Ella gasped as blood trickled from her brow, her breath coming in ragged as she leant on the cold, hard stone of the dungeon. To her left, sprawled on the floor with arms wide was James, breathing heavily. For the first time in what felt like an eternity she had time to breathe, and finally saw how bad James truly looked at the moment. His Helm ha a deep gash on the left, and sported several lesser dents on the right, so damaged that James had to take it off, as it was near useless now, barely fitting his head at all. His breastplate was chipped, and his arm bracers looked like they had gone to a war rather than entered into a young dungeon. His new axe, which had previously seemed so smooth and regal, now looked a cruel piece of iron with a jagged edge, fit more for tearing than cutting. Even his mighty tower shield had not been spared the abuse. Crafted of iron and wood, the shield laid dented and curving unnaturally. Usable, but getting a new shield might be easier than repairing it. His face was bloodied, and a deep purple bruise was forming on his cheek. Though James was not the most handsome man in the land, he had a certain rugged appeal, and his current state certainly did not help enhance it.
Add to that the fact that his usually shinny armour was now scrapped and dusted, as if someone had tied it behind a galloping horse, and he made for a sorry sight. She idly wondered if she looked just as bad. Considering that her rapier sported a new crack near the tip and one of her greaves had been damaged beyond use, she wagered that she could compete with him in appearance. Both of them looked like they had been through hell.
“Damn him.” James finally growled out. “Damn him and those women. Damn them to hell and back for leaving us like that.”
“Who would have thought it?” Ella replied as she pressed her back against the hard wall and allowed her self to slide down until she was sitting on the stony floor. “A lord of that caliber… Who would have thought he was a craven old fox?”
“We should have known.” James said with a sour face as he forced himself to eat up with a grunt. He coughed and spit out a glob of congealed blood and phlegm, his face scrunching up with distaste. “The Black Widows have as many dark whispers surrounding them as they have stories of successes, if not more. Assassins they call them, and opportunistic crows too. I have reason to believe that both of those names have merit now.”
“There is truth in those words.” She agreed. “You know… When I was younger, when I still lived in my father’s land and I was learning how to use the sword, I remember how haggard my father would look sometimes after dealing with other lords. He would say that amongst the lords it was not too difficult to find rats and snakes.”
“Wasn’t your father just a baronet?” James asked, turning to look at her tiredly. “I can’t imagine that he had heavy involvement with the higher powers of the nobility.”
“A baronet he is, the second lowest title of nobility, but a noble nonetheless, and the games of power never stop amongst nobles.” She replied stiffly. “Families can rise or fall in the blink of an eye. Did you know I was almost wed to the family of a viscount? A sure step up for my family, but three days after our engagement was announced, the head of the family was assassinated, and their small keep went up in fire. No one ever found out what was the source of the fire, but my father swears that it was likely the hand of another house.”
“That sounds… dark.” James replied grimly. “But for what its worth, I am glad you are here now.”
“Agreed.” She nodded as she smiled at him humorlessly, though the sentiment touched her. “Well, in any case. That event ended the life of my would-be husband, and the event put the fear in my father that one day, an assassin could come after us. My brothers and I took up the ways of the sword, lance, and shield from that day on.”
There was silence for a moment after that, only broken by their sound of breathing, still louder than normal. After a few more minutes, Ella saw the creatures that they had brought down start to dissolve into white particles of light, melting away into nothing and leaving behind just little pieces of themselves. The wolves left behind claws and fangs, and the two kobold warriors dissolved leaving behind shields and leathers. The heavy wooden golem started to break down too, leaving behind a small green crystal that must have been his core. All the blood and gore that was spilt vanished as if the dungeon itself had devoured the ghastly remains, leaving nothing behind.
It unnerved her.
“We should get moving.” Ella grunted as she hoisted herself up. “How are you faring?”
“Couple of cracked ribs, maybe broken. That and a concussion, and a lot of bruises.” James replied as he stood gingerly, careful to not move too quickly. “It’s manageable. Yourself?”
