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Old Wounds (Artifact)

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When he wasn't needed by his oldest and dearest friend, Samson slept inside the coffin that held his body. Sometimes he would dream of his homeland, a cold, bleak place, where only the worthy could survive, let alone thrive. In his youth, he would often roam the mountains, imagining himself on adventures in some far off land. Eventually he had gone on such adventures, but on lonely nights his thoughts would turn back to the home he had left behind. Sadly, he had never managed to return before his untimely death, but Ankou had sworn to him that one day he would bring him back; that he would lay eyes on his home once more.

Now, it seemed, was the day that promise was kept.

He emerged from his coffin to a landscape of snow and ice that immediately filled his heart with nostalgic joy. As a reanimated warrior, he was able to feel the cold wind that swept the rocky cliff he stood on clean, but it didn't bother him. Taking a few steps forward he realized that he was overlooking the High Lords Labyrinth, the mountain range where it was said that the High Lords dwelt. As a child his mother had always cautioned him against going inside, lest he incur the wrath of those supreme beings. 

"Is it everything you remember?"

Samson turned around to see Ankou Lethe, his oldest friend, standing before him in spectral form; looking as he was the day they had first met. His youthful appearance was a marked change from the old man he was used to seeing. He walked up to the phantom and grinned.

"It is that and more. You look well my friend."

A rare smile graced the lich's face, "A very recent turn of events. But that is irrelevant for now. I'm afraid I have not sent you home just for a homecoming."

"There's nobody left for a reunion," the swordsman replied, tone slightly sad, "And I figured as much. How may I serve you brother?"

"It has been brought to my attention that there is an artifact of some power down in the High Lords Labyrinth. It is called Mori, an armband that allows travel between different planes of existence. I would like you to retrieve it for me. Sadly, I do not know where in the Labyrinth the armband is located, so you will have to search for it. Can you do this for me?"

Samson nodded, "Consider it done."

"Excellent. You will be accompanied by the person who guided your coffin to this place. Contact me should the need arise. Good luck."

The Specter disappeared, and Samson waited for the companion Ankou had spoken of to appear.

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@Ataraxy

Edited by danzilla3

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A few minutes after the spectre of Ankou was whisked away, Samson would hear the giggle and whistling of a young girl coming around on of the slopes. The young girl's blonde hair reached just below her shoulders, but was held up by a black headband sitting at an angle on her head. Everything about her was relatively pleasant; comfortable. Her small and young stature putting doubts of any potential threads into the minds of those who saw her. Other than the slim aura of death around her, she was rather disarming. A gentle smile. Sparking blue eyes. A fair complexion. At first, nothing would seem off to Samson or anyone else who would see her. 

But, as Mercury approached Samson, he would perhaps see the red staining her hands. Then, perhaps, he may even spot the detached head dangling from her fingers, short black hair swinging it back and forth. "Ohhhhh uh ohhhh~" she sang, doing a little spin. "Watchers beware! For if you are the watcher, who watches the watcher~"  Sliding up to where Samson stood, Mercury left and dumped the head at his feet, once again twirling. "I do!" And then, while still laughing, she stomped on the head, crushing it until there was just a disgusting pile of stuff. She knelt down into the snow and plucked an eyeball from the skull. A serious look took over her expression as she stared at it intently. 

"Hey, old guy. Do you think his soul can still see me? If I swallow his eyes, think he can see my insides?" Mercury pondered for a moment before shrugging her shoulders and taking a bit of the eyeball. "Blehhhhgg," she shrieked, spitting out the flesh pieces. "Gosh, humans are so gross! And weak! He doesn't even have any life force left in his eyes." The vampire pouted and tossed the half chewed eyeball back into the snow. "Okeydokey. Guess we should move on, yeah? The Commander said I'm s'possed ta help you find some armband thing."

Edited by Ataraxy

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“Did I- Did I die?”

“It appears so. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Oh.”

Beside a large rock rested a young woman clad in every garment she could find to keep herself warm. The space went quiet again, though the she could still feel the presence of the new ghost. She let him- it sounded like a him- think in peace. Sometimes all a spirit needed was to realize it had died for it to move on. Unfortunately, as the seconds slipped by, his presence remained in her little glade and she knew he would not go quietly into the night. 

