Entering the basement, he found it to be surprisingly spacious. With large columns keeping an arch ceiling overhead that led so far up that only darkness showed for a ceiling, alongside some large chandeliers. A large open area up ahead had been cleared, and on either side, there were rows upon rows of weapons and armor. With suits of armor standing guard on both sides. A large iron door stood on the other end.
“Odd? Wasn’t it supposed to be a secret door?” Van thought, looking at the iron door on the other side. “Perhaps just like the floors above, things have changed?”
Taking a few tentative steps, he entered the training area. Looking around, he was certain that there was going to be some catch. The suits of armor looked very suspicious.
But nothing happened. So he asked the ghost what’s next.
“I don’t know darling. I have never been this far before. That bitch normally wouldn’t let me anywhere near her things.” the ghostly lady said.
“That bitch? I thought it was a man?” Van questioned, confused.
“Oh? You mean Rudrick? He is actually a very sweet and kind man, just like the butler, Thomas! Poor Thomas… you gave him quite the beating. He's still out cold…”
Van’s brows furrowed in confusion. “Thomas? Do you mean that wraith I dealt with?”
“Well, Thomas wasn’t always a wraith dear.” The ghostly woman said.
“Is… this Rudrick? In the lantern as well?” Van asked.
“No dear, I think he’s probably with that bitch I was telling you about. Horrible women really. Never cared for tea. You can’t trust a woman who doesn't like tea, you know!” the ghost said.
“... I don’t like tea…”
“That’s why I said a woman dear.”
“Anyway…” Van began, shaking off the weird conversation. “About this Rudrick…” he then began to explain the notes he found in the hidden room, as well as the bones.
“Oh dear… that does sound bad... But then again, with that woman around, I wouldn’t be surprised if his research had been twisted to suit her own needs…” the ghostly woman began.
“It’s more likely that he simply did not know the true nature of those bones. You see, he was trying to figure out a method where you don’t use souls to create undead. Using his knowledge in golemancy, he was trying to figure out a method to create undead without the need for souls and put an end to that horrible practice. But many did not like that and ridiculed him for it. Saying he was an inept necromancer. That’s why he had to do it in secret.”
“But Molly just couldn’t let that happen, she had to control everything! So she had the servants, instead of bringing the bones he wanted, tainted with the souls of tortured innocents! To mess up with his experiments. He thought he was being sly, but he was actually being played. Poor, poor Rudrick…” the ghostly woman finished.
“Molly?” Van asked.
“Rudricks wife. The head of the house. A very powerful and influential person. She hired the best necromancers and mages to help create an artificial focal core. Believing it could extend her life until a more permanent solution came by. Not that she deserved an extended life! The horrible things that women did!” then went on a small rant about that before continuing on.
“There was no love between Rudrick and Molly. Which was why I was sent over to be a concubine, and hopefully conceive a child. I had only lived with them for six months before everything went downhill. A civil war broke out! And Molly forced the mages to ignore all the warnings and activate the artificial focal core as the rebels came to burn the house.”
“At the time, I had no idea what was happening. I only knew a little about the goings-on around the house. So imagine my surprise when the next thing I know, I was a ghost and trapped in some sort of barrier that prevented me from leaving the premises. Wandering around for centuries, me and the others trapped with me, slowly devolved and became feral, which allowed Molly, who was very weak at first, to slowly spread her disgusting influence all over the place.”
“I was lucky, I was still able to keep most of myself. Which was an annoyance to Molly. So she trapped me in a painting. And there I stayed… for who knows how long… what’s worse… I died a virgin…” the ghostly woman finished sadly.
Van could almost feel the tear that probably ran down the ghost's cheek. But there was something about her story that he just couldn’t get. “So the big bad person who we probably will have to face… is named Molly…”
“It… is… A unique name for a noble to say the least… That's probably why she hated commoners with a passion! Her parents were actually very nice people, and she had a very kind and caring older sister. But I have a feeling she fell pretty far from the tree because she had none of her parents' kindness. They were one of the few people who actually had the people's best interest at heart. Which was why when I was offered to become a concubine to the house I agreed. Even Rudrick was originally supposed to marry Mollys older sister. But something happened to her and she disappeared…”
“Rudrick tried to make the best of it though. And agreed to marry Molly instead, thinking she would be like her sister... Poor, poor Rudrick…”
Van thought about everything he heard so far. It seemed that this ‘Molly’ was to blame for everything. She was looking more and more like the villain of this story. But he will hold that thought to himself until he gathers more information. Not that he didn’t believe the ghost, from what he could tell she was telling the truth. But perhaps there were two sides to the coin.
