Water splashes around my feet as I scramble towards dry land. Jabbing my gleaming new sword at anything that moves, I rub my neck and consider the previous 2 minutes of my life.
I found a dead end. Or what was supposed to look like a dead end. The wall was flat, and very similar to the one I saw by the entrance. Catching on immediately, I chuckled to myself a little bit, stretched up, and pulled the handle, in exactly the same place as before. A deep rumble startled me. The floor fell out, and I ended up in a small pool of water. So far so good.
There’s faint light coming from the hole I just fell through, which gives me just enough light to see that my torch is completely drenched. Typical. Great time to try out my new ability, right? I feel around for the skill in my mind, and find the right mental levers to pull to manipulate light. Activating the skill, I cast my mind out, searching. Above me, there’s lots of light. I can see the source, and I can see the rays. I can gather the light together, herding it like rabbits, moving it down, around the corners, all the way down to the room I’m in now, distribute it here.
As it turns out, light doesn't quite work that way. Even with magic, it disperses almost immediately, like the flash on a camera. I do manage to see the tentacles though. Always tentacles... A cephalopod sitting in the darkness, hiding, waiting. As it’s recovering from the sudden explosion of light, I carefully move in a different direction. Getting out the way I got in is out of the question, so I look around for a different exit. If this trap was made by an old civilization, I believe they would happily make it with no way out. If a game developer tried to get away with the same, they would be fired. My hands fumble in the blackness in front of me until I reach a wall. Damp and slippery to the touch, it makes my skin crawl.
All of a sudden I feel something brush against my leg. My blood runs cold as I spin around, screaming. Whatever it was disappeared as fast as it arrived. For a beat, the cave is silent. Then, a wet, clammy appendage wraps itself around my neck.
Perception check failed.
You have been grappled
You are being suffocated.
90% air remaining
Shit! I grab at the restraint, trying to pry it off, but no matter how rubbery it seems, it has the strength of steel. I give up on that approach and draw my sword instead.
70% Air remaining
I'm still good, I got time, no panic yet. If feel around my neck for a good angle when the tentacle constricts, squeezing my neck harder.
You receive 5% damage from grappling attack
I very carefully begin to saw at the limbs wrapped around my throat, trying to get purchase with the edge of my sword without..
50% air remaining
5% damage from self inflicted cutting
10% damage received from continuing grapple attack
Shit, this isn’t working. Panic begins to set in. Not seeing any other options, I try to run. Stupid, under the circumstances, but I really do not want to expire in this tomb, letting the squids feed on my body, use it for an improvised Punch and Judy show or whatever they do to dead prey. Before I get even a meter away, the tentacles seem to be fully extended. As a result, I’m pulled off my feet by my throat, and I land on my back. A huge splash, and water goes everywhere. My eyes open, and I follow the limb right back to where the body is hiding. I turn around and get to my knees.
10% air remaining
20% damage received from ongoing grapple attack
I fall forwards inelegantly as I stab my sword into the darkness, roughly the direction of the suckerered arms. I’m rewarded by a wet, sucking sound, and I feel my sword entering the soft flesh of a squid.
You are no longer being suffocated
The tentacles go limp around my neck. I stand up, unraveling the leftover calamari, keeping an eye on the shadows. I’m fighting off the panic as I can see them crawl. My only option is to get to dry land, and to find light. I hate the universe for putting me through stuff like this. Especially when I realize that the only way forward is straight towards the darkest, deepest area of the cave. I rub my neck and consider the previous 2 minutes of my life. Then I grit my teeth, moving forwards. At its deepest, the water reaches my thighs. Walking quickly gets tough, but I push through. I can hear the other squid feasting on their fallen comrade behind me. I don’t know how fast they’ll finish eating their friend, but I need to be far away when it’s over.
