Bee stood above the remains of the two skeletons while Void absorbed them. She panted raggedly, barely able to catch her breath. This last encounter had been the most challenging fight yet. Sure, she felt like she was improving as they progressed, but her opponents seemed to be improving even faster. She had gotten an initial boost of competence from her skill, but since then, the speed at which she improved had drastically slowed down. She wasn't gaining levels as quickly as when they first entered the catacombs. Maybe it was because she was too close to the skeletons in levels. Or perhaps she just needed to try new techniques. Either way, when she reached level 11, level 12 felt like a long way off. Rightfully so, she thought. Most people took a year or more between 11 and 12. Bee was worried that Void had ruined her expectations regarding leveling.
Void had finished cleaning up in an instant. It made encouraging chirps indicating it was time to move on. Bee's shoulders slumped. She had expected harsh training, but this was far more than she had feared. Void was a cruel taskmaster. Well, it wasn't specifically malicious. It was just very, very demanding, and expected her to work non-stop. No breaks, no rests, no stopping to eat. Of course, it didn't need a break, but she was flesh and blood. Didn't it understand that she had limits?
It was possible that Void was testing her. Of course, she could always ask for a rest herself. After all, it had never denied her a detour to the kitchen or a break when she asked. But some part of her still didn't want to disappoint her master. Maybe it was trying to push her past those limits, just like she was doing with the combat training, and making her realize how strong she was. Or maybe, just maybe, it had genuinely forgotten that she was only human.
She had yet to have a chance to put her backpack down and grab a bite to eat in hours. Her throat was parched, and she felt a little dizzy. With her pack secured, Bee struggled to bend over and pick up the light ball resting on the floor. She was lucky that the ball hadn't started rolling down the gentle slope. That would have been bad as she would have been blind without it unless Void took pity on her. It would have made her surviving this latest battle much less likely.
Bee considered digging in her pack for her waterskin. But before she had a chance to shift her backpack off, they were moving again. Void continued down the gently sloping hallway, with her stumbling along after.
Eventually, Void glided to a stop in front of another archway. Judging by their path, they had reached a room almost directly below the previous one, though much further down. The arch was similar to the one in the last room but with a different inscription above it. This one appeared to be written in a different language that Bee couldn't read.
Again Void moved to enter first. As it passed through the arch, Void activated its strange ghostly blue light to provide more illumination in the darkness than her orb could. She was briefly left alone as they separated. She carefully avoided looking too directly at Void's light; it seemed to irritate her eyes if she looked at it for too long. She figured it was using its unearthly aura or something along those lines to provide this illumination, which seemed like such a waste of a mighty power just for a secondary effect. It was something that mortals indeed couldn't behold. So she just looked at the surroundings as the light illuminated things and felt fine.
Nothing happened to Void as he sat in the room for a few seconds, so she quickly stepped after him. The floor was smooth and made of the same material as the previous room. Again they couldn't see how expansive the space was. However, when they reached the left wall, no cubbies were cut out for the dead men to rest. They made it all the way around the room, and still nothing. The walls were featureless and smooth, though still just as vast as they had seen above. There was another archway leading out of this chamber, but they didn't go into it immediately. This time she didn't let her curiosity go. It seemed that Void didn't want to either.
She watched as her master made one of its graceful turns, pivoting in a circle as tight as a gold coin. Then, facing the center of the room, it slowly rolled forward, shining its light ahead. She followed behind. Sure she was a little apprehensive, but the empty chamber had to be here for something. It was carved with too much precision just to be empty.
Sure enough, when they arrived at the center, there was a mausoleum-like structure, the size of a small cottage but made entirely of smooth gray stone. It was a single piece. At least the joins were so tight that Bee couldn't make them out. It was decorated with fancy silver scrollwork and etchings all over its sides. There was also a smooth door leading inside, slightly pushed inward. A large metal handle with a shiny brass ring, about a hand's breadth across, adorned the door and could be used to pull it shut.
The two of them circled the whole structure, taking it in from every angle. It was standing alone, a small and modest structure in such a colossal cavern. Why would it have been placed like this?