The woman painted a reassuring smile on her face. “What was your name?” She asked.

“Thomas.”

“My name is Cerin.” She climbed to her feet and brushed the snow off her shoulders. Hades wasn’t too far away, he never was, and as she extended her conciseness and brushed against the cold spark of false life in his soul the large, decaying dog erupted out of a nearby snowbank, shook himself, and trotted over, leaving a small canyon in the otherwise pristine snow. He waited obediently in front of her for Cerin to grab the rope around his neck. “Tell me what happened to you.”

As Thomas led her across the slope of the mountain, he told her of a terrifying young woman that killed him and took his head. The story was jumbled and the details were shrouded by death, but he remained inconsolable over the loss of his head. The walk didn’t take long and Hades was able to navigate her quite well through the snowy enviroment. Before long they were waking parallel with the cliffs and it wasn’t long after that that Thomas pulled up short with a hiss.

“That’s the bitch that took me head.” The ghost sounded stronger the closer they got to his body. Beings that possessed some necromantic magic would be more than aware of her incorporeal follower, but at this rate, even the average person may notice something supernatural hovering around the woman. Thomas let out a miserable sound. “Oh Lords, my poor head. She’s doing somethin’ awful to my poor head!”

Cerin stopped when she was within hearing distance of the two and pulled down the scarf that had been warding her face from the cold to reveal a weathered mess of scars underneath. Thick, gnarled, white scars twisted around the dark and empty pits where her eyes once were.  The rest of her face, while young, was weathered and freckled with chapped lips and a freshly healing scab across one cheek. She had an elvish look to her and indeed, as she tucked the loose end of her scarf away, pointed ears peaked out from underneath a rat’s nest of tangled black hair.

From where she stood, she could almost taste the signature feeling of undeath that surrounded the two. Her apprehension was matched by a feeling of wonder that only grew as the ghost rushed them forward. She wasn’t aware of any undead in the parts sophisticated enough to take off a man’s head and these two felt different. And, if the ghosts‘ lamentations were any indication, vicious enough to destroy their prey, then her job would not be an easy one. A few words of their conversation drifted back to her and gave her some relief. At least they were intelligent. Hades sat and she held up her hands in a sign of peace and called out to the two strangers. 

“Hello there,” she said. “I think we could help each other. I’m looking for a head. If you folks have anything left of it, I would be very grateful”

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The sound of giggling made Samson turn around to see what looked to be a young woman holding a freshly severed head. It took her about an instant to clock her as a vampire, as he had killed more than one in his time. But he refrained from slicing her in half, reasoning that the only reason someone would be hanging around such a desolate place would be if they were the person sent to assist him. He was almost, disappointed, as he liked to test his blade after waking up to get the blood flowing, so to speak. There would be plenty of time to give his sword a workout on the coming journey though, so he wasn't worried.

"Hey, old guy. Do you think his soul can still see me? If I swallow his eyes, think he can see my insides?" 

"How should I know?" he said flatly.

Next to appear was an eyeless woman followed by the spirit of the man whose head had been taken by the vampire. The man seemed indignant, which Samson supposed was not an unreasonable reaction to being decapitated. However, the fact that this indignation came in the form of loud complaining quickly grated on his nerves. He leveled his sword at the spirit, and spoke in the stern tone of a man used to giving orders.

"Shut up, or I'll send you to the next life in little pieces," he said in the same bored tone he used with the vampire, "Pass on or don't, but vex me no further."

Now he regarded the eyeless woman, "I don't know what your doing here, but I won't be responsible for what happens to you if you follow me."

Having said his piece, he turned and started to make his way toward the Labyrinth. 

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Mercury giggled at Samson's casually annoyed attitude. "You sound like the Commander." She laughed, taking on a stern expression of displeasure. In a voice oddly similar to Lilith Reiter's she said, "Mercury, stop laughing. Mercury, stop eating random stuff. Mercury, pay attention or end your existence." Like a child seeing snow for the first time she happily kicked at the crushed skull a few times, spreading what remained of the man's head across the snow covered hill. 

