Angela and her companions venture into the shifting maze of the Labyrinth.
The Knight and the Acolyte
Book Eight: Labyrinth of Love
Chapter Seven: Shifting Paths
Note: Thanks to B0b for beta reading this.
Knight Kevin – The Free City of Grahata, Yalut Island
I walked into the Temple of Luben, a small structure dwarfed by the more popular religions of Pater, Slata, and Seljan. It was modest on the outside and plain in the inside. The floors were a checkered pattern of black and white stone, dark-stained pews forming two rows advancing towards an altar of black and white granite. Beyond, a statue of the God of Marriage, arms spread wide in welcome, was lit by candles flicking about his feet. Red tulips were held in vases beside every pew.
“It is late to seek the temple of marriage, sir Knight,” a woman's voice said.
My eyes snapped around to one of the small transepts lining the edges of the main hall. She knelt before a smaller altar with a pair of statues, a man and woman, behind it. The stone figures held hands with the marriage binds about their wrists. No doubt they were one of the patrons of the temple, the priestess praying to Luben for their marriage.
She rose with a grunt, shifting with an awkward sway. She turned, the front of her white robes, trimmed in black, bulged from her heavily pregnant stomach. She had the red skin of Thlin, her white-blonde hair pulled back in a loose braid, a motherly smile on her lips.
“Be welcome, sir Knight, to the Temple of Marriage and Fidelity,” she breathed as she waddled out of the transept, her hands idly rubbing at the front of her robes. “Husband, we have a guest.”
“Hmm?” a voice grunted from another transept. A moment later a tall man stepped out, head shaved bald, his blond beard woven and trimmed into a square shape. He was also Thlinian, his skin a darker red than his wife's. Every temple of Luben was run by a married couple. The priest's robes were black and trimmed in white, his hands folded before him, hidden by the sleeves of his vestments. “Ah, Sir Knight, here to offer a prayer to your wife's fidelity while you partake on a perilous quest?”
I shook my head, a wave of nervousness coursed through me. I shifted, so aware that the Labyrinth ran beneath my feet. That Angela was down there about to tackle the Minotaur, a foe nearly as dangerous as the dragon Dominari.
I should be down there with her. I should have journeyed with her, the precepts be damned. No one knight could take on Dominari. Scores had faced her and died. Entire armies had burned in her fires. She was the last of the great dragons, the strongest to survive, grown cunning with age but content to stay in her desolation and haunt the Despeir Mountains.
I should have understood her heart. I should have loved her enough to let her be herself instead of trying to convince her not to be a knight.
“Such grief,” the priestess said as she stepped up before me. “Do you wish to pray to win back the heart of your lover?”
“Luben is the god of Love, but he does not give out 'love potions.' Those are instruments of Lust and the foul god Las.” The priest eyes hardened. “Your lover is free to love whom she will. Luben will not try and dissuade her.”
“My lover,” I swallowed, the pain welling. “My lover has forgotten me. She made a deal with an oracle for a prophecy. I...” Tears burned in my eyes. I took a deep breath. I was a Knight Deute, not a love-sick boy. My hand clenched. “I need a way to break the demigoddess's power, to reawaken her to our love so I can protect her.”
“Oh, you poor thing,” the priestess breathed, her hand reaching out and touching the vambrace covering my right arm, stroking the metal. “I am truly sorry for you.”
“Love ripped apart,” sighed the priest. “Yes, there is a way to fix her.”
“True love's kiss,” smiled the priestess. “Kneel, Sir Knight, and receive Luben's blessing. Let the power of your love break the demigoddess's enchantment. Nothing can stop love. It is the most powerful force in the universe. It resides in all of us, the gift of Luben to the mortal and immortal races.”
“Thank you,” I breathed as I knelt in a clink of armor.
“Know that your love must be true for this to work,” added the priest as he placed his hand on my forehead. His wife's hand joined his, clasping together on my forehead. “She must love you, too.”
She gave me up for the prophecy.
I clenched my eyes closed. She had to love me. “She does. I'm sure of it.”
“Then Blessed Luben, God of Marriage, Love, and Fidelity, let this young man's love shine bright,” the priest spoke. “Let it pierce through the veils of enchantment wreathing his lover's mind.”
“Let his lover once again feel the purity of his feelings, Blessed Luben,” the priestess said, her voice ringing true. “God of Marriage, Love, and Fidelity, let her heart's beat overcome that which has obscured her memory.”
“Let Love reunite these lovers in your name, Luben,” they said together. Lights flared white and black, dancing, entwining about their bodies and flowing down into my flesh. I shivered, my hands both clenching as a wondrous beauty settled into me. Something pure, at once both simple as the petals of a rose and as profound as the awe its petals stirred in the heart and imagination of the beholder.
Tears fell down my cheeks as the priests withdrew their hands.
“May your love be true, Sir Knight,” the priestess said, her hand going to her stomach.
“Thank you,” I said, rising, my armor clinking. I had a chance to save Angela. When she emerged from the labyrinth, I would have to kiss her, reawaken her love, and then I would save her. I would find a way to preserve her life.
Acolyte Sophia – The Labyrinth
“So...which way?” I asked as we reached the first junction of the Labyrinth.
