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Chapter 6 The Man Trap

 Next day, when she had finished with her duties at the various temples, and with her teaching of the sacred dances to the novices, she slipped away to the Small House and, darkening the room, opened the spy hole and peered down it. There was no light. He was gone. She had not thought he would stay so long at the unavailing door, but it was the only place she knew to look. How was she to find him now that he had lost himself?
 The tunnels of the Labyrinth, by Thar's account and her own experience, extended in all their windings, branchings, spirals, and dead ends, for more than twenty miles. The blind alley that lay farthest from the Tombs was not much more than a mile away in a straight line, probably. But down underground, nothing ran straight. All the tunnels curved, split, rejoined, branched, interlaced, looped, traced elaborate routes that ended where they began, for there was no beginning, and no end. One could go, and go, and go, and still get nowhere, for there was nowhere to get to. There was no center, no heart of the maze. And once the door was locked, there was no end to it. No direction was right.
 Though the ways and turnings to the various rooms and regions were firm in Arha's memory, even she had taken with her on her longer explorations a ball of fine yarn, and let it unravel behind her, and rewound it as she followed it returning. For if one of the turns and passages that must be counted were missed, even she might be lost. A light was no help, for there were no, landmarks. All the corridors, all the doorways and openings, were alike.
 He might have gone miles by now, and yet not be forty feet from the door where he had entered.
 She went to the Hall of the Throne, and to the Twin Gods' temple, and to the cellar under the kitchens, and, choosing a moment when she was alone, looked through each of those spy holes down into the cold, thick dark. When night came, freezing and blazing with stars, she went to certain places on the Hill and raised up certain stones, cleared away the earth, peered down again, and saw the starless darkness underground.
 He was there. He must be there. Yet he had escaped her. He would die of thirst before she found him. She would have to send Manan into the maze to find him, once she was sure he was dead. That was unbearable to think of. As she knelt in the starlight on the bitter ground of the Hill, tears of rage rose in her eyes.
 She went to the path that led back down the slope to the temple of the Godking. The columns with their carved capitals shone white with hoarfrost in the starlight, like pillars of bone. She knocked at the rear door, and Kossil let her in.
 "What brings my mistress?" said the stout woman, cold and watchful.
 "Priestess, there is a man within the Labyrinth."
 Kossil was taken off guard; for once something had occurred that she did not expect. She stood and stared. Her eyes seemed to swell a little. It flitted across Arha's mind that Kossil looked very like Penthe imitating Kossil, and a wild laugh rose up in her, was repressed, and died away.
 "A man? In the Labyrinth?"
 "A man, a stranger." Then as Kossil continued to look at her with disbelief, she added, "I know a man by sight, though I have seen few."
 Kossil disdained her irony. "How came a man there?"
 "By witchcraft, I think. His skin is dark, perhaps he is from the Inner Lands. He came to rob the Tombs. I found him first in the Undertomb, beneath the very Stones. He ran to the entrance of the Labyrinth when he became aware of me, as if he knew where he went. I locked the iron door behind him. He made spells, but that did not open the door. In the morning he went on into the maze. I cannot find him now."
 "Has he a light?"
 "A little flask, not full."
 "His candle will be burned down already." Kossil pondered. "Four or five days. Maybe six. Then you can send my wardens down to drag the body out. The blood should be fed to the Throne and the -"
 "No," Arha said with sudden, shrill fierceness. "I wish to find him alive."
 The priestess looked down at the girl from her heavy height. "Why?"
 "To make- to make his dying longer. He has committed sacrilege against the Nameless Ones. He has defiled the Undertomb with light. He came to rob the Tombs of their treasures. He must be punished with worse than lying down in a tunnel alone and dying."
 "Yes," Kossil said, as if deliberating. "But how will you catch him, mistress? That is chancy. There is no chance about the other. Is there not a room full of bones, somewhere in the Labyrinth, bones of men who entered it and did not leave it?... Let the Dark Ones punish him in their own way, in their own ways, the black ways of the Labyrinth. It is a cruel death, thirst."
