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Author Topic: [June 2013] Mazes - Submissions Thread  (Read 3848 times)

Offline Autumn2May

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[June 2013] Mazes - Submissions Thread
« on: June 05, 2013, 02:18:46 PM »
Oh these deceits are strong almost as life. Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place. ~ Edwin Muir


Image by Dan Seagrave

Life can be very complex in the fantasy world. Characters are often presented with multiple choices on which path to choose and forced to make decisions without a lot of information. Nowhere is that more true than in the twists and turns of a maze. Now this does not have to mean a labyrinth residing under the villain’s lair, it could be the hedge maze guarding an enchanted castle, or the natural caves of a classic dungeon crawl. Even the sewer system in a modern city could be considered a maze if you are unfamiliar with the layout. New or old, big or small, the most important question where mazes are involved is always the same: Once you go in, will you be able to find your way out?

This month, your challenge is to write a fantasy story or scene involving a maze.  It can be good or bad, big or small, but it must be the main point or setting of the story. (No fan fiction please.) Once again, we are opening the contest to both prose and poetry.

Rules:
1. This can be prose or a poem. Be creative.
2. Maze (or mazes) must be a core element in your piece.
3. Prose must be 500-2000 words long. Poetry must be 100-500 words long. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits by any more than 10%.


The contest will close at Noon (GMT) on the 1st July 2013, barring any extraneous circumstances and voting will be open for the month thereafter.

Please post your entry below.  All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here.  Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy-Faction website in September 2013.

Good luck and Happy Writing!  :)
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 02:42:55 AM by Autumn2May »

