Chapter 41

Chapter 41

Snake Report:

 

I carved out another twenty feet of rock and stopped early. Something is different about the stone now. I think I might have broken through a layer or something, moved up into a different evil level of the caverns. For all I can tell, I'm about to tap into a new section- maybe some other tunnel.

Hard to say for certain, but I'm hesitant to move upwards any further just yet. I'm worried I'm going to pop out in the middle of some sort of dangerous place and get myself eaten.

Instead, I'm thinking about heading horizontal and breaking back out into the split ceiling pieces. I can probably mold out a ledge to travel along that way, and avoid any surprises.

Of course I could also potentially fall hundreds of feet, land on a floor that will set me on fire, and have two startled humans brutally murder me.

Trade-offs.

I'll decide tomorrow.

Now, onward to the human report.


 

Snake watching Humans Report: Official Day 1

 

The humans have walked along the entire border of the Giant Skeleton's domain. They were very thorough, and I think they were looking specifically for traps.

They also walked to the Westward opening into the room that I came from originally. I have had to reseal Camp Big-Foot with [Earth molding] to avoid detection. From what I can tell, they've only gone a little ways up that tunnel before turning back.

Since then, they've only gone in and out of the giant doors (which seem to have been permanently opened) and not back towards the arbitrary West. Instead, I guess they've been sticking to the Arbitrary South-East.

Weird all around. Completely guessing, but I think they're trying to find a way out of the dungeon. Probably scouting back the way they came.

I heard some shouting, so I think they might have run into monsters one or twice. I know near the sealed entrance to Camp Big-Foot there have been some predatory visitors. Things are finally moving back into the area since the fire, and I've even seen some Giant bats fly past my balconies at night.

 

So there's that.

As for the humans right now, the day is winding down and the wizard has made a weird magic camp-fire in the center of the room. from my vantage spot overhead on my lower balcony, I can say with confidence that they're looking pretty miserable.

I'm thinking its the food situation.

They're both staring at a tiny piece of... bread or something. Even from here it looks like a moldy rock, but the way they're eyeing it would make an onlooker wonder if it's a roasted turkey with a side of green-bean casserole.

The struggle is real.

Not like they can eat the poisonous mushrooms that I've been making do with, but if they starve to death down there I'm probably going to feel guilty about it.

Haaa...

No... Scratch that.

I know I'll feel guilty.

Hisss...

Chapter 42

Chapter 42

Journal entry: 53


 

A monster fell into the Sanctuary this morning. Even after the floor magics were done with it, Grant's absolutely sure something hit it with a fire-ball. So, a magic spell- and a reasonably powerful one at that.

It looks like it's a Giant Bat, or was a Giant Bat.

The thing landed only a few feet from where we've made camp, scared Grant so bad he actually sparked a bit of lightning into the air. His hair is all frizzed up, almost like one of the Noble Aristocrats of the Mainland cities.

For some reason, he didn't like that comparison very much when I told him.

Still: [Fireball]

That's a rare type of magic for monsters to have. Human mages have been known to pursue it, but even among those it would be uncommon to find someone with enough strength to kill a Higher-rank monster like a Giant Bat outright. A creature possessing that sort of magic talent would be an extremely unique find.

Grant is optimistic that it came from much higher in the Dungeon, noting the massive crack that runs along the ceiling. Those run at least thousand feet up, and he's starting to think it might open back up to one of the early Dungeon levels. Maybe even the surface itself.

No way to find out for certain, but it's a seriously compelling thought. If someone found where it opened, now that the floor is cleared as a Sanctuary Adventurers might one day be able to set up a pulley system, and bypass some of the the most dangerous levels of the Dungeon. If not the Guilds, then certainly the Empire: the profits of such a venture would out-weigh the risks.

Still, these are the kind of passing thought that would make Grant say "Talia: Quit your day-dreaming."

Truth be told, he already says that on a regular basis.

Personally, I think he's the one who has really been day-dreaming. That bag of crystal on his hip is enough for a small house in countryside. He's probably plotting out the whole thing in his head.

Meanwhile, I've been watching the ceiling and walls a bit more closely since the Bat, not just in the sense of day-dreams.

A Dungeon Sanctuary is supposed to be a safe zone, but those Magics only work on the ancient runes- so the air or the walls aren't going to be effected.

Usually, that's not an issue. In fact- the subject is not something I've ever had to take into consideration since I first started Adventuring The Upper zones are more-or-less commercialized. There are only so many enterances for people looking to descend any actual distance, so Merchants and Smithing companies typically have booths set up by Adventure Guild permissions. The Empire takes claim over the Sancuaries on some form of rolling bounty from whomever it was that originally cleared it, expanding and paying for further ventures if conditions look promising, but most of those payments go towards the larger operating Guilds. Even the sanctuarys located deeper have at least some permanent presence of Empire guards, supply lines, and at least one inn-structure that people can use to rest some-what safely.

Not this one though.

We're absolutely the first Adventurers to make it this far. There are no supply-chains and mapped paths. There's no smith for equipment, Empire Guards, traders- and there's certainly no inn to stay at. With one hundred percent confidence, I know we're the very first people to make it this far and defeat the Floor's Guardian.

This is a feat that trumps almost any other accomplishment (short of coming back with a cart full of ancient weapons, or magic artifacts) and Grant's absolutely right about what he said. If we can get back to the upper levels alive to prove all this, we're going to be put in the books and handed some fat-sacks of gold.

But that's a big "if."

I wonder how we'll manage that.

It's a long way back to the surface. A really long way, and neither Grant and I have a single clue how to get there. This deep in the dungeon, there are some serious dangers for a full-team of people. With Just Grant and myself, it's not going to be a walk in the park.

For now though, smoked bat-meat with a side of moldy bread beats starving to death.

Journal entry: 54

Another bat landed. Scorched and unmistakably dead on arrival, just like the last time. One is a coincidence, but two is a trend. Grant thinks that the Giant Bats must be having some sort of territory dispute with another monster way above us.

I'm not so sure.

Grant and I roasted it a bit extra with his fire-magic regardless.

Just to be safe, I cast purify on the meat before we ate it. You can never really know for certain if something is dangerous in a dungeon, but when in doubt, it's safe to assume it might be capable of killing you. After all we've been through, dysentery would be an embarrassing way to go.

Once we were done eating, Grant and I spent the whole day trying to retrace our steps back out the way we came in.

I've marked the walls and floors with runes as we go, but already I think this is going to be next to impossible.

Honestly, I don't understand how we managed to get down to this floor alive. Four turns in, and we ran into the largest Tar-Spider next I've ever seen. It was easily as tall as Grant, give or take an extra foot.

We had to retreat, and Grant cast more than his fair share of fire on them, so we survived. Now though, the whole tunnel system is basically a complete disaster. Smoke, at least two caved-in sections, displaced spiders that are likely going to be starving soon- or drawing in other predators.

We're not dead, but I think we might have just trapped ourselves today. Coming back to the Sancuary was demoralizing. We smelled like cinders, looked and felt like something the cat dragged in, and our plan was shot. Even after searching the entire Ancient-Hall that leads to the cleared safe-zone, there was only one tunnel system.

One tunnel system, and we set the whole thing on fire.

Grant summoned his magics to pull water reserves from the Storage-stone in his bag, refilling our canteens with a grin, but I think this one hit him hard. He's blaming himself for this mess, and we both know we're running dangerously low on supplies.

I tried to reassure him that he made the right call. After which, he made some lame joke about us hitching up with a wedding after all this blows over, then he rolled up his cloak and went to sleep early.

With all that happened today, I couldn't sleep though. Not at all. I stayed awake, watching the ceiling and the walls as Grant's little mana-bonfire died out over the next few hours.

The Dungeon is a special place. Even in the upper levels, I'd say there's a fierce beauty to the landscape, but the father down you go- the stranger it gets.

Truly though, this Sanctuary is really a marvel of its very own.

Almost like a night sky, the whole ceiling is like a dome: a cracked egg, filled with glowing blue. Deadly but beautiful fungi, maybe even a few growing mana crystals hidden among the mix, all waiting before the gargantuan fissure in the roof leading upwards to the unknown heights.

Laying there, I let my eyes soak in the scene. I stared so long I felt the flow of colors trace when I moved, almost ready to roll over and let sleep take me: but that's when I saw it.

A quiet moving glow of blue, like the mushrooms, but deeper. A more intense color that seemed to blink in and out of existence along the far wall.

The same blue I remember after the Giant Skeleton was slain.

Watching from the floor, I tried my best not to move. Only my eyes followed it, as it slid out along the walls, just barely rising from some hidden ledge in the stone.

