3. Boy Finds Girl
'Democracy's a funny concept. It expects people to know what's better for them.'
Without feeling even slightly guilty, I entered the room and dispatched the ghouls, who yelled 'intruder' again.
That corridor was empty of prisoners and other guards. On the very last cell I found a single copper coin hidden under a lot of dust. I almost left it there for spite, but money was money, and I was already there anyway. I took it.
Trait received: Gold Digger
You like shinny things a little more than normal and go to great lengths to get them.
» Coins will glow
» Glow intensity: 10%
This almost made all that walk through empty corridors worth the trouble. Just to see the effects I threw a coin on the floor. It was faint, but made the coin a lot more noticeable in the dark if I was looking in its direction. I doubted it would be that useful in bright environments, though.
Only upstairs was now left to explore, but first I went back to the A-6 cell just to check on my fellow escapees.
The woman was sleeping on the ground with a shirt being used as a blanket. The elf was seated shirtless on the floor, looking exhausted. He barely opened his eyes as I entered the room.
"Hmm... Seeing a sweaty man next to a sleeping woman was not what I had in mind when I told you to heal her."
The elf just closed his eyes again, too dignified to answer. I left my bags and extra swords there and threw him a shirt. That finally made him speak.
"I've rarely seen... That much mental damage. I couldn't heal her completely. I made her forget some parts of the torture. But you rescuing her when you did made such an impression... She will not call you master anymore, gratitude now being greater than fear, but the torture affected her so deeply that I doubt she would dare disobey anything you say. So much pain..."
"I call that a clear improvement. Will she ever get back to normal?"
He shrugged. "Probably not. But the worst is gone. She can live a fairly common life as long as she doesn't see another undead ever again. It is going to be a hard blow to her, but it is better than dying or enslaving herself to the undead, I suppose."
I raised an eyebrow. "Hard blow? Why?"
He looked at me silently for a few seconds. "You are an innocent bystander, aren't you? She is Ambassador Alia Soman, from the human Somanai Empire, third in line to the crown. She is worth a hundred times her weight in gold." After saying the last sentence, he looked at me with clear interest.
I just shrugged. There was no way for me to leave the Underworld and claim the reward. As an undead I had a big weakness: each second I stood in direct contact to sunlight would take ten percent of my total HP. Ten seconds for a sure death and no way to heal as long as I even saw indirect sunlight. I guessed there was a way to remove this characteristic, but I bet I would not discover it so soon.
In the end, I wouldn't get anything from saving her, even though she was a big figure. Maybe the annoying player girl had been right: this was a shitty starting point.
"If you want you can leave now, the first floor is clear and the front door is open. I'll check the rest of the prison."
"Wait. Are you really just going to allow us to leave this easily, deathlord?"
"Unbound deathlord, unbound being the key word. Remember that."
"I will," he replied soberly and said nothing more. I went back to exploring.
I heard voices just as I started opening the door to the great hall. I stopped and listened, looking through a small gap.
Five ghouls in leather clothes, holding big wooden kite shields and old looking wooden spears made the front line. Behind them came two ghouls with chain armor and chain pants over their leather clothes, holding rusty metal spears and medium rusty metal kite shields. Two skeleton torturers with diamond shaped red stones attached to the middle of their heads walked beside a big figure in black full plate armor, including a closed horned helmet.
Following common gaming nomenclatures, I named the ghouls with wooden shields and spears 'Veteran Ghouls' and the two with metal stuff 'Elite Ghouls.' The skeletons I called 'Third Eyed Red Skeletons'. As soon as I decided that in my mind, the names appeared above their heads with the question mark next to it.
When the plated armor creature walked, it made a loud sound that echoed all over the hall. A massive sword was on a scabbard hanging from its waist and in one hand it held five polished metal spears.
"...not a good idea, with all due respect," said one of the skeletons. The ghouls kept looking ahead, walking silently.
"I agree, milady," said the other skeleton. "We had him for only seven days, we can still continue. Show him the woman in pain and he'll give up. They always do," said the other skeleton.
"Enough!" The plated creature was a woman with a commanding voice. "He is to be killed today, by order of the High Council."
"We understand, but High Lady Renno said-"
"I said enough!" Her voice boomed in the hall. "I didn't ask for your opinions, pile of bones, I gave you orders. I will talk to Renno now, and I want the prisoner ready to be executed by me in half an hour. You two," she said to the elite ghouls, "accompany the torturers and guarantee they are following orders. I will not be delayed by disobedient dogs who think too much of themselves."
