Originally released 31-07-2016
As I watched Erica knock Feris unconscious for the fourth time since she tied him to the back of one of these insect creatures I turned to guild master Johana. Johana seemed to be cautiously suspicious of this dungeon and everything that was in it, and honestly I was beginning to think that her suspicions were justified. My conversation with the monster called Ralt reminded me just what sort of place was and what sort of things normally lived in it, this was a dungeon and no matter how nice this one may seem dungeon’s weren’t places for people to live.
I had been through many dungeons in my career as an explorer, and the only times people lived inside any of them was when they were being farmed by the dungeon. I had grown fond of Miss Hanna, the girl reminded me of my own daughter even if they were utterly different in almost every way. There was no way I would allow this girl to end up like some of the people I’d seen in dungeon animus farms, I would destroy this dungeon’s core before I let that happen and if the monster Ralt thought he could stop then I would destroy him too.
But at least for now Miss Hanna doesn’t appear to be being abused or held against her will here, she even seems happy to be in this dungeon… And the Dungeon will, Waynor, seems to be kind… Hopefully things won’t have to come to my taking on this dungeon and Waynor turns out to be as kind and innocent as he seems, I would hate to have to go against the guild again…
Making eye contact with guild master Johana, I leaned in and resumed our whispered conversation.
“Are you sure we really can’t just take Hanna with us when we leave? Are we really just going to leave the girl in a dungeon like this?” (Darek)
“I told you Darek, we’re here to negotiate with this dungeon and nothing else. We aren’t here on some rescue mission for just one girl, and we certainly aren’t here to pick a fight where there doesn’t need to be one.” (Johana)
“I understand that guild master, but if this dungeon is using people for animus farming then we should stop it and try to help and free the people it’s using. That’s part of our job as explorers isn’t it, or has that suddenly changed here guild master?” (Darek)
She pulled me even closer showing that she more than had the physical strength to be an A rank regardless of her thin and smallish frame. The look in the guild master’s eyes was so cold and hard I thought for a moment that she might actually be planning to kill me right here for a moment and had my hand stray towards the hilt of my axe.
“Now let me be very clear since you don’t seem to be getting this explorer. We won’t intentionally do anything here that could in any way compromise negotiations with this dungeon unless we are in serious mortal danger. The sheer level of potential loss of resources and opportunities for the guild our doing so and having negotiations break down could cause is beyond imagining, and I’m sure the guild’s first move would be to see if offering this dungeon our heads on a silver platter would lead it to reopening negotiations. Even if this dungeon, if Waynor, is really using people for animus farming here we are going to smile, ignore it, be polite, and play nice until the time that we have secured a contract and return to the guild. After that you can do whatever the fuck it is you want and it won’t be my problem or my ass potentially on the line, but until then you keep acting like the polite guest you are here and forget any notions that could be detrimental to our goal here. Is that clear enough for you, Darek?” (Johana)
I felt my heart almost stop a few times while she was speaking, a threat from someone on the level of Johana was nothing to take lightly at all and the implication of the guild itself getting involved was absolutely terrifying. I had crossed the guild on quite a few occasions, but never on something that stood to gain them so much potential profit. Only the suicidal or the truly foolish would ever do something like that.
I looked away unable to meet the woman’s hard gaze holding its grim promises anymore, I knew that this mission was important before but I never would have thought it would be so important that it could cause the normally lax guild master Johana to act like this. I had no doubt that she was prepared to kill any of us if we stepped out of line and tried something that could jeopardize the goal of this mission, something that taking Hanna with us when we left would certainly constitute as.
“…Yes I understand guild master… I don’t like it, but I understand.” (Darek)
The woman let go of her hold on my breastplate and moved her face further away to a normal speaking distance.
