Chapter Two – Raiding Party
I shook in the corner, so terrified that I didn’t know what to do. In all my life, Momma Bossbear had never stood from her throne! The candles had always been blue. Why? What happened? What had I done? I thought I wanted something to happen but this was too much! Too fast!
I found myself moving, but it took some time for me to come to the realization that I was following my old route. Following the instinct. I fell into it gleefully, seeking comfort in the normalcy. I’d thought I was ready for something new but Momma Bossbear’s roar had shown me how stupid that was. I was happy here! With my family! With Bugbear and Skeledog and Skeleton and Momma Bossbear and the others. I didn’t need change!
But change came. Leaving the room, I found that my entire world had changed from its comforting muted blue to a bright red of burning hot fire. Every torch in the dungeon was brightly lit.
What had happened? What had changed? Would I get to find out? Why had Dungeon Home lit up like this? It had never done so before.
Once the initial shock wore off, I found myself a little excited. Not so much so that I was ready to ignore the instinct yet, but enough that I wanted to.
Time passed slowly, and I flew by many of the other denizens of Dungeon Home: Skeletons and Bugbears who weren’t my Skeleton and Bugbear, but were from other routes deeper in or further towards the top. I even saw Old Ghoul who occasionally wandered the fourth floor. Of course she wasn’t there right now. She’d decided to go to the fifth floor’s oval chamber for some reason. Was she… could it be that she was breaking the rules too?
Somehow… I didn’t think so.
I followed my route as soon as I got back to it, taking comfort in the serenity of it. The fire in the wall sconces was red now. Red instead of blue. That was no big deal. That wasn’t scary. I turned red all the time, if it struck my fancy! So I hadn’t known the fire could change color too! It wasn’t anything to be so terrified about.
My shocker wouldn’t stop shaking in the air though, twitching at the terrifying events as things cascaded out of control. Why? What had I done? Was it even my doing at all?
Inevitably, my instinctual route took me back to the top floor of Dungeon Home, and there I found the source of the disturbance: Invaders.
I flitted from candlelight to candlelight, making sure to blend in with the now red fires instead of the gentle blue as I saw the strange creatures enter, presumably from outside the great hole where the ceiling fell up. I’d always called it the Great-Open.
None of them noticed me as I entered the large chamber and immediately flitted to one of the torches that hung from the walls.
“It’s a low level dungeon alright. Barely worth our time. Monsters have a long agro range though. Kited these all the way from the third floor,” said one of the two legged creatures. “Don’t understand why this place was so hard to get to. Maybe it gets tougher deeper down but… yeah. Like I said, pretty weak.”
They had no fur like the bugbears and no bones like the skeletons. Instead, four of the five of them were covered by a strange pale pink… shell? It was like Momma Bossbear’s lips but all over their bodies. Not at all like my membrane. Each of them were covered in that shell… skin I realized. Their skin was covered in clothes instead of fur. I liked that. Clothes were at least somewhat familiar. Most of all though… they were speaking. They were communicating with one another. In the same language as all of my thoughts! I could understand them!
Oh my god!
I wanted to jump right out and speak to them, but something held me back. Some gut feeling. Maybe it was the instinct. Something was wrong here though. Why was Momma Bossbear so mad, and why had Dungeon Home turned so bright and angry when these people came in?
And… what were those strange lumps lying on the ground?
I was actually a good fifteen feet away, but the room was brighter than ever. The five creatures stood near the far end of the room towards one of the exits that wasn’t part of my instinct. I’d visited of course, but there were only more Bugbears down there with a dead end about three floors down, and none of them reacted to me like Bugbear did.
“Might be a good farming place for newbies,” said the shortest pink creature. I immediately decided to call her Red Hood, because… well. She wore a red hood. She looked friendly and kind, but the wicked looking daggers in her belt spelled danger for me.
“Strange though,” the girl continued. “Did you notice? They all had names? Like, they were definitely npcs. They reacted like regular mobs but each of them had a title. Is that weird to anyone?”
‘Npc’s?’ I thought, confused. I didn’t recognize that term. ‘Mobs?’
