A room filled with darkness; no torches to light the walls. Water dripped down somewhere in the stillness alongside the raspy sounds of breathing. The sounds of metal chains echoed through the black.
“My sweet,” a voice came from the darkness, “My sweet, dear, love. Now, why don’t you tell me exactly what was going through your mind when you decided to jeopardize my plan? I’m ever so curious.”
By the faint sound of breathing, there were two other people in the room; one near the chains and one near the speaker.
A soft mumble shifted through the room; a soft, female sound. “I’m sorry sir, please forgive me,” the woman begged pitifully.
The speaker clicked his tongue, “Now, now, answer the question for me.”
The chains rattled as the woman seemed to struggle to see her accuser, “My love . . .”
A slap shattered the silence of the void. “Enough. Answer the question!” the speaker shouted.
The prisoner gulped and wetted her lips, “Mas . . . master, I was just infuriated about how such a low being can command you so easily. You are a lord among men, a god in human guise, my one and everything. I wanted him to feel anger, to realize his mistakes and how everything rested on his shoulders. I wanted him to feel fear; I wanted him to suffer for offending you so.”
“Oh my sweet dear,” the speaker sighed, “Your feeble little mind is still so limited. I obey him because it suits my plans. Why should I not be loyal to him? It was he who allowed us the opportunity to rise from our lowly station. In fact, when this is all over, I plan on letting him live as thanks.”
“But,” the speaker growled, his steps echoing as he walked forward and seemingly grabbed the prisoner by the hair, “That’s only if the plan succeeds! He needs to feel reliant on me, and you making him feel weak and insecure about my counsel now is improper! I don’t want him remembering whose idea it was to take . . . make changes in town. It’s already bad enough that this murderer is mucking up our plans! It only barely worked out that this incident lines up with the next phase of our plans! Do you know what will happen to us if we fail?”
As if to illustrate his point, the speaker hissed in pain and released the prisoner to the floor. A faint, barely visible light shone from the speaker’s chest. The speaker clutched at it and growled out in pain. The third in the room came forward to help the speaker.
“The mistresses call me,” the speaker muttered, “They want an update. Stay here and release her once her wounds are healed. I know she has learned her lesson.”
The third person grunted, but said nothing in reproach. The speaker opened the door, allowing light to illuminate the room.
“They should be starting soon,” he murmured, and the candle-lit walls outside the room seemed to darken.
“Kids, keep up,” Fred barked as his long legs carried him down the streets of Iron Town. Rowen and Milly chased after him, taking measured breaths as they followed the former adventurer.
“Dad, slow down!” Milly begged.
“The less time we spend on the streets, the better,” Fred muttered as his eyes scanned the buildings left and right, “It isn’t safe anymore for you two. It might not even be safe for me.”
“We know,” Rowen complained as he jogged up to Fred’s side, “You’ve been muttering the same thing all morning. Please Fred, slow down some?”
In response, Fred snorted and grabbed the two teen by the arms. Ignoring the two, he marched them down the middle of the street to the Adventurer Guild. He stopped once the three of them were safely inside, and only then did Fred let out a sigh of relief.
“Alright you two,” he began with his arms crossed, “I’ll be back when your class ends. Do not leave the guild until you are with me. If either of you sneak out, then you both will be washing dishes for a week without pay or break time.”
“Yes sir,” Rowen and Milly chorused together.
A moment later, Ganus walked out of the hallway where the classroom was. He smiled pleasantly at Rowen and Milly, though his face could not hide the stress he was feeling.
“Good, you both are safe,” he said relieved, “Have no fear Mr. . . . Excuse me, Fred. There are no out of classroom lessons today, or any other day really, so rest assured that under my watch nothing bad will happen to them. Thank-you for allowing them to continue to come here in these troubled times.”
Fred shook Ganus’ hand, “No sir, thank-you for agreeing to teach them. I feel much better knowing that a professional like yourself is watching over them and teaching them how to protect themselves.”
Milly and Rowen walked away from the two adults, letting them exchange pleasantries.
“Claire, are you there?” Rowen sent through the mind link.
“I’m here,” Claire answered, “I’m still a little nervous though.”
“Don’t be,” Rowen comforted her, “All you need to do is locate the best tracking beasts for our purposes: no stealing, no talking, and no revealing yourself to a single elf or human. Once you find a suitable monster, then note it down and we’ll get it.”
“Are you not still under watch?” Claire asked, “How will you acquire the monster if you can’t take a step outside?”
Rowen grunted softly, “Let’s figure that out once you find the beast. Milly and I are going to go to class now. Good luck Claire.”
“Thanks! Good luck to you too!”
Rowen turned to Milly and whispered, “She’s on her way.”
Milly winked back at Rowen with a cheeky grin. Her eyes swiveled for a moment toward the receptionist desk, where Belle was seemingly minding her own business.
“Which one, the blonde or the brunette?” Milly giggled quietly, “Personally I think father is more inclined toward the receptionist with the large . . .”
Belle reddened and quickly vanished.
Rowen and Milly exchanged a devious laugh. Adults should know better than to eavesdrop on children.
“Rowen, Milly, follow me to the classroom,” Ganus spoke up, his conversation with Fred finished. The teens followed obediently into the table filled room and took their seats.
“For today’s lesson, I thought it would be appropriate to go over the various strengths of weaknesses of slime monsters,” Ganus began, using his magic to levitate a piece of chalk to write on the board, “I’m sure you both are aware of what a slime is?”
“Yes sir,” Milly said with her hand raised, “A slime is a monster originating from a magic core. The core uses mana to secrete a gel like substance capable of melting down most things it engulfs into base element s which the slime core can feed on.”