A monster, but not like any I've ever seen.

It's like a Basilisk, but much too small, and with scales of crystal instead of black or green. Unlike any I've ever seen: it's a beautiful and poisonous blue. The creature seems to watch us for a time, before sliding out further, striking with an oddly clumsy motion to snatch a mushroom from the wall beside it.

It repeated that several times. A monster that eats poison deadly enough to kill a whole group of adventurers, I'm not sure whether to be amazed or horrified at what the deep Dungeon has to show me, but it's what came next that really stood out.

A Giant Bat flew down, terrifying in speed as it soared through the open fissure of the domed ceiling. It seemed to circle as I watched it, and my hand felt for my mace as it came in closer.

Then there was a roaring flash, followed by a heavy burst of flame, and the Giant Bat landed on the distant Floor, scorched and smoking without so much time as to let out a shriek.

As Grant awoke with a panic, staff fumbling and rolling on the floor as he chased after it shouting in a confused state of mind, I watched as the crystal serpent stared down at us from the balcony for the briefest of seconds, before disappearing back into the stone.

One time... that might be coincidence. Two times, and that might be a trend, but three?

I think that monster is helping us.

Chapter 43

Chapter 43

Snake Report: Day Whatever/Watching Humans Report: Official Day 4


 

A group of Giant Crabs tried to eat me today. It was absolutely terrifying.

I'll start with that, and the obvious: I messed up.

As a result, I will not be pursuing the Earth-Molding short-cut tactic along the ceiling chasm.

Why?

Three words: Gargantuan-Hungry-Crustaceans.

That's why.

Today I made it another forty slithers up , grooving out a pathway along the side of the cliffs. I'd just started for the final strech of another couple slithers, before a claw shot out of the cliff-face and tried to pincer me in half. I didn't avoid this at all, it just happened hit the rock groove instead of me.

This is undeniably proof that the Tiny-Snake-God rewards and protects his followers. Praise unto him.

Hisssss...

But, after that I had about half a second warning before ten more of the scuttling bastards made an appearance. Scaling down out of all sorts of divots and breaks along the chasm walls.

They blend in really well: Completely ambush predators. Their shells look like rocks, down to the nitty-gritty details.

I think they've been surviving eating the fly-through traffic, and thought maybe I might be worth a taste.

I got lucky.

More magic was burned in the following seconds of that encounter than I'd ever recommend. I'm also comfortable admitting here, that my first instinct is not to fight- but to drill a hole into the wall while hissing in terror.

The crabs couldn't follow that. At best they clawed at the rocks for a bit, with surprising efficiency considering the hardness of the stone- enough to chip away at it, but thankfully nothing more.

I had to burrow a straight line down, rest, then burrow another line back out to the lower groove. I used that to get back down to the spiralling peak of camp Big-foot.

 

Honestly, after the crabs did their thing up there, I've started to think using magic is a rare trait for monsters. If they had Earth Molding, I would have absolutely been snake-chowder for their creepy crab-mandibles. They didn't seem to have it though.

At best, maybe they have some sort of magical stickiness that lets them scale up walls- but they have a bunch of legs and ridiculous strength, so that might be normal physics.

Or whatever passes for normally around here.

But I could understand Magic being rare in a Dungeon.

Considering how useless it was at first, and how many times I could have easily been eaten if not for the tiny-snake-god doomsday pyre, I think it makes sense.

Using it can knock you out quickly, leaving you easy prey. It starts out pitifully weak, and you can't use much of it.

It sometimes takes a second or two to work...

All-in-all: Magic isn't very useful to creatures that have nothing more than a "Eat them before they eat you" outlook on life. Abstract-thought really isn't a naturally-selected trait. By the time you've thought of something useful, it's a pretty good chance something else has murdered you.

So... Yeah. I'm probably a rare-breed. Most snake-monsters probably rock and roll with the [Venom] or the [Massive perk] although I really haven't seen any other snakes.

Mama-snake was huge though. I'd bet money that she took [Massive]

No way to know for sure now though. If I have brothers and sisters slithering their ways about the Dungeon, I doubt they would hesitate to try and eat me anyways. So, there's no point in thinking too hard about them.

The Humans though... those guys I am giving some thought. They're still down here.

Doing human things.

Like: Eating the Giant-bats I shot down. Coming back from the Ancient open-doors visibly smoking. Arguing loudly in a Language I really do not understand one tiny bit.

They explored the Western passage again too. I saw them go towards it, disappear around the bend, and then I saw them come back running like all-hell had broken loose.

It had. I don't know what, but the Wizard shot a bunch of stuff in that general direct before all the commotion settled.

That night, when they set up camp beside the weird magic-campfire spell, I think they looked pretty depressed.

I get that.

Stuck in a Dungeon. Everything is dangerous, and most of it is actively trying to eat you. There's no sunlight, only glowing mushrooms and weird moss.

This is a depressing sort of place.

Before I went to sleep on my stone molded sofa, beside the camp Big-Foot snake shrine, I shot down another bat for them. Maybe I should let up on that.

 

It's hard though. I'm still a human on the inside, even if I'm a some sort of magic-dungeon creature now.

Guilt's no fun.

 

Chapter 44

Chapter 44

Snake Report: Day Whatever/Watching Humans Report: Official Day 5


 

Today- yet again, I came face to face with death.

As always: It was terrifying.

As always, my day began normally without any signs of approaching doom.

There's a trend here, I've noticed.

Hisss...

I woke up, curled into the perfect spiral on my stone carved sofa. I ate a few stockpiled mushrooms for breakfast, and then I spiraled up towards my furthermost level of progress, taking it upon myself to grind through into the odd newer-layers of stone.

It was easier than what I've been pressing through up until this point, softer in a way I think. The work wasn't that laborious, and as expected, I soon broke into another section of the dungeon. Right up and into a tunnel before I could even realize it.

And-

Nothing tried to kill me.

Shocking I suppose, but the day was still young.

How about that? There's a first time for everything, but I maintained perfect form, periscope-snake method. I viewed the tunnel I came out in, saw nothing in particular, bobbed back down and re-molded the floor.

After all the progress, I'd decided that was enough excitement for one day. Honestly, a new layer of the Dungeon, easily a few hundred feet up: That's a good sign in a way. I'm cutting right on through, no freaky magics or creatures have tried to stop operation [Earth Molding to the Heavens] so I'm still thinking with a positive outlook about it.

But that's the exact line of thinking which made me drop my guard.

When I returned in the presumed evening to watch the humans, only the Wizard was sitting by the weird fire, his back turned towards me and his eyes watching the ancient doorway to the far side of the room. His shoulders were slumped, his staff was laid down in a haphazard sort of way. Even from a distance, it was a look of defeat.

The second human was nowhere to be seen.

And I do mean nowhere.

The floor below was empty. Where there had been two, no there was only one.

Hisss...

You know, that's a bit of a scary situation, especially with the suddenness of it. They had both seemed capable, I'd only looked away for a few hours. It's not like I had any real obligation to look out for them, but in my mind, I had it fixed that they weren't going to die down here.

I'd tricked myself a bit, that it would all work out. The great human duo, defeating the odds in this terrible place! Heroes of combat and survival.

The Wizard slowly stood, picking up his staff with a heavy sigh as I watched. One hand the staff, the other hand... a Mace. That was definitely the Paladin woman's weapon.

No one in their right might would walk off unarmed down here.

But I guess it doesn't always work out. Watching the young-Gandolf figure in the distance, it was a really sad feeling. I could only imagine, running through a place like this would form strong bonds.

So she was really gone. After that impressive display of power against the Skeleton, something else had killed her. Maybe an ambush, or poison... It seemed such a waste.

Then the Wizard turned, suddenly. In an instant his posture shifted, his hand released the mace and fell to reinforce his staff as a huge burst of magic lashed out: At me.

It was a direct hit. I didn't even have time to let out my typical hiss of terror before I was frozen.

All I could do was stare in horror as two hands, blond hair, and a grim smile pulled themselves up onto my tiny balcony and looked deep into my soul.

It was the Paladin.

"__________" She said, white teeth revealed with a curling smile.

I couldn't understand a word, the language unfamiliar and strange: but I knew what she meant clear as day.

"Fooled you."

Chapter 45

Chapter 45

Journal entry:

Today, with Grant's help, I caught our mysterious helper.

I was right. It's a young Basilisk: Or, more accurately it was a Basilisk. I'm not quite sure what it is now.

Terrified, I think.