It was damp and cold in the tunnels. Behind us, moonlight spilled down the stairs we walked in. Stone ground above us, the large disc slowly turning. We had a few hours to find the Minotaur, slay him, and escape before we were trapped for a day down here.
I shivered. I did not want to be trapped for a day down here. My robes already felt damp and the smell... A musty rot pervaded the dungeon mixed with a sour rank, like something unwashed for a hundred years. I wrinkled my nose, staring at the walls of mortared stone, my pink light shining next to me, but not shedding much light to either right or left.
“When solving a maze, the best way is to place your hand on either the right or left wall and follow it to the end,” Faoril said. “If there is a way to the center, then you will find it eventually.”
“And the rumor that the place rearranges itself?” Minx asked, staring at the floor. She bent down, stroking her finger along the mortar groove. “There is a segment right here.”
Xera nodded, her ears twitching. “Yes, this line extends to the walls and ceiling.”
“Then we need another way,” Xandra said. She rubbed her hands together. Chaun, beside her, strummed his lyre with a stimulating note.
“Sophia's divination spell,” Angela said. “She's used it in the past.”
“I have,” I smiled at my Queen. I found Faoril with it and the caravan to take us out into the desert. “It can guide us. Wonderful.” Then my smile fell. I had to masturbate.
“Well, let's get to it,” Minx grinned, straightening her short stature, her metallic-red hair looking almost pink in my light.
“I have to masturbate and orgasm,” I said, my cheeks pinking. “Thrak, Chaun, turn around.”
“But you are such a radiant flower, Sophia,” Chaun said, strumming his lyre again, this time with a lusty note that made me shiver, my pussy growing wetter. “I seem to recall how much you enjoyed being paraded on the Golden Hunger.”
“Because my Queen commanded,” I answered. I glanced at Angela, her smile amused.
“I'll make sure they keep their backs to you,” Faoril said, kneeling, her red robes swishing and her silver nose ring glinting in my pink light. “Men, I think a fresh dose of both your cum will be a useful thing. So come here and let me blow you.”
Chaun glanced at Xandra who gave him a loving smile. She rose on her tiptoes and kissed him on the lips before her sapphire eyes looked at me with a hot hunger. She had changed since we left Hargone. More confident. It made her even sexier.
I unbelted my robe, licking my lips as I stared at Xandra and her eyes falling on my small breasts, my nipples so hard. I let my white robes slip to the floor, letting out a little shiver. It was chilly in here. But I was a temple-trained servant of Saphique. I could masturbate in a blizzard.
“I could use help to make me cum,” I purred at Xandra as my hands slid down my stomach to my shaved pudenda. “Volunteers are welcomed.”
“Sure,” Minx said. The halfling was behind me. I gasped as she grabbed my butt-cheeks, pried them apart, and licked at my sphincter. She rimmed me with her tiny tongue, swirling about my asshole. “Mmm, not bad, Sophia. Tasty ass.”
“Everything about Sophia is tasty,” Angela smiled, her hand resting on her sword as she leaned against the wall by the junction. Xera moved to the opposite side, her ears twitching, the gold flecks gleaming in the shamrock tucked behind her right ear. She was lush and naked, always a delight to stare at.
Especially with a naughty halfling rimming my asshole.
“Oh, that's nice,” Chain groaned as Faoril sucked noisily on his cock, making such obscene sounds. I tried not to notice the ebony and swarthy dicks. I could just see them as her mouth went back and forth, sucking on them, eager for the nasty cum to spill in their lips.
“I can help you, Sophia,” Xandra said, her voice so musical, a bird's dulcets.
The slim woman moved to me, her nipples pressing on her sleeveless top, her knee-length skirt swishing. Her eyes were so bright in my pink light. My pussy clenched as I rubbed at my clit, eager to feel Xandra's tongue on my pussy, licking, nuzzling, driving me wild towards my orgasm.
As Xandra fell to her knees before me, Minx's tongue wiggled into my asshole. It was so tiny, swirling, teasing, sending sensations rippling to my pussy. I groaned, shuddered. Xandra's delicate fingers stroked my inner thigh as she leaned her face forward, her breath washing across my pussy.
And she licked.
“Oh, Xandra,” I moaned, her tongue sliding so wonderfully through the folds of my pussy, teasing me, exciting me. “Mmm, that's great. Oooh, yes.”
“And what about me?” Minx asked. “Isn't my tongue great?”
“Yes, it is, you naughty halfling,” I moaned, sliding my hands up to my breasts, squeezing them as the halfling jammed her tongue back into my asshole. “Oh you are just delicious. Mmm, I love it. Worm that tongue into my asshole while Xandra devours my pussy.”
“She's great at that,” groaned Chaun.
“Don't look over your shoulder,” I groaned as the bard grinned at me, his teeth so white compared to his midnight-black skin. “Just enjoy your blowjob.”
“I am,” groaned Chaun, Faoril sucking with such enthusiasm.
I closed my eyes, ignoring Chaun's and Thrak's grunts and groans as Faoril gobbled their cocks. I concentrated on the delight of Xandra's tongue probing into my pussy, swirling around, gathering my cream. She had her face pressed so tight into my pussy, her sapphire eyes shining up at me.