After another few minutes of moving, I find myself in total darkness. I can't see where I came from, or where I'm going. The only indications of progress is the lack of walking into walls, and the water receding. I keep on the wall, carefully feeling for anything I can use as a light source. Shortly, I am rewarded by a torch, hanging loosely, as if for this exact purpose. Gotta love game designers. I use my firestarter, silently thanking Ephraim for his gift. I briefly wonder if everyone gets one from their guide. The suddenness of the bright light blinds me for a moment, but my situation is confirmed: Dry land, open passage forward, no squiddage. I sit down against the wall for a breather, checking my status.
How did my mana get so low? Is there no mana available in the area? It must be affecting my health regeneration too.. At this rate, I’m going to be falling apart soon. I can’t afford to linger in this deadzone. I get up carefully, keeping an eye out for stray tentacles, and move on.
The corridor soon opens into a larger chamber. Unlit torches adorn the walls, and two large braziers sit on a raised stone platform. Four pillars, one in each corner of the platform, rise into the air, into the darkness above. Stairs are leading up to the dais, and in the centre of the platform is a rather large sarcophagus. Intricate carvings cover it, depicting animals, people, probably some stories, probably extremely interesting to anthropologists, but probably useless to me. I wonder why a place like this hasn’t been looted before? It’s awfully intricate for a random encounter.
I use my torch to light one of the sconces on the wall, and a chain reaction begins. Flames spring out of the wall, speeding along grooves between the stones, lighting the entire room. One by one the braziers are lit as the spark circles the room. As it approaches my position, I brace myself for some sort of reaction, but it never comes.
"This is far too quiet..."
I speak, only to break the silence.
Warily, I circle the structure. It’s uniform, four sides. Seemingly carved out of stone that doesn’t seem to come from the rock around me. Even the floor is made from the same material. There’s condensation on a lot of the surfaces here, but not a lot of plants or fungus. Coming full circle, I begin climbing up to the sarcophagus, keeping a wary eye on the walls and ceiling. As I reach the top, I begin to investigating the stone coffin. The lid seems like it's been sealed with some waxy substance. There's a thick layer of dust on top of it, no sign of dampness from lower in the chamber. From this vantage point, I look around the room but can't find traces of another exit.
"They must have gotten you in here somehow, I doubt the squiddery was the main entrance."
The room has a slight echo. I can see the remains of banners hanging from the darkness above, probably to absorb the sound bouncing around. I shrug, and begin to unseal the box.
I never considered myself a graverobber before. I always saw those people as beyond contempt, destroying ancient memories for their own profit. Silently, I whisper an apology as I use my shortsword to pick away at the wax. When I finally breach the seal, I’m hit by a puff of stale, dusty air. Not the disgusting rotting smell I expected. It takes me a full hour to completely unseal the casket, and another 30 minutes to get the lid far enough off to shine some light inside. Unsurprisingly, there is no objection from it's occupant. Empty eye sockets glare out into nothingness, loosely wrapped in disintegrating bandages. I chuckle to myself.
"Obviously, you're not the trap waiting to come at me for disturbing you."
At this moment, my magic reaches 0%, and I can feel my health regeneration halting completely. I’m at 100%, but I’m not getting any more for a while. I find myself wishing I'd gotten a respawn point before I got this far into a dungeon.
Warning: You are affected by mild rot.
Time remaining until effect is upgraded: 30 minutes.
A cursory check reveals nothing missing on my body. Whatever’s rotting isn’t visible at least. I push the lid off completely, and it slides down the side of the dais, landing at the bottom of the stairs with a bone-rattling crash. I turn to what I assume is the worldly remains of Lesiraxan.
I can tell he understands, he gets it. He seems to have once been fully wrapped in cloth, but time made him look like a classic mummy, then like a cheap halloween mummy, then like a cheap, disintegrated halloween mummy. There are, however, a few objects in there with him. In his hands, a book, by his feet, dark leather boots. A satchel sits by his right side, a small leather box by his left, and over his head, a handful of gems, cut into flowers. My cold, dead heart skips a beat... figuratively. If anything is going to happen, it's going to happen when I grab these things.
I carefully pick up the leather satchel first. It's heavy. I attach it to my belt, and go for my next target, the leather box. It's light, and there's a clinking sound when I place it in my backpack. The boots are next. Rich, dark leather, supple, even after years of being buried here. I'm saving the book for last. A quick swipe and the gems are mine.
