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Chapter 7: The Mouth of the Cave

Once Caleb had called his friend to “take charge” of the city in our absence, we finally got moving on with our quest. We made our way across the rocky plains of Galgorra where we discovered a strange looking cave. The scraggly rocks around it forming some kind of a mouth, and strangely enough the rock formations above seemed to look like a pair of massive squinting eyes looking down as if watching everything that entered its jaws.

“Well if that isn’t one of the scariest looking rocks I’ve ever seen!” Ben laughs looking up and into the eyes of the stone beast of a cave.

“Should we go inside?” I ask turning to the others.

“Do we have to?” Ben looked nervously inside. “Not a huge fan of caves to be honest.”

“What’s wrong with caves?” Caleb asks as he pushes past us and walks right on in without a care in the world. We hold our breath as he enters expecting the worst, but nothing happens. Caleb stands a few steps inside and turns to look at us awaiting us to follow. We slowly walk inside each of us quickly looking back and forth every step we take checking for traps or creatures that might be hiding inside the walls interior. Strangely enough there was light in the tunnel, a glowing yellow-orange light as if there were torches burning all along the way but there was nothing. The walls were bare but had a couple shadows here and there.

“Where is this light coming from?” Ben finally verbalizes the question on all of our minds. Since we have no idea we all shrug and continue down the tunnel in silence. The glow continues, not rising or dimming but simply continues with that ominous yellow-orange glimmer. Soon we reach a large open cavern stretching about 10-feet above us into a dome-shaped ceiling. Around the walls was the source of the mysterious lights, words and drawings carved into the rock that emanated some kind of magic allowing it to glow.

“Woah!” I state in awe as we walk into the center of the cavern and stare at the majestic work of art around us.

“What do they say?” Ben says leaning into a wall and putting his hand over the writing. I take a closer look and realize the text is in an unfamiliar language. I recognize the words but I cannot make out what they say. Suddenly Caleb takes a step closer and nods.

“Can you read this?” I ask surprised at the possibility. It’s not that I doubt the guy or anything but usually rogues aren’t very well-educated in scholarly things.

“It’s the ancient language of the dark elves; it would seem we’ve stumbled across an incredibly rare and powerful artifact.”

“You mean the writing?” Ben asks confusedly.

“No it’s located somewhere inside this cave.” Caleb looks around. “I don’t see any doorways though.”

“Well what does all this writing say?” I ask pleading with Caleb to reveal the secret.

“It’s a story,” he smiles. “Well more of a legend, I remember hearing pieces about it when I was a child. It’s from many centuries ago about a dark elf general known as Devanice.”

“Devanice!” Michael exclaims.

“You know of Devanice? Hah! Of course you would. Your grandfather’s grandfather…”

“Fought alongside of him in the Battle of Orvenhelm,” Michael grins. This is possibly the first time I’ve ever seen the man smile.

“But the treasure mentioned before,” Ben smiles nudging towards Caleb to explain more about the valuables possibly hidden inside this cave. Caleb smiles.

“To tell you where the treasure is without telling of the great General Devanice would be a great offense to my heritage and my people, even though I am a rogue I would not disrespect them in this way. On one side of the wall tells the story of Devanice, on the other the cave and how to get to the treasure, I will start with the story.”

Ben sits on the ground and sets down his axe that he has been carrying since we entered the cave. “Alright let’s get this over with.” He sighs and crosses his legs like an obedient child in school awaiting his teacher’s lesson.

Caleb takes a deep breathe before beginning to retell the tale of a man long since dead.

Chapter 6: The Necrostaff

“What is that thing?” Ben asks his eyes sparkle with wonderment as he stares at the magically infused item.

“It’s a wizard’s staff,” I reply. “Or rather some kind of dark-wizards staff since necromancy is illegal.”

“So this’s causing the zombies?” Caleb asks.

“It must be, I’m a little confused though,” I admit.

“Why’s that?”

“Well a staff is simply a tool for a wizard to amplify a wizard’s power it shouldn’t be able to work on its own.”

“So there must be a wizard nearby, right?”

“Well that’s just it, a wizard has to be physically in-contact with the staff for it to work. He or she can’t just be nearby, this is very odd indeed.” I reach out to touch the staff but my hand is shocked forcing me to draw back in pain. “It would also seem that whoever put this here didn’t want anyone tampering with it.”

