Writer's note: I clearly was not especially subtle last time, what with the inclusion of all three options again in the tie-breaker. Luckily you got it, because both tied options would have led to insta-death. Well done you for not getting killed right off the bat. It was close though!
Part 1 Vote Tally
Option B: 1
Option C: 4
The coughing and hacking continues. Hoping the din will mask the sounds of your movement, you swing your body around to lie on your side, your back pressed up against the same wall in which the opening is placed. You have to contort your body strangely, twisting your hips so that your knees point up instead of forward.
The coughing stops, and your pulse increases its pace as the shuffling and mumbling continues.
"Searching, searching. Always searching."
Light breaches your dark world, lighting up your chamber in bright orange, making the shadows seem darker. They dance like they are alive as the light moves closer. Despite the approaching stranger, you marvel at your little chamber. It was indeed constructed without cement or mortar. Instead sharply cut stones were stacked in precise fashion. It was an incredible feat of engineering.
"Hello?" the voice croaked, so close you're certain whoever it is can hear your heart beat.
Your breathing quickens, and you struggle to keep from panting.
The light continues to dance as the stranger shuffles around outside.
"Hello? Are you in here?" The voice is now muffled. It is clear once again when it says, "No. Not there. Searching, searching. Always searching."
The shuffling gets closer.
Your world explodes into light as a hand holding a bright lantern containing several candles thrusts through your only escape route.
"In here?" the voice asks, so close now it might as well be yelling directly into your ear. You hold your breath as the hand swings the lantern across, as if its owner is trying to peer in your chamber. After an impossibly long moment, the hand withdraws and you hear a muttered, "No. Not here."
There is another eruption of coughing. It's a profoundly vile cough, rattling from deep in the chest and sounding wet. You wrinkle your nose in disgust, and let the noise hide you slow, measured exhalation and inhalation.
"In here?" the voice says again, cracking as it becomes muffled. "No, no, no, no, no! But Master said! Master said it would be here! Oh, where is it? Where?" The last word is uttered as a desperate wail, a childish keening for the thing searched for.
A sudden burst of noise, like the impossibly fast drummer, though muffled and distant, as everything seems to be here, cuts through the air, stopping the stranger's muttering mid-thought.
"Oh no," the voice whispers. "Time to go!"
The light suddenly vanishes and you are once again left in the dark. There are more of the noise bursts, then a very loud bang. You can hear someone yelling, and there is a deep rumbling. An earthquake? No. The ground remains perfectly still.
You wait, pressed against the wall until all the noises fade away. Once again, you are enveloped in silence and darkness. The only sound now is your own breath, made ragged by the natural reaction to the strangeness of your current situation.
Satisfied that neither the coughing stranger or the hyper-active drummer are returning, you once again set about exiting your chamber. Grabbing the outside edge of the opening, you pull yourself through.
You have to wriggle to get your shoulders through the square opening. Once that is achieved, however, getting out the rest of the way is pretty easy. You flail your hands out in front of yourself as you slide out from the hole, hoping to stop yourself from face-planting. Your hands scrape across the floor. It's more rock, though with a healthy layer of sand.
Walking yourself forward on your hands, you ease out of your chamber without wounding yourself, save for a few scrapes on your arms. You slowly stand.
It's as if you hadn't stood in aeons. Your feet ache with your weight, and your legs wobble uncontrollably. You take a shaky step and very nearly fall, thanks to an ankle that is unused to supporting any weight. Luckily, you managed to regain your balance. Once certain you aren't going to fall again, you attempt a second step.
Then a third.
Slowly but surely, your legs gain function as you step, and each time your foot touches the ground, it is surer and more balanced until, some hours later, you can walk without difficulty.
Now not focussed so greatly on your walking, you notice that you can see a little in this cavern. You blink and look around. Details of the stone walls seem to materialise before you.
You are standing in a large chamber with a beehive ceiling. The walls are made of stacked stone, precisely like those in your chamber. There are three small openings in three walls; openings into chambers like yours; each one almost identical to the others. The fourth wall reveals a tunnel at the end of which you can see a star-filled sky. The lower half of the sky is a deep, dark blue, distinct from the black above it.
Dawn - or close to it.
You watch in fascination as dawn breaks. It's a slow display that spreads beautiful colours across the sky, until, at long last, the sun breaks over the horizon. It spreads a beam of warm yellow light straight down the tunnel, to you.
Closing your eyes briefly to enjoy the sensation of the sun striking your body, you walk forward, moving through the tunnel, until to come to its end.
The landscape is bleak; a mess of muddy holes, lurking yellow mists and barriers of wood and barbed wire. In the distance, not too far away, you spy a series of ruined buildings. They look nothing like the chambers you just left, being long and rectangular, and, you think, taller.
You can see in this ruined landscape three obvious paths, each constructed of wood, presumably to keep traveller's boots clear of the mud. The one on the right heads in the direction that the drummer and his yelling companions sounded like they retreated to. The middle one winds through the field, towards the rising sun, until you can no longer see it. The one on the left skirts most of the terrible field before you, vanishing over a hill.
Which path do you take?
a) The left one.
b) The central one.
c) The right one.
Vote now! Voting ends Thursday, 2 June 2016 at midnight. I'll be nice this time. Only one option leads to certain death.
Good luck, Adventurers!