Chapter 42
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My mind reels as the world continues to spin, dribbles of the red nectar still seeping out of the corners of my mouth mixed together with acidic bile from my stomach. The hero-party. Of course they’re here already. Of course I can’t get a break. Ugh. I hold myself still tightly against the trunk of the tree. My menu vanishes away, the droplets of vomit that clung to it simply falling down, as if out of nowhere and lands far down below with an equally disgusting splash. Uuugh, whatever this stuff is I don’t want any any more of it ever again.

  Holding my head I try my best to think. I need a plan. I can’t fight them like this. I mean I’d lose anyways, but I don’t have a reason to fight them now. I’d just die pointlessly. No, I need to find the hidden stairs I think to myself as the world shakes. A deep tremble rumbles the air, shooting up the tree and through my bones as the world rattles. I feel a hot breeze shoot past me carrying the sound of the explosion away through the wildly rustling leaves surrounding me. Sounds like the wizard is at work already. They probably got swarmed by red-caps at the start. I’d feel bad for them, but you need to understand, I really hate red-caps. So if they get hero-partied, I’m not very sympathetic even if they are my brethren in trash-mobbery. Red-caps get what they deserve.

  Already now I hear the sounds of battle intensifying over from the west. Explosions ring out in continuous sequence. The wizard girl seems to be in a battling mood today I think to myself still trying to compose my mind and body. Okay, so my time in this life is obviously running short now. It won’t take them long to clear the forest and kill the sub-boss on the north-east corner of the floor. Maybe they’ll get lost in the woods if I’m lucky, but I doubt it… ugh. Why, dungeon-master? Why did you give me something like this?

  Well, maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I drank too much of it? The dungeon-master wouldn’t do anything that’s bad for me, right? Yeah. Yeah. Shaking my head I feel my white hair fly around, it’s still damp and heavy but is starting to dry surprisingly quickly. It’s…

Huh?

  The world seems to go dark all of the sudden, as if all the light on this floor simply just stopped shining. Actually, I suppose that’s exactly what happened. Looking around in the darkness I realize the giant magical glass ball on the ceiling of the floor has gone dark rather spontaneously. I suppose this is ‘night time’ on this floor. It’s an interesting little thing, I wonder why we have that? I guess the dungeon-master just likes to keep things a little eccentric in his designs. Slowly however, my eyes begin to adjust; the spider blood making itself useful as I slowly begin to see further and further out into the gloom. I have dark-vision apparently, which makes sense for a spider I suppose.

  Looking around at the dark forest, the trees swaying rather spookily all around me I hear another crunch down below. Then several more. Looking down I see a swarm of the red-caps rushing in an odd, loose formation that seems to spread wide in all directions only to snap back to the one on the forefront heading towards the hero-party. I guess they heard the explosion too. Red-caps can see in the dark as well, but none of them bother to look up the tree. One in particular stops to smell the wet spot on the ground and reels back in disgust. As odd as it sounds, I can’t help but feel a little insulted as the vile creature continues on after the rest of his group.

  As they vanish towards the hero-party I begin to wonder what it is exactly I should do. I’m not really quick on my brain-feet, you know? As the last of the swarm passes I decide to wait a second for any stragglers and then climb down in turn. I need to look faster and I can’t do that if I’m playing it safe up in the trees. Tying a new string to the large branch for safety I begin to lower myself down. Screams. My head turns at the now familiar sounds. Red-cap screams. They’re tearing into each other again. A moment later another one flies back out of the underbrush they just went through on their way to the action. The others running away don’t even bother to descend upon him. There’s not much left to eat of his charred body. Quickly I pull myself back up and hug the tree, fairly certain that nobody has seen me yet. Are they here already? They just got down the stairs a moment ago didn’t they?

  Sure enough a moment later I see it. A great glow shining like a torch made of pure sun-fire. As the hero pushing through the bushes advances slowly but sure-footedly with his radiant magical sword in hand. A light comes from it almost like that of the sun itself and I pull back at the sudden shift in the brightness altering the world once more. It hurts my eyes. Shifting around I go to the other side of the tree and hang my head down to peer around just beneath a branch, making sure to hold my hair so that it doesn’t dangle down and give me away. The rest of the party follows close in suit, all the usual characters. I squint and look. She’s there too, the thief-girl. Her eyes dart around the darkness, searching, scanning. I need to be quiet, to stay still. Elves have very keen senses. Thankfully my body, despite its… roundness, is perfectly adapted for nighttime stealth. Silently I hang there and continue to watch as the rest of them emerge one by one.

 

  Full house today as usual. The hero is taking the lead as expected, the monk is standing next to the priestess fairly closely, taking on the thief’s usual bodyguard role. But she’s preoccupied today. Her shifty elven gaze turns towards me and I quickly duck away before she can spot me. I feel a slight chill, the adrenaline in my body seems to be fighting the dizziness quite effectively. My head feels clearer, but my body still feels… dry. Kind of gross. Spinny and wibbly-wobbly. A moment later I look back, half-expecting her not to be there anymore. Half-expecting her to probably appear just behind me in a moment. But no. She’s still there with the rest of the group, if not a few steps further away than usual. Looking. Searching. What’s your deal thief-girl? What do you know?

  Some retching, hacking sound scratches out and they stop as the monk starts coughing rather loudly just below my tree. For a second I think it’s because of the puddle of my vomit, but no, it doesn’t seem to be the case. The priestess pats her on the back and they all stop for a moment until she recomposes herself. Waving the others away the monk stands back upright with a smile and a laugh and they continue onward. Like a specter in the night I watch as they vanish down the way I just came from before. Down towards the fairy of the fountain.

The fairy of the fountain?

  My eyes shoot open wide again and I remember what she told me when I was a mimic. That sentence she uttered with a half-flattered, half-annoyed expression. ‘One of them always throws a coin in.’ The priestess. She always throws a coin in when they come across the fairy. I remember the red. The taste of her blood and I feel a little sick again but I shake it off and lower myself down with the string I attached before. There’s no time to lose. If I follow them to the fairy and they activate her, I can maybe catch her before she goes back to sleep. Maybe I can talk to her. Maybe. Even if I don’t find the secret stairs in time in this life, maybe I can talk to her. She knows things. Things that can maybe help me along in my little life here.

  My spindly feet touch the ground and I make sure to step around the puddle of my own vomit as I come down. Unfortunately one of my pointed legs touches something else, something else that’s wet and sticky. Ugh. Gross. Looking down to the spot in disgust, expecting to see some chunk from inside of me or some chunk from inside of some red-cap I instead see something else. A glint of red. Of blood sticking to my leg. Reaching down I dip the tip of my makeshift spear into it and hold the tip out closely in-front of my eyes. The familiar shade of red coats the point. Of  human. Is this from the monk?

Looking off into the darkness they dispersed down I hurry after them; my pace as eager as the beating of my spider heart. Perhaps I can finally find some answers.

Maybe.

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