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Old 02-12-2020, 11:33 AM   #61
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 26

“Alo, let the physiker take a look,” Brendun said with a shrug, “maybe he can help.” Brendun was taking a risk, he knew. He only learned so much about her, in the short time they were together, but he relied on what he knew about Tabitha. If Tabitha took this octopus-folk under her care, there was a good reason, a very good reason. Tabitha didn’t take to strangers, not right away. Brendun had learned that, the hard way, but once you earned her trust, Tabitha was true to a fault. There was practically nothing that would set Tabitha against you, once you earned her friendship, well, practically nothing, and that didn’t include what happened once you became more than friends. So Brendun thought putting it out there, offering to help Alo in this way was a risk. He wasn’t sure he knew how she would respond. He certainly didn’t know enough about the ways of her kind. She might considered it an insult, but she might not. All Brendun could hope was that if he knew anything about Tabitha, at all, and Tabitha had become Alo’s friend, then maybe she might think he was a friend as well.

It seemed to him that Tabitha and Alo had become friends and possibly more. It wasn’t in him to judge Tabitha. He spent a good four years with her, maybe the best four years of his life, and when things ended, he knew where the reasons rested. But Brendun knew that at this point his search for the Cryssalium wasn’t going to be something he could just sneak away to get back to, disappear, and forget the past twenty four hours. Tabitha and Alo had been searching for him, to stop him, or so they said originally, and then there was Kenny, who had heard enough around the city to worry that Brendun was in over his head for maybe the last time. This had gotten bigger, bigger than just one of those simple find and retrieve an old artifact jobs, like so many he had done in the past. Something was different. The differences he hadn’t puzzled out just yet, but he decided he was going to need their help, or at least need them near until he got more information about the whole affair.

He meant what he said, at least he was honest about the treasure, and Brendun waited to see what Alo would do.

“Alrighttah,” Alo said, “I wihhhil lhhheeetah you seeah bhhuuut, noht heaah. Lahtaherah. Innha prahvate.”

She spoke quickly, again, and Brendun could tell she was nervous.

“That’s settled then,” Brendun said, hoping that everyone forgot what was being talked about before.

“Yes, good, it is settled,” Marten agreed, “But, it seems we forgot to finish. You, young Mauli, Alo, if I may call you that, are also interested in the cryssalium. This is got my curiosity. Tell me, do you know what it is?”

Brendun looked at Alo, but he knew immediately she did not see what he was trying to tell her with his eyes.

“No,” Alo said. She took in a breath, and said slowly, “I know what it can do, and why it would be dangerous to have one, let alone hand one over to your Throzs, but I have never seen one.”

“You, Brendun Mark,” Marten turned to Brendun, “Do you know what you are looking for? Do you at least know as much as Alo knows? I wonder.”

“I don’t know what it is, or what it does,” Brendun was again honest, hoping it would be the right decision. “I only know that it will be in a box that is sealed with magic that I can’t defeat, and that the box will be marked with this image,” he said taking a folded parchment out of his pants pocket.

He shook the parchment until it unfolded and showed it to the three of them.

Alo gasped.

Kenny seemed to not know what he was looking at, but it was Marten that had the most to say.

“That is very disturbing,” the dwarf said and went straight to the desk in the room taking a small key out of his pocket s he went.

“Yesterday, I received a large advance on a request for specific ingredients, potions, poultices, and liniments. This box,” he said as he unlocked the right hand drawer of the desk and removed a large wooden box, “bears the seal of the Throzs’ accounts and was more than generous. The letter inside the box, signed by the governor herself, was specific in instructing me to take the utmost care in selecting and preparing the items on the list. The list itself was sealed in this envelope, which has the same image.” Marten held up a large parchment envelope.

The image was of a stylized Mauli-folk, with tentacles fanned out all around. The Mauli wore a five pointed crown, and the center point bore a three bladed sword.

“I was told,” Marten went on,”that this is the crest and seal of the Mauli Queen who calls herself Aonawydd. She rules a vast sea going population of Mauli outcasts, and it is her barge that is in the harbor as we speak.”

“The barge, right, people in the tavern were all spun up about it. Big news I suppose, and taking audience with the governor, so I heard,” Kenny said.

“Yes,” Brendun said as he turned toward Alo. “You know this symbol, Alo. You told me a story about being marked as untouchable, below even an outcast, you said, scared and maimed as a slave for life, but you know this image, why? How do you know this?”

Alo raised her head high and then lifted two tentacles, the common gesture for I surrender, and the said , “Iah dooonoahhhtha. Iah haaavahneahverahh sahheen thahaaatbefahhaore.”

“You’re lying,” Kenny said, tensing up.

“Yes, she is,” Brendun added, “but she isn’t doing it because she means to keep us in the dark. I’ve been able to learn a little bit about you, Alo, in the short time we’ve known each other, but you don’t lie easily, or with any confidence. You’re afraid. I can tell you are afraid, but why? There isn’t any reason to be afraid, Alo, as long as Tabitha will vouch for you, you have my trust and for what it’s worth, my friendship. If we can help you, we will. I don’t have any plan to expose you to danger.”
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Old 02-18-2020, 06:36 PM   #62
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 27

Alo shrunk. Her head dropped forward, and her body seemed to shrink as her tentacles closed in against her, she spoke slowly, “You already have,” and then she turned away from Brendun and raced out of the room.

“Go after her!” Kenny shouted. “She knows something and she is keeping it from you to protect herself.”

