Someone was screaming.
The reaction was understandable, as three Chaos Lizards ran in a chevron formation, circling Goldberg's Gun and Pawn, hissing their reptilian hiss. Melmat watched the scene from the safety provided by his third floor hotel room. His emotions were surging, but totally concealed. His disciples, however had been completely overcome, their adrenaline clearly more powerful than their training. They pointed, and ran their hands through their hair. One of them was sweating profusely.
Melmat held up a hand. “Yes. Do you now see the truth of my words?”
The man nodded, and looked humbled. Another disciple held an expensive camera, mounted on a tripod, attention trained on the three dungeon spawn who continued to circle the building and hiss loudly.
“Why aren't they attacking, master?” The cameraman asked, recording every second.
Melmat's face remained smooth, totally focused on the scene before him. “I expect we will find out soon enough.”
Something changed in the Chaos Lizards, and the lead one bellowed a gurgling, throaty yell before spraying acid at the building from the many eyes covering it's body, then crashing into the weakened wall. The other lizards lept and pushed their way inside as well.
Melmat watched, and an all too human feeling of shame welled up inside of him. He, more than any other, had the blood of whatever unfortunate souls were in that building on his hands. His training would allow him to instantly banish the feeling, leaving his mind lucid and calm. Yet, rather than banishing the emotion, he transformed it into grief and resolve. He had a feeling that by the time this was over there would be a lot more blood on-
A pulse of blue light came from the pawnshop, then two more. The front door to the building burst open, and a girl in expensive designer clothing ran out into the street, looking crazed with fear.
Librorum reacted as quickly as the desire rose in Melmat, dilating his perception of time so that seconds seemed like minutes. His vision sharpened, then zoomed in on the tiny distant woman, making her suddenly life-sized. Melmat examined her, and saw a faint trail of blue light coming from her fingertips. He stared at the light for a long while, the implications wildly exceeding even the grandest expectations him and his master had theorized.
The girl had channeled mana. She had done magic. It wasn't all in vain.
When time resumed it's normal pace, Melmat found his heart was pounding.
From the building burst the Chaos Lizards, one of them holding a fat, screaming man in it's bloody jaws. It threw the man to the ground like a dog playing with a toy, and doused him in acid. The man's screaming, and all his troubles in the world, ended. As the three lizards descended on the corpse, the woman took the chance to run as fast and as far as she could.
Johnnie Smith had seen, and been responsible for many of the stranger and uglier things this world had to offer. He had once seen a man chop off his own hand and feed it to pigs, just to delay the inevitable; the rest of the man had shortly followed. He had seen a man he once called a friend shoot three people in a drunken rampage over two peanuts in a bar. He'd even seen someone stone cold sober kill four armed, superior opponents with his bare hands.
Staring at the Chaos Lizards from his ground level room as they chowed down on poor Mr. Goldberg, however, was by far the ugliest. He knew they were called Chaos Lizards, how could he not? They had the words 'Chaos Lizard' floating over their heads in green letters. Very straightforward. Johnnie was on the first floor of Hope's luxury hotel, which was officially a Motel Six, albeit a five star motel six. Watching the lizards toss bloody chunks into the air and catch them, like they were doing a happy trick made Johnnie realize he hadn't eaten anything in a while. He couldn't help it, he loved to eat, and made a mental note to get some fried chicken delivered to his room.
He grabbed a cup of coffee, careful not to take his eyes off the scene. 'Someone should really do something about this,' he thought as he watched. He stared at the lizard closest to him and marveled at how ugly it was. Alligator scales, six legs and a bunch of acid spraying glands along the side of it's body. Johnnie couldn't get a good look at the heads of the lizards, and was glad they were focused on their meal. God knew what would happen if something else caught their attention.
He pulled his gun from the nearby nightstand, and the shiny chrome glinted in the sunlight. Near the tip of the tail of the lizard closest to him, one of the acid glands pointed in his direction and squinted. Was that an eye? He could have sworn it was shooting acid earlier. With his free hand, he grabbed his coffee cup and quickly took a sip.
“Well that's strange.”
The Chaos Lizard lifted it's head from the pile of bloody chunks that had once been Goldberg, turned, and began running in his direction. Straight at his window, to be exact.
Johnnie let loose a blistering curse and began running towards the door to his room. He fired a couple of shots from the large gun, each shot connecting and visibly impacting the creature, throwing it off balance. It hissed and began to spray acid in all directions, looking for the source of the attacks. It focused on some movement off in the distance and began running, leaving a dripping trail of antifreeze green blood behind it.
“Oh Jesus, oh fuck, not a dream,” Johnnie said, back to the door, keeping eyes locked on the two remaining lizards, still occupied with eating. He exited the room and ran down the hall, knocking on several of them as he passed while shouting “If you've got a gun and a set of balls, grab 'em both and meet me in the lobby!”
