Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Death.

There are a lot of great things in life, but Death isn’t one of them.

I’d go so far as to say, that if I were to line every experience in life from best to worst, I’d put that fun-sucking bastard right at the very bottom.

Because Death? Well, it’s simply not something I recommend.

Really, I find it difficult to believe we’re all so okay with the process. I mean, it’s just down-right terrible, you know?

… Well no, I guess you don’t.

Relax- that’s not your fault, I just forget myself when I ramble. Of course you don’t know: no living person I’ve ever met has ever really gotten through that mess and come back to tell me about it, and if they said they had? I wouldn’t believe them.

That’s exactly why it’s such an unpleasant experience, why it's so god-damn awful.

Because of that fear...

                                   Horror...

                                                  Dread...

                                                                   Fading off into the black...

 

                                                                                                               Oh, it’s no fun.

 

From birth to the grave, death is all of those above coming at you at once. Each one rolled into the last as seamless as can be until it's just a giant sphere of black. One great pill to swallow down, right at the end without even a hint of choice in the matter. Down come the curtains, and all you really get is the assurance: the guarantees of that bolded ink patiently waiting on the last page, of the last chapter, of the last book.

 

The End.

 

Or… maybe not.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2


 

Lets talk about out-of-body experiences for a minute.

Pretty confident that everyone gets them now and again. I myself have definitely had at least a couple of them, generally under the pressures of stress and lack of sleep. I think the last one was back at university... or maybe when I pulled that double shift?

Exhaustion can do funny things to the mind, it's true, but I'm not really sure that's the same as what's happening now.

Unfortunately, I'm starting to think this is something else.

See there?

Yeah, right below, ten feet down.

There's something on the ground. Laid out like a sack of smashed tomatoes on the concrete.

That's me, I think.

Ah... yeah, that's definitely me.

I think I'd probably recognize that shoddy-looking frame anywhere. No quantity of angle or photo-shop in the world could spin a better picture of it, so I'm more than just sure: That's me sleeping on the blacktop, dying.

Even from all the way up here, it's not pretty.

Ug...

It's really not.

So much left to live for, and yet... there I go.

It's a bummer.

I really wish I could tell you there's a really good reason for it. That this meant something, or that I'll be remembered... but I'd be lying. There's no good reason I can think of.

For dying, I mean.

Not even one.

I guess I could live with that... die with that? Well, I think I'd accept the whole thing a bit easier- that'll do.

I'd accept this if it were an accident.

Really, I think I would.

It's a nice evening, after all. The atmosphere is... actually it's really quite pleasant. This is the kind of weather that only comes a few times a year: the really nice night of "not-to-warm" and "not-to-cold."

Comfortable, and not buggy.

No storms, no sirens.

Decent cloud coverage.

This isn't the type of night you leave your house thinking "I might die" but it might be one of those "I could die happy right now" sort of nights.

Still, I'm not happy. I'm not happy at all.

This wasn't an accident. That's not it.

Ah, so a heart attack? A freak brain aneurysm?

No, I mean- obviously: on account of all the blood. Not either of those.

Besides, goofy looking or not: I'm too young.

I'd probably need another decade before those threats should have the opportunity to set in. So... what happened?

Ah, glad I asked.

That's really the question, now isn't it? Part of the reason I'm not nearly so accepting as you might expect me to be.

See, a guy like me doesn't have any heroic-acts to play through. Dying here isn't the result of some sort of noble deed, saving some child from an inbound vehicle.

I didn't save anyone.

And it's not even like I've even lived a humble life, dedicating my service to others: I absolutely did no such thing.

And, before you even ask: I can guarantee that this is NOT the end of some tragic love story. No such luck.

So... ruling out natural causes or accidents, really we're only left behind one obvious source.

I've clearly been murdered.

Well... almost murdered. I guess it's a give-or-take 10 minutes sort of deal, but I'm really on my way towards getting there. Dead-center in the heartland of suburbia, laid out in an unseemly sort of face-plant sprawl: Victim of a homicide.

What a freaking joke.

Why me?

Seriously, why? I was just out for a walk with the dog. Just a walk, not even that far of a walk. Ordinary, mundane, simplistic and routine. No one warned me escorting a chiuahua could be such a dangerous profession for a guy in the outer 'burbs, and I'm not one for sporting anything fancier than a doggy-bag.

But... I guess that's just it. What can you do sometimes, y'know?

What can I do, about any of this?

Hmm...

Not much I guess.

Ug...

I'd really like to take the moment of lucidity here and claim I fought back using my mastery of kung-fu. That I ducked and weaved past the first of the bullets to bravely apprehend the wrong-doer with a perfect chop to the neck... but I'd just be lying again.

I think it went more like three bangs to the chest and... "thump?"

More of a "splat."

Just dropped on the blacktop with a surprised look, like a pile of wet rags. No strength left in me. Nothing but surpise and pain.

Ah... shit...

Hoo... I'm coming back down. Back towards the ground, towards the pavement...

Hoo... Hooo...

The out of body experience is slipping, it seems. I can taste the blood again...oh, god that's awful.

Ah... that's really unfortunate.

Shit.

Painful... ah, this is really painful. No escaping from it now: fire and burning in my ribs- and for what? What kind of death is this anyways? Didn't even see any of it clearly, and all I can see now is... pavement.

Speculation makes me think... it was a gun... of some kind... probably.

It was loud... and I think... Ah. Even that... stupid dog... ran away.

I'm... slowing down...


 

Everything's slowing... down...

 

down...

 

down...

 

down...

 

down...

 

 

How long... have I been laying here?


 

Seconds... minutes... hours? I can't tell, but I think... someone's here... To help?


 

No... probably not... even... that long...


 

Ah... someone's going through my pockets.


 

Of course...


 

Those seven dollars and a coupon for almond milk.

 

Does this mean I'm worth seven dollars... Or is it better not to ask this sort of question...


 

Ah... can't say anything... voice isn't working. Breathing... is enough work. I just wish... it didn't hurt so much.


 

Lungs are moving... but they're not doing their job. Slipping...


 

It's dark... Darker than the night... I remember walking into. Dark tunnel of nothing... That's what... they always say it's like... right?


 

Guess this... is it...


 

Damn... shame...

 

 

 

I could...

 

 

Have done...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could have done more.

 

Chapter 3

Chapter 3


 

Nothing.

 

Nothing.

 

Nothing.

 

Something.

 

Cold.


 

It's... cold.

More oppressive than anything... Cold, chilly and damp.

My voice won't work. My hands... oh god. Where are my hands? I can't feel my arms, my legs- I can't move them.

I can't even scream.


 

Where am I?


 

Where... am I?

Something is holding me.


 

Pressure.

I feel pressure. I need to get out.

I need to get out.


 

Push?


 

I can push.

It's moving... I think.


 

"Crack"


 

It's moving. If I keep pushing...


 

"Crack-crack"


 

There! There, it's working. Push! Push!


 

"Crack-thump"


 

AH! COLD! COLDER!


 

"Hissssssssss"


 

What was that? Where am I? Why can't I...


 

"Hissssssssss"


 

Wait a second, is that me?


 

"Hissssssssss"


 

Where are my arms? Where are my legs?


 

"Hisssssssssssss"


 

Are these... scales? Is that a tail- do I have a tail? Why the hell do I have a tail-


 

"Hisssssssssssss-"


 

Oh.


 

"Hiss"


 

It's because I'm a snake.

 

Chapter 4

Chapter 4


 

Hisss...

 

Hisssss...

 

Hisssssssss...

In case you're wondering, that's what horrified screaming sounds like in snake language.

It's my screaming, which really just makes things all that much worse.

Hisssssssssssssssssssssssss.

Yes, those are the hisses of a man turned serpent, a soul and mind trapped in a suddenly different reality, and completely unable to cope.

Dignity is forgotten in this place.

