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A note from stewart92

Thank you for the support! 

It had been quite a sight.

They all sat around a tiny crackling fire that Delem made out of the logs nearby as if they were put there for just that purpose. They might well have been.

Aneya felt this place was... different. A new Dungeon often felt like a hazard, a mine left to be filled with monsters or a tiny tower with a few floors of traps. She had started at the bottom like the rest of the Moons but... she had grown up raised on battle stories.

Not that they were handed to her...

“Little Annie, fetch me another drink. I’m telling your brother about the time I wrestled a bear on the last trip.”

“Oi, you can’t say that to her, she’s a wee lass...”

“She’s going to take over the place... Aneya hasn’t shown interest in anything.”

“Aneya, I know you wanted to go on that trip, but your brother-”

She eyed the fish she had been nibbling. Despite her being the one to declare them safe as a subspecies of the local fish... there had been some unique fish in the pond. Aneya didn’t dare fish for them.

She didn’t know the rules.

Would catching them turn on some hidden timer? Would it make them fight something like that Muffet Spider? Aneya couldn’t risk it.

She wouldn’t risk her team when they wanted to relax. Not Delem, not Gonga... not Kemy. She eyed the young girl as she fiddled with the ear muffs, her own fish already gone.

Kemy was a growing girl, it made sense. Aneya handed her stick over to the girl.

“These fish taste terrible - Kemy, can you take this,” she huffed. It took will to give up the food, but Kemy looked unsure before she beamed at Aneya.

“Thank you, but are you sure you won’t go hungry?” Kemy pressed. Aneya snorted aloud.

“Kemy, hun, I know how to conserve energy and survive off of water for weeks. Eat the fish,” she turned to face the pond to cut off any arguments. Her stomach protested but the tight leather armour she wore was a good muffler.

Kemy hadn’t eaten much last night at the inn - the village had spooked her too much - and Aneya knew the girl would not waste a gift, even if it was a slightly chewed fish. Aneya was a fighter, she could last the journey until they got back.

If worse came to worst, she would catch another fish when they weren’t looking.

For now... she set her face into a confident smirk that put Kemy at ease when their eyes met again. She watched Gonga patrol around the pond, his curiosity mostly drawn to the duck at the far end of the body of the water.

The Pond room was nice.

It wasn’t uncommon for Dungeons to have places of beauty. Something about what mankind couldn’t own and build on gave them a hidden mysterious vibe. Aneya knew that even in the most famous and explored Dungeons... there were most likely some hidden pockets of mystery that the Dungeons kept from them.

The ceiling was covered in glowing moss that made it look like a twinkling sea of stars had snuck in the entrance with them. Soft grass grew in patches. Odd rocks made for good seats and the lapping of fish broke what could have been a creepy silence.

The duck was the oddest fixture and honestly Aneya was getting bad vibes from the thing. However as she stared at the creature, something caught her eye.

She stood and went to stand close to Gonga.

“Is that a key?” she pointed to a hook set into the wall above the duck’s alcove. Gonga narrowed his expression before nodding.

“Looks like it. What do you think? Trap?” he asked, eyes never moving.

Aneya pursed her lips as she slightly moved back and forward.

“By trying to avoid traps last time, we set off another trap or penalty. Fishing didn’t set anything off but... maybe going for the duck could be a trap. ‘Be happy with fish and don’t eat the duck’ kinda thing,” she suggested. Gonga frowned.

“I’m not the most... in-the-know guy but this Dungeon is kinda thinking ahead... and that spider ain’t no common mob or trap,” he grunted. Aneya had to agree with that. Gonga nodded at the pond.

“Water is also super rich in Mana. All my energy is back after eating that fish. A Dungeon with a Mana Spring that has things living inside it that aren't monsters? That’s pretty... odd,” Gonga added.

Aneya blinked, returning her gaze to the water. Gonga was right.

Mana rich environments made monsters, or the chance for them to appear, rise vastly as a rule of thumb. The Dungeon should have no trouble changing these fish into lethal creatures if it wanted.

If... it wanted.

“The dungeon kept the harmless fish,” she noted, then looked around the area at the other odd feature that seemed to crop up far more after the Spider room.

The Mushrooms.

Different colours and shapes.

A few of them even seemed to... glow like stars trapped within a thin cage. Aneya had not been confident enough in her poisonous fungi lore to risk eating them. She was much better with hunting than foraging.

