DreadWolf Ch. 44
"This is it, we get one shot at this," said Rain. "We make it out completely undetected and we'll be free, at least for a time."
Lyra swallowed, suddenly feeling the gravity of the situation.
"Just be careful not to break my invisibility okay."
She activated her Skill and the group dematerialised.
They slipped out of the small cave the spiral stair had emerged into and into a side passage. They passed through winding passage after winding passage until Opal suddenly elbowed Rain and pressed her finger to her lips.
"Just past here is the entrance to the dungeon. Scary place for monsters, there are always loads of levelers around, lots of weak levelers especially, they like to attack in mobs, very dangerous," said Opal.
"I'd be willing to bet that Inquisitor set a guard for me," said Rain
"And the people after my bounty too, but it's not just a guard."
"What do you mean?"
Rain slunk down the tunnel, careful not to accidentally kick any stones out of range of lyra's invisibility. Ahead a light cast across the tunnel from a break in the wall
Rain slowed as he approached
"Let's throw Red at them to bait them," said Opal with an evil grin.
"Wha-! No, please don't! I'm carrying your stuff, you going to throw that too?"
Opal snorted in reply. "I'd take that off first, obviously."
Rain ignored them and stepped toward the corner. He slowly peeked his head around it and the entrance came into view, he recalled how it had looked when he had first entered the dungeon in a different lifetime. A twenty foot tall arched entrance constructed out of heavy block stonework worn and weathered and broken down by time, covered in moss and crawling vines.
This time however it was different. The entrance was not open, instead a pair of monumentally thick and heavy doors had been closed, blocking the exit. Each door was a solid block of stone over a meter thick covered in scars and pockmarks as though they had been attacked many many times but weathered all. Rain looked at the stone with a new understanding, the stone was damaged in the same way that the castle in the center of the dungeon city had been damaged. Whatever had been done to them had been done with the intent to destroy.
A few inches above the surface of the two stone doors a huge glowing circular fractalgram hovered, a maze of complex symbols and curlicue scripture running around the circle in concentric lines very slowly spinning in opposite directions. In the center of this amazingly complex and powerful piece of magic was a bright glowing icon that looked like a crowned dragon's head.
"That's why nobody can leave, the Inquisitor used a gift of the Royals to enchant the entrance. She alone controls when the dungeon reopens and goes out of lockdown," said Lyra leaning over his head.
In front of the huge sealed door a large wooden palisade had been built, like a minor fort, behind which were a group of levelers camping out and watching all the many tunnels that led from the entrance cavern.
Two elves stood on the outside. One was smoking some kind of roll up while the other was nervously fiddling with a pair of violet lensed spectacles in his hands.
Rain pulled his head back.
"Two elves. One with a pair of spectacles."
"Hrmm. That's bad. Two elves will be difficult to get past without them sensing my magic."
"You should just kill and eat them both," said Opal.
"I can't. If I do that then they'll know we were trying to leave."
"Did they look alert?"
"Then we should watch and wait and hope they get distracted, I can hold the invisibility for a while yet."
Rain crept forward and peeked around the corner once more. The Elves hadn't moved.
"Stop fiddling with it. You'll go blind," said the smoking elf
"Haha, very funny. Do you have any idea how to work these?"
"Pshh naw, this shit is for guards and merchants trying to stop thieves. I kill monsters for a living. The fuck would I use one of those for?"
"Rich people use them."
"Yeah and If I was rich maybe I'd have a use for one. I should be down there in the dungeon hunting whatever this monster is the Inquisitor bitch wants us to kill, not up here like some shit level town guard."
"SHH!! You can't say something like that! She'll publicly castrate you if she hears!"
The nervous Elf looked around as though expecting the Inquisitor to jump out of thin air brandishing a pair of testicle scissors.
Rain pulled back.
"I want to go now. While they are distracted."
"Uhm, we could still wait?"
"I think this is the best time. They aren't going to move from the entrance and they'll just pass the spectacles to the next Elf who comes to guard. Going while they haven't figured out how to work the spectacles is the least risky."