In the empty void that it had once taken up, there is nothing but fear and confusion, and... skin.

Shed-skin to be more exact: mountains of it.

They're huge.

Seriously, if the shed-skins that are all over the floor have any meaning, I must be tiny.

Even the smallest of those is twice my size, and I already feel like that's not a very good thing.

Was I the runt of the litter? Do snakes even have litters? I honestly don't know.

If I'm a snake, how the heck can I even ask that question? I don't know the answer to that either.

Hisssssssssss...

That's the sound of released terror and existencial anxiety manifested to language.

It's making me feel a bit better. Stress management, or something close to it to settle into the pressing sensation of reality altered.

This... this is going to take time. This is definitly going to take some time. Why the hell am I a freakin' snake-

HISSSSSSSS-

Okay... alright, I gotta calm down. Deep breathes... don't think about how those feel weird too. Chill, relax, calm... calm...

Calm.

Okay.

It's okay.

Even if I'm a snake, I can probably decide to approach the matter with some semblance of stoicism. Rational thought can defeat almost anything, given enough time... probably.

That might have it's work cut out for it, but I'm willing to give it a chance.

I mean, lets first consider the positives here: It could have been worse.

Reincarnation is real, for one. I mean, that's cool right? Not really dead, even if I'm dead.

And well, seeing as how reincarnation is real I guess I could have been born a bug or a fish or something. Maybe even a tree- what if I had been born a tree? They don't even have brains! Would I even have known I was a tree?

Come to think of it, snake brains aren't very big: How have I been I thinking like a human, while possessing the brain of a snake?

That makes no sense... This makes no sense. This make absolutely no freaking sense-

Hisssssssssssssssssssssssss

Serpent-migrane.

Time to abandon that avenue of thought. I'm a snake with the mind of a dead person. Logic doesn't need to apply completely just yet, context is required.

Where am I?

There's something I should know.

What has happened to bring me here?

Was it just dying? Was there some fine print I missed?

There's another couple.

More pressing, where the heck am I? Right now, where is this, exactly?

Hisssss...

It's a cave.

A dark, cold, moist and unpleasant cave filled with snake-sheddings.

Oh.

Something moved.

Hiss-No. No stop that, instinct says that's a bad idea. The non-human logic isn't cool with that movement.

Trust your gut, that's what they always told me... yeah, there's something else here. Something is shifting in the dark over... there...

"Don't move." Instinct might as well be saying that again. "Don't move a single tiny muscle."


 

Complying with this sort of logic seems to be the best course.


 

Yes, there is indeed movement. I'm definitly picking up movement, even though it's pretty damn dark. I could tell somehow, my eyes are different... this isn't like what I remember seeing being like. Colors seem odd, but it's a difficult thing to describe.

Like a grey-scale, but not? Human-side here is picking up on it, but it's not confusing- just strange.

Doesn't matter I guess, I can see something moving along.


 

Slowly but surely it seems to be shaking... almost. Slow but steady.

Listening... I find this even weirder, honestly. Not like a human ear, but more like a rattling inside my head. Like my ears are covered and muffled a bit.

Only I don't have ears.

"Crunch"

"Snap"


 

Ah, right there. That's an odd mix of sounds to go with the weird motion.


 

"Crunch"

"Snap"

 

 

Hmm... a "Crunch" and "Snap" sort of sound. Curious.

 

I want to look, but instinct is vetoing this. Human and snake are in conflict here.

 

"Don't you dare move." Instinct is shouting. "But I want to see what it is!" Human side complaining.

 

"Crunch"

"Snap"

 

Hmm.

If I still had normal skin, I think would be feeling the prickled scalp sensation by now.

Prickled scale? Something is... not good. Not good, I think the noise is something I don't want to encounter.

"Crunch"

"Snap"

"Crunch"

 

 

It almost sounds like... Jaws?

Like something is munching down on food of some kind.

Hmm...

Well, it's not moving much. Noises aside, I think I'm probably alright for now. There are other things to look at anyways, and they're not so far away. Like right here, beneath me there's some cold rock, a little bit moisture.

Above me looked like a... ceiling? It's a stone sort of rounded ceiling, so I'm in a cave? Maybe?

Do snakes like caves?

Hmm... I don't know, maybe some of them do. I guess that makes sense.

Now what's this here behind me...

Oh.

Scales.

Wow, that's a lot of scales.

Not scary scales though, actually I feel a bit of kinship here... I wonder...

Is this... Mama snake?

I think it is- this is definitly mama snake. Do snakes normally know their mothers?

Maybe? I wish I wasn't so clueless here. Maybe I should try to get her attention?

Hmm... weird.


 

Mama Snake doesn't seem to be moving much.

At all, actually.

But there's that noise still...


 

"Don't move!" Ah, there it is. Instinct holding firm here: don't move. Gotcha-Gotcha... but y'know, I'm not really sure what that leaves me with. To do, I mean...?

 

Am I just supposed to stay here forever? Just sort of sit still and wait until... what exactly? What am I even waiting for?

Heck with that, I want to slither a little. Couldn't do that as a human, I bet it's at least a little fun.

Instinct: "DON'T- [Vetoed]

Heck with that. Human side is in control here little snake mind. Human-side wants to take a look-see.

"Crunch"

"Snap"

"Crunch-"

"..."

 

Hmm... it seems the "Crunching" has stopped.

 


 

Instinct: "DON'T MOVE!"

"Crunch"

"Snap"


 

Hmm... it started back up. Weird.


 

Instinct: "DON'T- [Vetoed]

We're about to slither more. Waiting still is lame and that noise is still a little far away to see clearly. Seems a little big though...

Actually, isn't that a little too big? Whatever it is, this thing huge, and are those... are those legs?

Yeah, those are legs.

A lot of legs.

"Crunch-"

"..."

 

Hmm. It stopped again.


 

Instinct: "DON'T MOVE! DON'T MOVE! DON'T-"

 

 

Well I'll be darned, Instinct sure is screaming. Honestly though, how bad could this really be?

"Crunch"

"Snap"

 

See? It started back up, no worries. Slithering for a better look never killed anybody, relax.

 

So this thing... it's a bug of some kind? It must be a bug, looks like a bug.

A really big centipede?

Lots of legs... body segments. Yeah, that must be it. It's a huge bug- I hate bugs. Human-side hates bugs, and snake-side just seems to be half a second from pissing itself.

Can snakes piss themselves?

There's a question.

I'm blocking instinct out, but man is that thing screaming. It's just a bug! What's the big deal?

I mean, as a human I used to swat these guys with my shoe. A giant centipede or no, I'm not that scared.

What is it eating though? I wonder, I mean it's still going to town on whatever it is... Pretty big meal...

Hmm... it's...

Oh.

It's eating Mama snake.

"Crunch-"

"..."

"..."

"..."


 

I think it's looking at me.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5


 

Slithering:

Quick, fun, entertaining? Yes.

Labor intensive, exhausting, somewhat clumsy? As luck might have it, also a yes.

It's the kind of motion that makes a reincarnated human wish for more efficient methods of travel. This is especially true when contemplating running away from a giant predator. Well, sliding away- not running.

Fleeing in some way, some shape or form.

Slithering is going to be my only option, but that suddenly doesn't seem so great.

In fact, moving at all seems impossible. I'm frozen stiff.

Like a statue, made of snake instead of stone.

Instinct has done some sort of override.

I didn't know it could do that, but I guess that's what I get for ignoring it so much.

Curiosity got the better of me, and now this is happening.

A stare down with death.

Human curiosity... what the hell was I thinking listening to that? Curiosity kills cats.

What if I had been born a cat instead of snake?

I'd already be dead- that's what.

See, there's a giant centipede in front of me.

It has as a bunch of eyes, and they're all staring at me from above the half eaten corpse of Mama snake. They're watching me, seeking movement, waiting patiently above clicking mandibles and twitching legs.

