Chapter Thirty-Nine: A Drop in Number
Ryan poured half of the second vial of lesser antidote into the convulsing man’s throat. At least half of it came back out as a result of the man’s gurgling but it was the only thing he could think to do. Keeping his chest elevated, he tried feeding him more antidote. The adventurer stared into his eyes, with wide, panicked ones of his own. no one had seen what happened. One moment, they were all picking herbs and the next he was falling over, convulsing. Ryan had heard the initial yelp, even seen the man step back and clutch his hand but that was it. The culprit was still unknown and the victim’s condition was steadily growing worse. His skin paled rapidly and his breathing became irregular. Following this was gradual paralysis till it got to the point where the man could barely speak or move. Then came the convulsions.
Ryan was at a loss. It had only been five minutes. He had never seen a venom this strong. How could a rank two adventurer be reduced to this in five minutes? The worst part was the feeling of helplessness that came from watching the man die without being able to help. Despite his instincts telling him that the adventurer was already doomed, Ryan pulled out another lesser antidote and tried feeding it to his patient.
“Damn it! Has anyone found that fucking snake yet? ” he yelled in frustration.
All they needed was some shed skin or blood, blood especially, to mix into the antidote. It would not do much but it would help the victim by drawing on the snakes own resistance.
Forcing himself to move, the dying adventurer grabbed onto Ryan’s arm. “Bo-bb-BOs-!” he struggled to say.
“Don’t speak!” Ryan warned in alarm. With their forearms pressed together, he was able to read the man’s heartbeat. Haywire was probably the only way to describe it now.
“Just drink!” he begged.
“Bos–boss!” the man ground out with blood red eyes. “MY fami–fa-fmm. M. Mhm.”
The words trailed off into a sort of moan. The man’s face was growing slack and his tongue was already hanging loosely in his mouth. The heart rate was becoming even more irregular. Ryan closed his eyes. It was not to hard to figure out what the man was trying to say. He had had it said to him before, even thought about how he himself would say those words if his time came.
“Don’t worry!” he said softly. “I’ll make sure they receive your sentiments and effects!”
The young man stared into Ryan’s eyes searching till he found the confirmation he wanted. There was nothing special about his passing. One moment, he was struggling at death’s door. The next, his heart gave out and he went through. Ryan sighed, closing the man’s eyes as a final courtesy. Taking the man’s weapons and personal items, Ryan stood up.
“Damn it!” he yelled.
Adventurers died all the time, this one was nothing special.
Sanzur sat on the ground, curled up with his hands around his shins. Despite the efforts of his colleagues, he refused to move. The shock of the event had yet to leave him. .That feeling of being snatched from the ground, of being helpless and aloft was the worst thing ever. Dwarves were not meant to fly. He belonged in the earth with the stone. He had always felt safe in the bellies of the hills and mountains, until now. Gripping himself tighter, he realised that, maybe, thinking of the underground as the belly of an abstract being was not exactly the most calming of thought especially considering where he currently found himself.
His two near-death experiences in less than fifteen minutes told him all he needed to know. Such as the fact that he might not survive a third. He was quite alright, thank you. He just wouldn’t be continuing with the expedition. This was where he got off.
“Come now, Sanzur!” his dwarven compatriot pleaded in their native tongue. “You cannot possibly intend to stay here!”
“I can and I will”, he replied. “Don’t push me on this Bifund!”
“Do you know what some of the old houses call dungeons? Caverns of Death. That alone should have told been warning enough but no. We are already in the death caverns. The Courier has passed me twice already, I cannot imagine I would be lucky enough to merit another.”
“Are you telling me you are scared so far out your wits you are going to stay here?” his friend argued with a wave “Here, in this corridor, alone where any monster can reach you?”
“Better than going with you and dying!” Sanzur spat.
His friend stared hard at him to a few seconds before sighing and turning to Coenbert. “He’s lost it!”
“What’s happening on your end?”
Coenbert gave another look at the curled up dwarf before answering. “No idea how it works yet but its definitely magic. There are spikes in the hole to skewer whatever ends up inside. Thankfully, it can only pull the sucking trick for so long, about three seconds or so. Then, it has to recharge. That was what the symbols going red meant.”