Grant managed to hit it dead on with some advanced immobilization magic just as I got in position under the ledge. I'd been scaling that wall and waited for a full hour, just there under the snake's field of view. It didn't suspect a thing.

We've put it in a magic barrier at out camp, and rigged it to draw power from a few of the crystals Grant has been keeping in his pouch. There's no way out, and even if there was, I think it knows better than to try.

Soon as that barrier is gone, the snake would fall through and touch the Sanctuary magics on the floor. No doubt in my mind those would torch it with short notice.

Thus "Terrified." Monsters inherently know that sort of thing. There's a reason most of them stay far away from safe-zones. Some Beast Tamers have told me that their Partners can feel it, like a noise or a resonance. It's something they instinctively avoid, so I imagine that's the same for both tamed and wild monsters.

That noted, this is a really strange Basilisk.

It's not very big, for starters. Probably less than four feet long, no thicker at any point than my wrist. It has no venom glands, no corrosive breath, obviously not on its way to becoming one of the behemoths that sometimes get spotted along the dark Chasms of the Northern depth-zones. Honestly, it looks almost harmless.

But its scales are a deep blue. Close up, I think that they almost look like crystals, if they weren't so small. Grant thinks it's probably because of all of the mushrooms it was eating. He joked that if he got hungry enough, he'd probably find out the hard way.

Strange as it is, the tiny snake didn't seem to like when Grant laughed about that very much.

Together though, we did a delve to try and figure out more about the creature. Faith magics can dig deep, and Grant knows more about magic than anyone I've met outside of an Empire-university library, so I think we did a half-way decent job at it. The [delving] spell did most of the work anyways, Grant just threw in some extra tricks to go along... and then he almost threw up. Only halfway through the [Delving] and he had to stop to dry-heave.

Grant wouldn't even join back in until he'd gotten a drink of water, and even after he looked a little green in the face.

Apparently, this snake has more toxin in its body than any living creature has a right to have and still be breathing. It took Grant by surprise, but crazy at that might seem: that wasn't even a fraction of what really shocked him.

It's also most definitely got magic. A lot of magic. Very, very strong magic.

Grant made me add another few layers to the barrier after finding this out, sticking a couple more crystal shards to it for good measure. Muttered something about rebounding theories and soul-air element bindings, he worked on the barrier-cage for awhile after that.

Needless to say, from what I could gather: he doesn't think it's only the fireball spell we need to worry about.

I'll trust his judgement.

Still, all in all I've never season a monster like this, and there's something to be said for that. The farther down you go, the stranger things get, but a dungeon creature that eats poison and uses magic is uniquely bizarre. To top it all off, though, it's practically docile.

Which actually might be the weirdest thing of all.

Every living creature that comes from the Dungeons will inevitably try to kill people. With the exception of the few monsters taken up to the surface and tamed (and that's topic some might argue doesn't change a thing) the monsters of the underworld try to murder humans. Ten out of ten times, if you run into a monster: it's going to try to kill you if it thinks it can get away with it.

This Basilisk though, hasn't made a single threatening move towards us though the barrier since it woke up.

No aggressive posturing. No lunges, no teeth, puffs of magic, or violent struggles against its confinement. Instead it just watches us, turning to face whoever is talking as if it's trying to understand.

Really, it's as if some Beast-Tamer died down here and left their Partner behind. The snake is acting as if it were a pet, and not a wild creature known to murder people and occasionally swallow them whole. I've even heard the larger ones can paralyze people with a weird hypnotism skill, and eat them alive.

Yet here were are, and with an utterly tame example of the opposite. A deep-dwelling monster with zero interest in attacking humans.

Whether Grant agrees or not, I've decided: we're taking this thing back to the surface.

Chapter 46

Chapter 46

Snake Report Day Whatever/Captured by Humans Report: Official Day 1


 

Death. It stares at me, toys with me, surrounds me by dozens of slithers distance in every direction.

I am imprisoned by a case of magic air and glass, floating over death. Like a super-hero trapped in their evil nemesis's lair, chained suspended above a giant bubbling pit of molten lava- Only in my case it's not lava, it's that scary floor. The same scary floor that turns monsters into roasted meat: and instead of some cackling evil nemesis, there are two Fantasy-set human adventurers staring at me with looks of pure confusion.

It's like they've never seen a snake before, or heard of English for that matter.

I have no idea what they're saying. It's like if you threw me into the rural country-side of East Asia, and then had the natives speak with heavy German accents.

I can't understand at all.

Not really, or at least not the words, anyways. At best, I can guess at least some of what is being said is about me though.

They point, they look in my direction, they make gestures. I'm inferring here, and it's a bit of a pseudo-science to be real, but I'm working it out a bit. For all I know they're talking about adventuring mumbo-jumbo, or their next scouting expedition. I feel like I'm a topic of discussion, but maybe they're just talking about what they'll be having for dinner.

On that subject: It better not be me.

If they try to eat me, I hope they realize I'm a beautiful flavor of toxic death.

Actually, if they really do try to eat me, I hope they don't realize it- in fact I hope they choke on me too, while they're at it.

Eating me is like a messed-up version of cannibalism. Whether they realize it or not, that's extra evil. The Tiny-Snake-God would curse them, I think.

Maybe the human god too. Who knows, I've jumped camp on this one.

Whatever. They can shoot down their own bats. I'm really not exactly thrilled with this, but truthfully, as of this moment, I don't think snake-meat is on the menu. Actually, right now I think that the Paladin is actually arguing a case for me. She's really going at it too, the mace is waving around, her fist is shaking. She's sort of scary.

I'm basing some of this off the angry finger pointing in my direction, and the louder tone of voice from Young-Gandolf. The Wizard hasn't really been too thrilled with me since he tried some weird magic with Miss Paladin and then almost hurled.

No idea what that was about, but whatever. Serves them right.


 

Hmm... They're getting up. Man, I am tiny. Humans are pretty big. Not Giant-Skeleton big, but I forgot how tall people can be.

Oh.

I guess this magic-barrier shoebox of mine can be picked up.

Ah... I don't know how I should feel about this actually.

I'm... I'm a backpack. The Paladin just wrapped me in a blanket and slung me over her shoulders. Magic can work like this? They can just box me up with barriers and carry me around?

What the hell.

Hisss...

I think I'm being kidnapped.

Chapter 47

Chapter 47


 

"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?"

"It won't."

"But what if it does?"

"It won't"

The slow sigh of defeat greeted her defensive rebuttals. "I think you've lost your mind, Talia. I really do."

"Noted, Grant."

"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.

Down.

 

Chapter 48

Chapter 48

Snake Report Day Whatever/Captured by Humans Report: Official Day 2


 

The humans in this world are absolutely crazy.

Crazy- as insane. Bonkers, loony, two pancake's short of a Denny's Grandslam.

 

They've left the no-monster zone, and now we're going in deeper towards the origin of my birthplace. The zone I accidentally set ablaze and burned rather completely to ashes.

In fact, we've already gone in deeper than that, if my guesstimate of this woman's footsteps have any true bearing on reality. We're in past what I'm familiar with.

Sometimes the cloth falls off my magic barrier-shoebox, and I can take a look out before the Young-Gandalf covers me back up.

I'll reflect on that statement later, I'm sure: The moral of the story is I can't help but recognize anything other than danger everywhere I look.

See ahead? From my tiny vantage point behind Ms. Paladin's shoulder I can see bones all over the floor. Really big looking bones, all gnawed on and such.

And to the left, there's another passage. One that has been quite obviously burrowed out as if by some impossibly strong claws instead of my refined and dignified magic. Even without seeing deeper into that darkness, instinct is basically screaming with a megaphone that I shouldn't go closer.

The craziest thing about the pair of humans, though, is that while all this is going on, they're actually stopping and taking notes. The Wizard has a little book and some pencil-like tool he's been scratching away with.

They've been documenting lefts and rights I think, mapping out a path, all while I've just been trying not to scream.

"_________" The Paladin said something with a serious tone. The Wizard has his staff ready now. "_____________"

"____" The Wizard is replying, also sounds serious. The cloth covering is coming a bit loose. I can see a bit more, we're at a fork in the tunnel. A left and a right option- in my opinion both look like terrible choices.

"HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSssss..."

 

That wasn't me. That was the "left" option.

Ms. Paladin is moving right with a sense of urgency. From what I can see of her face, she doesn't seem too thrilled about this.

"HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSssssss..."

 

Oh shit.

The ground is rumbling.

"HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSssssss..."

 

A set of eyes is staring at us, glowing a deep, deep green atop two sets of white fangs.

That's a really, really, really big snake.

It looks hungry.

So much for diligent note-taking. We're apparently just legging it.

