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Short Story 44

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  1. inayat

    inayat Head Game Master Moderator

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    I was about seventeen years old when all this happened. My friend Kiwi was working the overnight shift at a convenience store in town and I went with my friend Atox to visit him.

    We entered the shop around midnight and found him sitting behind the counter looking bored. The well-lit store was well stocked full of mostly junk food and soft drinks.

    I noticed just inside the entrance that a one dollar coin was sitting on the polished floor. It was gleaming and looked brand new.

    Reaching down, I tried to pick it up off the floor and found it wouldn’t come up.

    “What the hell?”

    Atox pushed me out of the way and tried to pick it up himself and found the same thing. It was stuck to the floor.

    Kiwi burst out laughing from behind the counter.

    “Oh man, you guys are so gullible! People have been falling for that all night.”

    “What’d you do, superglue it to the floor?”

    He nodded and kept laughing.

    “Alright, I guess that’s kinda funny.”

    We sat with him behind the counter and talked for a while, waiting for my other friend Colder to show up. He was supposed to bring a board game that he had found in his basement.

    Every once in a while a customer would come in and we would try not to laugh when they attempted to pick up the coin unsuccessfully. Some would give up right away, but others got extremely frustrated and would pull out their car keys or use their fingernails to try to pry it up from the floor.

    Part of me couldn’t help but wonder if Kiwi was going to get into trouble when his boss came in the morning and found the coin still fastened securely to the floor.

    Finally, Colder came in with a backpack and a dusty box in his hands. It was a black cardboard box, ripped and cracked at the corners. I noticed the bag he was carrying was clinking as well like it was full of glass bottles.

    The box containing the board game had faint writing on it that looked medieval and archaic. It read: “Dungeons and Darkness.”

    “That’s weird, I’ve heard of Dungeons and Dragons, but not ‘Dungeons and Darkness,’” I said to Colder after we had exchanged greetings.

    “Yeah, same here. We were tearing apart the basement doing renovations and we found the box under the stairs. It was in a burlap sack with these really old bottles of Coca Cola.”

    He opened up his backpack and pulled out several tall glass bottles with the distinctive feminine curves of Coke containers. But there was no writing on them.

    “Are you sure these are Coca Cola? It doesn’t say it on the bottles.”

    “I’m pretty sure… Anyways, I’m gonna drink one and see how it tastes.”


    Atox, Kiwi, and I laughed and tried to convince him that was a terrible idea. The bottles looked like they were from a century ago. His house was built in the early 1900s so there was no way of knowing when they were boarded up under the stairs in his basement.

    “I had them in the fridge. C’mon, guys. Don’t you wanna try and see what hundred year old Coke tastes like?”

    We were young and bored and stupid, so we agreed. He handed each of us a bottle and I felt the coolness of it in my hands. Holding it up, I looked at the liquid inside the bottle. It had a vague vermillion shade to it at the edges when held up to the fluorescents.

    We each opened up our bottles and took a sip. It was sweet and bubbly, like a soft drink, but not quite. The sugary beverage was cool and refreshing. It tasted delicious despite its age – but was nothing like Coca Cola.

    “See? What did I tell you? Man, that’s good!” Colder looked very satisfied with himself.

    “Wanna set up this board game?” Kiwi asked, sipping his drink.

    We got the game board laid out and picked our characters. I was a Paladin, Kiwi chose a barbarian, Colder picked an elven archer, and Atox decided upon a dwarf after a long period of deliberation.

    Each character had a game card which showed their abilities and a special move which could be used only once per game. We also received a starting weapon – in my case a sword.

    The starting location on the map where we would begin the game was, interestingly enough, labelled “Shop.”

    It was about then that we noticed there were no dice with the game. The instructions were also missing. There was no clear direction on how to start playing other than to put our game pieces on the “start” location in the shop.

    The only other items in the box were a stack of cards, which Colder had shuffled and set beside the game board. There was nothing to do but draw a card from the stack, so I did, and read it out loud.

    “A visitor arrives at the shop.”

    I flipped the card over and looked at the back of it, thinking there had to be more, but there wasn’t. Taking a long sip of my syrupy-sweet drink, I looked up at the sound of a bell ringing above the door as it opened.

    My mind was spinning as I gazed confusedly around the room. Bolting up from my chair, I gasped.

    It was like we had been teleported somehow to a shop in a medieval fantasy world. Potions and vials lined the shelves on the walls. Herbs hung from the ceiling as well as furs and dried meats. Instead of fluorescents, the store was now dimly lit by flickering torches and candlelight.

    “Oh man, what was in that drink?” I asked Colder, feeling dizzy.

    He was standing up too and all of us were looking around the room in a delirious confusion.

    “Blast it! What sort of black magick spellery did you boys cast on this here gold piece to bind it to the floorboards like this!?!” The customer at the door was on his hands and knees trying to pull up the coin from the floor.

    “What the hell is going on?” Kiwi looked extremely worried.

    The man on his hands and knees by the door eventually stood up, looking slightly embarrassed. He was wearing long blue robes and a floppy, pointed hat. He had a long white beard and carried a tall wooden staff with a large jewel set into the top of it. His bushy eyebrows went up as he looked over at all of us staring at him.

    “Why, I suppose it’s some sort of jest, then?”

    A deep-throated laugh poured out of him then. It was a good-natured laugh and he walked towards us with a wide grin on his face.

    “Oh, you boys should think yourselves quite clever, pulling one over on a wizard such as myself. I am quite a prominent figure around these parts, you should know.”

    We all stared at him, our jaws hanging down.

    “Right. Well, then. I’ll take three red potions, if you don’t mind. I’ve got the silver for it, don’t worry.”

    I looked to see behind the counter were rows and rows of vials containing potions of various colours and shades. Picking up a red one, I saw it had a heart shape on the front of it.

    “Let me guess, healing potion?” I asked him, feeling as if I was in a dream, but knowing somehow that I was not.

    “You should know, you’re the shop-keeper, aren’t you? Of course, red potion for healing, blue for mana, purple for… What am I telling you for? Here, give me those, I’ve got a date with a dragon and I can’t be late for it.”

    He slammed his silver pieces on the wooden counter and grabbed three potions for himself and stomped out angrily, muttering under his breath.

    We all stayed silent for a minute after he left, still in complete shock.

