From the beginning, everything felt strange once again, just as it did the first time I came here. However, something has happened to the dungeon, it has changed beyond obtaining a fancy new entrance, this my instincts tell me so. I can feel it in my mind, as if a soft breath was gently sliding against the back of my neck.
As if to prove my thoughts correct, Mei lets out a yelp of surprise, and streaks past me, stopping only an arm’s length away. Her hand is outstretched towards me, and her cheeks puff slightly as she glares at me adorably.
“Stop!” She barks, though instead of sounding aggressive it sounds more like she is worried. I freeze mid step, fearing that a trap might be ready to be triggered the moment I move. She stares me down for a moment, only to turn away from me quickly and kneel down.
“Is it… a trap?” I ask carefully, trying to look over her shoulder as her hands pull out a knife and she sets herself to start scrapping something off the ground.
“No!” She replies excitedly, “You almost stepped in blood moss! Do you have any idea of how valuable this is?”
She throws her hands up in the air as if to say that only a fool wouldn’t know what it was, but she continues to explain to me the details anyways.
“Blood moss has good healing properties. It has a strong vermillion color, but it has a slightly sweet but citric smell. It is used in many healing potions and salves to replenish blood, clean infections, detoxify blood, and help stop bleeding. It is a valuable ingredient you know?! Specially for us. Even eating it raw will help in a pinch, though that’s less effective than a well-prepared potion.”
“Then… why did you stop me?” I ask confused. Couldn’t we just have gathered it up if I stepped on it anyways?
She sighs and rolls her eyes. “Blood moss is pretty sensitive you know? If you, with your huge body and armour, step on it, the moss would have definitely been crushed. Sure, it might still work, but the quality would have dropped without a doubt.”
“How valuable are we talking about here.” Adder interjected. As always, he was interested in the profit. It’s not a bad attitude, but it makes him come across poorly. I should tell him about that some other time. He might not even realize that he is coming across that way.
I relax a little now that I am certain I am not about to step into a life-threatening trap that could end my life at any moment, and simply wait for Mei to finish her harvesting. She is quite handy with her foraging skills, gathering the majority of the crimson moss into a leather pouch and tucking it away safely on her satchel.
“Next time,” Ella speaks up, her tone a bit irate by the sound of things, “Do not scare us like that Mei. We are in a dungeon, and shit like that gets us all on edge.”
“But the blood mo-”
“There are better ways. Of. Doing. Things.” Ella says with a frosty tone, and Mei clicks her mouth shut, nodding slightly.
“Good. Let’s go. We have a dungeon to explore.” Ella says with a nod. I supress a chuckle as I see Mei get chewed up a bit. She is usually very stoic but on occasion she becomes childish when it comes to certain rare plants or animals. I think it might have something to do with her elf heritage, but I can’t be certain of that.
As per usual, Mei pouts after she is scolded. She is an interesting mix, sometimes switching from mature to childish. I extend my hand out and pat her shoulder with a chuckle. “Common, we have a job to do.”
She retained her sullen attitude for a moment longer, before releasing a sigh and nodding her head. She was a professional, and was aware that we did not have time for this at the moment.
That is one of the perks of reaching the C rank status as an adventurer, in my opinion. A C rank adventurer is considered a true professional, as opposed to the greenhorns from the F and E ranks. Of course, at D rank you can be considered a true adventurer, but the people in that tier often lack unity or professionalism… both of which can be fatal if you are unlucky.
As we move along the dungeon, I can’t help but to notice once more the statues that can be found scattered over the first floor. It’s a touch unnerving and quite distracting. If it wasn’t for the bright light that Ziggurd provided us, I have no doubt that distinguishing the statues from the real things would be a challenge. I can definitely imagine amateur adventurers wasting their strength accidentally attacking these statues.
A hiss interrupts my thoughts and I swing my hammer instinctively to my left, a perfectly horizontal motion that is followed by crunching noise. I look over a fraction of a second later to see a common snake has had its head crushed between my hammer and a stalagmite.
“Good reflex.” Ella says approvingly. “Let’s keep going.”