 

Chapter 49

Chapter 49


 

"I can set up a barrier-"

"There's no time! RUN!" Grant's shout echoed off the dark and shadowed walls of the cavern, half-formed spells thrown over shoulder illuminating his panic clearly to any watching eyes. Talia heeded his words without complaint.

A Massive Basilisk was directly behind them: Its stony scales and giant coils filling the tunnel with a terrible grinding sound.

As her legs pumped with wide and high steps, tripping over stones and slick moss, Talia struggled to keep her glowing mace held ahead- providing just barely enough illumination to show ten feet in front of her at any given time.

Down.

Down.

Down.

Down.

They had been trying to find another way up, but all she could do was descend- further and further. Twists and turns, shrieks and startled calls of unseen monsters. Each twist and turn was just another atop the large pile she might never manage to remember.

Finding their way back was already impossible.

CRACK

A huge burst of heat and light knocked her to the ground, feet lifting and body thrown roughly forward with a heavy blast of wind.

"Talia!"

Her vision swam, ears ringing from the show of thunder and pressure, as she sought out the source of the voice. Pushing herself back off the ground, the makeshift bag weighed down her shoulders, glowing blue serpent turning startled in all directions it possibly could.

"I'm sorry this isn't romantic as I planned it." The voice was calm and serious.

Legs shaking, Talia's eyesight pulsed in and out of focus as she fumbled for her weapon. Grant stood with a live-chord of air magics between his hands, arcs lifting off and strumming like a string under tension as his broken staff smoked on the ground before him. His robe lifted, catching on the heat and sparks that shattered out along the vibrant air of mana.

From the brilliant glow of the magic crackling between his hands, Talia saw the entire cavern as if in the light of day: Every crack, stone, and detail illuminated as the Massive creature towered overtop the Wizard, rearing back for a certain strike. With horror, Talia saw the cliff's edge. The pitch black darkness that had waited not two steps more.

"You need to escape, Talia."

The magic flew through the air, unorganized and chaotic: Channeled without a tool by sheer willpower alone. Stone exploded, cinders and sparks flared, and Grant's hands raised up further. With horror, Talia recognized the off-shade clutched between his fingers. The color of crystal shards, gripped by the handful in each fist.

"For my sake, for Joan and Rodrick: Don't give up."

Then the Basilisk struck, and the cavern exploded beneath the ungodly force that waited for it. A blast that hit with gale-force strength, pushing and throwing Talia into the air.

Above the chasm,

And then down.

Down.


 


 


 


 


 

Down.

 


 


 


 

 


 


 

Down.


 


 


 

 


 


 


 


 


 

Down.

 

Chapter 50

Chapter 50

Snake Report: Day Whatever/Watching Humans Report: Official Day 4 continued

We're in deep.

Really deep.

Figuratively speaking, literally... It's like we've undergone an epic on par with Journey to the center of the Earth. We just fell at least fifty feet into some underground river, and I don't have a single clue where we ended up after that.

The current took us down further though. That's generally how rivers work. They run down-hill. Miss Paladin was somehow able to swim us through, half-dazed and covered in armor- though she lost her mace somewhere in the rapids. She dragged us on "shore" along a divot in the side of the waterways before collapsing.

I'm scared.

My magical barrier shoebox is fading off. I can see it, visibly flickering out of existence.

From what I managed to see before we fell of a cliff, Young Gandalf's dead.

He has to be.

Hiss...

He was really brave though.

Braver than hero-frog.

Braver than me.

I take back all the bad things I thought about him. He was a good guy. A real good guy. Even though I can't understand the language, I know he said something real proud right before the end.

No fear. I don't even understand how he did that, and I'm the guy who already died once. It was terrifying, but his death...

Miss Paladin's not taking it well. Not well at all.

Considering everything that's happened, I'm amazed she isn't hysterical. She's still holding composure somehow, but I don't know how.

No idea where we are, way, way way down in the darkest depths of this evil place, her friend is dead, and she's go absolutely not shot in hell of making it out alive. Yet, she's still holding it together.

Beside my fading box, she's unconscious now. Sleeping, I think.

Before that she was just crying.

One of those quiet sort of cries, where even though nobody can see it, the act was restrained. Like she's too strong to just break down and let it out. It's not the kind of thing you want to watch. It feels wrong: A moral taboo.

Watching someone cry is awful.

Hiss...

Well... there goes the last of my barrier. I'm free, it's completely gone. All that's left are those crystal pieces young Gandalf stuck on the corners, and the cloth Miss Paladin was carrying me around in.

If I wanted to, I could leave and go... I don't even know. There's water. There's this rock... there's more water. Unlike the rest of the caverns I've been in, I don't have any light. There's nothing growing here, no mushrooms, no crystals: just the natural ambiance of my scales.

Black water. surrounding a big rock.

I think we might be stranded.

Hissss...

...

Rock is fine, but water...

[Water element]
[Water Manipulation I] - Ability to actively mold and shape water.

Hisssss...

Oh... this might take awhile.

 

Chapter 51

Chapter 51


 

Talia woke up in darkness, greet by nothing but the quiet sounds of flowing water. A pitch and terrible black broken only with the scent of earth and mana heavy on her tongue.

The depths. She was in the uncharted depths.

Alone.

 

Her breath caught as she instinctively reached for her mace, finding nothing, then towards her belt she found... also nothing.

No weapon. No gear. No note book, or dried meats: It was all gone.

Grabbing desperately at what little mental fortitude remained in the growing ocean of dread quickly surrounding her thoughts, Talia began the peaceful and warming chant.

"Oh, Holy guardian of Light. Give me sight in this wicked land of shadow."

 

Over and over, she repeated it, letting the magics calm her as beneath the palm of her hand, the ground began to fill with a heated glow, slowly falling outward as her mana poured into it. Inch by inch, it grew to intensity, revealing the world around her with the ambiance. As the darkness receded, Talia made sense of her bearings.

She was crouching on a large boulder, no larger than thirty feet wide at its largest. It seemed on solid piece, perhaps a cave formation worn away by eons of weathering, sloping upward to a summit of sorts at its center.

But around this was nothing but water.

Nothing at all.

Even as the magic strengthened further, it was nothing but water. Overhead, she could just distantly make out a cave's ceiling, but around her there was nothing but dark moving water, flowing slowly past towards some unknown destination.

This was some sort of underground lake, or river system.

"Oh no." Talia let the words slip out with the hopelessness of her situation. There was nowhere to go, no tunnels or fleeting hope to grasp at: Just water, and the island she'd been fortunate enough to randomly stumble upon- by luck or fate of the currents. "Oh no."

"Hisss..."

A Monster.

Instinct took over, as Talia raised her guard to a fighting stance, light magics flowing into the shoddy gauntlets at her fists. She could still fight, even without a weapon, she could still put up some resistance.

But no attack lashed out. In place of violence, there was silence.

Light intensifying and eyes peering into the relative darkness ahead, Talia made out the faint glow of a familiar deep blue. The small form watched her from the stone island's peaked slope, perfectly still.

"You want revenge?" She asked quietly, watching as the slender body seemed to rise up, lifting a full pace or so off of the ground as it watched her. "I really can't blame you."

"Hisss..." It reared back further, mouth opening to reveal a pitiful set of fangs as Talia steeled herself. It was a magic user, it wouldn't use a physical attack- it would cast something.

Then, in that instant mana sparked. Like oil set to torch, a plume of fire erupted with a fierce surge of heat and movement, streaking past her cheek before she could even blink.

Did it just miss?

"Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

A horrible scream sprouted from just behind her shoulder, as Talia ducked and turned- just in time to watch a shadowed shape bubble down beneath the hidden depths. of the underground river.

"Hisss..." Turning back, Talia saw the snake lift its tail in a slow wave as its body lowered back to the floor. It watched her calmly as she pushed up the slope to approach, tongue flicking out with a final lazy motion, before turning to the other side of the rock and slithering away.

She couldn't help but interpret the gesture as intentionally rude.

"Well look, you're the weird one here." Talia muttered, carefully making her way to the center of the boulder, looking down at the rest of the space as she imbued some magics to the summit before taking a seat. The warm glow made her feel a little better about the fact she'd almost just died, again. "You realize most creatures down here eat people, not mushrooms."

"Hisss..." Another sudden burst of fire, and another shriek. Talia leaned in and watched as the slender blue serpent continued a slow circle about the boulder's perimeter; slithering a quiet patrol while occasionally spitting out flaming death. Around and around it went.

As it did, Talia watched the boulder shift slightly. Molding its shape, as if pressed under trained hands. She squinted, peering closer.

