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Tobyn dashed into the atrium of the ruins. The yellowed stone was caked in lichen and creeping green vines. The walls rose up on all sides, cracked and marred by time and ending in an opening skylight that let the cloud filtered sun pitter into the dim space.
Water spouted from crumbling fixtures and poured into the fathomless channels that lined the wide space . . . it was mixed with fresh viscera that flowed over layers of dried blood from past adventurers.
“No,” Tobyn breathed. The towering defender of the ruined temple stood over the freshest corpse, a man who had cut his own throat. “You killed him!” Tobyn roared.
“I showed him the truth of things!” The defenders voice echoed within his ashen helm and reverberated through the ancient stone. “I did not command him to enter this domain, I did not force him to view his own life through the lens of my shield! I am but a sentinel, here to defend the treasures of this temple from those who are not pure, from those who cannot bear to look into their own shadow and keep their sanity intact! Come now, little squireling, you have entered my domain, deem to look into your own soul and we shall see if you are worthy!”
Tobyn covered his eyes as the knight hefted his mighty shield of silver glass and turned it in his direction.
“You shy away from your true nature, little one? Leave, or I shall have you leave this world, screaming!” The knight launched forward, each step a trembling rattle.
Tobyn felt his foot slip back as every instinct told him to run from the approaching behemoth. He gripped his feeble dagger in one hand. Tobyn knew what happened to his master, he could not keep his eyes averted from the mirror shield, he gazed into the abyss of his own soul and he lost his mind at the lack he saw there . . . he took his own life.
Tobyn would not look, but he would not let the Mirror Knight kill him conventionally either. He had to be cleverer than his master.
As the thundering steps of the Mirror Knight drew closer, the flash of an idea sped across Tobyn’s mind. He ducked and rolled to the side, discarding his dagger and pulling out his flint and stone, grabbing a torch from a traveller long dead. With a deft motion Tobyn lit the flame and the torch sprung to life. He dashed around the atrium, lighting the long inert torch sconces upon the walls. The pale filtered light from the skylight was replaced with an encompassing orange glow.
“You think the light will save you? The light cannot dispel the darkness that lurks within!”
Tobyn ignored the taunting, turning now to face the Knight with his eyes down. He scooped up a poleaxe from another dead hero at his feet and used the shadows of the Mirror Knight from the dancing torch light to locate his foe.
He could see now, he could fight.
The shadow of the knight shifted as he lurched forward and Tobyn ducked and rolled to the side again, shifting around the mirror shield. He came to his feet whirling the poleaxe in a wide ark, and struck the knight in the joint of the elbow. The shield clattered from his hands with a pained cry, the mirror skittering across the flooring and dipping into the endless channels that lined the atrium, carried away out of reach from them both.
Tobyn risked looking at his foe now. The knight rounded on him, unarmed but covered in ashen plate armour. With a roar Tobyn struck, slamming the weight of the poleaxe into the knight again and again, shattering the ashen coating which drifted away in the still air.
The knight made no move to stop him, made no taunt. He simply stood and shifted with each blow, waiting for Tobyn to realise what lay beneath the build up of dust over the ages.
With a cry, Tobyn realised too late. His last blow shed a caked layer of dust from the Knight’s breastplate. As it crumbled away Tobyn tried to shield his eyes, but the knight was upon him. He gripped Tobyn in his mighty arms and pressed his face into the pristine reflective plating on the cuirass.
“Look child, look deep, look into the depths of your soul . . .”
The knight squeezed as Tobyn tried to scrunch his eyes shut. But the pain was too great, Tobyn surrendered.
What he saw, reflected in the breast plate of the Mirror Knight was . . . was . . .
The Knight hesitated, relinquishing his grip to look down also, and he himself let out a breath, “Heh.”
Tobyn’s giggle caught on, and the Knight roared in laughter as he stood back, the shaking of his jolly expression causing Tobyn to laugh all the harder.
The breast plate was a curved design. In the reflection Tobyn’s face was distorted, lending his jaw to be comically large and caricature-ly strong. His forehead was oblong, raised and stretched and twisted while his eyes were pinched and squinted. As he laughed his mouth spread wider in the mirror, causing him to smile more, to laugh more, and so on.
“Truly,” The Mirror Knight said, sighing as he took another breath, “You have shown courage, and have the spirit of glee and humour. Together, those are the traits of your soul . . . I deem you worthy!” The knight stepped aside, gesturing the way to the entrance to the temple’s inner sanctum. “Go now master squire, you have a pure soul; never let it tarnish like my armour has over the ages.”
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