Sunday, June 19. 2011
“Hmm,” Gundrea sat balanced on the end of his broom.
“Hmm,” he said again and rubbed his bare chin.
The wall said nothing in return.
Deep it plunged, dark and obsessive.
“They're endless, master,” called someone.
The gloom spat forth a girl with cold eyes.
Old Gundrea smiled and tapped the engravings.
As far as he could see were murals.
They spiralled down the staircase.
Another shaft, twinned to its brother before the door.
Something stirred within the girl.
A dark thing stretched out its hand and touched the wall.
Gundrea ignored it, hopping from his broom.
He ambled downward, apprentice close behind.
Until the stairs crumbled away suddenly.
The maze kept jealously its secrets.
Cold eyes watched her master fall yelling.
She peered over the side, treated to sights of nothing.
Gundrea's hand drew her back from the edge.
The other rubbed a bump on his head.
The darkness rumbled within Yllen.
“How does he do that?”
Yllen just sighed.
“As if gravity would care about a sweeper,”
More steps dropped away.
Something groaned at the sweepers' trespass.
Yllen flailed against the wall.
“Why is everything stilted!”
Her inner demon coiled about her arm.
“We are bound in prophesy,” it rumbled.
Gundrea grabbed his apprentice by the arm.
He shook her and hissed in her ear.
The stairway they stood on shattered.
The walls rushed past their whirling forms.
Yllen remembered her master's word.
Eyes closed the lines of focus converged.
The demon drifted out of mind.
“To trick a trick?”
One relief glowed among the others.
A woman with an outstretched fist, striking a wall.
Understanding blossomed in Yllen’s mind.
She punched the stone.
The entire shaft filled with the sound of shattering stone. The lines of energy broke apart, burning across Yllen's vision. She dimly heard someone scream, felt something crunch. Then someone grabbed her arm. She looked up at Gundrea through tearing eyes.
“Sod that for a lark eh?” he announced cheerfully.
His biceps bulged, exertion so rare for the wiry old man. Then she realised why. Yllen looked down into space, then back up into her master's vague grin.
Pain realised in her shoulder as her body comprehended it was hanging in midair. She reached out automatically and grabbed the step with a free hand. With some help she made it safely back onto the stairs.
“What was that?” she breathed.
Heights weren't scary, except when they almost killed you.
“Moirai web I suppose,” Gundrea peered upward, the passage they'd entered through lost to the gloom. “They tell you you're falling, you'll jump down a hole to prove them right,”
The demon echoed. “The skeins of fate bind tightly here,”
Yllen swept her gaze across the murals. “There’s no such thing as fate,”
The demon’s amusement was unpleasant.
“I guess the lock’s down there,” Gundrea pointed his thumb straight down.
“Then maybe you should have let go,”
“Nothing stirs down there,” the demon mused.
“What?” asked Yllen.
Gundrea looked bemused.
“And these engravings, if they are history then they are most erroneous,”
Gundrea nudged her.
“He says the engravings are wrong,” she said automatically.
Gundrea ambled over to the wall to study some.
“Could be on to something. I don’t remember flying golems at the battle of Darjeel,”
“This shaft is a lie that leads nowhere,”
Yllen stared hard into the above. “Master, what if this is a trick,”
“Not following you,” Gundrea said, still scanning the runes. “Hey I think this one's about the future. the guns are bigger,”
“What if this is a dead end?”
“Kinda leaping to conclusions here aren't we?”
“A symmetrical entryway, the door at its heart,” stated the demon.
“Let's check the bottom,” said Yllen.
It grew darker as they descended, the filtering light fading away. At one point Gundrea produced a torch and a pitchfork. Yllen lit the torch by striking the fork against stone until it sparked. She led the way, smoky flame lighting her step. By now the pattern on the walls was discernable. Every depiction was of battle or death. Omnipresent were pictures of golems and other strange metallic things. Sometimes they fought, sometimes they merely bore witness. Their presence was unnerving for a reason Yllen could not explain.
“Echoes of their master's arrogance,” suggested the demon.
Yllen stopped ten steps from the end of the spiral staircase. She surveyed the bottom grimly, the urge the declare triumph dying as she scanned the floor. Gundrea blanched beside her.
“Right so, we'll try your door idea,”
He turned and began the journey back up, just a little quicker than before. Yllen offered a silent prayer then tossed the torch down. The bottom of the shaft was indeed a dead end. There lay a dozen corpses, all of them broken as if from a fall.
They stood in front of the bronze door. Before them lay the yawning hall of columns where Yllen had fought herself. Behind them lay the nondescript tunnel that led to the second shaft and its grave pit.
“I'm not seeing it myself,” said Gundrea at last.
“What about the demon?” asked Yllen, scratching the back of her neck.
“Wisdom is only inevitable,” it rumbled.
There was a handle this side of the door. She grabbed it and pushed the door closed. Its click heralded the descent into absolute darkness. Experimentally Yllen opened the door again. The pillars still stood.
“Hmm, after much deliberation I'd say it's a door,” His conversational tone infuriated her.
“Yes,” she snapped, slamming the door shut again.
“Symmetrical,” chanted the demon.
Her hand glowed weakly. She touched the back of her palm where a tattoo formed in the shape of a lantern. It lit up the door and its handle. Thoughtfully she pressed a spot in the bronze. Sure enough it clicked. This time it swung open forward into the chamber beyond. Light blasted the dark passage and they gazed out onto eternity.
“By all the-,” Gundrea sputtered. Yllen slapped a hand over his mouth.
They spent some time gazing through the door. Every so often Gundrea tried to make a quip only for the words to die in his throat. When finally he mustered the will he grabbed the handle of the door and tugged. It closed with one final thud. When he opened it columned chamber lay before them.
Yllen looked at him. Gundrea shook his head. Inside her the demon seemed as nonplussed. They left the caves without another word.
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Certainly your best yet. I liked the poetic beginning and the stair-like structure especially, conducive to the atmosphere as it was. The end also conveyed a sense of mystery - I liked the ever-witty Gundrea being completely wordless. (BTW, what happened to the Triumvirate? I was getting to like them.) As this was all produced by a five-second scan of the work, I may have more in-depth feedback later.
We were kicking around ideas for inventive traps. The Moiroi Web ensnares you in a prophesy that ends in death. It literally narrates you dying and you follow along helpless.