I retract my hammer and move to the front of the group again, shield in hand as I follow the directions of Adder. Step right here, avoid a trap, step to the left over there, smash a dungeon rat. Quick and easy.
And yet, I still get that uneasy feeling that something is different.
“…Something is not right.” Mei echoes my thoughts, making me relieved that I am not the only one who thought so. “This seems a bit different than last time. I can’t explain it but the creatures seem to be attacking differently.”
“You think so?” Ziggurd asks, his eyes still scanning the area around him warily.
“I wouldn’t have said anything if I didn’t think so.” Mei replies drily. “Last time they threw themselves at us as if trying to slow us down remember? This time, we haven’t come across any big groups like last time. Mostly we have just encountered individual monsters, or monsters attacking in pairs. Don’t you find that odd?”
“Hmm… you are right.” Ella responds, a small frown making an appearance on her face as she processes the information. “Something has certainly changed in the dungeon. I can’t quite place my finger on it.”
“What gave it away? You know, besides the huge renovation effort of the entrance?” Adder adds sarcastically. I can tell he is worried.
Rolling her eyes at him, Ella ignored his comment and paused to think for a few seconds. “We keep going as is. There is no point in trying to change our formation right now. We will adjust as needed. Let us proceed.”
There is no murmur of agreement or grumbles of discontent. We simply continued as we were before, making our way through the dungeon. Twice we encountered a nest of snakes and had fight them down, acquiring only some scratches and minor injuries for our troubles, which Ziggurd was kind enough to heal for us. Mei took the time to skin a couple of the larger ones, making sure to roll up the bright green skins into neat little rolls. We could probably sell that later to a tailor or to the adventurers guild.
Deeper into the dungeon we ventured, and the further we progressed, the more creatures we encountered. Slowly but surely, the frequency of the attacks was increasing, as were the number of attackers. Soon we found ourselves facing up to five snakes and four dungeon mice at once. They were pitifully weak compared to us, but they still managed to clip us several times at the expense of their lives, as if they were determined to leave their mark on us before passing on into the void.
Once more I am reminded of how odd this dungeon is, as most animals won’t behave like this without a reason, such as protecting their young. I might be going insane, but it seems to me that the creatures of this dungeon are a little bit insane… or perhaps they hold a different mentality altogether, if that is even possible. Who has ever heard of a literal rat willing to die in order to give a man a mere bite after all? And yet… that is exactly what it feels like it’s happening. If I was a more superstitious man I would blame this situation on witchcraft of some sort, but I suspect its likely just one of the many quirks particular to this dungeon.
“The next room should be the room that had the kobolds last time.” Adder said as we finished dispatching a particularly nasty group of dungeon rats, which had hidden in the shadows so well that they had managed to nearly catch us by surprise. Thankfully, the worst injury that was suffered was to Ziggurd, when a rat bit deeply into the fleshy back of his lower leg, right above his Achilles tendon. Nothing that a little magic couldn’t fix.
“It should be just down that tunnel and we should be there.” Adder concluded, and we moved at his direction.
Our steps resonated in the dungeon with every step we took, creating a dry echo that resounded softly around us. No one spoke, allowing the echoes of our steps to be the only sound that reached our ears. We were approaching the room in which, last time we were taken by surprise by the kobolds and the wolves. This time, we would not give them the pleasure to entertain us for as long as last time.
Rule number one of being a true adventurer: Learn from your past mistakes.
Ella steps in front of me and holds up a hand, signalling for a stop just before we enter the large room. She takes a moment to make a few hand signs to communicate to us a brief message which could be summarized as “V formation. Slow advance. Pick them off one at the time.”
Personally, I think that the plan is not a bad one. I will step in and bait them into attacking me, while Adder and Ella pick them off when they try to flank. Mei take care of hitting them from the backline, and Ziggurd will play the role of crowd control and healing. It’s a quick and dirty tactic that has saved us several times in fairly narrow spaces, since it uses me as a physical block for any frontal attacks, and the sides are easily protected by just two people in a confined space like this hallway.