They got to the middle of the stairs and the veteran ghouls went to the right with the plated woman. The elite ones immediately took the left path, while the skeletons took some moments looking at the back of the plated woman before going to the left.
That made things complicated. I hadn't fought either the elite ghouls or the new skeletons, and it seemed I would have to fight them in pairs. The skeletons had the same equipment as the normal skeleton torturers, but the red stone on their head and the people they accompanied made it clear they were stronger.
I also had a time limit of half an hour before the plated woman came back. Thirty minutes was probably not enough to safely explore everything upstairs. But a dead NPC was an NPC who couldn't be rescued, and unrescuable NPCs were attribute points I couldn't get.
No gamer had ever become strong without some measure of greed.
I didn't stop crouching, but moved a lot faster than before. They had left both right and left doors open and I entered the left room without problem. The letter 'S' was painted on the door.
The room inside had a small table with a chair and some papers on it. Two torch sconces were on the walls, but only one had a lit torch in it, the other one empty. A big metal cabinet was on the back wall and beside it a metal door was open. Light shone beyond, probably one of the ghouls carrying the missing torch. I closed the S-door behind me and proceeded to the next door.
I found myself in a big stone room without any torches. There were four people in the center, suspended by chains in a kind of square formation, their backs to each other, their heads shaved and their eyes blindfolded.
One was a female dark elf, also called drow: she had pointy ears, a slender figure and her was skin a very dark blue, almost black. The drow were the evil twins of the elves, and each despised the other.
The other three were an elf and two humans, one of the latter already beginning to decompose. All of them had uncountable wounds; missing fingers were commonplace, but the drow was even missing a half her right leg. A lot of blood painted the floor and walls in red, and the strong smell of decay made me double over and heave, but only a little saliva left my mouth due to my empty stomach.
Not even torch sconces were in the walls. It was a room created for delivering the people there to a painful dark death.
I closed the door behind me and moved a dizzily to the other open door. There I saw a long room with some torture tools: a table close to a lot of blades of all sizes and curvatures hanging on the walls; a kind of vertical coffin full of spikes inside; and a chair full of gears. Blood was everywhere, and so were some meat and bone parts. The putrid smell here was even stronger than the death smell on the room before.
This is too sick. I almost went back and damn the attribute points, but I just couldn't stand the idea of a prisoner being executed after enduring all this.
Yes, everything was just computer code, including the scenery and the prisoner, but it didn't sit well with me. Even if they were computer codes, the game characters still believed they were real and felt pain in their own way. How different was that from me? My brain also worked by electrical signals, similar to a computer, didn't it?
Too busy to pursue the philosophical thoughts, I closed the door behind me once more and went to the other open door in the room.
There was a small corridor on the other side of the door. It had three shining metal doors, the middle one open. An elite ghoul was to the right of the door where I now was, and the other one was before the open metal door, looking inside with the torch in his hand. A veteran ghoul was beside him, probably the one who had been looking at papers on the table.
Those metal shields and spears changed everything. Fighting a man with a corroded small copper shield and a sword was completely different from fighting a man with a medium metal shield and spear. If I compared it to my street fighting days, it would be like fighting a man with a crowbar instead of an unarmed man.
Well, I had done both and survived. And the game was making it too easy anyways. After a deep silent breath, I stuck the point of my sword into the elite ghoul's neck.
Sneak attack for 2.0x damage!
Critical hit for 2.0x damage!
116 piercing damage dealt to Elite Ghoul
Surprisingly, the sword didn't penetrate all the way through the flesh. The ghoul let out a big scream, immediately stepped ahead and turned back, taking a defensive stance: crouched, the kite shield before him and the spear held horizontally.
Shit. I had expected the ghoul to die in a single stroke so I could take his weapon and fight the others. Having to also fight him sucked. I couldn't even run, or I would have to give up on rescuing the elf and the woman. Things were not that easy after all.
The other ghouls looked at me and while the veteran ghoul got surprised, the elite instantly moved. I had to kill the first one as quickly as possible or I would have an even harder time.
I tried to jump at him, but he took a step back and thrust the spear at me. I contorted my body to dodge but the weapon still grazed my side, cut my leather armor and did two damage to me.
