As soon as I stepped into my mine, I cast haste on myself and bolted down. One moment a spider appeared at the edge of my map and a few seconds later it was at the top. I was so focused on the spider that the mushroom trap I ran into didn’t even register until I had teleported 4 away.

I spent a second mourning the waste of my first armor charge before continuing again. Several more minutes later, my mind caught up, and everything else around me appeared slower. I passed honey badgers who ran at me, without the blindingly fast quickness they had when I first went up against them.

I stopped haste spelling myself regularly when I reached the vines on the third floor. I spent a good 30 minutes and picked up another 6 jadinfray items for trade.

When I reached the fourth floor and had to switch Haste for Personal Weather, I was already over 10% of the way to my next mana point.

Within the magma blocks, I collected several steel ores and rescued 3 more golems who courteously killed the slinfi for me, and allowed me to take their bells.

After I picked up my most recent bell, a wraith floated onto the edge of my mind map. This was the perfect chance.

Curious, I willed my bow to change to my pickaxe. It did so without a second of hesitation. Why hadn’t I tried doing this before? Oh right. I hadn’t needed to.

I willed my bow to change to the scythe, and the toy appeared. I frowned at it and used my free hand to press against the blade. It was hard plastic, like one of those toy baseball bats, but it held up surprisingly well. On the handle, embossed in a large friendly font was the name Whistlebomper TM. I looked up at nothing, not sure if Mr. Black could even listen in.

“This better not be a joke.”

The ghostly woman floated slowly towards my direction.

My whole body tensed as I prepared to cast the sleep spell for the first time.

She came closer and laughed. I held my breath.

Her gaze shot in my direction and her eyes began to glow red. She screamed, her voice echoed through the magma, but it was nothing compared with the bell of a slinfi.

I sailed towards her. She darted towards me, hands in front of her like claws. If I’d gone for her head, she would have had the reach to get me first, so instead, I grabbed her wrist. It didn’t feel solid precisely, but the feel of it was familiar. Perhaps it was a consequence of spending so much time in the space between life and death.

“Sleep,” I said, just before her claws dug into my shoulder. Her ghostly form went weak, and she fell limp. An odd thing happened then, while most of her stayed elf shaped she appeared fuzzy around the edges.

I took my toy scythe and raised it above my head.

Wait, was I supposed to use the stick or the blade?

With a shrug, I bomped the top of her head with the blade part. The scythe shuddered uncertainly but held together.

I had imagined that the ghost would just disappear. Instead, a woman I’d never seen before wearing black robes and carrying an ancient farmer’s scythe came into focus. It wasn’t like she appeared, it felt more like she’d always been there and only now could I see her. Using her scythe’s handle, she placed the ghost in a chokehold. It woke and began to struggle and wail. In that familiar slippery language, she whispered something to it, and the wraith wept in silence.

The reaper took one look at the toy in my hand, and a derisive snort-laugh escaped her before she vanished.

I had the distinct impression that I could still use the toy, in the same way, a child used a plastic bat, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t be hilarious for others to watch me.

I sighed. And I still had days or weeks of doing this stuff before I could even think to challenge Nenvari.

A note from DragonOfRochester

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

This chapter's procrastination is brought to you by For We Are Many by Dennis E. Taylor.  It made me not sleep for most of last night.

Support "Cold Steel Dig"

About the author


Bio: Artist and a retired game industry professional.

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