I inch my way forwards now, falling into position. My tower shield is held in front of me like a strong iron wall, while my war-hammer is held by my other hand above my head, ready to strike at any creature foolish enough to come straight at me on its own. Hopefully, it would be a mistake occur repeatedly in the near future. I much prefer a quick and simple kill than struggling for a victory inside a dungeon. Brushes with death might be exciting, but more often than not, I find that they are not healthy.
Each step I take creates the sound of metal rubbing against metal, a crunching sound as my iron boots grind dirt and pebbles against the hard stone floor, all cautious silence thrown to the wind. I am supposed to get their attention after all, make them grow bold and entice them to attack us. The best way to do that is to be loud enough to be heard, slow enough to seem weary, but not aggressive enough to make them grow cautious around me. As my mentor used to say, ‘beasts are very receptive to body language so use that.’
It only takes me a minute to take my first step into the open room, and right away I am greeted by a series of growls. Around me, thirteen wolves have gathered in the room, scattered in different directions, all of their golden eyes fixated upon my figure. I have to admit, their fur coats are a beautiful shade of grey, which makes their eyes stand out like jewels crafted by an artisan.
Why does everything in this dungeon look so damn pretty?
I take a couple of more steps forwards, giving Adder and Ella enough room to step out of the hallway themselves, but only just barely. With this, the three of us are blocking the hallway, entirely, making sure none of the wolves can easily flank us and attack Mei or Ziggurd, leaving them free to pick of the wolves one at the time.
The wolves started to pace around the room, their eyes fixed on us. Clearly, they were looking for a way to flank us, but that was nigh impossible with our current formation. Seconds slipped by and the wolves kept their slow pacing, clearly in no rush to attack us in a blind blitz of hunger. How unfortunate. It would have made this go by a lot faster if they had just rushed us. Thirteen wolves are hardly an army. While that number of wolves is quite dangerous, considering circumstances, they were more of a nuisance than an actual threat. Their fangs would not be able to penetrate my iron armour, nor would they be able to easily overpower me as long as my team mates could keep them in check.
At this point, their end would only be a matter of time.
Considering their lack of aggression, Ella gives Mei and Ziggurd the signal to attack. Considering they had their gear at the ready, the attack was a process that only took a few second all together. As one, they release their projectiles, a knife and an arrow embedding themselves on the skulls of two separate targets, dropping them instantly to the ground.
The sudden death of their comrades causes the wolves to panic briefly, and their eyes deviate from us for a moment. Taking advantage of that, Mei draws another arrow and aims it at the nearest wolf. Surprisingly, the wolf scrambles to the side, tripping over its own limbs like a panicked lamb, avoiding certain death only to receive a knife to the eye from Adder.
Never ceases to surprise me how in tune those two are with each other when it comes to things like these. Mei tells me it’s just an instinct, to take down the weakest links first is how any hunter would prefer to hunt after all. But to me it seems that its more than that. I can’t explain how, but I think that at some level, Adder and Mei share some sort of rivalry that makes them more attuned to each other. They would never admit it out loud, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a rivalry unifies people instead of dividing them.
The confused panic quickly turns into a heated anger, and the wolves rush to us as one. Ten canine beasts with sharp fangs and claws rush to us, fully intent to rend us into strips of meat. My heart beat accelerates as I prepare myself for the incoming tide of wolves, but my mind remains calm. Normally, a pack of wolves bearing down on me would be a lot more intimidating, but considering our strategy and the fact that I am covered from head to toe in iron armour, I feel only moderately threatened, rather than feeling like my life is on the line.
No more time is given to me to thing as the wolves reach us within seconds, and my uplifted hammer is brought down the first wolf that pounces directly at me. The creature’s head is crushed like a melon before my hammer, brains splattering out of its fractured skull in a gory mess. Beside me, Ella utilizes her rapier to puncture a hole straight into the throat of a wolf trying to flank her, the end of her blade piercing through the spinal cord and exiting out the other end of the neck. With a flick of her wrist and a fluid motion she retracts her blade, and the battle resumes.