Everything is in excess. It has way, way too many of all those listed.

Way too many. This thing isn't normal. This is a freaking monster.

Oh my god, this thing is a freaking monster. Its eyes are glowing.

Fear.

Here I was thinking I knew the meaning of that word. I mean, apparently I just died, and that was pretty scary- but this is worse. This a a behemoth, horrific and gruesome as any b-rated horror film I caught on the latenight sci-fi channel.

Only it's not fake.

Blood dropping down its manibles, I'm almost certain I'm about to be murdered.

This: This is fear.

Instinct: "STAY STILL! DO NOT MOVE!"


 

Human: "SURE THING BOSS."

The temptation to try and slither to safety is there, but this is most definitely not a clear cut thing.

Slither to where?

For example, I have no idea where I am. A cave, sure- but what kind of cave? What if there are other creatures like this one? Better yet- what if this one just follows me and eats me? It's huge! It's probably fast! It's eating a snake that has to be thousands of times my own size.

Giant Centipede has already set the bar tremendously high as "A creature not to be messed with."

This is bullshit. Worst spawn point ever. Barely five minutes alive, and it's already game over.

Oh geez.

Instinct:"Don't move."

Instinct is still holding firm on this one, which is good, because human-side is trying to go about making peace with life for the second time in recent memory.

I guess I did live a decent life as a snake. I hissed a little, slithered a little, got devoured by a giant and terrifying insect. All in all, not the worst, not the best. I'd give it a 6/10.

Instinct:"Don't move."

Part snake, part human, part statue, part at peace with the universe: and though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...

Wait. Something else moved.


 

"CRAAAAAAAW"

"HISS-Eeeeeeeek!"


 

Oh god. Oh Jeez. Oh holy shit snakes- the centipede just struck something. Oh god, it's like some sort of shelled lightning covered in blood.


 

"EEEEEeeeeeeeekkkk..."

"Crunch"

"Crunch"

"Snap"


 

I just witnessed a murder.

Perhaps a sibling, or maybe just an unsuspecting bystander.


 

"Crunch"

 

They're being eaten. Oh god, those mandibles are like razors.


 

Instinct:"Move... move slowly"

Human: "Yes boss."


 

I am slithering. Slowly but surely.

Like I have never slithered before, I am slithering.

There are horrific glimpses of razor mandibles snapping down on some unfortunate and unknown soul to my right.

Oh geez. Oh geez.

Just a bit farther. Down this path, away. Gotta get away.

"Crunch-"

"..."

"..."

 

Instinct:"Move faster- FASTER! MOOOOOVE! MOVE MOVE MOVE-"

Human: "YES BOSS, ANYTHING YOU SAY BOSS!"


 

"CRAAAAAAAW"


 

Oh fuck

Oh fuck

Oh fuck

I wish I had legs, oh god do I wish I had legs, gotta get away. Gotta-

Ah! hole in the floor!

"CRAAAAAAAW!"

Instinct:"HIDE! HIDE HIDE HIDE-"

Human: "YES BOSS! SURE THING BOSS!"

This is insane.

I haven't even been alive an hour, and I'm already having a close encounter with death. Theres a set of glowing compound eyes and smashing mouth-pincers trying to rip up my hiding place.

The hole doesn't go down any farther.

"CRAAAAAAAW!"

I'm so dead.

It's like an inch away.

"CRAAAAAAAW!"

I'm so dead- This isn't fair! This is a load of crap! I was just born for god's sake! Give me a freaking break!

"CRAAAAAAAW! Craaaaa..."

"..."


 

"..."


 

"..."


 

"..."


 

Wait a second... is it gone?

I don't see it up there anymore.

Is it just waiting for me now? Sitting right beside the hole for me to stick my head out?

Oh god.

I bet it is.

Oh... this is so messed up. I'm not going back out there. Now way, no how.

I'm staying in this hole, forever.

This is a safe place.

This is nice.

Nothing trying to kill me here.

Unless... oh thank god. No, nothing here. Just me, some rock. This is a nice little divot in the ground.

Safe space.

Hisss...

I'm so tired...

I feel like I just ran a marathon, and I still don't have a single god-damn clue what's going on-

[Spawn survival: SUCCESS]

 

Wha-

[LEVEL UP:]

 

What is thisssss-

[Current: Level One]

 

Level? Spawn? What?


 

[CHOOSE STARTING ABILITY]


 

Hisssssss

 

Chapter 6

Chapter 6

New Game.


I used to play video games when I was younger. Simple things usually. Single player games, magic and fantasy elements. I enjoyed them, I knew my fair share of goob-lore, but... I think I've been thrown in a bit too deep.

I've heard of a [New Game Plus] but this is something else.

A [New Game Minus]

Advanced and skilled players only. Starting over again, but highly disadvantaged. A more difficult play through.

That kind of vibe.

But... y'know, that's really not such a great option for someone who didn't even make it to middle-aged in his last life.

Much as I liked games, I'm not going to claim I was really very good at them, and life was more or less in a similar boat.

Hiss...

So... what? This is hard mode?

Make it more difficult, take away arms and legs. Take everything away and make them a snake, and put them in a cave filled with things that might eat them.

That sounds super fair to me.

Really, this is great.

Just great.

NO! This is freaking rigged! This game is rigged! This is bullshi-

Hissssss!

[CHOOSE STARTING ABILITY]

 

The words are still there, hanging on clearly here in my mind's eye.

They're not a projection exactly, but a hallucination maybe? A haunting that sort of follows no matter where I want to look.

[CHOOSE STARTING ABILITY]

 

Oppressive and demanding.

So... this is a game?

No... it doesn't seem much like a game, I feel very much alive and serpent-like.

This is real, I think.

Real life: The toughest game of all.

Maybe I've cracked under the pressure and I'm having one of those DMT experiences I read about online.

It's not like I've ever claimed to be the toughest when it came to mental fortitude. I couldn't even put up with cold showers.

Death is probably a lot worse than a cold shower.

[CHOOSE STARTING ABILITY]

 

Geez. It's aggressive.

It's like a microwave that beeps until someone opens it.

[CHOOSE STARTING ABILITY]

 

Irritating and unrelenting.

I wonder what I'm supposed to do, exactly? Touch the image with my tail? Reach out with my mind? No... that's not working.

So my tail then? It's not like I have any hands-

[UNLOCKABLE BRANCHES:]

[Venom]
[Consumption]
[Massive]
[Magic essence]

Oh. It worked. Who would have thought it?

Hissssssss...

Not me. This is all rather bizarre, but I suppose this is something to be grateful for. It's a chance. They sound like useful abilities: Things that keep a tiny little snake like myself from getting eaten by giant centipedes or whatever else is hiding in the cave.

Still...

[Venom]
[Consumption]
[Massive]
[Magic essence]

Well, there are some interesting choices here. But I can't be exactly certain I'm doing, or exactly what they mean. A more detailed description would be nice.

Hissssss...ssss?

Hmm. Nope, Nothing. It was worth a shot, at the very least. Doesn't hurt to ask. Using the forces of deductive reasoning will have to compensate for ignorance at the moment.

[Venom]

Well... That's probably poison of some kind. Snakes have poison sometimes, makes perfect sense. Human-side is helpful here.

[Consumption]

Hmm... either some disease, or maybe something to do with eating things. Not entirely sure.

[Massive]

Makes me bigger? Maybe... Maybe... Would it kill to have some details be included? I mean, this could mean anything.

[Magic essence]

Well.

Hissssss...

Well, well, well... Magic. No matter how long I stare at this, that word isn't changed. It clearly is reading Magic.

Giving off a very RPG style vibe all of a sudden.

It's got that horribly difficult and unpleasant [Praise the sun] kind of vibe, but still a vibe.

The sensation of a rope thrown to a drowning serpent, surrounded by hungry-hungry predators.

Options, options, options... as if I even really have a choice.

