I don’t know why I did it, but in the heat of the moment it just felt right. Everything my Mistress told me didn’t seem to matter anymore because I found a way to at least save him. Even after the trolls beat me within an inch of my life, and arguing over who was going to violate me first. I didn’t regret saving him one bit.
The Mistress made me the master of both of his collar and cuff, so when I eventually die he should be able to start to recover his memories and find his way home. Then he should be able to find a way to remove them, and then he could be happy again… At least that is a bit of a consolation.
I know trolls are notorious for this sort of behavior but that isn’t how I want to go out… I decided once I am dead it won’t matter anyway so I will just bite my own tongue at least that way I don’t have to feel the trolls ripping me apart from the inside out…
As I am about to bite my tongue that is when it happens… I hear the loud scream and one of the trolls falls. Its Arngrim…He came back. My heart sores even though if I feel tears in my eyes because even though he came back I know he doesn’t stand a chance against all these trolls. If he just stayed away then maybe he could have returned to his old life…
I see him cast a spell and then throw his sword but something grabs me and I lose consciousness. When I come to I can only manage to open one eye and when I do I see Arngrim starring down at me and in his arms and with the look on his face I know somehow we are safe.
I must all of my strength to bring my hand to his cheek and the only thing I can think of to say is “You didn’t run away.” He calls me an idiot, but I guess I can agree. Although the next thing he says fills me with a brief happiness but it quickly changes to regret.
He said he loved me, but it simply isn’t true. Everything I have done to him he only is acting that way because we made him. I’m so sorry we did this to you…Two-Twelve… Is all I can think before blacking out.
When I come too again, I find all my wounds have been healed, I look around and start to panic when I see Two-Twelve unconscious but after I check on him he is just resting. I get up and look around trying to get my bearings but don’t have a clue where we are.
I guess until Two-Twelve wakes up the only thing I can do is report what has happened back to my Mistress.
“We have managed to destroy the third dungeon, but we suffered major damage. I nearly lost my life but Two-Twelve saved me. We however have both seemed to have lost our weapons.”
Laura: “Two-Twelve? I told you to use his conditioned name at all times lest you make a mistake and ruin all our efforts.”
“I’m sorry my Mistress.”
Laura: “The swords are a heavy loss, yours was non-replaceable, but it seems there may be a silver lining. If he saved you from dying the conditioning is near completion?”
I have never lied to my Mistress before, but for some reason I just can’t tell her what he told me… I end up with only replying with. “Yes…”
Laura: “Good then by the time he claims his fourth dungeon we should be ready to move on to the next phase of the plan.”
“Yes my Mistress…”
Laura: “I will send the spare mythril blades to Dyson, and you can pick them up there before making your way back to Livingston.”
“As you order my Mistress.”
I don’t know if I can keep this up, but I can’t go against my Mistress’s orders, so even though I hate myself with nothing more I can do I cuddle up to Two-Twelve… At least I can be there for him. Feeling his heart beating is enough to calm me down.
When I wake up I find Listel starring up at me with her large green eyes.
I reach down to kiss her but she turns her head and pulls away.
“Are you mad at me?”
She has a pained expression on her face as she says. “Of course I am mad at you! I told you to run away!”
“But I can’t leave the woman I love behind like that.”
Listel: “Don’t say that!”
“But I mean it.”
Listel: “Please…” –She pleads with tears in her eyes.-
Listel: “It…” –She looks like she is going to say something but after a few moments of silence she shakes her head as says.- “I talked to my Mistress, she was mad at us for losing our swords, but she said she would send replacements to Mar, so we can go back there and pick them up before heading on to the final dungeon.”
“Well I just ran due south, I don’t know how far we came, but Mar should be… That way.”
I motion with my arms in a V covering and area over 2 points of the map. Listel seems to lighten up a bit and laughs, so it at least seemed to help the mood some.
After that we set back out towards Mar it takes us a while to figure out where we are, but eventually we get back on track. Even when I try to talk to Listel she for some reason seems to be trying to keep some distance between us, maybe it was wrong of me to tell her I loved her…
By the time we reach Mar it is pretty late at night, or I guess you can say it is early in the morning, so we decide to get a few hours of rest before checking on acquiring our swords at the castle. When we arrive at the castle the next morning we are expecting to meet with Dyson again, but however a young lady just hands us the swords at the front gate and shoos us away.
