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Matt fell through the darkness. He screamed.

“Shhh,” Orin said.

A tug on his hand calmed him down. At least he wasn’t going to die alone.

The drop turned into a glide when a mirrored box appeared in front of them. They crashed into one of its sides and through it.

He closed his eyes, thinking they were going to crash again, but they stopped.

The center of the room had a square pedestal with pictures on all sides.

He sighed. “Looks like we chose poorly. I said that we shouldn’t have changed our answer.”

“I know you did, but statistically there was twice the chance of getting what we want if we switched.”

Orin sighed as well and sat cross-legged on the marble floor. He leaned up against one of the mirrors.

“Maybe they figured you’d know that so they switched the answer?”

“Maybe.”

They sat for a good 5 minutes until Orin straighten his posture and said. “Or, maybe we did pick the right door, but this is a punishment for threatening the door dryads with violence instead of actually solving their stupid riddle.”

“Huh?”

He pointed to the mirrors.

“Look, there is something off about them.” When he waved his hand the mirrors didn’t move at the same time. “And look at the pedestal. It has pictures of the same tree only at different seasons. Quick, what season is it?”

“It’s still fall, but in a few weeks it’ll be winter.”

He waved his hand again. Matt noticed that two of the images waved even before Orin did and the other two waved after. One was closer to actually waving with him than the others.

The teen started to rotate the pedestal but didn’t get it farther than a small partial turn.

“Help me move this.”

Matt pushed with everything he had, and the heavy pedestal moved. A quarter turn later and it clicked into place.

“One more.”

Sweating after only moving it that much he repeated the process. This time it was even harder to turn, but they eventually hear the same click as last time.

Nothing happened.

“I don’t understand,” Orin said.

“We’ll have to think of something else.” He leaned against the pedestal. It moved to the side effortlessly. He threw back his leg, preventing his fall.

“Or you could get lucky,” Orin said and held out his fist. Matt fist bumped him, and the teenager pushed the pedestal the rest of the way. One of the mirrors flew open, showing a passageway back out into the Garden of 1000 Kindnesses.

They were in an alcove with only one way they could go.

Orin took the lead, and Matt crept behind him. Soon they heard someone rolling something huge.

“Ye’d think people what can afford somethin’ like this here sparkler ball, could afford a spare inventory for luggin’ it around.”

“It’s called the Crystal Ball of Ancrick. And they can’t spare one because some thief has been making off with them. The steward is very upset.”

There was a crunching noise.

“Stop! Stop! Stop!”

“Relax Dobb. It’s the ground what broke, not the ‘An’ what’s it.”

There was a loud sigh.

“Anyway, I’m havin’ a smoke.”

“But we only have a few feet left. The castle’s right there.”

“That’s why I’m smokin’ now.”

After a few seconds, a nasty cigar scent wafted past Matt, and he shuffled his feet. He whispered, “We should go get it before it’s in the castle.”

“We don’t know if this is what we’re looking for, and if it is, we don’t know how to use it. Let’s see if they say anything else.”

A few more cigar puffs flew by.

“Why’s this ball so important, anyhow? Why we gotta take time out of our busy day to carry it, huh?”

“It’s a mage thing. Apparently, if a mage places their hand on it and thinks of a place, it shows it. And if that mage has some pixie dust, they can throw it on the ball, and it will take them there.”

“What? It’s some kind of teleporting device? Don’t the mages already have spells for that?”

“Well, kind of. That’s mage business. But this is the strongest scrying device in Goraitheshselan, so let’s make sure we get it to the viewing chamber safely.”

Matt stared at Orin wide-eyed. The teenager once again had his knife out like he was about to stab those people. He grabbed his weapon wielding wrist and shook his head.

“It wouldn’t matter. We don’t have pixie dust. And those people are just doing their job.”

Orin put his knife away.

“You’re a bright kid, little dude. And you’re right. We know where it is so I can scope out the security around it while you focus on finding some pixies in the garden.”

“How are we supposed to find out what pixies are anyway?”

“This is a school,” he pointed out and shoved a vine away from his foot. “There has to be a library in it somewhere.”

“Also, how are we supposed to find our way back here? I don’t think those dryads are going to let us return this way.”

Orin pointed behind the workers. The stones were painted gold. “We have our way back pointed out to us. We just need to remember what we do along the way, and it will be simple to get back.”

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A note from DragonOfRochester

Thank you for taking the time to read my story! I hope you're enjoying it!

This chapter's procrastination is brought to you by the adorable anime The Morose Mononokean. 

So, I dropped the LitRPG project I had been working on since there didn't seem to be a lot of interest in it, and honestly I started writing it to deal with some frustrations I was having with my work in the game industry, the disturbing misogyny I've noticed in some LitRPGs (mostly the foreign ones) and some other personal things. It was very cathartic but I think it will remain a trunk novel. Instead, I've started developing a game system for a different LitRPG that I'm going to write before I work on the second book for this story and while I wait on Beta readers to give this book feedback. This next LitRPG will be way more adult and assassin-y than this story. I may even include some curse words.

BTW, don't worry, since Cold Steel Dig was originally going to be a short story it does not end on a frustrating cliffhanger that will make you want to throw your device across the room. :) 


About the author

DragonOfRochester

Bio: Rochester has a degree in Videogame Art and Design and 8 years of industry experience. She challenged herself to write a LitRPG with a nonstandard game type and post the result here.

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