Chapter 1: The Golden Sword of the Cheese Lake
“Well, I think it’s safe to say we found it,” Riddle said, hands placed firmly on his hips as he gazed out over the golden lake of melted cheese. When he and Rhyme had accepted this quest they weren’t really sure whether the description was exaggerating or not, since “a literal lake made out of cheese” didn’t necessarily seem possible, but the duo had learned to accept these strange oddities as fact the more they carried on adventuring through these portals. Finding this bizarre cheesy lake was only the first half of their quest however, as at the center of said lake there rested a small island made of Swiss cheese, and embedded in that island was a mythical golden sword of legend ripe for the taking. All they needed to do was reach this island safely, retrieve the sword, and be on their way if they wanted to claim their reward.
“This should be a piece of cake!” Riddle said, clasping his hands together excited. “Or, a piece of cheese? That doesn’t sound as catchy, so let’s stick with cake. You ready to go pull that sword, Rhy- uh,” Riddle stopped himself as he finally turned to face his partner. Rhyme’s face was contorted into a very distraught expression, his squinting eyes watering slightly as his beak hung open just a crack. A nearly inaudible groan was escaping from his mouth, and the longer the two stood at the shore of this cheesy lake the more the avian’s feathers began to puff up.
“Not a fan of the smell, huh?”
“I’ll admit I’m not much of an asiago aficionado myself, but the sooner we nab that sword then the sooner we can get away from all this cheese, yeah?”
Riddle sighed. He knew Rhyme was a touch more difficult to work with when something was bugging him and, judging from the look on his boyfriend’s face, he had a feeling that this time was going to be worse. Not that he could really blame the avian for that; the stench this lake was giving off was rather potent, and it would only get worse the further out into the lake they went. Still, a few seconds flying over these cheese fumes shouldn’t have posed much trouble for Rhyme, right?
“Okay Rhyme, just hop up and grab my shoulders when you’re ready, and let’s go and get that sword!” Riddle said, striking a dramatic pose as he pointed towards the center of the lake. He held that pose for a few seconds, his point losing some of its luster as he failed to hear his boyfriend begin his take-off routine. He looked back at Rhyme, only to see his feathers puffed out even further and his head beginning to pull back from the lake.
“Rhyme, just hold your breath or something-” Riddle was cut off as the avian began flapping his wings fervently, although not as a means of lifting himself off the ground. Riddle couldn’t tell if his partner was trying to beat some of the offensive odor back towards the lake or if he was merely throwing a tantrum. Either way it was looking like Rhyme wasn’t going to cooperate with him on this one. The moth sighed dramatically and dragged a hand down his face, then turned back towards the lake as he considered his options.
Rhyme, who grew up in the Canopy of the World Tree back on their homeworld, was gifted with the ability to fly, as did all of the avians and moths who resided up in the treetop. Riddle, however, hailed from the Undercity of the World Tree where flying was neither necessary for getting around nor easy to learn how to do. The moths and avians who lived among the roots of the Tree were able to glide for short distances, but were not capable of flight like their neighbors upstairs. As such, Riddle had to rely on Rhyme if he wanted to fly anywhere, as thankfully his boyfriend was more than capable enough of supporting his weight while flying through the air. The only problem was that Rhyme had to be willing to carry him, and currently the avian was in no shape to be doing that.
“Hmm…guess that leaves us with no other option,” Riddle said, an excited smirk spreading across his face. Ever since he and Rhyme started traveling through these portals the two had gained access to some incredible magical abilities. He steadied himself and felt the power welling up inside of him, crouched down as if getting ready to leap, channeled that energy down into his legs, and then finally pushed himself off the ground with a fantastic burst of wind propelling himself straight up into the sky. He always got a thrill from just how high this power let him jump, and even more so from just how far he could glide whenever he got a really high jump out of it. He spread his wings out as far as they would go and began gliding towards the center of the lake, eager to get his hands on that golden sword.
“Just hang tight ‘til I get back, Rhyme!” Riddle called out to his boyfriend, the sound of him soaring through the air drowning out any possible response the avian could have given him. He couldn’t wait to pull that sword out of the Swiss block and hold it aloft, give it a couple of experimental swings, then return to the shore with his prize. It was a shame they wouldn’t be keeping the sword, but that reward that was in store for them was more than- oh, oh man…oh that’s-, that’s pretty ripe…The further out into the lake Riddle got, the more powerful the aroma became, not to mention the air becoming more dense with what he could only assume was evaporated cheese. His focus was starting to waver from just how overwhelming it all was, the miasma assaulting his senses and throwing him off balance, just enough that he began to descend earlier than intended. He did all that he could to maintain his altitude, even began flapping his wings in a vain attempt to keep himself in the air, until finally the moth plummeted directly into the drink with a wet and pathetic-sounding splat just a few meters away from the lake’s center.