On my left, Adder keeps the wolves at a bay with his knives, until Ziggurd utilizes a simple magic that shines a bright light into the eyes of the wolves for a moment. It’s just enough to surprise them, making them loose the rhythm of the battle. In that moment of confusion, Adder steps forwards and ends the lives of his two assailants, before retreating back to his original defensive position. A single arrow flies just over Adder’s head, and imbeds itself on an approaching wolf just beyond the reach of his knives.
In a matter of seconds, half of the wolves are dead or dying. Within a minute, we clean up the rest of the pack. Best of all, it seems that most of the pelts are undamaged, so we could stand to gain a fair bit from skinning them and gathering their pelts.
“No time for that.” Ella speaks up, just as Adder approaches the first wolf, hopping to skin the creature himself. “We are here to check the dungeon, not to gather pelts.”
“But Mei got the snake skins?” Adder complains.
“Snake skins are easy to remove, you know that. You might as well be peeling a banana. Skinning thirteen wolves, even mediocrely, will take a lot longer, and it will be a weight we have to lug around. It’s a foolish thing to do when we don’t know the depth of the dungeon, and we are planning on going through the entire length of it.”
Sighing with regret, Adder puts his knives away, and only plucks out the handful of knives he had thrown at his targets. “Alright then… let’s go.”
I refrain from chuckling a bit at his reaction. It’s childish but refreshing its own way.
“Alright, back into standard formation.” Ella barks, gathering our attention as we gather ourselves in a line, ready to continue. “That should be the last room of the first floor, where we met that weird blue golem. Ready up in case it is still there.”
Steeling ourselves for another weird encounter, we forge our way forwards. The hallway is not very long thankfully, and soon we come face to face to our next challengers. Five kobolds, five wolves, and a handful of rather large snakes. But that wasn’t what caught our attention, but the large archway that seemed to lead to what seemed to be a decorated vertical tunnel.
“Guess that the dungeon has a second floor now.” Adder said, verbalizing our thoughts.
“Well boys,” Ella said with a bit of glee, “let us get on with it.”
Seconds later, the sounds of battle rang through the last room of the first floor of the dungeon.
Adder was quite disappointed that he had to leave the pelts of such beautiful wolves behind him, but what else was he to do? He had known from the start, since before he even asked Ella, that it would have been a bad idea to skin them all before they continued, but a part of him could not help being a little heartbroken at the idea of leaving those precious pelts behind. A well skinned wolf pelt could be worth a silver coin, depending on the size and quality of the fur itself, it could even be more than that. Considering all the factors, Adder calculated that they could have gotten somewhere around sixteen or seventeen silver coins for those pelts. Even though they were not that much larger than normal, the fur’s color was a glossy and uniform grey, and it had a certain bounce to it that made it feel even better than it looked. It was certainly a higher quality item, and some people would have certainly been willing to pay a higher price for them.
Unfortunately, Ella was correct. To skin those wolves would have taken a while, even if they were to just do a quick and dirty job with all five of the members of Azure Arrow. Moreover, the increased burden of carrying thirteen pelts would slow them down, and fatigue them faster, a deadly combination when they were not sure what they might find deeper in the dungeon. A good adventurer should always be ready to run if the need arises, that was a belief that was firmly ingrained in Adder.
Not that he would ever admit it to anyone, of course.
Thus he begrudgingly left his source of income behind him, taking his place in the simple, linear formation, smack in the center of the group. This was his personally favourite formation. He was, in his opinion, in the least dangerous position of the group. He was protected in the front by James and Ella, and if someone sneaked from behind and was stealthy enough to fool Mei’s hearing, he wouldn’t be the first to die either. Quite convenient for him. Of course, his position meant that he would be expected to be able to run an aid his team mates in case they encountered either a heavy frontal assault or were ambushed from behind, but that was a small price to pay for not being first in the death toll.
This held especially true when entering unknown situations, such as when they were descending down the spiral staircase to the second floor of the “Dungeon of Origins”, as the dungeon had so chosen to call itself. Though perhaps it had been named by a god of some sort… though that seemed highly unlikely to him. What god would look upon a new dungeon and try to take it under its wing right away? No matter how unusual the dungeon, no god or devil would try to claim a fledgling dungeon that has not even turned half a year old.