“Just a quirk of the dungeon? Programmers having fun?” asked the short wide one with hair on his face. I liked him the most. He reminded me of Bugbear. I immediately christened him Beardy Wall because his face looked like a wall of beard.
“Seems unlikely. Most of the dungeons are dynamically generated, though not all of them. This place is a long way out though,” said the green-skinned one with the white robes. “We could power level newbies here if we built a guildhall and set it as a spawn point, but it’d be tough otherwise.”
“Power… level? Newbies?” I understood the words but their meaning was lost on me.
I was enthralled anyway though. Unlike my family, these creatures could talk. They could make noise more than growls and grunts. They were like me!
I didn’t dare leave my candles though. Hard instinct and a sensation of rules that should never be broken had overpowered my usual fearlessness. I hid, but my excitement was rising by the moment.
“We barely even have a guild yet! This place is weak up top but we don’t know what’s below yet. Don’t get ahead of yourself, Germ,” Red Hood said with a grin.
They walked right by me, none of them noticing as I watched them make their way further into the heart of Dungeon Home.
When they had gone down the stairs to the second level, I felt the instinct pushing me to follow them. I dimmed my glow entirely and blended in with the walls, but I didn’t follow just yet. I broke the rules. Something about those strange lumps on the floor was familiar. Daunting.
I floated closer, confused, as I realized what they were.
Bodies. My family. The lumps were my family. But they were arranged in ways that they never had been before. Oh god! Were they breaking the rules too!?
I shook with anticipation as I hovered over them. Six bugbears! All family, of course, though some were so far away from the route of my instinct that I’d only recently gotten up the courage to name them.
Buggy. Bearington. Overbear. Butterbear. Busterbear. Bugrimace, and of course, Bugbear. The one who noticed me and growled at me like he might understand. They were all here, and none of them were on their route! They were breaking the rules! They were like me!
Something was wrong though. They… weren’t moving. Also their name tags were gone. The labels that had appeared above them when I’d named them all those cycles ago had disappeared. They weren’t... right. Parts of them were missing. Red ooze of some sort was leaking out of the limbs and gashes where their bodies were changed. Damaged. Their fur looked strange. Wet. Wet, as if they’d jumped into the pool at the bottom of Dungeon Home. But not the same.
“Bugbear?” I asked, hoping to hear him growl. I hovered down close to get a better look. Bugbear’s eyes were wide open, but I felt like there was nothing behind them. Even less than normal.
The fear that had overwhelmed me when Momma Bossbear roared in her throne room far below wasn’t like this. This was a creeping feeling. A dread, cold and painful. My membrane spasmed and I suddenly realized I was losing control of my color. That had never happened before.
My Bugbears. My family. They were…. They were broken. The invaders had broken them.
They must not have known how to properly talk to my family though. That must’ve been it. Because as far as I knew, they had no reason to attack my family! So there must have just been a huge misunderstanding!
Well! I could fix that!
I wandered across the room. Bugbear’s club was there. I picked it up with my shocker and brought it back over to him. I tried to put it back in his hand where it always was… b-but his hand was severed just below his shoulder. A big rent in his side showed where something sharp like the stalactites must’ve cut through the arm and continued on into his fur-covered ribs.
It took a few minutes of searching to find the limb. It was lying underneath Overbear and it took all my might to tug it out. It was still leaking the strange red ooze. The stuff clung to my shocker. I hated it.
“Blood,” I thought. Another word that I knew, but had no memory of learning. Just information planted in my head. “That’s what my family is made out of. Well, the Bugbears anyway. Skeleton and his kin as well as Skeledog don’t have blood. But Bugbear does. Why did they spill it everywhere?”
I dragged Bugbear’s arm across the room. It was heavy, heavier than the club. I put it where it belonged, but pushing the lower arm into his shoulder just made more of the red blood ooze out.
It flopped there. Lifeless. But… all the parts were in the right place. I… I couldn’t put the blood back but he didn’t look damaged beyond that!
“B-bugbear? Could you… could you growl at me like you always do?” I pleaded.
