The Red Zone of the Litigar Dungeon Complex was undoubtedly the most inhospitable place around the city of Monotal. As expected of the most dangerous part of the only dungeon in the area. Still, not many adventurers past their first two or three months on the job would find this place particularly dangerous. It was certainly not that bad when compared to the majority of other dungeons strewn throughout the world.
Unlike the cave-like systems of the Green and Yellow Zones, the Red part looked more like a crypt or mausoleum. Stone brick floors, walls and a dark ceiling that seemed to upward forever. Stone gargoyles could be seen lined up at random along the walls and creepy carvings could appear and disappear from the floor and walls seemingly at random. Pale blue torches bathed the corridors in an eerie light, just enough to keep one’s eyes from adapting to otherwise profound darkness. The air was heavy with the stench of death and carried a faint strawberry-like flavor. The latter would be a side effect of the slightly thicker concentration of mana. The former was caused by the denizens of this place.
Hovering around Level 15, they were all undead beings that made this place particularly troublesome. To begin with, most undead would not get tired and did not feel pain. Those they encountered would be met with relentless pursuit and an unyielding hatred. The simplest enemy to fight in these halls were skeletons. Just a glance would reveal what variety of skeleton it was. Would it be the Skeleton Soldiers carrying rusted weapons and armor? Or perhaps Skeleton Archers that never seemed to run out of arrows for their short bows? And most troublesome of all were the Skeleton Mages that bombarded their targets with Spells that were attuned to the Ice and Dark elements.
They often moved and attacked in small groups of 4 or 5. Much like adventurer parties, they usually had a good balance and worked with a sort of teamwork to maximize each individual’s Skills. The sight almost seemed like a promise to those that invaded this place. ‘Die in here and this will be your fate’ was the message it sent across to the living. This was, of course, pure superstition. Those Skeletons were simply monsters spawned out of the mana-enriched miasma that lingered in this place. But the threat they bore was still very real. Encountering one such patrol was said to be one of the most dangerous things that happen in this place.
And yet they were still the simplest to fight. They came at you from the front and didn’t get back up on their feet once you smashed them to bits. Ghouls, on the other hand, were different. These half-rotten carcasses skulked the halls absentmindedly until they caught the stench of the living. They would charge forward running on all fours like some wild animal, screaming their heads off at their target. Once close enough to their target, they’d leap at them in a frenzy of filthy claws and jagged teeth. A single scratch often meant being afflicted by Poison and/or Disease, slowly draining HP or numbing one’s movements.
And they were relentless. Even if they lost a limb or half their torso, they would not stop attacking. Chopping off both their legs didn’t seem to deter them one bit, either. Slicing off their head simply meant their headless torso would keep coming at you. It was a monster that had no vital points that could be exploited to rapidly drain their rather significant HP. One had to thoroughly destroy and dismantle them in order to put them down the old fashioned way. A very troublesome opponent to fight.
The last species of monster in this place was also the most annoying one - specters. These incorporeal beings appeared as a transparent green mist that vaguely resembled people. They would phase through the walls and floor while showering their victims with debilitating Domination magic. Paralysis, Sleep and Panic were the more common magically-induced afflictions that plagued any adventurers that came here. To make matters worse, their transparent gas-like bodies could only be harmed by magic. Spells and enchanted weapons would be necessary to defeat these, so any adventuring group that came here unprepared would surely fall apart the first time these specters appeared.
Still, what made this place truly inhospitable was that combat would often attract more undead from nearby. A train of more than 20 enemies was almost common in these parts. Much like goblins, this part of the dungeon aimed to overwhelm invaders with sheer numbers rather than individually strong monsters. The worst case scenario for the living was when the stream of enemies contained all 3 types of monster. Dealing with the murderous skeletons, rogue ghouls and unpredictable specters at the same time made for an incredibly grueling fight. Even if the adventurers won, they would likely need to deal with the troublesome side-effects from fighting with the undead.
In the end, very few adventurers dared to step foot in here and instead went to hunt and train in the nearby forest. It would be significantly slower, but also much safer.
Still, a place like this attracted 4 specific Jobs that were well suited to dealing with the undead. Priests and Paladins were an obvious choice. Their Spells and Blessings served as both offense and defense. Bathing an undead creature with holy magic would purify it rather than heal it and all of the negative effects on their Status could be neutralized with repeated application of the Cleanse Spell.
