"This is your fault, you know," I groused.
"Yeeeeeeeeah, I knoooooooow... It's my fault that you have no sense of balance," Crim sighed.
"If you hadn't run into me we wouldn't have fallen," I muttered back.
We were stuck down a pit, in a mine, on some kind of hanging wooden platform. The whole crew had come in on a search for some kind of long lost relic. It was a gold disc thing that was worth an arm and a leg to the local village's historians. The problem was that it was long since lost, and these mine shafts were a never ending maze. The lot of us had paired off to go hunting. Crim said I was with him.
After some long amount of time searching, the light from my torch ceased to hit the ground in front of us. The floor was just all black. I paused to figure out why, and Crim ran into me from behind. It turned out the black spot on the floor was a hole. I have no idea how far down we fell, but we'd landed on what felt like a wooden platform, which swung a little. My torch fell somewhere off to one side and extinguished with a splashing sound, below. Since some of the splash hit my arm, I would gather we weren't far from whatever water source the torch hit. But now we were light-less.
"Look, you've got that... magic... thing
... you do," Crim said. "Why don't you magic us up some fire so we can see how to get out of here?"
I clicked my fingers and ignited a small flame, the size of a candle. It only illuminated a couple inches in all directions. In the vague lighting, Crim gave me an incredulous look.
My cheeks were burning with embarrassment. I'd never had to hold fire in my hands before; all I'd ever had to do was use it as a starter for a pile of kindling or something, so this was very nerve wracking.
"Well," Crim tried, "Can you do two, then?"
I shifted the tiny flame I was holding into my left hand, shook out my right hand, and tried again. A second tiny flame appeared. I offered it to Crim.
"What am I gonna do with it?" he asked.
"But you said-"
"I'm not magic, mageling, I'm a mundane. I can't hold fire in a bare hand." He looked around the dark for a moment and grunted in annoyance. "Can you make either of those bigger?"
"Uh..." I brought my hands together and sort of cupped them. The flame from the first hand merged with the one from the second hand and they became a little bigger.
"Good, good, keep going," Crim urged.
So I shifted the new, slightly larger flame into my left hand and made a new one in my right hand. With a bit more effort, this one came out bigger than my first two tries — almost the size of the flame which was in my left hand. I mixed those and tried again. After a few minutes, I was holding almost as much fire in my hand as my torch had, before it went out.
"That good enough?" I asked. This was tiring work.
Crim wasn't paying attention to me anymore. He was taking in our surroundings now that they were more visible. We were indeed in something of a tunnel-shaft, and on a wooden platform in it. It looked like we were suspended from a rope system; like what we were on was actually some sort of lift.
I yawned and sat forward onto my knees. The handful of fire I was holding accidentally singed some of the ropes that functioned as a railing for the lift.
"Hey! Careful!" Crim blurted. "There's no telling how far down the bottom is." He peered over the edge of the platform. "Actually... Bring that light over here for a minute; let's see if we can tell."
I stood back up and went over to the side of the platform to hold my hand and flame out over the edge. The floor tilted a little with us both on the same side, so Crim took a few steps back and peered over the opposite side.
"Looks like the water's only a short way down; couple feet, maybe a couple yards. I guess we're safe if we fall."
He switched from looking at the water to looking up again. "But going down probably isn't a good idea. We've gotta get back up."
I yawned. "So we climb the rope out."
Crim looked over at me. "Carrying that fire?"
"So I put it out while climbing."
"You gonna be alright to climb in complete darkness?" he asked. "If something starts to break, or we get too near the top, we're not going to be able to see how far we've got to jump or swing to get back on the main path."
I sighed. "Better idea?"
"Yes," Crim pointed upward and behind me. "It looks like there's a torch fixed in the wall about midway up. Think you can light it?"
With a squint and a blink, I asked "How?"
When no answer came I turned around to see why. Crim was giving me this absolutely disbelieving look.
"Car?" He made air-quotes, "'Mageling', remember? Throw a fireball at it."
I stared at him.
"Oh come on, don't tell me you've never thrown fire around."
