Blu rounded the corner at full speed, running for his life. The shouts of the soldiers behind him grew closer. It wouldn’t be much longer before they caught up. He was wearing down. It had been ages since he had this much physical activity. His lungs ached; his muscles screamed. He promised himself that if he made it out of here alive he would run an hour every day. Maybe even two hours!
Rounding another corner he racked his brains for an escape route. There had to be some way out of this subterranean labyrinth of tunnels and passages. How embarrassing would it be to die in the maze that you built, he thought to himself. But it had been a long time since he had walked these halls. And they all looked the same. Grey stone walls, worked stone floors and ceilings, torches every four meters; it had all been designed this way to confuse and bewilder intruders. Only now it was working against him.
He came to a junction at the end of a corridor. A pair of wooden signs stood affixed to the wall. This was the first indication that any of these tunnels lead anywhere. To the left was the “Bedrock Garden” and to the right were the “Upper Mines”. He vaguely remembered that the bedrock garden was a dead end. But the upper mines were a mostly unexplored system of caves. They were dark, and probably teeming with monsters. More angry shouts from down the corridor behind him reminded Blu that he didn’t have much time to weigh his options. Immediately he broke to the right.
After a few more meters the corridor lead to the base of some stairs. From what he could remember they were cut directly into the stone and lead straight up to the start of the cave system above. As he began his ascent Blu noticed something odd. Every other step was a slab of oak wood as was his usual building habit. He thought it complimented the stone and made the climb easier than a steeper set of traditional stairs. But that wasn’t the odd part. The wood should be there, but it shouldn’t look so old. The signs he had passed earlier as well. He remembered putting those signs up not more than five years before. And while that may be enough time to forget the layout of one of the many structures you’ve built, it wasn’t enough time for wood to decay like that. Especially wood that had been worked and treated specifically to resist aging.
Something strange was going on. But Blu didn’t have long to ponder it. Out of the incoherent rabble behind him came a clear and deliberate call.
“Give it up Blu! Just stop running and give us what we want!” The voice came from a few stair levels below.
Blu immediately recognized it. But once again it had been nearly five years since he had heard it. Rowtag Byrne. But there was no way! Now things were passed the realm of odd and encroaching dangerously close to the territory of mind bendingly impossible.
Once he reached the top of the stairs Blu bolted straight ahead. And stopped dead in his tracks. Not more than a few meters from the top of the stairs the corridor gave way to a massive chasm. Thirty meters across and nearly twice as deep, it opened before him like a giant maw ready to devour anything and everything that was unlucky enough to cross its path. It spanned for at least half a kilometer in either direction. On the far side, he could make out the continuation of the corridor. No way could he get over there. Even if he could build his way across, he didn’t have the materials. And where had this thing come from anyway? It hadn’t been here only a few years before. If memory served him, this corridor went straight on, uninterrupted save for a small underground stream that he had dammed up to make a pond. Welcome to mind bendingly impossible.
He turned around and thought about his options. There was no going back down the stairs. In mere moments Byrne and the rest of the soldiers would be upon him. He could try and descend deeper into the chasm. There were ledges every few meters all the way down to the bottom. But that was too risky. He could misjudge a leap, or slip and fall. Even worse, there could be monsters down there. Blu shuddered at the thought of a zombie’s claws at his throat, or a giant cave spider’s dripping fangs coming for his skin.
Then it struck him. Whenever he explored an undiscovered cave system, he built a safe room near its entrance. They were made of reinforced stone brick and had iron doors to ward off monsters. Perfect spot to buy him a little time. But where was it? He remembered it distinctly being before the pond but after the stairs. Desperately, he began clawing at the wall of gravel to his right. Sure enough, as he dug out the gravel, throwing it over the side of the chasm, a door began to appear. Only a little more and the door was clear. He leapt through, throwing the switch on the wall, closing the door with a resounding THUD. Immediately after, there were voices in the corridor.
“You can’t hide in there forever, Blu!” Byrne shouted through the door. “Just give us the compass!”
Blu sighed. He reached into the shoulder bag hanging at his side. After a moment of rummaging he produced a small iron compass. The little needle spun around wildly. On the back was an inscription:
Bestowed upon: Blu D’jin
By her Ladyship Hermera, Queen of the Aether
It seemed silly that they would want this. He had been so confused when he ran into them on one of the lower levels and they immediately gave chase demanding it. He didn’t have long to ponder it though. The sound of metal on stone jarred him from his thoughts. They were going to dig through the wall.
