7/366 – The Darkness Below

Continued from 6/366 – Friends and Surprises (Cont.)

Morn froze in place as the realization that Master Scaine was standing behind him set in. He became instantly aware of the speed of his heart beating in his ears.

“Are you going to turn around?” Master Scaine asked, his voice even and calm.

“Yes, sir,” Morn replied as he stood and turned to face him.

“Wonderful, follow me please,” Master Scaine said as he walked toward the monastery entrance.

Morn followed in silence.

The small building that sat in the center of the cemetery from a distance looked like it was made of the same grey-white stone as the walls, but up close, Morn could see that it was white marble with writing engraved on every inch of it. The shadows of the letters made it seem darker than in reality. The script was in a language Morn had never seen, but the characters seemed to move as he approached, rearranging themselves in unique patterns.

The wrought-iron gate opened before Master Scaine arrived at it as an initiate stepped out of the way to let them through. Just on the other side of the door was darkness, unlike anything Morn had ever seen. It was all-encompassing and terrifying.

“This is where your first trial begins,” Master Scaine said. “Often enough, we rely on what we can see to inform us of things of true importance, but our eyes lie to us more than any of us would care to admit. This first test is one of intuition. I will go in first, and you must follow me. If you deviate too far from the correct path, you will fall, such as it is in life. Do you understand?”

“How will I know when I am getting too far from the path?” Morn asked. His eyes never left the wall of black before him as his hands began to shake.

“If you lack intuition, you will fall. If you have what it takes, you will succeed. The best advice I can give you is not to rush this,” Master Scaine said as he backed into the void.

Morn’s mind flashed a handful of questions all at once. How could he possibly stay on the path? Would it kill him if he fell? Why was Master Scaine testing him? If he chose to run, how far could he make it before they caught him? Would he even make it out of the cemetery?

With every new question, his panic grew. He looked at his hands and opened and closed them a few times to stop the shaking. He took a deep breath and moved his right foot forward. The act of moving was enough to make him feel ill.

NO, I have to do this, he thought as he closed his eyes. I can do this.

Morn felt the moment he crossed into the void. It felt like slipping into ice water. He drew a sharp breath and continued forward, trying his best to listen for Master Scaine, but found only the sound of his shoes against the floor. He took his time, as the Master had suggested and only moved a little at a time.

After twelve steps, Morn noticed that the floor seemed to be slanting slightly. It wasn’t much, but he felt a slight dip. He adjusted and moved toward the top of the slant, finding that the floor leveled out once more after a step or two. He slowed himself down even further, practically sliding his feet across the smooth stone.

Morn’s skin grew used to the cold, and his face relaxed. He opened his eyes to the void. Within the darkness, small specs of light flashed in varying colors. The patterns they moved in were near hypnotic. He thought he could make out the stone floor, and thought to take a step, but hesitated as the Master’s words played through his mind again.

Our eyes often lie to us.

Morn shut his eyes and took one step in the direction he thought he saw the path. He gently felt the floor ahead of him with the other. He noticed a subtle change in the feel of the floor before an ear-splitting crack sounded, leaving his foot touching nothing. Then came a boom, sending air up toward him.

How many seconds had passed? Was it three or four? The fall would kill me either way almost certainly. Is Master Scaine trying to kill me?

Morn felt his heart beginning to race again as the panic bubbled up once more. Morn took a step back and stopped. He focused on his breathing, as his father had taught him when he was younger and would wake up in the middle of the night screaming about the monsters coming for him.

In, 1, 2, 3, Out, 1, 2, 3

His heartbeat slowed, and the anxiety was quelled once more. He focused on the floor. He had noticed a change in the texture of the floor before. He knew he could do it now. He only needed to avoid the slopes and the changes in texture. It would be fine.

Morn kept a steady pace from that point. Taking his time to feel out the floor on the three sides of him after every step. Each held its own variation from the one before. At a few points, he found several paths were safe, but some led to dead ends of rough stone or sloped edges, and he would have to turn around and retrace his steps.

He began counting his steps, keeping his breathing at regular intervals came almost naturally. Whatever this test was felt as though it were taking forever and spending so long in the dark, the exhaustion was catching up to him once again. He had been awake for nearly two days, and his body was beginning to get clumsy.

Another fifteen minutes passed before he felt another change in his environment. He moved his left foot forward and felt it hit something substantial. Out of instinct, he opened his eyes and found that he could see once again. He was standing next to a white marble wall.

“Congratulations, Morn. You’ve passed the first test,” Master Scaine said, a slight smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.

Morn turned to look behind him, and he could see all the way to the wrought-iron gate as though nothing had ever been there. There were dozens of twists and turns. He could see on either side of the path were deep ravines that faded into darkness. He said a silent thank you to Rashem in his head for not taking him yet.

“On to the second test,” Master Scaine said as he pushed on the wall revealing a hidden door that led to a downward spiraling staircase. “Follow me.”

continued 8/366 – The Darkness Below (Cont.)

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