It was enough time for the other elite to get beside the hurt one and create a shield wall in the corridor. One skeleton got out from the cell and looked at the commotion. A red flame appeared out of nowhere, this time not inside its mouth but floating before its forehead.
I thought about throwing my sword at the skeleton, but the distance was enough that I could miss and that would leave me only with the the pipe, which was nowhere near as good as the sword against ghouls. Desperate for a quick solution, I had an idea. I stood alert at the growing flame.
The ghouls poked their spears as one and I had to take a few steps back to get out of range. The flame before the skeleton was now a sphere the size of its head, which was not what I had expected, but it was too late for me to have second thoughts about what to do.
When the big fireball came my way, I took two steps ahead, jumped in the air and raised my shield to defend.
The explosion sound was deafening. I was enveloped by flames and thrown back at high speed, flying through the air and hitting my back on the torture chair. My sword left my hand at some point, and my shield had become black charcoal and partly broken away, but it wasn't completely destroyed.
40 shock + 7 burn + 4 impact damage received (51 total)
HP: 57 / 110
Holy crap! What the hell is this?! This is no common fireball!
My plan had been to use the fireball explosion to do some damage to the ghouls, but this was way over the expected power output. I got up and ran back to the room.
There was black soot on the floor and walls, but the metal door next to the explosion was still clear and shining. The two elite ghouls had also been thrown back a little, but not as much as I had. I smiled as I saw two spears on the ground and took one.
Rusty Iron Spear
» 45 (+4 [Strength]) physical damage
The two elite ghouls were still getting up but the skeleton already had a new flame forming before its forehead. I threw the spear at it.
It flew clumsy but with some force and hit the skeleton in the leather armor. It was not enough to disrupt the spell-casting. A second later a second big ball of fire came my direction. I threw my body on the floor and heard the explosion in the room behind me.
Shit. If anyone hears these explosions I'm screwed.
Picking up the other spear I stood up and found the elite who still had its shield and the veteran ghoul side by side making a new wall. The other elite had gone for the spear I had thrown and the skeleton was preparing another explosion. I was getting a little desperate so I threw my body on the veteran's big wooden shield.
Not as quick as the elite ghoul, the veteran didn't step back in time. After breaking the shield wall, I thrust the spear at the elite ghoul's neck. He had good reflexes, but was not expecting the move nor the invasion in the perimeter, and the spear found its mark.
Critical damage for 2.0x damage!
98 piercing damage dealt to Elite Ghoul
He sadly wasn't the ghoul I had attacked before and didn't die. He tried to use his shield to bash me, but I stepped back and sunk my spear into his foot. He let out a scream, but I couldn't follow up with another attack because the veteran body rammed me and fire followed suit.
5 fire damage received
HP: 49 / 110
The veteran fell dead on the ground, the back of its leather armor had been destroyed and his flesh was deeply burnt, impregnating the air with a repulsive smell. The skeleton had hit the veteran!
Before the skeleton's head, another flame was forming. The other elite had recovered both a spear and metal shield and was back beside his elite brother.
This fight was taking way too long. I tried to put one of the elites between me and the skeleton and thrust the spear at the one I had attacked with a sword, knowing it would be blocked by the shield, but willing to deal even a little extra damage.
They fought back and were a lot faster than the normal ghouls, but I still could dodge them. Most of the attacks grazed my leather armor but didn't do any real damage.
I focused my attacks on their legs, happy for the extra range of the spear and when the first ghoul finally fell I had only received two damage. A health bar became visible above the other elite's head.
HP: 56 / 161 <?>
Just as the ghoul fell and I got healed by one HP, a big ball of fire flew at me. I was becoming mentally tired and didn't even expect this obvious thing to happen. All I could do was raise my shield and block again.
40 fire + 4 burn damage received (44 total)
HP: 3 / 110
This time instead of flying all the way to the other room, I just lost my balance and fell to the ground. The fire burnt my eyebrows and I smelled burnt flesh once again. My shield shattered and my arm hurt badly. Three HP and thirty-five stamina left.
Getting up I saw that the ghoul had also taken damage. It now had forty-nine HP and had fallen on the ground. I ran to it and thrust my spear into its head. The spearhead penetrated and killed the creature in another critical hit. One more HP healed and two skeletons to go.
The skeleton laughed loudly. It seemed pleased about being an indirect responsible for the elite ghouls' deaths. I wondered if it had been on purpose. Was it an ally? Another ball forming before its head told me the answer was no.
