Dungeon Walk Prologue and Chapter 1

Title: Dungeon Walk

Author’s Notes: Third start. Will figure out which to focus on later.

Prologue:

He didn’t remember dying. But, as he awoke to find himself falling through an empty darkness, he found it certainly seemed that way. Especially as the last thing he seemed to recall was an especially bright light.

Then abruptly, reality seemed to reassert itself as he seemed to fall through a glowing ring that appeared before him in the blink of an eye. Gravity suddenly reversed and he found himself falling onto his back. He landed with a thud on his back, onto a smooth, hard stone surface.

“Well, he’s certainly a scrawny one, isn’t he?”

The voice was contemplative and rather high pitched, but certainly sounded male.

“Yes, yes. I know, I know. We need someone with brains, not some sack of meat. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t hoping for a properly imposing presence!”

There was another pause.

“Really, there’s no need to be rude about it!”

The words were odd, blurring syllables that didn’t quite match what he found his mind supplying him with. It was like… well, he’d never really gotten to fluent in a foreign language, but it was close enough for him to approximate. Forcing himself up, he rubbed against his head for a moment, trying to work out the throbbing pain behind his eyes before slowly opening his gaze.

Almost immediately, he shut them again as the light was too bright for him to bear.

“Ah, sensitive one. Probably just the post summoning backlash. He has been on quite the trip.” It was that voice again, more distinct now, gnarled and aged but still filled with vigor. “Well, hopefully this won’t take all day. We have so very much to do still.”

Slowly, he tried to open his eyes again, taking care to do it in small increments, letting the light in bit by bit.

“Well at least he seems to be coming about,” the voice noted the fact with a grudging acceptance. “So, maybe he’s not completely useless.”

Turning his head towards the sound of the found, he found himself facing a peculiar sight. The creature, for it was surely no man, was hunched into what looked to be his twilight years. Only, a human’s skin  did not look like the color of a dulled egg plant, with bulging, bloody red eyes and long spindly arms that reached almost to the ground.

When its lips parted, it revealed rows of jagged, worn yellowed teeth that to him, looked half rotten.

A monster, or at least the decrepit remnants of one.

 

“Well, at least he has enough brains to note the obvious.” It was only after the creature grumbled out the words that he realized at least some of his thoughts had been spoken aloud.

Taking a slow, deep breath, he then swiftly let it out. “Okay then. This the whole clichéd summoned to another world for some sort of task with an inverted twist?”

“An inverted twist?” The creature was obviously curious as it tilted its head to the side.

“Well, I’m guessing that I wasn’t summoned to be the hero fighting a demon lord,” he drawled out with a trace of sarcasm.

“True,” the creature admitted with a nod of its head. “That would be a bit… unseemly.”

“For you at least,” he stated with a faint nod of his head. “So, why exactly am I here?”

“We have been abandoned by the dungeon lords and as our dungeon lands is the passage between the adventuring realms and the dungeon lands, we rather prefer to not end up on the pointy end of the sword,” the creature stated flatly.

“Do you know how hard it is for something like me to get to such a distinguished age of decrepidation?”

“I can imagine,” he agreed with a nod of his head before sighing. “So, what do I have to do to get sent home?”

“Oh, that?” The creature shrugged a bit, as if not really caring much about the answer. “Build a portal, upgrade it enough so it can open the way.”

“I see,” He rubbed lightly at the bridge of his nose. “Something that’s a bit difficult I imagine?”

“Only if you can’t create a thriving dungeon that can easily harvest an abundance of wealth and life force,” the creature answered smugly.

“Which solves your problem along the way,” he noted with a sour mutter before sighing. “So, how exactly am I supposed to build this dungeon, because as you might’ve noticed, I’m not really built for doing this by hand.”

“Before we begin all that… How exactly are you managing to remain so calm? We were quite prepared for a much more… pronounced reaction.”

“By focusing completely on this,” he stated flatly and gave the creature a loo. “I’m sure that when I finish all this and am left alone for a bit and have time to think, I’ll freak the fuck out. In the mean time however, I can and will make sure that I know as much about what’s going on as I can.”

“Sensible, I suppose,” the creature muttered with a huff of irritation. “I can already tell you’re going to be trouble.”

“And I can already tell you need a kick in the ass,” he shot back. “Keep it up and I’ll find a donkey to do it.”

“A great deal of trouble,” the creature agreed with a puckered sourness to his features. “And feisty to boot.”

“Can we get on with this then?” He asked with an edge of frustration in his voice. “The longer this takes, the more likely I am to place the blame for this solely on your shoulders, and then I start to indulge in the petty desire for vengeance by making your life a series of unpleasant instances just frustrating enough to slowly chip away at your sanity and hitting you often enough that you never get the chance to recover, ensuring your slow descent into decrepit madness where I leave the care of your insensate form as punishment for the next idiot.”

The creature blinked it’s bulging eyes and took a moment to consider the incredibly vague and yet highly detailed threat. “Noted. We need to your help to survive. We hate that, but we don’t have any choice in the matter. So, we summoned you.”

“Kidnapped,” he corrected with a trace of sullenness.

“Summoned, kidnapped, same difference,” the creature waved off correction dismissively. “All depends on who’s responsible.”

“I’d still call it kidnapping even if it was a fucking king who did it, and by the laws of my country, I’d be right.” He stated flatly before grimacing as he gave the creature a glare. “So, please, explain to me why I should willingly help you when you’re kidnapping me?”

The creature sighed in irritation, “This was why I was hoping you’d at least be a little hysterical. I suppose that pointing out that we’re your best bet at survival means little?”

“I need to build a dungeon and make a portal, which apparently you can’t do. Something that doesn’t incline me against plotting against you as soon as keeping you around no longer outweighs my resentment at what you did to me.”

“And something to disincline us from doing the same once you’ve seen us out of our predicament, I imagine,” the creature agreed with a frown on its face as it nodded. “Truly, far more trouble than I was expecting.”

“Well, considering I wasn’t expecting to be kidnapped…”

“I suppose a binding contract would be out of the question?”

“Not without incentive.”

That was the crux of the situation. The man refused to just go along with the creatures who had effectively kidnapped him and were trying to press him into their service. On the other side of things…

“And we don’t know that we have anything to offer,” the monster admitted grudgingly as he looked back at the man with guarded eyes. “And we used most of remaining resources to summon you because of the situation.”

“What even is the situation? Hells, what’s your name even?”

“… Sock,” the creature admitted with more than a little reluctance. “And yes, my mother was an evil hag. I took great pleasure in pissing on her grave when I made it my first century older than she ever did.”

