by Liz Rich
Hidden in the back room of a tiny store cramped with curios, sits a chest. Plain, and unadorned, it could be one of a hundred such chests. There is something familiar about it, however, as though if you closed your eyes and remembered, it would be sitting in the corner of grandmother’s cottage, or at the foot of your childhood bed.
When opened, the Hope Chest reveals a long lost memento of great emotional worth. Perhaps a jaded princess would find the dress she wore to her first ball, while a knight might find the scarf given to him at his first tournament by a young maiden whose face was flushed with excitement. A young boy missing his home may find the blanket his mother used to tuck him in with, or the knife his father gave him on his tenth birthday.
Other than returning these lost mementos, the Hope Chest is non-magical. It does not radiate magic, nor will it ever reveal a magic item to the person who opens it, no matter how sentimental he may feel about that Vorpal Sword that was lost long ago. There are those who claim that the chest is magic of the very best kind. They say the happy tears that accompany long lost memories are worth any price, certainly more than the chest’s weight in gold or powerful magic.
People who have encountered the chest tell of Madelyn, a sorceress so cold she would sell her friends’ souls if the price were right. Determined to find the chest that always produced what the opener valued most, Madelyn stalked knowledge of it across miles and years. Finally tracking it to an old, friendly shopkeeper, she was puzzled and wary when he merely chuckled at her threats of magical doom and led her to a plain wooden chest in the back room of his shop. Reassuring herself that there were no traps, she gleefully opened the chest and pulled out a bouquet of dried wildflowers wrapped in a faded piece of blue linen.
Speechless, she stared at the bouquet before rushing teary-eyed out of the shop, leaving the shopkeeper shaking his head as he closed the chest.