“Hello there,” she said. “I think we could help each other. I’m looking for a head. If you folks have anything left of it, I would be very grateful.” [Cerin]

"Sure! It's all right here-," Mercury pointed to the grey globs and half chewed eyeball, "I told you not to worry soul-dude. I kept my word, see? It's still in one place... wait, did I promise all in place or all in one piece...?" After a moment the Vampire shrugged as if crushing the corpse's head was nothing more than side note. "Well, whatever, it's all here. Although, the other part of the eyeball is- oh there it is! There might be some in my stomach but don't worry I spit most of it out. You taste growth. Bleh." 

"I don't know what your doing here, but I won't be responsible for what happens to you if you follow me." [Samson]

"Me? No, can't be me. Her?" Mercury pointed at Cerin. "Old guy, she's blind! She can't hear you when you warn her and can't see you walking away! Wait, no, that's deaf?" Quickly turning toward the necromancer with a bundle of excitement she sceamed as loud as she could, "ARE YOU DEAF? CAN YOU HEAR ME?" Hands waved in front of the girl's face. "HELLOOOO?" When she realized Samson had pretty much ignored her, Mercury grabbed Cerin's hand and pulled her in the right direction. "COME THIS WAY! WE'RE GETTING A SUPER COOL ARMBAND! COME WITH US!" Then she turned to the ghost and shoo'd it away, before leaving it with a rude gesture. "Your heads over there asshole." 

Edited by Ataraxy

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"COME THIS WAY! WE'RE GETTING A SUPER COOL ARMBAND! COME WITH US!" 

Cerin flinched as the vampire screamed in her face. Even though she couldn’t see Mercury she could imagine well enough the certain Backpfeifengesicht that such a grating voice was indicative of. Before she could even respond, Mercury grabbed her arm and yanked her away. She lost her grip on Hades’ leash and stumbled forward, kicking up fresh powder.The dog trotted after them with the rope in his mouth.

She heard the ghost muttering over the cliff’s winds as she was pulled away and hoped that the remains would be enough to satisfy him. She doubted the pair would suddenly attack her now but it would be prudent to leave now before the vampire wanted a taste of her eyeballs. On the other hand... Cerin had never met beings like this before. Sure, one was a violent murderess with the temperament of a sociopathic child on a sugar high while the other was something new altogether, but at least they were civil. She may never get a chance like this again. 

“Surely you don’t mean to look for a single armband in the middle of the labyrinth?” Her question came out as a squeak before she regained her balance and her composure. Once righted, she returned to the same guarded tone that yielded her a neutral response. “Consequences be damned and my participation aside, we would be here for weeks if you were lucky. I do hope you have a plan.”

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"Be quiet."

The words directed at the vampire were spoken with the same tone of quiet exasperation one might use to chastise a misbehaving child. He was increasingly unsure that this partnership was a good idea. Bringing along backup was always a good idea, and vampires were powerful creatures, but this one seemed far to childish to be of any use to him. Jebe would have been a far more useful companion. The two of them knew each other, had worked together before, and were good friends behind. They could have made short work of this job. But Ankou had ordered him to work with the vampire, so he would.

On 10/12/2018 at 4:08 PM, AngryCacti said:

“Surely you don’t mean to look for a single armband in the middle of the labyrinth?” Her question came out as a squeak before she regained her balance and her composure. Once righted, she returned to the same guarded tone that yielded her a neutral response. “Consequences be damned and my participation aside, we would be here for weeks if you were lucky. I do hope you have a plan.”

Samson looked over his shoulder, but kept walking as he spoke, "I've a few notions of where it might be. If you have a better plan, I'm all ears."

While he found the vampire to be somewhat annoying, he still wasn't sure what to make of the eyeless woman. She seemed to appear out of nowhere, in a place that few would ever come to by accident. It was possible that she was a spy, but he didn't think it likely. Ankou and Lilith wouldn't leave alive anyone who could possibly hinder their goals, so whoever told them about the armband was probably dead. Whatever. As long as she didn't get in the way of his objective, Samson didn't care if she tagged along.

