short story, story promptPippa is desperate to find her missing brother. She’s sure he is still alive in the dangerous Deception Caverns, but finding him in their depths is going to be an almost impossible task…


“I’m not really a Planner,” Pippa said in a rush.

Devlin’s brow creased in confusion. “What?”

“I’m not really one of the Emperor’s Planners,” she said again. “I … I was pretending to be one.”

“But your paperwork says-”

“It’s forged.” She shrank in on herself and studied the dusty rocks at her feet. “I needed a way to get to the Deception Caverns.”

He muttered a curse under his breath. “Do you realise what you’ve done?”

She didn’t meet his eyes as she nodded.

“My whole expedition team could be at risk because of you! Planner’s aren’t chosen at random for a very good reason. They need certain skills in order to guide teams through the Caverns unharmed! You could get all of us killed!”

“I didn’t have a choice,” she whispered. “My twin brother went into those caves with another team. They never came back.”

“Then he’s probably dead.”

Pippa flinched at the harsh words. Everyone had said the same thing, but she refused to believe it. She knew her brother was still alive. She could feel it in her soul.

Devlin’s voice was gentler when he spoke again. “I’m sorry you lost your brother, but everyone knows you can’t survive in the caverns for more than a day. How long ago did his team go missing?”

“Six days ago.”

Devlin took a sharp breath. “Pippa, there’s nothing I can do. Six days in the Caverns is certain death. I’m not risking the lives of my team members to find a dead man. Especially not when I have no Planner to disable and avoid the traps.”

She grabbed hold of his shirt as he turned to leave. “Please, Devlin! I know my brother is still alive in there! I can’t leave him behind.”

He sighed. “I’m not going near the caves without a Planner, Pippa. Sorry.”

“I’ll be your Planner! I may have forged the papers, but I do know how to do the job.”

He looked her over, skeptically. “Why should I trust you? You’d say anything to save your brother.”

She dropped her hold on his shirt. “I never took the test to become a full Planner. My mother didn’t want me to. But I trained under Planner Graiz. He was my mentor.”

Graiz? The Master Planner?”

Pippa nodded. “He took a special interest in my and my brother, but my mother didn’t want either of us going near the Deception Caverns. My brother took the test in secret and joined an expedition team not long after.” She bit her lip. “He never even said goodbye.”

There was a long silence. “I lost my brother to the Caverns,” Devlin said eventually, his voice low. “He was caught in a poison trap and died a painfully slow death. It turned out the Planner for his expedition team was a fake and failed to identify the traps. You can see why I’m reluctant to trust anyone who’s not a fully qualified Planner.”

Pippa nodded miserably. “I’m so sorry about your brother.”

He raked a hand through his hair. “Alright. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll take the team a little way into the Caverns on a test run tomorrow morning. If I’m satisfied you can do the job, I’ll agree to look for your brother.”


“Yes, but don’t expect to get any share of the treasures.”

She nodded meekly. “Of course, Devlin. Thank you!”

Cracked Flash supplied my inspiration for this one! 🙂

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