 "I know," the girl said. She turned and went out into the night, pulling her hood up over her head against the hissing, icy wind. Did she not know?
 It had been childish of her, and stupid, to come to Kossil. She would get no help there. Kossil herself knew nothing, all she knew was cold waiting and death at the end of it. She did not understand. She did not see that the man must be found. It must not be the same as with those others. She could not bear that again. Since there must be death let it be swift, in daylight. Surely it would be more fitting that this thief, the first man in centuries brave enough to try to rob the Tombs, should die by sword's edge. He did not even have an immortal soul to be reborn. His ghost would go whining through the corridors. He could not be let die of thirst there alone in the dark.
 Arha slept very little that night. The next day was filled with rites and duties. She spent the night going, silent and without lantern, from one spy hole to another in all the dark buildings of the Place, and on the windswept hill. She went to the Small House to bed at last, two or three hours before dawn, but still she could not rest. On the third day, late in the afternoon, she walked out alone onto the desert, towards the river that now lay low in the winter drought, with ice among the reeds. A memory had come to her that once, in the autumn, she had gone very far in the Labyrinth, past the Six-Cross, and all along one long curving corridor she had heard behind the stones the sound of running water. Might not a man athirst, if he came that way, stay there? There were spy holes even out here; she had to search for them, but Thar had shown her each one, last year, and she refound them without much trouble. Her recall of place and shape was like that of a blind person: she seemed to feel her way to each hidden spot, rather than to look for it. At the second, the farthest of all from the Tombs, when she pulled up her hood to cut out light, and put her eye to the hole cut in a flat pan of rock, she saw below her the dim glimmer of the wizardly light.
 He was there, half out of sight. The spy hole looked down at the very end of the blind alley. She could see only his back, and bent neck, and right arm. He sat near the corner of the walls, and was picking at the stones with his knife, a short dagger of steel with a jeweled grip. The blade of it was broken short. The broken point lay directly under the spy hole. He had snapped it trying to pry apart the stones, to get at the water he could hear running, clear and murmurous in that dead stillness under earth, on the other side of the impenetrable wall.
 His movements were listless. He was very different, after these three nights and days, from the figure that had stood lithe and calm before the iron door and laughed at his own defeat. He was still obstinate, but the power was gone out of him. He had no spell to stir those stones aside, but must use his useless knife. Even his sorcerer's light was wan and dim. As Arha watched, the light flickered; the man's head jerked and he dropped the dagger. Then doggedly he picked it up and tried to force the broken blade between the stones.
 Lying among ice-bound reeds on the riverbank, unconscious of where she was or what she was doing, Arha put her mouth to the cold mouth of rock, and cupped her hands around to hold the sound in. "Wizard!" she said, and her voice slipping down the stone throat whispered coldly in the tunnel underground.
 The man started and scrambled to his feet, so going out of the circle of her vision when she looked for him. She put her mouth to the spy hole again and said, "Go back along the river wall to the second turn. The first turn right, miss one, then right again. At the Six Ways, right again. Then left, and right, and left, and right. Stay there in the Painted Room."
 As she moved to look again, she must have let a shaft of daylight shoot through the spy hole into the tunnel for a moment, for when she looked he was back in the circle of her vision and staring upwards at the opening. His face, which she now saw to be scarred in some way, was strained and eager. The lips were parched and black, the eyes bright. He raised his staff, bringing the light closer and closer to her eyes. Frightened, she drew back, stopped the spy hole with its rock lid and litter of covering stones, rose, and went back swiftly to the Place. She found her hands were shaky, and sometimes a giddiness swept over her as she walked. She did not know what to do.
 If he followed the directions she had given him, he would come back in the direction of the iron door, to the room of pictures. There was nothing there, no reason for him to go there. There was a spy hole in the ceiling of the Painted Room, a good one, in the treasury of the Twin Gods' temple; perhaps that was why she had thought of it. She did not know. Why had she spoken to him?