Brendun turned and was about to go when he felt Marten’s hand on his arm.

“No, let her go. Give her time,” Marten said. “A lot of things are happening and she must be overwhelmed. The image you showed us is related to a Mauli who she must know, that is easy enough to deduce. It will reveal itself in time. For now, let her think about what her next option will be. Tabitha hasn’t told me everything about the relationship she has with this young girl, but what she has told me is enough to convince me she isn’t going to leave, and she isn’t going to do anything to bring attention to herself. She must not have been prepared for the Queen to come here. She must have been convinced she and Tabitha could work together on whatever it is they needed to do, without interference, and obviously that isn’t the case anymore.”

Marten gave Brendun’s arm a gentle squeeze, and then moved away. “Yes, let her have a few moments to collect herself and think. It’s always a good idea to think, when you feel overwhelmed.” He moved, again, toward the books in the study in the bookcase on the wall. “For instance, let’s look at your situation, Brendun Mark, adventurer, explorer, and finder of artifacts stolen, lost, and forgotten. Yes, I know who you are, at least as much as anyone who lives in the city and likes a good tale told in the taverns when spirits are high can know. You present yourself well, always in control, always on the moment, so to speak. It shows a cool head, and a commitment to collecting the facts, but here you are, in my study, completely unaware of what it is you are looking for. You are chasing an instrument that few of any understand at all.”

Marten took a slim but large book from the shelf and handed it to Brendun. “This,” he said, “is the tale of Wehrin the Bard. It’s a children’s book. I used to read it to my son. In the tale, Wehrin, the young woman who sang the sea to sleep, is given an instrument, and the story says it was a cryssalium. She played the instrument and by doing so was able to control a gate on the cliffs above the sea. But, it is just a children’s story. No where in the tale does it mention how the cryssalium was played, or what sort of instrument it was. Now, in this book,” Marten took another, smaller book, from the shelf, “The cryssalium is said to be a device that came into being long after the mnoren had vanished from the world, which hardly makes any sense, because the explanation, given about the nature of the cryssalium, is that it allowed the person who knew its secrets to control what would be on the other side of a gate. Think about that for a moment.”

Brendun took both the books and sat down in a chair in the corner of the room.

“No one has ever understood what the mnoren were, where they came from, or what their purpose was,” Marten went on, running his fingers from one book to the next as if he was trying to recall if any of them would help. “Most scholars agree that even what we know them by, the word mnoren, isn’t a word used by them at all but something that was assigned to these great people of mystery by the earliest of those to ever record the experience of the gates left behind by someone or something lost to the dawn of time itself. It is the gates we know, or at least they are what lingers in our world to remind us that something made them, put them here, and gave them a power not anyone understands. But that is where the cryssalium comes in.” Marten stopped, made a sound of frustration, and then went on, “I used to have another book here, but I must have loaned it away years ago. Anyway, the cryssalium, some have written, is a device, or instrument, or who knows what, exactly, that has the ability to manage a gate.”

“That is nothing special,” Brendun said as he flipped through the large picture book, balancing the other book on his knee. “I have more than one gate key myself. I even have a universal key that I know can open almost any gate known, at least so far as my experience can prove. Opening a gate shouldn’t require a special instrument like this, unless it is some sort of special gate I’ve never heard of.”

Marten laughed, “The great Brendun Mark is confused. I suppose I need to slow down. Brendun, lad, I didn’t say open. I said manage. With a key, even a universal key of poor quality, a person with the right talent can get a gate to open, but as everyone knows, going through a gate is a risk. You better hope that what is on the other side isn’t ready to eat you, or melt the flesh from your bones, and if you are lucky, getting back through that gate won’t be too much trouble. But no, a cryssalium is not a key. It is an instrument that will give the user the power to decide what will be on the other side of a gate. Nothing I have ever read, or heard about, can explain how that is even possible, but if it is true, it is what a cryssalium can do. It can change a gate from being a dangerous mystery, to a portal under your control. If you knew the secrets of a cryssalium, you could go anywhere, be anywhere, be, well, be the most powerful person in the world.”
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Old 02-25-2020, 06:39 PM   #63
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 28

The last thing Marten had said before Brendun left the dwarf’s shop was that a cryssalium could make a someone the most powerful person in the world.

Days crawled by. Brendun moved through the city with Kenny, sometimes staying close together and at other times keeping just within sight of each other, for mutual protection. The goal was to find out about the octopus queen, why she and her barge were here, what she wanted, and how her presence was connected to the search for the cryssalium.

It stayed in his mind how Alo had seemed defeated the last time they spoke. He had tried to bring up the subject, but she would not speak to him. It was uncomfortable, but Brendun knew enough to give her the space she wanted and not force the issue. Each day he would visit Tabitha, to see how she was coming along, and each time Alo was there. As soon as Brendun came in the room, Alo left in silence.

Marten had said that there were a few occasions when Alo had asked him if Brendun was asking about her. It had a feeling of those times when he was still a young teen and talking with friends about each other was a skill that took great care to master. Marten told Alo the truth, that Brendun was sorry for any trouble he had caused, but he also told her it was best to talk to Brendun directly. Clear the air, he told her, and be ready for what came next instead of second guessing what had already been, but Alo would have none of that, only saying to Marten that from now on, Tabitha would speak for both of them. And Tabitha wasn’t awake.