“So what do we do?” Ben asks taking several precautious steps away from the object. Suddenly there is a thud at the door on the first floor, loud enough for all of us to hear. Caleb rushes to a window and looks down.

“The zombies are here,” he states urgently looking to us to hurry. I turn to the staff and continue to examine it hoping to find some kind of weakness. If I only had some mana left I could easily disable the force field around it. Suddenly I get an idea.

“Quick I need a stick!” I turn to the other two who momentarily give me quizzical stares before rushing around the room searching for the object of my request. Ben hustles downstairs and returns holding a broomstick. “Perfect,” I smile as he hands it over to me. “Enibus,” I whisper waving my hand over the stick enchanting it.

“You see a wizard can enchant his staff using no mana,” I begin to explain the other two behind me listening intently. “As I said earlier, though, the staff itself has no magical capabilities without the user and even with the user is only a tool of the wizard’s desire. Enchanting it allows the flow of magic within the stick, now with all that said I should be able to do this.” I push the staff forward and touch the edge of the force-field. The stick lightly pushes away like trying to touch a north-pole and south-pole magnet.

“Riberasu Barice Kyendu,” I say steadying the stick. The purple resisting mist slowly releases from around the standing staff and is absorbed into my own. The fog travels up the staff and dissipates inside until it’s all gone.

“Woah, what was that?” Ben asks in amazement.

“I absorbed the mana used to create the protective barrier around the Necro-staff into this one,” I explain with a smile.

“Cool…so this is a magic stick now? What can it do?”

“Well nothing without me telling it to,” I state matter-of-factly. “Of course I’ll probably just absorb the mana inside into myself and toss this thing.”

“What about the big scary one?” Ben points at the Necro-Staff that still stands in front of us that still retains that purple glow letting us know it’s still being used. I reach towards it and touch it, only with the tips of my fingers at first to make sure there were no other magical traps waiting. Nothing, the staffs leans off balance as I touch it. I grab it before it can fall over and cringe, waiting for something, but nothing happens. I look to Ben and Caleb who are both holding their breath.  I release a deep sigh of relief as I stand up and hold the staff above my head. The purple aura still revolves around it.

Caleb looks out the window, “Um they’re still up and moving.”

“Oh sorry my bad,” I lower the staff and wave my hand over it releasing some of the energy I absorbed from the other staff just moments ago. “Owisu Incantores,” the purple glow begins to dissipate. Caleb and Ben both look out the window this time.

“Haha!” Ben laughs turning back towards me. “No more zombies!” He lifts his arms into the air in celebration. I smile but not as big a grin as his, I’m still confused.

“What’s wrong?” Ben asks stepping towards me.

“I just don’t understand how it was retaining the spell without a caster.” I reply examining the staff but seeing nothing that answers my question.

“Who knows, but what’s important is that the dead are all back to being dead and we’re all still alive.” I nod in agreement when suddenly a thud comes from the stairway. We all turn our hands outstretched prepared for battle. The footsteps are heavy and soon we can see a foot appear at the top of the stairs, then another. Within moments a hulking mass of armored flesh appears, it’s Michael.

“Hey buddy you’re awake,” I greet the knight as he slowly makes his way down the stairs his eyes glaring at me in anger.

“Never throw me again!” He states gruffly before looking out the window at the lifeless heaps below. “I’m guessing you took care of the issue?” He asks looking towards me.

“Yep,” I smile back. “All taken care of.”

It took us about a day to clean up all the bodies from the town, but now that they weren’t fighting back it was much easier. We brought them outside the village and burned them so that no more could they rise from the dead. We collected everything worth saving and hid it away in the basement of the mansion we had found the staff in. As for the staff itself, I decided to hold onto it figuring there was some kind of powerful magic inside of it making it useful to me. Only issue was that it was infused with dark magic, so until I could find a priest to cleanse it I wouldn’t be able to use it for more than the stick itself. Strangely enough though we found more items infused with dark magic inside various homes hidden in basements and attics which we hid in another house. I placed some barriers around it to ensure no one could play with the dark items and cause any more trouble here.

“So technically one could say this town is ours now,” Ben said jokingly.

“How do you figure?” I ask.

“Well I was just kidding.”

“No your right,” Caleb states stepping in a piece of loot in his hand. “The law states that you can set yourself up as the lord of any township you create.”

