A Labyrinth… Rebuilt

In his nightly meditation before sleep Rod Rambler, glimpses the following…

~ The 13th of SET ~

In the near center of Wisdom stands the triangular lobed 20 story tall tower known to many far and wide as the Tri-Arcanum Magic Guild. A lone elf approaches the guild and knocks upon the door. Upon being granted entrance he politely requests an audience with Master Xerx’ses Goldenhorn, known as the Oathkeeper. When asked as to whom would be able to make such a request he said, “I am Jar’Eth the former Goblin King.” The elf went and sat down in a comfy chair and proceeded to wait as the nigh dumbfounded mage ran off to find Master Mustrum Ridcully, the Weaver leader’s second in charge. Soon Master Mustrum informed Jar’Eth that the High Weaver was not here but could be reach very quickly if he knew the nature of the visit. Jar’Eth nodded going out of his way to be polite and with a huff he continued, “Master Xerx’ses Goldenhorn has faced me for the second time in the Duel Arcane. Our first match was a draw and this match the victory belongs to him. So he has killed one god and now defeated the former Goblin King at the center of his Labyrinth. Alas, we had a wager and one I wish to be rid of. I am here to hand over my deific realm and title of Goblin King and Lord of the Labyrinth to him.”

In the lobby there were a grand total of 23 practitioners of the magic arts and sciences that heard Jar’Eth and all of them vanished as word began to spread about the victory among the magical community across the known worlds! Mustrum nodded and simply got out, “Just a moment, I will tack, err track him down.” Jar’Eth paused him long enough to provide instructions on what he was supposed to do if he wished to claim his spoils of victory. With that he left the guild in a state of buzzing wonder and excitement.

~ The 16th of SET ~

Xerx'ses the OathkeeperJar’Eth met with Xerx’ses in the center of the Labyrinth. No tricks this time. Just the Ancient Elf King God and a small army of Goblins standing lazily behind Him. “I will stay true to my word. I accepted your challenge, and then I conceded.” He looked around at the room then walked over and puts his hand on one of the walls longingly. “While I will miss this place, it will be a relief to no longer be burdened with its upkeep. These old walls have aged so, so much. They will not fare well once I remove myself from this place. Ah well, no matter. That will be your problem, not mine.”

He looked at Xerx’ses suddenly very serious. “But tell me truthfully – I must hear it from your lips with your own voice. You demand that I release all the children ever given to me from the spells I have placed on them? This is what you wish of me? Say it now, so I can hear it fully and know this was done with no regret.”

“Yes,” responded Xerx’ses confidently. “Yes, release them. Their life and fate must be there’s to navigate freely.”

Jar’Eth nodded, saying that he simply needed to be sure that was what Xerx’ses wanted. He suspected the children would revert back to their true forms and ages. But even he couldn’t elaborate on what that would mean for them – after all, he’d never done it on ones who had remained transformed for so long. Jar’Eth acquiesced. “Very well. I will take my leave now. In many ways you and your friends have unburdened me truly for the first time in many millennium. Just remember,” Jar’Eth said sternly to Xerx’ses as he walked into a nearby shadow. “This is what you wanted.” He casually waved his arm and then stepped into the shadow, disappearing both from Xerx’ses’ sight and realm.

The goblins remained behind and looked confused. But then one by one the magic which transformed them ended and they began to revert into the infants and young children of a variety of races – so many races that Xerx’ses could only identify a handful of them. There was easily over a thousand children present when this grand reversion began. The ground began to shake violently just then, as if rocked by a tremendous earthquake. Xerx’ses could feel something latched on and pulling from inside, something which was draining his power fast and threatened to drain everything he had if he couldn’t figure out how to control it.

The children, meanwhile, started to panic and cry. Looking at them now they appeared significantly older than they did a few moments ago. Watching them confirmed this terrible suspicion – they were rapidly aging. Some aged faster than others but all of them go through these stages faster than the pained Xerx’ses could react. In confusion and terror the children rapidly age from infants to toddlers, then to children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged adults, venerable adults, then finally ancient elders. The shorter lived races reached the end first but eventually they all got there. They just kept aging and aging, eventually dying of old age and collapsing into dust.

