After Armageddon: 6) Requiem Labyrinths
Read Part 5 of After Armageddon: Very Insincere Forgiveness…
The requiem labyrinths didn’t seem that scary after all. The group had anticipated terrible monsters and a sense of foreboding since the Jester had sent them there. Like the labyrinths would be a form of punishment for engulfing the angry demi-god in a fiery blast whilst he drank his evening brandy. But so far, the only challenge to the labyrinths had been their complexity. The underground tunnels were certainly a maze.
Eboncrest always blew harsh winds with light to moderate snowfall. The tunnels had the same icy feeling but without the windchill. Andiel carried with him a lantern of firecrumbs which dropped a tiny flame every few feet so they could keep track of how they would exit once they’d acquired the golden coin. The lantern provided an additional benefit of the slightest warmth for Cadmar – the dark elfs of course, being dead, had no concern for the tunnel’s chill.
The Jester had not told the three who entered the labyrinths how far down the maze might go. As they traveled for the better part of the day in near total-darkness, they questioned during breaks why the demi-god had even asked them to enter the labyrinth for him. There were no difficulties thus far. Achilles suggested that perhaps he’d sent them on an endless quest to distract them while he furthered his plans of invading Morgana – not that the fallen paladin cared much. But Cadmar’s eyes averted at the spoken thought.
The Golden Coin
Finally, the three found a simple golden coin lying on the ground at one of the maze’s dead ends…
Andiel picked up the coin and pocketed it. “That was easy.”
“That can’t be the golden coin we’re looking for.” Achilles looked around the stone hallway as if expecting some trap. “Or there has to be some ambush. A terrible spell. Something. Why’d you pick up the coin, Andiel?” The dark elf unsheathed his mythril longsword and began to pace. “You should’ve looked around more before picking it up.”
Cadmar had his shield strapped to his arm and sword in-hand as well. Andiel shifted his feet a few times, his mouth in a half-frown. “Wait.” The hallway was silent. Cadmar’s breaths steamed from his opened mouth, eyes wide. “I think something’s coming.” Andiel crouched low, drew his sword, and pointed down the way from which they’d come. The small firecrumb flames cast a low-light, barely illuminating the deep dark.
Suddenly, Achille’s felt something hit his back, and his startled response flung him and his assailant to the ground. Andiel nimbly rolled to the ground, laughing. Cadmar began a slow chuckle, his deep voice echoing. Achilles looked around, expecting a second attack, until he finally realized why the two were laughing. His sword slammed into its scabbard and he stalked off without looking back.
“Damn you Andiel, I thought I was about to meet Hy-Rasyl in my second death.” The laughing and re-enactments of Achilles’ terrified reaction as Andiel jumped on him didn’t stop the entire way back up to the labyrinth’s entrance. They followed their firecrumbs back to the surface. Cadmar’s and Andiel’s laughter announced their return to the Jester.
The Lich Returns
“I see you’ve enjoyed the errand I sent you on. How pleasant.” The demi-god had a new jester’s suit, new golden bells, and face painted half-blue – all the soot removed. His face smiled, but his snowy eyes shook the soul. “I trust you value your lives enough to have retrieved for me the golden coin?” Andiel flashed it as his smiles turned sour.
“Don’t look so glum. Simply hand it to the she-lich behind you, with whom I think you’re quite familiar, then she and I will be on our merry way and you’re free to go back to your dreary lives.” The Jester flourished his banded arm, and the lich who’d attacked them in Achilles’ mansion appeared behind the three coin-fetchers.
“I thought we killed you,” was all Cadmar could get out before Andiel stopped him from drawing his weapon.
I’m all for killing, but not right now paladin.” Andiel walked over to the lich, disgust plain on his face, hand held out. But at the last second he stopped and spun back towards the Jester. “Pray tell, why have us gather such a seemingly plain coin for you, only to hand it to your underling? If this coin is so valuable, why give it to another?”
The Jester’s ever-present smile faltered – like it had when he’d emerged from the mansion’s explosion, soot-covered and burned. “In truth, because I cannot touch the coin.”
“But you’d give it to a lich to hold for you? We know this lich. The way she works.” Andiel leaned in and placed his hand to his mouth as is spilling a secret. “She’s treacherous,” he whispered.
The Jester’s eyes narrowed and his gaze shifted to the lich. “That’s true.” A silent moment passed while the two eyed each other. The lich started her protest, but only the words “My lord-“ were spoken before her jaw was punched out of its socket. A second punch from the Jester’s black-arm-banded fist obliterated the creature’s body. Pieces of lich covered everyone except the Jester.
Cadmar folded his arms. “So, this is great and all – the lich being dead. But she’s already been re-dead once. So, did you kill her permanently, or… like should we expect her to show up again one day?” He wiped off lich from his shoulders. The Jester said nothing but motioned for them to follow.
Andiel carried the golden coin as the four travelled over the next several days, away from Eboncrest into the heated dunes of Jorinta. The Jester alone knew where they were going. The other three, once again, had to trust that they were in fact, headed somewhere. Finally, they came upon a canyon, which they descended by the last rays of evening. Dust covered their lower halves and sand had found its way into every gap of armor and clothing. Upon reaching the canyon’s base, they rounded a large boulder and saw a pyramid nestled in between the two canyon walls.
“There.” The Jester motioned lazily towards a door at the pyramid’s base. “Place the coin, flat-faced into that door, then leave. An Eternal resides within, whom I’ve come to kill.”
As Andiel walked towards the pyramid’s entryway, Achilles locked step and whispered to him in soft but quick punctuations. “Andiel, make sure we get in that pyramid too. The Jester killed the lich so she wouldn’t have a chance to take whatever the Jester hopes to obtain from killing this Eternal… if such a thing is even possible.”
“Don’t worry my friend. We’ll get the Jester in. Then we’ll take whatever he finds in there for ourselves, and run. Tell Cadmar.” And with that, Achilles watched as Andiel approached the golden door. The sky overhead turned a deep purple. The Jester’s snow-blue eyes locked on to Andiel’s back, seeming to look through him and the door beyond. Achilles walked back to Cadmar and told him to be ready. The next few minutes would decide the fate of a god.