It really was changing, not just a trick of the eyes.

"Earth Magic too?" She questioned it, receiving no answer as it continued.

Its first round-about the island, barely half a pace of stone seemed to have risen. A slight rim, as if a bowl. But on the second, the stone had shifted enough to rise up to about Talia's knee, if she were foolish enough to walk back down to the island's edge.

By the third time around, it was up to her waist, with a thickness of her forearm.

"A wall... you're building a wall." Talia stared at the creature as it went about on its fourth trip, significantly slower than before. "You have got to be the strangest monster I've ever seen." The snake continued, raising the wall just a bit higher. "Or heard of, for that matter."

"Hiss..." Turning back, the snake slithered along the stone back towards Talia, but never reached her. Before her eyes, the stone underfoot opened way in the form of a small tunnel. Seconds later, the snake was gone, deep into the boulder.

"Light and gods... Nothing makes sense anymore." Talia murmured quietly from her the glowing summit, watching the barely illuminated waters beyond the strange bowl-like walls that raised up around the island's perimeter. "How the hell does a tiny snake have enough magic to do that?"

 

No sooner did the words leave her mouth, the stone beneath her buckled as if made of liquid instead of solid rock- and Talia dropped downward with a panicked yelp.

Chapter 52

Chapter 52

Snake Report Day Whatever/Captured by Humans Report: Official Day 5

 

Tiny Snake Camp Alcatraz

Current population: 2

1 Human Paladin

1 Tiny Snake

Camp is now at minimum working capacity. Walls have been raised, Summit has been hollowed out, and relative respite has been provided from the creepy eel things lurking in the water.

They're definitely attracted to the light that Miss Paladin keeps making. Really wish she would cut that out, but I guess human eyes aren't very helpful down here without something like that to assist.

Anyways, it's a lot like a movie I remember watching once. Miss Paladin is currently staring Tom Hanks, from castaway. Only difference is that I'm not a volleyball, and we're stranded in a cave-lake thousands of feet beneath the ground, surrounded by things that want to murder us.

Pretty close though.

Anyways, I've got some other issues of concern to deal with besides the human who keeps talking in a language I don't understand.

[Mana resistance: Rank 21]

 

See that.

Look real close.

It's gotten so high, the display got sick of using roman numerals.

Hisss... So yeah, if you haven't guess already, I might have eaten the fragments of the Mana Crystal that Young Gandalf had fixed to my magic shoebox. My insides right now feel like someone is marinading them with ghost-peppers.

This again.

Again, and by choice no less.

The reason? Oh, I just hate myself.

No- that's not it.

That's a joke. I was joking. It takes my mind off the pain and suffering I'm currently going though. All this, after I swore to never again- yet here I go eating poison like it's not going to make my life miserable.

Reasons though. There are reasons.

Thing is, the weird Eel things keep trying to come over the wall. They're creepy looking, and they have way too many teeth.

Manaburn > Creepy Hungry Eels

Miss Paladin is not good with Earth magic. Actually, I get the feeling she can only use the [Faith] magic I've already seen her use. Young Gandalf was the one who could use the rest.

Or maybe he couldn't. I only really saw him shoot fire and lightning, though he did grab me with some weird freezing magic.

And shoot a bonafide Hyper-beam.

Hisss...

Hard to say I guess.

I'm still not 100% sure how magic in this world is intended to work, and the [Voice of Gaia] isn't all that great with abstract questions. "How does magic work?" isn't going to get much of an answer.

"..."

Well I already tried, that's how I know.

I don't have the magic to waste on that kind of thing right now. Not until the walls are another ten feet up and slanted a bit at the top. No more hungry looking things trying to eat me.

"_____"


 

Ah, behind me the human is saying something again. She's been talking a lot the last few hours, pointing and gesturing. It's sort of funny, trying to have a conversation with her.

I'll hiss, she'll respond, make motions and shapes with her hands and arms. I'll hiss again, she'll do more exaggerated gestures.

The effort is definitely there. She's not wallowing in sorrow like I would be in her position, humans of this world are made of tougher stuff than I was.

They're also prettier.

If I wasn't reborn as a snake, I'd earth-mold her a ring ASAP.

"_____" Another hand gesture towards the ceiling, then one towards the walls. Blond-hair and blue eyes are looking at me with a serious sort of "pondering" expression. "_____ ___ ___"

 

Ah, who am I kidding. Even if I was human, she'd be way out of my league. A strong independent Paladin woman, who don't need no man.

Hiss...

She's pointing towards the ceiling again. Looks a little mad. "_____ ___ ___"

 

No words mentioned have made even a tiny bit of sense to me yet, but I think I get what she's trying to say. It's probably something like: "Can you get us to the ceiling?"

 

If I were to guess, that's what I'd put my bets on.

Hiss... The ceiling though. Not a bad plan, but...

Well, that's a good question.

I'm already about 110% sure water magic is not going to help much in this. Beside a small pool of the stuff I left for us to drink, and the other little grated-moat I made by the wall's base for... well,other things. I'm not about to try and tango with the monsters living in the underground water ways.

 

They're absolutely terrifying. I'll stick with earth and fire for now.

But the ceiling... If I can get better with Earth magics, in time it might be possible... Eventually. It's way too far for me to manipulate right now, but if I could get closer... Well, it's on the table. In the meantime, it's one "Hiss" for yes, two "Hiss" for no, three "hiss" for maybe.

"Hiss. Hiss. Hiss."

Miss Paladin looks confused. I think the shrug-gesture is universal no matter where you are.

At least we're getting somewhere. I'd call this progress.

Chapter 53

Chapter 53

Snake Report: Day Whatever/Watching Humans Report: Official Day 6


 

Creepy Eels taste a lot like chicken.

I know that's a common go-to for what food's taste like, but I'm serious. They taste like roasted-chicken. In a world gone to hell and back, that's a big deal.

But, adding to that: This is also a rather special occasion, on par with a Tiny-Snake's first fireball, or genocidal sacrifice to the tiny-snake-god. Besides Mushrooms and Magic crystals, this is the only thing I've eaten that hasn't resulted in immense suffering and a teetering mind-set of nihilistic values. In fact, it's actually really, really good. I never thought I would say this, but I'm glad it somehow jumped over a fifteen foot wall and tried to kill us.

There are spikes on the wall-top now. Preemptive measure, as Camp Alcatraz is really shaping up to form. Still, the Eel: We even cooked it in a stone oven, crisped to perfection. I think I ate a quarter of my body-weight, unhinged my jaw and everything: the real deal.

I'm snake enough to admit, that wasn't actually my idea. Miss Paladin used more than a fair share of gestures to convey this plan. She's been looking at me funny ever since though.

"_____!" She said, pointing at me with a rather angry expression. "_____!"

 

I like to interpret that as "You're one cool snake!"

 

Yup, that's what I'm going with.

Miss Paladin's really keeping morale in high spirits. But anyways, I wasn't kidding about Camp Alcatraz. I've gone above and beyond even my own expectations in the process of trying to burn off the overflow of mana. Below I will list a few of its many features.

-A massive fifteen-foot perimeter wall (Now covered in sharp spikes)
-A thick stone grated drinking pool (Upcurrent)
-A thick stone grated not-drinking pool (Downcurrent)
-A carved summit interior with a stone oven- complete with external chimney, two bunks, two chairs, and a table.
-A raised watchtower now reaching an estimated height of thirty feet. (Snake use only: Only 70 more feet to go before I reach the ceiling!)

Pretty neat. So far so good.

 

Chapter 54

Chapter 54

Talia: Mental Journal in absence of regular Journal

This snake is NOT NORMAL.

Not normal AT ALL.

I knew from the moment it started molding walls that it was weird, but now I'm utterly convinced I've either lost my mind, or I'm sharing an island with some sort of divine-beast of legends.

Oh, and I figured out how it was using more magic than physically possible: It was eating the mana crystals.

Eating.

Mana.

Crystals.

Those pieces of rock that contain solidified magic so powerful that they can violently explode.

Those glass-like chunks, where one small shard can be used to create upwards of forty full-strength mana potions. The kind, where each one of those has to be specifically calibrated and measure for the sake of safety, and can only be used when a Magician's mana reserves are low.

Drinking two potions by mistake while at full mana might cripple, or possibly kill a human being. Three would mean almost certain death, four and you're going to die while vomiting blood so magical it's going to burn through the floor.

Five might make a person spontaneously burst into flame.

Yet, this tiny little creature probably ate upwards of 200 mana potions worth of crystal shards, and it's not even concerned. I don't know if the crystals just burn slower, or what- but by all rights it should be dead.

