Choice of Danger
“Promise me. Promise me. Grey…”
A pale light arose from the surface of the tunnel, casting dark shadows along the walls of the cavern chamber. Grey woke up startled as if from a bad dream. He had a nightmare. He did not remember what it was about. Only that it was bad. He looked to his side and saw Mylene and then collected his wits. Was he going crazy? No. No. Stay focused. He couldn’t fall apart now. He was a boy, and boy’s had to be tough. Today was the day they would into the secret passage. He had to be reliable for her.
He woke Mylene up.
“O?” said Mylene, sleepily. Her hands moved in front of her as if she was paddling through water. “Grey. I had the weirdest dream. We were in a boat, and it fell over. You said to ride on the water, and I was like. I don’t know how, and you did this thing with your hands.”
Grey frowned and began to tie a wooden water bottles on her back. “Don’t be weird. Come on let’s go.”
“Okay,” said Mylene, shaking herself out of her stupor.
When they arrived at the secret entrance the rest of the children were there waiting for them. Lee and Erick both brought a wooden bucket which they placed over their head for protection. Kayla had a piece of her blanket tied around her back like a cap. She carried a long stick with her pickaxe, while Lee had fashioned a hammer using a rock and left over planks of wood.
“Grey,” said Kayla. She looked happy to see him. “We are ready. We decided you were going to lead us. Go pick the place and we will follow you.”
“Yeah,” said Erick. “I’ll help fight if we have to fight a monster.”
Lee raised his hammer behind his back as if to agree with him. Grey stood there and thought for a moment. When people went into dungeons they normally formed groups to help each other. The question was who would be in front and who would be in the back? Grey talked with each of the children for a bit and came up with an answer.
“Okay,” said Grey, “I’ll be in front. Erick behind me. Mylene behind Erick. Leyla behind Mylene. Lee at the end.”
He delegated the tasks by how strong everyone was. Erick was a boy and was better protected if something hit him. Mylene was not that good of a fighter. So she was in the middle. Leyla was the person they all looked to when they had to pick a spot to dig for gems. She had good instincts. So he put her in the back to protect her. Lee was strong by himself and had the best weapon. He was best at the back in case they had to run away.
Grey looked at his selection. A mage had to be the brains of the group. If he didn’t come up with a good way to survive. Then they would be in trouble!
“Let’s go!” said Grey, raising his hand.
“Rah!” said the children, following behind him.
Grey walked along the tunnel, breathing in the musty air. It had been sealed up for so long that the air had begun to collect a cloud of dust beneath their feet. It was like a fine mist had rose up every time they took a step forward. His eyes darted left and right, watching for danger. They came across fork in the tunnel. There were three stone pillars in front of the fork. The middle pillar had words written onto it.
“Paradise or Death.”
Grey looked upon it and paused.
“What is it?” said Erick, looking at the pillar. He looked at the two paths in front of him and could not tell whether they should go right or left.
“I think it is a riddle,” said Grey. Paradise or Death? Did that mean one path lead to death, while the other paradise?
He looked at the right pillar. Words began to appear on its surface.
“I am the Pillar of Truth. I tell the truth so that you may live. You may ask me one question, and I will answer it.”
The children gasped and held in their breathes.
“I-It wrote something!” said Erick. “Is it alive?”
They all looked to the left pillar. Words also began to appear on its surface.
“I am the Pillar of Lies. I tell lies so that you may die. You may ask me one question, and I will answer it.”
“It really wrote something!” said Mylene.
The words in the middle pillar began to change.
“One will always tells the truth. One will always tell a lie. Make your choice.”
“Everyone let’s talk,” said Grey. “If we pick the wrong path. We might end up dead.”
He brought all the children together in a circle.
“What should we ask it?” said Kayla. “If I ask the Pillar of Truth to tell me which path is good. Will it tell me?”
“If it is telling the truth it will tell you,” said Grey, warily. He had read in his books that these riddles often had a catch to them. “But if it is telling a lie. Then you will be dead.”
