Axel and Rayner explore a dungeon in search of the God Rock
Unfortunately for Rayner, this world didn’t have umbrellas.
The sheer volume of rain the sky dumped on him and his current companions obscured his vision and forced him to trek up a hill to see where he was going.
Rayner found a job thanks to the recommendation of the whitesmith he assisted at the caravan. The job was to protect a monster cataloger named Kata. He researched the twisted monsters that still inhabited the area which the miasma had originally affected.
Three others were hired on for the job. A team of two young men that looked like brothers along with a woman with many swords strapped to her back.
The woman, Krisa, said, “It would help if we knew what we are looking for.” She raised her voice to be heard over the downpour.
The monster cataloger lay supine with his ear to the ground listening for something. The man did many strange things like that during their short time together and Rayner was beginning to wonder if he were mad.
Clothes muddy, Kata got back up and looked to Krisa. “I’m looking for nothing in particular. I’m a researcher, not an explorer. If I happen to find something interesting, then I will look into it. If not, then I will write that there is nothing here of note.”
It wasn’t as if she cared about Kata’s work but they had been contracted to protect the man until he completed his work. Without a firm idea of what that was, it left them all stuck out in the rain until Kata decided he had no more use of them.
Kata hadn’t tricked them but he did use their desperation for work to his advantage.
Jose, one of the men claiming not to be brothers, pointed to something off in the distance. “I see a large snake over there. Should we check it out?”
Did Jose make things up in order to hurry the mission along? Either way, it was better than staying on the hill.
As they approached the snake, Rayner suddenly knew what they would find. With that realization, Rayner knew where they were.
That hill they stood on moments ago was the hill the dragon he and Axel had fought wrapped itself around.
It didn’t take long for him to confirm this.
While difficult to see in the rain, Rayner was close enough to see its scaly serpentine body.
Kata jumped with glee and rushed closer to the dead dragon. His hand ran along its length and his face peered so close to it that his nose touched the monster’s skin. “A worshiper must have dug their blade into its side and cut along its length. It would have taken great deal of force to pierce its skin.” He turned back to them and noted, “Unlike popular belief, dragon scales are not particularly hard but their skin is thick and tightly packed in layers. The scales act as films for each packed portion of skin.”
Well, that explained a lot. Rayner wondered if Kata had a book to sell. He would love to read it.
Krista called out from the head of the dragon. The party moved to the dragon’s head.
Krista pointed at its bashed-in face. “More than one worshiper did this. Its face was bashed then sliced with a small blade or dagger.”
“Why does any of this matter? Is this what you were looking for, Kata?” Rayner said.
“As I said, anything interesting. This counts. How one, or two, worshipers slew a dragon is of great interest to me. While not incredibly powerful monsters, they are hard to kill due to their thick skin and few worshipers want to fight them.”
The other non-brother, Cory, said, “They steal EXP. It’s not worth it to fight them.”
Jose added, “Agreed. Can’t pay me enough to do that. I worked hard for the EXP I have.”
“Fine. Any chance one of you has a blessing or a skill to shield us from the rain?” Rayner said.
They all shook their heads. Damn. “Well, we are going to get ill if we stay in this rain. Let’s go to that tree line and make camp and hope the rain doesn’t collapse the tent!” Rayner yelled over the rain as the downpour increased.
They had to drag Kata away from the dragon corpse. Once reaching the treeline they used the branches to set up a large tent to protect them from the rain.
Inside of the tent, the force of the rain was such that it sounded like rocks were being thrown atop it.
A small lamp was placed at the center of the tent and its glow was such that it lit all corners of the tent and bathed the entire party in warmth.
“Damn that’s cozy,” said Jose. “I need to get one of these.”
“Too bad. It’s mine. I got a dozen curses spending my coin on that lamp and now it’s paying off,” said Krisa.
“Well, I’m glad you did.”
“Me too. So, after the rain lets up. What do we do next?”