We then set our sights on the next dungeon and set out.
Things have really started to return to normal in Tobes, and I for one hate it… Without Two-Twelve it can’t be normal, but it has started to feel that way. Tormenting Mindy has only taken me so far, and now I hate to admit it but she has been making progress in Tobes that Two-Twelve wouldn’t have been able to accomplish.
Doug has managed to gain quite a few levels in the dungeon along with his slave and they are even thinking of setting out to try their hands in other dungeons. We have 5 groups of dungeon monsters out searching for Two-Twelve now, and still not a single one has gotten a single lead.
Scylla’s pregnancy has started to show, her and Kline seem to be loving every minute of it. Roxy still checks with me often, but unless she is with Zoey at the time I don’t see Zoey at all. Bell of course is working with Mindy, and even though Mindy says she hates her she seems to rely on her quite a bit.
Sofia is still training new adventurers so I see her when she brings her students to the guild. Katie has been hit on by Doug a few times and she doesn’t get along with Mindy at all so I often don’t even know if she is even home or not.
We have had a pretty mild winter, it’s no Faron’s rest, but mild all the same, so the adventurers are coming to Tobes in droves. I think if Two-Twelve walked into Tobes now he would hardly even recognize the place anymore.
More adventurer’s mean more work for Lilah, Lylah, and Lila, so they have been staying very busy. Two-Twelve never even got to meet Lila, and we will probably have to summon another before he returns by the way things look.
Every few days when I get exceptionally lonely I will use the [Gate] spell and just travel anywhere and everywhere hoping I just might bump into Two-Twelve there.
When we celebrated my birthday the other day almost none of the girls came leaving quite a hole in my heart…Two-Twelve was the glue that holds this family together and without him I just don’t know how much longer we can go on…
I know now I shouldn’t have told Listel that I loved her not a day goes by now that she doesn’t give me a pained expression, and she has been maintaining her distance from me. This dungeon is supposed to be the hardest one yet, but I don’t think we will be able to fight together like we did before if things don’t improve so as we are in the town outside the dungeon I decide to fix things.
“Listel it’s been almost a month, can’t you forgive me?”
Listel: “You did nothing wrong Arngrim, nothing, you shouldn’t be the one apologizing.”
“But I am afraid of what might happen in the dungeon if we keep going like this. We barely made it out of the last one and you said this one is even harder.”
Listel: “Don’t worry, if it comes to it I promise I will still protect you with my life.”
“I don’t want you to protect me with your life! I want my partner back!”
Listel: “I don’t deserve for you as a partner.”
“Don’t I get any say in this at all?”
Listel: “That is the problem you don’t have a say!”
“I don’t understand… Are you talking about what happened to me before I came to travel with you?”
Listel: “I am sorry Arngrim, the Mistress won’t let me talk about it.”
“Then just listen. I don’t care about the me before I was with you, that was a different person, that isn’t who I am now.”
Listel: “You wouldn’t say that if you knew what was taken from you.”
“I don’t care! I just know what I am missing now, and I won’t… No I can’t go on with the woman I love being in so much pain!”
Listel: “We did it to you! My Mistress and I we took you from your family and turned you into this. It was never your choice!”
“But it’s my choice now! And I Choose to be with you!”
Listel’s pained expression only worsens and she turns her face with tears in her eyes. I reach over and take her face brushing the tears from her cheeks.
“Please, even if you don’t love me, at least let me continue to love you.”
Listel bursts into sobs as she wraps her arms around me.
Listel: “But I do! I do love you!”
I place my lips against her and kiss her. Her body starts out tense but it seems to melt after a few seconds and she begins to kiss me back. Our lips only part briefly as I raise her shirt over her head, then she starts tugging at mine.
We spend the next few hours in passion and afterwards she is lying on top of me with her tail twitching purring softly as I whisper into her ear.
“I told you that you purr.”
She reaches up and bites my lower lip and not long after another long kiss we fall asleep.
When I wake up the next morning I find myself clean, but I am also alone. I quickly look around and find Listel sitting in a chair with her knees tucked to her chest. Her tail is twitching slowly and she is starring out the window with a sad expression.
