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Juniper’s plan to get through the dungeon was deceivingly simple, but also kind of tricky to pull off. It was within the ‘rules’ of the dungeon as they could see it, or, at least as they had tested it. Juniper had made Willow walk to one far edge of the cave they spawned in and summon the silence bubble around her as the others walked to the other end of the cave, testing how far the spell reached. It was a decent range, but not that far, about nine to ten feet, definitely a doable range to keep them all covered at the same time.

Dawn: Are we sure on this?

He looked over the others in the group, finally his eyes falling on Willow, who nodded.

Meadow: I guess. We can always retry if it doesn’t work.

But for now, this seemed the best course of action.

Violet: That’s the spirit.

Violet grinned and as a group they walked over to the cat, who looked them over. As soon as they got near, it changed into the lynx again, and when Willow reached out to it, because it looked really soft and would probably feel really good under her fingers, it darted away into the tunnel.

Willow looked back at the others one last time before she stepped into the darkness of the tunnel ahead. It instantly became lighter as they moved further along, guiding them along.

Up ahead was a widening of the tunnel, another cave-like place, that was where Juniper said that the first creatures were.

Willow pulled a quick sprint to get closer to the lynx, trying to keep it well within the bubble of the silence spell. Then, as soon as the cat stepped into the cave, Willow started channelling the spell.

The only clue she had that it worked was that she couldn’t hear the creaking of her body anymore, a sound she’d actually gotten really used to while playing, even if it had surprised her at first.

She kept her eyes on the cat, trying to keep the channelling going and staying as close to the cat as possible. From the corner of her eyes, she could see some of the others walk nearby. They were all staying within her bubble so that they didn’t have to worry about sounds.

The lynx suddenly jumped up on some crates that were thrown around the place and then jumped off them again, an interactive element popping up over it. The interactive element looked like the half-circles that some old school devices used to indicate how loud a sound was. It startled Willow, she hadn’t expected it and almost made her break the cast of the silencing spell.

Juniper: Keep going, they’re not hearing anything. It’s going well.

Willow dared to look up higher into the cave and the trolls on the ledge were still with their back to them. Juniper had been right, they only reacted to sounds that they could actually hear. The interactive element of the lynx may have popped up, but they couldn’t hear it.

The cat moved again and Willow tried to stay as close as possible to it. She could do this. They’d almost made it to the end of the first cave.

As soon as the lights around her dimmed again and they’d reached the next tunnel part, Willow dropped the silencing cast, feeling a little worse for wear by now. The channelling of the spell pretty tiring to do. The mana drain of the spell wasn’t a joke either, but this way, they could all complete the quest without Willow having to learn how to sneak, hopefully.

She checked the progression bar of the dungeon, 22%. Okay, they had to keep moving, because the lynx hadn’t stopped when they did. Juniper had made it as far as the first cave on her first try, so now they were getting into unknown territory.

Willow started walking again and the others kept following her closely. She pulled a quick sprint as she saw the next cave come up, trying to get a little ahead of the lynx this time. She glanced at her mana, about three quarters full, they’d had to chance it.

Willow took a deep breath and started channelling the silencing cast again, all sounds disappearing from around her. As she moved through the cave, she kept glancing around, trying to predict the path the cat would take as she stayed close to it.

Opal: Don’t worry, we’ll focus on the rest, you just stay with the cat.

She nodded, but also saw that her mana was running low-ish and they still had a while to go in this cave.

Dawn: Don’t worry. Stay focused.

She felt his hand on her shoulder and then her mana pool stopped shrinking, instead staying stable. Dawn had a spell that replenished mana pools, but with the drain of the constant cast, it would be hard for him to keep up with it, but it gave them more time if she didn’t run as as fast this time.

Next to her, the lynx did the ‘sound’ thing again, where it would jump on top of something and then down from it and the icon appeared. Sage shot forward, interacting with it the icon and a message appeared in front of her.

*The cat couldn’t let out a sound.*

But that was all, nothing else happened. As the lynx moved again, they were travelling to the other side of the cave.

What kind of dungeon was this? Just caves and tunnels? Apart from trying to keep up with the lynx, what else was there to it?

Rotnem: Keep going, we’re almost there.

Willow looked up and saw the next tunnel and relief flooded her. Finally! But as she no longer looked down, she lost her footing and stumbled, breaking the silencing spell.

No. No, no, no!

She tried to cast it again, but her mana was now too low to initiate the cast.

No!

She fearfully looked around, trying to figure out where the creatures who could spot them were, but couldn’t find them before Soleil grabbed her arm and dragged her the last distance to the tunnel.

Opal: What happened?

He ran right next to her, staying with her as his eyes kept going from side to side.

Meadow: Tripped.

Opal: Jikes.

Though, the dungeon didn’t give a clue that they’d triggered some alarm or something, and there weren’t any angry troll sounds or anything, and to top it off the lynx calmly walked past them as they were recovering from the surprise.

Meadow: We’re still good, I think.

Juniper nodded, her hand on her chest as she breathed deeply.

Juniper: Seems to be.

Dawn: How is your mana?

Meadow: Not good.

It was still recovering, but it was going slowly, and since they’d probably have to cross another one or two of these caves… She needed a lot more of it. And with the lynx just keeping moving on, they didn’t have the time to let her recover normally.