 She could let a little water for him down one of the spy holes, and then call him to that place. That would keep him alive longer. As long as she pleased, indeed. If she put down water and a little food now and then, he would go on and on, days, months, wandering in the Labyrinth: and she could watch him through the spy holes, and tell him where water was to be found, and sometimes tell him falsely so he would go in vain, but he would always have to go. That would teach him to mock the Nameless Ones, to swagger his foolish manhood in the burial places of the Immortal Dead!
 But so long as he was there, she would never be able to enter the Labyrinth herself. Why not? she asked herself, and replied- Because he might escape by the iron door, which I must leave open behind me... But he could escape no farther than the Undertomb. The truth was that she was afraid to face him. She was afraid of his power, the arts he had used to enter the Undertomb, the sorcery that kept that light burning. And yet, was that so much to be feared? The powers that ruled in the dark places were on her side, not his. Plainly he could not do much, there in the realm of the Nameless Ones. He had not opened the iron door; he had not summoned magic food, nor brought water through the wall, nor conjured up some demon monster to break down the walls, all of which she had feared he might be able to do. He had not even found his way in three days' wandering to the door of the Great Treasury, which surely he had sought. Arha herself had never yet pursued Thar's directions to that room, putting off and putting off the journey out of a certain awe, a reluctance, a sense that the time had not yet come.
 Now she thought, why should he not go that journey for her? He could look all he liked at the treasures of the Tombs. Much good they would do him! She could jeer at him, and tell him to eat the gold, and drink the diamonds.
 With the nervous, feverish hastiness that had possessed her all these three days, she ran to the Twin Gods' temple, unlocked its little vaulted treasury, and uncovered the well-hidden spy hole in the floor.
 The Painted Room was below, but pitch dark. The way the man must follow in the maze was much more roundabout, miles longer perhaps; she had forgotten that. And no doubt he was weakened and not going fast. Perhaps he would forget her directions and take the wrong turning. Few people could remember directions from one hearing of them, as she could. Perhaps he did not even understand the tongue she spoke. If so, let him wander till he fell down and died in the dark, the fool, the foreigner, the unbeliever. Let his ghost whine down the stone roads of the Tombs of Atuan until the darkness ate even it...
 Next morning very early, after a night of little sleep and evil dreams, she returned to the spy hole in the little temple. She looked down and saw nothing: blackness. She lowered a candle burning in a little tin lantern on a chain. He was there, in the Painted Room. She saw, past the candle's glare, his legs and one limp hand. She spoke into the spy hole, which was a large one, the size of a whole floor tile: "Wizard!"
 No movement. Was he dead? Was that all the strength he had in him? She sneered; her heart pounded. "Wizard!" she cried, her voice ringing in the hollow room beneath. He stirred, and slowly sat up, and looked around bewildered. After a while he looked up, blinking at the tiny lantern that swung from his ceiling. His face was terrible to see, swollen, dark as a mummy's face.
 He put his hand out to his staff that lay on the floor beside him, but no light flowered on the wood. There was no power left in him.
 "Do you want to see the treasure of the Tombs of Atuan, wizard?"
 He looked up wearily, squinting at the light of her lantern, which was all he could see. After a while, with a wince that might have begun as a smile, he nodded once.
 "Go out of this room to the left. Take the first corridor to the left..." She rattled off the long series of directions without pause, and at the end said, "There you will find the treasure which you came for. And there, maybe, you'll find water. Which would you rather have now, wizard?"
 He got to his feet, leaning on his staff. Looking up with eyes that could not see her, he tried to say something, but there was no voice in his dry throat. He shrugged a little, and left the Painted Room.
 She would not give him any water. He would never find the way to the treasure room, anyway. The instructions were too long for him to remember; and there was the Pit, if he got that far. He was in the dark, now. He would lose his way, and would fall down at last and die somewhere in the narrow, hollow, dry halls. And Manan would find him and drag him out. And that was the end. Arha clutched the lip of the spy hole with her hands, and rocked her crouching body back and forth, back and forth, biting her lip as if to bear some dreadful pain. She would not give him any water. She would not give him any water. She would give him death, death, death, death, death.