“Sprained wrist, pulled shoulder, and a lot of minor cuts and scrapes.” She replied with a chuckle. “I daresay I am in better condition.”
James snorted at that as he picked up his shield, a smile playing upon his lips. “I call horse shit on that. I can still take a beating with my shield and dish some punishment back, even with cracked rips. If your shoulder and wrist are compromised, your attack prowess has diminished a lot. Adder could run circles around you right now.”
Ella chuckled again, as she let her eyes wonder on the floor, considering what to take. She settled for a few large pieces of leathers and the core of the golem. The leathers could have multiple uses, even in the dungeon at least. “I can’t argue that one.”
Grunting his approval, James took a deep, calming breath and released it slowly, wincing as his ribs shifted to accommodate the influx of air that his lungs demanded. He was now reasonably certain that at least one of his ribs was broken, and perhaps three more were cracked. The burn on his side was quite distinctive after all.
“What now?” He asked, gingerly placing his axe on his hip. “I do not like our odds right now. We are too far into the dungeon.”
“I am of the same mind.” Ella replied. “Last time we got our rear ends kicked around pretty badly with a full team, and now we are down to two. Even as prepared as we are, I doubt that we have enough food for more than three days, and same for water.”
“Try to be less cheerful about it.” James replied with a half smile.
“Just an observation.” She replied with a pensive look. “Hm… As you said, these odds do not favour us. Our chances of reaching the surface on our own are slim. Our best bet is to find another team and join them.”
“Sounds about as good a plan as any.” James replied simply as he tied his helm to his belt with a strip of leather. “We are going to have to move carefully, I would hate to encounter another large group like this one.”
“Or even a pair of golems.” Ella said tiredly. “Or that monstrous kobold lord.”
“Those too.” James agreed as he looked around idly. “Now then. How do you suppose we find someone in this damnable maze?”
Ella shrugged and winced as her muscles complained, setting her shoulder aflame. “I suppose we retrace our steps to the best of our ability… And follow any sounds of struggles that we hear. With any luck we will run into someone sooner rather than later.”
“I pray it be sooner.” James replied as heled the way through the tunnels of stone, His fingers lightly pressed against the beautifully caved wall, tracing the intricacies of it’s surface with his large hand.
“I couldn’t agree more.” She said with a heavy sigh. They marched onwards through the maze in silence for a while after that. She couldn’t tell the exact time that had passed due to the ever-present dusk provided by the fire spirits, but she estimated it had to be at least an hour of sobering silence that stretched between her and James. In the silence, she let her mind wander ever so slightly, though not for long, always reining back in her imagination so that she could focus on the world around her.
Yet, in these brief moments where her mind fleeted for an instant, she couldn’t help but to worry about their teammates. Mei, Adder, and Ziggurd had taken off with a separate team under the direction of Duchess Bik’aard. The duchess was said to be a strict and stern woman, though not without mercy and wisdom. But what if the duchess had betrayed them like Ravoul had betrayed them? Would they survive if they were used as bait? Gods knew that they had les armour than James and Ella, and she shuddered to think what would happen if they got betrayed.
The distant sound of metal ringing against metal reached the ears of Ella and James, and they both turned to look in the direction of the sound. A deep hall that extended to the left, just up ahead, seemed to be the source of it. They exchanged a wary glance, but moved with resolution as they carefully walked towards the source of the sound.
With their weapons in hand, James took the lead, his great tower shield being held before him should anything strike unexpectedly. Cautious steps took them to what seemed to be a dead end, save for a heavy oaken door at the end of the hall. From beyond, the sounds of fighting came as clear as a bell. There was no mistaking the sound of metal striking metal, nor the roar of beast and men alike as they battled for supremacy.
They stood there for a handful of seconds, hesitating between the safety of their hall and the room of unknown danger before them. But in the end, they were adventurers to the very core of their being. They could not stand to wait in feigned safety while others fought for their life. Their honor as adventurers would not stand for it.