    “What the hell was in those drinks, Colder!?” Atox finally shouted.

    All of our bottles stood empty, and I immediately regretted finishing it so quickly. But it had been pretty tasty.

    “Look, guys, our pieces moved on the game board!” Kiwi was staring at the board and he was right, the pieces moved forward to the next location.

    “It says ‘Dungeon Entrance,’” I noted, looking at the board. “I don’t like the sounds of that.”

    Looking up, I saw a wooden sign which was swinging at the back of the store as if it had just been struck by a strong wind. It was squeaking, hanging from a pair of rusty chains. I could have sworn it hadn’t been there a second ago.

    Dungeons and Darkness, it read. An arrow was pointing down a staircase which had also recently appeared at the back of the store.

    The cards were missing from the game board. I mentioned this to the other guys.

    “I think we’re supposed to go down there,” said Kiwi.

    “Oh no! Hell no! I’m not going down there,” Atox was saying, looking extremely nervous.

    “I get the feeling it’s the only way out of here,” I said, pointing at the game board. At the very end, at the top of the board, after the dungeons, was a tile marked “Finish.”

    “NOPE! Not going down those stairs. Not doing it. I’m gonna stay right here until these century-old hallucinogenic soft drinks wear off!”

    Suddenly the entire room began to shake and the walls started to move in towards us as if they were on rollers.

    They began to close in on us, and the room shrunk smaller and smaller, turning it from a square-shaped room into a hallway. The wood-beam walls crushed the shelves in the way and bottles fell to the floor, glass vials breaking and shattering.

    “Aw, hell! I don’t think we have a choice, guys!” I yelled, running towards the stairs. Atox and Colder ran after me, and reluctantly Kiwi came too, grabbing a few red potions quickly as he left the area behind the counter.

    I watched as the entire shop was crushed and the walls closed off the door behind us, leaving us at the top of the strange staircase.

    Stone steps led downward and torches lined the rough-hewn brick walls.

    We made our way down and eventually reached the lower level. Weapons were hanging from a rack down there waiting for us.

    A sword with a red cross on the hilt for the paladin.

    A large double sided steel axe for the dwarf.

    A bow and quiver of arrows for the elven archer.

    And a big ol’ club for the barbarian.

    “I don’t know how the hell you’re going to carry that thing, Kiwi,” I said, looking over to him. But then I stopped short when I saw Kiwi had grown by about three feet and was now a towering hulk with wide shoulders, wearing furs and leather boots.

    Atox had become a squat dwarf with a long, braided orange beard. He wore black chain-mail armor and had a square-shaped helmet atop his head. He had a large gut, I saw also, which overhung his belt.

    Colder still had his familiar facial features, but had pointed ears now and long, flowing blonde hair. He wore green leather armor and with quick, easy movements threw the quiver over his shoulder and picked up the bow in his hands.

    I grabbed the sword and found that when I looked down I was wearing gleaming white gold armor with a red cross on the breast.

    “Well, I guess we’re all set,” I said, looking into the darkness of the dungeon ahead. “Only one way to go – forward.”

    From the darkness ahead, a piercing scream shattered the silence. An echoing howl of such pain and terror that my heart skipped a beat. I felt sweat beading on my forehead suddenly.

    My heart began to hammer and pound in my chest and I tried to control the fear in my voice.

    “Come on, guys. We got this.”

    Stepping forward, we left the flickering glow of torches in the stairway, and were immediately swallowed up by darkness.

    The four of us moved silently through the dark tunnels of the dungeon. Rats squeaked and ran underfoot and I began to see the shapes of them as my eyes adjusted.

    Finally, after walking for a long while, there was a flickering light up ahead.

    As we approached, I saw two guards standing in front of a wrought-iron gate. Once we were within a few yards of them, I managed to see their grim visages.

    They had no flesh upon their faces. I could see right into the skeletal remains of their skulls and could discern no brains within them, only shadows. Perhaps that explains what happened next.

    “Who goes there?” the one on the right commanded.

    “Uh, hello,” I said. "Can we go through the gate, please? We’re trying to get home.”

    “Oh. Well, aren’t you a gracious bunch. They’re very polite, Gregor. I don’t think we’ve ever had ones who said ‘please’ before.”

    “You’re right, Kilik, they’re quite well mannered, but that’s not the point. This is supposed to be a challenge. The challenge is to defeat the skeleton guards at the entrance gate, not to be polite to them.”

    “Well, I can’t see why an exception can’t be made now and again…”

    “It isn’t up to you! We’ve been over this before.”


    They continued bickering back and forth for a minute and I got a bit concerned. The skeleton guards had thick plate mail armor and large, heavy-looking swords. I guessed they would be formidable foes, despite their obvious lack of grey matter.

    “I just want to say, you guys are doing an excellent job,” I coaxed, trying to persuade them with further kindness. “And if I run into your manager further along in the dungeon, I’m gonna pass along my positive comments to him. You can count on that.”

    “Really?”
    the one on the left raised his eyebrows.

    “Definitely. I’d say you’re both due for a promotion!”

    “See?”
    said the one on the right. “Let’s just let them through. They’ll put in a good word for us. He said it himself! No one’s ever put in a good word for us before.”

    They opened the gate for us without further discussion and we walked through it.

    “Be careful,” Gregor the skeleton guard said from behind us. “There are booby-traps everywhere. And enemies around every corner.”

    The shrill scream echoed out through the dungeon once again. It sounded so familiar, like a woman I knew.

    “Who is that screaming?” I asked them.

    The skeleton guards chuckled.

    “Why don’t you ask your friend?”

    I looked over to see Clolder standing there with tears in his eyes. He was shaking his head and saying, “Sorry,” over and over.

    “What did you do, Colder? WHAT DID YOU DO?”

    “It wasn’t my fault. I found the game, I opened it up and I looked at a card. I just wanted to see what it would say.”


    “And what did it say?” Kiwi asked.

    “The game’s begun, it’s all in motion. So find some friends and drink the potions. Find the one the goblins stole, before we eat her heart and soul. Get to the finish, save dear mother. For one does not receive another.”

    We stared at him, still not comprehending what he was telling us.

    “I went upstairs and my mom was gone. She was just gone. I think that’s her screaming. I think maybe… goblins took her.”

