Patreon reward for Deven. Four friends take shelter in a cave during a fierce storm and discover a room with a strange magical hourglass.
The Hourglass Cave
The storm seemed to come out of nowhere. One moment the weather was fine, then the wind began to pick up. About one minute later there was a loud crack of thunder and the rain began to pour down. Which was quite unfortunate for the four hikers who were out on the mountainside nature trail.
“Ugh, this is why I prefer to stay indoors.” Leon moved quickly to hide beneath a tree from the rain. He was wearing a t-shirt, cargo shorts, and sneakers with lowcut socks. Most of his dirty blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail, though he moved some of it out of his face as he began to clutch his temples.
“Oh no… Another one?” Zeelo asked. He was dressed in a similar manner, though had much shorter pale brown hair and also wore a pair of glasses. He was also quick to try to get beneath the leaves and avoid some of the rain.
“Another what?” Deven had more vivid brown hair than Zeelo, though it was also cut short. He had jeans instead of shorts, but other than that was in the same casual dress. After he moved under the tree there was barely any room left.
“He gets migraines during storms.” Jimmy explained. He was darker skinned than the others in a white shirt and jeans with puffy black hair. Now that he had also huddled under the tree most of them were still getting hit by the rain.
“It’ll be fine.” Leon groaned. It didn’t sound like he believed the words himself. “I just… Need to find somewhere to rest.” There was a bright flash of light as lightning struck somewhere nearby. Leon winced and closed his eyes. “Preferably someplace dark without any sudden bright flashes.”
“Don’t know what to tell you.” Deven shrugged. “We’re a good mile into the trail. Not exactly any shelter out here.”
“I know.” Leon snapped, more due to being in pain than actual anger.
“Maybe we can find a cave?” Zeelo suggested. “If nothing else it’d give us better cover.” By now, even though the trees offered some covers the four of them were completely soaked.
“Well, at this point we can’t get any wetter, so might as well look.” Jimmy suggested.
“Fine. Just… I’ll follow.” Leon winced as he rubbed his temples.
The four of them left the shelter of the tree as the rain continued to pelt down. However, Jimmy had been right. By this point all four were soaked all the way through their clothes so it wasn’t as if they could get any wetter. They followed the trail, moving as quickly as they dared. The rain made some areas of the ground muddy and slippery, and last thing they wanted to do was stumble and go sliding down the mountain. After a few minutes Zeelo spoke up.
“Hey! I see something!” He pointed in the distance. They were at an odd part of the mountain trail. The trail continued up around the mountain, but there was a pathway mostly hidden by shrubs that went up the mountain the other side. It wasn’t part of the official trail. Had they not been looking for shelter none of them would have paid it any mind. But where Zeelo was pointing to was an outcropping of rocks. Even if it wasn’t an entrance to a cave it would be much better shelter than the trees. No one questioned Zeelo and followed him through the underbrush until they arrived at the rocky entrance.
It was in fact a cave, one that appeared to slope downward into the mountain. It looked like it went pretty far. No one could see the end of it from here.
“Hope this isn’t like a bear’s den or something.” Jimmy muttered.
“Ugggh.” Leon groaned while there was another strike of lightning. “Right now I will wrestle a bear if he refuses to share his cave if it means getting out of this storm and someplace dark.” He didn’t even hesitate before walking into the cave. The other three exchanged glances before walking in further.
They made it a fairly decent distance into the cave, about as far as they dared go. There was no natural lighting in the cave so they could only go so far before it would get too dark to see. The area they stopped in the ground was strangely smooth. Just enough light managed to get in from the cave entrance that they could just barely make each other out.
“Oh thank goodness.” Leon sat down on the ground. “I just… Need a minute.” He was breathing heavily, but just being in the dark seemed to mark an improvement in his mood.
“Hey… Anyone else notice something strange?” Deven asked. “It’s… Kind of warm in here. I figured a dark spooky cave would be really cold.”
“That is weird.” Jimmy nodded. “But not unwelcome considering how wet we are.”
“Yeah less likely to catch a cold now.” Zeelo agreed.
