Reflections for the King

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


This is the Maze Games story from Miss Midnight!

Submitted: April 09, 2018

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Submitted: April 09, 2018

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This had to be the place. I double checked the address on the worn scrap of paper, then glanced up at the street sign. Yep, this was the place alright, but all that was here were dilapidated buildings and a black alley. Well, not totally black; there was a lit-up old phone booth, but even from where I stood I could tell it was out of order. I turned slowly on the spot, looking for another sign of life, but was disappointed. I shoved the note in my jeans pocket and adjusted the neckline of my black t-shirt.

Without knowing what to expect tonight, I’d dressed comfortably, choosing my favorite jeans and shirt; the graphic on the shirt was of two skeletons, one lying in a heap, and the other standing proudly with his companion’s spine. The words declared, ‘I’ve got your back!’ at the top. Fitting seeing as I was in this situation because of my friend, King. He’d been selected to participate in the maze games, but three nights ago some assholes had poisoned him; being a contestant was a great honor, especially if you survived. I’d volunteered to take his place, but not for the honor, least not my own. I wanted to do this for him; if I could get through this I could get the medicine he needed. That was the idea, but I had no idea where to go from here.

“Hey?!” I shouted, cupping my hands around my mouth. “Rulz?” I spun slowly again, but nothing materialized in the dark. “C’mon, I don’t have all night for this! Rulz?”

Then I heard it; a telephone was ringing, but not like the cellphone in my pocket. It was an ancient cradle phone or like a…phone booth. My eyes flicked to the booth in the alley.

“Shit.” I muttered, then shuffled into the shadows, heading for the only source of light.

The phone was still ringing when I finally slipped through the broken door.

“Hello?” I said as I pressed the receiver to my ear.

“State your name.” A hollow, animatronic voice replied.

“Knight…I’m filling in for King.” I said slowly, peering round my shoulder, feeling jumpy.

There was a series of chimes, whirring, and clicking. “Accepted. Knight, listen to your rules.” The voice commanded. “You will enter the Glass maze. There are five levels you must complete. Each level changes. You have two hours before the inhabitants are notified of your presence. You have the option to fight, or bargain, nothing else.”

“What? No tea-parties?” I quipped. I had a bad habit of using sarcasm when I was nervous.

“When you first enter, you will have two options. Left leads to the Maze armory, Right leads to the weaponry. You can only choose one, choose wisely.”

“No pressure.”

“Once you’ve completed all five levels, you’ll meet the maze Lord Shatter. There will be no combat. Your supplies are waiting in a pack just through the door. There will be one Safe Orb, to be used in emergencies only. It will unlock the way to a safe room where you may heal and resupply yourself. To find other orbs, you must conquer the inhabitants waiting within.”

I flinched when the solid looking wall of the booth suddenly melted into the brick, turning into a silvery, reflective surface. My reflection was pale, the messy brown hair pulled into a ponytail, the darker eyes wide, but determined.

“Good Luck.” The voice sounded almost amused.

“This? This is the door?” I demanded, pointing at my reflection.

“Good luck.” Was the only response.

“Phew…this is some Alice through the looking glass, shit, huh?” I muttered, hanging up the receiver, then tentatively reaching for the silver surface.

With an icy chill, my whole arm passed easily through. Taking a deep breath, I plunged the rest of the way through. The corridor that awaited me was stone and glass, splitting into two paths several feet away. Just beside me was a pedestal with a sturdy looking backpack. I didn’t bother checking the contents just yet, I could do that in the next room I chose.

“Well…welcome to Wonderland, Alice Knight.”

**

I whistled as I surveyed the armory I’d stepped into. Perhaps it was foolish, but I had no weapons experience whatsoever; I felt my best chance of survival was to just protect myself. The room wasn’t large, with vast floor space, and two walls of glass cases set into the stone. Each case displayed a different array of armor; some black, others silver, one was even a brilliant gold. As I paced the floor, examining each one, I immediately ruled out three as they were made entirely of metal and were probably just as heavy. That left six others made of leather, cloth, and one that resembled a diver’s suit. Each of these looked light-weight and versatile; a win-win in my mind as I wanted mobility and speed.

The next problem to solve was how to get my hands on the armor itself. I tested the glass of the case holding what looked like something from the Arabian Nights tales. The glass was thick, and solidly so. There were no tracks for it to slide on, nor any hinges for it to swing outward. It couldn’t be broken, and it refused to move, now what? I stared around the room, but saw no instructions or clues posted in plain sight.

