“Korren!” I said. “I’ve collected more Keys. Do I have enough for a weapon upgrade?”
“How would you like to try a different weapon instead?”
“Different weapons didn’t help my brother against Nenvari. I’d like to stick with the bow.”
She smiled. “Then I too have a proposition for you. The second floor of the mines has small platinum keys in ebony wood boxes. If you bring me two and give me the rest of your current keys I shall give you a fantastic bow upgrade. But I’m afraid I can’t upgrade it anymore for only the keys you have on you.”
“What will this bow upgrade do?”
“It will allow you to kill things that are twice as difficult to kill as your first floor monsters.”
“It will destroy badgers.”
“Deal,” I said, shuddering at the thought of facing one of them again.
“Pleasure doing business with you, as always.”
I waved goodbye to everyone and dropped into my mine.
When I didn't see the new sandstone blocks I froze and scrutinized the mini-map information that inserted itself in my head as naturally as memorizing the location my direction-challenged mom parked the car. Challenges on the map showed me that I still started on the first floor. I groaned.
I didn't get a free pass to the second? Lame!
Unfortunately, there was no getting ahead in this world and no point in stalling. I clutched my bow tight and sped downward. It only took two minutes to get halfway to the second floor. The map in my head made traveling so much easier. My body practically dove on its own, taking care of traps and monsters I'd beaten many times before by using learned tactics.
And then I disn't see that a block held up a massive amount of boulders instead of only one and the avalanche killed me.
I sped through the re-spawn process, not even saying hello to Mr. Black.
When I re-appeared everyone looked like they were about to laugh at me.
I held up a finger. “Don’t. Just, don’t.”
They all laughed anyway.
Phenic pointed. “Half a day, she says. More like half a year.”
Heat built in my cheeks. I slogged back to my mine and re-entered it again.
This time I’d do better. Maybe I should go slower as I get used to my new brain map?
I made my way past the first-floor traps. I knew I could go faster but I didn’t want to risk dying just yet.
It took around 8 minutes but I reached an area where some of the sandstone blocks began to bleed into the stone.
So, instead of a sharply divided floor, I now had a mine with a mostly divided floor.
When I passed a huge nozzle that was connected to a metal box I noticed that it began glowing white. I dropped down and watched as a line of ice spread through three blocks, freezing any solid areas in its path and creating cubes of ice where there had been only empty space.
I made a path under the nozzle and stepped to the non-ice spouting side. It fell and crashed into a million pieces.
Curious, I traveled to the ice and placed a hand on it. The cold burned but didn't really hurt me. My current durability was 45/92. I willed myself into one of the icy areas and it shattered. Durability still 45/92.
Interesting. Not sure how I could use that just yet.
I traveled down, collected several boxes, ores and delicious energy bubbles. There weren't many badgers, but I avoided them like a nasty stench.
I found a honey trap and shot a charged arrow at it, hoping that destroying the trap would be the same thing as collecting it. The beam of light turned the trap into dust and a wax fragment appeared in my inventory to give to Phenic as proof of destruction.
Eventually, I neared a spot where a honey trap and a nozzle sat across from each other.
Maybe if I freeze the trap?
I stepped between the two until I saw the white flare. Just before ice magic bathed the area, I dodged down.
When the nozzle stopped, the honey trap appeared frozen. I moved into its block, shattering the honey.
Two samples of the sweet substance appeared in my inventory. I would have gawked but the nozzle began to glow in my mind map. I dodged down once more.
Okay, so I received two for freezing the trap with a nozzle then destroying it, but finding another immovable trap positioned perfectly next to an immovable nozzle was unlikely to happen again.
I fLee down, collecting a few more boulders of mystical aluminum ore and found another box that held a platinum key.
Soon another honey trap with an ice boulder above it appeared in my mind map. Could it be so simple? Either way, I’d collect honey or wax.
I zoomed towards it and easily rolled the ice atop it. The honey froze and shattered. A yellow light zoomed into my bag and I knew it was a single sample of honey.
Huh. Maybe I’d collect the honey faster than I thought.
I continued down, searching for more. I saw another one that had ice near it.
After studying the layout of the area I knocked out a block causing an avalanche to crash into the trap. This time something white traveled into my bag and I knew it was wax.
So, I could assume that with the nozzle I would get a possible guaranteed 2 honey samples, but with the ice, I might get 1 honey sample or 1 wax.
I sighed. At this point, my durability was dangerously low and I didn’t have an energy bubble anywhere near me, but I could get another aluminum, bringing me up to 200.
I went for it. As soon as I collected it I heard the voice.
You are about to—
My body jerked. Shocking Pain.
As the gray world appeared before me and I sat.
“Mind if I stay for awhile? I have a book or two I need to read.”
“Are you certain? You don’t have to read them immediately and you’re on a roll with collecting that honey.”
“I know, but I want a break from the mine.”
“Then, go ahead.”
I let the giant history book drop onto the gray floor and lied down. “This book is the driest thing I’ve ever read. I don’t think my current body can sleep, but this book is making me wish it could.”
Mr. Black jerked his head to the left and gently sniffed.
“Actually. It would be for the best if you did sleep every now and then. Your body may not need it. But your mind certainly does.” He bent down and grabbed my shoulder. “Sleep.”
I dreamed that Mr. Black swung his giant scythe at a demon of fire and pain that towered 1000 feet high.
I dreamed that his charcoal blood poured onto the gray floor like thick oil.
I dreamed that he yelled words that slipped past my eardrums.
I dreamed that he patted my head and collapsed beside me.
I dreamed. Right?
I jerked awake and found myself in the cavern, Merchant Meeks calmly reading his novel.
“Where is—” I tried to say, Mr. Black, but his name refused to leave my lips. Was this also some kind of magic? “How long have I been here?”
“Ye only just got here Miss. Is something wrong?”
Yes. “No,” I said. A chill ran down my spine. Were we not allowed to speak of the reapers?
I quickly paid for an upgrade and went back into the mines. The urge to immediately die again diminished as the fear that if I did die, I’d have another reaper rose to the surface. I didn’t want another reaper.
My breaths came in gasps. I clutched my head and felt the new tiara.
Calm down. Calm down. It was just a dream. I’d hallucinated worse things before.
When my heart started to beat at a normal rhythm I began to make my way down the mine, but I couldn’t concentrate. The worry choked me and I soon died anyway.