[Magic essence: Selected]
Mana unlocked.
[No Spells unlocked.]
No spells available
[Ten Skill points to allocate]

Hissss... Point based? Really? Is that number a lot, or a little? I need some answers here, the suspense is killing me.

[Available Skills]
  • [Basic Heal: Level I] Cost: 5 points
Unlocks future Healing magics.
  • [Flame element: Level I] Cost: 5 points
Unlocks future Flame magics.
  • [Earth element: Level I] Cost: 5 points
Unlocks future Earth magics.
  • [Water element: Level I] Cost: 5 points
Unlocks future Water magics.
  • [Knowledge element: Level I] Cost: 100 Points
Unlocks future Knowledge magics.

Hisssss... So, one of these things is not like the others. For now, as I certain do not have enough to buy it, I'll pretend that last option isn't there. If I remember anything about games, that option is either super useful, or it's a trap. Like something an evil developer might put in place to screw over first-time players.

That sort of thing.

If I only start with ten points, that last option seems insanely expensive. I'm leaning towards a trap. First a giant centipede, and now a trap.

Not falling for it.

Even if I had the points to fall for it, I'm not falling for it. That's the kind of thing that gets a poor little snake killed before it can grow old and die peacefully of old age and over-eating.

[Healing] and [Flame] selected.

[Spells unlocked:]

 

[Fire breath]
[Fireball]
[Weak Heal]

Well, this is interesting.

Speaking of eating, I'm hungry.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7


 

Exploring the cave.


 

That's what I'm doing, slowly but surely.

I won't shake my tail at the notion of exploration. It's scary shit.

From the divot in the cave floor, just poking my head above ground is enough to shake me a bit. I've got a real bad feeling about the circumstances of my continued survival, and getting insta-killed seemed more than plausible.

Thankfully, sticking my head above ground does not get me insta-killed this time. The god of tiny-snakes must be watching over me.

There are probably better gods, but it's not good to complain when divine favor is bestowed upon one's scaly head. Truly bad-form.

Having leveled up now, I can see a slight difference from before. It seems I came into this world as a level zero, but holding to level one, I must have received some sort of benefit. I can move a bit easier, and I can see a bit farther. It's not much of a change, but it's noticeable. I guess basic stats can rise, which I suppose is a very good sign.

But what I see in the cave before me is anything but good.

I was right. This is completely rigged.

There are your typical cave formations. Stalagmites rise up here and there. Light seemed to glow off weird looking mushrooms along these, a nice color. Blue I think. The sight is a bit weird though, so I can't be too confident. Up on the ceiling is much of the same, some stalactites and more glowing plant-like things.

But there are also monsters.

Yes. Monsters. It's safe and reasonable to call what I'm seeing exactly that. I was willing to hold off on my judgement, writing off the Giant Centipede as a freak occurance before the terrified eyes of a tiny little snake, but the animals in this place are absolutely not normal.

Perched in regal form not ten full slithers ahead of me is a giant frog.

It has two heads.

One of them is covered in spikes, the other in warts.

Watching this frog fills me with a sensation that I can only describe as the urge to vomit. Instinct is screaming just for poking out my head.

"HIDE! NOW!" Instinct is yelling.

I watch this frog with horrified curiosity. Dozens upon dozens of my body couldn't hope to rival its size. No matter how I look at it, this frog is simply way too big.

Instinct is screaming again, something new. Snake-side of things is in high alert.

Oh. The Frog is gone.

It's being carried away with a look of deep sadness and acceptance by a large creature with wings. Ah... A bat.

Yessss... Yes, Now I see.

There are giant bats on the ceiling. Giant. Easily as big as the centipede, hanging and crawling around. That drip-dropping sound I'd be ignoring?

Guano.

Haven't even worked up the courage to move, and yet this divot is suddenly much less appealing.

So we have giant bats, huddled mostly towards the far side, If where I'm looking now is the arbitrary North, then I would say the bats are to the far, far West. Farther than that, it seems that the cavern goes deeper.

That's not to say there aren't other bats flying around in all directions, just to confirm that the majority seem to be happily sleeping on the ceiling to the West.

Hundreds of them.

Because of that, I don't have it in me to move just yet. The desperation just isn't there.

I'm not inclined to end up like the frog did. He sat in plain sight admiring the beauty of the cave, and I'm fairly sure that resulted in a gruesome demise. Nature cares little for mortal fragility.

Nature is a cold-hearted bitch. That's why my prayers go towards the little snake god.

Rest in peace two-headed Frog. You're not a little snake, but I feel it's only just to mourn for you anyways.

You didn't try to eat me, after all.

So bats to the West, and a gradual rising slope towards the East. North and south end with massive walls.

And there, that summarized my exploration.

You can lump this in as the snake equivalent of a submarine poking out its periscope for a bit. I don't want to die.

But eventually, I know I'm going to have to leave the little hole in the ground. I'm starting to get hungry- not just "I could really go for a snack" but "I might end up starving to death."

This makes a bit of sense. I was born. I fled in terror. I never ate anything.

The question emerges.

What can I eat, anyways?

Everything in this cave looks more likely to eat me. Frogs, centipedes, bats: Zero chance of victory. Less probably less, maybe even negative chance-

Oh. Something is happening.

Bats.

Lots of bats are airborne. The West has come alive, hundreds of them are swarming in the air. Even shrinking down into the dirt doesn't seem to help me much, instinct might as well have a megaphone to my head.

I'm not moving.

But the bats... they're moving. Oh. They're flying overhead, going East.

AH!

They're leaving the cave.

A moment of clarity. My human-side is still good for something it seems.

One minute... two minute... three minute. They're mostly gone now. Ceiling might as well be empty.

Hissss...

Time to get something to eat.

 

Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Eating.


 

In a place where everything is much more likely to eat me, the concept is daunting. As a living creature, I'm going to have to eat something. This makes sense.

The question is what?

Frogs? No, that would result in [Certain Death]

Bats? No, that would result in [Certain Death]

Centipedes? No.

Well, the idea is repetitive and straight forward. I'm at the bottom of the foodchain here. I'm small. All I have going for me is that I leveled up and inherited some kind of abilities.

Healing and fire. I think I chose well. In nature, fire is something that scares most animals. If I can't fight something, making myself seem unappetizing is of utmost importance.

Human memories of late-night television watched while being half-awake: Nature documentaries, British accents. Peaceful nature background music.

Very helpful now. A strange consideration all but entirely overlooked previously has come through.

So fire. That was a good choice.

But healing is just self explanatory. Anyone who has ever played a video game knows that healing is also of the utmost importance. Taking injuries and never healing? I feel that the chances of survival might drop dramatically.

But this is all irrelevant if I starve to death.

And really I might starve to death.

I've explored more than the tiny hole in the ground now. With the bats gone I've taken the liberty of ignoring instinct and slithering around. I've seen and learned quite a bit through this experience.

There is nothing I can possibly eat.

Bats, Frogs, Centipedes: I already considered these impossible prey, but even the smaller things lurking around the cavern look horrifically dangerous.

Spiders for example. There are many kinds of bugs and insects, as one might expect in a cave, but I also saw several spiders. Each of them happened to be larger than myself, and each of them happened to be munching on something with scales.

Instinct didn't like them much. Neither did human-side.

"Kill it with fire." Both were in agreement.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to kill anything with fire. I practiced one with high hopes after the bats left thinking optimistically: "If there's a magic that might make a tiny snake think better of themselves, it would be this."

Hiss... I was wrong.

[Fire Breath] for example. That was the spell I tried. The one that might not attract attention.

In theory, it sounds like it would turn me into a wingless, limbless dragon.

No. No, it's pitiful.

If I had to give it a power rating, I would say maybe on the scale of a match with some hair-spray behind it. One single puff of bright fire, and then it's used up. Maybe I could scorch something, but it probably wouldn't die.

At best it might run. At worst it might eat me.

