[P] Queen of the Earth
#1
Azalea left the castle at a run, mind racing. She could practically feel The Boss’s eyes burning into her as she shifted into her four-legged form, focusing intensely on the feeling of her fur lengthening, her legs and spine shortening and distorting as her arms thinned out and her fingers curled and slowly became stumpy paw pads. Eventually she shook herself free of any stiffness and began to trot north. She knew exactly where she was going. A cave, called the grotto of seven sleepers. She didn’t know whether her idea would pan out, but it was the only thing she could think of.

After all, the riddle was fairly vague. "Bring me fruit; Not of the vine, nor of the tree, but from under earth or under sea. If such fruit you bring to hand, within a new rank shall you stand." Her brain was spinning with ideas, the first thing to pop into her head being those round balls that grow on seaweed. But she didn’t know if seaweed counted as a vine or tree, so she abandoned that idea before she got too attached. Next came the concept of metal ore. That would count as the fruit of the earth, right?

Which was why she was racing to the cave. She’d only ever explored it very superficially, briefly ducking in and out, then promising to come back (and forgetting). It was quite the trip to the Upper Tantramar, and she had to take many breaks, watching the sun rise and turn the sky from the peachy pink that came with dawn and into a bright and chilly mid-morning blue. Turning off the path, she followed along what looked like a deer trail (this path was not oft used) until the cave came into sight.

It wasn’t huge. At least, the entrance wasn’t. But caves were deceiving like that. Ducking inside, she immediately put her nose to the floor as if she could smell the metal. She had no idea what metal ore smelled like, and didn’t know why she was acting like she did. Shaking herself loose, she began shifting, closing her eyes until it was over. It would have been good for her to bring a source of light, but what was she to do? She used the stream of light from the entrance to make her way to the back of the cave and duck into a second cavern.

Her leg was immersed in water up to her mid-calf, and she grimaced, skittering away from the pool of chilly water. Everything was dark now, except for a faint glow of light behind her, and she closed her eyes tightly in an attempt to speed up their transition to seeing in low light. After a minute she opened them once more, and was happy to see that she could now make out the make-up of the cave a bit better. The ground beneath her felt like clay and hard stone. Tentatively, she reached up with both hands and felt around for the boundaries of the cave walls, and found them quickly.

Turning, she was glad to see that there was still a faint glow behind her from the entrance. She wasn’t going to get lost. One hand pressed against the wet wall, not caring that she was getting muddy, she pressed on without knowing where she was going. A twinge of anxiety pressed in her stomach. She’d have to be incredibly lucky to find metal ore here, in the dark. Still, she’d done it before, what was keeping her from doing it again? Crouching down, she began feeling around for stones, grabbing the first one she found and washing it in the pond. After making a small pile, she brought them outside and inspected them. All of them were either smooth rocks or simple granite.

Letting them fall to the floor, she continued this process, getting more and more discouraged after each round of this. Her stomach began to grumble and she remembered that she hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast sometime after she would normally eat lunch. Still, she pressed on, and was rewarded for her efforts. A hunk of silvery grey metal, mixed with other stone. She couldn’t describe it well, she didn’t know much about rocks or metal. But, if this didn’t count as fruit of the earth, then she didn’t know what did.

Storing the hunk of stone in her mouth, she shifted back to her four-legged form and began the long trek home. Exhaustion began to set in when the castle was in sight. Once more she climbed up the stairs to the Central Watchtower and outside of The Boss’s door she spat out the metal ore pellet and began shifting onto two legs. After wiping the last bit of dirt off of the metal (onto her, but she was already covered in dirt and there was no hiding that) she knocked on The Boss’s door.
(846) | NPCs: N/A | Set all the way back in January. Here is a reference for the metal ore. 
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