The Twisted Cathedral

The Twisted Cathedral

A Chapter by Domenic Luciani



 

Chiron ushered us out of the dimly lit room and over to the stairway after everyone had signed the Styx. There he waited patiently for the five of us to make our way up the steep, dark stairway.

“Just remember children, you’ve got a long day tomorrow, so please try to get some rest and relax. All food is on the house, so make sure you get your fill.” Chiron snickered, he then turned and slunk out of sight. He was replaced by a pair of demons who dropped from the ceiling and bared passage down the stairs. I glared at them, then turned and moved up the stairs; the others following suit.

            There was only one way up the stairway. It led into a hallway, then more stairs, then another hallway. After five different flights of stairs, we finally came to a hallway at that ended in a black doorway that was the same glossy obsidian that the tables had been. Our five pairs of footsteps hardly made a sound as we slowly approached the door.

            It opened smoothly. I turned the knob, feeling the unnatural cold of it as I pushed the door open. Inside the room were five identical single beds with black sheets and white pillows. The room wasn’t that large, only encompassing the beds and a few desks. A small refrigerator sat across from the beds, and a window stared at us from the opposite end. A single lamp next to the third bed gave off an eerie green light that cast over the whole room and threw ominous shadows over the walls.

            I sat down at the edge of the third bed and watched as the others filtered through. Other than the girl, a small boy with red hair and freckles all over his dirty face entered the room looking as if he would be frightened by his own shadow. He scuttled nervously over to the window and tried to peer out, cupping his hands to the glass.

The next two boys both had blonde hair and walked in with the same look of mild curiosity.  The boys looked almost like twins, with matching bone structures and builds that were tall and slender, as if they were made for running. They took the first and second beds, laying down and stretching laboriously. 

            It was the girl who entered last. As she stepped inside, the door automatically shut behind her and faded into the wall, sealing us in. The girl paused only briefly, then went straight to the refrigerator. Throwing open the door, she began digging around in the contents. Curious, I peered over her shoulder and saw that the only things in the fridge were bottles of identical amber liquid lined up in rows.

            The girl took out a few of the bottles and tossed one of them to me, then handed them out to the others.

            I looked at the bottle. It was clear with a blank label wrapped around the middle. The amber liquid swished thickly inside.

            “What is this stuff?” I asked the girl.

            The girl plopped down with a groan on the bed next to mine. “I don’t know, but my brother said it was the greatest thing he’d ever tasted. You should drink it for the energy. You’ll need it soon.”

            “The greatest thing ever, huh?” I said as I untwisted the cap and brought the bottle up to my lips. It didn’t quite have a smell, but when the liquid touched my tongue, at first, I tasted vanilla, or maybe caramel. It was hard to identify, seeing as every time I tried to figure out what it was, the flavor changed to something even more delicious. Once it tasted like a cookie, then a milkshake, then a candy bar that seemed somewhat familiar.

            “Wow . . .” I said in amazement. Looking around the room, obviously everyone else felt the same. They hardly looked up from their bottles.

            When we were done with the first round, we indulged ourselves in another, feeling slightly buzzed with each sip as if the delicious liquid was mind numbing.

            I waltzed over to the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the outside, but before            I could put my nose up to it, the red headed kid spoke up. “It’s blacked out . . . you can’t see a single thing.” He said in a depressed voice.

            I paused to look at him, then checked for myself, and sure enough, nothing could be seen out of the only window in the room. Only the faint green light reflected off the glass and gave the illusion of something beyond the blackness.

            “I guess it makes sense. They blinded us every time we went outside . . . It would’ve been a waste of time if we could’ve just looked out a window.” I sighed.

            Some more of the drinks were passed around, and I could feel myself getting sleepier and sleepier. Then finally, after a few more drinks, I passed out on one of the beds.

 

-

 

            The morning came without warning. I sat up, sweating slightly. I hadn’t dreamt that night, and the hours had gone by seemingly instantly. Looking around the room, I noticed that the lamp that had been emitting the green light last night was turned off, and even though the window was still blacked out, there was a sort of ambient light that glowed off all of the objects in the room.

            Then I realized that I was alone.

