Tucker just looked at Jessica for several moments as he couldn't believe what he was seeing. She definitely looked worse than she did before and the bloodshot eyes was all he needed to become worried instantly. Ever since the magic that had given Jessica her size had been taken away she looked to be growing sicker and sicker. It was almost like his friend was fading away before his very eyes.
"Jessica have you seen yourself?" asked Tucker with a large amount of distress in his voice. He felt that it was highly appropriate since he was truly concerned for the health of his best friend.
"No," replied Jessica. She began to become worried as she heard Tucker's tone of voice. "What's wrong?"
Tucker had to think of a way to show Jessica her face but unfortunately he was short on a mirror. He did have one idea as he drew Juggernaut out once again and help the blade a few inches from Jessica's face. He pointed it long ways so that the tip of the blade wasn't pointing at her but instead she could see a small amount of her reflection in the blade. It was a testament to how Tucker maintained it but as Jessica looked she was horrified to see just how bloodshot her eyes were. She could also see just how pale her skin was and it caused her to look down at her hands. She could see that they were also pale and they even looked wrinkled. If she didn't know any better she would have said that they belonged to an old woman instead of a woman who was in her early twenties.
"Tucker what's happening to me?" asked Jessica. She was close to tears and she was going into an absolute state of panic.
"I think I have a theory. Remember, you told me that when you were born that you were very sickly?" He waited a moment for Jessica to respond. "When you received that potion to make you better it also made you bigger as well. I was thinking that since the effects of the potion have been taken away from you not only did you lose your size but whatever was keeping you alive. Without the magic fuelling your body anymore, you're dying from the same illness that inflicted you as a baby."
"No this can't be." She was in a full state of panic and she dropped down to her knees. The thought of dying terrified her more than even she expected. "We have to go back and get out of here before it's too late."
"I wish it was that simple but you saw what happened. The slope is too steep for either of us to get up. I hate to admit it but the only way we're getting out of here is if we continue on and complete the test." He knelt down so that he was at her level. He felt great sympathy for her and he to feared that she might not get out of there alive. "I promise you Jessica, will get you out of here alive and I'll understand if you want to go home." He held his hand out so that she could take a hold of it. "You're not alone in this."
Jessica had to wipe the tears away from her eyes as she grabbed onto Tucker's hand. With that he helped her back to her feet and he was still getting over the fact that she was so much shorter than him. He had gotten used to her being taller than him that he never thought that he would ever look down at her.
"Ok Tucker," said Jessica as she sniffed a little. "We can try and continue on, I'm just afraid."
"I know Jessica," replied Tucker as he gave her a hug. "I'm scared too but even if it kills me I'm getting you out of here."
The hug lasted for a few moments before they broke it off. They didn't want to waste any more time since they didn't know exactly how long Jessica had before she succumbed to her illness. They had no idea whether she had a few hours to live or a few minutes. Either way they didn't want to find out the hard way.
Like Tucker had suggested the pair began to make their way down the right hand tunnel. They didn't know whether it was the right way to go and since they didn't have any clues they had to take their chances.
As they walked he felt Jessica leaning on him, this was not to show her affections but because she needed him to support herself. The energy was effectively draining out of her body and she could feel the very life being taken out of her. She had never been so terrified in all of her life but she knew that she could count on Tucker to help her as much as he could, she knew that he wouldn't let her die without a fight.
Eventually the pair came to another metal gate but rather than have to worry about it opening they watched as it opened by itself. But rather than the gate lifting up into the air like most gates this one moved down into the ground. They stood and watched for a few moments as this happened but what was most striking to them was the fact that there was no one lowering the gate. They couldn't see that it was attached to any chains and they certainly couldn't see anyone physically moving the gate. It was moving completely by itself and they didn't know whether to be amazed with the sight or downright terrified. Things had only been getting worse for the pair so if the movement of the gate was caused by anything sinister they would not be surprised.
When the gate had disappeared out of sight they calmly walked through it and Tucker drew out Juggernaut, just in case there was any danger. He had already decided if there was something that decided to jump out at them he would shield her as best as he could. He could not call himself a knight if he wasn't willing to protect her.
The room that the pair found themselves in was small featureless room. It was still well lit like the rest of the tunnels but there seemed to be nothing that really struck the pair as being odd. If anything it made them feel a little claustrophobic since it was no bigger than a small room in a house.
"Ok so it's a dead end," said Tucker fearing that he had wasted what little time Jessica might have had left. "I don't know about you but I can't see anything in here that really sticks out."
"There might be something," replied Jessica. Even her voice was starting to sound weak. It was nowhere near as strong as it was when she first had her size taken away from her. It was something that she herself had noticed and it was just an additional reminder of the peril that she was in. "There could be something on the walls that'll help us or maybe the walls themselves are fake."