She continued to improve. Tabitha’s color came back. Her fur grew heavier again, instead of the thinning and stiffness it had developed right after her injury. She had lost some weight and her face had thinned, only a bit, and she had looked awful, or so Kenny was quick to say each day until Brendun reminded the big man that she could probably still hear everything that was being said, and Kenny had better hope she didn’t remember his criticism. It wasn’t that Tabitha was vain, she was not, not even in the slightest. She did not like people talking about her looks. There are many strange looking folk on Cidri, Brendun knew, from those that are difficult to look at to those that you find it impossible to not look at, but among them all the anthropomorphic Kanulaoa were among the most attractive.

It was fair to say that it was her beauty that first caught Brendun’s attention. He first saw Tabitha on the streets of the city during the high festival days of Long Winter. She was wearing traditional sailing garb, but with a thick wool coat that had a fur trimmed hood. The coat was long, and pulled tight around her small waist. The bright white fur of the hood seemed to frame her face in a way that took his breath away. Her dark red hair coming down to a point on her forehead accented her hazel green eyes and golden brown complexion. He noticed her large eyes, full lips, and small dark colored block nose and in that moment he fell in love.

Brendun Mark was in love with Tabitha. He knew it. His feelings for her, the love he felt, had never gone away, but it had been a strange thing, for Brendun, to learn that even if you love someone you can grow to understand that being together isn’t always what is best for either of you. They had different ideas about how to solve problems, different ideas about what mattered. She had a short temper, and he had a tendency to think that his mistakes where not a big deal. They came to a point where every job was complicated by one of those things, her temper, or his mistakes, and eventually the love he had for her wasn’t enough. They parted, as friends, almost, with a promise to not get in each other’s way, and a promise that if one or both of them could not keep the first promise, anything goes. For Brendun, that meant staying far away from Tabitha because getting in her way had been the last thing a lot of people ever had an opportunity to do.

Then they were in each other’s was again. But instead of her putting him down, hard, she had gone easy. He still didn’t understand why, and until Tabitha woke up, he wasn’t going to be able to ask her to explain.

Almost a full week passed by, the threen days, the monthly occurring conjunction of Cidri’s moons, had ended and finally Tabitha woke.

She took some water, a little soft food, and complained about the pain, but seemed to be in good spirits. Brendun told Tabitha all that he and Kenny had learned about Aonawydd, the Mauli Queen, which was not much. The official reason for her “kingdom” coming to call was to offer a treaty of peace on the seas regarding her fleet, and all aligned under her banner, but the rumor was that she was had come to ask for an audience with the Thorsz himself. She spent two full days in the governor’s residence. In that time, it was being said, she dictated a formal letter requesting some kind of favor from the Thorsz, and in exchange she pledged her fealty to his kingdom.

Nothing like this was known in the history of relations between the different octopus-folk and the Thorsz, though it was well known that some kind of relationship has existed, because it was not uncommon to encounter a walking octopus in one of the Thorsz’ death Tests. Tabitha took the information with feigned interest, asking only a few questions, and when Brendun finally came to the point, the point of what his intentions were, she took a hard stand.

“If you plan to keep searching for the cryssalium, without me,” Tabitha told him, “you won’t find it. When I’m strong enough we are going to look together, and Alo is coming with us. If you want to bring the big muscle, that’s fine, but if you think you can take off without me, you are making the second biggest mistake of your life.”

Brendun held her hand, smiled at Tabitha and said with a laugh, “And what was my first biggest mistake, Tabitha?”

“Letting me send you away.”

His laughter stopped. He didn’t think that was funny at all. “I didn’t let you do anything,” Brendun was serious. “It was my decision to –“

She didn’t let him finish. With all her strength she pulled him down to her, and kissed him lightly on the lips. “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it,” she purred.

Last edited by Terquem; 03-12-2020 at 04:05 AM.
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Old 03-12-2020, 04:03 AM   #64
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Chapter 5

Part 29

Another week went by and Tabitha was finally strong enough to get up on her own. That’s all, just get up and off the bed, by herself, and that was enough to make her a pain in Brendun’s rear end.

“We can wait a bit longer,” Brendun said. “That Queen and her barge pulled out a few days ago, and I don’t think they got what they were after. Besides, I haven’t squared things away with Alo yet. She still won’t talk to me.”

“I’ll take care of Alo, you make sure Kenny is ready,” Tabitha said as she stretched slowly at the foot of the bed, raising her arms high over her head. “Oh, and did you get all the things on the list?”

“Yes, I did,” Brendun answered taking a folded sheet of paper out of his shirt and checking it again. “There are enough supplies for two weeks. We have new weapons, and better, more durable packs.” He began folding the paper when he noticed Tabitha looking down at him with disapproval.

“What’s that?” Tabitha asked pointing at the paper as Brendun hurried to put it away.

“What’s what?” He said.

She snatched the folded paper from his hand and stepped away from him. Opening it up she read it over again, and then stopped when she got to the bottom of the page. “Get chain mail for Tabitha,” she read aloud. “Who wrote this? This wasn’t on the list when I gave it to you.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Brendun said standing and trying to reach around her to get the note back.

“It matters a lot,” she said. “You know how I feel about armor. I’m not wearing it. I hope you didn’t spend money we need for other supplies on armor I’m not going to wear.”

“You need it,” Brendun said taking her by the wrists and turning her to face him. “It was that close to being the last time. The wounds could have been fatal, almost were fatal. I don’t want to argue about it.”

