The Thousand Chests were, as the name implied, a set of a thousand chests, each containing each a unique item. What the items actually were, no one knew, but there were whispers of exquisite gems and precious metals. To Oscar, such tales of riches rather strained his credibility and set off his suspicions that the Chests were nothing more than a tale.
Except for the fact that the Thousand Chests resided on land across the waves. In the past, before the tide had come in, it had been possible to reach the area on foot. Now, it was an isolated island, blocked off by dangerous waters. So it was technically possible that someone with a great boat and a poor brain could have gone to verify the Chests’ location.
But no one actually had, which was seemed even more suspicious. Oscar was unsure if someone had chosen a plausible hiding spot because they expected most people to dismiss the existence of the Chests. Or maybe its obvious location was a trap. Perhaps they’d expected most people to assume so, which meant that…
“Yes, but I always assumed the Chests were a myth,” said Oscar.
“No, they’re very real,” said King Samuel, “I’ve been there myself.”
“I see,” said Oscar. If anyone had been, it would have been the King.
“It appears that Thymia can float through objects. This would prove very useful for finding a specific Chest,” said the King.
“I can float through objects, yes!” said Thymia, sinking through the table.
“Ah, so you’re planning on taking us both to the Chests?” asked Oscar.
“I’d be honored,” said Oscar. He tried to appear not too excited, but his mind was already thinking about the secrets he might find.
“I’ll go where Oscar goes,” said Thymia.
And so things were decided.
It’s real. Oscar stood in a huge cavern, with King Samuel and Thymia next to him. In front of him stretched huge rows of identical chests, each musty with age, with a large lock keeping them shut. It’s really real. The King held a large brass key and eyed the many chests.
“Let’s get started,” King Samuel said.
After their nighttime meeting, Oscar had went home to sleep. The next morning, King Samuel had arrived at his door. The two of them had gotten onto a horse, Thymia floating behind, and then the King had lifted them all up, horse and all, and in a few short moments, soared to the island.
Oscar had thought the King’s relics were unfairly magical.
Standing in front of the cavern, King Samuel had explained that they were looking for a small glass cube.
“Erm, the chests are all locked, and we have only one key,” said Oscar.
“This, then, is where Thymia comes in. If we peek into all the chests, we’ll know which is the right one,” said the King.
Something about that didn’t sound right to Oscar. “There are a lot of chests here,” said Oscar. “Do we have to go through all of them?” He felt like he was missing something even more obvious.
“Hmm,” said the King. He took a cup out from his pack and drank a bit. “Let me think…”
“The Cup of Concentration?” asked Oscar. He’d heard about how it boosted one’s ability to hone in on a specific mental query.
The King nodded, eyes going off to the distance.
A moment of heavy breathing passed.
“I have it!” said the King, “We shall divide the chests in half and search half first. If we find the cube, we are done. If not, we shall divide the remaining chests in half and search one half again. We repeat until we find the cube. This shall save us the trouble of searching through all of them.”
“I don’t think that’s it,” frowned Oscar. The searching scheme sounded ingenious, and it was perhaps faster than naively searching through all of them, but something was still off. Is the searching scheme correct? His brain was telling him it wouldn’t work, but why?
“Thymia, can you check this box here?” asked Oscar. He pointed to the first one in front of him.
“Sure,” said Thymia and floated through.
“What do you see?” asked Oscar, still trying to source his internal tangle of confusion.
“Nothing! It’s all dark!” said the genie.
Of course. There’s no light inside.
King Samuel squinted. “There’s nothing inside the chest?” he asked.
“No,” sighed Oscar. “Thymia can’t see anything inside the chests if we don’t have a way to brighten the insides of the chests.”
“Oh,” said the King.
They sat down to think.
They’d tried to see if the boxes were different weights. They’d tried to tap on the boxes to see if they could tell different densities apart. They’d tried holding a torch to the cracks of the chests, hoping Thymia could make something ou.
All to no avail.
“So why is this glass cube so important?” asked Oscar. He had briefly considered banking on their luck and using their key on a randomly chosen chest. But by his calculations, it meant he’d need luck one thousand times stronger than normal luck just to make his odds fifty fifty.
“I suppose there’s no use hiding the truth from you now,” said the King, sighing gravely, “but I tell you this in confidence. You must not tell anyone.”
“Of course,” said Oscar. Thymia nodded likewise.
“Very well,” King Samuel spread his hands wide, gesturing at the wide cavern. “Many years ago, I read accounts of our rising waves in the royal library. This island of the Thousand Chests, as you know, was once connected to the mainland.”
“But there are signs that the waves will rise once again. A terrible swell will come and engulf the shore!”
“Are you sure?” asked Oscar, sweating.
“I’m very certain; the books spoke of other signs, of stars moving and of the weather changing. Those have all been come to pass. I believe the wave, too, shall come to pass.”
“That’s terrible!” said Oscar.
“You can see now why this information should be kept incredibly secret,” said the King. “If everyone knew, there would be a huge panic.”
Oscar thought for a moment.
“Wait, it doesn’t matter if this gets everyone worried! We need to evacuate before everyone gets swept away!”
“And let them worry?” said the King, “No, best that I shoulder the burden alone.”
“But what are you going to be able to do about this killer wave?” asked Oscar. You do not solve major problems by pretending they don’t exist!
“That is the source of my wanderings. In my books, it was also spoken of a way to halt the wave. If a dozen relics are gathered, the wave will be repelled,” said King Samuel.
“Hm,” said Oscar. The King’s actions did make much more sense if he had known that all of this was to save the town…
“How much time do we have left? What relics are left?”
“We have three weeks. I have four relics left to find,” said the King.
“Ah,” said Oscar.
He began a mental calculation, dividing twenty-one by four, and then snapped out of it. He shook his head. What was he doing? What if the relics didn’t repel the wave?
“Okay, this is a really bad idea!” said Oscar, thoughts finally forming. “When you deal with huge disasters, you do not put all your eggs in one basket!”
His words appeared to give King Samuel pause.
Oscar continued, “Sure, maybe gathering the relics will repel the wave. Maybe not. Maybe the wave isn’t even coming—”
“But all the other things have come to pass!” said King Samuel.
“—But when you think something bad will happen and the risks are too great to take, you go all out in trying to save things. While you’re off finding relics, we still need to also evacuate the town! It’s important to do everything we can to help everyone!” Oscar said.
“That… makes quite a lot of sense, actually,” said King Samuel.
“It won’t even be hard, when your Ring of Rising can practically carry everyone in one go,” Oscar pointed out.
“Indeed,” said the King, stroking his chin.
They set off back to town.
“So, what did you think originally? That putting all the relics together would somehow magically save everything?” asked Oscar.
“Something like that,” said the King,
“It didn’t occur to you that perhaps the relics should have been used?”
“You get too focused on one thing, and tunnel vision makes it hard to see the rest of the world,” sighed King Samuel.
The two of them were sitting on the shore, watching the waves roll in. The new shore, as it was. In the end, the wave had come in after all. But it had proved fairly easy to move most of the town when you had super powerful magical artifacts.
Life could get pretty crazy.