The Gauntlet

Emily imagined her heart
would be racing now, trying to break free from her ribcage. There was a flicker
of light in the distance. Emily quickened her pace and walked briskly towards
the light. She found herself at a fork in her path. The walls were high and
made of ugly grey stones. She heard laughter down the tunnel to her right and a
hiss. "I wondered who they'd sssend to ssee me, I didn't think they'd give
me Lady Midnight!" Xaria laughed again, this time louder. Emily drew her
sword and ran down the path to the left. She looked quickly behind her to see
the face of a woman. Xaria had long black hair and pale skin. Her eyes were
yellow and her pupils were vertical slits. From her waist down she had a snakes
body, her scales were a pale green. "Why do they alwayss run? I jusst want
to kisss you" She laughed as she slithered after Emily. Emily ran down the
path and bumped into the wall. To the left was a solid wall and to the right
was a thin space she would need to squeeze through. Xaria giggled and charged
at her. Emily shrieked and threw her hands out and two crows formed and threw
themselves at Xaria. Xaria screamed as the birds clawed at her face, she saw
blood spurt from her eyes. Emily pushed herself through the thin space, Xaria's
screams echoing all around. Emily stopped hearing the crows cawing and thought
that they were surely dead. Emily raced down the path and turned to her left.
She could hear Xaria slithering fast behind her. "Sstupid girl! blinding
me like that! you will ssuffer" Emily could see a faint white light down
the path and ran full speed towards it. She could see a bright room and cried out.
There was a loud crack and she felt a large slimy tail wrap around her feet.


Emily flew into the bright room and the sword fell from her hands and she
landed in a bitter puddle. She heard Xaria laughing behind her and turned to
see that she was only a few feet away. Emily scrambled to find the sword and
saw it's blade shimmer in the light. Emily leapt for the sword and wrenched it
from the floor. She turned to face Xaria who was searching for her. " I
can hear you breathing girl, it'sss only a matter of time" Xaria's tail
brushed so close to Emily's face that she almost screamed. Emily looked to her
right and saw a large pile of rubble. She picked up a stone and threw it in
front of Xaria. Xaria turned instantly to where the stone fell. "There you
are!" Emily jumped towards the pile of rubble and began to climb. Once at
the top she saw that Xaria was tearing the wall apart. A stone grazed Emily's
arm and she let out a small gasp. Xaria turned her head towards her and smiled.
Emily leapt from the mountain of rubble and brought the sword down across Xaria's
face. She felt the sword hit home and Xaria's screams. The serpent woman
collapsed to the ground and Emily stood over her. Emily's sword and arm were
covered in blood. She ran towards a door and threw it open and slammed it shut
behind her. She was in a well lit room where Raegar sat by a fireplace. David
flung himself at her and kissed her cheek. "You're alive!" Raegar
stood up and laughed gleefully. " I knew you could do it! she's dead
then?" Emily nodded weakly, she wanted to sleep more than anything. Raegar
clapped his hands. "Wonderous! David, go and tell the game master that
Xaria is dead" David nodded his head and climbed up a ladder and out of
sight. Raegar smiled and took the sword from Emily's hand and placed it on the
table. He led her to a small bed and 
closed the curtains around it. "We'll talk more later, sleep well
Emily" Emily lay down on the bed and closed her eyes, drifting off into
sleep.               

                                                                  *

 Emily was in the same field, the sky was still red and the angels
continued to fall. There was a hiss and a large serpent slithered up her
shoulder and kissed her head. " Well done, Electus"

Emily awoke and pushed herself out of bed.
She found some clothes neatly folded for her. She changed into an olive green sweater
and some baggy brown trousers. Emily walked through the curtains and put the
now clean sword into its sheath. Raegar hugged her softly and handed her a bowl
of soup. He spoke as Emily ate. "You were fantastic last night, but now
you face the second round" Emily pushed her soup away, feeling that she
was full enough. "You will not be fighting anything this time, you need to
be quick on your feet. There are several pillars that are slowly collapsing,
your job is to get the key and unlock the door" Emily bit her lip as she
stood up, ready for the next round. Raegar pointed to a door in front of her
and smiled. Emily waved and pushed the door open. She found herself in a large,
dimly lit room. The floor beneath her dropped off sharply and all that was
below her was darkness. She looked to see several stone pillars around the
room, floating above the one in the center, was a golden key. Emily leapt from
the platform and onto the first pillar. The pillar began to wobble and she
heard it cracking. She jumped to another just as the one beneath her crumbled.
She leapt to another and chuckled. But just as she was jumping to the next, the
pillar gave way and she screamed as she plummeted into the darkness. Crows
sprang from her hands and took hold of her in their talons and lifter her to a
pillar. She heard applause from above and glanced up to see hundreds of people
watching her. Emily blushed slightly as she hurled herself onto another pillar.
She was nearly to the key. The pillar in front of her dropped suddenly and she
jumped to the pillar on her left. The pillar she was on rose a few feet and
Emily jumped down onto the one below her. Soon she reached the key and grabbed
it. There were more cheers and someone screamed. Dozens of scaled birds circled
around her, clawing at her face and hair. Emily shielded her face as she leapt
from pillar to pillar. She leapt onto the platform before the door and raced
towards it. The birds screamed after her. Emily drew her sword and turned to
face them. She swung high and killed a few of them and she launched a crow into
the air. She unlocked the door and shut it tightly behind her. Someone climbed
up the ladder and she was left with Raegar.