“Good, then you should forget whatever crazy shit you might’ve been planning until now. At the very least save all of that for until after we’re all safely back in Vel’Aria and the party disbands, that way you won’t bring the rest of us down with you as you try taking on the guild for a girl you hardly know and seems perfectly happy enough here as is…” (Johana)
I just nodded and moved a bit away from the woman. I had mistakenly assumed that we were on the same side while we were on this mission, but she was clearly here for her own reasons and whatever those reasons were they meant she would be doing her utmost to secure a contract with this dungeon for the guild. Johana might even be willing to offer up the rest of the party as sacrifices if she thinks that’ll secure a contract between Waynor and the guild.
I had assumed that all the threats and dangers would be coming from the dungeon and its monsters, but it seems like this mission also has some danger within the party itself… things might end up taking a bad turn if I have to end up fighting Johana, I don’t think I could win that fight on my own…
As we walked and Miss Hanna announced that we had entered the tenth and final floor we’d be touring, I had made my final decision. No matter what happened in this place I would be returning home to my family, and I would be returning to this dungeon in the near future. That return could either be to conquer it and free the people Waynor holds here, or to take my little Cassidy on her first dungeon expedition in a friendly and relatively safe place.
It’ll all depend on how Miss Hanna answers a single question…… I’ll ask her after Johana is done with her negotiations, that way I won’t risk making her my enemy……
I looked up to see us walk into yet another paradise like meadow that stretched off into the distance as we stepped of the misty bridge.
“And here we’ll get to meet with my Friend Loria, I’m sure all of you will enjoy that….. Actually now that I think of it, maybe Feris should stay unconscious for this next part too, I’m sure he’d try something with Loria that he shouldn’t…..” (Hanna)
“I’m fine with that…..” (Erica)
I looked over to see Erica walk over to once again hit Feris over the head with the hilt of her sword. She had such amazing control, using just enough force to knock him out but not do any real permanent damage to the kid.
I shook my head and hoped that my helmet hid the look in my eyes at that moment, I didn’t want anyone to see the worry in them. If the only ones on guard here were the guild master and I, and I wasn’t sure Johana could even be trusted…
This mission is going to be a lot more tense than I first thought it would be……………
I felt when they entered my floor, the group of explorers, Ralt and his battle-kin, and my friend Hanna. I felt it clearly when they each took the first step onto my floor, I even saw a glimpse of the group as they entered. This unique sense was due to my status as a boss tied to a floor, but even knowing this it was strange having it trigger for the first time.
I guess it only works when someone enters the floor normally since it never activated when Hanna was ported to this floor… Something for me to consider further I guess…
This was an important day for many different reasons. For my lord Waynor today would be a day he could learn and interact with some races of people from the outside world besides Hanna, for Instinct it was a day full of risk and possibilities, for Hanna it was a day to meet others of her kind and interact with them for the first time in quite some time, for Ralt it was another mission his master gave him to complete, and for me it was the best chance I would have of seeing my plan done without losing a treasured friend.
And for Ulisus it would be the day where his fate is decided, and his life begins to come to an end…
There had been one thing that had bothered me since I was born, it was Hanna’s brother Ulisus. Most of the time I couldn’t pick up on his thoughts in his unconscious and sealed state, but those few times that I could I was unnerved by what I found in the human. Ulisus was clearly a human supremacist and was overly cruel to the elven and what I understood as beastkin slaves, he would also react violently to things he didn’t understand. With him being so close to my lord’s core and with the assumption being that Waynor would allow him to live in this dungeon, this was an extremely dangerous mentality. Unfortunately he was also resolute of will and I couldn’t do anything to alter or change that mindset of his, it seemed to be part of his fundamental beliefs about the world.
To Ulisus there were humans, then there were the dwarves and elves below humans, and everything else was either something to be enslaved or destroyed. Ulisus also seemed to have the power, and more importantly given the current situation the opportunity, to do just those two things in my lord’s dungeon. Sure to enslave the inhabitants it would take immense power as well as skill and enslaving named creatures like myself would only be possible after Waynor’s death, but I felt that Ulisus had both the necessary power and skill to do so. And most terrifying of all he had the capacity inside of himself to kill my lord Waynor without any remorse or confliction, in fact when he discovered what his sister’s relationship was to my lord he would likely do just that.
