Chapter 39 – The Rise of Zitler (part 1)
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I ordered the dummies into positions around me and to protect me. I noticed, as I went to leave the room that, these things would simply stand there if I did not give them orders. I then spent the next ten minutes giving them basic orders to see what worked and what did not.

The only door leading out had pictures carved into the door from top to bottom. There was a space, about eye level, that held writing instead of pictures held writing that read, "What has six faces, but does not wear makeup, has twenty-one eyes, but cannot see?" I gave the door a test tug but it did not budge.

Ugh, a locked door with a riddle and dummies you had to order about. Were they testing my wisdom, leadership or none of the above? Frustrated at being stopped before I even began, I reread the riddle and then took a look at the pictures. Was there such a thing as a multi-eyed hydra in this world? Sadly all the pictures were just everyday items. There were things like trees, cups, a wagon, flowers, and so on. There were over a hundred basic shapes to pick from.

I thought about it. Then had the warrior try and break down the door. It slammed itself against the door and I had to jump for cover as the damn thing came flying back at me as if it had hit a trampoline. What the hell?! That was the perfect solution to the problem. Grumbling to myself, I got up off the ground and began to try to answer the childish puzzle.

The words slowly shifted as I focused on the puzzle. Important words became bold, others dulled out, and 'Faces' changed to 'Sides'. Ignoring the faded text it now read, "What has six sides" and "Has twenty-one eyes". Eyes was neither bold nor faded. Was this due to my high wisdom? I know it said it helped with puzzles but did not expect such a cheat. Looking through the pictures I found only three that had 'Sides' and of those, only the hand held something with six sides, a die. I did a quick count in my head of the little dots on it and then pushed that square.

* Solved Simple Riddle:

* Reward: 40 XP

I was getting close to leveling again from all the daily quests. I have been getting a single XP or two per day and while they added up, getting forty for a puzzle made me smile. If I did well in these events I should get another level with ease.

The door swung open without a sound. I had the thief and warrior lead the way. The thief was scanning for traps while the warrior would protect him. I had the multipurpose one guarding the rear while the ice caster was set to slow down any enemies that appeared. I stayed in the middle. I tried to link the mannequins with my display so I could monitor them easier but failed. I figured it was probably because they could not agree to the connection. I knew I could heal them because I tried already but they lacked consciousness.

As soon as I stepped into the hall, the voice sounded again, "Random quest selected: Zitler's Beginning… Brave adventurer, a rogue summoner has kidnapped a village girl to sacrifice in order to get a demon follower. He will begin the ritual after securing her in this low level dungeon. Your group is her only hope. Good luck." The voice faded away as quickly as it appeared. It felt like a game introduction to me and I wondered if they had a place that catered simulations like this. It was not like I had the money even if they did. Dejected, I tried cheering myself up, I had a job to do, and I had to get to it.

We proceeded down a hallway that had smooth gray walls and a black and white checkered tiled floor. The narrow hallway opened up into a long and wide room with the same checkerboard tiles. There were barrels and crates randomly placed along the walls and in the center of the room, there was a huge naked female statue with glowing eyes; the left one was red while the right one was blue. There was a doorway leading out on the opposite side of the room.

A slab of stone dropped with a boom behind us as soon as we were all in the room. 'Well we won't be going backward,' I thought as I waved the dust, that was kicked up, away from my face. I sent the thief to check the crates for traps while I moved with the rest toward the statue. The female statue stood three meters tall, a sword strapped to its back. She had horns that almost scrapped the ceiling while her tail ran between her legs and came up to cover her private parts before wrapping around her waist. The tip of the tail sat pointing upward as if saying 'Hey my breasts are up here'. Whoever made it put a lot of effort to make it look as real as possible. The detailing made her look as if she was soft and supple but when I tried moving pieces, I found it hard and cold to the touch. In my defense I really was expecting hidden levels. I was not just groping a statue.

