No prompt used. The challenge dictated my direction.
The challenge: The story must center around an ancient artifact (real or fictional), it must take place over the course of a weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), there must be a character suffering from delusions of grandiosity and it must incorporate a hymn (real of fictional) into the world.
“I tell you, this excavation will be the birthplace of the discovery of the century!” the excavation leader, Cuarto, proclaimed as he stood on the highest spot within a twenty-meter radius to give his speech.
Kasia yawned. Some others did as well, but Kasia did not bother hiding it. Cuarto fixed a glare on her only to receive a nonchalant cock of an eyebrow in return; Kasia knew that she could not get kicked out of the team just for showing how fed up she was to be standing at a dusty excavation site on an early Friday morning listening to a delusional speech.
Had the pay not been so good, she would have walked back to her car to drive home and sleep in her bed the moment Cuarto climbed onto the high ground. She might have even made it back before Cuarto would have stopped talking, more thanks to his long speeches than the lack of traffic in the area at the time.
“This time, I am absolutely sure that we will find an artifact!” Cuarto returned to his speech. “So, let’s get to work and find it!”
After a bunch of unenthusiastic yays, the group scattered and started digging around. Kasia knelt on the ground and dug in.
It had been a bit over 14 hours since that speech. Kasia regretted not leaving more than she could have imagined she ever would.
They had ended up finding an artifact: it had seemed to be a mere black gemstone that had been fashioned into an incredibly smooth rhombus. The tests, however, had showed that it actually dated back long enough to be ancient — and, since it was so smooth and clearly fashioned with intent, an insanely big find. Cuarto giving more delusional speeches notwithstanding it had still been fine. For Kasia, it meant that she was both getting paid a bonus and she was going to get a big discovery to put on her resume.
Then Eeva had picked it up to move it into a container and things had gotten weird. First, the container had turned into liquorice — that was already bad enough — but then it had started to turn other objects it touched into liquorice as well as long as it was in her hands.
It had started a chaos: a few ran away from Eeva and the artifact, Zarif had started to sing through the long list of hymns he knew, Cuarto and most others were freaking out, Eeva was panicking and Kasia just looked at the mess, dumbfounded and pondering if they paid her enough to deal with this.
This was probably going to be a find of the century after all, although definitely not for any of the reasons Cuarto had thought it would be while giving his speeches. It was probably worth staying, so Kasia took the artifact from the spot Eeva had dropped it to from her hands and tried it out. It did not turn anything into liquorice in her hands.
“Anyone else wanna try?” she asked and offered it around. Everyone just stepped back in panic as if she was waving a gun around. Kasia shrugged. “Ok, then I’ll go and do research on this myself. Eeva, could you come with me? I have a feeling I’m going to need you.”
Eeva did not seem delighted about the situation at all, but she followed Kasia into a tent for testing purposes.
24 hours later, Kasia had already proved that the artifact seemed to work in the hands of those from the Nordics, although the effect of their relationship with liquorice was still undetermined.
At that point, Kasia negotiated a notable raise from Cuarto and his superiors to continue the research. Eeva, on the other hand, had left the moment Kasia had announced her theory, cussing something — probably the artifact — out in Finnish.
It was glorious.
The woman leaving was fine, though. Kasia knew that a liquorice-making artifact like this would attract experimentees and researchers like a lamp attracted moths. She returned to work so that she could get the word out by Sunday.
In the Sunday evening, Kasia took a look at what had happened during the last 72 hours: the team had found an ancient magical artifact that can turn objects into liquorice, she had taken over the team and overthrown Cuarto, gotten a theory on who can wield the artifact and evidence for it, gotten a huge raise and a better contract, posted an announcement and a call for researchers and experimentees alike and received some applications from both already.
As she looked at the list on the excavation log, she could not help smiling widely. Staying had been more than worth it after all; she might have found a way out of her dead-end jobs, or at the very least least she now had something interesting to do for a while.
The only downside to this was that Kasia hated liquorice. She knew that she could handle it, though.