The easternmost of Azurvale’s hylt trees, nicknamed ‘the outcast’ by the locals, was also the farthest one from the inner city. Both its branches and the area around it were loosely populated and almost completely devoid of buildings. The main reason for this, other than its relatively remote location, was that this was the site of Azurvale’s main cemetery. Many of the elves that lived here considered it only natural that their remains, cremated or otherwise, be laid to rest where they could be used as fertilizer by the roots of a hylt tree. It was their way of giving back to the titanic plants that had sheltered and nurtured them for most of their lives.
Boxxy’s reasons for being here had a lot less to do with the cycle of life, however. It had arrived at the ancestral graveyard after following Tick Tockleton’s directions for the past hour. They would’ve arrived sooner, but the sentient pocket watch seemed to have trouble navigating the city since its layout had changed drastically since the last time it had to do this. It had nevertheless managed to find its way here, to the site of Tol-Saroth’s final appointment.
Or, more specifically, the last one he had made before being forced and manipulated into weaponizing his mimic creations. According to Tick, it had been suddenly abandoned a whole three years before the Elven Dominion fell, and Snek had been the first mimic it had met since then. Well, the first friendly one, at least. Apparently it accidentally ran into a cupboard that tried to eat it, but spat it out when it realized that it couldn’t chew the smaller creature’s silver shell. That incident was why Tick had spent most of the past four centuries lurking around sewers and hibernating, too afraid to venture into the open world by itself.
Yet it seemed to have instantly opened up to Keira. As had literally every other house mimic it had come across. The shapeshifter wasn’t sure why that was, though. Mimics were, barring a few exceptions, simple creatures with basic instincts, but they surely weren’t so attached to Boxxy because they sensed it was born as one. It might have assumed something to that effect when it first found Minic, but it now had serious doubts as to the validity of that theory. After all, Tick seemed perfectly content to be in Kaede’s possession despite its trauma, and the nosferata was most assuredly not a shapeshifter of any kind.
Not that Boxxy was complaining, of course. Its inexplicable likeability to house mimics had been immensely beneficial, all things considered. It never would’ve even thought to check for secret labs in a graveyard, of all places. After all, Tol-Saroth might have been an asocial recluse, but he had been a fundamentally good person with solid morals. Or at least that was the impression Boxxy got when considering the legacy the old sage left behind. Well, barring the odd unnatural abomination or monsterfication serum, but those had been developed by using Tol-Saroth’s research as a basis, not created by the man himself.
The point was that Boxxy considered this graveyard to be an unlikely place for that man to have a base, but it would rather trust the living compass in its hand than its own assumptions. After a few minutes of walking through the rows of rotting wooden headstones - another elven burial tradition - it reached one of the few dwarven mausoleums in the area. The stone building was old, filthy, and positively overgrown with moss and vines. Dwarves would typically tend to and maintain their ancestors’ burial sites as a sign of respect for their lineage, so this sorry sight suggested this particular clan had already died out.
Either that or this was simply the entrance to a secret lair disguised as a mausoleum, which seemed to be what Tick’s directions implied. The shifting arrow on its silver lid most definitely said to enter this place, but there was one small problem with that. Boxxy was still wearing Keira’s skin, and as such wanted to avoid adding ‘grave robber’ to the rumor mill surrounding its primary Facade. Thankfully it had taken a few precautions to ensure that it could keep whatever it found all to itself.
“Claws, is there anyone following us?”
The main one being ordering its stealthiest familiar to shadow it and keep an eye out for any tails.
“There were some curious kids following you through the streets earlier,” Drea reported, “but they were too scared to enter the graveyard. There are also four ongoing funerals, the nearest one being about four hundred meters away.”
“Good enough. Watch the mausoleum’s entrance and inform me the instant anyone gets within a hundred meters of it.”
With that out of the way, Boxxy grabbed the old rusty grate covering the would-be tomb’s entrance. It then had the sudden urge to rip it off, crumple it up into a ball and then throw it into the sun, but it managed to keep itself from doing anything unnecessary. That was close, though. Its corrupted psyche seemed to have momentarily enflamed its old hatred for metal grating. These fits of rage were steadily growing harder to control, so Boxxy hurriedly slithered between the vertical bars and ventured down the steps beyond it.
The mausoleum was about as dark and musty as one might expect, with centuries’ worth of grime and dirt covering the walls and floor. After heading down the claustrophobic staircase for a while, Boxxy came upon some sort of rectangular central chamber. However, upon checking back with Tick’s surface-mounted compass, it was met with a series of shifting question marks rather than the arrow and number that had been there until then.
