Chapter 2 – Part 2: Labyrinthine


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You definitely took a wrong turn somewhere. But how? You were following a single path… But you might as well see where the left path leads; you can see more light up ahead; maybe that’s the street where The Pit is, or perhaps, the original high street.
This path merges onto another wider, longer road, home to another assortment of buildings. This one is completely deserted.


“Let’s try this again…”

(Ai-generated image produced using Stable Diffusion)

You turn back and return to the fork, ignoring the darker right side that you had rejected before, then keep going until you reach a point where there are another two paths; one going straight ahead, and one on the left.

Wait… what? When you first came here, as far as you could see, there was only one path with no offshoots; how did you manage to miss a T-junction? You couldn’t possibly have made a wrong turn before this point either, but this…

You pause, trying to figure out which way you came from. It all looks so similar in the gloom. You walk a short way down one path to see if anything stands out, then turn and do the same down the other, but the new angles don’t help. As you walk back though, you notice that, until you reach a certain point, it doesn’t look as if there’s a path on the right side at all; the entrance to that pathway is slightly narrower, so it all sort of blends into the surrounding walls. You must’ve missed it the first time, seeing the wider path on the left first and turning that way, oblivious to the right path that was now behind you. That’s not good; if the pathways are this easy to miss, it’s no wonder you’re lost. Never mind; you’ll just be more vigilant from now on.

Concluding that you couldn’t have come from the narrower path, you continue along the other, keeping a closer eye for other paths on both sides. Now, every doorway, arch or alcove is a potential path, and there are a lot of them; it becomes tiring trying to discern them all. In this area, the buildings, though still tall and imposing, seem residential. At times it’s difficult to tell if you’re looking at the front or back of a building. Few of the windows are illuminated.

The paths become dimmer and quieter until you can only hear the periodic drip of water and the gentle hiss of steam, along with your own light footsteps as you avoid rubbish and puddles along the damp cobblestone path. The air is warm and musty, with unpleasant-smelling patches of still air here and there.
Keeping a close watch, you consider whether you should be trying to get back to The Pit at all anymore. It’d be easier to stumble upon the high street. That place was big, loud and bright, unlike The Pit, which was dull, much quieter; hidden away. And you’ve had enough of this maze.

Then you see a side path. Then another a short while later. They’re everywhere now! And you can’t tell if they’re new, or if either one is one you originally came from. But, you decide to just keep going straight though; it’ll be less confusing that way. You keep going until the path seems to come to a dead end. As you get closer though, it appears to be another T-junction. When you reach it, you discover that the path to the left ends abruptly after just a couple of meters and leads up to another building. The path on the right continues. You look down the dark path. It’s getting late now. You mentally steel yourself and keep going.

As you follow the narrow, winding path for almost 300 meters, you start to wonder if you’re actually moving away from the high street completely and into a much larger residential area. You’ve been wandering for too long without finding a main road, so it’s a possibility. You’ll be lost forever if that happens.

You glance back for a second, wondering if you should turn around again. But, just as those thoughts go through your mind, you hear the faint echo of muffled voices coming from up ahead. You put thoughts of turning back on hold and push on, the volume and quantity of the voices increasing as you go. By the time you reach the end of the path, the hubbub of the new road is deafening in comparison to the silence from moments ago. The tall, closed-in buildings give way to this wider space, allowing the sounds to flow freely once again, along with a light breeze that smells of food, drink and smoke. Finally! You made it back to the high street. You breathe a sigh of relief as you walk out into the street, falling in amongst the crowd as they continue to enjoy their night. That was too close. You’ve had quite enough wandering around for one day.

After your little escapade, you have no idea where you are on the street in relation to the shop where you had your “meal”. However, it shouldn’t be too hard to find; you remember the look and names of several buildings in that direction. You shrug to yourself and decide to go right first, walking up the street and keeping a close eye out.
Nothing looks familiar this way, and before long, the road seems to peter out, so you retrace your steps, successfully this time, and go the other way. Nothing looks familiar this way either, and, now that you think about it, you don’t remember whether you’ve passed the side street you came from yet or not; you had been looking, but you haven’t seen it.

