Barrowquest. A multiple-choice quest adventure Includes all chapters of The Awakening , as given in the above publication (accessed by selecting SOUTH, THORN, HARP and INDIGO during the adventure)
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A multiple-choice quest adventure
Includes all chapters of The Awakening, as given in the above publication (accessed by selecting SOUTH, THORN, HARP and INDIGO during the adventure)
Additional chapters written by: J Davies, J Duckworth, L Glasspoole, E Gowing, B Long, S Simpson, C White,
Lin pushed himself between the massive slabs. The huge weight of stone pressed in on him, and a greater weight of terror squeezed him more. Without lubrication from the ancient growth of moss that coated the stones he might never have made it though the narrow gap at all. I can’t do this, he thought. Why me? If I were younger or larger I wouldn’t be here.
“Let’s call him Lin for short,” a boy in the tribe once mocked, “for short is what he is.” The rest had laughed. Lin he had become, and short he had stayed. Skinny too. And that was precisely why the chieftain Magh had called him to the tribefire, to the council where no boys came.
“Your tribe has need of you,” said Magh, “great need. Sit here and listen well.”
“But … ” blurted Lin.
“Sit, boy.” Magh gave no choice, accepted no hesitation. Then he spoke, slowly and solemnly, in the deep, resonant voice that had awed Lin all his life. “Our tribe is in great peril. Even now as we sit by our own tribefire, hordes of our darkest ancient foes are encamped around our borders. Vast hordes. Soon they will attack. And when they do, great as we have been, great as we are, we have not might enough to drive them off. For all time remembered, and much forgotten, our tribe have peopled this land, moulded its stories – but soon all this, all that we know and value will end in loss, in darkness and in death. It will end, that is, unless someone can find the magician and wake him.” Magh paused and looked around slowly.
“Our old ones say that under Barrow Hill there sleeps a great magician. His magic saved our people in the distant past. Now he waits, deep in enchanted sleep, guarded by the warriors of a ghostly king. But in our hour of need he will awake and save us once again. That hour is now.” Another pause.
“They say too that there is a way into the hill through the long barrow of our ancestors which stands atop. A way for one who can find it – and take it. But the great stones are immovable, the gap between them narrow, and the way beyond that . . . Who knows?”
Now Magh looked straight at Lin. “Only you, Lin, are old enough to understand this task, yet small enough to squeeze between the stones. Will you go for us? Will you take this quest? Will you find the magician and wake him?”
“Do I have a choice?” asked Lin.
“Yes, and no,” said Magh. “I offer you a choice, but know that you have none.”
Lin understood. And now here he was, crawling into the ancient barrow, where no living flesh should be. The stone was deathly cold. Lin’s heart was colder still, and the chamber, deep inside the barrow, where he fell with a dull thud, was full of the darkest darkness he had ever known.
He lay for a moment wheezing, gasping for the breath the stones had squeezed from him. Then, as his breathing eased, he pulled out the lamp and flint he had been given and, shivering, lit the flame. By its flickering light he could see four stone passageways leading north, south, east and west out of the chamber. Which should he take? Terror almost froze him, but not quite. He did the only thing he felt he could. He walked straight ahead in the direction he was facing.
Did he go NORTH, SOUTH, EAST or WEST?
Brilliant light flared, blinding his eyes. Startled, he stepped back, shielding his eyes from the glare. Finding a hard wall behind him, he whirled. The doorway through which he had come was no longer there. There was no way back.
The light vanished and Lin looked around. A circular cavern domed over his head. Facing him, three torches blazed in brackets mounted on the rock wall, each one beside an opening in the rock. The first passage glowed red, licking its shadows with tongues of reflected flame; the second, blue, whispering tones of rippling streams and still lakes. The third was green, pulsing with shades of fresh life. In front of each was a step. One of these, he thought, must be the way out. But which one? Nothing for it but to try.
As the openings were of differing heights each step was lower or higher. Grabbing a torch Lin entered the red passage. The whole corridor glowed eerily. After some time, seeing more light ahead, he quickened his pace. Suddenly he was in a chamber that looked similar to - no - it was the same one he had left. He had walked in a complete circle.
Next he tried the blue passage, but, after swimming through the liquid blue light, he still ended back where he had started. The third passage must be the exit. Lin stepped up into its cool, emerald light, moved rapidly along its length and once more emerged into the same chamber. He tested each passage again and again. They all led him back to his starting point. In some magical way they were all interconnected. Whichever passage he entered, he returned through another.
Lin sat thoughtfully, facing the three passages. There must be a way out. He idly traced patterns in the dust-covered floor of the chamber. But what was this? He could feel marks engraved beneath the dust. He brushed the dust aside. Was this a clue, etched into the ancient floor?
What light does show,
Use all three
To onward go.
See what? Lin asked himself. Scrambling to his feet he lifted the torch above his head. A bright flash lit the whole chamber, causing Lin to drop the torch. What was that? Slowly he raised the torch again. The torch light shone deep into the coloured passages. In an instant, the whole chamber became flooded with reflection – and from its midst shone one strong beam of white. Lin gasped, amazed. Turning slowly, he could see the place on the wall where the polished rock acted like a mirror, combining the red, green, and blue light from each passage to create the beam. And where it shone he could see a fourth passage, higher up the wall. Lin knew this was the true exit. His elation was short-lived. How could he reach the entrance?
He repeated the second part of the clue: lifted the torch above his head. A bright flash lit the whole chamber, causing Lin to drop the torch. What was that? Slowly he raised the torch again. The torch light shone deep into the coloured passages. In an instant, the whole chamber became flooded with reflection – and from its midst shone one strong beam of white. Lin gasped, amazed. Turning slowly, he could see the place on the wall where the polished rock acted like a mirror, combining the red, green, and blue light from each passage to create the beam. And where it shone he could see a fourth passage, higher up the wall. Lin knew this was the true exit. His elation was short-lived. How could he reach the entrance?
Use all three
To onward go
All three what? Three torches? Three passages? Three . . . STEPS! Lin rushed across the chamber. Each step was sloped on one side. If I can move them . . . thought Lin. He dragged the middle stone up the ramped side of its larger brother. Then the smallest one was hauled on top. Breathless but triumphant Lin surveyed the stairway he had created. Trembling with excitement he climbed to the topmost stone, pulled himself into the new entrance, and into the passage.
