Chapter 28
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He was a good meal. Strong. Nutritious. The wounds on my body have already begun to seal themselves shut as the almost magical properties of the serpentine flesh set themselves into action. Slithering along the stone floor of the abyss I feel the coarse texture of the surface rub against the bottom of my body. The surface of this place is mostly safe near the middle. On the outer edges there are crabs and things of that pinchy nature which will give you a hard time, some of them are even pretty big. Like leather-boot sized. It probably won’t kill a human but it’ll sure smart if they get you, that’s for sure.

  As I travel beneath the bleak water I keep my eyes open for anything else I can eat, anything else I can kill. I have a goal now that I must meet I think to myself as I traverse the depths below, the roar of the ambient water is my only companion. Well that and the specks of particulate floating past my eyes. They give this place a very eerie vibe, but at the same time are oddly pleasant to look at I think to myself as I hiss. One of them lands on my tongue, it tastes salty. Blech. I flick my tongue out again to wash it and the taste off.

  I have been traveling for some time now, this has been an interesting life so far, well, sort of. I am happy that I have finally become something else. When was the last time I was a serpent? Man, it must have been ages because I for sure can’t remember. Either way, I had hoped to find the secret stairs here out in the middle of the room. Very few tend to go here, most of my kind stick to the outer walls and rocks. There is no shelter in the center, there are no places to hide. There is also little to eat, but that is of no concern to me anymore as long as I remain unhurt. I have eaten enough to survive this life and probably another if the calories carried over. But they don’t sadly. I wonder if the hero will be here soon? I want to bite his ankle I think to myself, flicking my tongue again.

  There is nothing here. Ugh. I have been crawling around the center of the chamber for a while now, but there is nothing here. I mean sure it’s dark and my snake eyes aren’t the greatest. But if there were some secret entrances here or something of that nature I would have seen it already. Uuugh. Being a snake is cool, but it’s kind of boring you know? I don’t have arms, I don’t have legs, I only have a cloaca so that pulls off a few ideas from the list too. Did I ever tell you about that time I was a slime-girl? Well, I won’t. Sorry. You aren’t ready to hear it. Hell, I’m not ready to talk about it, mostly because I’ve suppressed most of the memory. But I feel like it’s related to this ramble somehow. Hmm, anywa-

  Something vibrates through the water. I hear it, a sharp noise made dull by its passing through to the depths from above. Even down below with all the distortion I recognize the tone. The singing kiss of metal striking metal. My heart begins to beat faster now in excitement and worry, the last drops of the venom leaving it; propelling away and dispelled from my tiny body with the raging of my flowing blood. Are the adventurers here already? Be quiet you idiots! I guess I’m not surprised. I need to find a way to slow them down. While I enjoy these short trips of my lives, I would also enjoy a life lasting like… oh I don’t know… a day? How long have I been a serpent? A few hours maybe? Ugh. Please. I can’t work like this.

  Another strike of the blades clashing against each other. As the vibration rings out again I tense up, she will hear them, she will hear us if they aren’t quiet! Already I feel the pressure of the underwater current change. A stronger push emanating outward each time the swords clash. I wish I had a sword. But that’s secondary, what’s primary is the fear I feel in my little serpent body. It fears her. The great one. The old one. Some say she was here before the dungeon-master, before the hero, before us all. I say that’s a big old load because, what, you’re telling me the dungeon-master built his entire dungeon around a big old tentacly fish monster that he doesn’t even keep on the lowest floor? Really? I doubt it. He’s too cool for that. No, she’s just a big ol-

  My body is tossed sideways as the current rises in strength, I can’t hold out against it and roll over several times. I’d say I have lost my orientation but I have no idea where I am anyways. Somewhere in the center of the room. Ugh, okay. I won’t find the stairs like this I think to myself as I right my sleek body back upright. With a sprinting pace I propel myself upward and swim towards the surface, towards the sounds of battle and towards the dull orange hue of the firelight shining down below like a brightly burning bobbing beacon beckoning to befall it. B words.

  As I rise I hear the sounds of battle grow more intense, they must be in the middle of it right now. What kinds of trash-mobs were up on top of the platforms? I guess some goblins or skeletons or something bread and butter like that? Whatever it was they were keeping the adventurers busy at least by the sounds of things. My snake brain is worried though. As the intensity of the battle rises steadily, so does the pressure beneath the water. The strength of the currents, even here in the middle I feel myself swaying from side to side. It is taking everything I can to stay upright during my ascent. She is waking up.