The third Job that was really good at dealing with the undead was the Necromancer. Fighting hordes of undead with more hordes of undead proved to be extremely effective. While the minions fought at the front, their master was able to rain magical support from the rear. Even if some of the walking corpses under their control were destroyed, replacing them was a simple matter. The remains of naturally appearing undead could be used to bolster the Necromancer’s forces. But that wasn’t all - these self-proclaimed rulers of death could turn enemy undead into their own minions and force them to obey their commands. All it took was the right combination of Skills.
Truly, it was like fighting fire with fire. Except that fighting undead with undead was extremely messy and chaotic, which perpetuated a Necromancer’s habit of not having any living friends. However, fighting undead with actual fire proved to be one of the best solutions.
“Inferno!” shouted Xera.
The small tornado of flames swept up the pack of ghouls, skeletons and specters in front of her. The Spell only lasted a few seconds, but it was wide enough to cover the entire hallway and engulf every last one of them. Although direct contact with the Inferno was not as particularly damaging as one might expect, it was brilliantly bolstered by her Devouring Flame Skill.
Description: Overwhelming fire leaves behind naught but ash and cinders
Requirements: Level 5 Pyromancer, INT 40
Type: Toggled (ON)
Activation Time: N/A
Range: 100 meters
Effects: Increases the cost of Pyroclasm Spells by 20%.
Pyroclasm Spells will apply Devouring Flame to your target for 5 seconds.
Devouring Flame inflicts damage equal to 10% of the initial hit each second.
Increases the damage of Devouring Flame by 20% per Level of this Skill.
This was the strength of the Pyromancer and Cryomancer Jobs. Their Spells did not deal as much damage up-front as something like a Wizard or Warlock, but the potent secondary effects of their Skills more than made up for that. This situation was a perfect example of that. Most of the undead did not succumb to the initial damage of the Inferno, but were set ablaze and swiftly turned to ash. Only the tougher ghouls seemed to linger, but Xera would just finish those off with an extra Fireball or two. All while laughing maniacally, of course. How could she not? The undead were particularly flammable, after all. To her, this place was little more than a playground and she acted like it.
That attitude earned her a hit to the back of the head with a thrown rock.
You have suffered moderate blunt trauma. HP -44.
“What are you doing?!” shouted her master directly into her mind. “I said leave the Ghoul corpses whole!”
The succubus, who was currently masquerading as an adventurer, simply rubbed the back of her head, feeling the sticky sensation of blood seeping into her hair. Her immediate reaction was the desire to yell something along the lines of ‘Do it yourself then, you lazy bum!’ What actually came out of her mouth was-
She hated to admit it, but it had a point. This wasn’t the first time it had to yell at her after she got carried away with the setting things on fire. Ghouls were the only suitable targets for its Cadaver Absorption, after all. As for Xera, she was actually trying to distract herself from what was going on behind her.
That master of hers had copied her form yet again just to play with its gold coins. She was forced to walk ahead of it and do all the work while it enjoyed itself. Worst of all, it used a mockery of her true form to do so. A demon’s body was something incredibly personal. It was essentially their true self given form in the material realm. Having someone pervert it for their petty amusement like that was pretty much the ultimate insult to a demon.
And it made the broken succubus undeniably aroused. The physical torture may have lessened, but the psychological abuse seemed to be getting worse. Or better, depending on the point of view. Still, the proud demoness would not admit any of that so readily. Yet she was still powerless to go against the wishes of her master. The most she could do in this situation was try her absolute best to ignore that blasted monster.
But alas, that was proving difficult. Since the Mimic was currently cradling the gold coins in Xera’s mirrored breasts, every step it took made them jingle a tiny bit. Just enough to stimulate the tortured succubus’s imagination.
As for the Mimic in question, it was actually using the large number of undead to get stronger faster. These opponents proved to be too weak to give any significant increase to its close combat Skills or the Mimic Job. Feeding them to its Warlock Job would prove to be more beneficial in the short term, but all of its Spells had poor affinity against the undead.
Domination was outright useless, and all of its Ruin Spells were either of the Darkness or Ice elements, to which undead were pretty much immune to. Technically, the Ebonfire Spell dealt Fire damage, but since it did that by igniting the target’s soul, it had no chance to shine against these lesser varieties of undead. They were vessels of grudges and hatred. Something like an ego or soul did not dwell in the bones and flesh around here.