“Right,” he noted with a sigh. “I’m Chase. Now, what’s the damned situation?”

“Well, I suppose I should start from the beginning then, hmm?” Sock noted idly before taking a seat on a large stone crudely craved into a stool. “Once upon a time, the world lived in an age of endless glory! Monsters could ravage and pillage at will! The kingdoms were sheep to be slaughtered and we had riches beyond measure!”

“Lemme guess, even the lowliest rat monster had gold to carry around with them?” Chase asked, feeling the situation was more than a little familiar.

“Precisely!” Sock agreed with a pleased look on his face.

“Then someone summoned some heroes?” Chase prompted expectantly.

“… And then someone summoned some heroes,” Sock agreed sullenly, glowering back at him. “You’ve heard this story before.”

“One like it,” Chase admitted. “So, correct me if I’m wrong. Monsters got their hands on the rituals and then did some summoning of their own?”

“It lead to the Dark Age. Everyone summoning beings from other worlds, escalating again and again until finally, the summoned were numerous enough and angry enough to form their own side. They killed everyone that they thought had access to one of the rituals,” Sock stated bluntly.” Then they all just vanished. Well, that’s how they like to tell it at least.”

“It doesn’t really explain my current situation, now does it?” Chase agreed with a slow nod of his head.

“Yes, well, in truth, only most of them vanished. Some of them decided to stick around for whatever reason. They’re the ones who built all the truly grand dungeons.” Sock stated in a matter-of-fact tone. “I used to work for one in my youth.”

“And they just told you how to summon someone?” Chase’s skepticism was heavy as he looked down at the creature, arms crossed.

“Abyss no!” Sock immediately protested. “I stole his journals and spell book while the rebelling Dungeon Lords killed him. I was planning to use it to fund my retirement, but the bastards made even possessing them a death sentence!”

“And you suddenly decided to risk it now because…?” Chase prompted with narrowed eyes.

“Well, that brings us to the modern day,” Sock noted delicately as he looked anywhere but at Chase. “You see, this is Dung Drop if you listen to the Dungeon Lords, or Dirt Hole if you listen to the adventurers.”

Chase had a sudden sinking suspicion. “So, the kind of place new adventurers go?”

“New adventurers, old adventurers… Adventurers interested in  accessing the Dungeon Lands…” Sock admitted with a wince. “We’re the quickest route between the adventurer kingdoms and the dungeon realms.”

“Okay,” Chase took a slow deep breath.” What’s the punchline?”

“The Dungeon Lords have abandoned us,” Sock stated with some degree of irritation. “So, that means no supplies, no funds, no relief and a degree of greedy adventurers.”

“And of course the greedy monsters don’t want to give up their loot,” Chase noted sardonically.

“In my experience, no one, and I do mean No One wants to give up their loot,” Sock protested with a glower. “We monsters are simply better at keeping ours!”

Chase groaned softly as he rubbed his face, “Ok, so let me get this straight.  I’ve been summoned to another world, to save an abandoned, shit hole of a dungeon that is the only way into the Dungeon Lords’ realm, which is filled with loot to be had?”

“Oh, it’s not the only one, just the quickest and most convenient,” Sock noted with a chuckle. “And the safest to boot.”

“… then why don’t you just collapse the entrance?”  Chase asked with a groan. “I mean…”

“Dungeon built stone.” Sock complained as he knocked on the stone wall of the dungeon. “You need major magic or gnomish explosives to damage it. Even then, it’s hard to keep it damaged. The stuff just loves to reconstruct itself.”

“And just leaving is a problem because….?”

“Because then we’d be seen as traitors to be hunted down and executed in the Dungeon Lords’ realm and monsters to be exterminated in the Adventurer Lands,” Sock stated with a growl. “And I’m not going to spend my twilight years being hunted like a rat!”

“Isn’t summoning me a death sentence as it is?” Chase pointed out.

“Of course it is!” Sock sounded affronted that he wasn’t aware of the facts. “But, I’d rather die with a fighting chance.” He paused before reluctantly adding. “And honestly, these old bones are horribly achy, an absolute nightmare to try and run with.”

“In other words, you can’t run, you can’t hide, and you’re hoping that somehow, I’ll be able to make this situation at least survivable,” Chase stated with a grimace of disgust as he could feel the start of a headache building at his temples. “Sock, I do believe I’m developing a particular dislike for you.”

“I suppose it was inevitable at this stage,” Sock noted sadly. “I imagine it means it’s going to cost me even more now?”

“You really need to ask?” Chase demanded incredulously.

“My poor, poor retirement,” Sock bemoaned with a sigh. “Fine, I suppose you want to take the last things of value this poor old monster has?”

“Yes,” Chase agreed with a flat glare. “Mainly because I doubt you stopped at just one or two or even several dozen things to sell.”

Sock’s hunched form slumped forward even more, “So, so cruel to a poor old monster like me! I’m practically at Death’s door as it is! Can’t you show a little pity for an old man like me?”

“If you’re that close to dying, what use to you have for them?” Chase countered with a bit of the stress of the situation starting to edge into his voice.

“Er, well, maybe not that close, but still…” The quick change in Sock’s tone made Chase glare.

“You know what, Sock?” Here’s how we’re going to do this,” Chase stated wearily as he could feel the stress of the situation reaching past his ability to safely ignore. “You’re going to show me where I can get some sleep. I am going to try and deal with all this and then hopefully actually get some of said sleep. You’re going to get together your loot and a meal for me.”

“So, you’re planning to just take all of my wonderfully hard earned…” Sock’s melodramatic protest was cut off by a slash of Chase’s hand.

“Sock, how much of your ill gotten gains will be something I even have a use for?” Chase asked tiredly as he gave the greedy creature a long look.

“It’s the principal of the matter!” Sock protested. “They’re my beloved treasures! I earned them through violence, guild and sneakiness!”

“And if you were expecting me to be impressed, you have only managed to instill me with the desire to see your painfully messy end,” He warned with a glare.

“Fine,” the creature huffed up before his shoulders slumped back down. “I suppose you want me to go get it all together while you have your belated response….”

“Sock… Just take me to a room I can sleep in and go organize your little treasures,” Chase stated with a slow, carefully measured tone. “Otherwise, I cannot guarantee my continued ability to maintain a cordial exchange.”

The monster must have seen or heard the strain in his voice, because its mouth snapped shut while it hobbled to its feet and lead him to a particularly Spartan room with a rickety, straw filled bed.

As it stood, Chase barely seemed to care as he promptly allowed himself to fall into a shock induced oblivion.

