Deep in the Caverns of Alanor, far below the city, lie the Gauntlets of Prospero. The legends say that those who wield the Gauntlets shall also wield the power of Prospero himself, a great and terrible king from aeons past. Many have sought out this power, but none have returned. The legends talk of worth, of purity and of power regarding the true heir to Prospero’s legacy, yet even great heroes such as Blunir Caracatoom, Phileon the Merciless, Prontalimus, all perished in the course of their quest.
Jennifer Wellsbury, seventeen years old and currently studying for her A-levels in biology, chemistry and politics, has none of the usual qualifications of those searching for the Gauntlets. She is a regional fencing champion, it’s true, but never performed well at nationals. Her past deeds include the rout of the mouse that was living under the kitchen cupboard and the return of her mother’s lost glasses. She is not native to this land, nor does she own any maps.
Yet here she is. She has avoided the rolling boulder traps, the spike gates, the poison darts, the trapdoors, the sand pits, the spike pits, the attack birds, the attack lion, the explosion traps and even the Guardian Beast. So now we join her, unlikely as it was, outside the Nexus. The home of the Gauntlets.
“Maybe this one is a way out,” she says to the empty air, rolling her eyes as she realises that she’s talking to empty air, “or it could be another trap.”She picked the note from her pocket, staring at the five words printed in bold typeface.
Get the Gauntlets. Get Home.
She pushed open the door to reveal a hall carved out of glistening stone, torches burning brightly in holders. Pillars stretch up as far as the eye can see to a domed roof. A single ray of sunlight burns through like a laser beam, illuminating a pedestal at the centre of the room.
She cast her head from left to right, checking for any and all of the traps she’s seen on this insane misadventure. Ever since she woke up on a bed of leaves in a dark forest with a note taped to her arm, something has been trying to kill her. And she thought it was bad when she’d woken up on Alfie’s sofa last week.
She crept forward, looking out for strangely coloured flagstones that could be triggers, anything out fo the ordinary. She knew that binge-watching the Indiana Jones trilogy every weekend (Crystal Skull doesn’t count) would come in handy, she’d always said it. She made her way up the three steps, three careful steps. She took a deep breath and peered at the item on the top.
“What? This is a pair of long, silk gloves? What the hell is this?” She picked them up, looking at the intricate patterns winding their way up the sleeves.
“Put them down! Put them back!” A voice, deep and rumbling, came from behind her. She whirled around to see an elderly man, short and pot bellied, waddling across the floor. “Nobody must touch the Gauntlets of Prospero!”
“Umm, okay crazy dude. I’ll pop these back down here…” She placed them delicately on the pedestal, only to be shoved rudely out of the way.
“That is not how the Gauntlets were laid out! Were you never told? You must always put things back how you found them!” The deep voice appeared to have been a trick of the cavern, as next to her now the man’s voice was squeaky and insistent, burrowing through her ears painfully.
“So, those are the Gauntlets?”
“Of course. The Gauntlets of Prospero!”
“Do you have to shout everything you say?”
“No! I am simply amazed that you are here! Nobody has ever made it this far. They didn’t survive the rolling boulder traps, the spike gates, the poison darts, the trapdoors, the sand pits, the spike pits, the attack birds, the attack lion, the explosion traps and even the Guardian Beast. Is Kevin alright, by the way?” The man spoke as if he were firing a machine gun, loud and staccato. It was as if he had a time limit on his speech and would be shot if he went over.
“The Guardian Beast.”
“Yeah. I tickled him under the chin and he fell asleep.” She smiled as she thought about the Beast.
“Gragh! Nobody must know! You must leave. Quickly, quickly! The secrets of Prospero must remain forever hidden.”
“What, that Prospero was a lady?”
“Yes!” The old man paused, wondering if that was the right thing to say. “Well, yes. But also no. This is a complex world. A woman’s place is in the home, not on the throne. Yet Prospero founded our great nation and she was a woman! Scared the bajeesus out of me when we embalmed her.”
Jennifer sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. This was going to be a long day.
The Idiot in Tin Foil