Crucis caught up with the other Assassins in a long, narrow cave passage which occasionally plummeted downwards.

The pieces of [Kaxil Pyrite Ore] had been easy to find, since they were seemingly all at the positions marked with the crossed-swords symbol on John Hazlitt's map. The four players had split up and easily gathered seven of the eight pieces of ore required. However, the last of these symbols was deep in the mines, close to the 'Lost Man's Resting Place,' and they met here to take this dicey journey.

As Crucis reached the end of this long passageway, keeping his left hand on the black stone wall to steady himself as the passage sloped unevenly downwards, he saw that Danemy had stopped and seemed to be looking through a large chink in the right wall. Walking over to the right, he saw that the thick wall had about six jagged holes in it, each around the size of a hand. A large chamber could be seen through these, appearing like a mosaic through the array of cracks.

In this chamber, there was a large, distant pit filled with rotting bodies, some with mining tools still strapped to them. Crucis estimated about 30 to 40 corpses. There was a faint, red mist draping the pit, and some of the bodies had long tracts of black, burnt skin.

"This must be some of the other miners which John killed," DicingDevil said, as he took in the scene.

"Yes. Well, at least now we know where the bodies are buried," Crucis replied contently.

"This chamber must be fairly deep in the mines, we're getting close."

"That's a lot of bodies," Akshel remarked. "John wasn't kidding about going to war in the mines."

"Yep," Danemy said. "And what's that shape drifting across the walls? It looks like a large, black snake?"

The group looked in the direction that Danemy was facing, and saw a sinister, dark-brown shape comfortably slithering between small niches in the pit's left wall. In this dim light, it almost looked black.

"That's brown, I think," Crucis said. "But it's hard to tell in this light. Its nametag says [Spotted Brown Snake]."

"So it does. And level 450! That would be painful. I guess the deeper parts of the mine are basically off-limits, then."

"It's alright, we just need to pick up the pyrite and scram," DicingDevil said. "Since you have the map, how close are we to the sword symbol?"

"Um, it's only a few more minutes, I'd guess? A long, winding passage to the left from here, then a ladder — wait, the ladders down here are mostly broken. So, then, the long passage to the left, then turning right, then a steep downwards slope back towards the end of that first passage — now on the bottom end of the ladder. After that, just a few quick turns and we'll be near the Lost Man's Resting Place."

"Got it. Let's go."

The group set off, and found themselves in a long, dusty leftwards passage which looked like a zoomed-in snake's burrow. On the way, they stepped over the corpses of eight players which they found littering the path. Each took turns in looting these corpses, and Crucis was pleased to find some high-quality blacksmithing tools and a small collection of valuable [Young Kaxil Deer Pelt] in the corpses which he inspected.

Since the settlement was seemingly known to a few players by now, as a place to gather crafting materials, it wasn't that surprising that a few people had found their way into the mines, possibly taking the pyrite quest.

After five minutes, they had reached the hallway leading to the Lost Man's Resting Place. This was where the final crossed-swords symbol was drawn.

The passage leading to the Lost Man's Resting Place was long and filled with a faint, red mist that crawled along the ground. Its roof was high, and, along with the dry ice-like mist, made the passage look almost like a majestic cathdral hallway in a film.

As the group proceeded cautiously down this dark hallway, they saw that this passage led to a short, smaller tunnel, that formed an entryway to the large chamber known as the Lost Man's Resting Place. A few corpses lined the ground beneath them, both players and NPCs, but none had any possessions remaining.

Reaching past the halfway point of the passage, Crucis stumbled over a corpse laid horizontally across the passage. It had seemingly had its arms and legs stretched until they hung apart from each end of the body, like on a rack. As he leaned against a wall to keep his balance, he saw that the corpse was carrying a letter.

He picked this up, and began to read, as the rest of the group clustered around.

Theo Mistril,

An unexpected guest! I regret that I was not able to roll out a carpet in your honour. You must forgive the indignity, and I will make amends for it in due course.

I would have prepared further, knowing that you take an interest in matters around this location, but I had expected you to still be exhausted after recent events.

Did your earlier performance not leave you quite hoarse? While I fought the miners, you gave a whole opera decrying me in the Kaxil town hall. I am still pale as a ghost from the barbs you cast at me, even though I was not there to hear them, and wonder indeed why you did not invite me over before trying to pillory me.

Be that as it may, you are welcome to my abode in these caves. I am pleased to see that you are gaining more renown, and I have even seen transcripts of your speech in the local papers. You have called me a 'ghoulish shell of exploitative, predatory capitalistic boorishness.' I am not, like you, a banshee set to terrorise the town of Kaxil.

Rather, I style myself as a sort of underground aristocrat-slash-industralist, the Phantom of the Klassenkampf.

If you find this letter, you will have observed that you are in a large cavern with walls covered in precious minerals. The howls of the children of Dravaistaya may be heard echoing from nearby. I regret that their music is not as rabble-rousing and fashionable as yours, it is instead rather untrained and frightful. It is awfully remiss of me, but you must recall that I cannot control them.

They are feral beasts, and I do submit that it is unfathomable that I be expected to tame them. You will understand this soon.

But I will not leave the duty of welcoming to them, for assuredly they should give a poor show of it. They are unrefined, and have no sense of hospitality.

Although unprepared, I have mustered up, along with me, a small brigade of men to greet you. Although they were reluctant at first, due to what you had recently declaimed about them being 'thugs,' 'rogues,' and 'vagabonds,' after some persuasion they have been enthusiastically garrisoned to give a gentlemanly welcome.

There is so much I wish to converse about, yet I doubt that we will have the time to touch on even half of it! Be that as it may, it is a pleasure.

Listen for the sound of the snake. It signals my arrival.


John Hazlitt.

