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I look at my two choices and read what they have to offer. Leap and defensive stance. So these are my first abilities I can choose from? Alright, I mean. I guess I’m just level two so these are my basic choices. Looking back to my abilities menu I notice that the golden circle that signifies my chosen class also has two arms that branch off to the right side, but they don’t seem to be connecting to anything and are distorted and warped. So I guess I’m stuck with the proverbial left-handed path here. Still. Looking back again at the abilities I try to make up my mind.
Leap is the obvious useful one here. It’s an active ability, so I guess it’s like a spell? Something you have to actively use. That would make sense to me. I guess it lets me, uh, well, leap, you know? If this window is to be trusted, a distance of my normal jumping height with my added dexterity on top in meters. Which uh. Wait. I think, as a skeleton I can jump about the average jumping height for a human, which isn’t very impressive in all honesty. Maybe even a little less because Nichy boy is at the stage of his life where his knees hurt when rain is coming. Add to that my dexterity which is… uh… five right now, then that would be… I tap my skull a few times thinking. Three’ish meters?
A pretty good jump all things considered, but… I look upwards towards the great ball of fire far, far out of my reach. Obviously way more than three’ish meters away. So that ability alone won’t get me up there. What is neat though is that it doesn’t seem to have a cost of any kind. So I kind of just jump around for free. Cool beans. I suppose if I was a more agile creature, something… thiefy, I could get a lot more out of that ability.
The other one, defensive stance is passive. So I guess I don’t have to do anything for it to be useful which is always nice. Hmm… when standing my ground? Yeah, so I guess that means when I am literally standing somewhere not doing anything I get a boost to my strength, dexterity and willpower which is uh… useful? Maybe? I’m going to be honest, guy, I haven’t really been feeling much from my stats one way or the other. Between four dexterity and five I gotta say that I feel pretty much the same. Maybe there’s something I’m missing here. But if my stats don’t carry over to new lives like I think they don’t, then having an, air-quotes, ‘permanent’ increase to three of them could be a nice little handicap to even things out for me.
My finger slides back and forth between the two windows. I suppose I’ll… hmm. If only some of the spider-kin were still alive, I could use wind-magic to throw one up there and have it climb back down with a web haha. Hah…
I stop, gathering my thoughts. My horrifying, but very pragmatic, thoughts. I realize that my brilliance sometimes even scares me. I know how I’m going to get up there.
As for my abilities, I uh, I guess I’ll just take this one. The leap. It won’t help me now, but I can see it being useful in the future. As I press my finger against the screen it releases a blip and a series of sparkles before fading away into nothingness. Cool. So…? I look around wondering how to activate it now, just to test it out. But I can’t think of anything on the spot. Bending my knees I just jump up into the air in the good old fashioned way, but it’s about as exciting as you imagine it to be. I rise up like the old man I am and sink back down like the old man I am, a hand instinctively shooting out to reach my back and hold it stable as if expecting a sharp pain to come that never does.
Wait, aren’t abilities like spells? I scratch my head again, wondering when the last time I had a non-magical ability was. Yes, they are, I say to myself. Oh, thanks me. You’re welcome I answer with a firm politeness, I was raised right, after all. I shake out my body to get the tension out of my muscles. Oh, right. Haha. Skeleton. Thinking about it, but not really, like I would with a spell I am about to cast I can feel my body sinking lower as I bend into my knees once more and then the vivid colors of the world surrounding me flash by in a blur as I shoot upward in an instant. For about three’ish meters and then I slow down and hang in the air for just a blip of time, so… eh. I land back on the ground, my bones rattling from the impact. I am… whelmed. Not over. Not under. Just whelmed. Cool.
Having checked off that box I renew the levitation spell and feel my boots hang down low again as I rise up into the air once more. Man, Nichodemus has a lot of mana, well, not that it matters me being an undead and all. But still. A second later I zoom back off through the forest, going back the way I came; ducking and weaving my way through the wood I am becoming more and more familiar with by the minute. Soaring by and beneath the branch I almost smashed into last time, I adjust my angle to go a little more sideways and not a minute later find myself breaching the clearing, staring out at the entrance to the sub-boss arena.
Okay. Deep breaths. I go through the motions of breathing even though I can’t, in a ritual to calm my nerves; despite them being reasonably calm all things considered. It just seems appropriate, you know?
I look to the ramparts surrounding the sub-boss arena, large stone walls manned with a few chosen undead ignored by the hero-party. Zipping through the rubble on my gust of air I can already hear the rain-like sound grow louder as I approach. Instead however I opt to turn left and rise up a simple flight of stairs that goes up to the tops of the wall on the left side. The wall facing the eternal sun.
Once I reach the top I look. The wall is high, but not high enough that my three and some meters high jump would help from here either. Not even close. What will help though… just maybe…
What do you think? I ask and wait. No response.
Hey? I ask again.
Something angry, annoyed responds within me telling me some very rude things that certainly don’t answer my question in any objective fashion. Nichodemus is such a grump. Oh well, who needs him? I shake my head and hold both of my arms forward getting ready to cast my spell. Just as I begin the process I hear a thunk and rattle from my side and look over at the pile of bones falling apart. At the skeleton next to me crumbling down lifelessly to the ground. His skull bouncing and rolling off the wall down below into the mass of spiders. Several more crawling out of his breaking body. Gross.
