“Do you remember how I said this place is teeming with monsters?” Finally, after an hour of waiting which was much appreciated by Catherine, Shadow returned.
“And? What´s the problem?” I didn’t see one at all, but I noticed that Catherine was slightly uneasy all of a sudden. Well, she never saw a monster except for a few friendly vampires before, so I expected her to be somewhat afraid, but it was way less than expected.
“Alright, so the right leads downwards until there is even lava. You both may be able to survive there for a while, but I doubt you would like to see your flesh burning away because you touched a lava monster.
“So, let´s go through the left tunnel?” Catherine easily stated what was obvious and just as I wanted to stand up and began to move again, Shadow interrupted me again.
“That´s probably the best decision, but there are goblins there.”
“That will be like a walk in the park then.” Goblins were everywhere, but quite easy to fight. Even in large numbers, they wouldn’t pose a problem for many adventurers.
“They are mostly dead.”
“That’s even better then?”
“You don’t get it. They are dead but alive.” I didn’t understand directly what Shadow wanted to explain, but Catherine must have heard of this phenomenon already. Well, maybe I did hear about it in the academy, but I didn’t care enough to remember.
“They are undead.”
“Alright, what´s the problem with that? Just explain it to me like I am five.”
“You two are dead set on going through this anyway, so Catherine can explain it to you while you walk further. I´m mapping out a route.”
Catherine tried to show me what the problem with the undead was, but I didn’t quite get it. They would move on with the best of their abilities and wouldn’t complain even when they are ordered to march with a missing leg. They were stubborn and didn’t feel pain, but so what? Deprecating killed one immediately, so I didn’t see the problem until a bit later when it was already a bit too late to change our course.
After two hours of walking, Shadow returned to us, a few meters before I could see light around a corner.
“Quiet. Let´s go back for a few minutes.” Apparently, we were dangerously close to the next undead goblin, so we went back a bit to talk about our options quietly. “There is a piece of good news and a piece of bad news. Which first?”
“Always the good news first. That way, you can crush my hopes and I can be angry.”
“Interesting reasoning, Lucinda. Whatever, it seems the goblins and the undead have dug tunnels that lead straight out of this region.”
“That does seem perfect.” I had to agree with Catherine´s statement, but …
“It is sealed by a strong magical barrier” I could only nod as Shadow validated what I said earlier. He thoroughly crushed my hopes. “, but there is always a way. I found a treasure chamber where there may be a ring to break through magical barriers. I do hope that it still works, but if not …”
“ … then we are trapped with hordes of undead and goblins coming after us. Come to think of, why are they even working together?” Catherine seemed strangely calm after figuring out the possibility that our chance didn’t exist at all.
“I saw a goblin necromancer. And you all know what that means.” I obviously did not get what Shadow implied, but it didn’t concern me in the slightest. We had no way to prepare, so I simply didn’t care to ask. Instead, we stood up and walked towards the corner where we were stopped previously.
“Hey, Shadow … your path … does it go through there?” whispered Catherine after witnessing the sight that offered us. A near-endless ravine was right in front of us, crossed by countless bridges that dwarves had built previously. The light I saw previously was one lit torch on another bridge and not the sunlight I expected. In fact, this ravine was completely underground and suspiciously warm. Even I could feel the temperature return to acceptable levels so it was no wonder that Catherine quickly removed the outer layer of her clothing. What did pique Catherine´s concern was probably that halfway on the bridge goblins stood around. And it wasn’t just one goblin as they stood side by side and covered the whole bridge, filling the air with their rotten smell.
“Let´s go back once again.” Although it was quite a waste of time to return once again, I had no difficulties accepting it. After a while, we sat down against the stone wall.
“What the heck.” Catherine was the first one to break the silence as she tried to grasp what Shadow meant by hordes of undead. “How many?”
“A hundred thousand? Maybe more. I told you going here was a mistake.” Even when Shadow claimed that I knew better. We still had a chance of doing this, even if it was only a small one. After walking around in circles for a bit, I finally had the best plan I could think of. Truly, a masterpiece and well thought out.
“These tunnels lead to civilisation, right? How long do we have to run until we get to the exit?”
“When there is no further obstacle, I guess in a few days?”
“Hmm, alright. I may have a crazy plan, but it also may work out. What if we ditched all our meagre belongings? And if we wouldn’t need to fight at all?”
“I guess that would improve your chances of survival a bit. Was that your grandiose plan?” Shadow seemed sceptical, to say at least, but Catherine was hopeful of what may come.
“Not at all. What is the key to success in a theft?”
“Stealth.” Shadows answer was exactly what I expected, but Catherine did surprise me a bit. “Patience.” They were both wrong in my opinion.
“No. It´s speed. When you get spotted, you need to run as fast as possible.”
“I thought you would say strength. Wouldn’t you just smash this person who spotted you into a pulp?” Now that Catherine mentioned it, she was kind of right.