“Snek, what’s wrong with this guy?” the shapeshifter asked.
“Snek, snek snek, snek,” the bracelet explained.
“What do you mean it can’t see in the dark?”
“Snek snek, snek ssssnek.”
Apparently Tick didn’t have an MLG and instead relied on a number of tiny, barely noticeable eyes lining its sides for vision. They worked well in low light conditions, but this place was positively pitch dark. Boxxy had a number of ways it could remedy this situation, though it decided it might as well summon some backup. Just in case Tol-Saroth’s graveyard hideout had guardians or traps.
“Ugh. What a positively dreadful place,” Xera complained immediately after her summoning.
“Snack, make some light,” the shapeshifter commanded. “Just light. No flames.”
“As you wish, Master.”
The demoness complied by using her Conjure Mirage Skill to create a miniature illusory sun that bathed the chamber in a soft white light. It revealed that the chamber was home to a total of fourteen statues of various dwarves, each carved into the stone walls. Tick instantly chirped and clicked as it directed Boxxy towards one in particular. It seemed to be a rather lovingly rendered image of a bearded warrior in heavy armor and a shortsword in each hand. The chest-minded monster attempted to inspect the article with its MLG, but found that there was an ‘anti-peeking’ enchantment on it, so it couldn’t ‘see’ beyond its craggy exterior.
Upon stepping closer to it, the sentient timepiece hopped out of Keira’s hand and used its tiny legs to rapidly skitter up the stone carving. The shapeshifter watched curiously as Tick climbed up to the statue’s face and started poking at its beard. It must’ve hit a hidden switch or something, as the dwarf’s mouth suddenly flew open with a click and a rattle. The stopwatch climbed inside for a moment and there was a second click, followed immediately by a deep groan as the statue slowly sank into the ground to reveal a hidden passageway.
Boxxy had to admit, it was rather impressive how advanced this mechanism was considering it was four hundred years old. Then again, so was Tick, so perhaps some level of mechanical competence was to be expected. And yes, this was most definitely a machine at work rather than some magical device. The monster had been an Artificer long enough to recognize the familiar clacking of gears and cogs hidden behind the stone facade.
Now that the ‘door’ was open, Boxxy picked Tick back up and had Xera go through it first. The succubus happily obliged, expecting to be viscerally dismembered by some kind of trap. And while there was a certain surprise in store for her for crossing the threshold, it certainly wasn’t the kind she was expecting.
You have entered Stonetusk’s Parting Gift.
“… Master,” she said after a brief pause, “I do believe we’ve stumbled upon a dungeon.”
Her reaction struck Boxxy as odd. It shouldn’t have been all that surprising Tol-Saroth would have a personal dungeon. He had been one of the foremost experts on dungeon cores of his era. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The history books say he lost his life to a Calamity-like core detonation that he triggered, so it only stood to reason he’d have a few of the crystal balls lying around. Then how come she seemed so… uncharacteristically wary of this place?
“What’s wrong, Snack?”
“I do not know, Master,” she responded quietly. “This place feels familiar, yet I have no memory of it.”
“Don’t waste my time with your stupid feelings!” it snapped at her. “Is there any real danger to be found here?!”
“… Not that I can tell, Master.”
Boxxy’s patience was already at an all-time low, which combined with standing on the verge of such a discovery made it feel rather impatient. It shoved Xera aside hard enough to smack her into the wall and break a rib, then proceeded through the passageway. The djinn picked herself up without letting out any lewd sounds and sheepishly followed behind, unable to shake this foreboding feeling.
The tight tunnel soon opened up to an exceptionally spacious chamber surrounded on all sides by tree bark and decorated with mostly empty shelves. It would seem that Tol-Saroth had also realized that the roots of a hylt tree make a suitable dungeon location. The core itself was floating in the middle of the room, bathing it in a soft yellow glow like some sort of chandelier. Boxxy wasted no time and went over to touch it, hoping to gain control over it since its previous owner had been dead for centuries.
However, that was not what had happened. Though the shapeshifter had been able to reclaim its first dungeon after its death by merely touching it, this one refused to yield. Most likely because it had acquired a new owner at some point after Tol-Saroth’s death. And Tol-Saroth was most assuredly dead, seeing as how that was the reason for Xera’s contract annulment. It was unfortunate, but Boxxy would not be able to so easily claim this dungeon.
