“So Rowen, what do you think of your new body?” Doc asked carefully.
Rowen locked a fierce glare onto Doc’s crystal, “Do you really have to ask? What in the world am I?” Rowen, who had always expected his dungeon body to be that of a lich, had found himself in what could be considered an oddity. While resembling a lich, complete with actual robes that covered most of his body, Rowen’s bones were all made of bone-white slime. Worse still, they felt like squashy bones, sending a shiver up Rowen’s spine every time he poked himself.
“A slime lich, or a lich slime; I don’t like what I am right now,” Rowen declared crossly.
“Poke,” Claire giggled, sticking her finger into Rowen’s skull. Rowen tried to swat her away, but the pixie effortlessly dodged his hand and continued to poke him like a mosquito.
“Cheer up Rowen,” Anadine smiled, wrapping a slime tentacle around the new monster, “Now you’re a slime-ish person like I am. You can call me your big sister.”
“I’ve heard that line before,” Rowen slumped, suddenly depressed.
“You’ll see her again someday,” Claire promised, settling herself onto her pedestal, “After all, with her strength, she is sure to grow into a powerhouse someday. Maybe she can become a slime person like Anadine.”
“I’m not sure how I’d feel about that,” Rowen grimaced. Suddenly, Rowen’s body collapsed into a large bone white slime.
“Not again!” he wailed, wiggling his body worthlessly. Anadine and Claire laughed as the boy struggled to take his lich shape again.
“Poppa,” Aisha spoke up from the corner where she and her sister had been resting, “As much fun as this is, shouldn’t we do something about the demon army?”
“I almost forgot about them,” Doc remembered, “Let’s see what they’re up to.” He peeked outside his dungeon, “Oh, looks like they’re preparing to invade us. Uh, and there are a lot of big demons.”
“Do you feel the goddess’ gift Doc?” Claire asked.
“Um . . . yes!” Doc exclaimed, “It seems that this ability will teleport the dungeon wherever we want so long as I provide the mana needed to take us there. Any ideas?”
“We can follow the townspeople!” Rowen exclaimed.
“I’m not sure that is wise,” Anadine cautioned, “after all, if we appear suddenly in a populated area, we could start a panic.”
“We need to decide fast,” Claire pointed at the image on Doc’s crystal, “Those demons are really charging fast. We need to go now! Doc!”
“Uh,” Doc mumbled, “Teleport . . . take us as far away as possible from the demons!”
“Doc wait that’s too . . .
In a sudden flash, the dungeon entrance vanished. With it, however, came the structures closest the dungeon tunnels in the town. However, this sudden change caused an implosion of magical energy that surged out, leaving a dead zone of magic momentary. The world reacted immediately, and the dead zone was eliminated by an explosion of mana the destroyed the Empire’s warlock army and all their minions. When the dust settled, the only thing that remained was most of the town singed and broken. Massive trenched connected craters in the town to the giant crater where the dungeon once stood,
From one such crater, a slime emerged. It moved swiftly toward the forest, and all was left silent.
Milly checked her room one more time with her light, making sure nothing was spying on her. Before her, Mr. Bubbles was surrounded by her daggers. Milly began her ritual as her mind flashed back.
(After the Flesh Dragon Attack)
The two teens had made it back to the tavern and were resting in Milly’s room. Milly rolled over to stare at Rowen. “Hey,” she asked, “what did the monster mean when he said you were part of the dungeon?”
Rowen flinched, “Um, nothing in particular. He must have thought my sympathy was a sign of being an adventurer, that’s all.”
“Is that so?” she grinned at him in the dark, “Well, what about that large red and orange tentacle you watched take the monster’s body away. Know anything about that?”
“No,” Rowen squeaked.
Milly giggled, and giggled, and giggled. Finally, she sat up and gazed at him with some affection.
“Hey, want to know a cool secret about me?” she asked.
Rowen, thankful for the change in topic, said “Sure”.
Milly turned and pulled out the skull Rowen had returned to her. She stared at it with a hint of a smile.
“Want to talk to it?” she asked him.
“Mr. Bubbles can talk?” Rowen asked in amazement.
“No silly Rowen, Mr. Bubbles can’t talk,” she laughed at him, “She uses him to talk.”
Milly tossed the skull to Rowen, who looked down curiously. A red glow appeared deep in the skull’s eyes.
“Hello there Rowen,” a sweet voice echoed in Rowen’s mind, “It is a pleasure to meet you after hearing so much about you.”
Rowen winced at the power contained in the voice, “Who, who are you?”
The voice seemed to chuckle, “I have many names Rowen. But, you may call me Temtra.”
Rowen felt his mouth go dry as he considered what he had just heard. He took a moment to scratch his head and look around as if searching for someone to jump out and declare the entire affair a joke. Failing that, he locked eyes with the skull.
“Temtra, as in the Goddess Temtra the mistress of desire?” he asked carefully.
