Rain stumbled to his feet exhausted, each footstep leaving a blood red mark in the grass.
He turned around looking for enemies but none appeared. He was alone. Looking up at the domed cavern ceiling overhead he realized he must be in the center of the cavern. It seemed the jungle stopped at the center and was replaced by a wide field of grass.
The clearing did not appear uninhabited. A cluster of Goblin tents was at one end verging on the tree line. At the other end was a long barn like building crudely made from wood. In the center was a cluster of wooden buildings.
He began walking toward the buildings in the center. He figured if he wanted to kill the leader of the tribe then now would likely be a good time as it seemed that what remained of the Goblins and Half-goblins were out hunting for him in the jungle.
As he neared he began to hear voices. A deeper voice along with a scratchy female voice that sounded somehow unnatural and awkward.
He slunk up to one of the buildings leaving a trail of blood in his wake and ducked to peek through one of the glassless windows.
A back faced him, a very muscular back, one leaning back in a chair. Five uneven horns protruded from its head, bull horns. A horse-like mane of hair ran down its neck.
Rain didn't have any difficulty recognizing a Minotaur when he saw one having killed and eaten one recently, though the mutated horns and angular ears poking from the sides of its head were new.
“This creature, you say it came from some lake a few floors down?” said the Goblin-minotaur with a predictably deep voice.
“Yessss. The ancestral memories are fragmented but the description fits and I know no other creature which might pass as it. I know something terrible was done at that lake. I know the ancestors dreaded a return of what was put down there,” said the scratchy female voice.
Rain couldn't see much else due to the angle so the owner of the voice was out of view.
“It seems unlikely a monster would return from over a thousand years ago, still it is just another monster, nothing to worry about.”
“My witch’s memories say otherwise. They feared these things like no other, especially their ruler, their king. This may sound insane and beyond belief to you, and I would not speak of this knowledge to any other, but to stop these things monsters and levelers fought together on the same side.”
“Bullshit. That did not happen. Not possible.”
“It’s true, though it is hard to imagine a situation desperate enough where that would have come about. Just speaking of such a thing would anger any monster who heard it in this era so I will not repeat this outside of this room.”
“Faulty memories, it’s happened before, not everything survives the generations intact.”
“The most traumatic memories do, and this one scarred generations of Gobbos.”
“Fine. I’ll humour you. We have a resurrected, or whatever, monster from an age past running around in our cavern. Theoretically, it’s pretty strong. Isn’t this a good thing?”
“...I don’t follow.”
The Minotaur leant forward. “It’s obvious, isn't it? We want strong monsters to grow our power, we capture this beast and have the regular Gobbos breed with it, they fill it with halves or themselves pop out a few halves, and they’re on our side. Hell, if it’s as scary as you make it out to be then we’ll be unstoppable. We’ll be able to take over the dungeon and then we can conquer the surface. It can all be ours, we can take everything.”
The scratchy voice hissed in annoyance. “We can barely keep what we have, look what happened to the Harpy Queen, she escaped and lives on the cavern ceiling forming her own faction with her daughters, a perpetual thorn in our side forever demanding more influence. A monster like this would surely be uncontrollable and its spawn chaotic. Far from ideal.”
“You don’t know that. Our Cavebear half-breeds are placid, unless you do something to anger them, but no ones stupid enough to do such a thing. Besides, if it turns out to be a problem we can always just kill them. Remember the Slime-gobbo disaster? Same thing.”
“Yes, I remember, and if I ever see a tentacle again it will be too soon.” There was a rustling sound of movement. “This thing is not like other monsters Cairn. It is something from a more savage era when rivers of blood were the norm. A time when few tribal monsters could speak as the ancestral memories were not as developed as they are today. We would likely be doing the dungeon, no the world, a service by ensuring it does not leave our cavern alive.”
“Pah, fuck the world. This is an opportunity to seize power like never before. Hell, I’ll fuck a few kids into it myself if it’s female.”
“Bah, I’ve had enough of this idiotic Minotaur bravado.”
