Fate doesn't work that way

It started with three drunk gods, and one drowning mortal. It snowballed into a quest for destiny with bound gods, sky prisons, mazes of death, and far too many disasters.

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21. Death Maze

    It was probably only seconds, but to Lir it felt like hours. She waited tensly for the dark monster that had attacked her and Kanat to appear again, reaching for her in the darkness. But nothing happened. They slipped back into light, and she found herself in a massive forest.

“Wow…” Lir murmured, awed. She’d thought the plains were beautiful, but this was something else. Massive trees towered above them, darker green than anything she’d ever seen in her entire life. A river cut through the center, the sound of rushing water backed by a chorus of strange clicks and hums.

“What’s that sound?” she asked softly.

“Insects,” Nith replied. “Lots of insects. Don’t worry. They can’t hurt us.” She frowned. “Why would your shadow go here?”

Lir shrugged, eyes wide. She barely wanted to blink, afraid she would miss something. How had she lived for so long without this beauty? It was incredible. “I mean… I’ve never left the city. I always wanted to see places like this. Jungles, forests, oceans… I guess if the shadow is connected to my soul, it would go to a place I’ve always wanted to see?”

“I don’t know…” Jinea muttered. “This isn’t in your realm. We’re still in Phiadai. I can tell that much. So where…”

There,” Nith hissed.

Jinea landed on a branch, and turned. Lir turned as well, searching.

There it was. Hovering by a nearby branch was a shadowy outline of a human. It might have smiled, then leapt from the branch, flowing away down the river.

“Come on!” Lir yelped, drawing her knife. Nith lunged forwards again, springing to the air with a surge of power. Her black wings beat heavily as they shot after the shadow. Jinea struggled to keep up, still a mockingbird. And yet, the shadow stayed just ahead.

“Why isn’t it attacking?” Lir muttered. “Shouldn’t it be trying to fight us?”

“It’s connected to you,” Nith gasped. “Do you always… always fight when you could run instead?”

“True…” Lir sighed. “We have to corner it.”

“Easier said than done in a forest like this…”

Jinea abruptly landed on Lir’s shoulder, ducking her head against the wind Nith created in her speed. “I swear this forest looks familiar… I feel like I’ve been here before.”

“There’s a clearing ahead!” Nith called. “This doesn’t look like a forest…”

They burst out of the trees, and Jinea let out a soft gasp. “Oh no…”

A massive stone field stretched out in front of them. Huge walls of sand ringed it. The sand had an odd assortment of iron spikes growing out of it, jutting towards the sky. The ground was oddly flat, and maybe a few miles long, ending at a massive stone temple. It was definitely out of place in the middle of a forest. Where were they?

“Come on, we might be able to corner it against the temple!” Nith hissed. She was halfway across the field now. They drew closer every second. Was it just her imagination, or was the shadow slowing? Did it have something in its hand, or was that just her imagination?

Abruptly, Jinea let out a warning screech. “Nith, stop!”

It was too late. The shadow lunged at them, and drove a ghostly blade into Nith’s shoulder. She let out a cry of pain, and Lir found herself falling.

She was lucky Nith hadn’t been far above the ground. The fall still took her breath away, but nothing felt broken. She landed at the front of the temple, rolling down the steps to come to a rest at the bottom. She let out a groan. I’m definitely going to bruise…

She was still gathering her thoughts when she heard Jinea yell her name. “Lir! Roll right! Now!”

Her instincts took over, and she jerked herself to the right. She pushed herself onto her knees, then to her feet, turning to see what the threat was.

A glowing line shone where she had been lying moments before. She stared at it in confusion, when abruptly another line shot forwards, a few feet away. She stared at them in confusion as they looped away across the field. More lines appeared, forming something on the ground. A pattern. Like…

Oh no.

That was when the walls started appearing.

Run!” she heard Jinea yell. She bolted forwards, only to have a wall pop up in her path. She jerked to the right, and kept running. The ground shook under her feet, and she fell, rolling dangerously close to one of the lines. She jerked away, feeling heat radiating off of it. She had no doubt that it would burn her if she touched it.

“NITH!” she screamed. Her only hope of getting out of here was if the goddess helped her. The walls were higher than she was tall now. And still they stretched towards the sky.

She heard a thud, and saw Nith, still a gryphon, land nearby. She turned to look at Lir, eyes wide with what might have been fear. Then a wall cut off her view. She heard Nith let out a loud yelp of pain seconds later.

“Nith?!”

“Spike got one of her wings!” Jinea called from above. “Keep moving! You stay in one place for too long, you’ll die!”
    Lir looked up, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jinea, but she couldn’t see her. “What is this place?!” she called.

“Tith’s death maze!” Jinea called back. “It’s designed to kill people. You’ve got to keep moving! I’ll try and guide you, but it’s hard to see from up here!”
    “Then help me!”

“If I land, I’ll get trapped too! It’s already got you and Nith. The only way I can help is to stay up here! Now run!”

Lir bolted forwards, heart racing. She turned back, and saw spikes shoot from the walls, right where she’d been seconds before. She’d seen some pretty terrifying things, but this left them all behind.

I’m going to die, she thought as she ran. One goddess is trapped in the maze, the other can’t help me. I’m going to die.

She leapt back as a pit opened right in front of her. She turned and raced in another direction. But now the walls were closing on her, getting smaller and smaller. She heard a popping sound, and threw herself to the ground as spikes shot out of the walls, just missing her. She crawled forwards, then rolled to the side as more spikes popped out of the floor. Pulling herself to her feet, she kept running. She took a right, then a left. What was the trick with mazes like this? Always turn right? That didn’t seem to apply to this place. Then again, it was designed to kill her… She tried to keep moving forwards, towards the other end of the field, or back towards the temple, but she got so turned around that she quickly found herself hopelessly lost.

Eventually, she found herself in a dead end. She took a deep breath, turning to go back, when she smelled smoke. She whipped around, to see a shadowy form appearing in front of her.

Her heart leapt into her throat and she readied her knife to attack. But then she hesitated. This didn’t look like the shadow. More like…

The smoke coalesced into a single figure, that promptly fell to their knees.

Demon!” Lir cried, eyes lighting up. She ran forwards, dropping to her knees and throwing her arms around him. Subconsciously she found herself blushing, but she’d missed him!

“Girl…” he smiled. “Good to see you too. Where are we?”

“Tith’s death maze,” she replied. “You okay? What took you so long?”

“I couldn’t escape the cell as smoke. I had to wait until Tith came to check on me, and I flowed past him. You said we’re in his death maze? I always show up at the worst times…”

She smiled, helping him to his feet. “Ready to run for your life?” She should have still been worried. She was trapped in a maze that was trying to kill her. But at least she wasn’t alone anymore.

Kanat sighed, looking up at the sky. “At least it’s a nice day to die… Let’s try and find our way out, shall we?”

They exchanged looks, and then bolted forwards as the ground collapsed into a pit behind them.

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