Another one for the Epic Short Story Collection. This one is inspired by the Fighter class, the courageous front line warriors. They are all about courage – although sometimes courage can be defined in different ways.
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The party of four descended into the dungeon, going through a steep cave that served as its ominous entrance. Xyphos, the timid, yet surprisingly resourceful, mage conjured a glow from the jewel on his scepter. Behind him were the mercenary couple, Mara and Torrac, hauling the largest of packs. Their only reason for joining this party was money – and according to local sources, descend deep enough into this dungeon and riches were aplenty.
Of course, that meant that danger was aplenty too, which was why the Warrior opted to act as a vanguard for the party. Unlike other fighters who preferred heavy armor and shields, he only wore vambraces and greaves, with a short chest plate. His sword was strapped along his back and the shield slung on his back like a backpack. His master had once told him that it mattered not how heavy your armor was – a slow warrior was a dead warrior: advice the Warrior took to heart.
He re-joined his party and the foursome began their adventure.
The first levels were easy. At every corner animated skeletons came at them in hordes but a well-timed blow was enough to shatter them. They found a trio of goblins guarding a treasure chest and were armed with short bows. The Warrior hid behind his shield in a crouch and progressed forwards. Mara and Torrac raced towards the read guard goblins, their thick, dense armor proving a worthy adversary for the arrows, each of which was deflected. Torrac’s double-headed ax and Mara’s heavy saber cut through the goblins in one sweep. The Warrior knocked the last goblin on the ground and ran him through with his sword. Outside he saw a flash of magic fire and ran to assist Xyphos. He found the mage crouched in a corner, firing off blasts of magic at a swarm of bats and laughed.
“Come on,” he said as he fended off the bats with his sword and offered his hand to the mage. Xyphos smiled weakly as he got up and dusted himself off. The two mercenaries, who were busy filling their large packs with coin and jewels whooped in joy and Torrac tossed Xyphos a ruby.
“For lighting the way, little mage,” he said cockily.
“Are- are we done yet?” stammered Xyphos.
Torrac laughed. “The boy’s ready to leave after a few walking bones,” he joked to his woman.
She barked a laugh too. “No way am I leaving without filling at least on of these to the brim,” she said shaking her bag. “We are getting married after all. Houses and children cost money.”
“Here we go,” said Torrac rolling his eyes mockingly. He turned to Xyphos. “Sorry boy but you heard Her Ladyship. What do you think?” he directed to the Warrior.
The Warrior considered for a few seconds. The mercenaries were here for the money, but he was unclear why Xyphos had opted for adventure. It was most likely a part of his training as a mage, concluded the Warrior, despite not knowing anything about how mages were trained.
As for him, he liked the thrill and the challenge of the adventure. He longed to fight, and get paid for it.
“We go further,” he decided. He assumed that the rest of the dungeon wouldn’t be so challenging – an assumption which turned out to be correct.
The deeper levels of the dungeon were darker but the Warrior expected that. This was known as a spiral dungeon, which descended deeper underground. Each intersection housed tougher creatures and challenges, until at the very end of the dungeon lay the greatest treasure of all: either an enchanted weapon, or a magical item worth thousands of gold coins or a vein of jewels that could make a man wealthy enough to buy his own kingdom.
Sure enough, the traps were deadly, but the Warrior was too well experienced to fall for such things. He vaulted over rows of spikes, ducked beneath rigged arrow-firing mechanisms and even ran against a wall to avoid a pitfall. Ghouls and goblins and dagger-wielding wights filled most of the rooms and caverns, and the party had found their advantage in teamwork. Mara and Torrac were slow, but heavy, fighters, suited for smashing around big clumps of creatures. The Warrior always positioned one of them to guard Xyphos who picked at the enemy with kinetic blasts, fire lances and lightning bolts. The Warrior was the most agile, ducking in the midst of the enemy, sword and shield working in unison. Soon his armor was stained in black ichor and the foul smell of the undead. But the treasures were well worth the effort of getting them. Chest upon chest filled with pilfered jewels, mountains and mounds of gold coins, and priceless relics from holy places or artifacts of previous adventurers. Mara had more than filled her bag – she and her betrothed were happily lugging about half their weight in fortune. Even Xyphos had lined his pockets with gold.