Offline EmpressJaimie

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Re: [June 2013] Mazes - Submissions Thread - In My Head
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2013, 02:36:33 AM »
In My Head
By Jaimie J.
   Speed shifted in the backseat of Donovan’s car.  It was hard to find a perch where the fire axe holstered inside her trench coat didn’t poke her in the ribs or try to slice a hole in her jeans.  She turned fully toward the window and watched the lights of the Gorbals area of Glasgow whip past.
     It was a hot night.  Not that temperature could bother Speed anymore, but she could see fog rising in the back alleys.  Fog wasn’t good for wandering around old cemeteries.
     Tapping the glass three times made Speed feel better.  She imagined the glass fairies that lived inside the glass would be happy with three taps.
     “So, what did the doctor say, petite?” Laurette asked.
     “Nothing helpful,” Speed muttered.
     Laurette sat beside Speed.  Her legs were crossed under her blue peasant skirt.  Laurette’s dark, almond shaped eyes watched Speed from under long lashes.
     One, two, three, Speed tapped on her leg.
     “Come, petite, he must have said something,” Laurette pressed.
     “If she doesn’t want to talk about it, she doesn’t have to,” Donovan said from the driver’s seat.
     Speed sighed, “He said that he thought I wasn’t being honest with him and that I could benefit from more sessions to build up trust.”
     Carl snorted from the front passenger seat.
     “He also said he thought I might consider a prescription,” Speed said, looking back out the window.  She thought she saw a glass fairy wink at her but it could have been the headlights of a passing bus.
     “What did you say to that?” Laurette asked.
     “I told him no,” Speed said.
     “Just no?” Carl asked, leaning into the backseat.
     “What was she supposed to say, connard?  ‘I’m sorry, doctor, but unless you take the drugs and let me feed from you, all I will do is throw them up?’” Laurette snapped.
     “If she’d said that, I’d have to kill her,” Carl said, flatly.
     Laurette slapped Carl across the face and said, “Don’t you say that you…Salaud!  You do not know our Speed.  She would not be so foolish.”
     Donovan glanced at the seat next to him and said, “Do you honestly think the Prince of Scotland would have sent Speed, or any of us, if he didn’t trust our discretion?”
     Carl glared at Laurette and turned back around in his seat.
     Donovan had a point.  Murdock, the Prince of Scotland’s Nighttime, had dozens of operatives to choose from in the local vampire community.  He could have sent any of them to deal with the rumors at the Southern Necroplois.  Murdock had, however, chosen Speed and the three others.
Speed knew Laurette had been chosen because she had a mystical connection that was deeper than most vampires.  Donovan was on the Prince’s Security Force.  Carl worked in Retrieval, a part of the Security Force dedicated to the capture and ‘questioning’ of any who threatened the nice, quiet life of the vampires of Scotland living beside and unseen by their prey.
     That was the others.  Speed had no idea why she’d been chosen for the group.  She was just a slightly crazy, relatively young vampire.
     Analise Speedkowski, called Speed, was a computer specialist.  She worked for the vampire establishment so she was on hand at the Museum where the Prince held his Court.  Speed was pretty sure, though, there weren’t any computers lurking amongst the tombstones in the Southern Necropolis.
     ‘Expedience,’ Speed thought.  ‘I was there when the Second called.’
     Speed was patiently explaining to her Prince for the twelfth time that the disc drive of his computer was not a cup holder when his Second called to say the local TV news had run a segment on the old legend of an iron-toothed vampire haunting the twisting paths of the Southern Necropolis.  The Prince couldn’t afford to let rogue vampires run around his Kingdom getting themselves on the news, so he’d sent a team to locate the rogue, if he existed.
     “It is all nonsense, anyway,” Laurette said.  “A vampire with iron teeth?  Who has heard of such a silly thing?”
     “Oh, I don’t know,” Carl said, leaning his tattooed head against the headrest.  “I’ve knocked out a few fangs in my time.”
     Donovan pulled into the parking lot and said, “But why replace them with iron?  Then all you’d taste was metal.”
     Laurette shrugged as she got out of the car, “Some people like that, I suppose.  But I do not think there is anything out here.”
     Speed slipped out of the car.  She slammed the door shut and flicked the handle three times, just to be sure nothing would happen to the car until they got back.  Three was a magic number, no matter what Dr. Anderson said.
     Or maybe that was one of the things that was only in her head.  It was hard for Speed to tell sometimes unless she paid really close attention.
     Donovan spread out a map of the Southern Necropolis and the others gathered around it.  The map was split the map into four sections.
     “Carl, you head to this sector.  Laurette, you take this one.  This one’s for Speed and I’ll take that one,” Donovan said, jabbing his finger at the map to indicate where each of them was to go.  “One hour and we meet back here.”
     Laurette squeezed Speed’s arm and said, “Be careful, petite.  I do not think there is a rogue out there but there are spirits in this city of the dead.  Its paths are like a labyrinth.”
     Speed nodded.  She turned to head for her sector and bumped into Carl.  The tattooed vampire loomed over her and smiled.
     “Don’t get lost, little girl,” Carl growled.
     Speed pulled a tiny, powerful LED keychain light out of one of her pocket.  She turned it on and flashed it into Carl’s eyes.  Carl put up a hand.