It was still going to try and steal the dungeon core, though not right away. The ambient mana that coursed through this place wasn’t nearly as abundant as what could be found within Ambrosia’s trunk. It was unlikely this hideout could muster much in terms of traps or defenses. Not to mention whatever limited MP it could siphon off was likely allocated towards maintaining whatever devices or experiments were present here.
And there were indeed a lot of those. Boxxy counted no less than seven workshops, each dedicated to a particular enchanting or alchemical technique. There were countless shelves, drawers and, yes, chests filled with materials, but they had all withered and lost their potency. Mountains of notebooks and scrolls, too, though far too many to bother with right now. Those chambers aside, there was also a fairly large bedroom full of various cupboards, wardrobes and coat hangers, though none of them had anything of particular interest.
On the whole, the secret base beneath the graveyard appeared to be only slightly larger than the warehouse Fizzy had converted into a tinkerer’s workshop. Secrecy seemed to have been its only line of defense, as Boxxy encountered zero monsters or traps as it explored the place. It seemed to be completely devoid of life, yet the former mimic’s instincts were telling it there was something very wrong with this place. Xera apparently agreed, seeing as how she sheepishly followed her catgirl-shaped Master without even once asking to get her holes drilled into oblivion.
“Sssssnek,” Snek whispered quietly, breaking the deathly silence.
“Oh, right, I almost forgot.”
Boxxy checked its pocket-sized navigator, only now realizing that Tick had been giving it directions this entire time. It had yet to explore the entirety of Stonetusk’s Parting Gift, so it decided to follow its prompts. The silver watch guided it to a four meter tall chamber at the very back of the underground lair. The room was brightly lit by magical lights, revealing that it was over fifty meters long and twelve meters wide. It was now obvious that this dungeon was much larger than Boxxy had originally estimated.
Size aside, it was this laboratory’s contents that truly shocked the shapeshifter. It had expected to see any number of bizarre sights, but seeing two long rows of giant crystalline cylinders that rose up to the ceiling wasn’t among them. Especially not ones filled to the brim with some sort of faintly bubbling orange liquid. Boxxy walked up to the closest container and wiped away some of the dust and grime that had stuck to it. It peered into the murky fluid to see that there was a naked female body floating inside.
And what a body it was. Nearly three meters tall, with enough muscle to make the average fiend feel inadequate and yet also stacked in all the right places to give succubi a run for for their money. A pair of long spiraled horns protruded upwards from her forehead, making clear beyond any doubt that this was, in fact, a demon. One that Boxxy’s fully developed Demonology Skill helped identify as a spire fiend. Theirs was an exceedingly rare subspecies that supposedly were full of wrath and pride in equal measure. They were without question the strongest of the fiends, possessing both superior physical might and peerless martial prowess. Their arrogance kept them from fully utilizing their natural superiority, however, and also made them extremely difficult to control.
“Wait…” Xera pressed her face against the glass. “I think I know who this is…”
“Probably one of Tol-Saroth’s other familiars, isn’t it?” Boxxy suggested. “The history books do say he had a spire fiend under his command.”
“Yes! That’s the one!” the djinn declared. “What was her name again?! Freaky-Arse-something-something? Wait, has she been here for four fucking centuries?!”
“That’s not her, just her body,” the shapeshifter revealed. “There’s not a single sign of life emanating from it.”
It would seem that the old sage had figured out a way to keep demon flesh stable even after the soul was removed from it. This weird crystal tube and the orange stuff inside it were probably what was keeping the conjured shell from simply falling apart while the dungeon core kept the lab in working order. Boxxy was glad it left the crystalline heart be for the moment. It imagined maintaining this chamber in working order for so long took a mind-boggling number of environmental settings and variables. The sort of delicate thing that would not be recoverable should an outsider thoughtlessly interfere.
However, none of that answered the shapeshifter’s most pressing question.
“Why would Tol-Saroth make an appointment to come here?”
Tick had already gone completely still and silent, suggesting that this was the site of its creator’s final meeting. It carefully inspected each of the other tubes, noting that they were all filled with demon corpses. The ones on the right seemed to have copies of the spire fiend, while those on the left were filled with the conjured bodies of a certain pyromaniac succubus. The emotions coursing through Xera’s head upon seeing so many of her old selves pickled up like this were… complicated ones, to say the least.
“You seriously don’t remember this place?” Boxxy asked yet again.
“No, Master…” she shook her head. “I told you, I remember almost nothing from my time as Tol-Saroth’s familiar.”
