Questland - The Prince and the Loser
Thurok and Salvor had entered a labyrinth and lost their bearing.
“There’s no turning back. We don’t have enough life to survive a return journey.”
“Nor do we have time to explore all the corridors in the maze.”
“Not if ...”
It was a close call. A stone had slipped to one side and a bolt from a crossbow whizzed past Salvor’s ear, almost grazing it.
“Who was that?”
“No one, it was a trap you set off when you touched the stone.”
“How could you know, Thurok? It came without warning?”
“How odd.” Thurok looked around.
“I have a strange feeling I’ve been here before.”
“I haven’t. Have you been on a mission here earlier?”
“Maybe. There’s something familiar about this place.”
“You should have taken me along earlier. This is too dangerous without company.”
“It was not right here. I mean in this context.”
“What do you mean then?”
“It was in a different place. I just can’t remember where. It was long before I met you.”
“Well, then there’s no reason for me to be jealous.”
“There are little differences, but otherwise this looks a lot like something I’ve seen before.”
“In a dream?”
“Knowledgeable people call it a premonition. It’s usually when something terrible is about to happen.”
“Exactly, that’s it.” Salvor was not impressed.
“You don’t have to be a fortune-teller to know that things can go horribly wrong for us here at any time.”
“Stay right behind me... Watch out! Don’t touch that rock!”
“Yes! Don’t disturb it!”
“I didn’t. What’s wrong with it?”
“If you had touched it, it could have been disastrous.”
“How so you know?”
“It happened in... the other situation. I just escaped with the utmost difficulty.”
“Hmm... Good to know... a second time around.”
“Bend down here!”
“Here or here?”
“Yes, before you move forward.”
“Yes, like this. Now we crawl slowly forward.”
“More dangerous traps, I gather?”
Thurok didn’t answer, because at that moment a spear came hurling across the corridor, which would have hit him if he had been walking upright. Salvor thought he ought to say something.
“That’s it. Now standup again.”
“Phew! I’m glad to have you as a guide right now. I’m not at all jealous about not having been there when you picked up all these useful tips.”
“The passage splits into three here.”
“Even I can see that. I’ve got it that far. But should we go right, left or straight ahead? ”
“We should go straight.”
“Straight? Do you really think so? Isn’t it too obvious? ”
“Maybe that’s why.”
“Because people would think that and avoid the obvious?”
“Yeah, to the right there’s a pitfall that ends in a deep well.”
“And to the left?”
“We didn’t try that way.”
“We? I thought you were alone on that quest?”
“My companion lost a lot of life there, and it would have been too reckless to go alone.”
“That seems logical enough. Why didn’t you say so before? That you were with someone?”
“I didn’t want to make you jealous.”
“How can I, when it was long before you met me?”
“I don’t know. So you wouldn’t have been jealous, then?”
“Hmm, I’ll have to think about it.”
“That’s what I mean. When people need to think about something, it’s because they’re not sure how they feel.”
“Okay, then. It was considerate of you not to tell me anything at first, but also nice that you admitted it afterwards.”
“Yes, that is... confessed that you had a good comrade before me.”
“There’s nothing special in that. As I said, I didn’t know I could also get around and achieve some great missions with other companions than him... the other guy.”
“What happened to him... on that mission... back then?”
“He lost a lot of life. I had to carry him through the passage we’re walking down right now.”
“What was his name?”
”Does it matter?”
“Not really, but maybe he found someone else to go on raids with?”
“Well, he actually found several.”
“Okay, what a nice guy. What happened to him... later on?”
“He did? Really? Suddenly he just wasn’t there any more, or what?”
“Exactly, you know how it is. Here today, gone tomorrow.”
“I see. What was his name?”
“Oh, him? I know that guy.”
“I should think so. He had a good reputation.”
“Yes, we share many a mug of beer back at Gorwyn’s inn. So you knew him before I met you?”
“Yes, I did actually.”
“Strange, he never said anything about it.”
“That was mostly why I didn’t say anything, either.”
“Now I understand, out of consideration for Aciel?”
“In a way, I think, and for you as well.”
We continues on, without talking for a little while.
“I wonder what Aciel is doing today?”
After getting through the middle passage where Salvor was very concerned that nothing happened for a long time, they came to a rotunda, where there was also a gateway to the outside. On a pedestal in the middle of the rotunda was a high chest. Salvor was delighted.
“The Demonic Document of the Dwarves is probably in that chest.”
“I think so too.”
“You think? So you don’t know?”
“I was carrying Aciel.”
“Oh right. And then?”
“Aciel didn’t have much life left. I needed to bring him back for healing urgently. We only just made it in time.”
“Well, all good things come to those who wait.”
Salvor walked up to the chest and stuck the tip of his sword under the lid. Thurok was appalled.
“What are you doing?”
“Breaking open the chest.”
“You need the key.”
“The key the goddess Amphoria keeps in her lap.”
“We’ll probably have to endure all kinds of hardships and travel to the ends of the earth to find it?”
“No, it is right over there.”
“Here, let me.”
Thurok walked over and knelt at the base of three steps in front of a small statue of alabaster and recited a short rhyme.