“...well…ahh…hmm,” Riddle looked down at the melted cheese slowly enveloping his legs. Luckily for him the cheese was still viscous enough that he wasn’t sinking all that quickly, but he was still very much stuck. A few experimental pulls and tugs revealed that he wouldn’t be getting out so easily either, not to mention it looked like he was sinking, albeit very slowly. Oof, that odor, too…Thinking on his feet, Riddle mustered up that same magical energy from before, channeling it down to his legs and attempting a mighty leap out from the lake…only for it to yield him spraying cheese out all around him while not actually propelling himself in any direction.
“Ah, hm,” Riddle folded his arms, antenna pulled back as he thought deeply. “...nope, can’t think of anything. Guess this is the end for me.” He sighed and put his hands behind his head, trying to think of the most tragically heroic pose he could strike as the cheese consumed him. If his legs weren’t stuck like this he could get some really dramatic poses, but all he had to work with were his arms and torso. He was so entrenched in this train of thought that he hardly noticed the rapidly-approaching cacophony of noises from behind, although the sudden and harsh grip from a pair of talons clenching around his arms was more than enough to shake him from his morbid daydreaming.
“ACK- what the-...Rhyme! Rhyme you came! Oh am I glad to see y-” He looked up towards his savior, his expression flipping from joy to concern as he watched his boyfriend flapping as wildly as he’s ever seen him flap before. The avian was squawking up a storm, eyes bugging out and beak clacking as he tried to yank Riddle out as quickly as he possibly could. His efforts paid off as the moth’s legs popped free from the cheesy lake with a rather disquieting splorp, quickly causing the pair to go hurtling onto the Swiss cheese island where the sword awaited them.
“Oof…” Riddle tried to steady himself as went to stand up, but was very quickly yanked directly onto his cheese-covered feet as his boyfriend carried on his panicked flapping. “Rhyme it’s okay! We’re on the i-”
“GRAB THE SWORD GRAB THE SWORD GRAB THE SWORD!” Rhyme squawked out, the agony of being so totally surrounded by the offensive cheese smell nearly too much for the poor avian to bear.
“O-oh, right! Leave it to m-”
“NOW NOW NOW GO GO GO!!” Rhyme was giving Riddle no opportunity to do any of his usual heroic pomp and circumstance that he loved to do. The avian flapped his wings even harder as he started taking off from the island, barely leaving enough of a window for Riddle to hurriedly latch onto the hilt of the sword with both hands. The sword slid out from the Swiss cheese block with practically no resistance, but Riddle had no time to admire the clean pull as the pair went rocketing off back into the sky. Rhyme’s squawking had given way to straight-up screaming at this point, and the speed at which the two were blasting through the air caused Riddle to follow suit.
Riddle groaned as he came to, the smell of cheese still clinging to his clothes. He vaguely remembered a crash-landing after he and Rhyme had made enough distance from the lake, though everything was still a little hazy from just how hectic that escape was. That was far from his proudest moment as an adventurer, that much he was certain about, but at least the two of them made it out of there with the sword in tow! As his bearings came back to him, Riddle could feel that he was still gripping the hilt tightly in his hand, the realization helping to ground him the rest of the way. The moth shook off the residual funk and let out a triumphant laugh, sitting up just enough to hold the sword aloft.
“We did it, Rhyme! We got the legendary golden swo- hey!” Riddle’s declaration was cut short as he actually opened his eyes and spotted the conspicuously beak-shaped bite mark taken out of the blade, right near the base. He blinked as he pulled the sword closer to inspect it, then let his vision focus past the hole and onto his boyfriend perched just in front of him, sat up straight with that familiar smile on his face.
“Sharp cheddar,” Rhyme said.
“...yeah,” Riddle said in defeat, flumping onto his back and holding the sword out above him. Well, hopefully they could still get most of the reward for this even if it had a bite taken out of it. Riddle stared at the blade for a moment longer…then brought it down to take a small bite himself. If it already had one then two shouldn’t be any worse he figured.
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