Chapter 77: South Merretta

After the encounter with Listel putting the collar on my neck and the cuff on my wrist she takes my other wrist and she transfers us. With the all too familiar pull that comes from behind my chest we arrive on a small landing platform in the bustle of a major city.

The city is massive and crowded. Every area of it looks to be as densely populated as the busiest sections of the Gowen capital, but as I think as much the collar begins to get hotter. Still holding my wrist Listel drags me off into the crowd.

Passing through the busy streets we round a corner and enter a large stone building, as we enter even I can tell the inside temperature is smoldering. Listel on the other hand seems to not notice at all and is acting like it’s as fresh as a daisy.

The building is lined with racks of weapons and armor. The front door is guarded by no less than two heavily armored men who each have a golem made from steel standing behind them. We make our way through the scorching building and reach a counter with lines of people waiting with various items.

Listel walks straight past everyone arriving at the counter slamming her empty fist down on the counter causing a loud racket that causes several of the other patrons to jump. She then calls out. “GeeGee!”

An older lady with graying hair appears from a door that seems to be the source of the heat, as when it is open a rush of hot air passes through and you can hear the sounds of multitudes of hammering and beating against metal.

The older lady approaches the counter with a warm smile on her face as she addresses Listel.

GeeGee: “Aw, if it isn’t the Grand Marshal. What can I help you with today my child?”

At the mention of Listel’s title several of the other patrons begin to murmur to each other, but ignoring it Listel answers the lady.

Listel: “You see I acquired me a new pet, so I thought I would come get him some equipment.”

GeeGee: “I see, I see. It is always an honor to have the Grand Marshal’s patronage.”

The old lady then walks from behind the counter walking through another door with listel following shortly behind, and with the tight grip she has on my wrist I have no choice but to follow. This room itself has two more heavily armed guards with 2 more of the steel golems. The items and equipment on the shelves here are fewer and further in-between but the quality is leagues better.

GeeGee: “What kind of equipment were you looking to get the young man? A strapping young lad like him could do well with a great-axe, or maul.”

Listel: “Well despite his looks, he fancies himself a bit of a mage. Although due to circumstances he will have to do without his spells till we get better acquainted, so I think we should stick to one handed so he can use his free hand for spells once we can build a rapport.”

GeeGee: “Very good, very good. We can set him up with a sword like yours if you like, or we could go for something less conventional?”

Listel: “Your son finally managed to make another mythril blade did he?”

GeeGee: “He has been able to make 3 now not counting yours, but I think yours still remains his crowning achievement.”

Listel: “Good, I will take all three then, I will take one for the boy and the other two can be delivered to the castle.”

Listels words seemed to make the old ladies day as she says with a bright smile. “As you say Grand Marshal, it’s always a pleasure!”

The old lady then quickly moves over to the shelves returning with a brilliantly decorated scabbed she partially unsheathes the bluish mythril blade presenting it to Listel.  Listel takes the scabbard in one hand and the handle of the sword in the other unsheathing the blade she swings it around a bit testing it weight, and after looking pleased she tosses the sword to me.

Listel: “Well boy what do you think?”

She then finally releases my wrist as I hold the blade turning her attention to GeeGee.

Listel: “Now that I said it, I realized I haven’t given him a name yet, what do you think GeeGee?”

Listel wouldn’t be so carless as turn her back on me with the sword if she thought I could attack her with it. She is much too quick if I tried to make a move against her she would easily stop me, instead I see if I can maybe get the leather collar off, if I do that I could teleport back home.

Just thinking about it makes the metal collar begin to burn, but I try to ignore it as I attempt to remove the leather collar. No matter how hard I try however the metal collar just continues to get hotter and the blade gets no closer to my neck.

GeeGee has a considered look on her face while Listel continues to talk.

Listel: “Well he is bright enough to try to stab me, going for the collar was definitely the smarter choice. What do you think GeeGee? Should we call him Galien?”

GeeGee: “I have always been fond of Arngrim”

Listel: “Arngrim. I like that I could call him Grim or Arny.”

Listel then takes the empty scabbard shoving it in my empty hand.

Listel: “Here you go Arngrim, why don’t you put that thing up before you hurt yourself.”

I am not getting anywhere and the burning is only getting worse so I don’t really have much of a choice so I sheath the blade.

Listel: “That’s better. Now GeeGee what about we find him some armor?”

GeeGee: “Well if he fancies himself a mage we don’t want to weigh him down too much,  we don’t have any mage robes of course, but we might have something that could work.”

