I run up the same secret staircase as before and I am uncertain as to what I should expect. In a sense I am wary about moving on higher. I am unsure why I am here again, why I haven’t respawned somewhere else. Why I haven’t respawned as something else. I was in that nightmare and I died there, thankfully in probably the nicest way possible, but now I’m here again.
I guess Nichodemus was there because he was one of my lives? Does that mean I was… Nichodemus once? Or was it just because I inhabited his body that one time? He was still very much in there when I arrived. A piece of him at least. It’s neat that he’s still around though, I guess someone as strong as him can just stay there forever. Kind of a boring life, but it beats being dead I guess. Undead casters have unlimited mana after all, so I guess he can just float for as long as he wants to.
Kind of wish he didn’t kill me though? Then again, I feel like he did me a favor. I mean, what was the alternative? Hmm. Note to self, I owe Nichodemus one. I guess it is kind of my fault he’s there? Then again I guess it’s kind of my fault everyone is there. I try not to think about it much. One thing I notice though as I rise higher, is that the air isn’t growing colder now. That that chill isn’t seeping into my bones as I draw closer to the end of the staircase. Already now I see it. See the light of the world above me. Hear the… I listen closely. What is that sound?
I hear a hissing. A grinding and a churning as I go higher and higher. In a way it reminds me of the sewers and the noise there, but… it’s less wet. I feel the air growing surprisingly warmer and warmer as I ascend until it reaches a steamy heat. Before me I see the light of the next floor now. It comes in through a hole above then it vanishes. Then it reappears again. Something large is moving in front of it, obscuring it every few seconds to a perfect rhythm as it sways back and forth. The noise grows louder and I now stand in front of the opening and look outside.
I look out at the place before me. At the great machine-works I see before me. I look out of the staircase for a moment while it is open. The space before me is dark and dank like the dungeon I know and love so dearly. But it’s hot. Damp. Metal gears grind together like the gnashing of teeth, giant constructions that range from floor to ceiling. Some suspended on long rods and levers; their conjointedness giving genesis to some great mechanical work. Some monstrous machine.
The opening closes again and I wait a moment for it to reopen. As it does I quickly leap through, fearing for a moment that I will be crushed in the machinery. My tiny rat body is however in perfect shape apart from my missing ear, as if that nightmare from before had never happened. As if none of it was real. The frost-bite, the horror, the eyes. Like it was somewhere else. Some time else.
I don’t know what that place belonged to, friend. Or why. But it’s not part of the dungeon I call home. It can’t be. Something so horrible. I don’t want any part of it.
A great hiss of steam shoots out, just barely missing me as I fly through the air. I feel the heat of the piping mist on my tail and wince as I land on the flat side of a broad, spinning gear. It’s massive. Easily the length of two or three minotaurs. Looking around at the chamber filled with overpowering noise; I wonder what the purpose of such a room is. Clearly this machinery is powering something?
Then again it might just be like the sewer. Maybe the dungeon-master just thought it was cool. That’s fair. It’s his dungeon so he can do what he wants with it, I guess. Then again, maybe this floor is a bit mixed up too. Don’t tell anyone friend, but one of my theories is that the dungeon got a little mixed up once. Then again, this seems like the kind of floor that belongs near the bottom of a dungeon.
I wonder what kind of trash-mobs are here? Hmm.
I open my map this time, deciding to do so while I still remember. Thankfully this time I don’t see any eyes staring back, much to my relief.
Interesting. A real floor. I didn’t know we had anything like this here. Then again I don’t remember what I had for breakfast, haha.
I think, when was the last time I had breakfast?
Silently I stand there on the slowly spinning wheel, trying to gather my thoughts as the world clanks and groans around me. Hmm. Uh. Hmm. No. No I can’t remember. Ah, oh well. What can ya do? They say breakfast is the meal of champions but thankfully I’m just a normal trash-mob. Haha, see? I made a dungeon-funny there guy, get it? Because champions are… ah never mind. A joke isn't funny when you have to explain it.
I’ll have to be careful here though I think to myself as I look around. Several hallways lead out in different directions from this larger chamber, but everywhere there are clanking machines. Arms and levers and gears moving and churning in all manner of direction. I’m sure anything that gets caught up in them will be crushed fairly indiscriminately. It seems like an unpleasant death honestly, being ground up between some massive gears.
But the thought of death, that up until now has never really bothered me that much… now that thought carries a new weight for me. The beating of my tiny heart now a little more frantic than it would usually be.
Because now I know that if I die then I am sentencing another to a worse fate.
If I don’t do my best, then I’m not going to be protecting my fellow trash-mobs, my friends. I’ll be damning an undeserving soul to the worst place I have ever see-
I throw myself to the side as I hear the shearing whistle shine through the dull grounding of the heavy gears. The arrow just barely misses me, and snaps as it strikes the metal gear. There is a shout. The silver tip rings out like a hallowed bell upon impact as the metal hits metal.
I look over to the thief-girl, standing on another winding gear in the distance, bow in hand and another arrow readied. Two eyes visible beneath her shadowy hood.