The passage was short and led directly to another chamber. Four doors faced him. One was made of oak, one of ash, one of elm and one of thorn wood. He opened the nearest and walked through.
Did Lin choose the OAK, ASH, ELM or THORN door?
For some way the passage to the south ran level, but then it began to drop and curve back upon itself. As Lin walked he spiralled down and down and down, until he felt he had reached the heart of the earth itself.
He found himself in a vast underground chamber. Its huge space was filled with what he took at first to be pillars, arches, twisted beams. These in turn seemed to be slung about with ropes, ropes looped and dangling, ropes twisted and entwined, many with frayed ends that lost themselves in mists of fibre. But as he explored, as he looked and felt and smelled, he found that they were all roots. He was in standing in an enormous cavern, grown through by the tangled roots of a great tree – a tree that must be almost half the size of the world.
Intrigued, Lin began to wander amongst the roots. He swung past them and ducked under them. He climbed over them and pushed through their fantastic forms. Soon he lost all sense of where he had come from, and had no idea which way he was going. Then he realised that, worst of all, he had no idea which way he should go. He was lost in a vast knot of roots, which soared above him and surrounded him on all sides.
He set off with a will in the direction he was already facing. But he soon found the line impossible to hold. He had to duck and twist and veer until his mind was more tangled than the roots. He wandered on through the maze of turns and dead ends until he began to think his own dead end would be there too.
Then he began to see faces in the twisted forms of gnarled wood that surrounded him. He saw heads without bodies leering at him from every direction, laughing at his desperation. He saw contorted, woody faces everywhere, all the same, all laughing. Their noses were twists of root. Their hair and eyebrows were tangles of frond. Their laughing mouths were puckered knots. Faces. Faces. All laughing. All mocking him. All the same.
No, not all the same. That one had a hooked nose. That one had a stubby ear. That one had much larger eyes. That one looked old and tired.
Lin began to see the difference, the uniqueness, in each face. And as he did so the mockery on the faces seemed to change to friendlier laughter. Twisted mouths warmed into smiles.
Once he felt he knew each one, Lin gave each face a name. You look like a “Crab” to me, he thought, because you are old and crabby. “You look like a “Hog” because your hair sticks out like spines. You look like a “Merry”. There are laughter lines around your eyes.”
“Thank you, Lin,” said Hog. “I’ve never had a name before. If you turn right here and duck under that big root you’ll come to Burr. He’ll tell you where to go next.”
“No problem,” said Burr, when Lin reached him. And, one by one, the faces with names directed Lin through the maze of roots, until he came to the far end of the chamber. There he found four doors. One was made of oak, one of ash, one of elm and one of thorn wood. He opened the nearest and walked through.
Did Lin choose the OAK, ASH, ELM or THORN door?
The passage to the east dropped suddenly and steeply. Taken by surprise, Lin slid down, tumbling and falling, unable to halt his flight. Down and down he fell, deeper and deeper into the barrow, until with a crash and a thump, he reached the bottom. Bruised and sore, Lin stood, slowly.
He found himself in utter darkness. Where was he? How could he tell? No light pierced the smothering black that surrounded him. The air was stale and still. The only sound to be heard was the quickening beat of Lin’s own heartbeat as it thumped, thumped in his ears – faster and faster.
Taking a deep breath, Lin stretched his fingers to the front and to the side. Nothing. He took a tentative step forward. The ground was hard and uneven, but held his weight. Step by careful step, Lin walked on into the darkness.
Suddenly his breath caught in his throat. Floating in front of him was the palest of green spiders. Its legs wiggled and tensed, flitting away as Lin reached towards it. He paused. The spider paused. Lin reached again. The spider retreated.
Slowly but surely, the truth began to dawn on him. The spider was his own hand! Without realising it, a subtle change was taking place. A pale, almost sickly, green light was beginning to seep into the gloom, outlining his whole body.
Able to see his surroundings for the first time, Lin realised that he was standing in a tunnel. Far away in the distance, shimmering and pulsating, was a green, luminescent glow, streaming out of a gaping hole in the tunnel floor. Lin hesitated, horrified. The light bulged and squirmed as if it were a living, breathing entity. He knew he should walk away, but felt an awful compulsion to become part of that light and lose himself forever.
Stumbling over rocks and rubble, Lin was drawn further and further towards the light. Brighter and brighter it blazed until Lin had to shield his eyes. Almost blinded, he fell – screaming - into the hole.
Lin landed on a cushion of moist, springy moss that glowed with an emerald fire. Sprouting from the moss, swaying sluggishly, were enormous slime-covered pods. Lin realised that the air was still. No breeze disturbed this lonely place. Yet still, the pods moved – back and forth, back and forth.
“Sleep. Sleep forever.” A hushed voice came from nowhere and everywhere. “Lay down and close your eyes. Forget your quest, my little one. Sleep.”
Hypnotised by the voice and the swaying pods, Lin’s eyes drooped.
“The quest,” murmured Lin, drowsily, “ . . . not important . . . must sleep.”
However, deep inside his head, Lin was screaming, “WAKE UP, LIN! Fight it now or you’ll never wake again!”
Forcing his heavy eyes open, Lin reached out in desperation. Grasping hold of a nearby pod, he pulled – pulled with all his strength – without really knowing why. With a sickening, wrenching sound, the pod came apart in his hand sending out a foul, yellow gas.
Immediately, the green glare dimmed. Wide awake at last, Lin darted to his feet. He watched in amazement as the gas covered the moss like a thick blanket, dissolving it, destroying it. Screaming filled his ears. Was it the voice? Was it the moss? Lin didn’t know.
As the last remnants of the moss disappeared, Lin gazed around him with a new determination. There in front of him were four doors. One was made of oak, one of ash, one of elm and one of thorn wood. He opened the nearest and walked through.
Did Lin choose the OAK, ASH, ELM or THORN door?
