Jonas suspected protection from a quarter of the magical world that he, as a nokken, had no contact with. He snorted in contempt at the snobbery—or was it merely protectiveness against a greater evil?–and fixed his gaze on the crevice. “It looks like you’ve made some headway. The waters are flowing just a bit more freely.”
The Humans hadn’t created the disease. It was part of the natural world, borne out of the manifestations and experimentations that go on within their bodies every day. But humans, and Halflings, and some Magicals, had chosen to hoard resources from others, so that when this normal journeying within the body swung too wide, the world’s creatures were too weak and unable to fight off the ravages of the disease. The very old, the very young, and the many that struggled with everyday health challenges were dying in far too many numbers. Greed had weakened them all.
Peter had had a visitation of sorts. His younger sister, Alisa, dead a decade, but somehow joined with the more privileged in the magical world, had gifted him the hammer and the lightning bolt, caught in that moment before it strikes ground. Wrapped around the two was a scroll that when unrolled, sang instructions in her sweet voice, in an old language that Peter was soon to forget, and unlikely to be able to duplicate, as he was tone-deaf. His half-sister had gotten all the musical, as well as magical, gifts he lacked. He had run to Jonas’ fen in the Dark Forest, the hammer and lightning bolt clutched in one hand, the scroll in the other.
Jonas shook his head as he watched the boy labor with the hammer. Here they were, a very old creature and a fairly young one, in the Cavern of the Ancients, tapping at the Wellspring of the Wise Ones, attempting to release the healing waters that would open the gates wide, flow into the fjords and lower groundwater, and restore lie and the natural order to all. Or so the scroll had sung, before it disappeared in a puff of sparkling blue smoke. Jonas snorted. “They give themselves such airs, sometimes.”
“What?!” Peter stopped his tapping and glared at Jonas, not at all sure his efforts were working as well as they should given all his effort. He wiped his brow with his hammer hand and growled. At least the bolt was now wedged firmly into the crevice.
“Nothing,” Jonas raised his brow. Perhaps a bit more force was needed here? “You know, I believe the prophecy actually said something like ‘When evil’s been by Humans wrought, a ginger virgin must be brought.’”
“Oh shut up!” Peter turned away and slammed the hammer onto the head of the lightning bolt. The bolt exploded, and the crevice turned into a crevasse; what had been stone turned into pale blue glacier, and Peter, hammer in hand, and Jonas, grasping onto his cloak, were blasted clear and free onto the surrounding hillside as the cavern and glacier collapsed and tumbled and flowed cown the hillside and into the fjord.
“That did it,” laughed Jonas. “With your raging purity and my stunning brains, we’ve saved the world.”
“This is getting old, Jonas,” Peter turned the hammer in his hand, wondering. “But at least I got to hear my sister’s voice again.”
© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2020)
Carrot Ranch Prompt (03/12/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes tapping. You can play with the sound, make it an action, or create something unexpected. Tap a story and go where the prompt leads!