I could not allow that to happen. I would NOT allow that to happen.
The solution to this problem is very simple, I knew shortly after I had received my name from Lord Waynor that Ulisus would have to die. The only question was how this would happen, I of course didn’t want to purposely lose my friendship with Hanna and I’m sure my killing her brother would see to that and much more. Then there was of course the reaction of my lord to consider as well.
Waynor is largely innocent and naive so he probably wouldn’t have even considered the possibility of Ulisus being a threat, and while I know for a fact Instinct has she did what she always did. She held her concerns so that they would not conflict with Waynor’s desires, it was her purpose to see those desires met after all and it is neither of our places to inform Waynor of something he has not asked of us or to contradict him. This simple fact binds Instinct more than any other in the dungeon, and while others may bend this rule at times she never may.
Which is why if I cannot warn him of the danger then I will simply remove it… Waynor probably wouldn’t have understood the true threat posed anyway, Hanna’s memories of her brother would have clouded his view of the situation…
That was one positive aspect to the boy Ulisus, he was a great human. He genuinely loved and cared for his family, he looked out for his fellow humans, and he was largely kind and forgiving if you shared his same race. Unfortunately that means nothing here as my lord is not one the humans he cherishes so much, which is why his living in this dungeon would never work. He has already proven his mind set will never change, if it were at all possible I could have started the process already. Instead the majority of his mind is nothing more than fixed concepts and ideals.
And thus he must die… And luckily these explorers provide the perfect way for that to happen without it complicating things between any of us in this dungeon and Hanna. It might even serve to enforce the lesson Lord Waynor has learned but does not seem to believe, that the seven races are a dangerous and traitorous collection of people…
I knew that my plan was borderline traitorous to my lord, but I was willing to go through with it even knowing that. To me my lord’s safety and continued survival were what mattered most of all, after those things were secured then my priorities would shift to his desires and will. I was even willing to sacrifice my lord’s trust and Hanna’s friendship if need be, and if Waynor were to ever ask of my involvement after Ulisus’ death then I would gladly tell him everything.
But until then, until he was safe this plan would remain secret from him.
Perhaps Instinct can know of it, I’m sure she would support me in this even if she detests me. We both care for the same being, and women in love will always do whatever it takes to protect their love… Even if that means some deceptions must be made… I’ll likely need her help for this to work anyway, Waynor will listen to her far more than he would me…
I left my small mansion house that Waynor created to be my home on this floor, it was large, beautiful, and impeccably clean as all of his creations were. I loved it, but it was not often that I used it as I far preferred being in Lord Waynor’s presence to being there.
That won’t be possible much longer though… With these explorers and Lord Waynor’s desires, soon there will be countless invaders that I must deal with. I won’t have the time to be with my lord that I did before…
Shaking my head to rid myself of that unpleasant thought, I walked out to stand before the massive double doorway standing in the middle of a cordoned off garden that dwarfed even the vast beauty of the rest of this level. The doorway seemed to connect to nothing, but it was in fact the passage to the next floor a resting floor that my lord was personally improving every day. It was decorated with intricate images of pixies, flowers, sweeping vines, tall majestic trees, the flowing wisps, and in the center to immaculate maidens that were mirrored on both of the doors. The doorway itself was a work of art that was beyond compare, and it was tied to my very being in one of the most intimate of ways. It would allow only those that either I or our mutual lord and master allowed to pass, and though it would open automatically at my death it would also automatically shut after an hour and remain closed until either I returned to life or a new boss replaced me.
As I admired the doorway that was as much a part of me as my arm, I waited for the explorers, my friend, and my fellow comrades to reach this place. Here I would test them as if they wished to gain passage to the next floor, and it would be here where I determined the most important part of my plan.
I wonder which one it will be that shall prove to be my weapon? In the end I guess it doesn’t matter, just so long as I can use them…
“And this is the end of the floor, the garden of Loria…” (Hanna)
I looked up from my appreciation of the wonderful flower garden my lord created specifically for me, he said that when I stood amongst the flowers of this garden my natural beauty was enhanced even more by their complimenting petals flowing in the breeze. It was an honest compliment that had made me both warm inside and rather damp in other places.
