Fiction Fragment Friday
While this week’s story started with a single starting line popping into my head, I also have to give credit to many other sources of inspiration. I was naturally inspired by roleplaying and video games. The launch of Decked Out 2 a minigame built in Minecraft by Hermitcraft YouTuber Tango played a part in the timing as well. I also need to give credit to the many LitRPG novels I have read as well. Finally my own cynical nature deserves a nod.
Some days I can’t help but question my life choices. For example, the choices that led my three best friends and I into a dungeon looking for treasure. Why in the world would people keep anything valuable in a dungeon? Also why are dungeons in the middle of nowhere and filled with monsters? I really think some people just don’t know what the word dungeon means. Even if that is the case and these are not actually dungeons buried in the ground, they still seem like horrible places to keep anything valuable. Haven’t these dungeon owners ever heard of a bank?
There we were as usual sneaking through halls where everything was falling apart. Actually, not quite everything. Traps always seem to be in complete working order no matter how old the dungeon is supposed to be or how many people have triggered them in the past. Seriously why are they never out of arrows and how does a collapsing floor get rebuilt? You would think one party going through one of these would trigger everything making it safe for future groups. Maybe all the monsters reset the traps.
Speaking of monsters, how do they survive in dungeons? If it has been sealed for let’s say five hundred years how is anything alive? I can understand skeletons and other undead, but mimics for example have to eat. Sure, sometimes they get to eat adventurers, but some dungeons go long stretches between anyone going in. If it has been sealed for generations have the monsters been breeding in there? There certainly isn’t enough genetic variance for that to be healthy. Just thinking about the logistics of a dungeon gives me a headache. Nothing about it makes sense.
“You know we could be on a nice fishing trip, laying around on a beach, or taking in a bit of culture. No, instead we are covered in slime and zombie guts just hoping that the next room will have a treasure chest sitting in it.” I spun in place decapitating the zombie that was doing a very poor job of sneaking up behind me. Moaning does not help with stealth.
“Do you have to complain about everything?” Gema the Bard, our party leader, was busy drawing the current room onto a map. “There,” she said and leaned against the wall. Of course her elbow triggered a hidden switch disguised as a brick. The wall next to her opened up into a secret room causing her to stumble to the ground. She has a natural skill at finding these hidden rooms. We could search for hours without ever finding a hint that something was there, but the moment she carelessly leans against a wall she will fall through it. At least this time there weren’t spikes or an army of monsters waiting.
“Again? Seriously if anyone else had triggered something it would be a death trap, but you just stumble across epic items or hidden passages like the universe wants you to find them.” Thorgrin, our paladin, only sounded annoyed because he was. As someone blessed by a divine being he felt like the world should provide more for him, but our bard had all the luck and the rest of us seemed to be cursed.
Our ranger just sighed and stepped into the hidden chamber. The rest of us followed him not wanting to be left behind where something could wander along and attack at any moment. The room was mostly a corridor, but at the far end was a treasure chest sitting on a raised platform. If we were smart, we would have been checking for traps and approaching with caution. Instead, Tiberius went right up to the chest and opened the lid.
Instead of gold or equipment the only thing inside the chest was a tongue and two rows of teeth. The tongue wrapped around Tiberius’s wrist and dragged him half way inside. The teeth came down biting into his back and stomach. They punctured his leather armor and blood started soaking through. We could hear screaming from inside the chest and his one free arm was smacking against the list of the chest.
It took me far longer to react than I would care to admit. I blame it on shock, but this wasn’t even the first time we had run into a mimic, so I don’t actually have an excuse. I chanted a few nonsense words while moving my hands around in a circle. Pointing my fingers straight out in front of me a fireball hurled across the room and exploded against the mimic. Since Tiberius was halfway inside the mimic the flames ran over him as well and I could hear him scream in pain from the burns. The fire seemed to particularly like his cloak as well. In my defense though the mimic opened up and let out a screech of pain himself releasing the pressure on Tiberius.
Thorgrin grabbed our friend and pulled him away from danger. I could see his hands glowing as he laid them on Tiberius. Under the layers of blood his wounds knit closed and the blisters from his burnt skin cleared up. When I could tell he was going to be fine I let out a breath I didn’t realize I had been holding in. Another few seconds and he would have been gone and my fire certainly didn’t help his health.
I was angry with myself, but not wanting to acknowledge that I decided to let that anger out on the mimic. It is always easier to redirect those emotions than admit to them. I spun around with my hands together ready to blast flames at the creature only to find it gone. My eyes shot around the room looking for anything that could be a mimic in disguise. That was when I noticed the platform splitting in two and moving towards us. The walls started forming into stone golems and marching towards us too.
“It’s gotten dangerous I have to say, perhaps it is time for us to run away,” Gema sang. It might have seemed like an odd time to be singing, but we all felt the magic from her words flow over us. Even though I had been a bit tired I suddenly felt not only refreshed, but ready to run. As a group we fled from the creatures trying to retrace our steps back to the entrance of the dungeon. “Keep an eye out for more trap, but don’t look back.” No one verbally acknowledged her command, but we were all paying attention. When Gema speaks it is hard not to pay attention, but when the magic flows from them we know to listen.
The four of us came rushing out of the dungeon entrance as the doors slid shut behind us. The creatures behind us roared in frustration at having their meal denied to them. As I lay on the ground panting, I wheezed out. “Someone tell me again why we do that?”
Each of my party members opened their bags and dumped out the gold and gems. I added my own loot to the pile and Gema started dividing it evenly among us. “Well, this should last us all for about two months. Can you think of another way to make this much with two hours’ worth of work? I can’t.”
I gathered up my pile refusing to admit that she had a point. I kept my questions about why any of this worked the way it did to myself as well. I knew if we went back into that dungeon in a few days we would find everything exactly as it had been when we went it. Someone or thing had to be resetting all the traps and refilling all the treasure. There had to be a reason for it, but that part of my theory still needed some work. As much as I hated doing it I knew that there would be many more dungeons in my future until I could get the answers I was looking for.