However, Adder couldn’t help feeling that this dungeon was more than just unusual. Even as they climbed the finely carved spiral staircase, which had no railing, he kept his hand pressed lightly against the wall to which the spiral staircase was attached. His fingers brushed over the intricately carved surface, which depicted long shoots of vines crawling over the wall as if they were real. He could literally trace a single vine down the length of the stairs, following it do the base with just his fingers. Even the stone itself was coloured a soft greyish-green, making it almost seem like they were real vines which had been petrified in time itself.
To top the design off, the opposite wall to the stairs depicted a sweeping design of rolling waves, which spiraled along with the stairs. The interesting thing with that, however, was that the stone itself was not coloured, it was just simple, polished grey stone. However, that stone had contained thousands of shinny blue stones of varying tones imbedded in it. It held a certain resemblance to the night sky in a cloudless night… If the stars were arranged in the pattern of rolling waves, at least. How could something this gorgeous be created by a simple dungeon?
Adder was not the only one that was taken aback by the simple, but elegant design of the stairs that led straight down to the following floor. The entirety of the team was so busy absorbing the sight that they were subconsciously slowing down, walking gently as to not disrupt the peace of the environment. It was as if they had stepped into a gallery of some sort, a room designed in its entirety by an artist of incredible skill.
Before he noticed it, Adder had already reached the ground floor, and practically bumped into Ella before he realized where he was standing.
Before him, a wide archway bounded by two statues of wolves acted as the entrance to a new room. The room itself was… breathtaking to say the least. White on black, the entire room relied in this contrast of colours. Pillars of black stone acted to create patterns with their own shadows upon a checkered floor, which sparkled in the light provided by Ziggurd.
“What in the world…?” Adder heard Ella ask to no one, her voice escaping her lips before even she had realized it.
“I know we have said this before but…” Adder chimed in, “This is definitely not a normal dungeon.”
“No kidding…” Mei agreed, her own eyes glued onto the spectacle before her.
“Are we sure this is a dungeon and not the art gallery of a king?” James commented, looking at the room with honest curiosity.
There was no reply from Ziggurd for a moment, and Adder could have sworn that the magic caster was wondering the same thing James had said to himself. Not that it surprised him, Adder was starting to think that the big guy might have had a point there.
“Well… It would be nice if it was, but it isn’t.” Ziggurd replied with a chuckle. “It’s kind of depressing to thing that a dungeon can out do you completely when it comes to art though. I can’t even draw a tree without getting upset over how crooked the branches look.”
That comment drew a snicker from Ella, a chuckle from James and Mei, and a full-blown laughter from Adder, who snorted loudly in the process.
“Don’t laugh too hard.” Ziggurd said with a smirk, “The dungeon could probably out do your drawing skills too, Adder.”
That stopped Adder’s laughter quickly, feeling somewhat indignant at the thought, but being unable to deny it. From what he had seen so far, only a master level artist stood a chance at competing with the dungeon if it could paint as well as it could sculpt and design. Even then, Adder would bet on the dungeon winning … assuming that a dungeon could consciously draw something, of course.
After taking their time contemplating how the hell all this art was popping up on the dungeon as if it had been purposefully planned, they regained their bearings and decided to make their way forwards once more. However, the dungeon had one more surprise for them in store.
The moment that they stepped into the room, the ceiling of the room lit up as if it contained a million stars within it, giving the entire room good lighting. Interestingly enough, the shadows of the pillars still were split into two directions due to the lighting, causing the pattern of black and white to change from before into a more wholesome figure.
“…Damn.” Adder exclaimed, unable to verbalize his thoughts beyond that.
“…Agreed.” Ziggurd’s voice rang behind him. Nothing else was said for a moment, probably because everyone had the exact same feeling.
“At some point we are going to have to stop being surprised by all the beauty.” James breathed out with a sigh, “I am not even sure my brain can keep being in a constant state of admiration. This is a first for me.”
“A first for everyone.” Ella added. “I haven’t been so awed since… actually I don’t think I ever have been in awe of something for so long.”
