"Talia, you know that the chances of us finding our way through the tunnels today are slim right? The snake doesn't have to come with us." Behind her, the Wizard grumbled nervously as they marched up the hill along the far cavern. "Last time we ran into a huge mess too. If we need to run from those Centipedes again, you're going to have a hard time with a monster on your back."
"I don't care. We're keeping him." Talia replied as she marched on, mace lifted and glowing to light the way.
"Him? It's a him now?" Disbelief grumbled and echoed along the passage way. "How does that work?"
"Call it a woman's intuition, Grant. If we can't make it back to the Sanctuary, I don't want to leave the snake there to die."
"Why not? It's a monster for light's sake!"
"It helped us. It wouldn't be right to leave it boxed up on top of certain death." Underfoot, Talia noted the scent of charcoal. The stone tunnel seemed to have taken on a scorched earth appearance, as if a fire had swept through at some point in the recent past. "Watch your step here, it's a bit slick."
"Thank you-" The reply came off-guard, before launching back into protests. "And what if it breaks out in the tunnels then? What do we do if it's capable of freeing itself?"
"But what if it does?"
The slow sigh of defeat greeted her defensive rebuttals. "I think you've lost your mind, Talia. I really do."
"It better be."
Letting the conversation lapse, Talia continued down hill once more. Just as they had previously explored of this section before being ambushed by a pack of Venom-centipedes. She knew that, in theory, those should have all been run off by Grant's magics, but they could still be lurking.
Displacing monsters was more an art than a science. They'd rallied up the swarm and then thinned the herd, but there wasn't any guarantee that Dungeon creatures wouldn't try and attack again.
"Holy gods and thunder... It's like the whole cave was set on fire. Look, even the ceiling here is scorched." Talia mumbled. "Did you do this last time Grant?"
"No." The hushed reply came with a level of nervousness. "I think this level of fire could only have been caused by a very-strong magic... A Dragon Level attack, perhaps." He pushed his staff against a stone, watching some of it crumble away. "I couldn't do this if I tried."
Turning back and nodding, Talia continued without saying the obvious.
Extra careful from here on out.
On her back, she felt the captured monster shift, glow of its scales lifting a peaceful light over her shoulder as she marched on. The top of the make-shift bag had slipped, letting the serpent observe as they marched on.
Glancing at the creature, Talia though it seemed curious before Grant rushed to cover it back over with the blanket once more. "It might give us away." He muttered, purposefully avoiding her disapproving glare.
Irritated, she shook her vibrantly glowing mace at him before shouldering past.
The downhill expanse soon opened into another large and domed room, similar to the Giant's but with a natural formation. Ashen pillars still stood, however burnt and scorched along the ground, and the thick miasma of deep air seemed to permeate with every breath. Every lung-full held the taste of mana and chaos, both rich enough to noticeably shift her own levels.
The reason the depths of the Ancient dungeons were so dangerous. Magical fuel spawning all manner of terrible and twisted growths from the natural and mundane. The ruined remains of long forgotten civilizations buried beneath the earth, spawning horrors at every turn.
This... This was the Deep Dungeon Talia remembered with a sense of Dread.
But, if the Eastern Tunnels in which she and Grant had first arrived were now collapsed, there was only one way forward.