With that, I believe I've confirmed the terrifying reality. I am the bottom of this food chain.

But I also confirmed something else. Something potentially life-saving through careful study and observation.

There is one level below me on this food chain. Or perhaps, there is one level entirely removed. The metaphorical bed-rock of the great cave circle of life.

The glowing mushrooms.

Nothing seemed to be eating these when I slithered my reconnaissance. Neither did anything seem to be getting eaten by them.

Human-side looks at this with hope and hunger. Instinct remains silent.

Snakes probably don't eat mushrooms.

That's a thought to consider, but then again: Some food is better than no food. Right?

Hisss...

Beside my hole in the ground, there is a rising pillar. A pillar once belonging to the recently deceased frog. There are many mushrooms on this. Dozens of them, in fact. Enough to remind me of a spooky looking Christmas decoration.

With great caution, I have pried the smallest and most accessible of their number free, and returned to my hole in the ground. It glows with a peaceful blue light, possessing a texture both smooth and domed.

Human-side is deeply considering the reprocussions of eating unknown mushrooms. Bear Grylls would advise against this.

Instinct is still silent. Like I thought, snakes probably don't eat mushrooms.

But starving... That's an awful way to die.

The longer I stare at it, the longer my hunger gnaws at me.

I am going to eat this.

 

Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Snake Report:

I ate the mushroom, and now I'm dying.


 

I only ate part of it.

A really tiny part. Without hands it took me a long time to do this. Large effort was expended, and I used a rock.

I even cooked that a bit with [Fire Breath]

Then I ate it.

I'm still dying a pitiful death.

It seems stupidly obvious in hindsight, but there are reasons none of the other creatures here eat the mushrooms.

Poison.

I've cast [Weak Heal] on myself in an effort to survive.

Once. I glowed white, and it worked for a moment. Like something had come and wiped away my pain, everything was better.

But then the feeling came back.

Twice.

It worked... Temporarily.

Three times.

I feel like I'm pouring water into a bucket with holes in the bottom.

Four times.

Oh. That's my limit.

I can't see anything like a mana bar, but I feel like I've drained myself. Instinct tells me politely that if I try to do that again, I might die from it.

But I might die anyways.

The sickening feeling over poison is creeping beneath my scales. I'm hallucinating too. Outside my tiny hole in the ground, shapes are swirling, pillars are bending, shadows are twisting.

It's terrible.

Really, it's the worst feeling.

One more heal. I have to do it, even if it kills me. I'd rather die from that, than die from feeling this terrible.

I call up the magic. [Weak heal]

Five times now.

Oh. I can't move. I feel better, but I can't move.

Hmm. My vision is blurring. I can't move.

Am I dea-

[POISON RESISTANCE: UNLOCKED RANK I]

[WEAK HEALING: UNLOCKED RANK II]

[UNIQUE TRAIT: OMNIVORE UNLOCKED]

[LEVEL UP:]

[Current: Level Two]

[Five Skill points to allocate]

Hisssss...

I'm not dead.

Well then.

Learning experiences, Pushing boundaries: These are very important things in life. Things I did not often do when I was a human.

 

I ate poison. I used all my tiny-snake magic. I became immobile and unable to do anything but await death and offer up my silent prayers to the tiny-snake-god.

Yet I survived.

More than survive, actually I seem to have been rewarded for it.

[POISON RESISTANCE: RANK I]

[WEAK HEALING: RANK II]

[UNIQUE TRAIT: OMNIVORE]

 

I can't seem to make these appear again, but I definitely remember seeing them. Eating that mushroom and surviving clearly was beneficial, although it begs the question: What kind of world tries to murder someone on their first meal?

This world.

This world does.

Hisssss... I have survived.

My immobility is entirely gone. I'm willing to believe this is related to leveling up. The moment I saw those words, I felt as though all my strength had been replenished.

I also shed my skin.

It looks really strange, like a snake sleeping-bag. I can't decide if it's creepy or endearing. Regardless, I'm a little bigger now. Not much, but some.

So in summary, RPG elements or no, eating things is beneficial. Surviving dangers is beneficial. There are distinct rewards for this.

Weird. Horrifying. But there is possibility here. I'm a little bigger now. If that were to repeat a few more times, there is a chance I might be able to defend myself from at least some of the creatures in this place.

In short: The longer I survive, the better my chances are for getting out of this cave, and away from the monsters.

Right.

Hisssss...

Right.

...

This really only leaves me one choice though.

Ug.

I'm going to have to finish eating this mushroom.

Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Snake Report:

 

So... I did it.

I ate the entire glowing mushroom. Piece by painful piece.

It took longer than expected. Only slightly less horrible.

I'm now [Level Four] with [POISON RESISTANCE: RANK III] and [WEAK HEALING: RANK III]

 

It seems that early levels are coming in quickly for now, but I haven't learned anything new like before. No further "Unique skills" or such like that. [Omnivore] was the only thing I got out of this.

I guess that makes sense, but I still have a lot of questions. I feel like I'm blindly feeling my way along here. Some open-forum question and answer would be helpful.

For example, in theory I now have fifteen [Skill Points] to spend. I can't figure out how to though. I can't seem to bring up any of the glowing signal words at all unless something important happens. Either [Leveling up] or unlocking some sort of [Unique] it really only seems to appear then.

But fifteen points. That could mean more powerful magic, or maybe different kinds of magic.Considering I'm still a tiny snake, magic seems to be the only plausible way for me to go. Even level four, I'm still smaller than every other monster in the cave.

Under that mentality, I have retrieved more mushrooms from Frog's-Pillar. Seven of these glowing fungi now rest beside me in the strangely cramped quarters of my hole in the ground.

For the sake of my continued survival, I must ready myself.

The feast begins.

[Current: Level Five]

By the observed movements of the Giant bats, it has been five days since I first awoke in this place. At this moment, I have finally finished the final stockpiled glowing mushroom.

The level up fills me with both strength, and satisfaction. A job well done. I am stronger. I am no longer starving. I know I have secured a food source which is plentiful.

 

 

[POISON RESISTANCE: RANK V]

[BASIC HEALING: RANK I]

[UNIQUE TRAIT: TOXIC]

These are the fruits of my labor. They glow in my vision, confirming what I already know: My weak heal is much more effective, and apparently it renamed itself. I think this is the natural course of spells. They seem to improve over time.

Same with resistances too. The mushrooms now barely seem to upset my stomach.

"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." That's the quote I can think of to explain this.

I've also gained an interesting bluish tint to my scales, first noticed upon emerging from another shed layer of tiny-snake skin. [Toxic] is the trait. Though I have no intention of confirming, I believe any creature wishing to eat me might experience the symptoms of food-poisoning. I have eaten so many mushrooms, I have taken on their attributes.

Hisssss...

But, there is something more important than that. Something fantastic.

I have learned new magic.

[Earth Element] was unlocked for the cost of 5 points. Upon doing so, it immediately granted me a single spell called [Earth Manipulation I] which seems to do basically what the name suggests.

 

It can let me mold the ground a bit. Like, play-doh sort of mold, but... slower.

Much slower.

I've expanded me hole in cave floor slightly, although it was exhausting. Even after all of that, it didn't rank up, which I felt was a bit of a rip-off.

But complaints are for other people-turned-snake. Not for me. Life is good, I'm not being eaten, I'm no longer starving.

And [Earth Manipulation]? That's boring compared to what I've spent the other points on.

Five points for each level up. It seems that the more points I accumulate, upon leveling I can go and look at the magics I already possess. If there is an available skill, it seems to show up.

It reminds me of a menu.

A menu that let me look back into [Fire Magic] and [Healing Magic] and browse. There were a lot of spells, I think.

It's difficult to describe because I could only see a few. Things like [Fire Breath II] for 20 points, or [Fireball II] for 50 points. [Basic Healing VI] was available for 400 points.

It's weird, but it looks like I can level up the skills I own, or buy them with points.