She looked up at him with a seething stare. “It slows me down. That’s all I’ll say. You know it. We’ve had this conversation before. It is too hot, too restrictive. I can fight better, faster, without it. I’m not going to be talked into wearing armor now, after I’ve proved to you so many times in the past how –“ She was beginning to raise her voice, lose her temper, but she did not struggle to get out of his grip. She stared him down, getting louder and louder.

“All right,” Brendun flung her arms down, letting go of her. “All right, but I’m keeping it. I’m taking it with us. If we get in over our heads I will knock you out myself and put it on you.”

She smiled at him now, and tilted her head saying, “That’ll be the day.”

Kenny appeared in the open door to Tabitha’s room, saying, “You two need to keep it down. I could hear you arguing downstairs and the dwarf says there are others keeping a close watch on this place.”

“Kenny,” Tabitha said, turning her head, “you were with this idiot when he bought armor for me I suppose?”

“No,” The big man raised his hands in surprise, “I was alone. It was my idea. What kind of person goes into combat without armor?”

Tabitha looked at Brendun, “This was his idea?” she asked.

“I tried to talk him out of it,” Brendun said.

“You did not,” Tabitha’s tone was both amused and accusatory.

“He did,” Kenny added. “Look, I get that the two of you think you’re special, real wonder kids, sure, but we are talking about armed enemies, not just tooth and claw types, but real weapons. Without armor, well, you’re just asking for it. Right, Dun-man? Back me up here.”

Now it was Brendun’s turn to raise his hands, “I’m not going to argue with anyone else about this. I’m done. It is not that important to work out the problem now anyway. We have at least another week before Tabitha is ready, we need to find Alo and sit her down for a long talk, and then we establish our plan for entering the Labyrinth and getting things done once and for all.”

“Why do you need to find me?” Alo’s voice came from behind Kenny. She was standing in the hall outside the room.

Kenny moved into the room, to give the octopus-girl room to get into the conversation.

She was different. She was dressed in expensive clothing, a billowy top of gold with green accents and a long, heavy skirt, in dark red and gold, pleated, and hemmed with leather all along the bottom hid her tentacles. She had on a light clock, with a full hood that was down. She seemed to stand with a different sort of confidence and Brendun could not put his finger on it, but there was something else.

“You don’t need to go looking for me,” Alo said. “I was taking care of myself, and staying out of anyone’s sight. I came back this morning when the dwarf’s son delivered Tabitha’s message.” She moved past Kenny and Brendun to stand beside Tabitha, and said quickly, and clearly, “We are ready to go, with you or without you.”

“Wait, just a moment,” Brendun said waving Alo away, “Tabitha is not strong enough. I don’t care what she told you. She is not getting out of this room for another week, and – wait.” Brendun stopped. “You are not talking the same way. Your voice is clearer, deeper, and there wasn’t any mistakes. What happened here?”

Alo approached Brendun, lifting her head slightly she looked him in the eye, and with a movement he did not see she raised one tentacle to her mouth flap, lifted it and then pushed her new rostrum out toward him. It gleamed in the light of the room from the sun through the window. It was short, curved downward just slightly, and beautiful.

It was solid gold.

She retracted the rostrum, and lowered her mouth flap. “The dwarf was right after all,” she said. “It fits comfortably, but I’m still getting use to eating with it. The back of it is made to wedge into the muscles and when it is in place I can pull it in tight by drawing air through my mouth instead of taking it directly into my lungs. It cost all of my share of the treasure, but it was worth it. You have no excuse now, so listen to me carefully. I don’t know what you learned about the Queen, but I will tell you my side of the story if you want to hear it. The secret of the cryssalium is out. We are going to retrieve it before she does. That means we are leaving now.”
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Old 03-12-2020, 08:53 PM   #65
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 30

Brendun hung his head and cursed. “This is a bad, bad, bad idea,” he said, “but I’m over trying to talk my way into being in charge of my own quest.”

He walked to the window and looked out, “It will be dark in about two hours, and we’ll leave then. I’ve got it on good authority that the queen may have pulled out to sea, but she left some of her people in the city and they might be watching for us to move. We know she was here on pretense, and that the letter she sent to the Thorsz was specifically about the search for the cryssalium, other than that our information runs a little dry. Everyone take time to be sure you’ve packed for at least three weeks. Once we find the Labyrinth I intend to find this thing, even if it means we run out of supplies doing it. If we turn up no clues at the end of three weeks, we make a bee line to the nearest exit we have found. I expect the Mauli queen’s people will either be following us and on our tail the whole time, or maybe they might make a play to take us out right from the start.”

“I can promise you that no one of my kind will try to kill me,” Alo said. “If we are in a difficult situation I will negotiate for your safe passage, but I can’t promise that I can stop them from attacking you.”

“Right,” Kenny said folding his arms across his chest, “And we should believe this because?”

Alo didn’t respond.

“This is the part where you come clean, Alo,” Tabitha said.

“Yes, that was my expectation,” Kenny said.

“I don’t want to tell them,” Alo tried to whisper to Tabitha.

Brendun came from the window to stand next to her, and said, “We are way passed that now, Alo. Put aside the problem you have with me and whatever it is you think I’ve done to put you in danger, and tell us what we need to know.”

Alo appeared startled. “I don’t have a problem with you, Brendun Mark. You saved my life, and Tabitha’s life. You are a man of direct action, and your honesty precedes you. I, well, I care deeply about our friendship. Why would you say such a thing?”

“After that day in the study, I couldn’t find you. I thought you were avoiding me,” Brendun said.