You have found Preserved Moonsilver Roses x5
Huh... I guess they weren't cut crystals after all. I leave identifying for later, crack my fingers, and gingerly start to move his fingers, one after the other, off the book. I won't lie, fingers were broken, corpses were desecrated, but no matter what happened, he would lie there, just quietly taking it, letting me have my way with him. The entire seance takes half an hour, and I feel strangely ... okay with it.
Mana: 00% *CRITICAL*
Minute by minute my stats were dropping, and my rot was getting worse. I had another look around the room, but still couldn't find any exits. The ceiling is too high, and the walls are flat and featureless. There are 4 pillars supporting the ceiling, with torches along ground level all around the room, and the two braziers. I go down the stairs to investigate the stone slab that slid to the floor. Same type of stone as the rest of the structures here, but covered with drawings, sigils, hieroglyphs I guess... There's a picture of a fat shadow kneeling in front of a robed man. Lesiraxan and the shadowling maybe? There's a single squid with tentacles spread, and a blue pond. Blue my ass, pitch black is more like it. Then there's an image of the coffin room itself, with two columns and two braziers…
I look around me again. The two columns could be due to the two dimensional nature of the drawing, but if not... I inspect the columns more closely. They seem to be made of segments, connected by a metal band at the very bottom of the pillar. I bet if I broke the band, the pillar would break too. I have no idea what would happen after that, but sitting around isn’t doing me any favours, and this place would easily kill me on it's own if I can't get my Mana back up. I begin kicking the closest band.
You have received 3% damage
Waah! Okay, new plan. My trusty old club. I smash the band with all my might, and am rewarded with a thunderous roar coming from above. I throw myself sideways, right into the coffin, just in time for a metric shittonne of rocks to land where I was standing.
"Okay then, wrong pillar. Maybe. Who knows!"
I carefully get out of the coffin and inspect the wreckage. The pillar has fallen, and with it a pile of rocks, and what looks like a vase. Or, it looked like a vase, now it looks like a broken pile of ceramics crawling with insects. No way is this a good thing. I hurry to the opposite pillar and smash it good, once again earning me a thundering applause from mother earth, and a rain of dirt. There’s a lot less earth this time, which I chose to take as a sign of picking correctly. Two more options, probably one more try, and those insects seem to be getting organised… a line of them are sort of .. climbing into the coffin.
I run to the lid again, there must be some more information on here. The pillars, and the braziers, and the sarcophagus. Maybe the relative position of the objects on the slab. Pillar, brazier, coffin, brazier, pillar. So the pillars left standing must be the first ones you see, before the braziers and the coffin. I go back to the entrance to make sure. From this vantage point I try to match up the picture with reality. As I’m squinting, my guts go cold as a hand reaches out of the stone box. My exhaustion is getting worse, and this feeling of panic isn’t helping. I finally see the pattern. If I read it correctly, I need to break the furthest pillar. If I was incorrect, it'll be the closest one. I'm out of time now, so I decide to go for it. Expending a good chunk of my remaining energy, I dash towards the coffin, just as old Les sits up from his less than eternal resting place. He.. It looks right at me with It’s hollow eyes, black wisps of smoke trailing behind it as it moves. I know I won’t like the result, but I inspect him while I’m moving in it’s direction.
Gee, thanks, informative. As I reach the furthest pillar, I get ready to smash the band, just as the revenant reaches out. A single blow lands before it grabs my arm on the backswing, casually pulling me off balance. I fall backwards down the pyramid, landing heavily at the bottom. My club comes sailing after me, landing right next to my arm. Les is staring daggers at me, and I get to my feet.
Mana: 00% *CRITICAL*
“Well fuck you too pal!”
It doesn’t react, just keeps staring at me with it’s corpselight eyes. At least it’s making me feel better. As I go back to the stairs, it follows me, never leaving it’s post. I look around, trying to push down the rising panic. The braziers? I push one of them. It’s not too warm to touch yet, and it moves, if a bit slowly. It’d cost me too much to carry it with me. I’ll have to try with my torch instead. Bracing myself, I go back up the stairs, approaching Lesiraxan, the guardian of his own grave.