Instantly, the floor dissolved beneath Lin’s feet. His screams filled the air, and echoed back at him as a menacing cacophony, bouncing from the walls that encased him. If only Lin had taken greater care over the path he had chosen, he would never have been facing this dilemma. Over and over he tumbled, further and further he fell. Panic consumed him. Free-falling, Lin scrabbled and fought hopelessly with the air surrounding him, desperately attempting to grab hold of something, anything that might halt this seemingly endless fall. Failing at the first hurdle was unthinkable - Lin felt sure that Magh would not have predicted that his task would end so soon, so finally …
Down and further down he descended. Emptiness encircled him. He glanced upwards, vainly hoping to see - to see what he really didn’t know, but anything would be better than this bleak void. What was happening to him? When would all of this stop?
This must be the end. Lin’s screams encapsulated his fears; his mind darted through all of the things he’d done, he’d never get to do, the task he’d never complete, the village he’d never save.
Suddenly and without warning, Lin’s body appeared to jolt upwards slightly, and his fall seemed to take on a more moderate and bearable speed, as if some unseen force had opened a parachute for him. Looking downwards, Lin noticed an unearthly light begin to pierce the surrounding darkness. From this, he could begin to see he was surrounded by chalky walls from which hung portraits of what appeared to be people of generations and times past, faces he felt he should know. Lin’s fear began to subside.
In an attempt to touch one of the faces, Lin stretched out his arms but, with nothing to grab hold of, he was soon sucked back into the centre, as though catapulted inwards by an invisible piece of elastic.
A sudden shock, firstly that he was still alive and, secondly, that ice-cold water had sent agonising shooting pains up his body. He was alive and that was all that mattered. What he had mistaken for light coming towards him, had turned out to be the reflection from a pool of icy water. Gasping for breath, Lin hoisted himself up over the edge of the pool, relief and bewilderment overcoming him. Water dripped from his clothes and turned into ice before it reached the floor.
Lin found himself standing in a circular chamber; other than a slight reflection from the pool, there was no source of natural light. However, against the walls, a series of naphtha lamps slowly burned. The closer Lin looked, the more he could make out a silhouette - but of what?
Approaching gingerly, Lin edged towards the dark shape. The closer he came, the clearer he could make out that this was, in fact, a statue, now covered in verdigris; the result of aeons of time. As Lin traced his hands over the base of the statue his body stopped shivering from the cold, his clothes became dry and Lin felt warm and safe once more. To the side of the statue stood a small plaque and, engraved in
in gold lettering, the simple name of “Othene”. Something compelled Lin to touch each letter and, as he traced his finger over the final “e”, a great breeze swept across the chamber. With a huge grating sound the statue edged backwards and revealed four trapdoors, each hewn from a different type of wood. Excitement filling his veins, Lin knelt down and heaved open the closest door.
Did Lin choose the OAK, ASH, ELM or THORN door?
As the dark oak door swung open, flames of sun engulfed Lin. Instantly, a strong magnetic force took hold of him. He was pulled down and down and down … through a sea of grass … emerald blades whipped his cheeks … he instinctively clenched his lips and tried to shield his eyes with his arms ... but the butchery continued. He was travelling faster and faster, his heart thudding against the bones of his rib cage. Now hands were rolling him … over and over … and over. His head felt light … he was drifting … His breath halted.
The next Lin knew he was sitting near a clump of primroses on the bank of a shallow stream. A hazy little figure was hoisting herself onto his left foot. Holding on tightly to a pair of taut laces, she skillfully positioned herself on the round, shiny toecap of Lin’s leather walking boot. As he bent closer, Lin was amazed by what he saw … for, although she was no bigger than a bumblebee, she was perfectly formed. She wore a black dress with three gold harps embroidered solidly on her chest. Long yellow ringlets fell beneath her shoulders and a feathered fringe framed the greenest eyes that Lin had ever seen.
Spacing his finger and thumb gently beneath her shoulders, Lin lifted her onto the palm of his hand. He spoke in the gentlest of voices. Barely audible, it was the loudest voice he dared use.
“And who are you?” he whispered.
“I am little … and I am light … for I am joy,” she said. And with that she plucked one of the gold harps from her tunic and flew to the nearest primrose. She dangled her legs from its yellow petals, strummed the strings of her harp and sang the sweetest melody that Lin’s ears had ever heard.
Amber sunrays danced here and there on copper mounds jutting above the water. At length the music stopped and a lilting voice spoke:
“I can see you have suffered on your journey here … as indeed many before you have done. Tell me, Lin ... have you found the wise, old magician you are looking for?”
Lin was startled … how could she know his name? … How could she know his quest?
“How do you know me? Who are you?” he enquired.
“I already told you … I am joy … Shóna of Tír Ná Nóg …” and as she spoke, she pointed to the distant hills. “My land … empty of death … full of young, young hearts … mirth and magic.”
But before Lin could question her further, she plucked the second harp from her heart and skipped onto a moss-covered boulder and danced a reel. Once again she sang ... and her mellifluous voice rang out along the banks of the stream. She sang of “Tír Ná Nóg” … where special travellers find what they are searching for …
At first Lin heard only one voice … then a choir of voices was echoing all around him ...
“A pocket full of laughter ... A pocket full of tears …
A heart full of magic. A heart full of fears …
Which spurs you forward? Which weighs you down?
A face wrapped in a smile … A face tied in a frown …
Breathe the air of “Tír Ná Nóg’”Breathe in deep and sigh …
Swords may pierce Lin’s hopeful heart
But he will never die … “
Much later, as the orange sun rested her chin on the far banks of the stream, a gentle whisper brushed Lin’s ear, “Awake now from your slumber, Lin. And find your courage ... within … within … ”
Lin’s heart fluttered and he slipped a hand into his breast pocket; there he found four tiny musical instruments: a harp, a flute, a tambour and a lute.
Did he play the HARP, FLUTE, TAMBOUR or LUTE?
Lin eased his way through the door, tentatively, feeling jagged splinters pierce the skin on his hands. In an attempt to keep up his spirits, he thought that these would be his battle scars, the marks of his courage.
He found himself at the far end of a long, thin corridor - but this was no ordinary corridor. Black and white tiles lined the ceiling and floor, whilst the walls were made of a million prisms, each turning the daylight outside into a shower of rainbows. It was like walking through a kaleidoscope, set between two gigantic chessboards.