“What’s the matter?”
My voice seems to surprise her a bit, so she must have really been zoned out. She quickly jumps up however paints on a smile and comes over to the bed and kisses me.
Listel: “It’s nothing, I just know what I need to do now.”
“Are you sure you are ok?”
Listel: “Never better.” –This time her smile seems genuine. – “Now let’s go, we got a dungeon to take care of.”
We then get up and get dressed setting out from the inn and head into the dungeon beneath the town. The first few levels are an intricate labyrinth of sewers, and even with the map we purchased from the adventurer’s guild we still get lost several times.
The monsters however have been lizard men and frog men so it has been easy going the hardest thing we have had to face was some non-sentient rat beastkin. After two days though we manage to find a tunnel that seems to lead away from the sewers and further into the dungeon. Even after a week has passed since we entered the dungeon we still have made very little progress.
Listel: “This is the same damn room we were in two days ago…”
“Are you sure?”
Listel: “I just used my skill and could smell it.”
“I am kind of curious, just how exactly does a room we have been in two days ago smell?”
Listel: “Warm, soft, a bit salty…” –as she keeps describing the smell her breath is getting ragged and her cheeks are flush.-
“Are you ok…?”
Listel quickly shakes her head and smiles. “Of course, I just took your scent and followed it.”
“Wait you are following that scent, haven’t we used [Clean] several times especially after going through the sewers, how can you still follow that smell?”
Listel: “Best part of the skill, I can relieve a moment over though the smell, sometimes even several times a day.”
“Hey that’s not fair, I only got to experience once…”
Listel: “Then you better hurry and find us the right path though the dungeon then.”
It takes another week to make it out of that section of the dungeon, and the worst part is the monsters still were not even worth our effort so all that time was wasted. This next part however is starting to prove more challenging. Even with the labyrinth continuing into this section at least the monsters are not leaving us bored.
“Three weeks now…Three! We have to be close to the end now…”
Listel: “Actually I believe we are only about half way…”
“I officially hate labyrinths…”
I am starting to wonder just what Laura is up to, said she was training her new boss monster with Dungeon Core #429 [Gala], but then they took out Dungeon Core #21 [Greenhawk]. She could have practically gave any reason, and it would have been alright but she said it was in her attempts to help locate Two-Twelve. Even if there was some random piece of information that led them there their next target was Dungeon Core #95 [Gruda]
Now personally I didn’t like Gruda, and I would have gotten rid of the eye sore myself, but she had a habit of chasing the humans from the plains to take up residence in the city, so it helped to have her out terrorizing the country side. Laura’s monster claimed Gruda too was part of their investigation… and now I heard they have entered Dungeon Core #684 [Viktor]’s dungeon.
What exactly is Laura up too…? Nothing I have found has come remotely close to information about Two-Twelve so she must be using it as a guise, but why I don’t care if she has her monsters off a few of the lower level cores, but surely eventually she will draw some ire from someone powerful that way.
Wait maybe that is it. She is trying to draw someone’s attention. What do these cores all have in common…? I got it! They all have the same name as the previous core. They must have all been trained by Maric.
Maric is awfully proud of his record of surviving cores so I can easily see how taking a few of them out would draw his attention. That is also the reason she is using a new monster instead of the hero she already has, a disposable pawn.
But the question is why… Can I take her at her word that it is to help find Two-Twelve? Does she think Maric knows something? It is possible I am sure he was the one responsible for the old Dungeon Core #2’s death, Two-Twelve really was pivotal in that decision so maybe he done this to Two-Twelve as payback?
Wait wait, back up…Laura’s monsters took out the first core before I put them onto Two-Twelve, so maybe it’s not related. Maybe it’s to get rid of him so if another elder spot opens up she is the only option remaining?
But then why slack off during it the first time, and I am sure if Maric came for Laura she wouldn’t be able to beat him, maybe it has something to do with the new monster? He had a slave collar and a slave cuff… Generally they just use the collar now the cuff type slave device went out back when I was still human…
Maybe he is that old, it’s not impossible if he is bound to a dungeon, but why add the collar and not removed the outdated cuff? Wait just maybe…
I quickly send a message.