“No, because that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?” I muttered.

My eyes moved back to the armor, landing on a detail I’d missed before. On the sash draped from one shoulder to the opposite hip, was a thumbnail sized pin with a red and gold emblem of a flame. Perhaps it was just a decoration, but I moved sideways to the next case, searching the leather get-up until I spotted a similar emblem on the belt, but this one was emerald and gold resembling tufts of grass. The next outfit was made of the same material as windbreaker jackets with a blue and silver emblem like wind gusts clipped onto the zipper.

“Okay…eight, no, nine all together…each with a symbol…” I spoke out loud, my eyes tracing each case as I thought. “Earth, the leather. Air, the windbreaker suit. Fire, Arabian Nights…water the diver’s suit…some have more than one…they must protect against those elements.”

I approached one case which had me stumped. It was one that had all four elements stitched into the black cloth, the whole suit put me in mind of a ninja; form fitting yet loose, tight sleeves which looped around the thumb, billowing pants which wrapped tight around the ankles, a sash cinching the waist, and a hood of cloth with an inner section which only had a slit for the eyes. Each of the sleeves had an emblem on the back of the hand; one was air, the other earth. The fire emblem was dead center of the chest, over the lungs. The water emblem was stitched over the lower face.

“You’d be best, I take it.” I said with a frown. “But how to get you out?”

My eyes fell on something carved into the stone at the base of the case. It was the symbol for fire with several runes spaced beneath it. I looked around the edges of the case and spotted a small combination lock. I knew it wasn’t really that simple, but I twisted the lock, putting in the symbols carved at my feet. Just as I expected, nothing happened.

“Okay then…” I side stepped back to the Arabian Nights case and found the lock. I input the code and with a small hiss, the glass parted. “Right! But I don’t want you, so…” I checked the code at my feet and saw the symbols for air and water.

It took me five minutes to check each code until I found the one with all the symbols. Of course, being the one with the most benefits, the code would be a long one. I dug out my cellphone with the intention of snapping a picture, but when I tried to pull up the home screen, nothing happened; the screen remained black.

“Son of a-.” I searched my pockets fervently until I came up with an ink pen. I used my bare forearm to copy the symbols, then jogged across the floor back to the ninja case. “Okay…” I breathed, turning the dial feverishly. I cursed again when the glass remained solid. “What did I do…what did I do…” I studied the symbols on my flesh, then carefully input each one until I got to the last two; I’d gotten in such a hurry I’d switched the two around, they both resembled the letter F with their horizontal lines slanted down, but the last one had notches in the slants.

“Damn numbers dyslexia.” I cursed myself; something King had teased me about before when I’d transposed numbers during algebra. Granted these were runes and not numbers.

The case finally hissed open and I snatched the outfit. The material was surprisingly fluid, like water woven into material. I hesitated before yanking off my jeans. I could leave my shirt, but the denim would bunch up and only get in the way. The material was comfortable, fitting to my body like a second skin, but also remaining loose and airy. I left the mouth guard down, wanting to breath freely until I needed it. I did a light jog around the perimeter of the room to test the mobility of the suit and found it better than I could’ve hoped for.

“Alright, what’ve we got here.” I scooped up the pack and unzipped the larger pouch.

Inside were a handful of various, packaged foodstuffs; thankfully nothing I detested. I checked the next pouch and found a minor first-aid kit, holding only the bare minimums to get me through. The last and smallest pouch held the orb Rulz had mentioned. It was palm-sized, reminding me of the contact juggling balls. Made of heavy crystal filled with a silvery-blue-green smoke. I smiled as I tossed the ball, catching it on the backs of my fingers. I began to roll it from the back, to the palm of my hand, thinking of Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth.

“It’s a crystal…nothing more…” I recited. “Ah…good ole David.” I murmured.

I nearly dropped the orb when Rulz’s animatronic voice sounded in the room. “Please proceed.”

While I’d been toying around, a silvery door had appeared in one wall. A glance over my shoulder showed the way I had come had disappeared. With a pit growing in my stomach, I approached the new door.

“For the King.” I murmured with a wry smile, then stepped through to my fate.

**

The next room I walked into had to be part of the actual maze itself; there was reflective glass and concrete as far as the eye could see. Glancing down at my feet I saw a familiar emblem carved into the stone, the symbol I was guessing represented Earth. Also, was it just my eyes, or did the room seem…slanted? Well, nothing for it, I stepped further into the room. Almost instantly, a rumbling and grinding filled the room.

