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Chapter 6: The Maze Beneath the Mountain

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Hail, adventurers!


It's late on my end, but I am here once more to declare my quests for this challenge!


Firstly, to maintain the self-care habits I've been working for (can you believe it) the past 5 months!

That's right, 6 challenges, so this month is the 6th on this journey. That's just...mindboggling. Essentially, I've devised a ridiculously involved point system to track myself keeping up with the habits I've been working really hard to solidify. I'm going to keep doing the 4-6 workouts, Level 7 paleo, and sleep-ritual thing from the past half a year. The point system is just to keep me honest (because I will run off and cheat with the sugar fae if I don't keep myself accountable). I've just intertwined the success of their maintenance so that, should I have a really bad week with paleo, I can make up for it by going to bed early every night, et cetera. I'm hoping it helps me keep some balance. We'll see what it actually does. 


Secondly, to fight off the ravaging Havoc Gnomes within the Emerald Rune's labyrinth!

In other words, keep decluttering. There's still a lot to get through, and I like the habit of making sure I handle at least a little every day. Some days I get more done, some days I throw out a piece of paper and call it good. Today I took some books back to the library because I wasn't reading them, and they were taking up both physical and mental space I didn't need occupied. When I've fought off enough of them, I get to go spend money on getting my hair cut. (I need one, but I'm good enough with hair that I can still kind of make it work until I 'can afford' to get it trimmed. Once I've gotten through some of this stuff, I've decided I can afford to get it trimmed. Lol.)


Thirdly, to craft a second ritual of self-care!

The sleep-ritual thing has done me loads of good, but I'm noticing a severe need for some time devoted to reflection and gratitude and spiritual wellness. Also, when I get up in the morning and am immediately faced with several decision of "what do???", I tend to lie there and feel bad; even if it's completely unnecessary. So I'm going to see if creating a normal "this is what I do when I get up" ritual could help with that. I don't know if it will work at all, and if it does, whether it will be permanent. But right now, it's something I could use. Even if it doesn't stay a morning-ritual, I'd like some sense of order and a set time to take care of my mental and spiritual well-being. 


And lastly, to force myself to renew my spirit at least once a day!

I miss creativity. I usually shame myself for doing something just for fun's sake when there are other, productive, things I could be doing instead. I have a feeling that's not super good for me. So, I'm gonna do one thing a day that is either creative or fun. It might take 5 minutes. It might take an hour. But it's important that I create a habit of creating my own happiness. Nobody else is gonna do it, so I might as well, yeah? Today I sat and I listened to a good book and I colored. It was amazing. I felt like I was supposed to be doing something else, but I think I am better for it. I'm going to try to note what I did every day so I can remember whether I missed a day or not. 


As always, there will be more story eventually. (Seriously, I even know what happened in the maze last time now!) But it's past 11pm, and I haven't plotted my day tomorrow yet. So wish me luck, as I also wish you good fortune. :D ONNNWAAAAARD :D:D:D 

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Kharissandra wiped her eyes on a sleeve as she came out of the labyrinth, and braced her hands against her knees to keep from tipping over. Aliza handed her a flask of spring water, sweet and freezing cold from higher in the mountain. Khari guzzled it; then looked the monk in the eye. "Aliza, there aren't "SOME" havoc gnomes."

Aliza cocked her head as Khari handed her the Bag of Holding she had brought back; then she nearly tipped over with the weight being handed to her. It was nearly as heavy as the ranger returning it. Khari continued. "There are hundreds. It's like an army down there. That's only 57, and you definitely didn't tell me they bite!"


Aliza handed Khari a yam stuffed with meat. And sweet smoked peppers. And bright green steamed spinach. Khari looked a little sheepish, murmered a much gentler "Thanks," and took a tiny bite of the steaming, delicious food. Aliza took advantage of the break in the verbal barrage, "In my defense, I don't fight them much; I had forgotten they bite. Did you run into anything else this time?"

Khari picked a bit of potato skin from her chin, shaking her head. "I only made it a few miles in before they started swarming."


"Yes. SWARMING. And while I was trying to corner a few of them, one of the little devils snuck up behind me and stole my gorget. I'm not losing that down there. So I had to stand and fight. A lot of them got away. We're positive we can't just...kill a few?"

Aliza looked at her disapprovingly. "Kharissandra, these are not roaches. Look at them." She picked a gnome out of the bag by the scruff of its neck. It hissed adorably and wriggled, but it wasn't much bigger than an adolescent kitten. Giant eyes and ridiculously bright colors and a vest made of bits and bobs, probably dropped down there by other runners, that it had collected. "You really think you could kill it?"

Khari stalked past Aliza, grumbling. "I'd think about it."

Aliza, as always, followed, knowing that by now Khari could find her way through the temple. "I'm surprised you haven't found any of the spirits yet. Normally they will appear by now. And your study of the language is coming along well."

Khari looked back at her, wryly. "I might be less 'connected to my spirit' than you think. Trust me, I'm the last one who knows what's going on in there these days." 


"You've been meditating as I've taught you?"

"Sure, but it's still as frustrating as it was when I started. I'm starting to wonder if you have to be sworn to the Rune before combative meditation works."

"And you've been resisting that malcontent you're carrying around?"

"Lighten up, YES, alright?"


Something was wrong. Kharissandra wasn't usually this volatile when she came out of the labyrinth. Usually she collapsed at the entrance and refused to talk or move until she was given food. Where was this energy coming from? Aliza moved on an instinct. "Kharissandra?"

As the ranger turned to face her, aggravation in her eyes, Aliza breathed an ancient word and punched her square in the nose. Kharissandra shattered into a massive pile of hissing, wriggling, adorable havoc gnomes. Very likely the 57 that were supposed to be in the bag. Aliza had an inkling what the novices would be doing for the rest of the week. But now a more somber thought occurred to her. What had the illusion hidden in the bag?




Kharissandra looked up into an ornately painted domed ceiling. Above her were three monks holding hands, intoning melodically, and a fourth holding a scroll and chanting in a low, somber tone. When she opened her eyes, the scroll-holder chanted a few more lines, rolling the scroll shut, then walked away as the other three raised her from the slab of natural red stone on which she was lying. Although she felt incredibly weak, and kind of sick, she hummed with an energy entirely alien to her. How had she gotten here exactly?


In one corner of the room, Aliza stood, arms crossed, with an unreadable expression on her face. Khari had a feeling they were going to have to talk about this later.


@Jupiter Listen I can't handle how cute that Pikachu is. Like...I'm about to fall apart in adorbable feels, plz send haaaaalp! XD 


Told you guys I felt like I died in the maze last challenge XD This is my way of celebrating a respawn. I took a little too much of a break over the break, and I'm currently paying some consequences health-wise. Hopefully getting back on track and doing some work to stop caring quite so much about what other people think of my healthy choices will help me get back to normal. (IBS symptoms suck as much as the internet said they do. Who knew you could get yourself that sick in roughly 1 weekend?)


In other news, today has been all peaceful and reflective and I'm trying to remind myself not to expect that to last and do some of the hard stuff now. Because if I wait til week 3, I'm going to get run over by the Freigh Train of Feels like I do every challenge lol. 


I'm gonna go run in place in my living room for a bit, because I don't feel like being rained on again today (and to save the commute time). I'll update as I'm able, though as always, no promises on when. <3 Thanks for the support, y'all!

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