Instead it's making walls.

Walls, with sharp pointing spikes at the top.

It's creative.

These walltop enhancements were added those after a Snapper-Eel came over, and it fried the light-loving piss out of the poor thing with some sort of flame-breath magic. Green-fire. Lots of it.

My hair is still frizzy, and I was on the complete opposite side of the island when it happened.

So the snake has been reacting to things, and obviously working up some preventative measures.

But it gets ever weirder.

The snake hollowed out the core of the island.

It turned the space into a room, but not just a normal monster lair- the room has bunks. They're made of stone, but they're still very obviously bunks. It also made a table, and chairs.

How?

Just how?

There are no chairs in a dungeon. There are no bunks, or tables. Where did it lean about these things?

I mean- It's a light-forsaken basilisk for god's sake! Why is it making chairs? Tables? Bunks?! I don't understand!

Is this just a very intelligent monster? Is this a tamed beast who lost its partner in the Dungeon and went feral for untold years? Is it a human put under some unknown curse?

I'm honestly leaning towards the last one. Ancient and chaos magics aren't unhead of this far down, and at this point nothing else makes sense. Not since it made the oven.

Yes. A stove, and oven, a tool for properly cooking and baking food.

It made one.

In the middle of my attempted communication for it to use some fire-magic to cook the eel, it dropped everything it had been doing and slithered off to make an oven out of molded stone.

Then it added a chimney to vent the smoke, bobbing its head up and down as if congratulating itself.

To make matters worse- Light help me, it's beautiful.

This is the kind of stove a noble might own. The surface is covered with tiny details of a snake and two frogs travelling through scenes of sunsets and clouds. It rivals some of the carving work I've seen in the ancient chapels of the holy-capital.

It did all this in an hour.

I sat down and watched it from the stone table and chairs, chin resting on my hands like some sort of slack-jawed farm-girl.

One hour, maybe less.

It defies logic. This thing.

A creature like this shouldn't exist, it's beyond improbability: No fluke of nature's own creation could bring this into existence. I'm convinced the snake has some sort intelligence: So convinced, I've long-since movedto the point where I'm consistently trying to talk to it.

Talking to a snake.

I've used hand gestures, I've try to speak clearly, and it actually pays very close attention. It doesn't seem to understand everything, but it's obviously trying, bobbing along as my hands move, hissing replies.

Maybe I'm insane.

Who can say?

Maybe losing Grant and the others broke me in some irreparable way. Maybe I went under water for too long, and it rattled my mind. I don't know. I'm alone and trapped deeper in the depths of this dungeon than anyone alive has ever managed to get.

But, if I'm mad- long-since lost to the legendary Dungeon-sickness and acting without lucid awareness of what's going on: so be it.

I've been talking to this tiny little blue basilisk. Stories, adventures, history- anything. I'll keep talking to it until it understands.

If there's any chance of getting out of this Dungeon alive, it's this ridiculous monster.

Chapter 55

Chapter 55

Snake Report: Day Whatever/Watching Humans Report: Official Day 7


 

"[Voice of Gaia], show me my abilities."

[Level 42]

[TITLE: DIVINE BEAST, LEVIATHAN]

[BRANCH: Magic Being]

 

[UNIQUE TRAITS:]

 

[Toxic] - Toxic Flesh. Dangerous is consumed.
[Crystalline scales] - Increased Defense
[Omnivore] - Capable of eating non-monster food-stuffs.
[Affinity of Flame] - Bonded to the Element.
[Legendary] - A rare being. Not often seen, known only to Legend.


 

[STATUS:]

[None]


 

[RESISTANCES]

[Poison resistance: Rank XII]
[Fire resistance: Rank II] - Affinity*
[Mana resistance: Rank 21]


 

[Skills]

[Healing:]
[Passive Healing 21] - Automatically being to recover from injuries. Mana drained as a result.
[Heal I] - Third rank of healing.
[Flame element] - Affinity*
[Leviathan breath II] - Rare ability. Advanced variation of [Flame Breath][Fireball VII] - A ball of flame, capable of long-range.
[Earth element]
[Earth Molding 20] - Second spell rank of [Earth Manipulation]
[Water element]
[Water Manipulation II] - Ability to actively mold and shape water.
[Knowledge element]
[Voice of Gaia VI] - Knowledge embodiment. Spirit of the world.
[Divine element]
[Royal Spirit of Man] - Acquired.


 

What the heck is that last one?

I don't know. [Voice of Gaia] is being all sorts of taciturn when it comes to that particular subject, and I've run out of mana crystals to eat.

Well, anyways- that's where I'm at.

To say the least, I've been busy. Earth magic growth has been good, water magic growth has been... well, not so good. I tried splashing some of the drinking water around, but Miss Paladin was watching me so seriously, I felt obligated to stop.

She's following me around now, watching everything I do, everywhere I go (not that hard considering the lack of terrain) but she's been doing this with a really serious expression. She has also been rambling on with a bunch of words I'm not exactly certain of. I get the sense she's trying to make me learn something.

Jokes on her, I was terrible at language in my last life.

I doubt this one is any different.

Occasionally she'll go back up to the summit and make the pillar I've been making glow a bit, but then she comes back and follows my every move. Light-source, snake, food source, snake, bathroom, snake.

I'm the center of attention. It feels sort of nice.

"____" She'll say, followed by another bout of "___ __ ___ ___" and some conflicted expressions with hand gestures that point at me with a bit of a dramatic flair.

"Hiss" I'll often reply, which is snake for "Yeah, I know I'm the best at this. Thanks Miss Paladin."

 

I don't know, maybe she's been a little weird recently. She even grabbed my tail once.

Like, just went for it. Bold move I might welcome if I were a human- taking the initiative and all that. But, I'm not a human and it scared the ever-living-snake-shit out of me.

I think she apologized afterwards.

"_____ ___" is what she said, whatever that means.

 

Tiny-Snake-God preaches forgiveness to anything that doesn't try to eat his followers, so it was all good. A good fashion head-bob "hiss" passed that on and along.

We're cool human.

We're cool.

But what's not cool, is the growing number of Eel intrusion attempts.

You would think that several of your brethren impaled and bleeding to death atop a wall covered by a large number of sharp and pointy stone-daggers might discourage this sort of behavior.

No, it's having an opposite effect.

It's working them up into a feeding frenzy. They're like highly mobile and suicidal sharks. Dead eel on a spike? Better try and eat that, get impaled myself, and repeat the cycle.

It's getting a little scary actually.

There are some seriously problems with that sort of behavior.

First and foremost: There is a very limited quantity of stone for me to play around with now.

Those walls are only fifteen feet high for a reason: I'm too nervous to take any more material to grow them, and moving it around is difficult now that I'm running on my own strength alone. No more seemingly infinite mana sources around unless I happen to mine a crystal out of the ground.

It seems unlikely. This stone isn't the right kind for that I don't think.

But there is a second issue here. One I'd like to bring up and communicate to Miss Paladin, if I could talk. Currently I can't manage that though, and she can't climb the tower I'm pushing up towards the ceiling.

Issue number two: It's not just Eels out there now.

Hisss...

Those stupid toothy bastards are putting a lot of blood in the surf. more than just a lot, honestly, gallons upon gallons: It's as if the Boston tea-party had been tomato soup instead of earl-grey.

Yeah.

Think about that. Eels are annoying and dangerous, but I wouldn't put them at the top of the aquatic food-chain.

Think bigger.

Bigger.

The reason you don't go swimming with an open wound.

Yep. You're getting there now.

Remember when you were a kid, and your parents took you to some weird-ass museum filled with bones, and you walked though some giant archway- only to realize that it wasn't an archway at all, but a set of jaws.

 

Well that's fine if you don't- I do.

It's all I can think about now. It haunts my tiny-snake dreams, my waking hours, my everything, because there is a big-ass fin cutting the waves out there. A huge fin cutting through the water with waves, and circling this little island like no tomorrow.

BIG fin. Horrifically big.

And it has been coming closer.

Chapter 56

Chapter 56

Snake Report: Day Whatever/Watching Humans Report: Official Day 8


 

Tiny-Snake and Human Camp Alcatraz Tower reporting: Forty-five slithers high and climbing.

 

For the Forecast this morning, we have nothing but depressing dark waters, overshadow of rock ceilings and cloudy surfaces- with a chance of Megalodon attack.

A growing chance.

Now for Miss Paladin with the sports- Miss Paladin?

"______"

 

Ah yes, well said. The Eels really did beat the other Eels, great game. Lots of Giant-shark-attracting red stuff in the water now. They fought the good fight.

