Book III - Chapter 8

 

Chapter 8

[Eveth]

“How many are left? I feel like this is endless!” From atop a market stall, Eveth shouted as she let a well placed [Fireball] consume the next monster stupid enough to approach. Then, she hit it with a second spell, for good measure. “And- is it just me, or are they getting bigger?”

“Don’t worry!” Alem shouted to her, from the ground below. “They’re thinning out! Just keep the magic coming!” Throwing his weight forward, the weapon in his hands landed a heavy hit to his latest opponent, sending the beast reeling.

“Keep it coming, keep it coming…” Eveth mumbled as she raised her staff, as the newest [Fireball] spell tethered itself in place in her array. Aggressively, the element fought against the links of Soul she tied it with. Much like a rock would resist a sling, it began orbiting with the others at a rapid pace around her. “Easy for you to say, all you have to do is swing a hammer.”

“We’ve got a large one!” Either blissfully unaware, or tactfully ignoring her, Alem pointed ahead. From the fissure, Eveth saw another creature attempt to force its way out onto the street. Larger than the previous, this one had thick scales and blood-red claws scraping at the edges of the broken ground.

“Sure you can’t handle that on your own?” Eveth asked.

“Oh, don’t be like that, Eveth.” Alem let a hand run along his shaved head, as he stared up at the newest arrival. The giant lizard stared down at him. “Look at that thing. It’s got to be five times my size.”

“Might be fun.” She added, as the creature began to rise further.

“Not the time to joke, Eveth!” Alem shouted back, taking on a defensive posture. In response to his movement, the monster’s slit-like eyes narrowed with a raspy growl of anger.

“Fine.” Eveth sighed, throwing her staff forward to sever the Soul links spinning about the air. As she did so, several of the prepared spells were cut loose- to satisfying effect. Flinging towards the target, fire encased the monster, sticking to its armor-like scales as it burned. “How do you like that?”

“Craaaaaaaaaa!” The lizard, it seemed, did not like that at all. Viciously screeching, it turned towards Eveth, and reared back in rage.

Jaws opening, Eveth thought it might possibly be trying to spit something. Acid, or material that possessed a similar effect. Dark, purple saliva seeped out between jagged teeth, leaving scorches on the ground below.

“Watch out!” Alem warned, loudly. “It’s got an ability!”

“Don’t worry.” Eveth replied. “They’re the second monster to survive this, but-” She swung her staff down, “I’ve made some improvements since the first.”

All at once, the flaming coat on the creature’s scales erupted. Eveth felt her hair and cloak blow back, as heat washed over her with the scent of ash and dust.

“Damn.” Alem coughed, eyebrows singed. “What in all the Gods was that?”

“Progress.” Eveth answered, as the monster’s corpse disappeared in a bout of smoke, tumbling back into the large fissure it had crawled out of.

“Next time, warn me.” Alem frowned, spitting out soot. “I’m serious.” He added, wiping the grime from his face. He eyed the trailing wisps of their latest threat, already fading away as the corpse tumbled back from the fissure whence it came. “Howard, Nathaniel, how are you both holding up?” Alem shouted. “Eveth and I have cleaned up, here. How’s your side?”

Eveth glanced back, as screeching death-rattles greeted him.

Then, came loud, surprisingly happy, voices.

“All is well, honored Alem!” The reply was returned just as a giant ax swung down, bisecting a charging lizard. Then, violently lifting the weapon back up with a reverse swing, Nathaniel easily beheaded another. The corpse seemed to scramble for a few seconds, before smashing, headless, into a wall. Blood sprayed, profusely, as it did. “Such fun!” Nathaniel added, with a wide smile.

“Indeed!” Howard chuckled, like jolly thunder, as his great-sword flashed about, delivering horrible wounds to his latest opponent. “Did I not tell you, brother Nathaniel? This city is never dull!”

“So, you did!” Nathaniel replied, as he threw his head back, joining in the laughter. “To hunt in the streets! What joy this is! Does this happen often?”

“No, brother! This is a very special occasion!” Howard replied. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

“It is!”

“Ahahaha!”

