Chapter 41 – The Rise of Zitler (part 3)
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My hand touched the gem still stuck in the stone and blackness seeped into the 'Glove' mixing with the gray it once was. By the time it finished, the glove now resembled a night sky. Speckles of the remaining gray resembled stars that stood out against the darkness. But not all of the inky blackness from the stone went into it. Instead it dribbled down the cracks of the rock until I could see words forming as it flowed into hidden paths that had been carved into the stone.

The guardian has what you want

To go forth one must take up the challenge

One touch to unbind the constraints of men.

A simple touch is all you'll need,

To tread the path to the darkest depths.

From the tip, follow the path

To reveal what you crave

Fire for a winter's night.

Night will turn to day.

An icy prison awaits all those who fail

To restrain ones desires.

Item Forged: Glove of Night – Complete

Effects: Immune to fire spells, water spells, earth spells, air spells, *hidden*

Reward: 50 XP

I flexed the glove because the weight of the glove had changed. Before it felt like my hand was coated in mud. It was a little stiff and weighted but now it was weightless and felt as if I wore nothing on my hand. Interesting, to bad this was all virtual because I would not mind keeping it. Sighing, I reread the puzzle and turn to head back out. The monsters that were here, are nowhere to be seen.

I saw my remaining puppets standing precisely at the end of the tunnel. Only three of the four remained and I felt a bit of regret that I dared not risk resurrecting the lost one. I had no idea how much editing went into the broadcast and I did not want the entire city to know I could resurrect. If I knew it was so rare I probably would have picked a different blessing. There were too many people that would want to keep me as a slave or dead to make sure those they wanted dead stayed that way.

I moved back to the main room as I mused about lost chances. Still, the fact I might be able to save a friend one day made me unsure if I would really have chosen differently. Up until I stood before the nine foot tall statue of the demon, I pondered about how much a life was worth and what I was willing to give up to save somebody I cared about. Which made me think of my lost parents, which made me sure of my choice and my cheeks a little wetter than they were before I traveled down this morose train of thought.

I stared at the statue and went over the hint I was give. I was pretty sure this was the guardian or a really big time suck. I had not forgotten that I was on a time limit. But still… I had to try.

Placing my hand against the statue, the glove's darkness offsetting her pale stony skin, caressing along her curves and muscles. My eyes looking for clues as my hand trailed lower and lower. Nothing happened until I touched her tail. As I followed her tail, I had to squat down and place my other hand on her thigh so I did not become unbalanced as my hand ran between her legs. So far I had not removed my hand and I was unsure if letting go would invalidate anything I was, in theory, doing. When it got to the base I heard a clack and the tail that had kept her more intimate parts concealed started to flex, shift and move about causing me to let go at the risk of being flung about.

The statue shivered. Soft grinding noises came, from the smooth stones rubbing together, as the statue started to move. 'Did this count as a success?' It did not feel like one as I crouched between her legs and watched as her arm reached over her shoulder to grasp the giant sword that was sitting across her back.

Crap! I pushed off using the hand I had on her thigh and scampered back as quick as I could. I needed to create distance while still ordering the puppets to attack. The thief's daggers hit her square in the chest causing tiny chips of stone to flake off. They hit one after the other in the same place and then clacked to the floor.

I cast 'Blessings of the Goddess' on my tank. I was hoping it would help to deflect any incoming blows off its shield. As soon as I got the spell off, I began to rip my aura apart. It took a bit of time to get it into four tendrils and I cursed my inexperience and stupidity for not doing it beforehand. It just took too much concentration in maintaining which resulted in a massive headache if I held it for too long.

The tank charged in. Its six foot figure still dwarfed by the stone demoness' gigantic size. When it crashed into her, other than a few more stone chips hitting the floor, I saw a couple of cracks appear near where the thief's daggers hit. The big hammer in the warrior's hands added a few more. The warrior slid a little but I thought that was more due to the ice that was slowly forming under its feet since it stopped once its feet touched the tiled floor again. Curiously, even after it stopped sliding, the ice patch continued to grow.

