Beneath the Dragoneye Moons

by

Selkie

Chapter 196 - Journey to the center of Pallos I

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A note from Selkie

And we're back to Elaine! And artwork!

 

Iona:

Fanart! Lonerywolf commissioned this from https://www.deviantart.com/nezhiei

 

And Raivshard is a master with Artbreeder! Elaine!

 

 

I sat against the wall, exhausted, out of mana, as the dwarves argued.

“We need to go after Toke.” Glifir was insisting. “It hasn’t been that long.”

“We have no idea what’s out there. Toke is strong. Whatever happened to her, we need to take this slow and careful, not just blindly rush in.” Ned argued back.

“I’m with Ned.” Drin said, eyeing the flickering torch uneasily. “We’ve lost all of our supplies. Following up with Toke could easily get us wiped out.”

“We should find Toke. Our chances are better with her. Plus, if any of you vanished, you’d want the rest of us to come find you, right?” Fik punctuated almost every word with a stab of his finger.

Round and round they argued, making no progress, getting steadily louder. Without Lule to take charge, they were lost. There was no solid chain of command, no second to step up.

I slumped against the wall. I missed Lule. She was a solid, kind presence. She kept me safe, even to the bitter end. She was the first person I’d had die in front of me in a long time, without divine intervention or White Dove interfering. A cruel reminder that some things were beyond me, that I was still a small leaf to be blown around in the wind.

I knew what I needed to do. I’d literally been trained for this, to step up and take charge when needed. The idea had been for me to do this with Ranger teams, who were already primed to take orders from a Sentinel, but this wouldn’t be too different.

However, I just wanted a bit of a break. Lule’s death and Toke’s disappearance weighed on my mind. [Center of the Universe] was purely anti-pain, and without the emotional stability, I just wanted to grieve for just five minutes. Enough to regenerate my arm, and catch a breather after the battle above.

The entire mine shook and rumbled, dust and rocks falling from the ceiling, as some powerful blow or another shook the very earth we were under. A reminder that the clash of the titans was continuing above, and that we were only tentatively safe here.

It did shut the remaining dwarves up, and we spent a moment just hearing the steady drip-drip of water falling from the ceiling, the rainwater from Etalix’s storm seeping in, and seeing a narrow circle of light from the torch. Some other sounds reached us, but it was hard to make out what they were. The mine was all sorts of weird when it came to sound. Some noises vanished, while others hit surfaces just right, bouncing them further than any noise had any right to go. An occasional click echoed through the mine, like a hammer delicately tapping.

Something the size of one of the walls - which, given that this mine was dug out by the dwarves, wasn’t much of an accomplishment - seemed to move in the dark. I mentally cursed.

Not even a minute of rest. Not counting the time spent checking my stats and talking.

Out of habit, I glanced at my mana, then did a double-take.

I’d regenerated how much?!

Cripes.

I regenerated my arm with a thought, only putting forth a minor effort to improve the efficiency. Sure, the inefficiency caused almost all of my mana to vanish, but I wasn’t going to lollygag about when we were under attack.

“To arms!” I yelled, thanking past me a billion times for properly going through the drills and learning how to use weapons.

While I was still trying to regenerate enough mana, I threw out a minor [Shine] all around me, eating into my regeneration, but at least showing us what we were dealing with.

My sense of size had been right. It was the size, and roughly the shape, of a wall, a dark brown, almost black surface to better blend in with the tunnels. The light shining on it gave it depth though, and it was semi-translucent.

A slime. The biggest damn slime I’d ever seen, the first one out of the dead zone, but it was a slime nonetheless.

I used my new and improved [Long-Range Identify] from like a meter away on the slime.

[Deep-Dwelling Slime]. Roughly level 370 or so.

Given the size and the level, I had serious doubts that my last dregs of mana would be enough to burn through it, and blow up the core holding the slime together. Instead, I used it on [Sunrise], figuring a clear head and a surge of energy would be more valuable for the upcoming battle.

The presence of an enemy united the dwarves like nothing else would. Weapons were drawn, and I was happy to see that everyone had one - although Glifir’s were made out of Ice. Lines connected from Ned to everyone else, including me.

The slime lurched forward, and I danced back a hair, making sure to keep some distance between us. I stabbed out with my short sword, mentally cursing my lack of a spear and how damn close I needed to be to use my short sword, only for it to barely sink into the slime. In a moment, my sword was bounced out with such force that it rebounded out of my hand, deeper into the dark.

