Chapter 10:


How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

Kryit Depths, a massive sprawling underground dungeon. The walls were black with color hidden in their depths, the floors and ceiling matching. And yet the walls seemed like that of a cave, uneven and twisted.

The path the party followed was empty, the only thing they saw were other adventurers who were wandering the twisting, endless halls. Jeel had said that the first floor was usually cleared out early in the day, and it took a while for the monsters to refill it.

“Refill how?” Rath asked.

“They come from the walls.” Ion said. “As well as the floors and ceiling. They just plop out, like extensions of the wall.”

“How?” Rath asked curiously.

“No one really knows.” Tivis said, keeping her staff from tapping the ground. “It is how all dungeons are from what I understand, the enemies appear endlessly, though they never leave the dungeon’s boundaries, and if you try to take one out, they just fall apart.”

“Your mages school has no theories?” Malphis asked, walking a few steps away from the rest of the group.

“I did not receive training at the mage school, I had a master who taught me and that's it.” Tivis said. “Master Osir was a fantastic teacher though, mind you.”

“What about you priest?” Malphis asked. “Did your temples teach you anything about this place?”

“They did not.” Ion stated. “Though some say that they are a test of the worthy from the Lords.”

“Do you share that belief?” Malphis asked.

“No, they are dungeons of monsters.” Ion stated. “I am no blind follower, I do not believe everything I hear just because they use Orize name.”

“I heard that they are fueled by the Demon Lord's energy.” Jeel chimed in. “Somehow they are connected to these places, and when you hurt the dungeon monsters you hurt the Demon Lord.”

“That would be funny if it were true.” Malphis said with a slight smile. “A place fueled by them being used to kill them, and train their eventual killers.”

“It's why most Adventurers take their first steps here.” Jeel said, walking backwards to face the group. “Even a weakling can usually survive the first two floors, so every little bit helps hurt the bastards, and maybe even weaken them enough for another hero to kill them.”

The group wound into mindless chit-chat as they walked on, looking for the stairs to the lower floor. Rath watched the group joke about. Malphis remained on the side from the humor. It was clear the trio were great friends for many years, a spot they were opening for Rath to fill, after he cut out the spot.

“Did you hear about the badges?” Tivis asked the group.

“Oh yeah, seems like a pain.” Jeel waved his hand away.

“What badges?” Rath asked.

“Apparently the king is mandating that Adventurers in Tirim wear the king's coat of arms.” Ion said. “A new law, since some were claiming to be Adventurers when they are not recognized by the king.”

“It sucks, ruins the aesthetic of my look.” Jeel said with a sigh.

“You could just wear his tabard, those don't look that bad.” Tivis said with a laugh.

“Oh shut it.” Jeel laughed.

“Apparently they will be giving them out to Adventurers here in Kryit soon.” Ion continued on to Rath. “Seems like you have to have them visible at all times to receive Adventurer treatment.”

“An identifier?” Rath said aloud, thinking over the ease of recognizing his enemies.

“Yes, hopefully it will cut down on the banditry.” Ion said.

“Oh we all know the real reason.” Jeel said. “It's because of that village’s rule, what did they call that place?”

Rath swallowed hard, turning a look at Malphis slowly.

“Oh Criss?” Tivis questioned. “Yeah they apparently have a no Adventurer policy now.”

“Is that so?” Malphis asked, shooting a glance at Rath.

Rath held his breath, watching the Goliath’s look. Malphis turned his attention back to the group, waiting to hear more. Rath held his hand close to Freesia.

“Stupid farmers.” Jeel said annoyed. “Why stop us? We are just trying to help!”

“Your customs are unknown to me, why would this village stop our kind?” Malphis asked.

“Oh right, a northerner.” Jeel said. “You probably passed Criss on the way here, it's on the other side of the Divide river. Don't know the reason why they blocked us out, most people are starting to avoid there because of it, luckily the northern road to Pierce is open and a little faster.”

“Who cares.” Ion said. “We aren't going back to Pierce anyways. We're going for broke.”

“Where are you going?” Rath asked, moving his hand away.

“Tatalis of course!” Jeel said happily. “He's the closest Demon Lord, and we are going to be the ones to take him down!”