“Not at all,” Alo said. “I began the work on the artificial rostrum that Marten said he could make. At first I had to learn how the muscles in my mouth would take to it. There were times when it was, well, awkward, embarrassing even, until I learned how to keep it firmly in place. This is the only reason I isolated myself.” She approached him, and put one tentacle on his hand. “I think you tend to over think many things.”

Tabitha snorted, “Many? Try all.”

“That’s not really fair now is it, Tabitha. Over thinking might be my quirk, but are we going to talk about rushing headlong into every situation without any thought.”

“I don’t rush into everything all the time,” Tabitha said.

“This is sort of fun, the first eight or nine times, but it isn’t anymore. You two got history,” Kenny said coming between them, “work it out on your own time.”

“I suggested they have the make up intercourse when we first met,” Alo said to Kenny, “but I don’t think they have yet.”

Kenny turned to Alo with a great grin on his face, “That is the most intuitive thing I’ve heard you said yet, Alo.”

Brendun rubbed his eyes, “Alright, alright, enough. I’m sorry Tabitha, truce,” he offered her his hand.

She took it, and played with his fingers a bit before letting go, “Truce, for now. Talk later,” she said, and then Tabitha sat down on the edge of the bed. “I’ll get my things packed, but before you all hurry off, I want to remind you that Alo needs to explain to you what she told me. You should know why I agreed to free her, take her in, and why I tried to help her.”

“Okay, let’s hear it,” Brendun sat to Tabitha’s left.

“I can’t wait to hear it,” Kenny said, and then sat down on Tabitha’s right causing both her and Brendun to teeter toward him as his weight pressed down on the bed.

…next, Alo’s tale, part 2

Last edited by Terquem; 03-12-2020 at 08:59 PM.
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Old 03-12-2020, 08:56 PM   #66
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 31
With the three of them seated in front of her, Alo took a deep breath, swelling the sides of her head, and then began.

“The queen of the outcasts is my mother. When I was born she was fourth consort to the high chamberlain to Emperor Ranilytha In’Thimya. She delivered me on an auspicious red tide, which was our doom. I was taken from her, and she was exiled to the community of outcasts, while I was raised for a time by the high chamberlain’s household, until I was old enough to brand, and sent to my fate as a slave and that was when my rostrum was removed.”

“But before I left his house, I learned that the chamberlain’s wife had been particularly fond of my mother. Because of this I was treated, in my youth, better than most of my kind who are unfortunate as I was. To be born on a red tide is to be marked as unlucky in the greatest way imaginable. If I had not been born to a nobleman with the kind of power the chamberlain had, I would have been sacrificed soon after my birth, but I was not.”

“My mother had been a dear friend to the chamberlain’s wife, and they shared many secrets. Before I left his house I learned one of the secrets his wife had shared with my mother. That secret was about the nature and location of the cryssalium.”

“You see, the cryssalium had once belonged to the Emperor’s grandfather. It was with this device, it was said, that the first of the Mauli came to this world. It had been used only three times since then, each time bringing more of our kind to this world. After it was used the last time, by the Emperor’s mother, it was decided to hide away the artifact. The Emperor’s family entrusted the house of the high chamberlains with this task. No one was ever to know the secret of its location. The high chamberlain, who was my father, was careless and more easily manipulated than his ancestors, and he shared the secret with his wife, who shared it with my mother. The location was said to be a labyrinth in the human controlled kingdoms, and that it was guarded by five seals.”

“The Emperor’s mother had used the cryssalium to bring more of her kind to this world, but she too was careless, and it was this wave of our people that many of the worst of our kind came to this world. It was forbidden to talk of using the cryssalium again, until my mother was exiled. She sent her emissaries to the Thorsz and promised to show him how to use the cryssalium in exchange for her using it to bring another wave of our kind to this world. To seal the bargain she made an alliance with the Thorsz, and this is why our kind are often seen in his Death Tests. It is a secret alliance, few know the truth. My mother told the Thorsz that she intends to increase her following, and overthrow the Emperor, creating a greater alliance between our two countries, but she is lying.”

“In the time I worked as a slave, I learned that my mother is playing your Thorsz for a fool. She has greater ambitions. Her anger at being exiled is unbounded, and she seeks to take more power than you can imagine. She intends to bring a vast army of our kind, as well as other’s like us, from other worlds, until every kingdom bows to her.”

Brendun stood up, “And you want to do the right thing, and stop her. I get it, thanks now let’s –“

“NO!” Alo shouted and pushed Brendun back down. “It is not as simple as that. I is not just that I think what she desires is wrong, some part of me feels it isn’t wrong at all, and that is why I know she must be stopped.”

“Our people believe that we are destined to be conquered by a kind that is not of our world. We have never been conquered while we have lived on this world. Cidri, as we know it, is vast, unmeasurable, more worlds than anyone knows. Perhaps there is a world where we are already subjected to wholesale bondage, but I don’t know of such a place. But I know this, in addition to this legend of our people’s demise is the story of a terrible queen who will bring forth an army of the dead to destroy our conquerors. This Necropus, as she is called, will bring destruction to Cidri on a scale never before seen.”

Brendun stood up again, and put his hands on Alo’s mantle, “It is a terrible story, but you don’t need to believe it will all come true.”

Alo looked up, and Brendun could see tears in her large eyes, “The Necropus will be possessed by a demon of another dimension. She will be the daughter of vengeful queen, she will have been marked and scared, and she will have been born on a red tide.”

She let her head fall onto Brendun’s shoulder, and sobbed uncontrollably.

