I picked up the bell, turning its silver body this way and that. No ring or jangle echoed from it, likely from its lack of a clapper. So, how did it make the sound?
Maybe if I…
I pulled my mana into the bell. It started to get very cold. Was it working? I swung the instrument. Silence surrounded me. Burning cold pierced my gloves. As pain hit my fingers, I dropped it onto a magma block. A cube of ice appeared around it. I waited, but after several minutes it still hadn’t melted.
Right. Don’t mess with weird weapons I don’t understand.
Sighing, I put the bell in my inventory.
I continued down, collecting the rare orb of Cold Steel and butchering a couple scorpions with obsidian boulders.
A group of steel appeared on my map, and I flew towards it. When I stepped into an empty block that was slightly shadier than the one next to it I found myself teleported several blocks away.
I focused inward on the square in my mind map. It was darker than the area around it!
Wait. Wasn’t Matt killed by a dark trap when he fought Nenvari?
It must have been pure dumb luck that I hadn’t run into these before now since they were way harder to tell apart than the vine traps.
I continued down and over, collecting the 3 steel orbs.
I looked down for a moment, and a black dot appeared in my mind map.
Within myself, my Satellite fully fused with my Core and I gained my 6th mana point. I could learn another spell!
When I looked back in the direction of the black dot, it appeared again.
Weird. Maybe my map was malfunctioning. Did Meeks have a better one?
Ink colored hands appeared in front of my eyes. The glassy black bug eyes embedded in each palm stared at me. Everything froze.
You are about to die. Want us to save you?
I turned my head, and at the corner of my eye, I saw a too-thin bipedal monster. Where a human face should be was instead an open maw filled with shark teeth and a long pink serpent's tongue. I shuddered.
It will take two of us to save you from this.
“Why? Is dying from its hand worth two deaths somehow?”
No. You’ve already used one this life, so it will now take two.
“Will it be 3 next time?”
If you choose for us to save you now, then 4 of us will save you next.
I swallowed. So double each time.
“If I say no, will I get sent to the place between again?”
I stared at the monster. I hadn’t even seen it coming aside from the few specs of black. I turned back around and closed my eyes.
A hand grabbed my forehead as teeth ripped into the back of my neck. Sharp pain. I screamed.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t feel anything below my neck. My breathing came in shallow gasps. Why hadn’t I died yet?
I looked down. Its long neck bent at an unnatural angle and its teeth wrapped around my unfeeling arm. Ghost sensations ran up the limb. With a jerk, it tore my appendage out and slowly slurped it up like a noodle.
My vision went black.
When the gray appeared I dry heaved onto the floor, body shaking. A cold hand rubbed my back.
“That was bad. Really bad.”
I wrapped my arms around myself and curled into a ball. How the hell was I supposed to defeat something that I couldn’t see or sense and that appeared from nowhere?
“Keymaster Korren did tell you that the horrors on the fourth floor were worse than the third.”
“Yeah! But she didn’t say anything about being eaten alive!”
“Would it have made you stop?”
“Even now that you’ve experienced it?”
I swallowed. “At least I didn’t have to feel it.”
“Not this time, anyway.”
Depressing words if I’d ever heard them.
I pushed myself to my hands and knees, and dry heaved again. When I focused on just breathing, it helped me forget.
After a while, I remembered. “I reached my 6th level in magic.”
He snorted. “You mean you have 6 points in magic. So you’re closer to being an actual Magi.”
“Yeah. I think I’ll work on learning my new spell. In fact, I want to reach the 7th level before leaving here again.”
He eyed me carefully. I could tell he was worried about my mental health. I was concerned about it too, but I was determined to return to the mine, even after being eaten alive. After all, it had been just another death.
I turned the page to Flameless Light and started practicing the diagram once more.
Bio: I'm an artist and a retired game industry professional. I also enjoy drinking tea while I write/edit and sometimes coffee. If you enjoy my stories in any way and feel like treating me to some Matcha, Earl Grey (hot), Almond Milk Tea, or Royal Milk Tea then please support me on ko-fi. Your donation will go towards fueling me creatively, and if there are enough donations then I will use it for things like an actual illustrator to make a better cover. *This dragon author does not expect any donations, so any that are given are especially appreciated!*