Michael stepped through the purple portal and immediately jolted into a run. Lilly called after him as she, Torunn, and one of the new Martyr cubs struggled to keep up.
“I’m not slowing down!” Michael yelled without turning. He needed to get to the Lich’s side of the spirit battleground and drop into the dungeon below. The mace that Dreng let him borrow should be enough to help him kill any opposition he reached quickly. He would need to kill quickly and move even quicker in order to rescue his brother. From what he knew about the Lich King’s dungeon it was possible to save his brother, but only if he got to him in time. Ogrim would probably be the boss of the first floor and he would be under strict orders not to leave the floor, or the prisoners, unprotected. The prisoners would be waiting under the guard of Ogrim for an escort to the lower levels. Michael wasn’t sure how many levels there were but knew the Lich would probably only trust his son to escort the prisoners. Each of his other mini-bosses had their own floors to manage and only the Prince was allowed to roam. The Lich King himself wouldn’t leave his bottom floor, or at least Michael hoped he wouldn’t. If he got to his brother too late and the Lich King happened to be the escort then James would be doomed. Michael might be able to fight off the Prince and Ogrim, depending on the strength of Lilly and Torunn, but he didn’t stand a chance against the Lich King. Still, he didn’t want any of that to happen. He wanted to get to his brother before the escort even arrived, so Ogrim would be the only boss he had to worry about.
“Hurry up!” Michael called out and slowed to a stop at the empty Lich King vessel. It was shattered and broken. Michael looked down through the glass and saw what looked like a stairway down. It was dark and ominous, just like the ravines he jumped on his way over to the vessel, but he was used to dark and ominous now. Michael stepped inside and began to descend the spiraling stairs.
As Michael descended the hole in the spirit battleground it got darker and darker until he couldn’t see the next step. He growled in anger. He would have to slow down or risk falling. Michael used his hand to trace the wall as he used his feet to find the end of the step. When he found the step, he lowered his foot until it found purchase and put his weight down. It was tricky because the stairs where all of different heights. The process was slow, but he was getting closer. He could now see a faint light at the bottom of the hole. When he finally reached the bottom he heard Lilly and the two Martyrs above him enter the stairwell. The sounds of them struggling to keep up made it difficult for him to hear what lay ahead. Deciding that he didn’t have time to sneak around, Michael took his last step and charged into the dimly lit tunnel that opened ahead of him.
Torches lit his way as Michael ran through a rocky tunnel. As he got further, the tunnel widened. He could see abandoned mining stations as he went.
“Good,” Michael whispered as he ran. The mining equipment meant he was definitely on Ogrim’s floor. The boss brute was responsible for gathering ore and other minerals to be used on the lower floors. The monsters here would be strong, but inexperienced at fighting. It meant that when Michael came across any, he shouldn’t have too much trouble. If for some reason the hole in the spirit battleground skipped Ogrim’s floor and went to someone else's, Michael’s mission would have been much more difficult.
Side tunnels started opening up all around him and he realized Lilly and the two Martyrs behind him might get lost. He couldn’t stop and wait though. He just had to hope they would realize that they needed to go down. If you wanted to reach the boss of a floor in the Lich’s dungeon, you always had to take the path that went down. Michael had used the opposite logic when he was trapped here. He woke up in the game on a lower floor in the dungeon. Once he escaped from his torturers he experimented with his interface and found out he could defend himself. He snuck around, always going up until he found monsters he was strong enough to fight. He snuck around for so long, and got so strong doing it, the Lich Prince eventually hunted him down. That was when Michael got involved in the Lich’s politics. Luckily, he played along long enough to get offered the chance to fight in the Lich King’s name. That was when he entered the spirit battleground.
Suddenly, a tunnel opened up to Michael’s right. He glanced at it just long enough to confirm that it sloped upward and that he should ignore it. He sighed in relief when the small brutes that were swinging their pickaxes at the wall didn’t notice him. He could have killed them easily, and they probably had some decent loot he could use too, but he didn’t want to fight until he got to Ogrim if he could help it.
“Dammit,” Michael said, moments before the mining party blocking his way noticed he was there. Michael slowed to a walk and gave his borrowed mace a practice swing. It felt light and awkward in his hands. It was very different from his preferred weapon, but Michael knew it would do the job. He was strong enough that he didn’t need to rely on his weapon-specific abilities.
“Intruder!” a brute bellowed as he stood up from his resting place against the stone wall. Before the other two miners realized what was going on, Michael was upon them. He smashed his Mace into the closest miner. The brute’s head snapped back and beat the rest of its body to the ground. The brute that was resting just moments ago swung his pickaxe at Michael with devastating force. Michael dodged, and the brute looked genuinely confused that the target for his strike actually moved out of the way.
“I am not a rock,” Michael stated to the brainless brute, which raised its eyebrow in confusion. Then the brute realized his intelligence was being insulted and anger consumed its face again. Michael waited there impatiently for the two brutes to strike him. He didn’t want to make his move and strike first because that would make him vulnerable to a counterstrike. The brutes were slow and stupid, but Michael was in no rush to be hit by one of them. The two brutes both raised their pickaxes high above their heads, just like they were still mining. Michael shot through the small gap between them, knowing they were not smart or quick enough to cancel their attack and turn around. Michael gripped his one-handed mace with both hands and swung it like a bat at the unsuspecting brutes. They collapsed to the ground, one of them falling on the handle of a wooden wheelbarrow they were using to shuttle ore. The brute’s massive weight levered the wheelbarrow. Iron ore flew into the air in all directions like shrapnel, but Michael was gone before it could hit him.