The explorers were much like I had seen before in the image that came to me when they entered my floor. A half elf woman, an elf girl, a silver haired woman, a man in full armor, and a red haired boy tied to one of Ralt’s battle-kin.
“This is my friend, Loria. She is the one who is in charge of this level of the dungeon and determines if someone can pass through to the next floor.” (Hanna)
It took only a moment to do a cursory sweep of their minds which only the elf and silver haired woman blocked, and only the elf herself seemed aware of it from the icy look she gave me for a moment. The look lasted only a moment however, as the look soon melted into open awe and desire. Her mental defenses even fell for a moment and I could sense thoughts from her that overshadowed all the others for a time.
By the gods she is perfect… I would give damn near anything just for a night with her… Maybe I could cut a deal with the Dungeon…? NO! Down girl, remember the mission! Make a contract with the dungeon, hopefully get demoted, and go back to exploring… Then AFTERWARDS I can try bedding this goddess for what’ll probably be the best night of my life…(Johana)
It was interesting to see how these people reacted, something that was easy to observe since they all paused as they saw me. I knew that I was designed to entice humans and hopefully the other six races as well, and I already knew from Hanna that I was immensely sexually attractive to humans something that had confused the poor girl the entire first day we met. The reactions of these explorers just further confirmed that fact and proved that my appearance had the intended effect on elves as well.
The silver haired woman, Erica I sensed her name was, had momentary intense desire for me before she quelled said desire with discipline and cold rationality something she has apparently trained for. The man named Darek was the same, only he quelled his desire with thoughts of his wife and child though that did not change the reaction his body had to seeing me. The young elf woman, Cecilia, was half drunk on the nature and presence of this place already and my appearance and her desires after seeing me just seemed to push her over the edge and the girl simply lost herself in fantasy where she stood with a happy smile. The Johana woman was obviously lusting after me, and that lust only seemed to grow even as she overcame the mental and magical influence my presence carried.
And then there was the boy who awoke at the touch of my powers, and who was utterly stunned by me in every way. His eyes didn’t even blink while he stared with open affection at me, but his mind was flooded with images of someone entirely different. His reactions went beyond lust and encroached on love, something that my powers and appearance were not intended to cause.
Hanna walked up to me in front of the dazed and shocked explorers.
“Hey Loria! You’re the one who’s supposed to handle this next part, so I’m going to wait at your place while you do your thing. Call me when you’re done ok, then I’ll take over again for the negotiations…” (Hanna)
“Hello Hanna, Waynor informed me that he has decided to join you and observe the negotiations…” (Loria)
I felt her emotions go from joy and affection, to confusion, to finally annoyance and stubborn defiance of her own feelings. It was a common reaction my friend whenever I brought up my lord’s name.
“…Fine I guess if that’s what Waynor wants to do there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I just hope he remembers that he promised I would be the one to handle negotiations, if he does it I’m sure he’ll end up agreeing to a lousy deal…” (Hanna)
“I’m sure Waynor will uphold his promise, he probably just wants to watch. He has been fascinated with the seven races for a while now after all.” (Loria)
“Yeah you’re right, let me snap these people out of the trance you put them into, then I’m going to take a nice little rest. You still have that energy restoring tea right?” (Hanna)
“On the counter where it always is…” (Loria)
“Thanks Loria, you’re a lifesaver as always!” (Hanna)
As I watched my friend walk back to the explorers blissfully unaware of what I planned to do and how much it would hurt her, I felt horrible guilt. Hanna was in a fragile state already, she was only maintaining her own sanity in a complex mix of hope, denial, and the sheer flexibility of her mind’s ability to adapt and accept things. Once her brother was dead that hope would fall away, and with it her primary support mechanism for her fragile sanity. When Ulisus died it would utterly break this girl, and what was worse is that I planned for that to happen. After all if Hanna was emotionally and mentally broken like that, she would happily cast aside her lingering humanity and would be all too willing to let Waynor implant a core in her and convert her into something other than human.
