Saturday, May 28. 2011
It took the day to reach Gundrea’s destination. They travelled rocky foothills that slipped and crumbled underfoot. Yllen spent the time ignoring the demon in her head, meditating strictly whenever it tried to ask a question. It started to rain that evening and when the cave appeared Yllen was glad of the shelter. Only when Gundrea continued into its depths did she realise they were headed there anyway.
All was quiet until they reached the end of the cave. A small, poorly lit hollow it was curiously breezy for being underground. When Yllen looked up to see where the light was coming from she realised why. A circular shaft had been carved into the ceiling of the cave. It led directly up some fifty feet and Yllen could see light above. She stared up in fascination at the odd construction only for the demon to jerk her from reverie.
“I remember this place,”
Yllen touched Gundrea but barely. “He says he knows where we are,” she repeated.
Gundrea nodded. “Thought he might,” He sported a full on goatee now, having cultivated it carefully since they’d left the shrine.
“At the top is the Gate of First Desire. Those who look into it are lost to themselves,”
Yllen blanched. “And what’s behind it?”
“A fabled maze built by the ancient sage Kuryman. No one else is wise enough to escape it,”
Yllen growled at the demon. “If all these death traps are so unsurvivable how do people find out about them?”
“Necromancy?” was Gundrea’s chirpy reply.
Yllen could only settle for a glare. Gundrea stroked his goatee.
“I guess we gotta go up then,” He gave Yllen a sly look. “Shame I didn’t bring any rope,”
Yllen charged the nearest wall. Her sandal slapped against it and she rose into the air. Then she kicked. The motion drove her up and out and as she reached the opposite wall she kicked again. Bouncing from wall to wall she traversed the heights, careful never to look down. Her legs ached by the time she reached the top and she caught the rim, pulling herself up into the chamber.
It was not large but was the faded decorations spoke of ancient riches. Indeed the pillars dotted haphazardly about made it seem more cavernous than its few dozen feet. Dominating one end was a solid door of bronze. Light trickled down from above to alight on its polished surface. Yllen could see herself reflected within its murky depths. She paid it no mind though instead searching until she found a misshapen lump huddled at the base of one of the pillars.
The lump lurched upright as she approached. Then it yawned.
“Y’have fun?” asked Gundrea.
“He did not move,” the demon noted.
Yllen felt the barest of prickles across her cheek. She gazed down into the insouciant grin of her master. “Not while you’re looking,”
Gundrea gave her a bemused look. “Anyone any ideas what we do next?”
“I don’t know, how about that gate thing,” Yllen said sweetly.
Gundrea limped toward the bronze door. Cautiously he tapped it, and then peered into its depths.
“Be wary,” echoed the demon in Yllen’s mind.
“I don’t see a handle,” said Gundrea without his lips moving.
Gundrea looked at Yllen in confusion.
“Try giving it a push,” said Gundrea again but the words weren’t coming from his mouth.
Yllen darted forward, she caught a flash of movement in the mirrored surface and then someone came through the bronze.
It was a woman, short hair, dusty clothes and her face set in a strangely serene countenance. The most amazing thing about her was the way she moved. She went from staggering to attacking without ever breaking stride. Yllen caught her punch and kicked out. Her mirror image slid about it and the two parted circling one another warily.
A head poked through the bronze. It bore a familiar amiable look.
“Well hallo. Didn’t expect to see you here,”
The other Gundrea, her Gundrea, helped his copy through the mirror. But for original Gundrea’s goatee they were spitting images.
“Ah, you know me. Always where you don’t expect to see us,”
Yllen and her mirror still circled, trying to focus on each other and not the conversation.
“Hey, don’t suppose we can settle this peacefully?”
Original Gundrea leaned on his broom. “Don’t look at me. I keep telling her not to fight everything she sees,”
Something writhed across mirror Yllen’s skin, etching a burning sigil around her eye. They were exact copies of each other. Yllen leapt forward.