There was a scuttling tapping noise and the scrape of a door. Rain slunk around the building and hid behind a poorly made crate. He peeked over the top as the front door opened, a long black spike crept from the door and hooked around it. It took a moment for Rain to realise he was looking at a gargantuan spider leg as several more thin legs slipped through the door and then the body of the creature, a terrifying spider with the top half of a Goblin sticking up where its head might have been. The monster needed to turn its body at an angle to fit its bulbous black abdomen through the door and even then it was a struggle, it got stuck and had to tug itself free. Standing on the grass the bottom of her spider torso must have been six foot off the ground such was her size.
Behind her the Half-minotaur ducked through the door. His dark green fur slashed with black rippled over thick slabs of muscle as he moved, heavy hooves impacting the ground. His face was more squashed than a Minotaur with pointier teeth and long knife ears and orange eyes. The twisted crown of horns on his head gave Rain pause, so did the fact he was massive, standing eight foot tall, larger than any Minotaur Rain had seen before.
Not just a Goblin-minotaur. He thought. An evolved Hobgoblin-minotaur?
The Spider-goblin turned to Cairn. “I’m going to cast a locating spell to see if I can pinpoint the creature and then we are going to gather our strongest, even the Harpy Queen if she can be convinced, and we are going to destroy this intruder into our tribe's home.”
He sneered but remained silent. The half-spider rolled her fingers and stretched her wrists before cracking her knuckles and forming a complicated sequence of seals with her hands. A large intricate symbol on her spider abdomen began to glow blue and mist started to spill from it. She focused, deep in concentration.
Cairn scratched his balls through his loincloth. He peered around, bored. He yawned. He paused mid yawn however when his eyes alighted on a trail of red through the grass that led to the building they had just come from. He blinked and furrowed his brow.
“Remain quiet, this is not an easy spell and far from my usual area of expertise. I almost missed that leveler with it this morning. I need to focus.”
“Hey, I see red.”
“I see red, on the grass.”
The Spider-goblin paused and the mist began to dissipate. She scowled.
“Just, go look into it, I’m losing my spell with your blabbering.”
The Spider-goblin closed her eyes and the mist resurged.
Cairn sighed and strolled off to investigate.
Rain backed away from the crate and returned to behind the building. He looked up. The building was crude but it did have a roof. He set his claws in the uneven wooden planking and hauled himself up until he clambered atop. Crouched low he made his way across the wooden tiles until he could peer down. The Minotaur was looking at the bloody grass while vaguely scratching his chin.
His eyes tracked the red following it until they came to the window Rain had hid by to listen in on them.
“Cairn! It’s here! The damn thing is here!” cried a scratchy voice causing Cairn’s eyes to widen.
Too late. Rain dropped from the roof like winged death, his claws outstretched and maw open ready to bite down on the Half-Minotaur’s neck. At the last possible moment the Minotaur caught sight of Rain’s shadow and twisted his head aside. Rain’s teeth latched onto his shoulder. The Minotaur’s arm swept up before he could bite deep and crashed into him. Rain was flung away from the Minotaur with a flap of his skin hanging from his front teeth and went tumbling across the grass.
The Minotaur roared his pain and jerked around to see Rain picking himself up. Blood washed down his shoulder.
“That was good, you almost got me. I can see why you’ve survived with a nasty bite like that. You’d just need to get up close and Bam!” The Minotaur closed his thick fingered fist in front of his chest. “Unsuspecting prey would fall like flies.”
Rain grinned. “Suspecting too.”
“Hmm. Too bad you’re not female, I’d have liked to have some kids with teeth like that. I’ll still enjoy breaking you in for the regular Gobbos however.”
“I’ll pass thanks.”
“You won't get a choice in the matter. You won't be the first monster I’ve caught for the tribe, nor will you be the last.”
Rain snorted. “You threaten, but I will devour you.”
Cairn’s nose wrinkled in annoyance.
The Spider-goblin scuttled around the building at this point and came to a stop seeing Rain, a worried look crossed her face.
“Listen, thing that came from the lake, you haven't fought anything like me before,” boasted Cairn.
“We’ll see. Your Harpy Queen talked big too, but she’s dead now.”
Cairn blinked at him and turned to the Spider-goblin.
She grit her teeth. “I do not think he is lying.”
Cairn turned back to him with a snarl. “You’ll regret that.”
The Spider-goblin began to make seals with her hands and violet fire sparked between her fingers, then a large three foot wide violet fireball bloomed above her glowing spider abdomen and hovered in place.