Buying the higher ones seems insanely expensive though. Probably a waste.

Hisss...

In a weird way, I could almost see some further options. Choices just on the edge of my vision, but not quite there. The longer I tried to pull those up though, the greater my headache became, so I've settled on giving that up.

Patience seems to be important here, but I'm getting the hang of it.

Before the menu closed, I made one more purchase.

My purchase was from the healing category: [Passive Regeneration I] for a full 20 points.

Excessive? Maybe, but I think it might be worth it. Unlike the [Basic Healing] I think this should work on its own. It will probably level on its own too.

There are no shortages in things that can hurt me here. Healing is important.

I will be a healthy snake.

 

Chapter 11

Chapter 11

Snake Report: Day Seven

 

A spider tried to eat me today. It was absolutely terrifying.


 

Every time I think I've rationalized how this world works, I find myself ignorant. The creatures in this cave are more than just living things- they're monsters. Legitimate monsters that defy the known laws of my previous reality.

But, I have good news to report as well. Perhaps this could already be guessed, as I'm not dead.

Hisssss...

The good news is: Spiders hate fire quite a bit.

As in, fire kills them.

Really, really kills them.

Spider, spider webs, spider egg sacks: The whole nine yards. All are extremely flammable.

Category 1 Flammable-Solid. "Keep away from heat, sparks, open flames, and hot surfaces. No smoking."

 

Yes, all of those statements are relevant, and OSHA approved.

I'll take on the personal responsibility for this misadventure. When trying to gobble down a few more mushrooms from Frog's Pillar I put myself a bit to far out into the open. Apparently I look like a tasty morsel to a hunting spider. It cleared the distance between us before I even knew it was on approach. Instinct can take the credit for this round of survival: Human-side was in full shock and terror, but Snake-instinct fought against the terror and managed to barf up a pitiful excuse for [Fire-breath] along with half a toasted mushroom.

Pitiful, but effective.

The spider ran off an eight-legged BBQ, before curling up and dying with a smolder of defeat.

[Fire Breath] is now rank III, just like that.

[LEVEL UP:]

 

[Current: Level Six]

 

If spiders still didn't terrify the ever-living shit out of me, I think this would probably be the start of a grinding montage. They do though.

They really do.

I'm sticking with glowing blue mushrooms for now.

 

Chapter 12

Chapter 12

Snake Report: Day Eight

 

I shed another skin. As it seems to be the case with each level up or just about, I break free of my old skin and emerge anew: a healthy tiny-snake.

Well, small snake. Tiny to human standards, maybe, but I've been forced to renovate my hole in the ground yet again. If I were to describe what it looks like now, I'd have to say it looks like a regular hole with a small tunnel that leads to a peaceful looking rectangular space about the size of a shoe box.

The walls are made completely from stone, but for the exception of a weird looking crystal that seems to be embedded in the layers. It glows a pretty blue, but much stronger than the mushrooms. I've left it as it, and have been using it as a light source for the tiny-snake home base.

Things are going well.

I've decided that my shed skin can pile up against the western wall of this space. With the assistance of [Earth Manipulation] I've managed to stack them up. I don't know what else to do with them really. Eat them? No, that seems like it would be a once-removed form of self-cannibalism. Not really into that.

Leaving them there for now.

I made a shelf for extra mushrooms. I don't really get hungry like I did that first day, but it's difficult to predict the way things will turn out. There is always the chance something will trap me in here, and I'll have to wait them out.

[Paranoia]

 

It's a Unique skill I possess even without the glowing letters of approval.

There is a problem though.

Frog's-Pillar is slowly, but surely, running out of mushrooms.

 

It seems that these glowing blue delicacies I've come to know and love, don't spread very quickly. In fact, I haven't seen a single motion of the ones I've already eaten returning any time soon.

Perhaps this makes sense.

Even after a full week of living in this cave, I've still not seen another creature try and eat the mushrooms. I only ate a tiny sliver of one- after cooking it with fire no less, and I almost died even after healing myself several times. For a normal monster, this would probably result in the development of a [Don't eat this] sort of mentality. The Mushrooms are not seen as food by anyone except me.

But that doesn't mean they won't run out eventually.

There are other Pillars with less sentimental value and significance, but if I continue to grow the only accessible food-stuffs will be in dangerous places.

Places where Spiders, or Frogs, or Giant bats might swoop down and devour me.

Truthfully, I need to escape this place. I'm out of my league. It's like I spawned in the deep-end of the pool, never getting a chance to to learn how to swim.

If I stay here, I'll drown.

My main focus is decided.

[Get out of this cave.]

 

Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Snake Report: Day Nine

 

The arbitrary West goes down.

The arbitrary East goes up.

North and South are walls.


 

So it is: East is the direction I must go. Simple and decided, behold the Power of Human logic.

Of course, it's not nearly so simple. There are many variables in play, most of which could easily get me killed.

For one: the bats. They fly out from West to East, and Return from East To West.

That's both encouraging and troublesome.

If I am to go East, it can't be when there are a thousand bats flying around looking for food. It needs to be timed wisely, lest I end up like my friend the frog.

Two: there are still other creatures in this cave, and ever since I set that spider on fire, the arachnid side of things has been much more aggressive.

They never approach, but glossy sets of eyes watch me. Their mandibles make strange noises, and they move in groups that follow where I go. Though it's probably just my Human-side exaggerating, I think they know what I did.

From the dark look on those many polished eyes of glass: I can feel malice.

I think they want revenge.

I think I've been marked for death.

Hisss... Creepy.

Monsters with intellect.

It might be possible.

Well, it is possible: I'm here, after all- so, there are these things to consider. Moving about unfamiliar territory is just as terrifying as it ever was, even if I know fire works on some of my enemies.

Still, I've started my efforts with earnest attitude. My work ethic on this subject is of top-tier quality.

[Escape the Cave]

I will accomplish this goal. I've set my mind to it.

The Tiny-Snake-God would be proud.

 

Chapter 14

Chapter 14

Snake Report: Day Ten

 

A large group of spiders tried to eat me today. It was absolutely terrifying.


 

Yes.

There were dozens of them. On the ground. On the walls. In the air.

Spiders are very good at jumping.

But- what's much more troublesome is that they can use webs. Webs that are very, VERY difficult to see.

Webs that let them hand suspended and quietly above my head, before pouncing on me and wrapping me up with numerous and painful bites.

Venomous bites.

I will not sugar-coat this experience. If I didn't make my living by eating poison, I think I would have surely died.

I was completely wrapped in a web before I could even think of escaping. My beautiful blue scales were easily punctured in several places, and I was most definitely injected with poison of some variety.

I was a tiny-little snake, wrapped in a tiny little cocoon, waiting for a tragic and terrible demise.

But then the spiders left.

So, I take back what I thought about their intellect. There was no specific grudge, I think they just wanted to eat me. Looking around in the web they stuck me, there were dozens of similar occupants. Each and every one of them wrapped in a thick layer of webbing.

Only a few moved. The rest looked like they weren't really "there" anymore. From a distant example of several slithers distance, I confirmed these were mummified things. Hungry spiders sucked them dry.

Still, I wasn't really very thoughtful of this at first. I was much to busy using [Basic Healing] to keep myself from succumbing to the bites and venom. Counting down: One heal, two heal, red heal, blue heal... On and on it went, until I found I wasn't dead or dying. It seems that as I've leveled, my reserve for magic has grown accordingly.

Makes sense.

So, in summary: Not dead, but very much stuck in a web.What is a tiny-snake to do in such a position?

Hisss... It was here that I made a very large mistake. An error of magnitude.

I used [Fire Breath]

Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Snake Report:


 

Do you know what's more terrifying than a swarm of angry spiders?

[LEVEL UP]

 

A swarm of angry spiders that are on fire.

[LEVEL UP]

 

Yes.

[LEVEL UP]

 

This is much worse.