Brendun looked first, at Kenny, who looked away, and then at Tabitha. “It doesn’t have to be true, right? It could all just be coincidence, right? Tabitha, tell her it will be alright.”

Tabitha stood and wrapped her arms around them both. “She believes it in her heart, and I believe her. She won’t rest until the cryssalium is destroyed.”
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Old 03-20-2020, 01:02 PM   #67
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 32

Kenny clapped slowly, “Well, aren’t we a bag of commitment,” he said, and stood slowly. “Alright then, we’re starting as soon as possible. What are the last things we need to take care of?”

The three of them ended the embrace, and as Tabitha cleared her throat, Brendun said, “I’ve got all the supplies. Marten has let me purchase most of his remedies and ointments, even though he complained it left him with practically nothing. I think he was happy to get the money. I need to get those things sorted and stowed.”

“Do we need any more information?” Tabitha asked.

“I don’t think so,” Brendun answered, “we’ve learned about all there is to know from people in the city without giving away our hand completely. If we ask too much more, or ask the wrong people, we’ll be flagged for certain.”

“What about that journal?” Alo asked.

“It was a complete dead end,” Brendun said. “Marten spent some time going through it. I just didn’t find enough time to try and learn the handwriting. It turned out to be a collection of poems, written by the pirate queen’s daughter. Seems she was in love with someone who lived across the sea, or maybe it was all in her head, who knows, but Marten was sure that there wasn’t anything that would clue us in about the Labyrinth in it. I let him keep it.”

“So, that’s it then,” Kenny clapped again, only louder this time, “why don’t we meet downstairs? I’ll get my things. I’m ready if everyone else is. We’ll wait for the sun to start setting and then leave. If these other octopus-folk are going to make a move, let’s force it and see how it shakes out.”

“Mauli,” Alo said.

“What?” Kenny seemed surprised.

“We, most of our kind, are Mauli, or Nua’Lona, if that is easier, but we are not octopus creatures. I would like it if you could remember that.”

“I will give it a try, Alo. My, you’re a feisty one. I am really starting to like you.”

Alo bowed and said, “I hope to get to like you as well, Kenny.”

“What about the armor?” Kenny asked.

“I don’t wear it,” Tabitha said and then as she reached below the bed to pull out her satchel she groaned.

“I’m really not alright with this,” Brendun said. “We should wait, at least a couple more days.”

“No, no,” Tabitha waved him off. “I’m not a hundred percent, but I feel better each moment I’m up and moving around. A good walk will do me good. Besides, how soon do you expect to be in danger anyway? From what I’ve heard, the Labyrinth is more a place of puzzles, twisting and turning passages, and occasional traps. We’ll take it slow, keep our eyes and ears open, and we should be fine. Besides that, there are four of us. We can handle a lot, I think.”

“She’s right,” Kenny said, “but about the armor, I have an idea. At least put on the Gambeson. I searched for one specially made for someone with your shape, and uh, you know, body type. It’s open under the arms, and vented along the belly and shoulders. You should wear it. If we get into serious trouble, you can drop the chain shirt over it in a snap.”

Tabitha folded her arms.

“Please, Tabitha,” Brendun added.

Alo lifted her tentacles and said, “I can’t be all that bad.” I’m going to wear a quilted skirt myself. It might restrict me some, but I’ll still be able to fight.”

“Alright, alright,” Tabitha said, “if you are all going to keep on about it I’ll try, but don’t blame me if I drop it if it gets in my way.”

They went off on their own and packed. When the sky in the west turned to colors of orange and red they gathered in the alley behind the shop. Kenny and Brendun had donned chain mail armor. A large shield was slung across Kenny’s back, over his backpack. He had a heavy spear in his left hand and an unlit Brand in his hight. On his belt he had a pair of swords, and a mace. Brendun had a buckler strapped tight to his left arm, and both his short sword and the new jeweled saber on his belt, a dagger tucked in each of his boots, a club hanging from his pack, and a crossbow in his hands. Alo had put on a padded skirt that fell to almost the ground. It was cut up the sides in four places allowing her to move as many Tentacles as she needed, but not giving her the full range of movement she was used to.

She flexed her tentacles from side to side, as she waited, testing her ability to draw her rapiers, and reach her pack. Alo seemed a bit jumpy, to Brendun and he approached her, moving his head close to hers.

“We never talked,” he whispered. “I still have a lot of questions. I don’t know if we will get the time, but I want you to know, we should be in this together. It could be a lot more dangerous than you imagine, and until we actually, if we actually, find the thing, we are going to need to learn to work as a team. We can do that, right?”

“Yes,” Alo said. “A team, that’s what we needed. I used to tell her that, but she was not always open to the idea. Tabitha and I have had a lot more time together and so I feel I know what to expect from her. She talked about you. I feel I know more about you than you know about me. The thing is, I liked you even before I met you. I trust you. I hope you can trust me.”

Brendun held out his hand, and Alo wrapped one of her tentacles around it.
“To the wall then?” Kenny asked.

“Yes,” Brendun said. “I think we take the alleyways to the ferry docks, stay north of the beaches for now. Once it is dark, we can hug the rocks near the tide pools, and then make our way up the beach at the lagoon. From there we follow the sea wall south past the place where we took a tumble, and look for a marker that might bare the cartographer’s guild mark. If we don’t find an entrance, the only thing we can do is leave the city for the marshes south. We head for the ruins of the Candle Mage Guild Keep, maybe two miles south. The last time I found my way in and out of the Labyrinth it was from the dungeon there, but it was crawling with grindylow then. It won’t be easy, but maybe we can find our way in here, and avoid them entirely.”
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Old 03-22-2020, 11:55 AM   #68
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 33

The four went in single file through the city, keeping a short, but safe, distance between them so as to not draw unwanted attention. Since the Mauli outcast barge had left port, things near the waterfront had settled down and it was quiet. Brendun led the way, followed by Alo, Tabitha, and finally Kenny.

