The group met up at the forest’s entrance. The collective hours of sleep only totalled at 15 hours, but that didn’t matter. Today was the big day. Several times had hey ventured near the fourth floor of the dungeon, but today would be the first time they’d actually explore it. They were ready.
“Everyone sure they’re ready for this?” Fitz asked. He was still feeling uncomfortable with his newly forged sword and freshly bought shield. His side job protecting farmers through the early dungeon levels had paid off. It had paid off so well, in fact, that he ended up buying equipment for the rest of the group.
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s just go ahead and do this thing already.” Arry responded. “It’s not like we’ve been planning this thing for a week now or anything.”
“Fine, fine.” Fitz said, as he led the way.
“Why does Fitz get to lead anyway?” Karina asked no one in particular. “It’s not like he’s the strongest here. Perrin is far better at taking blows, and when it comes to damage, nobody outdoes my bow.”
Ell coughed politely.
“Okay, Ell’s magic far surpasses my arrows. But you can only sling so many spells. My arm never tires. In fact, once I start shooting I just get worked up and up and just feel like shooting more and more…”
Perrin shook his head. “Fitz is the only one who can stand right in the center. He’s got both the skill of the sword and the wit to last in the front row. I may take a blow or two that would take others down in one hit, but that’s my role. I don’t mind it being my role. Fitz gets to lead because that’s what he’s good at. He’s the middle man.”
Arry rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever. I’m just the pirate who just happens to tag along right? Gimme a break, supportive offense guys never get any love.”
“Never get any love? I bought all your equipment after you wasted all your En at the Butterfly Bistro.” Fitz said. “Besides, we have bigger fish to fry. There’s FOE sightings on this floor now too.”
The group turned quiet.
“On the first floor?” Ell asked. She’d heard the rumors too, but she didn’t trust any of them.
“Yeah, I heard o’ them at the Bistro the other day.” Arry answered. “Supposed to be all yellow. Never heard o’ anythin’ more crazy than that. First floor FOEs of a new color. Y’right.”
“I saw one while I was supporting the farmers the other day, so watch your backs.” Fitz said casually. “They’re not as strong as the ones deeper into the forest, but they’re still stronger than what you’d expect this close to town.”
Perrin nodded. FOEs on the first floor. Things hadn’t been too prosperous around Armoroad for a while now, but that it was getting this bad was just crazy.
“Oh hey, look! We already made it to the stairs to the fourth floor!” said, running ahead of the group. “Isn’t this crazy? Remember the days we couldn’t make it to the end of the first floor? Or when we struggled to even survive a single monster encounter on the third?”
“That’s generally how it goes for explorer’s guilds.” Fitz said. “You struggle to get on ahead. It seems to take forever to get anywhere. But before you know it, you start looking back and see you’ve actually gotten somewhere.”
“Someone buy our glorious leader a dictionary so that his next pearls o’ wisdom come out sounding smart.” Arry said.
Nobody paid him attention. The group slowly made their way down the stairs. They’d gotten here once before, but a guard stopped them in their tracks. The entire floor was off-limits but for a few priviliged guilds. Technically speaking, they hadn’t made the cut just quite yet themselves. They were allowed to go down on one condition, and that was to kill a certain monster dwelling near the exit on the other side of the dungeon. Fitz thought about how strong this monster would have to be for an official mission to be tied to it. Right now their guild couldn’t even handle a regular FOE, let alone an important target like that.
“So, just to make sure. Who’s got the Thread?” Fitz asked.
The group looked at each other accusingly. Nobody liked being on Thread duty.
“Ell is!” Arry said quickly.
“Liar! You’re just saying that because you realized you forgot to buy it!”
“I brought two.” Perrin said.
Karina and Ell sighed with relief. There had been too many times they had to drag back the injured after nobody thought about bringing any Ariadne Thread with them. This was at least one less worry to think about.
“So, I guess that’s mean we can officially start exploring this place…” Fitz said. “Alright, let’s ge…”
The group’s focus suddenly went to the Great Anaconda coming right for them.
“Already?” Arry complained, as his hand went for the sword tucked away into his belt.
“Never let your guard down in a dungeon.” Perrin said dryly, bashing his shield right into the Anaconda’s face. “Never.” A quick step backward. “Drop.” A quick jab of the spear to where his shield had connected. Missed. “Guard.” It was coming for him now, as he stumbled back.
Fitz jumped before Perrin, his longsword slicing through the Anaconda’s long body. “You guys. Really. We just almost lost Perrin, and Arry, you weren’t even ready!” He shook his head. “Maybe coming here already wasn’t such a good idea.”
An orange glow surrounded the group.
“Ready or not…” Arry mumbled.
“FOE!” Ell shouted.
“We’ve got to run!” Fitz yelled as he turned around. But there was another FOE behind them. “Crap.”
The monster waited. It was ready to strike. There was a hint of curiousity in its eyes, almost as if it was eager to see how far this group of adventures would get before they’d perish.
“Fitz.” Arry started. Fitz nodded in response. They’d rehearsed this several times. Ell and Karina understood too. They had seen Fitz and Arry practice this manouver, and decided to come up with a way to help them improve on their technique. With Karina’s help, Ell focused her magical powers on Fitz and Arry’s swords as they sprung forward to start their Cross Slash technique.
As the came in range, the FOE easily took both of them down. The attack hadn’t done anything. The extra charge hadn’t been enough.
“You two! Run! Get to safety long enough to use the Thread!” Perrin shouted, he reached into his backpack, took out one of the two Ariadne Thread, and threw it to their general direction. “You want a damned target so bad, I got a target for ya right here.” He said, jabbing his spear towards the FOE to grab its attention.
Karina dropped her bow, and almost leaped towards the Ariadne thread. As soon as she picked it up, she ran away without looking back.
“Karina!” Ell shouted behind her. But it was too late. Karina used the Ariadne Thread and made her way back to town.
All she could do now is request help at the Bistro and hope a guild would start a rescue mission…