Chapter 11: The Library

Note by Clayton: Rhodovus got jealous that I was only writing about myself, so he stuck in a bit about himself… with rune magic. The thing somehow imprints itself every time I tear it out, so I gave up after the tenth try… Damn elves. Damn magic, or well, paper magic at least.

Fwoosh! Rhodovus collapsed from exhaustion. He’d burnt through most of his mana reserves and completely emptied the commander’s mana battery. Still, the results had been worth it.

He dazedly watched the flame that pierced the demon lines, branching off into embers that would cause further collateral damage. In all, he cleared a path almost six men across through the demon horde that guarded the last hundred meters. Sir Thomas, hefted him and charged with his remaining five hundred men. Laughing madly, a tinge of sorrow laced within, Sir Thomas cheered, “Now that’s magic!” After all, the men who’d died to get them this far would never return, or if they did… Well, Sir Thomas didn’t want to think about facing down a Necromancer.

Rhodovus weakly smiled, pale from expending all his mana. “I’m out of mana. We’re doomed.”

Sir Thomas paused, hoarsely asking. “You mean, you can’t crack the dungeon’s shell?” They’d be doomed then. Ordinary swords would have little effect on the thick blubber that could regenerate within a minute.

Rhodovus hesitated, “I can try.”

The army formed a loose circle, their backs to the demon’s shell as they warded off the waves of demons, who had doubled in number as nearby settlements joined in upon sensing how close the human army had approached. In the distance, Rhodovus could sense powerful sources of mana that rivaled or even superseded his own as the true demon chieftains mobilized. Everywhere, there was the clank of metal striking metal, of claws scraping through armor and puncturing bodies. Dropped next to the wall, Rhoduvus winced.

Sir Thomas shook him. “Get to it. There are men dying!”

Rhodovus waved him off. “Give me peace, or we’ll all die.”

He snatched off a blank paper engraved with gold pasted into the back of his rune book. “This is a delayed fire. When I say, ‘Go,’ you need to get your army to run as fast as possible.”

Sir Thomas nodded. “And you?”

Rhodovus pulled out a stylus pen and took out his clipboard. “Go tell your men.”

With a grim nod, Sir Thomas saluted the pale elf.

Switching to a blood cartridge for his stylus, Rhodovus hoped it would contain enough blood magic for them to survive. Sir Thomas began yelling at the captains to assemble their men.

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Rhodovus shorted a mana line, so the mana would simply be trapped inside the black paper instead of escaping as an inferno. Then, he opened the power source so that it could collect unfiltered power directly from his mana battery. Usually, mages prevented this as it allowed runes to spontaneously explode, but that was exactly what he wanted. Desperate times called for certain measures.

He sniffed the paper. This had been his fourth elvish wood sheet, a final trump card that approached upper fifth level magic. Holding it for a second, the page shifted to black. Sir Thomas, who had been watching, remarked, “Useful bloodline for a mage. What’s the plan?”

Rhodovus turned, placing his personal battery pack directly on the rune paper. “Nobility must maintain a certain grace. I finish my duties, Commander.”

Guiding an initial stream of mana into the rune, Rhodovus coughed up a bit of blood. That small trickle had been tortuous in this mana drained environment like he’d cut his veins for the magic inherent to his blood, which wasn’t far from the truth since he’d used his own blood to power the stream. By now, the mana fatigue had reached the level of a burning sensation, and he felt too exhausted to care. Truly, he’d pushed the very limits of his mana usage. He rasped, “Go! Go! God Damnit!”

Sir Thomas glanced at him after announcing the retreat to his army. The knight stepped closer. Rhodovus growled, “Get away! Someone has to control the flow of mana, and distractions can break the path.” The rune started shaking.

Sir Thomas stared at the frail lord and saluted. “I was wrong. You’re a good man, Lord Thossolorian.” The commander retreated several paces back with his small army.

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Rhodovus spared a wry grin. The Commander’s opinion would soon change. For the Great Rhodovus had other plans…

 


As we walked toward my doom, even if I didn’t know where it was, I focused on the bustling crowds, the medieval cobblestones, the putrid stench that came from people dumping waste on the street… Luckily, the passing human civilians parted for us, so I didn’t have to figure out whether the smell came from unwashed human bodies or the pervasive odor of a medieval town. Nodding at some of the wealthier looking individuals, Bobette turned toward me. “Perks of being an avatar.”

I nodded dumbly before asking, “Where are we going?”

“Just past Main Street. Take a left on Iulo Avenue. Then down until we pass the barber’s shop. All in all, we’re just heading toward the inner edge of the city where we store the Human library.” She paused. “Well to be fair, it’s pretty much the only library in the Dungeon. The orcs can’t be bothered, and most of the other races are too rare or secluded for them to organize anything. Besides, it’s not like there’d be much point in a bunch of libraries because they’d each be only a few hundred books, with maybe twenty or thirty books actually worth using to learn magic. Magic spellbooks aren’t that common, you know. Instead, we bunched together like thirty or forty of those types of libraries and gathered them in one spot.”