“Enough gawking.” Mei interrupted, tearing us away from our mellow musings. “We have to get moving or we are going to starve to death just staring at this room.”
Her words got the desired result, as Ella started to dish out orders and organized everyone, spreading them out slightly in case there were traps. As a matter of fact, considering that she saw no living creatures of any sort, she had no doubt that there some traps in the room. The question was, what kind of traps? And did those pillars have anything to do with said traps?
“Everyone, avoid touching the pillars.” She ordered, “This is most likely a room full of traps, and I would wager my left hand that those pillars are not just decorations. They probably have something to do with the traps.”
Following her direction, the adventurers began to make their way across the hall with cautious steps, wary of the polished black pillars. However, it wasn’t more than a minute before the first trap was triggered.
Out of nowhere, cone of fire burst from one of the pillars, and Mei let out a shout of surprise as she threw herself to the floor barely on time to avoid the raging fires that consumed the place where her head had been a mere second ago. The flames receded after a handful of seconds, but the hearts of everyone present kept beating like drums well past that.
“What did you do?” Ella asked quickly, not daring to move herself until a clue was gained.
“I… have no clue. I didn’t touch the pillar at all. I think it might have been the floor however. I think I felt my foot slide before the fire trap activated.”
Cursing under her breath, Adder looked around at the floor. The tilled floor was polished perfectly evenly, with no obvious signs of which tile would trigger a trap. He would probably have to advance while testing the tiles… or risk trying to out run whatever trap there was.
“Right,” Ella said with a grunt. “Everyone mind your steps. This place is definitely not friendly. Let’s make sure it doesn’t end up being the last place we see.”
Pala sat waiting patiently in the pond room, meditating as the Father had taught him and Echo to do. It felt unnatural to him at first, but he was learning to appreciate the experience. Even though he lacked practice, he had begun to discover that it granted him a certain calmness that he was beginning to grow fond of. Moreover, it gave him a way to practice his exercises mentally, which meant he would be conserving energy for the upcoming fight.
But today, he was meditating for a different reason. He was not training in his mind, but instead he was focusing on the world around him. Even now he could hear the sounds of explosions and yelps of surprise and concern from the room that his creator had dubbed “the greeting hall” and was attempting to track their progress.
“Watch out!” A loud banging noise rang in the distance, as if something heavy had collapsed.
“Argh!” A second shout was heard, male by the sound of it, followed by a small thumping sound.
“Adder is down! Careful, I saw that trap launch some sort of darts!” A strong female voice joined the chorus, barking orders without hesitation. A leader perhaps.
"I am okay! Just... Ugh... give me a minute. I am going to take some of that potion."
Something exploded, and a chorus of metallic strikes could be heard shortly after. “Careful! Some of the pillars explode!” A deep male voice spoke up, “We shouldn’t split up too much, just follow me! As long as I can absorb most of the damage, I doubt that the traps will hurt us.”
Pala nodded to himself as he heard them progress, grinning slightly as he heard curses fly from their lips from time to time. Of course, he frowned more than once when they cursed the dungeon that the father had created, but he took some joy in hearing them struggle. After all, the father himself had created the dungeon to be a challenge, not a walk in the park. Pala made a mental note to let him know of the success of his greeting hall, as he was sure that Smit would be more than happy to hear that.
Still, though the greeting hall was only a few hundred meters in length, it did a terrific job at slowing the adventurers down. A distance should have been covered in a handful of minutes if there were to be no obstacles was instead turned into an ordeal that lasted close to two thirds of an hour. Clearly the adventurers were taking their time after triggering the first dew traps, slowly edging forwards as they did their best to avoid any traps they could, and weather the rest of them.
More than once Pala heard the sound of stone striking metal, or the pained grunt of a man as he struggled to absorb the impact of something. It wasn’t until he heard them approach the end of the greeting hall that Pala opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. He looked around briefly, and observed his troops with a quick glance over. Fifteen kobolds, out of which four were warriors, five shamans, and the remaining just regular kobolds. Every warrior had a spear in their hands crafted of wood and polished stone, while Pala himself carried a spear of redwood and Damascus steel.
