week into university and you’re adjusting well. Your encounter with Gregor notwithstanding, it’s nice to be around other enchanters your age for a change. You learn about other intelligent machines that your contemporaries are creating, like devices that can detect moisture in soil and activate irrigation only when needed. The amount of ideas and concepts shared in your daily discussions excite you, but also remind you of your loss. You’re simply not ready to create a new machine yet.
One morning, lying in your cot, you think back on the events at the tomb and what you could have done differently. Lara eyes you while she performs calisthenics in the middle of the small room. She has an Adventurer focus and dedicates her free time to physical training.
While stretching, she asks, “Still thinking about Alexle?” You don’t reply, but she knows the answer. “Well,” Lara says, kneeling next to your cot, “I’ve got a surprise for you. I’m headed to that tomb today.”
“Why?” you ask, suddenly interested.
Lara stands and moves around the room, gearing up. “I want to see what’s in the tomb treasure room…and raid it.” She turns to you. “Want to come?”
The two of you rent a couple of horses and head back to the tomb. Once there, you both hitch your horses to some branches and explore the entrance. Lara seems fixated on the soldier statue out front still covered in dirt and plant growth. “Are you sure this is the right place?” she asks.
“I’m positive,” you reply. “Why?”
“Nothing I’ve read about the tomb with the unsolvable riddle mentioned anything about a statue at the entrance.”
“This is the place.” You stare down at the crushed metal and broken crystal at your feet which can only be the remains of the War Machine chassis. The dungeon has obviously reset.
“OK, let’s go!” Lara says cheerfully as she walks past you.
You follow her until you both arrive in the sphinx room. The magical torches ignite at your presence just as they did before. You look across the chamber and see the gate to the treasure room is still closed. Nothing appears to have changed. Before you know it, Lara strides toward the sphinx. You run to catch her before she activates the trap, but she simply walks past the sphinx and heads toward the treasure room. You join her at the gate.
“What now?” you ask. Lara touches the gate and runs her hands across the reliefs etched into the doors. She stands back and taps her chin.
“No secret buttons,” she says to herself. “I guess we have to cheat.”
“Cheat? How?” you ask. Lara opens her satchel and produces the corpse of a Noke, the flying vermin you dissected for your final. You turn your nose up in disgust. “What are you going to do with that?”
Lara smiles at you before producing a small knife and cutting the lip off the Noke – the one part of the creature you could never create a reagent from and always threw away. She holds the lip up to your face. “This is our key.”
“A Noke lip?”
“That’s right. Using a Noke lip will allow us to pass through the geometry to the other side,” Lara explains. “You just have to know where to cross. There’s a rumor that if you cross in the wrong place, you’ll fall through the world and end up in a bottomless void. But I think we’ll be fine if we just cross through the gate.”
She holds the Noke lip tightly in her fist and approaches the gate. Your eyes widen in disbelief when you see her pass through as if the doors weren’t there at all. You touch the doors and they feel as solid as ever. Suddenly, Lara’s hand pokes through the gate and pulls you through.
The treasure room on the other side is empty. It looks very different from the rest of the tomb with smooth grey walls, ceiling, and floor. If you didn’t know any better, then you’d think that whoever designed the tomb never finished the treasure room. There isn’t even any debris or signs of aging. The only detail there is a message scrawled on the wall. It reads: “You’re not supposed to be here.” The message is signed by someone, but the letters are faded. All you can make out are the last handful of letters: “lord”.
“Well, this is anticlimactic,” Lara grumbles. You both take one last good look around before heading to the surface.
Outside, you’re surprised to see Sasha and her group waiting for you. She’s just as surprised to see you.
“Will wonders never cease!” she exclaims. “When we came to collect your body last week and it wasn’t there, we assumed you got lucky. And now you’re back, emerging from the tomb without triggering the trap. Did you solve the riddle?”
“Yes, but it’s got a broken trigger.”
“I know!” Sasha yells. “You should be dead! That riddle is unsolvable!”
“You know?” you ask, incredulous. “You sent me here to die?” Sasha grins. “And all of that about your husband? Lies?” Now Sasha laughs.
“Welcome to the world, Enchanter,” Lara whispers under her breath.
“The way I see it,” Sasha says, “the only reason you’d come back is if you found a way to get in the treasure room. Whatever you found in there, give it to us, and we’ll let you live.”
“There’s nothing in there! No treasure, no textures, nothing!” you yell.
Sasha sighs. “I guess we’ll just have to take it off your corpses then.” She and her group draw swords and approach.
“What now?” Lara asks.
“If only Alexle were here,” you say to yourself. Suddenly, a terrible groaning of metal on metal erupts from the soldier statue next to you.
“Enchanter, is that you?” a voice booms. The soldier statue turns its head toward you slightly.
“Alexle?” you ask in disbelief. “How is this possible?”
“This statue is a very old mechanical chassis. It has a Command Crystal embedded inside but it is fractured. I was able to possess this form but not quick enough to prevent you from leaving. When you returned, I wasn’t sure it was you. There is something wrong with my visual sensors. But when I heard you invoke my name, I was certain.”
You examine the Soldier Machine and realize that dirt and plant growth are blocking the ruby eyes. You quickly wipe them clean.
“Enchanter!” Alexle booms. “It’s good to see you again!” The Soldier Machine stands at its full height of 12 feet. Sasha and her group stare in awe, unsure of what to do.
“I sense someone approaching, Enchanter,” Alexle says. “Would you like me to run them off?”
You grin at Sasha who looks back at you in horror.
“Yes, Alexle,” you reply. “I’d like that very much.”