Pandora's Castle
By Laurali
Chapter 8

.... He feigned to the left again and dodged the weapon, only to find himself falling over something behind him --- Marion!

Robin rolled to his feet and faced Jacobi unarmed, clutching his bleeding arm. Jacobi advanced on him slowly, step by step, forcing Robin back into the darkness of the corridor.

"I been waitin' a long times for this..." Jacobi taunted. An evil smile spread in increments across his face, lighting his eyes with an unholy humor. Out of the darkness came a scuffling noise, then a slight whoosh of movement, and finally the sickening thrust of steel through flesh and bone as Marion ran Jacobi through with Robin's sword. Jacobi looked down at the sword point protruding from his chest, threw back his head and let loose a shrieking howl as his wounded body began to melt into a green ooze. Marion and Robin looked on in amazement.

"It wasn't him." Marion said in a small voice.

"It's one of the horrors of the Castle. It found one of my fears and used it against me." Robin nudged his slime-covered sword away from the ooze with the toe of his boot. "The real question is... do I really want my sword back that badly?"

"I have a feeling we're going to need it." Marion said with grim finality.

She used her knife to tear a strip of cloth from her skirt and bound Robin's wounded arm. "Can you use your arm?"

"No, I don't think so. That means if necessary I'll have to fight left handed. I hate that." He grimaced as she tightened the bandage.

"Where are Tuck, John, and Tom?"

"I told them to go on without us, remember? We're going to have to go find them, if you're up for it that is." Robin looked down the corridor to the great hall, spider webs floating in the cold draught.

"I don't know what happened to me. I was afraid we'd be lost in here forever, that the evil in this place would take us all... I don't remember thinking at all; I picked up your sword and killed him. All I knew was that I couldn't lose you." Marion lowered her head, realizing she'd said more than she intended to.

Robin lifted her chin and made her look into his eyes. "I couldn't lose you either. That's why I stayed behind. We have to keep moving now. Will you be all right?"

"As long as you're next to me, yes."

Robin and Marion headed down towards the central hall. Scattered on the floor were the remains of one of Sir Guy's soldiers, body parts that appeared to have been chewed by an animal.

"Do I want to know?" Marion asked.

"I don't think so." Robin said, keeping a wary eye on the yawning darkness of the other corridors.

The stillness of the hall broke as something dropped from the shadows of the vaulted ceiling, something that looked suspiciously like an arm with most of the flesh torn from it. Without another word Robin and Marion fled into another corridor. A loud scratching noise echoed through the hall as the inhabitant of the shadows supped on another piece of the dismembered soldier with a contented chuckle.

A door creaked open behind Sir Guy and Jacobi. The last few soldiers were sucked screaming through the opening before it slammed shut. Jacobi tried the door, but it was locked. Sir Guy kept moving.

"They're expendable! Don't bother with them, I told you to find Robin, kill him, and get us out of here!"

Jacobi lodged a shoulder against the locked door. "Ye don't ask fer too much at once, do ye Gisbourne?"

"I'm simply asking for that which I paid you for." Sir Guy tested a doorknob on the other side of the corridor.

"Ye haven't paid me yet. Watch yer step Gisbourne. After I takes care of ole Robbie, ye could easily be next." Jacobi drew his sword and shoved Sir Guy aside. He kicked out and forced the door inwards, letting gale force winds and icy cold waves of seawater batter them against the far wall. Sir Guy slipped in the flood of water that swept down the hallway. Jacobi fought to stay upright, made his way to the open door, and pulled on the doorknob with his full weight, finally closing it. The storm that had raged just a moment ago ceased. Flinging dripping wet hair out of his face, Jacobi looked toward the light of the central hall, trying to figure out where Sir Guy had gotten to.

Another door down the hallway sucked in the last of the water and slowly closed.

Tom woke up, but did not open his eyes. He was in bed, warm and safe, and he didn't want to leave it. He heard a woman's sigh next to him in the bed and he thought of Iris, his wife and Marion's cousin. The sigh didn't sound like Iris,... something was very wrong here....

Sneaking a peek from beneath his eyelashes Tom saw a fire lit room, soft cotton sheets on the bed, and a pretty blonde woman reclining on the pillows next to him.