“A completely correct answer, one I did not expect to hear from you Milly,” Ganus chuckled as Milly pouted pitifully at him, “But yes, as I said you are correct. Slime monsters are fairly unique monsters in our world. Rowen, why is that?”
“It is because unlike every other monster, slimes have no animal ancestor,” Rowen explained, “all animals, under the right magical circumstances, can evolve into a monster and gain a monster core. Their descendants will also be monsters. Some monsters have been thought to have existed since the creation of the world, like dragons and phoenix’s, and their bloodline has merged with many animals and monsters to create new species. Slimes are the exception, because without a core a slime dies, and thus no animal can be considered its ancestor.”
“Another complete answer, how exciting to hear from the both of you,” Ganus laughed proudly, “Well let’s see if we can get three for three; Why are slimes so difficult to create enchantments against?”
“I know,” Milly called out, “It’s because while normal slimes share the same acidic type attack, as slimes evolve into new forms they radically change their attack and defense strengths. A poison slime will attack with poison based attacks, but a bug slime will strike with physical attacks. In order to fight both, you’d need weapons and armor enchanted to fight both poison and blunt weapons. Depending on the environment, slimes are radically different.”
“And once again, you are correct,” Ganus nodded in satisfaction, “Slimes are indeed some of the most unique monsters on the continent, and likely the three worlds too. They can evolve in any direction depending on what they eat, however every slime suffers from the same weaknesses: removal of the core or magic.”
“What about slimes that lack a core, like the oozes and the gelatinous slimes?” Milly asked curiously.
“Those slimes sacrifice their core to attain an almost immunity toward certain types of attacks, but both are extremely weak to fire magic as a result. Without a solid core, they lack the ability to quickly replenish their slime once it is destroyed. Now, how to remove the core is a . . .”
“Tracking monster, tracking monster, tracking monster . . .” Claire hummed as she flew over the wooden palisade that separated the elvin district from Tent City. She grimaced as the familiar fey magic in the air began to speak with her.
“Ugh, I don’t like fey magic,” she muttered as she cast a tiny barrier on her skin, “Give me Doc’s warm, comfortable magic power any day.”
Upon reaching the district, she flew back down to roof level and began her search. She checked each street that she came across, choosing to hide until no one was around before flying to the next roof. While she doubted any normal elf could see her while she was invisible, she had no desire to risk it.
“Hi Claire!” Doc’s voice rang in her mind, scaring the poor pixie as she stumbled mid-fight and slammed head-first into a roof, “I missed talking to you!”
“I missed you too Doc,” Claire couldn’t stop a small smile from growing onto her face even when it hurt, “But is something wrong? I thought we agreed to only communicate in an emergency?”
“We did, but I know you were hiding some information again. Wanted a little freedom did you?” Doc teased her.
Claire giggled, “Well, I would be lying if I said I haven’t enjoyed my little vacation. The outside world is filled with lots of interesting things . . . and a lot of dangers too.”
“At least the adventurers are gone,” Doc agreed with her, “Well, honestly I’ve been enjoying my vacation from you too!”
Claire raised an eyebrow, “Oh, so you wanted me to leave? Wait . . . . . . Doc what did you do?”
“Nothing . . . I mean nothing bad,” Doc quickly corrected himself, “The girls and I were just, uh, experimenting with some cool ideas. Since the dungeon is empty, I figure it would be alright to do some experiments on floor 26.”
“Doc,” Claire sighed,” are you telling me you created an entirely new floor after I left just to test new ideas that I might think are . . . too much?”
“Good for you!” Claire announced happily, “You were absolutely correct in doing this! As a dungeon crystal, you should always take advantage of dead periods of time to experiment with new ideas to better protect yourself and improve your dungeon. Why waste an opportunity when you can spend your mana at your leisure?”
“Wow, I really thought you’d be mad at me,” Doc wondered.
Claire shrugged, “It’s easy to forget that we have an equal relationship when I have acted as your tutor for so long. My role as your dungeon pixie is to teach you, but in the end its your choice on how you want to behave. My only desire is to have a safe home to live my life with. I’m not like other members of my family or the other high dungeon pixie families.”
“Oh, have you remembered more lost memories?” Doc asked cheerfully.
“Somewhat,” Claire rubbed her head thoughtfully, “I think I’ve be fully recovered before the year is over.”
“That’s great,” Doc said comfortingly, “Oh, what are you up to now?”
“I’m looking for a tracking beast,” Claire said on reflex, before clapping her hands over her mouth.
“A tracking beast; why?” Doc asked.
“Um, to track something?” Claire’s smile wavered as her fears began pressing down on her again.
“Boo Claire,” Doc admonished her, “I can feel you not telling me everything. What’s wrong?”
With a sniffle as all her worries and pain came to the front of her mind, Claire began to regal Doc with the story of what she had gone through while in the Dungeon Town: how the murders were getting worse, how the guards were worried about the dungeon, how the prince planned to discuss options to destroy Doc, and how she had been chased by a pie-wielding maniac. Claire was crying by the end, her sniffles echoing through the mind link.
Doc was silent for a long moment.
“Claire, do you need my help?” he finally asked her.
“I wish I could have your help Doc,” she muttered, “but you can’t come into the town without scaring everyone.”
“. . . .” Doc said nothing.
Claire wiped her eyes and threw her fists into the air above her head, a determined look on her face. “Have no fear Doc, because I’m going to save you with the help of Rowen and Milly! We’ll track down this rogue slime and prove your innocence once and for all!”
In the dungeon, Doc’s crystal turned a bright purple as happiness flooded his spirit.
“Thank-you Claire,” he said, “You’re the best dungeon pixie a dungeon can have as a partner.”
“And don’t you forget it!” Claire declared, “Now, I’m going to search this entire district for the best tracking monster even if it kills me!”
“Try to avoid that last bit please.”