“Interesting.” Malphis said. “You truly believe you can reach those heights?”

“Oh yes.” Jeel said, drawing his sword and raising it high for all to see. “I vowed to bring back Tatalis head to the king himself!”

“What of you Rath?” Malphis asked.

“Yeah, do you plan to go after the Demon Lords?” Tivis asked, turning to face Rath. “We could always use more people.”

“Sorry I have no intention of fighting a Demon Lord.” Rath said dismissively.

“For real?” Jeel said, astonished. “You don't want to be a part of the glory of bringing the world one step closer to peace!”

“Not big on glory sorry.” Rath said. “I just want to get stronger to protect people I care about.”

“Honorable.” Ion said.

“Very.” Tivis said with a large smile. “Well that is okay, let's all work together to become stronger so we can all achieve our goals.”

“What is yours Malphis?” Rath asked.

“Mine is similar to yours.” Malphis said, ending the topic.

The stairs down to the second level took far longer than the group had wanted to find. Tivis had explained that the dungeon shifts daily and that there is no way to map it. It was sometime late at night that the floor would move itself around, meaning most returned to the surface at the end of the day.

Jeel pulled out a strange sundial the size of a compass. The dial was turning slowly, a sun at its tip turning to reflect where it was in the sky. He had called it a Sunreader, it used a sunstone to always know where the sun was in the day, even underground. It was still early by its reading, which made sense based on how long they have been below the surface.

The second floor was just like the first, the tunnels seemed more winding though. The group all halted near the stairs, drawing their weapons incase of attack. All except Malphis that is.

“Why are you not reading yourself?” Ion asked.

“Not enough space.” Malphis stated. “If I were to swing my sword, I'd hurt any of you too close.”

“Is that why you travel alone here?” Tivis asked.

“Partly.” Malphis said, pulling a small blade from beneath his armor, revealing to Rath a collection of tiny knives.

“Why not use it on the rear?” Jeel asked. “Then you could watch the flank and fight to the best of your ability.”

“My back swing would hit most of you behind me, my sword requires a strong swing.” Malphis stated. “I can't do an overhead swing down here either, the ceiling on these higher floors is too low. All I could safely do with my sword is stab at the enemy, and that isn't the best idea either.”

Jeel laughed. “Oh the great mystery of why no one parties with you is that your weapon is too big? Why not get a smaller weapon?”

Malphis stared daggers at Jeel until he looked away, his question unanswered.

“Why don't we head on.” Ion said, diffusing the tension. “Be aware, from here, we can expect more activity.”

The group traveled on, the walls giving off a strange light that made it easy to see around them, but not enough to feel safe in its glow. Rath took notice that all his companions held torches on their bags, unlit. Before Rath could question them on the need, Jeel had stopped them with an arm outstretched.

Ahead of them Rath caught sight of a strange sight. The walls, floor, and roof began to pulse like boiling soup. What looked like water droplets began to drop from the ceiling and walls, while a droplet seemed to rise from the floors. The droplets began to take form, becoming slick and humanoid. The creatures held the same distant color appearance as that cave, but stood out against its backdrop. They were small, with blades for arms, about a dozen of them faced the group, and charged.

“Tivis!” Jeel yelled out.

Rath caught sight of a spell casting bar appearing above Tivis’s head as she waved her staff towards the creatures. With the words “Aquivwave” a stream of water shot out of her staff, pushing back the creatures it touched. She moved the staff back and forth to continue pushing them back, but they began to push through. Rath looked above Tivis' head again, seeing the Spell bar full, and pulsing with energy.

“Lets get em boys!” Jeel called out, launching himself forward, Ion on his heel.

Rath was about to dive forward, when he caught sight of Malphis. He looked behind them, the shortsword raised. When Rath turned to his rear, he caught sight of another group of the creatures charging from where they came.

“We got back here.” Rath called out, not turning to face them.

Rath raised his wand and cast, knocking back one of the creatures. A hole was burned in its chest, revealing a strange grey stone. Malphis began to walk forward calmly. One of the creatures pounced on Malphis, who simply swabbed the sword into the creature's chest. The creature dropped to the floor, sinking back into the distant color, leaving behind a shattered grey stone.

