The Labyrinth – written and narrated by Iazon Paragon
Camping Tales, by
Earl Iazon Paragon, Bardic Minstrel of Novia
Rising from a pleasant afternoon nap, Ichi gazed anxiously toward a luxurious home in the distance. Stretching weary limbs, he recognized the gilded iron gates and manicured garden surrounding the local lord’s residence. Scanning further south, he spotted Ryna’s shop. Positively smitten by images of her inviting glances and faint smiles, he decided that tonight would be the night he finally revealed his feelings for her.
“Ho eyo he hum!” Ichi sang merrily as the road took him into town. Daylight turned to dusk when he rounded the walls of the Lord’s manor. Suddenly, Ryna’s voice hummed the same playful tune from behind the wall.
“Ryna?” he called to her. Peering through a small gap in the bricks, he caught a glimpse of her enchanting smile as she disappeared into the garden with a soft giggle.
Stealing a moment to ensure no one was watching, Ichi deftly scaled the slick stones, swung his legs over, and gracefully leaped down in between two hedgerows. Huh, apparently the manicured garden was shaped into a vast… maze?
Ichi looked above the large hedges at the towering keep in the distance, wondering where Ryna had run off to. For a split second, through the foliage he thought he heard a strange rattle among the rustling leaves.
“Ryna?” he called again into the darkness. A stiff silence was the only reply.
To Ichi’s right he saw a path leading west along the wall before turning in, winding who knows where. To his left the path continued in much the same way, as the hedge maze appeared to twist and turn forever, fully encompassing the large central keep.
Remembering the direction Ryna had headed moments before, Ichi shook off his uncertainty, determined to find the beautiful maiden and confess his feelings for her.
Stepping further into the maze, the walls quickly disappeared around the corner behind him, and a thick misty fog began to permeate the air. It was a cold night. Ichi pulled his cloak tight around him. Left, right, straight, left, left, right. Surely he was catching up to Ryna.
When the hedgerows opened to an intersection, he caught a glimpse of her up ahead,
just turning the corner.
“Ryna!” he shouted, so she would hear him. But she didn’t turn around or call back, and he decided to sprint after her in pursuit. Ichi convinced himself he was running, not out of fear, but to catch up to Ryna. Straight, right, right, straight, left.
Wait. Was this the same intersection as before? All the foliage looked the same every way he turned. In the growing fog, the keep was no longer visible, and Ichi began to lose all sense of direction.
After several minutes, Ichi stopped to catch his breath. He realized that he was now hopelessly lost.
[step] [swish] [step] [rattle]
What was that? Ichi panted as he turned toward the sound. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
[step] [swish] [step] [step]
Louder now, much closer this time.
“Who’s there? I should warn you, I’m armed!” Ichi spoke into the fog, bending down to pick up a reasonably sized stone from the ground.
This time, his calls were answered with a low, guttural moan – the unmistakable sound of forsaken torment. Bony apparitions emerged from the dense fog a mere arm’s reach from his face. Bewildered, yet terrified, Ichi froze in panic, sweat dripping from every orifice. He dropped the stone. Three skeletons stood facing him. Ichi staggered back and found his way blocked by a wall of hedges. The skeletons were waiting for something.
Thoughts of a pleasant night’s encounter were dashed by a sense of impending doom. Ichi felt cornered like a fox and began to wonder if he could overpower a being composed entirely of bones and make a run for it. But before he could put any plan into action, the skeleton to his right dropped to a bony knee. Following its empty stare, Ichi saw a cloaked figure alight in powerful dark magic swoop down from the swirling mist above!
“I’ve waited so very long,” the lich spoke with a decrepit, yet powerful voice, as it clenched Ichi’s throat with its steely blue claws. After spending hundreds of years in misery, the lich, careful not to harm the precious flesh that it would finally inhabit, drained Ichi’s life in a single drawn breath.
Background music “Haunted – Desolation” by Eric Mtyas at http://soundimage.org/