It was a cloudy night, and for that Brendun was thankful. The moons were in different stages now that the threen days were past. In a short while they had reached the sea wall near the lagoon, and here it was only a couple of feet high. From here they would follow the path along the wall going south away from the city.

When they had gone just a short distance Brendun waved without looking behind him and waited for the others to catch up to him.

“We’re being followed,” Tabitha said as soon as she came next to Alo.

“I know,” Alo replied. “There are four of them, heavily armed and staying close together. This could be bad.”

“You saw them too,” Kenny said as he joined them. “Let’s catch up to Brendun, hurry now.”

When the three of them reached Brendun, Kenny activated the brand. As the light spread out around them, Brendun saw the concerned look on their faces.

“Well, I guess we had to expect this, didn’t we?” Brendun said. “I was hoping to not get involved in a confrontation so soon, but it is out of our hands now.”

“Maybe we can pay them off?” Kenny suggested. “They might be just hired thugs for all we know.”

“They are my kind,” Alo said.

“Are you sure?” Tabitha asked. She was getting ready to load her crossbow when Brendun put his hand on her weapon, and gentle moved it down.

“I have another idea,” Brendun said. “They are not hurrying to catch up to us yet, and we are close. Let’s move. Don’t look like you know they are following, but hurry. If we can make it to the trap, we might get away before they know what happened.” Brendun turned, but Tabitha took his shoulder and stopped him.

“You’re not seriously considering the trap? The one we fell into, that one?”

“Yes, we know what to expect now. If we get there quick they won’t know where we disappeared to.”

“I don’t like this idea,” Alo said as she moved ahead of Brendun.

Kenny moved ahead as well, keeping the brand low, and said to Alo, “Oh, you just have to get used to not liking Dun-man’s ideas. They are the worst.”

Brendun took Tabitha’s hand away from his arm, and gently pushed her ahead, and said, “After you.”

They hurried but it was not quick enough. As they came upon the cleft in the wall, where Tabitha had laid in hiding the night a week before, the other Mauli caught up to them.

“Stop, wanderer, we do not want to kill you,” One of them called out. The voice was deep, and measured.

They stopped, turning their backs against the wall, and Alo, stepped forward.

“What do you want?” She asked.

“We know who you are. Your mother has ordered that you be brought to her at once. We can kill the others if we have to, but you are not to be harmed. Come now,” the one who spoke before stood apart from the other three. As they came closer, into the light of the brand, Brendun saw that they were outmatched, completely.

Two of the Mauli were armored in segmentia, a type of layered armor often worn by the octopus-folk, and each of them carried a large shield and great sword. The third of them was holding two loaded crossbows, and had many axes hanging from its mantle on crossed belts. The fourth one, the one speaking, was dressed in a padded jerkin, held a crossbow in two of its tentacles, and gestured toward Alo with another.

Brendun touched Alo from behind, and when she turned her head slightly, he whispered, “Stall them,” and then he took a step to the side along the wall, shoving Tabitha and Kenny ahead of him.

“Why does she send for me now?” Tabitha asked and walked a few steps away from them to get ahead and in front of Kenny.

“Stop! Go no further,” the Mauli said.

“What is your rank?” Alo asked, still moving. Behind her Brendun and the others continued to shuffle southward along the wall.

“I am second born of the queen’s commander. I bring the chamber guard. I am Serd, and you will not take another step. The queen commands you be brought, and does not need to tell us why. Stop where you are or I will order your followers death. It will be by your hand that they die, now Stop!”

They had moved far enough, and Brendun reached for Alo. He pulled her close to him, and whispered, “Take hold of Kenny, one tentacle to Tabitha. I’ve got her. Say my name when you are ready.”

Brendun took Tabitha’s belt in one hand, wrapped his other arm around her shoulders and whispered, “Take Kenny’s belt in both hands.”

Tabitha closed her eyes, and turned her head, planting a kiss on Brendun’s cheek, and whispered, “I hate you, you know.” Then, she wrapped her hands in Kenny’s belt, making him turn toward her with a puzzled look.

Alo backed away from Brendun. “I surrender,” she said and slowly wrapped three tentacles around Kenny, at the waist, the elbows, and shoulders, then reached out and wrapped another tentacle around one of Tabitha’s wrists.

“Let me dismiss my servants, and I will go with you.”

“Be quick,” Serd said, and turned away, lowering his weapon.

“Yes, yes I will,” Alo said, and then pressed close to them all, turning her eyes to Kenny, she said, “I am ready, Brendun.”

He pressed his shoulder back. The wall swung up and away and they tumbled backward. The four Mauli were left in the dark. Brendun pulled Tabitha close to him, fell on his rear, and let his pack stop his fall as he tried to control his quick slide downward. Alo fell right behind Tabitha, pulling Kenny with her who let out a cry in his surprise.

The last thing the Mauli heard was a man’s voice fading away, “Fuuuu…”
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Old 04-01-2020, 08:29 AM   #69
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

“Brendun,” Tabitha jumped up and rushed to the car, “Look, the Killer Kart is right where we left it.”