Rain felt a shiver go up his spine seeing the fire. Magic fire. Rain hated magic fire. He almost lunged at the Spider-goblin but was barely able to control himself. He could feel the memories of his death crawling up his back, slithering around his neck. His breathing accelerated.
“Burn him up Lazia,” said Cairn, unbuckling a pair of hatchets from his belt. They were really broad bladed axes but they appeared as hatchets in his meaty hands.
“Wiser words you have never spoken,” said Lazia as she flung her hands forward. A dozen fist sized fireballs sprung from her fingers and zipped through the air. Rain threw himself out the way as they phut phut phut shot one by one into the grass sending sprays of dirt into the air. The fireballs didn't stop and Rain had to scramble out of the way as the stream chased him.
Cairn bellowed and charged toward him with hatchets raised. Rain dove and angled himself so that the Minotaur was between himself and the Spider and blocking her aim. Then he raced toward him. He dove down below the angle of the hatchets and his teeth shot toward the Minotaurs shin aiming to maim him. The Minotaur saw this however and fell forward snatching his leg up into the air and away from the slicing teeth. He rolled when he hit the ground and smoothly leapt to his feet facing Rain who was once again being bombarded, only for a moment however as Rain lunged toward Cairn once more. This time Cairn did not have momentum and he crossed his hatchets to block the hurtling wolf. Rain thrust his paws forward intending to rip the hatchets from the Minotaur’s grip, his paws wrapped around the shafts just below the blades and he twisted back torquing into the ground and heaving his weight into them. The Minotaur’s hooves slid across the grass but then he stabilised and heaved backwards pulling Rain off his feet to his surprise. Cairn roared and flung him to the ground where a hatchet whipped down to take Rain in the chest. Rain rolled to the side just avoiding it and reached for the Minotaur’s hooves to drag them into range of his teeth but the Minotaur predicting this danced away giving the Spider-goblin line of sight.
Fire rained down as Lazia unleashed and Rain’s vision was filled with violet. He scrambled out of the way but one of the fist-sized fireballs landed on his lower leg in the same spot that Myra had hit him in his previous life. He howled in pain and rolled across the grass desperately trying to slap the fire out. At last the fire died, but not in his mind, he could still see it, Myra’s fire. He looked at the Spider-goblin and he saw Myra. It was happening again. No. Not like this. His heart rate spiked and his lips raised in a savage snarl that shifted into a deep bone shaking roar that sent the grass around him trembling and the air rippling.
Feet cratered the earth as he exploded forward, yellow eyes locked on to the Spider-goblin who was backing away fearfully.
“Cairn! Stop him! Stop him!”
She spun her hands, frantically spitting out fireballs as she formed a fiery net. Cairn rushed forward, his hooves stomping the grass flat, but he was too slow and Rain outpaced him, dashing straight into the oncoming fireballs, shifting and slipping around them ever onward.
The Spider-goblin suddenly threw up her hands and a massive spectacular net of fire bloomed in front of her forming a wall between her and Rain. Unfortunately for her the net formed slightly above the ground. She hurried to manipulate it downward but Rain threw himself down and slid underneath, his momentum carrying him through. He scrambled to his feet and turned on the spider who was skittishly backing away.
Rain dived under the spider as she moved her hands back to throw more fire and he disappeared from her line of sight. She yelped and scuttled back, lifting her body high to try to avoid the wolf.
She looked to her side wide-eyed and trembling as one of her legs fell to the ground having been bitten from her body.
“Burn! Burn damn you!”
She raised her hands into the air and the huge fire ball floating above her abdomen exploded, washing over her in a wave of violet fire. Solar flares of violet licked off her body as she was engulfed, lashing between her legs and boiling the air. The air sizzled but the Spider-goblin was unharmed, she swung her head about, desperately looking to see if she had hit Rain as the last of the violet fire wisped away.
She screamed as another of her legs fell to the ground.
Cairn bellowed and charged through the dwindling net of fire that still hung in the air, burning himself in the process. Furious, the minotaur rushed to the spider, his hatchets raised. Rain ducked behind her as he moved trying to get a clear strike, Rain didn't give him one and danced between her legs as the Minotaur circled Lazia in growing frustration.