Lin began to inch his way along the corridor. Curiosity overcoming his fear, he stepped up to one of the sidewalls to peer through. The prisms distorted his view, but he could just make out that beyond the walls lay a world of ice. Snowflakes fell and danced, ice clung to the trees like sugar frosting and hung from the ledges like crystal stalactites. And it seemed like something was moving through the snow. He could not see it move but he could see a series of paw prints appearing in the fine powder. Straining his eyes, Lin could just make out a tiny creature scuttling busily through the snow, a brown paper parcel resting in its paws and a pocket watch swinging frantically from its waistcoat.
Lin walked on and approached a large clock face that hung from the ceiling like a giant pendulum, swinging metronomically backwards and forwards in time with its tick and tock. But, as he passed the clock, he found himself stepping out into a field of daffodils blooming and swaying in time with a gentle spring breeze. Turning around, Lin stared back at where he had come from - the clock face, back to front now, was still swinging – but the corridor had gone.
“Welcome, my friend.”
Lin shot around to see the voice belonged to an old, white-bearded man, who was carrying a silver scythe.
“Who…who are you? Where am I?” questioned Lin.
The old man laid down the scythe and smiled.
“You will soon see, in time … ”
As he spoke, Lin noticed a heavy, wooden hourglass dangling from the old man’s cloak. Instead of grains of sand, this hourglass held multicoloured digits, each helping to calculate the passing of time.
“Here, catch!” motioned the old man, as he threw the hourglass into Lin’s already outstretched hands. And, as Lin cupped his hands to cushion its fall, a blast of bright white light blazed across the sky, breaking up into minute fragments of colour as it fell to the ground.
Lin’s feet were swept from beneath him and his body spiralled through time. Fireworks of colour exploded and swirled all around him. What was happening to him?
Half opening his left eye, Lin looked around him and realised he was back in the corridor, facing the still swinging clock face. Lin scratched his head in disbelief, unsure about the last few seconds . . . or was it minutes, or hours … ? The corridor appeared unchanged, yet Lin felt things had changed …
He looked down into his hands and realised he was holding a parcel, wrapped up in brown paper. Carefully, untying the string, Lin revealed a heavy, wooden box fastened by a broken clasp. Lifting the lid, Lin saw four beautiful musical instruments. A hastily scribbled note read as follows:
To the Keeper realised he was back in the corridor, facing the still swinging clock face. Lin scratched his head in disbelief, unsure about the last few seconds . . . or was it minutes, or hours … ? The corridor appeared unchanged, yet Lin felt things had changed …
Choose an instrument
Play it well
Face the clock
And time will tell
in time to the tick
in time to the tock
You must play a tune
And unlock this lock
Did he play the HARP, FLUTE, TAMBOUR or LUTE?
The ancient elm door closed silently behind him and a vast banqueting hall unfolded ahead. When Lin's eyes grew accustomed to the murkiness, he saw the walls were swathed in moss and crisscrossed with ivy. In the centre stood a hexagonal table spread with six silver platters, five laden with fruit and one upturned. Four squat lifeless trees stood sentinel at the furthermost edges. Four enormous birds glowered at him, one from each tree.
Tiny beads of sweat dampened Lin's palms. His heartbeat deafened him. His tribe's destiny was a vice around his soul. Believe in yourself, his grandfather had admonished when the other boys had taunted him; now was surely a time to heed that counsel. He took a long slow breath, puffed out his chest and stretched to his fullest height. One step. Another. He edged forward.
A screech pierced the gloom, like lightning splits an ebony sky. The eagle spread its majestic wings and soared towards the cavernous ceiling, before plunging towards Lin at such speed that he was flung to the ground by the force of the wind. The eagle circled and landed. Lin hauled himself to his knees, in time to watch both tree and eagle transform. Now seated on a gnarled chair at the table was an aged man, his nose hooked, his scrawny neck bent towards his feathered tunic. He began eating fruit, his talons piercing and tearing their skins.
The owl and the crane took off together and dived and swooped, keeping Lin pinned to the floor. At last, as they climbed, Lin spun onto his back, raised himself onto one elbow and held his other arm rigid, towards them, to fend them off. They careered towards him, then, without any explanation, they slowed, hovered momentarily, and they too settled at the table. The owl, as short as the crane was tall, was wide with a rounded face and a snub nose. The crane was slender with a long pointed nose crowning her angular features.
Before the raven could take its turn in the onslaught, Lin was on his feet, his courage pulsing in torrents around his body, his arms across his face, willing himself to complete his task. The raven simply fluttered from branch to table like a whisper on the breeze. She too transformed. Her hair, glistening like a seam of wet coal, tumbled down her back as she turned and fixed her mesmerising eyes on the boy.
“Join us, your journey is long. You must be hungry,” she cawed.
They sat in twos at the table - man and woman, cock and hen - between them were empty seats. The creatures that had attacked him moments before now sought his company.
“This seat is yours,” she continued.
Lin perched on the seat in front of the fifth platter.
“Who sat there?” Lin asked, motioning towards the last upturned plate opposite him.
“The magician, who came before you,” she croaked in reply.
Lin felt his body soften. He must be on the right track at last; a magician had already passed this way. He looked from one strange creature to another as they nodded towards his plate. He chose an apple full of rosy promise. As he rubbed it, all the beauty and hopes in the world appeared, lying like a burden upon him. Wiping the trickling juice from his chin, he noticed the creatures had vanished and in their place lay a harp, a flute, a tambour, and a lute. He leaned forward, took one and began softly to play.
Did he play the HARP, FLUTE, TAMBOUR or LUTE?
The heavy thorn door slammed shut again behind him. It had no handle on Lin’s side and there was no way back. He leaned against it to gather himself, take stock. It felt solid and safe behind him.
But there was nothing safe in what Lin saw before him - nothing safe at all. His heart jumped and then raced. He took in a sharp breath. The urge to flee surged through him, and in panic he turned again to scrabble at the door. No handle. No escape. He knew that. Was there another way out? Somewhere to hide? There was nowhere.
He was in a sort of dungeon, a large square space without windows or doors, except for the door behind him. Floor, walls, ceiling seemed to be of solid rock. There was a dim half-light, but where it came from Lin could not tell. More than anything there was a smell. A strong, rank, animal smell that made him almost gag. Near the centre of the room was a wooden chest and, near that, the source of the smell, the source of Lin’s terror, the nightmare he wished to flee, but couldn’t.
