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Lost Labyrinth

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1 Lost Labyrinth on 2/4/2015, 1:05 pm

This is a story I've been writing that's unrelated to ffxiv (so far as I know). Just kinda wanted to share it really. Hope you enjoy, and I'll likely post more when I write more.

-------*

"I've been exploring this labyrinth for years and I've never seen anything like it." The gangly youth gestured wildly to his companion, a small creature, not usually paid much attention.

A tiny voice replied, "Surely not Aer. Haven't you been to each corner of that cursed place?"

"Apparently not. I found a new pathway leading down from the central chamber. You know how the Passages shift in a pattern based on.... why do I bother to explain?" Aer, short for Aeryn, was a clever young man. One of the few who could successfully navigate the Labyrinth. No one knew how old it was and there were many dead ends, places you could get trapped for ages because the path closed behind you. There were worse places to be trapped though... "How much of the Labyrinth's history do you know Gob?"

A runt of a goblin, there wasn't any work Gob was particularly suited to, but the little fool did know things... "Old. Some say older than time. Crafted in and of
the dark shadows before light. Folded from the edges of creation."

Aeryn looked pointedly at the foolish little beast. "Everyone knows the tales of it's creation or at least it's... beginnings... however unsavory the legends may be." Aer had heard each of the tales, all the madness of the adventurers seeking their fortune in the Labyrinth. Sometimes they hired a guide, sometimes they made it back alive without one. "You know what I'm asking Gob."

"Fools enter the Labyrinth, the lucky ones die. Those unlucky enough to live go mad."

Aer fiddled with the strange device he was holding. "I'm unlucky and mad then am I?" He smiled as it popped and twisted. "There. See how the puzzle takes to this? I just needed to know it was possible."

"You put too much trust in that toy Aer." The wretched little goblin shook his head.

Aeryn shook his head, smiling and slid the puzzle into his bag. "I don't see you complain about it when it guides us out of trouble."

"And if you misplace the thing? Or the rules change?"

"The puzzle doesn't predict Gob, it points." A simple children’s puzzle, well perhaps not a children's puzzle. It had been a cube when he found it. Some experimentation had been necessary, but it could be used to show the exits of any chamber in the labyrinth. With a bit more doing it showed only the "safe" exits. Clever and lucky as he was, Aer had no idea how the thing worked. Perhaps it was better that way... Once you discovered the trick to such items they tended to stop working, or worse, work backwards. It only took one time through the wrong entrance to a treasure chamber... "And the rules are always changing. The only constant in there is change."

Gob hopped up from his seat by their little fire and started digging around in his pack. "Then won't the puzzle change? Where is that Key?"

"You found another one? I'll never understand why you collect keys from the Labyrinth. None of the doors are locked." Aer had pulled out his knife and started whiting
at a piece of bone. "You put it in your pocket."

Gob checked his pockets and found the key he'd put there on their last travel into the Labyrinth. "Thanks. You have your puzzle, I have my keys. Where did you get that bone?"

Aer looked up from his carving for a moment. "Adventurer caught by a flame trap. You know it's safer than taking treasure out of that place." Aer thought he might make this one into an actual sculpture rather than just carving his usual intricate patterns. Flame traps prepared bones nicely for carving, especially the more fragile elven ones, they never survived the acid traps. "I think this one was a mage, you can tell by the aether scarring on the finger bones. Other than that the bones are usually unbroken and clean for carving."

"It's too bad you aren't a goblin, you would have made a good chieftain." Gob hooked his new key with the others he had collected over his years. Not all of them were from the Labyrinth. Gob had always been confident that they each opened something. The little thief had even matched some of them to locks, but never yet any of the Labyrinth keys.

Aer rolled the bone in his hand. It still needed... "Why do you say that? I've never led, never fought, I haven't got any particular skill." He went back to carving the bone. "I just survive the dark of the Labyrinth, and carve bones."