Oh, she enjoyed it.
Minx's small fingers massaged my ass as her tongue probed and swirled. Then she sucked on my asshole, making me buck, my clit throbbing against Xandra's delicate lips. The avian slid her tongue to it, stroking my nub, sending pleasure racing through my body.
Her delicate fingers slid slowly into my pussy.
“Xandra,” I panted. “Oh, Xandra, you delicious woman. Mmm, you really know how to please my clit.”
“You taught me well,” the married avian giggled. She licked again, her blue eyes so bright. I shuddered, my toes curling in my shoes as I trembled.
I pinched and pulled at my nipples, loving the pleasure surging through me. The dual delights of Minx and Xandra made me shudder. My head tossed back. My tongue stud ran across the back of my teeth as I moaned. Xandra's tongue fluttered on my clit. My pussy clenched about Xandra's pumping fingers, shooting such wonderful waves through my body.
Minx sucked harder on my asshole, loving it. Her fingers traced up my butt to my spine. I gasped as she stroked up my spine, her small finger had such a light touch. The sensations shot up and down my back, making me tremble, driving me closer and closer to my orgasm.
“Faoril,” Chaun groaned. “Oh, you hungry, cock-sucking mage. Oh, damn, drink my cum.”
I tried to block out his voice, followed a moment later by Thrak's bellowing grunts as he unloaded into Faoril's mouth. I pulled and pinched my nipples, twisting my pink nubs. I pulled on them, savoring the pain.
My orgasm built in me. Hot and amazing. Xandra's tongue fluttered harder on my clit, flicking over and over before she sucked on it. I bucked, my pussy clenching on her fingers as they pumped so deep into my silky depths.
My right hand shot between my thighs, pushing past her face, and added my fingers to my pussy as I came.
Pleasure burst inside of me. My cunt spasmed on both our fingers, clenching and relaxing, massaging them as rapture radiated through me. I moaned, savoring Minx's sucking mouth on my asshole.
“Saphique, I pray that you find what I seek,” I moaned, my pussy growing hot around my digits, juices gushing out of me. I ripped my fingers out as Xandra licked up my cream, moaning her delight. I brought my pussy-stained fingers to my breast, rubbing my cream into my nipple. “Guide me with your loving wisdom.”
Breast milk leaked out, coating my fingers. A tingle rushed through my orgasming body. I felt a pull to the right as I bucked and squirmed between Xandra and Minx, groaning and gasping my pleasure as I swayed.
“Right!” I moaned. “We should go right. That will get us to the minotaur.”
“Wonderful,” Xandra smiled, her lips stained with my juices. She stood up, beaming at me.
I had to kiss her. So I did. I savored my tart juices on her lips, my body trembling, eager for more sex. But we were in the Labyrinth. This wasn't the time to pull Xandra to the floor and devour her pussy until she exploded.
Even if it would be wonderful.
Thrak brought up the rear, Faoril with him, her ball of light bright and white. Chaun and Xandra were next, the avian holding her fire totem, a ball of dancing flame hovering before her, shedding more light, then walked Angela and Sophia, the acolyte guiding us through the turns of the Labyrinth as we moved deeper and deeper. I walked at the front beside Xera, our eyes scanning.
“There, a tripwire,” Xera said, pointing before us.
I squinted, staring at where she pointed. I could just make out a slight gleam from Sophia's light. It was almost impossible to spot against the gray stone. I shook my head in annoyance as I padded forward. I again failed to spot it. I had never encountered such cunningly hidden traps and alarms. Pushing down my frustration, I knelt before the tripwire, examining it.
“Why does it keep rumbling?” Sophia asked. “Is the maze really changing shape around us?”
“Maybe,” Faoril said.
I ignored them as I followed the tripwire to the right. It led to the mortar between two stones. I pulled out a slim tipped dagger, probing at the mortar. It was soft, a substance that only appeared to be solid mortar. I pried it away and revealed the inner mechanism for the trap. The wire held a lever back, a spring attached to it, taunt. It wanted to slam the lever forward and trigger something in the ceiling but the trip wore prevented it.
I looked up.
“False ceiling,” Xera said.
I nodded my head in agreement, my skin crawling. “Probably drops something nasty on us.”
I pulled my thief tools, rolled up in black felt to keep them from rattling, out of my pouch. I unfurled them on the floor, a collection of lock picks, small crowbars, delicate tweezers, and a pair of tin shears. I pulled those out and reached through the small gap for the spring. I took a deep breath and snipped the spring. It twanged.
“Okay, it's disarmed,” I said. I cut the wire with the sheers, the lever staying upright, and put away my tools. “We're safe until the next one.”
“Why are there even traps?” asked Sophia. “Isn't a terrifying maze that rearranges itself good enough.”
“It's to keep the Minotaur trapped,” said Faoril.
“A good reason to keep the maze moving,” Thrak nodded. “Else the brute would learn how to escape his prison.”
“But don't they send sacrifices in once every ten years?” Sophia asked. “Poor girls given to satiate the Minotaur's bestial lusts?” She hugged herself. “How do they make it through?”