Kayla face grew pale.
“What do you mean?”
“I have read that dungeons have many tricks. They are made to kill people, even when I went to the dungeon last time with Mylene. There were these snakes that looked like bridges. If you stepped on them. You would get attacked. This riddle could be the same. People who ask the Pillar of Truth which way to go will die. While whoever follows the Pillar of Lies may live. Something suspicious like that.”
Kayla’s eyes hardened. She did not expect something vicious like that.
“How about we ask one of them to tell us which one is the liar? That way we will know what to ask the other one?” said Mylene.
“It would not work,” sighed Grey. “Will the liar tell you the truth? They will both say the other is the liar.”
“Difficult,” mumbled Lee, shaking his head. They sat there for a while raking their heads.
“Should we split up?” said Lee, uncomfortably. “If we split up that means at least half of us will make it to a good place.”
Kayla glared at Lee. She did not like the idea of sacrificing anyone. She already felt guilty enough not helping Grey when he had gotten beaten up.
Grey echoed her thoughts.
“No,” said Grey, “If there is another riddle will we have to kill people off till there is only one of us left? We should find the answer or go back and think about it more. We can always cover the entrance and come back tomorrow.”
They all silently agreed, though none of them wanted to go back. The mines was a sick and horrible place. They sat and hurriedly discussed the riddle amongst themselves until their brains had become mush. Grey was about to give up when suddenly…a thought came to his head. The answer had been in their words. I ask so you may live. I ask so you may die!
“Ah!” said Grey, “I know what to ask.”
He quickly walked up to the right pillar.
“Ah!” said Kayla, “Are you sure you know what to say. If you say it we might not get to ask again.”
“I am sure,” smiled Grey. He looked to the right pillar. “If I wanted to go to Paradise. Where would the other pillar tell me to go?”
“It will tell you to go to the right path,” said the pillar.
Grey walked up the left pillar and asked the same question. “If I wanted to go to Paradise. Where would the other pillar tell me to go?”
“It will tell you to go to the right path,” said the pillar.
Mylene stared in disbelief. “Grey! How did you get both of them to say the same thing! The right path…is paradise?”
Grey laughed and shook his head. “The right path is the one that leads to Death!”
“What!” said Mylene.
“As for how I know. It is better if you figure it out yourself,” laughed Grey. His father said that being clever was something that one had to work on. If he gave the answer to Mylene wouldn’t that make her an egghead in the future. He did not want that. She had to learn how to be smart on her own.
“B-But I want to know!” pouted Mylene. “Tell me. I, your master, orders you!”
“Eh?! I thought you weren’t going to do that anymore.”
“Do what?” sniffed Mylene. “Tell me! Tell me now!”
Fake tears!? She was fake crying. Grey looked at her blankly not knowing how to react. He whistled and looked at the path.
“Uh…come on everyone let’s go!”
“Grey! Grey! Don’t ignore me!”
Mylene lightly pounded on his back playfully. He laughed as he teased her. For the first time since they had arrived at the mines. His heart truly became at peace.
The feeling lasted until blast of air came bellowing from the end of the tunnel. The air became unnaturally damp and heavy. A pressure that pressed down on their tiny frames, as if they were a tiny insect.
Erick tapped Grey on the shoulder. Should they go back? Grey felt it difficult to breath, but shook his head. He couldn’t believe he had made the wrong choice.
“It has to be this path,” said Grey. “Keep going.”
They passed what seemed like an eternity. Their legs dragging on the ground. Their lungs burning from the inside out. At the end of the tunnel. Grey’s legs finally gave out. They had made it. A large chamber shrouded in darkness lay before them. It was large empty abyss. A void large enough to have filled up an entire city.
Lee sat exhausted in the back. He looked into the vast darkness, trying to get his bearings. A speckle of light shone in the distance. One. Two. Three. A hundred. A thousand. The darkness lit up in speckled lights. They were stars. Stars deep under the earth.