POV: Logan Metia
I couldn’t believe what I had heard, it was just so unrealistic and unbelievable that my mind seemed to just refuse to process the information. Rubbing at the bridge of my nose I tried to contain my urge to either sigh or break out into laughter, a royal prince was supposed to remain resplendent and composed at all times after all. “Could you…? Could you just go through the report again?”
“Of course my prince.” The man who had practically raised me simply bowed with an understanding smile. “It seems that there has been a rather unique dungeon discovered to our eastern border. The first to encounter it seems to be a mercenary group called the Bloody-Fist group, but the explorer’s guild was quick to make confirmations on the intelligence that the group sold to them.”
“That much I understand, but this is where you begin to lose me Clark…” It was common enough for some lucky person or group to find an unknown dungeon and turn in that information for coin, it was the next parts of my steward’s report that confused me.
“Yes, well that is quite understandable my prince. This, after all, is something that I also had trouble believing. In fact if I had not heard this from my most reliable source in the guild then I would’ve dismissed it as a foolish rumor…” As the man coughed into his hand and pulled a paper from the pocket of his waistcoat his expression still seemed a bit disbelieving. “Ahem… Apparently Guild Master Johana Yanzya went with a small party to investigate matters personally. Her findings were that the dungeon did in fact exist, that the dungeon could not only communicate but was open to conversing with her and the other members of her party, and that the dungeon had agreed to an exclusive and very favorable contract with the explorer’s guild. Her final report details the resources that were offered up as compensation to the dungeon and the impressive returns that the dungeon was offering. Most notable of which is a high yielding mine with limitless valuable ores and rare precious materials…”
I began rubbing my forehead as the urge to sigh helplessly surfaced in me once again. “And what was this dungeon being ranked as again?”
“Officially? It is ranked as a rank 1 dungeon as that’s what is shown by any dungeon dice used on it…”
The man who raised me sighed and ran his hand through his orderly greying hair. “Unofficially, my source reported Johana saying that the dungeon calling itself “Waynor” should be considered as a high rank 4 if provoked… And that’s a high rank 4 at the least…”
Gods… how did something like that just appear? And what could it possibly have done to make a monster like Johana say it was rank 4!? I had to really fight hard to stave off the urge to sigh. “We need to get in contact with that mercenary group that first discovered the dungeon, Clark set up an appointment with them for later this week…” This… This is going to cause me a lot of work, I can just tell… “Alright, enough about the strange dungeon for now.” Sitting straighter in my seat I readied myself for bad news. “Tell me the latest news on Winalfor…”
Clark pulled a new paper from his waist coat. “I believe you already know my prince, but this won’t be good news…”
Of course it isn’t… That damn beast king really needs to learn how to lead and govern his people… “Just say it…”
Clark cleared his throat. “Ahem… Well, the more aggressive and warmongering factions of Winalfor that have been gaining power in recent years appear to be making preparations for a major move. They’ve been recruiting and gathering weapons at a concerning rate that my source hasn’t seen before…”
I had to hold back a groan. Gods, please don’t tell me things have gotten to the point of civil war in that mess of a kingdom… There’s just no way for the nation to be able to take in a large wave of refugees fleeing war from Winalfor… For not the first time today I considered if I actually wanted to fight my eldest sister for the throne. If being king means dealing with this sort of stress every day… Maybe John had the right idea giving up his claim to the throne to pursue knighthood. Being a knight is probably a lot less stressful then being a king, even with all the life or death battles…
POV: Regina, Sylph Greengrove
“So you’re saying that the spirit host went into a dungeon and managed to somehow survive?” I looked at the two women knelling in front of me carefully. “You do realize why it’s hard to believe that considering “her” mentality and condition, don’t you?”
“Yes Regina, we do. Nonetheless what we have said is true, under the protection of humans and a half elf the spirit host managed to survive inside a dungeon. In fact it seemed as if she wished to return there when the party was departing…” Misty looked at me and I could see the truth of her words in her eyes. “We would not lie to you Regina, not after all you’ve done for us…”
“Yes! Our fangs and claws are sworn to you and you alone!” Glade spoke up interrupting her sister. “We would never even consider lying or attempting to mislead you Regina, we would die first!”