Leading us down a few shelves she finds what she is looking for and presents it to Listel. The armor is quite similar to chainmail although instead of small rings they more closely resemble scales. Each scale looks like it was meticulously made from a metal I haven’t seen before that looks similar to the dark steel I have used. They are connected in such a way that resembles that of the scales of a monster.

Listel looks pleased with it and then forces me to put the armor on. It takes some work but once the armor is on it fits pretty tightly. The neck guard and pauldrons of the armor are solid, but the rest of the armor is made from the tightly packed scales. The size of the armor is pretty tight, but the mobility of it is superb.

It fits much like chainmail armor on the body, but the movement feels as natural as a second skin. Unlike chainmail however this armor also incorporates a pair of Cuisses and greaves that end in sabatons similar to that you would wear with full-plate armor.

The final piece of the armor is a barbute type helmet made from a single piece of the same type of metal as the rest of the armor. Even the helmet gives decent protection it doesn’t hinder my visibility at all. I can’t help to think I wish we had access to armor like this in our dungeon, but again as soon as I start thinking of home the collar begins to burn again.

Listel: “It looks like it is a little snug, but I think we can work with that. Well GeeGee, it’s always a pleasure. We have several more stops to make so we will get out of your hair.”

GeeGee: “You are welcome any time Grand Marshal, and I will have the other two swords delivered to the castle before sundown.”

Listel then grabs my wrist again and I am dragged out again into the bustling streets. We stop off several other places including a leather shop, in which we get a belt to attach my sword and scabbard too along with several belt pouches.

We eventually come to the largest building we have come to yet, standing several stories tall with quite a bit of foot traffic coming to and from it, before we reach the door however Listel steps to the side drawing a line in the air casting [Shadow-pocket] pulling a very familiar looking book from inside.

After looking at one of the bookmarked pages she wears a complicated expression on her face before she places the book back into the void and she drags me into the building.

From the inside it is easy to tell what this building is with the large commission board along the entire wall of one side to the building the rows and rows of tables and the bar like area in the back. The commission counter appears to have no fewer than half a dozen people and there is still quite a line formed.

Listel drags me upstairs to a room very similar to what was downstairs but to a much smaller scale, we then head up one more flight of stairs to a room that is even smaller but is still as big as the original adventurer’s guild was in Tobes.

There is one person behind the bar, one person at the commission counter, and only three other people sitting around the tables as Listel drags me straight to the commission counter.

The man at the commission counter greets Listel like everyone else we have encountered today. “Grand Marshal it’s a pleasure to see you today, what can I do for you?”

Listel: “I would like to make an adventurer’s ID for my new pet here.”

Man: “Certainly, I would be glad to do it for you, no need to worry yourself with such things.”

Listel: “I want to do this one myself.”

The man looks a little hesitant but doesn’t dare turn her down. Listel moves over and we go through the process I have seen dozens of times but to my surprise and a devilish smile from Listel my adventurer’s ID reads.

Adventurer #183,257 [Arngrim]                                          Base: Uthaira

Race: Human                                                                           Gender: Male

Rank: D                                                                                      Level: 19

Class: Hexamage                                                                     Favored Element: N/A

Commissions Complete: 0                                                     Dungeon Crystals Destroyed: 0

 

Listel: “Not applicable, now that is interesting.”

Man: “Madam Grand Marshal is something the matter with his ID?”

Listel: “He is somewhat special, but nothing I wasn’t expecting.”

Listel takes the ID from me placing it on the counter.

Listel: “He is a mage, but can’t use any spells at the moment, but starting all the way from rank D would be such a pain, if I promise to keep and eye on him can you at least bump him to B?”

The man looks hesitant to answer but finally seems to get the courage to say. “I’m sorry Madam Grand Marshal, but even I could only authorize raising him to rank C.”

Listel looks a little agitated which scares the man, but she then clicks her tongue and says. “I guess it can’t be helped. I guess we will have to push a bunch of C rank commissions till I can get him trained up enough to pass that stupid test.”

The man looks greatly relieved as he takes my idea and goes through the process of ranking it up he looks at it a little curiously, but don’t say anything when he hands it back to Listel.

Listel: “Well it looks like it might be a while before we can do commissions here, let’s go back downstairs and grab some good ones.”

Without another word she stuffs the ID into one of my belt pouches and then drags me back down the stairs. After looking at the board on the second floor for a few second she clicks her tongue again and drags me back to the ground floor.

After looking over the board on the ground floor she voices complaint to commission counter. The young lady at the counter looks worried and seems unable to respond as Listel says. “What’s with all these crappy commissions, Were do you keep the Good C rank commissions.”