“Mmmmm.” Leon sat up. “Except we’re still soaking wet. If we don’t dry off we’ll all wind up sick.” He thought for a moment, and then immediately began to take his shoes and socks off and toss them aside.
“Uh what are you doing?” Deven asked.
“Getting out of these wet clothes.” Leon explained as he pulled his shirt off and tossed it aside as well. “It’s warm in here anyway… Head is about to start feeling better. I’m not going to catch ammonia or something by sitting around in soaking wet clothes.” He began to unbuckle his belt.
“Wait you’re just going to get naked?” Deven took a step back.
“Yeah… Why wouldn’t I?” Leon asked as he got his shorts off. The only thing left were his boxers. And it wasn’t long before he had those off. “Already feel better without those on.” He paused noticing everyone staring at him. “What?”
“You seriously just stripped like that? While we’re out in the wild in the middle of a cave?” Zeelo asked.
“This is surprising to any of you?” Leon tilted his head. He had never attempted to hide the fact that he was a naturist. He had been wearing clothes because it was a public trail and so wasn’t going to run around naked here lest he risk getting in legal trouble. But now they were off the trail, hidden in a surprisingly warm cave, and keeping the clothing on actually carried health risks. “I mean, you’re all free get sick if you want to.”
“When you put it like that…” Deven quickly stripped naked as well before throwing his clothes into a pile.
“I guess it’s better than getting sick.” Zeelo nodded. “And not like we haven’t seen each other naked before anyway.”
“Yes, funny how many times Leon has found an excuse for us to ditch our clothing.” Jimmy muttered, but he copied the others. As warm as the cave was it was much more comfortable without the wet clothing on. “Though this might be the first time for actual health reasons instead of some kind of game night.”
“Maybe you guys are just waiting for someone provide an excuse.” Leon laid back on the floor and closed his eyes. “Just… Going to rest my eyes for a bit till the headache goes away.
“Great… What do the rest of us do?” Deven asked.
“I might have some cards in my backpack.” Jimmy suggested. “If we want to pass the time while we wait out the storm.
While Leon rested to recover from his migraine, Deven, Jimmy and Zeelo played a few rounds of poker. They didn’t have any money on them, and they were already naked so couldn’t play a strip variety, so there were no actual stakes other than bragging rights. After about an hour Leon woke up.
“Ugggh.” Leon groaned. “I’m feeling a bit better. Just a dull throb now. The storm pass?” There was a loud crack of thunder outside as if to answer his question.
“It would seem not.” Jimmy replied. “We’ve been playing cards to pass the time.”
“Hey, Jimmy, now that Leon’s awake, I have a question.” Zeelo touched Jimmy lightly on the shoulder. “You have a flashlight in that bag?”
“Yeah why?” Jimmy looked at him.
“Because I’m really curious why this cave is so warm. I’m grateful, but I kind of want to see what’s in here. But not really getting any further without a light.” Zeelo explained.
“Well…” Jimmy dug through his backpack. “Let’s just hope the rain didn’t ruin the batteries.” After a few seconds he found the light and flipped it on. It still worked. “Well, that’s fortunate.”
“Hey, if we’re going to explore further in the cave we need to be careful.” Leon sounded reluctant. “If there turns out to be multiple tunnels or passages we could easily get lost without anything to mark out path with.”
“Well… Why not our clothes?” Deven grinned. He was probably the only one who enjoyed being naked as much as Leon even if he wasn’t the one to usually bring up the idea. “They’re not doing anything else other than sitting on the ground anyway. Anytime we take a passage we can drop an article of clothing or a shoe or something to mark which passage we came from.”
“That’s… Not a terrible idea.” Zeelo nodded. “We can easily find our way back… And if we run out of pieces to mark our way we can always turn back.”
“Works for me.” Leon shrugged. “And if nothing else checking out the cave is something to do other than just wait here for the storm to pass our and our clothes to dry out.”
With that they had a plan. Leon’s concerns proved valid. It wasn’t long before they reached a splitting path. But with four shirts, two pairs of shorts, two pairs of jeans, eight shoes, eight socks, and four sets of underwear they had plenty of pieces to mark where they had come from. They hadn’t even used up half of what they had before they reached a dead end. The dead end in question though was enough to make them drop what they were carrying as they suddenly became very fascinated by what they were seeing.