Once more I tried throwing a spear at it. It did hit the skeleton but again failed to disrupt the spell-casting. Desperate, I took the pipe on my belt and also threw it.
As the ball of fire left its place before the skeleton's head, the pipe got in its way, making it explode just before the skeleton's face. The pipe flew back missing my head by a hair and clinking far away. The skeleton was also blown away.
I ran to it, getting a metal spear on the way and passing in front of the open door full speed ahead. Getting to the skeleton, I used the spear as a kind of club. The creature was on the ground, had no means of defense and couldn't attack with fire nor whip.
7 blunt damage dealt to Third Eyed Skeleton
The spear was not meant to be used as a club and it didn't do as much damage. I knew I would die. I had twenty-five stamina left and I doubted the skeleton would be destroyed in five more attacks. Still, I would fight it to the death.
One, two, three attacks. The spear felt extremely heavy in my hands. Four. All my power was needed to move it.
Status effect received: Exhaustion
For the next 4 minutes, 59 seconds, you:
» Can barely move
I dropped the spear and fell belly-first on the ground next to the skeleton. My nose hit the floor and became a bloody mess, and I received one more damage. I had trouble breathing and my body refused to move. With a lot of effort I put my belly up. I would die facing the damn thing.
Everything seemed to move slowly and blurred. The torturer got up. It looked at the spear on the ground and picked it up. It looked at me. It laughed again.
What happened next was hard for my mind to register. One moment the skeleton was before me. The next, it's head flew away and a massive black fist replaced it. Only when the dark energy left the falling bones and found me did I understand what had happened: the skeleton had died.
An exclamation point appeared and I focused on it.
Strength increased to 3 (+1)
After a lot of fights, you learn to hit harder.
Agility increased to 4 (+1)
Barely dodging the elite ghoul guards' spears and dodging/blocking fireballs show your reflexes are better than you thought.
Dexterity increased to 4 (+1)
You have demonstrated to stronger enemies that you know how to hit them. Their corpses shall remember the lesson for eternity.
Constitution increased to 4 (+2)
Fighting against multiple enemies, walking crouched everywhere, fighting to almost death against elite and veteran enemies and becoming exhausted makes your body more used to the constant abuse you put it through.
» HP: 145 (+35)
» Stamina: 140 (+20)
Intelligence increased to 4 (+1)
Purposefully blocking firebombs to help killing stronger enemies reveals either a suicidal mind or a true tactician.
» MP: 145 (+20)
Willpower increased to 4 (+1)
You have the will of giants. You know no fear. You are willing enough to fight to death if need be.
» Stamina: 145 (+5)
Current level: 3
HP, MP and stamina restored
The fatigue and agony left my body and my vision came back to normal as the refreshing level-up sensation enveloped me. I looked at the fist's owner.
He was a huge man. His skin was coal black and his eyes were like those of cats, vertical yellow slits shining in the darkness of the corridor – the torch had blown away at some point. The man's hair was shaved like the other prisoners' had been. He was massive, with huge muscles that made him look like a successful bodybuilder.
He was only wearing underwear, his body almost as injured as the suspended dead bodies had been. He extended his hand with two missing fingers to me. "From all the things Ilhonya could have sent me," he said with a deep voice, "an undead is most unexpected."
I took his hand and got up, almost too afraid that the illusion would dissolve. A grateful prisoner. I had to be dreaming. "Well, here I am. And we've no time to talk. Take whatever you want and let's go." I started to undress a elite ghoul as I said that. "How did you escape your cell anyway?"
It became clear this was indeed a dream when the man obeyed without question, immediately undressing the other elite ghoul. "They had just unlocked my feet when you began the fight. These moving bones are no match even for my legs alone. But I admit I was not as fearless as you in my youth."
"Thanks," I smiled. "I'm Jack, by the way. Jack Thorn."
"I am Gannor Bunen. Nice to meet you. You are the first deathlord I ever said these words to with sincerity."
"Met your fair share of deathlords, did you?"
He didn't reply, and I didn't care.
We finished getting the equipment from the ghouls. The leather armor and pants were worse than the torturer's, but the chain shirt and pants were good. So was the shield.