Filling half the middle of the room was a huge pile of shaggy, matted fur, soaked in patches with something black and noxious – sweat or blood? From near one end, black eyes glared at Lin with a fierce hate. As the boy stood, transfixed, the vast mound heaved onto enormous feet, feet with claws like filed daggers, scraping and gouging the floor. It lurched towards him. It opened monstrous jaws. A dark red chasm of mouth gaped. A black tongue lolled. Vicious, yellowed teeth parted and saliva dribbled like pus. Then a noise from the end of the earth hit Lin like a blow and he gagged again at a blast of sweet and foetid breath.
It was the most enormous, the most terrible bear, a creature of pure nightmare.
The bear lurched at Lin again, and the dark hatred of its eyes burned into him. Its jaws crunched. Its great paws slashed, inches from Lin’s face. He flattened himself against the door. Then he saw that the bear was chained to an iron ring in the floor. The chain stopped the creature from reaching Lin – just. It left only inches of space against the door as any sort of refuge. But it gave him a chance to find his breath, to find himself again.
Then Lin looked back into the fierce eyes of the bear. He looked with a gaze that was straight and strong. He looked into the greatest hatred and anger he had ever seen. But he looked beyond that too. And beyond the bear’s rage he saw a landscape of snow. He saw men with spears. He saw the body of a bear cub, slung by its feet from wooden poles and carried off in triumph. He saw another cub, its body gashed open, its fur ripped away. He saw bear blood on snow. And then he understood the bear’s rage. He understood its sorrow, its despair.
So Lin spoke to the bear, in a voice that was full of grief, and understanding. He spoke of loss and death and snow. He shared the bear’s pain and, as he spoke, the great bear calmed, settled, lay down. And when the boy and bear had wept inside together, the bear slept.
Lin went over to the chest and opened it. Inside were musical instruments, a harp, a flute, a tambour and a lute. He picked one up and played it, gently, to the sleeping bear.
Did he play the HARP, FLUTE, TAMBOUR or LUTE?
As Lin played the harp he felt himself transported on a wave of magical sound. Light spiralled and flamed around him. A river of patterns swirled. Time and the world turned, and Lin melted through them until he found himself on a stony shore at the edge of a vast, dark lake. Behind him cliffs soared, solid and sheer as far as he could see, and further, into a great darkness where the sky should have been. That is why the water looks so black, he thought. There is no sky here to reflect in it.
Yet there was light of a kind - a pale, hard light that skimmed the dark surface like a thrown stone, without sinking in. The light came from an island far out in the middle of the lake. The island itself was beaming out the cold, sharp rays. It was made entirely of glass.
Lin turned to the cliff. It held one small rocky shelf where he placed the instrument. It seemed to belong there and began to play itself, almost inaudibly. But Lin did not belong. There was water in front of him, rock behind, and only a small space of shingle between the two. He did the only thing he thought he could. He turned and walked with the cliff on his right hand, the water on his left, along the narrow shore. He walked for what seemed hours, days, always the cliff to his right, the lake to his left, unchanging. At last he heard the faintest hint of music ahead. He hastened towards it and found the instrument on its rocky shelf, exactly as he had left it. He was back where he had started.
He sat on the shore exhausted, gazing towards the island of glass. The island! That was the way to go. Could he swim so far? He rose and stepped towards the water’s edge, then into its icy darkness. No sooner had he broken the surface than the water foamed and churned. The slimy tentacles of some unspeakable thing snaked out towards him, reached for him, grabbed at him, drove him, stumbling, back against the cliff.
He stood and stared at the island, close to despair. Was there no way off this shore? He needed a boat, but there was no boat – only cliff and shore and terrible water. He imagined the boat he needed. He could picture it in his mind. He could see its grooved planking. He could see its curving prow. He could smell the good wood, and feel its roughness. He could hear the water lapping against its sides. He could feel the gravel scrunch as he edged the boat away from the shore.
He stepped into it and pushed off. The boat was floating now out into the lake. Again the water stirred and bubbled, but this time no tentacles appeared, only a human arm rising from the depths. Its hand held a long, plain staff of wood. It offered up the staff and Lin reached out to take it. He stood then in the middle of the boat holding the staff high and horizontal in front of him. He imagined himself a mast. He imagined a sail. He imagined a wind that drove him steadily to the shore of the glass island.
Lin stepped from the boat onto the island still carrying the staff. As he stepped, the staff struck the glass. It struck with a crack that echoed around the island, and a spectrum of light shot from the glass, splitting into intense beams. Rainbow bridges of light vaulted out from the island across the dark water. Bridges of blue, green, indigo and violet light solidified in front of Lin, and he stepped resolutely onto one of them.
Did he use the BLUE, GREEN, INDIGO or VIOLET bridge?
Holding the flute to his lips, Lin began to play. Instinctively, his hands knew which keys to press and the music flowed, filling the air with the clearest, most beautiful sounds he had ever heard. He felt his eyelids drooping as the music enveloped his body.
“You are completely safe,” spoke a voice, as soft arms caught him. “I am Minerva, goddess of the flute.”
He awoke to find himself sitting in front of a tall, thin building; naphtha torches illuminating a sign advertising the next show. The town was deserted. Lin felt, that having ventured this far, not much more could faze him, so he bypassed the entrance gate, and went in…
All was silent. Litter was strewn across the floor. It was as though time had frozen and someone had taken a photograph of the moment.
A hundred or more seats lay empty and a deep red velvet curtain hung from ceiling to floor.
“Please take a seat, Lin,” a gentle voice beckoned. building; naphtha torches illuminating a sign advertising the next show. The town was deserted. Lin felt, that having ventured this far, not much more could faze him, so he bypassed the entrance gate, and went in…
Lin could see no one. The voice continued.
“Do not fear, my friend, you are completely safe …”
Completely safe? Those words echoed back from his memory, but Minerva’s hidden voice still did not take on an image.
As Lin sat down, flutes played sweet music, the curtain rose and the show began.
It told the tale of an ancient tribe and their epic battle against the forces of darkness. Two great armies faced each other on either side of the stage. Slowly, they advanced, setting about each other with a fury so terrible that it could be no theatre show. Lin was witnessing grim reality.