I guess they killed the Bone-Lord just a little bit ago. Well, you know, ‘killed’. I look back to the task at hand. That means they’ve just about cleared the final-labyrinth, they’re just about to face the dungeon-master. I don’t have much time. Good thing I’m not connected to any-sub boss after all, this time, apparently.
Clenching my fists I swivel around on my cushion of air and overlook the sub-boss arena behind me. The entire floor seemingly shifting and moving, rippling like brown water as the hundred-thousand spiders crawl around in a massive, chaotic swarm. More, I need more mana than this. Slicing winds begin to surge around my bones. My robe begins flapping and billowing like a the sail of a ship chasing a gale, the winds surging around me in a frightening tempest. My sense of hearing is overpowered by the roar of the wind as if I was standing before the mouth of a giant. My sight becomes blurry, mixtures of green and brown all come together with strands of shining white. Leaves, silk, spiders all fly around me in a spiral. In a tornado. More.
I channel more mana forward, pressing it now away from my body, away from me towards the center of the arena. Channeling the powerful wind magic into the middle where the sub-boss once stood. Sending a raging, spiral twister into the middle of the arena. Spiders fly together, thousands die, thousands more scamper away in all directions but are caught in the outward winding tendrils of wind that drag them back like escapees to an execution. Strands of silk and debris fly through the air, glistening in the light of the waning day as if droplets of sparkling water. Apparently they don't give experience points, what a shame. Would have been too easy I suppose.
And with that. With a simple twist, with a keen and accurate throw of magical energies that follow the point of my bony finger out towards the sun; one-hundred thousand spiders fly towards it. Sailing on the wind, sailing on my magic. Hurtling.
This is stupid.
Shut up! You're stupid, guy!
A great brown swarm rushes past the sides of my head, obscuring my vision and my hearing once more as it passes me. As it flies towards the light of the sun, towards the burning inferno I let out a second spell. A fire-barrier, I learned this one from the goblin-casters, remember? A red wall explodes in front of the stream of wind giving it the impression of a blazing meteor arcing through the sky, shining bright over the lush forest as if it were about to crash down unto it.
One-hundred thousand, fire-proof, flying spiders. My genius knows no bounds. Are you watching me, dungeon-master? I can feel Nichodemus rolling his metaphorical eyes. That’s okay. I don’t need his approval, all I need is my own. Speaking of eyes… I turn around, feeling them. Feeling her. The thief-girl has just emerged from the staircase, huffing and panting and generally being just a bit sweaty looking honestly. Hey girl! I spare her a snarky wave and then zoom off back down the wall, down towards the forest before she has a chance to share her expression with me. To catch up to me. To take a shot at me or to stab me or to do quite frankly whatever it is she feels like doing to me today. Well, I’m not in the mood; I have a headache, thief-girl.
I go through the forest much quicker now, having become very familiar with the path and I return to my clearing just below the sun and I wait; staring up to the sky with curious eyes. Waiting for the glimmer. It should come any minute now.
Any minute now. My levitation wears off.
I wait. The fire-barrier should be waning off soon and they should notice it’s getting a little too toasty. They should start trying to get away, to go where it’s cooler. My plan hinges on that being down here and not up in the crevices above, but I’m optimistic.
You might be wondering, guy, is this really your plan? That’s stupid. This is stupid. You’re stupid. That will never work. Well, you know what, guy? It’s exactly that attitude that’s holding you back. That kind of thinking is why Nichodemus is dead and I’m not. I feel something inside of me being annoyed at that. You need to believe more. Sometimes you have to make your own dungeon-magic, you know? I’m a skeleton, no meat, no water. Hard to say what I weigh exactly, but not a lot. And you know? I feel like a hundred-thousand spiders is a lot of spiders; just, you know, objectively speaking. It could work. No, it will work. I wait, listening.
I don’t know how much time passes. A minute. Five. Six. I tap my foot impatiently, waiting for the lurch to signal that my time is up. That the hero has killed the dungeon-master. Waiting for the thief-girl to find me. Thankfully the forest is big, obscuring, and I don’t think the thief-girl can find me here so easily thanks to that. Come on. Come on…
Something ‘thunks’ against my head and flops down to the ground. I look at it, a spider. Ew. Then another. And another. It’s almost raining dead spiders as they seem to tumble down. Some of them dead, others getting back up on their feet and crawling away into the forest. I look up, one falls in my hollow eye and, I’m not gonna lie, I scream a little, fidgeting and shaking to get it out. Welp, if she didn’t know where I was before, she sure does now. The sun begins to die out, signaling the coming end of the day once more.
As the light shifts, as the fire grows just a little dimmer, I see the glint. The reflection shining through the sky. The thousands and thousands of spider’s webs coming together from the chains holding the sun up. From the thousands of once-fireproof spiders dangling down in mid-air, trying to return to the forest. Some fall and land around me, others stay up and keep spinning more string, more net to come down lower and lower. All of them falling together from the sky; the gray mass above shifting as if the dungeon ceiling was collapsing.