    “When were you going to tell us this!?”
    Kiwi was yelling, grabbing him and shaking him angrily. “You knew this game was evil, and you brought us all into it?”

    The board game was a medieval fantasy themed one, called Dungeons and Darkness. But now it wasn’t a board game at all. Now we were inside of it. As totally bat-shit as that sounds.

    “I didn’t know this was going to happen! How could I have possibly known?”

    Before we could argue any further, the wall behind us to our right collapsed in with an explosion of fire. We all backed up quickly and ducked as stone blocks went flying, landing all about the tunnel with loud crashes and bangs. Suddenly a figure in a blue robe came flying in through the hole. His body flew through the air and collided with great force against the brick wall on the other side.

    He landed on the floor in a heap and groaned.

    “That damn dragon,” he was muttering as he stood up, dusting himself off. “Oh, hello boys. Long time, no see.”

    “Hey, it’s the wizard!” I shouted, happy he was back.

    He was the first person we had seen in this strange fantasy world and he had seemed decent enough, even if he had been in a bit of a hurry.

    “Oh man, can you help us get out of here?” Kiwi asked.

    “And rescue my mom?”

    The wizard wrung his hands and made a few uncertain noises. Then he sighed resignedly and picked up his staff.

    “I mean… I can try. I’m not the best wizard. I use a lot of red potions. But I can usually get the job done.”

    He glanced back at the hole in the wall, still smoking, the edges of it burnt and charred.

    “Usually.”

    *

    We continued along with the blue wizard leading the way. The jewel atop his wooden staff glowed with a white light which proved quite useful in the darkness.

    “The challenges become more difficult in these dungeons the further along you get. What stage did you get up to before I joined you?”

    “Err… We just came in the entrance. I kinda sweet-talked the guards. Complimented them on their… I’m not really sure, they weren’t the brightest.”

    “Ha! Clever boy! Paladins are typically quite charismatic. Well done using it to your advantage.”


    I thought back to my character card when we had begun to play the game. “Charisma” had been one of my skills, as well as one-handed combat. I mentioned this to the others. It seemed we had some advantages over our foes here after all, if we used them correctly.

    Two flickering torches flanked another door up ahead and we prepared ourselves for what would come next.

    The wizard went through first and the rest of us followed. Immediately, the gate clanged shut with a loud noise behind us, and we found ourselves trapped in an octagonal chamber.

    “Okay, from my experience the first stage is almost always-“

    “SPIDERS!”


    There were dozens of them. Huge black spiders the size of dogs and cats. They descended from the ceiling and I saw one land on the wizard’s hand and bite him. Green venom oozed from the wound and he screamed in pain. Immediately he fell to the ground rigid and paralyzed, frozen in the exact way he had been standing before being bit by the spider. Foam poured out from the side of his mouth and I heard him gurgling.

    At least he was still alive. Some help he was going to be, I thought to myself.

    I saw that Atox was already swinging his axe in wide circles, taking out several spiders at a time with his huge weapon. Armor protected him head-to-toe and I saw him make short work of the spiders in one corner of the room.

    Colder the elf was picking off others with his bow, shooting them with effortless skill, as his character sheet had promised.

    Each spider he killed fell from its silken thread oozing fluorescent green blood which glowed and lit the room in an eerie light.

    Kiwi the barbarian was swinging his club and crashing it against the wall, crushing giant spiders with ease. One landed on his shoulder, though, and before he could knock it away it had bitten him, rendering him paralyzed as he twitched on the floor alongside the blue wizard.

    Only Atox, Colder, and I were left, and another spider suddenly lowered itself down from the ceiling.

    This spider was much larger than the others had been. Instead of being the size of a cat or a dog, this spider was the size of a small pickup truck.

    Its giant fangs protruded and its many eyes looked at us hungrily. Hairy legs skittered on the stone floors as it prepared to attack. Other, smaller spiders came down from the ceiling as well, flanking it on both sides.

    My heart was pounding with fear as I stared at the massive spider. I knew we wouldn’t be able to take it down without everyone’s help. And two of our party members were currently incapacitated.

    That was when I remembered the red potions Kiwi had taken from the shop. He had thrown them in the backpack and I ran over and opened it up.

    I popped off the stopper on the first red potion and poured it into Kiwi’s mouth, glancing towards the giant spider as it began to move towards us. My hand was trembling with terror as I tossed another red potion to Atox. He poured it into the paralyzed wizard’s mouth while Colder continued to fire arrows with lightning quickness at the smaller spiders closing in on us. His quiver seemed to never run out of arrows.

    The blue wizard sprang to his feet, red liquid staining his teeth and lips as he grinned ear to ear.

    “WHOOO! Oh man that red potion is GOOD! Gotta be careful with it, though. Can be quite habit-forming for an adventurer in dungeons above his skill level.”

    He shouted “Lightning Bolt!” and a bolt of lightning jumped out from his staff, striking the giant spider dead center. It sizzled and smoked as the buzz of static electricity and the boom of crashing thunder echoed in the small space, momentarily deafening me, and causing my ears to ring.

    With all the spiders dead, the gate ahead rattled up and opened of its own volition, revealing the passageway beyond.

    “Act one,” said the wizard. “Piece of cake.”

    He walked forward as Kiwi struggled to his feet.

    The blue wizard stopped and looked back at us.

    “Before we go any further… There’s one more question I have to ask of you.”

    We nodded our heads, looking at him solemnly.

    “Do you have any more red potions? Because we are definitely going to need them".

    We were far underground in the dark, torch-lit tunnels of a dungeon. The blue wizard who had reluctantly become our guide led us down one hallway after another. I had no idea how he was deciding which direction to go, but he seemed to know what he was doing so I didn’t question it aloud.

    Colder did, though.

    “How do you know which way to go?”

    “And, we’ll take another left here. Watch out for that floor tile, if you step on it poison darts will shoot out from that hole in the wall right there… Sorry, what were you asking? Oh right. Well, I usually just head in whichever direction feels right. Wizard’s intuition, you know.”

    “So you’re guessing?”

    “How rude. A wizard does not guess. He posits. And I posit that just around this corner will be the next chamber room, where we shall face our second challenge.”


    Sure enough, we rounded the bend and there it was, another wrought iron gate which rattled upwards and allowed us to pass through.

