“Rowen?” Mary’s eyebrows rose in surprise.
Rowen didn’t respond to her, instead lifting his right palm. A barrier of dark energy appeared below Mary, lifting her up out of the foggy smoke. Mary coughed a few times, expelling the little gas she had breathed in. Her swords rose with her, returning to their pure red color with her.
Rowen gave a hard stare as he examined his friend.
“Milly, what is my favorite food?” he asked suddenly.
“It’s roasted deer with berries,” Milly answered, raising a curious eyebrow at Rowen, “That’s a silly question to ask your best friend, isn’t it? You must be feeling sick.”
“And you clearly have all the real Milly’s memories,” Rowen grimaced, “This is why I hate mind control spells. Who knows if anyone here will remember what you say after this spell wears off.”
Michelle and Milda shot a surprised look at Rowen’s floating body.
“What, you thought your bluff was going to work?” Rowen flipped them off, “If this was really some all-powerful corruption magic, then I would have sensed it. My power is dark magic; curses, debuffs, and status effects are all under my domain. This grey smoke is just inflicting a temporary charm magic, an illusion of what I suspect is your lust demon heritage magic.”
“Bravo,” Milda clapped, “You got it! Only our master is capable of the true magic, but our power is strong enough to control anyone we desire for at least a day. Think you can stop us all by yourself?”
“He’s not by himself,” Mary announced, opening more of her blood jars, “If this is charm magic, then all we have to do is defeat you both.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Michelle taunted, “you’ll just have to try your best.”
“But it seems that we’re going to have to punish you both,” Milda gave Rowen a large smile, “After all, everyone will soon become part of us, including you two. Do your best to take your punishment without dying; everyone, if you please?”
Rowen cursed loudly as a plethora of arrows and spells flew towards him and Mary.
“Shield of blood!” Mary commanded, and her three shields reappeared around the two allies. She winced as her blood shields took countless attacks, each depleting a small bit of her magical power.
“Rowen,” she turned to her student, “Can you find a way to stop their movements without killing them? Ganus did teach you Dark Binding correct?”
“I’ll need some time,” he muttered, “and dark binding only works on smaller groups; there must be over a hundred adventurers here. Master, why doesn’t anyone have items to protect against mind control?”
“We don’t have artificers capable of casting that kind of enchantment, oof,” Mary explained, wincing as another volley of spells and arrow hit her shields, “it’s a rare enough debuff that most adventurers never come across a mind-altering spell in their life time, let alone a mind-controlling spell.”
“Then everyone is having a very unlucky year,” Rowen cracked his knuckles, “Alright, allow me to demonstrate what I’ve learned master!”
Rowen sucked in a mouthful of air, tensing up as he folded his hands and set his feet apart. His eyes opened abruptly, dark light illuminating the fog below him. His hands came apart, clenched into claws as he cried out.
“I call upon the darkness to be an veil upon the minds of my enemies, Dark Illusion!” he chanted. Thrusting his arms fully out, Rowen unleashed tendril of dark magic that snaked their way down into the smoke. The tendrils hit the ground and spread in every direction, moving like plant roots as they wormed their way over the ground and up every leg they touched. Adventurers screamed as the dark magic took their minds, knocking them out as they faced hallucinations of their fears and failed to confront them.
“Problem with this kind of mind control,” Rowen smirked, “Is that altering their priorities leaves them with their original desires and fears. I can’t scare a doll, but I can scare a puppet.”
“Careful Rowen,” Mary cautioned, “Your spell didn’t affect the strong ones.”
Fiora and her team shook their heads free of the spell, while Milly had cast a red barrier to block the spell from reaching her or the devils. A few others had also somehow gotten in the barrier.
“Master Ganus,” Rowen groaned at the sight of his teacher, his arms around the smoke controlled princesses.
“Nice try Rowen,” Ganus smiled, “but I taught you that spell. How are you feeling after casting such a strong spell? Tired, perhaps even a little fatigued? Why don’t you come down and rest before you run out of mana?”
Rowen clicked his lips, but didn’t respond to the older man. “Master Mary, I’m not sure I can fight all of them with the power I have left. Ganus by himself is much stronger than I am.”
“I’ll deal with them,” Mary vowed, her sword turning horizontally to face the devil sisters.
