I stabbed into the startled goblin’s back; the sword screamed in pleasure, desiccating the goblin almost instantly. Its husk of a body hit the ground with a light thud. The remaining pair of goblins looked on in terror, fleeing from the scene. I decided I'd deal with them later as I turned towards the charging boar; holding my sword before me in a light hand, I kept my weight on the balls of me feet. As the boar was about to strike, I dodged nimbly to the side, slashing across its flank with the sword. The beast roared with pain and thudded heavily against the cave wall. The other two boars had gotten the message and were hot on the heels of the first—I jumped just before they would have leveled me, and pirouetted mid-air, slicing my sword into the nearest beast’s spine. I landed on the ground with a thud, satisfied to see the body of the boar now lying still on the cave floor. The remaining two boars huffed steamy breath, scraping their hooves in preparation for another charge. I swore, realizing that stealth was completely out at this point.
“Use ‘Acid Spray’, boy!” called the book. I nodded and raised my hand, flicking to the suggested page. The boars began their charge, throwing up chunks of rock as they ran. “Acidum Trabem!” I yelled.
A spray of acid burst out from my hand, coating the boars. Smoke billowed out from their hides where the acid had burned into their flesh as they slammed into the ground, screeching in pain. I ran up to the leftmost boar, deftly slashing across its throat. I didn’t wait to drain the beast of blood, instead hopping over to the second boar, stabbing hard through its arm, and piercing its heart—it died almost instantly. Taking pity on the screaming, bloody mess of the other boar, I severed its spinal cord with a swift chop.
I stood, panting in exhaustion. Gradually, I walked on unsteady legs over to the goblin I had killed, intent on searching its body. I swore loudly and unimaginatively as I finished rummaging through its belongings.
“All that fucking effort and the potion is gone anyway?! Son of a bitch!” The other two goblins had obviously stolen away with the potion right when the boars attacked.
“Don’t worry, master, we will drink the blood of those little thieves,” comforted the sword, “Speaking of…what are the chances I could finish off those three blood bags we left behind?”
I swore again, stabbing the sword into the nearest boar. The sound of happy slurping echoed loudly through the cave.
The boars having been drained of blood, I sheathed the sword, who was now snoring lightly in a post-gorging slumber.
"We need to find that potion, and those goblins. I don't want to be out an entire gold piece," I said.
"Plus, we need to track those two down so they don't warn the others," cautioned the shield, "If they alert their kin, you could be killed."
"Yeah, that too," I replied.
I turned and picked up a rapid walk through the cave, keeping an eye out for any signs of the little green thieves.
“At lease that psychopath of a sword will be quiet for a while…but can we please just try and leave? The goblins will know we’re coming, and I don’t want to die…” moaned the boots.
“Not if we track them down first," I reminded, "Plus, you’re enchanted gear. I don’t think you can actually be killed, right? Worst case scenario, you’re broken until someone finds you,” I said, trying to keep the irritation I felt out of my voice.
“You try being broken for a whole century or two! It has happened before! I don’t want that!”
“When were you ever broken?” sneered the book.
“Well, not me personally, but I knew a pair of gauntlets who sat broken in an attic for a few decades! You should see the neuroses he developed!”
“You’re right,” I chuckled, starting my way back down the tunnel, “it would be terrifying to imagine any of you being more neurotic.” I laughed, and to my surprise, the book joined in.
“Yes, they are quite neurotic aren’t they, Henry? At least they have the two of us to keep them grounded, eh?” I smiled sardonically, “Yeah, it’s a miracle we’re both here to be the sane ones.”
Remarkably, the boots joined in on the laughter as well, while the book just seemed puzzled at missing the joke. “What?” it asked, “What in the name of all the Gods is so funny?” At our failure to stop laughing, it huffed and spoke sullenly, “Ignoramuses like you haven’t the least bit of a sense of humor.”
All save the blade laughed heartily, the sword made tiny snoring sounds, only interrupted by the faint sound of “Blood...blood...blood...” on its slumbering voice.
I picked my way quickly down through the refuse, looking for signs of the goblins' passing. I noted with some irritation that the debilitating -5 to perception debuff still made it nearly impossible to spot tracks along the ground. I wondered exactly how that worked—how could a smell impact your ability to spot things? I was so distracted by the terrible smell and thoughts of the debuff that I tripped over something as I walked—the bodies of two goblins, the very ones I had been hunting down! Next to them was a shattered bottle. I gasped in surprise, and immediately regretted the action. A small notification flashed in the right corner of my vision, ‘Sleeping potion inhaled, goodnight!’