I had wondered many times if planning for this to happen to my friend made me evil, it had haunted me for weeks before I realized something. I realized that humans simply did not live forever, and that I would gladly be evil if it meant I could both protect my lord and ensure my friend lived for as long as Waynor so wished her to. For me the knowledge of my own evil was a small price to pay for those two things.
I was brought out of my thoughts by the familiar presence that appeared next to me.
“Hello once again Loria.” (Ralt)
I returned the mite’s respectful head nod and greeting.
“Ralt, it is nice to see you once again as well. How goes your newest mites’ training under the careful guidance of your nurturing hands?” (Loria)
The Mite chuckled, a sound that was a mix of chirping and squeaking to my ears.
“As clever as always I see… Their training is progressing well enough, but I’d like them all to evolve before long and after that I can get to the real training…” (Ralt)
“Yes, I plan to have them renounce their hives.” (Ralt)
I was impressed, for a mite to renounce their hive it would take something of immense importance and weight. The only way I could see it happening is if Lord Waynor asked for it, but Ralt seemed confident he could pull this feat off.
“I wish you luck then, my you honor your kin and bring glory to our lord and master…” (Loria)
“Thank you, and my you bring honor and glory to our lord and master as well…” (Ralt)
I watched as the warrior mite left my side to rejoin his battle-kin and Hanna as she explained that she would be leaving for a while and that I would be testing them in the meantime. It was getting through to only a few of them however, the elf and boy being untied from the mite didn’t seem to even register Hanna’s presence let alone what she was saying.
As I watched my friend finish her explanations and begin walking towards my home, I faced the explorers and gave them a friendly and kind smile. It was an expression Hanna described as angelic and pure, but was as false and easy for me to wear as a mask.
“Welcome to my garden, I am Loria the guardian of this level. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance brave explorers.” (Loria)
I gave a courteous half bow and curtsy, all the will reading all I could sense from these fives minds.
“I will be giving each one of you an individual trial to determine if you are worthy of moving on to the next floor, something that you won’t actually be able to do today unfortunately but none the less please do attempt my trials…” (Loria)
There were nods and mumbles of assent, but it seemed that none of them were capable of properly speaking to me yet. In the case of Darek, the man couldn’t even seem to look at me. I decided to start with him first.
“Sir Darek if you would please step forward we can begin…” (Loria)
The man seemed nervous, but had stepped forward before he had even realized it himself nonetheless. It seemed that my powers worked on him even if he was doing his best not to be affected by me or my appearance. The poor man didn’t realize that though my appearance itself is a sort of weapon, it is merely the least of my weapons paling in comparison to my actual powers. I don’t think any of them besides the half elf, Johana, had even an inkling of what I was actually capable of.
“W-W-W-What is this trial, miss?” (Darek)
“Oh, the trial is different for everyone, and it will reveal much about who you are…” (Loria)
I inwardly delighted at how cryptic my answer was, and how it only seemed to confuse the man more. Even though he was confused the man didn’t ask any more questions, something I was grateful for as I didn’t feel the need to answer him any further.
As I read him, I called upon the magic that my lord gave me from birth. Magic, I understood from Hanna and the minds of these people, was an immensely difficult art that for most required years of training and study to even put into practice. For creatures and monsters however this was not the case, we instinctively understood how to wield any and all magic they might possess, a phenomenon that could only be replicated in the seven races with the aid of special spell vessels. As just such a creature, and more so one created by a dungeon, I understood my powers and magic fully from my first moments in this world and required no spell words or intense focus to use them.
As such I didn’t move or speak as the mist swept Darek into a small illusionary world, I just had to will it to happen and so it did.
This man, Darek, he was a simple person with simple goals and simple desires. He was a relatively kind and accepting man, but he felt that monsters and such things were inherently evil because of the things he has seen them do in his past. His thoughts on opposing my lord however, were not things I would overlook or allow to pass unpunished. In the end I decided that his illusion would show him two scenarios that I knew would affect him drastically, one would bring him the greatest joy and the other the deepest despair.