I hung my head a little. Crim slapped a hand to his forehead.
"Alright, well, look. You did good with making that handful of fire bigger. Why not give throwing it a shot too? Worst you can do is miss, right?"
"I guess," I said, turning around to get a better look at how far up the torch was. Then I hauled back and gave it a throw. My little handful of fire hit the wall and extinguished. Darkness reigned again. I sighed.
"Try again," Crim said.
With another click of my fingers, a new tiny flame started. Several minutes of adding to it got it as big as the last handful I had. Then I tried throwing it at the wall, too. This one missed almost just as bad as the first one.
"Come on, mageling," Crim urged. "Ya gotta do better than that."
Annoyed, I tried again. This one got a little closer to the torch. I tried again and got a little closer. After the third miss in a row I had to take a break; my hands and arms hurt.
"Don't quit now, or you'll lose your calibration," Crim said.
"Give me a minute," I breathed. "You know how hard it is to throw a wad of paper at a trashcan and get it to land right?"
"Paper's light," he nodded. "It goes off target easy."
"Fire's lighter," I said. "It takes a lot more oomph, and on top of that, I've got to make it
each time before I throw it. I'm tired."
"Calibration!" Crim burst, clapping one hand into his other. "Hop to it!"
I growled at him and made another handful of flame. This one, though, I hurled in Crim's direction. He yelped and ducked, not realizing I'd aimed off to one side, where it wouldn't hit him.
"What was that for?!" he burst.
"Well if I've gotta stay on my toes, then so should you," I grinned.
He pointed at the torch, annoyed. "Calibrate!"
So I made and threw another handful. And Crim shouted about aiming again. So I made and threw another. And he shouted again. This continued with gathering speed for a couple of minutes, with me periodically tossing one at him to try shutting him up. The jerk had the nerve to laugh when one of them missed him.
"You can't even hit me, and I'm right here with you?" he teased.
"Keep it up and the next one won't
miss you," I said back, and gave a forceful heave. THAT handful of fire hit the torch smack-on and it burst into flame. I whooped in achievement and flopped back on the lift. "There. You got your torch lit. Now I want a five minute rest."
"Nooooo nononono," Crim said, snagging one of my shoulders and trying to haul me up. "Now we've gotta climb out."
"I'm too tired!"
"Up ya get!" He said, straining to lift me.
"No! Quick rest!" I said, shoving him back.
We were too close to the edge of the lift. My shove pushed Crim off balance and the lift shifted. Before either of us could right the platform, Crim tumbled off the other side and splashed into the water below.
"CRIM!" I shouted, scrambling for the edge.
He was sitting on his bum, looking perplexed, in about three inches of water.
"Oh... I guess you're okay, then..."
Crim stood up and shook off some of the water. "No injuries, thank you for asking. Just my pride."
I chuckled and reached over the edge to help him back up. It was only three or four feet down to the water. Before he took my hands, Crim leaned back down and felt around in the water.
"Hello? What's this?" He pulled a soggy looking bag out of the pool at the bottom of the shaft and poured some water out of it. Along with the liquid, something large and shiny fell out. "He-hey!" he cheered, "Look what we found!"
"Is that the relic?" I asked.
Crim examined it closer. "I think it is, mageling, I think it is." He stowed the disc in its bag again and tied it to his belt. Then the two of us climbed back up the lift's rope and pulley system, and used my new found handful-of-fire magic as a light for our trip back out of the tunnels.
When we got out, the others were already there, debating coming back in after us. Seems we'd been gone for an hour longer than the rest of them.
"Did you guys run into a trap or something?" Kyle asked.
"Oh, nothing we couldn't handle," Crim said, examining his nails.
"WE?" I blurted. "WHO knocked me into that hole?"
"You never said to stop walking," he countered.
"And what in the world did you contribute to our getting out of there, anyway?!"
Crim grinned. "Calibration, mageling."
"I'M GONNA SET THAT BLASTED HAT OF YOURS ON FIRE!" I said, calling up another handful of flames. Crim burst out laughing and took off toward the ship.