But its bonded familiar used Pyroclasm Spells, which were predominantly Fire-attuned. And anything she killed would contribute XP to the Mimic’s Summon Familiar Skill and Warlock Job, though it seemed it was going slower than expected. Perhaps receiving the XP second-hand meant it didn’t get the full amount? Or was it because killing monsters provided significantly less XP than murdering adventurers? A combination of the two, perhaps? Still, it was better to get a few early Levels of those two things while it could. If the familiar was too weak to properly support its master later on, then what would be the point of her existence.
The demoness proved to be surprisingly effective, too. Technically she was only a Level 8 Pyromancer, so how come she did so much damage? Was it because she had the Attributes of a Level 19 Caster? Did that matter in some way? It double-checked something in its Status Screen.
Improves your memory and capacity for knowledge.
Improves the effectiveness of your offensive Spells.
Every 1 point of INT increases maximum MP by 5.
Now that would explain it. That second line wasn’t there the last time it checked this Attribute. Then again, that was before it actually had the Warlock Job or any of the offensive Spells that came with it. There appeared to be no other changes when it checked through the rest of its Attributes. Well, at least now it knew to give those another look the next time it unlocked a Job. It kept thinking such things while idly rolling one of the King pieces up and down Xera’s xeroxed knuckles.
“Master, adventurers ahead,” came the silent report from its familiar.
The Mimic quickly put the coins back in Storage and assumed a less conspicuous shape. That is, as inconspicuous a living chest with eight spider legs and a cat-like eye could be. Still, it was its preferred shape for combat. These were the first people they had ran into since they entered this place and it was pretty much itching to sink its teeth into actual flesh and blood.
This dungeon was pretty much ‘tamed.’ Signposts and markings left behind by others clearly showed the path to the Red Zone. Of course the Mimic couldn’t read any of them, but that’s why Xera was there. Following those directions let the two of them reach the deepest part of the dungeon in about 10 or 15 minutes. They’ve been wandering around the labyrinthine corridors ever since. That meant they skipped straight to the most unpopular part of this place. It was also the dead of night outside, so them running into adventurers under these circumstances was extremely lucky.
Or unlucky, depending on the point of view.
It peered around the corner and saw four people, all human males. They seemed to be sitting around a campfire, talking about something. Sneaking up on them might prove to be difficult since they were all alert and keeping an eye on their surroundings. Then it realized that sneaking around was completely unnecessary. If they were in here then they were unlikely to be higher than Level 15. As a Level 39 magic-wielding monster, it would have no trouble wiping them out in a frontal assault.
“Wait, Master!” pleaded Xera with a telepathic shout. “Can you let me handle those four?”
The Mimic that was just about to charge at them stopped dead in its tracks. “Why?” it asked.
“Information. Those people look like they might know something about this place. I wish to go over there and find out if they can somehow lead us to our objective. And the sooner we find it, the sooner we can be done here.”
Xera really didn’t want to spend too much time navigating this damnable dungeon. Incinerating masses of undead was fun, but that was merely the highlight. The majority of the last three hours were spent walking with nothing but that infuriating chest for company. She was really looking forward to getting out of here and alleviating her stress and boredom. If those people had maps or a guide, then it would speed up their progress quite a bit!
“Okay. Go learn what you can.”
The Mimic readily agreed to the proposal. It also wanted to be done with this place and find tastier prey. Not like it would actually eat any of those corpses. They tasted terrible and, much like Xera, wouldn’t fill its stomach. Cadaver Absorption could be used on ghouls if the Mimic acted quickly. Its purpose was to train its Skills, so it didn’t particularly care it only had repeated failures. Even if the Skill succeeded there would probably be very little benefit since the undead could barely even be considered corpses.
“Ah, can you patrol the area make sure no monsters interrupt our little… talk? It might take about half an hour. Probably more.”
It had no complaints about fulfilling that request. Between the two of them, Xera was still the leading expert in dealing with humans so it had no choice but to rely on her judgement in these situations.
“Okay. I go hunt.”
Without wasting any time it went into full on storm-of-steel-and-teeth mode and skittered off somewhere while waving its swords around for no good reason. Xera let out a sigh of relief as it disappeared around a corner.
“Now then,” she said to herself, “how should I cook those four?”