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Introduction:

The dungeon crab proves to be more than the group bargained for.
The Gauntlet

Once they had finished eating, they packed up their things and entered the shell, with Noah taking the lead and holding a torch. Because of the shell’s twist, they had to descend a spiral passage, like a staircase but without actual stairs. The walls, floor, and ceiling of the passage were perfectly smooth, but there were no straight lines of any kind. It was like wandering through a narrow canyon carved by flashfloods. Most of the ground was covered in dirt and broken stone, perhaps seeping in from the opening of the shell. Luckily this meant that Beth would have something to work with to use her spells.

The crab had been venting its shell for more than a week, but the air still had a staleness to it. It smelled earthy, like a mineshaft or a quarry, but he could also smell the biological signature of the parasites. The air seemed fine to breathe and the torch didn’t appear to have any issues burning. Was all that oxygen from the outside? How long could the oxygen last if the crab went back below the surface? How long did the dungeon crab live underground before surfacing? Either the crab and its parasites could function in an oxygen-poor environment, or something within the crab could produce a human-friendly atmosphere.

They had descended fifty feet when the first fork appeared, another tunnel branching off from the staircase.

“We’re going to keep going down, right?” Oath asked.

“Yeah, whatever passage leads us down, we’ll take it.”

One of the bipedal parasites burst from the branching tunnel, aiming for Noah. He stepped to the side to dodge, drew his short sword, and stabbed the beast through the spine when it landed.

The deeper they delved, the more branching tunnels they came across, but they continued their descent, until reaching a large chamber at the bottom of the staircase, with five tunnels spread out. The staircase had been just wide enough for two people to walk shoulder-to-shoulder, but these tunnels were like subway lines. There were signs of adventurers coming through here, marking the tunnels to try and keep track of which paths they had taken. There were also some blood splatters, torn clothes, and a broken sword.

“What’s that, hanging from the ceiling?” Oath asked.

Above their heads, gooey threads dangled like icicles, and at the base of each, a small ball of light.

“Cave worms. Their bodies are bioluminescent, attracting prey, which get caught in their threads like spider webs. This is a good thing. We won’t need this.” Noah extinguished the torch and stored it in his ring. “Ok, let’s split up. We can cover more ground that way.”

“Wait, WHAT?!” everyone exclaimed.

It was the hardest Noah laughed since coming to this world. “Relax, I’m just kidding. Can you imagine? Let’s take this path over here. It looks like it continues to slope.”

They took the right-most path, further descending into the dungeon crab, and soon stopped at the entrance of a branch chamber, hearing movement within. They stayed against the wall so as to avoid drawing the attention of whatever was inside. Noah signaled the others with his hand and cast his invisibility, then stepped into the doorway. The sight before him was a grotesque, a pile of maggots, each the size of a football, feasting upon the remains of some slain adventures. Their fat bodies quivered as they peeled flesh from bone. The walls were honeycombed to house the creatures between meals, and three adults were standing guard.

The guards were bugs of some kind, consisting of four legs surrounding a head and torso that were mixed together with wings between the legs. The legs were armor-plated and sharp, and their downward-pointing face had teeth like an angler fish. They looked almost like winged bar stools. Noah drew his sword and killed one of the beasts without it ever realizing it was there. Seeing their comrade spontaneously die, nearly being sliced in half in the process, the other two began to panic and search for the invisible assailant. He killed them almost as easily as he had killed the first.

“Clear,” Noah said as he released his spell.

He reappeared, just as Oath and the others entered the room, immediately broadcasting their revulsion at the remains being fed on. Noah knocked the pile of bodies over, and kicked away the maggots so that he could begin poking around with his sword.

“Don’t loot them!” Oath said in disgust.

“Why? Because we didn’t kill them? We’re adventurers, we thrive on the deaths of others, be they humans or monsters. Meh, nothing great.” He was able to collect a few weapons and arrows, but that was it.

