Chapter 75
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What odd creatures fire-elementals are I think looking at the curious little flame that is subduing itself down to only a small glimmer, in order to burn less of her sustenance away. Magical creatures are odd to me friend, I mean I was just a ghost and all but, you know? There’s nothing there. It’s just fire. So where does the thinking happen? The emotions? The talking? That’s dungeon magic in action right there. Living, breathing dungeon magic in the shape of fire.

 

  As the creature retreats I look into the hole it has singed in the doorway and set to work rolling the log through the ashen gap that is still smoldering on the edges. It’s a little awkward and the log gets caught on the side, but the corner quickly chars and falls off into a heap of hot ash. There is a smell of burning in the air which, this time, I don’t find entirely unpleasant actually. There is a kindness to the smell of burning wood, something wholesome like the taste of the warm bread. As we roll out into the space behind the door I cautiously look around, half expecting to see the hero-party there but they are long gone.

 

  I wonder, where is this place? Should I open my map? Or will the elemental see that as a threat? After all, all of her friends are dead because of the hero-party, sort of. So maybe she won’t be keen on seeing me running around with a menu, last thing I want is to be set on fire, friend. Being set on fire hurts a lot. At first at least. Then once the nerves are gone it stops hurting and you kind of just wait to die because you can’t breathe anymore. So it’s not as bad as you think it is, but it’s also still pretty bad and I would prefer to avoid it. Nah, I’ll look later if I get a chance to open it without her seeing. Better safe than sorry, right?

 

  Instead I look around the hallway, wondering where exactly in the dungeon I have landed. The wooden floors stop at the room we just left and turn into a smoothly laid white brick surface here which is equally as bright and opulent. The walls, made out of giant blocks of stone each the length and width of the hero seem to create an impenetrable barrier between here and whatever lies beyond them. Every so often adorning the wall is a familiar color; long fabric banners hang from top to bottom each the same midnight purple as all the rest. Each adorned with the iconography of the hero’s sun. But one thing is for sure, this is different from the dungeon I am used to. This is… I want to say human?

 

  Like if the human’s had a goblin outpost, a human outpost if you will, this is what I think it would look like. I look around, deciding if we should go left or right. The elemental says something and I look at her. She points to the left, a single fiery finger shining the way. I nod to her and set to work, assuming she knows where we are going. Though I don’t really have any idea as to what that could be. An exit? Or are we going deeper? Or are we just going somewhere she can keep living? No idea, guy. I just work here.

 

  There is no sound as we press onward apart from the wood scraping over the floors leaving a trail of ash behind us. More than once we walk past heavy wooden doors lining the hallway on both sides. Some of them are open, giving way to the sight of the death inside of them. Others were shattered and busted, broken apart by some great force; presumably the wizard-girl. But no matter where we go, one thing is constant. The death. Every room has a body, every exit out of the hallway has a stream of blood from a slit throat, from a mangled corpse. There are no signs of life in this place except for a single rat rolling an old, dusty hunk of wood down a corridor.

 

  At first I noticed her expressions carried the same grief as they did back in the room, each time she saw one of the dead; seemingly having known most if not all of them. But eventually it seems to be too much for her and she draws back into the log entirely, opting apparently to close her eyes and entrust the rest to me rather than have to see the desecration that surrounds us. Eh, I’ve seen worse honestly. First timer I guess.

 

  I wonder. Did the hero-party do this? I mean, I guess they did but why? Why would the hero fight people in a stronghold filled with hero sigils? Why would humans fight other humans? Why would so many of them opt to end themselves before even having a chance to fight back? It doesn’t add up and the deeper we go, the more morbid my questions become. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere friend, but I don’t really have the time to find it just now.

 

  I wonder how the queen would feel about this place? Wasn’t the hero-party looking for something purple-purple? Were they looking for this place? These people? But that wouldn’t make sense, the rat-queen’s floor is below this one so… that means they came through here to get to the one below, right? Then again, I wonder.

 

  I’ve been wondering this for a while, friend, so bear with me here, okay? But don’t you think the dungeon is a little… screwy? Things are weird, you know? I mean, apart from all of uh, well, everything involving me. No, I mean the rest of it. I can’t help but feel like… I dunno. Like something is wrong, that something is a little… mixed up? The floors. Thematically, sensically. If we’re on the lowest part of the dungeon, why are we the weakest kinds of trash-mobs? Goblins. Skeletons. Slimes. Those are day one cannon-fodder types. Why is it that we’re at the bottom? As a professional on the subject-matter, I would suggest that dungeon’s are supposed to have the stronger creatures deeper down and the weaker ones up-top. But here it’s… well, it’s backwards.

 

Like someone took the entire dungeon, flipped it over and shook it around, you know?

 

Then again, maybe I’m just thinking too much about it. After all, what do I know what the dark-lord or the dungeon-master are thinking. Maybe it’s not my place to question it, maybe I should just keep pushing this log.

 

  I wonder if it’s much further to where we are going I think to myself as we roll around a corpse in the middle of the hallway. Eventually my traveling companion says something and I look to her to see what she wants. Waving me to the left she points to a banner with her other hand. Looks like all the rest to me? With a flick of her hand she sets it alight and the tapestry burns away in an instant, revealing a single door hidden behind it. One that is still shut. Looking at it I figure it looks like any other door in this place, apart from that, but sure, you’re the boss. I roll her over to it, pressing a hand against it and she begins to singe a fresh hole in this one.

 

  As she does so I look around, I realize we’ve been traveling for a while. This floor must be huge, whatever it is. I wonder what the sub-boss here is? Then again, I suppose they’re already dead if the rest of the place is anything to judge by. The elemental says something to me, and retreats back into the smoldering log which thankfully, hasn’t gotten quite so hot yet on this part. Pushing her inside, I look around at this new room, not quite sure what to expect.

 

  The room is… uh, big. It’s not a room actually, it’s more of a hall. A wide stone hallway leads straight ahead at an ever so slight upward angle. All along the way are grand statues on both sides of the aisle. Surprisingly of mixed race and not just humans this time, elves and a few I don’t recognize on the get-go. All holding a different mixture of weapons and poses all-

 

I squint and roll the log further forward.

 

Hey, I know that guy I think to myself as I look at the statue of the human man before me. The statue of the lancer. Huh. Neat. Demon-miasma was a sharper dresser than I had imagined. Real stone jawline to.

 

  Is this a hero party? Or are these all statues of heroes? I look to the fire elemental who points up the long, upwards angled hallway. I stare back to her questioningly, not to be judgmental, but she’s a bit too heavy for me to carry up at an angle you know? Seeing my perplexion in my tiny rat face she just shrugs and retreats back into the log.

 

I sigh and set to work wondering why I do these things.


*~+---SPECIAL THANKS---+~*

Henry Morgan,  Shadowsmage, The Grey Mage, Spencer Seidel

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