Kata brooded in a corner because he’d been dragged away like a curious child from the dragon. He perked up when she mentioned their future plans. “The dragon is not native to this country. It’s far too unique for this little land. It would massively disrupt the local monster ecosystem.”
“Sounds like a reason to move in to me,” said Cory. It was easier for Rayner to think of them as brothers, no matter their protestations.
Growing eager, Kata joined them, sharing the lamp’s warmth. “Well, for one thing, monsters worship gods, too. And those gods would actively seek to push out a monster that didn’t belong. Also, monsters don’t like foreign monsters jutting into their local conflicts and would work together to attack them.”
“I’ve heard of this. Monsters do fight each other more than we humans fight them; the tribal monsters sometimes work together to drive out outsiders. I don’t think the goblins, kobolds, and other minor monsters of Alta could do that to a dragon though. It also doesn’t explain why one would be here,” Cory said.
“I was getting to that. What you said is right, monsters of different species or clan will gang up on outsiders. The main reason the dragon being here is so strange is that Alta lacks the food dragons like or the entertainments.”
“Entertainments?” said Jose.
“I think he means EXP,” Krisa said.
Kata nodded. “I do. Dragons like to inhabit places where worshipers have great amounts of experiences. Mostly Inimi lands, where all citizens are combat worshipers if they hope to survive.”
Rayner took note of what he said of the Inimi’s worshipers. It meant that they were a fighting culture where every citizen was expected to do battle.
They heard a noise outside and paused. They waited a moment longer and when no danger came, they relaxed. They didn’t go looking for the source of the noise.
If they went searching for every bump in the night, they would never get any sleep.
Calming after the fright, Kata went on. “Alta has nothing to offer the dragons other than safety. The Coalition was getting fed up with them. They had started to kidnap virgins.”
“I thought that was just a rumor. How does a dragon kidnap a person?” Krisa asked.
“Threaten others to do it for them,” said Cory.
“Yeah, that makes sense. Damn cowards.”
“Oh, so you would have fought the dragon for a maiden?”
“If she was cute.”
They all chuckled in agreement. If only they knew.
Rayner had an orgy with the virgins he’d rescued from the dragons.
“Seeing the dragons has given me a goal. A proper one. I do know you all want to head back after all.” They nodded so hard their heads almost came off. “I actually have always had a goal in mind but seeing the dragon fills me with the belief that it is possible.”
“Spill it out!” Krisa said, impatient.
“I want to know why the dungeon formed and how that formation was halted. Bear with me. Why did the dungeon form in that location and not where we camp tonight or on the hill for that matter? Is it random?”
All except Rayner paused in thought, looking for the answer. They would find none.
“Not my field of expertise. Let’s tuck in. Anyone up for sex?”
“No, thank you, dear,” said Kata as he nestled under the covers. Cory and Jose declined as well.
“Just you and me then.” She looked to Rayner casually and begun to remove her clothes.
Normally Rayner would have declined. Hell, he almost couldn’t believe his ears.
But he’d changed since coming to this world and as she pulled her shirt up to reveal her small but shapely breasts, their smooth contours highlighted by the lamplight, his pants began to grow tight.
This was no seduction. She wore no come hither look on her face and she didn’t tease him with her form.
Rather than try to entice him, she crawled with confidence over to him while he stared at her.
Her breasts swung as she moved on her hands and knees over to him. “The others are already asleep; I have another item that allows for the dampening of sounds of a sexual nature. I got it as payment for a job a prostitute couldn’t pay for.”
He continued to stare as she pressed her hand on his crotch and felt for him, judging his shape and length.
Pleased, she smiled and pulled the hem of his pants down so his hard cock was exposed to the light of the lamp and her curious eyes.
When she placed her bare hand on him, he shivered. Her hands were rough from years of swordsmanship but she still deftly stroked him, bringing him to his full length.
“I don’t want to do all the work.” She turned around so that her behind faced him, snug in her tight britches.