Throwing the door open, James and Ella burst into the room ready to fight tooth and nail along with their human comrades. They expected a brutal fight from the sound they had heard earlier, and they were not disappointed. The sound that they had heard earlier escalated the moment they came into the room, three different teams of adventurers found themselves fighting a small army of monsters. Amongst them, Marquess Lerron, Duchess Bik’aard, and Viscount Havier attempted to direct their adventurers from the rear. The situation was no different than a battlefield.
Bears, wolves, kobolds, and snakes attacked in synchronization with the aid of wooden golems, clawing and smashing at the adventurers who in turn did their best to slice through the enemy with every weapon at their disposal. The room was extremely spacious, large enough to host four hundred people comfortably with room to spare, yet it was barren of any structure, other than beautiful statues at ach of the cardinal directions of the dome-like room. Each statue depicted a different race. A dwarf with his mighty hammer, a human with his sword, an elf with a finely crafted bow, and a small fairy with a powerful stave. Above the four of them, a phoenix stared down at the center of the room, carved directly into the cusp of the dome. Together, these five stone sentinels were the only witnesses to the battle that unfolded in the room.
An arrow struck James’s shield with force, and caused him to veer his head in the direction from whence it came. His eyes promptly found Mei in the distance, waving at him eagerly with one hand as her mouth moved, but her voice was drowned over the upheaval created by the deathly struggle of men and beast alike. The adventurers had been pushed to the far side of the room, with the nobles standing behind the adventurers safely.
“That way!” James yelled over the noise, and Ella replied with a nod as she fell inline behind him, a common tactic. He would plow through the enemy with his shield, and she would strike to the right and left flanks as they passed through, aiming to incapacitate any enemies along the way, letting them bleed themselves.
Charging forth, James let the enemy bounce against his shield, fracturing claw and fang, and turning away the cold metal from spears as they collided with his shield. Behind him, he could hear howls of pain and tearing sounds as his leader sliced away at those who attempted to pursue or fell to James’s bulrush. Wolves and kobolds could not stop the momentum of behind his advance, though every impact upon his shield made his ribs burn with strain.
Soon, Ella and James were standing with Mei and Ziggurd in the back lines, though Adder seemed to be preoccupied peppering the enemy with knives.
“Where did you guys come from?” Ziggurd asked as he cast a spell that enhanced an ally’s speed. He looked tired, his hair grimy with sweat and dirt, his once clean robes now dirty and worn.
“Later!” Ella barked as she took a position beside James, acting like a protective barrier between the enemy and Ziggurd. “Status report now!”
Before Ziggurd could reply he was forced to start chanting again, and so it was Mei who took over and replied for him. “This is seems to be a chokepoint of some sorts. All the three teams you saw entered through a different door, and before we knew it, they all shut close and locked up. Then all these creatures came in through other doors and here we are.”
“So, a monster nest room?” Ella replied as she engaged a kobold that came charging her way.
“Don’t think so.” Mei replied instantly as she let loose another arrow. “Feels more like a testing state.”
“Great.” Ella replied drily.
“Better than a monster nest.” Mei said simply.
No more was said between them as they joined the fray.
Lerron was trembling, not with fear, but with rage. This was not supposed to be how his glorious conquest of the dungeon was supposed to go! He had planned it all out with surgical precision, creating strategies and plans without end for days and nights. He had selected the most appropriate team, the Red Lance, a team who specialized in spearheading quests that required exploration and survival skills, and proceeded to gift them with some higher quality equipment, which should have upped their abilities to perform. He had bribed other teams, and even tried to get as much unreleased information about the dungeon as possible beforehand.
With the amount of preparation that he had put into this, he was certain that victory was all but his. A trophy that was so perfectly within reach that all he had to do was stretch out his hand and take it from the world.