"Wake up darling." she purred. Her voice seemed otherworldly, as if it echoed in the small room. She did not touch him, but ran her hand over his chest only an inch above his shirt front. "I have something for you."

He sat up in the bed and watched her walk across the room to a chest full of glittering gold and jewels. She gestured to a table by the fire heavily laden with food and drink. He noticed there were fine clothes laid out for him at the end of the bed.

"Who are you, and where is this place?"

"This is my home, and now it's your home too, Thomas. Here you will have everything your heart desires. I'm so glad you've come home to me."

The comfortable glow of the room wrapped around him. He knew this wasn't home. Home was Glockshire Hall and Iris. Home was a ride through Sherwood Forest and a simple meal with Robin, Marion and their friends. But the spell of the room, the fire, and the woman who beckoned to him made his life in Sherwood seem dreamlike. Here was comfort, here was peace, here was......

The door banged open and a rush of seawater flooded the room. The blonde woman screamed and disappeared into thin air. The door closed and the water receded, leaving Sir Guy lying on the floor looking partially drowned and coughing water.

Little John threw open doors at random and slammed them shut just as quickly. He was angry, but not for any reason in particular. The madness of doors that led nowhere but the next corridor, doors that led straight into brick walls, doors that opened up on the opposite side of the hall infuriated him.

Tuck followed as John rambled through the maze of doors and hallways, muttering to himself with a smirk. "Fool, you're only get us more and more lost. You're never going to find the way out. Quit while you're ahead, idiot. We're stuck here and you had better get used to it."

Opening yet another door, John was shoved aside by one of Sir Guy's soldiers, screaming and tearing out his hair in clumps. The soldier fled down the hallway and into the central hall where his screams stopped suddenly. Tuck and John paused momentarily to listen to the eerie silence.

John turned to the open doorway and prepared to walk through it.

"Don't go in there, you idiot! You have no idea what's in there." Tuck reprimanded.

"Whatever is in there is better than a door that leads nowhere!" John shouted angrily. He stepped through the portal and slammed the door behind him.

Tuck yanked on the door, opening it and discovering nothing but a blank wall behind it. He looked up and down the corridor, confused and flustered by this new turn of events. He was alone in the house of horrors. Nothing moved, no sound drifted to his ears.

He let go of the doorknob and stared terrified at the light from the hall, frozen where he stood.

MacGregor stood before the drawbridge to Pandora's Castle. The urge to run was strong, but Olwyn had told him he had a task to do. He screwed up his courage and prepared to set foot on unholy ground.

"I'm glad to see you intend to go through with it." said Olwyn's disembodied voice. He appeared moments later.

"I have to. Robin and Marion and the others are in there. I can't let them vanish when this godforsaken castle does." MacGregor set his jaw and fixed Olwyn with a determined eye.

"It's not only Robin and Marion, Tom, Tuck and Little John. Sir Guy of Gisbourne is also trapped in the labyrinth. Sir Guy travels with a mercenary who may be familiar to you."

MacGregor's face crumpled. "Jacobi, I thought he'd died in prison long ago. He was my one failure. I thought he might be another man like Robert, but the similarities were only skin deep." He visibly pulled himself back together and faced the castle. "I failed him in the past, but I won't fail him again. I'm going in there."

Olwyn handed MacGregor a bundle of cloth and chain mail. "You might need these."

MacGregor thanked Olwyn with a smile and strode over the drawbridge. No sooner had he set foot in the courtyard than the drawbridge began to rise, to close, locking MacGregor inside.

Olwyn took a horn of shimmering white powder from the folds of his robe and began to trace a sacred spiral on the grass.

"When the evil is conquered, I will light the way out for you."

Jacobi wasn't sure which way to turn after Sir Guy disappeared. He figured he would go back to the central hall and see if he could hear anyone in the other hallways. When he reentered the hall he saw a cluster of bones picked clean where the dead soldier had lain. He didn't like the looks of this. There was a brief draught through the room, spider webs lifted and caressed his face, his hands. A woman's sigh echoed through the marble room, followed by a scuttling noise Jacobi found disturbing. He cautiously turned his eyes upwards to the shadowy ceiling.

"Hello, my pretty pretty pretty....."

End of Chapter Eight

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