Dawn: Here.

A trading screen popped up between them and Dawn had put a mana potion in it. Willow didn’t normally carry them, her inventory space was much too valuable for it and she didn’t use them anyway, but it was pretty handy right now.

Meadow: Thanks.

She accepted the mana potion and drank it, her mana immediately replenishing about half of the total pool. That was a potent potion and she glanced at Dawn, who grinned. The guy had a high alchemy skill, which did come in handy for this, though it hadn’t been through potions like this that he’d gotten there… The guy seemed to have a preference to making bombs and other explosive things with his skill instead…

Juniper: Not to be a bother, but we’ve got to keep moving.

Willow looked around and saw the lynx had walked pretty far ahead of them. She let out a short sigh before pulling a sprint over to it, the last few moments she could feel how the skill was running down its timer as the world around her felt ‘heavier’, like running through water, and as she started walking normally again, that feeling disappeared.

*You have reached sprint level 52.*

She smiled at the notification. Sprinting was a pretty easy skill to level, as it just grew the more she used it. Although, now that she’d reached max level for her main class and she was nearing there with her skills too, the notifications showed up much less frequently.

The end of this tunnel came in view, another cave opening up.

Meadow: Okay, let’s do this!

***

Willow watched nervously as her mana pool got down from triple digits into the double digits… She was running low on it and that was with Dawn constantly casting the replenishing mana skill too. It was just a little further. This last cave was much harder than the previous ones as they had to walk quite closely past the trolls and they were at the end of the cave, they could see into the next tunnel already.

Almost there. Almost… Willow couldn’t break the channelling spell now or they’d be found out. They were only a couple of feet away from a group of trolls. Luckily, this dungeon only reacted to sounds, although, Willow’s undead stench was probably easily hidden by the stench from the trolls themselves…

Come on. Come on…

Some of the others walked in front of her now, trying to get as far away from the trolls as they could, in case her spell ran out before they reached the end of the cave.

Willow took shallow breaths, totally focused on not being detected, on being as quiet as possible, as silent as possible. They had to make it. They had to. They’d gotten this close, they could totally do it!

She felt Dawn’s hand on her shoulder grip her tighter, and as she glanced up to the mana and health of the others in the party, she saw that Dawn’s mana was also running dangerously low. He couldn’t keep this up for much longer either.

They had to make it.

In front of them, Juniper shimmered and turned her sneaking skill on as she made a beeline for the other end of the cave, to the tunnel and as she reached it, sparks circled around her. What? That was the end of this dungeon already? Really?

Juniper: Run!

Sage: It’s too far.

Juniper: Run! This is the end. When you’re here, you’re safe.

Soleil darted past, she’d been the only one still walking behind Willow, keeping an eye on monsters behind them. She ran to Juniper and even though the trolls behind them made some sounds, as soon as the shimmers around her started, they quieted down again.

Okay. That seemed to work.

Willow only had thirty mana left… That was dangerously low.

Meadow: Run!

They had to start running before the cast was over or they’d all be caught.

Sage and Opal looked at her, but then nodded and ran over to Juniper and Soleil. Now it was just Violet, Dawn and her left. They were the last ones.

Dawn: When I say go, we run. I have just enough mana left.

Left for what? She was about to ask it but then she saw the little icon for Dawn’s speed spell pop up and both Violet and Dawn pulled her along to the end of the tunnel.

He never did warn her to start running… She had to drop the silencing cast, she couldn’t keep it up anymore, she was too exhausted and running and casting weren’t a good combination.

Behind them, the trolls started to make a lot of noises and as she glanced behind them, they were getting closer and closer, totally ignoring the lynx, running straight past it, right for them.

They weren’t going to make this! This wasn’t going to work.

The trolls would get to them and they would have to start all over again!

But right as one of the trolls was about to grab the back of her cape, everything stopped and a swirl of light danced around her.

They’d reached the end of the dungeon! They’d made it.

As Willow was trying to catch her breath, she saw the lynx reach the end too, and a new cave a little further into the tunnel lit up.

They stumbled to the final cave, everyone a little out of breath and Willow felt strangely giddy. This was… Wow.

She let herself drop to the floor as her breathing got a little easier again and watched as her mana refilled. That had been such a rush, so different from just running a dungeon and trying to kill things as fast as possible, this was a totally different experience.

*You’ve completed the dungeon.*

*You caught the cat’s footfall.*

*Bind Fenrir 1/6 completed.*

The words hovered in front of her, reminding her why they’d gone into this dungeon to begin with. When they’d hit the second cave, it had become much more about being as quiet as possible and getting through it, she’d kind of forgotten why they were here, the game had changed for her.

But they did it. They’d gotten the first part of the quest done now. They only had five more items to find now… And if they were all dungeons like this… she had no idea how soon they’d finish the whole quest…

This could take a while.

But if it brought the group together like this… it would be totally worth it! It would definitely be worth it.

Now, she just had to sit down for a while, because draining so much mana for long stretches of time was exhausting and drinking mana potions didn’t really help with the general energy drain of casting a spell, it just replenished her mana. It was more like caffeine, it gave a temporary boost to energy, mana in this case, but it didn’t stop the exhaustion and it only got worse the longer she kept going.

She closed her eyes, just for a moment. She was so tired.

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