“Shit…” I groaned, then I hit the floor running.

Just as I’d suspected, the room was slanted with the concrete pillars and reflective glass getting taller. There still wasn’t evidence of what made the rumbling and grinding, but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. I ran down alley after alley, trying to ignore the elongated doubles that ran with me. Suddenly the cement floor beneath my feet began to shudder, then that shudder grew into shaking, then shaking became quaking. Although I wobbled as I continued running, I never lost my balance; possibly thanks to the protection from the outfit I wore. I stumbled on, twisting and turning around tight corners. A chiming sounded from overhead, somehow clear as a bell above the grinding and shaking earth.

“That can’t be good.” I managed to mutter as I ran into a concrete pillar.

I paused there to catch my breath, and to look around. The ground shifted and rolled around me, but the longer I looked around, I noticed there was one particular spot that wasn’t moving. I stumbled my way over to the spot and sighed with relief when the world seemed to stand still. Glancing down I saw a familiar emblem carved into the stone, it resembled a key-slot. I touched the emblem on the outfit and noticed it felt loose, like it could be removed. It peeled off the fabric like Velcro, I slotted it upside down into the stone and the grinding all around stopped as suddenly as it started. I flinched back as something wispy and black drifted up from the stone.

The wisp quickly took on a figure of a stout, cloaked figure. It hovered inches above the stone, but no higher than my waist. It reached out a short arm, opening a fisted hand to reveal an emerald green crystal.

“I am a Fragmental, guardian of the Earth crystal.” The wisp spoke, it voice was soft and echoed eerily. “What will you bargain?”

“Bargain?” I repeated, even though I’d suspected something of this sort from the beginning. “If I have nothing to give?”

“Every living being has something to give.” The Fragmental retorted. “What will you?”

“I suppose…” I sighed, saying a silent prayer to myself. “I give you my sight. It’s one of the only things I have.” I murmured.

Without hesitation and before I could protest, the Fragmental reached impossibly high, putting its wispy hand against my face over my eyes. There was a burning pain and through the hand I could see the crystal growing bright. The pain intensified to the point I had to close my eyes and grit my teeth. When the Fragmental finally withdrew, I fell to my knees, lightly touching my closed eyes, but not feeling anything out of place. I opened my eyes expecting to see the Fragmental still standing in front of me, but my eyes only opened onto blackness. My sight really had been taken.

“Lord Shatter will accept this should you complete the maze.” The Fragmental stated, placing something cold and metal upon my brow.

“No chance of changing my mind?” I quipped, trying to orient myself.

“What’s done is done.” Came the emotionless reply. “Continue to the next section.”

Still on my knees, I pulled my pack off my back and felt my way around to open it, then dug around for the orb. I place it carefully upon the ground, then slowly rose to stand, placing one foot on the orb, then I slammed that foot down with as much force as possible. I overbalanced and fell as the orb shattered under the assault. Even without my sight, I knew I wasn’t in the maze any more. I’d been transported into a new area, one that smelled clean, sounded empty, and felt a little cool. For the time being, I remained upon the floor, trying in vain to acclimate to my new surroundings. Four more to go, four more mazes and bargains. All sacrifices.

“What have I done.” I whispered.

*

I wish I could say I stayed in that safe-room forever, that I didn’t have to finish the games, that I didn’t lose more than just my senses. Sadly, I couldn’t say any of those things. After a lengthy break, I staggered to my feet, checked my pack, and felt my way around the room. When my fingers encountered a slit in the brick, a slit allowing in a draft of cool air, I knew I found the door to the next maze. After a deep breath, and gathering my remaining courage, I pressed against the wall, heard a hissing, and felt a space open up in front of me.

What followed in the next three mazes, was similar to the first one. the second element was water, which meant the maze filled rapidly with water as I attempted to blindly navigate the turns. The third was fire, I could smell the flames, and hear the pssht of the flamer jets firing on and off. That maze had been the worst to navigate, even with having given up my touch in the second; I couldn’t feel the burns I sustained, but I could smell my roasting flesh, it made my stomach churn. The fourth maze was air, and I foolishly thought it might be a reprieve. 

The minute I stepped into this maze, I was buffeted violently into the air.  I remained far too long on the descent, due no doubt to the protection of the suit. In the water, I’d been able to breath for a limited time, the fire didn’t incinerate me as it should have.  In this maze I only made it several steps before being blown into the air again; not helpful when the Fragmental square was located upon the floor. Also unhelpful were the creatures I encountered in each maze; rubbery feeling sea creatures in the water, strange fiery ones in the third, and now aerial ones that attacked each time I was flung up.

