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     Deep in the recesses of Will’s consciousness, they tirelessly toiled. A forge, a gem cutters station, and a small engraving table near the river of magic pouring through Will’s soul.

     Will looks close at their newest creation, a purple gem, layered inscriptions inside of it. Will had slowly formed small molecules of acid inside of the crystal to carve out exactly what they wanted.

     After all of the inscriptions were finished Will carried the burning hot stone to the river of pure mana. Dipping the stone inside of the Mana making up Jamie’s wish Will waited, pulling the steaming hissing gem from the water-like ethereal force.

     Will’s soul-forge as they were calling it was small, all of this, whatever it is, is small. The only thing able to give scale was a massive tree; its trunk twice as large as Will’s workstation. Four gems, green, purple, yellow, and blue all inside of the tree, the wood having grown around them. Snapshots of souls desperately clung to by the power of a wish; being fed by the unexpected nourishment of another.

     The tree glowed with an uncanny light as if the photons themselves were pulsing around the bark. But there were no photons here, truthfully, only Will was here, because here was only Will.

     The Genie turned their focus back onto the newest group trying their first-ever dungeon.

     “Ooooh, the lobster room, this will be good.” The red axolotl face said with a grin.

     Seven branches sprout from the tree. Five; asleep as one branch bore a singular blue apple grew and alongside flowers of blue and white. The second bore a different kind of fruit, a massive jackfruit alongside brilliant emerald leaves.

     One more branch began to bloom, the flowers shewn a brilliant gold and black, the singular fruit on the branch began to grow ever so slowly…

     ***

     Fomorians, the ancient invaders of Ireland. Conquerors, beasts, demons, angels, little is known about this once arguably great people.

     As the main denotation of a member of the Fomorian clan is revealed at the time of their rebirth; the ancient custom of Fomorians was rather welcoming in secret.

     The ‘Ancient Bloodrite’ a choice every member of the clan must face upon the time of their rebirth. A way to pull yourself up through the rank of slave, to be considered a real ‘person.’

     Before, with accepting the bloodrite came the ire of those around you. The non-Fomorians would fear your power, they would ostracize you, which would intern breed a deep cynicism of the world.

     Now? At the tail end of the year 2037, the only real downside had been stepping through doors that were now much too small.

     “Yeah, I can see the little screens and the red bars above enemies heads. You all can’t or something?” Billy Joe asked.

     “I can, but I think it’s because of my ‘class’ or whatever,” Gus said noncommittally.

     The other three members, Jamie, Ned, and Mark all shook their heads.

     “Huh, Well those lobsters over there have what looks like a full hundred eighty health. That’s almost twice what those bandits had.” Billy Joe said, and as she did, health bars appeared over all ten visible lobsters heads.

     Only eight of them had numbers, however, until Billy Joe brought up that a few of the lobsters with a slightly different color had only one hundred and sixty.

     “Huh? Looks like this will be a bit harder than I thought.” Mark said, stepping just a bit further back from the crustaceans.

     Ned, however, licked his lips, looking over at Billy Joe. “Think you can do what you did to that bandit, but, uhm, smaller?

     “Well scrawny, I didn’t think you had it in ya!” Billy Joe said, slapping the young man on his back causing him to stumble forward a step.

     Billy Joe focused, concentrated, and even gave the lobsters the stink eye, however, it seemed the sea-bugs would not die to funny looks, unlike the bandits.

     The blond-haired woman from before opened a compartment on her grill, showing five pristine baseball bats. “Figured people would have some trouble. Go ahead, help yourselves,” came the thick northeastern accent.

     Everyone in the group, Gus included, took a bat. “If we’re eating them, I probably shouldn’t use my powers on them right?”

     The woman looked at him oddly, “No deary, most of the flesh will be sent to something called a “charity” each of you is only allowed one of your kills for a snack.”

     Gus nodded, turning off his green flaming sword, holding the bat squarely in his grip.

     Billy Joe leaned down, testing the swing of her almost toy-sized bat in her grip. “So, you don’t mind if we bust em up good right? You can always use them in a soup or gumbo.”

     The blond woman shook her head, clicking her tongs, “Only the ones you don’t want to eat here.”

     Jamie reached forward, slamming the bat against the first lobster they saw. The shell cracked loudly, the unmistakable tink of a baseball bat hitting something hard. 162/180…

     Billy Joe groaned seeing the small amount of damage, everyone did as well now that the health bars were universally visible.

     The woman on the shore started laughing, “Oh ho hoho, Did you think it would be easy? Our jobs are still to keep challengers away from Majesty after all.”

     Billy Joe grit her teeth at the woman’s low-key mocking, drawing her bat back with her full might and then bringing it down on the lobster Jamie had already softened.

     The crustacean exploded in a shower of body parts and meat, quickly shaving the smile off of the grilling woman’s face.

     Two lobsters from behind raised up, aiming their pincers at the group as a powerful wave of water slammed into Mark, knocking him back a few feet.

     “GAHLK!” The Orc coughed as his back met rock hard wall.