“Madam Erin, do you still have any old cuff style slave devices from back in the day?”
Madam Erin: “I may…”
“Laura is up to something that has piqued my interest and I wanted to test a running theory, but I need one of those old style slave devices on a monster bound to another dungeon.”
Madam Erin: “Well I have no interest in feeding your curiosities so, unless you make it worth my wild.”
“It is concerning that new hero that has been killing off several cores, Arngrim.”
Madam Erin: “Ok… I am listening.”
“He paid me a visit with Laura’s gopher Listel before they destroyed Dungeon Core #95. Listel seemed mighty protective of him, and he had both a cuff style device and the newer collar style. I was wondering if you had the cuff style on a slave and then someone else put a collar style on what would happen?”
Madam Erin: “Well surely the collar style would overwrite the cuff.”
“Then why keep them both on him?”
Madam Erin: “Maybe there is no point in it. Maybe it’s a fashion statement.”
“But if you look all the cores they have been killing are dungeon trained by Meric. She seems to be trying to draw the anger of Meric while using this unusual slave to do it.”
Madam Erin: “But why?”
“That’s the question I keep asking myself.”
Madam Erin: “Alright, I will bring the cuff and a sentient monster to the neutral zone, You bring your collar and we will see what happens.”
I quickly move from the throne room transferring down to the slave quarters of Mar. I easily pick up a collar bound to me then teleport to the neutral zone. When I enter the conference room Madam Erin is already there with a strange looking creature with a cuff on its wrist.
The little creature looks halfway between a frogman and a mud elemental it stares at me with its little black eyes and makes a disgusting gurgling barking noise.
“You sure that thing is sentient?”
Madam Erin: “It’s a mudkip, on the low end of the sentient side, but sentient none the less.”
“Always the bleeding heart. Alright let’s try this then.” -I say while placing the collar on the creature.-
The creature barks at me again and tries to bite me, but ones the collar is on it stops.
“Alright, your cuff, and monster my collar. Who is your money on who has control of it?”
Madam Erin: “Dungeon magic trumps the human magic every time so I would say me. Hop on one leg Kippy.”
The little creature raises a leg and hops.
“Ok bite Madam Erin’s knee.”
The creature barks at me again.
“Ok one scenario down…”
I summon in a monster and Madam Erin retrieves a collar style slave device, but like she said no matter how many test we run. The collar trumps the cuff and the dungeon magic trumps both every time.
Madam Erin: “What are you thinking now.”
“That I wasted an entire afternoon when I could have been buried in a nice pair of breasts.”
Madam Erin: “Well if you want to make up some lost time I could…”
“No thanks… Has that ever worked?”
Madam Erin: “How do you think I ever got a husband?”
“That is something that I will never be able to remove from my head…”
Madam Erin: “But seriously now what?”
“Well we tried everything and it worked just like you imagined so I don’t see how it could be beneficial in any way to use both. Can I see the cuff for a moment?”
Madam Erin hands it to me and I give it a close examination… Using several of my available skills I give it a thorough exam. Afterwards I do the same with the slave collar.
“I give up… They are both practically identical, except the equipment slot they take, and a few details in the collar are more refined.”
Madam Erin: “Equipment slot, like necklace and bracelet?”
“Yea, the cuff takes the bracelet slot, but the collar is actually slot free.”
Madam Erin: “Humans can be quite resourceful…”
“But none of that is helping us here… Maybe I should just teleport into dungeon #684 and ask them myself.”
Madam Erin: “They are already working on a fourth?”
Madam Erin: “They really are trying to make Meric mad… Well if you manage to find out anything interesting I would look forward to hearing it.”
With nothing else we transfer back to our dungeons, but I still can’t help to think I have to be missing something…
I have lost the exact count on just how long we have been in this dungeon, but I know it is getting close to a month if it hasn’t already passed that. Listel is getting a bit irritable as even though the monsters are quite a bit harder we are fully rested and ready to go again before we encounter the next set so there is still little in the way of a challenge.
We have seemed to discover the labyrinth has a pattern, but that is not as helpful as it sounds. One day just before noon something happens we didn’t expect.