“Could be a special case. Dungeons are never the same. What has this one shown so far?” Aneya muttered to herself.

This was something she prided herself in. Being able to think and see things. Any decent adventurer that became a Dungeon wanderer knew the key to venturing into the unknown was seeing the signs.

So, Aneya tried to understand what they had seen.

The Spideroom had tiny potentially deadly spiders and a tree with berries near the center, as if to show a reward... Gonga’s burning it had made something worse appear.

Did this Dungeon work on bad behavior, punishing the idea of sins?

It had beautiful nature and did not react when Aneya fished for what was needed... was it against greed? Against humanity’s nature to ruin whatever mystery they stumbled upon?

Two rooms wasn’t enough for Aneya to readily read signs, let alone predict behavior. Though the actual signs around the place in and of themselves were weird.

Either the young Dungeon had been spurned and hurt by people not liking its... theme... or it was already more aware than a two-floored should be and had its own ideas.

Living close to Durence... Aneya couldn’t discard either theory just yet.

“Gonga, grab the key,” Delem called as he carefully put out the fire. As the flames died down, the atmosphere seemed to feel a little... less restful.

Less magical almost.

Gonga grinned.

“If some squid comes out of the water and grabs me, do that cool arrow trick for me?” Gonga winked at Aneya. She rolled her eyes.

“Try not to cause two disasters in less than an hour,” she retorted, but her hand rested on her bow to show she wouldn’t let him down.

The giant of a man peeled off his shirt and robe to reveal a heavily toned torso. Gonga was no library dust bunny. Aneya knew the man would be deadly with an axe or a spear, but she also knew Gonga.

So as Kemy picked up his clothes... Aneya notched an arrow just to be ready.

She could almost see the bottom of the pond but who knew what could be just under the sand? What monster might just look like a rock?.

Honestly, Aneya wanted to know what the deep blue glowing rock near the back of the pond was. It looked like a fallen star that pulsed with navy light.

Gonga slowly waded in and then he swam over to the alcove. Aneya followed the progress with the arrow nocked tight.

Her fingers were steady...

She had held this pose for much longer... under much worse circumstances. Nothing would touch Gonga without feeling her sting.

“Please watch over him...” Kemy prayed.

Nothing would make Kemy’s heartfelt words become wasted.

Gonga sat on the edge of the alcove and plucked the key without any issues. The duck next his large frame looked smaller than ever. Gonga grinned and he petted the duck.

The thing opened one red eye and Aneya felt her heart drop into her stomach.

“Think this little fella would be a nice supper or a mascot?” he called over as he slipped into the water, splashing the duck as he caused a slight wave.

The duck opened both eyes and its head slowly turned to look Gonga’s back. Kemy suddenly began to shake as the duck’s shape became blurry, almost leaving a dark orb with deep red eyes.

Gonga glowed with a similar dark red aura for a moment.

Aneya felt unsure of what to do... shooting the thing was the most obvious answer but Gonga had upset it first.

It didn’t exactly feel like that rated an arrow to the beak...

Gonga didn’t even seem to notice the effect but he suddenly went pale for a moment before he howled.

He reached out and pulled himself on to dry land where he batted at something small that was using a tiny claw to snip at Gonga’s...

Aneya looked down at her feet with a thin expression, her heart slowing down to a more normal beat as Gonga was screaming as some little crayfish tried to remove his ability to have kids.

Kemy screeched and began trying to kick it off in a panic which seemed to do far more damage than the crayfish.

The duck watched the scene as it preened.

Yeah... Aneya was keeping her arrows away from that thing.

Delem just watched this all with wide eyes.

A single box appeared before Gonga. They all bent down to read it as the man curled up to stop Kemy from ‘helping him’.

“Finish the Dungeon under... the Dark Drake's... curse?” Delem mumbled. Dark Drake?

They all looked at the duck which was still looking at them. The red eyes invited them to incur its wrath as well.

“I’m cursed?” Gonga said after a moment.

Curses... Aneya’s threat rating of this dungeon went from a 4 out of 6 to ‘Run away’.

Magic was not her expertise, but even Aneya knew how a curse required so much magic that it affected someone’s life every moment. The power to sustain such a curse... was monstrous.

Both in reasoning and the required amount of energy.