    “Careful of the trip-wire. There’s a bucket of acid or something waiting above the entryway, I’m fairly certain. If one of you boys sets it off I’ll be quite cross with you. That’s good acid, after all. Pity to waste it. That’s it, one step, two steps, there we go.”

    He guided each of us through the doorway and into a room with an earthen floor and a large, dead-looking tree growing at the center.

    The tree had no light to grow by, and I could not understand how it was there. It didn’t look particularly healthy. The branches were gnarled, greyish green and black. It had a diseased-looking trunk and no leaves could be seen growing upon it. Decapitated heads with rotten flesh were instead sprouting from it in places like nightmare fruit.

    At the center of its trunk, staring out at us, were two black pits that resembled eyes, and what appeared to be a yawning (or silently screaming) mouth beneath that.

    I jumped when the iron gates slammed shut behind me. We were trapped within the terrifying space until we could defeat whatever enemy was there waiting for us. But I saw no one.

    “Are you guys as on edge as I am right now? I feel like something’s gonna jump out and attack us at any second.”

    “My guess is undead ghouls,”
    said the wizard. “Lots of them. Aim for the head, or decapitate at the base of the skull. Don’t forget, the most important thing is-“

    Suddenly a vine came up probingly from the dirt and wrapped itself around the wizard’s leg, pulling him downwards with incredible force. He disappeared into the loose soil a second later and there was only a concave shape in the dirt and a floppy blue hat where he had stood a moment before. From beneath our feet we could hear vague, muffled screaming sounds.

    “Uh, I don’t think this is a zombie challenge, guys. I’m pretty sure we need to kill that tree before it kills us!”

    Roots were coming up from the black earth beneath our feet and we ran towards it, weapons in hand.

    Atox attacked the demon-tree first, using his double-sided axe to deal heavy blows to the trunk. Its mouth opened wider, letting out a deafening moan of rage. It began to bleed, black liquid pouring from its side where he attacked it. But still, the monstrous tree was sturdy and strong, and I saw Atox begin to quickly tire and look concerned at the lack of progress he was making.

    Suddenly the branches were bending and stretching out towards us from above like giant arms, the twigs closing in around us like greedy fingers.

    Colder was a sure shot with his bow and arrows once again, and he shot directly at the tree’s eyes and mouth, causing it to become distracted with the agony being inflicted upon it. The thing quickly turned its attention to him and sent roots up through the soil at him. His terrified screams rang out through the room as they attempted to grab his legs and pull him under with the wizard.

    Kiwi the barbarian jumped up into the tree and began to break larger branches with his huge club, reaching down and smashing at the thing’s face with it as well.

    It seemed like our efforts were futile, I thought as I swung my sword again and again. I was attempting fruitlessly to slice into the iron-hard trunk of the horrible tree, wincing with each jarring impact as the sword’s hilt bit into my fingers and blisters began to form. But then something wrapped around my ankle and I realized I had been standing still for far too long. The roots and vines had found me from below and they pulled me downwards with great force.

    I tried to scream but no sound came out, frightened as I was after seeing what had just happened to the wizard. I kicked and twisted away as it pulled at my leg. Using my sword, I thrust it down into the dirt, trying to cut the root that had trapped my ankle.

    A thin, pointed branch suddenly came down from above while I was distracted and snuck in through a crack in my armor. It stabbed into my gut and drove itself deeper into my flesh with its sharp end. It dug and scraped at my insides and I grit my teeth against the pain.

    Wailing in agony, I swung my sword blindly at it, and managed to sever the branch before it could penetrate any of my vital organs.

    I pulled out the piece of wood which was as wide as my thumb and twice as long, beginning to feel woozy when I saw blood pouring out from the hole it left there. There was nothing to bandage it with, so I tried to cover it with my trembling hand.

    Fear began to consume me then, as blood was spouting like a faucet, leaving my hand warm and stained crimson red.

    As a child I had passed out at the mere sight of my own blood, and had ended up in the hospital once after fainting at school. I had largely gotten over that irrational fear, but still my vision began to go red around the edges, then a jaundiced, pixelated yellow, as I fought off unconsciousness.

    I pressed my hand down firmly against the wound, applying as much pressure as I could. Surprisingly, it felt better almost immediately.

    Looking down, I saw the hole in my stomach was gone, completely healed over with smooth new flesh.

    I examined my hand and saw it was glowing faintly blue.

    Of course, I’m a Paladin. Paladins have healing abilities, I thought to myself.

    Atox finally began to make some progress on the tree trunk, and I heard it splinter and crack as it was about to tip over. The face on the tree now resembled one of surprised horror, and the gaping mouth opened wider as if it were screaming as the tree fell.

    A hand suddenly popped up from the soil. And then another.

    An arm reached out and attempted with great effort to pull itself up and out of the dirt.

    “Zombies!” Kiwi shouted, getting ready to swing his giant club.

    A filthy, white bearded face popped out, spitting clumps of black soil.

    “Hold on, hold on! Damn barbarians, so quick to start swinging their clubs when what’s needed is a bit of common sense…”

    “Oh, sorry about that,”
    Kiwi said, and reached down to help the wizard up out of the ground.

    “Nonsense! No harm done. And you defeated that devilish tree! Great work, boys, quite impressive.”

    The gate at the other end of the room rattled open and we prepared ourselves to move onwards.

    “By the way, guys,” I said. “I think I found out another ability that I’ve got. I just got stabbed by the tree and had a huge hole in my stomach. Gushing blood, the whole nine yards. Now look.”

    I showed them my stomach where the flesh was completely healed with no sign of a scar.

    “Yes, yes, typical Paladin healing hands. Only works on minor flesh wounds, of course. But still quite handy. You must have levelled up somewhere along the way.”

    “Levelled up? Seriously?”

    “Of course! Personally I’m level 87. I have quite an arsenal of skills and abilities at this point.”


    We sure hadn’t seen any of them yet.

    I was wishing more and more that Dungeons and Darkness had come with instructions. Apparently this was an extremely complicated game.

    “Who are you, anyways? Did you play this game and get trapped in it like us?”

    He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

    “Y’know, I don’t really remember anymore. It’s been a long time. I’m having fun, anyways, so no complaints on my end.”

    That was when I realized that this game was more insidious than I had thought. It not only trapped the people playing it, but it made them want to stay there. The man was obviously from our world but had been stuck there so long he had forgotten where he came from.