"Aer, all a chieftain really needs is the ability to know when it's safe to stand in front of everyone and when you need to get behind everyone else." Like he always did after attaching a new key, Gob counted and sorted the keys on the ring. It was a new pattern each time, he knew each key and could tell you where each one was found. Some of them actually had quite interesting tales.

"Perhaps Gob, perhaps. The point remains that I'm not a goblin though. Not to mention it looks like we have a customer. I'm betting guide on this one." Walking up the road that passed by the Labyrinths entrance was a Dwarf. Their bones were hard to carve, dense, almost rock. If the fool would listen about the treasure and acid traps... Well the pitfalls too, they had a tendency to break the bones, made them harder to use. Made them harder to retrieve too...

"I'll take that bet. and I'll add that the dwarf will take me as a guide over you."

"The usual wager?" This particular dwarf was rather average, looked like a fighter, perhaps a spell-sword. It could be hard to tell with dwarves. "Certainly." Aer reached into his pocket and pulled out five small copper coins, handing them to Gob.

The runty goblin rattled the coins in his hand before sliding them quickly into his pocket. "Not even going to try on this one? You're thinking about exploring that new passage that opened up aren’t you?"

Aer had left the bone he was carving by the fire when he disappeared into the Labyrinth.

-------

The inside of the Labyrinth was cold. Not the cold that left your bones chilled, or makes your hair stand on end. The Labyrinth was filled with a chill that crept up from the base of your spine and crawled through your mind to the backs of your eyes. The creeping cold that could make you see things.

"Did the passage move?" Aer pulled out the puzzle again, twisting and turning it. "Still there... but..." The gangly youth looked around and noticed that one of the fountains had moved.

The central chamber of the Labyrinth. Aer and Gob had decided to call it that as it seemed to be the one exit or entrance, though depending on the time of day, and position of the sun, moon and stars, there were any number of passages leading to and from this chamber. The main entrance never closed, in Aer's experience at least. In the central chamber there were countless statues and fountains. There were never more than 50, and never the same set from day to day. Aer still spent some time examining the new ones each day before setting off into the Labyrinth, into town, some days before just heading back to carve bones at his and Gobs camp they had made just outside. They were always in the same position though.

"Now... about that fountain..." Aer strolled over to the fountain and walked around it, there were the usual debris and scraping, those were always there, and never got any deeper or shallower... "I may need to start taking note of where those lay." As he continued around the fountain he came upon the new passage.

Aeryn remembered nothing. His first memories had been waking up deep in the Labyrinth. Aeryn had known only the Labyrinth. As he stepped down the stairs into the area he had never been, He looked back onto that first day he had met Gob...

-------

There was a strange creature laying on the floor of the chilling passage, clutching tightly to several bits of metal. Nothing else was in the Labyrinth. Bones, traps, lies, taunts... but nothing like this. What was it? He poked the little thing with his foot.

The small creature twitched and moaned. "I'm not dead ya demon. Back off." It spoke groggily and roughly.

Aeryn suddenly recognized the language, and the creature, he had no idea where he learned either though... he responded in the most common dialect of the little things language. "A bit small for a goblin aren't you?" He crouched down next to the tiny, (about a foot and a half to the average goblin's three) red-skinned, gold-eyed goblin.

"Shut up you!" The goblin started. "Wait, not many humans speak goblin. Not even the most common dialect." He winced and held his side, still clutching the... keys.

"You look hurt, probably fell prey to one of the many traps here. You're lucky it was just a trap to injure, there are some quite deadly ones here." Aeryn reached into the bag he had woken up with for the item that could mend bone. "Hold still, or this may hurt. Well, more than it usually will." He jammed the wand into the spot the little goblin was holding and gave it a twist.

"WHAT YOU TRYIN' TO DO!?!? KILL ME???" The little red fiend jumped more than his height into the air and very nearly dropped his keys.

"Stop your whining you little beast. Your wound is healed isn't it?" He deftly slid the wand back into his bag and pulled out his map. A simple puzzle, but it hadn't steered him into trouble for the time he had been in this place. "As for being human... I don't quite know what that is. Though I'm almost certain I'm not one."

