Actaeon stood at the mouth of the cave.
He made sure to approach from the side and not stand directly in front of it. Without being able to see inside he didn't want to stand in plain sight of whatever could be standing guard.
Nothing came out of the cave since he found it. Was that a good thing or bad? One thing he knew for sure was standing there with his back against the wall was going to be about as useful as doing so at a school dance. Sure he got to watch the pretty girls dancing but that was as far as he was going to get. If he wanted some action he was going to have to move.
Actaeon ducked as he slid around the corner and into darkness. He kept his body against the side wall of the cave as he continued in. To his surprise his vision adjusted quickly and the black became Grey's full of shapes. Most of which were stalactites and stalagmites. There were also a few large rocks scattered about. He was glad humanoid shapes we're not among them.
A scream echoed down the cave. Actaeon jumped up setting a personal high jump record. Once back on the ground he paused with his hand over his chest. His heart beat furiously against his rib cage. Calming himself took a few minutes. He did so with a few deep breaths and tightening his grip on the sword hilt for reassurance.
A low thumping noise followed the scream. At first he felt it reverberate through his chest more than he heard it. The farther in he went the louder the sound got. Going from barely audible to drowning out the sounds of his footsteps.
A red pin prick of light appeared ahead. It flickered and vanished for a second. When it reappeared it remained steady. The closer he got to the light the larger it became. The light at the end of the tunnel bolstered his confidence some. If for no other reason than he was going to be able to see again soon, even if the light was a hellish hue. The thumping continued to increase. Only now there was a faint metallic scraping sound along with it. Like dragging a knife across a metal plate. It sent his teeth on edge.
The tunnel opened up to a larger chamber which was where the red light originated from. Only now that he was closer the light took on more of an orange color. A metal brazer on the far wall was the source of the light. The flickering he saw earlier must have been someone lighting it. The someone that was inconspicuously absent.
Another tunnel entrance loomed from the far side of the chamber. Unlike the passage to his back this one was not dark. The orange red light filled that space as well. Actaeon took a moment to inspect the first chamber. He wanted to be sure he wasn’t leaving an enemy at his back. And hoped for a secret stash of loot.
Satisfied that the room was empty save for the brazier he moved on. The thumping masked any sound he made but he decided to go slow anyway. If he rushed his chance of reacting to a situation would be hampered. Taking his time bought him reactionary time.
After another hundred feet or so the tunnel opened up into a chamber larger than the first by a good ten times. Several braziers burned providing ample light to see all of the chamber. Which meant he saw the cages that held Tanveer, Kenishera, and several others he didn’t know. One a ferralin, and two humans. The Ferralin was tiger orange with leopard spots. The width of its shoulders suggested it was male. Not that he jad seen a female to compare with. The humans, one male one female, were both fair skinned and shaved bald. They sat next to each other with their knees pulled up and their arms hugging their legs. The female rocked back and forth while the male was still. Both had a thousand yard stare that said no one was home.
They were not the only occupants of the chamber. Short stocky men with long hair and beards moved around the space doing various tasks. The name Dwarves immediately came to mind except for a couple off putting features. They all had white of light grey hair and eyes that looked like smoldering embers. Their skin ranged from slate grey to a darker charcoal.
Actaeon’s position at the mouth of the tunnel left him exposed to any of the weird dwarves that decided to take a good look in this direction. Not far from him was a boulder big enough to hide behind and provide a better vantage point. He just had to traverse seven or eight feet of uncovered ground to get to it.
In his previous life Actaeon spent a lot of time playing games. In every game ever there were patterns to everything. Including the movements of mobs and patrols. All it took to figure them out was time and observation. Why couldn’t that work now?
Actaeon did just that. He kept his eyes open and his head on a swivel, as they say. They being any movie Marine badass. The first thing he noticed were a pair of the dwarves decked out in heavy plate armor. They marched from one end of the room to the other. Rinse wash and repeat. They had to be the patrol responsible for providing security. That made them his biggest threat.
Next he saw a lone figure disappear behind a large wooden table that was set at a forty five degree angle with the bottom of it facing him. The far end touched the ground so the dwarf was completely out of sight. While he was back there Actaeon thought he heard screams but couldn’t be sure with the thumping still going strong.
There was the last dwarf in the room. He was untying a rope used to keep an object secure in a tan colored tarp. As long as he kept at what he was doing and didn’t turn around he wasn’t a threat.
Movement by the upturned table caught his attention. Actaeon watched as the dwarf reemerged. His hands were at his waist busy trying to fasten his pants closed. The pieces snapped together in his mind. The screaming and now the dark dwarf closing his trousers.