“Hey, something’s coming!” Trevor shouted. They ran out into the hall, hearing the sounds of wingbeats. Further down the tunnel, several more four-legged bugs were flying towards them, having likely detected the deaths of their comrades. “Phalanx Spears!” he then cast.

He blocked the passage with an array of mana blades and Beth began firing arrows, but the armor plating on the monster’s legs proved stronger and they smashed their way through. Oath took down one, but a second tackled him from the side, tearing into him with its teeth and claws. Noah killed it before it could inflict more damage, then fended off the others with well-placed stabs. Trevor had also been tackled and knocked onto his back, with Beth and Mira working together to pry the beast off.

Noah was still on his feet, so the monsters were heading towards him. He put away his longsword and instead switched to his short sword. The first bug that tried to tackle him was met with his shield and then a sudden thrust. He repeated the strategy, breaking the enemies’ inertia by blocking with his shield and then stabbing while they were disoriented.

The battle had ended and healing potions were used where needed. This certainly was an interesting environment for battle. Most of the monsters seen so far had hard outer shells, something Noah and his group had little experience in dealing with. Their group focused on attacking rather than endurance, as they were always fighting beasts that were as vulnerable as themselves. Aside from Noah’s shield, the group didn’t have much in way of defense outside of light armor—and a strong offense, of course.

They continued on deeper, passing by countless branching tunnels and eventually coming to another fork. Once more, their ears stopped them from proceeding, as they heard movement down one of the tunnels, and soon saw it as well. It was a flood of centipedes, just like the one that had tried to kill Oath that morning.

“Holy shit!” Mira shrieked, something very out of character for her.

“Come on, this way!”

Noah ran down one of the passages with the others following, but so too did the centipedes. It seemed they were familiar with the scent of people and now hungered for Noah’s group. He slowed his pace, letting the others get past him, then untied a bag hanging from his belt and scattered its powdery contents across the floor. It was lye, the best he could make within reason. It was much more caustic than what he had made in the forest with Tin, and when the centipedes ran through it, getting it on themselves and breathing it in, they immediately began to writhe and curl in pain. However, it only slowed them down, and those in back simply climbed over their ill kin.

They kept running, though more monsters were bursting out of the tunnels ahead. Noah and Oath took them out to the best of their abilities, trying to at least incapacitate them with one slash. Those not slain retreated immediately as the group passed by, not wanting to become the prey of the centipedes behind them.

“There’s a room ahead!” said Trevor.

“Mira, wait until we reach that room, and if I give a signal, use your Earth Surge spell,” said Noah.

They entered the chamber, though regret filled them immediately. A new, colossal danger awaited them. It was a worm, coiled like a hissing cobra, with a body more than ten feet wide and long as a football field. Its flesh was rough, like living stone, and it was covered in countless small feet. Towering over them in this arena-like chamber, it stared without eyes and roared from a mouth that was simply a pit of teeth.

The sight of the monster shocked everyone into a stunned silence, like Oath when standing before that bear, but not even Noah could chastise them, for he too was momentarily crippled by fear. The fraction of second between two beats of his heart seemed like it would last forever, but that next thump shook him from his stupor, letting him collect his thoughts and began working on a plan.

“Mira, do it now! Beth, shoot some arrows into that thing’s mouth or anything else that looks soft! Oath, you and I will be the decoy. Trevor, you attack with all your magic. We need to just wound it long enough to get away!”

No one else moved, but Noah giving Oath a shove woke them up. Mira turned back to face the oncoming wave of monsters, and counted with a wave of her own. She cast her spell upon the earthen ground, taking control of all of the rock and dirt and unleashing it on the centipedes like a mudslide. While that was going on, Beth was firing arrows at the worm’s mouth, striking its exposed flesh but only doing enough damage to piss it off.

It turned its attention on Oath and Noah, running at it from its left and right side. It lunged at them both, aiming to eat Noah and swat Oath with its tail. Noah made himself invisible and dodged the worm’s mouth when it lost track of him, and Oath blocked the attack with a swing of his sword, breaking into the monster’s skin.