Faintly visible through the mass of people, Lin noticed a young boy dressed all in red. Everything else seemed to be in black and white, so the boy stood out in sharp contrast.
The boy looked very familiar – indeed, very like Lin himself. It was as though Lin were being shown his inner self, his alter ego.
Without warning, an invisible energy seemed to draw him towards the stage. He stood up and, unable to resist the pull, walked towards the boy in red. Nearer and nearer he was drawn, until they could almost shake hands. The two boys were standing directly opposite each other, maybe only centimetres away. Lin was on the stage. No longer a spectator but a living, breathing character in the midst of a real battle.
The boy held out his hand to Lin and offered him a sword. It was fantastically light, and cut through the air with the swiftness of a bird. Lin felt as if it had belonged to him all his life.
Lin turned to thank the boy, only to find that he had vanished. Looking down at himself, Lin realised he himself was now dressed in red, just as the boy had been. He realised that this was the sword he had always been destined to have, and that with it he could move closer to fulfilling his task – to find the sleeping magician and wake him.
Without warning, vanished. Looking down at himself, Lin realised he himself was now dressed in red, just as the boy had been. He realised that this was the sword he had always been destined to have, and that with it he could move closer to fulfilling his task – to find the sleeping magician and wake him. the armies disappeared and Lin was left alone. Lin forced the sword into the earth beneath him. As he removed it, the sky lit up with a dazzling spectrum of colour. As it calmed, the colour spilt downwards, and fell to Earth, forming four beautiful bridges around him. Each bridge pointed in one direction of the compass – N, S, E and W - and each was a different colour. Sword in hand, Lin stood in the centre and contemplated which bridge to take.
Did he use the BLUE, GREEN, INDIGO or VIOLET bridge?
Lin beat the tambour softly and steadily. Its note was low. The rhythm, muffled and softly pounding, half-reminded him of something, but he could not think what. The memory was too deep.
He walked on, without knowing where.
Lin was walking down a passage more slimy even than the entrance in the barrow. He could hear the hiss and slither of his feet in water on a hard, stony floor. It seemed he had gone for hours when he began to notice a change. The water beneath him was getting deeper so that, as he walked, he was kicking up great splashes. He wondered if he might be reaching the banks of a river or the edge of a great lake.
Then he became aware of another rhythm. At first he thought it was the sound of the blood rushing through his ears, his own breath surging in his chest, but soon it was unmistakable - the sound of the sea. As the pounding got nearer, the water level rose. Then came a new fear; if the level rose any more it would become impossible to continue walking. He would have to swim. And Lin had never learned to swim.
The water had reached his thighs and he tried edging across the passage to see if it was shallower at either side. But the narrow passage gave him little option – a few steps either way and he came up against the cold damp stones of the walls. The water was on his chest and soon he knew it would be over his head. His only real choices were to go on – or to go back. Lin thought of the tribe waiting around the fire, hours behind him on the other side of the barrow. All their hope was on him. To go back would be deep shame or perhaps worse. No, he would continue. He would trust to his own strong will, his commitment to saving his people.
He took a breath and allowed the water to lift him off his feet. He gasped as the water pulled him, pushed him and then, amazingly, held him up. He moved his feet, partly in panic, partly in a desperate attempt to move forward, and felt a sudden exhilaration. He couldn’t feel the floor beneath him, but he wasn’t sinking. Extraordinary! This was swimming! He kept his head high, gulping more air in, and moved his arms around. He grew more confident and moved faster and then, looking up, he saw above him a single star. He was out of the passage. He was in the open sea. And if he was in the sea there must, somewhere, be a shore. He continued thrashing around in the water, becoming increasingly frantic.
Just then, the moon came out from behind a cloud. The eerie silvery light showed Lin the seascape in front of him. Off to the left he saw a beach. He hurried towards it, swimming furiously, and hauled himself up on the shore. By the light of the moon he saw a wooden staff planted in the sand. As his hand reach out and took it four bridges of pure light appeared, arching off into the distance across the pounding sea, like single-coloured rainbows.
Did he use the BLUE, GREEN, INDIGO or VIOLET bridge?
Lin knelt, fingering the strings of the lute. The gentle notes began to swirl around him, folding him inside a cloud of sound.
In his mind’s eye, he was transported back to his grandmother’s cottage. He could see her wise, wrinkled face. He could feel the roughness of her work-worn hands. But those hands! They had the power to play a lute as no one else in the village, in the whole of the valley, ever could.
“Learn to play, boy” encouraged his grandmother. “Learn to play and freedom will be yours.”
A hard task, but Lin had learned to play. His knowing grandmother had sat, smiling at all his efforts, and then one day had declared “Ah - now you have learned! Mark my words, lovely boy, the spirits themselves are quietened by your skill.”
Waking from his daydream, Lin stood up. Moving cautiously across the gloomy room, he headed towards a dimly lit archway. Now that he had stopped playing, the stillness settled to the floor like dust. No danger was apparent, so he stepped more confidently towards the light.
Suddenly, Lin sensed a presence.
“Friend or foe?” “Learn to play and freedom will be yours.”
His voice echoed to the vaulted roof. No answer came. Lin’s skin felt cold. Clammy sweat formed on his brow and palms. He held tightly to the neck of the lute. It was his talisman, perhaps the salvation for his tribe, and, whatever happened, he would not let it from his grasp!
The air before him began suddenly to crackle and spark. Flashes of iridescent light filled the space, and shadowy forms began to sweep and swirl around the room. As he watched, the forms grew in size; their frenzied movements sent fear rippling through Lin’s bones. Swooping, closer and closer. Brushing his skin. Their evil reached into his very soul, grasping his thoughts, sucking at his will. Lin could feel his strength seeping away, an aching tiredness threatening to overcome him. Visions played in his head: Magh, magicians, ghostly warriors, ghostly kings and ... grandmother?
“Play, boy! Play!” Flashes of iridescent light filled the space, and shadowy forms began to sweep and swirl around the room. As he watched, the forms grew in size; their frenzied movements sent fear rippling through Lin’s bones. Swooping, closer and closer. Brushing his skin. Their evil reached into his very soul, grasping his thoughts, sucking at his will. Lin could feel his strength seeping away, an aching tiredness threatening to overcome him. Visions played in his head: Magh, magicians, ghostly warriors, ghostly kings and ... grandmother?