After killing a few groups of an advanced type of lizardmen we round the corner and find another group of lizardmen that have been completely obliterated… Even for Listel the carnage is excessive, but we don’t see the cause anywhere in sight.
“What do you think happened?”
Listel: “Clearly there has to be another group that made it this deep into the dungeon, but why haven’t we ran into them yet and where did they go?”
Voice: “I was actually waiting on you.” –Says a voice that seems to come from pure darkness.-
Listel quickly goes on guard, but I don’t sense any hostility from the voice and it seems almost familiar. Next a creature steps out of the shadows. I say creature because even though it has a humanoid it is covered in armor from the tip of its head to the end of its toes without a single hole not even for the face.
The armor has a very intricate design, but it is made from a metal so black it seems the shadows get lost in it instead of the other way around. Exiting the shadows directly beside Listel causes her quite a bit of nervousness, but before she even has time to react he sword has been knocked from her hand to the floor.
Voice: “Now that’s no way to treat a friend now is it?” –He says while removing the helmet revealing a familiar face with beady eyes and slicked back black hair.-
Listel: “Dyson?! What are you doing here?”
Dyson: “Well you see after your exploits, and your visit I began to wonder just what you were up to, so I figured the best way to find out was to hear it directly from the source.”
“It is just as we told you! Listel said this is all to assist her Mistress to help find the missing dungeon core that you put her up to!”
Dyson: “How naïve, you really do remind me of him.”
“Listel wouldn’t lie to me!” –I say moving between Dyson and Listel while drawing my sword.-
Dyson: “My boy… If that was really the case why were you on the trail to find the missing core before receiving word about it?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about!”
Listel: “Please Arngrim, put down the sword we can’t fight Dyson I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I don’t care how strong he is, I won’t let him hurt you!”
Dyson: “My boy… If I wanted to hurt you, you would already be dead.”
I don’t see him move so I don’t know how, but my sword appears to have just vanished… I quickly look around but I find it back in its sheath on my hip.
Dyson: “Now if you don’t mind I just want to talk.”
Listel: “Fine, what is it you want from us?” –She says picking her sword from the ground and sheathing it.-
I move back to Listel to get a bit more distance from Dyson.
Dyson: “At first I took Laura at her word that she was assisting in trying to find the missing Two-Twelve, but I noticed a pattern in the targets in the dungeons you were destroying. They all were trained by Meric.”
Listel clicks her tongue and says. “Well if you figured that out maybe my Mistress just believes Meric is responsible for the cores disappearance?”
Dyson: “But like I said you destroyed the first core before I even put Laura up to the task, or should I say the boy destroyed the first core. That is the other puzzling thing. Why the triple redundancies of having a dungeon monster wear a slave cuff, and slave collar?”
Listel: “These are questions you should be asking my Mistress, not us.”
Dyson: “But you are less likely to lie, and when you do its easier to see though.”
“There is no reason to lie, as an elder you have no reason to try to stop us from destroying any cores, isn’t that the exact reason you let us destroy the last?”
Dyson: “My boy, you are being used. All the dungeons you have destroyed were trained by the same powerful dungeon core that is proud of his trainees. Who do you think he will come looking for? Laura? Listel? No your name is the one that was sent to him each time one of his trainees died.”
Listel: “It isn’t like that!”
Dyson: “I see… Then what is it like?”
Listel: “My Mistress just wants to train Arngrim, and if she can make Meric mad at the same time its win win.”
Dyson: “If that is the case why the lies about searching for Two-Twelve, and we still have the matters concerning the slave items.”
Listel: “They aren’t lies, it isn’t our primary goal, but we have looked for the missing core, even went to Longolia.”
Dyson: “Yes, and maybe it was you that spread the false rumor accusing Adra?”
“They aren’t false rumors, we just shared the information we learned. Now we are busy, and as an elder you shouldn’t be interfering with us.”
Dyson: “Then how about this then, you help me and I will help you? You tell me what makes them two slave items different and I will even teleport you directly to the crystal room if that is your wish.”
I quickly look to Listel but she wears a troubled expression.
Dyson: “See my boy, there is your answer. “
“I don’t understand.”
Listel: “Don’t Arngrim…”
“I might not know all the answers, but if Listel is telling me not to talk to you she has her reasons.”