Medium Iron Kite Shield
» Resistance: 75%
Weak-linked Copper Chain Shirt
» +10 defense
Weak-linked Copper Chain Pants
» +9 defense
I also quickly searched for hidden pockets on the corpses clothes and found two new shining keys, one small and one medium sized, fifty-seven silver coins and thirteen copper.
Besides the spear I held on my hand, I also put the sword and pipe I had brought on my belt and we left the place after confirming no one else was in the other cells. I had already spent twenty minutes of the half hour timeline and we almost ran back to the A-6 cell.
I noticed two new exclamation point buttons with a 'Q' letter on the way, but I chose to postpone checking on them; the armored woman could come back at any moment.
It was impossible to tell whose eyes popped more when we entered the cell: the elf's or the big man's.
"By Ilhonya! Alia!" Gannor threw himself on the ground and took the woman in his arms.
"Gannor Bunen?" Said the elf incredulously.
"Alright people, you all know and love each other. Let's get the hell outta here."
Gannor stood up carrying the sleeping woman and the elf got to his feet with difficulty. I helped him, leaving all the extra clothes in the cell with a tightness in my chest, but still taking the extra swords with me.
We found no one on the way out and right after I helped them leave the prison, I decided to check the exclamation points.
Quest completed: Save the prisoner from cell A-6
Random primary attribute point received:
» +1 agility
Hidden quest completed: Save the prisoner from cell C-1
Random attribute point received:
» +1 willpower
Stamina: 150 (+5)
Bonus for completing a hidden quest:
» +1 intelligence
MP: 170 (+25)
Hidden quest completed: Save the prisoner from cell S-2
Random attribute points received:
» +1 agility
» +1 dexterity
» +1 perception
» +1 intelligence
MP: 200 (+30)
Random attribute point received for reuniting him and Alia:
» +1 willpower
Stamina: 155 (+5)
Bonus for completing a hidden quest:
» +1 intelligence
MP: 235 (+35)
Current level: 4
HP, MP and stamina restored
It had been easy to get from level two to level four. It seemed that the stronger the enemies I fought, the more my attribute levels raised. And that completing quests was the best way to level up attributes.
I checked the other two buttons.
Skill is now level 2!
» Visibility level: heavily clouded afternoon
New skill unlocked at The Lack of Light skill-tree
Darkball (level 1)
First you learn to see in the dark. Then, you learn to see darkness itself. And to harness it. And to send it flying.
» Active Spell
» Cost: 5 MP
» Amassing time: 0.5 second
» Element: Darkness
» Damage: 18 (15 + 3 [Intelligence])
Skill-trees were, as the name suggested, trees of skills, growing from the roots and sprouting branches. In this case, I had started with seeing in the dark and now a new skill in the tree had become available to me: darkball. As I met the requirements, I'd unlock new skills in the skill-tree.
The spell was not that powerful, but it was still on level one.
I checked the other exclamation point.
Kill to Survive
Skill is now level 2!
» Heals: 2% + 0.2% [Deathlord] of dealt damage
» Minimum healing: 2
» Minimum dealt damage needed: 18 (19 - 1 [Deathlord])
New skill unlocked on Death is a Lifestyle skill-tree
Deathball (level 1)
After continuous observation and absorption you have learned enough about the mysteries of death magic to amass it from all the small vermin and lower life forms dying around you and project it in any direction you like.
» Active Spell
» Cost: 15 MP
» Amassing time: 3 second
» Element: Death
» Damage: 58 (50 + 5 [Deathlord] + 3 [Intelligence])
I was happy as hell. I finally could use real spells!
Now that I had already saved the prisoners and guaranteed my attribute points, I couldn't stand the idea of leaving the extra clothes in the prison cell. I had almost no money and who knew how much they might be worth?
On the other hand, I looked at my fellow escapees: a healer elf, a badass fighter and an ambassador. They would surely be grateful, right? I hadn't received any specific quests to get them to their home, but hidden quests were a reality in this game and I looked forward to my possible rewards.
"Thank you," Gannor said, "for helping me and my wife." The elf's eyes widened so much they almost popped out of his head. "Sadly, I have nothing to give you, not here in the Underworld. We will run for the Surface now. You are welcome to come with us."
Quest: Escape the Underworld
Gannor Bunen has offered you a way out of the Underworld.
It might be a unique opportunity to leave it.
Sadly, this is the end of the sample.
Amazon policy for books in the Kindle Unlimited program forced me to remove the book from RoyalRoad.
Buuut, you can read the rest on Amazon!