“Do I dare ask?” Justin huffs, his breath visible in the frigid air. “But are we there yet?”
“I wish,” I mutter, studying the map yet again. I’m searching through the tangle of irregular and jagged lines intersecting at odd angles for the most direct path between where I think we are and the center of the labyrinth. By the steeply sloping ground and glancing down adjacent corridors that lead up into the darkness by steep stairs, I think that it may be a good possibility that this labyrinth has multiple levels. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate well onto a two-dimensional map.
Since we entered through Ideon Andron
, it seems like we’ve been walking for eternity, and I hope I’m not getting us lost. Well, walking wouldn’t be quite accurate – we’ve been scrambling and climbing up and down these long corridors which have been magically built on top of the rugged topography of the belly of this old volcano.
“Hey, careful,” says Oliver, pulling Justin away from one of the walls. “Don’t touch them again, Wild Child.”
Justin glances down at his hand which has what looks like mild frost bite from when he touched one of the black flames dancing in the wall earlier.
“I’m fine,” Justin says, covering his hand with the sleeve of his robe. “MLE emergency field healing comes in handy once in a while, even though this isn’t an emergency,” he amends quickly. But I notice that he’s holding his wand in his other hand. "Ron always says I'm a walking emergency, but he's a good one to talk."
Oliver gives him a knowing look and then turns to marks the side of the wall with another large blazing ‘X’ so we can find our way out of this rat’s nest of a maze after we destroy Hera’s Horcrux.
Suddenly, the temperature drops and a cool, sulphuric wind rushes past us as the red flames in the walls are smothered by the black ones. This dampens out the dull, red light that is projected through the walls and makes the shadows in the wall grow as darkness overtakes us. The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention – I feel like we’re being watched.
“Shhh, don’t move,” I hiss as we all freeze.
“Why does that happen every time Oliver does that?” asks Justin after the black flames and shadows have disappeared and the red tongues of fire are crackling in the walls again. “This place is creeping me out. You guys don't watch enough of the telly. Sometimes the walls are alive. We could be inside of a gigantic creature that put it's mouth over the doorway of one of these corridors so we'd walk right in. On second thought, Oliver, keep marking the walls, and if you think you see tonsils that lead to a gigantic mouth or something, or smell something bad and see an exit, use it!"
Justin watches too much television. Oliver just shakes his head at him and keeps marking our path as Justin tell him the story of Hansel and Gretal and how they were lost and used bread crumbs to try to find their way home.
I swallow past the lump in my throat as I recall some of the details Olga found about Hera. “Uh, Hera supposedly created Dementors from a type of slave phantom … thing,” I begin.
“Slave phantoms?” asks Oliver.
“Yeah, they are lost souls that have been supposedly bound to a place for eternity and left hungry and restless as punishment for … trespassing.” I don’t really want to believe the story, especially now. Justin blanches as I continue, “She freed some of them and then morphed them into Dementors apparently, or at least that’s what Olga found.”
“So these slave phantoms are like pre-Dementors, is that what you’re saying? So they suck out your soul?”
“No, they suck magic.”
Oliver looks worried. Suddenly, Justin whips out his wand and before either of us can do anything he mutters, “Lumos!”
Within seconds the cold wind, black flames, wispy shadows, and smell of sulphur are back. As we stand there in the dark not daring to move or do any more magic, one of the shadows curling up from the flickering black fire extends a long, spindly hand out of the wall toward Justin’s wand. There’s a weird sucking sound and thin silvery threads begin to pull out of Justin’s wand tip toward the figure emerging from the wall.
Justin hastily whispers, “NOX!”
and pulls back his wand from the hand.
The shadow retracts and then dissipates like smoke as the temperature increases and it becomes lighter. All three of us stand there staring at each other, not daring to speak. Wordlessly, we all seem to have come to the same conclusion: no magic, move fast, and get out of here as quickly as possible.
As I turn to join Oliver and Justin who are already hurrying forward, out of the corner of my eye I catch a pair of shadows flitting across the long corridor behind us. I spin around with my wand out, but find nothing but tall fiery walls stretching up into the darkness and the quiet crackling of flame. I frown and figure that it must be my nerves. However, I can’t help but wonder if some of these phantoms roaming in the walls of the labyrinth have more solids forms. I hope not.