Her sword swing had so much power behind it that it made a whoosh noise before it slammed into the tank. When it connected against the shield of my warrior, a shallow dent appeared along with a few golden sparks and a loud bang echoed through the cavern before the mighty demoness began her own sliding jaunt. Sadly the sword she welds has a greater reach and if I wanted the puppet to trade blows, it would need to step back onto the ice. Instead, I had it step back. I wanted to see if I could topple the stone demoness and then just rain blows on it until it was destroyed. How nimble could this golem be?

My hopes of toppling it were short lived. I saw the ice crack and splinter as she stomped forward and I hastily ordered the tank to prepare to defend us as the demon shaped golem made its way across the ice patch. Its weight making short work of the thin ice. With a new command, the mage switched over to attack it with the most liquefied spell the puppet had.

I watched as the golem was covered in a slushy mixture that did no damage. If it was alive the icy mixture would have soaked through it's clothes or fur to lower it's temperature. Then the target would slow down as their muscles spasmed from the extreme temperature differences. Sadly, it was a block of stone hell bent on killing us. Instead, the sloppy mix hit her in the chest in a continuous stream other than its 'Skin' taking on a darker quality as the water soaked into the stone, there seemed to be no real change in the speedy movement of the golem.

A few more stone chips fell off as a few more daggers continued to hit the middle of its chest. They did nothing to stop its quick advance. It swung its sword as soon as it got into range. More sparks came off the warrior's shield. The force of the hit made him to take a few more steps back and then a few more as the golem slammed into him without slowing its advance. Amazingly, the tank puppet regained its stance after being forced back even though he was hit by such a massive creature. A minus one flashed above the puppets head as its health lowered from the hit. Even the impact caused damage. Just how much force was behind that swing? The puppet's hammer made a few more cracks in the golem once it stabilized itself.

I made my aura tendrils slowly wrap around the tanks body. I frowned at their slow movement and I made a mental note to practice to increase their speed. The current movement pace was too big of a detriment in battle. The demon's sword kept raining blows forcing the tank back with every hit. I had the others back up as well but the room was not that big. I needed time. Time I was unsure that I had.

The mage and thief continued their attacks. The thief kept throwing daggers and finally made a small hole where the last one stuck. Only an inch of the blade was inside the stone. I just hoped it was enough. The tank's health continued its decline as it did its best to guard us. Minus ones and twos would flash with every blocked hit. The swings that got pass the shield took big chucks of its health and only my continuous casting of heal spells kept it from dying. I was just stalling. I was letting the slushy water soak as deeply as possible into the cracks that the thief was making.

But my time was up and I was out of room to back up. I gave my orders. It was all or nothing as the temperature around us plummeted. The mage's spell was centered on the golem. The water that had coated it froze. The thin ice that soon coated its stony skin cracked and broke away as it swung its sword around. I was more focused on the parts that had cracks and chips. I waited but as I desperately had the puppets go all out to defend us, nothing was happening. The ice wall was crumbling, the tank's steel shield had dents all over it, and the thief had lost an arm from an attack that got past the tank but still no damage to the golem.

The banging of metal on metal continued. It was so loud I almost missed the crackling noises that were getting louder and louder. The tiny cracks that were all over its body were spreading and widening. The water that saturated into the cracks had finally froze. The ice forcefully expanded causing chips to flake off of it at an ever increasing rate. The knife that was stuck into it clattered to the floor as a huge crack appeared. It ran from the left shoulder to its right hip. Inside the crevice was an orange orb. It's core. Without that it would not be able to operate.

Even so the golem's movements did not slow. The many pieces that were now missing from its body did not reduce its power or speed. The demoness kept hacking away until a deep V shaped dent formed on the warrior's heavy shield, along with a few more deep cuts into the puppets that were backed against the wall. But with its core uncovered it did not last long. With a sound of glass shattering, the thief's dagger pierced into the core.

