OPEN THE BOX
Snerdlin snickered. He'd won. He hadn't done much, but he'd won. He picked up the jewel-encrusted metal box and shook it. No sound. That couldn't be right. Shouldn't a box this beautiful be filled with pretty things? It should be clanking with gold sounds.
"Put down the box! Snerdlin, do you hear me?"
Snerdlin clutched his prize to his chest and spun to face James, evil James. "No! Mine! I win fair and square."
"There's nothing in that box for you." James reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a bag. A clankity-clank bag. A gold-sounding bag.
"Gold?" Snerdlin asked.
James nodded. "Give me the box and the bag's yours."
Snerdlin almost threw the box down and ran for the gold, but his little brain churned. If James would give him gold for the box now, maybe if he made James wait, he'd get even more gold.
"What are you thinking about? Snerdlin, your brain isn't built for thinking."
Snerdlin clutched the box to his chest. "No! Me want more gold. Another pouch or I keep box."
James closed his eyes and said something Snerdlin couldn't hear. He readied himself to bolt even though he knew James could catch him. But his tiny brain reasoned that James might not because he would risk hurting the box. No, Snerdlin's brain said, right now you are in charge.
"I'll take it from you."
Snerdlin sneered and lifted the box above his head. "You no take. I break before you take."
James raised his eyebrows. "You want to break it? Fine, go ahead." He put the pouch of gold back in his jacket. "I don't care. In fact, why don't you open it up? I'll even let you have what's inside."
Snerdlin gently placed the box onto the ground. "Me open?"
"Yes, you can open it. But hurry. We don't have all day."
Snerdlin moved his hand to rip off the latch when he stopped. Why did James want him to have the box if he'd been willing to give him gold? James used trickery. Snerdlin hated trickery.
James smiled. "Okay. If you insist."
Wait. More trickery.
"No! Snerdlin open."
"Would you make up your mind? You found it first, Snerdlin, so it's your box. But you need to do something before Trilix gets here. I'll either give you the pouch of gold, or I'll get a safe distance away while you open it."
Safe distance? "Safe distance?"
"Yeah. You don't expect me to be an innocent bystander if that thing is the deathtrap I think it might be?"
Deathtrap? "Why it be deathtrap?"
"It may or may not be. Legends are sketchy. So what are you going to do, Snerdlin?"
"No deathtrap. You open. Me want gold." Snerdlin waited for James to pull out the pouch of gold, and then he snuck over to make the exchange. Once the pouch was in his hands, he scampered away until he felt he'd gone far enough. He turned and watched.
James placed the box on the ground and unlatched it. He pulled the lid up and stared inside. At first nothing happened, but soon the box came to life. Smoke rose from its depths, then a roar erupted from its midst. James's mouth moved, but no words came out. A bright light shot up. It hurt Snerdlin's eyes, so he turned away until he was sure it had dimmed. When he turned back, the light was off, the lid closed, and James gone.
Snerdlin thought for a moment. James couldn't have gone. He'd have had to run past Snerdlin, and he didn't do that. James got sucked into the box, it had to be true. Good thing Snerdlin didn't open the box himself. And he sure wasn't going to open it now. The box could stay right there forever. He clutched his bag of gold and ran out before Trilix arrived.