It was a large cavern, the ceiling so high they couldn’t even see the top. It was also lit up. There were torches lit on the wall, and the cave had a large pile of golden coins, jewels, and other shiny valuables that reflected the light making the entire cavern light up. This room was even warmer than the cave tunnel. Jimmy turned the flashlight not needing it to see at all in here.
“Whoa, did we just discover some kind of ancient pirate treasure?” Leon asked.
“Why would pirates be on a mountain?” Deven asked.
“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of a mountain pirate?” Leon grinned.
“There’s no such-“ Deven started.
“Don’t let him bait you that easily.” Jimmy let out a sigh. “He only said it to get a reaction.”
“Ruin my fun.” Leon huffed.
“So… This is… A lot.” Zeelo had started wandering between the treasures. “How long do you think it’s been here? And… Why is it so shiny?”
“What do you mean? Treasure is meant to be shiny.” Deven protested.
“Well yeah but if it’s just been sitting here for years shouldn’t it be like covered in dirt, a lot of it rusted, stuff like that?” Zeelo asked. “It feels like someone has been keeping it all in good shape.”
“Who would hide a giant mountain of treasure inside a cave and them come polish it regularly?” Jimmy asked. “Like… Personal deposit boxes exist.”
“Don’t know but… Hey! Why is this separate from the other treasures?” Deven had found a tall and long table that appeared to be made out of ancient wood. There was a single hourglass sitting atop the table, but there wasn’t any sand in the hourglass at all. By comparison to everything else in the room it looked boring and ordinary. Just an old piece of junk.
“I would suggest to keep track of time except there’s no sand.” Leon approached Deven followed by the other two.
“Weird right?” Deven picked up the hourglass. The moment he did, suddenly there was sand in both sections of the hourglass and sand was slowly pouring through to the bottom. “Whoa what!? Did… Did anyone else just see that? The sand just magically appeared when I picked it up!”
“Um Deven…” Zeelo pointed at the table where the empty hourglass still sat. Deven hadn’t grabbed it at all. He did have an hourglass, but it was different. Not only was it filled with green sand, but it appeared to be made of a strange scale-like material with carvings of dragons on it.
“But I just… Picked it up… And…” Deven was confused.
“Huh…” Leon tried to grab the hourglass. The original hourglass remained in place. But like Deven, he found himself holding a completely different hourglass. This one was made out of silver and had images of several different cats carved into it. There was orange sand falling through it. “This is weird? Right? Like, I know I reached for the original.”
“Hmmm.” Jimmy looked to Zeelo. The two nodded and they both attempted to grab the hourglass on the table at the same time. Both of them instead wound up with different hourglasses.
Jimmy’s hourglass was made out some kind of smooth black stone, with images of a rabbit carved into it and blue sand falling through it. Zeelo’s like Leon’s had carvings of cats. However, his hourglass was made out of wood and had brown sand filling it.
“It’s like… Each hourglass was made for us individually…” Zeelo muttered. “But where did the extra come from.”
“I don’t know?” Deven asked as he flipped his hourglass upside down to look at the bottom wondering if there was a label. Upside down, the sand began to glow through the hourglass faster than the glacial pace it had been right side up Deven didn’t notice this as he was looking for a label or anything that might give him a clue on what these things were. He was so focused he hadn’t noticed that he was now noticeably shorter than the others.
“Um Deven…” Zeelo was the first one to speak up. “You’re uh… Getting kind of small. You look like a teenager.”
“What!?” Deven snapped to attention and looked over his body. It was true! He was thinner and shorter than he had been mere moments ago. He looked at the hourglass watching it the sand drop down and then looked to his friends seeing them all seem to get bigger. “Wait… No, it couldn’t… Could it? He sat the hourglass on the table. The sand continued to fall he continued to get younger. “Flip your hourglasses upside down!”
“Sure… Why not?” Leon was the first to obey. And the second the sand was flowing in reverse he too was shrinking starting to get younger. By the time he was a teenager Deven had been reduced to about an eight-year-old.