“Balyvar nogikarum samphysilor ramsak.”
On the next two steps he repeated the ritual. Then he folded his hands and bowed his head and stood for a long time producing a monotone hum a . Salvor waited patiently.
Finally Thurok rose and took the key that lay in the lap of the little figure, which now stood on a low pillar. Then he came back to the coffin in the middle of the rotunda.
“I dare not think what would have happened if you hadn’t made those weird incantations.”
“Oh? What do you think would have happened then?”
“You don’t know?”
“No, I have not tried.”
“I don’t get it. Where did you learn the ritual, you just performed, if it turns out it doesn’t make any difference?”
“I don’t know that either. But it’s certainly something I remember from back then... in another dimension, or whatever it was.”
Thurok walked over and turned the key in the lock of the chest. There came a low hum when he lifted the lid. They both leaned over the edge and looked down into deep space. In the corner farthest to the right there seemed to be a small stone bust, behind which lay a scroll. Thurok turned to Salvor.
“Give me your sword.”
“It’s slightly longer than mine.” Salvor gave his sword to Thurok with a grumble.
“Just before you wouldn’t let me use it, but now it’s apparently okay when you want to use it.”
Thurok thrust his sword into the coffin and touched the little bust of a woman without bowing down over the coffin’s edge. Suddenly a series of sharply pointed blades sprang up along the edge of the coffin all the way around. Salvor stood speechless, looking at the deadly scene.
“Now I understand why you used the sword.”
“Yes I the triggered the trap with it.”
“And if someone had bent down over the edge of the chest to reach for the document by hand, they would have moved the bust and been stabbed in the stomach by some of the blades as they came out of the coffin’s edge.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s an old legend. Once Pandora’s Box or chest is opened, it releases all kinds of curses that will strike all over the world.”
“A cunning trap. I assume that the bust is supposed to portray Pandora.”
A creaking mechanism started, and the sharp blades were pulled back into the coffin’s thick sides.
“So that’s why this so-called shrine of destiny was designed as a deep chest?”
“Yes, and now we can pick up the document.”
“You may have the honor.”
Thurok bent down and freed the paper roll from behind the little figure. Salvor was again suspicious.
“There is a seal that closes the scroll. Does that also be have to be removed in some mysterious way?”
“I don’t think so.”
“There’s marking on the seal.”
“It looks like three zigzag lines.”
“Maybe they’re lightning bolts. Do they emit from something resembling a cloud?”
“Again something threatening.”
“And your experiences from the other mission didn’t tell you anything about this?”
“Not that I recall.”
Cautiously Thurok loosened the red wax seal and unrolled the parchment. They both looked at the message. There was only one word.
“Doesn’t mean anything to me.”
“Something to think about.”
“Kind of a letdown.”
“Maybe it’s something we should watch out for?”
“And beware of?”
“Or seek out?” Salvor was a little annoyed.
“Are you sure that this is the DDD, the Demonic Document of the Dwarves?”
“It’s supposed to be.”
“And you don’t know what role the document played in the other situation you talked about?”
“Maybe it’s not the same scroll, but rather the surroundings and the road to the goal?”
“Yes, it does.”
“But I’m glad you don’t have to drag me back to the lazaret or healer because I’ve been stabbed in the stomach and am in incredible pain with very little life left.”
“Yea, once is enough.”
We stood in the rotunda for a while, thinking.
“Where did you taken Aciel when you saved him?”
“To the sorcerer Magnus the Mighty.”
“And he could save Aciel?”
“Of course others would probably have also been able to same him. In Sarlydor there are all kinds of shamans and healers, whose make a living saving the lives of the wounded warriors who almost perish on all the dangerous missions.”
“This Magnus guy is supposed to be very knowledgeable when it comes to the things one might encounter in this particular region. Or rather the corresponding place where I think I have my memory from concerning the maze and the other phenomena we’ve encountered on this mission.”
“Maybe it’s a kind of parallel world?”
“Maybe, if such a thing exists.”
“What does we know? Perhaps our senses are too limited to comprehend all of the major perspectives in life?”
“Others have also come across that thought.”
“Maybe we should keep going, follow the path you took earlier and see if we can find that healer Magnus?”
“We might as well. Maybe he can help us decipher the mysterious message in the document.”
The two warriors traveled together for the entire journey home, which was without further dangers or difficulties. Thurok had stopped several times because he was unsure about the direction. Salvor became impatient. In one place Thurok seemed particularly perplexed.
“I don’t know. For some reason , I think that the path should turn here.”
“It doesn’t look that way now.”
“No, it’s strange. It ought to.”
“Maybe the other path has become overgrown?”
“Yes, things like that do happen.”
“We’ll remove some of the bushes.”
The two friends worked together to clear the bushes and the undergrowth on both sides of the path, but their efforts didn’t reveal any signs of an old path.
“I guess I could have remembered things wrong. Maybe the path to the sorcerer Magnus the Mighty appears further on.”
The two companions looked around carefully on the whole trip back, but never found the path to the mysterious sorcerer, Magnus. He seemed to have moved or just disappeared like so much else in the quite unreliable region of Sarlydor.