Going with the flow of the dungeon, I ended up inside the keep surrounded by undead. If my White Mage ability was at its full, I wouldn’t be worried at all. I felt confident I could take care of all of the undead with ease. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use any external abilities, so I would have to fight the undead hand to hand. I could use a few abilities, but nothing like Sanctify Land, Holy Circle, or Stun Undead. I had some Waters of Life, which may cause damage, but it had more important uses than hurting a few undead.
As I realized I was scoping the place out and strategizing just how I could fight my way out of here, I quickly lowered my head. I was supposed to be here pretending I was some guy named Drakus. I would have put on his clothing, but it had turned to dust when he died. I only knew him as a skeleton, but he seemed like a nice enough guy.
“The commander will see you now.” A skeleton soldier said in a gravelly voice and then saluted.
I returned the salute, and then followed after him. He led me deeper into the keep, and the more turns I made, the less confident I was that I’d be able to escape on my own. At the very least, they wouldn’t be able to all come at me at once in here. Honestly, I was more scared of the wide-open areas. The keep felt much more like a dungeon. It was harder to snipe someone from hiding while in these tight quarters.
Eventually I was brought into a room that had a large table and a map spread out on it. It was marked with various blue and red pieces. If I had to guess, the red pieces were the demons and the blue pieces were the undead. A quick look at the central castle showed that the red held it, so that all but proved my assessment. I did a salute to the completely unfamiliar skeleton who was wearing a slightly nicer uniform than I had seen Drakus wear.
I didn’t want to seem ignorant, but I had a problem telling the difference between skeletons here. Other than his outfit, he looked like every other one I had seen. There were some differences though. Not every undead was a skeleton. Just like in Mina’s Dungeon, I noticed all kinds of undead, many also containing flesh. It seems like the skeletons tended to be in charge. Maybe it had to do with their manner of deaths or something.
“Drakus. What news do you bring?” The commander asked as I stood there staring at him in salute.
“Ah… yes, a message.” I brought out the message that I had managed to deliver.
The general took and unfurled it. I had, of course, already skimmed the entire message and knew the contents. The problem was that it appeared to be a code that I couldn’t read. It seemed like the commander knew how to read that code, as his teeth chattered as his eye lights scrolled down the message.
“T-three months!” He cried out.
“What happens in three months?” I asked, not sure if asking that made it sound like it was outside my station.
“In three months, it will be too late. In three months, their formation will be complete, and the land of man will fall to darkness for eternity!”
I was starting to understand now why the dungeon would only be open for three days. It might not be some arbitrary time that Lord Aberis set up. It might be simply that whatever scenario was playing out in this world, it would conclude at the end of three months. That left another question. How did the scenario end? If this was a curse, then it came from uncompleted lore. Whose lore, the demons? Or humans? Which side died in the end, and was the world plunged into darkness?
I’d like to assume the humans won, but if they had, would we still be dealing with the demon lands in the north? Supposedly, there were demon lords, a demon king, and a demon country. It was all blighted land, ruled by a pair of, particularly powerful dungeons that collectively were known as Hell’s Dungeon and the Demon King’s Castle. To finally stop the demon threat for good, both dungeons would need to be defeated.
This is something that has been considered an impossibility for our current civilization. Shie Gescar and the Imperial Cloud Meadow had been fighting a war against them for as long as time remembered. Comparatively, Aberis was just a speck on the map when confronted with the Imperial Cloud Meadow, and even that mighty nation could only just keep them from spreading across their borders.
This dungeon might have been a relic from the time when the humans and demons were at war. It might have some greater meaning up north. I felt like if I knew who Lord Aberon was, that would explain a lot of this.
“We need the princess to rally the troops.” The commander said after some thought, breaking me from my considerations. “She was supposed to arrive last night.”
I blinked. “I was attacked on the way here. It is possible that her caravan was also attacked by demons.”
“Damn it!” He cursed, punching the table and causing several pieces to fall over.
In a way, this whole thing was kind of fun. It felt a bit like LARPING. I had reminded myself that this was all too real, I could die in an instant if I wasn’t careful. This wasn’t home, but a dungeon. If I died here, there was no one to resurrect me or take my soul out. I would truly be consumed by the dungeon and just become another soldier in this endlessly repeating story without an end.
Wait… that’s right, that’s what this dungeon was truly needing. It needed an end. All curses desired to be finished, and once they were finished and their lingering ties were severed, they became a blessing instead. If ending this war was what would satisfy those conditions, then that was the best way to fix things.
“This princess… do you know the route she took to get here?”
“It would be this route.” He explained, guiding his finger down a certain path. “If her convoy was ransacked, then they’d bring her to this fort. It’s the closest.”
“How heavily guarded is that fort?” I asked, looking as he pointed to a fort that seemed to be nearby.
“Why? What do you have in mind?” the commander asked suspiciously.
“If the princess is needed to rally the troops, then don’t I need to rescue the princess?” I asked.
“You’re mad, do you think you can just march into the enemy keep and take our princess back?”
“That depends,” I responded. “Do you believe in karma?”
“I still think that you’re mad for attempting this. Usually, they’d send us a ransom. We’d have to free some of their men or give up a fort. They won’t kill the princess though unless they are being foolish.” The commander explained.
“You said it yourself, we have three months. We can’t afford any setbacks.”
“You’re a crazy man, Drakus, but I respect you.”
We were in front of the keep. It was still night out, but I figured that would be the best time to infiltrate an enemy keep. The commander was even able to give me an incense that if burned, it supposedly kept the other monsters at bay. That way, I’d be able to progress in the night quickly without too much concern. As for my outfit, I was wearing the enemy outfit now. They had one in the keep and I was able to squeeze into it. Why didn’t it disappear for them? Ah, whatever, trying to understand the logic of a dungeon now was only foolishness.
“Once you’re out of our sight, our men won’t recognize you as one of our own.” The commander warned. “Until you acquire the princess, you will no longer have our support and you’ll be stuck on your own.”
That was the same position I was in when I entered this dungeon, so there was no change there. I had been worrying that the commander would struggle to accept my role, but Karma was very good at covering things up. I supposed I also had Copy Behavior, so I was able to copy the behavior I recalled in my rather short interactions with Drakus. It seemed to be enough to dupe the commander, at least, and that was what was important at the moment.
Drakus, it seemed, was a lord, rank Count. It was Count Drakus. Could it truly be karma that I ended up taking on the role of a fellow Count? I couldn’t say. However, I knew what I must do, so I began heading to the fort where the princess might have been recently caught. It was true that this was only our best guess. She might have been killed already, or taken to a farther away keep. I tried to keep a cautious optimism as I moved forward.
With incense burning, I had already left the safety of the skeleton keep and began my journey on undead horseback toward the keep on the other side of a small creek. It was seriously a small creek. I could step across it if I needed to. My horse was able to jump across it with ease. After thirty minutes of riding, we didn’t encounter any enemies either, although I did hear numerous scary calls on the way.
I finally reached the keep. Dismounting from the horse, I decided to leave him in the treeline so that he could help with our escape. After I tied him up and started heading toward the keep, using the cover of darkness to aid me. I was glad I had just the right dungeon point skills to aid in my ability to move swiftly and quietly. If I was seen from a distance, I’d look like just another soldier. I might look like a suspicious soldier, but not one they’d fill with arrows in a heartbeat.
This time, I saw a troop of similarly coated demons marching in formation into the keep. As soon as the last man passed, I jumped up and began marching right behind him. It was a bold move, yet the people watching the procession enter the keep didn’t look twice as I marched right through their doors and into the keep.
The princess was as good as saved!