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A note from CoCop

Sorry for the delay- I'm a bit sick and work has been an unending nightmare.

 

Enjoy please!

“How is your mana, Miss Kat,” Dorrik stood next to her, back against the wall as they watched the rest of the party through the mist.

“Almost up to full,” she replied after checking her status. “That last round of healing took a lot out of me.”

“Indeed,” Dorrik nodded, “Between the cliff frogs and the troglodytes, all three of us took a fair number of severe blows. The cliff frogs in particular were worrying. None of us were properly ready for their hallucinogenic mucus. I will have to talk to Sikka about equipment that will protect us from poisons and intoxicants when we get back to the enclave.”

Kaleek stepped closer to the two of them, his face and neck almost completely hairless and covered in burns. Kat winced even though she knew that she didn’t look much better. After all, Cure Wounds I was only a wood tier ability. It could restore the hit points lost to the acid, but it couldn’t touch any true disfigurement or disability.

“Just so long as we can easily take off the equipment in question,” Kaleek grinned, the expression turning his face into a nightmare of bubbly skin and taut scar tissue, “some of us want to be able to have a couple of drinks to unwind when we’re back in town.”

“Kaleek,” Dorrik stepped away from the wall and put a single claw on the desoph’s scarred and bare shoulder. “I love you like a clutchmate, but please do not smile until your avatar is refreshed. Already you’ve managed to turn both of my stomachs.”

“Pssshhh,” Kaleek blew out a breath dismissively through his acid pocked lips, “you were always a softy, Dorrik. If it’s really that big of a deal, I say we spring for a skill stone for Kat to learn a better healing ability.”

Kat turned to the deformed otter incredulously. “Did you seriously just accuse Dorrik of being soft?” She asked, struggling to believe her ears. “Dorrik, the warrior-monk fighting gigantic jungle predators day and night? That Dorrik?”

“They’re squeamish about injuries,” Kaleek winked grotesquely at her, “it comes from being a good enough fighter that they almost never get hit. One day they’ll realize that females dig the scars.”

“Not this female,” Kat snorted, rolling her eyes.

“Indeed,” Dorrik nodded thankfully in her direction, “when looking for satisfactory genetic material, why would a female look to the warrior so bad at fighting that they keep on getting hit. Obviously the superior option is the fighter strong enough to emerge from battle unscathed.”

“Hey now,” Kaleek frowned, squinting at Dorrik.

“ANYWAY,” Kat stepped in between the two of them, ignoring the smirk on the giant lizard’s face, “My mana is back at full. If the two of you are done with your posturing, I’m as ready to tackle the boss as I’m ever going to be.”

“Fine,” Kaleek grinned, drawing a flinch from the lokkel, “let’s go kill a giant lizard or something.”

The three of them approached the final door, Kaleek taking his usual spot in the lead and pushing the door open. Kat followed the partially bald otter into the final room and frowned. The center of the boss chamber was a lake with the dungeon altar at the center. Other than that, it was completely empty. Even the mist was gone.

“That’s new,” she mumbled, scanning the room and ceiling with nightvision. Kat’s frown deepened as her search failed to reveal any sort of hidden monster.

Dorrik followed her in, a frown sprouting in their face as they surveyed the room as well.

“Have you ever heard of a dungeon altar without a boss to protect it?” She asked, her eyes still flitting about the room, trying to discover how and where she was missing their foe.

“No,” the lokkel responded simply, their crest flaring with distress.

“I would make some sort of quip about us being lucky,” Kaleek sighed, “but the last time I did that the monster sprayed me with acid from above. Nothing about this entire dungeon has been lucky.”

“On that, we are agreed,” Dorrik replied, drawing both of their swords. “We should fan out enough that an area attack won’t catch all of us at once while staying close enough to aid the rest of the team if we are attacked.”

Kat nodded, gripping her knife as she slipped to the left, letting Kaleek continue in his role as the point of their team while Dorrik worked their way to the right. Once all three of them were in position, fifteen to twenty feet apart, they began moving cautiously toward the lake.

Still, no matter how closely she inspected the dripping stone walls of the boss chamber, Kat couldn’t spot anything. If there actually was a boss monster in there with them, the only conclusion she could come to was that it was invisible and stalking them, hardly a pleasant possibility.

The tension only built as they traveled the entire distance to the lake without incident. Each step, Kat kept expecting a monster to burst from hiding and attack them. By the time they reached the lake, she was ready to stab anything that moved.

“Do you see anything Miss Kat?” Dorrik’s question startled her into jumping, slightly.

Silently, Kat checked their surroundings once more before shaking her head. It was almost madness on her part. She didn’t know if this was the thirtieth or the hundredth time she’d checked for foes only to turn up empty.

“Maybe we’re just lucky?” Kaleek asked flippantly, stepping into the lake to begin wading toward the altar.