As they had distracted it, Trevor could now unleash his charged magic. Both the spear blade and the axe head of his halberd were glowing with a radiant storm of mana. He charged towards the worm’s coiled body, released a roar of fury, and brought down his blade like a divine smite.

“Voulge Slash!”

It was a combination of his stabbing and cleaving spells, and while the motions were the same as just a normal swing, it inflicted damage differently in the form of a slash. It had less penetrating power than the other two, possibly failing to break the worm’s rocky exterior, but it would do much greater damage to the flesh. His mana, having solidified around the head of his halberd, carved deep into the worm’s flesh, and as Trevor swung his weapon down, he left a deep cut on different segments of is body. Blood poured from the wound and the worm shrieked in agony.

“Let’s go!” Noah shouted.

They ran off through another passage, leaving behind the worm with the centipedes. They didn’t stop running, wanting to get as far away as possible. They kept maneuvering through the dungeon, fighting the monsters leaping out while they searched for a safe spot. It seemed like every time they slowed down or even paused, something would burst out and attempt to take a chunk out of them.

Finally, when they were gasping for air with their throats feeling as dry as sand, the group found a chamber with a small opening and no monsters inside. They set their packs against the entrance, hopefully to help keep the monsters from detecting them. They all slumped down on the floor. Even Noah was feeling sick from the adrenaline.

“Fuck! This place is a death trap!” Trevor exclaimed as he poured a healing potion on a deep puncture wound in his thigh, caused by something resembling a cycloptic tiger catching him with one of its giant fangs.

“No wonder nobility is the prize for conquering one of these things. You deserve to be a damn king if you can survive this place,” Beth panted. Despite fighting from the back, she was covered in monster blood.

“Guys, I gotta tell you, I’m not sure we’re ready for this place. It’s too soon,” said Oath.

“Don’t say that. We’re alive, aren’t we? We managed to get through it and find a place to rest. Not too long ago, we would have died before even reaching the dungeon. We can do this, right, Noah? Noah?” Mira turned to Noah, seeing him staring at his trembling hand, but with an expression that, frankly, didn’t fit the situation.

After dying so many times, death was no longer something Noah feared. It was to be avoided, but with about the same amount of effort used to avoid dying in a video game. He still possessed the survival instinct in some fashion, but he could no longer properly appreciate the greatest risk of death in a given situation. He was no more afraid of guns that he was a coffee table’s sharp corner. But what he felt when he saw the worm was true fear, when he realized that not only was the worm the most likely cause of his death in that room, but that it was a death he wanted to avoid more than any other. That feeling of fear, after so long, it was as though some of his soul’s thirst was clenched.

“Noah?” she asked once more, hearing him chuckle.

He shook himself back from his thoughts. “Sorry, I was just thinking about this place.”

“And?”

“A snail.”

“What?”

“The book at the baron’s home, it had a picture of a dungeon crab. It might have just been a guess at what it looked like, but it was of a giant hermit crab. However, hermit crabs don’t create their own shells. Snails do. Hermit crabs just take them over. So, either we’re actually inside a snail, or if this really is a hermit crab, then that means it probably got this shell from a snail, and if there are these gargantuan crabs and snails living within the earth, what else is down there?”

“And how does that help us?”

“It’ll take your mind of things. We’ll be fine, we can get through this. Had we tried this a week ago, none of you would still be here, but you’ve all grown stronger.”

“So what should we do?” Oath asked.

“Exactly what we’ve been doing. Just watch our step, take it one challenge at a time, and keep our rhythm steady. Besides, I’d say there is plenty of incentive to stick around.”

Everyone glanced around the chamber and gasped when they realized the ground was gleaming like a starry sky. It was hard to tell under the blue light of the glow worms, but it was bits of metal and gems mixed into the dirt.

“Our first score!” Beth exclaimed.