Marble golem destroyed: 100XP

Its once beautiful statue shattered along with its core. Fist sized stone pieces fell heavily to the floor. Inside the rubble sat two dust covered orbs. The rocks bubbled around the red orb while a hoarfrost was spreading out around the blue one. I moved in to the grasp the red orb using my gloved hand. Yellows and reds replaced some of the black and white within the speckled glove. It was as if dawn was breaking across the horizon and the orb I held was the sun. Even my aura now had reds running through it along with its normal golden glow.

Holding it, I saw that I had new resistances in my status; lava resistance and heat resistance. Both of them were at a 100%. Along with that, my fire resistance jumped up to 100%. The change in my aura gave me the feeling that the protections extended to anybody under it. This had to be for the lava room. But what about the other orb?

I looked over at the chilly blue orb but I only had one glove. Did I have to go into the third tunnel? Was there another glove for that orb? The gamer in me wanted to explore it all but the mission was to save the girl and time was ticking down. In the end, I decided to treat this as if I wasn't in a simulation and instead treated it as if she was in real peril.

Never the less, I spent some time patching up my wounded puppets. The worst wound was the thief's lost arm. I had to hold the severed piece to the stub while casting 'Lesser Regenerate'. It was time consuming but I needed all the remaining puppets at their best.

I moved back down the first hall I went down. The Lava Nymphs had gone back to playing but again stopped once they saw us. Playful smiles appeared on their faces as they began to make their way toward me. I had the thief move closer to the lava first. Always making sure that he was underneath my aura. He dipped his toe into the lava, as I held my breath hoping the lava would not damage him. It was a test. I had to use the fastest way since the lava nymphs were closing in. I would have time to retreat, if it did not work, if I needed to. But nothing happened after it dipped its foot in other than a few ripples. Its foot was still intact and no damage accrued.

I felt relief. I was not positive that it would work. With with this small success I had it wade into the lava slowly. My belief that the orb would give absolute protection was still not a 100%. The thief went in ankle deep, then knee deep and it got up to where the lava was above the upper part of its belly before it stopped getting any deeper. I had to follow it in while holding Pumpkin above my head with my left hand. The others formed a circle around me. The lava felt like I was wading into warm pudding and it made its way all the way up to my chest before the ground leveled out. I could not let it get too far ahead plus the nymphs were getting too close. I did not know what they would do but it would be better to make sure that my team was solidly under my aura.

The lava girls came at us, all giggles and smiles. Because of that I was at a loss on if I should issue orders to attack. Other than being made of lava, they acted like spoiled teenagers and looked the part. According to what I read on them, nymphs were generally harmless so much so that they were usually captured and sold instead of killed. Male adventures were always looking for them even if they could not bring them back. Their attacks were generally harmless and playful in nature. This type was only harmful because they were made of lava. Since we were now immune to lava, I hesitated and they separated coming at us one by one. They pressed into the puppets. Their arms moving around their bodies. I was a bit confused on what type of attack they were doing until one hugged me. Her hands being semi-liquid oozed under my armor and I felt her feather light touches moving along my skin.

OK, it is not an attack! I tried to shake her off but she clung onto me like a monkey in heat. My hand would simply go through her. It was like battling a stream from a water fountain… pointless. Her hands rubbed across my chest and as my nipples hardened she giggled and gave them a playful tweak. My mind went blank on what to do. My emotions went amuck as confusion, shame, and anger clashed, and I did not know how to respond as my body reacted without my consent.