“This motherfucker,” Actaeon mumbled to himself. He stepped forward all thoughts of hiding behind the boulder gone. A hot coal of righteous fury burned in his gut getting hotter by the second. He step toward the offending dwarf. “Hey shit head!” He had to shout in order to be heard over the thumping sound.
All movement stopped. In unison all the dwarves turned to look at actaeon. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Tanveer and Kenishera stand. Surprised etched on both faces.
“Run you fool!” Tanveer shouted.
Actaeon sprinted forward moving toward the dwarf still fumbling with his pants. He gripped the sword tighter. It wasn't a spear, but he performed the lung as he ran.
He shot forward like a bullet. The tip of the blade pierced the dwarf’s throat and punched through the back of his neck.
Fire blazed across the space below his three status bars. A new bar was left in the wake of the flame. This new status bar slowly depleted. The sound of a grinder eating away metal filled his ears. Whatever that was it had a time limit.
Actaeon kicked the dead dwarf off of his blade. He spun to face the next one. He screamed and felt a surge of energy course through him. The orange bar blazed brighter.
Actaeon rushed forward. The dwarves moved in slow motion. he dropped to his knees and slid past the next one in line. He swung the blade as hard as he could removing the dwarf’s legs from the knees down.
before stumpy hit the ground Actaeon was back up he spun and dove for the next dwarf. The opponent tried to block, but he too moved in slow motion. Actaeon parried the dwarf’s hammer and ran the edge of the sword along one side of the dwarf’s neck. Blood arced out and away from the dwarf.
The second of the patrolling dwarves swung a large double bladed ax at Actaeon’s head. he sidestepped and slammed the pommel of his sword into the Dwarf’s face. He flipped the blade and drove the point of the blade into his chest.
The red-orange bar blinked and disappeared. Time seemed to go back to normal. All the dwarves hit the ground except the one by the wrapped up bundle. He stood staring with his mouth agape. Actaeon looking at him snapped him back from lala land. He spun and grabbed the tarp. He yanked it off what turned out to be a giant metal man.
He turned around and flashed Actaeon a wicked grin. No one moved. After a few minutes when nothing happened the grin slid off the Dwarf’s face. Another minute passed before he looked over his shoulder.
Actaeon followed his gaze up. The head was small compared to the rest of it. Round with two open slits angled to look evil for eyes and a grate reminiscent of medieval armor face plates below them. The torso was also round, but much larger than the head. the bottom was cut away to look like the bottom of a rib cage and a glowing orange crystal floated in the opening. It’s legs ended where the knees should have been and it had round shoulders with no arms. Two chains kept the crippled behemoth suspended in the air. Its legs ended in stumps above where the knees should be. It had two spheres for shoulder and part of an arm sticking out of one. The other had no arm.
The most interesting thing about the monster was the disc in it’s chest that pushed out and moved back in like a piston. It moved in time with the thumping noise. This lead him to believe it was the source of the noise.
“Get him!” The dwarf shouted. He pointed a thick finger at Actaeon.
The suspended metal monster groaned. Amber lights flickered to life in it’s eye sockets.
Acteon didn’t wait to see what would happen. He ran at the last dwarf with his sword held high. His mysterious orange bar was gone and the lunge skill refused to activate. He kept going.
The dwarf parried the sword with his large axe. The blade flew from Actaeon’s hand his fingers numb from the collision. The dwarf swung again. The axe went straight for Actaeon’s neck. There was a loud clang followed by an explosion. Actaeon flew through the air. He hit the far wall and fell into a heap of limp limbs. His left arm was numb and his face felt burnt. his neck felt like the very fires of hell were cooking him.
A quick glance up showed his health to be at ten percent. He tried raising both hands to place them on his neck, but the left would not respond. With just one hand on his neck he focused on activating Healing Hands.
Spell cast failed.
Healing Hands requires both hands to activate.
“Actaeon!” Kenishera dropped to her knees next to him. “Oh you poor man, I'll get you fixed up.” She put her hands on either side of his neck. Pain blossomed into a raging inferno.
Actaeon groaned and tried pulling away. In his weakened state Kenishera didn't have to do anything to maintain contact. Her hands began to feel cool. Golden light drifted up on both sides of his head. The pain dulled and eventually dissipated to a mild ache.
Kenishera fell back. She panted and rivulets of sweat ran down her face. Her hair was plastered to her head from perspiration.
Actaeon sat up. “Thank you,” he said. She nodded. Are you okay?” Actaeon was worried that she may have harmed herself while trying to heal him.
“I am fine. I had to use the majority of my mana to heal you sufficiently. My mana pool will recover in no time.” She offered a weak smile.
“We must leave before the golem wakes,” Tanveer said. Actaeon hadn't noticed her standing over them until she spoke.