 

 

Chapter 1

Chase did not sleep well, not that he expected to. Everything was… He stared up the ceiling of the cave like room. Oblivion had been too short of an experience, at least as far as he could tell.

The whole situation was unreal, he was somehow in a world with monsters. Monsters that talked and reasoned. Monsters that summoned people across dimensions. Monsters that talked about Dungeons and Adventurers. And, of all things: salvation.

That was the word for it though, as much as it left him uncomfortable he was being looked to for salvation. His face twisted in distaste as if he had swallowed something sour that wasn’t something he was particularly keen on, too many people offered it like a drug. Too many empty promises.

He didn’t want to be the one to offer up such false promises and empty possibility.

And then there was Sock and whomever else was responsible for him even being here to begin with. All that left him… It took him a moment to really decide exactly how he was feeling.

Anger. That was at the foremost of all of it. Resentment. Indignation. Fear. Terror.

There was the fact he didn’t even know if he could make his way home. And he knew nothing of what he was getting himself into. Not to mention the politics.

He grimaced. There was only one way to completely ignore politics. That was to be so powerful you are above them. Power he definitely didn’t have.

His life though… A part of him wondered did he even really want to go back?

Besides a handful of friends, distant family, and a few coworkers, was there for him?

Civilization, entertainment, knowledge. Familiarity.

But he was going to end up here for a while. So, he was going to need to figure out exactly what this place had to offer., Sanitation alone…

It was then that he experienced a shift in his perspective. Suddenly, he was aware of the “dungeon” such as it was and he quickly realized it was not much. Along, somewhat twisting cord or that exited the mountain on either side with a cluster of dilapidated rooms in the middle that anyone passing through would be forced to venture through.

It was almost completely worthless, with horribly design layouts that would invariably lead to advantaging the invaders instead of the defenders. And he couldn’t make sense of why it would be like this for anything but a death trap. A death trap for those assigned here.

So, how could he change that?

There was a pulse and he was surprised to see a menu of all things in front of them. Only it wasn’t a menu, not really. It was more of a sudden understanding of the categories of action he was able to take and his mind interpreted that as a menu.

That was his working theory at least.

So. He had options. There was an… understanding ingrained into him. He was able to draw and magic, magic of all things, from the environment. He could feel it, slowly drifting up from the dungeon area like vapor. Not just from the rooms, but all along the long winding corridor.

That gave him something. Now he needed to understand what he can do with it the answer came to him moments later as he realized he could summon… something.

Experimentally, he called forth one whatever it was, causing it to appear before him. It was odd looking, short and chittering, like an insect big bulbous eyes. And just stood there expectantly.

J stared back at it for a long moment, before sighing and trying to figure out what to do next.

And it was not going particularly well at the moment.

“By the abyss, a sprite!” Sock’s voice called out in shock along with the muffled sound of something being dropped. “I haven’t seen a sprite since I was a spawnling!”

“And a sprite does… What exactly?” Chase asked as his brow arched up and he looked at Sock expectantly.

“They build and maintain dungeons of course! They dig, they claim, they fortify, they mine, and they haul!” Sock was looking extremely excited. “With sprites, you can even expand the dungeon!”

Chaise looked blank faced at the little sprite before turning and looking back questioningly at Sock. “Not seen it.”

“Well, not until you give it some commands you won’t,” Sock stated sarcastically. “What, you are expecting a magical construct to have a mind of its own?”

“Not my world,” Chase reminded him. “So, I need to… Ah,” Chase slowly muttered the words to himself as suddenly the sprite began to strike into the wall near him and started creating a new passage. “So that’s how it works.”

He paused before noting the ease with which the sprite made progress through the stone wall. “Dungeon built stone, huh?”

“That’s a sprite! Of course they can work with dungeon built stone without a problem! They’re the ones that make it!” Sock shot back with a huff. “Honestly, I thought you were smarter than that!”

“Well considering the fact that no one mentioned that it was a product of these sprites instead of magical reinforcement done by the builder…”

Sock glowered back at him, irritation visible on his face but did not try to refute him. “You did limited on what it was to build, right? We’re not going to end up with the whole mountain collapsing on us, right?”

“I only had it… huh, gold vein,” Chase blinked for a moment before shaking his head and continuing. “Just making another room this size.”

“Gold?!” Sock’s eyes seemed to gleam as he rubbed his hands together. “Gold is good! Gold is very good!”

“Not that much gold,” Chase corrected with a sigh and a thoughtful hum. “Going to need a lot more to…”

He paused then looked at Sock expectantly. “Sock, start explaining how dungeons work. Now.”

“When did I get drafted into the role of minion?” Sock whined for a moment before he slumped forward even more. “Yes, yes. I know, when we summoned you. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

He seemed to take a moment to collect himself before continuing. “Right. Dungeons work off of 3 principal forces. Magical power, used for the creation of magical constructs, instant effects like fireballs, wonderful, wonderful fireballs, and other similar things. Wealth, gold, jewels and other various precious metals that are used to form dungeon territory into a variety of rooms /forms/materials, provided you’ve developed the knowledge and blueprints. Finally, life force is used to increase the power and efficiency of things/creatures. Dungeon Lords typically use it to strength and advance their favored minions.”

“All right, so I can upgrade monsters too, good to know,” Chase muttered a bit under his breath.

“Weeeeeell… Not really. You’d need a Dungeon Lord for that. Dungeon Lords use life force on minions, Builders on items and dungeons,” Sock corrected with a shake of his head. “It’s how they were able to overthrow the Builders to begin with. Personal advancement and power.”

“At the cost of equipment and locations,” Chase finished as he frowned a bit at the implications.

“Eventually, yes. At first the Dungeon Lords could still order around some sprites, but without a builder to keep it all together…” Sock’s voice lead off and he shrugged helplessly. “Poof.”

“So, right now the dungeon lords keep control by controlling who gets stronger and who doesn’t,” Chase stated before taking slumping back in resignation. “Right, so how is life force gathered?”

“The joys of dungeons! You should acquire a small amount for every living creature in your dungeon. This increases with strenuous activity such as fighting, or running away after barely surviving a situation. This can backfire as you end up training adventurers to be stronger inadvertently. I recommend just raking it all in by just killing them.”

He paused, tapping his chin as he looked thoughtful for a moment. “Of course, the stronger they are, the more lifeforce you can acquire on their death, so all it would likely take would be a sudden difficulty spike at the end to do in most of them.”

Chase grimaced at that. He was rather… squeamish at the thought of deliberately thinking of, or more accurately planning someone’s death. “Other ways?”