            The other beds were neatly made and completely unoccupied. I quickly scanned the room for any sign of their presence, but they were simply gone. The red head, the two blondes, and the girl had just vanished.

            I shook my head, trying to get the grogginess out, then I slid my legs out from under the black covers and planted them on the wooden floor.   

            I was wearing fresh clothes. The rags were gone and were replaced by clean white shorts and a t-shirt. The clothes felt strange on me.

            I moved to go get another bottle of the drink from last night, smoothing down my hair and rubbing my eyes as I bent down.

            The fridge was empty, the bottles had all been cleared out. I sighed, disappointed. I was starting to wish that I had struck up a more meaningful conversation with the other children. It would have been nice to know if any of them knew how they had gotten here.

            “Well, good to see you’re up.” Said a voice.

            I looked over to the wall as the black door reappeared upon its surface and Chiron entered, rubbing his pale hands together greedily. “I thought you were never going to wake up.” He snickered.

            “I’m sure you would have loved it if I hadn’t.” I said back.

            “Oh, no,  no. In fact, your one of the crowd’s favorites. That stunt you pulled back in the Vasselic pit was truly a sight, the way that pretty little girl grabbed your hand and saved your life. The audience just dies for that mushy stuff.” Chiron paced around the small area in front of the doorway as he talked. “In fact, I’m sure the two of you will see even more support for today’s competition. Speaking of which, it starts pretty soon. The others have already left.”

            “You mean you took them in the middle of the night.”

            “More or less, but listen kid, don’t worry yourself about the details.” With that, Chiron turned and left the room. I hurried after him, but the pale man had vanished from the hallway.

 

           -

           

           The lobby was equally quiet as I walked cautiously down the stairs. Once I stepped onto the cold marble floor, I was quickly ambushed by a group of demons who blinded me, and then led me across the room and outside once again.

            I felt the vaguely familiar softness of the natural earth as I left the hotel. The few dead twigs and shrubs that stuck out of the ground at odd angles along the path poked at my ankles as I walked. I was growing fairly used to this blinding treatment by now, and it didn’t bother me too much seeing as I knew it was only temporary.

            The only thing was, I had the strange feeling I was being watched. Like someone two inches from my face, or a mile away was staring at me, marking my every movement like a statistic. Maybe I was surrounded right now, by thousands of demented creatures that held their breath so I couldn’t know they were there. It was a sobering thought, but I was in no immediate danger so I wiped the image from my mind.

            The boat was waiting for me again. I stepped out of the light brush and carefully into it, feeling it sway precariously beneath me. It was a good thing I was not bound, otherwise I would have lost my balance for sure.

            With the slight swish as the boat left shore, I was off again to some unknown place where I would be fighting for my life again. None of this made much sense to me, but there was a part that did. Immortality sounded rather appealing, and if it was on the line, then I was going to fight for it . . . no matter the cost.

-

 

            It was a while later that the boat bumped into something; a dock of sorts about a foot off the water. I was ushered onto it by the cold, bony hands of the demons. The dock was wooden and not quite long, for soon I was stepping on a stone floor once again, my bare feet making shallow, echoing scuffs that sounded throughout the massive space and were lost somewhere where sound could not reach.

            Across the path, we entered through a doorway. I knew because I heard the familiar sound of heavy stone doors slam behind me. Then, the blindness was removed and I could see again. When I looked up, I couldn’t believe what I saw.

            The building I was in was so tall, that the top was only a microscopic speck above me. The walls made of smooth interlocking obsidian blocks, twisted and curved in every direction. They loomed so high overhead that I got dizzy just trying to follow them all the way up. Pathways and bridges crossed each other at every different height, spires shot out ominously from some of the walls. The entire cavern stretched off into the distance with different aisles of all shapes and sizes cut out unevenly into a deep maze. Holes in the walls at random areas let in bursts of bright orange light as if casted by a roaring flame. The light bounced off the smooth rocks and created a vicious intensity in the air, as if somewhere deep inside the cavern, a fiery demon awaited.

            The cavern looked like a gothic cathedral looked at through a funhouse mirror. I didn’t have long to admire it however, because soon, the door behind me had turned to stone, and Chiron’s voice once again rang out through the dark space.