“That thing is going to wake up?” Actaeon asked. He saw that it's eyes were glowing much brighter than they had initially. “Yeah, I guess it is.” He looked up at Tanveer. “Are you okay? Did they…” his gaze wandered over to the table.
“No!” Tanveer snapped. “Had they tried I would have destroyed them. We must leave now.”
Tanveer turned and started for the exit. Actaeon stood and helped Kenishera to her feet. He started after Tanveer then his inner gamer voice kicked in.
What about the loot?
“Oh shit, I almost forgot. We have to loot these bastards,” Actaeon said.
“Maybe we should just go,” Kenishera said.
“No, I put too much time and energy into killing these guys to walk away empty handed. I'm looting these sick fucks.” Another thought occurred to him. “And I don't think we should leave them here either.” He pointed to the upturned table and the cage holding the zoned out pair. That was the first time he saw the nude woman in chains.
“I think she is broken and my never recover,” Kenishera said. “But I could not live with myself if we left her.”
Actaeon approached the woman. She was human with carmel colored skin, at least the skin not covered in grime and stuff he refused to acknowledge. Her hair was cut in mismatched clumps. The locks spread out on the ground explained the botched style job. Her eyes were a light brown and full of fear. Fear, he suspected, caused by his approach.
“Don’t be afraid,” Actaeon said. He held up his hands palms out to placate her. It wasn’t working. The closer he got the more she fought against her restraints. He looked over his shoulder at the trailing Kenishera. “Maybe you should go and free her. I don’t think she appreciates me getting closer. I don’t want to freak her out anymore than she already is.”
“That is a good idea. See if you can find something to cover her with. Some modesty may go far in helping her to understand that we mean her no harm,” Kenishera said.
“Good idea.” Actaeon turned away. the clinking of the chains stopped right away. Of that he was glad. Last thing he wanted was for the girl to hurt herself more. He stopped in the center of the chamber and looked around scratching his head. Spare clothing was not in abundance in the cavern. Other than what the dwarves wore he saw no other clothes. The dwarves were too short to provide clothing that fit and most of it was bloody to boot. No, he would need something else.
Against the far wall were enough sleeping mats for all the dead dwarves. On said mats lay blankets. “Bingo!” Not only that, there were packs or bags of one kind or another next to each mat.
After collecting two blankets and passing them over to Kenishera he went about the task of looting. The bags looked to be a good place to start. Most contained some dried meat and water skins full of regular drinking water. One had a vial full of red liquid.
Potion of Minor healing
Heals for 30 health over forty second.
A find worthy of an adventurer. The last bag, which was the pack with straps for carrying on the shoulders, was the best of the lot. When he tried putting his hand inside he couldn’t. An unseen force stopped him at the mouth of the pack.
You are attempting to access a soulbound bag.
Five Slot Bag
Soulbound: The contents of this bag can only be accessed by the person who has bound the bag or those given permission by the person who has bound the bag.
The owner of this bag has permanently died. Do you wish to bind the bag to you?
YES / NO
You have bound your first item.
Soul Bound items stay with you even in death and can not be looted unless you die a permanent death.
“What?” That was unexpected and left more questions than answers. According to Tanveer and everyone death was permanent. But this item just challenged that assumption. Could it be that death was not permanent after all?
“What is it?” Kenishera asked?
“Nothing, just a cool bag for carrying loot.”
“Ok. Well, hurry up. We need to get going. I think that thing will wake up soon. Tanveer got the other two from the cage and is outside waiting.”
Actaeon looked over to the Golem. It’s eyes were glowing bright enough to change the hue of the light in the room. “I think you are right. Is she ready to move?” Actaeon pointed to the girl wrapped in a blanket at Kenishera’s side.
“Yes, I will get her outside now.”
“Okay, I have to loot the bodies then I will follow,” Actaeon said.
Kenishera lead the woman out of the cavern. Actaeon began searching the bodies. While there was no armor among them he did find a few things worth keeping.
Dagger of Frost
Frost Damage 1
Ability: This item has a 10% chance to freeze the target slowing movement speed by 5%
Ability: This item does an additional 40% damage to wood and user gains 20% more resources when harvesting wood.
Minor Mana Potion
Regenerates 40 points of mana over ten seconds.
Cooldown 2 minutes
Minor Stamina Potion
Regenerates 50 points of stamina over ten seconds.
Cooldown 2 minutes
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Bio: "I'm the dude disguised as the dude playing the other dude!" Seriouysly though, I love to write and tell stories, and draw. I hope to one day write full time and spend my free time getting better at drawing and painting. Maybe one day. Until then I find time to press the keys and push the pencile.