Besides, she had a dog. He liked dogs.

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In response to Samson ordering her to silence, Mercury stuck out her tongue but otherwise held it for the moment. The Commander had warned her to restrain herself after all. Samson was a separate entity from the cult and, while Mercury was rather strong, Lilith had warned the vampire not to risk it. There'd be no third chance at life if she died. And if she won, well, Ankou would probably kill her then. Uhgg. Sometimes the Commander was so unnecessarily strict! So what if she fooled around a little? They were just after a stupid armband. 

“Consequences be damned and my participation aside, we would be here for weeks if you were lucky. I do hope you have a plan.” [Cerin]

"I've a few notions of where it might be. If you have a better plan, I'm all ears." [Samson]

Mercury thought on for a moment. Better plan, better plan, better plan... better plan than what? Than walking around? Damn straight she had a better plan. "Oh oh oh! I got a plan that's waaaay better than walking around." The vampire punched out recklessly. "Killing stuff! I'm hungry again and that's always fun." Before anyone could say anything, Mercury shouted and took the backpack off her shoulders. "I totally forgot! The Commander sent me something with your coffin. Aaaaaah where isss ittt?" After a few moments of digging through a bunch of random crap in her bag Mercury pulled out a rolled up piece of parchment. "Here it is. Apparently the owner of Le Pouvoir bought this map off of a wandering nomad or something. Commander says it's a map." She turned back toward Cerin. "I GOT A MAP, NO WORRIES!" Mercury handed the map to Samson, not wanting to or really able to follow a map herself.

Edited by Ataraxy

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Cerin hummed and said, “Thank goodness for that.” She managed to keep her words amiable (it was the performance of the century) despite her mounting urge to slap the vampire. There was nothing to gain by antagonizing the strange pair. In fact, she had so many questions that she was bursting to ask that it would be criminal to throw away the opportunity to ask them. Instead, she said, “If you want to kill something, I can give you a few corpses to have some fun with. I’m not sure if you’d like the taste, but I’ve found they’re surprisingly quick.” It wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep the vampire entertained. “Just an offer, of course. For the future.”

Hades brushed against her leg and she reached down and took the rope from his mouth once more. This time she made sure to wind it securely around her wrist. She absentmindedly reached down to rub behind the dog’s ears. He wasn’t alive, not like a true resurrection, but there was still some instinct left in the husk that made his tail wag of its own volition at the contact. 

She had been in the mountains for just a few days, but already she had heard enough stories about the labyrinth and the surrounding peaks to know what she was getting into. Cerin wondered if there would be any spirits still within the walls of the maze or if the three lords would have driven them all off. The wind was biting at her exposed face as she waited for their party to move so she wound her scarf around her her head once more while the map was handed off.

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Not for the first time, Samson felt annoyance rising in his chest, "If you had a damn map, why didn't you say so before now? How long did you intend to wait?"

He turned around to face the pair, seeing Saturn pulling all kinds of strange shit out of her backpack, irritation only growing at the sight. At least Lilith had the foresight to send some useful information along with the childish vampire. Privately, he was glad to have more to go on then just the vague knowledge that the armband was somewhere within the vast labyrinth. Still, he wondered if the vampire would have gotten around to mentioning it if Cerin hadn't happened to trigger her memory at that moment. It was clear that someone was going to need to play the minder to the woman, and he was content to let the eyeless woman handle that. 

"You bastards!"

From the direction Cerin had come from, two angry looking men wielding swords were coming down the hill at the group. The apparent leader strode forth and stood just a few feet from Samson, leveling his blade at the undead mans chest. His companion was happy to stand a few feet behind him, sword planted in the frozen ground. 

"Heard yer voices on the wind! Ya killed Thomas! Ya killed me fucking brother!"

Samson had seen and participated in enough situations like this to know where it was headed, and truth be told he didn't mind. Given how annoyed he felt, he was glad to have the opportunity to let off some steam before pushing ahead. He allowed himself a small smile, looking the man right in the eye.

"Yes we did," he said, "What are you gonna do about it?"