“Torture works, takes a bit longer, but with the right effort, quite rewarding,” Sock stated with a disturbingly dreamy voice. “Especially pixies, giggling little empty headed pieces of dew droppings!”

“Please don’t ever do that again,” Chase stated flatly as the disturbing sight of Sock sounding so very dreamy about the idea of torturing the creatures made him shudder. “Ok, more gold. Now, let’s see…”

The layout of the dungeon was pretty abysmal Chase noted before grimacing. Level design. It was coming back to the job he’d so recently been let go from.

He pushed down the feelings of frustration lingering over it. He could deal with it another time. “So, exactly what can I… huh.”

That… was going to be problematic.

“Is there a problem, builder?” Sock asked with a frown.

“Yes,” he agreed with a look of displeasure on his face. “I have rather… limited options. As in, I can make sprits, living quarters, and something called a slop pit.”

“Oh! I haven’t seen a slop pit since I was a wee young thing! They convert ambient mana into nutritious slop for your creatures!”  Sock exclaimed before admitting. “Not very tasty of course, but, nutritious!”

“… Right,” Chase stated as he thought about things for a lingering moment. “Well, that’s something at least. How am I supposed to be able to build more rooms?”

“Find the plans, design them, buy them…” Sock started to list off as he tilted his head to the side. “Have some minions research them… There are a broad variety of ways to approach it.”

“Research, right…” Chase muttered under his breath before frowning as he realized he wasn’t sure what a research room would really be, beyond some tables and book shelves as well as the corresponding chairs.

As he visualized it, he could feel what the amount of gold it would take to make such a room solidify in his mind. “That…”

Then he stopped himself and looked back at Sock. “Show me what you brought, Sock.”

“Ugh, I had hoped you’d forgotten about that,” Sock noted with a pained sigh then back to the entry way to the room, no door Chase absently, and pulled out a heavy burlap sack that looked twice the creature’s size. “You know, yu could make a sprite to help poor old Sock.”

“I was always told that manual labor builds character, Sock,” Chase drawled out in response as he crossed his arms about his chest. “I figured you’d appreciate me helping you with your deficiencies.”

Sock paused, staring in disbelief for a moment before grumbling audibly. “Of course you’d say that. What, is that some sort of Dungeon Builder code?”

Chase shook his head. “No, just sounds like your previous Dungeon Builder came from where I did.”

“Well, then maybe you can read this,” Sock said as he pulled out a leather bound journal and deftly tossed it at Chase.

Blinking as he caught it, Chase flipped it open and then glanced through it. “You can’t read this?”

“I barely read dungeon script, let alone whatever that is,” Sock stated with a huff while crossing his arms. “And I do just fine without it, thank you very much!”

There was a pause before Sock’s curiosity got the better of him and he asked, “What’s it say?”

To Chase, the tome, while written by someone with handwriting worse than his own, was plainly in English. After a bit of silence while he read, he closed the journal and pondered what exactly he’d found. It was… unexpected. Both disappointing and yet, welcome at the same time.

“Well?!” Sock demanded when after a moment of silence he failed to get an answer. “What’s it about?!”

“Civil engineering.” At Sock’s blank look, Chase grinned slightly. “Specifically, how to create sewage systems, septic treatement…”

“Running water?!” Sock demanded, a sudden zealous look on his face. “Please, by all that’s bad and unholy, tell me you can make running water!”

“Hum…” Chase opened the journal up again and began to brose through it again. “Hot and cold, temperature control, exceptionally big rooms, bath houses… Huh, I now know how to make a public library and a school.”

“Who cares about that other rubbish!? Hot water baths! Do you know how many dungeons have hot running water?! Three! One of them it only works half the time and its horribly awkwardly designed, but they’re still the three most popular dungeons!” Sock looked positively rapturous. “You have to read that! Cover to cover! Who knows what other wonders it holds!”

“Right,” Chase drawled out before shaking his head. “What else is there?”

“… You have the unholy grail of luxury, and you want more?!” Sock demanded incredulously. “Is there no end to your greed?!”

Chase ignored the hypocrisy of Sock’s statement as he responded. “This saves me time. But, I already knew the underlying principles of this stuff.” Well, of vaulted ceiling construction and using gravity to create water pressure and a heat source over pipes to make hot water. The septic system was a godsend, not that he was going to tell Sock that. “I just don’t have to do the trial and error now. I only really needed two things to make running water.”

Sock boggled at that. “But, but…!”

“Hot water is just as simple, but it requires running water to work right. Beyond that…” Chase grunted as he realized a few things. “I’m going to need to completely redo this dungeon. And find a safe water source and…”

Sighing softly he pondered things. “How suspicious would it be for the entrances of this dungeon to collapse and then reveal another dungeon nearby?”

“Terribly suspicious, but not unheard of,” Sock admitted with a slight nod of his head. “The builders did have a number of private projects after all.”

“Right,” Chase nodded his head. “Does the dungeon stone extend all the way to the entrances?”

“Never,” Sock stated flatly. “After all, the… well, most of the builders weren’t stupid. Some of them were questionable.”

“So, the trick will be to figure out how to mimic a natural collapse, or at least make it happen in a way we can believably blame on the adventurers,”  Chase mused thoughtfully.

“You’re plotting!” Sock suddenly exclaimed before grinning evilly. “Plotting is good! Not something builders are usually good at mind you, but…”

“Most builders were likely summoned to do just that, build. At least, that’s what I imagine. And I guess that well, ‘magic’ here has at least some sympathetic properties?” Chase mused as he allowed a bit of his inner fantasy pen and paper RPG geek to shine through.

“Err… Sympathetic properties?” Sock repeated as he looked more than a little confused. “I’m afraid that magic tends to be rather merciless, quite admirably so really, though not as much in a tool”

“Intent influences/guides its effects,” Chase clarified with a snort.

“Oh! Well, yes. Why didn’t you just say that to begin with?” Sock demanded with a grumble.

Chase opened his mouth, then shut it for a moment before replying. “… We’re not actually speaking English, are we?”

“What in the name of the pits made you think we speaking the Builder’s… tongue,” Sock trailed off in his statement before looking slightly sheepish. “Right, Builder.”

“Multiple meanings for the same word,” Chase admitted with a sigh and a grimace. “Just be glad I’m not Japanese. Then you’d really be in trouble.”

“I’m afraid to ask,” Sock admitted after a moment of thought.

“They’re crazy. You’d get…” Chase paused a moment as he thought about it before continuing. “Well, you might’ve found it amusing. That or mind scarringly horrible.”