     “Excuse me,” Speed said, stepping around Carl and heading off into the Necopolis.  She heard Laurette laughing behind her.  Speed stepped into a row of tombstones and into the foggy darkness.
     Once away from the well-lit parking lot, the gloom of a foggy night closed in around Speed.  Her LED light valiantly tried to cut through the soupy air but it just reflected off the fog.  Speed shook the light three times.  Damn things were supposed to be better than regular flashlights in fog.
     Maybe it wasn’t real fog, a part of Speed’s brain said.  Maybe it was a fog demon or the hot breath of some unspeakable creature.  The fog around Speed began to pulse like a creature breathing in and out.
     ‘Nope,’ she thought.
     Speed focused on a nearby tombstone.  She centered herself with some slow breathing.  The pulsing stopped.  Speed shrugged; it had all been in her head.
     Moving down the line, Speed stepped into a different row, went down a few stones, and crossed again.   The fog got so thick, Speed could only see a few feet ahead.  How were they supposed to find each other, let alone a rogue?
     Speed skirted around a stone memorial shaped like a veiled lady and, for a second, she could have sworn the statue turned its head.  She didn’t stop.  That was either in her head or it wasn’t.  It didn’t matter.  Speed wasn’t looking for a statue.
     Besides, everyone knew the story of Magdalene Smith and Mary McNaughton.  They’d been killed in a tram accident in 1933 and buried under the veiled lady statue.  If they wanted to move their statue around and run all over the Necropolis in bed sheets, it wasn’t Speed’s business.
     She walked another ten minutes or so, swinging her LED light back and forth over the tombstones, trying to hit each row three times as she passed.  They all looked the same.  Until the statue of a woman in a veil.
     “I passed you already,” Speed murmured.
     Speed looked up and down the row.  She couldn’t see very far and she didn’t think she’d made any turns but, as Laurette said, the Necropolis was a maze.  Especially on a foggy night.
     Shrugging her shoulders, Speed headed off in what she thought was the right direction.  She walked slowly, hitting each tombstone three times with the light.  The names were blurry with age, so Speed couldn’t make any out.
     Until she flashed her light on the veiled lady again.
     “Oh, come on,” Speed said.
     A wriggle of fear wormed its way into Speed’s stomach.  What if she’d wandered into a looping path?  What if she couldn’t find her way out before the sun came?
Speed pulled out her cell phone to call Laurette.  No signal.  She put it back in her pocket.  If Speed still had a heartbeat, it would have been pounding.
     Stepping around the veiled lady, Speed wove through two tombstones into a different row.  Setting off at a run, she jumped over another set of tombstones.
     Stopping, Speed shone her light up and saw…the veiled lady.
     “Not possible,” Speed muttered
     Flashing her light up to the statue three times, Speed took a quick, sharp breath with each flash.  The veiled lady loomed beside her, rising up out of the fog each time it lit up.  The fog pulsed and closed in on Speed.
     “Three bears,” Speed whispered.  “Three coins in a fountain.”
     Speed rubbed her temples three times and closed her eyes.
     Three.  A tripod to set her brain upon would be lovely.  A glass jar with her brain floating in it supported by three strong legs.  Made of titanium.  Strong, strong, strong legs to hold up her brain.
     Her brain was what worked and didn’t work.  Tricks.  Speed’s brain liked to play tricks on her even as it served up the most delicious computations faster than it took to microwave a bean burrito.
     Speed’s eyes snapped open.
     It wasn't possible for Speed to walk so far and still be at the statue.  Not when she’d only gone forward and not when she’d changed rows.  Her brain knew that, so…
     Speed stared at the statue of the veiled lady.  She focused and willed herself to see what was actually there and not what her brain thought was there.
     Focus.  Focus.  Focus.
     The statue faded into Carl’s tattooed head.  His eyes stared through Speed as if she wasn’t there.
     Blinking, Speed looked around without moving her head.  She saw Laurette and Donovan standing near the car.  Donovan still had the map in his hand.  Speed understood suddenly they were all as they were just after Speed had shined her light in Carl’s eyes.
     Speed saw something move.  It was a man dressed in ragged jeans.  There was old blood staining his shirt.
     The man headed for Carl.  He smiled and the streetlights glint off his metal teeth.  When he reached Carl, the rogue vampire tilted Carl’s head to the side.
     Speed moved her hand toward the fire axe inside her coat.
     When the man brought his mouth to Carl’s neck, Speed gripped the axe’s wooden handle.  She slammed the cutting edge into the rogue’s wrist.  The sharp steel bit through his flesh cleanly.  He howled and dark, thick blood seeped from the stump.
     Donovan threw himself at the man and bore him down to the ground.  The rogue hissed and fought but Donovan was stronger.  Soon, Donovan had the rogue on his stomach with his hands pulled behind his back.
     Carl clamped a hand to his neck and stared at Speed, “You…saved me.”
     “Don’t mention it,” Speed muttered.
     “I know this guy,” Carl said, kicking the rogue in the ribs hard enough to snap something.  “I busted his teeth out, what, five years ago?”
     Donovan hustled the rogue to his feet, “Thought you’d get a little payback, huh?”
     “I don’t understand.  That illusion was perfect!” the rogue sputtered.
     “Not perfect enough for our Speed,” Laurette said.
     The rogue shouted, “How could you have known the maze was all in your head?”
     Speed shrugged three times, “It’s always all in my head.”