Blu scanned the room. Though he didn’t know why they wanted it, he couldn’t let them have the compass. The safe room was pretty barren. The remains of an old chest rested against the wall. The wooden sides of it having long ago rotted away. Built into the wall opposite the door were a line of smelting furnaces. The wall to his left played host to the room’s lone torch, doing its best to illuminate the room. On the opposite wall he found something curious.
In the middle of the smooth stone brick was a patch of scintillating blue. It was a panel of compressed Lapis Lazuli, a bright azure mineral normally used as a dye. Quite rare except for deep in the earth. If you had enough of it, you could compress the normally brittle mineral into blocks that sparkled bright blue. Many crafters Blu knew used it as a decoration to accent their architecture. But Blu used it for another purpose.
In the rotted remains of the chest, Blu found a small stone button mechanism. Without hesitation he placed it against the Lapis panel. When he removed his hand the button remained, as if it and the panel had never been separate. He pressed the button. There was a faint click then a whooshing sound. A panel of stone at the base of the wall before him slid back, revealing another chest. Only this chest was in pristine condition. Comprised of pure obsidian, it hummed slightly, radiating a faint purple energy.
Quickly, Blu threw the compass in the chest, closed the hidden cubby, and detached the button from the wall. He had just thrown the button into one of the furnaces when the wall next to the door crumbled and gave way. A very angry looking man in chain armor, wielding a diamond headed pick axe, stood in the resulting breach. Two seconds later six more soldiers had filed in and Blu found himself pressed face first into the row of furnaces.
“Give us the compass, D’jin.” Byrne demanded.
“Why do you want it so badly?” Blu asked. “It’s no good to you. It only works in the Aether.”
“I’m aware of that fact. And that’s exactly why I need it.” Byrne replied. “Now, hand it over.”
“I don’t have it.” Blu said.
“Do you have dirt in your ear?” Blu responded defiantly. “I said I don’t have it.”
Suddenly, Blu was flipped around. Before he could even look into Byrne’s eyes, the young captive received a metal gauntlet to the gut. Then another. The wind was knocked right out of him. His legs crumpled. Instead of falling to the floor, Blu hung limp by the arms between two of the larger shoulders.
“Now you listen to me you little whelp.” Byrne drew close to Blu, speaking directly into the latter’s ear. “You know as well as I do that if I reach into that little bag of yours I’m going to pull out nothing but a big handful of air. Now you can do it, and give me your compass, or I can just gut you like a fish and sift through the contents after they spill out when you die.”
Blu looked up. He looked straight into Byrne’s eyes. The eyes of a man he had grown up with far, far away from this little room, deep under the earth on the brink of a dark chasm. They had mined and crafted and built together as children. They had played and frolicked under warm sun, huddled together during the cold nights. Now that boy he had known all those years ago stood before him, ready to kill Blu over a bit of metal.
“Why are you doing this Rowtag?” Blu coughed. “We grew up together.”
“That was a long time ago Blu. The world we grew up on doesn’t exist anymore. The people we were then don’t exist anymore.” Byrne replied.
“Sir.” One of the soldiers interrupted. “I found something.”
The soldier reached his hand into the furnace on the far left of the row and pulled out the little stone button. Byrne grabbed it out of the man’s hands.
“You know, Blu,” Byrne began, turning the button over in his hands, “I used to know a little boy who loved playing with redstone contraptions. Intricate mine cart tracks, traps and pitfalls… And he had such an affinity for hidden passages and chambers. His builds were just riddled with them. And he always used Lapis as the trigger block for all these little mechanisms. I suppose that little boy is all grown up now. I wonder if he’s changed his building habits?”
Blu could only sputter in horror as Byrne affixed the little button to the Lapis panel. With a malicious smile, Byrne gave the button a press. The hidden panel at the base of the wall slid open revealing the glowing obsidian chest.
“What do we have here?” Byrne feigned surprise.
One of the soldiers knelt down and opened the chest. After a second of rummaging he looked back at Byrne and shrugged.
“Nothing here.” The man said.
“What!?” Byrne shouted. “Get out of the way!”
Byrne thrust his hands into the chest and searched around frantically. He too came up with nothing.
“What kind of trick is this, D’jin?” Byrne grabbed Blu by the front of the shirt. “Where did you put the compass?”
“I used to know this little boy Rowtag.” Blu replied smugly. “He was the sloppiest builder. He always took too many risks. Like leaving an open wall right next to a dark chasm where monsters were guaranteed to be hiding.”
Before any of the soldiers could raise an eyebrow at Blu’s bold remark, they were distracted by a sudden loud hissing coming from the gap in the wall next to the door. They all recoiled in horror as a large, mobile clump of moss and cave debris charged into the room. No one had a chance to scream before the creeper exploded, destroying the room and killing them all.