“Alright, we’re home!” Milly announced as her popped out of the ‘water-well’ in the tavern’s training yard. Pulling herself out of the hole, she turned around and reached down to pull Rowen up. Anadine slithered up behind them and took her adventurer form.
“Hm, looks like we’re in the clear,” Milly muttered as she walked over to the door and pressed her ear against it, “I don’t hear anyone in the tavern.”
“My senses also inform me that no one is near,” Anadine revealed, “In fact, I’m not feeling anyone near us. Not even workers or children.
“They’re probably all dealing with the leaders of those traitors,” Rowen posturized, “I’d be surprised if anyone felt alright with that debacle in the dungeon.”
“Well that’s good for us then,” Milly decided, “Now we can get to work and pretend we’ve been here the whole time. Want to give me a hand with the dishes Rowen?” She grabbed his arm and pulled it into her.
“I’d rather sweep,” Rowen blushed and retreated. Milly giggled as she watched him make a break for it.
“You were so eager in the dungeon, why run now?” she teased him.
“I’m a lot more confident there,” Rowen protested as he took hold of a broom and dust pan, “Anyway, let’s just cleanup for now until Fred comes home.”
“Whatever you say, lover-boy,” Milly giggled. Anadine rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help but chuckle as she followed the two teens into the main room. Milly behind the counter and began to wipe down the mugs while Rowen started sweeping the trash from the previous night’s party. Anadine took a seat and closed her eyes, resting.
A sudden knocking on the door distracted the trio. Before Rowen could check who it was, a lock clicked and the door swung open to reveal a nervous looking Rolf and Danny. Rolf sighed in relief at the sight of Milly.
“Milly, we’ve been looking everywhere for you! You too Rowen.”
“No sarcasm or arrogant speech,” Rowen questioned with a raised eyebrow, “What, is the world ending or something?”
“In this case, you’re right,” Rolf nodded in scared agreement, “I don’t know if you’re aware, but a group of traitorous generals mind-controlled the army and almost massacred everyone! They were saved by Princess Diana’s ghost, who still haunts the dungeon where she died! Not only that, but a huge army of demons, fleshlings, and warlocks are on their way here!”
“What, an army?” Milly dropped the mug she was cleaning, “Oh no, does that mean that the attack is finally coming? Where is my father Rolf?”
“The leadership have split up,” Rolf told her, “Knight-Commander Orso is leading his temple knights, the men of the army, and the elvish archers to the palisade to engage the enemy. Master Mary is leading the adventurers to the noble district to fight the leaders of the traitors. Finally, my father is attempting to gather all the townsfolk and hide them in the elvish quarter. He sent me to Tent City to collect anyone left behind. Everyone was worried when we couldn’t find you.”
“My father Rolf,” Milly slammed her fist down on the counter, “Where is my father?”
Rolf gulped at the large dent left in the solid wood counter, “Your father . . . has joined Master Mary in her assault on the noble district.”
Milly closed her eyes and closed her arms.
“Rowen,” she finally ordered, “I’m going upstairs and to grab everything valuable I can. See if you can find father’s old adventurer bag in the back; it should still have its storage enchantment in order. You and I are heading to the noble district.” With that said, she ran to the stairs and up to the second floor.
Before Rowen could move, Danny walked over to the back door and blocked it.
“You can’t go,” Rolf took a step back and blocked the front door, “You both need to come with me to the elvish quarter.”
Anadine opened her eyes and stood up. She fingered the realistic looking sword hanging off her waist. “You’re rather demanding for a boy, aren’t you? My employer will go where she wishes.”
Rolf gave Anadine a measured look. “Every adventurer in the city is with Mater Mary now. Why are you still here?”
“My business,” Anadine faked yawning, “Now, since you’ve delivered the news, I think it’s time for you to leave.”
“They are coming with me,” Rolf emphasized, his body beginning to give off a soft, golden glow, “It’s too dangerous for them to be joining combat.”
“Says you,” Rowen retorted, his fists glowing black with dark magic, “Milly is going to join her father, and I am as well.”
