At some point, Nova drifted off. Pain woke her up. Her eyes snapped open and she looked down to see a flesh sether biting into her leg. In an instant, she grabbed for the knife on her waist only to realize she had left it back with the bloody rocks.
The flesh sether head whipped towards her at the movement. Its gaping mouth of teeth expanded as it launched forward. Nova grabbed a nearby rock and swung, smashing into the beast’s side, and then scrambled towards Mathius. Luckily, the man was clear of monsters and still had his knife on his hip. She reached for it just as she heard the tell-tale sound of wind cutting behind her.
She started to roll out of the way, but if she did it would hit Mathius. She didn’t move, instead grabbing the knife as she felt teeth bite into her back. Nova screamed as she grabbed Mathius’s knife and stabbed it into the monster on her back. She stabbed over and over again.
Feral screams spilled from her mouth as she just kept ripping into it over and over. She wasn’t sure when the monster went limp but it did. She pulled out the knife. Her fingers were tight around the hilt in a death clutch. Nova panted.
Slowly, she pried her hands open, letting the knife clatter to the ground. She reached behind her and began prying off the monster. It fell to the ground, dead. She looked at the carcass in disgust before reaching back and rubbing her fingers over her wound. She winced as she felt it. It was deep.
She needed to clean it before it got infected but she didn’t have any water or a med kit. She turned to Mathius. He still had his bag. She reached inside and felt a rush of relief at what she saw. At least one of them had prepared for possible injuries. Nova knew she should have, but she had been so focused on crystal crafting and making sure the whole climbing the cave walls worked she hadn’t gotten around to replacing the old equipment she lost.
She reached in and was surprised to find soap. She blinked and then laughed as she realized why Mathius had it. It probably had to do with her asking for it when Oren and Kellston set that flesh sether on her.
Nova picked up the canteen of water and the soap and then froze. “They travel in packs.”
Nova grabbed her staff off Mathius, and then turned swiftly, thrusting out the torch crystal. She stepped forward. She heard them before she saw them. She swung out her staff slamming into a flesh sether, knocking it into one of its companions. Another leaped at her from the side and she jumped back, nearly stumbling on a rock as she did.
She flailed her arms as another flesh sether jumped at her. Nova let herself fall back, slamming into the ground but managing to get out of the way of the flesh sether. It smashed into the rock wall, right over Mathius.
“Shit!” She rushed over and as she did, she focused on transferring mana into her staff. Unlike before, the staff thrummed and then a scythe appeared in less than a second. She swung, cutting into the monster.
But she didn’t stop with her swing. She kept moving in a full circle. The scythe cut into the monsters as they launched towards her. Where the scythe cut, only air was left behind. The ones she missed backed away until they were lost in the dark. There was a hiss but no additional attack came. Nova peered into the darkness. She knew they were out there, but if she went hunting for them it meant leaving Mathius behind and the monsters would definitely circle back to attack him.
Nova crouched down beside Mathius and started shaking him. “Mathius! Wake up!”
Mathius’s eyes opened, staring blankly, before closing again.
Nova tried shaking him awake again but this time Mathius didn’t open his eyes.
They couldn’t stay here. If they did, more and more flesh sethers would come and though she could use her scythe to take care of them she knew there was a limit to her mana stores. She eyes the darkness, chewing on her lip nervously, she chanced calling up her screen, quickly looking at her mana pool.
Mana Pool: 990 (250/990 available)
She closed it out, peering into the darkness. It looked like whatever mana she had stored up she already depleted again. Using the scythe was a huge mana suck. They needed to find a place to hide away at least long enough for Mathius to recover.
She let the scythe fade away. She needed to conserve any mana she had so for now she needed to stick with using her staff. She chanced looking away from the darkness to scan the ground. It didn’t take her long to spot where she had dropped Mathius’s knife. Quickly, she grabbed for the knife. As she did, a flesh sether lunged at her hand. She jerked her hand back. The flesh sether hissed and then pulled back into the darkness.
“Screw you,” Nova said.
Gritting her teeth, Nova reached over with her staff, dragging the knife forward. This time none of the flesh sethers attacked her. It looked like they were at least afraid of the staff. She reached down and picked up the knife. She considered keeping it in hand. It would be good as a backup but she might need her hand free.
In the end, she decided to tie it to the end of the staff, making it into a spear. She could have used nature magic to make a spear but that cost mana and right now that was a precious resource. Honestly, she needed time to figure out how much mana she could use to do certain things with her staff but not when she was already low and had monsters waiting to make a meal out of her.
Focus on what you can do now.
What she did now was untie the rock straps on her ankles and tie one around her staff, securing the knife to the end of it. Once that was done, it was on to the next problem. They needed a place to go where they could rest. Wandering in the dark in the dungeon was just asking to be killed but they didn’t have a choice. Not anymore.
So that meant scouting out a place. Luckily, she had someone who could help but it would cost her. It meant giving up some of the mana she had. Was the cost worth it? She would have to hope so.
There was a thrum from the staff and then a ghost appeared but it wasn’t Axe. This ghost was a woman. She wore a scowl on her face and a scar across her cheek. “The commander is recovering. What do you want?”
