Key: Bold and Italic are the voices of the ghosts
Plain italics is the 'voice' of the Puzzle and the Shadows
The pain and the light fades, leaving me alone in the darkness. My memory is gone; my name stolen by my own will. I am helpless and imprisoned in the Puzzle until the Chosen One promised by fate should come. This I know – that He will come and free me, and I will protect him, and together we shall save the world and he will send me to the afterlife. Someday.
The room is simple, decorated with hieroglyphics painted bright colours. This spell – I remember my magic, at least, even if I cannot use it until He comes – has never been done before. The spell to seal the Shadows, to bind the Shadow Games to the Puzzle, sanctified by the sacrifice of my life and my name…
Around my room are countless games – cups, sennet, even a pair of astrigali (1)… I pick them up and run the uneven bones through my fingers. These I know – I am a master of games, any games. Memory may vanish, but bone-deep instinct remains. Will people still play these games when I am free again?
But it is pointless to worry. I will be here for as long as I am here… passing the ages in a deep trance-like sleep until He comes.
Abed stands in the centre of the chamber - I lay down, closing my eyes as I let my mind drift. Will I dream the years away, or will I be oblivious, unable to sense the passage of time? The last dimlight fades as my mind and will slide into oblivion.
And as the dark grows, I hear the voices…
You know the cause of our suffering
Blood of his blood
Flesh of his flesh
I jerk opened my eyes to see my bed surrounded by ghosts – angry, hungry ghosts. Who are they? What do they want? And why are they in the Puzzle?
Then they reach for me, and I scream in pain. Cold, so cold it burns…their touch leaves scars of frost on my golden skin, as thought they are sucking the life from my very flesh.
"Who are you?" I demand, slipping from my bed. Trying to stare down the angry specters by will alone. I could destroy them… if I could use my magic. But I'm helpless – I just pray to… someone… that they don't know that.
They rush me and I dodge, taking more damage. There are so many of them…I can't beat them, I can't intimidate them, and there is no where to run…I'm trapped. Trapped and alone…
They close in on me. All around, and I can't escape. I know there must be a way out of this, a way to win, but I'm too scared to think. To scared… They touch me, and it hurts, burns, I can't take any more…
And it hits me. A maze. They will be lost in a maze. My mind bends under the strain as I force the room around me to change. I know they will be lost in it…I will be lost in it as all around stairs and corridors appear. A thousand places to run…a thousand places to hide.
"Leave me alone!" I run…and eerie, deadly laughter erupts behind me.
You can't hide forever…pharaoh.
I am lost. I wander the halls of this prison warily, careful of the ghosts who still hunt me. I am weaker than they…somehow I know that I am only half a soul, and they are strong with anger and the thirst for vengeance.
It is always black now. I cannot see save when the cold, whitelight of the ghosts illuminates me; I have forgotten, almost, what any other light is like. I run my fingers over the carvings in the wall - I think…I think they are writing, but I can't remember how to decipher them. Every time they corner me, the ghosts strip more of my memories from me. They draw it into themselves and grow stronger with my stolen power, feasting on my soul.
Sometimes I can see a different light – in my dreams. I sleep still, sometimes…not enough, and never deeply. They are everywhere, the ghosts. I cannot escape them for long; the darkness has become my solace, my safety, but even it cannot stand against the cold light.
There is another new thing…when I am cornered, pinned in a room, the maze will shift around me, becoming steadily more and more complex. The rooms develop traps; to protect me, to protect my steadily failing memory. I was supposed to remember – enough to aid Him.
There is a Him, right? Sometimes when I rest in the darkened corridors of my mind I wonder if it is nothing more than a lie, a trap to hold me here and torment me. What if the ghosts planned this, to have me as their victim for the rest of eternity?
No – I cannot think that. Shimon…Shimon promised. And although his face fades from my mind's eye, I still recall his spirit's light.
Light. What is light? The dead throw light – they cast it in my eyes and in my mind, stripping off pieces of my soul to feed unending hunger.