I felt a spike of awe. In just moments, I would have a chance to see books of magic containing feats like what Bobette had performed before the meal. I imagined it, Clayton the Mage. Sure, I’d probably be a mindless slave of the Dungeon, although even that was questionable given the apparent autonomy of the individuals I’d seen, but I’d be so impressive compared to that scrawny being who had slaved away at college hoping for some middle-level job in order to live the rest of his days in peace. Maybe being in a Dungeon wasn’t so bad? I felt a flicker of unease swell in my stomach at the thought, but I was distracted before I could try to delve into why.

We turned into a darker alleyway; the street lamps were sparser than they were on Main Street. Bobette grunted, “Only thing the Dungeon refuses to invest in is an artificial sun, but it can invest in a bunch of complicated siege weapons. Celestial bodies use up too much mana and aren’t as efficient as magic lights, the main one claims.” I nodded, agreeing with her disgust. How were people supposed to get Vitamin D down here?

Finally, I voiced my concern, “Uh, Bobette. I’ve never really fought before. I don’t think I can kill anything.”

She grinned. “Don’t worry. Everyone thinks that. Just listen to what the Dungeon tells you. It’s been ingrained into your instincts. Besides, I’ll be getting people to watch out for you to make sure nothing too bad happens. Most you’ll get is a bite or two.”

I shuddered. What would a moth that weighed as much as a brick do to my unarmored body?

A turn later, we stood in front of an unassuming building squished between a paper shop and another pub. It seemed that dungeon denizens really enjoyed their drinks. I guessed that was all the entertainment that could be found for the brainwashed souls whom I’d soon join.

She pointed downward. “The rest of the library is underground. It’s actually pretty large. It goes down five floors underground and takes up space beneath the buildings surrounding it. Over the years, the Dungeon’s grown it a fair bit.”

“Just wondering, how many years has the Dungeon been around?”

She shrugged. “Not too long. It’s pretty young. It was technically born around a century ago, but it only plopped down in its dungeon form a couple of decades ago. I think maybe thirty human years?”

“Wait, I just realized I don’t know whether the years you’ve been referring to are the same as the ones I’m used to.”

She cocked her head. “Well, the typical human lives about 100 years. Hmm… how would I give you more clarity? Actually, do you happen to have any time-keeping devices from your world? I know it’s a far off chance, but you did say you were from a pretty advanced world…”

I pulled out my iPhone from my backpack’s front pocket. I shrugged. “Well, unless it’s really important, I’d prefer to keep it off because it uses its battery pretty quickly.”

She stared at it. “Wow! How does the brick produced by your world work? I’ve only heard rumors that other worlds have bricks that can transform into different objects. This is so exciting!”

“Uh, well, I turn it on, and it tells me the time. It also has a stopwatch function.”

Bobette poked the phone curiously. “It doesn’t react to mana?”

“No, it runs on electricity.”

Grinning, Bobette held up a buzzing finger. “I can take care of that!”

Jerking my phone away, I hastily explained, “Not like that! It uh, needs controlled electricity. I’ll show it to you later?”

Pouting, Bobette slowly returned the bolts of electricity orbiting around her finger to… somewhere. “Well then, I guess it must be pretty complicated. After this then, you can show me!”

Helplessly nodding, I turned to face the doors. Best to get this over with sooner rather than later, and hopefully before Bobette destroyed my only lifelines to my old world.

Clutching my spear and shield, I carefully opened the door, surprised to see several humans running through the shelves and looking for books. I turned toward Bobette. “Didn’t you say there was some type of flying elephant infestation?”

She giggled. “Oh, don’t worry, Clay. There’ll be plenty of fighting to do. I can see your Dungeon instincts are already roaring! The first floor is where anyone can go. The further down you get, the more exotic it becomes.”

I gulped. Exotic, sure. That’s what I wanted to fight.

She laughed. “Okay, well, I should tell you the moth bats form a third level infestation, which means you’ll be surrounded by mostly mundane spellbooks and various semi-secret tidbits.” I stared at her.

She continued obliviously, “Trust me. You’ll be fine. The monsters only get remarkably lethal at the bottom where we store the grimoires and a few hidden artifacts. You’ll probably never see them though because the guardians there would probably kill you some time on the fourth floor.”

I coughed. “Okay. How about on the third floor specifically? Is there anything else I should know about?”

She shrugged. “Nah, you’ll know them when you see ‘em. It’s a pretty simple mission, stab them before they land on you and use your shield to block any of the acids they spit as well as their needle tongues.” With a gleeful wave, she walked out of the library.

I hesitated, wondering whether I could escape from this mission without being caught. Then, something poked me from behind.


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