    “Colder, do you remember if there was a ‘wizard’ character card in that box?” I whispered to him.

    “No, there definitely wasn’t. I remember because I wanted to pick that class but it wasn’t available. I thought that was weird since what fantasy game doesn’t have a wizard or mage character?”

    “I think maybe he’s the guy who left that box in your basement, Colder. Or maybe his family hid it there under the stairs and sealed it up after he disappeared.”

    “Hmm, yeah you could be right. But so what? Big deal if he wants to stay here. I kinda get it. This place is scary, but it’s fun too. Like being in a game.”


    I examined Colder with newfound concern. He had a strange look in his eyes.

    “Are you okay, man? I’m a little worried that this place might have some control over people. That it might be changing us like it changed him. His family is probably worried sick about him and he doesn’t even remember who they are anymore.”

    Colder shook his head and looked like himself again for a second.

    “Yeah, you’re right. We just need to get to the end, save my mom, and get the hell out of here.”

    After steering around more booby-traps and pitfalls, we finally reached the next chamber. The gate opened to reveal a new horror.

    We stepped inside hesitantly and there was no question who our foe would be in this room.

    She stood at the other side, blocking the path to the door. It rattled shut behind her and slammed into the stone floor with a loud clang that echoed throughout the space.

    The being which stood before us was tall, nearly seven feet I guessed. She was pale and extremely thin, all bony elbows and shoulders, and wearing a black funeral dress.

    Her head was lowered and she stared at the floor, then her gaze slowly rose to meet us. A mad grinning face looked up at us, her eyes were missing and only shadowy empty sockets remained, staring out at us. Dry lips cracked as her smile went wider than should have been possible, deforming her face into a Picasso image.

    “What the hell is that thing?” I asked the wizard.

    “Honestly,” he said. “I have no idea.”

    She began to cackle and raised her hands upwards, and I felt my feet lift off the ground as I hung suspended in the air, floating.

    “Okay. That’s a new one.”

    Looking up, I saw spikes jutting out from the ceiling above. They appeared razor sharp and I had no control as I began to pick up speed, defying gravity and heading straight towards them.

    Screaming, I put my arms in front of me and braced myself. For pain. And for the darkness that would surely follow.

    The tall sorceress below had cast some sort of spell which caused us to disobey the laws of gravity, sending us hurtling towards the ceiling where deadly stalactites were waiting to impale us.

    Luckily for us we had a wizard on our side.

    He cast a spell which created a translucent blue barrier on the ceiling. It blocked our path and although it hurt when I slammed into it, I could feel it give way slightly, just enough so that it didn’t break any bones or cause any real damage.

    “Hup!”

    The blue wizard bounced acrobatically off of the barrier and hurtled back downwards like a torpedo, straight towards the eyeless sorceress in her black funeral attire. She hissed like a territorial cat as he approached.

    With his staff held out in front of him, he sent forth a burst of blue energy which struck her and sent her reeling backwards, but only momentarily. She quickly regained her wits and prepared a counter attack.

    With her hands outstretched, a shimmering blackness began to permeate the space between them. As the blue wizard hurtled through it, seemingly unable to stop himself, it started to solidify.

    The black shimmering space suddenly turned into dark spider webs which caught him up and disabled him completely. He wound up hanging precariously from the sticky dark strands, his legs hanging through the twisted loops, looking like a giant fly caught in a web, or a Great Dane trying to climb into a hammock.

    “Blast it! Mana leeching webs! You boys will have to save me, I’m no use while I’m trapped in these vile things…”

    I jumped off from the blue force field as did Colder, Atox, and Kiwi. We were sent hurtling by some magic force downwards.

    Immediately I regretted the decision, as the ground came racing up towards me sickeningly. We were falling from over a hundred feet in the air, with nothing to slow our descent.

    The stone floor was coming up towards me so fast I knew for certain I would die from the impact of the fall. Part of me wondered what I had been thinking following the wizard’s lead as he had dropped to the floor with ease. We were not as skilled as him, and now we’d die for our mistake.

    But instead of hitting the floor hard and splattering body parts everywhere, our bodies slowed down at the last second and I wound up landing softly on the ground with the agility of a house cat.

    We had managed to avoid the webs cast by the sorceress, and she seemed to be recharging for another attack.

    Atox raced towards her with his axe held high, a furious red-haired dwarf ready for a battle to the death. The wizard screamed from above, warning him that she was a dangerous foe, and not to be taken lightly.

    Colder the elf pulled back the string on his bow and released an arrow which was aimed squarely at the woman’s blank, shadowy eye socket. He timed it perfectly so that just as she was countering the dwarf, left distracted, it hit her true.

    But still, her counter attack against Atox was fearsome and I winced as I watched it all happen in a split second.

    With lightning speed she created what looked like a long spear-like icicle made of shadows, in the same motion stabbing the dwarf as he brought down his axe, which ended up going wild and missing her completely.

    She laughed and pulled back the spear, dark blood pouring and oozing from the arrow which remained lodged in her left eye socket. Blood poured from her mouth and she began to gather a ball of black lightning in her palms.

    Colder took a few more shots with his bow. His skilled archery was effortless and done with such speed that before the first arrow had struck its target, the second was already drawn back and was ready to fire.

    I went over to assist Atox and looked up to see her release the ball of lightning at Colder.

    The blast of energy hit the elf square in the chest and his bow went flying from his hands as he collapsed to the floor. He lay there unmoving and looked dead. The rise and fall of his chest was indiscernible, and I thought for sure he was a goner.

    Kiwi saw this and began to build up into a furious rage. If you know anything about barbarians, you’ll know that they’re most dangerous when in a berserker rage. His face became red and he gripped the huge club tightly in his hand. Then he began to run forward at the dark sorceress.

    She saw him coming and her fear was unmistakable. Although she was powerful, the giant hulking warrior racing towards her in an unbridled fury of rage was impossible to ignore. Releasing one blast of dark lightning after another, she attempted to strike him down the same as she had done to the elf, but each time he ducked and rolled and evaded her attacks like a Darksouls character.

    My healing hands had returned Atox to a state of semi-normalcy, so I left him moaning and groaning where he was and ran over to help Colder. I found him lying on the cold stone floor, his face pale and his lips ashen, sputtering and attempting to breathe in ragged fits and bursts.