I cannot lose myself. I know what I was, if I cannot remember my name. Pharaoh…I know that word, that title. The ghosts mock me with it constantly, so that it echoes in the chambers of my soul. I was Pharaoh. I was…something. I wish I could remember.
Pain. They have me and I scream as they touch my flesh, rend my soul. I scream. They mock me, but I no longer understand their words. I cannot remember.
I remember pain.
The white lights, the human forms scream at me as they pull pieces from my essence and feed. Agony on agony. And they laugh, mocking my weakness. I break away, pounding on the door away from this place, but it is steel and stone, immovable. Unbreakable.
Run. I must run – the cold light, the white light. I must escape. I must hide.
There – a room, a place. Twist and turn and hide. White light slides past, but it cannot see me. I fight a giggle, knowing the madness in the sound. I cling to the only things left.
Him. Chosen one.
Shimon. Find me, wise one.
I pull my tattered clothes around myself, rubbing the flesh of my arms. So cold, so dark. But I don't fear the dark now. The dark hides me. The shadows guide me. They protect me from the cold light. The Puzzle speaks to me, sometimes, teaching me a different magic. Shadows and darkness.
Darkness to defeat the cold light.
Shadows to shatter the mind and rend the soul.
Judgment of the weak heart.
It teaches me the Shadow Games.
I hunt them now. The cold lights. They have stolen my…my everything. I am more dead than they – but I am the darkness, vengeance. I will show them the power of the Shadows.
No one can beat me in the Shadow Games.
I watch with narrowed eyes as I summon the power and weave my illusions – a maze within a maze. The light cannot find its way free – I hear myself laugh at its vain struggles. The shadows consume it utterly; my strength grows. But I cannot regain what they have taken from me.
They try and trick me, sometimes – they try and look human.
But they aren't.
They are the cold lights, and I hunt them.
They must be killed to protect Him. The Chosen one.
He must be protected. If they touch me I will forget.
The Puzzle whispers to me. It says I must kill them.
Kill all who threaten Him.
They trespass on my soul.
The Penalty Game is death.
The Puzzle twists around me and I stand in a place I have never been. A span over a chasm, and below me, clinging to the stone, a man. A living man.
Joy explodes in my heart. He remembered – he came for me!
He stares at me with bright violet eyes – the eyes I know. Fear reflects in their depths – fear of death, fear of falling.
"I've been waiting for you."
The maze reforms around me – but I don't mind. The white lights are gone- and Shimon has come for me. I will be free soon. Free. I laugh, but the sound echoes hollowly off the walls of my prison. And the stone answers. Mocking laughter echoes around me as the cold lights come, oozing from the stone. I stare in shock.
I destroyed them.
Then pain as they attack me, the cold lights eating away my soul. No…not that…Shimon…
I open my eyes to darkness. Where am I? What, who…I don't know.
The shadows writhe around me; I watch, confused. What are they?
Whisps of memory, or thought. Protect Him.
I don't understand. I sit in the dark, rocking quietly, aimlessly. I glance down at my form – pale skin, naked; thick dark hair twines between my fingers. Yellow strands hang in my eyes.
White lights drift around me and I wince back.
Suddenly everything shakes. I look around, confused. The white lights scream, twisting and twirling around me.
What is this?
The voice in my head is triumphant.
It is Him.
He will free you. Protect Him.
Who am I? Who is 'He'?
You are judgment and vengeance. You are the protector, the dark half, the avenger. Master of the Shadow Games.
I shudder as the Shadows weave around me and the words echo in my mind, filling the universe. He is the Chosen One, the redeemer of souls, the saviour of worlds. The Light, the compassionate one. He is your other self. You must guide, teach and protect Him.
Golden, living light floods the maze of my mind; the cold lights scream as they vanish into the stones, burned and scorched. I feel the door to my soul room open wide.
I will protect Him.
(1) Astrigali are the uneven heel bones of animals. Ancient Egyptians made dice from them.
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