The Many Ways to Die While Opening a Briefcase
Krats waved his hand and the containment shield cracked open, slowly forming an opening that was wide enough to allow a person to step through. The five of them stepped inside one by one and Krats closed the opening behind them.
“Okay, guys, the first layer that we have to crack is a pretty generic shield mechanism. Very simple to cast but ridiculously difficult to get through as a curse breaker. This shield especially, was cast by someone really good. There’s literally no visible crack and from my estimates this thing is at least 30 years old.
“That’s quite some time,” observed Rose, raising her eyebrows. Who the hell cast that charm?
“Luckily it can be opened if you have the correct code,” said Krats, " and this one isn’t a permanent one. Whoever cast that charm was planning on opening this again soon.”
“The brute force diagnostic charm managed to crack the code. So all we have to do is cast the proper unlocking charm,” explained Jessica,” but everyone take a step back just in case.”
Everyone did as they were told. Jessica raised her arms and began the complex unlocking charm, grey light forming glowing numbers as she spelled out the code. The numbers circled the case and descended towards its surface. A glowing white dome appeared surrounding the case. The numbers began to flow into it, melding with the dome. The glow slowly dimmed with each number added. Once the last grey number had fused with it, the glow vanished entirely and the dome fell away, leaving the case exposed once more.
Everyone let out a sigh of relief and stepped in closer again.
“That was ridiculously bright” said Harry.
"Exactly," said Krats," whoever locked this things up wasn't your run of the mill sorcerer."
“Well, time for mechanical lock number one now,” said Janet, producing a wicked looking pair of shears,” we just have to chop right through those latches there. There’s also a spell on there but it won’t come into effect until the latches are unlocked.”
She slowly approached the briefcase, keeping her hand steady, as if the briefcase was an animal that would attack at any sudden movement. She snipped away at the two latches holding it together and they fell apart quickly, standing no chance against the enchanted blade.
“Do we have…?” began Rose but went silent as Jessica held up a hand. As they watched, the two latches began to glow white, just like the dome. They waited in silence for a full minute before the glow finally began to leach out, moving out of the lock like it was somehow bleeding glowing white light. The shears had worked.
“Okay, now you can ask, although I think you wanted to know what the next spell is,” said Janet once Jessica had lowered her hand. Rose nodded.
“The next one will allow us to get this open. It’s a sealing charm that has been applied to these two edges,” she continued.
“And this one is my turn,” said Krats,” we simply have to break through this one the old fashioned way. No way to sneak past it. So again it should go without saying that its a good idea to back off.”
He produced a dagger. It gleamed in the dim light of the room. It was engraved with several silver runes. Krats placed the dagger at one end of the briefcase. The runes flared bright silver, as a white line, hissing and spluttering on contact with the blade, appeared along the briefcase. The dagger slowly made its way in to the gap and Krats began moving it along the seam.
The line of white energy continued to hiss in protest but it slowly gave way as the dagger continued on its path. No one dared to breathe as the dagger approached the final turn. The line of energy began to glow brighter as the dagger approached the end of its journey. As the dagger hit its mark at the other end of the seam, the white energy dissipated in a giant puff of smoke.
For the second time they all let out a collective sigh of relief.
“So we can open it now?” asked Harry, hand inching towards the case.
“The first layer, yes,” replied Janet.
“There’s a case inside the case?” asked Rose.
“A box, from what the diagnostic told us...one that is behind another four locks. Two magical and Two mechanical,” answered Jessica.
"Of course they have to build it like a Russian nesting doll," said Harry, rolling his eyes.
"Unfortunately yes," said Jessica.
"There isn't another one inside that is there?" asked Rose.
"Not that we know of," said Krats.
"But there could be something that we didn't detect," said Janet, shrugging, "no spell is perfect."
"Because nothing can be easy," said Harry, sighing dramatically.
It was Rose's turn to roll her eyes. Such a drama queen.
“Can we at least pop this thing open now?” asked Harry.
“Yes,” replied Krats.
Harry ripped the thing open in one smooth motion. They all stared at the contents.
Sitting on a velvet cushion, was an ornate wooden box. It was carved in a pattern of stripes and flowers with a large creature wrapping around a scroll engraved right in the center. A large chain wrapped around it, adding an extra layer of protection to the brass lock already on the box.