“Great, I’ll fire it up. Everyone get in and I’ll drive us to Midville. Put the duck in the trunk, and buckle up. If we hurry we can make the lunch special at the Acapulco Restaurant and Club.”

Alo cried out, “Shotgun!”

“But, I always get the gunner’s seat,” Kenny pouted.

“No” Alo said and climbed on the roof holding onto the custom 2 point armor luggage rack. “I’ve got the shogun, let’s go.”

“Did someone remember to grab the Rules Lawyer in a Box? We’re going to need it to get past that Mark IV Ogre.” Brendun asked.

“I’ve got it right here in my pouch,” Tabitha pointed to her belly.

“Ewwwwww,” Everyone said at the same time.

The End
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Old 04-01-2020, 07:12 PM   #70
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: In The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 34
The descent was not unbearable. In fact, compared to the first time, Brendun found the whole slide, well, fun. At least he didn’t end up with a rapier in his leg, and for that he was grateful. He managed to stay on his behind, facing uphill the whole way down. Kenny did not lose his grip on the brand and as they all made their way down Brendun was able to take in some of the details of the slide. The construction was top quality, there was no doubt, and from his best guess he placed it as being done in the last twenty years.

Kenny and Alo stayed together and he could tell Alo used her experience from the time before to kept the two of them from tumbling head over heels. There were times, on the descent when the path was straight for a moment or two, that Brendun could see Alo moving her free tentacles as fast as they could move, out-stretched and pushing hard against the surface of the slide to keep her in one position. She had let go of Tabitha, obviously, but Brendun could catch a glimpse of her every now and then, and Tabitha was doing alright, considering.

As soon as they came to a halt, in the wet cavern at the end of the slide, Brendun sprung to his feet and rushed to Tabitha’s side.

“I’m alright,” Tabitha said as he fumbled his arms trying to help her get up.

“You sure?” Brendun asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” she said. “You know it seemed a lot longer the first time, and didn’t it have more curly cues? I swear, it didn’t seem like the same slide at all.”

Alo came close to them, and said, “It did seem like it was hardly that much of an ordeal at all.”

Brendun turned his head to look at Kenny who was still on his hands and knees.

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” Kenny said.

“Could have been worse,” Brendun said and went to his friend’s side. He reached down, but Kenny put up a hand to stop him.

“I need a moment, maybe a long moment,” Kenny said.

“I don’t think we have that luxury,” Brendun said. “If they aren’t right behind us, we are in luck, but if they are, we need to be ready to get the drop on them. Now, Tabitha, load and step back, Alo and Kenny take a position to each side there and there. I’ll load a bolt as well we might only have a instant to act before they get to their feet, um, I mean tentacles.”

“I have a feeling they will not follow,” Alo said but moved to where Brendun pointed just the same.

“Why?” Brendun asked.

“They were my mother’s guard. They are, without a doubt, the best and brightest of our kind, she would not accept anything less. They will think it is a trap, one we planned and they will begin looking for another way down below the city, rather than follow us.”

“Let’s hope you’re right,” Kenny said, getting up from the ground. He had kept the spear and brand in his hands though it all but now tossed the brand into the center of the chamber, took his shield from his back, and moved to stand opposite Alo.

They waited. When it became obvious to Brendun that the other Mauli did not follow them, he began crossing the chamber from one corner to another.

“Alright then, Dun-man, what’s our move,” Kenny said at last.

He gave it some thought, and then Brendun said, “This is not the Labyrinth, of that I’m sure. We went that way, the first time we were here and it lead us to a abandoned hide out -“

“Probably used by pirates,” Tabitha interrupted him.

“Yes, pirates,” Brendun said and then crossed to the opposite side of the chamber. “That way,” he pointed back to the tunnel he had been by a moment ago, “leads back north to the city. We know this because we came up under the tavern. That means that this way,” he indicated a small dark tunnel in front of him, and went on saying, “goes toward the swamps. Which means it will take us into the territory of the toadmen. We will probably go down, below the bedrock of the swamps, and then back up again. The last time I found my way in and back out of the Labyrinth it was a mile south of where we are now, just at the southern edge of the swamps, on a high piece of ground where the Candle Mage Guild built a keep. I know we can get in there, for sure, but we may find our way in before we go that far. It all depends on what we find going this way.”

Alo gave a shudder, and said, “It has to be through the toadmen’s lair?”

Brendun hoisted his pack, took a look at his crossbow, and then smiled at Alo, saying, “It is either that, or we go back to where the Turturons are working. I’m sure they would love to see you again.”

Alo moved past Brendun without saying a word. One of her tentacles lifted the brand from the floor as she moved passed it.

“Well, that’s settles that,” Brendun said as he followed her and waved at the others to catch up.

They had to move in a single file line. This time Alo took the lead, with Brendon behind her, followed by Tabitha, and Kenny in the rear. The big man had put his shield back on his pack, and held his spear in both hands. Every few steps he would glance behind him into the dark.

“Can your kind see in the dark, Alo?” Kenny asked.

“No,” she replied with a turn of her head, “that is only a myth.”

“Good to know. If they did decide to follow, we should see their light before they see us. Assuming they pick the right way to go.”

The passage was tight. The ceiling was low, but Kenny did not have to duck too often. They walked at a slow pace and passed no side passages. After a while the passage began to slope downward, and to their concern the floor grew wetter and wetter until they were sloshing through brackish water up to their ankles.
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