 He clapped his hands and beamed.
"Well done! it was easier mind you, but well done!" Emily smiled as
she sheathed the sword. She felt renewed with the thought that she had one
final round. "What's the next round?" Raegar grinned. "That's
the spirit!" He led her to the door and stopped her, he looked seriously
into her eyes. "The last round is always a mystery to me, only the game
master knows what you'll be facing" Emily gulped and looked at the door.
"You'll do well, you're brave Emily" Emily pushed the door open and
stepped into a dark chamber. There was no light, except for a very dim candle
in the center of the room. Emily drew her sword and walked forwards. The light was
not a candle, but a hooded figure. The figure chucked hoarsely and spoke in
barely a whisper. "Welcome Lady Emily of Midnight" Emily was slightly
startled by the figure's voice. "You can put your weapon away, it won't be
needed" Emily sheathed her weapon, blinking at the figure. "My name
is Altariel, The keeper of riddles" Emily tilted her head, eyeing Altariel
cautiously. "Do not fear me, child, I will not harm you, we must proceed
with your challenge" Emily calmed herself down but still wasn't sure
whether to trust him. Altariel cleared his throat and spoke clearly. "It
is greater than god and more evil than the devil. The poor have it, the rich
need it, If you eat it you will die. What is it that I speak of?"

 Emily
thought for a moment. What could be greater than god? She tried to think of
what the rich would need that the poor already have. "Well, you're talking
about nothing, because nothing is greater than god, nothing can be more evil
than the devil. The poor have nothing and the rich already have
everything" She smiled. "And if you eat nothing, you'll die"
Artariel laughed without emotion. "Very well put, you are correct"
There were cheers and applause from above. "Silence!" Altariel yelled
and the people fell silent. Emily nodded to announce that she was ready for the
next one. Altariel paused for a moment and spoke again. " At night they
come without being fetched. By day they are lost without being stolen, what are
they?" Emily rubbed her face as she pondered the riddle. "
Moonbeams?" Altariel shuddered, "No, that's not correct, one more
chance" Emily sighed and thought hard again. "Stars, they're stars
because they come out at night but are not seen during the day!" Altariel
nodded his head. " That's correct!" Emily smiled. " Ok"
Altariel sighed in preparation for the next riddle. " One by one we fall
from heaven, down to earth into the depths of past. And our world is ever
upturned so that yet some time we'll last." Emily sat down and began to
think. She sat and pondered for some time when she looked up at Altariel. Emily
frowned and shook her head, thinking long and hard about her answer. "Sand
in a hourglass, they fall down as time passes and they are upturned so they
fall again" Altariel clasped his pale hands together. "You
are....correct" Emily beamed and stood up. "There is one final riddle"
Altariel stood up and looked down at Emily. "What begins and has no end?
What is the ending of all the begins?" The answer came so suddenly that is
startled her. " Death, there is no end to it and everything dies
eventually" Altariel nodded his head. " Correct!, you have passed my
trial and are now free to proceed to the door" Altariel moved aside to
reveal a door. Emily thanked him and ran to the door and pushed it open, before leaving Altariel faced her. " Tread carefully" nodding, Emily
ran up the stairs and found herself in the bright moonlight of the island. There
was a large pavilion like the one on the mainland. David threw herself at Emily
and hugged her tightly. " You did it! you've passed the Gauntlet!"
Emily laughed and they ran to the pavilion to see Raegar standing and clapping
his hands. "Very well done!" He walked over to Emily and placed a
hand on her shoulder. "You have my favor Lady Emily, warrior of the
realms!" Lord Raegar kissed her hand. " Keep the sword as my gift to
you" David handed Emily her satchel and she pulled out the music box.
Raegar looked at them curiously. " You will not be staying for the
feast?" Emily grinned and shook her head. " We'd love to but we've
got places to go, people to see" Raegar chuckled and nodded his head.
" Alright, But you will visit us soon" he nodded farewell and walked
back to the pavilion. David opened the music box and the melody played. Emily
took David's hand and they were pulled into another realm.

 

The End

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