“Hey, look over there, it’s a massive distraction!”
He doesn’t fall for it. Instead, I smack him as hard as I can with the torch, hoping for the best. My blunt weapons skill isn’t great, so he blocks it without a problem. The shower of embers that catch him on fire, however, is a great big problem. I kick him aside, returning the favour, and run towards the last pillar. On my knees before the metal band, I start smashing at it. After another few strikes, I am rewarded by another thundering roar, a falling sensation, and complete and utter darkness. As I’m falling into the void, I repeat a simple prayer.
"No more squid."
There's a splash, a distinct lack of air, and an exploding feeling of bitter cold. The world is once again pain as I try to orient myself underwater. The pitch black makes it so much harder. I find the surface after a few seconds, allowing me to breathe again, finally. As I do, I realise I'm being pulled along a current. I try to relax my body and just go along with the flow. It's the closest I've gotten to a rest for a while anyway. Checking my status, I see my Mana is increasing again, giving me a boost in regeneration, stopping my body from consuming itself. This Undead thing has been a lot of negatives so far, and very little positives. Why do I still need to breathe, for instance! I let the thought go when I realise that the underground river has made the transition to an overground one.
There are so many stars out now, filling the skies with diamonds. I get so lost in the view I almost miss the perfect place to get ashore. Scrambling towards the bank, I run my stamina down to 5% before I get there. I flip over, lying on my back, just breathing, and enjoying the sensations. I’m wet as a dog, nearly drowned, beaten and bruised and I’m sure there’s a couple of suckers left on my skin some places. But I’m still here. I’m still going, against all odds. The calm, invigoratingly fresh air is sweet and fresh. I close my eyes, taking a deep breath just to enjoy the thrill of survival.
I take a moment to myself to look at my recent messages and progress.
Skill discovered: Swimming
Skill increased: Swimming
Ability increased: Endurance
Nothing unexpected there I guess. My character sheet is beginning to flesh out a bit as well
Attributes Agility 1 Curiosity 1 Endurance 7 Focus 4 Luck 2 Strength 1 Skills Aim 4 Archery 2 Marksman 1 Targeting 1 Athletics 0 Running 3 Acrobatics 0 Climbing 1 Body Control 3 Dressage 2 Galloping 1 Swimming 1 Herbology 1 Illusionist 2 Light Manipulation 1 Improvised throwing weapons 1 Perception 1 Forest Perception 1 Stealth 2 Move Silently 2 Sneak attack 2 Tracking 1 Unarmed Combat 1
In my reverie looking at my wonderful stat progression, I notice few raindrops falling onto me, and it feels wonderful. Even the smell is intense, a smell of rotting cloth and ...
My eyes pop open. Crawling over me is the animated remains of old Les himself. He's somewhat scorched, moving very slowly, and the dark mote infestation seems to have been mostly washed away. That doesn't seem to be preventing him from invading my personal space in a bad way. I scream, panic enveloping me again.
"Get off you dead piece of shit!"
His strength is so much higher than mine, and there’s nothing I can do to prevent him from positioning himself right on top of me, his head right in front of mine. The motes swirl around his gaping maw, and begin flowing from his body to mine, and with a deep sense of dread, I realise the most important thing I have in common with this guy.
We're both dead.
- Stranger in a strange land
Software developer by trade. Games developer by uni course. Shopkeeper in a previous life.. don't ask.
I took a look at my life recently, and realised I read too much. I watch too much tv. I play too many games. I consume too much. It was time for me to create instead, improve the balance of things. So I wrote, and I wrote, and I managed to finish a first draft. Then I went back to the beginning and started rewriting it, while working on the sequel.
If you like my work, or are a fan of litRPG/Gamelit, please check out https://greatlitrpg.com
You'll find my book there, and a bunch of other authors worth your time. Vote for what you like, and help make it a definitive collection of unbiased reviews.