“The custodian guides them,” Faoril said. “Perhaps there are records of the maze. Or maybe every ten years a certain alignment is reached allowing the girls to be brought to the Minotaur along paths with no traps.”
“Doesn't matter,” Angela said. “Time is ticking. We've been down here a half-hour. Three-and-a-half more, and then we're stuck in here for the night.”
“Right,” I said, standing up. “Sophia, there's a junction ahead.”
“We're going left,” the acolyte said as I walked down the corridor, my entire body tensed, searching, breathing.
Gods, it stank. I felt sorry for Xera and her keen elf senses.
A riot of sensory information bombarded me as we walked through the Labyrinth. A dozen different sources of stench filled the air, rising out of the bowels of the maze. Decaying corpses, molding cloth, spoiled food, the rank stench of an unwashed beast, old blood, damp stone, and the fester of standing water. Various oscillations hummed through the floor, some remote, some close, the sound of stone grinding on stone, the moving of metal mechanisms, and the regular click of gears twisting, turning.
The maze was being rearranged around us. A giant clock ticked away. And the changes sounded fast, the corridors moving with blinding speed when they were rearranged. I feared that passageways we had already passed through had moved. We would not be able to backtrack to find our way out of the Labyrinth.
We reached the next intersection. “Keep straight,” Sophia said from behind me.
Would her divination spell be thrown off if the Labyrinth rearranged itself?
I moved forward through the intersection. The bones of a corpse, covered in rusting iron, lay a few yards down the right hand corridor. How many would-be heroes were so hopelessly lost in the Labyrinth that they never found the Minotaur and died of starvation and dehydration? There were faded chalk marks on the wall and sometimes length of rotten string lay on the ground, signs that someone had tried to mark their back trail
I ignored those. I had to keep looking for traps. My eyes scanned the tiles, the walls, the ceiling and...
“Pressure plate,” I said when we were a hundred feet past the intersection. “Three stones in front of you and two to the left, Minx.”
The halfling’s head moved. “Yes, yes, I see it.”
I had tried a few times not mentioning traps to see if Minx would spot them. She had keen eyes, but she missed them every time. Maybe there wasn't enough light down here for her to see, or maybe the traps were too cunningly concealed for anyone but an elf to find.
Minx moved forward, falling down on her hands and knees, pressing her cheek against the adjacent stone, examining the pressure plate. It stuck a fraction of an inch higher than the surrounding tiles, almost unnoticeable.
The party stopped, Sophia letting out a frustrated moan. Chaun leaned against the stone wall and strummed his lyre. Xandra was right beside him, humming to the chord he stroked, her fingers idly tracing across the lines carved on her fire totem. Her ball for fire danced in the air. Beyond them, Thrak turned around, facing down the intersection we came, hands on his two-handed ax. Faoril pulled out her notebook and scratched some notes, adding a faint scent of burning paper to the air.
The click of gears echoed right beneath us. Tick, tick, tick. My ears twitched as I straightened, staring at the floor. It was so loud. Sophia, yawning, blinked and shifted on her feet, staring down at the floor.
“That feels close,” she muttered.
“Hmm?” Angela asked, her eyes facing forward, her kite shield strapped to her left arm, her right hand going to the pommel of her sword, prepared to draw.
The floor rumbled violently beneath us as the ticking grew louder. A great, groaning echo vibrated the floor from stone sliding on stone.
My eyes shot to Chaun. He leaned against the dividing crack in the wall, half on one side, half on the other. And the shifting happened fast. Fear shot through me, and I moved without thought, darting to Chaun as he blinked.
“Move,” I shouted, the groaning growing louder.
The floor shook. Xandra stumbled backwards towards me. I rushed past her and threw myself at Chaun as the back section of the hallway pivoted, turning to the left. Suddenly, only half of his back was against the wall as the corridor spun fast, carnying his body to the opposite side and the cutting boundary of stone.
My jump carried me to him. I crashed into him, tumbling us both to the floor as stone groaned and ground. Dust flared, the floor moved beneath us. Thrak and Faoril fell to the ground with a grunt. We slid, the corridor spinning so fast and then it stopped a heartbeat later.
“What?” Faoril gasped, struggling to stand.
“The tunnel shifted,” I groaned, rolling to my feet. The corridor, which had been facing north and south, now faced east and west. It linked up to a new set of hallways leading off into the gloom of the labyrinth.
“Las's putrid cum,” Chaun groaned as he stood, staring in the direction he thought was south but was really west. “Where did everyone go?”
“They're on the other side of the wall,” I said, pointing south. “it must be thirty feet of stone between us and them.”
My stomach twisted as I stared at the stone. I stood up, my knee burning, skinned by the fall and rolling as the hallway shifted rapidly. The clock mechanism below had stilled. I heard it ticking farther away, the violent grind of stone as another section of the Labyrinth turned ninety degrees.
“Xandra,” Chaun shouted as he stood up, staring at the wall, his shoulders trembling.
“Chaun?” I squeaked, staring at the solid rock that had been the corridor only seconds before.
It had swung so fast. Xera barely pushed him through before it closed. It would have cut my husband in half if she hadn't saved him. I gripped my fire totem, the elemental dancing with agitation, feeding off my emotions as I stared at the wall in horror.