     Billy Joe looked over, half in surprise and half in shock. Mark was a good two hundred or more pounds of muscle. However now she was just staring at the numbers above his head.

     52/140…

     “Careful Mark, everyone. These little shits can put up a fight.” The Fomorian growled.

     Jamie ran forward screaming with their bat over their head. The stupid move on their part made them the perfect target for one of the weaker lobsters in the back.

     Clacking its claws together the crustacean pulled on an energy it had yet to understand. Channeling it between its pincers it flung the energy at Jamie.

     A large blue lightning ball sailed through the air toward the young shopkeep.

     “Esmeralda!” Gus called out, the phoenix on his shoulders leaping and flying directly into the path of the electrical wave.

     The ball was slow, especially slow considering it was lightning. Jamie brought up their arms, prepared to take the strike head-on as Gus’ emerald phoenix flew in, shielding them from the blow with a massive fiery green dome shield.

     Mark rushed forward, teeth grit and sweat falling down their thick dark brown hair, slamming his bat into the side of the unaware lightning lobster. Two of the higher health ones closing in, not allowing him to return to the safety of the group.

     Ned picked up a large rock, throwing it as best he could it sailed a good three feet before plummeting straight to the ground below. “Oh come on!”

     The lobster Ned had been aiming at pinched its claws together, squirting a high power wave of water right into his face, forcing him to topple backward onto his own rear.

     Mark swung his bat mightily into the side of a water-lobster. 142/180… “Why are these little bugs so freaking tankey?!”

     Right as he spoke another lobster pinched its claws, shooting another bust of water right into the Orcs face, but he was ready. Getting a good stance in the wet sand; he shouldered the powerful water attack. His own health showing in Billy Joe’s vision, blinking red as even Mark was breathing heavily… 12/140…

     Rage and righteous fury flooded Billy Joe as she stared at the mass of crustacean in front of her, a few more revealing themselves as they come in from deeper waters.

     How dare such a puny beast hurt her friend. How dare such a lowly sea-insect to dare harm someone who just took out human bandits. She growled a deep bellowing growl as the flickering moss-filled lightbulb in the middle of the room went out.

     Billy Joe surged, a tide of unquenchable rage. Her flimsy baseball bat cracking as it crashed into the ground.

     Some gunk was stuck under Billy Joe’s bat, that didn’t matter. With a flick of her wrist, the viscera painted the walls as a lightning bolt whizzed by her ear. A few tangled red threads fell to the floor as the giant of a woman turned her gaze on the impudent creature…

     And so she went, dodging impossible shots. Her eyes simply saw them before they came; not long, but half a second warning of a shot was more than enough for Billy Joe to dodge expertly every time. Her toy had splintered, bending funny in the middle halfway through.

     This was no problem, Billy Joe still had her hands, she still had her teeth, she still ha...

     As steam billowed out of the corners of the beast’s mouth; a long, drawn-out howl could be heard by everyone in the room.

     ***

     The vision or lack-there-of that the other four members got was, however, much different. Darkness covered the entire room as a crunching noise, and then a loud crackling noise was heard.

     All light was sucked from the room as a howling noise came from all directions. It was hard to keep track of time except for the snapping noises and the loud howl echoing around the room as an unrecognizable fear crept over the other four members.

     Jamie, Gus, and Ned all felt bristly fur pass by them around the height of their knees but were in too much of a cold trance of fear that they said nothing.

     Mark fell backward, curling up as wind howled by. Hearing chomping and crunching noises all around him Mark was too afraid to move. The air felt heavy, and a feeling of being watched, being hunted, was constant.

     The woman on the shore behind them let out a loud drawn-out scream. Ned and Gus were ready to rush to her aid if something unexpected had happened, however, the light was restored to the room soon after.

     What met their eyes was grizzly indeed.

     The lobsters were killed, yes.

     But large gashes could be seen in the sides of rocks, the body parts of the crustaceans had been strewn everywhere. Charred spots of earth could be seen on the shore and ceiling as the smell of cooking seafood wafted over toward those still on the shore.

     In the middle of it all, stood Billy Joe, her bat was broken, barely held together by splinters and hope. Her body also had large gashes on it, including a few small burn marks.

     Jamie looked with their dungeoneer’s glass and covered their mouth… 1892/2300...

     Billy Joe stomped toward the woman on the shore, her footfalls heavy, “You…” wheeze. “Didn’t tell us…” Wheeze “that they had ELEMENTAL ATTACKS!”

     The smug blond woman looked up from her grill, as if her shoulder had been tapped on by a nuisance. “I have nothing to say, you didn’t even let me watch.”

     Billy Joe walked away in a huff, “EGH!”

     “What happened?” Ned finally asked.

     “I… I don’t know, it felt like everything sped up. I was dodging lightning, actual lightning.” Billy Joe said.

     “We… didn’t see anything, I felt something weird brush against me but that was it.” Jamie responded.

     “Brush against you… what? And how, there was lightning-like… everywhere, all over the place. The little things would open their claws and it would just shoot out or something.” Billy Joe said with an exasperated tone. .

     “No, no light, and even sound was kind of off.” Mark spoke up.