“Not so fast,” Milda wagged her finger,” Guild-master, we’ve already seen what your swords can do. Use them again, and forfeit the princesses’ lives.” Hilda and Shiva each held a dagger to their throats, smiling all the while as if their hands held flowers and not sharp implements.
Mary’s eyes narrowed, but she did hesitate.
“It appears then that we are at a stalemate,” she observed.
“More like you have been placed in check,” Michelle refuted, “our new allies certainly don’t have any qualms attacking you after all.”
With a wave of her hand, Fiora’s group entered the red barrier and stood next to Ganus and Milly. Milda even allowed Fred to stand and join the line, though he still appeared injured.
“You may have incapacitated our lesser pawns, but all we need are the strong for sacrifices. With the chosen in our possession, there really isn’t any reason for us to stay here,” she concluded.
Rowen ground his teeth, but felt trapped. As he quickly planned an attack, he was distracted by a sudden warmth. The old adventurer bag from the tavern, which Milly had had him carry, was warming up. Curiously, Rowen reached into the bag and pulled out the skull, Mr. Bubbles. The skull was glowing a dim red, and was pleasantly warm to the touch.
The succubi sisters tensed and locked eyes on the skull, hissing in recognition.
“No, how do you have that?” Michelle hissed.
“Why are you not holding the idol?” Milda turned to Milly and berated, “Why have you lent it to an unworthy brat like him?”
Milly’s eyes unfocused slightly. “I gave it to him, because he is, was, trustworthy,” she mumbled, her expression becoming slightly confused, “No, why did I? I’m not sure.”
Rowen raised an eyebrow at the sister’s exaggerated expressions and grinned evilly.
“I’m not sure what this is, but this really shouldn’t stop you from leaving. Go on then, scram,” he taunted. He slipped the skull back into the adventurer bag.
“Kill him and take back the symbol of Temtra!” Michelle screamed.
Fiora, Gran, Nat, Jonas, and Ganus spread out and ran towards the floating duo. Mary summoned swords to block them.
“Stay out of this Mary, or they die!” Milda screeched, her expression as livid as her sisters, “Kill the boy for his insolence!”
“Can’t joke to save a life these days,” Rowen chuckled, before he swore and was forced to drop out of the sky to dodge three separate fire attacks. As he landed, Rowen scrambled sideways as Nat’s giant sword slammed into the ground next him.
“Sorry kid,” Nat smiled, “but orders are orders.” She lifted her sword and swung it again, narrowly missing Rowen’s neck as he bent down quickly. Rowen covered his fist with dark magic and attempted to punch the older adventurer, but Nat caught his wrist easily and threw him away from the collapsed adventurers.
Coughing, Rowen summoned a shield of dark magic just in time to block five silver arrows, fired by Gran. The elf, seeing his attack blocked, began chanting a wind spell as Jonas charged the young boy. His body ablaze with flames, Jonas leaped into the air and landed fist first, sending a wave of fire surging toward Rowen. Gran finished his spell, and a tempest of wind caught the fire, swirling it into a tornado that surrounded the dark mage. Rowen groaned as he expanded the shield to cover completely, unable to block the rising temperature around him.
The enemy didn’t let up, as Fiora jumped through the wall of wind and flame. She brought her sword down on the domes shield, striking over and over, each attack making Rowen’s head ding. She was almost immediately joined by Nat, who also slammed her massive weapon into the shield as easily as if she were wielding a butter knife.
Rowen couldn’t stop himself from coughing up a little blood; his body was quickly running out of mana. Being trapped in the dome, it made him remember his many years trapped in a cocoon. He hated small spaces, and his dome was slowly shrinking around him.
“That’s enough!” Rowen roared, his magic going berserk. His dome shattered as a wave of dark magic shot out in all directions, destroying the tornado and sending Fiora and Nat tumbling backwards. Rowen stood up, his entire being shaking in fury.
“I’m sorry masters,” Rowen whispered, “but I’m breaking my promise!”
As he said that, Rowen’s left half seemed to turn translucent, his bones becoming more visible to the outside world. With half a grinning skull, Rowen turned to glare at the four adventurers, who had gather together.
“Purify,” a sudden voice came from behind Rowen.