Rath took notice of where Malphis had stabbed, and readied another Agnibolt for the already hit target. The spell hit the stone, breaking it, and the creature sunk back into the floor. The creatures had a weakness he could exploit, and he would. Rath readied to launch forward towards the horde of enemies, before pausing to think.

Rath realized that Malphis was in no panic to fight, he simply was walking towards the creatures. This was only the second floor, and was most likely full of easier monsters, so exhausting himself on these creatures wasn't the best decision for the deeper floors. Wand in hand, Rath thought about his spells, he had about eight more casts before he would need a rest, there were ten here, and Malphis could handle the ones that Rath didn't. Training his Agnibolt to master it was paramount to learning more spells, so he decided to stay back and cast at the targets.

The first cast was too high, not hitting the creature's weak point, so Rath aimed for the chest. It was no easy feat to hit a moving target square on the chest, especially with the sporadic, unorganized movements of the creatures. They reminded Rath of how the Kobolds moved when he trained with them back home. His third cast hit the weak point clean, the broken stone left on the ground.

Malphis was now upon the group, a creature jumped at him, blade arm raised. The Goliath simply caught the creature by its tiny head and shoved his sword into its chest, the blade stopping short of hitting him. As the body was beginning to melt, he threw it into the others, stunning several. He took the opportunity to attack one that was unaffected and rearing back to pounce.

The fourth bolt hit another creature that was separate from Malphis, but did not hit true enough to break the stone. Rath grit his teeth, the weak point revealed, but unbroken. He had to learn better aim on these moving targets. The fifth was enough to break the stone.

Six were left now, three on Malphis, the other three heading towards Rath. One got to close, interrupting his cast. Rath reflexively stabbed his sword out, hitting the creature in its stone, shattering it. The creature began to melt on his blade, feeling like an ooze. Taking influence from the Goliath, Rath swung his sword at the nearest monster, staggering it. This gave Rath the time he needed to cast another bolt at the unstaggered creature, hitting its core with his sixth bolt at a closer range.

The last creature on Rath pounced, Rath having to step back to avoid the blade from striking his throat. As the creature was descending in the air, Rath took the opportunity to stab out with his sword, breaking the stone. When Rath looked towards Malphis, he was standing with several stones around him, the last creature still melting into the floor.

Turning his attention to the other, Rath saw the others not faring as well. Tivis was still casting her spell, holding back two from moving forward. Jeel was on the defense as two were working to flank him, while Ion fought two of his own.

Rath cast his seventh bolt, hitting one of the ones on Ion, who lacked a shield like Jeel did. Ion didn't hesitate to act on Rath’s opportunity, striking at the last remaining creature. Now Rath turned to the two held back by water, knowing that Ion could help Jeel who stood near him.

“Tivis I got the right one!” Rath said aloud. “Focus on the other!”

As Rath charged his next spell, Tivis dropped her spell entirely. Rath didn't take the time to question it, shooting his ninth spell, hitting the creature clean. He turned to the last, only to hear ‘Cryol!” followed by a small shard of ice plunging deep into the last creature's weak point. Tivis had cast the spell, Rath had noticed. The two turned to their allies, who had just finished off the last of the attackers.

“Woo!” Jeel yelled out, raising his sword and shield high. “Well fought! Thank you Ion, Tivis.” he turned to face Rath.

Ion approached Rath, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for the aid, are you hurt?”

“No, I am fine.” Rath said, noticing Jeel and Ion’s shield had dropped by a third. “That was some nice spell casting.” Rath said, turning to Tivis.

Tivis figetted at her staff. “Water magic is my specialty.”

“Ice as well I see.” Rath stated.

“Ice is an extension of water.” Tivis stated. “Though they are separate at the same time, but mastering one helps master the other.”

“Lets get the cores.” Jeel said, picking up the stones of the creatures.

“Why?” Rath asked.

“Monster cores have magical properties.” Tivis said, walking up to Rath. “They sell well, people say they hold the soul of the monsters, which helps for enchanting.”

“I see, so this is how we can make money here.” Rath said, picking up stones from near him. “How do we split it?”

“You get what you kill.” Jeel said, picking up another stone.

Rath turned to Tivis. “How many did you kill?”

“Just the one.” Tivis said, standing near Rath.