One of the other guys at the commission counter takes the girls arm and says. “I am sorry Madam Grand Marshal, but it is already past noon. When the commissions are placed first thing in the morning the more experienced C-ranked adventurer’s always have first choice, so by this time we are only left with what we got.”

Listel seems to snarl a bit which causes the man to panic and he quickly adds. “However Madam Grand Marshal is able to get around very well, so we have received a commission from one of the settlements to the south, but with the distance none of the normal adventurers have taken it.”

Listel: “Well is it at least a good one?”

The man hesitates and then says. “I am not sure what the Grand Marshal considers a good one, but they seem to be having trouble with the Ingress Mines.”

Listel: “Ingress Mines, isn’t that a dungeon?”

Man: “That’s right Grand Marshal, it was discovered about 5 years ago, and has been supplying the area with some favorable ore, but recently the adventurer mortality rate has really spiked, it is still classified as an entry level dungeon, but they posted the C-ranked commission in hopes to get some help with the matter.”

Listel: “If I remember correctly the Ingress Mine isn’t one of the protected dungeons isn’t that right?”

Man: “It has been a help with the ore that has been received from there, but Ingress already has a wide verity of mines in the area, so the adventurers have just been using it as training and the ore has just been a bonus.”

Listel: “I see. Then maybe this is the perfect commission then. You hear that Arngrim, your first dungeon commission.”

After accepting the commission she drags me out the door again and we stand in the busy street.

“Why are you doing this?”

Listel: “I told you Laura has her hands full putting her plans into motion, and she has the king with her now, so I am little more than their errand girl, but since they are so busy I got free time so I am bored, so they are letting me out to play a bit.”

“But what do you expect of me?”

Listel: “When you go out to play its always more fun when you have a toy to play with.”

“So you are really expecting me to attack another dungeon?”

Listel: “Well it is on Laura’s land without permission, if I find it agreeable we will let it live, but if not. Well we will see.”

“And how did you do that with my ID?”

Listel: “Well I can’t let out to many of my mistresses secrets now can I, but I will say I was hoping your class and level would rest as well. At least you got to keep your lack of element though so it’s not a total waste.”

“So now what…?”

Listel: “Well I don’t have any teleportation magic myself, and my mistress can’t be disturbed, so I guess we hoof it. It should only take a week to get to Ingress.”

“Just how long do you plan on holding me?”

Listel: “Well if you don’t suddenly kill over because something happens back you know where, then I guess till my mistress makes up her mind, but don’t worry she should be done with her plan in 15 to 20 years, so you should have and answer by then.”

Belinda’s PoV

It’s been really hard this past week. The new monsters have scoured Catalina, but they still have yet to turn up even a single clue about Two-Twelve’s location. After our initial attack on the castle Longolia has been trying to spread the word that Gowen initiated the hostilities, but father was quick to remind our allies that Two-Twelve and I was there on our honeymoon as representatives of peace. At the moment it is just our word against theirs and so far we have been lucky as we have done well to making allies of most of our neighbors, so they have all taken us at our word.

With the communication parchment on our side we have been able to get ahead of any rumors that Longolia has tried to dish out. Father even tried to peacefully negotiate the return of Two-Twelve in exchange for allowing a few of Longolia’s demands, but they have denied capturing him.

I can only hope that means he managed to get out of there, but if so why hasn’t he come home yet, or at least tried to contact us. We all have been worried sick.

Like Kline said there have been a few skirmishes near the border, but there is still quite a bit of communication going on between the two kingdoms. As soon as I heard that the war was inevitable I contacted Queen to warn her since she was right on the border, but she seems excited to have invaders entering her little town.

I can tell the rest of the girls are worried about me because I haven’t left the house since we returned, but it just doesn’t feel right to go to the City Hall building without Two-Twelve. I haven’t heard how Kline took the news about Two-Twelve yet, but Lilah hasn’t said anything unusual has happened in the dungeon so at least Kline is keeping it to himself.

Other than the group we have in Longolia I have left all the other dungeon matters to Lilah, Lylah, and Lila. They have been doing such a good job for Two-Twelve before now so no use stepping on their toes now.

The girls even send Susan to try to get me to leave the house, but I just don’t feel like it. It’s not till the 10th day has passed when I receive a message that I can’t ignore.