Offline GroundedTraveler

Re: [June 2013] Mazes - Submissions Thread
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2013, 09:28:05 AM »
Just a Little Laugh
by Andrew Couch
The bus sped away leaving a dust cloud which slowly settled on the man’s wide brimmed hat and long coat. He took special care to wrap the edge of the coat around his right side protecting it from the dust, where the barrel of some long gun just barely peaked out from the bottom.

The rusted bus stop sign once read “Happy Rainbow Funland”. Bullet holes punched out the p’s and o’s and rust had eaten the last d. Ruppe had been surprised there even was bus service out this way. He had anticipated having to walk the 3 miles out from Redsand City. Why anyone had put an amusement park this far out was anyone’s guess. Only the oldest men playing cards in the park could even remember it ever being open. The dry air of the desert had preserved it though.. Mostly.

Ruppe strode the hundred yards up the cracked entrance road and through the entrance gate painted to be a rainbow. He jumped the turnstiles which didn’t move anymore anyway. He stopped just inside the entry courtyard near a dry fountain. “Bellach,” he roared. “Are you here? Show your poxy face!”

“Aww,” said a soft voice from everywhere and nowhere at once. “I thought you liked my face. Why else would you follow me around like a little puppy?”

Ruppe drew his gun and pointed it around the courtyard. It was as long as his forearm and made up of 3 barrels side by side. It wasn’t quite a pistol nor quite a shotgun, but a mix of both. The back of it was a rounded box with enclosed his right hand and whirred with gears. He had not made it himself, but had improved upon it.

“Watch where you point that thing,” said the soft voice. “You are likely to hurt someone.”

A darkness coalesced around the voice on top of a food stall across the plaza. The animate shadows under the noonday sun resolved into a figure. It was tall, straight and deepest black. It seemed clothed in rippling cloth but wore no hat, as a civilized man should. As the pointed feet formed on top of the stall, it came to life. The neon lights spelling out Candyfoam lit in red and blue barely visible in the bright light of day.

“That’s the idea.” The gun blazed in his hand and the letter C disappeared in a puff of smoke and the sound of twisting metal. The black figure jumped quicker than the bullets and landed on a merry go round deeper in the park which just peeked over the front row of stands. It began to move and play music. Ruppe’s arm followed the movement and loosed two more shots in quick succession, both missing as the figure jumped again. He felt his heart begin to beat faster.

“If that is the way it is to be, you will have to come find me. These sort of things are better decided in the dark anyway. Don’t you agree?” At this the park was plunged into darkness.

Ruppe had expected that. Well not exactly that, but something similar. Bellach’s normal reaction was to run away.

The sun was still visible as a white disk in the sky, but shed no light. The only light came from the food stall and merry go round which still filled the air with its ironically cheerful music. At the back of the park, the large ferris wheel lit up and began to slowly turn. He could still feel the heat of the sun above though it shed no light.
Despite this heat, he shivered a bit in the chill of the darkness.

Ruppe’s heart continued to beat fast and he could feel his palms begin to sweat. He was happy for the modifications to his weapon which would not allow him to drop it. It had happened before in such situations. He gripped it harder and looked around. There were no direct roads to the ferris wheel. The park was built to entice fun seekers deeper into the maze of games and food. He picked a direction and headed off.

Ruppe passed several dark stalls, their intended happy forms reduced to menace in the dark and shifting shadows of the ferris wheel. At the first intersection, he turned toward the merry go round and started down this new road deeper in the park.

“Test your luck,” shouted a voice behind him, light flaring at the same time. Ruppe whirled and shot in one motion. One of the gamestalls had come to life. A large yellow stuffed bear swung back and forth on its hook, one arm a smoking ruin. Ruppe felt his chest clench.

“You seem a bit jumpy, my friend,” said Bellach’s everywhere but nowhere voice. “Try to relax.” Laughter echoed in the park.

Ruppe ignored the voice and the lit stall and turned back toward his goal. He trudged off toward the merry go round and its music. The stalls along this way remained dark, but he couldn’t prevent himself from swinging his gun to the left and right.

The plaza of the merry-go-round was wide packed dirt. The ride spun in the center with its characteristic tune loud in Ruppe’s ears. No one rode the carved horses as they bucked up and down in time with the music. Two roads led from the plaza. One toward the ferris wheel and one seemed to lead directly back to the front gate. He had not seen that road from the other side, but could see the sun-drenched road from here. As he looked out to the road, the merry go round music seemed cheerier, more happy. Glancing back at the ferris wheel to his left, the dissonance in the music returned. What kind of maze wants you to be able to get out?

One foot after another, he made his way to the left. At each step, the music got louder and more dissonant. He closed his eyes briefly to try to banish the music. It didn’t work. Even though his eyes were closed, he could still see the merry go round. It was spinning faster and to his ears the music was speeding up. The wheel in his mind’s eye began to tip up.