I smiled at her bold words. To most that’s all it would be, mere words, but for the two dragon sisters in front of me it was much more than that. It was a reminder of how far they were willing to go for me as well as a show of their sincerity. “Yes, I understand. I wasn’t doubting you two, I was just trying to understand…” There’s a group of people who can keep that girl alive in a place as dangerous for her as a dungeon? No that can’t be it, not when it would only take a flex of willpower from a dungeon seed to snuff out the spirits inside her… It’s more likely that there’s a dungeon who was willing to spare her… A dungeon willing to spare spirits…? “I think I need to meet a dungeon like that personally…”
As I lost myself contemplating the possibility of a dungeon that was at least not inherently hostile to nature spirits I stood up from my throne. “The two of you are dismissed, return to your observations of Cecilia and, I know it’ll be a near impossible task but, try to keep the girl safe in general instead of just preserving her life…” Standing up from my throne I moved past the two dragons in elven form as I began heading for the west wing of my palace.
“Your will be done Regina…” Misty seemed to simply materialize in front of me in a bow as she opened the massive left throne room door.
“We’ll try our best Mistress…” Glade appearing like her sister took a less formal tone as she held open the right door for me.
I didn’t speak as I walked past, the two were no longer my focus as I quickly made my way through the long halls. My mind was preoccupied with other, far more urgent and important, now. If there really is such a dungeon… This changes things. I’ll need to look into making an escort for myself and… Ah, yes this will be Falla’s first time outside of the palace grounds in over a decade… I’ll need to make sure her guards are the best, I won’t let her suffer a repeat of her pain during the revolt…
My feet coming to a natural halt at a door decorated with twining roses of gold I felt a familiar weight settle on my heart. Pushing open the door I was greeted by the softest and most gentle voice I had ever heard.
“Hello Mother, is it already time for our afternoon nectar tea?”
I looked lovingly at my daughter but couldn’t help flinching in pain and regret when I saw her sightless eyes and withering legs. Her attendant for the day gave me a nod before turning my daughter’s float-chair to face me. “Lady Sylph, young lady Falla has been eagerly awaiting your arrival. Shall I take my leave now so you two may talk?”
I gave the attendant a nod and as the woman left the room I moved to greet my daughter for the first time today. “Hello Falla, how has your day been so far?”
“It’s been well. I was in the mood to paint today, so I…” My daughter motioned vaguely to her left with her hand. Glancing over I saw a clustered and messy work of various colors splattered about randomly displayed proudly on my daughters work easel, seeing it I felt my heart shatter a little more in my chest as tears began to form in my eyes. There was a time when my daughter would paint elaborate and awe inspiring portraits and now because of the cruelty of two men she was reduced to making… this.
Swallowing down the emotions threatening to boil over inside me I worked real pride and love into my voice as I hugged my precious daughter. “It’s so good… I honestly can’t believe this was made by only a child in her fifties!”
My daughter just giggled shyly as she returned my embrace. “Hehehe, it’s nothing special Mother, just something I made to pass the time…”
Caressing her long and silky golden hair I tried even harder to hold back my tears, it would only take one drop for this precious girl to know I was crying. “No, it really is amazing… You should make more, I’d love to see more…” This had been her fifth attempt at painting since those bastards had taken her sight from her, before Falla used to paint every day…
“I… I don’t know Mother, I don’t think I’m ready to make more. It just doesn’t feel right, not when I cant…”
I squeezed her tighter in my embrace cutting off her words before she could finish the sentence. “It’s fine. You don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with.” Slowly pulling myself away and subtly wiping the wetness from my eyes I decided to try and change the subject. Moving my daughter’s float-chair so that she was seated at the table and pour us two cups of honey nectar tea I began to consider how to bring up what I was considering. I won’t leave Falla here alone, not again. Never again… “Though I have been thinking…”
“Falla, how would you feel about going on a trip with me soon?”