I blinked my eyes open blearily; they were caked with that odd crust you got after a REALLY deep sleep. I could hear snorting and chomping, along with the distinct sound of flesh being torn from bone. I glanced up and to the side and saw my sword laying a few inches away from where my hand rested. Carefully, cautiously, I inched my hand forward to grab the hilt. I paused as I felt something hot and moist on the back of my neck, scenarios and options flashed rapidly through my mind. If I ran, I’d die. If I stayed put, I’d die. If I so much as twitched the wrong way, I’d die…I decided to take my chances.
I whipped my head back and was met by a satisfying crunch; warm blood drenched the back of my head. I pushed myself up and forward, seizing the handle of my blade and swinging with it wildly at the creature which was busy clutching its face and screaming in pain. I took in the sight of the thing in one quick glance—it stood about seven feet tall, and was covered in mangy white fur, now stained red with blood. The creature had fangs like knives and claws like daggers. I had never heard of such a formidable-looking creature.
“Stop sizing the thing up! Most things die if you cut their fucking heads off! Do that!” screamed the sword.
I obeyed in a rush, surging towards the blood-spattered monster in a mad charge. It batted one of its massive clawed hands at me, but I deflected the strike with a quick flick of my wrist. I was satisfied to feel the sword bite into a claw, severing the finger cleanly. The monster leapt back with one massive surge of its impressively-muscled legs. It stared at me with something I was convinced was intelligence, and fled.
I held my sword in front of me cautiously, waiting to be sure that the monster had well and truly gone. I wasn’t sure how much time passed, but I knew that it must have been longer than twenty minutes. My arm was cramped and aching, and my adrenaline had finally run its course. My heart still hammered in my chest.
“Its blood was delicious, I want more. Hunt it down for me and let me drink of its life!”
I shook my head, dropping the sword to my side. “No. I think I may have gotten lucky this time around, it underestimated me because it had already experienced the lack of resistance from the goblins.”
“Probably yes,” interjected the book, “the creature was also probably mildly affected by the sleeping potion still present in the blood of the goblins.”
“Speaking of the monster, do you have any idea what that thing was? Was it a werewolf?” I hedged. “A werewolf?” the book scoffed, “You’ve read too many stories, boy. Of course werewolves don’t exist, they are fairy tales.”
“A fairy tale? What’s that?” I asked.
“A tale propagated by the fae in order to fuel the nightmares present in mortal minds. They harvest these terrors and use them to guard their enchanted woods. Obviously. Did you pay any attention at all to your lessons at the guild? I am disgusted with you.”
I shook my head slowly, “Of course, how could I have forgotten? So, what exactly was this monster then?” “I…” the book's voice was hesitant, “I don’t really know. It’s possible, I suppose, that it’s a species unique to the mountain?”
“Something the great and wise book doesn’t know? Now this is a surprise,” mocked the shield in a singsong voice.
“Yes, yes. I know my knowledge must seem infinite to the likes of something such as yourself, but alas, I am not all-knowing.”
“That’s surprisingly down-to-earth, for a knowledgeable book such as yourself,” I said.
“Surprising only for the uneducated. Knowledge teaches you first and foremost the depths of your ignorance.”
I inspected the bodies of the fallen goblins; they were picked almost clean. Small puddles of blood beneath their bodies served as the only evidence that they had been living creatures just moments before. I shook my head in distaste; if I had been slightly slower to wake, I’d be in the same grim straits as these poor creatures. I looked down at the remnants of my one gold sleeping potion and shook my head. That merchant would be taught a lesson about exactly how resilient a product meant to be thrown should be.
I shook my head, sheathing the sword at my hip. "We need to press forward. Luckily, nothing survived to reveal our location. Still, we need to be careful."
"That monster we faced may still be lurking around, Henry. We should remain vigilant, it's very possible it will try to hunt you down," the shield cautioned, its voice low and heavy with worry.
I nodded to myself, "That's wise. It looked awfully similar to a wolf...it may possess the ability to track us as a wolf might," I started again down the path leading further into the depths of the mountain. Not for the first time, I wondered if I would live to ever again see the sunlight.