[LEVEL UP]

 

This is the stuff of nightmares. Eight-legged predators skittering and screaming as their massive webs go up in flames, muffied and trapped soon-to-be-victims also stuck in the unholy fires of one Tiny-Snake's error.

[LEVEL UP]

 

I messed up.

[LEVEL UP]

 

The entire Eastern side of the cave is on fire.

[LEVEL UP]

 

There are even Giant bats caught up in it, smacking into walls and falling to the ground as carbon monoxide inhalation takes them out. There's so much smoke rising it's blacking out the ceiling.

[LEVEL UP]

 

More of them are falling now. All the bats that took the night off and didn't fly out are trapped in here.

[LEVEL UP]

 

There is one Giant spider running around now too. It's just spreading the flames as it goes, like an eight-legged, drunken elephant covered in gasoline.

[LEVEL UP]

 

It's running deeper, towards the West. Maybe there is water somewhere over there.


 

[LEVEL UP]

 

Oh. The West... That's where the bat's normally nest.

[LEVEL UP]

 

Under the bats, there is always a lot of...

[LEVEL UP]

 

Oh.

[LEVEL UP]

 

As I feared. Guano is flammable.

[LEVEL UP]

 

Highly flammable.

 

[LEVEL UP]

 

Yeah. This was a mistake.

[LEVEL UP]

 

A tragic error.

[LEVEL UP]

 

I just wanted to escape the web.

[LEVEL UP]

 

[LEVEL UP]

 

[LEVEL UP]

 

[LEVEL UP]

 

[LEVEL UP]

 

[LEVEL UP]

 

[LEVEL UP]

 

Hissssssssss...

To make amends for such a tragedy, I dedicate this unholy pyre to the Tiny-Snake-God.

As their faithful and devoted follower, hopefully this sacrifice pleases them.

 

Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Snake Report: Day Eleven

 

I used earth magic to dig into the cave floor and seal myself in while the fire burns itself out.

I'm fairly certain it's on its way to settling, but apparently it's still burning.

[LEVEL UP]

 

See, that's how I know. I keep getting reminders.

Hissssss...

Well, since I turned this cavern into a living hell and escaped into the ground, I've had a lot to think about. Thoughts, both snake-related, and human related. Pondering really. As of this moment, I'm now [Level Thirty]

I feel like that's a rather large number.

Its a reasonable understanding that the more levels I earned, the harder it was to get more. I noticed this just in the struggle to reach [Level Six] before I turned the cavern into Dante's inferno. Surviving to reach that wasn't a walk in the park, but I feel like reaching [Level Thirty] holds much more significance.

To have reached level thirty on Mushrooms alone. I get the feeling that would have been almost impossible.

This thought hovers along, but there are others crowded in beside it.

Most of them are brought on and personified by the masses of glowing text in my vision.

[LEVEL UP]

 

[Level Thirty-One]

This is intimidating.

I feel the influence of it clearly. My vision, my sight, any of my senses seem to be crystal clear compared to before. I feel much, much stronger.

Strangely, my magic is all about the same. For minor exception of [Flame Breath] which now floats with the title [Leviathan Breath]

I think this makes me rather comically lopsided in my Magical growth. [Basic Healing], [Passive-Healing], [Earth Manipulation], [Fire-ball] and [LEVIATHAN BREATH]

 

One of these things is not like the others.

But magic is actually the least of my concern. It's the other things that came in which really bother me.
 

[UNIQUE TITLE: DIVINE BEAST]

[UNIQUE TITLE: LEVIATHAN]

[UNIQUE TRAIT: FIRE AFFINITY]

[UNIQUE TRAIT: LEGENDARY]

 

These are all new. As always, there is no explanation. Trying to mentally poke or prod at them provides nothing of value. They're just sort of "there" for some reason. Just like the [125 Skill points to allocate]

 

Hissssss...

A lot of points.

This could unlock a large number of new spells. I've looked back through the lists that are open. There are many, many more than before. All of the basic ones seem to start out cheap, and all of the advanced ones are still impossibly expensive.

They're all still fixed around [Healing], [Fire], or [Earth], same as before.

But 125 points...

Enough to think it's a lot, but not enough to do the impossible.

Almost enough to be tempted. Enough to charge head-long into the Trap.

  • [Water element: Level I] Cost: 5 points
Unlocks future Water magics.
  • [Knowledge element: Level I] Cost: 100 Points
Unlocks future Knowledge magics.
  • [Divine element: Level I] Cost: 0 Points
Unlocks future Divine Beast magics.

One reasonable option, one trap, one suspiciously free gift.

So one reasonable option and two traps. All within budget.

Yes.

For once, I'm actually tempted.

Chapter 17

Chapter 17

Snake Report: Day Twelve


 

I bought all of them.

Maybe that was foolish.

Still, I'm trying not to have too many regrets in the choices I make, so I'm doing my best to avoid serious worry over the decision.

Even if I mess up, I'm sure the god of Tiny-snakes will forgive me.

Purchases came out to be a bit more interesting than I expected.

[Water element] Unlocked [Water manipulation I]
[Knowledge element] Unlocked [Voice of Gaia]
[Divine element] Unlocked...
Nothing. Maybe I should have figured as much. It was free, after all.

[Water Manipulation I] was just about what it sounded like. A spell to move water around, and make it do things. In the Tiny-snake-temporary-lair this isn't a particularly useful magic. There's no water here, so it'll have to wait.

[Voice of Gaia I] is a completely different story.

I take everything back about the 100 points being a trap.

It's not a trap. It's wonderful. It's the long awaited Question and Answer session of my dreams.

Hissss...

Sort of.

It's close though.

Close enough.

 

"[Voice of Gaia]: Show me my abilities."


 

[TITLE: DIVINE BEAST, LEVIATHAN]

[BRANCH: Magic essence]

 

[UNIQUE TRAITS:]

[Toxic]
[Omnivore]
[Affinity of Flame]
[Legendary]


 

[RESISTANCES]

[Poison resistance: Rank IX]
[Fire resistance: Rank II] - Affinity*

 

[Skills]

[Healing:]
[Passive Healing II]
[Basic Heal II]
[Flame element] - Affinity*
[Leviathan breath I]
[Fireball II]
[Earth element]
[Earth Manipulation II]
[Water element]
[Water Manipulation I]
[Knowledge element]
[Voice of Gaia I]
[Divine element]
[None]

Hissssss...

Now how about that?

I feel a bit of a drain, but it all shows up, I can look at it. I can see these things without leveling up. One better, I can ask questions.

"[Voice of Gaia] what is [Unique Trait: Toxic]?"

"Toxic: Toxic flesh. Deadly to consume."

 

Hisssss. Finally, answers.

Short answers.

Brief and not very detailed, but answers.

The sensation of draining happened again; substantial this time.

"[Voice of Gaia] what is [Title: Leviathan]?"

"Leviathan: A beast of power. Known to lurk in the deepest depths of Monster Dungeons."

Oh. Monster Dungeon. The RPG vibe wasn't far off the mark after all. I'm starting to make sense of this, at least a bit.

"[Voice of Gaia] what is [Title: Divine Beast]?"

"Divine Beast: A ____ ____ ____ __"

 

Oh.

I'm out of magic.

I can't move.

Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Snake Report: Day Thirteen?

 

 

I have awoken to the familiar look of shed skin. Quite a lot of it. In my sleep it seems instinct took over just like all the other times I've leveled up.

Gotta shed that skin. Fact of Snake-life.

Still, strange as it sounds, I don't feel that large, and I haven't gotten much bigger. I still fit in the hollowed lair I created. At best guess, I cant be much larger in mass than the average snake you'd see in someone's garden. Maybe a bit smaller.

Weird, considering I have the title of [Leviathan]

Maybe I just need to eat more?

I might have killed half a cave full of monsters, but all I've eaten are glowing blue mushrooms.