I cursed my low strength, and made a mental note that I needed to re-examine my fighting style and physical training when I got back to Remus.

I scooted back as Drin and Fik engaged, with Glifir pacing back and forth behind them, looking for some sort of opening.

He was using knives made out of Ice, and if anything, they were worse for dealing with the slime than my short sword was. The slime also encompassed the entire tunnel, leaving no room for Glifir to flank it. I’m honestly not sure what the roguish dwarf would even be able to DO to a giant slime. Like. They didn’t exactly have vulnerable bits to stab in the back or anything.

Didn’t stop him from throwing a few knives made out of ice, but they barely penetrated before stopping and melting away or clattering uselessly onto the stone floor. That melting rate was far too fast to be heat, and implied a deadly, acidic end to anyone caught by the slime.

“Crush the core!” I yelled.

Look, it was on the obvious side of things, but sometimes the obvious needed to be said.

What was extra-hard was slimes, generally, were fairly impervious to physical attacks. We’d lost both of our mage heavy-hitters, and I was straight up out of mana.

Although, I was regenerating it at a crazy pace. I threw a 500-mana needle-thin beam of Radiance at the slime, only for it to practically vanish as it hit. I think the slime collapsed around it, but what I was shooting was narrow compared to the sheer bulk of the slime. In other words - it was doing damage, but there was just too much slime for it to matter.

The rest of the dwarves were shouting and yelling, mostly war cries at the blocky menace.

“Anyone have Arcanite?” I called out, loud but calm. “I might be able to hit the core if I get Arcanite.”

Nobody answered. I hadn’t seen anyone using it so far, and I wasn’t too surprised.

Drin yelled as he bashed his shield, charged to stun, at the slime, who recoiled slightly from the shock. Then it surged forward, trying to smother and overwhelm Drin. Fik slapped him on the side, and Drin flew back, further than he had any right to, as Fik also jumped back.

Which reminded me. Fik was a spell-axe, with strong Gravity abilities to supplement his physical work.

“Fik!” I yelled at him. “Can you kill the core?”

He made a grasping motion in the air, then shook his head.

“No! I’m not strong enough!” He shouted back.

“Retreat!” I ordered. “We can’t kill it!”

The second weakness of slimes - just walking away. We couldn’t kill it, but slimes weren’t known for their terrifying speed. Just their resilience. If I had a full bar of mana, I’d feel comfortable trying to kill the slime. I was fairly confident in my abilities to boot.

Hang on - my bar had almost doubled recently. With only half a bar of mana, I felt like I could kill the slime.

“It’s foolish to retreat! No slime can stand against the might of the Nolgordians!” Ned yelled.

I whirled on him, but Fik beat me to the punch. Backing off, keeping a wary eye on the slime, he explained his logic to an outraged Ned.

“Healer Ned. Listen to Healer Elaine. She’s correct, there’s no benefit to fighting the slime here and now. I’d like to retire one day, and not become slime food. We’re going.”

Ned stomped off with us, not stupid enough to let the slime eat him to prove a point.

We retreated down the tunnels, the walls occasionally shaking. There were collapsed passages here and there, most of the cave-ins fresh, some of them ancient. Passages went up, passages went down, and I was wildly lost before long.

It was asking too much that the dwarves would’ve dug this out in a logical, sensible fashion. Instead the mines twisted and turned, looping back on themselves endlessly, chasing their precious metals.

Eventually I saw a collapsed side-shaft, where the collapse was a moderate distance in. A pool of water was off to the side, water running down a wall to feed it.

Perfect for my purposes.

“In here.” I called out, turning and walking in. Forcing the dwarves to follow me, or leave me behind.

Something of their old mission remained, and I was basically the only light source. They followed me into the dead-end. I briefly considered using one of my gems, Sealing’s shield, but decided against it. I was probably going to need it later, and he was dead. It was a momento of sorts, an irreplaceable skill.

I did throw up [Mantle] across the entrance once everyone was in. The skill still didn’t take any mana to activate. It only used mana when it was hit, and only when it was overloaded or I was out of mana would it break.

“Why here?” Drin asked after an awkward moment, as I folded my arms together.

“We’re beat. We need to regroup and reassess, and it’s not happening out there.” I said. “We need a safe place to evaluate. Now. What did you all manage to get down here?”

“Why should we-” Ned started to say, but I cut him off.

I was so done with Ned.

“You’re listening to me because I’ve been trained for this. I’ve lived this. And the four of you, no offense, were spending more time standing around arguing, than getting anything done.