And yet, here he was. Stuck in a stalemate with a bunch of hollow headed fools who could only use their muscles instead of their brains, fighting against an enemy that seemed to not tire or understand the meaning of fear. Worse, since that blue female golem had come into the picture, things seemed to be worsening by the minute.
The creature was naught but a golem carved from some sort of blue stone, but whoever had carved her out of stone and polished her into the beauty he saw before him was a true master of the art. The proportions of her body were perfect, the lines of her body curving and accentuating with such delicacy that if it wasn’t for the color of her body, he would have claimed a heavenly being had come to graced them with its presence.
Yet that awe he felt as he gazed upon the golem quickly burned itself to ash as he witnessed sword and spear be turned away from its surface, not even scratching its surface. The weight of her body must have been prodigious as well, for even heavy attacks which should have made her take a step back were met head on, and the effect on her was minimal even though she utilized what seemed to be only a basic defensive stance.
As if to make matters worse, the creature wielded a large halberd, and swung it with monstrous strength, forcing even B rank adventurers to be weary of the strikes. Beauty and power were personified on this golem, an expressionless fairy of death if he ever saw one. Gnashing his teeth, he forced himself to keep from yelling obscenities at his incompetent adventurers, aware that he had no guards other than them in this hellhole of a dungeon.
Forcing himself to remain calm, Lerron stepped back. He was out of his depth here, fighting against creatures such as these, but he could still be of use. He had participated in wars before, and he could command soldiers. But to be able to command well, one had to be aware of the happenings of the field of battle. So he observed the field, his mouth a thin, hard line painted on his long face.
Within minutes he realized something was amiss. There were fewer corpses than there should have been on the floor, and far more blood that there should have been on the adventurers. It only took another minute to realize that the creatures that they faced were not attacking wildly as he had first believed them to be doing. Instead, there was a sort of order to their chaos. The odd bears that could walk on two legs led the charge, swatting aside lances or occupying the largest adventurers, while the wolves filled in the spaces between them, flanking the adventurers and snapping at their heels. When threatened, the wolves would retreat slightly, into the defendable range of nearby kobolds that held spears, or large snakes that could strike at lightning speed.
Baffled, Lerron gapped at the situation before him. Most of these creatures should have been easy game for B rank adventurers. Wolves and snakes should offer little challenge to them unless it was in large numbers or they were rare variants of the species, but the synergy between the species had done quite the number on the adventurers. Moreover, the amount of noise was amplified in the enclosed space, making it difficult to communicate even at distances of ten feet.
It was a brilliant trap. The bears would demand the attention of adventurers, and that left them open to the wolves, and those few who would chase after the wolves would often be met by spear and fang from the kobolds and snakes. Simple, but cunning, and terrifyingly effective by the looks of it all. The adventurers had underestimated their opponent because they thought the battle all by won, and tit had resulted in this. A sense of urgency welled up within Lerron, his eyes widening as he sensed the danger of the situation. He tried to direct the flow of battle by shouting orders and frantically pointing at the direction where people should go, but the sheer amount of noise strangled his voice so that it reached it was barely heard.
Wringing his hands, Lerron, started to feel cold sweat begin to form on his brow as the implications of the situation started to dawn on him. There were still twice the amount of animals and monsters than there were adventurers, and the struggle had been going on for a while now. He could see signs of exhaustion starting to show on the adventurers of several teams, and many of these adventurers had at least been bloodied by the creatures. From this point onwards, the injuries would only accumulate, and the chances of survival were likely to drop.
Whipping his brow, he let one of his hands reach into his pocket and curl around a smooth flask that fit comfortably on his hand. His fingers curled and uncurled around it as he contemplated his decision, staring intensely at the battlefield before him as he backed himself up against the wall. His heart beat like a drum, hurting his chest, and he ground his teeth with indecision. The flask was meant to be used in an emergency to take care of another team, to create a distraction even. But in this room, it could utilizing it could mean his doom.
