"This is as far as we can go," Beatrice panted. We had gone back and forth through the hidden tunnels of this top level, looking for other exits. However, the only thing we could find was a false wall passing into the long sloping tunnel right before the cubby-filled room. Carefully I rolled out of the "stone" wall to take stock of the situation. I wanted to avoid the main path as much as possible, and it seemed that Beatrice shared my desire. The sounds we heard before were now silent, but it still worried me.
Rolling so just part of my sensor stuck out, I inspected the mausoleum. I quickly rolled back to process my findings. The room was packed with skeletons. They stood in orderly ranks, shoulder to shoulder, every single one with a helmet, armor, and carrying weapons. They were better armed than any of the skeletons Bee had faced, and there were many, many times more of them.
This was not a foe we could fight our way out of. And it looked like there was no way around this checkpoint. Beatrice looked at me expectantly, and I rotated back and forth in a "no" gesture as quietly as possible. Slowly I rolled back deeper into the tunnels. I rolled as slowly as possible so as not to let the sound of my whirring motors carry far. I wasn't sure how much that would matter since I didn't know what kind of sensors the skeletons had. But it couldn't hurt.
Once we had gotten far enough away from the army, I let out a soft, descending beep. Beatrice grimaced and whispered, "that bad, huh?"
I gave her a short confirmation. We would need to find a way around or some sort of distraction. Otherwise, we would be in trouble. I didn't think my vacuum could suck up all of them with their heavy armor, especially if they held onto each other. I could probably get myself out by sucking them out of position and trying to run my way through their legs, but I didn't think I'd be able to pull Beatrice along with me.
Bee knew things were bad when Void slowly rolled away, not making a sound. After their short conversation, she needed to look for herself. So she crept back and poked her head around the corner. Yeah, they were screwed. There had to be at least a thousand skeletons in there. Every coffin they had passed must have emptied out here. Even worse, they had weapons, armor, 15-20 levels on her, and probably additional intelligence to match. They didn't flinch when she looked, so she must be outside their life-sense range. It was good that this false wall was a bit further down the ramp.
She retreated to where Void still sat. Bee wasn't exactly sure how to proceed here. She was sure Void would be able to get out itself - this many skeletons might pose a challenge even for it, but not a real threat. Still, the fact that it hadn't simply obliterated everything suggested that it wanted her to try and escape herself. Her shoulders slumped a bit at that. There was no way she could do this alone.
Maybe Void was testing her? Seeing if she knew her limits well enough to ask for help? She glanced over at her master. If that were the case, she should figure out a middle ground. Some small favor or action from Void would still give her an opening to escape. Then she could practice her tactics and truly test her limits. But even then, she wasn't sure how she would communicate. So maybe it'd be best if she came up with a plan, and then it could tell her yes or no. She also might get more experience that way. It was worth a shot. Assuming she survived. She assumed that she would as long as Void was willing to participate. But if it lets her do this "training" alone, she might be in trouble.
"I think I'm going to need a distraction," Bee mused. "I'm not sure how much you're willing to help me, but maybe that's a reasonable ask? Maybe something like that huge rat thing you released before."
Void gave a thoughtful screech. It paused for a second, and then Bee saw a brief flash of a demon's glowering face and fangs appear from Void's back. She jumped back, but it was gone just as quickly as it appeared. That was unnerving.
Calming her nerves, Bee grinned. "That would be perfect, master. Based on those carvings, demons are natural enemies of the heroes buried here. Maybe they'll fight each other."
Void chirped in agreement and rolled towards her slightly. Bee mulled over the plan forming in her head. "Okay, if you release a few demons into the hallway, they'll likely charge the skeletons. But if they run away, that's also fine. Either way, the skeletons would probably pursue them, right? If not, maybe they'll cause enough confusion that we can just run through them. Then I wouldn't have to fight them." She pictured the scenario in her mind. "Actually, it seems unlikely that all the skeletons will run out at once… Maybe if you're willing to send out multiple demons, you can space it out to draw some skeletons off each time?"
Planning was arduous when your partner didn't talk. Still, it sounded like a good plan. "That's the best plan I can think of without relying on your strength too much. Unless you have a better idea in mind?"
Void rotated side to side as though shaking its head. Bee sighed. She had hoped she had missed some easy, less dangerous solution here. It didn't sound like it, though. "Could you release the demons while I sit in the side tunnel? Then, once enough pass us, I'll try to run through. Does that sound alright to you, master?"
In response, Void rolled forward, back toward the central passage. Well crap. Bee wasn't ready.
"Wait," Bee desperately whispered after it. Void stopped and turned back to her. "I want to make some preparations first. Potions and the like. They should help me keep up with you."
The two retreated further into the network of tunnels and found a mostly empty room. Bee softly closed the door behind them, though she was sure they were too far away for the skeletons to hear. She set her pack down and pulled out her alchemy equipment for the first time since she came into this dungeon. She was fortunate that nothing had been damaged. The pack had more than once taken a blow or dropped outright. But the linen she had used as cushioning seemed to do a good enough job of protecting everything.
As she set up the equipment and organized the bags of ingredients, Void cleaned off a surface for her to work. Once it did that, it idly cleaned the rest of the room. She appreciated the assistance.
There were a few things that Bee wanted to prepare. First, she'd make a few speed potions. Those would increase her movement speed and allow her to dodge faster. While she hadn't tested them before, speed would be critical here. Even if they only made her a tiny bit quicker, it could be the difference between life and death here. Still, she wasn't sure if she could keep up with Void. It seemed to move faster than a horse, and she wasn't sure if that was at top speed. Though she hadn't run all out since she had leveled up either, so she really wasn't sure how fast she was. She smiled to herself. She was excited to find out, even with the imminent danger.