The wheel tipped up so far that it came off of its track and began to spin on the ground toward Ruppe. He could see the carved horses and their eyes showed whites with fear. Ruppe backed away. The wheel whirled nearer and he could hear the horses neighing in panic over the increasingly louder music. They struggled, yet were stuck on the poles which pinned them to the wheel. It came closer.

Just as he was about to be squished, he fell to the ground. The shock of hitting the ground jarred his eyes open. The merry go round was still on its tracks and the horses were once again wooden. He picked himself up and ran toward the ferris wheel, breathing hard as he went.

Ruppe slowed as he entered the plaza in front of the ferris wheel. He forced his breathing to slow along with his steps. The massive wheel went dark and still. The park was plunged into darkness again except for the House of Mirrors across the way. He could hear the recorded laughter and exhortations from the automated attendant. It was however now in Bellach’s soft voice. “Come in if you dare,” it said. “Or are you frightened of what you might find?”

He jumped the turnstile and made his way into the building. The first room was a maze of mirrors and glass, lit from above. He could see himself reflecting from many directions. Bellach’s black form was here too. The mirrors and wavy glass walls made it look in certain angles that Bellach was standing next to Ruppe. Still other angles they merged, with Ruppe’s hat seeming to drip the swirling darkness.

Using the gun barrel as a club, he started smashing mirrors and glass walls alike. The wandering out in the park had tired him of mazes and games. He wasn’t going to play any more and just barged right through it. Showers of glass and mirror shards pelted his hat and coat.

“A bit of a childish tantrum, that?” Bellach’s shadowy figure formed, distorted, in an unbroken mirror at the back of the room. Ruppe shattered the mirror with a shot. “What are you afraid of?”

“You tell me. No wait, you have been telling me for too long. I am facing you and you can’t hurt me,” Ruppe said, failing to rise to Bellach’s bait. He rushed into the next room, pressing the fear incarnate, not letting it slip away and be ignored.


“You don’t have to do this. If you know I can’t hurt you, then what is the point in hunting me down?” Finally Ruppe had caught up to his fear. He backed Bellach into a corner and placed the gun to the darkness. A lit square appeared just outside of Ruppe’s direct vision, he would have to take his eyes off of Bellach to look at it. “You can still leave,” Bellach said. Ahh, it would be a door then. An escape from actually facing down the fear which had dogged him.

“I am part of you. You don’t know what will happen if I am gone.” The ordinarily soft, seductive voice had gotten shrill, insistent, desperate.

“You are right, for once. I don’t know. But let’s find out, shall we. First I want to see exactly what you are. What has consumed so much of my life,” Ruppe said. Ruppe approached the hazy blackness that was Ballach. He tried to take a deep breath and nearly couldn’t. Despite the pain in his chest, he stuck his face into the darkness. For a moment, the swirling darkness parted and he saw what he was facing. In the middle of the darkness hovered a tiny clown about the size of his thumb. The clown leapt back and the darkness closed around it again, but it didn’t matter. Ruppe had seen it. He broke out laughing.

- - -

“Are you getting on the bus or not?” asked a gruff voice. Ruppe stopped mid-laugh. He opened his dark adjusted eyes and blinked in the light. “Are you coming or not, buddy?”

Ruppe looked up at the bus driver, then back at the amusement park. It was still again and there was no one in sight.

“Yeah, I’m coming. I think I am done here,” Ruppe said with a smirk still on his face.

Offline DiscoGobbo

Re: [June 2013] Mazes - Submissions Thread
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2013, 10:32:06 PM »
Entity
by Michael Watson


From: Cn.vasquez@msa-ia.imp
To: ya.corina@msa-rl.imp
Date: 12:15 4-18-157
Subject: Got something new for you.

Yana,

Internal Affairs has started to declassify documents related to SANGUINE SKIES, that infamous and disastrous operation the Halseth Regional Department ran last summer. Our unraveling of Halseth’s…problems has been a never-ending nightmare. You know how the public perception of the Agency is that we’re a bloated, over-reaching, paranoid organization that piles lies upon secrets upon cover-ups? Turns out the Halseth Department is exactly like the boogeyman the media sensationalizes us to be and SANGUINE SKIES was just the catalyst to bring this all to light. Well…most of it.