"I suppose you're right. Okay I'll- I'll try my best to keep us invisible, just remember, no sudden motion or anything!"
Rain nodded and slipped into the entrance cavern, his broad feet padding carefully across the stone cavern floor, his toe pads spreading as he eased each foot down flat.
He neared slowly, watching the Elves carefully.
"You should probably stop messing around with that you know, if you break it the cost of it will come out of your own hide, those things are unbelievably expensive."
"Well I gotta know how it works, what if that Rescuer tries to come by here? Fifty K, fifty thousand big fat gold coins! Are you kidding me? Of course I want to be the one to catch her."
The smoking Elf grunted. "Alright, that's fair. Have you tried pushing your mana into it? There's a bit on the side that looks like it would make a good mana focus."
The Elf blinked. "Huh, so there is."
Rain took his chance before the Elf worked out what he was doing. He padded across the entrance cavern to a dark tunnel on the other side. The nervous Elf squinted at the spectacles until one of the lenses suddenly let out a whining sound and smoke began to whisp off its surface.
"What did you do!" said the smoking elf with a scowl. "You broke it! Look give it here."
The smoking Elf snatched the spectacles from the other Elf's hands. Unfortunately, the second Elf fumbled it at the same time and the spectacles clattered to the ground. An awkward tinkle of glass broke the silence. The two Elves stared down at the spectacles.
"What did you dooooooOOOOO!"
As the two Elves started yelling at each other Rain drew further and further away.
"You could kill and take them with us you know," whispered Opal.
"No, there's more levelers behind the palisade, look."
The pair of angry Elves who had started throwing punches at each other were joined by several more levelers who instead of trying to separate them joined in the scrum.
Rain finally made it to the tunnel and felt Lyra let out a held in breath above him.
"They didn't see us, we actually did it! That couldn't have gone better, they weren't even aware of my magic!"
"These levelers are nearly as dumb as the ones who I set mushrooms on," said Opal crossing her arms.
"The Inquisitor must be very confident in that seal to not put better people on it..."
Opal guided them away from the main entrance of the dungeon and down increasingly narrower and narrower side passages that wound up and down in a tangle. Rain was beginning to worry that Opal had gotten lost when they came across a cavern filled to the brim with mushrooms and fungi. Every single surface was coated in the things, some fungi had even grown on top of mushrooms. Mushrooms grew tall and thin across the ground like a later of grass. Rain had a sudden flashback to a certain traumatic mushroom taste. He firmly decided against eating anything in this cavern.
Opal walked up to one wall that was particularly crowded with fungi and put her hands on her hips and stared at it.
"This is the way out?" said Rain.
Opal continued to stare at the fungi wall.
"Well? Don't your tribal memories show you what to do next?" said Lyra
Opal looked a little uneasy.
"Well, it was more of a story..."
"Wait, what are you saying?"
Opal tapped her index fingers together nervously.
"It's a uh, a story, uh told around a campfire, the memory is of listening to it."
Rain and Lyra and Red stared at the Goblin.
"Hey, it was from a really respectable Gobbo!... in the memory."
"Oh my god we're all going to die in here!" said Lyra.
"What did the Goblin telling the story say?" gravelled Rain.
"Erm, that there's a worn knob on the wall under a small blue unique fungi and if you twist it you can get out of the dungeon through a special secret passage."
Rain turned to the wall. The wall was covered from top to bottom in blue fungi.
"This might take a while..."
"We can't take a while! This floor is full of levelers!" said Lyra.
She stomped up to the wall and grabbed one of the fungi and began pulling it.
"This will take forever and these fungi are attache-" She suddenly lurched backwards with the fungi in her hands. A worn down smooth stone nub was revealed on the stone behind it.
Opal slapped Lyra on the ass causing her to yelp and drop the fungi.
"See! I told you I was right!"
"W-well even though we found it the thing might not wor-"
Opal twisted the stone and the air was filled with a grinding stone sound. Rain took a step back. A set of seams appeared on the wall around a central point, fungi getting torn and ripped apart in the process as sections of the wall slowly drew back revealing a dark dank passage behind it. Dirt and dust fell from the ceiling in thin streams.