I crafted his first illusionary world, one that I knew would bring him the greatest joy. The man watched as he lead his family to through this dungeon’s first level, as he had another child and his daughter grew into a great magical warrior with the experience she gained from her repeated journeys into this dungeon. He watched as he grew to A rank and finally retired with his loving wife and his two children grew into fine explorers in their own right. He watched as he settled into the town that formed around this dungeon, the same town his children lived in. He watched as he picked up his first grandchild and played with the boy, he watched as his grandchild waved around a wooden axe and pretended to be a mighty explorer himself. He watched as he passed away peacefully in his sleep at a ripe old age content with the life he had lived and the legacy he had left.
As the first world faded away, I began crafting the second, the world that would serve as both his punishment and his sole warning. The man watched as he returned to this dungeon and challenged it in an attempt to save Hanna, he watched as he conquered the dungeon and Hanna cursed him as evil and a monster. He watched as he killed her for her words, and returned home a lesser man. He watched as he descended to an alcoholic who neglected his family in favor of the drink, watched as he abused them the few times he was actually at home. He watched as his wife turned to another man for comfort, watched as his daughter grew to hate him for who he had become. He watched as he strangled the life out of his true love’s body under the horrified gaze of his child. He watched as he beat that same child and screamed at the girl that she never had a mother in the first place before leaving the house forever. He watched as he turned to banditry to support his drinking habit, a habit that had quickly become an addiction he needed to forget. He watched as he visited a brothel in the same city he once lived in only to find his daughter was the star whore. He watched as that same daughter recognized him, then watched as he violently took his daughter heedless of her pleading and screaming for him to stop. Then he watched as that daughter slit his throat with his own dagger in the night before plunging that same weapon into her own heart with a broken smile.
I let the illusionary world collapse away as Darek stood still looking forward unblinking and trembling in his armor. When I approached the man, he no longer had trouble looking upon me or speaking to me.
“W-What was t-that?” (Darek)
I smiled at the terrified man before me, he was undoubtedly stronger than me and perhaps with assistance he could have even destroyed my lord as he was considering. Now though, that possibility was all but gone.
“Two of the paths that are before you, in the end it is up to you which one you choose to follow…” (Loria)
A lie, they were both merely illusions of my own design based off his own mind and memories, but they were also still possibilities that were made based off him so I suppose there was some truth to both illusions. In fact I made sure there was by design as every deception is made easier to believe when colored with bits of truth, even if those truths are the awful truths one would rather not face.
“How do I avoid the second path!?!? Please tell me!” (Darek)
I once again smiled at the man as I moved away to the next explorer. As I moved past where he stood I whispered softly enough that none but the half elf and Darek heard me.
“I believe I already showed you that, didn’t I? Perhaps you should give your trial some thought and consider some self-reflection before it becomes too late…” (Loria)
I felt the fear turn into resolution in the man, gone were his thoughts of conquering this dungeon or harming my lord. My work with him was done.
As I approached the silver haired maiden, the one I soon discovered my lord had taken interest enough in to offer to let her live in his dungeon, I considered what trial would appropriate for her. Obviously I would give her something to consider, and I think that the offer my master made deserves some further positive enforcement in her mind……..
It can take anywhere from a mere few seconds to hours for someone to experience my illusionary world and go through my trial. In that time one can watch entire lifetimes pass, countless decades of experiences being seen in mere moments. The illusionary world was my greatest magic, not my strongest nor my most versatile but it is the single most impactful thing I can do to another even if I cannot read or influence their minds. I had even considered using it on Ulisus, but ultimately it would change very little about him other than making him more careful when he deals with non-humans thus making him essentially more dangerous.
I knew this because I have already tried using it on him since under the right conditions I don’t need someone to be conscious to send their minds to an illusionary world. The results were dreadful and required an entire week to lessen, and even with that Ulisus still posed more danger than he did initially. In the end the only way available to me was to end his life, that was the best option for everyone long-term.