            “Alright, ladies and gentlemen, this is the second round. Congratulations for making it this far! So . . . today’s challenge will be between eight competitors, five from group A, and three from group B.” So we weren’t the only challengers then. “This will be a group challenge, so teamwork is expected, because of this, group A will need to sit two players out for fifteen minutes, then another two players for the fifteen minutes after that . . . just so it’s fair. The game ends in a half hour. Also, because we are stepping up the game, players will be allowed either a sword or a shield. The object of this challenge is to locate a helmet that has been placed somewhere within the cavern. The challenger need only to place the helmet over their head, and their team will be declared victorious. If nobody finds the helmet within the time allotted, two members from each team will be removed from the competition . . . Permanently.  ” Chiron paused for a moment, then continued, “Now, onto the situation. The players from group A who will sit out for the first fifteen minutes have already been chosen. They are Avra and Geis. The players in are Nic, and the twins: Kale and Fin. Each of the players in the game have been placed at a separate starting point, so they will have to work their way through the cavern to find their teammates and, or their enemies. Enemies are considered the opposing team . . . or any of the vicious monsters that we have placed inside. Killing, maiming, brutally beating, and cheap shots are all completely legal, so get your fill if the opportunity presents itself.” Chiron paused once again, this time for longer. “. . . And now . . . the moment we’ve been waiting for. On my mark, ready . . . set . . . GO!” 

A sword fell from somewhere up above and clattered loudly to the floor in front of me. I picked it up delicately and stared at the marvelous reflection of orange light as it glinted off the black, double edged blade.

The hoplite style sword was about three feet long, with a plain silver hand guard. The blade was slightly leaf-shaped and weighed very little. I swung it a few times, but found myself worried more about accidently hitting myself with the dangerous weapon than anything else. The sword didn’t come with a scabbard, so I would have to hold it for the entire challenge.

            I sighed, then looked forward determinedly and began to jog off into the twisted cathedral.

 

-

 

I had made a bunch of random twists and turns based solely on instinct, but everywhere I looked, there was another dark path to take or a bridge to cross. The floor went up and down in hills and depressions, and I got tired rather quickly. The terrain was just exhausting.

I made my way into a dark alley that opened up into a wide street. The walls bent and loomed over me while others spiraled around me. The street ahead was illuminated brightly by numerous windows spewing scarlet light over the obsidian blocks.

I moved to the edge of the alley, cautiously peering around the corner for any sign of anything. I didn’t know why I was being so careful at his point, I just had that strange feeling I was being watched again.

“Dude! Look out!” I heard from across the road. I looked out and saw the two blonde haired twins running at me. One of them carried a Trojan style shield. It was a large oval with two half circles cut in the sides and made of leather with an intricate gold sun carved in the middle. The other twin carried a large lakonian the opposite colors of mine, with a black hilt and silver blade. The two ran at me waving their free arms over their heads.

That’s when I sensed the shadow looming over me. It was big and slow moving, and it was directly above me. I tried to move, but once again, my body failed to move when it most mattered. I just stared wide eyed at the twins as they desperately tried to save me, but why did they want to? I had never done anything for them.

A great whooshing noise came from over my head. I looked up just in time to see the Trojan shield spiraling a hundred miles an hour about a foot above my head. It happened almost in slow motion, I felt the wind of it as it passed over me, the sound of a deep bellow as a large mass behind me was hit by the shield.

My body finally reacted and adrenalin shot through my body. I held my sword tighter in my hand, squeezing the black leather in a death grip. I turned and jumped backwards, raising my sword to shoulder level. The twins rushed to my side; the empty handed one staying slightly back.

“You alright?” the one with the sword said.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I said back.

The beast in the alley was nothing more than a hulking silhouette, but as it rose from the ground, I could make out long horns atop the monsters head. 

Suddenly, the shield the twin had thrown came flying back out of the alley, over our heads with dangerous speed and cracked the wall across the street upon impact. The other twin ran over and grabbed it off the ground then ran back over to us.

“By the way, I’m Kale, and this is Fin.” The one with the sword said, not daring to take his eyes off the monster.

