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A note from Astiar

I am so sorry for being late again. And for the short chapters. I can't seem to get my crap together. 

After grabbing a snack for them both, Tuck pulled Olive over to one of the beds and the twins had been chatting quietly ever since. It has always been rare to see them argue. They are usually a united front.

 

Evanna had been stealing glances at her children. They had been nearly inseparable all their lives. She trusts them, but they are still her babies and she wants to keep them safe. Coming here had already eased her worries. While she’d never fully trust this dungeon core she was sure it wasn’t a giant murder pit.

 

The last time Hamish saw them argue like this was when Tuck’s fishing boat was capsized by a freak wave and he’d been lost for 3 days. That… fight, if you could call their near silent whispering a fight, ended with Tuck always wearing a water breathing charm.

 

“Is everyone ready to see what the second floor looks like?” Hamish asked with false cheer.

 

“Of course.” Poli replied. He was polishing his glasses again. He and his apprentices didn’t know the surface members of their group well enough to intrude.

 

“We’re coming.” Tuck said. He and Olive came over holding hands. She had a soft frown on her face and was deep in thought.

 

Typha let out a low hiss. If this were any other pair in any other dungeon she would suggest they turn back. Having the twins be distracted would likely be deadly. But this pair, at only 16, were considered experts on the Lost Forest and this dungeon didn’t seem out to kill them. So she held her tongue and took the lead.

 

Once they began descending the spiral staircase everyone’s attention was on the beauty of the center column. The sparkling of the different minerals and crystals was only emphasized by the translucent steps.

 

Warsh was the one that broke the silence, “I wonder what the consequences of damaging this would be?”

 

“Not something we will be testing.” Typha replied sharply. “Dungeons are always more vicious when one of their artworks gets damaged.”

 

“Good thing this room is empty then. I’m convinced this place’s humor could quickly turn deadly.” Rechni spoke as he studied the room.

 

“4 choices.” Evanna stated, looking at the identical doors. “They are all the same. Equidistant from each other in this dome room. I wonder if there is a reason for that?”

 

“Likely to get adventures lost. The one difference is where the last step points.” Olga noticed. “It faces that door. But is that a clue to the correct choice or miss direction?”

 

Una watched the group with a smirk. The Creator had already said they were disabling the changing steps for this group. They wanted that defense to remain a secret. Una was also tasked with watching the twins. She wasn’t sure why since the Creator could see and hear everything that happened in the dungeon.

 

“Una,” Le’Ly spoke, “Will you lead us to the core?”

 

The kobold blinked when the child addressed her, both her eyelids closing and opening in surprise.

 

“Please do.” The Creator replied. “I am still not fully recovered and would like them to be done and leave.”

 

“I can remove them.”

 

“Not right now. Just point them to the correct door.”

 

Una hissed at the weakness in the Creator’s voice. She would need to be hyper vigilant when they were in the core room. And the Titan Rat Snake would likely be her only ally if a fight broke out.

 

But she did as she was told. Pointing to the door the last step faced. She had been enjoying this group’s trip though their home. So much so that she had momentarily forgotten about the Creator’s injury.

 

As the last member of the group crossed the threshold the door closed behind them. The halls were much dimmer than the grand entry.

 

They all looked back and from this side the door looked just as plain. Ahead the hall ended in a T after only 20ft. Looked first left then right. 5ft down each hall was a door identical to the one behind them.

 

Typha chuckled and shook her head. “We could be lost in here for days.”

 

“Should we turn back?” Poli asked, glancing between the 3 doors.

 

“That depends on you,” She looked at Una.

 

After the core translated the kobold moved to the front and started leading them. She turned right. Pasted the door was another round hall which made a L only 10 more feet in. Then opened into a seemingly empty room. All they could see were some cobwebs.

 

“Spiders, great.” Olga said sarcastically.

 

“Spider silk can be valuable. So can their venom, fangs and legs.” Evanna replied moving over to examine the webbing.

 

There are no signs of any spiders. The group has no idea that the core has moved all creatures out of their way. Surprises are fun and she is far too tired to enjoy messing with them. Her head was still splitting from the adventure in her mind and meeting Fate once again.

 

Una didn’t wait long before taking them through the left door. Both that and the other path were blocked by more identical doors. Another L shaped hall ended in a T. Again without hesitation Una led them left. Immediately after entering that door there was another on the right but Una ignored it going straight and following the hall as it turned left.

 

Yet another door stood before them. “I wonder how many will succumb to opening all these doors without caution?” Warsh pondered

 

Typha shook her head. “Far too many. This is the 5th door we have opened in less than 200ft. Others are likely to become frustrated and stop checking them for traps or ambushes.”

 

“I also have a feeling that there is something more…” Poli sighed “I can’t explain it properly. But only my faith and curiosity is allowing me to move forward.”

 

“I understand,” Hamish agreed, “It feels like we are missing something huge. At the same time the playfulness of the first floor is still here.” He looked toward the twins. They hadn’t said anything since leaving the resting room. “Any thoughts?”

 

“I think this floor has more bite than we can see and is much larger than Una is going to show us. I also feel like there is something big. Like a massive trap or prank that the core has disabled for us.” Tuck replied. “I wouldn’t want to come to this floor unprepared.”

 

“They aren’t going to let us explore.” Olive replied. “Una’s here as a guide and guard. Are you forgetting the odd feeling when we first arrived. Something is wrong and the core is ready for us to be done. Why else would they lead us and remove any traps or defenders.”

 

The others thought about what she said as they followed the kobold. Una passed through the door, across a 4 way stop and through the door opposite the one they entered. The hall took right then a quick left then back right before another door blocked their path. Opening that one showed that it was another 3 way T hall. Una took the left door this time.

 

Even though they were just following along the whole group gave a sigh when only 20ft beyond that door was a much larger and more ornate set of double doors. It had to be the boss room.

 

The massive room that was revealed when the door opened had them all staring around. The room was a massive dome but was dimly lit. Pools of shadows could be seen all around. Made more dangerous by the loose rocks and rubble. The room also had numerous spiderwebs that added to the deserted feeling of the room.

 

The group tensed and turned to the right as they saw a shape move. The form of a massive snake began to rise. It was as long as Typha with slate grey scales that matched the rubble around it.

 

Titan Rat Snake.” Typha stated in surprise, “At least it’s not venomous.”

 

Una let out a slight chuckle and started moving across the room. The boss brought up the rear following them out of it’s room.

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Astiar

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