The tunnels we climbed through forked and curved many times. The tunnels weren’t uniform. They narrowed and widened without the order I desperately wanted. I kept having to bend over in some places in order to fit into the cave, often followed by a brief reprieve before I was forced to bend over again.
John navigated through the passages with confidence. It was reassuring to know that at least he was familiar with the terrain we were walking over. I wondered how long it took for him to become so familiar with his surroundings. He had years to search this place.
I watched as John stopped and leaned up against the side of the game.
“This is as far as I can take you. I don’t know much about what lies down this cave. I watched as two of my closest friends were splattered onto the rocky cave wall. Be careful and make sure you keep pounding spikes into the rock to keep your line intact.”
I stood in place as I watched John walk away until he’d disappeared through some of the tunnels we came from. I didn’t know what I got myself into and wondered whether I’d gone too far and was out of my league. I squashed the thought. I was out of my league the moment I accepted the quest to kill the dragon. I’d just have to be cautious. The last thing I wanted was to be surprised by a deadly minotaur.
I walked down the tunnel. It wasn’t much different from any of the other tunnels I’d been in. Quite frankly, I was starting to become tired of tunnels. Moving was slower than it had been behind John. Every ten feet or so I’d hammer a spike into the ground and secure my string to it. It was a methodical process. I couldn’t afford to have the string become unattached.
It wasn’t long before a fork in the tunnel greeted me. Where the Minotaur was I didn’t know, so it didn’t matter which path I took. I chose the right and not because it was any better than the left. It was just a gamble. I hoped I was right. I had never been lucky.
A long time ago, when I was a much smaller and slightly less wise golem there was a game I would play with the other children. Bog had learned the game from a goblin who was playing the game with some other ugly little goblins. It was a dice game and the goblins had been kind enough to sell bog their dice for two horrible screams and a complimentary pin. I couldn’t remember which goblin he said he pinned to the ground but whoever it was apparently wasn’t very grateful.
We each were assigned a number on the dice if our number was face down we’d win. Bog picked six as his number. Every number was snatched up by a child in the tribe. A few of the young golems had to share a number but that was their fault for being the littlest. I had number one which the dice never seemed to land on. We rolled the dice over and over again with the same result. Bog won every time. I learned three things playing that game. Golems weren’t graced with luck by the gods, goblins were addicted to dice games, and six is the heaviest number.
Like always, I’d have to compensate for my lack of luck by working harder and being more diligent. How that applied to the passage I picked I didn’t know, but I would find out soon enough.
Soon an opening emerged and a strange sensation touched my feet. As I looked down I saw grass beneath my feet. It shouldn’t have been there, not without sunlight, not without any fertile soil. The grass color was pure white but its shape was unmistakably that of grass. As I looked around I noticed a tree. Its petals were the same white as the grass with a pitch black trunk. I could see small fruit growing on its branches.
Its thick gnarled ebony roots jutted into the ground keeping the large tree upright. There was no wind in the cave but the shimmering leaves suggested otherwise. I decided to have a closer look at the tree. Something was strange about this room, an almost artificial feeling coming from it.
I slowly stuck out my hand to touch the tree. Suddenly, it stops. No more swaying of the grass or even the petals. I froze not knowing what I had done.
“How dare you!” echoed throughout the room.
I turned to look at whatever had spoken but I saw no one. I shifted around uncomfortably and glanced in all directions trying to find the location of the voice. It was no use, the echo masked the location of the sound.
“You come to my place and meddle with my prize work. Why have you come into my land and almost ruined a decade’s worth of work! There is no place for you here golem. Tell me why are you intruding on my lands.”
“I was told I’d find a minotaur down this cave and that I needed to slay it. It's killed at least two people that I know of. ”
“Is that so? Can you even name the people I’ve killed, or do you just listen to anything someone tells you?”
I was stumped.
“Why would John lie to me? He gave me some gear to even help me fight the beast.”
An audible groan echoed throughout the cave. I still was unable to place where the voice was coming from.
“From the gear, you have on you, I don’t think the person that set you up to kill me is named John. “
Gust of wind blew over me and the minotaur appeared. He was large and muscular. A staff was held in one of his hands and a lantern in the other. He wore modest brown robes that I’d seen on common folk. It wasn’t as tough as leather but it was much lighter.
“I’m Goran, an artificer and an illusionist. I’ve been trapped down here in the caves for a century. The man you call John came with me on the same expedition to explore labyrinth for the mages guild.”
“How do I know you’re not lying?”
“You don’t but you also don’t know that your beloved friend John was telling the truth either. Go check the chord John gave you. Tell me if it’s still intact.”
I walked back to the tunnel, to the rope that was marking where I came from. It was still where I left it. I tugged on the rope, only to find that it was loose. That wasn’t right. It should be impossible to pull the rope that was anchored in the small village.
I pulled and pulled on the rope. It wasn’t long before the other end came into sight. The rope was sheared off.
It seemed like the minotaur was right. I headed back into the minotaur's home. I needed answers.