Also, the same as in every previous maze, when I did summon the Fragmental guardians, a bargain was required. To the second one I gave my touch, the third received my hearing, and this one took my smell. I was now completely vulnerable, and helpless. With one more maze to go, and nothing to summon the last Fragmental, I was left standing literally senseless. I could still speak, but would calling out the Fragmental work? It was all I had. I couldn’t hear my voice, but this is what I intended to say.

“I don’t have a key…I don’t think I can move…can you just…take my bargain. The last thing I’m offering to you guardians is…my heart.”

The next thing I knew, was an icy coldness inside my body. I didn’t feel it exactly, but that was the only way to describe it. There was the sense that I was-empty. That a piece was missing. Obviously the Fragmental hadn’t taken the heart yet, they’d merely given a token like the previous three; a circlet, a ring, something metal fitted on the bridge of my nose, and finally a pair of ear cuffs. I had no idea what could’ve been done to my heart, but nor did I really care. That wasn’t to say I no longer believed in what I did, because I still wanted to finish this, still wanted to save my friend, but I just didn’t…feel.

I had no way of finding my way to Lord Shatter, but the Fragmentals seemed to have a way of getting me where I wanted to go, perhaps they’d done the same now? One way of finding out.

“Shatter? Lord Shatter?”

I waited and waited.

“Shatter…Lord Shatter?”

Still waiting.

“I’m through playing the games! I completed the mazes…I’ve made my bargains!”

“Yet still one more to make, mortal.” A voice spoke suddenly in my mind.

An image burst upon my imagination; a tall figure robed in shadows, possessing several arms, each which held a mask; the faces of poor souls before me.

“You intrigue me. Many have chosen weapons over protection…they feel they cannot fight without a blade.”

“Well…I still don’t appreciate the taste of sushi.” I quipped, cringing at the memory of how I’d bitten the tentacle of a creature in the water. “And you’d think if a pane of glass could snap birds neck, I wouldn’t have and issue, but…your birds are tough.”

Shatter chuckled. “For they are not birds, but…no matter. Here you are now. What is your final bargain, mortal?”

“It’s a doubled edged bargain, actually.” I explained. “I’ll give up my soul, all my days, what-have-you…but you have to save my friend, King. He ought to have been here…I took…am taking his place.”

“Would he have done the same for you, I wonder.” Shatter murmured. “Think of what you’re offering.”

“Yes. He would.” I reply without hesitation. “King’s the kind of guy who stands up for what’s right, who has his friends’ backs, and always has a kind word when needed. He would’ve done this for any of us.”

“Indeed? Hm…” I tensed as Shatter paused, seeming to consider my words. “Well then…if this is truly what you wish, mortal.”

“It is…for King.” I declared, holding my head up proudly.

There was an intense feeling of burning pain, from my eyes, my ears, my skin, and from my chest. The pain built to a point I must have screamed, yet I couldn’t hear. It built and built until….

*

Epilogue

A stone altar. Candles placed around the edge. Nothing but forest as far as the eye could see. A murmured chant, soft, melodic and low. Cool breezes racing through the trees. A pale corpse rests upon the sacred stone. A hooded figure stands at the side, reading from an ancient text, whispering out long forgotten rites. The spell is finished. The figure waits. The corpse lays still.

My lungs suddenly inflated, my eyes flashed open, and my hands flew up to cover my ears. I could hear! I could see! Smell, feel, taste even! My heart raced furiously in my chest, rejoicing at the chance to beat again. The rich, earthy smell of the forest, the damp moist air, the whispering of leaves upon the ground, everything!

“You’re alive, oh noble Knight.” King’s voice was soothing, meant to be calming.

I stared at him, at my friend whom I’d just sacrificed everything for. Then I punched him dead in the face.

“That’s for the tentacle shit I had to eat.” I garbled out, slumping over on the altar. “And for the effing birds, or whatever the hell they were…and the damn…fire critter creature things…” King laughed, tenderly assessing his face.

“Doesn’t sound so bad…” He argued, shrugging. “You did survive it all.”

“No! No, King, I did not!” I retorted, clumsily staggering to my feet. “I hate, hate sushi! That was disgusting! I’ll be scarred for life now!” Yet I couldn’t help a smile of my own.

“Welcome back to the land of the living…all hail the noble Knight.” He laughed.


© Copyright 2019 C A Sechler. All rights reserved.

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