“It is a reverse pitfall!” Sieg said with a laugh.
“No, it is not!” the mage argued.
It was so much more than that. The thing was a magical trap she had never seen before. There was no way to disarm it for her perspective. The trick seemed to be not setting it off in the first place but they did not know how to do that with the exception of not going near it. Her best guess was setting it off intentionally and then staying out of the way till it went red.
“She is right”, Coenbert’s axe bearing friend said. “Pitfalls have you falling into them. A reverse pitfall would be the pitfall falling on you!”
Sieg laughed at the joke, adding, “I’ve always had a problem with the term pitfall anyway. It is not the pit that is doing the falling now, is it?”
“Quit with the jokes. We don’t know what is out here”, Coenbert warned, breaking up the jovial atmosphere.
“Sieg! You and David go upfront, scout ahead. We need your eyes looking out for more of the glowy stuff and who knows, there might be other traps out there!”
“Yes, sir!” David answered before quickly taking point. A sharp look had Sieg following suit with an expression of exasperation.
“Bifund! You better get your friend moving before I leave you both behind!” Coenbert made clear.
“Umm, Boss!” David called.
“What?” he barked.
“I think you need to see this!”
Sighing, he went to check it out. The ranger had made it pretty far in front. There he had found a side tunnel with a small chest at the end. The tunnel was immaculate. Besides the light, the moss, some strange creeping grass and the chest, there was nothing in it. However, this only made Coenbert suspicious.
“It is a trap!” he declared.
“I know!” David acknowledged. “See the crevice there on the right wall about twenty metres in? I am pretty sure that blue glow is more weird writing. The crevice is only a few centimetres wide. It cannot be the same thing back there.”
“Get Erin and the dwarves!” he ordered.
Two rangers, two dwarves, a mage and a healer all had one thing to say about the trap. They did not know what it was. It was magical and probably designed to be fatal but that was it. None were familiar with the dungeon or its strange magical features to say anything else.
“I am pretty sure I can disable it if I can get close but I am not sure what its range is. I don’t want it to blow up in my face!” David told them.
“Why not send a familiar?”
David glared at the axeman for suggesting it. He had just outlined the risks involved and the man still wanted him to send a familiar? Familiars were not disposable pets though he did not expect the bastard to understand that. There were many rangers who refused the bond precisely because they knew how deep the connection was. The loss of a familiar hurt in more ways than one.
In the end, however, he was pressured into doing so by the rest of the party but not without some conditions of his. His familiar, a raven, flew into the tunnel, carefully scoping it out and luckily returned without injury. David heaved a sigh of relief. The healer had been on hand the whole time but the experience was still nerve-wracking. At least, they now knew that the trap was not presence-sensitive like the other one. That meant it was David’s turn. Nervously, he walked straight to the crevice in the wall and prepared to disarm it.
“Something is wrong. My skill use is invalid for some reason. This is not a trap! I do not understand.” Wait! Something is happening! It is blinking really fast…” he yelled, stepping away from the crevice. It was his last mistake.
Before anyone could say jack, David’s position was filled with spikes. They were ejected from the walls, shooting out like arrows at their target. In the blink of an eye, that entire section of the tunnel became a crisscross of spear-like rods that went from wall to wall and ceiling to floor for at least a metre. It was a kill zone and unfortunately for David, he was in that kill zone. The sharp rods shot out of the wall impaled him from every direction. One went through his eye and out the back of his head at a steep angle before stabbing into the ground. Others went through his chest and abdomen with two others passing harmlessly between his legs. There were even a few stabbed laterally into him.
The ranger hung there, dripping with blood. His corpse skewered several times over. The entire party stared in horror. It was over before they knew it with none of them able to voice a warning. As fast as it happened, they watched it in slow motion. The sick squelch of parting flesh and the spraying of blood was imprinted into their minds. When they did find their voices, Sanzur was not the only one screaming.
Quick question, what would you call the trap that nearly killed the dwarf? Reverse pitfall? Upfall? Ceiling spike? Let me know in the comments or the discord!