“I’m Nic.” I told him.            

“Pleasure.” The two said in unison.

The monster gave another massive bellow, then stampeded out at us. Kale dove to the left, while Fin and I jumped right. As the thing came into the light, I could see the thick, muscular, hairy legs that ended in hooves, the massive upper body, the huge neck that ended in a bulls head, but most of all, the gargantuan horns that rose out of the sides of its head and rose six feet above the creatures body. The minotaur’s body was coated with a thick tar-like substance that oozed swirled around every contour.

It carried no weapon, but its arms; thick as my body would suffice as deadly killing machines more than any regular sized sword would.

It beat a mallet-sized fist against its chest, then bent over, ready to charge. At first, I was ready to jump out of the way, but then something shocked itself into my mind. The minotaur vanished for a moment in my mind, and was replaced by a semi-truck crashing down the road towards me, and my feet froze again.

“What the hell is the matter with you!?” Fin yelled into my ear. We were laying on the ground a few feet from where we were standing before, the minotaur had past us and was now rampaging up the street.

“Come on!” yelled Kale as he raced after it.

Fin was on his feet immediately, but before he sprinted off, he looked down at me. “You go find that helmet. We’ll take care of things here.” That was all he said, then he was down the street chasing after his brother.

I was still slightly dazed, but I managed to pick myself up off the cold ground. I watched the twins for a moment. They moved and jumped around the minotaur, Fin blocking an attack, then Kale getting in a quick slash. I was worried that it wouldn’t be enough though, after all, this thing was made to fight us.

I turned and ran off down a separate alley and left the twins to do their jobs. I didn’t look back.

 

I didn’t know how long I had been running. The sounds of the battle and the minotaur’s roars had faded into silence long ago. I was climbing up a steep hill, then I was making a right, then up a winding set of stairs that wrapped around part of the wall, then finally across the bridge. As I stepped across the precarious walkway, I heard strange clanging noises, followed by grunts and yells.

            I got down on my hands and knees and peered over the ledge. Down below, on another wide street, three children from group B were fighting a massive scorpion. The children were too small to make out their details, but the scorpion was massive.  It had four pincers that snapped at the three children who each had swords. They were forced to dodge constantly as the silver monster snapped lightning fast all around. As I watched, one of the children was thrown back into a wall and slid down, unconscious.

I wanted to help. After all, these children were like me; scared, confused, and fighting for their lives. But there would only be one winner in this competition, and I needed to make sure it was me.

I left the fight once again, and even before the screams and clangs of metal on metal had died away, Chiron’s snake-like voice was thrown off the smooth walls of the seemingly infinite cavern. I stopped running and listened.

“Well, it appears the first fifteen minutes are up, which means we are currently at our halfway mark! Congrats to those who made it this far. We will now switch in the new members for group A, as well as the monsters. The new players will start at random areas in the course just like when the challenge started. Otherwise, rules have not changed . . . Now, resume!”

 The voice died away, and I was once again standing alone in silence. Chiron had said ‘those who made it this far.’ Did that mean that someone hadn’t made it?

I wanted to know, but then again, I needed to find that helmet in the next fifteen minutes or four people would die because of me. So with this thought in mind, I took off running again.

 

-

 

After a while of sprinting through the maze like place, I was beginning to feel really, truly lost. Everywhere I looked I saw familiar things. The same black spire, the same bridge high off in the distance, the same wall that looked like the top portion of a busty woman. I couldn’t be walking in circles, could I?

I was starting to panic, and my mind began to wander to what would happen if I failed. That’s when I came to a dead end. Or, at least at first it seemed that way, but a closer inspection made me realize that within the confines of the three black walls that rose impossibly high, a strange depression had formed upon the brick floor.

I walked over to it, momentarily curious, but as I stepped near it, the depression sunk lower. I tried to back up, but it sunk in so quickly that I hardly had time to react. I fell in and slid to the bottom. In a desperate attempt to stand up, I pushed off the floor under me, but the force became too much for the loosening blocks. The bricks shook loose and began to cascade down into the room below. I went with them, dropping into a complete free fall.