The same feeling came over him that he experienced during his first night with Sasha. Krisa clearly wanted him. So different from the girls of his world that endlessly teased and suggested interest.
His morals and corporate teachings taught him to keep his distance from the opposite sex to avoid lawsuits.
Even Axel advised against getting too close to girls.
No endless texts. No drama. She was horny and so was he. That was all that mattered.
With a grunt, Rayner shuffled on his knees and jerked her britches down to expose smooth cheeks. He took them in his hands and massaged them with his palms before pushing her forward until the side of her face pressed into the ground.
“Took you a while but—oh! That’s good,” she moaned out, her eyes closed in pleasure.
Rayner pressed his face nose-deep into her sex, lapping at her while still using her ass as a handhold to eat her out. He wanted her wet for him, needed her to drip for him so that she could take all his girth.
She writhed in place and her legs shook. Rayner’s hold on her was all that kept her in place. When he heard her breath hasten, he knew she would cum.
It didn’t take long. Not wanting her to finish yet, he disengaged and wiped his wet mouth with the back of his hand.
“Why did you stop?” she said, dismayed.
He answered by entering three fingers into her and fucking them into her.
Her body lifted slightly, so that she squirmed on his fingers. Her pussy dripped with each stroke of his fingers, reminding him of the rain outside.
When he was sure she was ready, he took her once again by the hips and pulled her to him before ramming himself into her with a forceful grunt.
He didn’t take time to savor her wet walls that already spasmed around his cock. He wanted to cum in her quickly. It had been days since he’d last been with a woman.
Living at a brothel had spoiled him.
Rayner pushed into Krisa rapidly. The slap of their hips drowned out the raindrops on the tent roof. She’d long since stopped trying to muffle her moans in favor of gasping into the earth floor.
Grunting, Rayner teased her. “What was that about you doing all the work?”
He pushed another inch into her so she could not quip back at him.
Somehow, Rayner could fight groups of monsters without breaking a sweat but pumping into a tight woman caused his skin to grow slick with the exertion.
His pace picked up, and he churned Krisa’s wet insides until her back arched and her neck craned as if to peer through the tent roof and to whichever god or goddess she worshiped.
With a final shudder of her fit body, she screamed, and he came inside her, holding nothing back, before blissfully collapsing onto her.
Their quick and dirty fuck over, they drifted to sleep. Before his eyes closed, Rayner’s noticed the other occupants of the rooms had their eyes wide.
The party stayed silent on Rayner’s activities with Krisa the night before and went on as usual. The act was so common that she still didn’t feel the need to make a big deal out of it.
Now they were all crouched behind a multi-colored bush as Kata carefully approached a crocodile.
Many of the creatures that survived by the grace of the miasma had died. Only the most resilient ones lived. Those surviving monsters and animals were swamp-like in nature.
The cataloger wouldn’t tell them what he wanted from the crocodile and Rayner started to suspect Kata was more tourist than researcher.
Cory and Jose tensed when the massive crocodile with scales of varying shades of green craned its body toward Kata. Kata, showing surprising bravery, stood still as the crocodile inspected him before turning back to what it was doing.
Almost all the monsters and animals that inhabited the area oozed lethargy, stuck in a perpetual state of sloth.
Another mystery Kata hungered to discover. If Kata wasn’t careful, he would spend his life in these lands trying to discover every oddity.
Krisa and her many blades weren’t with them. She chose to make sure nobody snuck up on them. Rayner was sure no humans other than them traveled this far into the twisted land.
Kata kicked the croc then leaped back to the bushes, ready to engage the animal, but it did nothing.
He ran back to them to report his findings. “I’ve seen enough. I have a working theory of what is happening here.”
“That you have lost your mind,” said Jose.
“Not yet, I’m afraid. I have read of this before. This is the result of them losing their god. They worshiped the miasma, and when it left, they survived when the others died with their deity.”