“That thing right there is a couple of hundred years old by our conservative estimates,” said Janet,” and that is what is storing the actual goods."
"This case must have been an addition to allow it better blend in when being toted around the city," said Rose.
"Precisely," agreed Jessica, "anyway there's another shield on this guy, though this one has been tweaked. It's been rigged to blow if the shield is brought down at any other place in the sequence,” explained Jessica."
"Right, so that's how it works," said Rose. Jessica nodded before gesturing to Janet.
“The ironic thing is that this tweak does leave us a nice little opening to just simply slip through and rip this shield apart very easily thanks to the fact that its ancient,” added Janet,” Krats if you will do the honors for this one?”
“Gladly,” he replied. Silver light flared to life on his palms.
Another white dome flared to life as he approached the box. Two large cracks were clearly visible right at its center, as if a giant snake had decided to bite it. Tendrils of silver energy attacked the box, slipping through two cracks in the white dome. The tendrils expanded quickly, inflating and busting open the shield within a few seconds. Krats’ magic flickered weakly as the spell ended. Looks like he won’t be casting any of the other spells. That drained him pretty good for a centuries-old shield spell.
“And now we have to get this unlocked,” said Janet, pointing to the large chain,” That’s the easiest part. We just have to break it. If there was ever a spell that was imbued into it, it is no longer active. Even though the shield held thorough time, the runes that anchored whatever spell was on the chain wore off long ago.”
"So I guess that's the limit of whoever cast those spells?" asked Rose.
"Hard to say," replied Janet," for one thing its nearly impossible to tell what that spell was and on the other hand the date that it expired on is just a guestimate with that spell."
Janet drew a dagger of her own and sliced through the chains, the enchanted steel cutting through it like a hot knife through butter. The chains fell away silently, making no noise as they landed on the soft cushion that the box was resting on.
“Magical?” asked Rose. That other lock has got to be the last step.
“Correct. We have another spell to undo. This one is the trickiest one. Then we just have to cut through this lock,” replied Jessica.
“This particular spell is designed to lash out at anything that is not a certain pair of magical signatures,” elaborated Krats.
“But we can hack our way through?” asked Harry.
“Absolutely,” said Jessica, moving towards the case,” you guys will have to step back again. This one is a little complicated. And if we get this wrong we'll all be turned to dust.”
“No pressure then,” said Harry, "we'll just be outside this protective circle."
"Harry," said Rose, frowning.
"Just kidding," he said, raising his hands, "Jeez."
“No problem,” replied Jessica with a smile. She winked at Rose then turned towards the box. This time there was nothing that happened visually. The only way they could tell that something was happening was the mumbled spells by Jessica and several strange wailing noises that were coming from the box itself. It sounded like one of Voldemort's horcruxes were stuck inside it. They stood patiently for the next five minutes as neither Jessica nor the case budged an inch.
Finally, Jessica let out a whoop and a big halo of white light became visible for a second, before vanishing in a puff of smoke. Rose joined in the celebration. Another lock done. Time for the last one.
“Now let’s chop that last one up real quick,” suggested Harry.
“Not so fast,” said Janet,” we have to double check it to make sure it can’t blow up in our face. The last trap is usually the nastiest one. We definitely don’t want to make a mistake there."
"But you said you checked everything," said Harry, complete with a pouty face.
Rose had to work hard to stop herself from letting loose a laugh. Honestly, at 22, you’d think he’d be less of a five year old.
Janet herself appeared to be holding back a laugh as she slowly poked the lock with her dagger, being careful not to scratch the ancient steel. She ran another diagnostic on it.
After her careful inspection, in a quick jabbing motion, she severed the steel lock, and the box let out a hissing sound. Rose joined in as everyone clapped. Looks like we’re in.
"Finally," said Harry, moving closer.
Janet, using the edge of the blade, slowly prised the lid open. Everyone else gathered around to get a closer look.
Inside were what appeared to be several sheets of yellowed parchment, covered in all sorts of lines and several verses in what appeared to be one of the older languages of magic.
“That can destroy the world?” asked Harry, frowning," what the heck is that?"
“Looks like some sort of map,” Rose answered, voice trembling with excitement.