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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Hiya everybody!

And on this week, we see a hole in the ground! Maybe it will be Alex's graaaaave. Or maybe not. I dunno, it's not like I'm the author or anything. 

Also, some of my readers have talked about how much they like cooking and others about how much they like history I found this youtube channel called Tasting History with Max Miller wherein a guy cooks up recipes from Medieval Europe, the ancient middle east, ancient Egypt, the Aztec Empire, the Roman Empire and more and recreates them while teaching you a little bit of history each episode it.

It is some top quality stuff, and no Max Miller is not paying me lol. It's been inspiring for both Fool and my other writings. Give it a shot if you like food or history...just uh, prepare to hungry. Or disgusted depending on the recipe, lol. Not all of them are winners.

Alright onto Fool!

“Okay, so there’s a spooky hole in the ground in there,” Alex said. “Like the kind you’d expect a ghost or gob-” he paused. “Er, beast-goblin to crawl out of. I took a look around and I think I saw tracks…but I’m no Theresa. She’s the expert on tracks….”

“That does indeed sound ominous,” Khalik muttered, squinting through the foliage as if trying to see the hole for himself. “Bah, I cannot see anything from here. Maybe it’s time we informed The Watchers, then.”

“I don’t know about that, man,” Alex said, glancing back into the trees. “Suppose it’s nothing. The last thing the school needs right now is a panic over nothing.”

Alex remembered the trick he’d used to escape Alric a year ago: tossing coins into the crowd of desperate people who were hoping they could afford the high price of passage on one of the ships leaving Thameland. Those few coins had created havoc, and he’d used the chaos to escape with Selina, Theresa, and Brutus.

Now, people here were wound tight because of demons.

What would happen if they saw a bunch of Watchers suddenly descend on the botanical gardens? How much fear would that cause...and what if it turned out to be a false alarm?

“I have seen panic too, during war and other disasters…it feeds on itself. Perhaps you are right, perhaps we should avoid making a report without having more information. What do you want to do, then?” Khalik asked.

“I think I should go down there and check it out,” Alex said. “If it’s the summoner, maybe I can catch them off guard. If it isn’t, then there’s no panic for no reason. Like…what if it’s just some guy growing ‘special mushrooms,’ or someone who just wants a secret place to get away to for a while or something? I wouldn’t want to be the guy who brings The Watchers down on them for no reason.”

“Hmmmm, and you say you feel no magic?” The prince glanced down the path. They were still alone. “I will say that I have not felt anything since we’ve been here, but you are much more sensitive to such things than I am.”

“No, I haven’t felt a thing. Not even a hint of summoning or teleportation magic. I think I’ll be okay.”

“Fine, but let us not take unnecessary risks.” Khalik said. “How about this…how about if you use your teleportation spell to throw one of your attack potions down the hole and fill it with gas. That way, you can remain at a safe distance, whoever is in there gets flushed out, and then Claygon, you and I can apprehend them.”

“Hmmmm,” Alex murmured. “That’s not a bad idea…but I kind of need to see where I’m casting the spell, otherwise, I could end up teleporting the potion into the dirt or something, which would make the spell fail. Besides, if it is the summoner...they’ll probably feel any spell I cast…even before I finish casting it. We’ve got the element of surprise going for us right now, so now’s the perfect time for me to check things out.”

“Fair enough…just be careful. If something were to happen to you, Selina, Theresa and her parents would kill me…which I am fairly sure would start a war between Tekezash and Thameland.”

“I’ll be careful.”

Alex slipped back into the foliage as silent as a cat, and crouched beside the trail he’d found, focusing on The Mark. It brought up an image of Theresa showing him some tracks she’d found when they were hunting the vespara. It focused on what she’d said about them, and the traits she’d pointed out about their shape and depth. Unfortunately, The Mark didn’t have a lot of memories to draw from, but they were enough for Alex to figure out a couple of things about the trail.

Whoever was coming through here was small. The tracks weren’t very large or deep, and were also in the shape of a smaller sized shoe.

He circled the entire area around the hole, not wanting a repeat of when he and Theresa hadn’t checked the terrain around the vespara’s cave thoroughly enough.

He paused at the opposite side of the tunnel’s opening.

More strange strange tracks in the dirt. Broad feet with something dragging between them through the plants and soil. Was it some creature that had pulled a victim down into the hole? Or maybe a monster with a tail that dragged along the earth: like some of the wizards’ familiars he’d seen on campus, or like one of the summoned monsters conjured by students in the summoning tower.

He gripped his two potions and checked the trees above. On the ground, there were broken branches and plants where the two sets of tracks had passed, but nothing was disturbed above. No sign of anyone having flown into the area through the branches, which would have been pretty hard to do without getting noticed in the botanical gardens.

‘Okay, then,’ Alex thought. He had all the information he could find. Stepping away from the hole, he paused to cast force armour on himself. He also cast Orb of Air around his head: if he was throwing potions in an enclosed space, he didn’t want the gas to get him too.

He sighed.

That was another reason to start looking into staff-making; he wouldn’t have to worry about a booby-trapped potion catching him or his allies in its fumes.

He slipped both potion bottles through his force armour’s protection—since it was his own spell—and attached them to his belt. Silently raising the bush and noticing its root ball was wrapped in burlap, Alex slipped into the tunnel, then replaced the plant behind him. He swore inwardly. The tunnel was absolutely pitch-black, but he couldn't conjure any light without alerting whatever was in there.

He stayed perfectly still, waiting for his potion-enhanced vision to adjust to the dark, and his other senses to adjust too. With his ability to see decreased, he needed to focus more on his sense of smell and hearing. Alex sniffed the air and caught the scent of… nothing but fresh air since Orb of Air was around his head.

