After busting up a magical artifact smuggling ring, Telani comes across a strange magic box that she can’t figure out how it works. And naturally, her curiosity isn’t going to rest until she does. But, it may be a far bigger problem than she ever imagined.
Box of Size
Telani had picked up the oddest item on her last job. It was a very small, maybe only a cubic inch tall. She could easily roll it between her fingers. But someone had gone the process of painstakingly carving all kinds of strange runes and symbols into the box. The designs were too small for Telani to make out without a magnifying glass. Even then she didn’t know what the symbols made and that only made her more curious about it.
It had come from an alchemist’s lab. She knew that much. Apparently, someone had been replicating magical artifacts and selling them on the black market. A problem in and of itself. But the replicas were highly unstable and tended to explode with enough force to level a house. Tracking down the source of the fake items had been time consuming. But all the items had a similar magical aura around them. Searching the town for items with similar auras and following whose hands they had gone through over time had eventually led her to the alchemist’s lab. A few traps and an amateur spell slinger. If he knew what he was doing his replicas would have been more stable. Telani was more than a match for him on her own. And all that was left was to clean up the lab and dispose of any of the remaining replicated items.
But then she had found the box. It had a different aura from everything else. If the alchemist had created it, then he had done so through a completely different process from the other items. More likely, it was a real artifact he had picked up and was likely planning to try to reproduce later.
Telani’s job had only been to shut the operation down and dispose of the replicas. No one had offered to pay her or mention anything about what to do if she came across a real artifact. So, with no instructions Telani saw it free to take home with herself so that she could study it and try to figure out what it was.
She had tried a few sells, though at greatly reduced power to try to see if the box reacted to any different elements or combinations of them. None. After studying its aura for some time the black and blue marked wolf was able to conclude that it had absolutely nothing to do with the elements. It looked like there was a section of what she assumed was the top that opened up, but nothing she tried would open it. Incantations didn’t work. She couldn’t pry it open. And the cube seemed to be impervious to her magic even when she upped the power to try to blast the top open.
“Well, that’s obnoxious.” Telani slipped out of her robe so that she was only in her casual clothing. She wasn’t ready to give up on this yet. It was some form of magic she didn’t understand. There was no way she was going to stop poking at it. And absolutely no way she was going to admit defeat to a box. But it was starting to get late. “Maybe… It’s something based off time or the lunar cycle?” She looked out her window. The moon was already high in the sky. Just to see what would happen, she lifted up the cube so that the moon shone on it. Absolutely nothing.
“Will you just open already!?” Telani demanded. As she spoke the words, she felt something in the tiny box push against her finger. Holding it at eye level to examine it, she saw that there was now a tiny handle sticking out of the side of the box. “Wait… Seriously? It was just a password? And the password was open!?” Telani had been overthinking this thing the entire time. She had assumed there would be some secret magical way to open it. She was almost a little furious it was so simple, especially after the time she had spent on this. Well, now that the way to open it had presented itself. She figured she might as well figure out what kind of magic she was dealing with. Better than wondering about it in bed all night. Telani gently pressed down on the lever and the top of the box opened up.
And immediately, there was a massive shockwave that sent Telani flying backwards across her own house. She was disoriented by the blast and wound up wrapped up in something. She laid flat on her back after landing and stared upward for a few seconds, unable to see past whatever she had landed in and was now wrapped up in.
“Okay, what was the purpose of that!?” Telani demanded. She started to look for a way out of whatever she was under. Were these her bed sheets or something? Why would they be in the living room. And as she moved around, she noticed that her clothing was missing. She was completely naked. And covered by a giant fabric. “Oh… Oh don’t you dare…” Telani continued to struggle to find an exit until finally she emerged onto the floor. Turning around, she saw the clothing she had been wearing piled up on the floor against a wall forming a mountain much bigger than her. That shockwave released by the box had shrunk her! She was no bigger than a mouse!
Glancing around, she saw that the box had landed on the floor when she had been blasted away. Small miracle there. Now she could try to get up to it and fix this mess. Maybe shutting the box would change her back to normal? She ran across her floor as fast as she could, rushing to get closer to the box. As she did, her house felt like it was growing even bigger. And then there was a humming sound… And suddenly, another shockwave was unleashed throwing Telani all the way back to the wall where she landed atop the clothes she had been wearing.
“Alright… No.” Telani leaped down from her clothes and glared at the box from afar. Today she had taken out an illegal black market smuggling ring all on her own. She wasn’t going to end the day being beaten up by a box. “Ardeo!” A stream of fire poured out of Telani’s heart into her right hand before she launched it at the box from afar. The fire vanished as soon as it touched the box. Maybe she should have expected that. Her magic didn’t seem to affect it earlier… But she also hadn’t been trying to hit it hard enough to destroy it earlier. “Tonitrus!” She launched thunderbolts of lightning at the box. Once more they vanished as soon as they touched it.
Artifacts being warded against magic were nothing knew, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating. Telani was gonna have to get closer to the cube and try to shut it back down. She began walking again. As she did, she realized she was smaller than she had been before. Now she was closer to the size of an insect. But… At least she didn’t feel like she was getting any smaller this time. But once more the box made a humming noise. It was going to release another shockwave. And at her current size there was now ay Telani wouldn’t be blown back to where she started unless she came up with something clever quickly.