“Can’t you see I’m trying to save the both of you?” Rolf grumbled in frustration, “Look, this isn’t some kid fight out there, this is war! Even I’m no confident in my abilities, and you lost to me just last night. Come on, let’s just go to my father and . . .”
“And what?” Milly interrupted from the stairs, her arms beholden with a small pile of valuables, “What do we do there: hide, pray, wait? I’m sorry Rolf, but I’m not content waiting for fate to take its course with me. I’d rather face what’s coming than place my fate into someone else’s hands.”
“If you both won’t come willingly,” Rolf sighed, “Then I’ll knock you both out and drag you to safety.”
“You really think you can take all three of us?” Milly asked sarcastically, placing the valuables on the counter and taking out her throwing daggers.
“By myself, no,” Rolf admitted, “But, I do have some help here.”
In a shocking move, Anadine was sent flying across the room into the far wall. She was barely able to keep herself from splattering like a slime as she looked on in shock at her assailant. Danny let out a breath and retracted his fist, his entire body in a martial art’s poise.
“Danny isn’t just my follower,” Rolf explained as he took a step forward, his body being covered in golden light that took the form of a knight’s armor, “he is also my butler in training, my best friend, and my bodyguard.” Rolf formed a lance of light and pointed it at Rowen and Milly, “Now, will you come peacefully?”
Rowen and Milly exchanged glances before exploding into action. Rowen threw two balls of dark magic, and Milly charged forward with her throwing daggers.
“I’ll make this painless as possible,” Rolf promised.
Contrary to Mary’s expectations, there were no guards in the noble district, nor any around the gate which was left open.
“Master,” Fiora murmured as the group entered the district, “It would seem that the enemy has no desire to stop us from coming. That likely means . . .”
“That this is a trap,” Mary finished, nodding her head, “I have the same feeling Fiora. All we can do is be cautious and keep our eyes open to signs of trouble.”
“I can’t hear the wind here,” Fred noted, “The sounds of nature have all been muted. That speaks of a some kind of formation here.”
“Indeed,” a loud voice echoed around them, “however, we could only complete the silence enchantment. Sadly, any offensive or defensive parts could not be added in the allotted time.”
“Alfred,” Hilda snarled, “I knew you’d be somehow involved in this. Where is my brother?”
“Patience Princess,” Alfred’s voice chuckled, “Your brother is with me. Just follow the road to your mansion. It’s about time we talk.”
“Seems like he has this planned out rather well,” Gran noted as the voice disappeared, “I didn’t detect any fear or comfortability from him. He has been expecting us.”
“Then let’s give him the ole’ one two,” Jonas smashed his fist into his palm, “That jerk is the one who sent us adventurer to our death in the first place.”
“And he’s responsible for hurting our dear Fiora all those years ago,” Nat continued, “I’d say he had this beating coming for a long time.”
The adventurers all threw in their calls of support and readied their weapons.
“That’s our manor up ahead,” Shive pointed. The younger princess had refused to leave with Grecian, opting instead to stay with Hilda to find their older brother.
“And that’s Alfred standing on the balcony,” Gran observed with his elven eyes, “he’s just standing there, waiting.”
“Be ready for anything,” Mary ordered, “and follow me.”
The group of adventurers marched up to the manor gates, stopping short of entering the grounds. Alfred stood upon the balcony over-looking the garden, and smiled down at the adventurers.
“Well, looks like everyone is here,” he joked, “the leader, the old friend with her new friends, the princesses, and all their adventurer friends. You know, you’ve all really messed with the plan.”
“Alfred,” Hilda cried up at him, “Why did you betray our brother? Why betray your people?”
“Why?” Alfred mused, “Well, why don’t you ask Fiora? I betrayed her to move up from an orphan to adviser to the prince. Now, I’m betraying the city to become leader of this country.”
“You wish to rule a destroyed nation? How is that an improvement?” Nat laughed sarcastically.
“Not so,” Alfred chuckled, “See, I have a special tool at my disposal.” With a flourish of his hand, three figures appeared from behind him: Josh, Annabelle, and James.