At once, a large beam of light shot down from the sky into Rowen. The boy screamed as the light burned him, his skeletal half smoking and burning under the light’s harsh energy.
“You’ve violated the oath you gave to me and Master Mary,” Ganus shook his head sadly. The old mage had reappeared from invisibility a few feet behind Rowen. “As punishment for the illegal use of undead magic, I shall lend the world of good a hand in exterminating you, my former student. Fare thee well and may the gods have mercy on your soul.”
“Ganus stop!” Mary shouted, “Do you really want to kill your best student!”
“Yes, because it is the right thing to do,” Ganus said with a pleasant smile.
Rowen groaned, falling to his knees as the light increased in intensity.
“Don’t worry,” Claire’s voice echoed in his ears, “We’ve got this under control. Anadine, now!”
With a loud ‘thunk’, Ganus was slammed into the ground by a blue tentacle. The slime covered his nose and mouth, suffocating the old man until he fainted from lack of air. Rowen sighed in relief as the light disappeared and he got back up. His injuries and burns slowly disappeared as he turned to frown at his ally.
“What took you so long” he complained to Anadine who, except for the tentacle that was her left arm, still looked like an adventurer.
“Was trying to find a way through Milly’s barrier,” she explained, “It’s no good for now.”
Anadine turned her head to gaze at the shocked faces facing her in every direction.
“Master . . . it’s been a long time,” Anadine smiled sadly, bowing to Mary.
“So it was true,” Mary teared up, her fists clenching, “all those reports I gathers, the mysterious blue slime, it was you.”
“My time here is done, but I have come as a last favor to you, my apprentice sister, and my family,” Anadine responded, throwing a glare toward the devil sisters, “Though revenge isn’t entirely out of the question either.”
“From your words . . . you are the former princess,” Milda’s eyes narrowed and she flashed her fangs, “Grr, you should have stayed dead. Adventurers, kill her!”
“Sorry little one,” Fiora apologized, “but your time in this world already ended. Rest in pieces.”
“I’ve learned a few tricks since our past sparring Fiora. Here, let me show you!”
Anadine surged forward, her lower body returning to slime and her two arms becoming a sword and buckler shield. Fiora rushed forth to meet her, and the two began their battle.
Rowen, in the meantime, locked eyes with Fiora’s three friends. His previously weakened state surged with new power as his connection with the dungeon suddenly strengthened. Rowen felt his power as a dungeon boss for the first time, and he liked it.
“You all showed me an enjoyable time, allow me to return the favor,” he whispered evilly. At his command, grey smoke flowed down from his left hand. It didn’t mix with the white fog, instead pushing it out of the way as it soaked into the ground and collapsed adventurers. He created a field of death around him, a much stronger form than when Alfred had done the same.
“Rise my servants,” Rowen commanded, and from the greyness, a horde of skeletons arose.
“You only summon skeletons?” Nat mocked, hefting her sword behind her neck to rest on her shoulder, “Ha! Go ahead and bring as many as you can, these weaklings will be a good warm up! Zombies would have been a better choice newbie!”
“I don’t like zombies,” Rowen grinned, “they’re too smelly. Skeletons, however, are much more pliable.” He stretched out his right hand, and dark magic shot forth onto each skeleton. The dark magic coalesced into armor and weapons, changing the stone white skeletons into an army of darkness. Nat cursed loudly at the sight of the army.
“Enjoy your warm up!” Rowen laughed, and his army attacked.
Anadine and Fiora exchanged blow after blow, their weapons flashing in the mid-day light as they clanged repeatedly against each other.
Anadine blocked another swipe with her sword, and threw her shield out to punch Fiora. Fiora jumped back to dodge the shield and ignited her blade, using the heated metal to cut the slime shield in half. Anadine discarded the burning slime and reformed a new shield.
“I see you’ve learned how to handle your new powers little one,” Fiora smiled happily, “Tell you what, if you join us, then you and I can fight together again.”
“Over my dead body,” Anadine snorted.
“Well, that was my order,” Fiora agreed, “Maybe a little pain will remind you who the senior is here.”
As the two continued their bout, Nat, Jonas, and Gran were struggling against a horde of strengthened undead.
“Where are all these dead bodies coming from?” Jonas asked warily as he smashed through another skeletal warrior.