     Billy Joe looked at them all aghast, she had not felt anything brush against her. The lightning had been plain for all to see. Even at the end when the tiny beasts had increased their water pressure and she had dodged an attack that cut through stone. “You didn’t see any of that?”

     “What happened? That carnage can’t be from just smashing a few of them, sure they were hard, but…” Gus said as he pointed to Billy Joe’s broken bat.

     “Well… I got one, then I freakin dodged lightning, remember that part? After that my bat broke and… It’s kind of fuzzy, I don’t know. I broke some with my hands but...” Billy Joe looked confused as she stared at her hands, feeling them up and down slowly. Her palms were still soft, her skin wasn’t stone.

     The group shook their heads and Billy Joe looked afraid, genuinely afraid as she stared at her hands. “I… I don’t think I should use that power again… I don’t think I’m okay.” Shaking set in and Billy Joe hugged her arms to her chest.

     Jamie walked up to her and put their hand on the woman’s shoulder, tiptoeing to do so. “It’ll be alright, That’s what I’m here for.”

     “Us too.” Gus and Mark agreed, arms around each other with massive goofy grins on their faces.

     Ned shyly looked away, the odd man out, he had no conn…

     “This one is too!” Gus said, holding Ned close. “We’re all here for each other, that’s what adventuring parties do!”

     Billy Joe wiped something from her eye and turned back to look at the ‘teacher.’

     “Hey, don’t you owe us some special reward?” Billy Joe asked the woman on the shore, towering over her.

     “You killed them all, their parts are everywhere! Do you know how long it will take me to find every little leg and claw?! Majesty Will put me in charge here, if I don’t have this dimensional pocket cleared out…” The woman trailed off, mumbling to herself.

     A large wooden box appeared in the middle of the room, just coming into existence as she seemed to rant to no one in particular.

     Mark walked up to it slowly, “think this is our prize?”

     “Last one came from a treasure chest, don’t see why it would be any different here.” Jamie responded, stepping through the water to analyze the item.

     The box hovered toward the other end of the room, as it did the water parts all around it, making a dry path towards it and the door to the next room.

     The party walked slowly, carefully, and expecting a trap. Jamie and Billy Joe especially knew the tricky things certain game masters might pull if they weren’t feeling generous.

     The group of five got to the artificial shore on the other side of the room. Mark choosing to swing open the chest’s lid wildly.

     Inside of the chest, there were a few things of note.

     Shield of Elemental Defense:

     Basic wooden shield with metal backing. Plasma repulsion runes are interlocked along the inside of the metal disk.

     Moderate to High electrical, fire, or other plasma-based attack negation on a successful block.

     As well as several large ingots of iron or steel. Billy Joe couldn’t tell what was happening with those.

     “Whoa! It says here that these are ingots of Damascus steel. If we find someone who knows the forging process, we could be the first people with true Damascus equipment in most likely a thousand years.” Jamie said excitedly.

     “Just some metal,” Mark said noncommittally, more interested in the shield that he has no way of appraising.

     “How can you see that?” Billy Joe asked Jamie and Gus.

     “Huh? The glass,” Jamie responded.

     “I just can,” Gus inclined.

     Billy Joe thought about it for a second, then decided it was best to keep her head in the game. She would ask Will why she can’t see item descriptions if she makes it to the end.

     “Ready for the next room?” Ned asked, hand on the handle, smile wide with the thrill of adventure. At least, that’s how it appeared to Billy Joe as the youth’s legs were shaking under his makeshift mage’s robe.

     “I don’t see why not,” Jamie responded, a smile on their face.

     Throwing open the door to the next room led to a land of nightmares.

     Massive stone gargoyles lined the walls in poses ready to strike. In each of their mouths, they held a braiser of glowing blue flames.

     The light was dim and didn’t travel much farther than the mouths of the gargoyles. Things, long and insectoid can be seen skittering along the walls in the shadows. The room was eerily quiet, as even though the group could see movement in every dark place, not a single sound could be heard, save for one mumbling voice.

     In the middle of the room stands a man with his back to the group. However, what was in front of him is what drew the eye of every party-member.

     A cage... inside of the cage were… dolls. Porcelain and shining. No cracks appeared on their faces as each was in the form of a small baby. Each of them wearing pastel blues, pinks, and yellows. The dolls were unmoving, yet a trickle could be seen coming down from their eye sockets.

     “Don’t you fret my children, they shall come soon, they shall play. Grow, GROW!” Came the voice of the man staring at the cage.

     “Oh this can’t be good.” although the words came out of Ned’s mouth, the entire party had been thinking that same thought right at that moment.

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A note from Blackguard

I'm finally catching up on my backlog of work.

Extra chapters should resume soon, hopefully within the week.

That being said, for the rest of today I'll be competing in the Galar Newcomers tournament on pokemon sword. Wish me luck.

Best Wishes,
Blackguard.


About the author

Blackguard

Bio: Amateur writer and ravenous reader. I do my best to keep consistent if not generous updates, comments are welcome and encouraged. Nonbinary Zebra.

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