Rain's eyes crept open as growth stretched his limbs. He groaned and his back arched, his feet slipping across the floor as he pushed himself up.
As the surge of growth left he slumped back down breathing deep.
Opal looked down at him from where she was crouched over his head, worry creasing her brow.
“Hey.” said Rain.
Opal pouted. “I thought you were gonna die.”
Rain paused. “So did I. What happened exactly?”
“You got smashed up by the Orc leveler real bad. I stepped in and saved your life.”
“Oh, I remember that bit.”
“And then you seemed to black out and go into an eating frenzy. You ate that Orc bitch alive.”
“Ah.” He waved his paws in front of his face, both attached to quite healthy and undamaged arms. “I’m uninjured.”
“Well you did eat a pretty big leveler, and then later, while you were still unconscious, I fed you five squished Kobolds and a few Goblins, and then all the camps food supplies, and then even later the annoying floaty Elf guy which finished off the healing, that last bit of growth was from that.”
“Hmphh, no need to thank me.”
“Thank you Opal. I mean it, I’d be dead without you.”
She blushed despite herself and looked away.
Rain gathered himself and after a moment managed to sit up and then get to his feet.
“Woah, taller again. Voice is a little deeper too.”
He looked down at the Goblin who couldn't help but keep snatching glances at him. He estimated he’d gained nearly two inches of height. The wonders of eating levelers.
“Did they leave anything useful in their camp?”
Opal pulled her shiny new rapier from her side which was a match for her reacquired cutlass resting on her other hip. After showing him the sharp blade she sheathed it.
“Mhmm. That elf guy liked his quality. Sacks of coin too.”
“Really? How much?”
Opal shrugged and went and fetched three bulging coin bags which she poured out onto the ground. A heaping pile of gold met Rain’s eyes.
“Apparently slaving pays pretty well. That's more gold than I’ve seen in my whole life, not that I’ve ever had the opportunity to see much.”
“Levelers kill monsters, but taking us as slaves is something Gobbos actually fear more. The ones who escape do not have happy stories to tell. You would know that though, right?”
Rain hesitated. He wasn't unfamiliar with monster slaving, the town of Lynthia where he lived his previous life even had a small monster slaving market. It was a bleak place that’s streets often ran red with blood and the stories of casual cruelty that came out of it were enough to make your hairs curl.
“I know. Goblins are known as disposable slaves.”
He hadn't actually thought of the slave market as anything but part of life and out of sight and mind in his previous life, something for the wealthy, it was always just... there. He was beginning to wonder if that thinking was wrong somehow with his shift in perspective. He shook his head. Not his problem, not now that he was an ungodly terror of a monster.
He had Opal gather the coin back together and stow it in the bottom of her rucksack.
“I can't help but notice you still have three slaves chained up.” said Rain gesturing at two Kobolds and a Goblin who were watching them warily.
Opal scowled. “Yes, most got away even though I managed to get the key back. I tried to find and recapture them but they all went to ground, vanished into the tunnels. You can eat these ones now though yes?” She seemed to cheer up a little at that last bit.
Rain eyed the chains, recalling Opal wearing them. “No, not right now…”
“But why? It’s free food! Aren't you hungry?”
“I’m… still recovering. They’re not going to get away, are they? They can be snacks for later.”
The chained up Goblin whimpered hearing that and the two Kobolds eyed Rain fearfully and backed away as far as their chains would allow.
Rain pursed his lips. “You fed me in front of them, didn't you?”
He sighed. “Nevermind. Look, I want to be stronger, unstoppable, for next time I see… those who enslaved me.” He curled his paw into a fist. “I want to figure out how to do that and fast. We’re two floors up from where we started. The monsters are weaker around here right?”
“Mm, Sort of. The middle dungeon just has a lot more tribal monsters whereas the lower floors have fewer but more powerful single monsters, though you can still find them here too.”
“...That actually sounds like a good thing. Tribal monsters are much easier to kill and there's more to eat if I kill a group.”
“Yes, the middle floors will be good for food, lots of monsters, lots to eat. Many levelers come here too, many more than the lower floors, and usually not as high a level so they are easier to kill,” she grinned.
