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“Maybe it’ll work this time, then.” Liana tugged the ox’s harness. “Pull, ya great thudding beast!”
Chakan admired his wife as she coaxed the ox to keep pulling. She even knows the right language, he thought. The animal strained against its harness, and… “Hoy, it’s coming up!”
“Keep it coming!” Liana told the ox.
“Stay on that side,” Chakan warned. “If the rope snaps…”
“Yar. Easy… easy… ha!” The block surrendered its grip on the surrounding earth and slid up the slope and into the field. “That’s it! Drag it back to the barn!”
At the barn, they returned the ox to its stall with a bag of feed, then looked over their prize. “Eh,” Liana mused, “it might make four or five pavers. Enough for our needs, anyway.”
“Aye. But… look.” Chakan knelt and ran his finger across one side. “Looks like a line here.” He brushed away dirt. “I think it runs all the way around the thing. Like it’s a lid.”
“Ha! Maybe it is a chest full of octagons, then?”
“Could be.” Chakan tugged at the “lid,” but it did not budge. “Probably sealed. Here’s where the plow hit it.” He rubbed at a scuff mark along one side. “Hate to take a hammer to it, we might could use it for something.”
“Here, let me bring the pry tool.” Liana kissed her husband. “Keep looking it over, love. You might find something.”
“Best bring a knife, too,” Chakan called after her. “I doubt I could slip that pry tool into this tiny crack.”
“Hoy, I got an idea. Wait here.”
A few minutes later, Liana had driven an old knife blade all the way around the thin crack, and pounded others into each corner. “Yar,” she said, sitting on the ground opposite from Chakan. “Now, twist your blades on your side, and I’ll twist mine. If we get it right, we might get this thing to slide up. Ready? Now.”
“Hoy, the blades are loose,” said Chakan, after a minute of twisting and pulling. “Aye, we got it up a little.”
“Yar. I think we can get the pry tools in there now.”
The afternoon rolled by, and still they strived to open their prize. At last, they worked the lid a finger’s width up, and yet it would not lift off.
“Is it my imagination,” Liana mused, “or is the lid pulling itself back down? Have you ever seen such a thing?”
“Enough,” Chakan growled, standing over the block and working his fingers into the gap on either side. “This ends now.”
“Don’t hurt your back,” Liana warned.
“Eh, I’m more worried about my hands here.” Chakan gripped the block with his boots, pushing with his legs and pulling with his hands. “Get loose, ya Goblin-spawn!” He strained, his accent and curses growing thicker. “Ah, that’s it… come off!” At last, the lid gave way with a pop and a tearing noise, neither of which had they expected to hear from a stone box. Chakan dropped the lid in the soft dirt and panted for breath.
“What in the Seventeen Hells is this?” Liana wondered, looking into the box.
“Eh. Shoulda just handed it over and let the sages do the hard work,” Chakan grumbled, thinking about the Rules of Finding, part of the agreement they signed in exchange for the land grant: Stonework, you may do with what you will. Money is yours but for the normal tax. Items of interest should be turned over to the sages, that they may be studied and benefit the entire nation. “That’s an item of interest if I ever saw one.”
“Yar. We’ll turn it over. But the Rules don’t say we have to turn it over right away. Let’s take a look at it ourselves, first. We did the hard work of getting the box out of the ground and getting it open, so we’ve earned that much.” Liana looked at the box. “Clever folk. Whoever boxed this thing up meant it to survive the ages.” She pointed at a layer of black gunk around the top edge, then turned the lid over. “They painted pitch on the inside of the box and lid, see? It sealed the box tight. That’s why it was so hard to open. I wonder how old this thing is.”
“Well, everything in the ground out here has to be from Camac That Was, nay?”
“Yar.” Liana reached into the box and lifted the contents out. Some kind of mechanism, it seemed; the tarnished brass struggled to reflect the light. “Welcome back to the sun. Now what are you?” She looked down. “Chakan, there’s a book in there. Maybe it’ll tell us what this thing is.”
“If we can make heads or tails of it.” Chakan picked up the book, wincing at the twinge in his back. “I just hope this was worth the effort.”