“But we didn’t create this one,” I remind him.

“True but I don’t see anyone here that would stop you from claiming it.”

“Why are you saying I should claim it?”

“Well you’re the one that seemed so interested,” a soft chuckle flows from inside his hood as he goes back to looking at his loot. I think about what he said, it would be cool to own a town, and it would make a great home base for our mercenary guild Ben had mentioned earlier. And if we did a lot of exporting it would bring in lots of money which would be perfect for us since we’d be bringing in plenty of loot from our quests, this could turn out very profitable.

“Alright let’s do it,” I say turning to my comrades who all look at me like I’m crazy.

“What do you mean ‘let’s’,” Ben asks his eyebrow raised in confusion.

“Well I’m not running it myself. We’ll start the mercenary guild like Ben suggested and have the town as our means of supplies and income. We can use this mansion as our base that way we always have somewhere to return to after our various battles and ventures.”

“I like it, but how are we going to stake claim on it until we get back from this whole warlock thing?” Ben makes a good point and I pause contemplating the issue.

“I know a way,” Caleb steps forward. “I have a friend that could use a place to…hide out for a while until some things blow over. He can take charge of it for now.”

“And I can send an official message to Lord Quinn staking our claim over this village until we return, that way it’s all legal.” Michael states. His idea surprises us all.

“Gee Michael I didn’t realize you knew so much about the legal system!” Ben says in amazement.

“After years of working for Quinn and dealing with those who DON’T follow the rules, you catch on after a while.”

“Well then it’s settled,” I smile. “We shall run this village and call it Besimca!”

“Why Basimca?”

“It is part of the Language of Magic and it means ‘Those who fight together.’”

“I like it!” Ben smiles and the others nod in agreement.

Chapter 7: Finding Michael  

“MICHAEL!” We all shout in excitement having finally found our missing friend. Michael jumped back in surprise at seeing a whole group suddenly in front of him, then, realizing it was us slowly pulled himself forward.

“Guys what’s up you come to work out with me?” Michael asks with a smile. We all stare silently unsure of what to say at this point.

“What?” Michael places his hand on his face, feeling around to make sure he didn’t have anything on it that didn’t belong there.

“Dude what are you doing,” I ask looking at Michael’s work. His cell phone was connected to a pair of earplugs and laying on the counter behind him next to the blender he had been filling with fruits and other ingredients.

“Making myself a smoothie before getting back to my workout,” Michael explains as he continues about making his shake. “I can make you guys one if you want, you want to wait five minutes after drinking it before you start lifting though, that gives the protein time to kick in.”

“Dude do you even realize what’s happening right now?” Ben practically shouts trying to imply the seriousness of the situation Michael is apparently completely unaware of.

“Um no,” Michael stammers looking up for only a moment to display the slightest look of interest and confusion before turning back around and tossing three slices of peeled kiwi into the blender.

“Dude it’s the zombie apocalypse!” Ben sharply explains. This catches Michael’s attention and he stops to slowly turn back to us.

“Wait, seriously?” He asks. I’m surprised at his reaction and the fact that he is so quick to believe us, even aside from all the pranks we’ve pulled on the guy a zombie apocalypse isn’t usually so easy to incite to someone without having a half-rotted walking corpse right in front of them.

“Yes!” Ben enunciates throwing his hands into the air. “How do you not know this!?” Michael takes a deep breath as if preparing to relay a long story.

“Well,” he starts. “I got here at 9am and went through my usual routine, half-an-hour on the treadmill, half-an-hour on the stationary bike, then rehydrate up here with a high energy shake. Then I move onto some stretches to loosen up my body before I hit the weights…”

“I don’t mean your routine dude, I want to know how you could possibly miss the concept of the zombie apocalypse happening in and outside of this building!”

“I’m getting to that!” Michael says with a hint of annoyance towards Ben for interrupting. “Anyways, after my stretches are done I come over here to get my high protein shake; this helps build more muscle once I start lifting.” Ben growls and gives Michael an evil glare, a non-verbal cue that Michael better hurry up with the story. “Ok well basically I come over here to order it and then something comes over all of the TVs at the same time, it’s the news. So I’m trying to listen in right? Then the dude making my smoothie flips the blender on making me miss the whole story. So I turn around and people are like rushing out of here.”

“And that didn’t trigger anything with you?” Ben asks his words thick with judgment.

