IT IS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, and you head into town for a drink at the local tavern. You buy a few rounds for the house, and end up at a table of old adventurers, like yourself. You start by trading old war stories, and end up bemoaning the fact that the years of REAL adventure are long past.
"There are no dragons left to fight," sighs the barbarian with yellow teeth.
"No princesses left to save," his friend the wizard agrees.
"What I wouldn't give for one last great adventure," you say, lifting your mug in a toast.
After a few hours of this, you notice a strange man in the corner booth. Although he sits in a pool of shadows and his head is hidden under the cowl of his cloak, the stone at the top of his cane gives off a pale orange glow, bathing his unusually handsome face in eerie light. He sees you watching him and grins back at you -- and not a friendly grin at that.
You bid your drinking partners good night and cross to the back of the bar.
"Greetings, old timer," you say, stepping up to him.
"So you're looking for adventure?" he says in a low voice.
"I might be."
He points to the seat across from him, and you slide into it. "I know where there's a secret labyrinth," he tells you. "a puzzle that no one has ever solved. No one who has entered this maze has ever returned."
You are fascinated, in spite of yourself. "A maze, you say? Who built it?"
"No one knows. It is centuries old."
You shrug, feigning disinterest. "Sounds pretty tame to me."
There is a deafening bang as the old man's hand, shooting out from the folds of his cloak, slams down hard on the tabletop between you. "Don't mock what you don't understand, fool. For it will take more than just stamina to make it through this labyrinth. To exit safely, you must pass three tests -- tests of wit, not of strength or skill. Only when you pass the third test will you be successful."
"What sort of treasure is there?" you ask, leaning back in your seat.
"No treasure," the old man answers. "For wealth is fleeting. But to enter this labyrinth is a great adventure, and to leave it again is a great acheivement -- both things no one will ever be able to take from you." He leans forward, the stone in his cane glowing a bright orange now. "The question is, are you up to the challenge?"
"Just tell me where, old man."
"Take the east road out of town and follow it for a mile. Then leave the path, heading due north, and you will come to a large stone building with a single entrance. That is where your destiny waits for you, if you are brave enough to face it."
"Just watch me," you say, rising to your feet.
"I will see you soon, then. Fool." And suddenly his seat is empty, as if he had never been there at all.
All the next day, as you tramp through the woods searching for the large stone building the old man spoke of, you wonder whether it wouldn't be wiser just to forget the whole thing. But once you find the building, and see the dark doorway beckoning you, you know that you don't really have a choice . . . .