“Sounds like survivor’s guilt,” Rayner said.
“Yes, that is correct. The creatures here are all extremely sad. A shame. Once other worshipers find out, they will all be killed for parts.”
Rayner was an environmentalist among other things, but he didn’t know why others would care if monsters got killed out. “And this is not a good thing, I suppose.”
“There are monsters and there are special animals, sometimes called beasts. The worshipers would go after the monsters first, leaving an imbalance in the ecosystem. The special animals would grow so strong that they would be the same as the monsters but stronger with a faster reproduction cycle. It could devastate the region.”
“Maybe we should keep this to ourselves then.”
“No. I’m selling this information. Sorry,” said Cory, not looking sorry at all as he shrugged.
Rayner sighed. He couldn’t force them to keep their mouths shut. Well, he could, but wouldn’t.
Information is a big part of why they went on this mission after all. It certainly wasn’t the meager pay. Everyone had their own goals.
Then Krisa cried a warning from their right.
Krisa had her swords out as a snake followed behind her, its mouth open as if hoping for her to run backward into them.
None of them knew each other well enough to get into any sort of formation but they had discussed what to do during an attack.
Rayner would stay with Kata while the brothers attacked the enemy head-on. Krisa would stay between Rayner and the non-brothers.
Their current positions made the previous plan moot. With Krisa being chased by the snake, Rayner stayed with the cataloger while Cory and Jose went to engage the enemy so she could get in position between them.
A kobold rode the snake. He loosed one arrow after another at Krisa with his short-bow, narrowly missing her.
There was no way the kobold could miss that many shots. “There are more! It wants to lure us in.”
That must have been what she was trying to warn them about but was too winded to form the proper words.
As Rayner shouted the warning, two more kobolds riding their snake mounts rushed toward them. Cory and Jose had to stop and stay back pressed against each other to prepare for the upcoming onslaught.
Then Rayner knew the real trap. “Watch out for their acid!”
Too late. The yellow snakes spewed their bile at the brothers, coating them is sizzling spit.
They screamed and ran around trying to wipe it off as if it were puke but only succeeded in letting go of their weapons and getting the acid all over their hands.
Rayner wanted to save them but that would leave Kata alone and he was the priority.
The brothers would understand.
The two kobolds closed in on the brothers to finish the job but Krisa pierced the sides of the two snakes with several of her many swords, using them like arrows. Turning to meet its attacker, the snake hissed and redirected itself toward her, ignoring its rider’s demands to continue the attack on Cory and Jose.
She stood unflinching. She met the snake’s rush, pumping her legs toward it and jumping just as it spat its acid at her.
Its acid went right at the rider of the yellow snake behind her and the kobold fell from its serpentine mount screaming.
As she landed on the snake that attacked her, she impaled the kobold from behind.
Then Krisa began stabbing into the snake, trying to shimmy to its eyes before it bucked her off.
The kobold meant to be attacking the brothers watched the reversal of fortunes in dismay and halted its attack of the brothers as it tried to figure out what to do.
Rayner still couldn’t leave the cataloger’s side but had an idea to help the brothers. He activated Battle Cry, letting out a mighty roar into the sky so that his allies could hear it and be filled again with the spirit of battle.
Cory and Jose stopped their screaming and somehow turned to face the kobold who had its attention back on them. Their faces were popped and scorched as if they were pushed into a raging fire as punishment.
Screaming in pain and fury, they charged the snake before splitting off into two directions as the snake slithered at them.
Their dodge was expert and their counter-attack swift.
Both plunged their swords into the sides of the snake, using the same tactic Rayner had when fighting the dragon. They had paid attention to Kata’s quick autopsy of the dragon.
The snake’s attempts to escape only made the wounds worse as it slithered ever forward instead of stopping as its kobold rider commanded.
Knowing that his mount was lost, the kobold leaped down to face the brothers on foot. Its curved sword shined in the morning’s sun.