Pala grinned at this, looking at his entourage with pride. Last time he had lost to the intruders, but this time it would be different. This time his forces were more numerous, and they had time to train under the order of the Father himself. Moreover, he himself had already danced with the enemy once and since their last encounter, Pala had improved by leaps and bounds. No longer was he the naïve kobold chief that had thought himself at the apex of the world. Now he was Pala, Kobold lord, who had been tempered in training and had even walked beyond the scope of the dungeon itself. There was a world of difference between his previous self who barely could avoid being crushed by the massive hammer of the giant human, and the kobold who he now was.
And today he was looking for redemption.
“Brotherss! Sisterss! To arms!” Pala barked out, his eyes already shinning with anticipation. It would be a glorious day for the kobolds today, they would hold the line for the Father and nothing would stand before them and their sacred duty.
The kobolds jumped to their feet, holding on to their weapons. Shamans with their wooden staves, everyone else with spears. As one, they faced the simple wooden door that led to the greeting hall, staring at it silently. They all felt in their blood the need to defend this spot, for it was an honor given to them by the Father himself.
Seconds ticked by, slipping into an infinitely long moment that lasted but an instant before the large wooden door started to swing inwards. With the door opened, the kobolds were able to clearly see enemy before them. Five humans of different statures stepped into the room cautiously, eyeing them back.
“Well… I guess this is the welcoming committee.” The thinner man with knives said drily, plucking two of his knives from a harness, palming one in each hand.
“We got no choice now.” The metal cased giant said. Pala’s eyes had been glued on him from the moment he stepped into the room. That one was his target.
“James is right.” The redhead spoke up. “If we try to run, we will probably die from the traps, or we will be skewered from behind by those spears.”
“Only way out is through, huh?” The short girl with long ears said, hefting a long piece of wood from her shoulder.
“Either that or at least tire them out enough that they won’t be able to follow our retreat.” The man with a staff said as he stroked his beard. “Either way, it looks like it’s going to be tough.”
“Well boys, let us get to it then.” The red head said with a large grin, and Pala matched that grin with his own.
“RAAAH!” Pala roared out, and all hell broke loose.
Instantly, he threw himself to the side as a something brushed past his cheek, plunging in the pond behind him as he rolled on the floor and bounced back to his feet.
“Tch.” Mei clicked her tongue as she missed the shot by a fraction of second. How the creature had avoided it she was not sure. However, she was not given a chance to wonder about it, as a wave of kobolds rushed to her and her teammates.
Spells flew from the shamans at the back, and she knew those would be priority targets. A duel between the kobold shamans and herself with the aid of Ziggurd had begun.
Meantime, the blood sang in Pala’s veins as he bounded towards the iron giant, taking large strides to reach the man who held the massive iron hammer like a toy. Unfortunately, he was not the first to reach him. One of his common kobold brethren jumped at the giant first, and was swatted aside like a fly, spewing blood from his mouth as his ribs were crushed. Unfazed at the death of his brother, Pala leaped over his body, thrusting his spear towards the face of James without mercy.
He would thank his brother for his sacrifice later, right now he had a duty to uphold.
“What-!” James exclaimed as he jerked his head to the side, narrowly missing a spear to the eye. However, Pala was not done yet. Taking advantage of his superior speed, the minute that his attack failed he pulled back his spear in midair, and readied himself to attack once more as he landed in front of James. Bringing his body low to the ground, Pala used his momentum to thrust the spear in an upwards direction as his body moved forward, resulting in a powerful strike that caused James to stumble jump back in a panic in order to avoid a spear to the underside of his jaw. However, James dropped his shield in that movement, choosing to let go of the hefty shield in favour of surviving a killing blow.
Wise move. Pala observed briefly, before jumping back into the swing of things.
Without his shield, James met Pala in open combat, a battle between the giants of both sides of the conflict. They danced a deadly dance of steel and iron, the two of them relying on two very different principles. James depended entirely on his power and the defence that his armour provided, while Pala leaned heavily on his speed and the reach of his spear. The two were at a stalemate, neither able to land a crippling blow on the other. They lost themselves in their deadly dance while chaos unfolded around them.