They began collecting the glimmering pieces and cleaning off the unwanted dirt and rock. Most of it was raw and diluted, so excess sediments had to be scraped, hammered, and rubbed off, and even then, there was no telling how much gold or silver was collected until it could all be properly melted down. Despite the find, Noah couldn’t deny his disappointment. When he had heard about these dungeons and the treasure within them, his inner nerd had been imagining something more along the lines of an actual treasure chest. That worm back there could be considered a mini-boss, after all.

With their spirits lifted, they left the safety of the chamber to continue their descent.

“Trevor, you take point,” said Noah.

“What?”

“I mean you’re in front, in the middle space. Oath will now be opposite from me, where you once were. In these narrow tunnels, we don’t need to worry about an enemy circling around to Beth and Mira, so it would be best to put your long reach directly in the front. If we enter a wide-open space, we might switch back.”

Trevor stepped forward and led the group, and not long after they departed, they faced off against a pair of the four-legged monsters like the one that Mira killed outside. Now in the center, Trevor warded them off with his halberd.

“Oath, with me. Trevor, don’t let them stand over us,” said Noah.

He and Oath stepped forward, keeping just out of range of Trevor’s halberd. Oath delivered a mighty cleave. His sword cracked into the monster’s shell and struck its brain, though the wound was shallower than Oath expected. Nearby, Noah was fending off swings and stabs of the beast’s jagged forelimbs, but when an opening came, he hacked one of them off and then thrust his sword into the monster’s face.

“These shells might be worth something.”

Knives in hand, they carved the top shells off, each one the size of a tower shield. They were hard enough to stop Oath’s cleave and rather light, so there was the good chance they’d be worth something to an armor dealer.

They proceeded onwards, fighting their way through wave after wave of the shell’s inhabitants. They survived each encounter, but not without shedding blood. They kept their eyes peeled, not just for monsters, but for glimmers of treasure. They searched every room, finding gold, silver, and gems of all different colors. They also found plenty of signs of human activity, though rarely any bodies, same with the monsters, and the dead ends were a constant annoyance.

“Wait, hold up.”

“What is it?” Trevor asked.

“This section of the hallway, we should avoid it. Look at it.” The next hundred feet of the tunnel had a different consistency than the rest. It was a fleshy, perforated surface, like a dish sponge. “Something like that is probably some kind of trap. We need to backtrack.”

“It looks fine. It probably means we’re getting close to the bottom of the shell.”

“It very well could be, but it’s also too suspicious to risk. We’re turning back.”

But as they turned around, they heard screams and shouts and terror, and from the way they just came, another adventuring party appeared, a group of several adult men with low-quality leather armor.

“It’s coming! It’s fast!” one of them screamed.

“Run! You have to get out of here!” another shouted when he spotted Noah and his group.

Mira stepped forward to try and stop them. “Wait, you can’t go this way!”

She was shoved aside like she had been struck like a charging bull, the man who did it knocking her in the chin with the handle of his axe to get her out of the way.

“Mira!” Beth exclaimed.

She and Oath rushed to her side, while nearby, the screams of fear became screams of pain. The men, having entered the hallway, now found themselves being assailed from all sides by flying stingers. They shot out of the holes in the walls and ceiling like bullets and imbedded themselves in the men. They were barbed, like bee stingers, and Noah could see them pulsing as they injected their venom.

“Get her on her feet. Something is coming.”

Mira was pouring blood from her mouth and seemed delirious. Oath forced her to drink a health potion, but it wouldn’t get her into fighting condition soon enough. The monster the men had feared arrived, some kind of hulking crossbreed between a grizzly bear and a komodo dragon. Its back was covered in thick scales and its underside didn’t seem very weak either. It stood on its hind legs, exposing its malicious claws, and released a roar from between two rows of shark-like teeth.

Beth, standing behind Oath and Trevor, shot it in the stomach with an arrow, though the wound was shallow, and it would take time for the poison to kick in. Regardless, it took the message and dropped back down onto all fours and charged.

