The Winding Way by Liam Cotterill

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Reif was walking the same snaking corridor he had for the past two months. Every night he walked it, and every night he travelled further. He peered in every new door that appeared, overlooking those he had already observed. Ahead he saw his destination, which had eluded him for the past two months. Yet, tonight was different. His heartbeat was echoed throughout the many rooms and corridors by war drums, and the siren call of horns filled the recesses of his brain. As he approached the door, it seemed to move towards him, rather then flee beyond his reach. Wide, ash-wood doors polished to gleam like tall obsidian obelisks stretched up towards the high ceiling above. He reached out his hand and pushed...

Reif awoke on his rock-hard bed. Dreaming of a dark, twisting corridor in which past goods and evils filled every room, marking what he had experienced in his journey through life, did not give him the rest he desperately craved. For the past two months, the same reoccurring dream had haunted him, though he now labeled them as visions, for dreams were a weakness the temple would not allow. Every night, he had made his way further into the dark. Every night he awoke cold and sweating. But this night was different.

Now he knew why the visions kept coming. After three years at the temple of the Winding Way, his final test had come. Tyros dreaded the day that their sensei finished training them in all they knew. For at this time, they would wake to the melodic rhythm of war drums and horns, the reaper call of The Great Trial. Reif rolled out of bed, his head reeling with the idea of entering that dark formidable doorway. Slid under his door was a small piece of parchment, the likes of which were received before all tests. Scrawled on the paper was a quote from the Book of Truth. He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left. Suddenly, from the inner courtyard, the resounding boom of war drums accompanied by the screech of the horn rent the air.

Clothing quickly in his block robe, Reif threw the scrunched up note into the fire pit. Only the time will tell. He swept out of the room, closing the door with a solid thud. Stepping onto the stairway landing, he made his way to The Great Trial...
* * *
Tyros were assembled on the inner court, an army of ants compared to the task at hand. The statue of Master Severance beckoned to him from beyond the small oak door, calling him deeper into his unavoidable doom. Smoke from the ancient, ever-burning cauldrons whisked smoke into his face as he entered, the shadows seeming to detach themselves from the dark recesses, inky-black soulless monsters screaming in muted silence to try to claim his soul.

The Great Trial stood before him, labyrinth walls climbing to the ceiling high above. Cold stone met his fingers as he reached the door, knowing deep in his soul that either death or honor would be his reward for entering. As the door closed behind him, light gave way to the dark, shadows spiraling out of control as the monsters again screamed in muted silence.

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