Kemy bent down and had one hand grasping the amulet around her neck.

“Kemy, don’t push yourself!” Aneya warned but the girl was muttering already.

“Goddess above, hear my plea... strike this trick from this man... heal his woes from trouble...” she prayed. The young woman’s body became infused with a golden aura.

The power of the Goddess of Truth surged through Kemy and her eyes snapped open as the golden light swallowed Kemy’s normally sweet expression.

A Priestess of Truth had taken Kemy’s place. The tone of her friend became authoritative and commanding.

“I banish this curse! I free you!” Kemy yelled as her power surged. A ripple of gold rolled over Gonga.

The black aura rose once more from Gonga’s skin to fight back against the light. To see her friend filled with her Goddess’ power always sent a shiver down Aneya’s spine. This was different than Gonga throwing fire about or her bouncing an arrow off of trees blindfolded.

This power was dangerous.

To be a priest or priestess was to be their instrument on this world. A frail young girl like Kemy could be a judge, jury, and executioner if the power of her faith was strong. It changed Kemy whenever she used it.

The golden aura bathed over the dark one but there was a ripple before the dark shadow totally faded. It seemed to crack and Kemy was knocked on her rear, the trance fading as the holy power left Kemy’s body.

Gonga’s curse, whatever it was, looked much weaker but it remained...

“I, Kemy, order you to... stop...dancing!” the girl mumbled as she stared up at the ceiling with distant eyes.

“Is she alright?” Gonga stood and winced as sparks of faith washed off his skin as they failed to find a devotee.

“The same as always when she uses too much power. Give her a minute,” Delem said calmly as he put his jacket under Kemy’s head.

“Please don’t pet anything or set anything else on fire without permission,” Aneya turned to Gonga. The large man nodded.

“This place is scary,” he agreed in his own way.

This Dungeon was bizarre, scary, and not a place that should be giving them trouble for the levels it supposedly had.

“We should leave for the day,” Aneya stated as Kemy slowly came around.

“Kemy will be fine and Gonga will listen a little better from now on. Every day we stall, the more likely the news will spread. If we can at least find the boss room, we can hold seniority for a while,” Delem disagreed. His tone held understanding for worry but his eyes seemed to be focused on something else.

“There’ll be other Dungeons. Something that can curse-” she began but Delem put a hand on her shoulder.

“This Dungeon is all about scary shit when you don’t respect it. Every room... every scrap of info can push us ahead in the game. This curse? Knowing about it gives us an edge,” he reminded her then he seemed to smile.

“And you know that if you try to leave because Kemy used her power, she’d be upset,” he added.

This was... annoyingly true.

She watched the duck as the others left the room.

It looked far more awake.

It was watching… Kemy.

Aneya glowered at it.

“Touch her and I’ll serve you on a skewer,” she growled into the room. She fully expected it try to curse her or glare back, but it merely ruffled its feathers and began to swim around in slow circles.

Whoever gave this Dungeon such a beast... Aneya was going to punch him.

---

Quiss watched as Ruli picked herself up from the ruined tree that she had been punted through.

“Can you stop? Between you, the lumberjack and now us... Durence is going to run out of trees and Dabberghast will get pissy,” he called. The red eyes and snarl was all the answer he got. Quiss blinked and a shield of white flames made the woman side step and give him time to point a finger at her.

“You’re beginning to piss me off,” he warned and Ruli side kicked the shield so hard it went up in smoke.

“Move before I use you to beat people up,” Ruli growled.

Quiss eyed the blackened area and odd pieces of glass that had been dirt and soil. The crushed rocks were all Ruli’s fault and Quiss would stick to that story.

“They’re just harmless kids... well young adults. They gotta experience Dungeons. You can’t just keep a Dungeon to yourself!” he tried to reason.

“You sound like my mother when I brought home a Chimera. I won’t... remove them. I’ll just watch them so they don’t fuck up. That’s good right? Knowing how not to fuck up!” Ruli tried to grin but her demon fangs were a little longer than usual due to her frustration.

“I don’t think dragging them about and hitting them until they agree not to do anything is helping,” Quiss answered dryly.

“Okay, make you a deal. If we both go to the Dungeon, you can stop me stopping them from fucking up!” Ruli nodded.

Demon energy made this woman so much more pig-headed than normal.