Johnnie went back to his room and pulled a large case out from under his bed. Inside of it was a mostly assembled automatic rifle, and five loaded magazines. With swift, mechanical motions, Johnnie assembled the gun and did a quick inspection of the magazines.
“Hollow point,” he said softly to no one in particular. “Nice.”
He exited the room, gun pointed down, walking briskly. He pounded his fist on every door he passed.
In the lobby about five other men were waiting, each with various forms of highly illegal automatic weaponry. Johnnie gestured out the front door.
“You see all that out there?”
A couple of the men nodded. One who had not nodded spoke up “I didn't see anything, but I hear one hell of a commotion. What's going on?”
Johnnie spat. “Looks like a trio of saltwater crocodiles swam through some nuclear waste and came out with an extra set of legs and a real bad attitude. They just tore through the Fence's shop and ate Chaim. God willing, they're still eating him and distracted. Now's not the time for questions, these things are rampaging.”
Johnnie, without further warning, turned, lifted his weapon and pushed his way out the front door, eyes down the barrel.
Two of the lizards were still fighting over Goldberg, and the third was missing. Johnnie opened fire, the rapid mechanical procession of bullets tearing open the side of one of the Chaos Lizards. It hissed in pain and protest, unable to turn as the kinetic pressure of the bullets forced it to topple. Some sort of red field burst out from the creature and shattered like glass, after which the creature immediately stopped moving. By the time the first lizard had been killed, the rest of the posse came out of the building, formed a firing line, and unloaded their weapons at the remaining lizard, which seemed frozen in shock as the bullets ripped through it's body. It collapsed, and another red field came from the body and shattered.
A man dressed in vaguely religious clothing briskly walked through the assembled men, drawing angry protest which he ignored. Several other men, dressed similarly, stood in front of the armed men and began speaking in soothing, but firm, tones. Johnnie watched as the man walked to the nearest of the Lizard Corpses, pause and look over his left shoulder, nod, and touch the body. Instantly, a blue window appeared in front of him, with several icons on it with text next to them. The man touched the window, and the lizard's body vanished, leaving a tidy pile of skin, some coins and a large green rock.
The man, visibly shaking, moved to the other body and repeated the process. The same items appeared, with one small addition. A jade ring hovered in the air for a moment, then dropped. It never touched the ground, because the man caught it and put it in his pocket.
Louden had finally gotten the adrenaline rush from the battle out of her body, just in time for a second flood to saturate her system as she relived a specific portion of the memory. The lizards had been bearing down on her, and when she threw out her hands to defend herself. . .
“Oh my God, I think I've got superpowers.” Her face broke into a crazy grin and she ran back to the RV where the rest of her friends would doubtless be. All of her issues, all of her doubts had been burned away by what she'd just experienced. Louden knew she'd made mistakes, that she had let everybody down over and over again. Not anymore, she thought now I've got something to give back, something useful to contribute. It would be just like that time in high school, when she'd saved everybody's life. She was the hero, once again. She threw open the door and was about to speak, when the sight of Polk holding a small orb of soft white light in her hands turned her body cold.
“Louden? What's going on?” she asked. Louden slumped and sat down in the nearest available seat.
“Nothing,” she said “Nothing at all.”
“You look absolutely wrecked, and those new clothes are filthy. What happened?” Everyone was looking at her now, and nobody seemed mad anymore. Louden's face, much to her absolute shock, turned beet red, and she started to sob; great wracking, chest heaving, ugly crying. Her mortal embarrassment mingled with a crazy cocktail of other emotions, hormones, the ambient mana and stress only fueled the sobs to an even higher degree.
When Vaughan came over and silently put his arm around her, that's when the dam inside of her broke, and she lost her ability to be Louden for a while, transformed into a scared child who'd seen too damn much.
She was in good company.
Your group has completed a quest!
The end of Hope!
Dungeon spawn from another plane of existance have invaded and are headed for the town of Hope. End the threat! Accept this quest and you will recieve tools to assist you.
Though your group did very little to defend the town, the town is safe once again! Dungeon spawn from a chaotic realm seeking to establish a permanant foothold on the newly opened material plane will continue invade. Grow strong, grow wise, grow!
While inside any environment with stable ambient mana, you will have access to the new System of Human Advancement. As beta testers of this system, you have the an opportunity few in all universes will ever be afforded. Hurry back to the dungeon and test your new abilities
Reward: A town full of living humans! Bonus! You have gained the quest, test your might!
Test your Might!
Return to the dungeon and begin developing the SoHA!
Defeat one hundred monsters, and clean up the remaining Dungeon Spawn who have invaded!
Bonus objectives; Bring individuals of great skill, mental prowess and spiritual power to the dungeon as a sacrifice for humanity's greater good.
Issued by SoHA