“Well I wasn’t going to ruin my workout just cause a bunch of people leave, plus I was waiting on my smoothie.” At this point all of our faces are buried deep into our palms in embarrassment. “ As I’m waiting though the dude making it stops as an announcement comes over the speaker saying that all the staff is to leave everything where it is and to go to their homes because of some kind of emergency. Anyways the guy starts to leave and I’m like ‘hey dude what about my smoothie?’ and he just tosses me his keys and walks out the door saying something about making it myself.”

“And you didn’t think YOU should leave?” Quinn exclaims.

“Nah bro, like I said they said all staff was supposed to leave, they didn’t say subscribers had to go.”

“I like how you use the word subscribers instead of customer,” I chuckle noting Michael’s choice of words.

“So yeah, I’ve just been chilling here since then working out and drinking smoothies.” At this point Michael turns back around and continues his blendable concoction. I turn to look at Ben who looks like he’s about to explode.

“Why didn’t you answer our calls?!” His voice booms and resonates throughout the room bouncing off the various workout equipment, and ringing off the metal. Michael looks at us, then reaches past the blender and picks up his phone. We watch as he unlocks it and goes to the recent calls tab a little red circle above the missed calls section reading the number twenty three.

“Oh,” Michael muses and then clears the screen. “I changed my settings so that when I’m listening to music notifications for calls and texts don’t interrupt, helps me get into the zone you know.” Ben began to growl with annoyance when Caleb suddenly raised his hand.

“Guys do you hear that?” He asked looking worried. The room suddenly went silent as everyone held their breath. Sure enough they all could hear something coming from downstairs. The group slowly tip-toed their way to the door and opened it, from down the stairwell they could hear the sound echoing up the incline: growling, deep guttural growling; there was only one thing that made a sound like that: zombies a lot of zombies. Ben pushed past us and looked over the edge of the wall separating us from the deep drop to the first floor. We followed and joined his eyes with our own to experience the sight below. Zombies, about thirty at least, all piling on top of another attempting to get up the stairs, some managing a few stairs already thanks to their friends pushing them upwards in a mindless attempt to get the delicious flesh we featured.

“How are we going to get past that?” I breathed not taking my eyes away from the horror below. Ben stares at me eyes wide with fear.

“I don’t know.”

Chapter 5: Finding the Source

“I’m glad you could all make it to this meeting,” I look around at my friends each breathing so heavily you’d wonder if they had been under water for the last hour. They stare back at me with serious looks obviously not appreciating my sense of humor. We stand in a room near the top of the tower a wooden table and sett of chairs in the center and windows on the walls around

“So why are there so many of these things?” Ben asks barely able to make his words out between gasps.

“There are a few ways to bring back the dead but my guess is that there’s a wizard here in this town somewhere that’s covered the town in a necromancy spell.” I reply searching my spellbook for a counter.

“So how do we stop it?” Caleb sits at a wooden table flipping his dagger in the air.

“Well there’s about as many ways to put the dead back in the ground as there are to pull them out which is a lot, but if there’s a wizard somewhere in town right now then we need to take care of him first.”

“Ok so how do we find him?” Ben asks as he sits down across from Caleb.

“Well I could do it pretty easily except I’m all out of mana,” I say as I sit down leaving Michael standing alone. “I could have more but it’ll take an hour or so and we don’t have that kind of time to waste.”

“Here come here,” Caleb reaches his hands out to me. I stare at them, my eyebrow raised in question as I slowly reach my hands out and place them into his.

“Whatchya doing there buddy?” Ben chuckles and nudges Michael who moved next to him to see what was going on. Caleb takes a deep breath an closes his eyes.

“Komucan Majjia,” he whispers. Suddenly a glowing blue ball appears at the top of Caleb’s arm, so bright that you could see it from under his sleeve. It moves down his arm and into his hand heading towards mine. As it touched the tips of my fingers I can feel a cooling sensation, not freezing but rather refreshing. It entered my hand and moved up my arm before fading into my chest, as it does I feel my magic regenerate slightly a pulse of energy flowed throughout my body.

“Woah!” I breathe out a cool wisp of air leaving my mouth leaving a cool sensation on the inside like when you chew mint leaves in the winter and take a sharp breath in.

“Do your thing,” Caleb states kicking his legs back up on the table and leaning back into his chair. I open a window and hold out my hand, I close my eyes ad chant a spell.

