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Holder of the Shield

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In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to and ask to speak with the "Holder of the Shield." The worker will casually glance at you and then to the clock. "Out of breath, sir?" he will ask. Answer truthfully, and then ask him again. He will nod and lead you to a hatch in the floor made of fine oak that shouldn't be there. He will pull a ring of keys and unlock the hatch. He will motion you in, but will not follow.

Upon entering the hatch, you will be in a very narrow hallway. Proceed down the hallway until you find a small door made from human flesh. Knock once. If you hear a very small child whisper to you, "You may enter," speak very clearly: "I only wish to talk." If you have been deemed worthy, the door will slowly melt, revealing a small grassy field with a campfire in the middle.

Walk to the fire. The small child will whisper to you again, but a different message: "How long will you be staying?" Do not answer. Instead, look into the fire and do not look away. You will feel small arms wrap around your waist. "Are you my daddy?" the voice will whisper again. Answer with only "No," unless you wish to die a most unspeakable death.

The child will then let go, and the area around you will begin to shift; close your eyes while this happens, because as the rooms shift, you will be able to see into the abyss, and that will drive you to the brink of insanity, if not over the edge. When the room is done shifting, you will hear the hammering of metal; you may open your eyes. There will be a circle of nine shields. Each one has a different symbol of an unearthly language.

The child will then appear before you, naked and bloody. The child will point to the closest shield and nod. Do not make a move. Simply ask, "Is there any escape?" If the child laughs at you, dispatch him quickly. If the child cries, pray your death is a quick one.

Once the child is dead, a small dagger will appear behind you. Take the dagger and skin the child, then take the closest shield and lay it on the skinned remains. If nothing happens, place the shield back until you have found the right shield. You will know when you have.

When you are in possession of the correct shield, speak loudly and clearly. "I am the Challenger!" A great statue of a man in black armor holding a shield will appear before you; bow to it. If you are again worthy, he will bow back. He will pull out his mighty sword and bring it down upon you. Put up the shield. Do not let your thoughts slip into doubt; have faith that the shield will not falter.

If you manage to deflect the blow that would end your life, the shield and sword will crumble. The statue will bow once more, and offer you his own shield as compensation. Bow, and then take the shield. A door of light will appear above you. Pull yourself out.

The shield is Object 156 of 538. There are things more dangerous than a sword.

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