“It’s pretty slow,” Jason said. “If we get back behind the fence, is it strong enough to hold it?”

“Not sure,” Hiram said. “It’s mostly to keep out people. The magic is just to stop the water from ruining it, not make it any stronger.”

“I guess we fight, then,” Jason said reluctantly.

“I guess so,” Hiram said, equally lacking in enthusiasm.

The creature was moving up the tunnel, but at a lethargic pace. Its crab legs were better suited to sideways movement than forwards, so it was shuffling side to side as it approached. The back and forth motion was hampered by the curved sides of the pipe-like tunnel.

“You have any essences?” Jason asked. “Is that what I’ve been feeling in your aura, there?”

“One,” Hiram said. “You’re an adventurer? I thought the people with you were the adventurers.”

“They are,” Jason said. “I have the essences, but they’re very new.”

“You can try them out here then,” Hiram said. “I guess you’re in luck.” Hiram said, causing Jason to chuckle.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Jason said. “How lucky I am to be here.”

The creature continued moving closer, its legs tapping on the stone as it slowly zigzagged up the tunnel.

“Any idea on how we should do it?” Jason asked.

“I have a might essence,” Hiram said. “It makes me strong. If I tie up those pincers, think you can get around them and kill it?”

Jason looked at the creature. His knife wouldn’t do much to the hard shell, but was just right for digging into the segmented joints.

“Yeah, I think I can do that.”

Hiram looked at the knife in his hand and shoved it back into it’s sheath before striding down the tunnel. Jason followed behind, his own knife at the ready.

As they drew closer, one of the pincers shot out and Hiram caught it in one hand. The stocky man and the creature struggled back and forth, but Hiram didn’t employ his second hand. He waited for the second pincer and grabbed that one too.

Hiram stood with hands over his head, a pincer gripped in each one. His arms swayed like branches in a storm, but his body was the tree’s unmoving trunk.

Seeing Hiram and the monster in a stand-off, Jason knew it was time to act. The sides of the round tunnel curved up, wet and smooth. Closest to flat was the middle of the tunnel, which was unfortunately full of monster.

Jason had two options for getting behind it. One was trying to slip past on the outside, risking the slippery walls. The other, more terrifying option was to crawl underneath the monster’s body. It’s crab legs emerged from either side of the body, leaving the a large open space underneath.

He ruled out crawling under the monster because it would involve crawling under a monster. Instead he rushed forward, trying to half-slide along the pipe to get past the creature’s legs.

He failed immediately. His feet slipped out from under him and he slid down into the creature’s legs. It raised one of them, which Jason realised tapered into a point as it came down and stabbed into him.

Jason cried out with pain, but he still held a death-grip on his dagger. He slid the blade across the monster’s leg, skittering over the hard shell until it found a vulnerable joint. The knife slotted right in between the plates of shell and he sliced the edge across the cartilage.

As the dagger cut into flesh, he used one of his abilities. He felt power surge out from deep inside his body, electric and exhilarating. It passed through his arm and into the dagger, filling the weapon with magic.

Ability: [Leech Bite] (Blood)

  • Special attack (melee, drain, wounding, blood)
  • Cost: Low stamina.
  • Cooldown: None.
  • Current rank: Iron 0 (00%)
  • Effect (iron): Inflicts or refreshes the [Bleeding] condition. Drains a small amount of health and stamina when refreshing the [Bleeding] condition.
  • [Bleeding] (affliction, wounding, blood): Deals ongoing damage by causing or increasing blood loss. As a wounding effect, this condition absorbs and negates an amount of incoming healing, after which this affliction immediately ends.

As Jason yanked the knife free, blood sprayed out of the joint. The monster raised its leg sharply, pulling it free of Jason while releasing a high-pitched, alien shriek. Along with Jason’s power, the magic of his snake-tooth dagger did its own work.

  • Weapon [Night Fang] has inflicted [Umbral Snake Venom] on [Shab].

Jason scrambled to escape its legs as one of them rose up, poised to stab him again. He found himself directly underneath the creature, laying on his back. In front of him was the creature’s underbelly, which turned out to be fleshy and unprotected by shell. Jason called up the power within him again, raking the vulnerable underside with his dagger.

Ability: [Punish] (Sin)

  • Special attack (melee, curse)
  • Cost: Low mana.
  • Cooldown: None.
  • Current rank: Iron 0 (00%)
  • Effect (iron): Inflicts necrotic damage and the [Sin] affliction.
  • [Sin] (affliction, curse, stacking): All necrotic damage taken is increased. Additional instances have a cumulative effect.

Blood and other fluids splashed over Jason from long wound, leaving him spluttering salty fluid as he shimmied on his back out behind the creature. The monster itself went wild at the wound to its underside, breaking it’s pincers out of Hiram’s grip and flailing about with more high-pitched shrieking.

One of the monster’s legs impaled one of Jason’s by accident as the creature thrashed about. It didn’t seem to notice, yanking its leg back out again. Jason turned himself over and crawled painfully away, still spitting out monster juice.

After getting free of the maddened monster, Jason looked back to see Hiram doing his best to hold the creature’s attention, both arms wrapped around one of the pincers. Without getting up Jason held a hand out toward the creature and chanted out a spell.

“Your fate is to suffer.”

There was no visible effect, but Jason felt the power surge out of him to enact itself upon the creature.

Ability: [Inexorable Doom] (Doom)

  • Spell (curse)
  • Cost: Moderate mana.
  • Cooldown: None.
  • Current rank: Iron 0 (00%)
  • Effect (iron): Periodically applies an additional instance of each stacking curse, disease, poison or unholy affliction the target is suffering from. This is a curse effect. This effect cannot be cleansed while any other curse or any disease, poison or unholy affliction is in effect.