The short thing rubbed his side where Aer had jabbed the wand. "Well you look human. Ye've got the manners of a dwarf though. What was that thing ya jabbed me with?" He sorted through the keys in his hand, counting them before pulling out an impressive keyring and sliding them on, shifting the positions of some of the keys and putting them all away.

"Not sure, just know that it mends broken bones. Useful here." He put his puzzle away after it told him what he needed to know. "Is there anything I can call you other than goblin?"

"Believe it or not, that's the nicest thing anyone's ever called me. I'm Gob then if you please." Gob sat in front of the not-human. "What of you? You have a name maze-rat? First though, got some food? I've been here for days, my rations've run out."

This was the second time Gob surprised him. "Food? Rations? what are those?" Aer raised a hand to rub at the jewel pinned to his earlobe.

Gob simply stared at the young man. "What are you? I get hit by a trap in this cursed place that leaves me to die, and healed by someone who only looks like a human, who has no idea what food is!?" The small red goblin shook his head. I've heard rumors of things that make someone not need food, but to not even know what it is..." He pulled out a stick of some dried trail food mix and took a large bite of it.

"Didn't you say your rations had run out?" Aer stopped rubbing the gem on his ear and smirked.

"Yea, wise guy, I did. I didn't say nuffin about my emergency trail rations though did I? Didn't you say you didn't know what food was?" He took another bite of the food-stick.

"Before you woke up I didn't know what a goblin was either. Never seen one before in the Labyrinth." Aer pulled out a bone and knife, starting to whittle patterns and shapes on it's surface while Gob ate.

The tiny being looked surprised again. "Never...? How long have you been here in this maze?"

"There's more than the Labyrinth? Grass... What..?" Aer winced and held his head, dropping his knife and bone. "...but I've never been anywhere other than the Labyrinth."

Gob once again simply stared at the young man. "How..." Shaking his head, Gob laughed slightly. "So you got a name ta go with all that air in yer knob?"

"Aeryn. My name is Aeryn." After recovering from the surprise of having a name, Aeryn retrieved his knife and bone from where they had fallen to his lap. You never picked up anything valuable from the floor of the Labyrinth. Not even if you came in with it. Not even if you made it from rubbish and set it down.

-------

They had stuck together after that. After Gob told him there was somewhere outside the labyrinth it had been simple for him to find a way out. They set up camp outside and Gob told him stories of distant lands, mostly ones he had heard, but sometimes ones he had experienced. Aeryn kept up his habit of carving bones, even sold some.

He had reached the bottom of the stairs, guessing that this was deeper than he'd ever been. It was darker than he was used to as well. "I wonder..." Aer started to rummage through his bag, still the same one he had woken up with, there were a few Items he hadn't used yet. "These will be what I need..." He pulled out a pair of goggles and slipped them on. "Hmm... Well it's not light, but it'll do."

Aer could see well, even in the dark of a new moon or distant torch. This wasn't anything like that. He could see where the walls were, and he wouldn't trip on anything...but it easn't light He could even see where the traps were, better than he usually did. He started down the hall away from the stairs.

-------

The approaching dwarf looked to Gob like any other dwarf. Bearded, armored, and armed. Sometimes you'd find a dwarf that stood out, a mage or the like, but they almost always had the same sense of humor. None.

Gob rose from his seat to greet the gruff being. "Greetings there dwarf! I take it you come seeking a guide in this treacherous maze?"

The dwarf had a voice like he gargled rocks every morning. "And what exactly are you supposed to be? A tricky imp?"

"An imp? You can be certain I'm not anything so crass." Gob put on his most official face. "I am one of the most experienced guides for the Labyrinth. The second most in fact. I'll be the most experienced if Aer doesn't manage to come back this time. He always does though."