“I don’t want to go back in the Dungeon. It’s been three days since I was in there and I really really don’t want to see what Delta has done now. A few new torches... a couple of bats, no big deal but oh what’s this? Delta might have done something to her storeroom!” Quiss said hotly.

--

Aneya turned the key on the door which opened to a wide space with many shelves. A table of food nearby invited them to feast as barrels laid about filled with novice arrows and other items.

Interesting room but she couldn’t see why it’s key was guarded by the Duck.

Speaking of, Kemy gently petted the duck as it rested in her arms.

The damn thing had tricked Kemy into thinking it was sorry.

Kemy also had the willpower of a wet piece of bread when it came to animals. Short of throwing the duck away and making Kemy cry, Aneya had to deal with it...

She moved near the shelves and saw jars of honey... bundles of dried flowers... more odd pots... a couple of pig iron swords and shields. It was a mix and match of potentially useful things and maybe junk.

Like the apple and candy bar.

That was a little odd.

“Could be trapped,” Delem offered. Aneya didn’t see wires or pressure plates. Magically... she had no clue.

“Mr Duck, what do you think?” Kemy asked brightly. The duck eyed the room.

It quacked once.

“Mr Duck doesn’t think so,” Kemy announced. Aneya blinked once very slowly.

“Kemy... we’ve been over this. The talking cat you met in that one town was an exception... not the rule. You can’t speak animal,” she reminded. Kemy looked sad but the duck quacked again. This cheered Kemy up.

“Ducks are so cute,” she smiled.

Not that duck, but Aneya was getting distracted. Gonga was fishing in a barrel for loot but Delem was hovering near the feast table where another box was open. Aneya looked at Delem who was eyeing it.

“I know we should take things slow but this thing says we just have to catch something called ‘Merry’. No fail condition... could be easy and add some treasure under our belt,” he mused.

Aneya looked around the room.

That... didn’t sound so bad. With no protest from the searching Gonga, who had a wooden helmet fall on his head, and the distracted Kemy, who was still talking to the duck... Delem accepted the challenge.

That was when the mouse appeared.

---

Quiss was a little pressed for options. His usual idea would be to blow the area to little bits but being close to Durence and Delta... he had to be reasonable.

He watched as Ruli wrestled with the giant flame serpent that drooled molten slag.

That should at least buy him a few minutes. He pulled out a flask and took a deep drink. If he got drunk enough, he’d stop caring about everything so much and feel better. Until then... he watched Ruli rip her way out of the snake’s stomach with a howl of victory.

That was when it split into a bunch of smaller snakes and Quiss took another sip.

--

There was a beep and the mouse vanished with a cheeky wave.

Aneya twitched as she felt the honey from one of the jars in her hair. Gonga was buried somewhere under the fallen shelves of apples and pots. Delem had ended up hiding under the feast table and Kemy watched with wide eyes as oddly everything in the room fell short of her spot at the door or was strewn around her in a lucky streak. The duck, which was fast asleep in her arms, still managed to look smug.

“I might have been a little has-” Delem began but Aneya’s furious gaze silenced him as a splat of honey fell onto her boots.

The shelves seemed to mostly tip backwards and made the back wall of the place untouchable due to the sheer mess. Lucky for them it fell that way and not the way out.

Aneya slammed the door shut and locked it after shoving her party members out of the damn room, throwing the key down the hall with a snarl. She lead the way down the hall, looking for traps, as the only other way soon led to a new room that made Aneya’s rising temper reach levels that caused even the duck to stare at her.

Mud?” she hissed.

---

Quiss picked himself up and sighed at his flask, now empty. That wasn’t even close to getting him sloshed. He watched as Ruli cracked a small fire snake like a whip as she advanced on him.

“Reminds me of the few nights me and you got frisky,” Ruli snarled but her eyes were alight with excitement. Quiss sniffed as he snapped his fingers, making the weapon vanish.

“Yeah, I was thrown through a wall then as well,” Quiss remembered. The sad fact was that Ruli’s focused destruction had an edge over Quiss’ area denial powers. She could keep punting him towards Delta and Quiss wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

Well, he could, he just didn’t want to.

“Ruli, are you calming down yet?” he called and the growing horns on her head answered that.

Well, that left Quiss few options, didn’t it?

His hands held a single spark of fire that turned silver. Ruli froze.