“Ruina terrae!” Telani shouted as part of the ground rose up and rushed forward slightly. She quickly dove behind the raised ground and pressed her back to it. The shockwave went off again, and this time she managed to avoid being caught in it. “Well… Not the intended use of the spell… But it got the job done.” That was her Earthen Wave. It was usually used create a stone to slam into her target. This time, she had just targeted the floor so she could then hide behind the stone the spell had created. “Didn’t plan for that huh?” Telani asked smugly. She was aware she was taunting a box. But the thing had shrunk her and tossed her across the room twice! Now that she finally had a way to deal with it she felt she was entitled to a bit of smugness. She just needed a minute or two to catch her breath after using multiple spells in succession.
She started across the room once she was ready. But, as she reached the point where she had been blown back by the second shockwave she felt as if the entire room was getting bigger again. She stopped dead in her tracks, and as she did everything stopped growing. But she was definitely smaller than she had been a few seconds ago. She didn’t have time to dwell on the thought before the box started to hum again.
“Ruina terrae!” Telani repeated the same trick to hide from the shockwave. As soon as it was past her she came out of hiding and broke into a full sprint running towards the cube. As she did, the thing almost seemed to be getting further away. She was getting smaller even faster!
And then she figured it out. The closer she got to it, the smaller it shrunk her. If it shrunk her fast enough it might actually be physically impossible to reach the thing ever. The cube that had once fit between her fingertips now stood like a massive tower in the distance. How was she supposed to get close enough to shut it down? The same humming started up, and Telani threw down the same spell. This time she stayed hiding behind her rock while she tried to think. She was exhausted from throwing down spell after spell and no closer to finding a way out of her current situation.
Just running straight at it wasn’t going to do it. She was getting so small it was like the box was getting away. Moving away from the box wouldn’t make her bigger judging from what had happened when she had gotten blown back earlier. And then there was the fact she had shrunk approaching the box the first time, and didn’t start shrinking again till she reached the spot she had been blown back from. Just walking in the box’s direction wasn’t enough to make her smaller. It was specifically some kind of proximity thing. The closer she was the smaller she got.
So… How did she get around both that and the shockwave without spending the rest of her life living among microbes?
Another shockwave went off, though Telani was safe behind her barrier. It was a shame there wasn’t something that could knock her towards the box. Or… Was there?
Telani was very small right now. That meant she couldn’t weigh much. There might be a way she could launch herself. Waves of fire enveloped her right arm, as ice enveloped her left. She waited for the next shockwave to go by then she made her move. She jumped up onto the rock she had used as a barrier, leaped off of it while turning to face the wall opposite the cube.
“Ardere navies!” A blast of cold fire was unleashed from her hands. The flames being expelled propelled her tiny body forward much faster than she could ever run as she flew all the way across the room landing atop the box. She had made it!
But, in the process she had shrunk even more! The box might as well have been a mountain. She had to get it closed again soon. If it released another shockwave while she was on top of it she was pretty sure her barrier trick wasn’t going to work. She looked over the edge and saw the handle she had used to open it. It was far enough down that just looking over the edge made her dizzy. It was doubtful if she leaped down onto the handle that she’d weigh enough to move it. The box was starting to hum, she didn’t have a lot of time. She had one idea. She just hoped it was enough.
The ice and fire vanished, replaced by streams of wind and sand. She could feel her body protest from the strain of magic. Going straight from one mode into another was draining her dry. But it wasn’t like she had a lot of options or time. She looked over the edge of the box again and pointed her hands down at it. “Lapis aeria!” Stoned rose from the floor of her house beneath the box. And then they grew in size as they bombarded the handle. It began to move, and then slowly slid into its original upright position. The humming of the box immediately stopped, and a small panel slid over the top of it closing it off. Telani barely managed to jump over the panel to avoid getting locked inside the box.
It was over. She collapsed on her back atop the box as she returned to her normal state and breathed heavily. She had thrown quite a few spells in just a couple of minutes. And those two mode changes so close together were almost more than she could handle. She didn’t know if she had it in her to cast even a single more spell tonight. But at least it was over. Except, she was still very, very small. It was unlikely she would be anything more than a tiny black speck to the naked eye. Opening the box didn’t seem like it was going to help. Was she just stuck this way?
Maybe… Maybe not. It was a problem to deal with later. When she never showed back up at the academy one of her colleagues would come looking for her. They’d no doubt see the box on the ground. Even if they missed it at first glance they’d pick up its aura when they started searching with magic. Maybe, with a fireball or a light spell Telani would get their attention and notice the tiny little speck of a wolf. If not… Well, then she’d just have to find a way to make a bigger fire or brighter light until she got their attention.
Part of her was highly aware, that if she had just stayed away from the box after the first shrinking, she’d still be the size of a mouse and easy to see. If she had been a bit less stubborn, willing to just give up against the box she’d actually be in a much less dire situation.
“Ah forget it.” She closed her eyes. She’d sleep here for the night then wait for someone to show up. She beat the box once by getting to it and shutting it down. She could do it a second time by finding some way to attract the attention of a colleague. Just hopefully, they weren’t stupid enough to turn the thing back or she might wind up having an equally tiny partner to wait with her until a second person showed up.
Who might also turn it on. The problem with mages was they tended to be curious and didn’t like it when they didn’t know what something did. Well, eventually someone would pick up the box without turning it on, and Telani and however many people had come before then could seek help back at the academy. For now, she was exhausted and her only concern was getting some sleep and recovering her energy.
So she did exactly that.