Copy Gundrea leaned on his broom. “Aye, they never seem to listen do they? Hey, are you the evil me?”
Original Gundrea tapped his goatee. “Noticed did you? I figured it was good insurance and if you were some namby pamby furry lover I could get an easy shot in,”
“Yeah I was thinking about that myself but then I thought what if the copy of me thinks of the same thing,”
Original Gundrea stroked his goatee in admiration. “That’s a bit of genius thinking,”
Copy Gundrea nodded sagely. “Aye, you’re a clever one no doubt,”
Mirror Yllen rolled out of the way. Yllen slammed into a pillar and kicked off. She met her mirror coming the other way and they clashed in midair, matching hit for hit. They both hit the ground and whirled, closing the distance and lashing at each other with quick attacks. Yllen could find no purchase, her mirror seeming to know every strike and counter she did. They broke apart, tattoos spiralling across flesh.
“Why are you fighting?” asked the demon, thrumming in her head.
“If I can beat you, I can beat anyone!” panted mirror Yllen.
Yllen saved her breath and charged. She dropped low as she came in, twisting on her hands and turning it into a sweeping kick. Mirror Yllen vaulted over it and dived onto her. They fell into a vicious grapple, both willing to use any extremity or bite.
“Bloody hells, your one’s good. I’d put a bowl of rice on her,” Gundrea fumbled for his bowl.
“Well hey if we’re making bets, how about a couple of sour balls and a duck,” said the other Gundrea, stroking his goatee.
“Where’d you get the duck?”
One of the Yllens tossed the other across the chamber. She went flying overhead as both Gundreas ducked.
Yllen landed safely, she skidded off the bronze escaping the Yllen chasing her. That throw hadn’t been one she’d known. There were differences between them, in luck if nothing else. As Yllen arrived she turned back, knocking away the fist that came at her. She elbowed her mirror and rejoiced as it connected, making the other girl fall back. Yllen pressed her advantage.
Gundrea was poking at the bronze door again. “S’funny. How does it know to send just one out? Why not a whole bunch of mirror images like,”
“Imagine that. Whole chamber filled with Yllens beating each other,” other Gundrea was beside him, exploring the bronze for secret handles.
“Yeah, scares the hell out of me,” Gundrea pressed on an area of bronze. It clicked.
The Yllens were reduced to circling one another again. It had been scarce minutes yet Yllen already felt worn out. She squinted with the effort of keeping focus on mirror Yllen’s feet. One lapse was all her counterpart needed. It was all she needed for an opening. One of them tried a straight kick that was easily dodged, the other threw a boxer’s punch but had it blocked.
“Did you not hear my warning?” The demon made her head pound.
“Shut up or help me!” she snapped.
From the corner of her eye she saw mirror Yllen flicker. She’d lapsed and mirror Yllen attacked. She barely caught the hit, rolling with it to dampen its effect as much as possible. She rolled away but mirror Yllen chased after and the kick struck her midsection. Yllen gasped as the air fled her lungs. Mirror Yllen stood back, fists raised high. Then she vanished like smoke.
It took Yllen a moment to stand, breathing difficult. When she did there was only her and Gundrea in the chamber. The bronze door lay open, a yawning darkness where it had stood.
“You alright?” asked Gundrea.
Yllen blinked. Gundrea had no goatee anymore. “Are you...?”
Gundrea merely grinned and stepped into the black passage.
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This scenario had the potential to be really confusing, but you succeeded in keeping it in control and the narrative tight. I felt a bit voyeuristic, however - I was expecting the Yllens to tumble out of their clothes and into a mud pit. Perhaps that's just me... >.>
HAHA Facial hair makes men evil by their very nature. Ben Croshaw wears one, and that proves it. Have you ever worn facial hair like that? Beards and goatees and vandykes are really only good for stroking in thought.
I have only one quibble: "Light trickled down from above to alight on its polished surface."
Does light trickle? That must be a modern thing. Like new math.
Plus you used 'light' twice, which sounds kinda odd.