Chapter Twelve - A Tide of Invaders
Half Bold did come back, but once again he didn’t actually come into the dungeon. Too weak, I supposed. Or perhaps just as afraid of the pain of dying as I was. The fact that I’d managed to kill him on my own, when he was using the instinct against me made me fairly certain he was nothing compared to the likes of Red Thorn or her group.
But he raged. Oh, how he raged. He kept screaming profanities and defiance while remaining safely outside the danger of the dungeon. Apparently, beyond my theft of his second horn, he was pretty mad about his new name, too. Strange. He’d seemed to like it when I first gave it to him.
I dared him to come back into the cave — in the safety of my mind anyway. I didn’t want to be captured by those nets and put into a horn of my own, locked away for however long he wanted. If he ever did manage to capture me, though, I swore I would kill him. However many times I needed to. In the depths of my mind, I made an oath to try and free the bat, Avwren too, but I had no way to carry that out while I was still trapped inside the cave.
I was growing closer though. I could feel the instinct barring my way, but each time I came to the Great-Open, I felt a little bit more sure that one day I would walk free of Dungeon Home. A little more sure that I would be able to break even those ironclad rules.
Which was good. In the cycles since Half Bold’s “invasion,” Dungeon Home had become downright popular.
I floated near the Great-Open a few cycles after Half Bold’s death and spotted a group of invaders through the trees. Once again they were an assortment of races: two humans, and two humans that didn’t quite look like humans. They weren’t any of the other races though. Elves were the closest in appearance and these weren’t Elves. Definitely humans, but more feral.
I fled to my crevice to watch them, and made sure to blend my color into the cave’s ceiling.
The group was much more quiet than Red Thorn’s. They were unsurprised by Momma Bossbear’s roar of challenge, and the torches coming to life didn’t scare them.
They… honestly, acted so methodical I thought they might be following their own instinct. They attacked and defended in formations so practiced that they seemed born to it. They barely spoke except to call out the positions of attacking bugbears.
They decimated the bugbears with an efficiency and precision that made them terrifying. The instinct demanding that I attack had never been so easy to ignore. If Half Bold was weak in comparison to Red Thorn, then these invaders made him look like a mouse. Maybe even her.
They were all dressed in the same clothes, though each set was tailored to their body type. The only woman used healing lights to remove any damage the others took. The two men who didn’t seem quite like regular humans quickly revealed why. I almost squealed in shock when they mutated into massive… I could only describe them as monsters, gaining long snouts kind of like the bugbears but more muscled and furry. As usual, it took a moment to place them but my inexplicable knowledge finally filled in a name for the creatures: Werewolves. The two attacked with a level of ferociousness that only Momma Bossbear could compete with, tearing the bugbears apart with tooth and claw. They would attack and then, whenever one of them might be overwhelmed, they would quickly disengage so the last member of their party could engage.
Curious, I followed this silent group of boring monsters as they decimated the residents of Dungeon Home, but never engaged them. These invaders were so methodical in their decimation of my home that they scared me more than Red Thorn or Half Bold though. Something about their dead approach to the slaughter. Unfeeling. Lacking any sort of effort.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to fight them. I was free.
I remembered once fearing that a group of invaders would come that delighted in killing my “family.” I would’ve preferred that to this dispassionate slaughter. I was glad when they left.
Four groups of the monsters came through the dungeon in quick succession after that, each of them as eclectic and strange, yet weirdly similar in goal. They always came for the same reason: killing Momma Bossbear. Sometimes they’d skip the side tunnels where Overbear and Butterbear were. Sometimes they’d even lure Ghoul away and skip fighting her entirely.
Most of the invaders weren’t very noticeable. They wore different versions of the same worn clothing over their skin shells. They had their hair rearranged in different ways, but in general they usually consisted of the same dynamics.
Someone who healed. Someone who made the instinct scream at me to attack only them, and a few people who would attack while they didn’t have to worry about being attacked themselves. It was a simple plan but they seemed to use it every time.
One of the groups that stood out had a halfling like Half Bold who wore a beautiful blue dress that seemed to match my natural shade. She cast fancy lights with effects similar to Green Tooth’s abilities, but the difference was that she did it while playing music. I’d known what it was immediately but I’d been enthralled the moment I heard it. I almost left my hiding place; I was so moved by the jingle. I’d never heard music before, and it was… mesmerizing.
I called her North Cross and she seemed delighted by the name. She and her group had beaten Momma Bossbear on their first try and had returned to do so again only a few short cycles later. I followed them like Skeledog followed Skeleton, brimming with joy at every note the girl played.
For the most part though, I watched the invaders with a growing sense of distance from their antics. They always managed to beat the bugbears, and it hurt everytime I had to watch Bugbear himself be torn down by the rules that held him. Most of them were able to beat Ghoul, and most of those who did died to Momma Bossbear, just like Red Thorn’s group had.
While the Dungeon was empty I entertained myself with dreams of freeing whoever had been locked into the jeweled horn. Unfortunately, without a mouth, I was no closer to freeing the captive than I was to leaving the cave. I was also a little afraid that the poor soul had been given an instinct that would force it to attack its kin, like me.
But one day, I would free whatever lay within. Somehow.
I spent my cycles that way, watching the invaders, playing with the horn, and dreaming of entering the Great-Open.
It was… peaceful. It was a life I could endure, if not enjoy.
Then... Red Thorn returned.
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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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