    I could tell Colder’s wounds were far beyond my skill level. The blue healing glow of my hands did nothing to alleviate his pain, and I looked up to see the blue wizard above us, still trapped in the dark magic spider webs, shaking his head and looking at me helplessly. Then his eyebrows went up and he spoke.

    “The red potions!” he shouted. “Are there any left?”

    I looked in the bag Colder had been carrying and found there was only one left. Popping off the stopper cork, I poured the red liquid into Colder’s mouth, hoping it could revive him before it was too late.

    Glancing over to Kiwi, I saw he was engaged in a heated battle with the dark sorceress, and her magical prowess was proving to be no match for his berserker rage. He was now bright red, head to toe, shaking with a furious anger as he swung his massive club about him in a tornado rampage. The sorceress fled from him but wound up caught in his attacks and was soon laying battered on the ground, her magic sparking and sizzling insufficiently from her fingertips as she died in a pool of black blood.

    The wizard suddenly fell and landed hard on the stone floor next to us, the ensnarement spell she had cast now worn off and gone.

    “You alright?” I asked after he stood up, brushing himself off.

    “Just peachy,” he said. “Everyone else? All accounted for?”

    I looked around and saw somehow we were all indeed alive and well. But we were completely out of red potions now.

    “Not even one left?”

    I shook my head sadly.

    “Well, no matter. There should only be one more chamber left to go now. After that you’ll be free to go back home if you should so wish.”

    We all looked at him with confusion.

    “What do you mean by that?” I asked suspiciously.

    “At the end of every dungeon, you get a choice. A purple potion or an orange one. If you drink the purple one you stay, if you drink the orange one you go home. Simple as that.”

    “So you’ve always picked the purple one? You’ve never wanted to go home after one of these dungeons, even after almost dying like we just did?”

    He raised his eyebrows and looked perplexed.

    “Why would I ever want to leave this place? This is everything you could wish for! But I won’t judge you if you want to go, you’re only level two after all, you’ve barely scratched the surface of what this place has to offer.”

    For some reason that statement kind of annoyed me. It made me want to prove him wrong, but then I shook it off and told myself not to be silly, this place was a trap, we had already realized that. I couldn’t afford to forget it now. This place wanted to keep us here. To feed off of us.

    To be honest I didn’t know if that last part was true but it felt right, especially when I looked at the long bearded face of the decrepit blue wizard, who couldn’t even remember who he was anymore. No, we had to get out of there. Even if he wanted to stay, I had to make sure the four of us escaped.

    “Okay, we’ll give it some thought,” I lied. “Now can you help us get through the final chamber of this dungeon? So that we can all… Uh, level up?” (get the hell out of here is what I wanted to say but didn’t.)

    “You got it, bud! Let’s keep this party moving forward. If you make it to the end there’s always something cool in a gold chest waiting for you there. I call dibs on any legendary magical items though!”

    “Fair enough.”


    The blue wizard continued to lead us through the dungeon down more twisting, turning corridors. Booby traps and pitfalls became more and more frequent, even secret doors opening up here and there to reveal undead ghouls who crept up silently from behind when we thought we were safe, nearly killing us several times. Each time we evaded serious injury and managed to dispatch them, although I did need to use my healing hands a few more times, once even on the blue wizard who missed a trap floor tile and wound up getting shot with a poison dart.

    Finally, though, we made it to the final chamber of the dungeon.

    We entered a room made of skulls. The walls were lined with coffins from floor to ceiling, and the whole place looked like a giant cathedral or monastery. Pews were lined in rows and we walked past them silently as we made our way towards the dais at the front, where I could see someone sitting on a huge throne.

    There, at the front of the chamber, was a man dressed all in black, a hood covering his face which was shrouded in shadows. An ornate and ancient-looking pointed obsidian crown sat atop his head. He was tapping his finger impatiently on the armrest as we approached.

    “Ah, Lord Necromancer, we meet again,” said the wizard, his eyes cold and hard. His demeanour was always jovial and happy, and I had never seen him look like this before.

    “You’ve met him before?” I asked.

    The wizard’s eyes widened with realization and remembrance. They flicked back and forth as if picturing a great many things in his mind’s eye. Memories passing through his vision like movies played upon a screen in his thoughts.

    “Elizabeth…” he whispered. “I remember now why I never wanted to leave this place. Why I always chose to stay.”

    We looked at him, still not comprehending.

    “It was HIM. We played this game together, once upon a time. Elizabeth and I. We both fell into the game, the same as you four. We almost made it through to the end. But then… HE TOOK HER FROM ME. No matter how many times I kill him, it isn’t enough. It’s never enough.”

    The dark hooded figure on his throne began to laugh, a deep throaty chuckle that echoed throughout the room.

    “Foolish mortals. Once I have taken a soul from you, someone you truly love, never can you escape my domain. I will own you boys forever, like I own him. All I have to do is kill one of you, and the guilt will keep you bound to my dominion like a sturdy iron chain around your souls!”

    He stood from his throne and clapped his hands twice, loudly.

    All at once came a sound of cold stone being lifted and moved from a thousand places at the same time.

    A thousand coffins, their lids being slid open from the inside by cold, dead hands.

    And then one by one, the dead began to stand, stretching from their slumber, and marched with murder in their eyes towards us.

    The King Necromancer stood before us, watching as his undead servants closed in and encircled our group. The cold stone chamber echoed around us with the sounds of hundreds of decaying bare feet treading across the floor, getting closer by the second.

    “What do we do now?” I asked the blue wizard, whose lips were still trembling with unbridled rage.

    He had just revealed that the Necromancer King had murdered his wife during their first encounter, when they initially came to this place, to this world within a board game. Now he was trapped here, trying to right the injustice that could never be corrected. Such was the curse of the Necromancer King; he was ensnared in a never-ending quest for revenge.

    “We fight. Or we die. Maybe a bit of both.”

    With that he spun and released a gout of flame from his staff, ferociously burning up everything around him.

    The undead ghouls had little remaining flesh hanging from their creaking bones, but what was left melted like candle wax, leaving screaming skeletons standing before us, until they collapsed under their own weight and fell to the floor in a shambles.

    I turned at the sound of movement behind me and saw a dozen more of them now within striking distance.

    With a wide arching swing from my sword I managed to sever the heads of a few closest to me, their thick black blood spraying like geysers into the air. Some of it splattered my face and clothing and tasted coppery and warm on my lips.