“How horrible could it possibly-…” Sock started to protest before Chase actually answered him.

“Teenaged girl, obsessed with love and justice, insisting on wearing inappropriately frilly and nonsensical garments, making you and everyone else in the dungeon look cute, with a love of bright and or pastel color schemes and an architectural style of ‘cutesy.’”

“Excuse me a moment, I think I’m going to vomit,” Sock swayed over to a corner and proceeded to do just that before looking back at him with a horrifyingly haggard expression. “That was a truly horrible image.”

“You’re lucky,” Chase noted his head. “You just have to imagine it. I’ve actually seen what they come up with and worse.

“What could be worse than that?!” Sock paused as he realized exactly what he said and tried to back step it. “Wait, I take it back, I don’t want to know!”

“Turning you into a pretty, effeminate male with the brain of a female, interested in other males so they could watch!” Chase stated with an entirely too satisfied cold, dark grin.

“”I told you, I didn’t want to know!” Sock whined as the image started to play throughout his mind.

“And?” Chase asked back with a sweet smile. “Sharing is caring after all!”

“No, no its not!” Sock protested vehemently. “Are all Builders some cabal of secret sadists, cloaking their intent with honeyed words and declarations of well meaning?!”

“You mean, are we all trolls?” Chase asked with a faint bit of amusement.

“Why would you be one of those smelly, stupid brutes?” sock asked, suddenly looking confused.

“Right, language,” Chase muttered sourly and sighed. “In my language, troll is also a fishing technique, using a bait and hook and waiting for a fish to bite it. Because of that, it also came to mean a person that says or writing something specifically to get a reaction out of someone else, hooking them in when they do.”

“For what purpose?” Sock asked, as he tried to wrap his head around the concept.

“Typically?” Chase answered after a moment’s thought. “Personal amusement.”

“All of you, evil to the core!” Sock muttered under his breath. “And not in the good way!”

Chase chuckled as he didn’t bother to deny it. In a lot of ways, it was evil. But, he was currently trolling the evil little bastard that was responsible for his kidnapping. He figured that evened things out.

“That, or we hold grudges exceptionally well,” Chase couldn’t help but point out. “I know which the case is personally.”

“Right then, I’ll just be going and leaving you to…” Sock started to say as he realized what Chase was implying, his hand reaching slowly towards his sack.

“Sock,” Chase interrupted with a look of casual foreboding. “You weren’t thinking of doing something to make me even more irritated with you, no were you?”

Sock froze in place, trying to look back at him innocently. “Err… now, why would I do a thing like that?”

“Because you’re a greedy little bastard who thinks more about grabbing things than about what grabbing them will cost him.”

“Typically you grab things because you don’t want to pay for them,” Sock noted as he stared longingly at his bag of treasures.

“And in this case, grabbing them costs you a drastic increase in my irritation with you,” Chase clarified with a glare.

“I suppose that would be a bad thing,” Sock reluctantly admitted.

“A very bad thing,” Chase stressed with narrowed eyes.

“Right, then I suppose I’ll just be going then,” Sock stated nervously as he slowly slipped back out of the room, giving his sack one last, longing look before leaving it behind.

Chase watched him go, then breathed out a deep, long sigh. Things… Well, he needed to study the book. And he needed to figure out the rest of Socks’ things.

Now the question was prioritizing… And finding out if the author if the journal had decent bed designs somewhere in this.

Job Change Arc 1: Overwriting saved game.

Break the World Book I: New Operating System Installed

Author’s Notes: Second of the potential web novels, took me longer than I thought it would to get this transcribed, need to learn to do it faster.

Prologue: Overwriting Save Game

There are always stories told, again and again with ever changing players. Stories with archetypes, where everyone has their job to do, a role to follow, apart to play. Tales of adventure and romance that inspires us, make us consider what our dreams and desires should be.

What happens when our desires, our hungers and want for such tales, to live such tales becomes so great as to take shape in our lives?

Miracle? Nightmare? Both?

What happens when a world finds out?

The world had been a steady stream of clicking keys and a seat of distant voices for Evan March as he sat in his cubicle. But, that was life at any IT center, people all around him, but none of them talking to one another as someone yet again turned up the volume of the TV in the break room to the point he could hear it from his desk in the corner… Trying to work while having the pseudo-journalist sensationalism spewing out emotionally manipulative commentary was… trying, even at the best of times.

During others, he was surprised that he hadn’t done something crazy like put someone’s head through that TV screen. It was one of the big, old ones with thick, heavy glass and lots of plastic after all. Still, such fantasies never lasted long before reality reasserted and he remembered how much he preferred not being in jail, even if they had it coming.

Sighing, he finished the ticket he’d been working on and was just about to start on the next when it suddenly happened.

World overwrite has been approved.

Evan stared, mouth suddenly hanging open as the screen appeared in the air in front of him. He was only vaguely aware of the sounds of surprise and exclamation echoing through the room in general. Instead, he focused on the next text below the message.

Your world has been selected to have its underlying principals overwritten. This was determined by REDACTED and the newer system is now in the process of being installed. Some of you will flourish, many of you will not.

In the meantime, rejoice, for once more shall heroes walk the Earth. Though, in their shadows, so too shall monsters.

That, thought Evan, was entirely too ominous. He glanced around his corner, before it was like the world had been shattered with a horrible sound like nothing he could describe. In that moment, reality became something he could not comprehend, a void that wasn’t, filled with swirling chunks of reality broken into shapes not previously possible.

Just as suddenly the world was put back together.

Red Cap <Lvl 1>

It was short, with a bulbous nose, spikey, unkempt beard. On its head was a dirty red cap, the color of dried, clotting blood. But, most importantly, there was a wicked looking knife made out of what looked to be sharpened bone, and a twisted, sadistic grin curled over its lips.

The smile was what made Evan react. The dark look of menace, the cold promise of pain, the anticipation. It had him lashing out with a kick that smashed the little fey’s head into the wall.

The feeling of the thing’s head smashing like a stiff, wet melon made him jerk back, his boot looking bright red. The wall was caved in, the drywall rumpled to the metal stud buried in the wall. What was left of the little would-be killer was dripping blood down the wall.

Then, an instant later, there was a puff of smoke and the creature’s body was replaced by a small chest and a floating crystal above it.

One Shot Flash Victory! First Kill! Compound Bonus!

Evan took a slow deep breath, fighting down the icy grip of panic surging inside of him. Then came a momentary feeling of sickness at the realization he had just killed something. He barely had the time to process things before another message appeared.