Rowen didn’t say anything, but harkened back to when Doc happily presented him with the many, many skeletons the dungeon had collected alongside the armor and weapons from the undead dungeon.
Nat let out a battle cry as she swung her sword around her, destroying every skeleton near her. “Even strengthened, these skeletons are still weak. Just break their bones and they won’t be able to come back!”
“We’ll see about that,” Rowen chuckled maliciously. The grey magic surging from Rowen’s hand gathered around the broken bones and was absorbed by them. The cracks and shards glowed and came back together, healing into perfect bones once again. Skeletons with missing parts reached down and remade themselves before resuming the march on the adventurers.
“Fiora!” Gran cried out, “There are too many of them! We need your health.”
Mary, who was watching from the sky, privately wondered who the real bad guys were in this situation.
Fiora frowned as she locked swords with Anadine.
“It sounds like our new fellow apprentice is giving my friends a hard fight. Seems like I must end this fight now.”
Anadine raised an eyebrow, “And how do you expect to do that?”
Fiora winked, before her eyes rolled back into her head. Her mouth fell open, and grey smoke rushed out to enter Anadine’s mouth and nose. The young woman coughed violently and backed off, struggling to exhale the mind controlling gas.
“I wanted to have a good fight, but work must come first,” Fiora smiled down at Anadine, “To you understand what must be done?”
Anadine stopped coughing and looked up, her eyes grey before settling. She smiled at Fiora, “I understand.”
“Good, then let’s help our apprentice brother see your side of things,” Fiora turned to face the skeletal horde.
A sword plunged through Fiora’s chest, barely missing her heart. Fiora sputtered and choked at the sudden pain, unable to believe her eyes.
“You seem to be misinformed on what I am,” Anadine said from behind her, “Whatever is controlling your mind doesn’t seem to handle illogical situations very well. What, did you think I was some shapeshifting ghost monster or something? As a slime, I don’t need to breather, nor does my mind reside in this body. Out of consideration for our past, I made sure to miss your vital organs.”
Mary winced at the site of her former apprentice stabbing her eldest apprentice, but sighed in relief at Anadine’s words. Any good healing spell would fix Fiora up, but until then she would be greatly encumbered.
Rowen, in the meantime, had his undead overpower the adventurers. By his hand, the bones of his minions wrapped around the three, imprisoning them in a tight webbing of bone. They cried out as the bones absorbed their mana, falling unconscious quickly once depleted.
“Sister, it appears our abilities do not yet allow our slaves to fight at their best yet,” Milda observed, slightly crestfallen.
“That’s alright Milda, we still are learning to enjoy our gifts from the master,” Michelle comforted. She turned her gaze toward Mary, Rowen, and Anadine.
“You have all interrupted our plans,” She said shortly, her countenance calm and collected once more, “Boy, hand over the skull and we will release the princesses, the girl, and the girl’s father.”
“Don’t do it Rowen,” Mary warned, “They will cheat you, and that skull seems to be vital to their plan. We can’t afford their master getting his hands on it.”
“The idol is only valuable so long is its chosen is alive,” Michelle smiled. She held a dagger up to Milly’s neck, “While killing the chosen would inconvenience us, her corpse would still be useful. Make your choice little boy.”
“That’s rather underhanded,” Anadine noted.
“For our master, we are willing to do anything!” Milda praised, “but then, we are angry with who you all keep ruining our plans. Hand the skull to my sister quickly, or we won’t hesitate!”
“Compared to my lord, you level of deception is pitiful!” Anadine laughed loudly.
Michelle screamed as a throwing dagger impaled itself in her arms and exploded, charging backwards with her sister to assess the threat.
Milly’s face contorted in rage as she glared at the devil sisters, her daggers having already knocked out the princesses and her father.
“No one takes my mind away and lives to tell about it!” Milly growled.
“Impossible!” Milda screeched, “How did you break free of our control?”
“I have a slime in my head,” Milly spat, “and it ate your magic. Firs time in my life I’ve appreciated it, so get ready to feel the combined wrath of me and my goddess!”
“You’ve, all, ruined, everything!” Michelle roared, her body distorting as her succubi feature grew fierce, “That’s it, no more plans, no more capturing; you all die now!”