And now he is a Risk Master! This is a mortal who can rule over all others and has powers to change the world. There is but one law for which even he is bound: THE SACRIFICED MUST STAY DEAD!
Four boys found themselves trapped within a magical labyrinth, not knowing how they got there. It was dark but that did not stop them from searching out the exit. Despite the darkness they had no difficulty in finding mystical totems scattered about its halls. Every so often the walls would shift and they would find themselves even more alone. The totems seemed to bring brightness to their world, as encompassed by the ever-shifting labyrinth, and momentarily brought relief but the relief never seemed to last long.
“Tyr, Haldor, where are you guys?” shouted Baldwin to the elder boys. “Are you safe?” It took much straining of his ears to make out their voices.
“I’m just looking for the hooting owl,” said Haldor. Of course, there was no owl hooting; Baldwin knew that at least the eccentric Haldor was as safe as could be expected.
“Everything is fine over here, though it would be nice if there were lights on. I can’t see a damned thing!” Tyr did not often get angry, but it was clear to Baldwin that his friend was losing his patience in this maze with no exit.
Once more the walls shifted.
“Anyone know where Cephas is?” asked Haldor. They could all hear the panic in his voice: they had not heard a word out of Cephas in a while. Too much time had passed. Fear spread like a plague among them.
“I’m sure he’s fine.” Baldwin uneasily looked around the corner hoping to find their lost friend. “I can’t believe this. I think I see an exit!”
“Great! Make your way out and get back home. We need all of the adults you can get to help us find Cephas and get the heck out of here,” said Tyr.
The walls shifted and Baldwin found himself trapped. Fear gripped him once more as he realized the extent of his trapped nature: six feet by two feet.
It was the same size as the coffin his uncle had been buried in when he died of pneumonia.
He felt truly alone. Baldwin knew he would never escape this labyrinth.
Cephas awoke with a start. The dream scared him but he would not let anyone see that fear. It was a new morning; the time for dreams and nightmares had passed. He was still whole.
After breakfast he met up with Tyr and Haldor. “Where’s Baldwin? I thought he was going to join us today.”
“At the last moment his parents stopped him from leaving. I was at his door when his mom came and told him to get back to his studies,” said Tyr.
“Yeah, yeah poor Baldy. Let’s just get on with it!” Sometimes Haldor could be such a child. That was all they needed to hear before racing out of the village toward the surrounding forest.
It was mid-morning when the three boys came across a sickly-looking old man standing at the entrance to the forest just outside of their home village. What foul creature set upon us this cursed piss-smell! Haldor thought as they came closer to the old man. Discreetly Haldor sniffed himself in his “offending areas” and came to the conclusion that the smell must have come from the lanky Tyr. It was not long before the old man spoke to them:
“Find these magical totems for me, boys, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded! Remember, it’s a scavenger hunt in a magical labyrinth where walls constantly shift. I would go myself, but only youngsters have enough imagination to make the walls shift exactly how they want. Have fun!” After listening and examining the old man for a few minutes more, the three boys left and headed in the direction the old man had pointed them in.
What a strange old man, they thought after they each received a list of totems to collect. There was something distrusting about the old man, thought Haldor. Perhaps it was the twitching eye, the red bulbous nose, or even his creepy smile that made the old man look untrustworthy, but Haldor went along with the game anyways. What could go wrong in a magical labyrinth? Tyr thought the old man smelled of onions and piss, though mostly onions since he suspected that the piss originated with Cephas, the youngest boy. For reasons he could not comprehend, Cephas felt a sort of kinship with the old man, as if recognizing a part of himself within that old visage.
Not far from where they left the old man Haldor exclaimed: “Look! My list only has one item on it!”
“Don’t you remember what he said?” sighed Tyr. “After you find each totem the next one is revealed on the list.” Cephas, the third boy aching for adventure, chuckled softly to himself. He always found it funny how Haldor would forget “the rules” yet always seemed to know what he was doing.
Cephas noticed Tyr sniffing himself and once more he laughed silently to himself. “Silly friends!” exclaimed Cephas, who secretly thought: I bet they don’t suspect that I like to mark my territory. That old man’s treasure is mine!