The mans answer was a roar of rage as he raised his sword above his head, aiming to cleave his enemy in two with one mighty swing. Just before he could bring the sword down, Samson's own blade blurred from its position on his shoulder, and there seemed to be a small explosion of snow and ice behind the rearmost man. A second later the first mans arms detached from his body, letting the sword fall behind him. The man himself fell next, the top of his head sliding off as he did. Not long after the second man also fell to the ground, head rolling from his body.

Shaking the blood off his blade, Samson returned to his companions, "Right then. You have the map, you take point."

 

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Throughout Samson's whole thing with the two men, Mercury just stood on the side make exaggerate oooh and ahhhh sounds like she was watching something really entertaining. "Yeah man, give him the old one tw-" aaaand it was over just as she started to get into it. "Oh come on old guy! Didn't your mother ever teach you to play with your food? Jeez. No manners." 

Then an idea struck.

"CERIN, SAMSON JUST KILLED 2 GUYS CAN YOU BRING THEM BACK FOR ME? I BET THEY'RE GOOD AT HIDE AND SEEK," she asked, twirling in an action pose. As Cerin, hopefully, brough the took back to life, Mercury bared her fangs at them and said, with an extremely strong accent, " I vill suck yoh blad, blah blah blah! Go and hide, corpses! I'll find you before your blood cools." 

"Right then. You have the map, you take point." [Samson]

Turning back to Samson, she raised an eyebrow and looked at the running corpses running away with a sad expression. The last thing she wanted to do right after getting new toys and lunch was to read.She hadn't read anything in years. And maps didn't even have words on them. How was she supposed to read pictures? "Um, okay." Raising the map into the air, Mercury tilted her entire body plus the map at an angle. The held it upside down. "That seems right. Looks like we have to go, uh, that way!" She pointed to the labyrinth wall about 3 feet from her current position. "Well that can't be right. Maybe the map's broken?"

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Cerin wasn’t surprised that the two men found them. She had heard that there were other humans in the area. However, she was surprised at the speed at which Samson dispatched them. It seemed like they had barely arrived before she was commanding the still-warm bodies to reanimate.

Behind them, the two corpses twitched, shifted, and slowly rose like puppets on a string after a few moments. The severed arms twitched a few times, but they were unable to move much more than the fingers, specifically, the middle ones. Cerin placed one hand on each of their chests and puffed out her cheeks in concentration. Contrary to popular belief, destroying the head did not make it impossible for an undead to rise, however, it did make it more difficult to control them. She twisted her palm and pushed and felt the two consciences connect to her mind.

Between the three undead she was puppeteering, she felt spread thin. She had never quite learned how to increase the amount she could control. She didn’t often need all three, but in certain situations, like in Ballard Bay where her forces were insignificant against the fire being that ran her out of the city ruins, the ability to raise more undead would have been useful. Still, there was no use complaining and these were good corpses. The cold would keep them fresh for weeks. Cerin stepped back to admire her work as Mercury read the map.

The two headless zombies stood at attention in the snow, awaiting her command. “Sorry, fellas,” she said apologetically, “I’ll give you a proper burial when this is all done. Now,“ she sighed and pointed at the one with no arms, “Turn around. Run for five minutes then hide. You-“ she beckoned to the other one- “follow me.”

Mercury loudly proclaimed that their map was broken. Cerin sighed. She had a feeling they would be there for a while.

••••

Out of sight, the headless zombie kept running. The snow was deeper here so it had to shuffle through mounds of powder. It’s foot kicked something hard and brought it to a halt. Suddenly, a sharp crack echoed through the mountains and the snow erupted in a flurry of white. When it settled, the zombie was gone. The mound sank back into the snow and the only indication of its passing was the small mound that formed on the surface as something tunneled rapidly beneath the snow back the way the zombie had come.

Edited by AngryCacti

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Samson wasn't surprised that Mercury would mistake a door for a wall, though to be fair, the one in front of her was fairly well hidden. The Labyrinth had many hidden entrances, different ones showing up on different maps. To the best of his knowledge, no one had ever found them all, and he doubted that anybody ever would. Places as ancient as this were, to a certain extent, unknowable to mortal beings. Hell, it wouldn't surprise him to find out that the Gods that were said to inhabit the Labyrinth sometimes created new entrances and erased others. After all, this was not a place meant for men to idly visit.

