A carriage pulled up to the adventurer outpost, flanked by four guards on horseback. Mary stood at the entrance, waiting patiently for the occupant. She had received a letter a few days prior, and was well informed of her coming.
Princess Diana, in her normal warrior attire, walked out of the carriage and up to the vice-guild master. The two stared at each other for a moment, words being exchanged by eyes, before the two rushed forward and embraced.
"It's good to see you again Mary." Diana said happily.
Mary, wiping away a tear, smiled gently at her, "I am pleased to see you safe and unharmed princess."
The two had met years earlier when Diana was just starting out her training as a young girl. Her father, thinking it was just a phase, had sought out Mary's assistance as he feared a boy's harsh training regimen was too intense for his little princess.
Mary, of course, thought the boy's course was too light and put the young girl through hell's personal slice of training. Diana complained and moaned, but she persevered through the training to become one of the most promising rookies of her year. Mary had been there when the princess had graduated basic training, clapping all the way.
As they pulled apart, Mary turned to the guards. "Gentlemen, I will take over from here. Your first round at the tavern has already been covered."
The guards clanked their swords together and bowed. After they left, Mary returned her attention to her protégé and friend, "Come, we have much to discuss and much to punish."
Diana winced slightly, but put on her brave face and followed Mary up to her office. There, the two sat across one another; one brooding and the other sweating.
"Explain". It was only one word, but Diana shivered from the aura that dripped from it. She had been dreading this meeting more than facing her own fears, mostly because Mary WAS her biggest fear. Calming as best she could, Diana delivered her full account on what happened, leaving no detail behind. Unlike the version her family knew, this tale included Sir Koran's involvement and the slime that saved her.
The reason she trusted Mary went beyond the normal mentor bond; the two had sworn a blood oath together when Mary had graduated, one that connected them in a world that looked down on them for their gender or blood.
Mary rolled her fingers on her desk as she listened. Her eyes never left Diana's face as she considered every word. Finally, she sighed and leaned back into her chair. "What a mess you've dragged me into." She scratched her hair, "Why couldn't you make this any easier for me."
Turning serious, Mary stared hard into Diana's eyes, "First thing, how could you let yourself be taken in by those fool's words so seriously? Remember what I taught you: failing to control your emotions is the first step to destruction."
Diana winced, "I remember that Mistress Mary, but I couldn't then. It . . . it was so scary." She shivered as the memories came back to her.
Mary sighed and walked around to hug the girl. "I understand girl, believe me I do; and so does every boy who has ever had a first battle. I can only blame myself for this, for never giving you the chance to experience a life-or-death situation."
Diana, forgetting her fear, shot Mary an angry look, "What are you talking about? That time with the tree monster for instance." She retorted angrily.
Mary waved her hand, "Irrelevant, you know that was training for you. I mean, you've never fought life and death battles with other people, not monsters. It's even worse for women like us because of what a man can do after we're beaten. I'm sorry you had to go through that, especially with that atrocious letter."
Diana hiccupped a tear, "I'm really glad they didn't touch me, really I am. I don't know what I would have done . . ."
"You would have broken." Mary said flatly, returning to her chair, "I've seen it before in men and women who lived through disaster and tragedy. Their gazes were empty and their hearts filled with such negativity I thought they would drown from it all. I suspect, as you do, that your mentality was part of some greater plan."
"Speaking of which,” Mary cast a curious look at the princess, "How did you manage to preserve your sanity? I could tell from our hug that while hurt, you remain unbroken and, more surprisingly, not corrupted by anger or fear." Mary twiddled her thumbs in thought.
"What did you do girl?"
Diana blushed, "I entrusted myself to someone."
Mary snorted, "You mean something right? You may have left it out, but it was that slime right? The one that saved you anyway."
Diana nodded, eyes downcast, "I felt so safe in its arms, like when my father used to carry me to sleep. I called him Mr. Slime, and he seemed to care for me."
Mary hummed as she rubbed her eyes, "Girl that should be impossibility what you are saying. Dungeons do not care for humans, they devour them. Everyone in the entire world knows this. And yet,” She muttered to herself, "Here you are, safe and sound for the most part. If what you say is true, then you have some special connection with the dungeon."
Diana looked down at her hands, "Well, if there wasn't before there certainly is now."
Mary paused, then slammed her hands on the table, "Fool girl, don't tell me that is what you did! Have you lost your mind entrusting . . ."
Diana stood and up stared Mary down with determination, "I know what I did and I have not regretted my decision. If anything else, that's the only reason why I'm here today."
Mary deflated back into her seat, "Agreed, I most certainly agree with you on that point. Still, what you have done cannot be taken back. Are you prepared for the consequences?"
Diana folded her fists and nodded, "I've been prepared for a while now."
Mary nodded her head, "As expected of my apprentice. Now, we must plan for the future." She walked over to a cabinet and removed some paper. Returning to her desk, she dipped her pen and began writing.
"Now, if what you told me is true, you falling into an unstable state is very important to whoever gave Koran that note. Since his involvement was made known to the gossip-mongers, he's been running back and forth trying to save his reputation. He's been doing some charity work for some of the new adventurers; taking them into the dungeon and showing them how to fight properly. I'm sending him a note asking him to take you on with his class."
Diana smiled, a hint of bloodthirstiness leaking out of her, "So I, the poor frightened princess, will beg the handsome adventurer to help me break my fear. Is that correct?"
Mary returned the evil smile, "Indeed my young apprentice; so it's important we get you to join his class. Since you're attack was misplayed, incidents have been occurring in and around town. I have a feeling our shadowy friend is keeping a close eye on his servant. By the way,” Mary paused to look at Diana, "You haven't told your family about any of this?""
Diana shook her head, "I can't take the chance that one of them is involved, and I don't want the innocent members hurt in this affair."
"In other words, you want personal vengeance."
". . . Yes. This was an attack on me, and I must return the favor."
Mary chuckled, "I guess I taught that point a little too well. No matter, you will have vengeance." She folded the paper and slid it into a note tube for delivery.
"I'll see that Koran believes you don't remember and accepts you eagerly into your class. In the meantime, I'll invite some of my friends to join your group the same day you do as guest lecturers. Koran will see it as a chance for endorsement and will eagerly accept their help."
"Everything will end in the dungeon, where is all started."
Dun dun dun. Tomorrow is the last day of November, and thus the last day of the contest. By luck or coincidence, it is also the last chapter of the book (epilogue does not count). Look forward to it guys :)