I looked over the people that I had given trials to. Erica who saw a future where her entire family relocated to this dungeon and lived happily under my lord’s protection from any threats. Cecilia who saw multiple visions all featuring either nature, spreading tales of her adventures as an explorer, or some mix of both. Darek who saw two futures that could possibly become reality. And lastly Johana who I had some trouble with until I decided to just make countless illusions catering to her lust over me and how certain concessions in negotiations may cause them to come true, utterly false unless my lord wishes it but I could read nothing else from the woman’s mind and thus used what little I did know.
And now I looked at the boy known as Feris the Quick, the boy who had so little mental defenses that I could glean his entire life from a casual read. The boy who used humor, lechery, and flirtation to mask the deeply depressed individual he truly was inside. The broken little thief who was desperately trying to fulfill the hopes and dreams of two people in just one lifetime.
He was the one who would be my weapon, the one who would kill Ulisus and remove the current greatest threat to my lord. All I had to do was give the boy, give Feris the Quick one last nudge to utterly shatter the fragile and thin reasoning that kept the poor broken thing he was living on. It would be easy since he saw her whenever he looked at me, and he would do anything for her.
After all he already fully believed that he failed her once.
I knew exactly what his trial would be, and it would be extremely cruel. Perhaps it would even be evil. That was fine, I had already made peace with myself being an evil monster. This would just confirm what I already accepted as true.
This boy’s trial would be to relive his past, with one simple alteration.
I began crafting his illusionary world, and observed the boy as he began to tremble at the familiar city he now saw. The boy watched as he awoke with blood dripping into his eyes as a new member of a gang of thieves alongside his best friend. He watched as he earned the name Feris the Quick and she earned the name Nora the Quiet. He watched as they became the best pickpockets in all of the city. He watched as they grew closer and closer by the day overcoming countless dangers by each other’s side. He watched as they grew and shared their dreams with each other. He watched as he told her off his dreams of riches and a harem of beautiful women. He watched as she told him of her dreams of adventure and exploration. He watched as they promised to see each other’s dreams come true and to remain friends through it all with their pinkie fingers interlocked. He watched as they grew bolder and bolder by the day in pursuit of those dreams. He watched as they were caught robbing one of the wealthier nobles of the city. He watched as the noble and his guards raped his best friend in front of his eyes as he was forced to watch from the hold of cold iron manacles. He watched as Nora spoke her last words and told him to make his dreams come true. He watched as he swore that hers would come true as well. He watched as the life drained slowly from the girl’s eyes as the days went by. He watched as she became less and less Nora the Quiet and more and more a lifeless doll of flesh. He watched as one day she just stopped responding to him completely. He watched as the next day she stopped breathing while being taken by one of the guards. He watched as they continued to use her long after she had died. He watched as his fellow thieves finally came for him and killed his captors. He watched as he cradled the body of the girl he never realized he loved until she was gone forever. He watched as he cried and made countless promises to the corpse that could never come true now. He watched as his fellow thieves tried to pry him away and convince him of the truth until they finally just took him and the body away together. He watched as he stayed with the body for days talking to it as if the girl could still hear him. He watched as finally some small piece of sanity returned to him from what his fellow thieves and friends said to him. He watched as he mourned and swore to live for both of them from that moment on and see both their dreams come true. He watched as he left that same day to bury the girl’s body and join the explorer’s guild. He watched as he obsessively trained, improved, and climbed up the ranks. He watched as he constructed the fragile mask that became his shield so that none could see how broken he was. He watched as he purposefully pushed women away with his acting knowing that none could replace what he had lost or fill the emptiness inside him. He watched as he accepted the mission that he was promised would promote him further in rank to rank B. He watched as he traveled with this new party and did all the things he normally did to distract them from his emptiness. He watched as he came to a place he wished that Nora was still with him to see. He watched as he came to meet a woman who made some small part of that broken emptiness inside him better. He watched as he meet that woman over and over until he was finally knocked out and tied to one of the mites. He watched as he came to meet me and the emptiness lessened to the greatest degree it ever had before and he saw Nora again in my place.