As both ax and sword did-in yet another unfortunate beast, Eveth shook her head.

“I think they’ve got a handle on things, Alem.” She dropped down from the stall, letting her remaining active spells disassemble. “We should try and clear up what we can, though. I doubt it was just our block that was hit by this. There’s bound to be some form of bounty we can collect.”

“Aye.” Bloodied hammer rising to settle back on his shoulder, Alem looked to the direction of a distant Church tower, bells ringing out with a gusto. In the same direction, smoke was beginning to rise. “Here I was, hoping things had already dug their way down to rock bottom, and it was uphill from here on out.”

“How’s that?”

“Crops dying, people starving, graineries running down to empty, an entire continent on fire…” Alem listed. “I had hoped we’d reached the end of it. Now, what? Monsters crawling out of the bloody ground?”

“Make’s perfect sense to me.” Eveth replied.

“How’s that?” Alem asked, frowning.

“Keep digging past rock bottom, you’re bound to reach the Dungeon one way or another.” Eveth shrugged, pointing towards the fissure. “And here we are.”

“For all the…” Alem stopped talking and gave the long running crack in the street a pensive stare.

“Oh, come on, Alem. It was a joke.”

“I know.” He replied. “I know.”

Eveth didn’t think he sounded very sure of himself.

Another quake rocked them, as the sounds of structures collapsing joined the bells and screams. Eveth cursed as her footing slipped out from under her, and she landed roughly beside the fissure. As she did, another set of claws sprung up from the darkness, only a few paces away. Seemingly unaffected though, Alem leapt forward to bring his hammer overhead for a heavy swing. The claws lost traction, falling after a sickening crunch.

As the quake settled, the fissure seemed to crumble in on itself. Street giving way as the edges broke into bits and pieces. Eveth pushed herself back, helped to her feet by Alem, as several of the foundation stones which made up the street beneath them, fell inward, blocking the recent opening.

“Good hit.” Eveth complimented, steadying herself as the aftershocks ran their course.

“Not my best.” Alem eyed the, now, sunken ditch in the center of the road. “Might have survived.”

“Well, the ones before didn’t.” Eveth breathed a sigh of relief as the ground settled, for true. “It’s a shame, half our kills fell back into the holes they crawled out from. Going to be hard to claim a reward without proof.”

“Hmm… I hadn’t considered that.” Alem rubbed at his chin, before pausing to look further down the road. “Hold on.” He motioned to her. “There’s another-”

“Craaaaaaaaaaaaa!” Ahead, a wall exploded, as a giant centipede plowed through with a mighty roar.

“Light!” Alem shouted, catching his balance as the shockwave reached them. All down the street, shop windows shattered from the force.

“Damn it!” Eveth winced, too slow to cover her ears.

“Would you look at the size of that one, Eveth? Think you can bring it down?” He asked. “Those fire spells seemed to be working, earlier.”

“You got to be kidding.” Eveth ground her teeth, as the ringing in her ears held steady. “That?”

“Why would I joke about something like this?” Alem asked.

“Alem, if you seriously believe my spells are going to be enough to kill that thing…” Eveth shook her head. “That’s probably the nicest, most misplaced compliment, I’ve ever received.” She watched, as the centipede crashed through another wall. Ripping through pressed earth and stone, the monster turned away from them. “No, that’s going to need a lot more than some fire to kill.”

“Craaaaaaaaaa!” It howled, crashing onward. It seemed completely indifferent to the damage left in its wake.

“Damn.” Alem whistled.

“Damn.” Eveth agreed.

“If we’re talking bounties, what do you think the price would be on that?”

“Hypothetically?”

“Aye.”

“Well… I’ve never seen one of those above ground before, but Giant Centipedes are a big hit for lightweight armor material. Smiths love that stuff.” Eveth replied. “So, quite high, I imagine.”

“How high, though?” Alem asked, looking wistfully at his hammer.

“For Light’s sake.” Eveth grumbled, reaching to the pouch on her hip to pluck the cork from a glass vial. Tipping it back, she downed its contents in one sip, coughing as the sense of mana burned in her chest, as she summoned a new array. “Let’s go find out.”