"Maps not broken," he said walking forward, lightly patting the vampire on the head as he walked by, "We're right where we should be."

The swordsman ran his hand along the stone of the wall, looking for something that would be imperceptible to most. When he found it, he pushed, and a circle of stone sank into the wall. As it disappeared, a line appeared between the ground and the top of the wall, and the stone on either side receded to form a wide passageway. Even with the light from the outside flooding into the newly opened passage, he could only see a few feet in front of him. Didn't matter. His eyes would adjust.

"Let's go," he said, walking into the stone hallway. 

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The larger the gap for them to enter became, the deeper Mercury's frown grew. Damnit. Other than getting closer to the artifact, going through the opened gates also lunch- blocked her. And she was getting hungry. Although unlike many of her kind, Mercury didn't get mean or rabid when she ran low of blood. Rather, because of how her system was amped from being reborn under Lilith's influence and the fact she was basically a child in vampire years, the chemical that raged during the Hunger almost always produced a sad emotion. A hungry Mercury is a sad Mercury.

Instead of saying anything loud or with excitement, Mercury simply nodded at Samson's words. She'd been jumping for joy at being so near lunch time. Under any normal circumstances she'd have thrown the map at Samson or Cerin and raced off toward the walking food. But the Commander had told her to stay as focused as possible. And though she'd disobey orders from just about anyone, never would she do so Lilith. The Commander's instructions were absolute. She'd sooner return to the ground than go against her Commander.

So steeling herself forward, Mercury raised a hand to wipe the few tears brimming at the corner of her eyes and stepped through the doorway to right behind Samson. As they walked on, the occasional tear would slip past her hand trying to wipe it away and patter against the map. But she kept her head down so that blonde hair obscured most of he face. If Samson would ask her about the directions, Mercury would sniffle and then answer.

"W-we take a left a little bit further. I think. Maybe..." Her voice quickly trailed off followed by a few more patters of tears on the map.

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Cerin tilted her head curiously as she heard the scrape of stone on stone. When the sound of footsteps transitioned from snow to stone and the echo bounced around as if in a massive corridor, she gathered that they had been able to open a doorway into the labyrinth. Impressive. 

She made to follow Mercury into the maze and spurred hades forward with a command. The rope went slack and a second was all she had before Hades abruptly sat down in the snow, inches away from door. Alarmed, she froze too.  Cautiously, she reached out to feel the cold stone with her fingers. Nothing had gone wrong when Samson or Mercury stepped through, though...

 “Hades,” She said, irritated, “Lead.” She pursed her lips and whistled encouragingly- not that it would do anything- and tugged on the leash, hopping it would get him moving. Hades didn’t budge. The rest of the group was well inside so she stepped inside and turned and pulled on the rope, leaning back to use her body weight to physically drag the dog inside. He let out a low whine as he crossed into the labyrinth. “Lead,” she commanded again. Thankfully, this time the dog began to walk forward into the labyrinth, catching up to Mercury and Samson. As she followed behind, doubt began to gnaw at the back of her mind. Even though his brain was mostly rotten and couldn’t be considered alive in the fullest sense of the term, she had found that some semblance of instinct still lurked in the husk which begged the question: if there was no immediate obstacle, what could he sense inside the maze?

 

As the group disappeared into the darkness, a mound of snow blinked once, unnoticed, then vanished about 50 yards away.

 

It was disconcerting being inside the labyrinth. Cerin let her hand trail against the wall as she walked. The darkness didn’t bother her nor, she suspected, her companions, but she disliked the closeness of the walls and the stillness in the air. To her, the maze felt like a melancholy monument to the death she knew happened in its walls. It was not a place for that sole purpose by any means, but the ones who had died alone, lost and desperate, within the labyrinth left their mark on place. A shiver ran down her spine that was unrelated to the cold. It was not a death she fancied.

 “So...” She began carefully, needing a distraction from the oppressive atmosphere, “you mentioned a commander earlier. Not to pry... but what kind of commander is interested in a maze?”

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