“Where did they go?” Angela asked.
“Cernere's nimble fingers,” groaned Minx, still kneeling before the pressure plate, her knife prepared to pry it up.
“It moved,” I said. “Chaun!” I rushed to the wall, pounded on it.
My hand hurt.
“Oh, no,” Sophia groaned. “That's not good.”
“We need to get to them,” Angela said, rushing towards me, her armor clinking. She stopped by me, touching the stone wall. She ran her hand over it. “It looks like the other dead ends we passed.”
“Which probably aren't always dead ends,” Minx said, standing up.
I wanted to shake. I wanted to panic. But I couldn't. Not right now. We were in the Labyrinth. This was life or death. I had to keep calm, keep my fear under control. I had fought the knights and the imps. I could think and stay calm. I could act.
I shoved my hand into my pouch and pulled out my earth totem, freshly carved this afternoon while waiting for evening. I gripped it, feeling the straight lines carved into the kapok wood. I touched them, reaching out to the earth elementals, focusing my control.
“Open a passage for me,” I commanded, visualizing a tunnel through the stone wall reaching to my husband.
The totem vibrated in my hand. Elementals were around us, moving unseen, controlling the forces of nature, making sure the world worked in harmony as the Gods intended when they created it. The stone tiles at my feet burst apart, melding, merging, forming into the shape of a bulky man, the body to house the elemental. I stroked the lines carved into my totem, the pattern guiding my thoughts, focusing my will on its task.
The elemental's body grated and groaned as it moved. It placed its hands against the wall and pressed into the stones. The blocks flowed like gray candle wax dripping from the flame, spreading outward from its hands. They parted, widening a hole, the excess forming a dripping goop. The tunnel melted deeper and deeper, more stone flowing outward, forming a pair growing, blobby piles on either side of the opening.
“That's working,” Sophia said as the elemental walked inward, hollowing out the tunnel.
“Yes, you're doing very well,” I sang to my elemental.
I still held my fire totem in my left hand. My fingers stroked the triangular patterns on it, sending the dancing fire elemental after the earth, lighting up the tunnel. The sides were smooth. A river of waxy stone flowing down the sides and across the floor before splitting out to build on the twin piles at my feet. It bored ten feet, twenty feet, and—
Heat burned through my totem. The earth elemental flinched backward.
“Luben's fidelity,” I gasped. “Something burned my elemental.”
“There's something glinting in there,” Minx said. “Like gold paneling.”
I frowned, moving into the tunnel with the halfling. My elemental stood still. The melting stone had revealed a wall of gold at the end of the stone passageway. I frowned. Earth elementals could handle metal as well as rock. Both were under their control.
“You flinched,” Minx said, standing on her tiptoes to stare at the foot-wide area of the metal revealed. “Like your totem grew hot.”
I nodded my head. “It was like fighting the knights.”
“I think this is gold-chromium alloy. Like Captain Thyrna's nipple piercing but on a far larger scale.”
“So we can't get through?” I frowned.
Minx shook her head. “They must have covered each moving section of tunnel in antimagic alloy. Imagine how easy it would be for a mage or a shaman to get into the Labyrinth. They could just do what you did. Cernere didn't want her son to escape.”
“So how do we find the others?” I asked, trembling. Chaun was on the other side of the metal wall.
“I'm more worried about the traps,” Minx said. “Xera's with them. She can guide them through the maze. Probably.” Minx looked over her shoulder. “But I can't spot the traps without her pointing them out. They're too well hidden.”
“That's not good,” Sophia said, peering into the hole.
“Do you know a divination spell that finds traps?” Minx asked.
The acolyte shook her head. “I didn't pay attention to divination spells. I may have been licking the novices' pussies.”
“So, we just walk ahead blind?” asked Angela. “Or do we wait until the corridor shifts?”
“How long will that take?” Minx asked as we walked out of the tunnel. “If this place is on a ten year clock...”
“Las's putrid cock,” Angela swore, glancing over her shoulder. “And you're sure you can't find the traps, Minx?”
“Not without Xera or any magic.” She glanced up at me. “Can your elementals find them?”
“Well...” I frowned, thinking. “The traps are part of the stonework, yes?”
“So far they have been tripwires and pressure plates that use false mortar to hide the seems.”
“Let me try something.” I stroked the lines of my earth totem, sending the elemental merging into the stones and moving through them, examining them. I could feel it pass through the rocks and then the mortar. The different types of stone felt different like they each had distinct flavor I could “taste.” I moved the elemental down the corridor. I had a vague memory of where the pressure plate lay, but it was hard to tell exactly which brick Minx had been examining before the corridor shifted.
I had the elemental surging back and forth through the rocks, phasing through the individual blocks of the floor as it swept back and forth up the corridor. It flowed from stone then into the soft mortar for brief moments and then back into the stone and... The mortar felt even softer around one tile. Weaker.
I walked forward and paused before the block. Beyond the even softer mortar was metal. A mechanism. “The pressure plate is right here.”
“You sure?” Minx asked.
I nodded my head. “There's metal gears in the ground beneath it and the mortar feels different.”
“Yep, that's it,” Minx nodded, falling to her knees and probing at the mortar with her tools.