I looked at the thief who shook its head when I asked about traps. Curious, I popped open a crate only to find it empty. Shaking my head in disappointment. I was hoping for gear, potions or magical items to help in this 'Quest'. Other than the statue and empty crates, there was nothing else in the room. Looking around one more time, I headed through the door and down the stairway that greeted me. The wooden stairs creaked as we made our way down to the next floor. The temperature was raising with every step we took. Not that the dolls seemed to notice the change, but I was sweating by the time we got to the bottom.

We ended up in a basement. At least that was what it looked like it once was. Three of the stone walls had crumbled near the middle revealing three tunnels. One was fiery red as if hell was just a few steps away, the second was just stone walls with a loose gravel floor and the final one had stone walls but they looked damp to the touch. The only wall untouched had a pile of dirty rags with a ratty booklet that was peeking out from them. Curiosity got the better of me and I made my way to the rags.

The booklet titled "The Flirty Demoness and the Peasant" had seen better days. The cover had a female demon pushing down a scrawny man. Her cleavage looked like it was going to smother the poor man before any flirting could happen. It was ripped and worn with a few pages stuck together. The other pages had pictures depicting a story of a scantily clad woman summoned by a teenager. I tossed it away after I realized why the pages were stuck together. It landed with the back cover facing up and I saw "Zitlers" written on it with a childish font. Ewww

'So much for curiosity' I chuckled to myself. I could not help smiling at the silliness of this mission. I was happy that it was all fake and not something that was really happening. I made my way to the nearest tunnel and it felt like I was walking into a furnace. Maybe I was. There was a glow that lit up the walls, with an orange hue, as if there was a huge fire further down it.

I briefly thought of summoning reinforcements but I did not want to let everybody know what I could do. Plus it would drain my mana and my main job was a healer. I kept the feeling of being dissatisfied at not being the attacker, in the back of my mind and tried to ignore it. I had my job and that was what I would do.

It did not take long for the tunnel to open up into a cavern. There was another cavern on the other side of the room but how the hell can I get across the lake of lava? That's right a freaking lake. Lava flowed down from the ceiling in thousands of tiny streams so even flying was not going to be very useful.

In the molten lava, ladies made of fire, swam as if it were a mere swimming pool. They splashed each other playfully and then swam away giggling while the others would chase after the one that had been the 'Splasher'. When they caught up the game would start again.

I called out to them after getting the dolls lined up correctly. A simple hello to see if they would become violent. I had the warrior up front with my aura tendrils wrapping around his waist. When I split my aura into pieces the healing I could do would diminish by about twenty percent but I could send out the same spell through each tendril. The cost of the spell doubled but my healing could then be split up or, like I am doing now, focusing all of it on one person. Effectively casting four spells at eighty percent at once. I have not mastered casting different spells at one time but with practice the versatility is amazing.

As soon as I uttered "Hello" they froze in mid-motion. Their playful smiles were replaced by looks of shock, wonder and finally hunger. They turned and swam closer to the edge of the lake. Once there the details, that were lost due to their red skin that was back dropped against the red-orange lava, became more obvious. They looked like they should be in a magazine. Full lips on doll like faces and slender figures except in all the right places. The problem was that flames literally danced along their skin.

"Come play with us." While placing her arms under her breasts to boost them up a bit.

"Yes, come play! We are so lonely." Another one said and made a come-hither gesture.

"Umm, ladies I'm afraid I am a bit busy. Perhaps another time." As soon as I finished, their playful and flirtatious demeanor was replaced with a look of resentment.

"You can't leave. We are lonely so you will need to play with us before you can even think of going back. I know, let's play catch!" with a vicious look and a swift motion, she scooped up a fistful of lava and huddled it like a snowball. The others soon echoed her action and four more 'balls' joined the first one.

I quickly issued orders while backing away. The ice-mage threw up an ice wall while we all backed away. The warrior remained in the rear to take anything that got through the wall. A loud popping noises could be heard as the lava balls impacted against the ice wall. They sizzled and began to bubble vigorously before turning black. The wall held but there visible cracks connecting the impact spots. I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought the thing would explode because of the extreme temperature differences but other than the cracks and the now bubbly black rocks imbedded into the wall, nothing bad happened.

We continued to back away but I saw more lava balls hit the wall. After the forth ball hit, the wall shattered, allowing the fifth ball to slash against the fighter. It took a little bit of damage but then it continued to take more as the lava ate into its "Flesh". I ordered it to run and we quickly followed after.