“Mountain Splitter!” Trevor cast.

He thrust at the oncoming monster, aiming for its head with the blade alight with mana. The beast managed to avoid a lethal injury, instead staking the blow in the shoulder. Its scales were like thick stones and just as hard, so while Trevor reached the tissue underneath, most of the energy was deflected. It still cut deep and blood poured from the wound, but it should have completely severed the limb.

Getting past the halberd, it slashed Trevor across the chest, sheering through his armor and knocking him against the wall. Noah took out a lye bomb and struck the beast in the face, blinding it and making it stagger back.

“Beth, save Trevor. Oath, get over here!”

Noah didn’t give it any chance to recover and lunged for the monster, slashing and stabbing at any spot that looked soft. He focused on the wounded shoulder, but the beast was guarding it well, and despite being blinded, it was swinging its claws with deadly accuracy, and even Noah ended up with some deep cuts across his thigh. Oath came out from behind Noah and brought down his sword on the monster’s head, doing some slight concussive damage.

“I’ll distract it.” Noah cast his invisibility and charged at the monster while drawing a length of thick chain from within his ring. He wrapped it around the monster’s neck and jumped onto its back. He pulled with his full weight, forcing it to rear back on its hind legs so that Oath could slash it across the stomach and expose its internal organs

“Earth Surge!” Mira cast as he got out of the way.

Since Oath had created a way in, Mira bombarded the monster with a blast of dirt and rock, aiming for the laceration. It fell on its back, too wounded to continue fighting, and Noah finished it off.

“Good. What is everyone’s condition?”

“Unhurt, but tired,” said Oath.

“I’m out of mana and I can barely stand,” Mira whined.

“Trevor looks ok, but I think we should stop for the night. I’m starving,” Beth said.

“Yeah, it’s probably night by now. We’ll call it a day.”

They searched around, finding a room for them to camp out in. They made a door out of monster shells and barricaded it with their bags. There were no glow worms in this room, so Noah lit his torch.

“Let’s eat quick and get some sleep. I’ll take first watch.”

---------------

After a restless night, Noah and the others left their enclosure. “There is something I want to check out,” he said. He led them back to the corridor that had killed the other adventurer group, only to find that the corpses were gone, same with the armored monster that had given them so much trouble before. “Interesting.”

“What? Something just came along and took the bodies. What’s the big deal?” Trevor asked.

“This hallway probably kills whatever enters it with those spikes. Only something heavily armored like that bear-thing could have gotten to them, but there are no drag marks, no footprints. Maybe one of those giant bugs flew in and pulled them out without being detected, but I’d say it’s more likely that they were eaten by something other than just a parasite.”

“You mean the crab?” asked Beth. “How?”

“I’m not sure, but I’d like to figure it when I have the chance. Let’s go.”

They set out, continuing their exploration. The monster onslaught was relentless, a wave emerging every couple of minutes, each one pushing the adventurers beyond their limits, both from the numbers and the strength they carried. Everyone received injuries, even Noah. While his invisibility granted him a margin of damage compared to the others, stealth did little against such vast forces. There was simply not enough room to dodge or retreat. They were running through their reserves of potions faster than Noah had anticipated, but not beyond his planning, and he still had enough to make the full trip.

He assumed they had reached the body of the creature, or at least were no longer in the unoccupied portion. More fleshy corridors were appearing, most of them containing some kind of biological trap like the spikes from before. Wherever this deepest portion of the shell was, it had to be close by. Besides, there was also plenty of incentive to take the risk. While they did a lot of traveling, much of their time was spent gathering treasure. Their packs and pockets were getting heavy with precious gems and ores, and even Noah was dumping stuff out of his ring to make room.

That weight was currently a hindrance, though, as they found themselves running from another wave of centipedes. The consistency of the corridor had also changed, where they were now passing through a chain of 30x30ft rooms, each one with a deep bowl-like floor.

“Whoa! Stop!” Noah shouted.