After a moment of chewing on her lower lip and exchanging worried looks with Dorrik, Kat followed him. A dozen steps later, the water was up to her waist, and Kat was staring down at the murky liquid and contemplating her options.

They were barely a quarter of the way to the altar, and at this rate they would have to swim. She and Kaleek would be fine, but she had no idea if Dorrik had ever even learned given his dislike for large bodies of water.

Something brushed her leg.

“Guys,” Kat’s knife was in her hand as her eyes glued themselves to the surface of the dark water, looking for any sign of a disturbance. “There’s something alive in here.”

“That’s your imagination,” Kaleek responded, not even turning to look at her.

A soft, spongy substance tickled past her other calf.

“Something just moved past my leg,” she whipped around, trying to spot anything in the direction she’d felt the object moving.

“Hold on,” Dorrik interjected, concern on their face, “I think I felt something too.”

Before Kat could respond, a fist-sized tentacle wrapped itself around her ankle, whipping her up into the air.

Her head snapped back, teeth clacking shut as it swung her side to side. Distantly, Kat heard Kaleek and Dorrik screaming as she clenched her eyes shut in an attempt to fight the world’s sudden tilt and spin.

She marshalled her mana, trying to tune out the abuse the rest of her body was going through while concentrating on Gravity’s Grasp. No matter how powerful the monster was, the laws of physics and biology were fairly simple. It could only pack so much muscle into a tentacle.

The spell snapped into place, almost tripling Kat’s weight in a fraction of a second. For a moment, the tentacle around her ankle held on, bowing as it tried to keep her suspended in the air.

Then, she slipped through its slimy grasp, tumbling downward toward the beast itself.

Almost immediately, Kat regretted her decision. Kaleek was trying to fight back another pair of the tentacles, his big sword removing large chunks of flesh whenever they approached him. About ten paces to the otter’s side, Dorrik glowed purple with the power of their Psi abilities, swords blurring as they opened deep gashes in the monster’s main body.

As for the main body? Kat frantically cut her mana to Gravity’s Grasp, instead focusing her attention on Levitation. It’s body was spherical, a slimy hemisphere of mottled greyish flesh dotted with short eyestalks around a large circular central mouth. Specifically, a central mouth lined with forearm length teeth that she was falling directly toward.

Kat spread her arms out as Levitation finished casting, increasing her surface area and air resistance. The remains of the clothing under her armor flapped wildly, as her rate of descent slowed dramatically.

It wasn’t enough.

She clenched her jaw, eyes on the gnashing blender of teeth below her as she began channeling her mana into Pseudopod. She was still falling too fast, the spell wouldn’t finish in time for her to pull-

Kat’s world flashed purple, and suddenly, with the force of a crashing car, she stopped. She almost lost hold of her spell, her sudden jerking halt taking her by surprise, but with a grunt and a burst of mana she managed to smooth over the flaws her distraction introduced into the spell.

A moment later, the purple glow disappeared, and a tentacle of water reached out from Kat and gripped onto one of the monster’s nearby fleshy appendages. With a pulse of her will, Kat dragged herself to it, shooting a quick smile of thanks at Dorrik for the save.

As soon as Kat touched the creature’s slippery tubular limb, Kat jammed her knife into it up to the hilt and ripped downward. The blade parted its spongy flesh like paper, drawing a gush of hot blood before Kat kicked off of it, aiming toward the monster’s main body, her Pseudopod still wrapped around the tentacle to guide her descent.

Even with her decreased weight, Kat felt her foot sink into the monster’s soft flesh. She glanced around at the various tentacles sprouting from the creature’s massive spherical body. All of them were occupied with the rest of the party.

Setting her jaw, Kat dismissed Pseudopod. As soon as her second spell was gone, she began casting Gravity Spike, aiming the dangerous ability deep into the toothy pit that was the monster’s mouth.

A tense second or so later, it activated, sending a burst of magic into the creature’s fleshy depths. Its skin rumbled under Kat, and a number of its hand sized eyestalks swiveled to look at her.

“Well,” she activated Cat Step, taking advantage of her decreased weight to blaze across the monster’s slimy skin as she began casting Gravity Spike once again, “that got its attention.”

She planted a foot in its springy flesh, jumping backward just before one of the tentacles slammed into the monster in front of her. Another five blurred steps in the other direction, she crouched, only to use every ounce of energy in her body to leap over a second tentacle that whipped horizontally at chest level through the space she had just occupied.

At the apex of her jump, she released the second Gravity Spike, utilizing her vantage point to watch a chunk of flesh deep in its gullet twist and pull before dissolving into a mess of blood and mangled meat.

It shuddered once again, drawing a muffled curse from Kat as all of its tentacles shifted to her, ignoring the rest of her party entirely. The moment she landed, her world devolved into a deadly ballet of sprinting, and careful twisting dodges as the tentacles whistled past her.

