Six

Lucrecia reached through the iron bars. "How do we get in there? I can fit through but there's nothing to stand on over there." Aleix dusted his hands off of the white specks. He held on to the bars and peered through at everything immediately around them. There didn't appear to be any where for them to get across from here. "Hmmm...were we supposed to come here with something...No, that doesn't make sense for this sort of puzzle. We're overlooking something." Down below, there was a pool of water. It looked deep enough to jump into, but he didn't want to risk jumping from so high above. Lucrecia lowered herself deeper into the water. "What are you doing?" "I had an idea..." She completely submerged herself. Aleix sat down in the water, curious what she was trying to do. After a minute, Lucrecia rose back up, taking in a deep breath. Her skin and hair were now completely covered in the sparkling dust. She smiled. "There's something underneath." "There is?" "Yes, I think it's a ladder. The water hides it. We need to go through the bars underwater at a specific part, then climb down." She pointed to an area on the far left side. "It's through there. Go under and see for yourself." Aleix sunk under the water. The light from the crystals did little to the visibility. He could only vaguely tell where the light was, and couldn't make out where the bars were at all. He reached around until he hit them. Getting closer, he reached through and down. As Lucrecia had said, there was something below. He came back up. "I found it. Alright, we'll see where it leads us. I'll go first. Stay as close to me as possible. If something's off, I'll signal for you to pull me back up. Like this." He grabbed hold of her arm. "If it's safe, I'll do this and you follow down with me." He tugged at her sleeve for the next signal. "Understand?" Lucrecia nodded her head. "Let's go." Aleix went under the water again. Lucrecia went down after him. After fumbling around for a moment, Aleix found the bars and the ladder again. He turned himself around and went through the bars feet first. When he made contact with the ladder again a few steps lower than where his hand had reached before, he realized that not all of the ladder was underwater. He quickly climbed down further to see what was on the other side of the waterfall. The ladder went all the way down to just above the pool of water down below. He tried shaking the ladder to test its stability. Nothing happened. Satisfied, he climbed back up and reached for Lucrecia. He pulled at her sleeve and then moved back down the ladder to give her room to come down. She came through the bars quicker than he did. She gasped as she came through. Looking down, she held tightly to the ladder. "It's so long." "Take it one step at a time. Be careful. We both came out of water. This could get slippery." Aleix cautiously stepped down further. "Slowly. We'll make it there." Steadily, the two climbed down the long ladder. Nearing the bottom, Aleix got ready to test the depth of the pool below. It appeared to be shallow enough to walk through at this part. That could always be an illusion. He looked up at Lucrecia. "Stay where you are. I'm going to test the water." "Alright." Aleix lowered his feet in the water. He slid further down the ladder, feeling for the bottom. When he was at the final step of the ladder, his feet met with stone. Slowly, he let go of the ladder and walked around. The closer he got to one of the giant crystals sticking out of the earth, the more shallow the water appeared. The further away, the deeper. He walked back towards Lucrecia. "I think it's safe. You can come down now." Lucrecia quickly went down the ladder. Her fast movement and anxious expression made Aleix wonder if she had a dislike of high places. When she walked over to him, she immediately offered her hand. There was nothing to run from in this place, but she'd gotten so used to doing it at this point, it only seemed natural. Aleix didn't question her action and took hold of her hand, leading her along to the shallower ends. Aleix took note of their hands. As before, the water had completely dusted them in the sparkling flecks floating in the water. He could see a faint blue hue over the natural olive tone of their hands. The color gave their skin a strange glow. He thought of the stories he'd heard about ethereal beings floating around, lost to themselves and the world. He was amused at this idea. We may as well be ghosts. "Where do you think this will take us?" Lucrecia asked. "I hope to the exit, but I really doubt it. At the very least, maybe a place that damn dog can't get to." He presumed whoever had originally created the labyrinth hadn't intended for those moving through it to be running from that beast at the same time they deciphered the puzzle. Then again, perhaps they did. This place is so complex, it feels like it was intended as a punishment. "Aleix, what are you going to do when we get out of here? Are you going somewhere?" "It doesn't matter to me. I was leaving home when I ended up here. Anywhere but there is where I want to go." "Why don't you want to stay where you were before? Was it really that bad?" "I wouldn't call it bad, at least not in the way you're thinking. There was just nothing left for me there. I'd explored everything there was to see, and the way my village works, there isn't really room to do anything other than what you were set with when you were born. If you're born to the baker, you're a baker. If you're born to a shepherd, you're a shepherd. That's not for me. I want more than that." "How do you know the rest of the world is any different?" "I don't. That's what I'm going to find out. What about you? What do you want to do?" "I don't know. I've never been outside before. I think...I'd like to see the stars and the moon." She slowed her pace unconsciously. "What would you do if you were me?" Aleix held her hand tighter. "I am me, so I can't answer what's best for you, only what I would want. You know, there's no reason you can't stay with me. At least, while you figure out what you actually want to do. I wouldn't mind a companion on my trip. Haizea isn't exactly good for holding conversations with." "I don't want to be a burden." Lucrecia loosened her hand in his. "You're not a burden." He lightened his voice. "Besides, there's nothing around for miles. Let me at least take you to the next town." "If that's alright..." "Of course it is. After all you've been helping me, how could I possibly abandon you? Don't think too deeply about it for now. You'll know what to do when you're out." "Do you really think so? I've been in here so long. What if I can't live with other humans properly?" "You'll be fine. I can tell." He smiled at her. "Are you su..." She stopped in her tracks. Lucrecia pointed to something up ahead of them. "Aleix, there's something over there. Look." Without realizing it, they had already walked around the majority of the cavern by following the shallow areas and big crystals. At the furthest end from the other ladder, there was another waterfall. This one wasn't as high up as the last one, and seemed to come down through a natural stream rather than the artitifially created one they'd come down through. Barely visible, there was a strange light emitting through the blue-black water. The light was a different color than all the other glowing shades around them. This one was a deep red. "What on earth is that?" Aleix narrowed his eyes. "Let's go. Try to be as quiet as possible." Lucrecia nodded. Aleix kept Lucrecia somewhat behind him. He didn't have any weapon to protect them with, but he could at least use himself as a shield for her to get away. He felt some responsibility in that, having been the person who took her from that inner wall. It may have been a prison, but as far as he knew, it also seemed to be the safest place in the maze. On the other side of the waterfall was a red crystal as tall as Aleix. This crystal had tiny pink and white particles floating around inside of it. Lucrecia was drawn to the brilliant shade. She couldn't stop herself from touching the tip of the gem. When her hands met with the stone, her body was encased in a light blue glow. The gem shattered like glass, splashing dark red liquid over the both of them. The hard surface of the gem turned to dust as it shattered. The red liquid mixed with the blue water, making a dark violet shade around them. At that, something rose out of the water. A metal lever. Aleix stared in astonishment. "How did you know to do that?" "I don't know...I had to touch it." The glow around her body faded to the light blue hue from before. Again, she knew. Aleix was becoming suspicious of the hag's story about Lucrecia being locked in here because of something her mother stole. She's clearly got some magic of her own. What was that witch really up to? Aleix walked over to the lever. "Well, I have a very good idea of what we're supposed to do next. Shall we?" Lucrecia nodded. Together, they pulled the lever down. Beside them, another crystal shattered. Behind this one was an opening that lead to a set of stairs. "Up again...are you ready?" Aleix offered his hand. Lucrecia nodded and took Aleix's hand as they walked towards the pathway. Aleix had a feeling this would not be the last time they came to this place.
Seven | TOC