 In that gray hour of her life, Kossil came to her, entering the treasury room with heavy step, bulky in black winter robes.
 "Is the man dead yet?"
 Arha raised her head. There were no tears in her eyes, nothing to hide.
 "I think so," she said, getting up and dusting her skirts. "His light has gone out."
 "He may be tricking. The soulless ones are very cunning."
 "I shall wait a day to be sure."
 "Yes, or two days. Then Duby can go down and bring it out. He is stronger than old Manan."
 "But Manan is in the service of the Nameless Ones, and Duby is not. There are places within the Labyrinth where Duby should not go, and the thief is in one of these."
 "Why, then it is defiled already-"
 "It will be made clean by his death there," Arha said. She could see by Kossil's expression that there must be something strange about her own face. "This is my domain, priestess. I must care for it as my Masters bid me. I do not need more lessons in death."
 Kossil's face seemed to withdraw into the black hood, like a desert tortoise's into its shell, sour and slow and cold. "Very well, mistress."
 They parted before the altar of the God-Brothers. Arha went, without haste now, to the Small House, and called Manan to accompany her. Since she had spoken to Kossil she knew what must be done.
 She and Manan went together up the hill, into the Hall, down into the Undertomb. Straining together at the long handle, they opened the iron door of the Labyrinth. They lit their lanterns there, and entered. Arha led the way to the Painted Room, and from it started on the way to the Great Treasury.
 The thief had not got very far. She and Manan had not walked five hundred paces on their tortuous course when they came upon him, crumpled up in the narrow corridor like a heap of rags thrown down. He had dropped his staff before he fell; it lay some distance from him. His mouth was bloody, his eyes half shut.
 "He's alive," said Manan, kneeling, his great yellow hand on the dark throat, feeling the pulse. "Shall I strangle him, mistress?"
 "No. I want him alive. Pick him up and bring him after me."
 "Alive?" said Manan, disturbed. "What for, little mistress?"
 "To be a slave of the Tombs! Be still with your talk and do as I say."
 His face more melancholy than ever, Manan obeyed, hoisting the young man effortfully up onto his shoulders like a long sack. He staggered along after Arha thus laden. He could not go far at a time under that load. They stopped a dozen times on the return journey for Manan to catch his breath. At each halt the corridor was the same: the grayish-yellow, close-set stones rising to a vault, the uneven rocky floor, the dead air; Manan groaning and panting, the stranger lying still, the two lanterns burning dull in a dome of light that narrowed away into darkness down the corridor in both directions. At each halt Arha dripped some of the water she had brought in a flask into the dry mouth of the man, a little at a time, lest life returning kill him.
 "To the Room of Chains?" Manan asked, as they were in the passage that led to the iron door; and at that, Arha thought for the first time where she must take this prisoner. She did not know.
 "Not there, no," she said, sickened as ever by the memory of the smoke and reek and the matted, speechless, unseeing faces. And Kossil might come to the Room of Chains "He... he must stay in the Labyrinth, so that he cannot regain his sorcery. Where is there a room..."
 "The Painted Room has a door, and a lock, and a spy hole, mistress. If you trust him with doors."
 "He has no powers, down here. Take him there, Manan."
 So Manan lugged him back, half again as far as they had come, too laboring and breathless to protest. When they entered the Painted Room at last, Arha took off her long, heavy winter cloak of wool, and laid it on the dusty floor. "Put him on that," she said.
 Manan stared in melancholy consternation, wheezing. "Little mistress-"
 "I want the man to live, Manan. He'll die of the cold, look how he shakes now."
 "Your garment will be defiled. The Priestess' garment. He is an unbeliever, a man," Manan blurted, his small eyes wrinkling up as if in pain.
 "Then I shall burn the cloak and have another woven! Come on, Manan!"
 At that he stooped, obedient, and let the prisoner flop off his back onto the black cloak. The man lay still as death, but the pulse beat heavy in his throat, and now and then a spasm made his body shiver as it lay.
 "He should be chained," said Manan.