“How can you forget this?!” the monster angrily smacked one of the tall tubes.
“I really should not have, Master. And yet I did,” she responded grimly. “And that is precisely why I am worried.”
“… Are you suggesting Tol-Saroth was capable of altering a demon’s memories?”
“It would certainly seem that way.”
Doing such a thing was normally impossible. Unlike mortals, demons were capable of etching memories into their undying souls. This trait was the main reason why mind magic that normally targeted the brain was woefully ineffective against them. Unless, of course, one were to have a certain Perk. The same one that Boxxy would unlock upon advancing its Summoner’s Grimoire Skill up to Level 3 and gaining an extra +6 MNT in the process.
Description: A being whose power of will is the stuff of legends.
Requirements: Reach 750 Mental Fortitude (MNT).
Effects: Spells and Skills that affect the mind can be used on Golems, Demons and Undead at 30% effectiveness.
Reduces the duration of hostile mind control effects by 80%.
It would take a lot of time and effort, but it was theoretically possible that one could erase days or possibly even months or years’ worth of memories from a demonic mind. Assuming they knew such magic, of course. As far as Boxxy was aware, memory-altering Spells weren’t part of a Warlock’s basic kit, but there was nothing stopping Tol-Saroth from studying and mastering such an incantation during his long life of solitude. The shapeshifter could both understand and appreciate that level of commitment towards keeping one’s secrets safe.
The old sage’s paranoia aside, it still wasn’t quite clear what the purpose of all this was. It was certainly encouraging, though. The dead elf’s research on demons was precisely the sort of thing Boxxy was looking for, so it wasted no time in inspecting the rest of the chamber with Xera’s help. It noted that each of the pickled corpses deviated from their base form in one way or another. Some had different proportions, others had extra fingers, others still had grown thin and emaciated. A few of them were nothing more than skin wrapped around bones.
Boxxy theorized these defects and mutations were caused by whatever formula was used to preserve the conjured bodies. It was therefore rather surprised when it reached the final crystal column in the series. The female spire fiend within was, as far as it could tell, in absolutely pristine condition. Her features and rippling muscles were nothing short of perfection from an anatomical standpoint, though Boxxy couldn’t call this shape all that practical or functional. Mostly because of those stupidly large breasts that no doubt would’ve gotten in her way.
Absurd proportions aside, it was impossible to deny that this body looked so full of vigor that it might come back to life at any moment. That was quite impossible, though.
Mostly because this particular body was never dead to begin with.
The spire fiend’s eyes suddenly flew open, forcing the catgirl-shaped monster to take a reactionary leap backwards while drawing its rapier. The demon’s flawless face twisted into an expression of pure rage as she took a swing at her cell. Her fist made a muffled thud as it impacted the transparent material, but accomplished little else. She continued kicking and punching at it, making it clear that her current condition and circumstances had rendered her too weak to break out.
“Ugh, how unsightly,” Xera scoffed. “Though I suppose I’d be pretty pissed off if I was trapped in a jar for four hundred years. It really must suck to be her.”
The djinn drifted up to the glass and smiled deviously at the struggling fiend within. She was enjoying her former coworker’s spectacular misfortune as a way of dealing with the disturbing realization that a mortal had fucked with her head in an untasty way. She also felt a tiny bit envious. She would be lying if she said she didn’t want to know what it must have felt like to spend so long without being able to take a breath.
“… Wait a second,” realization suddenly hit her. “How is she still alive?”
Demons may not have needed sleep, food or water to survive, but they most definitely needed air.
“Seems to me she’s in a state of constant drowning,” Boxxy responded. “You went through something similar when you first met Ambrosia, remember?”
In other words, this orange fluid was most likely a modified version of a dryad’s Waters of Life, their efficacy maintained by the dungeon core’s settings. Or at least that was what the shapeshifter surmised. Both its MLG and Eyes of the Dead God Skill seemed incapable of penetrating whatever wards this enchanted jar had, so it had to base this theory on its eyesight and past experiences. No bubbles of air seemed to escape the demons’ face, which meant the murky liquid around her restored the fiend’s HP faster than her suffocation could reduce it. And the only other instances where Boxxy had seen something like this was when it was experimenting with drowning people in Ambrosia’s restorative juices.
This educated guess seemed to have been proven more or less correct when the demon lost consciousness several seconds later, no doubt from overexerting her air-deprived body. The shapeshifter hated that it was right, though. If all these massive jars were indeed filled with modified Waters of Life, then that meant that Tol-Saroth must have had some kind of agreement with the dryad that dwelled in this tree. Which, in turn, implied that this dungeon setup was eerily similar to the shapeshifter’s.