He nodded his agreement and then had her pack away the only tent that hadn't been ruined by the Orc, Eliza’s tent. It was much much nicer than the old Goblin tent they had been sharing, with no patches or tears, a big upgrade. Rain picked over the camp but there wasn't much of value that Opal hadn't already taken and packed up, most the slaves had gotten away and what food there had been Opal had already fed him while he slept. He eyed the blood covered anvil hammer lying on the stone floor, a brutal reminder of just how dangerous taking a leveler head to head could be.
Rain didn't want to carry the chains the three slaves were attached to so it was left to Opal. She handled it surprisingly well, turned out that a rapier was quite good for motivation and discipline when prodded into the softer parts of the body.
They wandered deeper into the tunnels looking for easy signs of monsters or levelers. It didn't take long to find. A sandy stretch of unusually large tunnels lit by moss-light. In the sand were many many webbed footprints, an alarming amount even.
They decided to secrete the slaves in a side cave temporarily and then hide in a crevice tucked away behind a boulder so that they could spy on any potential passing traffic.
A few minutes later they were disturbed from their watch by the sound of many tramping feet.
“This is them, it’s gotta be, that big a group must have been what made all those footprints,” said Opal peeking around the boulder excitedly.
The owners of the many feet soon came into view. Rain already felt his mouth watering. Fish people. Fish. He liked fish.
The fish-like people were blue-green scaled, short, barely five foot tall, and had ray fins protruding from their forearms, shins, tail, head, and back. Their heads were very fish-like and large with droopy barbels and wide catfish-like mouths. They were also heavily armed with bone tipped spears and wooden bucklers.
“How many do you count? Forty four?”
“I count forty four of them yeah. I know these monsters, they’re called Piscine. S’lot. Must be a big tribal lake nearby.”
“Urgh, don’t talk to me about lakes, I’d kill for a bath right now.”
“I wouldn't do that in their territory, they are nearly unbeatable in water, they just love to drag unsuspecting Gobbos under and go into a feeding frenzy.”
“Hmm really? At least they don't look as well-armed as Kobolds, better trained though...”
They watched the group march past. For the first time Rain heard a language that was not Common, the Piscine seemed to have their own unique language that consisted of burbling warbling noises that the lead Piscine of the march babbled at each other.
The marching Piscine disappeared around the corner and the pair slunk back away from the tunnel.
“The problem is that we can’t beat that many Piscine in one go, there's just too many spears. They’d turn us into pincushions.”
“Then we just need a strong monster to come and kill them, like the giant snake.”
“Sure, but we don’t have that. So…”
Rain scratched at his ear thinking hard.
“We… we just need a different kind of trap right? Maybe a more traditional trap?”
“No materials,” scowled Opal.
“Yes we do, we have the remains of the slavers camp.”
“... We… we do have that, that is true…”
Rain could see machinations ticking into place behind Opal’s eyes.
“I don’t know, maybe. Let’s go back to the camp.”
They collected the secreted slaves and took them back through the path they had come by.
Rain helped stake them down then sat and watched as Opal picked around the camp examining things with new eyes.
“Maybe, maybe we could do something with this...” she said as she dragged the remains of the tents to the centre of the camp.
“It’s not complicated. We make a pit trap. We can use this canvas stitched together to cover the hole along with the tent poles. Piscine walks over, and splat, they fall in.”
Rain peered skeptically at the heap of canvas. “I hope you don't mind me saying so but this plan has some flaws.”
“No it doesn't, It's perfect!”
“Really now? And what’s going to stop the back part of the army from stopping once they see the front half fall in?”
The Goblin paused. “I hadn't gotten that far.”
“And what happens once they are in the pit? Can’t they just climb out?”
“Well, that's why we make sharp things to put in the bottom of the pit.”
“How? out of what?” said Rain looking around the camp.
Opal gave him a sour look before suddenly brightening up. She scampered to a pile and pulled out a slave stake, a metal rod about three foot long with a point designed to be hammered into the ground so slaves could be left securely.
“Alright, that could work, maybe, and for the back half not falling in?”
Opal turned and her eyes fell on the increasingly nervous looking slaves.