As we march up the next set of stairs towards the grand-treasury, which only I know is above us, is I begin to hear the first complaints squawk out from behind me. Apparently walking in soaking wet plate and leather armor is uncomfortable. Who would have thought? I can’t help but a feel just a tiny bit perplexed at their naivety, but then I remember. There is no water where we live apart from a single well. There are no ponds, lakes, rivers, pools. They’ve literally never had the opportunity to get wet before. Such a simple thing, such a rudimentary everyday thing in this life and they’ve never experienced it until now. I suppose that this is the first lesson they are to learn today. The simple fact that being wet is uncomfortable.
I sigh. We’ve already wasted so much time. But what else am I supposed to do? Just let them freeze and rub their skin open raw? Looking around at the sorry bunch barely managing to drag themselves up behind me, I tell them to stop and gather together. Raising my mushroom-wood staff up into the air, I let my mana channel through my body and hands and through it, using it as a conduit. See, most magical casters use their grubby little magical fingers to cast spells and hexes and curses and all manner of literal dungeon magic. I can too. But there is an advantage to using a staff or a wand or a similar implement. It gives you a point to focus on. Instead of the palm of your hand or your fingers for broad attacks like the wizard’s fireball, you have one single spot the mana can channel towards. Now you might be wondering, why not just use a single finger guy? Well, I’ll tell you. Because you’re not gonna be keeping that single finger for long, friend. At least if you aren’t an undead.
I look at the end of my staff where the mana is building up into a small flame which is steadily growing larger by the second. A bright, orange ball of intensely burning fire that singes the ends of the staff as it grows larger and larger, roaring with a loud drone begins to take shape. For some reason I expect to smell something but I can’t quite remember what it is exactly. It’s on the tip of my mental tongue. But I don’t smell anything expect for the normal dank dungeon air and thirteen wet goblins so I shrug and watch as they gather around the flame, holding their hands out to warm themselves on it. As I stand there watching them I wonder, do the goblins usually stop to play in the water when I’m not here? I suppose so? Usually the trash-mob army would be about fifty or so goblins. Now it’s just us. Then again, maybe that’s exactly why they stopped to experience that luxury. There’s certainly a pressure to look and act your part if you’re surrounded by others, especially that many.
So we stand there for a few minutes and wait for them to dry off just a little and warm up just a little; which gives me time to think.
To think about why I’m doing this? Why do I care? I guess I’m just a big old softy at heart. The goblin elder is strict but he’s also just a big old softy like me, so I suppose we’re sort of on an equal wavelength there. But… what exactly is my plan here? To walk up the stairs straight into the hero-party I know is there? To go and get eaten by a dragon? This is stupid. I’m stupid. What am I wasting my time here for? I could be breaking out of this hellscape that is my life in the dungeon. They’re going to die anyways just like I am so I might as w- Suddenly a sneeze breaks the silence and I look as Hil’zal wipes her nose with a pitiful sniffle. Ugh. I sigh and push more mana into the staff, the fire growing larger.
What am I doing here?
I’ve been using their names. I shouldn’t be doing that I think to myself as I look away back up the stairs. They’re just goblins. They’re not important. But there’s just too much dopey emotion in this body. Too much mentor’s love for his students. Too many cheesy memories I don’t want to open up and look into. It reminds me of Nichy’s obsession with the dead hero a little actually. It’s weird though. How I exist in this body, in this life. Next time around this guy will have never existed as far as anyone knows. So that means these royal-guards will have an entirely different mentor? An entirely different life? I shake my head to the darkness. Respawn magic is some powerful stuff. Way out of my league for sure, tell you what. Wish I could have a minute to just sit down and chit-chat with the dark-lord, but I guess that’s not in the realm of possibilities here.
Slowly I let the mana dry out and the fireball floating just above the tip of my staff fades away in turn. The group hustles closer and closer as it shrinks, as they try to absorb the last of the radiating warmth. I feel a little less energetic, a little less crisp in the mind having used up a not insignificant amount of my mana pool for that. I don’t like being caster, guy. Too much brain-work for my tastes. I look up to the young goblins before me as the distraction of the radiating magical fire dies out entirely now.
“You’re royal-guards, get it together and act like it. Come on” I say and return to walk up the staircase. Ridiculous. This has been our what, third break now? Fourth? It’s like I’m herding a group of children. A hand taps my shoulder as we climb the stairs and I turn around and look not stopping my ascent.
Pil’pal stands behind me with his hand extended “Rat?”
I look down at the rat with a broken neck in his extended palm and wave him off with a thanks. Good kid. But I’m not really in the mood for eating rat right now, guy. I’m sure you understand. He shrugs and eats it himself. Ugh. I turn back forward and look ahead, trying to ignore the wet crunching sounds. Instead I opt to listen to their breathless conversations they still try to hold, even while panting and sweating their way up the staircase. About the things they’re going to tell the rest of their wave about when they get back. About the mushrooms they gathered to share with them. About the water they played in. About this exciting adventure they got to go on.
I wish they wouldn’t.
A golden light breaks the darkness not far above us now and I realize we’ve reached the treasury. I wonder, will they be here? The adventurers? We took such a long time to get here.