They came to the last trap. The guide carried a torch, while Lo carried a giant rolled up carpet. It was very brave of him to face the trials without weapons, and the guide praised him for it with the enthusiasm of a man who knows a hefty tip is in sight.
“Stupendous avoidance of the snakes, maestre! I don’t know how the rug helped you, yet you clearly knew what you were doing. We’re already at the end. The treasure is virtually in your hands. I’ve never seen a man make it so far.”
“Thanks for the crib notes.” Lo grinned. Having someone, like the guide who’d watched so many adventurers die down here, tell him how half the trials worked made life easier.
“Anything for a generous employer! Yet I must apologize, I’ve never seen this one passed.”
The guide stopped before what looked like a giant checkerboard. It stretched twenty yards in both directions, made of man-sized white and black tiles. Beyond was an archway, mounds of gold glittering in the torchlight. Lo admired the view as the guide stooped to read the inscription at the foot of the trap.
“What have we got?” Lo asked, setting the carpet down.
“Many men have come. Many men have died.” He chortled, “This was etched back when the trials were installed. Very cocky of them to guess many would die.”
“The whole trapped-temple design kind of belies cockiness. Tomorrow, hopefully we’ll be rich enough to be that cocky. But is there anything practical on there?”
“Well. For every white tile you touch, you must walk three tiles left. For every black tile you touch, you must walk one tile forward. If you deviate you will fall into the Pit of Dragons.” The guide reached out and knocked on the nearest tile. It echoed hollow and deep below. “I don’t know if there any dragons under here, or if they are still alive, but metaphorical or literal, the fall will probably be bad.”
“It’s a diabolical temple,” Lo nodded matter-of-factly. “I’m pretty sure I’d die somehow. But does it say if going the one forward necessitates going three left again? And if the two black ones I touch going left count necessitate going two forward?”
“It doesn’t say what I have to do when I reach the left wall either?”
“And it’s not so old a dialect that it’s a vague translation problem?”
“Positively not, maestre. My mother still speaks this dialect when she wants to swear. It’s quite familiar to me.”
Lo laughed, hanging his head. “The book I read said it was a dialect problem. Should have known.”
“You know of this?”
“Oh yeah, there’s a poem. Three great conquerors try to cross.” Lo pointed. “They start from the right side. One conqueror goes three left, one diagonal, and falls in. One conqueror goes three left, two diagonals, and falls in. The third writes a book about leaving to take over their lands with them dead. It’s great.”
“So you had help for every trap in advance?” The guide clapped his hands in the way of a man who still sees hope for that tip. “Such a wise man. What is your plan?”
Lo nudged him aside and kicked the carpet. It unfurled across the board, a frumpy red weave flapping over marble and obsidian. It finished rolling with only four tiles to go.
“Four.” Lo grumbled. “I knew I should have bought the long one.”
The guide stared at it. It was quite likely the ugliest thing that had ever been in this temple.
“You think that will work?”
Lo stretched his legs.
“Well, if I jump at the end.”