Job: Initiate has been unlocked.

As you have not other jobs it has automatically been equipped

That… He stared, then he looked at the crystal and the chest. It was… He remember the earlier messages and froze. “… Oh, Fuck.”

World overwrite. New system installed. Like a program. Like a video game.

With a trembling hand, he reached out and touched the crystal.

Crystal contains Passive Skill: The Sight

Would you like to Learn?

“… Yes?” It only made him hesitate for a moment. Typically, The Sight was supposed to be both blessing and curse, but he’d take any advantage he could get right now as he could hear a scream near him before suddenly cutting off with a gurgle.

The crystal vanished with a flash of light before another message appeared.

Passive skill: The Sight learned.

As you have no other passive skills it has automatically been equipped.

Suddenly, he could see glowing outlines of figures roughly the same size as the red cap he’d killed through the cubicle walls all around him. With a sickening realization, he suddenly understood exactly what he was seeing them doing. Killing his coworkers.

He needed a weapon. Well, what he really needed was an army, but here and now? He needed a weapon and some armor.

His eyes turned towards the chest still lingering from where the little monster had died. That was at least a possibility. With little to lose and necessity guiding him, he reached out and placed a hand on the chest

Bonus Chest Opened!

<Ironwood> Dagger Obtained

            <Redcap> Cap Obtained

            <Common><Conquered> Fey Blood x2 obtained

            <Minor> Heal Potion x3 obtained

Ok! It wasn’t much, but at least it was something. Now he could fight back!

… If he could figure out how he was supposed to pull it out from wherever it went.

Equip?

And there it was, a list of slots for various equipment.

Head, neck, shoulders, chest, back, arms, hands, waist, legs, feet, fingers and grips.

It took him a moment to realize that grips were for weapons, but once he did it was only a moment to bring up the dagger from the chest.

<Ironwood Dagger.

A simple dagger made from fey grown ironwood. As strong as iron but it holds an edge easier. Rarely needs sharpening.

No enhancements

That… would have to do. He moved the dagger to his right grip and felt the weapon materialize in his hand, far heavier than he had been expecting. A quick glance at the cap revealed a few choice bits of information.

<Red Cap> Cap

Fey cap for putting atop your head. When doused in blood, grants you increased damage against creatures who share the same type as the blood used.

It could be really useful he noted as he remembered the blood he’d obtained from the drop. But, right now… right now he had to get up and get moving. Slowly, he stood up, making sure to hunch slightly forward, keeping his over 6’ frame from appearing over the edges of the cubicle walls.

He didn’t think they’d be jumping about like that, but he could only see in so many angles at once and he didn’t want to take any chances.

His thoughts were quickly derailed when he immediately found a bouncing, visibly irritated red cap in the empty cubicle next to his instead of on the other side of the divide like he’d originally thought. Apparently The Sight had a few quirks too it he would have to get used to. The realization made his thoughts stumbled as the unexpected tripped him up.

            Red Cap <Lvl 1>

For that moment, he couldn’t think about what to do. Then the moment passed and the red cap noticed him.

Unlike Evan, the red cap didn’t pause or hesitate. It immediately lunged at him, heading straight for his throat. Instinct finally kicked in and he desperately threw himself back, rising from his crouch just before he felt a line of pain lance across his chest as another ironwood blade raked across his sternum instead of his throat.

Pain awoke him fully from his stupor and instinct roared to life as he clutched his own weapon defensively in his hand and watched his would be killer with wary eyes. The thing grinned back at him, at terrible thing of demented bloodlust and kill crazed hunger. He swallowed reflexively, before he clumsily swung at the little monster.

The thing darted away with a mocking chittering sound, before stabbing at him again, this time managing to open up a bloody line on his arm that obviously excited the little creature even further into its bloodlust.

It immediately flung itself at Evan once more, this time, actually leaping into the air straight for his throat. Evan responded by slashing out at the flying ball of death and murder with his own dagger. When he felt the impact, it shocked them both. The thing only had a moment to scream a gurgling, shrill sound before Evan’s wild, desperate swipe flung it off of his knife and into the hallway.

He realized, reflexively, that the action had been stupid and likely dangerous, but the fey monster only bounced a moment past the hallway, away from any potentially passing monsters, rolling into another row of cubicles.

Instantly, he held his breath, feeling a sudden worry as he focused completely on where the monster slowly picked itself up and glared back at him. One sloppy, desperate blow was apparently not going to be enough to stop it. Then, a second red cap joined the one he had wounded, this one with a cap that glistened beneath the florescent lights.

Bloody Red Cap <Lvl 2>

Evan fought down the urge to curse. This was not looking good.

 

 

Chapter 1: The Red Cap Menace

They started with the Bloody Red Cap jumping at him while the injured one attempted to rush at his legs. Acting out the now frighteningly familiar desperation, Evan grabbed the office chair from the unused cubicle and managed to put it between him and the red caps. It only worked for a moment as the Bloody Red Cap hit the back of the chair’s back and immediately began crawling up it by stabbing its dagger into the fabric and plastic for purchase.

It did manage to force the injured one to move around the sudden obstacle. That in turn gave him the precious moments to slash out at the stronger one just as it crested the back of the chair.

The creature shrieked in pain and fell back down as the edge of his blade slashed it’s cheek and nose and promptly fell back down onto the chair. Evan then kicked the seat, rolling it forward just a bit before it toppled and spelled the screeching monster onto the ground. That left the limping level 1 red cap as the more immediate threat.

So, he took a moment to look for something he could use to keep it further away from him. What he found was the keyboard on the desk of the unoccupied cubicle. Grabbing hold of it, he pulled hard, ignoring the sharp snap of resistance as he ripped the cord from its port on the desktop itself.

It was unwieldy and relatively flimsy, but, it had one important strength over the dagger: reach. That was a fact that the red cap learned as it found its face smashed by the number pad of the keyboard.

The wounded monster was knocked to the side into the wall, not enough to really do much damage, but, enough to stun it for a moment. That was long enough for him to throw a small rolling cabinet onto it. Thankfully, for all its vicious danger, the little monster couldn’t quite get itself out from under the piece of paper filled furniture.

A moment later, he was dealing with the second, stronger red cap again, with its bloody face furious and its attacks flying wildly in his direction. And the little bastard was fast. Fortunately, while it had speed, it lacked reach or strength.

It still had its sharp, ironwood dagger though, and an angry look in its eyes. He could see the bloody lust there in its gaze as it hacked away at the already broken keyboard he’d picked back up to use as a makeshift shield. Unfortunately, the plastic already broken piece of plastic equipment did not make a very good shield against an iron hard dagger.