Wary of a leveler stumbling upon them he bustled the group inside. The door slid shut behind them.
"This isn't going to work," said Rain. "Those fungi were all torn up by the door opening, it will look suspicious. Lyra, use your skill."
"Oh? Oh uhm right, that's a good idea!" The sheep girl concentrated and nodded her head.
"Okay it's working, I think. Any sign we were here should be being repaired, all the fungi set back where they were."
Rain had them wait a minute just to be certain. He noted that there was a certain familiar set of claw gouged runes on the wall as he waited. No question who had built this passage.
Once he felt confident that the fungi were repaired on the other side of the door they moved on and began making their way down the passage. It was long, longer than he expected, twisting and turning and dipping and diving. After some time walking he noted that the ceiling had white tree roots curling and growing from it as though they were below a forest, and more concerningly in some parts dirt had spilt through the walls where the stone had crumbled.
They eventually came to the end of the passage and Opal fiddled with a stone nub on the wall. Rain realised that an angular paw shape had been carved onto the stone, the nub at the entrance had likely had the same design at one point but had been worn away.
After some effort she managed to twist it and with a grinding rumble the wall split apart and they stepped through into a cave on the other side.
"I can't believe this passage actually exists, I think I understand why no ones been able to find it magically, any spell must be reading the door as part of the dungeon," murmured Lyra looking in wonder as the door slid shut behind them.
"Come on, we're nearly out!" said Opal rushing ahead of them to where a beam of light filtered.
They emerged out of a hole in the ground into a wide grassy glade on a rise overlooking an endless forest for miles and miles. As Rain blinked in the bright sunlight and looked around he realised that the hole he had just crawled from was amongst the roots of a gnarled old tree in the middle of it.
Overhead the vast vast sky was an azure gradienting up to a royal blue. Cumulonimbus cloud mountains towered tens of miles into the sky, incredible cloud scapes that moved languorously in the warm summer breeze. After being underground so long he had forgotten how wide the world was.
He stumbled to a halt as he walked into Red. The Kobold was staring up at the vast sky, pure unbridled terror in his eyes. The Kobold flinched, squeaked, and then immediately fainted, falling flat on the grass with his tail pointed skyward.
Rain looked down at the spread eagled Kobold and furrowed his brow. Was it the sky? It suddenly occurred to him that a monster that had lived their entire life inside a cramped cave might not be prepared for the sheer endlessness of the outside world.
"They've never been out of the dungeon before, they're overwhelmed..." said Lyra to his side.
Opal was ahead of him, standing frozen, her hands limp at her side, her head raised up at the sky. As he watched she started to lean and then stumbled to the side as though struggling to keep her balance.
"Wh-what is this? I never thought... H-how!? H-help!"
Opal cried out, her eyes reeling from side to side, it was so big! So endless! The ground suddenly felt like it wasn't holding onto her, that she was falling into infinity! Her stomach dropped and she fell to all fours as everything became dizzy, the ground shifting and tilting beneath her, she couldn't breathe, it was like her childhood fear of heights, like being held over an immense drop, about to fall to her death! She held onto the grass with a white knuckle grip like her life depended on it, sheer terror blanking everything, her whole body tensed up and trembling in fear.
Huge furred arms suddenly wrapped around her and drew her close, pulling the Goblin into a tight embrace. She drew in a shuddering breath as a sense of powerful safety enveloped her. She curled up in Rain's arms burying her face in his chest, tears rolling from her eyes and wetting his fur.
"Everything will be fine, I promise, I will always protect you," whispered Rain, his body curled around Opal.
Lyra stood and stared at the embracing monsters. What was this? How were they so... caring? Were these two really monsters? The sheer amount of protective affection radiating from Rain was bothering her, this wasn't right.... This wasn't right....This wasn't right... Lyra blinked as a thought slipped into her mind, something new, something unexpected, something uncomfortable.
She wanted to be cared for like that.