“Yes … but no. You just need to increase your speed so that nobody will ever catch you.”
“Alright, so how do we increase Catherine´s speed?”
“Piggyback!” Catherine placed her hand against her forehead while Shadow laughed absurdly.
“Your way of thinking, your strategies … brilliant.”
“Thank you.” I smiled broadly because of the compliment I received from Shadow.
‘At least someone recognizes my intelligence!’
Catherine seemed to ponder about my plan a bit more. She would have to go through it and considering that her life was at stake here, I let her think about it for quite some time. But I knew that she wouldn’t be able to think of a better plan and that she had faith in me.
“Alright, let´s do this.” I grinned even more as I threw away the backpack and Catherine removed even more clothing. Shadow stayed strangely silent at the sight of us to idiots getting ready for our run.
“Shadow, you lead the way. Just say where I need to go.”
“Are we really doing this?” He was doubtful, and it was obvious to hear for everyone that knew him longer than a day.
“Yup.” Catherine and I both answered in perfect unison and got ready once more. She wrapped her arms around my neck while I held her legs in place. I didn’t think that I need to fight as I usually just sneered at goblins and gave them not even a second glance.
“Alright? Just tell me when I´m too fast.”
“Let´s go!” said she, while pointing her arm forward. “Charge!”
“I´m not your horse though …” I still smiled at her little joke. I didn’t even wait for a reply and began to run. I was surprised by Catherine´s ability not to scream as the walls began to fly past us. A few minutes later we were back at the bridge, running with full steam towards the undead goblins. Their reaction time was even slower than expected as I was already jumping over several of them, trying to find the perfect landing spot.
‘There it is.’
It was perfect, nearly smooth and I doubted that it would give way once I stepped on it. The goblin shrieked as I landed perfectly on his head with one foot, leaving him with a broken spine behind as I used my foothold to propel myself forward once again. Handling Catherine on my back was surprisingly easy as she didn’t weight too much in my humble opinion.
It wasn’t difficult until the goblins finally realized that someone had intruded their space. Not that they made it any harder for me to use them as stepping stones as they basically weren’t able to move due to the insufficient space, no, they were simply annoying. Like a goblin would do, they would shriek loudly to communicate. And because they haven’t invented any other method of communication yet, the next one had to relay this message, which meant he was shrieking as well. This resulted in a mess that could only be described as ear-shattering. Needless to say, I used a few more as a foothold as I initially needed, resulting in even more deaths under the undead. I even considered stopping for a bit, just to destroy my eardrums, but then I wouldn’t be able to listen to Shadows occasional directions.
Surprisingly, they all didn’t react to my aura at all, as if they weren’t afraid of death at all. But then, they were already dead, so maybe they lost their fear at one point.
“Right.” A few seconds later, I kicked against a wall, redirecting us in a brightly lit hallway. We already left the ravine behind and were now running through nearly completely dark hallways. Even here, there were countless undead goblins, shrieking with all their might until I put them out of their misery. Even after their first death, they could do nothing except annoy me. What a troublesome race.
It was honestly a pretty great run. If I were to compare it to me, running in the dungeon, I could even call this a light-hearted jog, at least considering the speed I was going at.
“I hope you can climb. Up there.” I could immediately see what Shadow was thinking. It was a small balcony, which was strangely devoid of any goblins, in the middle of a large hall, brimming with the undead. I could climb, that was for sure, but I also knew that I couldn’t climb without my hands or even with the added weight of Catherine on my shoulders. After running in a circle for a few seconds, I got another great idea.
“Catherine, if you trust me, let go.” Needless to say, she immediately did as I told her and released her tight hug around my neck. One last time, I jumped and released her mid-air. Instantly, I grabbed behind me and threw her onto the platform, where she would certainly hurt herself when I wouldn’t catch her. So, I did what every great sister would do and used the next goblin to jump onto the platform, resulting in me, nearly crashing into the wall behind it, but landing before Catherine hit the ground and fishing her out of the air with ease.
“Please … a break …” There was no colour left in her face which made her skin look nearly identical to mine if one ignored the freckles on her face which I completely lacked.
“Alright.” I decided to use this time by breaking off stone parts from the balcony and throwing them at the goblins down below. It was truly amusing not missing any throw with Shadow even joining in the end to show me harder targets to hit.
“How about you kill three with one stone?”
“Brilliant idea.” I broke off another, smaller stone and thew it at three goblins perfectly lined up. It pierced two through the head and completely destroyed the neck of one other. Needless to say, even the undead die without a head, this time for sure.
“Brilliant execution.” If Catherine wouldn’t be panting so heavily, she would have joined in for sure, although she had no hope of beating me in this small game. Instead, she just smiled at the bit of happiness we found down here, making a game of murdering already dead beings who looked a bit like ugly, green, helpless human children.