The voice had come from behind. Jennie, startled, turned and pressed herself against the marble wall.

“I said, have you come to steal the treasure? Come to steal the Prophetic Orb?” One of the decorative caryatid columns, the one that looked like a nude young woman carrying a sword, stirred and stepped off its pedestal.

“N-no, I swear!” Jennie cried. “I’m just here to talk to it!”

The caryatid immediately relaxed. “Thank goodness!” She stuck her swordpoint in the ground and leaned against its hilt in a casual pose. “I would have had to kill you then, and I really do hate killing people. Gives you the feeling that you’re just ruining their day, you know? Or I guess any other days that might possibly have from now until forever, too.”

“But I’m okay if I don’t want to take it?” Jennie said, relaxing a little herself. Posed as she was, all the statue needed was a pair of tights and a cell phone to be the spitting stone image of a college freshman.

“Oh yes. I was created–or was that summoned, I forget–strictly to defend the Orb. Other than that and not leaving except to pursue it, things are pretty well wide open. I love it when pilgrims come to talk to the Orb. Gives me a chance to catch up on all the latest news and trends. Why, I remember about a thousand years ago it was even considered good luck to talk to me before seeing the Orb. I don’t mind telling you–even though I’m a teensy bit ashamed–that I turned that into an opportunity to get the nicest shoes and clothes from those poor folks. They always rotted away after a few decades, though. Pity. Would you like to talk? I think you might be about my size, maybe a little bigger.” The caryatid didn’t notice Jennie bristle at that remark. “Maybe you have some cast-off closet-filler I can drape? I promise, it won’t take but a moment–or maybe two–and then you can go see the Orb.”

“The Orb, huh?” Jennie said. “You mean the one that used to be in the orb-shaped dimple on that pedestal?”

The caryatid glanced over and then did a double-take so comical that Jennie had to laugh despite herself. “It’s gone! Oh no, oh no, oh no! The Fáidh told me this would happen if I kept trying to extort visitors for pretty things!” She glanced at her visitor with a darkened expression–well, really more of a pout than anything–and tried to tug her sword out of the ground. “You took it, didn’t you?”

“And where would I keep an Orb the size of a regulation basketball in this outfit?” Jennie cried. “My pockets are barely big enough for my cell and wallet!”

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