But he had no choice. He could see it now, if things continued as they were, the adventurers had a chance to win, but not by much. There would be casualties, most of them would likely die, and he was willing to wager that he and the other nobles would be amongst the dead.
Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Lerron thought grimly, and his resolution was made. He stepped forwards now, and grabbed the shoulder of one of his adventurers, the archer, and told him to step further back to protect him. Then he went to the sorcerer and did the same. They both hesitated, but backed up to stand by him. It didn’t matter too much to them in the end, for they could still support their team from their new position.
With his new meat-shields in place, Lerron licked his lips and pulled out the glass flask. Within it, a murky green and purple substance swirled slowly. It was all or nothing at this point, and so he threw it as hard as could upwards into the air with all the strength he could muster, and let it crash somewhere in the middle of the battlefield.
Slowly, a faint scent started to permeate the room. Sweet and spicy, combined with what smelled to iron, the scent intensified, and the creatures went wild. They threw themselves violently against the adventurers now, all tactics were gone. Like the wild beasts they were, the jumped forwards and tore into the adventurers, heedless of the fact that they were being cut down themselves.
If the battle before was chaotic in nature, now it had turned into the very image of mayhem as wolves leaped into the air and grabbed hold of the arms of men, tearing off pieces of flesh and armour, only to be gutted by knife. Snakes shot themselves into the face of adventurers with large fangs, puncturing their eyes and faces, only to be smashed by mases or beheaded by swords. Kobolds rushed into the fray, attacking the injured with vengeance and became pierced by spells and arrows. The bears were the worst of the lot however. They bull rushed some, and swiped with their mighty claws at the adventurers, their long arms allowing them to reach the enemy even as they stood on their hind legs, towering over adventurers like small giants. They struck at swords and men alike, caring not if they impaled themselves in the weapons of the adventurers as long as they dealt as much damage as possible.
The bloody fight lasted a mere five minutes, but those five minutes were enough to fill the survivors with terrible dread. Six adventurers stood where there had once been nineteen, twenty-one if one took into account the two that came into the fray half way through. On the enemy side, only the beautiful golem stood, covered in blood like her own weapon, expressionless as always. Six adventurers, three nobles, and one golem that stared at them impassively.
The sound all the doors slamming open made everyone jump up in fright, save for the golem who continued to stare at them. Looking around, they found that the entrances they came in were open, as was the exit behind the golem. Yet no one dared to move.
“Let us leave.” Finally, a feminine voice spoke up. It was none other than Duchess Bik’aard, whose normally sharp eyes looked wary for once. “None of us can continue through the dungeon. Let us go back together. The price for continuing is too high.”
Lerron jumped in on that idea, and so did the Viscount Havier. Neither wished to continue through this accursed dungeon.
“Hold!” One of the adventurers said, looking around nervously, “Shouldn’t we take some of them back?”
“Of who?” Lerron replied.
“Our comrades. Look, some of them still stir.” He pointed at a large man who shifted ever so slightly, but a thick pool of blood grew from under him. A broken spear shaft could be seen protruding from a fracture on the back of his armour.
“Are you mad?” Lerron asked incredulously. “You want to carry the dead now? You barely can walk yourself by the look of you, and you want to try to carry dying men? Please. We will be lucky if they don’t attract more animals to us. Let them be.”
“If you really want to carry them so badly,” Lerron said icily, “You can do so on your own… If the golem even lets you get near them.”
The man nervously looked at Echo, and licked his lips with worry. As emotionless as the golem was at the moment, he knew that she could move at any moment. In his current state, the adventurer could match her blow for blow if she attacked… but only briefly. Eventually exhaustion would set in, and it would act in concert with his injured body to spell his doom. He had no doubt that if he engaged her right now, it would only be a matter of time before he was subdued by her blows. With this thought in mind, he swallowed empty air. Meek as mouse, he joined Lerron and the rest, hobbling out of the room, going back to whence they came.