Still, not very good ended up being just barely enough to weather the storm of attacks that left the blood thirsty monster rather exhausted. Exhausted enough for him to slash with his own dagger across the thing’s chest as it managed to bounced out of the way to avoid anything fatal. It drew blood, but that was about it.

Evan also ended up close enough for the red cap to get in a stab of its own on his arm. It was a sharp tug that he barely noticed at first before he pulled back and saw the line of crimson running down towards his wrist. That left the both of them bloodied.

The red cap made a chittering sound, full of eager, growing bloodlust. When it reared back, ready to lunge at him again, he had run out of things to throw at it that were within easy reach. But, the thing was tired, that made it slow and sloppy. Not that Evan was that much better off.

When it lunged again, he had thought he was ready. His fist swung, intending to punch the side of the thing while it was vulnerable. Only, he misjudged how fast the little monster was flying. Instead, he ended up pulling the thing into his shoulder.

A hiss of pain turned into a barely strangled scream as he could feel it, stabbing into his the meat of his flesh and tried to bite him. He hand, fortunately, pulled the creature in to him, turning its body away from where it could easily stab anything vital, but it continued to try to slash and stab as hard as it could.

Something in Evan snapped then as he suddenly used his other hand to stabbing at the little killer in the neck, ignoring the hot splash of we blood pouring back onto him. Then, suddenly, the body went still and motionless. When he released it, its body fell lifeless to the ground.

Staggering bloodily to his feet, he blearily looked around before noticing the fearful chittering of the remaining red cap. Glaring at the trapped source of his troubles, he fumbled for a moment with the knife, it kept slipping in his bloody grip.

Acting more on instinct than anything, he pulled off the cap from his head, smearing his own blood onto it before wrapping the bloody handle of the dagger in it, and grasping it again.

With a brutal, methodical motion, he stabbed into the things throat from the side and then sliced back until he hit bone, then pull it out with a spurt of blood. Then, he collapsed against the wall as the pain from his wounds started to seep in. He could see a window, blearily in front of him, but ignored it as he looked around, doing his best to make sure there weren’t any more monsters near him.

When he was, he quickly tried to access the healing potions. It took him a moment to not only figure out how to bring up his inventory, but how to get a bottle out. After a moment, he managed to finally get it out, and after a moment’s hesitation, he would bring it to his lips and take his first sip. It was bitter, but neither repugnantly nor pleasantly so as an earthen smell hit his nose.

Still, he could feel the way the throbbing pain began to subside as his wounds began to heal. Finally, he was able to turn his attention to the notification window.

Alchemy Recipe Discovered: Primal Bloodbound Bane Weapon

Profession Unlocked! Alchemist Variant: Hunter Alchemist

            No Profession detected, auto-equipped.

Evan stared at that. Job, profession… What were the differences? When nothing popped up to explain things, he sighed.

Looking over, he could see a pair of chests where the red caps had fallen, and keeping an eye out with The Sight, he opened them.

Bonus Chest Opened!

<Common> Conquered Fey Blood x 1 obtained

<Common> Healing Potion x 2 obtained

Ok, he was good on healing for the time being at least.

And he wanted to recover his stamina a bit more before he tried to continue, which lead to him making a very purposeful thought.

Jobs

Immediately a small figured appeared on a blue screen with a name and description beneath it

Initiate

Beginning class. Enables the job tree and accumulation of EXP and AP. Allows job unlock based on actions and accomplishments. Below average stat growth in all areas. Recommended job change as soon as available.

The implications intrigued him as apparently his job wasn’t a static thing. So that wasn’t the typical thing with games. He didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing yet though.

Professions

The screen that popped up was almost identical to the first and also had a single figure.

Hunter Alchemist

            An alchemist that works best with ingredients they’ve freshly harvested themselves. Gains additional benefits from items made this way and greater chance for ingredients to drop.

He really wished he understood what alchemy was supposed to be though. Sighing, he closed his eye a moment before trying a few other things.

Status. Character. Stats.

That got it.

Evan March

            Job: <Novice> Initiate

            Profession: <Novice> Hunter Alchemist

            Progression: a

            Strength Progression: a

            Vitality Progression: a

            Dexterity Progression: a+

            Intellect Progression: a+

            Spirit Progression: a+

            Fortune Progression: a (Special)

            Skills:

            <Primary> Initiation

            <Secondary> -None-

            Passive:

            <Primary>-Unlock

            <Secondary>- Ingredient Drop Potency

            Extra-1 – <Novice> The Sight

            Extra-2 – None-

Frowning a moment, he realized he didn’t understand even half of what everything meant. So he tried see if he could trigger some form of knowledge dump.

Help

Nothing

Tutorial?

Again, nothing

Assistance. Customer Care. Wiki. FAQ.

Not a damned thing.

Evan sighed as he failed ot make any progress then tried a different route

Skills

            Initiate – Progress – b

                        Equip – All – Max

                        Aptitude – All – Max

                        History- Personal – ?

                        Loot+ – Personal – y

                        Path – Personal- ?

                        Boost – Personal – Ω

                        ??? – ??? – ?

            Hunter Alchemist – Progress – a

                        Primal Alchemy – a

                        Primal Harvest – Ω

A quick glance through things showed him a list of primal alchemy recipes that he had to choose from, few of which he could actually see. Mostly what he found was a few beginner recipes and the one he had discovered on his own. Information on them gave him a brief explanation of how alchemy worked.

Primal Alchemy at least. Primal Alchemy worked by using fresh, unrefined ingredients to imbue their properties to things with the appropriate catalyst. Typically, the death whatever he was using the last ingredient of.

It was crude, unrefined and limited in what it could create, but what it could create was powerful. He was just going to have to gather more ingredients together to test things out. And if it meant sacrificing more of these damned red caps, well…

But, he needed fresh ingredients from what he could tell. Which were combined in some more obvious ways. Though, it did leave him curious about why he had the common conquered fey blood. If he could get a staff or a spire or a club, he’d be happy. Daggers were for those that could and would get in close.

Now he just needed to figure out what to make of the stats. All letters, no numbers, and why would some of them have had the “+” next to them? Too many questions, no enough answer. Sighing, he shook his head before taking a slow, deep breath.

Right, he could figure it out later.

Again he examined the dagger he had obtained previously before his accident.

<Ironwood> Dagger – Bloodbound, Fey Bane

This time, there was a bit more of a description beneath it.

