You Can’t Get There From Here by Greg Schezinger
I remember reading somewhere years ago, a tale about a Chinese warlord in ancient times who feared assassination so much that he constructed an elaborate fortress in order to prevent it. His stronghold was built circular and consisted of layered rings of rooms, which moved so their doors would open at different locations depending on the movement of one ring to the other. Additionally, he slept in a different bedroom every night to further confound his would-be assassins.
Mazes are fascinating and the idea of such a mechanism added to the puzzle, offered a mystical dimension I wanted to employ somewhere in my books. “The Henna Witch” offered the perfect opportunity; a Sanctuary located deep within the uncharted jungles. Any structure so concealed, with such arcane features, would have to be one of consequence, even dire or deadly and therefore hidden on purpose. The center of the maze is the goal of course, but what is it that would allow one to find the core within such machinery?
Ashia, along with O’la, has entered the maze, and the sorceress holds the elusive key.
~~ * ~~
excerpt from “The Henna Witch”.
The heavy panel slid shut behind her as the passageway vibrated beneath her feet, the left wall moving counter to the other. Direction became immediately confused as the walkway moved then shuddered to a halt while the walls continued to slide. Ashia heard the confused whimper of the small dog. The girl took a step to press beside her, eyes wide at the mysteries.
“Stay with me … near close as you are” she warned. “It is also the nature of the Sanctuary that all take their own path. I would have it our paths are the same.”
O’la relayed the same notion to Fetch, who did not look reassured. A lintel slid along with the wall, opening as it came to a stop. Glowing torches, set in gold sconces, washed the marbled walls with honeyed warmth. Ashia held O’la back from moving into the passageway, shaking her head.
The frame moved away as another slid into place, a few paces to their right. The corridor revealed was less inviting, a narrow aisle cut into stone, lit by the emanations of white chitons that clustered on the walls. It was little more than an alley cut into the stone, brackets of uncut rock overhanging the narrow couloir like hammers waiting to drop. The way was lost to darkness.
Ashia nodded and stepped forward as the door slid shut behind them.
“Come. We have little time, even here, where it has no influence.”
She began walking with a brisk step. The chitons, blind scarabs with carapaces of iridescent pearl, skittered to keep pace, crawling over the jagged stone and illuminating the passageway as they advanced. The route appeared as though cleft through the rock, a vicious rent still raw from its disclosure.
Driven by curiosity, O’la let herself lightly touch on one of the glowing scarabs. She was surprised to feel awe in the passing, as though the chitons regarded them as gods. It made her uncomfortable for she felt very inconsequential, a small dram within the weight of the pyramid that bore down around her. There was no substantive voice, just the mindless buzzing of minds set alike. Nevertheless, she let her gratitude for the light slip out among their numbers as she kept pace with the witch-woman. It was not her imagination that the light seemed brighter as they approached a blockage.
Ashia stopped, waiting for the gate that would present itself. Choices would be fewer, though more arcane, the closer they approached the center. Easy paths were fraught with danger, or quick and final exits. The chitons had disappeared within the rock as they advanced, leaving them in cloaking blackness. O’la felt the scarabs’ presence even so. They remained close.
“The swarm is beyond. There is no rock there.”
O’la felt a rush of discovery as she stepped past the illusion and into the lighted corridor once again. Fetch dogged her heels, wary of every corner.
O’la turned to encourage Ashia to make the step and was surprised when Henna didn’t immediately appear behind her. She reached out her hand, her neck ashiver as she touched solid stone.
Written by Greg Schezinger