Light bloomed behind me in a passage I had already cleared, so bright as to drown out the glow of my flashlight. Looking back, I had to hold up a hand to shield my eyes. I could see nothing but the sandstone walls of the cavern.
“Are you lost?” a voice asked. It echoed around the chamber ahead as well as behind, surrounding me.
“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Can you point that elsewhere?”
The light shifted away, its absence revealing a man holding a staff tipped with a glowing crystal. Shirtless and barefoot. A lean, hungry look in his narrow eyes.
“Where are you going?” the stranger asked. “I can guide you.”
“Have you been following me?” I asked. “You weren’t there when I passed through just now.”
“I live in these caves,” he replied. His shadow loomed huge on the wall between us. “I guide the lost.”
Noting that he had failed to answer my question, I said, “I wouldn’t take up your time. If you could just point me toward the way out…”
The man’s mouth pressed into a thin line. He paused so long I wondered if he would even respond. Then, arm raised toward the passage I had been following already, he said, “Take a left at the first fork.” With that, he dimmed the crystal, melting away down another passage. As he did, his fading shadow shifted to look just a little like a jackal.
After waiting a moment to ensure the man wouldn’t return, I pressed on. At the first fork, I took a right, following the directions of a map I had acquired for this trip. It wasn’t long before I reached the exit. Once out, I added a note to the map’s corner. ‘Offering of guidance not to be trusted.’
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