Sophia gave me a hug. “You're amazing, Xandra.”
I smiled. And then she kissed me. And that made me flutter in excitement for a moment.
“So we press on without the others?” Angela said, her voice tight, wary.
“They'll try to find the minotaur, too,” Minx said. “I don't think we have a choice. Not if we can move safely.”
“Las's damned, putrid cock and foul cum,” growled Angela, her red hair almost bristling. “Fine, let's move when you have that trap disabled.
“Well, that's not good,” I said, staring at the layer of gold metal revealed when I melted the stone bricks. My magic fizzled when it had touched it. “That's the same metal as Captain Thyrna's nipple ring.”
Thrak let out a grunt.
“Las's cock,” groaned Chaun.
Xera's ears twitched as she examined the metal. She pressed her ear against it. “I can hear them, but they are faint.” She rapped on the metal and frowned. “This is thick, maybe five feet.”
“Five feet?” growled Thrak. “Of solid metal?”
“Yes,” Xera sighed. “Xandra and Minx are on the other side, but I can barely hear them. They have discovered this, too.”
Chaun strummed an angry note on his lyre.
“This has to be the work of Gods,” Thrak grunted. “To forge that much metal around a section of the maze. Grahat must have been a demigod himself. A son of Krab, perhaps.”
“Perhaps,” I said, frowning. “Let me try something else.”
I sent out my air magic rushing down the corridor. I closed my eyes, feeling the shape of the walls as the wind rushed down it. I hit the first branching corridor, a T, and split my wind into two directions, fixing the image of the maze in my head. The winds flowed faster, the right wind hitting a V junction, my wind splitting in half. Now I tracked three. The left wind hit a crossing corridor.
Now I had six paths I followed, my wind diving through the maze, struggling to figure out which one would lead us back to our companions. But the maze kept splitting, turning, winding. I tried to focus on the image of the maze in my head, but it became harder and harder to keep track of each turn. My mental map grew fuzzy.
A wave of dizziness washed over me. I blinked, letting go of my magic and stepping back. “It's huge. It goes on and on, branching, twisting”
“And reshaping,” Xera said, her ears twitching worse. “I think our friends are pressing on.”
“Futile to wait here,” Thrak grunted. “If this maze is on a ten year cycle, this corridor might not shift again for that much time.”
“Let me try again,” I said, taking a deep breath. “Let me see if I can find a way to get to our friends, work back to that section.”
Thrak came up behind me, rubbing my shoulders, relaxing the tension. I sighed and sent out my wind gusting down the corridor. This time, I didn't split it. I guided it to the right at the T junction then right again at the V junction. I took any turn that would lead me back to Angela. I worked through the maze. I quickly slammed into a dead end. I backtracked, struggling to hold the turns in my head as I headed right, biting my lip.
There had to be away to the section our friends were in and...
The corridor vibrated, disturbing my wind. I felt it turn, move, twist, and... I lost my wind. The antimagic wall cut me off. “Las's cock,” I spat, snapping my eyes open. “It just shifted on me.”
“We need someone devious to figure out how to move through here,” Xera said. “This place was built by Cernere, Goddess of Crime. Her mind is a labyrinth. She designed this place to be difficult to navigate.”
“So we need someone devious,” sighed Thrak, glancing at the hole I opened.
Chaun snapped his fingers, a look of triumph on his face.
“I don't think Minx is devious enough to figure out this place,” I said.
“Not Minx,” Chaun grinned, his pointed ears twitching with his excitement.
We moved deeper into the labyrinth, Xandra gripping her earth totem in both hands, Sophia leading the slim avian girl as she controlled her earth elemental. Xandra walked in a trance, sweeping the corridor ahead of us, looking for any traps. She had found seven so far. Three tripwires and four pressure plates. Other than traps, we had seen nothing unusual.
But we smelled the beast. The foul stench grew thicker as Sophia guided us. His reek cloyed the air, permeated everything around us. It churned my stomach, made me want to sick-up everything I had eaten. I grimaced at the foul taste it left behind.
The Minotaur awaited.
A rumble, different than the scrape of the tunnels or the click of the maze's mechanisms, drifted down the corridor. The fetid smell grew worse. Sophia let out a gasp and Xandra squeaked. The rumble came again, like rhythmic breathing.
“We're getting closer,” Minx whispered as she padded in the lead, her throwing dagger in hand.
“We are,” I said, my stomach twisting. No Thrak, no Faoril, no Xera. Even Chaun and his songs might prove invaluable against the brute. The Minotaur was Gewin's son. None had ever defeated him on the battlefield. Even with Gewin's blessing girding my body, armoring me to the end of my Quest, I feared I was not equal to this task.
But the heart was necessary to reforge the sword with the Ritual of Reclamation. It would provide the energy that gave my ancestor's blade its martial strength. My pulse raced faster and faster as I peered ahead. I was still a knight in my heart, even if I was no longer a member of the Knights Deute. I would not flinch. I would not fail.
“Sophia,” squeaked Xandra. “Do we really need the High King's Sword? I mean, I know it's a dragon slaying sword, but...”
“It is?” Sophia said, blinking.
I turned my head to look at Xandra, jaw dropping. “What do you know of the blade?”