Either way, he spent enough time standing around. Now it was time to figure out how to open that iron door.
Walking up to it. He still gave suspicious glances to the suits of armor on either side of him. But they did not move. Looking at the iron door, there were runes and etchings on it that didn’t make much sense. Except for a large hole that seemed like you could place something in, making him think of a very large key.
“Great, one of those… where the hell am I going to find a key that big?” That's when he wanted to smack himself on the head. If he was a betting man, he would bet everything that one of the swords that the suits of armor were holding, was actually the key.
“Great… just great… and the second I try to test that theory… they are definitely going to attack aren't they…” that’s when realization hit him.
They were not moving. Which meant he had all the time in the world before he could test his theory.
Turning, a small sly smile crept up his face. “Perhaps this would be easier than I first thought?”
An hour later Van was dusting himself off the floor. Looking over his work, he had to agree that it would be a real dick move if all the magic circles he created went unused. But now more than ever, he felt ready for the fight. In fact, he wanted it to happen soon so that he can see the effects of his magical traps in action.
With that in mind he somewhat nervously walked up to one of the suits of armor and made a grab for the sword it was carrying. Ready to jump back and fight at a moment's notice. But nothing happened.
Confused, Van took the sword and walked over to the door to test if his theory would work. With a grunt, he tried to fit the sword into the opening. It only made it halfway in before it got stuck.
Annoyed, but expecting it not to be that easy. He walked back to test another sword. Then another sword, then a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and so on and so forth.
“I don’t understand! There’s no way there’s a key that big! The only thing that could possibly fit is one of the swords the suits of armor are carrying! But none of them fit! I even tried the swords on the weapons racks! Why won’t it let me through!” Van uncharacteristically complained.
“Hmm…” the ghost said from the lantern. “Perhaps you need to activate the training program and defeat the levels?”
“The what now?” Van asked questioningly.
“If I remember correctly, there should be a mechanism that will activate the suits of armor, that is to say, the golems. They were made by Rudrick to help train the soldiers and defend the armory and the vault that lay beyond. It was a gift from him to the family a long time ago.” the ghost said.
Van then started to look around, and in the next few minutes found what he was looking for. He honestly can’t believe he overlooked it, but he supposed that’s what he gets when he is so single-mindedly focused. It was a small pedestal, off to the side of the training ground, with a large orb in the center and dials and buttons.
Playing around with it, he soon figured out how it worked and activated level one of the training program, with it set to continue automatically until the final level of five. Once he did so, a suit of armor suddenly sprang to life with glowing orbs of light for eyes and walked into the center of the training field, waiting for its adversary.
“Well… this would be pretty easy…” Van thought, noticing that it literally placed itself surrounded by all of his magical traps and without a sword that it still thought it was carrying.
Walking onto the training field. Van stood there for a few moments until he was sure the battle technically began and waited for the golem to make the first move. He didn’t have to wait long, as it made a motion to lift a sword that was not there anymore and began to charge him. Walking right into a magical trap that set off the moment it moved into its center. Blowing it up into pieces.
A ding was heard and a moment of silence followed as the training mechanism tried to process what happened. Sensing that the golem was defeated, it now set out two golems onto the field. Both without swords and both walked right into magical traps that blew them up before they could take position without Van even having to move an inch.
The training room dinged again, and Van could literally feel the grinding gears of the training mechanisms' confusion. Or so he liked to think, as it sent three golems now onto the field without their swords. Only for the same thing to happen, again...
“I might run out of magical traps before they run out of golems…” Van thought to himself with some amusement.
A ding was heard and level four began. But this time only one golem was sent out, a dark bluish one that Van had noticed before but figured that it was just there for aesthetics. It too had no sword. But it did do something unexpected. It grabbed a halberd from a nearby rack, and walked to the center of the training field, narrowly avoiding the few magical traps that were left. It turned to face Van and charge. Surprising him by how quick it was compared to the other golems.