But for such a vast shit-show, the actual details of SANGUINE SKIES are rather boring and nothing you nerds over in Research & Lore would care about.

Except for this one thing.

I’ve attached a transcript from the debriefing of a Halseth Field Agent that got caught out in the Wilds when the Talish shot down their transport. Their mission went beyond the second Line of Consistency up north. Yeah. Where shit gets weird. I’ve pulled page six to ten into this message, which is where the interesting stuff is. Halseth’s cover-up of this specific mission went pretty deep, for some reason. The Agent and Interviewer identities are redacted and I’m still looking for the audio file of the debriefing.

Anyway, this guy (gal?) had an experience out there, a record of which I’m sure R&L would like to stash away in the archives.

Enjoy!

*  *  *  *  *  *

Field Agent [REDACTED]: So, the next morning I woke up inside a crystal box.

Debrief Interviewer [REDACTED]: Pardon? You just said you made camp in a grove of trees.

Agent: Yeah, well, there’s a reason it’s called a Band of Inconsistency.

Interviewer: The landscape doesn’t change overnight.

Agent: It does when you stumble into an area claimed by an Entity.

Interviewer: …I see. Please continue Agent [REDACTED]. Be specific.

Agent: Gladly. Permission to be poetic?

Interviewer: Granted.

Agent: I woke up in a box of translucent blue-white crystal. Let’s call it a four meter cube. No ceiling, open to the sky. The ground was too-nice grass, like a pro ball field, but a bright sanitized white. The walls were smooth, almost slick to the touch. Climbing up and out wasn’t possible. The sun was just getting up, the light of dawn cutting through the walls and splitting every which way, tossing prisms and beams and reflections around like nothing I’d ever seen. Would have been impressed if I wasn’t so pissed about being caught by an Entity.

Interviewer: You knew it was an Entity immediately? Not a Wilds Wielder trap or—

Agent: A Wielder would have just killed me. It was definitely an Entity. There was no other explanation. We get some training for the weirder stuff out there, but it’s mostly academic and hearsay from the Rangers. There’s a list of rules of what to do. That’s all we can really prep. Can’t exactly set up a training run at the Farm, you know?

Anyway. With the sun up I could see through the walls. The crash was still in sight to the south. I couldn’t have been more than a dozen meters inside its…domain? Zone of influence? Whatever. The other three walls were blurs of murky light with only vague impressions of the land beyond.

Interviewer: If you were that close to the crash site and the edge of the being’s influence, why not cut your way out? It was obviously a magical construct. You had your wake-blade and A-MAG rounds for your sidearm, correct?

Agent: Bad idea. One of the rules for dealing with Entities is never upset them. They have a child-like intelligence paired with the ability to reshape their chunk of land at will. If you get violent, they get violent right back. If you go along with whatever game they’re playing they’ll usually let you go once they get bored or satisfied. Normal humans like us are novelties to them. A Wielder, Talish or wild, would just use their own powers to assert temporary control of the area, reshape it, and leave. They don’t make good playmates. We do.

Interviewer: Fair enough. So what was its game?

Agent: Heh. It was a god-damn maze and I was the lab rat. When I was looking at the crash site, my host opened a doorway on the opposite wall. I didn’t notice it at first, masked as it was by the wall beyond and the ambient luminescence. I poked my head through and took a look around. Left and right were the same. With no other options I said what the hell, grabbed my pack, and set off to find the center or exit or whatever goal it had planned for me.

The maze itself wasn’t the most creative in terms of design. All right angles and laser-straight passageways. But the crystalline walls varied in opacity, from glass window to cloudy marble. You’d think a maze with sometimes see-through walls would be easy, yeah? Then you hit your first near-invisible dead-end. The fifth time that happens you’re pretty sick of it.

I had the sun for direction, but that was a poor tradeoff. Almost better if it were cloudy. Hell, maybe it was and the weather was part of the Entity’s influence over that area. The sunlight and walls conspired to create layered, multiplied reflections all around me. I started chasing passages or turns that weren’t there, pure phantoms of refracted light. I had to commit to belief in a specific optical illusion to make any progress. Or not. All together it gave me a splitting headache.