“Chaun told me on our wedding night about the High King slaying the dragon Dominariath, the mother of Dominari.”
“I've never heard that,” I said. Why hadn't Chaun mentioned it? Probably assumed I already knew it. “I always thought he was given the sword by Pater because...” I frowned, struggling to remember what I knew about the High King. Much of his history was purposefully destroyed by the kings who came later, those who split his High Kingdom apart and hated his prowess. They were jealous how he had united the known world beneath him. It was why his sword was broken apart and hidden so none could wield his power again.”
“Because he was Pater's son, right?” Sophia shrugged. “He was fathered by one of Pater's many affairs. I figured that's why he had it.”
“And that angered Slata, the favoritism,” I agreed, remembering her three Erinyes daughters. The Goddess of Motherhood held a long grudge against my bloodline.
The deep, rumbling breath came again. Xandra squeaked.
“But, I'm just saying,” Xandra said. “We're going to kill an unkillable monster to have a weapon to kill another monster.”
“Nothing is unkillable,” I growled. “We have your elementals, Sophia's healing magic, and Minx's alchemical weapons. We shall defeat the Minotaur then reunited with our companions. With luck, they will be heading in the same direction. I am sure Faoril has figured out some spell to navigate through here. They are probably moving in a tunnel parallel to us. It has been nearly two hours. We must keep moving to escape the Labyrinth in time.”
I marched ahead, my thoughts grappling with this new revelation. Is that how Peter won his initial glory? Had he slain a powerful dragon with the very sword I sought to reforge? Was that why the Lesbius Oracle had set me on this path?
It must be. A sword forged to slay dragons. A blade that could stand up to Dominari.
~ * ~
“It's really simple,” I said, grinning. “We needed a devious and cunning creature, something born of Cernere herself.”
“I don't understand,” Xera said as I stared at her.
“Chaun,” Faoril gasped. “Oh, that is brilliant. Of course.”
“Thanks,” I said, giving a short bow to Faoril.
“I am not following,” Xera said.
Thrak let out a rumbling grunt. “Yes, that would work.”
“A fairy, Xera,” I said. “A race born by the union of Cernere and Las. The God of Lust had tricked Cernere, desiring her beauty. He boasted of a Great Vault that no one could break into. I have heard it claimed that the Saltspray Palace held the Vault, but I have doubted it.”
“Yes,” Xera agreed. “I have seen it. Not that impressive. And it was built by dwarves according to Minx.”
“So Cernere broke into this Vault and instead found herself trapped with Las and a bed. He tricked the goddess of thieves so she bedded him and birthed the race of Faeries. Creatures born of two devious minds.”
“And I have my boon,” Xera gasped, her breasts jiggling as her hand shot to the four-leaf clover tucked behind her ear. She held it up, the flecks of gold glittering in Faoril's light. When Xera and Minx had broken into the Great Vault of Raratha, they had freed a faerie princess trapped in there and forced to be its guardian. Out of gratitude, Xera was given a boon, a single wish. “And she'll hear me down here?”
“Faerie are strange creatures, not bound by the laws of our reality,” I said. “They are their mother’s creation, able to slip through reality in ways that do not make logical sense.”
“Siona, Princess of Faerie, daughter of Queen Sidhe,” Xera breathed, “I call upon you to repay the boon you owe me.”
The four-leaf clover glowed golden in Xera's hand. It hovered in the air, dancing, twirling, spinning. Sparks of light flew from it and crashed on the floor. The shamrock danced faster and faster, a beautiful song humming.
And then a being was born, arching out of the golden light, wings shaped like those of a delicate butterfly fluttered behind her body. She was naked and lovely, her breasts lush and round, bouncing before her as she let out a sensual moan.
My cock hardened in my hose as the golden light faded, the four-leaf clover vanished. Floating before us, her body speckled with golden glitter. Her wings were purple spotted with black dots, golden dust drifting from them as they fluttered, holding her aloft. Her hair, a matching shade of violet, swung as she turned to face Xera.
“For the debt I owe you, Xerathalasia, I have appeared,” bowed Siona, her lovely ass almost thrust in my face, a purple bush, the fine hairs glittering with more gold, almost begging to be licked.
I controlled myself.
The fairy princess straightened and looked around. “Well, this is a most unpleasant place you have summoned me to, Xerathalasia. And that smell...” Her wings fluttered more. “But you freed me from my imprisonment. Ask, and it is yours.”
“We are trapped in a maze the progenitor of your race created.”
“Oh, yes, I can see Cernere's handiwork,” Siona said, darting back and forth, her breasts bouncing. “The Labyrinth where our cousin is trapped?”
Xera nodded. “We have become separated from our friends. I ask that you guide us through the maze and help us find them.”
“Done,” Siona said. She fluttered to Xera, her arms wrapping about the elf's neck. My cock ached more as the faerie kissed the elf on the lips, their large breasts pressing together, Siona's wings flapping faster.
A golden light flared from their kiss, shining bright and warm. I winced from it, holding a hand to shield my eyes. A note of pure laughter rang from the light, echoing down the maze, ringing back and forth.