Van was taken aback by the quickness of the golem but simply moved to the side a little so that the golem would walk right into one of the magical traps he lay as it followed him. But to his surprise, the golem, while greatly damaged, was still able to hobble after him. So he sent a fireball to finish it off. But wished he hadn't since he wanted to save his mana for later.
Another ding and the fifth level began. Two bluish suits of armor grabbed nearby weapons and took to the center of the training field before charging him. So Van decided to play a game of keep-away, using some of his aura to speed up just enough to stay out of their range as he walked them into his magical traps. He was oddly enough, having some fun.
These golems needed a few more blows, but they were taken care of soon enough. Though one did trip over the corpse of one of its previous comrades and had difficulty getting back up again without an arm or leg. So Van had to waste another fireball to finish it.
“This was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be,” Van said out loud with some amusement.
“Odd… where’s Rudrick’s prized golem?” the ghost asked from within the lantern “he worked very hard on it. He was meaning to update the training levels up to ten, but couldn’t get the permission to do so. So his last golem that he had been working on had to be left in storage.”
“And there's still no key…” Van said, looking around with realization. “Perhaps this prized golem of his might have it? Do you know where they might have stored it?” he asked the ghost.
But before she could answer, a ding was heard. Followed by a second, third, fourth, and fifth. All of a sudden, Van could feel the basement tremble and shake. He almost fell off his feet! Looking around, the only warning he received was “ABOVE YOU!” from the ghost before he, without questioning it, made a massive leap forward using his aura to clear the field.
Turning around, a massive black suit of armor fell from the ceiling. With two legs as big as Van and four arms and three heads. It carried with it two swords, a shield, and a spear. The thing towered over Van, imposing its formidable size over him. A final ding was heard, and things from the ground popped up with a whirl of swords and blades and ever-changing mechanisms that moved about that would get in a challenger's way.
“Okay… this was not what I was expecting…”
Van did not have much more to say, as the golem with surprising quickness charged towards him with its many weapons. Jumping back, Van sent a fireball straight at its face, only for it to move its shield and block the attack.
“Shit. I was hoping that was just there for decoration. Who spends the time to program a golem how to block with a shield! There are too many variables!” Either way, Van was not only trying to keep his distance with the golem, who probably could crush him with a single foot alone. But dodging the many spinning blades and arrow throwing mechanisms that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
His wolves, who had largely been sitting by the sidelines waiting for a chance to be used. Now we're freaking out with confusion as they had no idea how to help or what to do.
“Not that they can do much in this situation… they are not powerful enough to take on the golem, nor help with these traps and mechanisms… unless…” Van quickly ordered his two remaining wolves to do their best and take apart as many traps as they could so as to make space for him and the golem. Which was having a somewhat decent time of making through the traps without much problem.
Thankfully, some of the magical traps he made beforehand were now on the mechanical traps that were now active. So he set those off and watched with joy as some of them blew up. Not so happy though, that that left fewer traps for him to use against the golem.
So far he was having a decent enough time staying just a few steps ahead. But that couldn’t continue forever. Leading the golem in, Van tried to trick it into stepping into one of his magical traps which worked, but not as much as he was hoping for. He did stagger the golem, but only damage it a little, not enough to take care of it for good.
Desperate, Van looked around right and left for anything that could be used to take the golem down, all the while having to dodge arrow fire from the few mechanical traps still left.
“The LIGHTS!” the ghost yelled at Van.
In confusion, he looked every which way until it dawned on him and he looked up at the massive iron chandelier like things that were hanging very low. “What is this? a video game? How is that going to work?” he then barely avoided a sudden spear thrust from the golem that would have ended him if he hadn’t dodged right then.
He had no time to question it, it was literally his only hope. Jumping about, he tried to make it walk into his magical traps once more in the hopes of staggering it, but it had to be also right under the iron chandelier.
So for the next ten minutes of dodging and weaving, Van slowly worked the golem into position and ordered his wolves to help. He tried to see if his sword could do any damage, and it can’t, and even when he finally got a direct hit with a fireball, it did not do as much as he was hoping for. So with a heavy heart, once the last of his magical mines went off, staggering the golem, he ordered one of his wolves to sacrifice itself to hold its legs down, preventing it from moving.
Sending a fireball at the chain holding the chandelier, it crashed down on the golem with a boom, crushing it. Van sighed with relief but was tired once more. He had spent all of his mana and aura once more and even lost another wolf.
More than ever, he wanted to give up and go home.