Strangely, the interior of the second floor of this dungeon appeared to look like the inside of a fort, but the rooms and passageways seemed to repeat and there wasn’t much diversity in its appearance. It was almost as if the dungeon was mimicking a certain tile set which it just repeated, there was very little variety. This also made it difficult to navigate because every room and hallway looked almost exactly the same.
For times like this, it was important to have something to use as a marker. In our case, we brought pebbles and placed them at intervals as we explored the dungeon. Making marks along the wall would be useless since the dungeon seemed to repair damaged walls and food might be picked up by monsters. Pebbles were good to use because monsters tended to avoid them or fail to notice them.
“Issa, go scout ahead, but not too far. Make sure you look out for traps!”
Issa is one of the Foxkin I brought with us, he is known for his especially good hearing and has proved himself to be a good fighter.
Issa is an intermediate level magic caster with a good range of root type spells. I guess you could say he was something like a druid and ranger combined. I also brought two other Foxkin into the dungeon, Jerris and Kailil. Jerris is an advanced level magic caster with a variety of elemental attack type spells and Kailil is an excellent healer. These three, along with Nes, Allein, Reia and myself ventured into the dungeon’s second floor.
“The rest of you, stay together. Nes, you have the rear, Reia has the vanguard, the rest of us are in the middle of the formation. Kailil and Jerris, make sure you stay between Allein and I.”
There was only enough room for three to stand side by side within the hallways and I tried to maximize our fighting potential with this formation.
Both Reia and Nes would need some room to maneuver and those of us in the middle could provide support to either the front or rear if necessary. It seemed to be working so far since we had already made it deep into the dungeon.
It won’t be long until we find the core, I wonder what the guardian of the dungeon looks like.
“Fayde, someone is running towards us!” Reia yelled from the front of the formation.
“Might be Issa, but get ready just in case.”
Issa came running down the hallway at top speed.
“Enemy incoming! Heavy Orcs, about 10 of them. They are guarding a door, it’s probably the core room!”
“Everyone get ready! Heavy Orcs will most likely be in a shield wall formation. Direct magic attacks won’t work, especially in these tight quarters. Magic casters switch to support, root and enhancements. Nes, we are going to need you in the front of the formation with Reia and I.” I quickly gave orders to match the impending threat.
Our formation shifted, with magic casters moving to the rear and all our martial strength moving to the front. The Heavy Orcs would have metal shields which could repel direct magic attacks so we would need to rely on mostly melee with magic being used as support.
Issa would move to the rear to detect if any enemies approached from that direction. If other monsters showed up to surround us, he would have to hold the line in the rear while the magic casters aided him. There was little chance of more Heavy Orcs showing up from behind so I wasn’t too concerned. These were most likely the most powerful monsters in this dungeon other than whatever the guardian was.
We continued to move forward slowly, anxiously awaiting the approach of the Heavy Orcs. The sound of their thick boots hitting the dungeon floor and the clanging of their metal shields could be heard clearly from our location. As they came into view, they began to grunt loudly. Their formation was solid with shields linked together in unison. Only three of them could stand side by side, but with the tight space and their linked shields, it appeared as if a solid wall was approaching. Steady grunting sounds came from behind the wall of shields.
While it was true that it would be difficult to break their shield wall, it would also be difficult for them to maneuver in such a tight space with their shields and bodies taking up so much of the space.
“Reia, we will need brute force to break their formation. We don’t have blunt weapons unfortunately, but I have an idea, come close!”
Reia moved quickly and stood next to me at the ready.
From watching Reia and others, I realized that it was possible to enhance the physical properties of a person with magic. You could enhance someone’s speed, strength, defense, etc. with the right type of spell. I had wondered if the same was possible with my own power and theorized that it would be. It also dawned on me over time that my power seemed to be somehow connected to my imagination. For example, if I could envision using my power in a certain way, it was possible to manifest it, but there also seemed to be some limitations on this. Or perhaps, the more power I obtained, the greater effects I could manifest.
The last time I was in a dungeon, the power of the void seemed much closer, as if its essence were embracing me and I heard a voice call out. At that time, I had been able to develop a new ability through exposure to so much ‘Void’ energy. I searched for that energy now within my surroundings, hoping to draw more power from it. A strange presence within me made itself known surprisingly quick and I latched onto it in my mind. The power of the void began to coalesce within me and I began to shape it to my needs.