“Yo..you’re using that?” she asked, taking a step back. Quiss smiled with a raised eyebrow.

“Not yet but I can,” he admitted. Ruli’s red eyes narrowed. Her clawed hands balled up into fists.

“I ain’t no tree, I can take a few hits,” she warned.

The almost bored air suddenly turned harsh as the two friends looked at each other. A demonic shadow with glowing red eyes that seemed to dim all light around her faced off against a man whose skin was slowly being covered in silvery veins that almost reached his eyes.

“Oi!” the word caused them both to pause.

They turned to see Haldi walking up the path with a sullen young man at his side.

“You two knock that off! Friends should be drinking together or having unexplored romantic tensions over the course of an adventure. Not wantonly blowing up the landscape!” the elder man chided. The silence made Quiss want to groan but Ruli cleared her throat.

“Haldi... I can’t romance Quiss. I need a warm bed and passion, not a wet blanket and a lecture,” she huffed.

“And I need someone who isn't a psycho,” Quiss stated bluntly which Ruli took no offence to as she almost agreed with him.

“Ah young love, isn’t that right, Fromage?” Haldi asked his young companion. The man looked at them and Quiss could swear he almost heard a... sad breeze of all things.

“I have never known love,” the man pushed his hair to the side and gazed with deep pain at them.

Quiss blinked.

“We got some nice ladies who’d be up for it. Got a few men too but they can be a bit weird,” Ruli offered.

The man seemed to struggle for a moment.

“Fromage came to visit me. He’s a friend of a friend. He tends to… do things,” Haldi actually frowned which was weird coming from the man.

“I defy expectations,” Fromage said, his hair doing some weird thing in a wind that didn’t exist.

“We’re off to the dungeon!” Haldi explained.

“We got greenhorns in... Might not be the best time,” Quiss announced. Haldi’s face froze for a moment before he smiled again.

“So soon, thought we’d have more time! Ah well, come on Fro, another day!” he said then eyed the two of them.

“You should let the kids have their fun, nothing ruins a good adventure like a mother hen,” the white haired man suggested, eyeing Ruli in particular.

Ruli looked aghast at the idea she would either care or be responsible.

Quiss was fine being a stick in the mud and going home if he never had to cross that stupid mud room again.

Fromage looked at the direction of the Dungeon.

“Our fate will bring us together… soon,” he called. Quiss had no idea how someone could speak in italics with words without air quotes but the young man managed it.

“He’s a worse nerd than you,” Ruli grumbled. Her eyes darted to Delta’s Dungeon in the distance and a touch of concern actually showed.

“Go home Ruli, I gotta make sure they aren’t breaking any laws and all that,” Quiss sighed, knowing full well he was going to regret this.

A pause stretched on for a moment.

“Thanks... just make sure Delta is... alright. Next round is on me,” Ruli said, eyes averted as she followed Haldi back into town. Quiss gave her huge back a strange look.

“Weird woman,” he grumbled.

He’d take a nap outside and if the group wasn’t back in an hour... Quiss would pop his head in.

That seemed fair.

Not a lot could go wrong in an hour.

---

Everything was going wrong.

Aneya watched in dismay as Kemy cheerfully jumped to her left and not Aneya’s.

Making it across had been easy enough for her nimble form but the others...

Gonga dripped with mud at her side while Delem was untouched. Kemy was about to fall forward into the mud as the platform of the room tilted dangerously. The motion caused a wave in the mud to bounce back off the walls and lift the platform up with oddly focused force.

Kemy let out a scream as she was sent flying clear to the other side.

Aneya could only stare in shocked surprise as the girl crashed into her. The last thing she saw was the smug Duck on the other side, watching this unfold before it turned, waddling back to the Pond room.

Then she saw the ceiling.

“Woah, that was some good luck, you nearly crashed into the wall!” Gonga praised. Delem helped Kemy up and Aneya just lay there... exhausted after four rooms. This Dungeon was murder on her nerves.

She reached under her back and hoped the pointy thing sticking out at an odd angle wasn’t her spine.

A broken arrow from her quiver dangled loosely between her fingers.

Aneya was both relieved and... yet, this arrow pissed her off more than the rat, the duck, the spider, or the mud. Aneya guessed it was one of those ‘last straw’ things she had heard so much about.