I made notches in the corners with my wake-blade to keep track of where I’d been. Cut through the crystal like butter, carving out little hand-held pyramids of white crystal. The small cuts didn’t seem to upset the Entity and I could use the pieces as the proverbial bread crumbs for backtracking. I tried to keep one but it disintegrated as soon as we got back under the Field. Should have figured that would happen. You guys wouldn’t have let me keep it anyway.

Interview: That’s correct. Did you have any interactions with the Entity?

Agent: Not directly, no. At times, when I grew frustrated, I think it fudged the maze, opening new routes for me to find when backtracking. Spots I knew didn’t have a turn there before. But I never spoke to it or made direct contact.

Interviewer: Agent [REDACTED] when was your last test for magic latency?

Agent: Don’t you even start with that. I’ve been an agent for [REDACTED] years. I’m a null case. To even suggest I was Manifesting is offensive.   

Interviewer: Answer the question.

Agent: Four months ago. Routine check-up. All clean.

Interviewer: I’m just being thorough. Our knowledge of Entities is limited. Please continue.

Agent: Yeah, sure. I took a break around noon. The high angle made the reflections worse, turned the whole place into a searing white blur. I wrapped a cloth around my eyes and ate survival rations blind. Got moving again once the light faded to a tolerable level and began to make real progress not long after. It was apparent I was heading for the center of the maze, the murky outlines of the terrain outside had become rare by the afternoon. I started to see glimpses of a structure through the diffracting crystal walls, a pedestal in a courtyard. Such fleeting views came through windows of clarity in the intervening walls. I’m not sure if the Entity was being cruel and having a laugh or trying to keep me motivated. Both, I suppose.

I hit a lot of dead ends for a while there, making me lean toward cruelty over motivation. Got to the center at sunset, though I suspect the Entity delayed my progress in order to time my arrival for maximum dramatic flair. The crystal walls caught the sunset in their curious way and turned the passages of the maze into a channels of sculpted fire.

The center was a courtyard with clear walls and a chest-high pedestal in the middle. A crystal orb about the size of my head was perched on it. It was the only thing in the maze that was dark: black crystal that swirled with stars inside. I touched the orb. It felt like it was made of the same stuff as the maze itself. Nothing happened. It was stuck to its mount, so I couldn’t move it. That was all there was to see in the middle and the way I came in was the only break in the walls.

Interviewer: There was nothing else?

Agent: Nothing. Suffice to say, I was done with its game at that point. I took a few steps back, drew my gun, and pumped four A-MAG rounds into the orb. Four pulses of chemical green flashed through the entire maze. Gotta admit there was a little satisfaction in actually affecting the place, if only for a few seconds. The orb was unharmed somehow. And then…and then…

Interviewer: What happened?

Agent: The counter-magic energy recoiled back as if I shot an unshielded Wielder. Got hit with some feedback that knocked me on my ass.

Interviewer: And the A-MAG cartridges?

Agent: Empty.

Interviewer: Are you certain? No draining of energies?

Agent: They were empty. I brought the cartridges back to prove it. The shots probably like tickles to it. After that I guess it was done with me, a clear path straight out of the maze opened and I walked out. Not much else to report. I returned to the crash site to see if the scavenger critters had cleared out and the rescue beacon was still going. The maze stayed up on the hill for a few hours, bleeding residual light until well after dark. It shifted back to a forest by morning. The extraction team can confirm that.  They showed up around noon the next day.

Interviewer: Thank you Agent [REDACTED]. That will be all for now.

*  *  *  *  *  *

So here’s the kicker, Yana. The salvage crew sent to the crash site a week later brought some high-gain scanning equipment to check for the Entity. Might as well pin it on the map, right? They found no evidence of an Entity. Zero. They can’t move and there’s no way four A-MAG shots from a pistol would kill one. You got any theories on this?

I’m trying to ID the Agent but the SANGUINE SKIES files are scrubbed of his/her presence. I think the transcript was an oversight. Given how deep Halseth’s cover-ups and side ops go, R&L might want to make a few backups and hard copies of this, yeah?

I’ll let you know if I find anything more.


--Cain Vasquez
Investigator
Internal Affairs
Mystic Suppression Agency
My debut fantasy novel, Valkwitch, is now released in ebook form! Neato!
You can find more info and the first two chapters Here.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/M_L_Watson

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: [June 2013] Mazes - Submissions Thread
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2013, 10:10:35 PM »
The contest is now closed! I'll have the voting up in a few minutes. :)