“No way, that’s not possible.” Jimmy shook his head watching his friends get younger. But, the hourglasses had seemed to magically appear and each of them seemed personalized to the person who held them. And looking at Deven, seeing him as a child again Jimmy felt a tinge of jealousy. How often had he wished he could return to the carefree days of a child when life was less stressful?
“… Should we do it too?” Zeelo asked. His voice sounded hopeful. It was clear he wanted to turn himself into a kid too.
“Sure…” Jimmy flipped his hourglass over and sat it on the table. A few moments later Zeelo did the same. Now all four of them were getting younger.
“I can’t believe this is actually happening.” Jimmy looked over his body as it dwindled. “I’m not even sure what to do.”
“I am!” Deven, who was now five years old and fully embracing his youth smiled. “Tag! You’re it!” He shoved Jimmy’s side and then immediately broke into a run, going through the center of the treasure pile, climbing over heaps of it as he tried to get away.
“Hey! No fair! I wasn’t ready! That’s not fair right guys?” Jimmy turned to Leon and Zeelo seeing that they had already took off running at full speed. “Seriously?” Still, Jimmy couldn’t help but laugh as he took off running after them.
Leon and Deven were the easiest to catch up with. Having flipped their hourglasses earlier they were slightly younger than the others. Jimmy had run around the treasure rather than try to catch up with it, and quickly tagged an eight-year-old now blonde haired Leon.
“No tag backs!” Jimmy shouted sprinting away, he himself was only about twelve now.
“Awww no fair.” Leon kicked at a pile of treasure sending coins flying. Then he noticed a four-year-old Deven crawling between the coins. “You’re it!” He tagged Deven before running off.
“H-hey!” Deven being the youngest was at a severe disadvantage. Everyone else was a kid or preteen while he was a toddler now. He couldn’t hope to catch up with any of them. At least not if he was playing fair. He dug his way into a pile of gold coins and waited.
Zeelo was the first to come within range.
“Bwahhh!” Deven tried to give a shout of ‘Gotcha!’ as he reached out an arm tagging Zeelo. But he couldn’t form words for some reason. Zeelo nearly dripped before he looked down at Deven, noticing that his friend couldn’t be older than a single year old now.
“Huh… Those hourglasses work fast should we flip them back now?” He asked. He looked down at himself. He was only about four years old now. And the top of the table was way above his reach. He couldn’t get to any of the four hourglasses if he tried. “Uh oh… Um… Jimmy… Help!” Zeelo ran to the table. “I need to stand on your shoulders.
Jimmy and Zeelo ran to the table to try to find a way to reach the hourglasses. Meanwhile, Deven, and Leon crawled out from where they had been hiding during the game. Both of them were infants now, not able to contribute much to their friends’ efforts. As Zeelo got up onto Jimmy’s shoulders he could see that all of the sand had reached the bottom in both Leon and Deven’s hourglasses. That meant the two had to be newborns now! A thought crossed his mind. If the hourglasses weren’t flipped back to the proper direction would they be stuck as babies forever?
Jimmy started to wobble as standing got harder. Zeelo grabbed the edge of the table. He tried to reach for the hourglasses but his arms were too short. Him and Jimmy were both only two years old. They toppled over onto the ground. Neither one could reach the top of the table as their hourglasses too finished pouring all the sand down into the bottom. Now all four of them were left as infants.
They sat in silence not sure what to do They had been having fun while getting younger, but they hadn’t thought about what would happen if they got too young. None of them were confident in their ability to crawl back to town in their current state. They were basically stuck. They could maybe crawl back to where Jimmy’s backpack was to find snacks, but those wouldn’t last long. It looked like they might be in trouble.
And then the room’s owner showed up.
“Ugh what a storm.” A strong feminine voice spoke. It boomed throughout the caverns. Massive footsteps could be heard as something was coming down through the cavern. “Probably going to last all night.”
The four babies huddled together, not sure what to make of the loud voice and booming footsteps. Was whoever was about to appear someone that would help or someone who would be angry at them for trespassing. And when the figure appeared they all held their breath.