“We needed to figure out the best course of action!” Glifir protested.

I actually let him finish his sentence because he hadn’t been a jerk.

“Making a bad decision is better than no decision at all.” I countered back. “I literally have been trained to do this.” I was repeating myself, but it bore repeating.

I glanced at the wall, seeing that it was still good. I took a seat, and beckoned everyone else to as well.

I evaluated Ned briefly. We started off on the wrong foot, and things had just gotten worse. The stuff that needed to get done, needed to get done though.

Ugh. Let’s try something simple.

“Healer Ned the 92nd.” I politely said, giving him a seated half-bow. “I recall that you have a food purification skill?”

I got all sorts of looks from my sudden shift in tone. Ned stiffly nodded. I gestured at the pool of water next to me.

“In order to survive, we’re going to need air, water, mana, defense, shelter and food. In that order. Air is taken care of, and is out of our hands if it fails. Water is here and now, and we should make use of it while we can. We’re all regenerating mana for defense, and shelter is both everywhere and impossible, depending on how we look at it. Food is last, and while regenerating mana is hungry work, it’ll be days to weeks before anyone starves to death.”

I got some looks at that last part. I mentally shook my head.

It’s like they’d never taken a long, hard look at what exactly can kill them, and how long it took. I had to remind myself that I was with a team from the wall, which wasn’t exactly the dwarf A-team, nor was Lule here, nor did they get the same type of training that Rangers got.

They were competent in their role, but they didn’t have the all-rounder experience.

I stared at Ned from my seated position, and slowly everyone else turned to look at him.

I got a look from him that promised this wasn’t over yet, but he walked over to the pool, knelt down and touched it, purifying the water.

I didn’t mention that it was entirely unneeded, since I could simply cure any problems that tainted water had. However, I didn’t want to drink dirt or shit anymore than the next gal.

“Right. Once some basics are secured, I plan on going after Toke. Fik was correct. We don’t leave people behind.” I said. “If any of you ended up in a cave-in, would you want us to leave you, or dig you out?”

There was muttered agreement at that.

“Scout Glifir. Can you get us back to where we initially fell?” I put our scout on the spot. We hadn’t gone particularly far, slimes needing no great speed to escape, but it’d be difficult for me to reverse engineer the path. I could try walking backwards with [Pristine Memories], but yeah. Slow and obnoxious.

Glifir grinned at me.

“Sure!” He said, and instead of saying anything more, conjured up Mist in a convoluted shape.

I studied it for a moment, seeing a main long wiggling part, and lots of little nubs attached to it before it clicked.

“That’s a map.” I said stupidly.

“Of course it’s a map! We’re here.” Glifir pointed to one spot on the map. “And we fell here.” He pointed to the opposite side.

Great skill for a scout!

I beamed at him.

“This is great! Getting lost will be hard with this map.”

There was no way I was going to curse it by saying “getting lost will be impossible with this map” or any such nonsense like that.

“Right. Let’s drink up, recover our mana, then head back. Any objections?” I asked.

Ned and Drin shot me unhappy looks, but Glifir and Fik were nodding.

Good.

 

I changed my stat sheet to have mana done per second, since the numbers were otherwise getting high.

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 19]

[Mana: 5261/239290]

[Mana Regen: 60.1 (+42.5)]

Stats

[Free Stats: 101]

[Strength: 274]

[Dexterity: 497]

[Vitality: 3376]

[Speed: 3376]

[Mana: 23929]

[Mana Regeneration: 23929 (+15314.56)]

[Magic Power: 9997 (+149955)]

[Magic Control: 9997 (+149955)]

[Class 1: [The Dawn Sentinel - Celestial: Lv 355]]

[Celestial Affinity: 355]

[Cosmic Presence: 269]

[Solar Infusion: 140]

[Center of the Universe: 355]

[Dance with the Heavens: 355]

[Wheel of Sun and Moon: 311]

[Mantle of the Stars: 315]

[Sunrise: 128]

[Class 2: [Ranger-Mage - Radiance: Lv 256]+]

[Radiance Affinity: 256]

[Radiance Resistance: 256]

[Radiance Conjuration: 256]

[Shine: 188]

[Sun-Kissed: 256]

[Blaze: 256]

[Talaria: 256]

[Nova: 256]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Long-Range Identify: 355]

[Pristine Memories: 205]

[Pretty: 154]

[Bullet Time: 269]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 300]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 355]

[Persistent Casting: 255]

[Learning: 340]

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Selkie

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