    Atox the dwarf howled a war cry and began to spin like a dervish. He looked like the Tazmanian Devil stuck in a food processor full of old meat as he spun and hacked the zombies to pieces all around us.

    “His special attack,” the blue wizard explained. “The fool is wasting it. Doesn't he realize what he's doing?”

    We each had one special skill that could be used during the course of the adventure, but only once.

    “None of us have any idea what we're doing! I thought that would be super obvious by now!”

    “Ah, true enough.”


    By my count we had only a couple special attacks left. I still had mine, as did Colder. But I realized that Kiwi had used his berserker rage earlier and that was probably his one-off special skill. It had made short work of the Lich Sorceress.

    The wizard was another wild card. I wasn't sure what tricks he had up those baggy blue sleeves of his, but hoped he had something that could take out the Necromancer King. I had a feeling he was the only one out of the five of us who had a shot at killing the bastard.

    I imagined him summoning a lightning elemental or a fire serpent the size of a school bus. He had to be capable of SOMETHING. The son of a bitch had done next to nothing of any use aside from helping to guide us there. He claimed to be extremely powerful, though. Maybe we would see that borne out eventually.

    Atox was spinning in his whirlwind attack still while Colder the elf rained down arrows on our foes. He released them so quickly it looked as if we had an army on our side, but I saw the majority of them were missing their targets.

    “Why isn't he hitting them with any arrows?” I asked the wizard while slashing at zombies.

    “He's only level two! Same as the rest of you. You're quite fortunate to have survived this long. You must have been rolling natural twenties and your luck has finally caught up to you!”

    He turned and blew a gust of freezing wind from his staff which turned the nearby zombies into ice cubes. They fell to the stone floor and shattered into a million tiny pieces.

    Despite the five of us doing everything in our power to defeat the encroaching army of the dead, we were soon backed into a corner and fighting for our lives.

    “Aiiieee!” Atox screamed as several ghouls dove onto him and began to claw at his armor, pulling it off in places. They tore off his plate mail and helmet before we could get to him and began to devour his flesh, ripping it from his bones and eating it while it stretched like warm mozzarella.

    Within a minute of falling, our former comrade was up again, his eyes now white and blank as he joined the ranks of the dead trying to rip us to shreds.

    Thankfully Kiwi was taking out more than his fair share of foes. His massive club arced and spun, dealing heavy blows and sending ghouls flying every direction.

    Just as I thought the tides of battle had begun to turn, Colder fell under an onslaught of the undead. I heard his screams and my heart once again began to trip-hammer with fear.

    The elf was up to his feet in moments, his deadly bow now aimed straight towards us. Arrows flew and thankfully missed my head by inches.

    Despite our losses, the wizard and I held strong. Kiwi was the next to fall, though. His wide swinging blows left him open for a counter attack and the zombies did just that. They piled onto him and began to rip and tear at his flesh with their sharp yellowed teeth.

    He was soon on the ground, writhing and screaming, and I felt certain that pain in this place would feel very real. And I would discover that for myself soon enough, I imagined.

    My hope began to dissipate and I realized with a sinking heart that I would die in that place. Fear began to consume me and my sword started to swing wild, missing targets. The dead began to take precious inches from our small fighting territory, as the wizard and I stood back to back, fighting with our last ounces of endurance.

    “ENOUGH!” the wizard bellowed. His strong voice rang clear and true and echoed back at us from the high arching stone ceiling.

    He began to murmur and chant under his breath. The words were indiscernible but the power flowing through them was clear as day. Even the unthinking zombies backed away instinctively from the growing energy which blossomed and built into a towering blue inferno of light.

    A wave rippled through space and time and all things as the powerful supernova blast of the wizard was unleashed. Thankfully I was spared from it, since I was his ally.

    Every undead creature in the chamber went flying through the air as the explosion boomed and cracked with an echoing blast.

    The Necromancer King himself went flying backwards from where he stood, crashing into a wall far behind him. Though the impact should have been fatal to anyone, I saw him writhing and moving around on the floor as if to get up again.

    I turned to the blue wizard and saw him lying on the floor, unmoving. Running over to him, I saw that he was pale and his lips were turning blue. Blood poured from his mouth and he coughed and sputtered and groaned in agony.

    “What happened? Are you okay?” I asked him, checking over my shoulder to make sure the Necromancer was still down. He was.

    “My special attack…” the wizard was saying quietly. “It was the last resort. The Supernova Blast is exactly what it sounds like. It is the explosion of a dying star. Capable of doing incredible damage… But at great cost.”

    I stood and looked at the Necromancer King on his dais, gradually getting to his feet again, and decided then and there to end it. The son of a bitch shouldn’t be breathing anymore, I told myself. And I was about to correct that problem.

    Running down the aisle, my boots crunched across the bones of hundreds of motionless zombies. I heard a battle cry begin to pour out of me instinctively as I raced up the carpeted steps toward the Necromancer who now stood wobbly before me.

    He drew a massive obsidian blade as I leapt towards him, my sword thrust out towards his face. I no longer cared if I lived or died, only that this creature was dead and gone. He had killed everyone I cared about in this place.

    My sword pierced his faceless hood before he could even take a swing and I felt nothing as it impaled him. His cloak puddled to the floor instantly as if it had been worn by a shadow.

    The Necromancer King was dead.

    But I had no time to celebrate. Looking back over my shoulder I quickly realized the blue wizard would be next to go. I ran over to him and he looked up at me desperately.

    “You never used it! You never used it!” He was shouting at me, a grin playing at the corners of his lips.

    “Used what?” I asked, thoroughly confused.

    “Your special skill! You never used your special skill!”

    I looked down and saw my hands were glowing faintly blue again.

    “I forgot all about your special skill! I read all the character cards so carefully, but I forgot!” he told me, his words barely audible now. “It escaped my mind until just now. The Paladin’s special skill is called ‘Mass Revive.’”

    He took a final breath and with his eyes still open, expired. His pupils stared out into space, fixed and pinpoint.

    I realized I hadn’t read my character card properly, instead only briefly skimming it. What a thing to miss.

    I didn’t hesitate. The power was ready to be released and I only had to direct it. So I did. I laid my hands on each of them and they stood a second later.