While she had everything out, Bee mixed a few batches of smoke powder and other distractions she had researched. They might not fool the skeletons, but they could distract the demons if things went wrong. Plus, it never hurts to have more tools at her disposal. She also prepared some healing salves, just in case. It was slow acting and would lose potency over time, but it would be better than nothing if she was really hurt. Especially if she actually made it out.
Altogether, mixing these potions took her an hour and a half. It was longer than she would have liked but better than expected. These weren't exactly the best circumstances to test a new recipe.
Bee packed away the last of her equipment and looked over to Void. It had been pacing the room doing its whole glowing, mopping, skull-waving routine that it had made a habit recently. "Okay, master, I think I'm ready to go." It chirped a happy note and rolled to the door, opening it for her.
Together they made their way back to the illusory wall. Bee crouched a little ways behind the illusion while Void rolled ahead. It looked back at her briefly as though making sure she was ready. Then it glided forward.
My human's plan sounded good. I was glad that I could help with it, actually, since I was starting to feel like she was doing all the work here. Except for the cleaning. Though I guess that was the critical work. Still, though, she had become so self-sufficient during this trip. Really, I was proud of her. She was planning to make her repair glue and whatever other interesting stuff she had prepared. I wasn't sure what the golden yellow liquid or the gray-black powders she made were, but surely they would be useful.
Hopefully, we could get many skeletons to chase the demons down the hallway. Unfortunately, from what I had seen, the demons would likely attack rather than run. Either way, as long as Beatrice runs quickly after me, maybe I could help clear a path for her with my vacuum.
As I rolled out to the center of the hallway, I checked my dustbin. 14 warm masses roiled around inside. The lesser demons I had captured so long ago. I thought Beatrice's second idea of letting out a few at a time would be best. They were small things, but they were pretty quick, so they should be able to escape pursuit for a while. Also, if the skeletons only recognized them as minor threats, they might not immediately send everything after them. Maybe I overestimated the skeletons' tactical skills, but it was better to play it safe.
I selected a couple of demons to release. I sprung them loose as I reached the hall's center, trying to eject the mess makers toward the skeletons.
Again I was confused. Just like with the small fuzzy mess maker, the demons didn't look how I remembered. Instead of small, black-furred apes, what popped out was quite different. For one, they were no longer identical. Each one was slightly different. The first was a scaly behemoth. It was larger than any humans that had rudely attacked Beatrice by 11 inches. In addition to its height, it also had curved horns and sharp claws. Yellow eyes with vertical slits glared, and its pointed teeth gnashed as it spotted the skeletons ahead. The second demon was much harder to notice. It was not much larger than Beatrice, but it was black and seemed to shift with the shadows. I couldn't really make out its exact shape.
Despite how different they looked, they both made the same screeching sound as they whirled around to glare at me. They seemed upset. I wondered if that's because I put them in timeout for so long. Well, in my defense, they had made a pretty bad mess. And tried to attack me. So really, what did they expect?
Before I had time to wonder about their appearances, both demons charged at me. The large-scaled one crashed forward like a boulder in a river, whereas the shadow one flickered like a flame in a smooth, gliding motion.
I let out a panicked beep and started to reverse as fast as I could.
Bee watched as the demons seemed to be stretched and pulled out from Void's back, landing in front of him. She didn't exactly know where it was summoning things like this from. Still, she was pretty intimidated by these two and the giant rat monster. According to a scan, they were an advanced shadow demon and a reptile demon. Both were in their mid-twenties in level. These were way far above anything that had awakened in the castle yet. Maybe it had collected some of the demons that were still in stasis and were keeping them… somewhere? In its stomach?
Like all plans, this one went immediately awry once the demons were released. Instead of attacking the skeletons, they turned on Void.
If she had needed any more convincing that Void was not a demon, this would be it. They were trying to challenge or even fight Void, meaning they weren't servants or under its direct control. Her master had, at some point, overpowered them. And they hated him for it. Void taunted them and then led them down the hallway at breakneck speeds. Perfect, it was adapting the plan. As soon as the skeletons spotted Void, they shifted. But when the demons came out, they moved.
The skeletons weren't exactly marching so much as running in step at a full sprint. Perfectly timed feet caused the ground to tremble as they raced down the hallway. A deafening rhythm of clattering bone and clattering metal shattered the quiet of the tomb. Beatrice ducked back under cover as the skeletons streamed past her. Even at their speed, it took a full minute before the last skeleton passed. As the sounds receded slightly down the hallway, she poked her head out to see the army receding into the dim passageway. She checked the room to see if it had indeed been that easy. Unfortunately, there were still a few skeletons remaining in the mausoleum. But it seemed that they had only left a token force.
A group of 10 skeletons remained to block the path up from the mausoleum chamber. That was still a lot, but it was way better than she had hoped. She wasn't concerned for Void. Her master could take care of itself. She didn't see how these comparably weak skeletons could harm it. Even so, she felt a little bad leaving it behind as she approached the mausoleum. She was very sure she couldn't fight this many skeletons. Even if they were her level, it would be too much. But all she needed was an opening to get through them. It didn't seem like more help from Void was coming, so she needed to figure this out.
Pulling out her broom, she advanced on the squad of skeletons and prepared for battle.
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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.