Level 9

1. The door behind me closed and I found myself in a hallway with moderately high ceilings. A pile of bones moldered near the door, but otherwise the area was empty. I explored the area, found one floor tile to the east that fell, but eventually decided the only route to take was west. As I ran, more floor tiles fell behind me.

2. When I reached more solid footing, I stopped and fought a goblin head that attacked with its usual shriek and gaping maw. My new-found weapon made short work of the monster, and I surveyed my surroundings.

A potion lay one landing below me, across a wide gap. I had no need of it, but knew that a jump from the eastern ledge would take me to it. However I decided to pass it by. I got a running start, jumped to clear the gap, and headed west. When I landed on the other side, a floor tile fell, smashing the healing potion, I think.

3. Which way to go? Should I try the upper path or the lower? I chose the lower path first.

Looking down, I saw a serpent slithering in my general direction. I jumped over it and then killed it from behind. It never turned around and was easily dispatched. I ran on westward.

4. Another goblin head attacked. This one was very aggressive, and I lost some flesh to its razor teeth. Fortunately, a healing potion lay just beyond and drinking it refreshed me and partially healed the wound.

5. Another monster head! And this one tougher than the last! It took three good strokes to dispatch the creature, leaving the way open to another healing potion. I drank and continued on.

6. I continued forward, but stopped just in time to avoid being sliced in two by a hidden blade trap. I crawled under the diabolical device and hurried forward.

7. Two more hideous heads came screaming to the attack, and I fought them off with all my skill. Then, as I ran forward, I stepped on a falling floor tile. Curious, I decided to investigate the gap made by the falling floor, but first I went a little way further west.

8. I had reached the end of the fortress and now stood on a rubble-filled plain. Broken walls and fallen columns lay strewn about, but my attention was drawn to the one dominating landmark in the area. It was a great statue of a horse, carved in full life size from alabaster-white marble. Magnificent! The sculptor must have been a master, for the horse was ture in every detail, and none of the erosion that had battered the fortress itself seemed to have affected the statue. I I tried to climb onto the statue to see it closer, but could not reach the base

9. I reached desert-like plain. I was at the top of a high plateau and the north. purple mountains stretched into the distance to the north. I ran west...

10. I saw one serpent and easily dispatched of it. I continued west.

11. I saw a huge rock. Hidden behind it was another Life Enhancement Potion! How it got out into the middle of a desert plain, I could only guess. I headed west again...

12. ...and again..

13. ...and once again.

14. I came to a sudden halt. In my headlong rush, I almost miscalculated and nearly fell to my death from a great cliff. Below I could see a raging river that stretched from north to south, and to the north, a huge temple atop a high mountain. But there was no way for for me to cross the gorge at whose brink I stood. The way down was steep and unstable to climb, and reluctantly I returned I tay I had come.

13-8. I ran back across the plateau to the statue. What secret did this statue hide? I was beginning to think it must have some magic in it, or it would have been destroyed long ago. But I could not get up to inspect it more closely I turned and headed east, thinking that perhaps I had missed something before.

7. On my way back, I remembered the floor tile that had fallen before. I climbed into the gap it had left.

15. I found a low hallway leading east. Once I dropped into it. I had no choice but to follow it. I drank down a healing potion and continued east.

16. I spotted a blade trap, but before I dared to crawl under it, one more danger approached. It was a serpent. I drew my sword and waited until it was close enough to hit. The serpent coiled, ready to strike, but I was faster. My new blade sliced the creature in half. I crawled under the blade and continued east.

17. Two more snakes appeared. I cut the first as it tried to strike. The second continued away from me, and I continued east, but carefully, with my sword drawn.

18. The second snake had slithered toward a gate at the end of the hallway. I approached slowly triggering a pressure plate that opened the gate. When I was close enough, I sliced it in half. I drank another healing potion and ducked down to discover a tunnel leading further east. I crawled cautiously through the tunnel.

19. A serpent went into its hole ahead of me, and with a feeling of heavy dread, I crawled under a blade trap directly over the same hole! Then, just as I began to crawl, the creature emerged and began to slither east. I was going the same way, but I didn't relish following the serpent. It crawled into another hole just past the blade trap.

I saw that my path lay upward where its path lay downward, so I stood on top of the hole and jumped to the upper landing, pulling myself quickly away. I spotted the snake emerging from the second hole and moving to the east. But I was through with it and back at the place where I had slain the first snake.

Translator's Note:
Here is some text from another version of the Prince's story: "I could feel myself sucking in my stomach and hoping the serpent wouldn't decide to come out again just now. With relief I made it to the end of the hallway. The serpent emerged, then, and I turned around and sliced it before it could strike. Then, having come to the end of the hallway, I climbed out through the ceiling."

3. I was back in the area where the paths diverged. I had tried the lower path. Now I decided to try the upper path. It had occurred to me that I might be able to jump onto the horse statue from one of these high walkways. They looked partially broken and unstable, but I had to try everything. I climbed onto the upper platform and ran to the west.

As I ran, many of the floor tiles fell behind me, I would not be able to return this way should I fall.

4. I could see a small section of the upper walkway ahead, but it seemed unstable, so I took a running jump onto it, then jumped quickly from there to the next landing.

5. I just caught the edge of a tile by my fingertips. I pulled myself up, thinking how fortunate it was that I had previously rid the area of goblin heads. I would have been helpless hanging like that.

I ran quickly over the rotting floor and jumped at the last minute.

6. I landed on another unstable platform. In fact, I overshot the edge and felt the floor beneath my feet give way. Quickly, I turned around and grabbed the stable ledge before I fell to the lower floor. Then I climbed back up, faced west again and jumped across to the next stable platform atop two tall, square columns. From there 1 jumped west again, to another pair of columns. Then I jumped again to the west.

7. I caught another stable platform and pulled myself onto it. I then walked carefully to its western edge and jumped across. I landed on an unstable floor, and had to catch myself before I fell. Below me was the entrance to the snake pit I had previously explored.

I could see the statue up ahead.

8. I got a quick running start and leaped, landing squarely in the saddle.

And, Hamza, I was right. This was no ordinary statue, but a magical beast somehow enchanted into stone. As I landed on its back, the creature reared and came to life, began running swifter than the wind, and headed for the chasm I had seen before.

Fearful now that I had come this far only to fall to my death, I contemplated trying to jump off, but it was not possible. So I hung on and prayed to Allah.

I need not have doubted. This magnificent beast soared over the gorge as if it were nothing but a minor crack in the path, the great river below a mere trickle. Then the mystical steed headed directly toward the temple I had seen in the distance.

The sun was low and the sky glowed pink the distance as we rode up the ramparts, galloping directly into the temple itself. Then the horse stopped, and I could tell it would go no farther I dismounted and it reared once, snorted, and changed again to stone. It appeared now to be carved entirely from red agate or carnelian.

Continue to Chapter 5: The Shadow & the Flame (Level 10)
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