And then I had that vision of Nora speak to him. I had it tell him how he hadn’t fulfilled her dream yet. How she had always wanted to explore and grow stronger so that she could find someone and kill him. I had her beg him to at least try to fulfill her dreams, to fulfill their promises and to honor his oaths to her. I had her say that what he was doing wasn’t what she had wanted at all, that what he was doing was all wrong.
It broke him.
He cried. His mind collapsed. He couldn’t stand what I was showing him. It destroyed him and the fragile mask he had made in an attempt to at least appear normal. The few things that made him go on living were stripped from him, and all he craved now was death in the hopes he might see the one he loved again.
I forced his fragile mind back by making the phantom of his past embrace him and wipe away his tears. I had her tell him what he could do to make it all better. I had her show him what his target looked like and where he could soon find him. I had her tell him that his target had to die for her dreams to ever be fulfilled. I had her tell him that this all had to be a secret between them, their last secret with each other. I had her make him promise her, swear it to her on her own name.
He did. He swore to it all and meant it with all his broken heart and soul.
As a final act to ensure he would do this act, I did something incredibly cruel. I had the phantom of his past tell him that she loved him. That every time he brought up making a harem for himself in the past she felt jealous. I had her say that she wanted him to desire her and her alone. And then I had her make love to him.
It broke what little part of his mind that was reasoning that none of this was real, that it couldn’t be. With that one act I had plunged this boy deeper into insanity than most would ever reach.
He couldn’t distinguish the phantom as an illusion anymore, I didn’t even need to maintain the illusion now. His own mind would do that for me now, utterly convinced that she was real and here now by some miraculous turn of fate.
I let the illusionary world fall away and watched as the broken boy fell to the ground unconscious. He was my weapon now, a pawn that would throw it’s life away so that I could protect those important to me and not have to sacrifice so much by doing so myself.
I knew now that I was a coward in many ways, I understood I was now what my friend and these people would call an evil monster. I accepted all this and did not let my inner turmoil show on my face.
It’s all for the best… for Waynor’s safety, for Hanna’s eternal life, for the good of my lord, master, and creator… It doesn’t matter if I must become something evil or cruel… It never mattered if I was good or evil, only that I fulfilled my duty and purpose…
“Poor Feris, it seems the trial was a bit too much for him and tired him out…” (Loria)
I looked up from the boy I had destroyed in ways that stripped him of any possibilities he ever had at a future. I looked the half elf woman, Johana, the person I know was now the most suspicious of the dungeon and my lord, and I smiled at her while licking my lips seductively. When the woman blushed heavily and looked away I knew that I had nothing to worry about anymore, any suspicion that might have been cast on me had been addressed and torn away with that single look.
“I’ll go inform Hanna that you all have passed the trial and that she should rejoin you so that you all may port back to the entrance together. I do hope you enjoyed meeting me as much as I did you…” (Loria)
Johana nodded her head frantically before realizing what she was doing and twirling her hair shyly and turning away.
“I can’t speak for the rest of my party but I certainly did. It was a true… Pleasure… to meet you Loria, in fact I think the pleasure was all mine…” (Johana)
I gave one last smile to the woman before I began walking towards my home. As I walked I looked at the elf hugging the ground and whispering to it, the silver haired woman who was looking around as if she was trying to pick the best place for a house to be built here, and the armored man who sat in deep contemplation that bordered on meditation. I considered that I might need to scale down my trials for future invaders, but for today I was proud of my work.
All that was left now was to inform my friend that I was done, wait for my lord to port them back to the entrance, and to talk to Instinct while both Hanna and Lord Waynor are busy and distracted. As I approached the door into my home I hoped that my smile seemed as genuine as always, Hanna was smart enough and close enough to me to notice if something was off with my expression. As I opened the door I thought one last time of what I had set into motion today.
…….Now I need only set up the right conditions and wait….. My new weapon will do the rest, even if it kills him……………………………