Lerron let out a relieved sigh as they left the room, glad to not loose another meat-shield. He turned on his heel and strode out of the room, happy to ignore the pitiful moans of dying men and beast a like.
Sigurd let out a raspy gasp as he tried to inhale fresh air, only to receive the rusted scent of blood that lingered in the air. Dazed but awake, he was aware that his lower body was immobile, thanks to an oversized dead bear that laid squarely over his legs and part of his back. With blurry eyes he saw Laron and the rest leave, and even though he tried to call out to them, his voice was little more than a dry croak that could not reach their ears. All he could do was watch in despair as the doors closed behind the last adventurers, and left him and his team to bleed to death.
Tears welled up in his eyes as despair started to eat away at his heart. How cruel could they be, to leave them half dead for the dungeon to consume their bled corpses after the vitality left their flesh and bones? Could they not even spare a man to put them out of their misery? And the gods too. How could they let their followers die like this? Unburied in a godless dungeon, rotting below the corpses of animals.
It was almost too cruel to bear.
A rattling gasp near him drew his attention to the hulking mass of James, who had collapsed due to an untold number of injuries. His breastplate which had withstood punishment for years was now in ruins, dented, scratched, and broken. Upon his head a gash that allowed his lifeblood to flow out onto the stone floor. A faint movement to his right drew his eyes, and he saw Adder cough out spit and blood as he rolled over to his side, one arm shredded, whether it had been due to claws or fang Ziggurd could not tell.
Mei laid close to him, breathing weakly, but breathing nonetheless. A burn mark across her face, probably misfire from an ally mage, and her arm laid twisted at an impossible angle. But she was alive.
“Looks like…” A feminine voice coughed out. The voice sounded sickeningly wet, as if half drowned, but they all knew who it belonged to. “This day just keeps on… getting better and better.”
“I’d hate to see what a day going bad looks like then.” Adder said painfully, his breathing laboured.
“Well.” Ella said with a bloodied smirk, her voice faltering slightly. “At least we are going out… with a bang.”
“That we did.” Adder coughed out, a sad smile on his lips.
“No regrets?” Ella said quietly.
“I should have visited that brothel one last time.” Adder replied unashamed, causing Ella to laugh painfully.
“An ass until the end.” Ella said with a twisted grin. “Mei?
“She and James are out cold.” Ziggurd spoke up.
“Zig? Where are you?”
“Below the bear.” He replied. “Bastard fell on me.”
“Ah. Lucky that he only fell on you.” She replied with a chuckle. “At least we can talk… to the end.”
“The end…” Ziggurd echoed quietly as he looked at staff in his hand, now a full foot shorter than it was before, thanks to a certain bear. He stroked the wood, remembering all the times it had helped him survive, and through all the hardship it had accompanied him through. He had never fully realized how many times this thing had helped him pull through, for both his own sake and that of his team.
“Yes…” Ella said quietly. “At least, what took us out was this mysterious dungeon and not some common monster.”
“Perhaps…” Ziggurd replied half-heartedly, the grip on his staff tightening. A resolution shinning through in his eyes. “But not all of us have to die.”
“What do you-?” Ella began to ask, but before she was even done asking her question, she felt her hair stand on end as Ziggurd began to whisper words of power. His mana came to him like a flutter of wings, a hollow voice came rushing from him far different from any that she had heard him use. It was clear that his magic was different than what he usually used. She felt her injuries slowly heal as he chanted, and for the first time, she realized that Ziggurds voice sounded beautiful like she had never heard it before. It almost seemed like a bitter sweet song in a foreign tongue.
She heard the sound of heavy stone move, and she whirled her head around to see that the golem took a step towards Ziggurd, halberd raised high as if to strike. And suddenly, it simply stopped. She found her heart beating so hard that she thought that it would jump out her throat.