Everyone halted at the entrance to the next room, blocked behind his arms. The floor of the chamber was waist-deep with dark water, or at least, they hoped it was water. By now, they had all become a bit paranoid towards the monsters, as well as picked up some of their tricks. There could be untold beasts lurking in that water, ready to grab them and drag them under, perhaps injecting them with poison with needle teeth or barbed stingers. But the centipedes were closing in fast, and there wasn’t enough time to backtrack to a branch passage.

Noah summoned some food from his ring and sprinkled it across the surface of the water, and the next few moments passed by with agonizing anticipation, but nothing came up to feed, which was good enough for them. Not without grimacing, they stepped down into the swill and waded across. The next room had a pool of water like the first, and the next after that, and the third, and it was taking their toll. Despite all of the running they had done, there was only so much that stamina could do in this kind of workout. However, as he moved through the fifth, Noah noticed something.

‘Oil.’

It was a layer of crude oil floating on the water’s surface. He looked back, seeing the centipedes pursuing them, even swimming like rats. Noah and the others got out, but he turned back with a flint and knife. This was something he wanted to avoid doing in this oxygen-low environment, especially since he was now soaked in oil, but he struck the flint against his knife and spent off a spray of sparks that set the pool ablaze, filling the chamber with a wall of fire.

He rejoined the others, passing through several more rooms and taking multiple turns, but they finally had to quit and catch their breath and gasped in relief that they were no longer being pursued. Even Noah was in need of rest, so no one said anything and they all just leaned against their knees, sucking in air with their faces over the surface of the water.

Noah stood up straight, and as he breathed in, the ground disappeared from under everyone’s feet. Some kind of organic trap door had opened up beneath them, and the pond of dark water became a roaring whirlpool. Standing in the center of the room, Noah and Beth dropped helplessly, disappearing down a vast throat. Trevor, Oath, and Mira were saved by the skin of their teeth. Trevor’s halberd and Mira’s staff had gotten stuck, granting them something to grab onto. They were hanging over the entrance to the throat like a bottomless well of living, quivering stone.

Sensing the obstruction, the walls began to close in to try and dislodge them. The three youths couldn’t help but shout in terror as they struggled to climb up out of the throat. They were drenched in filth, struggling to hold onto their weapons and get any kind of purchase. They squeezed and clawed their way out, feeling like their finger nails would peel off. Their faces were pressed to the sloped floor, forced to breathe in and taste the swill’s stench. They reached the next room, but despite their exhaustion, they could rest yet. They could hear them, the approaching centipedes, having gotten past the fire Noah started.

They forced themselves onto their feet, barely able to stand, but once more having to run. They were in a dire situation, but Noah and Beth were even worse off. They were forced down a pit of flesh, gasping for air and feeling around for anything they could grab onto to stop themselves. To Noah, it ranked as one of the weirdest moments in his entire multi-life history. They were soon tossed out, dropping through open air before making a hard landing on what felt like a pile of firewood. It was pitch black, no cave worms around, and the moment Beth tried to breathe in, her burning lungs cried out in a new anguish. The air was toxic, she could taste it, and every breath hurt. She coughed and wheezed, her face turning purple.

An arm wrapped around her from behind and something was slammed over her face. Instinct made her throw her elbow back in self-defense, but it failed to land a hit.

“It’s me! Just breathe!” Noah shouted.

It took effort, but she drew in a deep breath, and at last, it was clear. She drank the fresh air in greedily, while the thing over her mouth was tied around her head. It felt like leather, and it smelled like… charcoal? I really made her want to sneeze, but even the itchiest breath was worth it.

“Noah?”

“I’m here, hold on.”

There was a spark in the darkness and a torch was lit, Beth seeing the same device attached to Noah’s face.

“What is this?” she asked.

“A gas mask, something I whipped up. I was worried about the air quality in the dungeon, though I’m not sure how much faith should be put in them. We should get out of here, quick.”