Placing my hand on Reia’s shoulder, I sent my power into her body through the ‘Mark of the Void’. My power flowed swiftly out of my body and into Reia. Her body had a dim dark glow emanating from it and she appeared to be hazy, as if there were double images of her.
“Reia, how does it feel? This is a type of body enhancement technique, but I haven’t had the time to test its use in actual battle yet. It should hopefully come in handy here, though!”
The hazy image of Reia stood beside her more solid form and began to alternate between solid and hazy.
“Fayde, what is this…… there are two of me? I feel a strange pull from my double…..” Reia poked the hazy image of herself and found that her finger went through it.
“Maybe I can use this to break the enemy formation or at least confuse them.” Reai said with determination, preparing herself for the fight ahead.
“Okay, wait, let me do the same.”
I used the body enhancement technique on myself this time and successfully enhanced my own body with the ‘Void’ element. This was something completely different from when I covered my body with my ‘Void Flames’. If I were to use game terms, it was like a buff or a body enhancement technique. Instead of covering the outside of my body with ‘Void Flames’, I attempted to enhance my body from within with the properties of the ‘Void’ element.
Instead of only one afterimage like what happened with Reia, this time two appeared. It seemed I still needed to work on controlling my power in order to be able to control it in minute detail. I had used more VP than what I had used on Reia and had been able to increase the amount of afterimages.
I feel the pull too, strange.
“That’s impressive, but what do they do?” Allein chimed in from behind me.
“We will soon find out! Reia, let’s do this!”
Reia and I ran towards the slowly approaching Orc shield wall and both of us struck the nearest shield bearers causing a loud clang. The Orcs having their enemy in range blocked the sword strike and then those behind the front line thrust spears through holes within the shield wall. Reia and I used our body doubles to confuse the orcs and their spears thrust through our doubles leaving us unharmed. The orcs were well disciplined and they didn’t break formation no matter how we attacked and their shield formation seemed like it would be impossible to break.
The Orcs behind the front shield bearers called out in their guttural language and the shields were moved for a brief moment while the orcs in the rear threw javelins towards us. I tried to avoid the javelins by using my double as a decoy but one orc was able to discern which was my real body and took aim directly at me.
Without a moment’s hesitation, the Heavy Orc threw the javelin. If I had been cloaked in my ‘Void Flames’ then I could have easily blocked the javelin, but it didn’t seem I could use both my ‘Void Flames’ and this new ability. Sensing the impending danger I knew I wouldn’t be able to avoid the attack and the pull I felt from my double grew stronger. Acting on pure instinct, I surrendered completely to the pull I felt and found that I had completely reversed positions with my double allowing me to completely avoid the thrown javelin.
“Reia, allow your body double to pull you, you can reverse positions with it!” After realizing the potential of my new ability I immediately called out to Reia.
She acted almost instantaneously after I informed her of the true power of the ability. Reia was an experienced warrior who had fought in many battles and she quickly reacted to the changing flow of events. She sent her double forward, past the shield bearing orcs and towards the orcs who had thrown the javelins and allowed herself to be pulled by it and reverse positions.Quickly realizing her plan, I did the same.
The Orcs in front confused at the sudden turn of events, turned to attack us from behind, but were taken out by the attacks of our companions who had been watching from a distance. Nes moved quickly to get into striking distance while Allein and the other magic casters sprung to action launching magic attacks at the backs of the shield bearing Orcs. Their entire formation was now in disarray as they attempted to fall back to rebuild their shield wall. Half of their number had been cut down in rapid succession. The other five Orcs were able to ready a new shield wall formation but with my new found power, it would only fail like the first.
Orcs were slow learners, but it wasn’t as if most people would be able to quickly come up with a counter strategy. My new technique was difficult technique to counter.
Reia and I continued our attack using our body doubles to reverse positions behind the shield wall for a second time. The Orcs who were hiding behind the shield bearers were waiting for us this time since they had seen the technique used, but it didn’t matter. They were no match for Reia and I. Our companions had also caught up and we finished off the remaining Orcs from both sides.
“That was amazing! Don’t you think so Nes?” Allein asked.
Nes just grunted, but there were no ill feelings in it.
My Foxkin companions were also praising me which was slightly embarrassing. I had to get used to receiving praises since I was now a leader.