Belinda Gowen we know you are currently not the primary boss monster of Dungeon #212, but Elder Dyson and myself believed you would be the one we should speak with. I do not wish for you to give your hopes up so I want to warn you we have received no information about Two-Twelve’s location or situation, but there have been some matters we wish to discuss with the monster currently in charge of his dungeon. This is unfortunately not a request, and a representative of the Elders will be there to collect you shortly.

                                                                                                       Elder Madam Erin.

It isn’t even ten minutes later before I receive another message from Madam Erin stating she is here to collect me. I don’t really want to deal with the elders, but if maybe I can convince them to help me find Two-Twelve it would be worth it so I manage to pull myself out of bed heading down to meet with Madam Erin.

When I answer the door Madam Erin says. “Girl you look terrible… I know how you must feel right now, but this is important.” She then casts [Clean] on me and takes my arm.

After leading me to an area back behind the house, and past the other girl’s houses she leads me to a tree in which she starts to draw runes on. Once complete it opens a doorway similar to when I can [Gate] and she squeezes in through the opening and drags me in by the arm.

We arrive in a large stone corridor unlike anything I have ever seen, it has to be part of some dungeon somewhere but I don’t have a clue where.  Once we enter through a large door there is a large podium with six chairs each containing a person.

The man in the first chair, at least I think is a man appears to be some kind of dragon looking man, he doesn’t look to dissimilar to the creatures Lilah summons at the depth of our dungeon. The next chair has a tall older man, next is an empty chair that Madam Erin moves over to and sits. Next to madam Erin is another man then a quite attractive woman, and lastly is Dyson.

The dragon like man is the first to speak with a power voice. “This is Two-Twelve’s monster correct.” After Madam Erin nods he continues. “First things first we have to be certain. Are you sure Two-Twelve has made no attempts to contact you since his disappearance?”

“That is correct… I have tried everything I can from sending messages, to having others from the dungeon out searching for him.”

The next to speak is the man between the dragon and Madam Erin. “There have been no problems with the dungeon since his disappearance? No irregularities? Even if they seem like nothing we need to know.”

“No, the dungeon has been functioning just like if he was there. He has been focused on Tobes, so he has left the dungeon in the hands of some of our girls, so we know he is still alive, but we just don’t know where.”

Madam Erin then speaks. “We don’t wish to alarm you but we have a book that displays generalized information about each of the 800 dungeon cores.”

“Yes we have one as well, we even looked at it in hopes it would give us a clue to his location but we had no luck.”

Madam Erin: “Have you seen it today?”

“No… Did something change?”

Madam Erin: “We don’t know what it means but we were hoping you could help us, but it appears his entry has been completely stricken from the book.  The previous Elder Leland’s entry is still there but all the information for the current dungeon core #212 is completely blank.”

“I don’t understand.”

The fidgety man next to Madam Erin speaks next. “This entire situation is quite puzzling something like this has never happened before.”

The woman then speaks. “We currently have two theories as his dungeon is still functioning he can’t be dead so. 1) He has found a way to mask his presence from us and is doing who knows what possibly even trying to cause us harm. Or 2) The humans or some other factor has found a way to erase him from our sights and has taken him for who knows what purpose.”

“That is all you have come up with?! My husband would never run away from me and the girls. He has always done whatever the elders have asked from him even when it caused great stress on him, and when he really needs you. You try to blame him and say he is out to get you!?”

Dyson: “We said these are just theories. I have tried to look in on him several times over that past week and a half, and I spent the entire morning trying to locate him after we noticed the change in the Dungeon Core Information so I assure you we are just trying to find him, but there are so many unanswered questions.”

“You are supposed to be the oldest, smartest, and strongest dungeon cores there are and that is the best you can come up with? If he was really doing it intentionally why would he leave his small dungeon  which would be a glaring weakness open and exposed without him there?”

Draco: “She does have a point.”

I am shaking mad, and tears are streaming down my face. The gull of these people…

Faron: “As something like this has never happened before we are going to ask Madam Erin who is the in the closest vicinity of Two-Twelve’s dungeon to continue to look in on it to see if any changes occur.”

“And what of Two-Twelve, what are you going to do to help me get my husband back?!”

Madam Erin: “I know it is of little comfort, but I assure you we are going to do what we can.”

Madam Erin then stands and then guides me from the room.

“I don’t understand was all this just a ploy trying to see if you could get me to say that Two-Twelve is trying to attack the elders?”

Madam Erin: “Well is he?”

“Out of all people…”

Madam Erin: “Well you have to understand change doesn’t come easy, and of all the changes that have occurred in the last 100 or so years Two-Twelve is smack dab in the middle of.”