“Majjia Quiereku,” I open my eyes and the world is covered in a green tint. I can see into buildings and various colors appear. The spell allows me to seek out anything magic: people or objects with magic properties. Below us are the zombies all glowing blue to signify magic being used on someone or something. In various buildings I can make out glowing colored objects with magical properties, each color representing a magical element the object pertains to. I search around before seeing what I’m looking for: a large glowing purple orb surrounding an entire floor of a building near the center of town. The orb has a dark center with doom-like tentacles jutting out in every direction. Purple was the color of necromancy which meant the source of the magic bringing the dead to life. I close my eyes and close the spell, when I reopen my eyes everything is normal.

“There is a 4-story mansion with a heavy necromantic presence surrounding the third floor, that’s where the wizard is hiding.” I say turning to my colleagues.

“Alright now we just have to get there,” Ben says standing from his seat.

“We can just go through the rooftops to avoid the zombies,” I state simply.

“Not the easiest thing for me,” Michael speaks his first words since we’ve gotten there. He steps out from behind Ben and stands straight as if called to attention by his commanding officer. “I will battle my way through the dead and meet you all there as soon as possible.”

“I have a better idea.”

Moments later the three of us: Ben, Caleb, and I rush across the rooftops of the various houses and other buildings standing up along the streets. My hand is raised in the air and slowly becoming more and more tired, above is Michael hovering weightlessly surrounded by an iridescent blue aura proving the use of magic.

“My mana is almost out!” I shout to my comrades as we leap to the next house-top. The mansion we’re aiming for is only a couple blocks away. I look up to Michael feeling the weight already increasing, a sign that my magic is about to run out. “I’m sorry buddy!” He looks down at me and quickly realizes what I’m about to do, his face drops and is replaced by features of horror as my wrist angles back. He is about to yell something as I throw my arm forward but all that leaves his mouth is a loud ‘AAAHHHHHH!!!’ He flies through the air straight towards the mansion, I’ve never attested to my sense of aim but this throw is looking pretty good. He comes closer and closer to the building; I can no longer hear his screams, not due to distance but rather due to the fact that he has gone totally silent, all his breath has been taken away at the terrifying possibilities at what was about to become. He crashes head-first into a window on the top floor and his body disappears inside.

The three of us leap forward landing on the edge of the roof just in front of the mansion and bend our knees to add a little more to our jump before pushing off the structure and gliding straight towards our desired location, entering one at a time through the conveniently broken window on the top floor.

As we slide inside landing on our knees, we find Michael lying sprawled on the floor with his eyes closed. I kneel next to him to check if he is ok. Suddenly a soft whisper exits his lips.

“I would have preferred walking.” As soon as the words drift out he closes his eyes and blacks out.

“I guess we’ll have to come back for him,” I chuckle looking up at my other two friends who are picking themselves from the floor which is covered with glass and other debris from the smashed window. Over to the corner of the attic-like room is a set of stairs leading downwards to the third floor. Caleb points towards it and the three of us make our way down silently. Whoever was down there probably already heard us but you can never be too cautious. As we make our way down we can see the floor below, Caleb crawls to the ground and peaks in.

“No one I can see,” he whispers and motions for us to follow as he stands up and we walk in. The room is totally empty except for a wooden staff in the center of the floor. The staff stands straight up not protruding into the floor but rather is held up by some kind of magical force. Atop the staff is a glowing purple orb. The top of the staff curves around it in a crescent-like shape holding the orb in a hug. The artifact glows purple and as we approach it I can feel an almost death-like sensation flood over my body.

Chapter 6: Mr. Swimtastic

We stare through the glass door looking in every direction possible for any signs of danger.

“Looks clear to me,” Caleb whispers. I slowly open the door and peak out, still nothing. Then putting my right foot out, and my left foot out, I step onto the wet tile floor. I stand there alone, the others inside the door still awaiting my signal. As I’m about to motion to them I stop, there is a shuffling sound to my right. I turn to look and see the lifeguard station collapsed but moving. I motion for everyone to wait as I make my way towards it, floaties and other swim gear piled alongside it covering whatever was causing the movement. I put the sword I’m currently holding back into its sheath and quickly remove the longest one; with this I have the longest reach. I hold it out in front of me; I am now only two and a half steps away from the moving who-knows-what, I reach out with my weapon and using the tips toss some of the debris into the air. I quickly jump back as the unknown lurches towards me revealing itself. I find myself looking straight at a very muscular lifeguard zombie, a pair of swim-trunks covering his lower half with their brand name reading: “Mr. Swimtastic.”