Tucker did think it was worth a try and he began to examine the walls for anything that struck him as being odd. This was much like when he was looking for a switch for the first gate. Thankfully due to the room's lack of size it didn't take him long to explore all over it, unfortunately he found nothing.
It was in that instance that Tucker decided that it was best to backtrack and go down the opposite direction from the T-junction. He did want to go in some haste but unfortunately Jessica's pace was only slowing with each passing minute. Although it couldn't be seen through the sleeves of her dress her arms were beginning to become wrinkly just like her hands.
The pair quickly walked through the gate that they had used to get inside the room but the sight that met them completely astonished them. Rather than seeing the long empty tunnel that they had expected instead they found themselves in a large room with a ceiling so high that it was shrouded in darkness. Tucker turned around to look at the gate they had just walked through but again to his surprise there was nothing there but a wall. He was beginning to become nervous as he realised that something was definitely going on at that moment in time and it only made him even more afraid of Jessica's safety. Time was ticking away as he could see her becoming weaker and weaker.
"Ok I did not expect that," said Tucker as he turned back around. "I guess all we can do is keep going."
"At least we're making some progress," replied Jessica. She was now having to hold onto him more and more. She could barely walk by herself and she knew that soon she would not be able to walk at all. She tried to look at the bright side of the situation but with every passing moment that became harder and harder to do.
As they both walked inside they felt the ground begin to shake slightly. This grabbed both of their attentions and when they looked forward they could see what seemed to be a woman wearing armour and carrying a sword. She only looked to be around five feet tall much like Jessica but that was not where the similarities between the two women ended. The warrior woman herself looked just like Jessica.
"T-That's me," said Jessica in absolute disbelief. The last thing she had expected to see was herself. It caught them both completely by surprise and they both had a feeling that things were going to turn out badly. "How is that even possible?"
"I don't know but it's in our way. I can't see any other exits out of here so I'm guessing the only way out is to defeat your twin so to speak." He looked at the warrior woman and he wasn't particularly impressed. He thought that this might be an easy battle but he knew that looks could be deceiving.
Under Tucker's instruction Jessica was able to sit down by one of the walls so that she was somewhat safe. She thought that it was strange to basically watch herself fighting against Tucker. She didn't know what caused this thing to appear but one thing that the warrior woman had that Jessica didn't was the fact that it looked much healthier than she did. It was one thing that Jessica was a little jealous of.
Tucker slowly made his way to the warrior woman who for now had not said a single word or barely moved. He had to remind himself that he wasn't going to battle his best friend but instead some kind of copy of her. He knew that it might prevent him from maybe being as precise as he could be but with the knowledge that Jessica's life was on the line he didn't want to hold anything back.
The warrior woman made the first move when Tucker was close enough. She swung her sword at Tucker who was more than capable of blocking it with his sword. Even he was surprised with how weak the attack had actually been. He had expected it to be some kind of blow that would cause him some discomfort but he found it extremely easy to block and even if it had struck it would not have harmed him.
There was a wide open gap for Tucker to attack but rather stabbing the warrior woman he elbowed her in the face and it made her go down to the ground. It looked like he had won and he even turned to Jessica to smile at her.
What he didn't see was that the warrior woman was getting up again. As she stood up she was also growing taller at the same time. When she stood at her full height she could look Tucker square in the eye and it was at this moment that he turned around and saw what had happened. Once again he was taken by surprise and he soon realised that the battle was going to be more dangerous than he first thought. He immediately readied himself for another attack and he definitely wasn't going to waste any time.
The warrior woman once again attacked Tucker and although he blocked it again he could definitely feel that this attack was stronger than the last one. As he expected this warrior woman was no ordinary person and he knew instantly that the fight was going to be much tougher than he expected.
With the attack blocked Tucker parried and went on the offensive himself. He had to keep reminding himself that his opponent wasn't actually Jessica but merely someone who looked just like her. There seemed to be no emotion in the eyes of the warrior woman and he suspected that she wasn't a living thing at all.
Tucker's attack did hit home as he stabbed her in her chest. Juggernaut seemed to go right through the armour with little trouble. He wasn't too sure whether it meant that Juggernaut was particularly powerful or the warrior woman was just wearing weak armour. He didn't much care as he watched her drop to her knees and fall to the ground. For a moment he thought that the battle was over.
Only a few seconds after falling to the ground the warrior woman began to get back up and as she did Tucker could see her growing even taller. Her armour and weapons were also growing to match her size and Jessica who was watching from the corner was taken the most by surprise. She figured that the magic that had been inside her had somehow been infused with this warrior woman. Not only did she look just like Jessica but it seemed that every time she was defeated she would just get up again bigger and stronger.
Tucker could only watch as the warrior woman stood to her full height which had now increased to eight feet. To Tucker it was almost like seeing the real Jessica herself but before he could think the warrior woman went to slash him with her now mighty sword. Rather than trying to block the attack Tucker rolled out of the way and aimed for her legs rather than her torso.