And then laughter died. The light faded. Xera stood there, eyes closed, lips still puckered from her kiss, a purple butterfly with black spots resting on her lips, kissing her. The butterfly flapped her wings and took to flight, fluttering down the hallway, glitter drifting in its wake.
“Follow,” Xera said, darting after it.
Thrak clapped a hand on my shoulder, pushing me forward, a grin on his swarthy face. “Well done, bard.”
I nodded my head, gripping my lyre. I had to find Xandra before she reached the Minotaur.
Fear grew in me as we followed the butterfly through the maze of the Labyrinth. It flew unerringly, stopping only when we slowed. Xera pointed out tripwires we had to step carefully over or stones that we had to walk around.
I gripped my ax. At the end, there would be a fight with a creature never before defeated. A beast who used to walk the battlefields, an ugly monster who reveled in bloodlust. His own divine mother found him disgusting enough to imprison him in the bowels beneath Grahata.
And we marched to kill it.
I hoped Faoril's magic was up to the task. We could not fight the beast in a fair contest. If we did, we would surely fail. We had to use everything at our disposal, every weapon, every advantage we could eek out. If Faoril could bind him to the ground and hold him still while I brained him, so be it.
“How is your cum reserves?” I asked as the tension grew.
“Fine,” Faoril. “I've used up all Chaun provided, but I still have your power.” She smiled at me, rubbing her stomach. “Plus I have my vials. I can take on an army of Minotaurs.”
“We grow nearer,” Xera said from the front. “The stink grows and I can hear a great, slumbering breath. Rhythmic”
“Good,” Chaun said. “They haven't reached it yet.”
“Your wife is fine,” I rumbled. “Angela, Sophia, and Minx will protect her.”
His ears twitched and he nodded. “Let's keep moving.”
Faoril's robes swished as we hurried through the labyrinth, following the butterfly through the twists and turns. The fetid scent grew stronger and stronger, cloying every breath, leaving a foul taste in my mouth. A breathing swelled, rumbling and deep. It sounded large. How big was the Minotaur? Legend said it was a man with a bull's head, a great, marauding butcher of the battlefields.
My hand tightened as we rounded a corridor.
“I can hear our friends,” Xera said, throwing a smiling look over her shoulder. “They're ahead. Look.”
At the end of the corridor, a pink light bobbed. Sophia's light. The butterfly soared down it, Xera padding behind it at a jog, her naked ass swaying, her green hair bouncing down her supple back. Chaun picked up the pace, hurrying with her.
“Xandra!” he shouted, his voice echoing down the corridor.
“Chaun?” An excited voice answered.
And then our companions appeared, stepping into the intersection ahead, Minx at the lead, standing with cocky mischievousness. Then Angela, a smile crossing her lips, finally Sophia leading Xandra clutching one of her totems in hand.
Xandra broke from Sophia and rushed down the hallway towards her husband. Sky-blue hair whipped behind the avian. And then she was in Chaun's arms, holding him tightly. I smiled as I walked after, Angela nodding to me.
“What took you so long, Xera?” Minx asked. “I thought you would find us ages ago.”
The rumbling breathing stilled. Followed by a snort and a bellow. I reached the corridor's intersection where Angela stood, glancing to my right. Thirty feet beyond, the corridor ended in darkness. No, not darkness, a large room, open, expansive. I gagged at the stench drifting from it. A skeletal arm poked into the hallway, the tatters of rotten clothing still clinging to the bones.
Something moved, gaining its feet, the ground shaking. A bull snorted again. “I smell fresh blood and hot cunt. What a feast. Come, come, enter.”
Two eyes reflected yellow in the darkness of the room. The Minotaur.
Lady Delilah – The Free City of Grahata, the Island of Yalut
I flew through the lower reaches of the clouds as I stared down at the Labyrinthine Gardens below. Six knights waited at the entrance. I recognized them all, Kevin facing the stairs, Mary at his side. Flanking them were Philip and Danielle on the right, Richard and Lisa on the left. In the brush, I spotted the robes of Slata's priestesses.
The knights had caught up with Angela. She must be in the Labyrinth. Frustration surged through me. She was at the most dangerous part of her quest, facing the Minotaur. She would face greater peril down there then she will even in the Haunted Forrest.
And Kevin had arrived to interfere.
Everything had gone wrong. All the years of planning, of plotting, of piecing together myriad prophecies, of figuring Angela's exact route was unraveling. The journey she would have to undertake to reforge the sword and find the strength to achieve her true destiny had not gone as I envisioned. No prophecy was set in stone. The oracles' words were smoke. But I had worked so hard to ensure that smoke didn't billow away.
And Slata's interference threatened to destroy it all. My husband's dream smashed again by that bitch-goddess.
Killing the knights would be a disaster in the city. And I doubt I could reason with Kevin. Yes, I had trained all six of the knights. I had mentored them, shaped them into warriors as they rose through the ranks. But they had orders from the Lord-Commander. Angela was a knave now.
Nothing I could say would dissuade them.
Disaster. And all I could do was watch. I could only interfere if all looked lost. I had to believe in Angela. She was so strong. She had proven herself so much on this Quest. She could rise to the occasion. She would slay the Minotaur, emerge from the Labyrinth, and defeat Kevin and his knights.