“I hope we can see Mr Duck before we leave!” Kemy chatted to Delem as he opened the wooden door leading into a small corridor. The wet earthy smell was actually stronger on that side of the door.

Considering Aneya had just dealt with a pit of mud... this wasn’t something she wanted to smell.

The number of mushrooms in this hall was almost worrying.

Did this place like mushrooms or something?

Delem lead the way and soon the answer became... abundantly clear.

This Dungeon loved mushrooms.

The wide open forest space before them did not have trees or flowers, but mushrooms that brushed the ceiling as clusters of different mushrooms gathered like bushes or thick walls, hiding anything in shadows.

Kemy looked up as she slowly spun.

“I’ve never seen mushrooms so big!” she gasped in delight. Aneya lightly tugged her away from standing underneath one of the tree-like mushrooms. Being covered in spores or poisonous dust would be a bad thing.

“I’m keeping my hands in my pockets here,” Gonga muttered. Those words were nice to hear. Some of these fungi looked odd.

Several black ones looked oily, which were a cause for concern. Some species Aneya just didn’t know but nothing in nature that turned black was usually good. Other mushrooms were some of those odd ones that had a glowing stalk inside the gap that made them look like stars.

Delem eyed the space as he carefully tread forward.

“Something smells good,” he blinked in confusion. He bent down to peer at a mushroom that looked like its stalk was made of golden butter and had pepper sprinkled over the cap.

“I never knew mushrooms could smell good uncooked,” Gonga blinked. Kemy tugged on Aneya’s arm.

“Look at that one!” she said and Aneya’s eyes landed on the most uncommon sight in the grove. A mushroom with a pale white cap that looked soft like silk. A green light shined from under the cap as the edge of the cap grew into tiny threads. Underneath the mushroom the earth looked... rich.

Kemy carefully bent down and Aneya spoke softly as if to not make the immobile mushroom run away.

“I saw a herb like that... it gave off a green light and its leaves were like silk bandages... but that’s an Aider Breath, a herb,” she said as Kemy waved a hand over the mushroom. A slight golden power flickered off her fingers.

“It’s... nice! I think... I don’t think its hiding anything evil,” Kemy announced as she plucked at it with a smile.

The problem was that the slight mound of earth the mushroom grew in shuddered as Kemy began to struggle to yank the thing free.

“Kemy, back away!” she warned but Kemy’s strength proved to be a winner as she tumbled back with the mushroom in her hands. The slight popping noise was loud.

QThe dirt before Aneya shuddered violently and began to rise. The dirty brown earth shifted to reveal not actually dirt or a mound but the unamused face of a big and now awake boar.

The mushroom Kemy had yanked free had been... growing... on the boar’s rump. The boar eyed the broken stalk where the mushroom had been sprouting from.

No one moved as it turned its dark eyes to Kemy.

“I... didn’t... mean it?” the younger girl offered. Aneya was going to assume the snorting nostrils and stamping feet meant that yanking a growing mushroom off of one's body probably hurt.

The boar gave a huge stomp forward and the running speed Aneya was worried about began to build up.

Aneya reached down and yanked her friend to her feet.

“Back to the door!” she barked the order out as she ran the other way, trying to draw the monsters attention. It mostly worked, the addition of Delem and Gonga rushing in helped too.

The boar charged at her and Aneya’s fiddlings with an arrow nearly caused her to be rammed through with a tusk but the boar lowered its head at the last minute and headbutted her through some mushrooms instead.

Aneya saw dancing caps and her vision swam for a second as her head rattled, her chest and back protested against her moving too much.

Ignoring that, she found her bow and arrows. She saw Delem being savagely kicked away with a single hoof, her leader rolling hard as he had the wind knocked out of him.

“DELEM!” Kemy yelled as she grasped her amulet but Aneya knew her remaining use of her Goddess’ power was low. She hoped the girl saved it for a much needed heal if it came up. Gonga roared and his staff wedged the boar slightly up but the animal did something very odd.

It’s head, which was near the ground, reached over and snagged one of the glowing mushrooms that looked like a star with its tongue. Aneya was about to take her shot, but the boar’s eyes lit up in a magical manner and the damn thing fired lasers from its eyes.

Gonga, thankfully, was knocked back rather than burned to a crisp but the mage of the group yelled as the black mark on his chest burned where he had been hit.