“Listen to this,” he said, picking up a scroll. “According to this, there is a treasure within this dungeon; ‘a jewel the size of an infant, clearer than a midday sky, worth five kings and their men’.” He looked up. “I bet that’s a big jewel.”
“Now hang on,” called out Tarroc. “Is it your infant or my infant?” he asked with a smile.
“What’s the difference?” asked the mage.
Tarroc stood next to the mage and indicated the space between their heights with his hands. “About this much.” He and Mara burst out laughing and even Xyphos chuckled weakly.
“What say you then lads?” asked the woman of the group. “Shall we go the distance and nab that last treasure?”
“Hear, hear,” agreed Tarroc as he walked past the Warrior. “You coming?”
Something did not feel right. The Warrior’s instincts, which had saved his life many a time, warned him that there was something extremely dangerous in the lower bowels of this dungeon. Something that had prevented other adventurers from ever returning alive. Something beyond ghouls, goblins, imps and skeletons. But then he remembered what his master had told him: courage is taking action despite the fear. Courage is confronting the danger and challenging it. And if there was something the Warrior certainly did not lack it was courage.
“We go forwards,” he said, following Torrac. “But be cautious. Something dangerous lays ahead, I am sure.”
Before Torrac could reply, a violent kiss echoes in the chamber and a hideous monster reared into view. It was a giant Lizardman, with two long ugly heads coming from its neck and a wicked scimitar in one arm, a buckler in the other. Behind it, several others joined it. Torrac raised his axe, roared and barrelled into the enemy. His first strike cleaved a monster in two but he nearly got beheaded by a stray slash. The Warrior’s shield intercepted the strike and he beheaded the Lizardman instead.
“Watch out. They are smarted than they look,” he said as Mara joined the fray, brandishing her two handed saber. “Xyphos, cast your fire. They fear it.”
The mage whispered something and hear exploded from his scepter. One of the creatures caught on fire and scurried around screaming and hissing like a cat.
The Warrior found himself smiling as he was surrounded by the enemy. They came at him with swords, teeth and claws but he was the better fighter, dodging, blocking and striking back. His sword bit into their flesh and victory was hard won but won nonetheless. Torrac and Mara ganged up on the last creature as Xyphos saw a smaller Lizardman sun away and cast a kinetic blast on one of the overhanging stalagmites. It fell like a lance, impaling and crushing the creature. Meanwhile the mercenaries’ heavy weapons had torn the last of the creatures apart.
“Ha, ha,” laughed Torrac as he stepped on the corpse. “Is that what you call dangerous?”
As soon as he uttered the last syllable, the cavern darkened as a black tangible mist covered the ground. A dark tendril of darkness wrapped around Mara’s neck, lifting her off the ground. She struggled but her weapon had fallen from her hand and she was now closer to the ceiling. Then, darkness wrapped around her head and crushed her skull, before flinging her headless corpse around.
“Mara!” screamed Tarroc as he brandished his axe and raced for the darkness.
“No!” cried the Warrior but it was too late. A dark tendril impaled Torrac and tore him apart, spraying blood and gore everywhere.
“Demon,” cried hoarsely Xypher as he cowered against the wall. The Warrior remained silent and raised his shield, hoping it would be enough to at least deflect any tendrils aimed at him. But the darkness receded as if being sucked back to the lower levels from where it came. The Warrior stood up, all the while staring at where the demon had gone to.
“Oh no, oh no.” Xyphos was looking at the corpses of Mara and Tarroc, with sheer horror. He was shaking. “We have to get out of here,” he said. His voice crackled and broke. The Warrior approached him gently.
“No,” he said.
“But we have to. That thing will kill us all!” screamed Xyphos. The Warrior slapped the mage across the face.
