Sunday Serial: Wrathburnt Sands 9

Because life can be interesting when you are a character in a video game…

As String dressed himself in a new and even shinier set of chain-mail with glowing runes around it, Pew looked at the open doors. Of course, one led out but the other three all led away into the dark and seemed to be ramps going down.
“Which way do we go?” Milla asked.
Pew shook his head and then held up his staff, casting the same spell she had seen when they first met, but the spray of sparkles seemed a bit less intense. He nodded towards the door to the left of the entrance.
“That way. Your little dog is down there. Somewhere.”
As if on cue there came a bark from somewhere below them. Milla’s heart moved in her chest and before she was even aware of what she was doing she had started running down the dark passage Pew had said was the one they needed to take, calling Ruffkin’s name.
“Milla wait!”
She heard Pew’s urgency and stopped her headlong dash just before the ramp doubled back on itself and turned into stairs. Which was just as well. An armoured ryeshor skeleton was walking down the steps towards the door below, where two more stood guard and Milla had nearly barrelled right into it. She still had Pew’s dagger in her hand and instinctively held it up. The runes on it were glowing dark red.
“That’s got awesome bonus stats against undead,” Pew said as he send a blast of flame down the stairs and the skeleton crumbled.
The boar pushed between the two of them and bounded down the steps to attack the two skeletons by the door. Milla noticed the armour plates on his harness were no longer black but now glittered with a silvery glow.
“See that?” String said, cleaving his sword into the skeletons as he spoke. “That last boss dropped an upgrade spell for my pet too.”
“Neat,” Pew said, as his staff send a string of fireballs into one skeleton blasting it apart. The other collapsed moments later in a heap of bones under the combined assault of Pigsy’s tusks and String’s sword.
There was a sudden deafening silence as the bones vanished, then an urgent bark from somewhere behind the door the skeletons had been guarding. Milla would have been down the last of the stairs and through it instantly but Pew caught her arm.
“We don’t know what’s in there. If you go charging in you could be killed.” The sobering words and the intense look he gave her were enough to make her pause. Something in his gaze distracted her and with a slight shock she realised he was concerned for her, he actually cared about what might happen to her. She blinked and nodded, her frill-spines spreading. Pew gave her quick grin then headed down the steps in the wake of String and Pigsy.
The chamber behind the door had a high domed ceiling. The walls were lined with white tiles and decorated with gorgeous images of local plants, birds and animals in shades of green, turquoise and blue. In the middle of the room was a circular, stepped dias. Placed on it, was a huge throne formed from blackened bones and adorned with bleached skulls on the back posts and arm rests. Beneath the throne, in a cage of bone, Milla could see a shivering Ruffkin. Sitting on the throne and dominating the room, was a hooded robed figure, twice the height of any ryeshor. It wore a crown of flickering lights that looked like a skeletal hand grasping a nebulous ball of magical power. Beneath the enveloping hood no face could be seen, just two glowing red eyes.
“Oh frag – it’s a lich lord.” Pew sounded worried.
“Then it’ll have a magic mitigation shield, an AOE frontal with massive damage and a fear effect.”
“HOW DARE YOU ENTER MY DOMAIN! YOU PUNY BEINGS ARE NOT WELCOME HERE. I WILL CRUSH YOU LIKE INSECTS.” The thing on the throne seemed to exude the words rather than speak them and Milla’s whole being shivered with an icy chill.
“So you put your armour buff on Pigsy,” String went on his tone as unurgent as if he was discussing the weather. “Pets are immune to the fear. But we’ll have to watch for the frontal.”
“You got your parser running?”
“Course. I’ll use it to spot when the ratstab is due to cast. Just be ready to joust.”
“Think there might be adds during the fight?”
“Likely. If we get any you keep focused on the boss – it’ll be leashed to the throne anyway – I’ll handle them with Pigsy.”
“OK.” Pew made a gesture with his staff towards Pigsy and the boar glowed briefly with swirling runes. “There you go. Ready when you are.”
“Pre-warding and sending in the pig!”

We will return to Wrathburnt Sands by E.M. Swift-Hook next Sunday.

Wrathburnt Sands was first published in Rise and Rescue: A GameLit Anthology.

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