Nova frowned at the attitude. “I need a scout. We have to find a place to take cover and rest.” She glanced at Mathius.
The woman followed her before giving her a short nod and vanishing. A moment later, another ghost appeared. This one was an elderly man. His back was bent and he gave her a warm smile.
“Hear ya need this old fella’s talents.”
Nova gave him a skeptical look. “I need a scout.”
“Well, I’m not exactly a scout but I was sent here so she probably thought I could help you. Why don’t you explain what it is you need exactly.”
Nova wasn’t sure if the woman had just sent anyone or actually sent someone who could help her.
He’s here now, so might as well see.
“We’re in a dungeon. There are monsters everywhere and I need to find a place where my friend and I can recover without being eaten.”
The old man nodded, rubbing his chin. “Aye, if you stay here you’ll be just giving them a free meal. All right, I’ll help you.” He looked thoughtfully into the darkness. “What’s your name?”
Nova blinked. “Nova Davis. Um, what’s your name?”
“Pan,” the man said. “Now, look here, young’un. Don’t think you’re going to just waltz through these dungeons. You’re going to have to fight and any cover I find you won’t last long, so be ready to move.” He looked at Mathius. “You sure you want to take him with you. You’ll have a better chance on your own.”
Nova stiffened. “I’m sure.”
“Loyalty only gets you so far,” Pan said and then laughed. “Guess you’ll learn that when you’re dead. Well, get him packed up. Be ready to leave on my say.”
Then the old man was gone. He wasn’t exactly the most pleasant person but he seemed to know what he was doing. One thing was clear, though. She had to figure out how to move Mathius. A quick look around showed there wasn’t anything she could make into a stretcher. She also couldn’t carry him, at least not for long. She certainly couldn’t do it while fighting.
What are my options?
She reached down to shake Mathius again. He groaned but didn’t wake up. Nova reached over and touched his forehead. It was hot to the touch. Her brow creased in worry. She leaned down to tilt his head back but as soon as she did she heard a hiss. She whirled around, slashing her staff. She felt the slight tug as the knife cut through flesh right before the monster slunk back into the darkness.
They were waiting for an opening. She couldn’t afford to lower her weapon. Instead, she slowly crouched down with the staff in one hand and the canteen in the others. Making sure to stay facing the darkness as much as she could, she awkwardly trickled water from the canteen across Mathius’s lips. His mouth opened slightly, reflexively drinking the water. Nova trickled some more down before pulling away. She wanted to give him more but they needed to conserve the water until they found a more reliable source. She also still needed to take care of her wound. The sooner she did it the less likely infection would set in.
Part of her wondered if she should wait but she knew that infection could spread fast and if she got taken down by it she would be useless. She grabbed the bar of soap from Mathius’s bag and trickled water on it. With one hand, she took the bar and began rubbing it over her wounds, starting with the one on her leg and then the one on her back. Several times she had to stop to wash away the blood or take care of a monster that decided to try attacking.
Finally, she finished up and then grabbed the bandages. There wasn’t enough. She ended up settling for wrapping one around her leg. Now came the hard part.
As she had cleaned her wound, she had been thinking of how to handle moving Mathius. The only solution she could come to was using the stone magnetism crystals. It wasn’t the best solution, but it would allow her to pull Mathius along despite his weight.
Nova went to his side and fished out the crystal she had given him. She put it in her pocket with her own. She then moved to his wrist, untying the straps of rock around them. The sounds of movement in the darkness let her know that the flesh sether were uncomfortable with her movements or were growing impatient. Either way, she needed to work fast.
Once she had the straps undone from Mathius’s wrists, she tied them together with the last remaining one she had tied to her ankle. She then tied it around Mathius’s head. She just hopped this way there was less of a chance of causing a head injury.
She hesitated about the stones around her waist. She wondered if she could maybe even use it to cross the tunnels, but the flesh sethers could fly and if she was stuck to the wall or cave ceiling, she wouldn’t be able to use her weapon efficiently. It was better to be on the ground so she could fight. At least for now.
She untied the belt of stones from around her waist and instead wrapped them around Mathius’s shoulders. She let out a shuddering breath and hoped it would be enough.
Ten minutes later, Pan was back. “You ready?”
Nova nodded. “There’s one thing. We’ll need to stay close to a wall so I can move Mathius.”
Pan frowned and looked thoughtful. “I think that’s doable but the path I’m leading you through isn’t always going to have that option.”
Nova bit her lip but nodded. She could always use the ground if she had to. “Alright. Let’s go.”
Pan shook his head. “Not yet. You’re pinned in by five flesh sethers. It’s best you clear them out first.”
“What?” Nova exclaimed.
“They’ll hunt us down, bit-by-bit. Better to get rid of them now. We don’t need ’em on our heels.”
His words made sense, but… She looked over at Mathius.
“Don’t ya worry about the boy. I’ll give you a yell if he’s in danger. Now get to it.”
Nova hesitated, peering into the darkness.
“You’re going to be fighting a lot of monsters in the dark. Best get used to it now. At least you know what you’re against this time around.”
Nova shuddered. Fear slid through her but she tightened her hold on her staff and nodded. “Alright.”
She looked down at the torch crystal around her wrist and then at the darkness. Nova stepped into the dark.
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