Hisss...

I really need to get us the hell out of here.

Pronto.

From the tower, I've finally gotten to the height where taking a look at my surroundings is reasonably possible. Spitting a few fireballs long distance helps me get a good picture too. Those things go Faaaaaaar. Pretty fun, though probably a waste of magic.

My findings are about what I already knew.

We're not dead-center, but I'd say that this rock-island is about as close as reasonably possible from being relatively-equidistant to every wall of this cavernous underground lake. Hundreds of feet in any direction before "land-fall" and even then, there's no shore to speak of. Some big pillars, but no actual land. You'd be scrambling against slick walls while the Eels closed in.

For that reason, swimming is NOT an option, and neither is making a rock-boat.

Yes, I think it's possible. An object will float if it weighs less than the amount of water it displaces- I might have to make a pretty big section of rock, but I think it could be done.

That's your Bill Nye moment of the day.

The more you know.

Hisss... No boats, no swimming.

Just looking down, I can see a bunch of dying Eels, some weird shit that won't surface but is poking some eyes up just above the surface, and of course: The Megalodon fin.

Truthfully speaking: I'm absolutely dumbfounded that Miss Paladin managed to get us here without dying. I don't know if we were just moving quick with the current, or the explosion scared everyone, or what. I can see a few other similar islands in the distance, but getting to one of them and not being dead seems more luck than anything.

Is there a luck stat in this world?

I'm putting that question on the to-ask list. That sounds like it might be a thing.

Up though.

Up, the direction: That's what matters. The whole plan since Camp Big-foot. Go up, escape, eat human food, live the dream and be the tiny-snake you've always wanted to be.

I've been working hard at it.

At this point, I'm guessing only forty something slithers from the ceiling.

It's still far, but I can see it a bit more clearly. Nothing seems to be living up there, but I'll know for sure in a day or two as I get closer.

It's hard though. Earth Molding doesn't make material from thin air, it needs stone to work with. Already I'm starting to take an unnerving amount of material from the island's core and work it upwards. It's starting to give me the impression of hollowing out the island into a weird looking bowl... or a straw.

A troubling conundrum, considering I have no idea how much of it is safe to take before I break something and the Eels come pouring in with the flood.

Here's hoping that can be avoided. I've made the core room of Camp Alcatraz as sturdy as possible in the even of such an occurrence.

 

Below though, my fellow islander isn't inclined to staying put in there. As per usual, Miss Paladin is watching my every move. I think she's starting to worry I'm going to abandon her down there or something.

Hisss... Seriously.

I'm a snake, not Satan.

Chapter 57

Chapter 57

Talia:

The snake's tower is getting disturbingly tall. Forty... fifty paces high at this point, and somehow it shows almost no signs of tiring. Instead it "sits at the table with me, eats a few bits worth of Eel, and then sleeps for awhile before going right back to the work.

I'm now under the impression it understood what I was asking for when I pointed to the ceiling a few days ago, although I think some portion of the request has been lost in translation. There's no way I'm going to be able to climb the structure. It's too thin and there are no footholds, attempting that would be suicide.

At the same time, I think this might just be the preliminary structure.

Yesterday my foot actually went through some of the rock island: It crumbled to dust and I fell in a few feet before I hit the bottom. I think it was hollowed out, intentionally. The stone has been relocated.

I don't know much about building, or Earth Magics. It's rare a human have even the most basic affinity with that element, but I can tell there is a very complicated operation taking place. To get the rock tower, there has to be stone to mold. The snake has apparently solved that problem by drawing material out of the ground underneath us. A lot of it.

Slowly but surely, that tower is taking the only defense we have from the Eels that continue to spear themselves on the walls. If this tower fails, we're probably going to be stranded for good. There won't be enough rock left to get us to the ceiling.

Light and gods, that's a tremendous amount of pressure and stress for something I can do nothing about.

Instead I'm forced to watch, practice my chants, exercise, climb up the walls and pull an eel down ever now and again. There's not much else to do: It's like a prison sentence.

Did I mention the snake made me silverware? Stone-silverware, but still a reasonably useful knife and a thick spoon- both egregiously engraved with a small snake and two frogs looking majestic.

At this point, I'm not even surprised.

I do feel like the snake has been acting a bit strange though. I mean that, compared to whatever baseline of strangeness the tiny basilisk normally has going for it. The blue critter seemed to be surveying with fireballs for a time yesterday, but now it just stares without the typical happy head-bobbing, slowly shifting with intense focus as if following view of something beyond the walls.

Once its done building for the day, it just seems to watch. Emotions are a difficult thing to ponder out for a snake, but I think it's uneasy.

I'm starting to think there's more motivation to reach the ceiling than the fact I suggested it.

Chapter 58

Chapter 58

Snake Report Day Whatever/Captured by Humans Report: Official Day 9

 

I think that someone is trying to kill me.

By someone, I mean something.

Something with a large set of really over-sized teeth.

White whale, Holy Grai- No. Stop that.

Not a whale, a shark.

A shark that's the size of a whale, bigger than a whale.

The kind of size that probably would eat whales if put in the same body of water for an extended period of time.

It did a pass by today.

Just a casual circle in, open its mighty and horrific maw, swallow half of the Eels gathered, and disappear back under the surface. Just a few dozen monsters, eaten in one bite.

No big deal.

No big deal.

I'm not scared. I'm approaching this subject rationally.

That's why I'm shooting fireballs at the water with complete abandon for aquatic life.

Hisss...

Hisss...

Hisss...

That's not me, that's a portion of the lake boiling.

I'm mostly out of magic now.

Super calm.

Collected.

All-business and professional snake-persona has been adopted. I'm dealing with the matters at hand. Increased military mana-budgets this quarter, I already built a wall, very much against Cannibalistic Eel immigration. Border protection is of the utmost importance.

Politically I think I'm really holding up my end of the bargain.

If I had hair, I'd probably comb it over.

Hisss...

That one was me. The water around Camp Alcatraz is just a bit foggy now. There's no way to deal with it. One tiny snake can't boil the entire lake, no matter how much he really, really wants to.

Still.

I even leveled up again, it only took thirty or forty Eels catching fire, and another thirty or forty taking the bait and following suit. So eighty Eels was one level.

Long gone are the days of mushroom related leveling.

But eighty Eels... That's probably half or less when compared to what the Megalodon gobbled down with a single laid-back pass. It wasn't even trying, it just sort of opened its mouth and swallowed everything. Those teeth weren't even necessary.

So... What level is that I wonder? One or two gobbles a week, a few hundred Eels in each... extend and multiple that back at least a few centuries from the looks of that fin...

Tiny-Snake-God, this is not okay.

I thought that falling-back to setting everything on fire might be the plan here, but now there are even more Eels. They're eating each other.

They're huge fans of barbecue.

They've let the whole lake know, spread the word about Alcatraz smokehouse Grill.

The critics are raving.

Oh, Tiny-Snake-God. If you don't send another brave Frog Prophet to show me the way out of this, it might really be the end.

Hisss...

Miss Paladin is shouting at me. She's waving a rock-spoon at me, all angry-like.

 

"_______ __ ____!" She's yelling. "____ __ ______!"

 

She always knows just what to say at a time like this. Probably:"Stop shooting fireballs you majestic and wonderous snake" or "Build the tower and show mercy to your pitiful enemies: you're too strong for them!"

 

Yup, those both sound like they could fit. Definitely what she said.

Long way down the tower now. A couple more slithers, and I think I might be able to start molding the ceiling down to meet me.

Hisss...

I think after dinner I'm going to have to try and come up with a way to communicate our situation to her. People have a right to know about giant-sharks.

That's a basic thing, twenty-eighth amendment. Look it up.

 

Chapter 59

Chapter 59

Talia:

Talia watched between slow-bites of roasted Eel, as the tiny blue serpent across the table carefully lifted and set several large pebbles atop the surface. As she chewed, making another cut into the monster-steak on the recently added stone plate to match her stone utensils, she was careful not to look away from its activities.

This was abnormal behavior, even for this particular snake.

She had yelled at it early, and said a few rather unpleasant things in an effort to make the strange creature stop shooting globs of streaking fire over the walls. Perhaps it was still upset.

The final bite of Eel went and followed those before it as Talia set her stoneware down, eyes purposefully ignoring the now-revealed details and finery of the plate's surface. A three-headed frog wearing a cap bowed before a two-headed frog staring majestically over a sunrise and clouds. On the border was a snake wrapping around and eating its tail with a zen-like expression.