Perhaps… Boxxy T. Morningwood was none other than Ivran Tol-Saroth’s reincarnation, and had unwittingly been repeating choices and decisions from that lifetime? It seemed rather ludicrous, but there were far too many similarities and coincidences for the monster to confidently dismiss that statement. The shapeshifter felt rather apprehensive at this particular train of thought, as it loathed the idea of having some four hundred year old ‘ancestor’ influencing its actions. It was a chest with a will and mind of its own, not some dead elf’s puppet, damn it!
In the end it chose to postpone dealing with that troublesome query until after it had completed the task at hand. It summoned Arms and left her to keep an eye on the perpetually drowning demon while it finished exploring the rest of the dungeon. Meanwhile, Snack was ordered to very carefully check out the countless stacks of notes, diagrams and formulas her former employer had left behind. Some of the papers, parchments and books had deteriorated to the point of being either illegible or turning to dust upon being disturbed, but most of them seemed to have held up relatively well.
However, the djinn immediately ran into a problem. Well, two problems. The first was that Tol-Saroth’s handwriting was abysmal. It was so bad that she would totally believe it if someone told her he had written these with his left foot. There were plenty of properly printed books - most likely reference materials - that were easy to read, but those were full of information that was either publicly available or horribly outdated, usually both. The second and far bigger issue was that everything was written in some kind of code. It almost looked like some kind of ancient or foreign language, but Xera’s Versatile Tongue Skill would’ve given her the ability to read it if that were the case. No, the letters and numbers were definitely those used in the Common language, but the words they spelled out made absolutely no sense.
“Can you decipher it?” Boxxy asked once it received her telepathic report.
“No, Master. This sort of thing isn’t my area of expertise.”
“Because it doesn’t involve being used as a cumbucket?” Kora chimed in.
“Exactly,” Xera confirmed. “It’s far better to have the cat-bird look into these documents.”
It was a sound suggestion. Jen used to be the Gilded Hand’s foremost Scribe, so she likely had experience with both encoding and decoding sensitive information.
“Okay. Snack, prepare everything we can use for transportation. Claws, how are things outside?”
“No signs of anyone approaching the tomb, Master,” was Drea’s response.
“Arms, how’s that test subject doing?”
“She woke up a while ago. Gave her the old sixfold middle finger. Then she passed out.”
Realistically speaking, if the captive demon couldn’t escape in the last four hundred years, then there was no way she’d be able to suddenly do so. At least not unless the dungeon core was taken and the magic keeping her prison intact dissipated. That was why Boxxy delayed disturbing the thing until it was absolutely sure it was done with the place, especially since it had no idea what else that crystal ball was powering. It also couldn’t linger too long, however, as it was unsure when its current owner might realize there were intruders in Stonetusk’s Parting Gift.
As for the identity of said owner, the resident dryad seemed like the most likely suspect.
After inspecting the rest of the dungeon, Boxxy found what appeared to be a second laboratory, this one much smaller than the hall-o-tubes. It was a circular chamber with a bowl-shaped ceiling, no more than eight meters in diameter and half as tall. Twelve demonic sigils lined the tiled stone floor near the edge of the room, each one glowing with a faint blue light. Boxxy used its knowledge of the divine language to translate them as the phrase ‘One becomes all when two become whole.’
Or at least that was the one that made the most sense. There were several possible translations, depending on which letter one started reading from. It was difficult to judge where the sentence started and where it ended, but gibberish like ‘fish breathe fresh feet every two weeks’ was unlikely to be correct. The divine language was weird like that. Knowledge of it was also yet another thing that both Boxxy and Tol-Saroth seemed to share, the realization of which made the shapeshifter grumble angrily.
Confusing lettering aside, this laboratory was also home to a few pieces of equipment, for lack of a better word, that were grouped up near the center. One was an elevated stone platform surrounded by six tarnished metal rods that poked out of the floor. The whole thing was barely a meter tall, and the circular slab in the middle was as big as a queen-sized bed. A small cage suspended by a chain hung from the ceiling above, both objects forged from the same deep blue metal as the rods in the ground.
