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Cave In

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With a smug grin, Audrey looks back at the bard through a sideways glance. The bard advised her not to drink the potion, but of course she wouldn’t listen.

“Spare me the theatrics,” she sneers, as she lifts the potion of power to her lips. Thinking it hilariously ironic that the potion the bard themself had given her would give her the power to spare his life, she turns back to face the corrupted king of hearts. Audrey drinks the entire potion and throws the bottle to the side.

Her horrible grin fades and her visage is laced with shock. A painful burning sensation fills the pit of her stomach. Is this how a potion of power normally felt? Clutching her stomach and grimacing, Audrey falls to her knees before eventually succumbing to the faux potion and passing out.

Face pressed against the cold stone below her, Audrey feels a wave of nausea wash over her. She groans and bites her bottom lip, wondering what had just happened.

“Are you okay?” chirps a small voice from overhead. It was that pesky bard.

Gasping as she speaks, still feeling sick from his poisoned potion, Audrey shouts, “Where am I?” as she looks around. Instinctually, she goes to grab for her sword, her hands only grasping thin air. “Where’s my sword? Did I lose it?” Heart skipping a beat, she realizes that the monster must have it.

The bard appears as if they're about to say something, but Audrey scowls in their direction, causing the bard to shut their mouth. “I’ll find a way out of here.” Audrey gives a dark scowl as she rises. She walks to the opposite side of the small cave they're in, anything to get space between her and the bard.

A light dances on the surface of the shining crystal before Audrey, mocking her. Clenching her teeth, she balls her fists with the intense desire to strike something. Musical notes sound behind her. The bard can't sing their way out of this, she thinks to herself.

The bard begins to speak up behind her. “It’s a total cave in!” Audrey whips around to face him. “We’re trapped and my sword is gone!” She yells at the bard, causing them to step back. “You! You ruined everything!” Jabbing her finger at his chest, she glares at him with a livid stare. Her world collapses around her. Audrey falls to her knees, trying to process that this very well may be the end of her. Stuck in a cave on Mount Ichor with no one but the bard. “We might really die here,” Audrey says softly as she takes on a look of utter defeat, “I might really die here.”

The pesky bard’s chittering voice pipes up. “You can't do... anything?”

“Not without my sword.” Audrey feels his look of pity, It shoots through her core and she makes a firm mental promise to hold herself together. If she cried in front of the bard then she... she didn't know what she’d do.

“What about the messenger of Eya?” The bard takes a small step closer to her. Audrey knows he’s trying to be encouraging, but it's to no avail.

“I told Eyala to stay away from me,” Audrey says shortly. Her confident demeanor and strong smirk were long gone, replaced by a defeated and sad one. “Back in Chaandesh I told her to leave.” Audrey leans back, propped up by one arm. She looks up at the bard and sees their visible confusion.

“Why did you do that?” Their voice has a saddened and bewildered tune.

“She... bothered me.” Audrey broke eye contact and stared at the dusty cave floor. “Eyala only told me what to do and never let me think for myself.” She sighed heavily. “It’s demeaning.”

“She bothers me too...” The bard sits in front of her, arms wrapped around their legs. “She told me I could save the world using the Earthsong, but the overseers are dying so fast and no matter what I do everything seems to be getting worse.”

A pang of regret fills Audrey’s heart as she hears this. Despite how annoying the bard had been on her heroic journey, it still stung to know she’d caused so much harm. She was supposed to be a hero, to make everyone feel better.

“It feels wrong to end everything,” the bard whispers solemnly, “I wish it was my choice.”

Audrey raises her head to look at the bard again. “Well that's a relief.” She gives a wavering smile, “I don't want to end everything either. Not really.” Audrey gives a heavy sigh. “But it's the way things work.”

“How do you know that’s the way things work?” The bard moves a little closer to her. “Eyala said we could restore everything! We can heal the world!”

“But-”

“Aren't you scared though?”

Audrey opens her mouth to continue speaking but her voice cuts off. She bites her bottom lip. Still feeling nauseous from the poisoned potion of power, she leans forward and hugs her knees tight to her body. “I am scared. About ending the world. But isn't that what I have to do? I’m the hero.” Her voice cracks when she says her Eya given title.

“You don't have to though.” The bard lightly places their hand on her leg, comforting her. “Eyala’s gone, and you can decide for yourself.” The bard sighs. “Do you even still want to?”

“No.” Her voice breaks and she shuts her eyes tight. Audrey lunges forward at the bard and embraces them in a fierce hug. She was about to break her promise. Hot tears threatened to spill down her face.

Taken aback, the bard softly wrapped their arms around her. They sang softly and murmured her name, telling her it was going to be alright. She realizes she never did find out the bard’s name, not that she had ever cared enough to ask.

“I’d like to call you something besides Bard,” she sniffed. “You do have a name right?”

With a soft and comforting musical chuckle, they answer with, “Kiwi. You can call me Kiwi.”

Audrey nods as she buries her face into his chest. She can't remember the last time she was so openly vulnerable. “Thank you, Kiwi.” It was such a soft and sweet name. She found it fitting. Ending the world was terrifying, and it was something she’s been trying to do ever since she first got her hands on the prospect of being a hero. Being important.

She cried. She cried out of fear of ending the world. She cried in fear of dying, of losing her life. She cried with guilt for killing the overseers, and she cried in sorrow for what she had done.

Audrey sobbed into Kiwi, letting loose all the emotions that had been building up for as long as she could remember. All she’s ever wanted was to be a hero, to be someone of importance. She lays her head on his chest as she weeps. Kiwi sings a soft tune as he gently pats her back, and Audrey thinks she can almost hear him fighting back his own tears.

They stay like this for a while. Kiwi’s sweet melody lightly echoing around the cave while they both hug each other and weep. After what felt like forever, Audrey’s tears were beginning to dry. “Hey, Kiwi?”

“Yeah?” Their lullaby-like singing trailed off. Kiwi looked down to see Audrey raise her head from his chest.

Making eye contact, she gives a faint smile. “I think that... if it's okay with you... I could help you collect the rest of the EarthSong?”

With a wide grin, Kiwi nods his head joyfully and hugs her tight. “I would love that!”

Audrey smiles and tightens her embrace around him. She’s about to speak when there's a sudden rumbling. The rocks are moving. Thinking it’s another cave in, Audrey gasps and holds Kiwi closely to protect him. The bard turns their head to look at the shifted rock and gives a delightful musical note. Kiwi carefully removes himself from Audrey’s warm and almost caressing hold and goes to investigate.

Standing up, Audrey sees what appears to be thousands of bugs lifting and moving the rocks out of the way, clearing a path. “What's going on, Kiwi?”

“BUGS!!! BUGS, AUDREY!!!” Kiwi did a happy dance as the bugs crawled on the rubble.

“Did bugs... move these rocks.”

“Yes, Audrey! Bugs move rocks, and they're very good at it too!” Kiwi gives a musical giggle as they hop from one foot to the next. “They can help us escape!”

“Really?” Audrey ponders this as she stares at the small bugs. “That’s kinda cool, but how do-”

“I’ll explain on the way!” Kiwi grabs her hand to carefully lead her around the bugs.

Audrey smiles as they continue onward, knowing in her heart she must have made the right decision. “Alright then, Kiwi.”