"Ridiculous." She whispered quietly, pushing it aside on the table as the snake continued its strange work. If it heard her, it made no motion of recognition as yet another large pebble found its way to the table's surface.

"Hisss..." Its tongue flicked out, head lifting to bob slightly as it looked them over. Then, it turned to face her, confirming her attention.

"What are you trying to do this time?" Talia asked, eyeing the pebbles. "A game?" As she reached towards one of the pebbles, it hissed again.

"Sssss..." The pebble molded before her hand reached it, shape turning and twisting as if the rock had dissolved. By the time her hand reached the stone, it had become a small human figure. Talia paused, staring at the piece. It was like a child's toy, shaped to oddly specific impression.

The blue serpent bobbed its head as if to encourage her.

"Is this... me?" Slowly she picked it up, turning it about. It really was her, her armor, her cloak... even a small but happy looking face. "This is fantastic."

The snake bobbed its head happily, as if agreeing. Another pebble shifted, turning into a snake spiraled up in a coil with its head raised.

"You?" Talia asked, picking that piece up as well to inspect it. "Are you trying to explain what you are?"

Her question fell on deaf ears, as the table surface between them rippled. The stone shifted, churning about into the impression of waves, and in its center, a slow rise brought a distinct impression to form. Bit by bit, it lifted up until it was unmistakable.

The island, Talia realized. The island and... the underground lake. What had once been a table, was now a map. Before her eyes, more and more details came into form. Other distant islands lifted from the table's surface, and the border edges of what were likely walls formed a generally circular outline on its surface.

Then, the walls lifted on the edge of the island itself. Details of stone and spikes, and eels molded out with frozen thrashing shapes as the familiar tower began to lift up out of the table like a thin spear. Higher and higher, it lifted until soon it seemed an exact replica. As if built to scale the island they were now sitting on was also atop the table.

The snake stared at her once again.

"Hiss..." It looked at her hands, eyeing the two pieces as it slithered up onto the table's surface- stopping to direct its tail towards the inside of the islands walls. Then it moved back slightly and did the same thing, pointing to the dramatically detailed figures of the dying Eels.

"Alright..." Talia put the two figurines inside the walls beside the tower, leaning in closer to the island to look at the Eels. They were frighteningly carved, eyes wild, sets of teeth almost polished. "I think I understand so far."

"Hiss..." Before her eyes, a single Eel moved. Clumsy, it broke off the wall and fell with a "thud" before breaking into pieces. The snake moved closer to it, concentrating as several more eels came out of the table's surface, each one picking up a piece of the first shattered figure.

Talia's eyes narrowed. "I've seen them doing this. It's why they've been so active recently."

"Hissss..." The eel pieces seemed to flatten out, no longer being recognizable portions of scale and flesh, but spreading in a wide puddle. Talia's eyes narrowed.

"Is that... Blood?" She asked, pointing to the surface.

"Sss..." With a tired hiss, the serpent turned to the far side of the table, contorting it. Slowly, the mold raised up, moving towards the island and the Eels, but more specifically: Towards the flattened pool of "blood." Then from the raised lump of stone, a single piece broke free of the mold.

A fin.

Talia stared at it. No matter how she considered it, it was definitely a fin. Turning back to the tiny-blue snake, head now resting on the table with a quiet hiss, she watched as the fin settled back into the table. "Hisssss..." Then the stone around the represented Eel blood quivered, and then lifted as a massive head took shape. Jaws of hundreds upon hundreds of teeth lifting up and over the carefully shaped and detailed eels.

"Thump." Atop the table, the tiny serpent flopped down exhausted, remaining magic obviously spent on the effort to show the scene- still uncompleted as it was. Still, as Talia looked it over, there was more than enough to understand the message clearly.

"Oh... Light help us." She murmured, as her hand traced along the half-molded form. A cold eye, scars covering stone skin, with a maw that rivaled the size of the scaled-island beside it.

A giant monster.

Even unfinished as it was within the shaped stone, Talia could tell it looked hungry.

 

Chapter 60

Chapter 60

Snake Report: Day Whatever/Watching Humans Report: Official Day 10


 

As of midday: Snake and human alliance Camp Alcatraz is under siege. The great war of the deep-waters. A battle that bards might one day sing ballads of.

I have to put on the record here and now: The enemies are stupid as they are numerous.

It has come to my direct attention that Eels are the cannibalistic lemmings of the monster world.

There is not longer any doubt in my mind, this is the truth.

A never ending storm of toothy idiots has fallen upon the stone-spikes. So many, it has gotten to the point where I'm burning them off with fire magic so they don't legitimately form a barrier of flesh for the hundreds of others looking to make their way over the walls.

The Megalodon has taken serious note of this.

It apparently also likes Barbecued Eel, just as much as the other monsters do.

We're now the hotspot for aquatic monster activity. The prime destination: Camp Alcatraz is a hit.

Worth mentioning: The shark fin it has is taller than the island walls. Miss Paladin refuses to leave the center of the island for almost anything now. She's just been staring at it, all day.

Mumbling to herself and watching as it keeps circling us, fin now clearly visible over-top the spiked barricade.

She's not happy.

I'm not happy.

The Eels are stupidly happy.

The Megalodon doesn't seem to have emotion, only hunger.

Insatiable hunger.

Hissss...

I've been more than properly motivated.

Not by faith in the tiny-snake-god, or love- though Miss Paladin is definitely the type of gal I'd take home to show the family in the circumstance they weren't snakes.

No, I'm afraid Operation [Upward Mobility: The Snake-erican Dream] is motivated entirely by Fear.

 

I've reached about 70 slithers up. High enough to experience a fatal landing even if I aim for the water. At this height I'm fairly certain it would be like landing on concrete.

But this is important for more than just fostering a healthy source of paranoia-brought-on motivation. As of today, I'm just close enough to start coaxing the ceiling to head in my direction. Just finally there. Little by little, inch by inch. The closer the rock above gets to me, the easier it becomes to move.

I've been swelling a huge amount of it, just a little at a time. It's like a giant rock-pimple, or an over-sized Hershey's kiss made out of... Limestone maybe? I don't have a clue, rocks were never heavily in my sphere of knowledge beyond a few courses I had to take in my last life.

Exams were passed, but knowing myself- I probably slept through the classes.

My ignorance is wide, as the Underground lake is deep.

Anyways, it's getting there. Big moment.

Ten feet from first contact: Slowing our approach, over/

Roger Roger, this is Mr.Snake to Houston, over.

Checking Snake-acceleration, descent is coming along nicely. We are a GO for landing, over.

Eight feet... Check the balance Mr.Snake, rightward leaning- straighten out, over.

Seven. Looking good from here Mr.Snake, over.

Six... five...four-three-two-one: Presto

 

Houston, we have first contact. I repeat, operation [Snakerican Dream] successful. One small slither for snake, one giant slither for snake-kind.

 

Yes. Ceiling contact has been acquired.

Now for the hard part.

Getting Miss Paladin up here... Alive.

Hiss...

I'll be honest. I wasn't the nicest person before I died.

Not saying I was a terrible human being, but I wasn't particularly charitable or anything. No soup Kitchen shifts, no helping the homeless, no working for the peace corps. I'd donate a dollar to the guys who rang bells outside of the supermarket on the holidays, sometimes. I'd let people merge into traffic sometimes, and I'd spot a coworker for lunch if they were hitting a rough patch, but it's not like I was a saint or anything. I was morally average at best.

Morally average means there is some teetering, back and forth with wiggleroom between the two. It also means that the presence of both Good and Evil sit upon my non-existent tiny-snake shoulders to offer advice.

Intrusive thoughts:

"Leave the Human, save yourself."

 

"Don't leave her! She's your ally!"

 

"Do it! Escape this horrible place!"

 

"Miss Paladin is your friend! You can't abandon her!"

 

"Is that friend worth being eaten by a Megalodon?"

 

"Can you live with the guilt of dooming someone you care about to certain death?"

 

"She's a human! You're a Snake! The moment you get back above ground, she could turn on you!"

 

"Miss Paladin wouldn't betray you, that's nonsense!"

 

"She's the reason you're down here! She and Young Gandalf put you in a Magic Shoebox!"

 

"... That was a one-time thing."

 

"Was it? Was it really?"

 

Geeeeeeez, putting Angel-on-the-shoulder-snake in the corner.

That's some heavy shit.

Real heavy, tiny-snake-devil: You evil little bastard.

Besides, I already told you: I'm a snake, not Satan. How the hell could anyone leave a person in this terrible place? You'd have to be some sort of serial killer.

Megalodon or no, I'm with Tiny-snake-Angel on this one.

No snake or human left behind.