"How much do the services of a guide cost then?" The dwarf was understandably suspicious, you didn't usually get such an offer outside these dangerous places. When you did, you usually got a knife in the back. If you were lucky. "Twenty percent of the findings?"

"No. If I'm to be your guide, there are three Things you need to know." The fools that came to search the Labyrinth. Usually they came searching for treasure, some came for hidden knowledge, others just came to see the thing. The last kind was always the ones to make it out alive and sane. The other two were chancy. "First: I get paid up front, in full, in case you don't make it."

The dwarf growled. "What are you on you fool beast!? The only way that'll happen-"

Gob cut him off. "I don't plan for a knife in your back, fool dwarf. Second: You listen to what I say, and follow the rules. otherwise you'll end up dead from the Labyrinth's tricks."

The dwarf grumbled, as they tend to do when things aren't going as they expect, but are starting to see sense. "I ain't no green warrior, and I can see yer bein' straight with me... What's the third rule?"

This was the one that usually lost customers, as they were usually at the tricky maze for more than the sights. "Third, and most important: Don't pick up anything in the Labyrinth. No treasure, no weapons, no armor, no books. Nothing. Not even if you brought it with you in the first place. I don't care if all your straps break and your left in your nothin's. Do not pick up anything."

The dwarf sputtered and fought against himself. "What kind of fool endeavor is this!? Do you keep it all for yourself!? I don't need a guide! I'll simply traverse the place myself." He then rushed into the main entrance past Gob quickly. Not so fast as to keep his purse when he entered the Labyrinth though.

"Fool dwarf will be dead by morning. Hmm..." He weighed the purse in his hand. "No wonder he didn't want a guide. Feels like it's full of coppers." Gob opened the bag and fingered through it. "Hmm... and a platinum. Worthless."

Gob pulled out five coppers and set them on the bone Aer had left.

-------

It was odd for Aeryn. The different way things looked through this item. He was used to seeing clearly, even in the darkest parts of the upper Labyrinth. Here... Without the goggles, everything was blackness. He slid them back over his eyes and watched the world return to drawings and notes. Nothing was quite real. The traps were the same aside from the darkness. The new passage had all the same quirks, Aeryn couldn't understand what it was that made this passage worth being hard to get to.

"Not even a treasure trap hidden in a corner." There was a new light in the goggles. "What?" He glanced down at himself and saw a similar light, all across his body. "Then... The only other I've seen alive here is Gob..." He walked towards the feeble light carefully, not knowing what to expect.

"No, no, no!" The light skittered away and got smaller. "No more, not again..." The light had wedged itself in a corner about to set off what looked like a flame trap.

"Look out! There's a-" A blinding gout of fire spouted across his field of vision, causing him to tear off the goggles. Aer blinked and was blinded for a moment before seeing that whatever else was in the chamber with him was rather larger than the glow it gave off in the goggles, despite the small voice it had... "...Fire trap... What are you?"

"We is a little mouse, searching for her cheese, but the dark assaults from every side." The small light, the mouse, shifted closer, away from the trap in the corner. "You... not dark... air is in your head."

Aer stepped slowly towards the light, watching it slowly grow in size and brightness. "A mouse in a trap then? I have cheese of a sort for you, though you may find something else more... tasty."

The small light grew and rose to looking more... humanoid and feminine, but only for a moment before fading back to a wisp, perhaps brighter and a bit larger than before. "The cheese is in the dark, the goal, the end. Nothing better than the cheese."

Aer reached into his pack and pulled out his puzzle, looking at it and fiddling with it. It was near useless looking through the goggles, but it looked like the passage was still open. "Have you got a name little mouse?"

"The darkness speaks again, it asks our name... Ignore it again, let it leave. Let the dark get bored again." The little light faded again and slowly felt it's way back to the corner with the flame trap, being more careful to not set it off.

Aer heard his voice say something. "Kiera, can't you see it's me, Aeryn?" They both froze.

-------

It had been some time since Aer had gone into the Labyrinth, which wasn't odd. The dwarf too. No one else had come by either. Gob was bored.