“No,” he repeated. “We will not let their deaths be for naught. We press forwards, find the demon and slay it once and for all. Xyphos look at me.” He grabbed the mage’s face. “We will not let their deaths be in vain,” he said fiercely.
The mage nodded and the two followed the path the demon had receded to, one cautious step at a time.
The last dungeon was a giant circular hole, cut from crystal and black obsidian stone. In the middle of the enclave, like an altar, stood a giant gem, a crystal shard of massive proportions, hovering and slowly spinning.
And around it, a mass of darkness swirled. Tendrils of black whipped at the duo: the Warrior pushed the mage aside and deflected a tendril with his blade. Immediately the steel began to corrode. He unslung his shield, hoping his weapon would endure the fight.
Xyphos took off in a run.
“Where are you –”
Darkness surged and the Warrior had to evade another attack.
But the mage was now being flung into the walls by a mass of darkness. The Warrior was on his own.
Darkness covered every crevice and all light was snuffed out, with only the soft glow of the crystal illuminating a tiny halo around it. The Warriors felt a series of blows on his shield and was thrown aside. Something felt odd at his side and he realized he had rolled on Xyphos’s backpack. Its contents were now spilled and the ground was littered with battered scrolls and spell crystals. The Warrior heard a phantasmal roar and felt something pierce his side. The pain flared as he checked his side and found his hand dam and sticky. The demon roared again and attacked. His shield took one blow whilst another speak of black stabbed into his legs. He screamed and fell, wounded.
“Are you dead yet?”
The voice was oddly familiar and yet it had none of its usual timidness. “Xyphos?” whispered the Warrior.
Next to the crystal, Xyphos appeared, healthy and undamaged, his hand on the crystal.
“How?” began the Warrior.
“this is a Soul Stone. With it I can control the essence of a demon,” said Xyphos smugly. “However I needed someone to clear the dungeon for me. Thank you for that.”
“You snake,” spat the Warrior.
“Oh please, spare me the drama,” replied the mage. “Who led you to this place? I did. Who urged you to go forwards? I did. Who told you about the crystal? I did. Don’t blame me if you were all too thick to see a trickster right in front of your eyes.”
“You mean a traitor!” roared the Warrior as he got to his knees. “Why are you doing this? Money? There are all the riches you can spend up there. So why?”
Xyphos laughed. “For power of course. Do you know who this is?” he said tapping the Soul Stone with his scepter. “This is an archdemon: Moribus the Assaulter.”
“The Black Calamity,” whispered the Warrior. He’d only heard children’s bedtime stories about the demon made out of black night and whose very presence signaled the death of entire villages.
“Exactly,” screeched Xyphos with glee. “Now I am the most powerful mage in existence. Moribus is under my control because I control his Soul Stone. And my very first order will be to kill you and that little village close by. Can’t leave any witnesses I’m afraid.”
The demon screamed again and the Warrior felt the black mass slither around him. His hands wandered on the ground until something bit into his fingers. He lifted the object. It looked like a small wooden tablet, thing and rectangular, with runes inscribed on it. A peddler in the village had sold it to Xyphos before they left for their quest; it was supposed to transport the user back to the village in case of an emergency. It must have spilled from Xyphos’ backpack after the traitor had pretended to be dead.
The mage motioned the tablet in the Warrior’s hands.
“What are you going to do with that?” he sneered. “I’m invincible.”
The darkness surged and descended on the Warrior just as he closed his eyes and snapped the tablet in half.
A second later he felt a light breeze and the evening warmth on his face. He opened his eyes and saw that he was on a prairie, just south of the village. From the distance, the entrance of the dungeon was just a black ominous mountain. Grimacing, the Warrior stood up and made his way towards the village, set on making them evacuate to a safer city.
After that, he would enlist the help of powerful mage and warriors and have them join him as he took revenge upon Xyphos and his pet demon. He was a warrior after all – and now he had a war to fight.
Hope you enjoyed that. I used obvious elements of role-playing games but I had to change the name to Warrior instead of Fighter because I don’t want to be sued by Dungeons and Dragons or wizards of the Coast or something.
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Till next time guys,