Hmm. I look around, trying to figure out how to spend the rest of my life. I wonder how long I have. I’m a skeleton so I’m probably connected to the Bone-Lord but… looking down to my hands I wonder if that’s true. This body is different. I’m a skeleton, sure, but also not really. It’s complicated. Assuming the best case I have until either they clear floor one-hundred or I die. So… hmm. Hmm. I look across the room, past the many glowing fungi. Towards the staircase in the distance that leads up to the treasury. From there it’s right next to the stairs up to the next floor. Scratching my head I realize, with the speed of my magic I could maybe even get back up to the forest. Maybe…
Looking back to the body of the hero one final time I ponder for a moment if I should take his lance. I think I’m good with lances, spears, pikes, things like that. His is pretty fancy after all… hmm, no. I shake my head. It still feels wrong. Ignoring the voice inside of me telling me not to touch his body, I have my own doubts. Looting the dead is one thing, but I don’t want to take his weapon. We’re friends after all.
Besides. I look to the stairs and renew my levitation for a third time. This body is strong enough with just magic. With that I zoom away, flying across the space with frightening speed towards the flight of stairs that reach up into a darkness I can’t see beyond. As I leave the hero’s grave once more, leaving the body of my friend behind once more, I feel my hands hanging behind me. Not as if flowing, pushed back by the wind but as if they were reaching out; trying to hold him one last time.
I push back the feeling and press forward, gliding up the first few steps. As I burst up the stairs, my thoughts and my heart are both silent. Both me and Nichodemus are silent, both of us just living out our best days in peace as we sail through the void together. It’s a very romantic way to spend the end of your life. A few minutes later I see the familiar orange split in the wall. Coming to a halt I pull the lever I remember being there. Did I find this? I don’t remember. Hmm. A second later the wall cracks open, sliding to the side with a loud rumble and I shoot out into the grand-treasury in haste, not wanting to lose any time.
Flying out into the massive pile of gold I barely manage to catch myself and turn towards the right. A tower of coins rings out with a loud jangle as I smash into them, sending them flying out over the room. I hear a familiar cackle and turn my head just in time to see the lid of the somewhat shaking chest slam shut. I think I hear voices, goblins. I suppose the rest of the trash-mobs are just starting to make their way up now, so that means I’m the first today? Hmm. Ignoring all of that, I correct my form and shoot up and out of the room, towards the real staircase. This is the first time I’ve taken these, isn’t it? I shoot up them with ease. As I rise up the stairs, I for a moment, wonder what I’d do if I come across the hero-party here. If I run smack-dab into them here.
I fly out of the stairs a moment later. Man, if only I was always this fast. Life would be a breeze. I land on one of the bobbing platforms of floor ninety-six, the slippery tentacle wet fun place. I skid, only an inch away from falling into the water but with a quick turn of my body I get my momentum back under control and keep my footing on the top of the platforms. Sparing a second to look at the black, brackish water below me I can already see the twisting silhouettes of the serpents beneath the gentle waves. A bright light shines out from across the room and I see them now. The hero-party. Dang, they’re faster again.
They’re on the entrance side of the floor, fighting the first waves of skeletons. They must have just gotten here too. I narrow my eyes, figuratively speaking, I need to get past them. They haven’t seen me yet, too consumed with their own fight. Thankfully the wizard-girl is restraining herself so far and opting to use quieter jets of fire and bursts rather than all out explosions. She seems fairly level headed today. The rest of them are standing there too, same as always. I even see her, the thief-girl. Her face hidden away beneath the hood, also stern as always. This is my chance I think to myself.
I launch forward, dashing around the maze of floating platforms; ducking and weaving between the many skeletons marching to my left and to my right, towards the skirmish happening not far away. Already now I hear their voices carried over the surface of the ever more churning black water, carried to my ears. The sound of young hopefuls, the sounds of fighting and the sounds of such excited, anxious voices. I can’t understand them. I can only tell through the intonations of their words, but the words themselves I can’t understand. Why?
I can read human can’t I? Why? Wait. Wait. I duck left, surging below the raised arm of a skeleton archer aiming to the hero-party. Wasn’t I a skeleton before? I couldn’t understand them then either, could I? Why? Skeletons are human, shouldn’t I be able to speak human? To understand it? I swing to the right, an arrow surges just past my head from behind with an incredible speed as it searches for the hero’s heart. All I hear a moment later is the loud metal ring as he strikes it out of mid-air with his sword. What a cool guy. I am a two-thirds of the way across the floor now. Only a few more seconds and I will reach them. The hero sees me now. Sees my rushing, surging form soaring towards him like the shining arrow not a moment before. My hands at my side, my head held forward, my heart held forward. They all see me now, they all see my purple robe flying through the air like a banshee out on the blood-moon. The glint of the golden sun embroidered into my robe shining out, reflecting over the dark water like radiant moonlight.
He has an expression I can’t put to words. A sadness. A fear. A confusion. It reminds me of that time I challenged him to a duel. It’s an expression not befitting of a hero I think. Only a second left now. Time seems to stop. I see his eyes, their eyes. They’re all watching me. They all see me. No. No, they don’t. They see Nichodemus. Everyone sees only Nichodemus. Except for one cold gaze, one glint of shining soul that comes from beneath a dark green hood in the back. She sees me. She knows. The world goes white, I duck.
I feel my hood fly off the top of my skull as the hero’s glinting sword just barely shaves my cranium. If Nichodemus had hair, he for sure wouldn’t anymore. My leg drops out of instinct and I sweep around in a semi-circle avoiding the heavy punch just barely missing me, signaled out by the rattle of the beads on her arm. As I am low to the ground in their midst still sliding I push my hand down to the dirt and feel the fresh wind magic growing beneath. I release it, the magic crashes against the wet stone not an inch beneath my palm and I sail backwards through the air; propelled towards the staircase and away from their midst, passing the priestess, passing the wizard-girl who both do their best to reach me. But both ultimately fail. Students against the master, they can’t touch me. I have the element of surprise. I don’t know who is teaching the young people these days, but they’re not as good as my students were.
My body stops as I land on the staircase behind them, the thief-girl is already before me, dagger in hand as always. That strange fire in her eyes as always, but it’s different now. She feels different now. I raise both of my hands to just around my chest mid-slide, my thumbs pointed up and my index fingers pointed to her. Later nerds. Ten confused eyes watch me in a daze as I fly backwards up the stairs propelled by my cushion of air as if the gods themselves were pulling me up with a string tied to my soul, dragging me up to the surface of a place higher still.
Already now I hear the dull thunk of a single pair of boots echoing up behind me. But she is much too slow to catch me this time.