“Also known as the formless one, honorary leader of the lust demons, and many other names,” Milly confirmed with a nod of her head, “Master Mary was right, I am a chosen of Temtra.”
“Cute as your disbelief may be, I neither have the time nor willingness to allow you to calm down,” Temtra spoke up from the skull, “It takes a small bit of power to shield my presence here from your dungeon and others, and unlike my siblings I do not enjoy tempting fate with wanton intervention unless the mood strikes me.”
“Then why are you here?” Rowen asked.
The skull glowed for a moment, prompting Milly to speak up. “Rowen,” she said quickly, “You need to be more respectful when addressing her!”
Rowen gave Milly a frown, “She’s no goddess of mine. My studies didn’t include Temtra as a goddess, and the gods allowed my home to be destroyed.”
“Please Rowen, for me?” Milly begged.
Rowen’s frown grew, but he reluctantly nodded to her. He stood up and bowed deeply to the skull.
“I, Prince Rowen, greet the Goddess Temtra and humbly ask the reasons for her visit.”
The skull giggled, a disturbing sound as the teeth chattered as well.
“Yes, you are a cute one aren’t you,” Temtra giggled, “I am here for two reasons. I am here in an official capacity to warn my chosen and prepare her for the challenges ahead.”
“Thank-you goddess,” Milly bowed her head.
Before Rowen opened his mouth, Temtra interrupted him, “Do not ask me questions about this little necromancer. You will learn of these matters later. For now, listen to me Milly.”
The skull’s eyeholes began to glow brighter and brighter until the wall was covered in red light. There, the shadow of a shapely woman appeared with red spots for eyes. She pointed with a shadowy arm at Milly.
“Milly, my chosen of the desire to protect, I have come to tell you of the trials ahead. In the coming days, your power will be needed to protect not only your loved ones, but also your way of life. Find a teacher to help you unlock your true power as a chosen, and I task you to find a way to increase the strength of your weapon, the throwing knife. When these are done, you shall face those you wield my power. Overcome them, and I shall grant you what you most desire.”
When she finished speaking, the light faded away back to a dull glow from the skull.
“Ah, that was fun,” the skull disturbingly giggled again.
Milly got on her hands and knees to bow to the skull, “I shall follow your wishes goddess.”
“No Milly, do not follow my wishes. I am the goddess of desire, and say to you the best way to follow me is to obey your own desires,” the voice from the skull lectured.
“Yes goddess,” Milly bowed lower.
Rowen cleared his throat, “Forgive me goddess, but what was the other matter you came here for?”
“You,” the skull declared.
“Me?” Rowen asked in confusion.
“Yes. You see Rowen, I have come to offer you the opportunity to become one of my chosen like Milly. I can feel them in you Rowen, your strong desires. You want to see your kingdom return to power, don’t you? You want to see your family again. You want to keep Milly safe, and you want to repay the debt to the dungeon for saving you. There is so much desire in you; it’s, invigorating, to behold,” the skull seemed the shudder at her words.
A red ball suddenly blossomed in front of Rowen. He watched as it slowly transformed into a long, black metal staff with four skulls at the top. He could sense the power coming from the weapon.
“If you swear your allegiance to me, I shall grant you the power and direction to fulfill your wishes. This staff will help you become a master necromancer, capable of raising both your family and kingdom from the dead. Their souls will return, alongside everyone else who has died here. You shall rule a land of everlasting life, and Milly shall stay with you as well.”
“Goddess?” Milly gasped in embarrassment. She turned red and avoided Rowen’s gaze.
Rowen stared at the staff, feeling the pull of power it emanated.
“Are you promising those things will happen?” he asked Temtra.
“Silly boy, deities are forbidden from directly interfering in this world except in special circumstances. I can give you boons and direction, so long as you complete my tasks, but everything you want can only be taken by your own hand. Only demons promise easy effort, and they twist words and meanings. Do you accept?”
Rowen looked for a long while before he shook his head.
“Apologies Goddess Temtra, but I cannot accept your offer,” he said while shaking his head.
“Why? Do you not wish for Milly to be near you?” Temtra pressed. Rowen saw out of the corner of his Milly’s saddening face.
“No; I will protect Milly with all my strength. I just do not wish to fall into desire and lose my morals and ethics.”
“Are you saying I have no morals or ethics?” Temtra’s voice turned ice cold, and the two teens shivered as the temperature fell in the room.
“Don’t you?” Rowen said in a shaking voice.
As soon as it came, the cold disappeared.
“That’s completely correct,” Temtra said cheerfully, “I support heroes and demons, murderers and soldiers, the poor and the rich, and everyone in between. Even now, my lover’s chosen of conquest uses the Empire to conquer, and some of my followers help him in this very country. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my chosen fighting for their own definition of righteousness. If you have no desire to serve me, than I will not press you to obey. That is not my nature.”
The skull began to crack and fracture.
“It appears that our time is at an end. Milly, in the future you must travel to one of my shrines to commune with me, unless you complete my tasks. Rowen, it was a pleasure to meet you even if you are going to forget this entire conversation.”