My friends must have noticed my surprise because only a second later and they are by my side weapons at the ready. I hold out my arms to show them everything is ok and they stop to view the oddity in front of me. The man is trapped under a heavy enough object that he cannot get out and simply reaches for us his eyes glazed back in undead blindness, he cannot see only hear; mindlessly he shifts, occasionally kicking his legs in an attempt to remove the wreckage that rests atop him.

“Hm,” we all hum as we watch the creature struggle.

“What should we do with him?” I ask looking around for ideas. Caleb steps forward and reaches into his jacket and pulls out one of several large and well-sharpened knives.

“I got this,” he claims as he raises the knife high above his head reaching out as much as possible to avoid getting too close to the enemy below. When he decides he is at the right spot he lets go of the blade; we watch as it falls towards the monster’s head. There’s a quick clinking noise as his blade lightly grazes Mr. Swimtastic and then his the floor; the zombie, being attracted to sound, quickly throws his head towards the blade and begins to gnash his teeth in its direction trying to get a bite at his would-be attacker.

“Ha! Try again!” Quinn scoffs at Caleb as his friend stares sadly down at his failure.

“Now I can’t get my knife back,” Caleb lightly cries realizing that reaching for that knife would potentially get him bitten which was the last thing he wanted to do. Suddenly we hear a noise; a loud grinding coming that echoed through the room, bouncing off of every wall. The echo kept us from being able to pinpoint the location of the noise but looking around we knew it obviously wasn’t anything in here.

“C’mon,” Ben shouts rushing back towards the changing rooms.

“Wait what about this guy?” Caleb stands pointing at the undead lifeguard. I stop in my rush to follow Quinn and Ben sword raised above my head and slice down quickly lopping off the monster’s neck and everything attached.

“There,” I shout. Caleb bends to pick up his knife while I return to following the other two, just before leaving I grab a towel off the shelf by the changing room door containing hundreds of towels; I grab one and use it to wipe off my blade before tossing it and heading out of the pool room.

We quickly make our way back through the locker room and into the front lobby.

“I’m guessing it came from upstairs,” Ben shout back to us as we run up to the second floor. There’s no need to be quiet now, any undead in the area had to have heard that sound and are going to be focusing on that rather than us.

As we reach the top of the stairwell we find ourselves on the cardio floor offering ellipticals, stationery bikes, treadmills, and other similar equipment. We take a quick look around and see nothing but the equipment.

“It must be the next floor,” Ben states already spinning around and stepping onto the first step. Suddenly we hear it again, a loud grinding noise.

“Is that a blender?” Caleb asked as we rush up the staircase.

We make it to floor number three, the top floor of the building. Inside we see weight-lifting equipment: bars, lifts, and weights all neatly organized throughout the room. We come around the corner and see something at the far end of the room, the smoothie bar. As we come closer we notice movement behind it, then the noise again.

“Gggrrrrrrr,” we all jump in surprise. The sound WAS a blender and someone behind the bar was operating it. We approached weapons drawn and at the ready awaiting any sudden movement. The person moved quickly, too quickly for a zombie; grabbing a banana, pouring a small amount of protein into the blender in front of him, then spinning around to grab some more fruit causing him to find himself staring right into our eyes.


Chapter 4: City of the Dead

“You killed him!” I attempt to hide my shouting under a harsh raspy whisper.

“He rushed me!” Caleb Replies. “Plus don’t you notice?”

“Notice what?”

“There’s no blood,” I slowly look down to view the headless corpse at my feet and realize he’s right, not a drop of blood flows from the body. The head rests face down on the beings back and is still moving in a strange repeating motion. I kick it and it rolls onto the ground. My eyes meet with a horrifying sight as the dull, blank eyes stare back at me and the mouth chomps at me.

“Ahhhh!” I shout jumping back. Caleb drops his knife into its head and it ceases movement. “What the Azorack!”

“It’s undead,” Caleb states emotionlessly and looks up to the rest of the village. “Look.” I tilt my head up and stare in horror to see about a hundred more silently dragging themselves towards us. Caleb and I back away slowly until we find our backs touching the door to the city.