Immediately next to this altar-like thing was a wooden chair that looked like some kind of torture device. It had metal shackles that could bind a humanoid subject’s ankles, wrists and neck to the furniture. A bowl shaped helmet was attached to the top of the backrest via an arm of some kind. It had a leather chin strap and an ominous-looking cable that snaked behind it and disappeared somewhere into the floor. All of the chair’s metal bits were, of course, forged out of the same mysterious blue stuff as the rods and the cage. They were also covered in tiny arcane sigils. These symbols were unlike the demonic runes at the edge of the room in that they were geometrically significant shapes meant to channel and bind mana, not letters in a language.
And finally, there was a single lever a few paces in front of the chair, no doubt the switch to activate whatever this contraption was. Pulling it seemed like a profoundly idiotic idea, so Boxxy stayed as far away as mimically possible from it while investigating the chamber. Once it was done it left it behind and swung by the various workshops to collect the cartload of ancient documents that Snack had prepared. It was about time to leave this place for the moment, though not before taking care of Tol-Saroth’s final experiment.
“So, this was that guy’s final ‘appointment,’ huh?” Xera scowled.
“Seems like it,” Keira nodded. “He probably wanted Tick to remind him to come finish whatever he was doing, but never got the chance.”
“Can we get this over with?” Kora scratched her cheek. “It’s super awkward.”
“Yeah, what dicks-for-brains said,” the djinn agreed.
Though demons didn’t really care for anyone, let alone one another, there was something superbly disturbing about being forced to spend four centuries drowning in total solitude. Even Xera wasn’t broken enough to want that. It was the sort of thing that would drive anyone nutty, and might drive even immortal beings to consider oblivion a better option. In other words, there was a good chance that this fierce and proud demoness might have been reduced to a deranged and feral lunatic not even capable of rational thought.
“Alright. Arms, you’re up.”
“Ugh, why me, though?” Kora grumbled. “Don’t you two have, like, stupidly powerful magic?”
“And what do you think will happen if we used that in here, dumbass?” Boxxy snapped at her. “The goal is to retrieve that demon, not obliterate her! Now shut up and get busy.”
The hoarder grumbled and did just that, laying into the inanimate object with everything she had. However, after nearly twenty minutes of full force pummeling, the only thing she had to show for her effort was a small puddle of her own sweat.
“Huff, huff, huff,” she panted. “Thing’s, huff, tougher than, huff, it looks, huff.”
She managed to crack it dozens of times, but the crystal instantly mended itself every time. Her onslaught just wasn’t intense enough to overcome the dungeon core’s auto-repair function. Boxxy even injured her to shave off her HP and activate her Berserker abilities on top of imbuing her with Dark Infusion. This made her significantly more effective, but it still wasn’t enough. The sad part was that she would’ve been able to bust through it no problem if she were still an archfiend with access to the Siegebreaker Skill. That ability was perfect for knocking down magically fortified walls, after all.
“Wait, I know!” she suddenly declared. “Why don’t I just snatch the cuntbag out of there!”
She took a step back and made a scraping motion with one of her hands as she invoked her Hand of Avarice Skill, but that did literally nothing.
“… Oh, right. It only works on living targets,” she then remembered.
Boxxy’s anger flared up yet again as it smacked the hopeless meathead hard enough to make her slam face-first into the nearby wall.
“I’ll fucking do it myself!”
It cast off the veneer of the redheaded catgirl and replaced it with its Sandman persona, complete with skull-tipped Voidcaller Staff. Arcane energy crackled around it as it activated Power Overwhelming and threw caution to the wind.
The rage fueled Spell flew towards the blasted tube, bounced off of it with a dull thud, then sliced Xera, who was just sort of standing there, clear across the waist.
“Ahhhhnn!” the slut moaned loudly as her top and bottom half were separated. “Masteeer!”
Boxxy, however, was seriously starting to lose it. It swung the adamantite staff, crushing the worthless slut’s head into a pulp and killing her on the spot. It was about to attempt to do the same to the insufferable crystal tube when it was interrupted by something small and rectangular.
“Yip! Yip! Yip! Yip!”
Minic? Now? Here?!
Indeed, no matter how much one tried to deny it, the animate jewelry box was currently making excited laps around the Sandman’s right leg, yipping all the while. The sheer absurdity of it all seemed to shock the larger creature out of its corruption-fueled rampage before it had a chance to really take off. Boxxy’s rational side managed to seize control in that brief moment of hesitation, as it reached into its Storage and took out an entire jug of its private mix of Sleeping Potion. It dumped the whole thing down its gullet, the powerful alchemical tranquilizer rapidly soothing its volatile mind.