“Wait,” Rowen began before he fainted onto the floor.
Milly cried out and moved toward him, but stopped when Temtra called to her.
“He is in no danger child; I have just erased his memory of these last few minutes. As he is not a chosen, he cannot be allowed to remember any interaction he had with me. Sweet Milly, remember what I have charged you with. Learn to wield your power properly, and fulfil your tasks sooner rather than later. Live with my blessing.”
When she finished speaking, the skull turned to dust and vanished, leaving Milly in the room with her thoughts.
Milly completed her chant, and the daggers shot into the skull, impaling themselves in it. Mr. Bubbles lit up and shattered, unleashing a familiar red shadow onto the wall in front of Milly.
“I have completed your tasks,” Milly bowed humbly.
“Well done my chosen,” the shadow of Temtra praised, “For one so young, you have accomplished much and properly followed my teachings.”
“Mistress of Desire, I have called you here because . . .”
“Because of what I promised you,” Temtra finished, “Yes, I did say that to you. Alas however, but I cannot give you what you truly want.”
Milly stared unbelieving at her patron goddess.
“My child, this hurts me more than you know,” Temtra continued, “However, to free the one you know as Rowen from the dungeon is beyond the power of my portfolio as a goddess right now. The ones you faced, the succubi sisters, they told you the truth. They were once my followers like their master. With this incident come to light, they have truly left me many other worshippers have turned away. My church lacks everything know, save only you dear child. It not for you, I would slowly begin fading away as a goddess.”
“But, if your church were to be rebuilt, then you could follow your promise,” Milly’s eyes lit up in hope.
The shadow hesitated. “If my church were restored, and I enough power, then I could grant you the wish you deserve. However, I would require much from you and have little to offer in return. I may be the mistress of desire, but I do not force my will on others nor do I give petty rewards to those deserving.”
“My lady, my will is great,” Milly declared resolutely, “I will restore the grandeur of your church. Until the day that your full strength is restored, that shall be my main desire. All I ask is that you help my people as they strive toward restoring their country. Not only will it restore faith in you, but it will be easier to great a church there dedicated only to you.”
“Yes,” Temtra murmured, “I can see it. Young Milly, I promise to you that I shall help you anyway I can within the limits placed on me by the world and my strength. However, I shall grant you a token of your full wish.”
The shadow disappeared, and within the circle, a full set of bones appeared. Milly’s smile widened as she caressed the skeleton, cooing to it as she began her plans.
“Wait for me Rowen, my friend, my, love. We shall be together forever.”
Michelle and Milda trembled on the stone floor, their bodies bleeding from numerous injuries.
“So,” a voice came from the throne above them, making them wince, “Not only did you fail to bring me the chosen, my wife, and my child, you also allowed them to escape. The revelation over our activities has spread so far, even the emperor has heard. Do you understand how troublesome the situation is?”
“We’re sorry my lord,” Michelle begged, “We couldn’t defeat the incarnation of a goddess.”
“Excuses. You had the girl,” the voice continued as evenly as before, “you had my daughter. Even without my wife, you could have brought them to me instead of playing with your food. You also had Alfred killed; it will be some time before his method of creating the fleshlings is rediscovered. And finally, the massive amount of casualties from that explosion have decimated our ranks. Do you know how long and hard it is to create and army of warlocks?”
At this, the two succubi sisters screamed as invisible edges cut open their skin.
“Because of your failure,” the voice turned harsh, “the emperor has discovered the plan! Our battle has devolved into a civil war, splitting the mighty Empire! The derailment of my plans, the loss of Temtra’s blessing, how can you two make up for it?”
The sisters continued to beg and plead as the invisible knives dug in deeper.
The man on the throne rapped his fingers against the armrest.
“With the first plan in shambles, it appears that I’ll have to place the second plan into action now,” he muttered to the wind, “Shame, but it appears that we’ll have to go underground for a time.”
Brushing his red hair aside, Erikir glanced down at the sisters and waved his hand. They fell, gasping as their bodies began to recover.
“I am disappointed in your failures,” Erikir decided, “but, you both did overthrow most of the country and set the other parts in motion. Considering you both have accepted my, gift, I shall grant you another chance.”
“Thank-you master, we praise you master,” the sisters groveled.
“If I can’t get hold of a goddess, than perhaps what I need is the opposite. You girls always wanted to be demons, right?”
Before the sisters could respond, their heads fell to the floor. Erikir beckoned with his index and middle fingers, and two spirits arose from the bodies.
“Good luck rising through the ranks of demons,” he smiled at the girls, whose spirits were half covered by his image, “and congratulations; you’re finally true succubi.”
In a forest far away, a cave entrance suddenly appeared. All was quiet for a moment, before the cave wailed.
“Nooooo, my power!”
“Doc you fool! What have you done!”
In the distance, a scaled and furry figure peered out from behind a stone. It examined the new cave with interest.