I wait a minute longer, watching every angle over my shoulder in fidgety anticipation. Assuming every sensation in my being is the herald of the fading. They are close now, I look around. I need to speed this up. The trees! I go to a tall tree on my side and use my new ability to leap up and grab hold of the lowest branch. Guess it was useful after all. I just barely make it, but I hold on and using my wobbly frame, pull myself up to do it again. Maybe that one point in dexterity was a good investment after all? This process repeats itself, me flying up the ever shortening limbs of the tree until I reach the top. Until my head pops through and I look over the surface of the green water. Of the top of the forest, the crowns of the trees off of which cascades the dull, warm light of the setting sun.
Already now, I can touch the first spiders. Not that I want to, mind you. But I could. I opt instead to raise a finger in the air and send out a gentle stream of wind, a pinpoint stream that flies straight and true and begin waving my arm in a spiral motion. Around and around and around I send the pole of wind magic and I see the spiders in the air twist and turn and spin around and around with it. Their many strings and nets inter-colliding, their many bodies and legs inter-colliding sending them tumbling down into the forest. But I can see it working. I renew the fire-barrier up above so that the net doesn’t burn away and see a red pulse come from the orb above.
More and more, faster and faster I spin the wind, winding the threads together into a singular, white, silk rope that hangs from the chain above. Hmm, maybe there are one or two twitching spiders caught in the mix, but I try not to think about it. I stop my magic and look at the results of my madness. It sure looks like a rope. I guess. Hmm. Well. Here goes.
Reaching out I grab hold of the thing in mid-air and expect to fall down like so many spiders before me. I can already feel the drop in my gut even though I haven’t fallen just yet. Even though I don’t technically have a gut. I hang there, holding onto the rope. It’s a little sticky and a little gross honestly. But it’s holding. It’s holding. I told you it would work!
I climb, reaching up one arm after the other and shimmy my way up the very sticky rope; doing my best to ignore the odd crunch now and then. I am about half-way up and I look around the world. I’m pretty high up, guy. Good thing I’m not afraid of heights I think as I look out over the expansive forest beneath me, gazing at the many trees swaying in the wind like me, at the rippling water of the ponds, at the glistening silver arrow flying my way.
I pull my head back just in time to hear it whistle past me. Shit. I climb faster now. Thankfully skeletons are strong as heck, even old Nichy here. Arrows dart past me, some missing on their own, others pushed away by the barrier of wind-magic I just realized I could set up. I spend a minute to turn my back end to the thief-girl and give it a good whack for emphasis and maybe a little showmanship. Symbolism is important in the dungeon, guy. Already I can hear the raging energy of the sun above me, hear the heavy chain swaying in the wind. I can see the top of the rope where one-hundred thousand silk threads came together as one, disgusting, gnarled jumble filled with spiders. Ugh. I crawl through them and they crawl through me.
Breathe. Breathe. They’re just spiders. They’re just-
An arrow pierces my robe, sticking in my ribs. My body lurches and I barely catch myself on the rope again. With one hand I pull out the arrow and look at the spider stuck on the end, still squirming, before throwing it down. Climbing up again I grab onto the chain, stepping carefully onto the scorched black metal. Looking down I can see my own bones turning black from the heat. Hmm. That’s probably bad.
Quickly, well as quickly as I can, I shuffle over the massive chain and along it as it steadily climbs upward higher and higher. Another arrow thwacks into my bones, past my body and into my left arm which smashes at the elbow, half of it flying away and falling down below. I think I needed that? I could use more magic now, but I feel my best option is to just leg it. Time is running short.
The chain sways left and right and arrows fly past me one after the other with frightening speed. I guess at this distance even she has her problems, plus the chain is also protecting me a lot. Also I think she’s just not a fantastic shot either way? Maybe? I mean, she’s good but… you know. Not hero-level good.
As I rise up the chain I see the opening before me and I hope I picked the right chain to climb up honestly. Because there are several. But this one… this one just felt right, you know? Also it was the closest, so that was a factor too. Nichodemus shakes his head. Just up ahead, in the darkness where the chain meets rock I see something on the side and rush towards it as fast as I can up the steep incline here. I think she’s out of arrows now actually, I haven't had one come my way in a hot minute.
Sure enough, there it is. A single staircase on the left side of the stone hewn tunnel that the massive chain bores into. I hear a whistle.
My body lurches forward, my hand outstretched falls off of my frame and smacks against the lowest step of the secret stairs of floor ninety-four. My form crumbles into a heap.
As my skull falls down, bouncing off of the chain and rolling downward along it my vision becomes a big, blurry mess and as I fall through some gap, I see her; just for a second. One leg wrapped in the spider’s rope midway, her bow arm out-stretched, her quiver emptied with her last arrow having found me true. Her hood down and her long hair blowing in the wind, rather dramatically actually. Only now do I notice that it has the same color as the spider’s thread. Her expression is the same as always. Morbid. Angry. Upset. I wish she’d stop looking at me like that.
You dummy, you have a lot to learn.