Beate walked up the long, sloping
hill that led to the fortress entrance. She lived in the vicinity and had
visited the huge maze more times than she could count. Other explorers,
adventurers and scientists were standing at various stalls, gearing up and
buying supplies for their own expedition into the ancient city.
Beate had heard stories about the fortress from the time she was born.
People claimed the place had belonged to a race of superbeings who'd lived
on the planet before humans had even been around. Others claimed it was
the work of mages or demons. Some even whispered about people coming from
the stars. Whatever the truth was, no-one had ever been able to map the
entirety of the complex. Supposedly a scientist had gotten far but she'd
vanished a few months ago. Beate remembered her parents talking about it.
Unlike her parents, Beate wasn't afraid. There were bad people around but
hardly any gave her a second look. After all, she had no valuables and
what she knew of the labyrinth was stored in her head and not on
She was small and looked younger than her years. But she could go places
others could not and she had a few hiding places that were hers
exclusively. Soon she would find one of the secret entrances and she would
find the treasures hidden deep within the fortified ruins. Beate grinned
as she speculated about what the treasure could be; Scholars usually
believed it to be a library or lost knowledge. Thieves wanted money and
adventurers hoped for a legendary weapon. Beate had no clue, she just
wanted to find... something. Anything, really.
The scrawny girl turned a corner and landed herself squarely into trouble.
A trio of unsavoury characters stood on the other side and she'd just
become a witness to something she shouldn't have seen. Backtracking, Beate
dashed around the corner and ran as fast as her small legs could carry
The others chased after her, gaining as they had a larger gait. But Beate
hadn't survived without learning a few tricks herself. She hadn't gotten
far into the maze yet and knew where to run. Dodging others who luckily
slowed down the bad guys on her tail, she made a quick retreat to one of
her small hiding places. She shimmied through a narrow space and crawled
inside a semi-circular hole that more than likely was a cellar vent.
Sadly though, one of the thugs had seen where she'd gone and by the way
they set up camp outside of her hidey-hole, they weren't about to leave.
Beate sighed, but resigned herself to her fate as she rolled away one of
the rocks inside. She'd been meaning to explore the tunnel there but the
spider webs and creepy crawlies had kept her from entering. Until now. She
just hoped the tunnel would lead her somewhere, preferably with an exit so
she could go home.
Using a little light as guidance,
Beate emerged into another cellar. She'd been crawling for the better part
of an hour but had made quite a few turns. She had no clue where she was
but would easily find her way once she got back out in the open. Her light
didn't illuminate the entirety of the space so Beate carefully ventured
along the side of the room, hoping to find a door or window. When that
didn't happen, she started to walk back and forth to look for a hatch in
the ceiling. When that search proved futile, she did her sweep again, this
time looking at the floor though going down even more would probably not
lead her outside.
She didn't know how she'd missed it the first time, but after a few
traverses of the large cavernous room, she nearly stumbled upon a
pedestal. Eyes turning big, Beate held her little light closer to the
reflective surface of the ancient lamp. Curved and shaped unusually the
piece was however easily recognised for it's use.
"Treasure." she smiled and then proceeded to light the lamp,
hoping that would give her a better view of the place.
A puff of dusty smoke made her cough and suddenly...
"Ooof, I was in there for way too long." Umbra groaned.
Beate blinked her eyes and as the dust settled she saw an older woman,
with black skin and long white hair. Oddly though, she didn't feel afraid,
not even when the woman swung her mace around for good measure.
"It feels wonderful to be able to move." Umbra sighed as she
Umbra looked around and then fixed her eyes curiously upon the small human
female in front of her. Apparently her new master was someone young. Umbra
quite liked that. Old and stuffy gentlemen seemed too preoccupied with
world dominance to actually have fun.
"What might be your name, dear?" Umbra asked, "I am Umbra,
Warden of the Shadow."
"Beate." the young woman replied, and then: "of Lidavil."
since Umbra seemed to expect a title and that was the only one she managed
to come up with. Beate had heard that people oftentimes referred to
themselves by where they were born.
"Well Beate of Lidavil, tell me your desires."
"Do you know a way out of here?" Beate asked.
Umbra faltered for a moment. Usually people came right out with their
wishes. But a heartfelt request such as this was something they just
couldn't forego. Of course they knew a way out of here. In fact they knew
several. But which one did the girl want?
"We are now on the all but highest floors of the fortress. There are
several rooms, corridors and alleys that lead to a multitude of places
inside the fortress...." Umbra launched into a monologue about what
they knew of the building. Even they hadn't been around when the fortress
had been built. They were a magic being and not a technological one. Umbra
had been brought in well after the fortress had been abandoned by it's
original owners but had lived there for countless of years under the reign
of one of the magician kings that had come after. The magic of course
hadn't been his but theirs but that had been a well-guarded secret. Umbra
knew of plenty more but her new owner wasn't asking about those.
By the time Umbra told Beate of the staircase hidden in one of the
pillars, a great deal of time had gone by. Beate had listened dutifully
but had gotten drowsy. She'd nearly missed the important speck of
information but luckily she'd been awake enough to understand it's
"Let's take that way out!" she called and Umbra stopped
Their master had given a command after all. Although, she hadn't told them
to shut up. It was quite unusual to have a young maiden crawl through
cellars. So Umbra spoke up one more:
"Maybe I can help you find some more fun things to do? Or help you
woo a nice young man? Surely you like someone...."
But Beate wasn't listening, instead she carefully tapped and prodded all
sides of the indicated column. After a couple of minutes, the diminutive
woman really got into the puzzle at hand and she quite enjoyed the search,
hardly listening to what Umbra was saying. Looking for the mechanism
herself was far more interesting after all.
A long time passed but then suddenly Beate heard a click and a breeze,
smelling of dust and decay, wafted toward them. More spider webs and a
dubiously icky substance on the walls made Beate stand back a bit. This
hidden staircase didn't look all that inviting.
'Ack, I just wish I could get on with my destiny." Beate sighed.
Umbra's eyes flashed a brighter red as she said: "Understood
master" and teleported them far far away to her new master's
[STORY] + [BEATE] - [UMBRA] + [XANADU
Background found with google search long ago.
Picture was taken in Blackness (Scotland)