Cut and shaped by a fey weapon crafter, it is made of Ironwood, a particularly dense wood capable of holding an edge. Primal alchemy has since been applied to it, using blood and sacrifice to transfer the properties of a Red Cap’s bloody bane cape to the weapon, allowing it to seek out blood like that it tasted from the sacrificial victim. In addition, the alchemist sacrificed his own blood to help bind the weapon so it can never be used against him.

That was potentially useful. So, blood bound didn’t restrict the weapon to his use, it protected him from it.

Slowly, he groaned as his attention caught the cap’s new description. Blood drenched cap. Nothing else. So, whatever it was that was used as an ingredient apparently sacrificed its special abilities along with it.

Primal Alchemy indeed.

He could work with that. But first he had to figure out exactly what was happening to everyone else and kill off as many of the damned little monsters as he could.

He really just wished he had something with more reach to deal with the little killers. He would make do though. He had to make do.

Standing up to his full height, he glanced around the 5’ walls and was fortunate enough to not find himself facing off against any more of the little monsters. Not immediately at least. So far, he didn’t see any potential problems. He could still see the vague outlines and glows of the creatures through the cubicle walls, letting him know more precisely where they were.

And just because he couldn’t see any potential problems, doesn’t mean there weren’t actually any. He’s already learned that lesson once. Not paying attention to his surroundings had cost him once, he wasn’t eager to have it cost him again.

Taking a deep breath, he noted that all the items he had “won” had vanished. A check of his inventory showed it there, which was something at least. Automatic transfer of loot to his inventory meant that he didn’t need to worry about tripping over it or picking it up.

Equipping his new feybane knife, he cautiously advanced down the corridor of cubicles as he verified that he couldn’t see any of the red caps patrolling along it. At least not currently. At the first cubicle, he found himself relieved to find a distinct lack of a body waiting for him as he returned to the area the bloody red cap had been in.

Serena’s desk he reminded himself, a generally helpful woman with two daughters and… there was nothing left but blood. So much blood. He almost fell over as he realized just whose blood it was before straightening his back. No. He could freak out later.

Gripping even tighter on the hilt of his dagger, he approached the final cubicle on the row. He could see the silhouette of another red cap highlighted against the wall. Taking a slow, quiet breath, he prepared himself for a fight. Especially as one of the new contractors was supposed to sit there, which likely meant another bloody red cap.

Rushing around the cubicle wall, he found himself facing a surprised looking red cap, cap dull brown, dry and unbloodied. A red cap he promptly stabbed straight in the throat. As soon as he felt the blade hit true, he almost reflexively pulled across it, like cutting a piece of meat.

An eruption of blood followed that caught him right in the face, blinding him temporarily and preventing him from stabbing again. A moment later, he could feel a stabbing pain in his arm. Wiping the blood out of his eyes, he could see the look of angry defiance on the dying features of the red cap. Pulling back, he scowled at the creature as he pulled out one of his healing potions and opened it to drink.

Then, he looked down at his bleeding arm, and then at the dying red cap. Deliberatly glaring back at the murderous, spiteful creature, a dark part of his mind considered using the potion on the monster, just to kill it again. A thought he quickly squashed down, distracting him from the way his blood tricked down his arm into the potion.

He missed the addition of his blood to the potion, but, he didn’t miss the fey giving one last, gurgling gasp and again spray its blood at him. This time though, it failed to hit his face. But, it didn’t miss dribbling several gleaming drops into the potion.

Nor did he miss the way that with the last exhale, a faint mist left the monster’s mouth, coiling in the air for a moment, before flowing into the mouth of the open bottle.

Alchemy Recipe Discovered! Primal Alchemy Bound Fey Rebirth Potion!

Frowning, he examined the potion now in his hands.

<Rare> Bound Fey Rebirth potion

The potion to cheat death, at least partially. If given to the weak and/or dying, they are given the choice of being healed and reborn as a lowly fey in the service of the potion’s creator.

Evan grimaced. That wasn’t the kind of potion he really wanted/needed. And how did he even…

Reading through the recipe, he noted a couple of unfamiliar terms, or at least unfamiliar in how they related to what happened. From what he could tell, somehow he’d harvested the creature’s dying breath. He just wasn’t sure how he’d done it, or how he could reproduce it.

Shaking his head, he did notice that this time, nothing dropped from the creature’s corpse when it vanished.

Based on what he was reading, the process of harvesting the creature’s dying breath was used to absorb the creature’s essence. Something he couldn’t do again until the moon went from new to full again. He really wished he had some kind of tutorial for all this.

Deciding not to waste the potion now, he corked it again and put it back in his inventory before grimacing at his bloody arm. As the adrenal rush wore off, the pain was starting to set in. A bit of makeshift medicine and he had a half roll of paper towels wrapped about the wound and secured with a generous helping of tape. Best to save the potions for actually serious damage, at least until he had more of them.

Finally taking stock of the cubicle he’d just killed the red cap in, he was glad to note that there wasn’t any pool of blood, at least one less person dead. Taking a slow, deep breath, Evan steadied himself then ventured back into the aisles. He still had to hopefully find some survivors. Someone, anyone really.

Back in the aisle, he was lucky enough to catch a patrolling red cap off guard, and stabbed the little monster in the back, this time making sure to put his dagger into it over and over again until it stopped moving.

When its corpse disappeared, instead of a drop, a window popped up.

[Essence theft still in effect, 9 more Red Caps remaining to clear]

He stared as his mind caught up to the information on the screen. So, on top of not knowing how he did it, he was now penalized for it.

Evan groaned, that meant he was down to only 3 healing potions for 9 more kills at least. That was not good. How was he supposed to…?

He glanced the spot the last monster had been killed.

If he was quiet, if he was careful…

Maybe, just maybe he could do it. There were plenty of red caps all around him, but, he couldn’t see any of them grouped together near him. Gripping tightly onto his dagger, he went to work.

The first one he tried to ambush got him first and he’d been forced to apply another makeshift bandage. The second had been even worse and at the end of it, he’d been forced to use another potion. But, he’d learned.

His third had died with a surprised gurgle. The fourth managed a scratch. Then he’d heard the scream.

Three red caps were banging on the door of one of the small meeting rooms situated around the cubicles.

He swallowed at that. Two of the little monsters had almost killed him before. Now, there were 3…

Then, he heard the terrified scream again.

Gritting his teeth, he weighed his options before ducking back into the cubicle he’d just cleared. The only things… growling he grabbed the mini-tower PC case and almost ripped out the cables from it before he took the mouse and the power cable.

They weren’t much, but they’d do.

They’d have to.