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galaxyspark, December 17th, 2018, 3:21 pm ( Reply )

Interlude 22.1 - Spinning, falling, and a feeling of weightlessness- then nothing. Even the scream rising from his throat was cut off as his
consciousness suddenly and violently was taken. When next Caldwell's senses came to him, he felt himself slam into a hard, flat surface.

He cried out in pain, shielding his face from a suddenly bright light in his eyes. Pebbles falling, clattering to the ground. A
cracking sound, like a crumbling building. He opened his eyes, squinting against the blur and tears, and saw an indistinct mass
silhouetted against the sun hurtling towards him. He heaved his body to the side and rolled right as something crashed down where he had been lying moments earlier.

Adrenaline coursing, he shot up into a crouch and looked around wildly. His senses came to him all at once as the haze of confusion rapidly lifted. Biting cold wind, bright clear sunlight beaming from a perfect blue sky, rocky ground underfoot. Stretching off into the far distance was a series of mountain peaks covered in snow, their base hidden under a covering of thick white mist. What-?

More rubble came spiraling down from the midair with a crash. And scattered amongst it, his friends shouts of pain and confusion as they landed. After a few moments, it seemed the chaos had died down. Caldwell realized his breathing was shallow and ragged, and his heart was pounding, but since there seemed to be no immediate danger he willed himself to calm down. He took a few gulping breaths, then called out hoarsely,

"Is everyone alright?!"

He feared that someone might have been crushed by the falling rubble; masonry, he now realized. What was left of the sewer tunnelway he'd been standing in only moments ago.

"Gahh... I'm ok...." called out Mari, whose white outfit was now thoroughly scratched and dirtied.

"Ow ow ow... me too!" said Lynne after a few moments of patting herself down, her head poking up from a pile of bricks.

Sil stood up, dust falling off of him in clouds. He slicked his hair back and closed his eyes mournfully. "I am-" His coolly delivered statement was cut short by a brick sliding down and cracking him on the head. He flinched, then stepped a few feet forward and adjusted his scarf, then slicked his hair back again. "Nevermind."

Caldwell looked around again, then upwards. There was no sign of where they'd come from at all.

Teleportation. He'd experienced the feeling before when traveling to dungeons. The weightlessness, the loss of consciousness. The only thing different was the imprecise manner in which it had occurred, causing all of them to fall into this heap.
While he was thinking rapidly, his mind moving a mile a minute, another sensation pressed down on him. A sort of weight that made his mind and body feel sluggish, a broiling fear that bubbled just under the surface. He'd felt this before as well, though not with this much intensity.

"A dungeon-!!" he said, eyes widening. Of course, all the clues had been there already. Thunderbirds showing up in a sewer where they'd never been seen previously, the ominous rumbling, monsters like that chimera appearing from underground. But the Archmage's Wards, and the Council were supposed to... How had a dungeon manifested below Aria, and remained long enough for monsters to leak out...?

"Everyone, gather up. It's not safe here." called out Bram. The decisiveness of his tone caused everyone to right themselves and gather close.

"D-does anyone need any healing?" said Mari. Her strained voice was barely above a whisper and her eyes darted around in a panic.

"No, I think I'm ok." At least until the adrenaline faded. Caldwell expected he was going to have some very angry bruises come tomorrow, if he were still alive.

"I guess you found your culprit, Cal. A dungeon, under the city..." said Bram, his face and tone both grim.

"I didn't think it was even possible for a dungeon to appear here, I couldn't have planned for something like this." mumbled Caldwell, panicked. "I'm sorry, I-"

"It's alright, nobody's hurt. So we can just get out of here and alert the Protectorate. Or- or the DEG." said Mari.

"I don't think it's going to be that easy." said Bram. Caldwell's mind was still racing, trying to analyze their situation, but it seemed like Bram had already figured something out. "Whatever portal we entered to come here is closed, and we don't have a ring of recall."

"Ah..." gasped Mari, visibly paling. Caldwell understood the unspoken meaning as well: without the Recall spell there may very well be no escape route from a dungeon.

"Not only that, but we don't have any idea what type of monsters are here, or what arcana rank this dungeon is." he continued, only the slightest quaver in his voice. "In the worst case we could be up against A rank enemies-"

"Fear not!" scoffed Sil, his volume causing everyone to jump. Kicking up a cloud of dust, he leapt into the air and landed spryly on the tallest piece of rubble.

"Arcana rank means nothing to the [Sword Saint of Darkness]!!" he proclaimed at the top of his lungs. Caldwell tried to form a reply, but just mutely stared at Sil along with everyone else. Caldwell glanced over his shoulder to make sure no monster had heard Sil's impassioned cry and came running to devour them all.