It spoke no language Rayner knew, but its tone told him much. This one kobold could kill the two brothers on death’s doorstep.
Rayner felt useless.
A shaking hand touched Rayner’s shoulder. The scared cataloger tried to put on a brave face. “Go help them. I’m not so in love with my own life to watch others die for me when I know someone can help. Hurry.”
Nodding to Kata in respect, Rayner rose his hammer and let green light wash over it. When he entered the kobold’s range, he let out a Roar to push back the kobold. He would have followed up with a killing blow but he needed to see if the brothers were OK.
The acid acted like fire and had burnt them severely. Rayner’s Battle Cry filling them with vigor must have kept them from rolling on the ground crying.
“It hurts! I can move. But I can’t fight,” Cory said.
“Neither can I,” Jose said.
“That’s ok,” Rayner patted them on the shoulder. “Go to Kata. Protect him the best you can. I’ll handle the kobold.”
The kobold and a snake remained. Krisa did her best to slay the snake, but she fell off it and got swatted by its tail.
She flew through the air. Landing on her back, she didn’t get up.
He wanted to pray for her safety but he was Faithless. No god or goddess would answer his prayers.
He would answer his own prayers.
Rayner crammed mana into his skill until his hammer shone green, almost enough to blind the kobold who hesitated to approach Rayner.
The snake had no such fear, rushing past the kobold to get at Rayner with its massive dagger-like teeth.
That’s where Rayner hit it.
He roared as a barbarian should and lunged right at the snake, slamming his hammer on its tooth. The tooth cracked, then broke, falling out its mouth and impaling the snake’s tongue.
The snake thrashed and screeched at its lost tooth. Disgusted at the creature’s whining, Rayner used Roar to shut it up, drowning out its hissing with his own bellow.
The force of Rayner’s shout pushed back the snake so that it lay on its back.
Jumping in the air, almost as high as Krisa had, Rayner jammed even more mana into his hammer until he could hear it break apart. And that was the idea.
He chucked his cracking hammer at the snake. The broken shards filled with the mana of his skill pierced the snake like hundreds of tiny spears.
One of the little spears must have hit a critical area for the snake gave a final withering hiss and expired where it lay.
Later the injured Cory, Jose, and Krisa lay still inside their tent. Kata applied medical herbs on their bodies.
“That amount of force would be perfect to pierce a dragon’s skin,” Kata said knowingly.
Rayner could have tried to deny it but he wasn’t a good liar. That’s what Axel was for. “I had the help of a friend. Like Krisa thought.”
“Why hide it?”
“We like our privacy and would like others to respect it as well. We didn’t fight the dragon for fame or fortune. The dragon needed killing. That is all.”
“Admirable. But foolish. Fame will find you with skills like that.”
“Maybe. But so does trouble.”
“Ah, that it does. Still, thank you for saving us.”
“We all got hired to do this. No thanks needed.”
“Oh, just let me be polite!” the cataloger huffed out. “Now, to business. I will cover the costs of their medical expenses and give them a bonus for their efforts. I did get some fine research material out of this trip after all.”
“Like what? The kobolds are common monsters.”
“Yes. But why attack us? Why were they following the caravan? Something is here that they want and I intend to find out. As for you, I will give you what you really came here for.” Kata handed Rayner a paper with his signature on it. It was a recommendation for entrance into the dungeon.
“The worshipers in charge will listen to this?” Rayner waved the paper, doubting its usefulness.
“I am a monster cataloger. It’s a dangerous job for someone without battle skills. It is also valuable. If the worshipers ever want accurate info on the monsters they will face, they better not piss me off. I am nothing special but my former master has a favor in his pocket that could cause them trouble.”
“I am only giving you payment for a job,” Kata quipped, echoing his earlier refusal of his thanks. “I hope you find what you are looking for.”
“Me too.” Rayner stared at the incapacitated worshipers. “Lives depend on it.”