“AHH!” I screamed as I fell. The blocks around me where like heavy black rain. When I hit the floor, there was a sickening crack, and I groaned in pain as I felt hot blood flow from my leg. I looked around, squinting my eyes through the pain. My sword clattered to the floor a few feet away, the sound echoing throughout the huge room.

The room I had fallen into was pitch black. The only light that flowed in came from the hole I had fallen through in the ceiling high above me. The light was dim but it focused on me like a spotlight, keeping everything else in complete darkness.

I poked the bone that protruded grossly out of my left leg, feeling pain so immense that I found it hard to breathe.

Suddenly, I heard the shifting and clanking of armor from somewhere ahead of me. Then there was a groaning, as if something ancient and terrible was roused from a long sleep. It was deep and menacing.

“Who’s there?” I managed to gasp out. The voice that responded was hollow and icy.

“I? I AM JALIS, THE ONE WHO CARRIES THE KEY. WHO ARE YOU?”

My eyeballs were throbbing, and I could almost hear the blood rushing to my head. I looked around to where I thought the voice was coming from and called out, “I’m Nic, are you saying you have the helmet?” My voice was as weak as I felt.

“ARE YOU A CHALLENGER?” The echoing voice called back.

“Y-yes, what do you want?” My vision was growing blurry, I didn’t know how much longer I could stay conscious.

            Then the owner of the steely voice entered the area of light. I took in a sharp breath at the hulking, terrifying figure in front of me.

            It was a knight. A knight in a suit of intricate silver battle armor. His breastplate shimmered brightly in the dim light. His helmet was crowned with black horns that reminded me of the horrible minotaur. He stood motionless, on guard, a massive silver sword stabbed into the ground between his feet.

            The helmet he wore . . . Could it be?

            “IF YOU ARE A CHALLENGER, THEN IT IS MY DUTY TO CUT YOU DOWN. IN TEN THOUSAND YEARS, NOT ONE CHALLENGER HAS EVER FOUND THIS PLACE. IN FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS, NOT ONE CHALLENGER HAS TAKEN THIS HELM FROM ME. YOU, WHO HAVE DISTURBED MY SLUMBER, YOUR JOURNEY ENDS HERE.”

            My heart had never pounded so hard. Maybe it was sensing the end of its beating, but I was scared out of my mind. I curled up, closed my eyes, and waited for the inevitable.

            I heard the cracking as the sword was ripped out of the ground by the knights impossibly powerful arms. The swooshing sound as he swung it over his head and prepared to strike. I cowered, imagining the heavy blade cutting straight through me, erasing my existence.  

Then, as the blade began to fall, a girlish cry came from high above me. I looked up, my heart jumping into my throat. The girl named Avra fell from the hole in ceiling onto the knight’s head, bashing it with the shield.

The knight was momentarily stunned and moved back into the darkness. Avra leapt gracefully off his chest and onto the ground in front of me.

“You alright?” She asked me. She looked remarkably cleaner, her hair was washed and she wore the same silver tunic and shorts that I wore. She had changed a lot from the dirty, bone thin girl I had met during the first challenge, and even in the dim light, I could tell that she was beautiful.

“No, I think my legs broken.” I said, wincing slightly as I felt the sharp pain again.

“I see . . . Throw me your sword.” She said strongly. Her voice didn’t quiver a bit, and I felt embarrassed that I had coward so pathetically. I reached over and grabbed my sword as the knight came to its senses.

“TWO OF YOU? HOW DID TWO CHALLENGERS FIND THIS PLACE? REGARDLESS, I WILL DEFEAT BOTH OF YOU WITHOUT BREAKING A SWEAT.” It bellowed, swinging its sword over its head in a show of power.  

“Is that so? Well, I’d like to see you try.” Avra said coolly. She took my sword as I handed her the hilt and swung it around as I had, trying to adjust her strength to its weight. Apparently finding a balance between it and the shield, she lowered the Athenian hoplite shield to just below her eyes and rested the sword upon it.

She looked skilled, but from somewhere in the back of my mind, I recalled some knowledge that her particular shield was made for use with a spear, and in large groups. This style seemed like some sort of makeshift phalanx.