Feeling a bit woozy from the whole thing, Boxxy simply let its body collapse onto its side, allowing Minic to walk up and affectionately bump into its face. It shifted its gaze slightly to see that both Tick and Snek had retreated without it noticing, and were currently peeking out from behind a corner. Kora, meanwhile, had only just gotten up to her feet and was looking around the chamber with an awkward expression. Even she wasn’t dense enough to not realize that it was her idiocy that was the catalyst for her boss’s current problems.
“What am I even doing?” it grumbled aloud, then rolled over onto its back. “I haven’t the faintest idea how to fix this stupid corruption thing, so I’m getting mad at a glass vat of demon-juice? It probably doesn’t even taste good!”
Minic, as expected, had no idea why its ‘big brother’ was moping about on the ground. The ground here was not soft in the slightest, definitely no place to be taking a nap. It tried to convey this by bumping into the Sandman’s head, but was ignored as the shapeshifter struggled to maintain a grip on its consciousness.
“Snek?” the golden serpent asked after slithering closer.
“I’ll be fine. Just need to focus on fighting off the potion’s effects.”
It was supposed to drink only a few mouthfuls of that potion, not the whole jug. It probably wouldn’t die or anything from the overdose, but the shapeshifter, in a manner of speaking, agreed with Minic that this was hardly any place for a nap.
“Yipyip?” the critter asked its shiny compatriot.
“Snek, sneksnek. Snek snek snek,” was the brief summary of the situation.
“What the crap are you two on about?”
“Snek snek snek… Ssssnek?”
Boxxy moved its head up just in time to see Minic run up and bump into that stupid crystal tube. The entire column was momentarily wrapped in a bright white light, then vanished into thin air. With nothing holding it in place, the countless liters of orange liquid flooded the room, making the shapeshifter gargle some of it as its head was suddenly enveloped. It tasted… fruity.
Now’s not the time for that! it screamed internally.
The Sandman rose up from the vital fluids enveloping it, noting that the now freed demoness was violently puking out all of the gunk that was in her lungs. Boxxy’s body was still feeling exceptionally heavy from the tranquilizer overdose, so it was unable to do anything to subdue her. At least its Eyes of the Dead God were finally able to get a reading on the fiend’s name, which was Freallausiz Aurphoirriz Zalathraxas de Thotealphiol. Unfortunately it also revealed her HP, which was currently around the same value of a certain ex-fiend.
Freallausiz rose to her feet, her naked body still dripping with the hateful liquid that had kept her imprisoned for so long. Now that she was free, she invoked her Demonic Armaments Skill to conjure a massive two-handed axe that was easily as big as she was, its blade dotted with a number of very sharp teeth. Boxxy would’ve liked to point out that was an impractical design for a pole weapon, but was too busy trying to roll out of the way of the demoness’s mad charge.
Luckily for it, the aforementioned ex-fiend wasn’t about to let this gray-skinned exhibitionist do whatever she wanted.
“Back off, bitch!”
Kora shoulder-bumped Frealla away and followed up with a triple uppercut. She was still tired after pointlessly exerting herself, but her blows were still much too fast for her opponent to deflect. Those black-and-gold gauntlets dug into Frealla’s toned abs, knocking the wind out of her recently liberated lungs. Kora then tried to catch her in a submission hold, but the older and far more experienced demoness retaliated with a brutal headbutt that forced the hoarder back.
Having found a new target for her centuries’ worth of pent up rage, the axe-fiend let out a piercing battlecry as her weapon swung towards Kora. She managed to catch its blade with two of her left forearms, but it crunched and dented her armor like it was made of paper. Kora growled in pain and anger and swung with her other hands, but the fiend interrupted her with yet another headbutt. It broke the hoarder’s posture, allowing Frealla to trip her by pulling one of her ankles forward with the hooked lower end of her weapon’s shaft. She then masterfully twisted the giant axe around, sending its blade diving into the falling hoarder.
Kora wasn’t considered something of a fighting prodigy for nothing, though. She caught the deadly edge by smashing it from both sides with four of her fists. She kicked the other demon back, then rolled backwards heels-over-head to get back on her feet. Now that she had a bit of distance between them, she made the same swiping motion she tried to employ just minutes earlier. Hand of Avarice activated wonderfully this time around, stealing a random item that Frealla had on her person.
Which, considering she was still completely naked, narrowed the list of possible outcomes to one. The fiend’s axe shimmered out of her hands and appeared in Kora’s, who gleefully tossed it away behind her. She then charged forward, her arms stretched out wide as she intended to grapple her weaponless opponent into submission. That was just the thing with spire fiends, though. They were Warriors, which meant their bodies were weapons in and of themselves.