She didn’t have the time or focus to work on another spell, but Levitation kept doing its work, keeping her body light enough that she could outrun and out jump the fleshy tapestry of spongy appendages that sought to slam her off of the monster and into the water.

The monster shuddered again, the careful weave of the attacking tendrils disrupted by a keening wail of pain from below her feet. A quick glance revealed Kaleek, a grotesque smile on his scarred face, unmolested by the monster as he hacked through it’s blubbery flesh with great, brutal slashes.

Kat ducked under a clumsy swipe that carried enough force behind it to cave in her skull. She couldn’t see Dorrik, but that only meant that the lokkel was on the other side of the monster, hidden from her by its bulk as they carved their own way deep into the slimy abomination.

The fight only lasted a minute longer, but by that point Kat was almost out of stamina from her constant use of Cat Step. She collapsed backward in exhaustion, not even caring that her back was soaked in a combination of the boss monster’s stinking blood and the oily mucus that covered its skin.

Kaleek climbed up next to her, his mottled skin and sparse fur covered from whiskers to tail in blood. He wrinkled his button nose at her before reaching down and offering her a hand.

“Don’t tell Dorrik,” he whispered cheerfully, “but I think I’m okay with them picking out the dungeons from here on out. That was absolutely awful.”

She grabbed his hand, groaning as she let the otter pull her to her feet.

“I think we’re on the same page.” Kat flashed him a grin. “I don’t want Dorrik to get insufferable, but if we could avoid this sort of disaster in the future, I’d be ecstatic.”

“What are the two of you chatting about?” Dorrik called out from the small island with the Dungeon’s altar. “I thought you’d be excited to get out of this humidity and into the refreshing heat of the desert.”

Kaleek groaned, drawing a giggle from Kat.

“We’ll be with you in a second,” Kat called out, stretching her back as the two of them walked along the huge floating corpse of the boss monster. Dorrik placed one of their claws on the altar before disappearing in a rainbow flash of light.

“You know,” Kat stopped just before jumping into the water at the edge of the monster.

Kaleek dove into the water, acrobatically spinning around to face her while treading water, a single singed off eyebrow raised quizzically.

“As painful and awful as all of that was,” Kat chuckled, rubbing a hand over her partially bare scalp, the puckered ridges of her own acid scars sensitive under her questing fingers. “It was kind of fun. There’s really something about being thrown into the unknown and having to figure out how to overcome a challenge on the spot that really gets the heart pumping.”

“I know,” Kaleek grinned back, the expression straining his scarred face, “all of us are like that. Dorrik might not show it, but they’re the same way. That’s the core of what this party is. Competence and absolutely loving the challenge and thrill of throwing yourself into danger as you seek to get stronger.”

“A year ago,” Kat nodded thoughtfully, “I would've said you’re full of shit. That I only risked myself because I had to. Now? I think you’re right. As dumb as it is, I love these dungeon dives.”

“Then I’m glad I met you now rather than a year ago,” Kaleek dove into the water, quickly working his way to the island in the center of the lake, leaving a thoughtful Kat behind.

Only after he activated the altar and disappeared, did she set out on her own. A short, almost leisurely swim later, she climbed up onto the small pile of dirt and approached the altar. Without hesitating, she put her hand on it

Congratulations, Adventurer!


You have completed the Wood Tier Level Three Dungeon, Stinging Mist.



Three of Three party members surviving. Good Job!


Assigning awards:


+1 Agility

 

In a flash of light, the desert appeared around her, the stallesp raiders that had chased them into the dungeon long since gone. For a moment, she took in the smiling faces of her friends, exultant after their triumph over the dungeon and their escape from the alien marauders.

Name

Katherine Debs

Class

Elementalist Initiate

Max Level

3

812 Marks

HP

22

Dodge

Poor

MP

33

Damage Mitigation

Insignificant

STA

26

Strength

4

Agility

6

Fortitude

3

Endurance

4

Mind

5

Reaction

5

Charisma

4

Spirit

3

Spells Known

Gravity’s Grasp

Levitation

Pseudopod

Dehydrate

Dazzle

Shadow

Water Jet

Gravity Spike

Skills Known

Knife I - 9, 21%

Gravity I - 7, 95%

Water I - 8, 42%

Cat Step - 6, 29%

Light I - 6, 29%

Cure Wounds I, 6, 68%

Penetrate

Perks

Nightvision

Leaping

 

Between her skills and her attributes, Kat’s abilities were improving steadily. Even without her magic, Kat could feel that her body was stronger, lighter, and significantly more responsive. She still had a long way to go, but it finally felt like things were starting to move on the right track.

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About the author

CoCop

  • United States
  • Founding Member of the Zard Skwad

Bio: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the streets at dawn looking for an angry fix of machine translated light novels, burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night

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