"Maybe I'll go in and see how well the dwarf did..." Gob had a running bet with Aer that no one would come out with treasure. Aer said it was impossible, but Gob was sure that when he found where the keys from the Labyrinth went there'd be something that could be taken out safely.

Gob started locking down the camp the way he and Aer had figured out to over the years: they left all their money outside, secured, Gob made the fire and whatever else they would leave outside (goods and such) look like an abandoned goblin camp. Even the greenest adventurer knew that you left alone what the average goblin thought was trash. On a good day you'd find food so rotten that flies wouldn't touch it. On a bad day... The flies wouldn't be after the food.

"That oughtta do it. Hmm... My best yet I think." Gob lifted his small pack onto his shoulders and started off into the Labyrinth. It was a bit of a trek, what with his height, but it was always worth it. Gob was certain that this time would be the one. He'd find a door, or a chest...

"Who knows? With a passage Aer's never seen before, anything's possible!" The little red goblin strolled eagerly into the entrance.

Upon reaching the central chamber Gob noticed that something was off. He hadn't a clue what it was, that was more Aer's area of expertise. "Now where'd that path go? I know Aer said there was a new one..." He spotted a new set of stairs going up and started climbing.

-------

He hadn't found any monsters in the supposedly cursed maze yet, though he kept his greataxe at the ready. The dwarf had avoided a few traps already, but overall this place wasn't the worst dungeon he had handled alone.

"I cannae believe that fool little beast thought I'd need a guide." His knife fell out of his pack. The dwarf was about to reach for it when he remembered the red goblin's warning. "...second best guide... I have another knife..." The dwarf decided not to chance it over a simple knife and moved on along the passage.

-------

"The darkness doesn't use these tricks..." Kiera looked more like a person through the goggles now. "The darkess never knows my name..."

Aer knew now. At least partly. Her name was Kiera, she knew him at some point. Or that was what the little flashes of memory were telling him... "Are you alright Kiera?"

She sat curled quietly in the corner, blind in the dark. "Aeryn? But... you were dead... the darkness took you and killed you... and I ran..."

Aer wondered if that would explain why he had woken up with no memory. "Well Kiera, here I am. Alive for that matter. I don't suppose you can see in this darkness any better than I can?"

Kiera curled back into the corner. "Just the dark then... a new ruse by the dark to steal the light away..." Her light began to fade again, pulling back into her core and fading quickly.

He realized she may be too far gone for simply words to help. He had never noticed this passage before, and if she had been trapped here the whole time... "I wish I carried at least one torch..." Aer started to dig around in his bag. He had to have something... A magic item he'd never used, something!

"Aer didn't need torches... just the dark playing tricks..." Kiera started feeling along the wall.

Aer felt helpless, he didn't have anything that would let him light up the darkness in this part of the maze. "I don't need the light Kiera, I want it for you, to show you that you don't have to be trapped anymore." He watched as she felt along the wall towards the exit that had just shown up silently. "There's a new passage a bit farther on." he pulled out his puzzle and checked the exits in the central chamber.

They had completely changed.

-------

Gob had a difficult time getting up the stairs, they hadn't been made for a short goblin. He had made it though, and found a few keys to boot. Gob had found quite enough to make the trip worthwhile, and he had just gotten started!

The little goblin began to sing.

"Keys, keys, openin' doors
keys, keys, drop to the floors
Keys, keys, scrapin' in locks
Keys, keys, findin' the spots
keys in the mornin' keys in the night
Keys makin trouble for ya outta your sight."

It was an odd song he'd made. Not that Gob thought it was odd, but Aer had mentioned it upon occasion.

He looked around the room he had come to, you had to be careful with rooms in the Labyrinth, they were usually full of tricks. A person could get stuck, or worse in a room.

-------

There wasn't any way out of the room the dwarf had found. He had walked in and when he was about to leave the way he had come in closed. Right in front of him. Even with his experience with stonework he couldn't find an exit. Every seam was perfect, even where the entrance had been. It was Impossible! No stonework had that quality, not even mechanisms of the Elder Stonesingers could close off a pathway so completely!

