I took a deep breath, lifted my leg and shook it. The spiders flew off. I didn't care to see what became of them.
I looked around the room and suddenly spotted a trapdoor in the floor about a dozen metres from my position. I bravely walked through the sea of spiders, stepping on as many of them as possible and ignoring the ones which climbed up my legs until I reached the square of darker wood in what I could see of the floor. There was an iron ring on it, just like in the cavern underneath the site of the Midnight Ball. On the trapdoor, I noticed something was inscribed.
I peered more closely in the dimness. The words had been scratched into the wood.
Solve this riddle, and the door will open if the asnwer you speak aloud
If you get it wrong, a foul beast will join this ugly crowd
What is a reflection but not in a mirror?
What is a repetition and not the original?
What comes in waves through the air but is invisible?
What is a method of location and direction?
My first thought was 'What could be reflected other than light?' My answer: Um... things (in contemplation), personality (in facial features), emotion (in personal expression) and sound. Now which of those were repetitions? Well, I suppose you could consider and feel the same thing twice, while personality was more fixed and steadily conveyed, and sound could be a repetition, either by making it one or through an echo. Sound came in waves through the air, too. I doubted the riddle was referring to waves of terror or some other feeling in the third question and contemplation definitely never travelled anywhere. The last question made up my mind. Dolphins (and potentially whales, I thought) could use something called echo-location to get an idea of where they were in the sea. They used this to circumnavigate obstacles and probably to find food. This was useful in the depths of the sea where it was too dark to see anything (no pun intended).
"An echo," I said loudly, feeling quite stupid.
Nothing happened. Seeing no horrendous monster, I knelt down and pulled the iron ring. The door came up easily. I lifted it so it was hanging open and supporting itself, then stared down into blackness. A ladder was all I could see. Hoping this was the way out, I began to climb down it.
The trapdoor suddenly closed above me. I was now trapped in utter darkness.
Kieran's voice floated somewhere near my ear. "Now let's test your fear of the dark ... and of the unknown. This is still the same level - you got through those spiders way too easily - and you have approximately twenty minutes left. The exit is a portal at the bottom of this ladder that you have to jump into. But you don't know if it's solid stone and you're going to get hurt and you certainly won't see anything."
Kieran laughed. "Good luck... or rather, bad luck, I should say."
He kissed my cheek, making me feel dizzy and almost loosening my grip on the ladder before disappearing. So he could float in the air? Well, good for him.
Now his presence didn't fill my focus, I could really see how the darkness was going to affect me. I couldn't see myself, which gave me the haunting, unnatural feeling that I wasn't there, and as my eyes failed to adjust, I began to panic. I seemed to have this instinct to be afraid of total darkness. Immersed in ... nothingness, I felt the fear build and build. And build...