Not again…

Now starting to reach the end of your tether, you look around for someone who might be able to help; someone who seems friendly enough and is neither too busy nor too drunk to offer directions. It’s harder than you had expected. While some people ignore or dismiss you, others prove to be… difficult.
You ask one man if he knows the way to Slaryn House. He responds by calling you “gorgeous” and persistently asking you for your name. You move on.

You ask a loitering group of people if they know where it is. They laugh at the concept and suggest that you forget that place and come join them for a good time instead. You politely decline.

Later on, while receiving some patchy, uncertain suggestions as to where Slaryn House may be from another passer-by, the second set you’ve received so far which completely contradicts the first set you received, a stranger, smelling strongly of alcohol, saunters over and drapes his arm and much of his body-weight over you.

“Don’t worry, darlin’… I know where… Sss-slarid House is… ” he declares, much too loud.

He burps and staggers slightly, threatening to drag you down as you attempt to untangle yourself from him. Is that the faint smell of urine mixed with the alcohol..?

You hurriedly break free, mutter thanks to the other guy for his attempt to help you, and move away from both of them.

This… is getting ridiculous. Why is this so difficult!?

You exhale, then take a deep breath. Calm down, you’re just a little worked up, and a little lost. It’s not that bad. You just need to find the right person.

You decide to change tact and ask a shopkeeper for directions instead. You duck into the nearest viable place, and after a quick scan, approach the staff member who you deem to be the most suitable. You ask him if he knows how to get to Slaryn House from here. He tells you it’s not far, but you need to get on to the other high street across the way. You’re on a new high street that runs parallel to the first.

Ah, finally. You relax a little as he grabs a slip of paper and jots down some quick directions for you; first to get you back on track, then from there, back to the hotel. Just enter the correct side street, take a couple of turns, and then you’ll be on your way. You thank him profusely, then go back out onto the street and begin your quest once again, easily finding the first step of the way; a side street beside a nearby building with a painted “Balter Bros.” sign on the front.

You pause for a moment as you prepare to go down another dark, narrow alley, then trudge on in, initially following a single path, before coming across a fork. You squint at your instructions and follow the path to the left, then continue until you see a series of different off-shoots. “Prentor Alley” is the one you’re looking for. There are street signs around here? You struggle to recall seeing any this entire time, but figure that you probably missed dozens amidst the gloom and the collage of posters and building names along the way.

You look back and forth, trying to figure out which of the paths is correct, seeing no hint of a street sign near the entrance of any of them.

As you stare up at the looming buildings, checking to see if the street names are posted higher up, you glimpse something moving amongst the shadows behind you. Not a moment later, you feel something sharp pressing against the small of your back above your left hip, while a brief glint of metal flashes across your vision as a large knife is brought up and held against your neck.

A voice speaks in a coarse whisper.

“Hands up. Keep your mouth shut.”

You remain silent and slowly raise both your hands, dropping your little scrap of paper in the process. You can’t see the assailant clearly; he’s standing right behind you in the dark and seems to be shrouded in dark clothing, but you can see the end of the knife he holds in his gloved hand.

“Take off the bag!” he hisses.

The pressure against your back intensifies, biting a little now. Is that a second knife..?

“Hurry!” he snaps.

You close your eyes and consider the contents of your bag; the bag itself, a few bits and pieces, small essential travel items, your new clothes and leaflets, a small money bag… Most of your money is hidden in your pocket inside your clothes, and your battle axe is hidden beneath the bag itself.

He got the drop on you in the dark while you were distracted, but, maybe you can turn things around. You could try and grab his wrists, try to grab your axe, or try to topple him over you… But, he does have the advantage and it is very risky; perhaps it would be safer to simply comply and give him the bag. He might run away and leave you be, or, he might be distracted long enough for you to grab your axe and turn the tables.

You open your eyes.

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