He reached for his knife before remembering he had left it behind because of what that little imp had said before he came into the labyrinth. Not to mention he'd noticed that his coins had gone missing.

What was that sound? It sounded unlike any trap or monster he'd encountered before. He reached for his axe and fumbled, dropping it to the ground...

-------

Aeryn noticed something in the corner of his eye and jumped up before his bag touched the floor while he was rummaging through it. Something in the corneer of his eye almost always meant a trick in the Labyrinth. He reached into his sack and slipped on a ring that he kept on an elven rib he had never carved. As soon as it touched the base of his finger the sketches he saw through the goggles shattered and rearanged. Life in the Labyrinth was uncommon, and more precious than anything else. HAd to get it to pick itself up or you would fall under the curse. Be entombed in the darkness. The shifting aura of life was still there, but fading rather than hiding. perhaps some creature had slunk in and was dying of hunger... He held out some of the dried meat Gob insisted he add to his bag and felt a tug, being sure not to let it touch the floor. Food may be useless to him, but if this life was to escape with him he couldn't let the meat touch the floor.

"Kiera... Small... Big... The name digs at my mind..." Aer pushed the goggles up and pinched at the bridge of his nose. Then gasped, almost dropping the goggles to the floor as he saw that the Deep Dark had fled from the room. The darkness was in the mind then. He could resist it without the ring now that he knew that.

A small scaly being with leathery wings stretched before him, clutching a small sack and gnawing at the meat, staring straight ahead, as if it was used to not using its eyes. How long had this soul been trapped here? Aer slid his ring back onto the uncarved elven rib and insinctively grabbed a small chest from his sack he had never opened. He learned in the Labyrinth to trust his instincts where his bag was concerned. He turned the latch three times and opened it slightly right in front of her eyes.

She screamed and hissed, holding her bag closer and breathing a jet of flame. Aer jumped to the side quickly, snapping the small chest shut and slipping it back into his pack. "Mind your tounge." He said sharply in an aincient language. That was a new one, he'd need to ask Gob about it later.

She jumped and almost dropped her bag, clutching the meat almost questioningly. "Mama?" The being fell to her knees, setting off the oil trap she was near, shivering as it splashed down her back and biting out a quick flash of flame. The oil lit brightly, burning surprisingly quickly. Usually that kind of trap was prep for another, to be triggered by a frustrated or unlucky traveler. She sat on fire for a moment, seemingly relaxing and holding the sack in her lap, eating the meat slowly.

"Afraid not, I believe." Time meant nothing in the Labyrinth. Someetimes it sustained you, other times it killed you quickly. There was no way to tell. "Can you see?"

The dragonblooded woman swallowed and looked up at Aeryn, sliding her eyes along his form. "That was a strong magic you used. To Shatter an illusion strong enough to capture one such as me." She stood and stretched, looping the sack securely over her shoulder and wolfing down the last of the dried meat. "What are you?"

"The finder of roads. Twister of gold and Spinner of truths." Aeryn was surprised by the words that poured out of his mouth on silvered tongue. They were aincient and heavy. Like the steps to a forgotten dance. He reached down to lift a bone from the floor, a pixie femur, and slid it into his pack.

The woman looked at him curiously and slipped into speaking common. "Very well Guide, lead me. You may call me Lana." She reached into her sack and handed him twelve gold coins. "The second companion shall recieve the same as is tradition."

Aeryn flipped the coins through his fingers, disapearing them and sliding them into his pouch. "Then let us leave." He pullled out the puzzle, twisting and sliding it as he walked away. The path back to the entrance was still there, and hadn't been gone. but there was another... He wandered away with Lana following, wings folded.

-------


_________________
“Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool,
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"...And the world has now completely and
utterly ceased to be bound by the laws of logic."
— Inspector Briardien
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