I made the puppets move across the lake as fast as I could. The girls clinging on to us the entire way. I almost fell when I felt her nibbling on my ear. Son-of-a-bitch! Who made this simulation? When I was a guy I would have killed for any type of girl to show interest in my body but now to have somebody just grope me without my consent made my skin crawl. It was like I went from a wolf to a sheep. Sure I was a pathetic lone wolf but damn it I was the one hunting. Now I felt like prey. By the time we reached the other side my face was almost as red as hers. The girl finally let me go, playfully threw me a kiss and swam away with the rest while my party walked out of the lava. They were all chatting excitedly with each other about what they did and where they touched. I did my best to ignore exactly where her hands had been but my chest was hypersensitive from her rubbing. I did my best to refocus. I was really regretting not blasting the little trollops when they first approached us.

I cleaned up the pouch and placed Pumpkin back inside as we walked onto the hard ground. I could now see past the door that I saw from the other side. It was a simple nine by nine room. There was only one thing inside, a stairway that sat in the middle. There were little half-walls around three sides of it. Pictures of girls bowing were drawn on both the right and left walls and a man sitting on a throne on the wall that was straight ahead. I sent the thief ahead to check for traps. As I waited I heard faint voices from below but it was too low to make out what was being said. As time passed, I saw the thief dig up a few floor tiles with his knives, toss something from his pouch inside and then put it back. He waved us in once he was finished. It looked like there were four traps inside this room. One of them even I could see with my basic knowledge but the others were placed in such a way that once you moved to disarm one the others would go off.

Not knowing what horrible demise I just missed, I gathered my puppets into my standard formation line and proceeded down the stairs. A female voice became clearer as we went down. Her voice trembled with fear but I heard her still demanding things like "untie me", "let me go" and "give up because I will never be with you". She sounded young. I wanted to rush down there and save her but I paused. The last fight made me realize that I needed something that could do some damage. But could I control it? It seems more often than not they break free of my control.

I scrolled down the list looking for something that might work. Something that was not so overpowering but could help in a fight. Names were all I had to go off of. Scarbruts? Lashers? Thought eaters? There were so many and I have not had the time to study what they could do. It was a gamble but one I figured I would need to make.

Perhaps this one… and with that decision I began to cast turning my aura to amber. Five minutes I listened to a man laughing while a girl screamed. Her demands had turned into whimpers and it took everything I had not to rush in and play the hero but without enough power I knew that it would be futile. I played enough games to know that the last fight was always the toughest.

I concentrated. 'Gloom Dispatcher' left my lips and the basketball sized portal tripled in size. A black thing crawled out of it. I did not have a lot of information but from what I read they lived in the rocky terrain and hid in shadows. They hunted in packs when young but became lone hunters once they grew up. Adventurers generally just call them dispatchers because of their assassin like attacks. The descriptions of them were vague and now I knew why. Try as I might I could not make out the details of it other than it had multiple legs with wisps of murky vapor lazily emanating off its carapace. Every time I tried to make out the details of it, terror would start to creep in. What the hell did I just unleash? No, I needed this thing and I fought the fear that was starting to make my mind shut down.

Concentrate. I need to focus this thing. The feelings I got from it were of hunger and its dislike of this narrow space. I sent thoughts of fighting below and of a bigger space and it helped relieve the pressure I felt. It skittered off with us following. As we got closer to the bottom of the staircase the dispatcher leapt onto the ceiling without a sound and used its mist to help camouflage itself. In another few steps, if I had not known it was there, I would not have been able to see it. I hung towards the rear just focusing on controlling it. Being a little further away I still had not seen who or what was in the room, I resisted the dispatchers natural impulse. Beads of sweat were forming as it fought to kill whatever it just saw. The tiny beads rolled down my face but between walking and controlling it I could not even manage to wipe them away.

I had the puppets rushed into the room and i quickly followed. I was expecting a girl held in a cage instead she was chained onto an altar. She was dressed like this worlds version of a farmer's daughter. Her tan lines more evident from the rips and tears her clothes  sustained. But all her bruises, cuts, and clothes were not the first thing I noticed. Instead I saw a pale see-through ghost that hovered above the chained girl. She was weeping while her more solid twin below her laid motionless.