But there was no time to address that. The very core essence of this very young and inexperienced godling was at stake here. The Labyrinth trembled as it tried in vain to sustain its existence through Xerx’ses’ insufficient power. He could feel whole sections of the dimension withering away, much like the children before him, when his essence just couldn’t maintain it. The old structure finally begins showing its age as the ancient pristine walls start to crack and crumble. Whole passageways collapsed. The swamp of eternal stench drained out leaving a dried and crumbled pit. And every time a part of this dimension aged or passed away Xerx’ses could feel the most intense, unbearable pain. It caused him to cry out in an endless scream of rage and fury. He grabbed his talismans and when he tapped all of their power they turned to liquid and burned forever into his horns turning them gold!

After what finally felt like an eternity the quaking began to subside, and then stop altogether. At some point Xerx’ses fell to the floor, he realized with a start. He stood up and looked around, hardly recognizing the place. It was still a labyrinth, but it’s now an ancient ruin of a once mighty labyrinth and much smaller than it used to be. It looked more like the ancient ruins of his homeworld’s tribal home then than the glorious structure he recalled when Jar’Eth brought him here. He could feel it now as if it was a part of him, or an extension of him. It existed through him and he hadn’t felt this weak and diminished since he was a child. Most of his power had been tapped and was now tied up in maintaining this dimension. There was very little left. Even so, he could tell the ancient mechanisms that allowed the walls to reconfigure no longer functioned. The illusion magic which added to the luster and confusion of the place was entirely gone. This place was a shell of its former glory. An empty wind blew through the corridors and stirred the ashes of the dead but did not scatter them. The city at the center of the Labyrinth was now just big enough to be a large step-pyramid with garden styled grounds and smaller attached buildings and walkways.

Xerx’ses realized that he couldn’t restore the children. They died of old age – time literally caught up to them once Jar’Eth removed his spells. None of his magics could reverse that. The tricky Elf-King knew this would happen but allowed it anyway. Their souls though were now free to go to the Gods that had been waiting for their people to return to their bosom. These children disappeared from their worlds centuries and millennia ago. That they had already been mourned occurred to him but did not stop him from mourning them now. He had hoped to give them new life and a fresh start. Instead he brought them death. The Minotaur Godling pondered, “Was this better than being an absurd play-thing of the Elf King Jar’Eth for all of eternity?” Having only the stories of his people’s enslavement under the ancient tyrants to draw from at that moment. He became more and more confident that dying free would have been preferable to eternal slavery.

Suddenly, a high pitched voice called out from one of the walls and interrupted Xerx’ses thoughts. “‘Allo,” said a small blue worm as it squeezed itself out from between the cracks in one of the walls. “You must be the new owner. Can’t say I like the new look but what do I know, I’m just a worm. It’s a pleasure to meet you. You should come inside, meet the missus.” Just as quickly as he appeared he wiggled back into another crack and vanished? Xerx’ses wondered if the worm was a living manifestation of the Labyrinth and it finally acknowledged its new lord of the dimension he found himself in. Only time would tell about the truth of that.

Looking up he met 52 eyes looking around in wonder and awe. 26 children had survived because they were young enough to have done so. None of them were infants and Xerx’ses gathered a human might call them teenagers. Among those that remained there were: 13 Elves, 5 Human, 1 Wolfen, 1 Minotaur, 2 Dwarves, 1 Goblin, and 3 Ogres. The Elven children said they were from the city of Sulestan and the island nation of Phi. They ranged from 20 to 35 years old and most were happy to hear that Xerx’ses would find a way to send them home. Three of them (2 girls and a boy) said they wanted to stay because they had escaped a Giant led raid and their parents were dead. Xerx’ses nodded and said they could indeed stay.

The five Human children mentioned the city of Southwatch, and their parents had died in a raid upon the Eastern city. Both the Human and Wolfen children were surprised when Xerx’ses told them the war was over and peace had been reconciled between the nations. Xerx’ses could see the spark of magic in two of the Human children and the Wolfen. He told them all he would get them home and then to the three with potential he mentioned calling in a favor with the Tri-Arcanum Magic Guild if they wish to learn magic from him. All three of them seemed very surprised and agree to become his apprentices.

“I’ll need your chosen names as your true names have likely altered and we can discuss that at a later time. What do I call each of you,” asked Xerx’ses? The first to speak up was the Wolfen girl, Faustina, and she gave her name and that she hailed from the January Magic Tribe of the Wolfen Empire. Next was the Human boy, Emery, and his father had been a hedge knight newly made and died three days later on the front lines. His mother had said the words to the former Goblin King in a dark night when she thought he was asleep. He had been shown that the house was burned down and his mother inside during the next wave of that raid. Sarah, was the last to mention her beginnings because her mother had been a thief and whore. She was the only child nearing their 18th year as she was 17. Sarah’s mother had sold her body since she had been 12, after she began to bleed. It was Sarah that asked and prayed for the former Goblin King to take and save her from her life. She had not liked being a Goblin but it was indeed better than being sold as a piece of meat. The 25 other children looked at Sarah and then back to Xerx’ses as the strawberry blonde haired, freckled faced girl asked him, “I’ve already agreed to be your apprentice, but cards on the table if you treat me like a commodity I will try and kill you. I am so scared to trust you but there’s a spark of hope, please don’t let it burn out!”