Yet, it was not the golem that frightened her the most, it was Ziggurd. She had never seen Ziggurd heal more than one person at the time, even if it was superficially. Her wounds stopped bleeding, and she noted that so had James. Adder spat out a glob of blood, but his breathing came easier as well. The chant reached a tenebrous crescendo as it began to end, and Ella could hear his voice weaken. But even as his voice weakened, she could feel another presence, a great and mysterious presence the likes of which she had never felt start to manifest in the room. She wanted to yell to Ziggurd to stop, but the words stuck on her throat like tar, choking her. At last, the chant ended, and the mysterious aura filled the entire room, so tangible that she could almost taste it.
“You are no… devil or contracting spirit.” Ziggurd rasped out with apprehension. Though his life energy bled from him, he could feel the presence of what he had called forth, and it was not what he had expected.
“Damn right I am not.” A deep male voice sniffed, looking down at Ziggurd and his companions. “And I wasn’t about to let you call one in here. Do you know how much effort I spent building this place? I am sure you know as well as I that devils are hardly peace-loving creatures. It would see this place to ruins.”
“So… you exist.” Ziggurd rasped out, his voice a mix of wonder and pain. “The dungeon truly is alive.”
“Of course it is.” It replied. The voice was elderly by the sound of it, but the power it held within it showed not a hint of weakness. It also almost sounded offended at the suggestion of the dungeon not being alive. “Interesting magic you pulled there.”
Ziggurd smiled weakly, nodding at… well, he wasn’t sure exactly what it was he was talking to. All he could see was a hazy outline of a pair of deep green eyes. “It’s… forbidden magic. Sacrifices must be made to contact the spirits, devils, and gods… And plenty of life has been spilt today for it. Are you a god?”
“No.” The voice replied bluntly. “But neither am I spirit. I suppose I am something in between.”
“I see.” A shivering cough burst from Ziggurd, and Ella knew that his life was ebbing away. “Yours is the power of the dungeon, correct?”
“It is as you say.” The voice affirmed.
“Then I beg you… Let my friends go safely.”
The voice didn’t reply immediately, as if it was studying the dying mage for a moment. “Why should I do that? It is you who and you colleagues that invaded my dungeon, no doubt in search of gold to line your pockets until they are fit to burst. Or perhaps you just seek glory and empty honor by conquering a dungeon. Why should I show mercy?”
“I can bargain.” Ziggurd replied, his voice weaker by the minute. The spell clearly was draining more than just his mana. “…You can have my soul.”
The words hang limply in the air, weighing down on everyone that heard them. Ella wanted to scream to Ziggurd, to tell him to stop, Adder wanted to yell angrily at the madness of it all, but in the end, the words froze in their throats. Something made them unable to voice their thoughts.
“…Well, that’s interesting.” The voice uttered with curiosity, the attention focused intensely on Ziggurd as life seemed to seep away from the mage. “You would give your soul to save your comrades?”
“Not just comrades.” Ziggurd croaked out, pain marking his words. “Friends…no, more than that… family.”
Ziggurd looked up to the misty figure of those ancient green eyes, and saw them consider the proposal, weighing it against whatever else he could gain from letting them die.
Please… Ziggurd pleaded in his mind. If there are any gods, new, old, or forgotten, let it work.
Seconds slipped by, and Ziggurd struggled to keep his eyes open, staring at the ancient green eyes. He clung to the faint hope that whatever entity guarded the dungeon granted them mercy. For whatever reason, his spell drew this entity to him instead of the spirit of healing, and it was his last hope. The dice were cast, and the bets were made. Everything rested on the entety that governed the dungeon.
“Fine. A contract is made.” The entity replied at last, and Ziggurd drew a sigh of relief as he felt strength suddenly leave him. When did he get this tired?
“And the pact is sealed.” Ziggurd replied as he released his hold on life.
The entity closed its eyes, and Ziggurdd had the impression the entity had given him a nod before the world went dark. In the distance he heard the voices of his companions call out to him in despair, but he only smiled as his world was painted black.
And then, Ziggurd’s light became extinguished from his body.