    Kiwi rose to his feet, human again. Then Atox and Colder followed. Finally the blue wizard stood, looking fully healthy and restored once again.

    But I wasn’t finished.

    I searched the room with my mind for one more lost ally. Someone from a campaign long before ours. Someone who was long believed irretrievable. There was still a glimmer of humanity left in her, and I sought it out and brought it back.

    “Elizabeth?”

    She stood, looking human once again. A woman in her thirties by the looks of her, with a worried face and light mousey-brown hair. Her pale blue eyes searched the room, confused, unsure, and then she saw his face.

    They ran to each other, the blue wizard and his lost love. The two embraced as the four of us stood watching, happy to see the man finally free of his curse.

    Suddenly an enormous golden chest appeared before us.

    It sprang open and its glowing contents were revealed. Armor and weaponry that looked powerful and ornate.

    Colder reached his hand in to grab a dagger that looked especially powerful and glowed red with a magical aura.

    I slapped his hand and looked him sternly in the eye.

    “No touching. Remember, this place wants to keep us here. We’re only interested in these.”

    I pulled out a pair of potions in beakers, one purple and one orange.

    “Which did you say will take us home?” I asked the wizard.

    “Purple you stay put, orange gets you out.”

    I took the cork out from the orange vial and offered to be the guinea pig. The wizard held the bottle so it wouldn’t fall to the floor and break if I suddenly disappeared.

    Bringing the potion to my lips, I prepared myself to be transported back to earth, back to reality.

    “Hang on!” Colder shouted.

    “What?”

    “How do you know the orange one takes you home? You’ve never tried it.” He was looking suspiciously at the blue wizard, who was standing there with his arm around his long lost wife.

    “Well, I suppose I just assumed. The first time I just tried one randomly and it kept me here, so I figured the other one would get me back home again. Problem?”

    Colder was eyeing both vials and held them up in the dim light.

    “You said this place wants to keep us here, right? So why would they offer us a way out? I’ll bet they both keep you stuck here. And probably erase a bit of your memory every time as well.”

    “So what do you propose?”

    “I say we wait.”


    We all stared at him, confused.

    “And what’s that going to achieve?”

    “Remember what got us here in the first place? Drinking those damn Coca Cola potions, right? So maybe this is the same as if you’ve just had a bit too much to drink, you’ve just got to sleep it off, and let the booze get out of your system. The last thing you should do is chug some more poison, though.”


    Elizabeth spoke up and stunned us all by concurring.

    “The Necromancer King kept feeding me potions, once a day. I think those vile things are tricks designed to keep us here. I can’t help but feel the same way, that orange potion is likely a trap. Everything in this place is toxic and evil.”

    “The red potions, I kept drinking them constantly to keep my health level up,”
    said the wizard, his eyes widening. “I never thought they were anything but healing potions. Maybe I was wrong.”

    “I suppose there’s no harm in waiting here for a while. Just to see what happens.”

    The six of us agreed to remain in the Necromancer’s chamber and wait for the potions that got us there to work their way out of our systems.

    It took a long time for anything to happen, but eventually the oddness began.

    The giant grey stones which made up the Necromancer’s chamber began to vanish one by one, leaving only blackness behind.

    Piece by piece, bit by bit, the entire world began to evaporate around us.

    Until finally, we were left in a black void.

    And I realized immediately that we were not alone.

    “You think yourselves clever.”

    I was too afraid to answer, too afraid to move. The thing, whatever it was, was huge, massive beyond my comprehension. It surrounded us and enveloped us in the darkness, and I began to shiver from the cold. For there was no light in this black and bitter place.

    “I am the Dungeon Master. None have escaped me before now, and I will not give up so easily on you six. I will continue to play my games with you. I will be in your dreams and in your nightmares, and you will feel pain in those places the same as you did here. None can win against me, and you are no exception.”

    And with that the light began to return to the world and I saw we were in the bright fluorescents of the convenience store once again, only now with a man and woman who I did not recognize standing there with us.

    “Elizabeth, I presume?” She shook my hand and I looked to the man standing beside her.

    “I never did learn your real name,” I said.

    “Nor I yours.”

    We shook hands and smiled, looking each other in the eyes.

    “Blue wizard.” I said, "My name is Gix".

    “Paladin,” he responded. “They call me Inayat. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

    “What the hell is this coin doing super-glued to the floor!? And what’s this, are you having a party back there behind the damn cash register!?”

    Kiwi’s boss was standing up from where he had been kneeling down on the floor, trying to pick up the coin that had been glued there as a prank. The memory of which felt long ago and ancient to me now.

    Luckily people in our town are pretty honest, because nobody robbed the place in the late night hours that we were gone, although time seemed to work differently in the dungeon and stretched out much longer. We had still been gone long enough that there was a tidy little pile of bills and change on the counter where some kind soul had put up a sign saying “honor system” which Kiwi hastily threw in the trash.

    The five of us ran out of there pretty quickly and went our separate ways, vowing to keep in touch with the blue wizard and Elizabeth. We left Kiwi behind to get yelled at by his boss.

    Lying in bed that night, with only a few hours remaining until morning, I had trouble falling asleep. I kept thinking about what the dungeon master had said in the darkness. How we could never escape him, or that place, not really. I felt like he was right. And of course he was.

    It’s been many years since that first night. Every time I drift off to sleep and I wake up back in that dungeon once again, just like the bastard promised. Every night I have the same dream. I’m back down there, in those winding, twisting tunnels.

    Only now I don’t have my friends with me. There’s no blue wizard to guide me.

    The horrors I have witnessed and the agony I have felt in the dungeons of my dreams, I wish on no one.

    What I didn’t expect, though, was for Colder to decide to go back in. To play once again.

    I think because he never did find his mother. The game stole her and lured him in with her but never returned her to him.

    He disappeared last week and even though I loathe the thought of going back there, I feel like we owe it to him. That we have to at least try to save him.

    If you don’t hear from us again… Don’t come looking for us. That’s exactly what he wants.

    More victims.

    The Dungeon Master always wins....
     
    Ezekiel, Gix and Kefflar32 like this.
  2. Kefflar32

    Kefflar32 Well-Known Member

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    :ROFLMAO: brother this story was perfection!!
     
    Gix and inayat like this.
  3. LeazyWarior

    LeazyWarior Member

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    It's nice to read
     
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