It was a dragon. A massive dragon with silver fur, feathered wings and a red mane running down from the top of her head to the tip of her tail. As she entered the chamber her fur was soaking wet. She rolled onto her back, inhale and exhaled a large cone of fire over her own body drying it out of her. If the four friends hadn’t just been reduced to infants by magic hourglasses they might have questioned what they were seeing. But after their current experience a dragon didn’t seem so farfetched.
“Much better.” The dragon seemed to be in a better mood now that she was dry. “Now then what-“ She froze, noticing the four naked human infants sitting huddled together near the table. She turned her head and looked at the hourglasses, seeing the four new ones that had appeared, and that they were upside down and the sand had all reached the bottom. “Well that explains the human clothing I kept finding all over the lair. You four got yourself in quite a predicament huh?” She laughed. There was something warm about the laugh but nonetheless she was several magnitudes larger than the infants. They couldn’t help but recoil. “Awww, are you four scared?” She asked. “Humans are always so skittish especially when small.”
The dragon moved through the room with surprising speed. She was suddenly directly behind the four of them and looked down at them. Once more she spared a glance at the hourglasses and then at them. She was silent for a moment and none of them knew what to expect.
“Well I suppose it can’t be helped.” She moved her fluffy tail curling it around the four infants and bringing them close to her chest. “If it’s already run out then it’s too late to reverse. You’re stuck like this.” She lid down on the ground, holding her tail over the babies like blanket while she pulled them to rest against her soft warm fur.
“Bwah?” Deven asked as he looked up at the dragon in confusion.
“I was thinking about adopting a pet.” The dragon hummed. “Admittedly was just planning one… Maybe a wyvern or something… But well, I can hardly just ignore you four like that? Especially knowing that you’re never going to age again.” She smiled as she slid her head down close to them. “Actually, that’s not too bad. Pets that never grow up will be easier to take care of. Cost less to feed too.”
Deven, Leon, Zeelo and Jimmy looked between each other as they processed what was going on. But from the sound of things, the dragon had just adopted them. And… It sounded like they were never going to get older.
“Guess I’ll have to find some toys or something though? What do humans play with?” The dragon asked loud. “I wonder if anyone has written a book on it. Shame you made yourselves too young to talk or maybe you could tell me.” She gave the same warm laugh. The dragon didn’t know why these four strangers had stumbled into her lair. Nor did she know their intentions. But she did know after messing with the hourglasses they were now essentially helpless on their own. And she simply couldn’t leave them like that. Especially knowing the nature of the hourglasses meant they weren’t going to ever age again.
The Hourglass of Ages. It allowed each individual person to produce their own personal hourglass that represented their lifespan. By reversing it they could reverse their age. But, letting it run all the way to the bottom would leave them stuck as a newborn. Only the owner of an hourglass could touch their personal hourglass. That meant the dragon was unable to flip any of the hourglasses back over for them so they could start aging at a normal rate again. And they were also all rather heavy, and each one taller than the human babies. None of them would have the strength to overturn their own hourglasses. Worst case scenario, they might break one and then who knew what would happen? The dragon had never seen an hourglass break before and was not about to take the risk of seeing what would happen. As far as she could see, they were stuck like this. And it had been her treasure that had done it, so she might s well take responsibility.
Even if she saw them more as pets than children.
Still… Their new dragon owner’s fur was just so soft and warm. And the tail covering them just made her feel warmer. Now that it was clear the dragon meant them no harm the four were less frightened. Instead, they were we realizing how tired they were. And it wasn’t long before one by one, each of the babies nodded off to sleep wrapped up warmly next to their new owner.
Had they understood how the hourglasses worked. There might have been other ages they would have chosen to be stuck as. But… Even if they were stuck as infants forever, being a dragon’s pet wasn’t a terrible fate. Especially when time would show she was one who would spoil her pets, coming back with whatever she heard human kids liked as toys and food. There were far less fates, and it wasn’t long before they saw their new owner as more of a mother, and each of them grew quite attached, and wouldn’t be willing to give up their new lives for anything in the world, even if it meant being stuck as an infant forever.