Her arrow flew true and struck hard into the back leg of the boar. It howled and turned its furious glare her way, but she took a risk and climbed the mushrooms for some space. She’d take some toxins over being gored to death.

Her ‘tree’ was knocked violently as the boar crashed into it and Aneya had to jump to another one quickly. Another arrow was shot in a hurry as she landed but it landed in the thick hide, doing almost nothing.

“Get back to the entrance! Both of you!” Gonga screamed, holding his staff.

“Let us try before you resort to more explosions!” Delem ordered. The large mage nodded quickly, not arguing with the leader. Delem pulled out a sword that was almost blended into the drab clothes he wore.

“Gonga, lend me your power!” he asked. Aneya kept leading the boar on a chase as she leapt from mushroom to mushroom, peppering her arrows into it.

It was nothing more than a distraction but Aneya knew a plan when she heard it.

Gonga’s chanted loudly and instead of the messy fire that Gonga favoured... he waved a hand over Delem and the man’s sword was covered in a shimmering blue flame. When Delem swung it with a quick test, it left behind a blur of blue in its wake.

Gonga had a rather firm grasp of the basics of fire magic. Enchanting weapons was just something he didn’t use much when he could just blow things up, but with the number of mushrooms here... Aneya would rather not see what a smoke made up the sheer variety of mushrooms here would do.

Delem watched as the boar turned to him, Aneya guessed it was getting bored chasing a running target like herself.

“Come here... and leave my team alone,” he beckoned with his blade. This angered the animal, as if furious a stranger would dare to order it about.

It smashed its foot into the ground as it began to build up a charge. Delem’s stance changed subtly as he palmed his sword to his side, eyes never faltering.

The boar let loose with a war cry of a challenge and rushed forward again, the ground below it’s body exploding at the force. Aneya had another arrow ready but she knew better than to shoot now, it might do more harm than good if Delem was ready for the attack.

The boar’s tusk looked like it was about to touch Delem. Their eyes meeting as close as they could get... then Delem shifted, sliding to the side of the boar as the tip of the blade dragged along the boar’s side, the fire leaping eagerly onto the musty hair of the beast.

Sparks caught and the thing went up in a crackling inferno.

Aneya felt her pride at Delem rise once again. The man’s talent showed once again why he was the leader. Delem watched as the blade lost the fire after one attack. The boar stumbled as it roared with fury, the fire gathering on its back.

It seemed to fall to the ground for a moment as the flames reached their peak. Aneya jumped down and readed her arrow as Delem moved to quickly end the creature. They had won, there was no need to make the thing suffer. No one here enjoyed that kind of sick thing.

The sword swung down with a hint of finality.

---

She eyed the screen. She just couldn’t look away.

“They... unlocked a... Mini-boss?” Delta choked as Sys beeped cheerfully as the conditions were revealed.

“Oh. That’s sort of unfair...” Delta pointed out as she saw Boary’s form explode out with enough force to send the sword flying out of Delem’s hand.

The size and shape were pretty much the same but the mane along her guardian’s back was made of flames, rather than hair. The boar snorted out black smoke, and as it neared a Gutrot mushroom, the thing exploded with a small boom.

A chorus of singers hit notes that reflected how demonic the scene looked. Delta had to ban Maestro from using songs from that game.

She didn’t want to encourage the atmosphere!



Delta stared as any mushrooms that Boary neared were ignited. The starlight mushrooms let out dazzling sizzles, the Gutrots exploded... the delicious mushrooms smelled really good...

Still...

Delta could only watch helplessly as her awesome mushroom grove suddenly went from mystical wonderland to hellish inferno as Firemane charged with twin snorts of fire shooting out of his nose.

--

Mr Mushy walked cheerfully through the tavern. He had spent a good afternoon helping his brother make music... but now... he wanted to go pet Boary and relax while he waited to see the new people!

Mr Mushy hoped they would like some pots... maybe he could show them the nice mushrooms that grew in his home?

He was sure they would like that, that and his friend, Mr Boary! He closed his eyes in pleasure and excitement.

He couldn’t wait!



----

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A note from stewart92

In a few hours on patreon, I will be creating a small poll where supporting folks with $10 can vote on 3 out of 10 options on picking special Pygmy Champions to appear in the following chapters.

Trust me... they're all lethally.... adorable.


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