“Once we clear out the guardian room and take the dungeon core, we will have to make sure to loot the equipment from these Heavy Orcs, it will definitely be of use to us. Let’s try resting here for a bit before taking on the guardian.”
After giving instruction for our party to rest, I turned to Reia for a moment.
“Those body doubles were quite useful, they drain a lot of my power though. We will need to keep that in mind, but I think we can make good use of this!”
Reia agreed with me and I walked over to the other Foxkin to see how they were doing. I tried making small talk with the Foxkin that came with us but they seemed to be intimidated by me and the conversation was awkward so I gave up on it. I thanked them and sat down on the dungeon floor next to Reia and Allein.
“Allein, how are you holding up? You aren’t too tired are you?”
“Guess you’re fine then.”
“Reia, you did good. Knowing how to use that technique with only seeing it once….” I said praising Reia.
She gave me a warm smile and blushed.
“Hmph, it was nothing.” She said that but she seemed pleased with herself as she played with her hair unconsciously.
I smiled at her, I guess I should compliment her more, she seems to enjoy it even if she won’t admit it hehe.
“Everyone ready to move?”
We had rested enough and I ordered the group to move out.
We made our way to the end of the hallway where there was a large metal double door. This was the door of a guardian’s chamber. Since we had been facing Orcs, Goblins and Ogres up to this point, the guardian would most likely be related to one of these types of monsters.
I looked at my companions, “Are you all ready for this? We don’t know what is in there.”
They all nodded to me with looks of determination on their faces.
Reia and I pushed the metal doors open and were hit with a warm heat from a huge fireplace.
The guardian chamber looked very much like what a viking hall would look like only much larger. There was a massive wooden table in the center of the hall which spanned almost the entire length of it. At the head of the table on the opposite side was a wooden throne and in it sat a large burly Orc with a crown on its head. There were Ocs seated at the long table and all their eyes turned to us when we opened the door.
“Eh… this is awkward…”
It was a little unnerving seeing all these Orcs sitting at the table staring at us with their king at the head.
Before the Orcs could react I yelled out, “go nuts! Kill them all!”
With my command, the magic casters began chanting their attack spells immediately while Reia, Nes and I jumped into battle, killing the Orcs before some of them could even respond. The strange viking-like hall turned into a mass of chaos as we engaged the Orcs in close range battle. The Orcs appeared to all be Heavy Orcs with their metal armor and weapons but they lacked their shields.
Because of their heavy armor, they had a difficult time responding to our attack initially but it wasn’t long before the group of Orcs began their counterattack. The king Orc was growling and yelling out commands in its guttural language to the Orcs around the table. The fighting was intense and the Orcs even had a couple of Orc Mages who attempted to attack us from the top floor of the hall. The hall was open and it gave the Orc Mages an advantage to hit us from above, but there was only a few of them.
“Magic casters, focus on the mages above, quickly take them out!” I gave quick orders because of the evolving situation.
The magic casters began focusing on the mages above, Allein flew up to the top and began throwing spells at the Orcs above who were now being attacked from above and below. Nes, Reia and I held off the Heavy Orcs as they came rushing towards us. We cut them down as they approached, Reia especially made quick work of them with her lightning enhanced blade. It cut through their armor like it was butter.
The Orc King was growing increasingly frustrated at his Orc’s inability to strike us down. We were taking some damage, but with our healer constantly supporting us from the rear and our other support caster using obstruction magic to slow down enemy movement, we were thinning their numbers. The Orc Mages had been taken care of and most of the Heavy Orcs lay on the floor dead.
A sudden roar from the Orc King caused me to slightly shudder and he launched himself across the table at us with his giant halberd in one hand and a javelin in the other. He flung the javelin with all his strength straight at me as I pierced the neck of one of the Orcs I had been engaged with.
“Lightning Strike!” Reia yelled as she swung her sword in a wide arc.
Lightning from her attack crackled and hissed as it sped towards the approaching javelin, knocking it clean away.
“Thanks Reia!” I yelled out while engaging the last orc in my vicinity.
It wasn’t actually necessary since I had switched over to cloaking myself in my ‘Void Flames’, but it was the thought that counted.
With a swift charge, the Orc King came crashing into our formation knocking me back, but he took a few slashes to his back and side from Nes and Reia. Allein and Jerris both hit the Orc king with a barrage of spells while Issa let off an arrow, striking the Orc King in the shoulder. The attacks were easily shrugged off by the Orc King who appeared to be much more powerful than his Heavy Orc soldiers.
