Mallory stood completely still, staring blankly down the hallway, her mind swimming with thoughts. A loud rattling at her side jolted her to awareness, and she looked down, realizing the sound was her gloved hand shaking against the hilt of her rapier. She forced herself to shake out the tension, though it did nothing to calm her nerves.
The voice was Larch’s. The shaman stared at Mallory expectantly. Right… she was supposed to be scanning this corridor for anything magical. Anything that might warn of a magical trap.
“It… it’s clear,” Mallory said, scooting past Larch and Doc, taking up the rear position. Her anxiety was clearly on full display though. Her attempts to hide it were paltry at best. She couldn’t get the mental image out of her head. Glaz, utterly frozen with that silly look on his face. She had heard of petrification before, even seen signs of it… but seeing it happen… seeing it happen to someone she knew… It shook her to the core.
And it just as easily could have been her.
There was that terrible fear again. She knew with confidence where she would go when she died, and so she didn’t fear death itself… but she still feared dying. Petrification seemed somehow even worse. What if they fell in battle in the next room, and Glaz’s statue remained forever frozen, robbed of the afterlife he deserved? What if, what if, what if… Her fears always lingered at the back of her mind, just a single bad experience from leaping to the forefront.
The rattling again. She looked down at her trembling right hand, and reached for it with her left to still its shaking, but Larch’s hand got to it first. She laid her hand firmly on Mallory’s wrist, stilling the shaking.
“Mallory,” Larch said firmly, her green eyes hard and determined beneath the glasses. “I will fix this. Okay? I think I know how… I just need the time to do some research. I have to talk to the petrified wood… But I know where to look. It will be okay. I will make it be okay. And… he will be okay. He is my… friend. And a shaman protects the tribe.”
Flower, the spirit of wood in the form of a cat, nodded in agreement. “Also, after those comments about me?” she added. “Oh no, he doesn’t get off that easily. Saving him means he can never call me weird again.” The not-a-cat smiled, her teak teeth almost gleaming.
Mallory chuckled in spite of herself, finally releasing a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She nodded. “Good. Then let’s… let’s be careful, but not waste any time. Let’s bring Glaz back.”