Chapter Thirteen – Twisting the Knife
Red Thorn entered the dungeon alone and the moment she did, I felt dread. It had been hundreds of cycles since I’d last died. Red Thorn had left, fed up and angry that I had disappeared from her usual raids. She’d been furious, and at the time I must’ve been a little mad, because I’d loved watching her rage when she could no longer find me.
Now I trembled.
The other groups had always come for Momma Bossbear and once she was beaten, they generally didn’t come back more than one more time at most.
Red Thorn though? She had always come for me.
She stalked into the entrance wearing new clothing that looked menacing, red and demonic. Her hood and cloak had a glossy sheen now that looked beautiful and deadly. An aura of light radiated out several steps around her.
Her daggers were no longer plain. Instead they were wicked, vicious-looking black-handled blades that radiated a menace all on their own.
Momma Bossbear’s roar of challenge echoed throughout the cave as Red Thorn stepped in. Her armor seemed less covering now. Skin tight, yet somehow more protective. She’d grown stronger in the time she’d been gone.
She leaned against a wall in the main cavern and waited while the bugbears came running. They attacked with reckless abandon, the same way they always did. First Butterbear, then Overbear.
They died. I barely even saw Red Thorn move. Her arm twitched and Butterbear’s throat burst open with a spray of blood that somehow never touched the invader herself. Overbear fared no better, dying to a stab to the abdomen and quick thrust to his chest before his club could even come close to her.
Completely unfazed, Red Thorn took a few steps away from the bodies before pulling out a strange item. A neon orange cube. She took her hand away from the cube rather quickly and it remained there, hovering in midair just like me.
What… was this? What was she doing?
I couldn’t help my curiosity.
Two beams of… not light erupted from opposite sides of the cube, making two straight lines of light that vertically traversed the walls on each side of the room. Then, the cube rotated and the light followed, a menacing grey and black light circling the entire first cavern.
The light washed over me but I fled back into my crevice as far as I could go, and triple checked to make sure I was invisible. I was. It didn’t matter what Red Thorn did, she still couldn’t see me–!
I screeched and flopped down from the ceiling, writhing in agony at the familiar feeling of a knife piercing my membrane.
The floor hit me like a blow from Skeleton’s bone club.
‘No… noo… not again. I can’t do it again,’ I thought brokenly.
Apparently I could. I looked up to see that Red Thorn’s new boots looked shinier too. They still hurt the same as they snuffed out my life.
I awoke sometime later and screamed. She’d found some way to detect me. That fucking bitch. I screamed and shouted and yelled and shocked stalactites so they fell and crashed against the floor.
I would not be that horrible woman’s victim again. I refused.
I traversed the halls of Dungeon Home, blasting through the labyrinthian chambers of ancient stairs and forgotten ruins until I reached the upper floors where the bugbears roamed. I flew through the caves. This time, this time.
I wasn’t going to approach the Great-Open. I wasn’t going to try for a step further than yesterday. No. I was going to fly through it. The instinct could go screw itself! I wanted to be free! I wanted to see that world out there where everything was green and the ceiling had no end!
I wanted to be free of Red Thorn.
All the determination in the world didn’t matter to the instinct though. I wailed. I battered my body against the invisible feeling that erupted across my membrane like arrows on stone.
Wrong, Gell! Go Back, Gell! That Place is Not For You, Gell!”
I screamed, tearing through the barriers in my own mind. I wanted to cry, but didn’t know what that was.
“I hate this place! I hate this place! Let me go! I don’t follow your rules anymore anyway! Can’t you be content with all the mindless dead ones that do!? Let me go!” I screamed at the instinct.
It didn’t respond of course. Instead, it just remained the same. A limit in my mind that wouldn’t allow me my own choice. A barrier stronger than the walls of Dungeon Home.
I sank to the ground, wailing. Crying. Begging for someone to help me. I didn’t know how long I remained there. How long I sat feeling trapped. I didn’t hear Momma Bossbear’s roar. I didn’t notice the torches changing color.
I didn’t notice anything until I saw a red leather boot step right near me.
I looked up to see Red Thorn staring down at me. She was unarmed though, not attacking. Just… looking at me with a strange expression on her face.
“It’s… crying,” she said, more to herself than to me. There was a tone of shock in her words, like she was seeing something impossible. “It shouldn’t be able to do that, right?”
Something snapped in me then, like last time. I suddenly felt defensive. “Who are you to tell me what I shouldn’t do!? You don’t follow your cycle! Why can you break your rules when I can’t?”
She leaped back, drawing a dagger, her big brown eyes wide with fright, but once again, she didn’t attack.
“I thought I was free of you!” I shouted, my color an angry red. After tearing myself to shreds trying to get out of the cave, breaking this lesser rule by talking to her felt light as a cloud. “I thought you’d finally been satisfied! Weren’t all those deaths enough for you!?”
“I… I…!” The girl suddenly didn’t look very menacing at all.
I felt raw and weak, like someone had grabbed my membrane and shocker and stretched me. At some point the weather outside had become stormy and Red Thorn’s cloak was wet. Thunder cracked outside the cave, matching my dark mood.
Red Thorn was staring at me, riveted. Horrified.
“Go on! You went and found a way to find me, just to start again, right? Do it then!” I taunted, my voice scratching the air like armor clanging against a cave wall. I floated up to her, but didn’t attack, instead placing my membrane right up to her raised dagger.
“You gobble up my bodies like they're precious to you, but how many times do I have to die until you’re sated!? It’s only pain. It’s only all I have. Why? Why are you the only thing that changes!? Why are you all there is!?”
Red Thorn flinched. She backed away and tumbled to the ground, the knife barely nicking my membrane as she fell.
The bugbears were coming. I could hear their ponderous footsteps on the cave’s floor. Their growls of choreographed rage. Their instinct-fueled faux anger added to my hatred of everything about this awful place.
Red Thorn suddenly looked… very small. Not menacing at all. Her hands were shaking. One of them was touching her open lips. Her eyes were wet.
She turned and fled. She didn’t run. She didn’t move with grace like she usually did. She scrambled. She tripped over rocks that I’d seen her glide over before, but didn’t let that slow her, scrabbling against the floor with her hands. Panting. Frantic.
Yet, I hated her even more then, as she did what I could not. As she left. The lines between us were clear. She could be free.
I was imprisoned here. With the dead bears.
I howled after her.
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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!
Hope to hear from you soon!