 "Does he look dangerous?" Arha scoffed; but when Manan pointed out an iron hasp set into the stones, to which the prisoner could be fastened, she let him go fetch a chain and band from the Room of Chains. He grumbled off down the corridors, muttering the directions to himself; he had been to and from the Painted Room before this, but never by himself.
 In the light of her single lantern the paintings on the four walls seemed to move, to twitch, the uncouth human forms with great drooping wings, squatting and standing in a timeless dreariness.
 She knelt and let water drop, a little at a time, into the prisoner's mouth. At last he coughed, and his hands reached up feebly to the flask. She let him drink. He lay back with his face all wet, besmeared with dust and blood, and muttered something, a word or two in a language she did not know.
 Manan returned at last, dragging a length of iron links, a great padlock with its key, and an iron band which fitted around the man's waist and locked there. "It's not tight enough, he can slip out," he grumbled as he locked the end link onto the ring set in the wall.
 "No, look." Feeling less fearful of her prisoner now, Arha showed that she could not force her hand between the iron band and the man's ribs. "Not unless he starves longer than four days."
 "Little mistress," Manan said plaintively, "I do not question, but... what good is he as a slave to the Nameless Ones? He is a man, little one."
 "And you are an old fool, Manan. Come along now, finish your fussing."
 The prisoner watched them with bright, weary eyes.
 "Where's his staff, Manan? There. I'll take that; it has magic in it. Oh, and this; this I'll take too," and with a quick movement she seized the silver chain that showed at the neck of the man's tunic, and tore it off over his head, though he tried to catch her arms and stop her. Manan kicked him in the back. She swung the chain over him, out of his reach. "Is this your talisman, wizard? Is it precious to you? It doesn't look like much, couldn't you afford a better one? I shall keep it safe for you." And she slipped the chain over her own head, hiding the pendant under the heavy collar of her woolen robe.
 "You don't know what to do with it," he said, very hoarse, and mispronouncing the words of the Kargish tongue, but clearly enough.
 Manan kicked him again, and at that he made a little grunt of pain and shut his eyes.
 "Leave off, Manan. Come."
 She left the room. Grumbling, Manan followed.
 That night, when all the lights of the Place were out, she climbed the hill again, alone. She filled her flask from the well in the room behind the Throne, and took the water and a big, flat, unleavened cake of buckwheat bread down to the Painted Room in the Labyrinth. She set them just within the prisoner's reach, inside the door. He was asleep, and never stirred. She returned to the Small House, and that night she too slept long and sound.
 In early afternoon she returned alone to the Labyrinth. The bread was gone, the flask was dry, the stranger was sitting up, his back against the wall. His face still looked hideous with dirt and scabs, but the expression of it was alert.
 She stood across the room from him where he could not possibly reach her, chained as be was, and looked at him. Then she looked away. But there was nowhere particular to look. Something prevented her speaking. Her heart beat as if she were afraid. There was no reason to fear him. He was at her mercy.
 "It's pleasant to have light," he said in the soft but deep voice, which perturbed her.
 "What's your name?" she asked, peremptory. Her own voice, she thought, sounded uncommonly high and thin.
 "Well, mostly I'm called Sparrowhawk."
 "Sparrowhawk? Is that your name?"
 "What is your name, then?"
 "I cannot tell you that. Are you the One Priestess of the Tombs?"
 "What are you called?"
 "I am called Arha."
 "The one who has been devoured - is that what it means?" His dark eyes watched her intently. He smiled a little. "What is your name?"
 "I have no name. Do not ask me questions. Where do you come from?"
 "From the Inner Lands, the West."
 "From Havnor?"
 It was the only name of a city or island of the Inner Lands that she knew.
 "Yes, from Havnor."
 "Why did you come here?"
 "The Tombs of Atuan are famous among my people."
 "But you're an infidel, an unbeliever."
 He shook his head. "Oh no, Priestess. I believe in the powers of darkness! I have met with the Unnamed Ones, in other places."
 "What other places?"
