“We must complete the journey through the labyrinth within the next forty eight hours. It is imperative that we arrive in the Other Realm by the third night of the new moon. My father told me to keep due North whenever possible,” said Upashna.
“Our only choice right now is to go either west or south as east is behind us and will return us to the entranceway. To the north is a solid wall. It is your choice Upashna. I do not have much experience with labyrinths. I know only the labyrinth on your father’s book had one way in and one way out,” said The Philosopher. “Whenever I travel I try always to stay true to my course. If I am heading north, I do not waste time by going south even if sometimes staying true to course is the more difficult route. What if we keep to true north as your father told you?”
“But the north is on the other side of the twenty foot wall to the right of us!” Exclaimed Upashna.
“Exactly,” said The Philosopher. He placed his pack on the ground and pulled out a piece of cord. “I know it does not look like much but it is thirty feet long and will support my weight.” He cut a small hook shaped branch from a nearby tree and tied it on one end of the cord. Then he threw the cut branch over the wall and pulled it with his full weight until the branch hooked itself on the other side of the wall. “If this works, we can keep heading north and not risk getting lost in side trips,” he said.
“The Philosopher was not only handsome and wise but also creative. I see why my father chose him,” Upashna thought to herself but did not speak out loud.
The Philosopher climbed up the thin rope using the rocks of the stone wall for foot and hand holds. When he reached the top of the wall he sent the rope down to Upashna. She quickly tied their staffs and packs to the cord and The Philosopher pulled them to the top of the wall. Then he sent the rope down for Upashna. She tied the cord around her waist and climbed the stone wall as The Philosopher pulled her up.
They looked over the top of the labyrinth which seemed to go on for miles. “We could have been wondering around those catacombs forever. Now we can separate but remain in sight of each other while we look for the three gates and their gatekeepers. The top of the wall is wide enough for us to walk on as long as we are careful.
“This is a brilliant idea Philosopher.” In her enthusiasm Upashna wrapped her arms around The Philosopher and gave him an embrace. This was the first time they had touched one another and during the brief embrace The Philosopher felt a stirring both in his heart and his loins which he had not experienced since a time when…
“Excuse me Philosopher. My excitement got the best of me. Please accept my apology if I offended your honor or person.” Upashna’s head was bowed and her eyes lowered as she spoke these words.
“You have in no way offended neither my honor or person. In fact you honor me with your enthusiasm and acceptance of who I am as a person.” He placed his two fingers under the chin of Upashna’ bowed head and lifts her gaze to meet his own. Looking directly into her mysterious colored eyes he repeats, “You honor me with your embrace.” They both smile and turn to pick up their packs.
“North is that direction. Even though we can see our way, we must still cross through the three doorways in order to reach the Other Realm. If you walk along the wall twenty feet to the west and I twenty feet to the east we can visually cover more territory. We are looking for a door guarded by a gatekeeper,” Upashna called out as they moved apart parallel to each other and both heading north.
The Philosopher was still in somewhat of a trance as he quickly transversed the top of the stone wall. He saw the bleached bones of others who attempted this journey below in the catacombs and pondered his own fate when he heard Upashna calling.
“Over here. I found the first gate. Come quickly,” she said.
The Philosopher pulled his thoughts together and moved toward Upashna. He lowered her down the wall, then their staffs and packs, and then himself. He released the rope and returned it to his pack.
They approached the first gate guarded by a rather burly man with a double edge spear and a patch over his right eye. “My name is Mingus. Who are you and why do you wish to pass through my gate?” asks the large man.
“I am Upashna, Daughter of The Wizard Baldwin of Swansea and The Wizard Elza Of Morocco,” Upashna replied. “We are making the journey to the Other Realm at the request of my parents.”
“And who are you the gatekeeper asked starring directly at The Philosopher.” The Philosopher had no lineage of wizards. In fact he had no lineage at all.
“I am The Philosopher,” he replied.
“Are you a wizard, philosopher?” the gatekeeper asked.
“No, I am not sir.” The woman who raised The Philosopher, his grandmother, had always stressed to him the importance of respect for those in authority. The Philosopher was being respectful of the gatekeeper and his position to permit passage through the gate or deny passage.
“Then you must pay a toll to pass through this gate. Let me see what do I want from you?”
The Philosopher interjected, “I have with me nothing of value sir.”
“Yes you do. You just do not know it. For you to pass through my gate you must give me something you have had your entire life. You have ten minuts to determine what this toll to me shall be or passage will be denied.
The Philosopher pondered, “What have I had my entire life that I must surrender for passage through the gate?” He thought of the possessions which he has had the longest. His staff he received on his twelfth birthday from an unknown stranger. Most of his books had been donated to the library or given away. There was the shawl his mother had knitted for him before he was born but that was still in his home in the village. Then he remembered a line from one of his favorite poems. “Nothing is truly mine except my name.” He remember his grandmother telling him on the day he was born and his mother died his father before leaving town registered his name in the Hall of Records as The Philosopher.
“My name is the only thing I have had all my life. Will you accept my name for payment of your toll.”
“You must realize the cost of this toll is no one will ever recognized you by your name or think of you again by that name. You will retain all of your memories but no one will remember you except for these times shared by you and your travel companion in this realm. The life you knew as The Philosopher will disappear, and your name will be removed from the Akashic Records,” said the gatekeeper.
“I understand,” answered The Philosopher. “My past or who remembers me is not longer of any importance. My name is now yours.”
“You may pass,” said the gatekeeper.
…to be continued.