The urn shattered, fragments of broken rock and precious gems clattering across the stones. Ehrik, Knight-Guardian of the Realm, who had just dispatched the last of the temple guardians, froze, sword still held aloft.
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“You dropped it, didn’t you?”
His squire stared, mouth agape in horror, at the remnants of the intricately carved vessel. His hands hovered uselessly inches from the pedestal where he had intended to place it.
“It… slipped, sir.”
“The precious artifact… The most important quest of my life… The object we carried through the shrieking forest, across the wailing sands, over the devouring waters, and you drop it?!”
His voice reverberated through the cavernous chamber, and he hurled his sword against a crumbling wall. But the squire ignored him, frowning down at the shards.
“Wasn’t something supposed to happen? End of the world or the like?”
“The court wizard claimed it contained a powerful evil threatening the royal line, but clearly, he’s as useless as you.” Ehrik sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with a heavily armored hand. “Clean up this mess and fetch my sword. I’m getting out of this stinking cave.”
He stomped away, muttering to himself about inept squires and ill-informed wizards. The squire dumped the urn fragments into a pile on the pedestal and retrieved the discarded sword before scurrying after Ehrik, tripping over bodies and nearly impaling himself as he went but breathing a hearty sigh of relief that his mistake paled in comparison with the wizard’s.
Leagues away, across the roiling waves, past the blowing sands, and beyond the haunted forest paths, deep within the royal castle, servants ran screaming down the hallways. The princess, leaving her dolls and her nursemaid in pieces on the nursery floor, ripped the heart from one of her guards and devoured it whole.