"Awe, she ran away. Not like our master."

"True, but he leaves so quickly and he needs the fire orb to even ..." My heart was beating so badly, that by the time I ran to the end of the corridor, I could not hear their voices even though they were talking in high voices due to their excitement.

I quickly healed the fighter but some of its armor had melted. I weighed my options and the new information I just learnt. There was a fire orb but the only red object I saw that might be anything was the eyes of the statue. Unfortunately, if that was the orb they were talking about, I could not remove them when I was playing around with the statue. Did that mean there was a water orb? If so, did that dank tunnel lead to a water area? Did that mean the middle tunnel held the orbs?

I did not have enough information! I should be pretty close in my reasoning if it followed common RPG game logic. It was a risk but I chose the middle tunnel and headed down the tunnel. The tile floor was soon covered by sand. At the end, it opened up into a desert. A sun hung in the sky baking the sand dunes that went as far as I could see. The only exception was a small oasis with a pool that was surrounded by some bushes and rocks.

I could see a couple of teenagers relaxing in the pond. Their lower bodies were hidden behind the rocks but from what I could make out they had bikinis on. I would expect nothing less from a teenage male summoner. I walked up with the puppets surrounding me. I would rather not fight a bunch of girls if I could help it.

"Excuse me, could I .." Their screams cut me off. I could make out more details since I was closer. The 'bikinis' were actually green and yellow scales that wrapped around their sides and covered the breasts completely. As they screamed in fright and turned to flee, I noted that the scales started at the base of their necks and traveled down their spines.

"Run sister! More people have come to do bad things. Oh, why did they show up when big sis left to get food?" Her voice was high but even then it held a musical quality . They ducked behind the rocks and I could hear them splashing away from me. I kept moving forward and as I got closer to them, the sand I had been walking on began to firm up, making it easier to walk.

The girls were swimming away. Their arms frantically splashing in the water and long snake like tails trailing behind where their legs should be. They were like female versions of the professor we fought in the dungeon except the coloring was a lot prettier. Instead of the black and grey scales theirs were vibrant colors. Reds, yellows and greens made spiral patterns running up and down the tails.

I watched them cross the water, get out, and with their long tails propelling them and watched them "Run" into the bushes on the other side of the water. Disheartened that I did not manage to get any information, I decided to head back and try the other tunnel, when I heard a scream that came from one of the puppets behind me. Spinning around, I saw the all-rounder warrior puppet being held by a giant claw. There was a really burly lady with a scorpion body holding up the puppet with one of her claws, that was where her hand should have been.

With a crack of her claw, the puppet that she held fell into two.

I watched her tail swing about above her head before I gathered my thoughts and quickly ordered the puppets to "Scatter" and "Attack"; my thoughts of talking were forgotten with the death of one of my people. That was the problem with these puppets, without orders they would simply stand there and die unlike real people and I let myself get distracted.

I began to issue orders while I coiled my aura tendrils around my party members. The tank mannequin charged, shield raised and slammed into her body. He hit her so hard that she skittered back a few feet and her multiple legs left furrows in the sand. The thief threw out little needles but, even though her upper body was unarmored and fleshy, they simply bounced off. She was like a tank! Don't mention her chitin; even her regular skin was reinforced.

I watched as ice began to form around her tail. It was soon encased making the barbed tip more of a club than a spear. It waved above her body before her claws shot out to grab at the warrior. With a clang, the left claw was blocked by the shield. The right claw dug into his 'Flesh' as it scratched along his back as he tried spinning away from the blow. Noticing that he was off balance, the tail finally came slamming down.

I cast golden armor as quickly as I could. The tendrils I had wrapped around all the puppets briefly glowed with a golden light before all the remaining puppets took on a bright luster, the warrior a little brighter since it had two tendrils attached to it. Sadly, not before the puppet was sent flying by a hit from her tail. His normal armor dented a little from the impact and I saw its health take a slight dip from the two consecutive hits.

I was trying to come up with any idea that could deal with her when I heard splashes from behind me.