Beth looked down and shrieked. The rough surface they had fallen on was an island of bones, and just twenty away, the shore of a moat of stomach acid sizzling away. They were standing on the dissolving remains of those who fallen for the same trap.

“Oh God, this isn’t happening! This isn’t happening!” Beth cried as she crumbled.

Noah would have chastised her for losing her nerve, but considering the situation, he too was almost ready to snap. “We’re not dead yet. Here, hold this.” He handed her the torch and looked around. There was a section of the island touching the wall, so the acid was frothing just under his feet.

He leaned over towards the wall and slashed at it with all of his strength, but the sword simply slid off, throwing him off his balance and nearly sending him tumbling. He reformed his footing, this time attempting a stab. Once again, his sword, despite striking the flesh head on, simply bounced to the side, and he fumbled. He tried again and again, but his gauge of its resilience was that it was beyond his level of strength. However, he wasn’t out of ideas yet.

Sheathing his sword, returned to the middle of the island, then began scooping up armloads of rot-slickened bones. He piled them against the wall, then removed a tightly-bound canvas package from his ring.

“What is that?” Beth asked.

“Give me the torch.” She handed it to him, and he touched a connected black string to the flames. It came alight, and he forced the package against the wall, pressed with his shield, and backed by the pile of bones. “Ok, back! Back! Back!” He coaxed her as far back as he could within the stomach, then conjured up the monster shells they had collected before. “Duck down behind this and try to cover your ears!”

They got behind the shield-like carapaces, then an explosion blasted off on the other side of the room like it had been struck by lightning. Smoke filled the air, and lethal shrapnel sprayed their defenses. Beth released a scream from the massive shock, but Noah held her still, and though the torch had gone out, there was now a hole in the side of the stomach, from which bioluminescent light was pouring in and stomach acid was pouring out.

They did their best to avoid getting splashed with acid and climbed out into a new chamber. “That explosion will have drawn monsters. We have to go.”

“What about the others?”

“They’re heading for the same place we are. We’ll meet them there eventually. Come on.”

She followed him through the labyrinth, managing to avoid combat and find a room where they could rest. The air was stale and disgusting down in these tunnels, but compared to the fumes of that stomach, Noah and Beth removed their masks and felt nothing but gratitude and relief with each breath.

“I… need to rest…” said Beth.

“Agreed, but I think it would be best if we cleaned off first.”

Beth pointed her finger at him. “Make Water.”

Water began pouring from her fingertip with the volume and intensity of a garden hose. Noah leaned into the spray, scrubbing off the filth and trying to get everything clean. Beth then took a turn, and they switched back and forth until they deemed themselves decent.

“I thought you could only use magic to make yourself invisible. What was that back there?” Beth asked as they both stripped off their soaking clothes.

Noah, standing with his back to her, rung out his shirt. “That was a bomb, made of something called black powder.”

Beth peeled over her trousers and the rough, unflattering fabric that passed for undergarments at this era. “So it was alchemy?”

“Sort of, there wasn’t any magic involved. It’s just a powder that reacts violently to fire.” Noah shed his own pants, still slippery with oil.

“So, that thing you made… Was that something else you just whipped up like those gas masks?”

“Yeah. It’s been a while since I made one, plus I couldn’t really experiment to make sure I got it right without drawing suspicions.”

Beth ignored the shirt she was trying to dry out and turned to Noah. “Just where on Earth do you go to learn how to make stuff like that? You said you couldn’t find information on the dungeon crab, but you knew to make these gas masks.”

“It was a job I took before I came to Clive. I spent a few days working in a mine. Down there, they were using black powder to blast apart rock and they had to use these masks in case they hit a gas pocket.” The answer seemed to placate her and he bowed down. “Can you spray my head again?”

Please comment!
3 comments

moooow2Report

2021-01-19 01:33:03
good story!

itiswotitisReport

2020-07-16 09:49:37
Great chapter can't wait for the next

Cianu reevesReport

2020-07-14 21:51:14
They somehow get better and better. Keep it up

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