#TeamDecoPunk - Part Three: The Frozen Maze - @JazzFeathers

Start from the beginning

It had been years since last she came. She had never come back to Schneezwerg since her father died at war. How could she ever walk the maze without him? But now that she was here, the maze was the place she wanted to be.

Dry leaves and morning frost crunched under her city shoes as she slowly crossed the meadow that led to the entrance to the maze. The day was cold, no animal called or moved, no sound came from the deserted mansion.

Would she still remember her way in the maze? Would she still know?

As she approached what used to be the arched entrance, she faltered. How odd. She had walked the maze with her father in many seasons, but now she only remembered the summers. Green and bustling life. Some of the bushes would bloom and the ground would be covered in soft grass. The smell of flowers, grass, and sun would be everywhere in the golden light. The bushes would be clean cut and form a perfect design. Dad made sure of that.

What she saw now was a messy gap in a wall of shrubs. The branches that once gracefully arched over the entrance were tangles. Twigs had overgrown and nearly filled the gap. Everything was grey and dry. Dead.

Her mind considered giving up.

But her heart – no, her heart wanted to go. It wanted to be there, whatever she might find. And her feet moved on that spur and she found herself inside the maze.

The branches had overgrown here too and formed a sort of tunnel, like in that comic – Fray - so popular at university. In number seven, the heroine had to cross some such tunnel. Didn't find anything pleasant at the end, but maybe... Twigs tore at the her coat, her cloche, her scarf. She had to move them apart with her gloved hands.

Nothing looked like she remembered. There must be grass on the ground, though now it was covered with frosted dew crackling under her feet, an ominous sound. Even if she remembered the way clearly, it would be hard to see it in the gloom of this mess.

Ingeborg stopped at the first turn. She knew she had to turn right, instead she paused. This wasn't a good idea. She had known it. She should just—

She walked on along the next branch of the maze, squinting in the dusk. She turned left at the next split, then right again.

She almost missed it even knowing it was there.

"Professor," she called softly.

A small boulder sat on the side of the path, nearly engulfed by the shrubs. It was round and smooth, and although at a distance it looked just like a boulder, Ingeborg knew it was actually a statue. A dwarf. One of the seven who guarded the maze.

As she stepped closer, the dwarf took shape. It looked very ancient, time and weather had obliterated its features, though the big round head and the ponderous beard were still visible. A few details of the clothing, one hand resting on his stomach – maybe clutching a sword, as her father once said. She had always thought it was actually a cane, the same way the circles around the dwarf's eyes were not the slits in his helmet, but the frame of his spectacles. He raised the other hand, palm open, welcoming any newcomer.

Ingeborg walked up to him, smiling, and touched his helmet. A gesture she had done so many times since she was as small as the dwarf, who now stood barely up to her waist.

"I'm back," she whispered. "I am back."

As she brushed the surface of the stone, a smell of summer drifted from nowhere to her nostrils. Unexpectedly, her eyes stung.

"Ingeborg!"

She whirled toward the voice, her hands still on the stone.

"Ingeborg!"

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