They completed an entire circuit finding no other entrances, just decorative carvings and languages Bee couldn't read. Taking a deep breath and holding it, she slowly poked her head inside the door holding her light orb to see as much as possible. The inside was even more stark than the rest of the room. There was a single stone coffin in the center with no writing, no carvings, completely unadorned. It was at least 4 feet from any of the completely smooth walls of the mausoleum. Bee made to step in for a closer look, but Void screeched a warning. It came too late. Her foot crossed the threshold, landing on the floor with a soft thud. Looking down, she saw what she had assumed was an embellishment of the threshold made of a row of now glowing runes.
I tried to warn Beatrice. I knew something was wrong as soon as I saw the structure, but I couldn't put my bristles on what exactly. Then as she held up her light, I ran my advanced sensors through the part of the stone building's interior I could see from the doorway. That's when I noticed. There was not a speck of dust. Not a single one of the ever-present germs. Nothing. The place was pristine. That shouldn't be right; there were thick layers of dust, grime, and dirt on everything else outside, and this door had been open. Plus, it looked like it had been a very long time since it had been moved. There should have been a layer of something on this. Something was wrong.
Beatrice's foot landed on the inexplicably clean surface. Then I heard something. It sounded like the tumbling of dice or maybe me vacuuming up those tiny plastic blocks the small human loved. It wasn't nearby. The clatter sounded far off in the distance, but it seemed to go on forever. It went on for so long that Beatrice had time to pull back her foot and turn to me, horror on her face.
Each second it continued, she seemed to shrink into herself a little bit more until, eventually, her ears were between her shoulders. When it finally stopped, she whispered, "oops."
I tried to figure out what we could do. I wasn't sure what was happening. However, my dustpan roiled. At first, I thought it was just nervousness from my uncertainty. But then I realized all the remaining demons were swirling as fast as they could inside me, as if in a panic. This sensation only added to my confusion. Between that and a loud thud reverberating through the chamber, I was pretty sure something terrible had happened. And then it repeated a half second later. And then again. And then again and again and again. It was a single sound made up of thousands of individual smaller sounds.
That was ominous.
Then the lid on the box within the room began to shift slightly.
Bee cringed. How could she have been so stupid?
She heard Void's warning too late. But she should have figured it out for herself. Instead, she saw what Void did. It had been too perfect like it was begging an unsuspecting adventurer to come closer. There was no dust, no disturbance, nothing indicating time had passed here. Only ominous warnings in the walls and ancient history were present. She should have turned around and never come down here. Now, she feared she had failed Void.
There was likely no way out of this without her leaning on his help. She had hoped that she would be able to handle these catacombs by herself. However, she had made a huge rookie mistake. Why would she, not even a level 10, be able to take something the mages had kept locked away for who knows how long? And that sound. Bee shivered in fear. She had a suspicion that she knew what it was. It was the same sound of bone dice being thrown to the floor. She was familiar with it from her father and his friends' late-night drinking. Except it multiplied by the thousands.
When she heard the stone of the coffin lid shift, she bolted. It probably wasn't her best decision. She should have had faith in her master, but she panicked. It was the first time she had panicked in a long while. Bee felt like she should have freaked out many other times these last couple weeks but managed to remain mostly calm. Now, for some reason, everything came crashing down and overwhelmed her. Her willpower restraint was exhausted, and she felt like she had no choice.
Her body acted on its own. It started running for the arch opposite where they came in. She couldn't use the entrance of the catacombs that would be blocked. Void let out another screech in her direction. It probably was warning her or telling her to stop, but she didn't listen. She didn't think at all. All she could hope was for it to understand and forgive her.
I watched Beatrice run. It was honestly a fairly reasonable decision. I called out, hoping that she'd wait for me. I wanted to get at least a quick look at what was coming out of this coffin, but running from it did seem like the next best choice. However, I saw the distance between us growing rapidly, and I measured her progress toward the exit of this giant cavern. If I stayed long enough to see what was coming out, I would lose sight of her. So I let out a softer, disappointed beep and zoomed after her.
I caught up as Beatrice reached the door. We started down the slope further into the depths. Once we rounded the curve and got out of sight, I moved in front of her, blocking her path. She scanned the area with wild eyes. I bumped into her ankles softly with a reassuring chime. I needed her to stay focused and in control. Even if I could get out of here and up the stairs by myself, I still wouldn't be willing to leave her behind.
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Bio: After reading pretty much everything I could I figured I would try making some of the stories that I wanted to read.