“Then how do you make money?” Rath asked. “You held them off from advancing too far, letting them funnel in slowly and manageably.”

“I'm surprised you noticed my tactics.” Tivis said, her face turning red. “Water magic is more for controlling situations, I keep them from hurting my allies so they can kill them, I only kill them when I need to.”

Rath picked up another stone, holding it out to Tivis. “You helped, you deserve a share for the work.”

Tivis hesitated, then took it with a smile. “Thank you Rath.”

Rath walked towards the far kills he had gotten, Malphis gathering his kills into a bag. “That first spell you cast.” Rath began, talking to Tivis, who followed behind him. “How did you keep casting that?”

“Oh, you mean Aquivwave?” Tivis questioned. “It's a special spell, as long as you concentrate on the spell, it will continue.”

“I did not know there were such spells.” Rath said, picking up more stones, placing them into his bag.

“Oh yes!” Tivis said excitedly. “There are many spells out there, each do different things, like some can be set in certain locations and activated when you choose. Some once cast remain forever, like magic locks.”

“You know alot about spell casting then?” Rath asked.

“Oh yes. I studied under master Osir, he was a great teacher of Water magic.” Tivis said proudly. “And he taught me all the fundamentals.”

“Would you be willing to teach me some of the basics?” Rath asked. “I am a novice, I only learned last night about spell mastery.”

Tivis face turned a deep red. “Of course!” she said quickly. “It would be an honor to teach anyone, though I am no master, I only graduated from being an apprentice just before coming out here.”

“That is fine.” Rath said, having gathered the last of the stones over by Malphis, moving to get the ones that Jeel was near. “I don't know much so anything would help.”

“Do you prefer fire magic?” Tivis said, continuing to walk with him.

“It is just the first magic I learned.” Rath said. “I don't even know the different types.”

“Oh I see. Then when we leave today I can teach you some of the basics if you would like.” Tivis said, leaning down to pick up her stone. An amulet fell out of her robes, a strange blue cube with a gold trim to it.

“What is that if you don't mind me asking.” Rath asked.

“Oh this?” Tivis said, fingering the amulet. “It's a sign of my graduation from apprentice, as well as my mana battery.”

“What is a mana battery?”

Tivis looked at him shocked. “You don't have a mana battery and we're launching spells like that!”

“Yes?” Rath said, confused.

Tivis sighed. “Mana batteries are special tools that store a person's extra energy, so you don't drain yourself in a fight. How many times can you cast your spell before needing to rest?”

“About ten times.” Rath said, knowing he had one cast left.

“Oh Lords.” Tivis said. “We need to get you one, they aren't cheap though. They are a spell casters' necessity.”

Rath shot a glance at Malphis, who had not mentioned the battery, nor had he seen the Goliath have one. Malphis caught Rath’s eyes.

“I figured you had one.” Malphis said with a shrug.

Jeel came over to the pair. “Good work Tivis, kept us alive. Rath, why didn't you help me?”

“I did.” Rath said, getting up from picking up his last stone. “I freed Ion up to protect you, who was on your right, and then me and Tivis took care of the ones on your left, you and Ion seemed to have the two that were on you just fine.”

“But why not free me up to helpIon?” Jeel asked.

Rath couldn't tell if he was angry or just questioning his moves. “You have a shield, you can defend against multiples better than Ion could, I figured you were capable enough to defend yourself.”

“I appreciate the faith you have in me.” Jeel said with a laugh. “I just needed to know your thoughts on it, gotta know who i'm working with.”

Rath sighed in relief, he figured things might have gone bad. Everyone regrouped and marched on as if the fight had not happened. Rath felt the weight of the stones in his bag as he walked.

“What were they?” Rath asked,

“They say they are formed from Depth themselves.” Tivis said. “They are mindless creatures that attack anything they can.”

“Mindless?” Rath questioned to himself, getting lost in thought. He wondered if the monsters were truly mindless, as they fought like the kobolds he knew back home. Pack tactics they called it, moving as a group to destroy larger groups. These ones were stupider, as they had no ranged attackers, but were they truly mindless? These were the questions that Rath pondered as they continued on, looking for more stairs to go deeper into Kryit Dungeon

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