Xerx’ses kneels down and the children see his feathered wings sprout forth once more to hug this brave, young woman as he takes a finger to wipe away a stream of tears, “I, Xerx’ses Goldenhorn, the Oathkeeper, scion of Osiris the Lawgiver, swear to take you unto my hearth as I do each of my new apprentices. I swear to give you, Emery, and Faustina the training to tackle your destiny head on and upon your own terms.” Xerx’ses wings moved out to bring the three children together, “As my guild is founded upon the notion of three being symbolic so shall you three, be my first apprentices, my triumvirate. In turn I charge you all to find three you wish to teach the art of magic to when I release you from training. You three agree to follow my instruction without question and remain loyal unto me as student as I must seek your betterment and empowerment as teacher. So say you three?”

“SO SAY WE THREE!”

The Minotaur child said he was 30 and his parents sold him to Jar’Eth from the Broken Horn Islands in the Lands of the Damned. He had no wish to go home if Xerx’ses would adopt him and train him to be a warrior. Xerx’ses agreed and asked his name, Mok’Tal, was the answer to which Xerx’ses told him he would now be “Mok’Tal of the Shandar Tribe” from now on.

The Goblin, Grugo, said she would stay and be happy to serve one powerful enough to make Jar’Eth leave. She had been descended from a tribe of Goblins that had become Jar’Eth’s minions and help give him the name – Goblin King. She had been in training to become an acquisition expert for grabbing items while on raids to get children. As Goblins went she was actually attractive even with green skin. Xerx’ses could see her aura and it held a small amount of psychic power, or at least power that needed nurturing. She was just shy of four feet and could pass for a pretty dwarf woman given no beard, and the right clothes. “Grugo, would you be willing to be my scout in this realm?”

“Certainly!”

Xerx’ses quizzed her further, “If you are the last of that tribe are you positive you don’t wish to be among other Goblins?”

“Nope, all I know is serving that crazy god! At least serving you might be more fun!”

“Remind me to introduce you to my wives once I get a gateway constructed. I think they would like your attitude,” concluded Xerx’ses.

Grugo’s smiled wicked bright, “Got it, see you’re shaping up to be fun already but I need a few more years before any knots are tied big man!” Xerx’ses blushed and could now give anything to get the image of Kel-ed shrunken down to 6 inches and Hannah flying off for a tryst out of his head.

Davas and Tovar were brothers and it was their sister that had wished them away and just never wanted to go back to that family. If Xerx’ses could find them a new family they would become faithful followers of his. Xerx’ses nodded and mentioned knowing a group in Bizantium and their king. The two Dwarven boys were excited and fell to their knees in prayer and praise of the Minotaur. Lastly were the three Ogres that mentioned being taken from a battlefield where Jar’Eth masqueraded as a Timiro Officer on the front taking surrender and servitude to spare the lives of the forces he was fighting. When the Minotaur Godling asked about his second, Ogre wife, Zavroka, all of them mentioned they were of her tribe and Xerx’ses relayed the tale how they came to be wed. They pledged themselves to the Minotaur Godling and settled in near Mok’Tal and the three apprentices as Xerx’ses figured out how to get a doorway opened up back home.

He concentrated on those that prayed to him and asked that for the next week they pray more often. It took a few hours but he could soon start to feel a resurgence of energy. He began building an archway.

 

6 Responses to “A Labyrinth… Rebuilt

  • So my minotaur ended up in a labyrinth after all, how stereotypical, LOL!

    My thanks to @Glistam for helping with the log for this tale.

    • A suitable end to a great character arc! Well done!

  • That’s a lot of kids now living in a decrepit labyrinth with Xerx’ses. Do we need to call CPS?

  • It seems Xerx’ses has started his own little Labyrinth of sorts…Instead of children being wished away in anger or spite, they come of their own free will to help grow this place into something good…

    Hmmm…”a large step-pyramid”…sounds like we will need to add a piece here and make it a full fledged Pyramid of the light. Maybe that will help this place turn around.

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