The ancient labyrinth is the setting for various plot lines across the entire Cradle series. We learn only a little about it in Book 1, Unsouled. Gradually the author reveals more about this mysterious place.
Original Abidan Judges — “The original creators of the labyrinth. Seven pillars of order and structure.” (Reaper, bk 10, chapter 24).
The Labyrinth is huge. Most of it is underground. It spans the vast Ashwind continent and runs beneath the enormous Trackless Sea. And beyond. Perhaps even far far beyond. . . (Reaper, ch 24)
There are several entrances to the labyrinth. In book 1, we learn about two entrances in Sacred Valley. In book 2, an entrance appears in the Transcendent Ruins in the Desolate Wilds of the Blackflame Empire. In book 3, Eithan Arelius mentions that there is access in Serpent’s Grave. Also, the Monarch Northstrider discovered an entrance at the bottom of the Trackless Sea. There is reference to the Western Labyrinth, in book 4, Skysworn.
Entrances in Sacred Valley
The labyrinth runs beneath the four holy peaks of Sacred Valley and underneath the valley itself. Sacred Valley has two entrances to the Labyrinth. The gates are marked with symbols of Dreadgods. The easiest to access is the Nethergate, a towering doorway at the base of Yoma Mountain. That gate opens once every ten years, allowing access to the sacred treasures in nearby rooms only. The second gate in Sacred Valley is near Heaven’s Glory School. It is through the Ancestor’s Tomb, high on Mount Samara. See Unsouled.
There are numerous laboratories in the labyrinth. For example, the first generation Abidan conducted research and kept files down here. So did Ozmanthus Arelius. There were also researchers who meddled beyond their understanding, as Subject One learned to his cost. (Reaper)
Experimenting & Dreadgods
Clarity is needed, but this much seems to be revealed thus far, in book 10, Reaper:
Laboratories deep in the labyrinth saw the origin of Subject One, who became the first Dreadgod, and the rise of the four other Dreadgods: Bleeding Phoenix, Wandering Titan, Silent King, Weeping Dragon. Dreadgods came into existence as the result of research and experimentation conducted on dreadbeasts. Apparently, a Dreadgod emerged after meddling with hunger aura / madra and dreadbeasts. For an unexplained reason it quickly grew beyond its peers. It eventually escaped confinement and entered the outside world after the researchers lost control of the hunger aura they were studying.
The Labyrinth has a history of soulsmithing, especially advanced smithing with a soul forge and soulfire. The original Abidan court used a forge in the labyrinth. So did the Judge Ozriel, back when he was still a human mortal, Ozmanthus Arelius.
Weapons & Artifacts
With soul-forging, powerful weapons and artifacts are crafted. Some of the most dangerous weapons and artifacts on Cradle are locked away in the labyrinth. For example, in book 2, Jai Long sought his clan’s ancient Ancestor’s Spear in a section of the Labyrinth dubbed the Transcendent Ruins. In many cases, it is illegal to take artifacts from the Labyrinth and to use them. The results could be calamitous. Jai Daishou, Patriarch of clan Jai, accessed the Western Labyrinth in the Blackflame Empire to remove a spear and also stole the The Archstone from it. Emperor Naru Huan sanctioned Jai's entire clan for this breach of trust. The Archstone is dangerous. And opening the Labyrinth can attract the Dreadgods and the vicious Dreadgod Cults. (See more in Skysworn, book 4)
Lindon hefted Subject One’s arm in his own. “Can the labyrinth get rid of Reigan Shen?”
[It is connected only to itself, but the limbs of the labyrinth are long.] The darker Dross stretched out his own tentacles in illustration. [With no suppression field and no prisoner, it may draw your enemies deep and cast them to the ends of the earth!]
Lindon took that as a “yes.” (Reaper, ch 24)
As Dross quickly realized, there is an intelligence that controls the labyrinth, opening its Nethergate periodically, for example, or suddenly uplifting the Transcendent Ruins. The intelligence can use spatial shifting to rearrange the labyrinth, suddenly moving its corridors, laboratories, and libraries. It is like a maze. And it can instantly zap people out of it, or far away from its vast perimeters. Reigan Shen learned this. (Reaper, ch 24)
Four Levels of Authority
Reaper, ch 24: As Wei Shi Lindon discovers, to gain control of the labyrinth, one must first win the trust and approval of four different historic layers of authority, almost like four ghost-beings. Each layer of historic authority asks a prospective controller, “Who Are You?” If the answers aren’t accepted, authority is not allowed. Northstrider had tried for years to win control of the labyrinth. Lindon did gain full control because of his personal connection to the four sources of authority:
- Hunger madra authority — the most recent layer of authority, based on experiments by/with Subject One, who virtually brought hunger madra to life. (Subject One is sometimes called “The Father of Hunger” according to Elder Whisperer (Reaper, ch 1)) Lindon is the Void Sage. His Path and his arm is based on hunger madra
- Soulsmith authority — some of Cradle’s most advanced soulsmiths forged amazing weapons and other artifacts in the Labyrinth. Lindon recently used his new soul-forge, a gift from Eithan, in the Labyrinth
- Ozmanthus Arelius authority —- He gained the trust of the Labyrinth several thousand years ago and conducted research down here, worked his soul-forge, kept libraries, etc. He left an inheritance here before ascending to become The Reaper of the Abidan. Lindon is his apprentice.
- Original Abidan Judges — “the oldest and most powerful layer. The original creators of the labyrinth. Seven pillars of order and structure.” This presence feels similar to the marble Suriel gave Lindon.
That presence felt him, felt his connection to this marble, and approved of him. Just like that. And that simply, the labyrinth was his. It snapped into place around him, and he could sense every room. He stretched his perception through it, finding corridors snaking throughout the earth for… His mind boggled at the scope. Dross giggled softly in his mind. [You see? You see how it stretches to distant corners unknown?] Spatial transportation was a significant part of the labyrinth’s function; he had obviously known that throughout their entire journey. What he hadn’t known was that only certain pieces of the labyrinth were actually in Sacred Valley itself. Other branches were far away. Some very far. Now he could not only feel the powers in Sacred Valley, but the script that controlled the surrounding lands. It was his, now. His property. His domain. (Reaper, ch 24)