Meantime, Ella engaged herself in a dual fight once more with two warrior kobolds, swinging her rapier and short sword like a red cyclone, striking with precision but unable to land a killing blow on them. Occasionally she would disengage for a moment to strike at a common kobold that tried to join the fight, only to fall back with an injury across its scaly hide for its intrusion.
Adder, Mei, and Ziggurd were all locked in their own personal battles too. Ziggurd countered enemy spells with his own, while Mei did her best to strike down the shamans. She had successfully taken down two of them, but the remaining three were proving a challenge, as they kept trying to pull up defences created from water. Adder was not fairing much better, playing the role of the main defence to Mei and Ziggurd, he was constantly throwing knives or engaging and disengaging kobolds. He had managed to surprise one warrior kobold with a knife to the eye, killing him instantly, but the other kobold was warier, pacing around him slowly as others distracted him.
The warrior kobold had stuck at him twice already, and managed to injure Adder in the second strike. He was certain that this warrior kobold was bright, acting just like a wolf, waiting to strike its prey.
Minutes went by and the fight started to grind to a halt. More than half of the kobolds lay dead or dying, but Azure Arrow was not completely unharmed. Adder had lost his helmet somewhere along the fight, and the spear had found the gaps between the plates of his iron armour more than once, biting into his flesh. Ella had defeated her two warrior kobolds, but at the expense of a spear to her ribs. She was currently being healed by Ziggurd while Mei engaged herself in a battle of projectiles with the last kobold mage, finding herself low on arrows while Adder defended the three of them from the last kobold warrior and a couple of regular kobolds.
The fight was turning into a battle of attrition, and as things were looking, Azure Arrow was standing to lose the round.
“It should do for now.” Ziggurd sighed as he whipped his brow clean from the blood that ran down an open wound on his forehead, putting away the empty flask of the potion he had used to help her recover faster. “Let us retreat. Most of them are dead, all of them are exhausted and so are we. We must retreat now, while we still can!”
Ella nodded weakly as she started to stand, wincing as she stood. “Retreat! Let us retreat! Mei, how many arrows do you have?”
“Three only.” She replied tiredly, as she let go of an arrow, which struck the shoulder of the final kobold shaman, making the creature yelp and collapse. “Make that two.”
“Ziggurd, how much mana do you have?” Ella asked tiredly, flicking her eyes towards him.
“Enough for a big flash.” He replied, “But after that, I am done. I already exhausted my mana potion to keep up with all the buffs and defences I had to put up.”
“Good enough.” Ella replied. “Start chanting.”
Following her instructions dutifully, Ziggurd began his chant, concentrating on articulating his words properly, and funneling the last of his power to the spell.
“Adder! James!” She called out loudly. “Close your eyes now!”
At that moment, James and Adder closed their eyes after parrying blows from their enemies. An instant later a flash of light blinded exploded across the room, blinding every kobold for a few seconds. By the time they opened their eyes, the enemy was gone.
Looking around, Pala blinked with teary eyes as the pain of the flash faded away. It took him a second to understand, but when it finally clicked, he smiled. He stabbed his spear on the floor, and roared to the heavens.
They had won.
|Species: True Dungeon|
|Name: Smit||Age: 2 months|
|Mana: 98,392 MP||Anima: 165|
|Mana Reg.: 235 MP/h||Anima Reg.: 5.25 AP/day|
|Floors: 2||Inhabitants: 63 Species|
|Titles: Creator of Dungeon laws; Creator; Guide of the Bloody Evolution; Legendary Craftsman;Master of Concentration; Reincarnated One;|
|Abilities: Absorb matter; Alter environment; Bestow Knowledge; Break down components; Craftsmanship; Creation; Digging; Destroy creation; Dungeon Laws; Enhancement; Equivalent exchange; Ether manipulation; Evolution; Interdimensional Storage; Life bestowal; Life-energy harnessing; Mana absorption; Masterful mana manipulation; Modification of creations; Monster Link; Telepathy; Trap building; Transfer dungeon.|
|Resistances: Magic (general); Mind control|