Frealla assumed an unarmed fighting stance as she got ready to fend off all six of Kora’s greedy hands. She stepped back at the last moment, making the hoarder chase after, only to surge back forward with yet another headbutt. Kora was ready for it this time and tightened her neck muscles as she prepared to fight back with one of her own.
The whole room seemed to shake as their foreheads collided, neither willing to back down yet both sporting wide toothy grins. Frealla then made a snap movement with her neck, entangling Kora’s wild green hair in her spiraled horns. The hoarder wasn’t some sissy that would be upset about having some hair ripped out, so she didn’t hesitate for a moment to pull away while driving a couple of fists into the other’s ribcage.
To her surprise, the fiend leaned into her rather than step back. This both softened the blow to her body by ruining Kora’s punching motion and put her in a position to pull the hoarder forward while also sweeping her legs. There was a ripping noise and a fluttering of green strands as a tuft of hair was torn off of Kora’s scalp shortly before she landed face-down on the wet ground. While the tomato-colored moron was having an argument with gravity, her stony-skinned opponent dashed for her discarded weapon.
However, she had underestimated just how agile and stubborn a demon with six arms could be. Rather than face-plant into the floor, Kora caught herself on her many hands and pushed off of the ground hard enough to send her entire body flying backwards. Frealla had just barely managed to pick up her axe when she spun around only to get drop-kicked in the face. The naked fiend’s entire body got launched through the air, her back slamming painfully into one of the crystal tubes. She grit her teeth and spun on her heel, barely dodging the hoarder’s follow-up shoulder-charge. She tried to sweep the leg with her weapon’s hooked shaft yet again, but was met with a knee to the gut instead. Kora then spun around with a backhanded fist aimed at her head, but Frealla deflected it with the side of her axe blade.
The fiend hopped backwards several meters, her bare feet sliding against the wet floor as she made some distance between herself and her opponent. She assumed a fighting stance with her axe poised to strike, while Kora spread out her arms in a very ‘let me give you a hug’ way. The two demons glared at each other for a moment, both of them still grinning like the vicious psychopaths they were.
“You’re not as terrible as I thought you would be,” Frealla taunted.
“Bring it, bitch. I’ll shove my fist so far up your ass you’ll choke on it,” Kora responded in kind.
“If anyone’s ass is getting dominated here, it’s yours!”
It would appear that the axe-fiend and the ex-fiend were both in total understanding of how this duel would end - with some good, old-fashioned anal rape. It was also quite clear by now that Frealla was, against all odds, still very much in control of her faculties. Frankly speaking, having a violent throwdown like this was just the thing she needed after enduring that torturous existence for Timothy-knows how long. As for Kora, it wasn’t often she got to fight against a demon who could match her blow-for-blow like this, so she was having quite a bit of fun. She was also looking forward to claiming that rippling booty for her own.
However, both of these ladies had gotten so engrossed in the fight that they had forgotten about a certain someone. Boxxy, who had spent the brief yet intense bout regaining the use of its muscles, jumped the three-meter-tall fiend from behind. It wrapped around her head, shoulders, arms and chest like a fleshy straitjacket, restraining her in an instant. The demoness put up a valiant effort to throw it off, but it was already too late.
“Oh, come on, boss!” Kora complained. “We were just getting to the good part!”
Frealla screamed as she felt the creature’s oppressive will crash against her own. She might have had the mental fortitude and unyielding pride to avoid succumbing to the madness that would normally follow centuries of torturous isolation, but she had let her guard down. A distracted mind was easy to dominate, and the shapeshifter’s onslaught had been so rapid that she was unable to put up any sort of meaningful resistance. She still gave it everything she could, it just wasn’t fast enough to fight off the shapeshifter’s invasive influence.
You have enslaved an unbound demon of considerable might.
With the rogue demoness now thoroughly under its control, Boxxy untangled itself from her upper body. Its grip on her probably would only last for a few minutes, seeing as this woman was powerful enough to stand up to Arms in one-on-one combat. Granted, the hoarder was heavily injured when the fight started, but that wasn’t much of a handicap when considering her Berserker Job. Still, Boxxy estimated its tenuous hold on Frealla would endure long enough to make her spit out everything she might know about her former master.
But first, it had to take a moment to acknowledge and process the fact that, based on what it had seen, the current owner of Tol-Saroth’s private dungeon beneath the graveyard was none other than Minic.