Lin struggled to rouse himself.
“Use your skill, little one. Use your skill, my shining lad!”
His grandmother’s face flickered before him, and, with the last remnants of his strength, Lin lifted the lute and began to play.
Notes floated into the air, whirling upwards, buffeted by the shadows. Thin at first, the music seemed to have little effect. Then, Lin felt freedom in his soul. The spectres’ grasp slowly loosened. Renewed, he played on, faster now. He watched as the forms began to shy away. Penetrated by the swelling music, their substance evaporated. A space appeared between Lin and the arch.
Without hesitation, Lin leaped towards the arch, and passed through. The vapour-trail forms suddenly found their voices. They screeched behind him, but could not follow.
A cloaked figure, its head shrouded by a hood, stood blocking the passage. Lin’s heart lurched, as he peered into the gloom, and spied a smooth, ash staff raised against him. Beyond that, a deep chasm. Was there no escape? What threat faced him now?
The figure pushed back its hood, and offered the staff to Lin. He took a deep breath, as he clasped the warm wood.
“How did through. Theyou get here?” he stammered.
“I’m always with you, child,” his grandmother replied softly. “Now, you must choose.”
She stretched out her arm. Hanging like a screen, instead of the coarse woollen fabric that Lin remembered, the cloak shimmered in bands of blue, green, indigo and violet.
His grandmother beckoned. Lin touched the cloak with the staff, and saw the colours spring into bridges across the chasm. He met his grandmother’s reassuring gaze, then stepped forward onto a bridge.
Did he use the BLUE, GREEN, INDIGO or VIOLET bridge?
Lin awoke from a deep slumber. Where was he? Who was he? Lin searched his brain frantically for fragments of memory, anything that might help him piece together his past. He could remember nothing, not even his name.
He was in a small cave. Lin eased himself up, his body aching. He took one step forward before stopping in his tracks. A tiny bear-like creature scuttled towards him.
“Good evening, Lin,” spoke the creature. “I hope you feel recovered and rested, ready for the final part of your quest.”
Lin stuttered in confusion. “My name is Lin? What is my quest? Who are you?”
“Do not fear, your memory will return. I am Tarik. Sit down and I shall help you to recall your memories.”
Tarik told Lin of his past, of Barrow Hill, his tribe, his quest. Lastly, he spoke to him of his journey to the cave …
“As I saw you crossing the bridge of blue light, I heard the attack cries of the Eagle of Doom. Once in its eyrie, death is certain. I knew you were in mortal danger. The Eagle swooped down and caught you in its talons. I fired my arrows at it but, even as they pierced its side and it released you, I realised you would fall into the waters beneath, the Waters of Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness. That is why your memory is now lost, but not lost forever …
“You, Lin, are of immense importance to your village, to us all. You are nearing the end of a quest that has required great bravery. You must find the magician, who sleeps on a hill not far from this cave. To complete your quest and for your memory to return, you must follow the Lens of Truth. It lies within the Magician’s Maze which guards the hill.”
Lin hugged Tarik, thanked him for his hospitality and promised to return.
At the foot of the hill stood hundreds of trees, their dense green foliage forming an impenetrable wall. To his right, a small object glistened. As Lin went to touch it, it vanished, a door appearing in its place. Cautiously, Lin pushed open the door and went through. The same object appeared in front of him. Again, as he reached for it, it vanished - this time reappearing ten metres to his left.
The object was leading the way. As Lin moved to touch it, each time it would reappear here or there, guiding Lin through the twists and turns of foliage. Turning a corner, Lin realised he had reached the centre of the maze. The object fell to rest on a stone table. Lin saw that it was circular, and made of glass.
Was this the “Lens of Truth” of which Tarik had spoken? Taking it from the table, Lin held it up to the sky. Looking through, he began to remember. Barrow Hill, his quest, the lands he’d visited all flooded into view. He saw Magh smiling, his people cheering, his village saved. How could that be?
Looking closer still, he saw himself standing guard over his tribe. He had discovered the truth. He had awakened the magician in himself, and with his newly found powers would lead his people to safety.
He replaced the Lens on the table. As he did so a magnificent golden bird descended from the heavens. It did not speak, but Lin recognised it as the Phoenix of the Barrow – the sign that hope was returning to his village. The bird rose into the air once more, and Lin followed it to meet his destiny.
Gossamer threads of green light spun from the bridge and cascaded through Lin's body, dizzying him. Needles of trepidation quivered across his skin, as he struggled to keep his balance. He watched in awe, as the emerald skeins gushed from his staff and stealthily wove themselves into warrior after warrior. The bridge was soon consumed by the legion before him.
The phantom army stretched to the horizon and beyond, each champion carrying a staff identical to his own. Transfixed, Lin knew the magician was stirring.
The soft downy hair on Lin's neck prickled; his skin became clammy as he sensed a presence at his back. Turning, he saw a majestic apparition in form and the ghostly king solidified before his eyes. It stood cloaked in knowledge, a halo of wisdom for its crown.
Lin cast his command, “I've come to wake the magician.”
The phantom king stood at the bottom of a stone staircase that curled up into the heavens. Lin wondered at the stairway, as both end and beginning appeared together. It went neither up nor down, yet he could clearly see each step was higher than the last.
The ascent of truth lies before you.
Where left becomes right,
And right becomes left.
Where seeing is disbelieving
You will find that which you seek.
The king's words were resolute. Lin did not yet understand, but he did the only thing he could. Placing his staff on the stone, he climbed onto the first step. At that moment, the king and his warriors crumbled, scattering like memories in a dream. Lin was alone.
Step after step, hour after hour, age after age Lin climbed. He didn't understand. The staircase led nowhere. Anger and frustration exploded in his veins.
“MAGICIAN, I can't find you,” he roared, hurling his staff into the timeless void.
The staff landed softly at the edge of a pool, its waters swirling wildly. Lin, his anger spent, stepped up to the waters edge, leant forward and collected his staff. As he bent, scooping one hand to drink, the waters calmed. Realisation pierced like an arrow. He gazed into the crystal waters, cupping his left hand, clasping the staff in the right. There, peering back at him was another Lin cupping his right hand, clasping the staff in his left. Lin stared, disbelieving.