The sound of an owl hooting startled the boys as they walked farther away from the village and further into the old man’s game.
“Bowie, Bowie, Bowie!” shouted Haldor.
“Huh? What’s going on with you?” asked an extremely baffled Tyr.
“It’s OK. Haldor tends to do that whenever he hears an owl,” explained Cephas. When he saw a questioning look come from both Tyr and Haldor, Cephas continued, “Trust me. It makes sense. It doesn’t really matter anyways since Haldor is quite demented.”
After much nonsense talk amongst themselves, the boys came upon what could only be the labyrinth of the old man’s game. They stood agape at the many entrances unsure of themselves and whether or not they should continue. Cephas looked at the expressions on his friends’ faces and knew immediately what they were thinking: Can we really trust that man? Is this some sort of trap? Cephas addressed them:
“True, we don’t really know whether it is wise to continue onward or not, but sometimes it is necessary to take risks. Summon all your courage, friends! This is what we’re meant to do!” Once more they heard an owl screeching across the sky. Cephas continued: “The owls are not what they seem and besides, that’s just how I like it.” After much trepidation, they each entered one of the four entrances to the labyrinth; they knew better than to explore strange places too far from home, but they desperately wanted to see what was so special about this place.
They soon discovered that the labyrinth was alive: walls knew when to shift to trap each boy and keep him away from the other. It was a dark, dank cave that seemed to promise only delirium to those whom could only stare into the abscesses within. Luckily, all it took was the voice of Haldor to snap the others out of the oppression.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Once again Tyr sighed.
“The youngest goes first!” Cephas called out with great joy. He ran in and quickly found his first magical totem: a small wood carving of a bat. Once it was picked up, the cave walls began to glow faintly, enough for any to see with little difficulty.
The walls moved. It was time for Haldor to make his way into the labyrinth. After finding his first totem (a boat), a memory forced itself on Haldor. Suddenly he was fishing with his father in a dark sea. The Memory-Phantom confronted Haldor and told him: “Get out!” The vision faded but Haldor could not bring himself to abandon his friends. Once more the labyrinth shifted.
The youngest boy had no difficulties in his endeavor to win the old man’s reward. Map—Goblet—Dragon—Sword. More than half already found! Cephas would win for sure!
Tyr had found two totems already (rat and frog) when he came across the owl totem. An instinctive laughter came over him as he placed this wooden totem into his pouch. The laughter stopped when the lights went dark and the labyrinth began to shift into a design that he could not fathom. Unbeknownst to Haldor and Tyr, the labyrinth had plans to keep these two trapped. Though the labyrinth allowed them to find the occasional totem, these two were meant to be sacrifices as ordained by Fate.
For Haldor and Tyr madness was already setting in. Each totem found brought a glimmer of relief, but it did not last long. Soon, rather than trying to find more totems or even trying to escape, they sought to utilize the magic of the labyrinth to keep Cephas trapped as well.
It was a presence other than that of his friends that was guiding young Cephas toward his destiny and clouding the souls of his companions. Shield—Armor—Helm. With the last of the totems acquired, Cephas found his way out of the labyrinth and sought out the old man. The light of the cave faded as he made his way through a forest under the cover of night.
“You have returned to me at last!” exclaimed the old man. “Are you ready for your reward?”
“Yes,” replied the reluctant boy.
“Your friends will disappear if you accept.”
“I accept your reward,” asserted the boy.
The old man lost his grip on reality, his power being siphoned into the young boy. He knew the first thing the boy would try, as it had been the first thing he had tried. They are forever gone, except in his memories. To be a Risk Master takes much courage and a great understanding of the uses of limitless power. The boy had not yet shown understanding, but the seams of corruption did not present themselves on the boy. The old man, knowing his fate, smiled gently at the young boy. The Relics of Power exploded the old man and enveloped Cephas in light. A bitter storm came and washed away the boy’s home. Cities collapsed and panic spread far and wide. When the storm left, there was a new world in front of Cephas.
A new Age had begun and Cephas was its master.