D’Ni by MattRhodesArt on DeviantArt
Beauregard Saintclaire gazed proudly out at the magnificence he’d discovered. Ignoring the sweat sliding down his face. Soiling his doublet.
At his feet Crush lay sprawled across the ground, exhausted, arms flung out dramatically, legs limp as noodles and refusing to lift him. The heat pressed down on Crush, heavy and thick. How did Beau manage to stand? They had just climbed a sheer rock face!
Beauregard threw out his arms, taking in all he saw, tossing back his coat tails. For a moment Crush basked in the breeze. Then the wind abandoned him. Crush groaned with disappointment.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Crush?” Beauregard asked. “Look. Look! We’ve found Castleguard.”
Crush struggled to raise an arm and hold up a single finger. He managed and said with difficulty, “I’m positively giddy with excitement. I can barely stand!”
Hands on hips, head whipped back, Beauegard chuckled exuberantly. “That’s the spirit, Crush!”
Crush groaned with tired impatience. His arm flopped back down to rest on his chest.
“Crush? Crush!? ” Beauregard glanced around in search of his companion. Finally he scratched his head and gazed at his boots. “There you are! This is no time to be lying about, man!”
He gestured with open hands out before him, as if carrying a light load. “Do you not see we’re at journey’s end?”
Before the two explorers stood tall a dark castle carved into the side of a volcano. Long ago the crafty hands of the giants, under the supervision of the dwarfs, constructed the castle. Digging out stairs up and along the rock walls that rose up impossibly high. The main structure seemed to claw its way from the ebony rock. Holes in the wall were made by hands, cut into perfect windows with arched tops, balconies jutting out precariously.
“And how exactly do you expect to get to the castle?” Crush asked with his own laughter, defeated.
Beauregard’s grin dropped. His mustaches drooped limply. Then his arms fell, his hands slapping his knees as he realized his excitement had been premature.
Between the two explorers and the lost volcanic castle a quarter of a league of orange glowing lava flowed around the volcano like a moat. Runnels from the volcano’s peak pored rivers of fiery magma down into the natural barrier.
Scratching his narrow chin, Beauregard regarded the lava moat.
Beside him and still on the ground, Crush stretched his arms and legs. Yawned long and hard. Smacked his lips. Then he rocked forward and sat up. “Guess we can head home then, Beau. Nothin to do about getting across.”
The scholarly older man murmured with curiosity, ignoring his companion, considering the problem like a professor.
“This must be why the lost city remains lost, huh? They can look at the castle but they can’t explore the halls.” Crush got his feet quickly underneath him then spun on his heel.
“Right there, Crush! That’s our way across.”
Beauregard’s enthusiasm stopped Crush in his tracks and the shorter man became crestfallen. He moaned and turned back around with less gusto than he had to leave.
Beauregard pointed out over the lava moat. Pointing at a broken bridge made of the same dark rock as the castle just out of reach.
Crush laughed. “Good one, Beau! The bridge is broken. We can’t get a across using that.”
From the pack strapped again his back Beauregard whipped out a spyglass as long as was his wrist to his longest fingertip. The older explorer grasped the tube in both hands and pulled, extending the far seeing scope.
He passed the spyglass to Crush and directed his caompanion to look through the tube and out over the lava.
Crush grudgingly obliged.
After several suffering breathes Crush saw what Beauregard had. Rising from the lava were tiny islands of rock. Lava licked the rocks dangerously. From where Crush stood the islands couldn’t be larger than a giant’s foot. Each was also far spaced from the last and the next one in line, requiring leaps more than skips.
Uneasily Crush laughed. He could feel the heat of the lava moat dampen his coat of fur, soak his back with sweat and make his vest cling to his hairy torso.
“You’re not suggesting?”
“Of course!” Beauregard said will all seriousness. “How else are we going to get to the bridge and enter the castle proper?”
Crush flung his arms out and gripped the scope tightly. He rounded on his friend and shouted. “You’re insane, Beau! What if we fall into the lava? My furry butt will melt.”
“Then don’t fall in, my friend,” Beauregard suggested with a chuckle, throwing back his head.
“What? Are you joking!? What you’re proposing is dangerous.”
Beauregard bent his slim form down to his friend’s height and threw an arm around Crush. He pulled Crush in closely.
“That’s why they call this an adventure, my friend! What are we waiting for then?”
Beauregard thrust out a hand, swept a that hand across the lava in front of him, and grasped the air tightly.