He plunged his face into the cool waters, drinking its secrets. He felt its sweetness slide across his tongue and trickle down his throat to refresh him; its purity washed the mist from his eyes. His fears and doubts settled into courage and hope. The time had come. His time had come. Voices in his head echoed, “Are you ready? We're waiting.”
“Lin, are you ready?” questioned Magh. “We're waiting. The borders.”
Lin, lifting his head, pressing his fist to his heart, nodded to the council gathered around the village drinking pool.
He paused, “I'm ready.”
He raised his staff and watched the magic begin to flow.
As Lin stepped off the indigo bridge it faded into darkness behind him. He found himself in a vast, pillared hall, lit by flickering torches. In the shadows lurked warriors in full battle gear, chain coats, iron helmets, iron shields. Lin stood transfixed. More and more warriors appeared. They advanced on him with a menacing, rhythmic clank. Rank upon rank they rolled towards him, like the waves of metal sea. And as they came they drew weapons and held them aloft to threaten him, swords, axes, maces. Clank. Clank. Bearing down. Encroaching. Enclosing. Clank. Clank. Clank.
In panic Lin lifted the staff he was carrying to try to defend himself, a futile weapon against armour and swords. Yet, suddenly, the warriors gave way, parted ranks. Between them strode forward a king, crowned and with one hand of shining silver.
“Who is it that you seek?” asked the king.
“The magician,” said Lin, “the one who sleeps.”
The warriors parted further and the king pointed with his silver hand to a curtain covering what must be a doorway. The curtain was woven with a strange spiral pattern. Lin approached and cautiously pulled it aside. Beyond was a small chamber completely walled with mirrors. But inside the chamber there was nothing, nothing at all.
“There’s no-one in there,” said Lin despairingly. “I’ve come all this way, and the sleeping magician has gone.”
But still the king pointed beyond the curtain, into the chamber.
“Enter, boy. You will find the magician.”
Unsure, Lin looked at him. He looked deep into the king’s eyes and found there truth, and a promise. He followed the unwavering arm, the resolutely pointing hand. He walked slowly past the spiralled curtain and into the chamber. Then he stopped. He stared. He saw himself, himself from every side. Multiple mirrored images of Lin stared back at him. In every hand of every Lin he saw the staff he still held. And every staff in every hand glowed with the light of magical power.
He turned then, and left the chamber. He found himself no longer in the hall of the warriors, but back at the centre of the barrow. Great slabs of ancient stone surrounded him again on every side. A voice from the tribe outside found its echoing way through some unseen gap.
“Are you there, Lin? Did you find the magician? Did you wake him?”
“Yes,” said Lin. “I think I did.”
He raised the staff, his staff. The stone around him dissolved away. He stood on a rounded hilltop, all the folk of his own tribe clustered before him. Then he lifted his staff higher still and magic burst from its tip like light streaming from a star. Lin’s magic streamed to the eastern horizon, where it danced with the fire of a flaming dawn. It streamed to the far, far north where it kissed the misty air of mountains. It streamed to the south where it enfolded the resinous dark of a wild forest. It streamed to the west where it glinted off the dancing waves of the distant sea.
With the hollow echoing of his own footsteps ringing in his ears, Lin reached the end of the violet bridge and stared mortified into an abyss of emptiness. His eyes strained in an attempt to make out shapes and patterns around him, but he found that only a pale white light reflected back at him. All around him was a dense white fog, as though the gods had taken away the earth and the sky and left nothing in their place.
Cautiously, he slipped one foot out in front of him and watched the white clouds swirl around it, as if they were waiting to engulf it. Gathering his staff in his hand and his courage in his heart, he stood at the edge of the bridge, eyes fixed downwards, and stepped off the bridge with his heart pounding.
Suddenly Lin felt unfamiliar ground beneath his feet. The white mist began to clear and Lin could see a dark shape moving slowly towards him from the distance. Slowly, two menacing red eyes appeared from the fog, which was now clearing, and he could see that he was in some kind of underground cave. Lin's heart beat faster, as if it was struggling to break free of his small chest. As the eyes grew larger and larger, Lin could see that they belonged to a dragon - a vast, scaly, dark dragon, whose smoky breath filled the cave as it moved steadily towards him with great lumbering footsteps.
Lin's fingers gripped the wooden staff tightly and he crouched down low to the cave floor. The dragon was now staring straight into his eyes, as if to mesmerise him with fear. Suddenly, the dragon raised its scaly head and fire thundered from its nostrils at the exact moment that Lin threw himself across the floor and out of its range. The dragon didn't wait before turning on Lin again, who was now backed tightly into a dark corner of the cave.
Lin noticed a small crevice higher up in the cave wall and managed to secure one foot into it before the dragon took a mighty breath in and opened its great mouth to reveal his black teeth like great shards of stone. With one great leap, Lin threw himself towards the dragon's mouth; his staff raised aloft and rammed it with all his might into the dragon’s mouth, so that its jaw was locked. Landing heavily on his side, Lin hauled himself to his feet with a sense of amazement that his plan had worked and ran back to the crevice in the wall, which he managed to drag himself up and into.
At first there was only darkness, until Lin appeared on the other side of the cavern. An old man lay silently on a ledge formed from the cavern wall.
"Are you the magician who sleeps?" asked Lin nervously.
"A magician is what I once was, before those around me lost faith in me" he replied, “and I lost my powers and was condemned here to the edge of the world, until one true of spirit and soul believed in me again. That person is you my boy, you have released me.“
"I need your help" Lin pleaded. “My tribe faces terrible danger. You saved us once, but will you help us now?"
“It is you that has saved me, and although you don't yet know it, saved your people,” The magician replied. “But I have something, which may help you.” He produced a small silver pouch.
“Whenever you feel your fear approaching, whether it comes from the clatter of enemy hooves, or from inside your very own heart, hold tight onto this necklace and trust in yourself, and the magic of a thousand wizards will be released.”
Lin opened the silver bag and pulled out a magic necklace, which he immediately put on. He felt its power, felt the ground beneath him sway and the mist roll back. When it cleared he was home again, standing alone at the tribefire - alone, but ready to do battle.