After reading the letter, Crucis considered the commonalities between it and their recent meeting with John Hazlitt. It had a similar sense of factitious self-deprecation. Crucis guessed that that was part of John's aristocratic persona, an intentionally hollow focus on decorum.

"Do you hear any howling here?" Akshel asked.

"Nah, but it looks like this guy was running away, he might have been further inside the caves before being killed," Danemy replied.

DicingDevil was busy typing up messages to Darys. "Darys seems to be quite interested in this letter, so I'm PMing him a few details. He's read plenty of ghazals, so he enjoys this kind of confrontational stuff that's both low-brow and high-brow."

"Ah yes," Crucis said. "He's from the Middle East. No wonder his Guild was one of the first to get a war declared against them."

DicingDevil laughed. "But he knows some good poetry and songs, just everyone hates him too much to listen."

"True. And that's the general tragedy. Great countries and cultures, but have a bad rap. After going through so many wars, colour revolutions, countries being airdropped onto their land, the whole gamut... they're branded as an Axis of Evil for trying to persist. People ignore the culture of the Middle East, and then call on it to give up its traditions. It's desecration of souls – indeed, in their holy lair."

"I'm sure he would agree. Now, this guy — Theo — seems to have been running down the passageway to get away from the Lost Man's Resting Place. Reckon he had found this letter somewhere in there, or maybe deeper?"

Crucis glanced from a distance into the entryway leading to the 'Lost Man's Resting Place.' He lowered his eyes for a moment at the broad, bright scene of gold, silver, and green arrays of gemstones spreading across the walls of the room inside. They shone with a brilliant, pale shade in the dim light.

"Yep, that room looks like the place where he must have found this letter," he said. "Plenty of valuable stones around, but seemingly nobody came out alive. Can't be safe."

The map showed a sword at approximately this location, implying that the miners had attempted a skirmish nearby, probably while trying to voyage deeper into the mine and confront Hazlitt.

"So where is the pyrite?" DicingDevil asked. "The symbol says here, so it should be at least nearby. Be careful, though."

"Maybe it's a bit further ahead," Danemy said.

Crouching down slightly to scan the ground, Danemy took a few steps forwards, until he was about 70m from the opening leading to the Lost Man's Resting Place. Crucis and Akshel joined him, and they spread out across the chamber.

After a few seconds, Danemy jolted forwards, seeing something shine beneath a pile of dust on the right side of the passage.

However, he stopped in his tracks as he heard the loud, threatening sound of a snake's hiss coming from just in front of him. As he looked up, he saw that two, bright red orbs - like eyes - had appeared on the wall above the entry to the Lost Man's Resting Place. A loud, low-pitched hissing sound resounded through the entryway, and the walls around him seemed to shake slightly.

He darted for the [Kaxil Pyrite Ore], and grabbed it, then backtracked quickly away.

The snake eyes also faded, leaving silence for a few seconds. Soon, Crucis overheard two faint, whispering voices from inside the Lost Man's Resting Place.

"The hounds approach... flee... the howls..."

"The stampede..."

"Who dares... who dares?"

"Misery's... cloak... cloak..."

The faint sound of scratching emerged from the direction of the Lost Man's Resting Place, and soon became clearly the metallic scrape of claws scraping the hard stone walls.

"These must be the children of Dravaistaya," DicingDevil said. "Well, let's not stick around."

He took the map from Danemy, and guided the group as they fled through mazy tunnels towards the entrance.

After a few minutes, while trying to climb a steep passage, they were surprised to hear a loud noise scrambling across the roof behind them. Looking back, Crucis saw a skeletal humanoid figure crawling effortlessly across the roof. Its nametag said [Undead Crawler], and it was level 70.

As it lunged out a long arm to grab him, he used an agile [Slash] at its hand to deflect it. Danemy grabbed onto the creature and leapt up until he had one foot on the roof, then stabbed and kicked violently at its hands and legs until it fell to the ground. Crucis and Akshel struck hard against one of its legs, which began to crack heavily. It seemed unable to get up.

It was down to about 68% HP. However, the loud patter of pawsteps came out from behind it, as a stampede of large hounds tried to navigate these steep passages. One howled loudly.

"Leave it. We aren't sticking around, no?" Crucis said, stepping hastily away from the Crawler's reaching arms.

"Sure, let's go. By the time we kill it, the rest will catch up with us," DicingDevil said, using his hands to climb up a steep drop in the passage. "This one seemingly caught up faster because it was climbing the roof. The rest of the skeletons were stampeding along the ground, they seemingly got in each other's way in the steep, narrow tunnels."

They ran off through the mines again, until after a few minutes they saw the light of the mine's entryway. As the players escaped towards it, a few loud growls were heard from a short distance behind them. A small group of skeletal wild dogs, with smears of blood across their bones, glared aggressively at the players, but did not dare approach the mine's exit.

"The blood must be from the collisions during the stampede," Danemy said. "It must have been havoc. Probably most of them gave up by now."

After a brief stand-off, the dogs walked calmly back into the mines. Their legs clanked tiredly.

However, one enemy did not retreat. It hurtled towards Akshel as he made his way out of the mines.

Crucis glanced at this quick-moving shape. It was a headless chicken, and it flapped its wings aimlessly as it charged.

He quickly intercepted its run with a [Lunge], and it impaled itself on his sword. As the rest of the group fell in with harsh strikes, the chicken soon fell to the ground, dead. Its feathers had fallen away, leaving only its dry bones lying on the ground.

"Did anyone hear that thing cluck as it died?" Danemy said, bemused.

"Yes," DicingDevil said. "How strange. It didn't have a head, after all."

"Chickens are weird," Crucis said, then paused for a moment. "Anyway, what's the awful racket out here?"


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