“Brother!” Shiva screamed as she saw her brother’s face. The prince looked like a pale stature, his eyes glazed over as he walked stiffly into view.
“Yes, you brother,” Alfred acknowledged, “He didn’t wish to be a part of my plan, so a few . . . adjustments had to be made. The plan was to slowly change as many citizens as possible into fleshlings or demon sacrifices while sowing distrust between the classes. Then after everyone unimportant died, my cohort of mind-controlled slaves, minions, and I would escape to another country. Using the fortune looted from every city, I, acting in liaison to the sickened prince, would lead an army of mercenaries to retake the country and crown the prince king. Of course, the Empire would allow me to win in return for secretly harboring their troops to launch a surprise attack. At that point, I’m afraid the prince would have out-lived his usefulness, but at least he willed me to be the next king.”
“What a horribly evil plan,” Mary snarled, “Your actions have killed so many, and yet you desire more death? Where does your lust for power end?”
“Who knows,” Alfred shrugged, “See, that was the original plan. However, the Empire has not appreciated the delays and failures due to your actions. They’ve already lost a demon prince, three fleshling spawners, ten talented generals, a flesh dragon, and oh yes, that regiment of warlocks you adventurers slaughtered in order to escape the trap we set for you. As you can imagine, they aren’t entirely happy with the progress here.”
“So then, what’s the new plan?” Fiora asked cautiously.
“Mass slaughter of course,” Alfred beamed, “We’ll just have to hope that the prince is all we need to follow through on the rest of the plan. All of you, however,” Alfred’s face finally turned malevolent as he smiled cruelly, “have gotten in the way of my mistress’s plans for the last time. It’s time you all met my friends. Helen?”
A fourth person appeared out of thin air next to Alfred. The Witch Mistress Helen gazed soullessly down on the crowd below her.
“Josh, Annabelle, join her,” Alfred ordered.
At his command, the three jumped down from the second story balcony. They landed on the path, and dented the ground while showing no signs of pain. Alfred pulled out a scroll from his pocket and began to chant.
Helen twitched as her eyes filled up with a golden light. “I’m the best, I’m the greatest,” she twitched and mumbled, “No one is better than me. You, you won’t take my accomplishments from me! I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you all!”
Annabelle’s eyes glowed red as she too began twitching, “Alfred my love, I’d do anything for you. I love you, I love you, I love you! I’ll kill them all, drain their blood, and make an alter to you from their bones. Ha ha ha, all of you die!”
Josh squirmed and fell to the ground, his own eyes glowing green, “Damnation, why? I never wanted this; I just wanted to apologize to Fiora . . . why does this have to happen to me? I wanted to be a hero, I wanted a good life! Why can’t I have what you have? I . . . I’m so envious!”
With a roar that sent shivers through every adventurer, the three humans caught fire as their bodies morphed and mutated into hulking monstrosities. Helen transformed into a golden angel with claws for hands and feet, before falling to the ground and gaining a lion’s torso. Annabelle’s legs fused into a spider’s lower body, complete with separate spider head. Her human mouth erupted in fangs, and her hands transformed into claws. Josh’s body elongated into a green lizard with eight legs and two tails. His face morphed into horrible fusion of human and reptile.
“They’ve been sacrificed,” Mary roared, “Those are no longer humans; they are demon princes! Fight!”
The adventurers rushed forward, and the battle began.
“It seems like everything has begun in town,” Doc observed from his heart room. Claire, who had decided to stay at the last moment, flew up to her pedestal to watch the scenes of fighting playing on the crystal.
“It appears so,” she sighed, “Whoever wins this fight, I can’t help but feel we’ll be on the losing side.”
“Maybe,” Doc agreed, “but at least Anadine and Rowen are participating. If all else fails, they can serve as my voice to the winning side. Hopefully that’ll allow me to not be too burdened by any negative feelings.”
“I’m still so impressed on how you’ve matured,” Claire complimented him, “You’ve really shown some backbone, back crystal, these last few days, and I’m very proud of you.”