The Orc King swung his halberd in a wide arc, flinging both Reia and Nes backwards. They both crashed into pillars running along the sides of the hall. I rose from the floor after being knocked over and ordered the magic casters to quickly disperse and find a better vantage point to attack from. The Orc King tried to make a move on them but I blocked his halberd with my cloaked arm and kept him from inflicting harm on the weaker members of the party.
Nes and Reia quickly got back on their feet and the three of us surrounded the Orc King. We kept our distance while waiting for an opening as the the monster swung his halberd wildly.
“Reia, Nes, keep him busy, I am going to use my ‘Phantom Images’.” I called out to the other two at different positions around the monster.
They sprang to action to keep the Orc occupied while I summoned my magic power and canceled the ‘Void Flames’. ‘Void’ element spread throughout my body, enhancing it with its power. This time I managed to focus my power, successfully controlling the flow of the ‘Void’ element within me and produced a more solid version of a single body double.
“Alright, move back, I am attacking! Take care of any stragglers!”
Those behind me jumped away from the monster and kept a distance between them and the monster as I moved in for the attack. The Magic Casters were still peppering the Orc King with their magic attacks and the Orc did its best to swat them away. I rushed into the opening created by the magic attacks and slashed the Orc King across the stomach. It hammered down with its halberd but I quickly reversed positions with my body double and stabbed him through his side with my sword.
I repeated this movement until the Orc King began to slow. It had no way of countering my ability and it couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been able to hit me despite swinging its halberd through my double several times. It was clearly on its last legs and was barely able to hold its weapon any longer.
“Allein, finish it off with your magic.”
“Alright, incoming!” Allein gathered her magic power and cast several ‘Fire Arrows’ which we flung towards the Orc King confidently..
With the ‘Fire Arrows’ all hitting the Orc King, it roared one last time before falling to the ground dead.
“That was a good workout! Everyone okay and accounted for?”
All my companions were alive and well but extremely tired after that prolonged and intense battle.
With the monsters all dead, I quickly took note of their good equipment and was already thinking about what I would use it for. Some of the armor had been damaged, but most was still in tact and useful. Either way, the metal could be used for other things if nothing else. There were other valuables littered throughout the hall which we would definitely be looting.
“Let’s get that dungeon core! I have yet to see one. Anyone see it?”
“It looks like there is a large magic crystal embedded in the throne across the hall!” Issa replied.
Issa had good eyes, I could barely make it out because of the distance. With the others looking through the hallway to take stock of the valuables within, I went towards the magic crystal. As I got closer to it, I began to feel strange as if my consciousness were being pulled out of my body. It was a similar feeling to when I was fighting the Lizard King in the last dungeon I explored.
I continued to walk towards the magic crystal but I was barely conscious of my surroundings by this point and I was walking as if in a daze. My hand reached out and grasped the magic crystal and suddenly I found myself in a strange place devoid of light. I couldn’t see or hear anything until a disembodied voice cried out to me.
When the voice spoke I felt my body jerk and a surge of power hit me almost knocking me down to my knees. When I regained full consciousness, Reia and Allein were both shaking me and shouting at me with concern. I shook my head and struggled to regain focus, and when I finally did, I saw that the magic crystal had been shattered.
I had once again consumed the ‘Dark Matter Contamination’ residing within the dungeon.
“I’m okay, I’m… okay.”
Both Reia and Allein looked extremely worried but heaved sighs of relief when I finally spoke.
“What happened?” Allein asked with visible concern.
“I’m not sure, I suddenly lost consciousness and I heard a voice again and then I felt power surging into my body. It was the same thing that happened to me in the last dungeon.”
Reia grabbed my face with both hands and looked deeply into my eyes.
“Your eyes, they’ve become pitch black….it’s fading. It’s gone now, I saw it only for a moment.”
She was also clearly concerned, but I felt fine now.
Actually, I felt better than fine. I felt enormous strength within my body.
“Reia, Allein, I am fine now. Really. Let’s head back to the other Foxkin and get to work looting this dungeon. We have much to do after this! It’s about time we made our way to the sacred ground where the Grand Council will take place.”
My words didn’t alleviate the concern that Allein and Reia had, but they said no more and we all made our way back to the Foxkin who were eagerly awaiting our return.