The light entered Leonidas’ eyes as his vision flickered trying to piece together what he saw in front of him. He was too tired to move very far and scrambled to his feet by rubbing his palms on some nearby rocks. There were dimly lit torches jutting from the narrow walls, and skeletons and their scattered remains littered about the floor. He was only able to go forward, unfortunately for him, as he was placed down at a dead end. He screamed as soon as he regained his voice, full of hatred, resentment, fury, and sadness. A female’s voice laughed in the background.
“Welcome warrior to your first labyrinth, and congratulations on cultivating to the fifth level. Your abilities will now be unlocked, so learn to use them and stay alive. Remember Leonidas, what you want is on the final floor.” The voice cackled.
Leonidas cleared his throat and screamed. “Why did you do this to me?!”
The voice ignored him.
“Remember Leonidas, don’t die too fast. You’ll find answers along the way. Happy hunting!” It replied.
“Wait don’t leave!” he fell on his knees and cried. All the images of the carnage flooded into his mind as a gentle sound started playing through the speakers above. It was the background music for that unforgettable song he had sung all his life. It made his tears pore down faster, and his anger stronger. You’re all going to pay for this! He grabbed the hair on his head and pulled it. The female’s voice laughed one more time.
“I would move if I were you. You’re not alone in here.”
Leonidas turned his head looking for the voice before staggering forward down the narrow path. The torches lit as he moved forward revealing blood stains and hand prints against its corridors. Slowly, the music started getting louder, and he felt his lips quivering as he walked down the hallway. Three weapons were placed on pedestals at the end of the path. He instinctively grabbed the sword, avoiding the spear and bow and he donned the satchel while wiping away his tears.
“You have selected the sword Camelot as your main weapon. You are now listed as an Ancient Knight but are extremely weak. If you survive the fifth floor, we guarantee you will become someone we can’t ignore, you will be able to enjoy the music for a while longer.” Her voice disappeared.
The torches around him split at a fork in the path in front. He sprinted to the right and ran away from the music down the labyrinth’s halls covering his ears and hoping to escape from the hellhole in the safety of his warm palms. He zigzagged right and left, shrugged at dead ends, and finally stumbled upon an open field in the endless maze. It even had a house on the hill with a table inside full of food. A new verse of the familiar song played in the background.
“Survive for ten minutes and you shall eat your full, or, if not, we’ll clear you up until your nil. Don’t stagger or stumble, for that will be it. The monsters are voracious and need to feast! You must hang on for your wife to be. She will be waiting at the end of the towers tree…”
Leonidas laughed manically before drawing his sword. You think I can’t take a few monsters? He swung his sword around and waited. His laugh only grew louder as the monster’s charged at him through the grassland. The feral beasts approached with their fangs fully sharpened, with big amber eyes, and a furry mane topped by two long ears. They hopped off their strong muscular feet and poured down on him like a rabid storm. He gripped Camelot and swung leaving a streak of the chimera’s blood blotted on one of its nearby cousins.
The monsters were cunning and continued an onslaught as Leonidas found himself with his back against the house. He could smell the delicious food behind the locked door he was leaning on. It looked like a flood of monsters had come to his new house to visit him, regardless of how much he slashed, and his only solace was the waft that reminded him of what his mom used to make. The delicious food that used to fill his stomach after his hunting missions were over. He was hoping she was behind that door. The door opened, and he fell back as the monsters smiled and jumped at him thirsting for his flesh.
“Ah!” He screamed and looked down. The monster was gnawing on his ankle. Instinctively he pulled his leg into the room. The monster let go as his foot entered the door.
“You are late dear.” A female’s voice greeted him. “I was hoping you wouldn’t die so early, Leonidas.”
He got up off his feet and looked down at his leg. He could see his bone from where the monster bit – it hurt like hell – but it seemed to be slowly healing as he limped to the table. “Who are you?” he asked while gripping Camelot’s hilt.
“I’m not someone you can kill, dear, if that is what your wondering. I just work for the people above and make food for the ‘guests’. Here I made you your favorite.” She smiled.
He looked down and saw his mom’s cooking on the plate. Two pieces of ham, and a side of small potatoes. He instantly lashed at her with tears running down her eyes. His sword ricocheted, and he fell off his chair.
“I told you that it was impossible. I have a blessing on me, Leonidas. I’m afraid you’ll have to take it out on the monsters after you eat. You have ten minutes to finish that plate by the way. I’m afraid I have to go. Your wife to be will need food as well.”
“I’m afraid you tried to kill me. You lost your five minutes with me in the room, Leonidas. Please eat and leave your plate in the sink. Your mom would be so upset if you didn’t remember the rules.”
“You bitch!” Leonidas jumped at her one more time and swung down with his sword. He bounced back to the wall as books fell on him burying him in his sadness. The lady smirked before walking out the door before an idea flashed through her eyes.
“If you don’t eat right now, you won’t be able to survive the rest of the mission. Your body needs the nutrition now that your abilities are unlocked. I’ll see you later Leonidas!” She giggled and gamboled out the door.
It was a miracle a few minutes later that Leonidas got up and went over to the table and scarfed down the food. He felt his stomach growling, and finally mustered up the courage to eat through his depression. His first bite evoked a sense of poignancy, and a slew of memories. The bitch made it just like mom.
He would come home every day with animals from the bush since he was old enough to go with the hunters. Then his mom would cook it, and they would sing the song together, the only song they knew, after the speakers stopped playing it. He would go to bed to the beat of the tune playing inside his head. He almost began humming it as he sat at the table chomping down on the last potato. He pushed the plate away and walked over to one of the books on the floor.
“Beginner Arts For the Ancient Knight: Striking, Defending and Fleeing.” He read its name out loud.
Leonidas picked up the book as the lady who left it for him smiled. She giggled and turned to enter a walkway.
He flipped through the book, frowning with frustration, as all the pages except one were blank. The female voice once again played in the background.
“Your time is up, and we hope you enjoyed your meal. Please exit immediately and begin back on your journey towards the sixth floor. The room will soon kick you out, so leave on your own and save yourself the pain.”
Leonidas tried to put the book in his back pocket, but he couldn’t. He left it on the shelf where he found it and head out the door. A man was there waiting for him sitting on top of a horse.