“Thanks Claire,” Doc sent her happy feelings, “want to do some slime experimentation while we wait?”
“Sure,” Claire nodded, “Can you bring my slime chair? Oh, and call the girls over. They haven’t anything to do either.”
“Okay,” Doc summoned the slime chair for his pixie partner and The Twins from their floor.
“Good luck poppa,” they chorused, for some reason taking the time to dig holes into the ground and hide inside.
“I want to do more with the meditation technique and the magic slimes,” Doc announced.
“Alright, let me make a barrier first,” Claire directed her slime to carry her over to where the warg twins were hiding. She used her limited dungeon powers to create a stone barrier between her and the rest of the room. “Ready,” she announced.
Doc summoned a magic slime onto the heart-room floor. “Mage slime, meditate!” Doc ordered.
They all watched the slime. It wiggled, and jiggled, and shook, but nothing happened. Slightly frustrated, Doc directed the mage slime to jump into the air and meditate. It obeyed, and promptly splattered all over the floor. Doc sighed as he reabsorbed the slime into his dungeon.
“Alright, let’s try something else,” he considered.
Controlling his spirit, Doc exited his crystal and allowed his consciousness to flow into the slime the same way he used to enter boss monsters. Once inside, he concentrated and began circulating the mana within his slime body. Using what he learned from observing Rowen’s and Milly’s meditation practice, Doc moved the slime’s mana, forming a vortex of magic within the slime. As the mana circled the slime’s core, he felt it begin to draw on the external mana from the surroundings. He felt the environmental man began to enter the slime, and it slowly changed into a series of mini vortexes joining the large vortex around the core.
“It’s happening!” Doc said joyfully.
“POPPA, LOOK OUT!” The Twins screamed at him. Doc turned in bewilderment, only to be sent into the wall by a fireball. To his and everyone’s shock, the slime being used as Claire’s chair had attack him!
While everyone looked on in shock, the slime devoured Claire and leaped up onto Doc’s crystal, the pixie trapped inside.
“Doc, this slime has a conscious!” Claire alerted him through the bond, “I don’t know how, but it’s trying to invade your crystal body and replace you! Doc, you need to stop it!”
The Twins roared in anger and charged the slime.
“OBEY,” a strong voice exploded out from the mental bond. The Twins’ eyes glazed over and they froze.
“Yes master,” they said and stood at attention.
“Girls, what’s wrong?” Doc asked in shock.
“They can’t fight the dungeon master Doc! This slime is worming its way into your body, taking over your dungeon abilities as it does. If you can’t hurry and stop it, then even I will be forced to listen and obey it. You’ll lose the dungeon!”
Doc roared in anger. This was his dungeon! Relying on his magic slime body, Doc unleashed a barrage of magic attack on the intruder. Fire, ice, and earth tipped through the air and destroyed parts of the invader. The slime was forced to detach most of its body from the crystal to avoid the attack, leaving Claire behind in the remaining slime.
“It’s still trying, but it has slowed down,” Claire reported through her headache, “You’ll need to kill it to defeat it.”
“QUIET,” The new voice rumbled, causing Claire to close her mental conversation with Doc. She watched from her prison as the two slimes began to circle each other.
“What are you?” Doc probed.
“I AM GRETONY. Soon, I will be the dungeon,” the slime responded.
“No, I’m the dungeon! You’re just my mana in a body,” Doc retorted.
Gretony jiggled in anger, “NO, I AM GRETONY. I’ve eaten of the fruit of knowledge, and I have remembered who I am! You and that evil woman shall pay for what you’ve done to me!”
“How can you rule when you can’t even talk properly? Even if you’ve become smarter, you’re still a dumb slime!” Doc retorted.
Gretony let a cry of rage, and suddenly its body ballooned outward. Doc soon found himself staring at a huge slime, much bigger than anything he could create.
“I AM GRETONY, GLUTTONY AND GREED, AND I SHALL DEVOUR THE WORLD!” it announced, “Fear my power, that of a legendary King Slime!” With a massive tentacle, Gretony slammed Doc into the air.