“It is never by choice, either you, or Dyson drag him into these messes and when he does what you ask of him you treat him like this?! You know he once told me after a peaceful day, that he wished he was born a human so he could just live a normal life with me without all the dungeon stuff, so if you honestly think he would give up the one thing he loves just like that…”

Madam Erin: “I am sorry Belinda I really am.”

“If you are you will do more to help me bring my husband home!”

Madam Erin: “Just hang in there, like you said his dungeon is still there, so as long as it is there is still hope.”

Two-Twelve’s PoV

As we head out of the capital south towards this dungeon I have noticed people seem to react one of two ways around Listel. They either deeply respect her or are absolutely terrified of her, but every one of them seems to know who she is.

We travel on the road silently for a few hours before she makes an odd sound as she stretches walking along.

Listel: “I just love being on the road, don’t you Arngrim?”

I try to ask her if she is still going to call me that way out here but with the pain from the collar I still can’t find my voice.

“Is it really that great?”

Listel:  “Of course I can’t stand being couped up in town with all them humans.”

“But it seems like everyone in South Merretta knows and respects you.”

Listel: “They don’t respect me they respect the title, underneath it I am just another bearskin to them, that’s why the ones that don’t jump to kiss my feet are so afraid. They think I am going to go savage or something and eat them.”

“I have never seen humans react that way to beastkin.”

I try to continue with how the people have been so welcome of the girls in Tobes but my voice is taken from me again and I can’t help but just sigh.

Listel: “So are you excited for doing your first commission Arngrim?”

“Are we really going to keep doing it like this?”

Listel: “This is who you are now, the sooner you realize that the better off you will be.”

“I don’t care, I just want…”

To go home… The words that can’t escape my mouth cause the collar around my neck to burn.

Silence then returns to us as we continue down the road.  We continue on for the rest of the day, and once the sun starts to set Listel stars looking around.

Listel: “Arngrim, this should work.”

She says as she moves over to a tree to the side of the road and plops down leaning against it.

“You’re just going to lean against the tree and go to sleep or what?”

Listel: “What do you expect? You want a luxury mattress where ever you go?”

“Well I didn’t expect to be exposed to the elements. Haven’t you ever heard of a tent?”

Listel: “What’s the use? It will just weigh you down.”

“I figured you just carried everything in that [Shadow-pocket] of yours. Are you saying you have absolutely no supplies?”

Listel: “Of course not, we are monsters. Why should we inconvenience are selves with human’s trash.”

I sigh and look around finding a spot I lie down in the dirt.

Listel: “I am not going to bite. I will share the tree with you.”

“For one I am sure you probably do, and two I am fine here thanks.”

Listel: “You could at least remove the armor.”

“Why should I inconvenience myself with human’s trash of comfort?”

Listel then clicks her tongue and says. “Suit yourself.”

After laying there a while it is quite uncomfortable though…It doesn’t matter though as once I am sure Listel is asleep I get up and try to sneak away. It is quite dark, and I am not entirely sure where I am but I know I just need to get away.

I don’t even make it out of sight of the road before I am tackled to the ground. Listel then flips me over pinning me to the ground much in the same way she did in my dungeon. Even when I think back to that event the collar beings to burn my neck.

Listel: “If you wanted to play tag you just had to ask.”

“Alright, you win just get off me.”

Listel: “But it’s my win that means I get to take the prize.”

She then pulls the helmet off my head and presses her lips against mine, I try to move but her strength is just too much for me as she starts to grind her hips against me. I can’t do much against her lips but at least the armor is a good barrier between the rest of me and her.

When she finally stops kissing me I ask her. “What are you doing?”

Listel: “I was always told if someone gives you a toy you should play with it to its fullest.”

“Alright, you had your fun now get off.”

Listel: “Who said I got to the fun part yet?”

“Enough! I am…” –I try to say married, or taken, or anything but the pain is intense.-

Listel: “I know you would like it, See?” –She says as she works one of her hands past the armor and down my trousers.”

“It’s a physical response. It doesn’t mean anything, now stop I’m…”

The pain is getting worse, the more I tell her to quit it gets so bad that it takes everything I have just to keep trying to push her away. Finally she clicks her tongue and jumps off me and the pain then fades.

Listel: “If you’re going to be that way it’s not fun anymore.”

“Good, keep it that way.”

She then grabs my arm dragging me back towards the tree, and then she plops back down seeming to go back to sleep. I still can’t manage to get any rest, the more my mind tries to wonder back to home the more the pain keeps me here under this god awful tree with this crazy woman…

 

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