Jason forced himself to his feet, ignoring the pain from his stabbed leg and abdomen as he limped further from the creature.

“Hiram!” Jason yelled past the creature. “Let it go and back off. It’ll die on its own.”

On the long wagon ride through the desert, Jason had spent hours going over his abilities, discussing with the others how to use them. Except Anisa, who refused to help him use his ‘unclean powers.’ The time spent strategising proved its worth now as he knew to withdraw and let the afflictions to do their work. It was obvious when considering things calmly beforehand, but in the heat of the moment he may well have kept attacking, putting himself and Hiram at unnecessary risk.

Jason’s first special attack had inflicted the bleeding affliction. This was effectively a powerful anticoagulant, making blood loss all the worse. The second special attack inflicted a curse called sin that increased any necrotic damage that was suffered. The dagger inflicted a necrotic poison, which was amplified by the curse. Finally, Jason’s spell would continually stack up both the poison and curse, increasing their effect. The result of all this was an exponentially escalating necrosis that would inevitably overcome the creature. All they had to do was wait.

Jason and Hiram backed off while the monster between them thrashed about. Dark fluids started oozing from its joints as it staggered forward toward Hiram, but soon it collapsed, the dying flesh in its legs unable to hold the creature’s weight. The pincer’s lifted up weakly in a last gesture of defiance before falling still.

  • You have defeated [Shab].


Quest: [Waterfall Monster]

  • Objective complete: Defeat shab 1/1.
  • 50 [Water Quintessence Gems] have been added to your inventory.
  • Quest complete.
  • 100 [Iron Rank Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.

Jason was happy with how his abilities worked out, although he had one major concern. He was reliant on necrotic damage for his abilities to take full effect and his only current source of that damage was not his abilities, but his magic dagger. The others assured him that he would get such a power, but until then he would be reliant on an external tool.

Hiram and Jason cautiously approached the creature from either side. Jason had two painful wounds and he could see an injury on Hiram’s arm. Hiram stood over the creature, cradling his bleeding arm.

“What did you do to it?” Hiram asked.

The monster was oozing black fluid from under its shell, which gave off a horrifying stench.

“I wasn’t confident about cracking that shell, “ Jason said, “so I killed it from the inside out.”

Jason held hand over the creature and chanted a spell.

“As your life was mine to reap, your death is mine to harvest.”

Ability: [Blood Harvest] (Blood)

  • Spell (drain).
  • Cost: Low mana.
  • Cooldown: None.
  • Current rank: Iron 0 (00%)
  • Iron: Drain the remnant life force of a recently deceased body, replenishing health, stamina and mana. Only affects targets with blood.

Dark red light rose up from within the creature. Jason’s aura sense told him it was the monster’s remnant life force made visible. It siphoned up into Jason’s hand, draining away from the dead monster. As it did, Jason felt the sting of healing flesh as his wounds closed over. His body was reinvigorated as his stamina and mana were replenished. As he consumed the red light, the flesh inside the shell withered, the shell itself growing brittle and crumbling. By the time the red light was fully devoured, the monster was little more than a withered husk.

Hiram had been looking askance at Jason as he recited sinister spells and drained the residual life force from the monster.

“Did you just say you were harvesting death?” Hiram asked.

“It’s just the incantation for a spell,” Jason said.

“You sound like an evil farmer.”

“You didn’t even see my evil trowel.”

Jason pulled a rag and a bottle of water from his inventory, cleaning his dagger before slipping it back into its sheath. He then tapped a finger on the gutted shell of the monster.

  • Would you like to loot [Shab]?

“You might want to stand back for this,” Jason said. “There’s going to be a smell.”

“Worse than the one that’s there already?” Hiram asked.

“Yeah,” Jason said. “it’s worse.”

They backed off and Jason gave his mental assent to loot the body. What was left of the monster rapidly dissolved into rainbow coloured smoke before vanishing.

Tragically, Jason had forgotten the monster fluids that had splattered onto him while he was underneath it. They too dissolved, the rainbow smoke coming from his nose and mouth where the fluids had splashed into them. He fell to the ground, heaving his breakfast onto the base of the tunnel.

“You alright?” Hiram asked.

Eventually Jason gave a coughing nod.

  • [Monster Core (Iron Rank)] has been added to your inventory.
  • [Shell-Skin Potion] has been added to your inventory.
  • 10 [Iron Rank Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.

“Not worth it.”

Jason took a tin of healing unguent from his inventory and handed it over to Hiram.

“You know what that is?” Jason asked.

Hiram pulled the lid off the tin, sniffing at the contents. He nodded and immediately started rubbing ointment into his bloody arm.


Griff called out from the other side of the fence.

“I came back when I couldn’t see or hear the waterfall. What happened?”

“No idea,” Hiram said, still rubbing ointment on his arm. “I imagine people are coming up here to check on things, but I’m not sure what they’ll accomplish. I think we might need to bring in those adventurers of yours, Jason.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Jason said, without turning to face the others. His gaze was focused on where the tunnel went deeper into the mountain.

“Is it just me,” he asked, “or is the aperture more blue than it was before?”

Hiram followed Jason’s gaze down the tunnel. The blue shimmer of the aperture was definitely brighter than it had been before.

“I think,” Hiram said, “It might be time to get out of…”

He was cut off by a wall of water erupting through the aperture and down on top of them. It smashed them together in a tangle of arms and legs. Together they were blasted down the tunnel and hurled into the air, hundreds of metres above the ground.


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