 "In the Archipelago -the Inner Lands- there are places which belong to the Old Powers of the Earth, like this one. But none so great as this one. Nowhere else have they a temple, and a priestess, and such worship as they receive here."
 "You came to worship them," she said, jeering.
 "I came to rob them," he said.
 She stared at his grave face. "Braggart!"
 "I knew it would not be easy."
 "Easy! It cannot be done. If you weren't an unbeliever you'd know that. The Nameless Ones look after what is theirs."
 "What I seek is not theirs."
 "It's yours, no doubt?"
 "Mine to claim."
 "What are you then- a god? a king?" She looked him up and down, as he sat chained, dirty, exhausted. "You are nothing but a thief!"
 He said nothing, but his gaze met hers.
 "You are not to look at me!" she said shrilly.
 "My lady," he said, "I do not mean offense. I am a stranger, and a trespasser. I do not know your ways, nor the courtesies due the Priestess of the Tombs. I am at your mercy, and I ask your pardon if I offend you."
 She stood silent, and in a moment she felt the blood rising to her cheeks, hot and foolish. But he was not looking at her and did not see her blush. He had obeyed, and turned away his dark gaze.
 Neither spoke for some while. The painted figures all around watched them with sad, blind eyes.
 She had brought a stone jug of water. His eyes kept straying to that, and after a time she said, "Drink, if you like."
 He hitched himself over to the jug at once, and hefting it as lightly as if it were a wine cup, drank a long, long draft. Then he wet a corner of his sleeve, and cleaned the grime and bloodclot and cobweb off his face and hands as best he could. He spent some while at this, and the girl watched. When he was done he looked better, but his cat-bath had revealed the scars on one side of his face: old scars long healed, whitish on his dark skin, four parallel ridges from eye to jawbone, as if from the scraping talons of a huge claw.
 "What is that?" she said. "That scar."
 He did not answer at once.
 "A dragon?" she said, trying to scoff. Had she not come down here to make mock of her victim, to torment him with his helplessness?
 "No, not a dragon."
 "You're not a dragonlord, at least, then."
 "No," he said rather reluctantly, "I am a dragonlord. But the scars were before that. I told you that I had met with the Dark Powers before, in other places of the earth. This on my face is the mark of one of the kinship of the Nameless Ones. But no longer nameless, for I learned his name, in the end."
 "What do you mean? What name?"
 "I cannot tell you that," he said, and smiled, though his face was grave.
 "That's nonsense, fool's babble, sacrilege. They are the Nameless Ones! You don't know what you're talking about-"
 "I know even better than you, Priestess," he said, his voice deepening. "Look again!" He turned his head so she must see the four terrible marks across his cheek.
 "I don't believe you," she said, and her voice shook.
 "Priestess," he said gently, "you are not very old; you can't have served the Dark Ones very long."
 "But I have. Very long! I am the First Priestess, the Reborn. I have served my masters for a thousand years and a thousand years before that. I am their servant and their voice and their hands. And I am their vengeance on those who defile the Tombs and look upon what is not to be seen! Stop your lying and your boasting, can't you see that if I say one word my guard will come and cut your head off your shoulders? Or if I go away and lock this door, then nobody will come, ever, and you'll die here in the dark, and those I serve will eat your flesh and eat your soul and leave your bones here in the dust?"
 Quietly, he nodded.
 She stammered, and finding no more to say, swept out of the room and bolted the door behind her with a clang. Let him think she wasn't coming back! Let him sweat, there in the dark, let him curse and shiver and try to work his foul, useless spells!
 But in her mind's eye she saw him stretching out to sleep, as she had seen him do by the iron door, serene as a sheep in a sunny meadow.
 She spat at the bolted door, and made the sign to avert defilement, and went almost at a run towards the Undertomb.
 While she skirted its wall on the way to the trapdoor in the Hall, her fingers brushed along the fine planes and traceries of rock, like frozen lace. A longing swept over her to light her lantern, to see once more, just for a moment, the time-carven stone, the lovely glitter of the walls. She shut her eyes tight and hurried on.

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