There was little armour on her legs and Tucker felt that this was his best place to attack. He had learned that when taking on larger opponents that striking their legs was the quickest way of cutting them down to size. It was a lesson that he learned from Sir Thomas Parker when the elderly knight had trained him.
Tucker put this technique to good use as he was able to use his speed to get behind the warrior woman and strike her in the back of her legs. Instantly she fell to her knees and Tucker stabbed Juggernaut right through her shoulder going deep into her body and most likely piercing vital organs. This was easily a kill by any stretch of the imagination and once again he watched her fall.
Unfortunately again he watched as the warrior woman began to get back onto her feet and once again she grew as well. Tucker took a step back as she stood up and he could see that all of her wounds were gone and when she had reached her full height she now stood a staggering twelve feet in height. Tucker was now only half her size and he knew that he was in serious trouble.
"This isn't working!" stated Tucker as he was running out of ideas. He didn't think that he would be able to defeat the warrior woman at this size. He knew that even if he did she would just get up again and she would be even bigger. This wasn't a battle that he was going to win any time soon.
"Try something else!" replied Jessica. She was trying to shout but unfortunately her voice was too weak to count as a shout. "Fighting her with brute force isn't working, you have to fight smart."
Tucker tried to take these words in but he couldn't see a way of defeating the warrior woman if she just kept getting bigger after every defeat. He knew that eventually she would be too big for him to handle and without Jessica's protection he would be nothing more than a red stain on the ground.
For the moment all he could do was dodge her mighty swings as best as he could but he knew that he had to think fast. Every once in a while he would take a look at Jessica and he could see her becoming weaker and weaker. He knew that it wouldn't be long before she finally succumbed and that was something that he didn't want to happen.
Tucker barely had any time to concentrate as he was constantly blocking and dodging against the warrior woman's attacks. They were causing him a lot of grief and when he felt her sword come into contact with his shield he could feel just how strong the blows were. He dreaded what would happen if he was struck by a blow if she grew even bigger. He thought that they were already strong enough to cut right through him if they were on target but if they were even stronger he wouldn't be able to block them.
One other problem that Tucker had was that the warrior woman had a much greater reach than him. Her incredibly long arms combined with her sword made reaching her to attack almost impossible. He was still having to think of a way of defeating her once and for all but that was going to be extremely difficult to say the least. So far all of his attacks, even the ones that normally would be mortal only made her grow bigger and stronger. He knew that there had to be someway of defeating her but finding the way was the really big question and he wasn't sure if he had the answer.
As he continued to dodge the warrior woman's attacks he noticed something that he didn't really expect. He wasn't sure at first but it seemed like she was getting slower, as if she was beginning to get tired. He didn't think this was possible since she was a being composed of magic rather than being a living person. As he carefully listened he could definitely hear her panting.
This made Tucker come up with an idea. Every time he had defeated her with force the warrior woman just grew bigger and stronger. He thought that if he simply let herself tire out she would basically be defeating herself. He knew that it was unlikely but it was certainly worth a try and with time against him he knew that he had to do something and fast. Jessica didn't have too long left.
Jessica was still watching from her wall and she could still feel herself becoming weaker and weaker. She couldn't see that her hair was beginning to thin and lose its colour. She was not concerned with herself but more with Tucker. Each time the warrior woman went to slash him she feared that it would strike and kill him. Her weakened heart was struggling to cope with the situation and if things continued like this she would suffer from a heart attack before her affliction killed her.
She also felt extremely powerless as her best friend was in mortal danger and she didn't even have the strength to stand up on her own two feet. All she could do was shed a tear as the sense of utter helplessness overtook her. At this point if she did die it would actually be a welcome relief for her.
It seemed that Tucker's plan was working as he saw that with the more time that went by the slower the warrior woman became. He had no idea exactly what was behind her existence or how it worked but he was just glad that he had found a weakness. He had also been trying to spot a gem much like the armour that he fought during the first test. Unfortunately he had yet to spot any gem but it seemed that it wouldn't matter.
After a couple of minutes Tucker could hear the warrior woman's panting increase to the point that it was almost impossible to miss it. Her movements had become so slow that Tucker could easily see what she was doing. When she went to swing her sword he was easily able to dodge it without putting much effort into it.
Eventually the warrior woman became so tired that she dropped down to her knees and tried to use her arms to try and support herself. Unfortunately for her they gave way and Tucker waited several moments to see whether she would grow again and stand up. With each second that went by his expectations of her getting up grew but after around twenty seconds he could see that she wasn't doing anything. She was just lying on the ground and he gave a sigh of relief.