I was in no shape to move, let alone fight. Avra was on her own against Jalis. I tried to sit up, but the pain was too great and I fell back with a groan.

“Don’t move,” she said. “This b*****d’s mine.”

I nodded reluctantly. Avra glanced back at me and smiled, “don’t worry, that helm’s as good as ours.”

Again I nodded, this time I smiled back. She looked away from me, took a moment to compose herself, then charged straight at the terrifying knight . . . ready to die.




© 2010 Domenic Luciani



Author's Note

Domenic Luciani
ignore the grammar mistakes please.

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Featured Review

wow this is an exceptional piece of writing. I didn't notice the mistakes for I was too engrossed in reading the story. The twist and turns this story takes you on are amazing and the imagination of this underground world is quite original. Your characters come to life and the dialog is wonderfully written. I hope to read more of this story and I am greatly hoping that you turn this into a book. I want to know what happens to Nic and the girl and the twins as well. I am hoping the freckle faced kid made it through. Great story line. This felt like the first chapter I would read in a novel that is published.

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




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AK
Awesome! It really reminds me of Percy Jackson...

Posted 5 Years Ago


quite surreal and highly visual. Still with that unique flair. Well done.

Posted 7 Years Ago


Another great chapter. I don't know what to say because everything has pretty much been touched on.
I'll say I think you write the first person perspective very well and as stated before by others and myself your style of writing immerses the reader with the edge of your seat twists and turns.
Very unique story.
Great Chapter.

Posted 7 Years Ago


Great story-- it's a long piece to read online, and I think that it could be broken up a bit into separate chapters, but I really enjoyed it. You have great imagery, and though you said to ignore grammar mistakes, I barely found any, which is not usually the case when people say that. Personally, I found the all caps very distracting, and there's one other thing- I don't think that you ever gave a consequence for the losing team, which I was wondering about. Maybe some reason for that would help the intensity of the situation.
All in all, looking forward to the next chapter. Great job again!
:)
Coral

Posted 7 Years Ago


The main problem I had with this section was the dialogue between Nic and the guardian of the key. In my opinion, all caps tend to grate on the nerves and well... it just didn't seem like something a being that had been guarding some pit for thousands of years would say. Instead it seemed like something you'd find in a cheesy horror movie from the 60s. However, I do like that you didn't create the "alpha male syndrome" type protagonist. It's refreshing that he's a wuss and not very strong.

Posted 7 Years Ago


A long one but a good one. You paint a beautiful world, and I can't wait to read more.

Posted 7 Years Ago


//Ignore the grammar mistakes please.//

Generally, that sort of statement just irritates me and makes me far more prone to absolutely hate your piece. Fortunately, your grammar wasn't actually too bad; an occasional mistake here and there, but nothing terrible. For not having read the previous chapters (I was requested to read this particular chapter by some other writer), I wasn't too lost either, so that was a plus.

Your character has a considerable amount of depth for how short this is, although admittedly cowardly and weak depth at this point.

The only critique I have for this (seeing as grammatical corrections are not allowed) is that I can't stand capitalized s**t like that. I always suggest italics for emphasis instead.

Not bad. You should RR the other chapters for me. :)
9.8/10

Posted 7 Years Ago


Another fine piece. The story is moving along at nice pace and you are doing a fine job of keeping us wondering what will happen next. Which is what a good writer can do, never let the story become predictable or most readers will just put it down. Excellent work.

Posted 7 Years Ago


Wow. The detail in your settings is really awesome. You did a fantastic job world building here also. It all flows smoothly. Didn't feel like I was getting caught in "info dumps" about your world as the plot progressed. I agree with Orange, the character development is good here. Fantastic fantasy action. Thanks for the fun read tonight.

Posted 7 Years Ago


this is a great story! well done!!!

Posted 7 Years Ago



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Added on March 28, 2010
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Author

Domenic Luciani
Domenic Luciani

Buffalo, NY



About
That is my real name, and that is really me in the picture. Like Patrick says, I'm not in the witness protection program. I mostly write books and stories. I like fantasy, or fiction, but if.. more..

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A Chapter by Domenic Luciani


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A Chapter by Domenic Luciani



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