The Candle

Light from the candle illuminated some of the tiny room. The details on the wall were hidden in the dim glow as the rust-colored ink blended with the stone. Four shadows were cast into the corners as figures sat around the melting figurine. Hips and legs were all that remained as they stood in a pool of reformed wax. A slight scent of lemon filled their nostrils and relieved them of the stale air.

“I feel like we need to head back. Has to been at least two days that we’ve been traveling through here.” The gruff voice echoed in the chamber. Irwa’s beard masked the movement of his lips.

“It’s only been a day and a half at most. No one has come down here to look for us yet and they have a better handle of time.” The temple they had entered did not seem as big as what they had explored. Tessa had taken care of the cartography of the halls and rooms as best she could. The distance up floors was easy to track. The downward paths made little sense as they extended beyond the walls of the structure and then even more.

“If we track our distance and how long it has taken us to get here, then add some time for rest, it has been about two days.” Jonah’s tone was calmer than those of his party.

“Look, it doesn’t matter how far or how long we have been here. We find treasure, we get paid. End of story.” Irwa’s low growl accompanied his words. Tessa tossed her notes closer to her pack and focused on the light. The silence engulfed them again. Tessa and Irwa’s patience for each other matched their enthusiasm to continue the search. It had been a dream for Tessa since learning of its existence in her childhood. It had taken 15 years for her to finally get all she needed to find and explore it.

The light dimmed as the candle slowly burned. Jonah had moved closer to a wall to find rest. Tessa shook her head and wondered if it was naivety or stupidity on his part to be the first to sleep. She had a guess but kept it to herself. Irwa turned over. His frustration at the group and lack of loot found emanated from him and seemed to fill the room.

Aja kept her eyes fixed on the candle silently. She was not like anyone Tessa had met before in her travels. She did not speak much and kept to herself. They had met her early on when the Tessa had only gathered six people for her adventures. Aja had been part of the celebrations that happened after big scores. She would not gamble away her earnings like most or drink and eat it away like the rest. There were times in towns she would disappear, but Aja was always by Tessa’s side before the group set out.

It was this that had made Aja an easy choice to pick for this exploration. She was bright having helped figure out many puzzles. Aja was also not afraid of a scrap when the situation called for it even with her tiny frame. The feet were all that remained of the candle figurine. Tessa laid down and imagined what may be at the end of the deepest parts of the temple. Sleep took her.

A dream of mountains of coins was interrupted as a white light flashed in Tessa’s face. It woke her and she realized the light was still there as her eyes opened. She backed up from the source. Colors came back to her vision and she caught a glimpse of Aja’s outline surrounded in a radiant glow. Aja floated at the spot the candle was in. It had burned completely down.

“Let’s go, now!” Irwa’s large hand grabbed at her collar and dragged her to where they came in. Jonah was already lengths down the hallway.

“I told you we shouldn’t have burned that bloody candle.” 

Tessa remembered finding it in one of the upper rooms of the temple. It was something that was not important enough to be sold but good enough to be used if needed. Aja had called it a sacrifice. Tessa started piecing it together as she got to her feet, smacking Irwa’s hand away. It was not a sacrifice, but a tool for an awakening. One that Tessa kicked herself for not putting together sooner. She kept running with the rest of the group down the hall. 

The ground shook underneath her feet before a shockwave threw her off them completely. The light intensified around her and continued to expand. A burst of sound had Tessa cover her ears trying to deafen the sound. It was accompanied by more rumbling underneath her and she could feel the pounding as the hall collapsed in front of them. Irwa cursed as they all rushed to the blocked exit. 

“Thank you.” The voice came from all around and barely recognizable. Tessa heard Aja’s within the mix of multiple vocalizations. “I knew you were capable of releasing me, Tessa.”

“What do you want?” Tessa was shaky as she responded. She had heard tales of beings that were not of this world, but they were just that, stories. 

“I will be claiming dominance over this world. For this, I need you and your companions.”

“What if we decline?” Tessa’s voice was resistant.

“You won’t be able to. You now belong to me.” 

Tessa felt her body start to shake. It started inside her and intensified with each pulse of light. Wave after wave pulled her to her knees. She could hear Irwa and Jonah fall limp behind her. Her defiance faltered as her eyes grew as heavy as her body. She tried to speak out once more to ask why. The words never left her lips as the light turned dark.