After forty five seconds Tucker put Juggernaut back into its holder. The next thing he did was turn to Jessica and make his way back towards her. She was in an even worse state than he feared as he could see that her face was becoming wrinkly and her skin was as white as snow. She looked up at him weakly and even that used up more of her depleted energy. She knew that she was close to death.
"Jessica are you alright?" asked Tucker, from the moment he said the words he realised the absurdity of them. Instead of snapping at him Jessica just gave him a gentle smile as if everything was alright.
"I'm fine Tucker," replied Jessica although she knew that she was only a handful of minutes from death. She wanted to get up but she just didn't have the strength to do it. "Is there any chance that you can pick me up?" Her voice sounded incredibly weak and Tucker could tell that they didn't have that much time. "My legs seemed to have failed me, I might have to get myself some new ones."
"Hold tight Jess, I'll see what I can do."
With that Tucker bent down and picked up Jessica and placed her on his back. Unfortunately it did mean that she was going to have her body against his shield but it was the best thing that he thought. He did also notice how light she felt, it was not just because he was used to her being heavier than him but because she physically weighed very little. Her lack of size and muscle had been somewhat useful for Tucker because it meant he could actually carry her.
Not thinking about himself Tucker made his way around the warrior woman who had not moved from where she had collapsed. He hated the idea of fighting Jessica in any way but this had been a life and death situation and he took comfort in the fact that it was not the real Jessica. Even then he really didn't want her to suddenly wake up attack once again, it would certainly mean the death of his best friend.
It took Tucker a few moments to reach the other side of the room where there was another tunnel and it only annoyed him. He thought that this chamber was endless and that Jessica would long be dead before he found the exit. He couldn't bear to go back to her parents and tell them that their only daughter had died, in a way this had all been his fault and he didn't think that he would be able to get over the guilt.
"Hang in there Jess," said Tucker as he continued to walk through the tunnel, It seemed to be the same tunnel that he had walked through before. "We're not too far from the exit now." He expected to hear a verbal response from her but she was so weak that all she could must was mere mumble. "When we get out you'll be big and strong again just like before, then you can walk all by yourself." Again this only got a mumble from her and he feared that she was going to die there and then.
Tucker's pace went from a walk to a jog as he wanted to get out as soon as he could. He didn't need to have a knowledge in medicine to know what would happen if he slowed down. He was even having to be careful that he didn't drop Jessica. In her weakened state a simple fall like this could kill her. He had to put his own durability to the test as he too was tired after everything that had happened. He would allow himself to collapse before he gave up on Jessica, he knew that she would do no less for him and for all the times she had helped him it was time that he saved her.
Tucker's heart sank as he came up to another T-junction in the tunnel. It only cemented his belief that the chamber was endless and no matter which way he went they would never get out before Jessica died. He wanted to drop down to his knees and simply give up but with Jessica's life counting on him he couldn't falter.
He didn't have much time to think about which way he was going to go but before he could make his decision he was forced to stop dead in his tracks. His sense of fear grew as he saw a humanoid figure step out from the wall in front of him. Rather than being made out of blood like a normal person this being was made of stone that matched the wall that he had stepped out from. He was around six feet tall but had no real distinguishable features, he seemed to be bald and his eyes had no pupils. There was even a small amount of moss growing on his body and almost instantly Tucker thought that he was going to have to fight another warrior and this was something that he dreaded. It would waste even more time, time that Jessica didn't have.
"There is no need to draw your weapon sir knight," said the being in a voice that was calm and it even took Tucker by surprise. "I do not wish to fight you, instead I'm here to help in a way."
"If you want to help then you can restore the potion in my friend's system," replied Tucker in a somewhat harsh voice. He was not in the mood for any more games or challenges, to him this was just another detour.
"That is entirely up to you. I see that your friend there is in a very bad way. I'm guessing what was keeping her alive was drawn from magic, something that is nullified down here. Unless of course if it is magic that originates from here. I myself am a being of magic rather than flesh and blood. I have been here for more years than I cared to have counted but I have only seen a few people come down here."
"Just get to the point!" His patience was running out and if something didn't happen soon he would just walk away.
"Ok my very impatient friend. You have two options, if you go left you will find the location of the third trial and be one step closer towards your quest's end. If you go to the right you will find the exit of this place. I seriously doubt that you have time to go to the left, find what you seek and then leave before your friend dies, however if you do leave before you find your answer you can never enter here. Once a man leaves this chamber they can never return." He did chuckle a little as he knew that Tucker was in an unpleasant situation. As soon as you leave the magic within your friend will be restored and she will regain her health if she's not dead already. So what will it be? Continue onto the treasure and lose your friend? Or will you save her life and go home with nothing?"
Tucker was in a position that he didn't want to be in for obvious reasons. Finding Three Man's Treasure was the whole point of the quest. He didn't want to just give up on it but at the same time he couldn't allow Jessica to die. He wanted both of them very much but he had to choose one or the other.