Hmm...

Still: Lesson learned. Getting answers using [Knowledge magic] is apparently dangerous. Caution for the future strongly recommended.

It knocked me out. Clean out: Running low on magic in the world is apparently a swift K.O

From now on, I'll have to limit questions. One per day.

It's all well and good safe within a tiny-snake lair, but out in the open that could be deadly.

Still, today is the day that I emerge. With [Earth manipulation] I will part the stone and sprout from the earth like a bug emerging from the ashes of a forest fire: New life in the wreckage of the Tiny-Snake-God's Pyre.

Part snake, part periscope.

It is time to make my return to the world.

Hisssss...

Hmm.

It's very dark. Smells like burning... Nothing moves but the faintest trails of smoke.

Well, this makes sense, it is a cave after all. Or a Dungeon? [Voice of Gaia] definitely called this place a dungeon. There isn't going to be much natural light in a place like this.

Still, I remember I could always see before, even if it was dim.

Ah... Right.

I burned all the Mushrooms when the Spider bbq happened. They were what kept this place aglow.

Hissss... Well, somehow I can still see a little. It's dark, but it's not completely pitch black. Everything is scorched though, which probably isn't helping much.

There... I can make out the familiar land marks. The Arbitrary West... The Arbitrary East.

It is time to go east.

Slight detours aside, mission [Escape the cave] continues.

Chapter 19

Chapter 19

Snake Report: Day Fourteen

 

The arbitrary Eastern direction did not lead me to the promised land. I soon made camp, carving out a new temporary Snake Lair at the most elevated portion of the caves yet located.

Slithering along to the East lead me up, and up, and up. A long tunnel, just about as wide as it started, with more or less the same shape if just a little more polished. Strangely, not a single monster even made an effort to block my path. In fact, I didn't see any monsters at all. Just the scorch of ashes and smoke. I guess they all fled from the flames when they swept through.

This is perfectly alright. Leveled up or not. I don't know much about combat. I'm alive by either a fluke or a miracle. Important sounding titles brought up my floating words in my mind's eye make little difference.

As such, caution is still my first approach. When the slope actually began to dip back down, going much deeper into the unknown. This troubled me quite a bit. I stopped there.

Temporary Tiny-Snake Lair "Summit-Camp" was founded. [Earth Manipulation] let me burrow into the North-side tunnel wall. A tiny hole leading to a rough cube of space, per-usual routine. I ended Day thirteen there and listened for the swarm of Giant Bats passing through the Tunnel.

None came. I guess the fire scared them all off.

Hisssss...

Well, I didn't feel too much guilt over it. Giant Bats probably would have tried to eat me anyways.

Still, starting the moment I emerged from Temporary Tiny-Snake Lair "Summit-Camp" was the moment I was forced to confront the unpleasant truth: To continue going forward, meant going down deeper into the Dungeon.

Steeply, down.

Down.

Pitch Black Darkness looms.

Slithering out to the cavern after a brief survey for enemies, I have come to consider this.

To go down... It's not something I'm very intent on pursuing.

Further down I go, the more dangerous things will probably get. Isn't that how these things work? The really horrifying stuff is always at the bottom.

RPG themes are strong here, I'll trust that judgement.

But

On the bright side, the Glowing Mushroom situation is much improved on this deep incline. The fire seems to only have spread with violence deeper towards the West, and quickly extinguished itself here on the Eastern side.

Rising from the floor to let the air pass my scales, I can understand why.

There is a noticeable draft of cool air. Moving East, I feel it slide along my scales. Wind... It's definitely wind.

Because of that. I'm confident that somewhere in this direction, there is in fact a way out. Even if the ground dips back deeper into the earth, a draft needs to come from somewhere. Human logic says this makes sense.

Add that with the clear fact that those bats were always flying in this direction, I expect they left the Dungeon every night, and returned after. I can feel confident about this.

But going deeper into the depths of a monster filled Dungeon.

I'm not so confident about that.

Hiss...

Still, there is compromise to be found in everything.

For the sake of nibbling a few glowing and delectable mushroom, I have taken it upon myself to explore at least a little ways down the steep incline of the East. I'll keep following the glowing edible things that don't try to kill me. Much like the tiny-snake-god, I have faith in the blue shrooms.

Once a tiny-snake-person pass their test, the shrooms will not betray trust.

But... Eating these...

It's strange. Such a sort period of time, but so different from what I first remember. The sensation of being poisoned is gone. I don't even bother to cook them. I practice my Tiny-snake lunging bite, and swallow them whole.

"Hissssssss-ah" Another mushroom down the hatches. Another few hundred, and perhaps I'll finally grow a bit.

Hissssss...

If there is any residual damage from the blue mushroom poison, I don't even feel it after ten of them. It's as if-

[PASSIVE HEALING: RANK III]

 

Ah-ha! Rank up.

That would be why.

At level Thirty, I must have more health than before. I certainly have more magic, or mana. I haven't seen signs of these being measured to exact quantities yet, but I've got a feeling they'll turn up in some form or another.

For now though, I'm limited to describing this as "more," or "less."

At best guess, I would say I have twenty times more of both, compared to what I started with. I'm Super-Snake if put side by side with when I hatched.

Super-snake.

I like the sound of that.

But it's very weird, this Eastern Tunnel. Down and down I go, yet I still don't see any other monsters. The fire was bad, but it wasn't like it even made it this far. On top of that, it burned out a whole day ago already. I'd expect spiders, or Frogs, or god-forbid- some Giant Centipedes.

Instead there's nothing but mushrooms growing on cave formations. That and a deep, deep silence.

It makes me nervous.

It makes instinct nervous.

All around, the temptation to slither back the way I came is growing. The murmured words of instinct are fumbling for purchase in my head, but the summary of their mumbling comes to a close with what I already know. "A little snake like me isn't meant to stumble into a place like this."

"Grrrrrroooooooaaaaaaaan."

Freeze

 

Frozen like ice. Part snake, part statue: I am one with the world. Both living and inanimate.

"Grrrrrrrrroooooooaaaaaaaaaan."

It sounds terrifying, but in a way that resonates with the unknown. It's not a living thing that is creating the noise I'm hearing. It's not approaching me. It's still horribly far off.

"Grrrrrrrrrooooooooaaaaaa-CRASH."

 

Like thunder. As if the clouds of the heavens smashed against the sea. Even without ears my head is ringing from the impact of such force. It's such a strange sound, out of place with this cavern.

Curiosity: my old nemesis has returned.

With great care, I will slither forward. Down deeper into the depths of shadow.

Chapter 20

Chapter 20

Snake Report:

 

I was right. The source of this strange noise is not a living thing.

But...

Well, I feel in some way I was also wrong. Because it's not exactly "inanimate" either. It's not that it's not "living," really.

Hissssss... This is a tough one.

It's a giant.

A Giant Skeleton.

Like: head to the ceiling, dark looking runic messages covering a disturbingly flat and polished stone floor, might be wearing some ancient royal crown of stained and blackened gold, Giant Skeleton.

Fitting.

I'm surprised in a really horrified sort of way. This thing is perfectly fitting for a dungeon. Spooky, evil, occupied with some immortal and never-ceasing task. The Heavy iron shackles on each of its wrists seem all too perfect. If this were a video game, I'd expect it to suddenly stare at me, with dark and haunting flames in its eye sockets.

It doesn't though.

Instead, it simple smashes its massive arms against a large metal door.

No tiring, no wearing down. It just lays down one heavy-handed blow after another with a lumbering pace.

Crazy. Scary. A bit fascinating in the morbid sense, but there's something much more important. It's above all this, way- way up there.

Yessss.

If I look up, I see what I've waited for. Faintly visible, almost completely cut off along the twisting formations of jagged stone: I see sunlight.

Hundreds of feet out of reach, but it's there.

Freedom.

Operation [Escape the dungeon] is now entering phrase two.