"My comrades, take heart, for you have a true hero amongst you this day." he continued. "Caldwell has led us to the heart of the evil beneath the city as he said he would, and now we shall strike at it's loathsome core and drive it from this world!!"

There was a moment of stunned silence, before Bram stepped forward angrily. "Wh- no, you maniac, we can't! Do you know what would happen if we, by some miracle, cleared the dungeon boss and took the core without a Recall spell?? The dungeon
would disappear with us in it!"

Caldwell felt a cold jet of fear travel down his spine as the enormity of the situation finally dawned on him.

"Your heart is clouded by uncertainty, hooded one. But mine is a heart without a drop of temerity; it burns only for my [destiny]!!"

"What the hell are you talking about? Get down here and-"

Ignoring their terse back-and-forth, Caldwell's thoughts turned inward. Was there any solution to the danger he'd gotten them all into...? Physically casting a spell of Recall involved High Magic, so not even someone as brilliant as Bram could attempt it. The dungeon layout seemed patterned after a mountainous peak, so something convenient like a staircase or ladder to the surface may not exist. No, no matter how he turned it around there was no easy solution. Unless-

"Sil, shut up for one second." said Caldwell, his heart resuming its furious pounding in his chest. Bram and Sil both quit their short argument and looked at him. "If... if monsters are escaping the dungeon, th-that means it's existed long enough for the barrier around it to weaken. We can search around and find one of those rifts and get back out that way."

"Or- or we could wait here, I'm sure the Protectorate is going to send someone to save us!" said Mari, her voice tremulous from how badly she was shaking with panic.

"No, Caldwell's right." said Bram, turning from Sil who was now striking a defiant pose from his high up perch. "You have to think of the worst possible outcome, then take steps to minimize the possibility of it happening. If the Council sends somebody, they could decide to eliminate the dungeon without ever realizing we're here. If this is a big dungeon, the chance of our being discovered is even smaller. Waiting isn't going to do us any good"

Lynne's face had been scrunched up this whole time, working through their problem in her own way. "Well, um, I've never been to a dungeon before, but I'll do what I can to help." she said, offering a tiny smile.

"That's-" a start, Caldwell wanted to say, but he was immediately interrupted.

"Oh! A worm fell in, too-!" blurted Lynne, her attention quickly turning from the matter at hand. She pulled the small shovel that was holstered at her back and slammed it into something just out of sight. After a few moments of disgusting, pulpy noises, she stood back up with a fist sized, ooze-covered ball in her hand.

"A ruminant! I got one! So basically, mission accomplished!" she said cheerily.

"I... I suppose so." said Caldwell, at a loss. Lynne was already helping out, in her own way, as everyone else seemed to relax slightly at her blithe enthusiasm.

"Enough talk!" yelled out Sil, still balancing on his perch. "There is a path ahead and behind, but my soul tells me we must climb this peak to discover our [Destiny]. Time is of the essence. come!"

And with that, he leaped once again and landed further up the slight incline of the path.

"Cal... you said he was the real Sil, right? Are you sure?" said Bram under his breath to Caldwell.

"Just... go with it." replied Caldwell, feeling strong secondhand embarrassment, as though he were responsible for Sil's behavior.

Thinking pragmatically, Sil was an unranked Colosseo fighter. But he'd taken on a B Ranked Minotaur and not only defeated it single-handedly, but had escaped with almost no damage. He was an extremely powerful asset, and might even be the key to all of them escaping this place alive.

"I need you to trust me." said Caldwell, a plan now forming piece by piece.

"I trust you, Caldwell." said Mari quietly, though she still looked pale.

He realized that the Spellcaster had been in his hand this entire time in a death grip. Forcing himself to relax a bit, he shifted his grip to both hands and started forward. "Whatever we have ahead of us, we have to support Sil. Without a doubt he's stronger than all of us combined, so all of our efforts in battle should be setting him up to get the kill. Got it?"

"Roger." said Bram. Then, after a moment, "If I die here I'm going to haunt you for eternity, got it?"

"Sure." chuckled Caldwell despite himself.

It was a terrible situation. It was all his fault that he and his friends were in it. There was nothing to laugh about, in fact he could die at any moment in this unfamiliar place. His heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest, and his body felt stretched taut with stress. And yet, despite it all, he felt a thrill.

This is what adventure feels like, isn't it?

Advertisement, December 18th, 2018, 9:21 pm ( Reply )

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ISN'T IT???

posted by WiispNightmare on December 17th, 2018, 7:58 pm



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