My ears twitched and my tail flicked with annoyance as I recalled the fools talk at the meeting I had attended just under an hour ago. Advisors? Bah, more like arrogant brownnosing idiots!!! At this rate they’ll talk father into leading this country to ruin! As I walked towards my father’s chambers I went over what I planned to say one more time in my mind, this would be the last chance I had and I couldn’t afford to mess things up. For your own sake Father, I hope you’ll listen this time…
As I came to a stop in front of the needlessly gaudy gold-plated doors that lead to my father’s personal chambers I felt myself begin to worry. What if he doesn’t listen again this time? Will I really be able to do it? Will I really be able to… I felt my hand sweep over the blade of one of the twin daggers resting at my hip, the coolness of the treated metal firmed my resolve. Yes… If truly it comes down to it and Father refuses to head my words again this time… Yes, I’ll do what must be done… For the good of my country and my people…
Opening the door I saw my father, a hulking man even for beastkin of the lion tribe, gazing longingly at a maid who was cleaning at his desk. Fighting through my disgust at the man’s blatant display of lust I cleared my throat as I stepped into the room. “Father, I have something very important to talk to you about. I think it would be best for the maid were to leave…”
Looking over my shoulder I saw Nora give me a smile and a thumbs up. Sighing I felt myself relax slightly, this didn’t feel right but I knew for a fact that she would never put me in harm’s way. “Are you really sure? It’s not just going to suddenly spring to life and try to eat my soul is it?”
“Oh relax already will you! It’s dead, trust me I’m something of an authority on things being dead…” She gestured at her flickering insubstantial form that was beginning to become difficult for even me to see. “Now quit whining and stick your hand in the dead lich’s chest already!”
Looking at Nora and then back at the seemingly dead creature in front of me I felt myself hesitate again. “Ok, it’s not that I don’t trust you… Because you know I do, I trust you with my life! But, Nora… It’s hard for me to fully believe you after all those other times and when this time you’re floating all the way back there…”
As I looked at the ghost of the girl I loved hovering over thirty feet away from me and then back at the supposedly dead undead monster in front of me I felt my confidence in her assessment waver once again. She had been wrong about the deadness of the undead we’d met in this valley a little too often for comfort and I really didn’t want to have to fight something as powerful as a lich because I disturbed its nap.
“Let me put it this way, that thing has one of my old ribs. Even if by some small chance it is actually alive and does actually try to eat your soul, we’re still going to need to take that rib from it if I’m going to get my body back…”
With a sigh I pulled out my new blessed silver dagger and got ready to fight for my life as I moved closer to the lich sitting on a throne of tree branches. What I do for love… Welp, on the bright side I’m finally going to be able to make rank B if I can bring back this thing’s corpse… I just have to not die in this valley… Reaching forward with my left hand and carefully watching the lich for movement I began digging around in its chest searching for the right bone. Please don’t be alive! Please don’t be alive! Please don’t be alive!
Jumping back a good ten feet backwards at Nora’s shout I barely missed being skewered by sharpened bones that suddenly grew from the ground I was just standing on. I watched in misery as the lich stood up from its thrown and cold green flames sprung to life in its eye sockets.
“Foolish and ignorant child… You’d actually dare to sully me with that filth you call flesh?” The Lich’s voice was raspy and seemed to worm its way into my mind.
I felt the sudden urge to just give up, to surrender. After all there was no way I could win so why even bother fighting? There was no way around it, I was doomed. I had always been bad against undead so what chance did I have against one as strong as this. Why did I even come to a place called the valley of damned souls? Nora’s grave was only missing a few bones, I could’ve just gone out and found suitable replacements… Damnit, this was all just one giant mistake! And now, now Nora and I are gonna…
“Snap out of it Feris!” I heard her voice, it was shining through the despair and hopelessness that was clouding my mind.
Nora? Blinking to clear away the fuzziness of my vision and looking up I saw a skeletal hand reaching out for my face. Fuck!!! Leaping back again I readied my dagger as I fell into a low stance and glared at the undead creature that had almost killed me.
“Interesting… I’ve never seen such a strange protection on somethings mind before… Tell me mortal, what protects your mind from my influence? Magic? An artifact?” The lich lowered its arm and stared at me without moving closer.
Looking at the girl holding on to my shoulder as she floated behind me and then looking back at the lich I felt the sudden urge to brag, after all it had only been due to Nora that I had overcome my weakness to mental attacks and influence. “A ghost, the best ghost there is…”
For a moment the lich just stared at me unmoving, but then it suddenly waved its arms and dozens of rotting hands began to burst from the earth. “Fine then mortal, don’t tell me. I’ll just get the answer from you’re enslaved corpse…”
Closing my eyes and gathering my mana I felt a soft grip on my shoulder. It took a lot for Nora to make any part of herself tangible now, but I appreciated the sacrifice she made to comfort me. Alright, it’s only a few moving corpses… I can take them! “Ready Nora?”
I heard her sing-song reply even as I sprinted forward. “Come on Feris, you know I’m always ready for a fight!”