Having gained some distance from the group I round the final corner and stare out into the boss arena before me. Stare at the back of the great-mimic sitting square in the middle of the room. With a sigh, I lean against the wall next to me and look at the giant treasure chest sitting in the middle of the room and wonder, why? Why is the grand-treasury sub-boss a giant mimic? What’s the point? What deranged god came up with something so useless? What am I doing here? At this point I’ve gotten far enough away from the others so that I can’t hear their wailing anymore. I hate death. You’d think I’d be used to death, to dying and killing and all of that by now.
But I’m not. I don’t want to be, I think I don’t want to be at least.
Idly I plant my boot onto a coin and kick out forwards, sliding it straight through the room. The single, flat golden circle jangles and rings out as it skitters and bounces forward over the rough stone floors until it runs out of energy, coming to a slow halt just as it touches the edge of the great-mimic with a dull ‘dink’ and falls over down to its side to rest forevermore. Slowly, curiously the lid of the giant chest begins to open with a great, creaking ache and two large, curious stalked eyes peer out of the darkness harbored beneath and look my way.
Not really sure what I’m doing anymore, I raise a single hand to awkwardly wave again like before. An awkward greeting and apology mixed into a single energy-less gesture. Silently I wonder what it’s like to be him. Must be lonely, nowhere to go. Nobody to talk to. Poor guy can’t even fit out of this room if he wanted to. He’s just too big to fit through any of the arched doorways. Then again, I can fit through all of them and I suppose I don’t feel any better because of it. We stare at each other for a moment, neither of us really understanding what the other is thinking. Or maybe that’s just what I’m imagining.
A moment later he looks away and sinks back into his chest. His movements slow and heavy. A creature of his size can’t move with much speed to begin with. The massive lid slams shut and the room is quiet for a moment, leaving me alone with my thoughts, which I am trying to tap-dance around right now honestly. Just as I resign to settle into my thinking there is a loud, scraping screech and I jump up in, well, maybe a little bit of panic. It was really loud, okay?
I look ahead and see the great-mimic’s box shifting, turning around in an arc as it slams itself against the inside of the container to rotate around. To move. Something I have never seen it do before. Each slam of its body sends a loud scraping sound out as the several ton construction of wood and metal scrapes over the stone floors, swallowing the coin from before beneath its weight and scratching deep grooves into them with its bound metal corners. What’s he doing?
For a second I think I triggered his boss fight by kicking the coin at him, but then I realize that probably isn’t the case. This isn’t his usual boss pattern. Instead the box keeps shifting and turning until he eventually faces the opposite direction, towards the back wall of the room. Scratching my head at his actions I stand and wait and watch. Watch as he now slams sidewards into his box, sending it moving towards me with the great handle facing me. The large metal grip on the side clunking as it rises up a solid few feet with every nudge, only to slam back down again like the fist of a forge god. Loud, thunderous the noise echoes around the arena and down the halls.
As I watch the giant creature come closer I take a moment to peek around him, to see if the secret staircase is down below where he usually stands. It’s not. So does that mean it’s literally inside of him? Good to know I suppose. Makes sense. Well no, it doesn’t. But you know? What adventurer would willingly climb inside of a giant mimic given the opportunity? I suppose there’s some kind of… spatial magic at play here? I suppose sub-bosses are in a sense literally a part of the dungeon. More-so than any of us trash-mobs. A lot of them are rigid in their ways, set pieces if you will. Another scrape and lurch as the creature is just before me now. I wonder if I should move, if he’s going to squish me if I don’t. Eh. Whatever. I stay where I am and lean back against the wall, vaguely indifferent.
He stops. The lid opens up again and his massive eye-stalks rise up out of the chest once more, lowering themselves out down towards me. Coming down to my level, one of the long eye-stalks is on my left side, close to me. The single eye which is larger than my entire body slowly moves closer and closer to me. Close enough that I can see every detail, every red vein and reflecting glistening sparkle from the glimmer of the golden hoard surrounding us. Close enough to gently push me, to nudge me to the right. Uh, rude?
Despite my protests the mimic pushes me again with his eye towards the right and I go along with it. There’s not much I can do to fight the massive weight of the wet, squishy eye pressing into me truth be told. Also it’s kind of gross and I don’t want it to touch me? So there’s that too. The knee high pile of gold next to me rings out as I climb up onto it and then the eye finally pulls back, having accomplished its goal; a strand of wet goo hanging off loosely from my robe, connecting me to it. Ugh.
I look up to the creature somewhat perplexed and then I look down to my feet and see and I see it.
The purple fabric just beneath me. Bending down I grab it between my fingers and pick it up, lifting the purple cape high into the air. Relatively speaking of course. I remember this. I had this on when I was a minotaur. When I fought the hero. Oh man, that was a good fight. I really had fun that time. Well, no. It was also kind of a bad time? A lot of people died. A lot of my trash-mob friends. It was real messy. Real bad.
Looking at the cloth, holding it, feeling it, I remember the things I felt then. The rage. The indignity. The upset. The resolve I had established that I have already seem to have forgotten like so many things that sink away into my foggy mind. All of it comes back to me and my old, weary fingers clench down tighter. My lips purse in a tight expression I can’t describe. It’s an expression that shows that I realize now, that I remember now. Why we do this. Why I do this. Why we die and why I need to die. It’s the only way. No, it’s the best way. Every drop of blood is spilled in the name of a further new inch to walk. A new floor to explore. A new chance at leaving this hellhole. Not just for me, but for all of them. So that’s why. That’s why I do it. Right? Yeah. Yeah.
If we die now, we’re not wasting our lives. Hell, we’re not even really losing them to begin with. If any of my students die, they’ll be back next time and better than ever because they wont have had me as a mentor. If I die, well, you know. That’s just my normal work day. So what am I so worried about? So upset about? Sure, a lot of that angst is just this body’s emotions mixing with mine. But it’s not real. None of it is real. There’s always next time. There’s always-
My menu pops up and I see a familiar sight. The hero is here.
Looking up to the great-mimic I nod letting him know I understand. I get it again. I think he sees that in my expression now and lifts his eyes back away and back into the box. Slowly the giant behemoth shifts its way back into position, his pep-talk having been a raging success. Thanks great-mimic. You’re alright.
I know what I need to do now. Swiping away my menu I take a step and then look at the group of goblins coming up from the side, down from the spiral corridor. Calling me, running together as they look for me. Worried expressions on their faces because I left them alone. Bless their dark little hearts. As they come up to me I hear several shouts. A pair of arms wrap themselves around my old neck as I am embraced. It is an odd sensation. I don’t know if I like it. I’m tending to the negative. I pat Nix’dem on the back once or twice awkwardly, wondering if I have ever seen a goblin hug before?
“We were worried!”
“Thought you got eaten!”
I push them away to let me breathe and pry Nix’dem off of me. I hand her the cape.
“Cut this in half, it’s too long” I tell her. She looks at me curiously but does so without question. Good kid.
“Gil’zal, intruders here. Hero here. Prepare line by mimic-king! Wide! There fire magic against us!”
They all murmur and look shocked at the command and the news.
“Now” I reaffirm my words.
Hesitant but loyal, they all run to do as they’re told. I grab one by the shoulder stopping him mid-stride. “Not you.”
Phil looks back to me. I smile a crooked toothed smile to the oddball. “I have special job for you. Come.”
I run as fast as I can in my old body and he follows me as we climb up the giant mound of gold in the back of the room. As we begin digging together down deep into the coins for the thing. For the purple I know is there.