  A moment later I pop my tiny serpentine head out of the brackish black water. The warmth and glow of the light dazzles both my sight and my body as soon as I surface. The water is rough and a wave smashes against my eyes almost immediately, blinding me for a second to the glint of silver not two meters before me but still sadly out of reach. The hero. As my sight returns and I float there up on the disturbed water I see them, the adventurers, the full party. Hero, thief, wizard, priestess and the newcomer who I have identified as a monk all standing together back to back fighting an onslaught of spooky skeletons. Go get em guys!

  I don’t need to tell you that the skeletons aren’t getting them, despite my cheers. They are being pummeled to pieces, literally. As I watch the chaos one of the skeletons is broken in half by a single fist to the ribs from the monk, his bones shattering and scattering out in all directions flying wildly from the incredible force propelling them away. A small cloud of dust remains where he stood, powder from his pulverized ribcage, the bones literally turned to dust from a single punch. Dark-lord have mercy. The adventurers are shouting around to each other what I can only assume are motivating words and battle commands.

  In my mind I imagine that it's something cheesy like how they need to stick together and how much their friendship means to them so they need to be careful. Ah, I always get so jealous watching them. I wish I had friends, I hiss. The wizard is standing next to the monk and they duck and weave in a strange unison as if they knew each other’s next step by heart. The monk ducks and the wizard shoots a wave of fire over her head. With clanking bracelets ringing aloud she runs behind the flames as it flies and pummels the next skeleton on the way who couldn’t see her coming through the blaze. Poor guy. He vanishes. A moment later the two pull back together repeating such intricate, wordless strategies like clockwork, like one heart beat following the last. I narrow my eyes as I observe the rest, searching for an opportunity of my own.

  The hero stands at the center as always swinging and dashing and jumping and making a lot of his usual fighting noises. I wish he wouldn’t. I notice none of them seem to stick to him one on one, but rather around him. Like hornets swarming the queen. He is the foundation off of which they fight, he clears the center and allows them a safe return for their outward pushes into the undead mass who are limited by the small space atop the floating platforms bobbing up and down in the ever more turbulent water. The thief-girl stands a good few steps back on a platform they cleared before and fires one arrow after the other taking out the skeletons with good, but not perfect accuracy. Occasionally an arrow flies through their bones missing the mark, but the second always hits. Next to her I see the priestess holding the rear. Every time a straggler makes its way from the sides she washes it away in quick bursts of her white magic before the thief has to bother. Every time someone gets a knick or a scratch, which isn’t often, she throws out a handful of the white magic towards them to heal their wounds.

  They work perfectly together, they are coordinated, aware not only of their environment but of their friends. Each step, each strike and arrow and spell is perfectly in unison. They’re like a beautiful machine. How long have you fought together? How many hardships have you faced hand in hand, adventurers? I’m so jealous. I hiss, my tongue flicking the surface of the rolling water. Even the monk, the newcomer in my eyes is fighting in synchronicity along with the rest. Alone, the snake that I am, I sink beneath the waves before I have to watch them any longer. Before my hungry heart has to smell more of something so nourishing that I can never have.

  Sliding my body beneath the underside of one of the floating platforms I swim over to the far side back down the direction they came from. I won’t stay long, there is little I can do as a serpent as long as nobody falls into the water. Hmm, I suppose as long as they don’t wake her up and kill her this could be a pretty long life actually. If my sub-boss doesn’t die then I have until they reach the bottom of the final floor and beat the dungeon-master until I fade away. That would be pretty nice actually, I mean, it gives me time to find the stairs but also. Also it gives me a break, you know? I’ve been at this non-stop. Day in, day out. A guy needs a weekend once in a while? But I never have a break anymore. Anyways the way this is going she’ll be up any second now, so I can forget that idea. Sure as a serpent it isn’t the greatest life, but I’ll take it, tell you what.

  Approaching the end of the other platform I rise up out of the water again and look towards them, they have made some progress and the numbers of skeletons are dwindling faster. A wave crashes against me and smashes my body against the side of the platform. Suddenly, everything is orange. A fireball. Wizard-girl, you dummy. Now you’ve done it.

  As the last bone hits the floor, the echo of the shattering skull ringing out aloud; as the last glimmer of the orange fire dies off and the roar of the explosion dampens as it sinks into the deep recesses of the stone walls, as the last light dies out and the room goes quiet I see the torches extinguish themselves one by one.

  Starting at the far end of the room with a quiet hiss they leave the world in a puff of smoke, traveling downward in their death march until they reach the platform the adventurers are on and then die off as well leaving us all in darkness, as above so below. A great rumble sings through the earth, through the stone and the water. A great dread fills the air as a bright, vivid light shines out from beneath the thunderous waves heading our way from the far side of the room.

She is awake.

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