Dyson: “Well I am growing bored, but let me leave you with this boy, be careful who you trust, because Laura will stab you in the back the very instant it is more beneficial for her then keeping you around.”
Without another word Dyson disappears. We stay in silence for a few minutes before Listel is the first to speak.
Listel: “I’m sorry Arngrim. I know I haven’t told you the truth but…”
I stop Listel from saying any more.
“I understand, but don’t say anything more in the dungeon Dyson still could be listening.”
Listel: “This isn’t his dungeon though.”
“But with his observation screen it might as well be he can monitor any dungeon.”
Listel looks a little confused but she nods and we then continue on into the dungeon.
After our run in with Dyson we traveled on for at least another week in the dungeon, and we finally arrived at what we believed to be the primary boss monster of the dungeon.
In a massive room with ankle deep water we faced off with a large crab that is easily the size of that griffon or dragon… Every one of these dungeons we have faced seems to have a boss monster that far exceeds what the dungeon should be capable of.
Maybe that is the success of Meric’s trainees. He gives them a boss monster to keep them safe. It makes no difference though. After we find out our swords were not effective against the giant crabs shell we starting using dark magic.
Dark magic bypasses armor as a matter of fact most dark magic the thicker the armor it bypasses the more damage it deals. Needless to say after Listel used [Dark Arcana Blade] and I used a few choice dark spells the creature turned out not to be so difficult after all.
This time Listel doesn’t know if the carcass is of any value like the dragon or griffon blood, so we leave it behind and enter the crystal room.
Another thing Maric’s trainees seem to share in common is how they display their crystal, two on a pedestal, one on a motif at the top of a tower, and now…
The room is quite large but at its center stands a water fountain standing at least 8 feet tall and having a base no smaller than 20 feet in diameter. With several cascading waterfalls, spouts, and intricate designs, but right in the center giving all the water a blue glow is a sapphire at least the size of the last three combine.
As we take a step forward a shadow appears in the water and soon a reptilian like creature exits the water. He is rather humanoid in appearance, but with green and tan scales covering his body his eyes as well are yellowish. He doesn’t wear any clothes but I can only assume it is a he because there are no obvious tells even though he is naked.
Lizard: “I heard as much as your intentions a few days ago with the elder Dyson, and rest assured Master Meric has long been informed about the conversation and its contents.” –He says with a somewhat surprisingly dignified sounding voice.-
Listel: “Well if you heard the entire conversation, if we mean to cause Meric anger I would assume that you telling him would of only made our task that much easier.”
Lizard: “If your intentions are to destroy my crystal I guess I have no reason to hold back, and be warned I won’t be a pushover like the last three you dealt with.”
At the end of his last word his body is then engulfed in a golden armor covering every inch of him. He swings a large golden spear around in one hand and has a large shield in the other. Listel quickly draws her sword and dives into battle.
I try to move around him to flank with Listel but he counters me with his tail. He however seemed to forget one critical thing about being a dungeon core… I reach over blasting his crystal with a [Exploding Fireball] causing steam to rise from the fountain and the crystal to shatter.
The lizard quickly turns. “Well that was rude…” he then collapses on the floor while the shards of the crystal enter my body. Listel seems to can’t help but laugh.
“What? I told you I was sick of his labyrinth… Now we can get out of here.”
With the dungeon beginning to shake we begin our exit. I questioned it before but even when we figured out the pattern the labyrinth was still hard to pass, yet in the exiting of the dungeon we make incredible time… After a dungeon crystal is destroyed there must be something that assists the victor in retreating with thier spoils…
Even after we clear the dungeon Listel is still laughing about it mimicking the lizard. “That was rude…” and then starts laughing again. After a while she manages to calm down and stop laughing. When she does however her face changes to a troubled but serious expression.
Listel: “Alright… Now it’s time.”
As soon as I teleport home from my encounter with Laura’s pets I open my observation screen, maybe if I raddled the cage enough the will talk or fight with each other about it and I can still learn something, but what I hear is far more interesting.
Arngrim: “But with his observation screen it might as well be he can monitor any dungeon.”
Just who is this Arngrim to know so much details even about the observation screen…? No… That’s impossible…