Bugbear didn’t respond. None of them did.
“B… Buggy? Busterbear?”
A hollowness seeped into my body that I didn’t understand. A numbness. My color became a deep, dismal blue. I stroked Bugbear’s cheek but he didn’t growl. Didn’t do anything.
Why? Why would they do that? I’d thought they were like me. So… so why? I would never do that to Bugbear and the rest of my family, no matter how different I was! Were they… had they broken the rules so far that they just lived to break everything? I racked my brains, racing to find an explanation.
‘What if…. What if they break me like this too?’ I trembled.
The instinct was becoming more insistent. It wanted me to follow them. But those creatures... they were like me, and…and I broke the rules. I stopped following the instinct. If I… If I kept doing that, would I become like them? Would I go into others’ homes and break their families?
“Instinct? I’m sorry. I won’t break the rules again…” I promised. Prayed. But even speaking was against the instinct. So I stopped that. ‘So could you please… bring my family back?’
As if my prayer was being answered in the cruelest way, the bodies of my family suddenly began to stir. They weren’t waking up though. Instead they were fading. Becoming transparent.
“No! Don’t! Don’t go away! Don’t take them away! I can still fix them! I’ll–!”
Were they becoming invisible like I could? Why were they disappearing!? Was it because I spoke?
‘I’ll follow the instinct! I promise I’ll do better! S-So please! D-don’t take my family away!’ I thought furiously. As far as I knew, thinking wasn’t against the instinct. It wasn’t breaking any rules.
My thoughts went unheeded though, and in far too short a time, all of my family had vanished. I pushed my shocker where their bodies had been but there was nothing there. They were gone.
Th-they were gone.
They’d left me.
“No… no. Bugbear? What–? Why–? What is happening!?” I screamed, desperately, unable to hold back my horror. I flitted around the room, frantically trying to find them. Did they go into the ground? Could they have hidden in the torches like I did?
All this time I’d spent desperately wanting something new to happen. Not like this. This wasn’t what I wanted. All the joy I’d had in life, all the happiness I’d felt. The exultant pride in breaking the rules and being so different. The arrogance from feeling better than my family because I could defy the instinct. It all evaporated, just like their bodies.
“P-Please…” I moaned on the floor. “Please. Come back…”
They didn’t. Hours passed. Or moments that felt like hours. I floated to the floor. I wanted to weep, but I didn’t know what that was. I didn’t know why I knew these things. Why those creatures spoke in the words that my mind knew when my family had never said anything I could understand.
But I knew then that I had to do my very best to never break the instinct again. This was punishment. This was what came from breaking the rules. I’d felt so wrong about it when I’d first started, but breaking the rules had been so much more interesting than following the same path. But those monsters. My mind supplied names like orc, human, Dwarf and Drow, but I threw them away. I didn’t want this knowledge! Not if it led to becoming like them. They’d ignored their instinct. They’d ignored it and ignored it and ignored it until they did whatever they wanted and what they wanted to do was break things.
I would not be like them.
Fortunately, for once, my instinct aligned almost perfectly with what I wanted to do: follow them closely. The only problem was that the instinct insisted that I hide.
I didn’t want to hide. I wanted to strike. I wanted to use my shocker and make them pay. These people. These creatures. They were what I’d been waiting for. This anger. This foreign toxic feeling flooding through my membrane… Maybe if I followed the instinct, I would get to use it.
I blended into the walls and followed the creatures. My shocker buzzed with electricity. I didn’t have a heart, but if I did, it would be racing.
Suddenly, I heard Momma Bossbear roar again. I felt happy. She would take care of them. Momma was huge. And I wanted to see her break them.
I followed the instinct, but I followed it fast.
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I'm Materia-Blade. I've been a long time fanfiction writer, and have recently decided to toss my hat into the original fiction arena. I love fantasy, sci-fi, and Lit-RPG's and have read hundreds of books from each genre.
My new story Artificial Jelly has released and is currently being pretty well received! Excited for it to hit trending! Thanks to those who support it, and me, and I hope it continues to impress!
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