Rain suddenly grabbed one of the Spider’s legs and heaved, pulling her away from the Minotaur and towards the building. Cairn bellowed again and rushed around to strike at him, Rain used the time it took from him to circle him to place his teeth once more on one of the Spider’s legs. The Minotaur snarled and in desperation threw one of his hatchets, the steel hurtled through the air like a meteor toward Rain’s head. Rain flinched back, surprised by the force and accuracy of the throw, barely avoiding it. The hatchet missed Rain and smashed into Lazia’s leg.
Lazia screamed as her leg broke and her legs went out from under her. She fell. Unfortunately for Rain he was ducking back underneath at the same time and the entire weight of the Spider-goblin came crashing down on him. He slammed into the ground flat with a whuff of breath, the weight of her resting on his back.
He struggled to get free but could do nothing as heavy Minotaur hooves stomped toward his head.
“Got you, you piece of shit.”
A massive meaty hand came down on his neck and he found himself being forcefully dragged from beneath the Spider. He was hauled up into the air and a pair of arms wrapped around his chest straight jacketing him to Cairn’s torso, the Minotaur’s arms were long enough that he could still grip Rain's neck with one hand while keeping his arms pinned. Rain struggled but found that with leverage the Minotaur’s strength far outstripped the Cavebear’s. He was trapped as solidly as though he were wrapped in bands of steel.
Lazia climbed to her feet with difficulty, breathing hard.
“You okay Lazia?”
“No I’m not fucking okay! My legs! My beautiful legs!”
“You’ll get over it. You got spares.”
The Spider-goblin made a strangled scream.
“That thing, that hateful thing, that thing needs to die!”
She lifted up a hand and it was engulfed with violet fire.
“Now hold on. I’ve caught it see? Literally all we need are collars and chains from the breeding pens and we have a new breeding stud.”
“Fuck your stupid plan to make kids with this fucking horror Cairn.”
“It’s not stupid! Don’t you see the potential Lazia? just think of the potential! We could conquer the dungeon! Monsters could rule the surface!”
The Spider took a step forward and her other hand ignited as well.
“Do I look like I’m thinking about goddamned potential?”
“No, but c’mon Laz, I jumped through your own fire for you.”
The Spider stepped forward and Rain snarled as the fire came nearer, struggling with all his might.
“And then you broke one of my legs!”
“That was an accident!”
Rain growled and snapped at the air, pushing himself to the limit, but Cairn’s grip was unwavering.
“I’m going to kill it Cairn. Hold it still.”
Cairn backed away as Lazia came on.
“NO! It’s mine! I caught it!”
“Let me kill it!”
Lazia lunged forward and Rain saw only Myra’s fire.
He let out a snarling furious roar unlike any before. It rose up deep from within himself, deeper, as though it came from his very soul, a throbbing bass rumble that surged up like distant thunder. Rain’s muscles strained against his binds, his head drew back and then thrust forward, maw yawning wide, and the sound physically collided with the air as it was unleashed, the bone-vibrating shock reverberation causing the air to shimmer outward in a shockwave, strings of blood and drool flung from his teeth as his jaws shuddered wider.
The roar built on itself, growing and booming. All grass in every direction was blown flat as waves of limitless bass flooded forth. The ground trembled and quaked beneath Cairn’s hooves as though the very earth was afraid. But it didn't stop, no, it just became louder. Trees shifted in the distance, the fire in Lazia’s hands was blown away, stones and dust began to drop from the cavern ceiling far above, the buildings they stood by shifted and creaked, wooden tiles crashing to the ground as they were shaken loose. And then it became even louder.
Cairn could see Lazia’s lips moving but no voice reached him, it was all he could do to hold onto the wolf as it released a staggering ear numbing ripsnarl roar. Lazia was screaming silently at him now but his sight was starting to go dark around the edges. He blinked and felt fluid run from his eyes, no, not just his eyes, his ears were running too and his nose and mouth. He licked his lips, the iron taste of blood. The vibrations were so strong now that he could barely breathe, he could feel his heart struggling to beat under the pressure waves. Oh, was it the wolf? Everything was going dark. His fingers slipped from around the beast. Why did he do that? Why did he fall to his knees? Why was the dark ground rushing up toward him?
Cairn slumped to the ground with blood pouring from every orifice as the roar came to an end.