*Featuring characters from "Let's Face the Future"
"There has to be more to it than this," Lhan reasons. He sidles closer to the lake. The water was clear and glistening with a murky bottom made of sand that had crystallized clumps and shimmering silk spots. The lake stretched for a few miles, surrounded by rough banks of rock and tree debris with a dense forest blocking any view from the City to the water. A cove of the lake was portioned off by trees that leeched their growth into the water and created a solid mass that water moved down like a waterfall. It was a large pool with the same clear blue water with the bottom so bright from crystallization that it was hard to stare at for too long. This is where Lhan stood today with Kiele hovering reluctantly at his side. The day was warm enough that a dip would be welcome, but they weren't here for a simple swim.
Kiele still wasn't used to having guards follow them around, especially not ones with horns that grew out of their foreheads and curled inward. She glanced at the two guards that had humanoid faces that were blended with a bull's, thick hide that covered stocky built, and hands that were shaped like hooves. She read stories as a child about minotaurs that would fight the hero as a challenge. They were fierce and deadly creatures, and having their constant hovering everywhere she and Lhan went made her nervous, to say the least. If she and Lhan hadn't burned every bridge with their own people, she would consider returning to camp. But they would never take Lhan back after his accidental turning of the carpenter's son into a duck and her ... impulsive decisions make it hard to believe they'd take her. Each had a spear in their hands that sent a jolt of electricity whenever they make contact with something. "I still don't know why you agreed to this. Just because the green princess asked."
"Talena's not that bad, Kiele," Lhan says. While he's adjusting fairly well to their new lives, Kiele still bristles whenever the princess comes around. "Besides, I didn't agree to please her." He kneels by the water and carefully lowers the tip of a finger in it. "Well, it feels like normal water..."
"Then why did you? There's literally a petrified swamp... This could be toxic for all we know." Kiele crosses her arms. "And she sent guards. How do we know this isn't a way to just dispose of us?"
"Wouldn't it have been easier to kill us when we met, then?" Lhan asks. He stands. "The Lady would have happily disposed of us."
"True... She hates us." The Lady was a terrifying guard of the princess that was the embodiment of tree, octopus, and terror. "But this is just... fishy. The way she looks at you and says you're a Harbinger. You don't feel this is weird?" Kiele crosses her arms.
"It's very weird," Lhan agrees. "Excessively weird. What even is a Harbinger? Sounds ominous. Shouldn't I be locked up if I'm ominous?"
"She just seems to want to study you if that helps. But I can't quite tell with her. I don't trust them." Kiele peers closer at the water. The princess told them this lake was supposedly the entrance to a lost civilization and it was Lhan that could access it with his Truth Magic. But she was very lax on the actual details.
"Depends how in-depth the studying gets," Lhan says. He sighs. "I guess we really have to go in."
"Just like that? You're all let's jump into this thing?" Kiele says, mimicking him. "I don't really want to turn to goo or stone or whatever else this thing has in store. What if we inhale water and it burns us from inside out?"
"We don't know if we have to go underwater," Lhan argues, blushing. "It didn't harm my finger..."
Kiele gets his hand and studies his finger. "Your finger isn't your lungs." She drops his hand. "Do you trust her? The green princess? You seemed to have bonded with her very fast for someone we have no idea what she wants." She gestures at the water. "And what civilization would be so important. Anything down there would be ruins from our planet's past."
Lhan studies Kiele wordlessly. Does he trust Talena? Yes and no. He believes he can trust her with their well-being but it's too soon to tell if he can trust her completely. "Not as much as I trust you," he says. As for the civilization... he sighs again. "She hinted it would have answers for me."
"Fine. But have it noted that I'm only doing this to help you. Not for little miss green hair." Kiele shucks her boots off and strips to just her shirt and the swimsuit she wore underneath it. When the princess requested that Lhan attempt to find this rumored city, she refused to let him go alone. Even if it meant diving into a lake with some ill-conceived notion that they'd magically discover a city. "I die, I will find a way to become a ghost. I will. And then I will haunt you."
"We aren't doing this for the princess," Lhan agrees, sensing it's best he not use Talena's name right now. He sits to pull off his boots and socks and then stands to shuck his trousers. It feels weird to get undressed like this even though he's wearing swim trunks. After a brief debate with himself, he loses his shirt too. "Can you watch these for us?" He asks the guards. When they nod he grabs the bundle of clothes and carries them over.
Kiele walks to the shallow end and dips a toe in. "Lhan." She grabs his arm. "I just remembered, I can't exactly swim. I know she said we just jump.... but this feels like I'm going to drown..."
Lhan turns to face her head-on. "You'll be all right," he says, taking her by her other elbow. "Look at me," he says. He stares her down until she meets his eyes. "You won't drown," he says, feeling the telltale strangeness that came over him when he drew on his Truth Magic. "I promise."
Kiele squints at him, peering close. "Are you doing that Truth Magic thing?"
"Yes," Lhan says, thrown off-center by her matter-of-fact question.
She did feel a little calmer knowing that no matter the outcome it would be alright because Lhan would will it to become Truth. Still, that didn't take away the bout of nerves that fluttered in her stomach and made her feel just this side of shaky. "Thank you." Kiele turns to face the lake again. "Let's do this together..." She holds her hand out to him.
Lhan grins and takes her hand. "Here we go!" They take a breath and leap.