As soon as the main cavern came into focus I ran to Merchant Meeks’ desk and slapped it. 

He closed his book and looked at me expectantly.

“Why didn't you tell me I had to die to leave the cave?”

“How could I know ye didn't?”

“I don't know anything. I didn't know that sometimes rocks fall off other rocks and—.”

“—Miss Knight, dying is how ye get the knowin’ of things in this world. And dying is how ye begin anew.” 

I couldn't accept that. “How do I avoid dying?”

“By knowin’ ahead, thinkin’ ahead and bein’ quick on yer feet. But ye’ll still die. Nothin’ fer it.”

My hands shook. Despite the pain and terror of death, I had to go back into that mine. Matt was in the Garden of 1000 Kindnesses but I couldn’t trust it to be kind to him at all.

I went to number 7 this time and willed myself down but nothing happened. I stared at Merchant Meeks.

“Don’t go lookin’ at me like I betrayed ye.” He pointed at the ground next to me. The number 6 was lit on each of the floor squares. “Ye’ve claimed that mine now, It’s yers. But ye be careful. It changes with every death.”

I nodded.

“And be sure ye pay up ‘fore ye leave.”

Oh, right! I stepped back up to his table and handed him my Gluttonous Nickel.

“40 more to go.”

Someone tapped my shoulder and I screamed. I turned to see a creepy, potbellied fairy with bluish skin and polished obsidian eyes.

“Wh-What are you? Where did you come from?”

“I’ve been here the whole time, Miss Knight, you just haven’t seen me. I’m Tasker Phenic.”

“A-Are there other things I haven’t seen?”

He smiled showing rows of black needle-teeth. “Many.”

As cold tingles ran down my spine I automatically scrutinized the room, searching for invisible monsters.

“So,” I tried to say casually. “What do you do?”

“I give you tasks. Your first is killing a Man Faced Spider and bringing me it’s carapace. Complete it and I’ll hand over a magic crystal that can save you from death. But be careful, the more of them you use before dying, the more you have to use.”

What? A chance to avoid death?

“Alright, I’ll do it.” I walked to one of the blocks marked with a 6 and glanced back.

Phenic flew next to Meeks and they exchanged something gold.

They were betting on me and against me. I wanted to stop them, to say something, but it was pointless.

I willed myself into the mine and appeared at the top of a long tunnel. 

My mini-map showed that down 3 and to my left 1 was some kind of energy bubble and behind it were two boulders of nickel, there for the taking. I didn’t want to touch the energy just yet, in case it was some kind of explosive so I mined around it, quickly collecting the ore.

Up close, the energy appeared as glowing green ripples in a pond, if the pond’s surface was 3 dimensional and floated in mid-air.

“The only way to learn is by doing.”

I willed myself into its square. It popped, creating hundreds of small bubbles that rushed into my pickaxe. Its durability said 40/40, and a feeling similar to stepping into icy air conditioning on a hot summer’s day overwhelmed me.

“Okay, so I need to save these until the last possible moment because I don’t know how often I’ll find them,” I said. “... And now I’m talking to myself.”

I sighed and moved down a few blocks, then I noticed a spider on my minimap trapped in a 4 block vertical corridor with a boulder to the left and near the top. I really wanted anything that could prevent death.

I moved down to the block above the boulder and waited.

After a few heart-pounding moments the spider in my minimap crawled down to the bottom of the pit. Within a blink, I stepped into the block’s area, destroying it, and freeing the boulder for rolling. After moving over and down I rolled the boulder into the corridor. It tumbled down crushing the nasty insect.


A black shell with a very fleshed out human face grown on it flew into my cargo satchel.

Then I noticed two more nickel boulders down 3 and left 5. they were surrounded by boulders and a very solid and uncarved block of stone. I figured, that if I was quick enough I could get in and out before the rocks collapsed. It would also make me square with Meeks.

I would risk it.

Clutching my pickaxe tight, I traveled to the precarious area.

For a solid minute, I stared at the two boulders, working up the courage to risk getting crushed again.

“I can do this!”

I bolted into the two nickel boulders. They wobbled, but I immediately flew out. The stones collapsed. I flew back through several blocks to avoid the avalanche I’d created.

A massive black spider with a human face on its back crawled into my space from below me. I sucked in a breath.

It jumped forward and dug its fangs into my shoulder.

My blood boiled. Screams echoed through my body. Darkness.

As I once again faced the gray world of the reaper, my heartbeat slowed. I stared up at Mr. Black’s uncaring face. 

“Would you care to continue, Miss Knight?”

I would get no sympathy here, but I didn’t want to go back into the mine.

Still, I said, “Yes.”




“Are we even now?” I asked.

Merchant Meeks grinned. “Yes, miss. Be sure ye come back when ye have inventory worth 100 coins so I can exchange yer pickaxe fer a better one.”

“I will.”

I handed over the spider carapace to Phenic and a Death Saving Crystal appeared in my inventory. I needed to only use it when I had to, or when I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Your next task is to find and destroy a Fae Mushroom Trap. They will make you briefly hallucinate before killing you.”

“How do I destroy that?”

“The same way you destroyed the spider.”

A woman cleared her throat behind me. I jerked towards the noise and saw a thin dark elf in purple trousers and a flowy silk shirt that reached her mid-thigh.

“Miss Knight. I’m Keymaster Korren. While you’re down there if you come across any boxes that happen to have keys in them would you kindly give those keys to me? I shall exchange your first two for a weapon. Then your next four for a better weapon.”

I narrowed my eyes. “What do these weapons do?”

“A variety of exceedingly advantageous things. The most prevalent is to send a projectile through blocks to eradicate traps and monsters.”

“That sounds a little too good to be true.”

She smirked. “Well, they do require you to charge them with kinetic energy.”

“And, like, how do I go about doing that?”

“Why, by shattering 20 carved blocks, of course.”

I held out my hand. “Deal.”

“A pleasure.”




As soon as I entered the mine I noticed a box in my mini-map. I flew towards it shattering blocks as I went.

I froze when I saw it with my eyes for the first time. A massive crate made from gunstock stained oak filled a whole block. Magic symbols crawled all over its surface in an ethereal color changing scrawl.

I tried walking through it, as I did with everything, but it stayed in the same place. It didn’t even roll away like the boulders did. But. Maybe it would fall?

I knocked out the block under it and watched it break. A giant spider crawled out and immediately jumped toward me.

Time froze. A bell-like voice spoke in my mind. 

You are about to die. Want me to save you?

The spider’s fangs were inches from my face, dripping poison. I swallowed, body shaking with fear.

“I think choosing death like this is worse than suddenly dying.”

Then you choose to continue?

I didn't want to die, especially not by a spider. But if I used it here and died in a few more blocks I would pointlessly be out a crystal.

Licking my parched lips, I said, “No.”

Burning pain. Screaming. Darkness.

And once again, I looked into the reaper’s world and the dark scythe-wielding thing within.

I sneered at Mr. Black’s cold face and wondered if, behind those black eyes, he laughed at me.

“Would you care to continue, Miss Knight?”



A note from DragonOfRochester

Thank you for taking the time to read my story! I hope you enjoy it.

About the author


Bio: Artist and a retired game industry professional.

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