‘Focus, Alex.’ He shook his head, cocking one ear toward the darkness ahead. He could hear the sound of something moving through the tunnel.

Something that was trying to stay quiet, on tiny little feet.

Eventually, his eyes adjusted enough to pick up the faintest glow of light up ahead.

He began using The Mark to crawl through the compact tunnel with care, keeping his movements from dislodging soil or rocks, and using his hands to feel for obstructions along the path.

Suddenly, he came across a trap as the bluish-green light was becoming strong enough for him to actually see the tunnel walls.

His sense of touch felt something that made the hair on back of his arm bristle just before his wrist grazed a thin line strung across the width of the passageway. Alex squinted at the concealed rope: it was like a trip wire leading to…

Bells.

A set of old, rusty cowbells were hanging in an indent in the tunnel walls, placed there to alert anyone inside of unwelcome visitors.

Like a hunting cat, Alex, rose up onto his hands and feet and used The Mark to focus on stealth and control. He climbed over the line silently, then continued along the tunnel. Drawing closer to the light, he could see where soil had been packed down and reinforced with sticks tied together to form a frame, like in a mineshaft. It looked like the frame was made of what appeared to be kindling wood.

Whoever had dug this place, they’d been there for a while: it didn’t look like a tunnel that someone had hollowed out in a couple of days. It had probably taken months without magic, or more likely weeks with magic since they would’ve needed to be sneaky. If it was the demon summoner: they’d probably been using this place to hide in for a while.

Maybe they’d been down there the whole time, right under everyone’s noses.

Alex felt the pouch he’d stuck his potions in.

The moment he saw anyone that looked even slightly unfriendly, he’d hit them with his Sensory Enhancement Potion and overwhelm their senses: a sudden burst of light down there would definitely hurt their eyes. Then he’d hit them with the booby-trapped Mana Soothing Potion.

If they had no defences up, he could grab them like he’d grabbed that wizard in the woods and hold them while he called Claygon, who Khalik would follow. If they did have defences up, or if there was more than one, then the Mana Soothing Potion would slow them down while the booby trapped Sensory Enhancement Potion made their senses go crazy. That would also give him enough time to call Claygon while he retreated to wait for him and Khalik to get there.

With his plan made, Alex slipped further into the tunnel as the light grew brighter. Eventually, he came into what looked like some sort of rough living quarters. A simple bed of leaves was serving as a carpet, and dirty dishes lay across the ground, holding scraps of meat and mushrooms. Demon food, maybe?

Alex paused, then looked up, preparing to stand until he realized he could only crouch since the ceiling height was low; maybe no more than four and a half feet high.

Peering ahead, he could clearly hear the sounds of someone shuffling along the ground now, digging and moving about.

His eyes narrowed as he stooped low and crept forward, taking care to not make a sound. He could see the light grow brighter from around the next corner.

This was it.

Alex took a deep breath and slipped around the dirt wall, easing his potions out, readying to throw them.

And was met by teeth.

He gave a choked cry as something shot around the corner and snapped powerful jaws around his calf. He tried to pull his leg away as a terrible pressure crushed down on the force-armour on his leg. He raised his arm to hurl the potions.

Then his eyes made out the shadowy wriggling form that was attached to his leg.

“Harmless!” Alex gave a low cry. “Harmless let go! You know me! I’m not going to hurt you! Agh! Kybas! Kyyyybas get him off of me!”

“Hm? Alex!?” The little goblin spun around, his eyes going wide as he grasped the sight of his familiar bravely trying to fight off the intruder that had surprised them both. “Harmless! Harmless! Stop! He’s a friend! A friend!”

Almost reluctantly, the four-foot crocodile paused mid-bite, eyeing Alex with a mix of…something. He couldn’t really tell from those alien, reptilian eyes.

Still, Harmless slowly released his leg and went waddling backward toward his master.

“By The Traveller, you scared the shit out of me, Kybas!” Alex swore. “I thought you were the demon summoner!”

“Eh? Me?” Kybas blinked his massive eyes. His ears rose up. “Demon summoner?” He shook his head back and forth, his ears flopping as he did. “No, not me! I’m not summoning no demons! Wait…were you eavesdropping?”

“I wasn’t dropping no eaves!” Alex cried back. “You were down here and there was all this sinister light and I heard…something…in…the bushes…”

Alex finally took a good look around the chamber.

It was huge, at least thirty feet by thirty feet and filled with raised garden beds that had a horde of mushrooms growing in them. Some of the fungi were absolutely tiny, and some were bigger than his head.

In the corner was a cleared spot where a long piece of stone lay with a small cauldron on it, sitting beside a few empty potion flasks.

Several mushrooms--as big as large apples--occupied the corners of the chamber, shedding a teal light that filled the space. Alex recognized a few species from his potion and Magical Botany textbooks.

Most of them were ingredients for…

“…body enhancement potions,” Alex murmured. “What is all this?”

Kybas gave him a sheepish grin. “Welcome to Kybas’ Secret Garden.”

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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Deleted Scene:
"Why do I keep hearing 'Diggy, Diggy Hole by Wind Rose?" Alex wondered aloud. "And how the hell do I know what a children's song/meme from youtube about dwarves sounds like?"

Seriously, don't listen to the song. It will be stuck in your head.

Alright, tune in tomorrow for magic mushrooms! 


Big thanks to all my readers—I appreciate each and every one of you—and a very special thanks to my patrons on my Patreon. There's up to 20 advanced chapters ahead on patreon as thanks for support!

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