“Hey! What’s going on in there?” Ben’s muffled voice shouts from behind the blockage.

“We figured out why the whole town is so quiet,” I shout in reply looking in every direction for a way out but the truth is that Caleb and I are surrounded.

“Well maybe you could open the door?” Ben shouts back. Oh yeah I totally forgot about that. I look to my left and see a tower stretching up to the top of the wall. Some rops stretched out to the door and a mechanical crank of some kind inside.

“Caleb can you get to the tower?” I ask nervously. But as I turn to look at the rogue he’s already gone. I look the back to the tower where he is already halfway up. I sigh with relief but suck it back in when I look to my front to find the zombies only 10 feet away. I calm my mind and pull out a small booklet from my cloak: my spellbook. I quickly open it up and flip through the nicely organized pages finding the spell I desire.

“Kukaires Nunda!” I say and a wave of invisible energy flies out pushing back the undead and knocking them to the ground. Suddenly the door behind me flies open. Caleb finally made it, and just in time too, the zombies are already picking themselves off the ground. Ben leaps inside and rushes the nearest undead swinging his massive battle axe splitting the monster’s body in half. Michael follows close behind his sword drawn. With every swing of his blade a head flies landing yards away from the rest of the body. A zombie manages its way through the chaos only to receive an arrow to the head by Caleb from the wall. I stand behind by the door and hold out my hand palm-up to a monster.

“Krecootus!” I shout and the creature bursts into hundreds of fleshy bits. I turn to a small group, “Hinobus Ignata!” A fireball leaps from my hand and crashes into the dead igniting them and leaving piles of ashes where they stood within seconds. I take a look around to see the carnage before us yet looking back up the zombies keep on coming. I rush to Ben’s side and narrowly dodge an axe swing as he obliterates the monster in front of him.

“Oh sorry bro, what’s up?” He shouts above the sounds of battle.

“We’re not making a lot of progress!” I shout back. “They keep coming!”

“It’s ok I have plenty more energy!”

“Sure but Caleb will run out of arrows and I’m almost out of Mana!”

“No worries Michael and I can take the rest!”

“But they’re not stopping!”

“Well they have to run out eventually,” Ben slices a zombie in half from the top down and pauses, his axe in the ground, trying to catch his breath. “Alright you’re right I’m getting tired but what can we do?” He picks his axe back up and knocks another zombie to the ground before smashing the head under his weapon.

“There has to be someone or something causing these zombies to spawn!” I explain.

“Alright tell me more!” Ben shouts in exhaustion.

“Ok but we need to take cover!” I look around for somewhere to get away from the dead. About four houses down is a watch tower standing high over the city lined with stone and about six-stories high. Perfect. Michael suddenly appears behind me slowly being pushed back by the onslaught of undead hordes. “Oblitiere,” I shout and three zombies heads implode into nothingness allowing Michael to turn away and look at us.

“What’s the plan?” He asks.

“Follow me!” I shout I’m about to look back to see Caleb’s situation when suddenly an arrow buries itself into a nearby undead, a piece of paper hanging from the shaft. I shout a spell that rips the note from the projectile and lands in my hand.

“Out of arrows, need to move!” the note reads. I look back to see zombies surrounding the structure where Caleb resides. The construction begins to waver as the fiends beat against it. Caleb leaps for the nearest roof and sprints towards us, his arms straight out behind him increasing his aerodynamics.

“Hikux Locasho,” I shout and push a bolt of light out of my hand straight towards the tower where it rests. Caleb sees the spectacle and adjusts his course towards it. “Let’s go!” I yell to my other two companions. I turn to the undead and before my two friends can swing their weapons shout, “Kucaires Pasem!” sending a bolt of high-velocity air straight out pushing the zombies out of the way and creating a perfect pathway to the tower.

Chapter 3: Silent City

It’s been about a week of traveling since we left Quinn-Land and we have yet to see any civilization. We ran out of provisions about three days ago but thankfully Caleb has proven himself an exquisite hunter. We currently are making our way over a hill. As we reach the top our eyes grow wide in excitement. A village! And a large village at that! We feel our bodies rejuvenate with energy as we rush towards the town. Soon we’re at the front gates.

“Hello in there!” Ben shouts yet no one answers. “Wanna let us in?” But still nothing.

“Wait! Do you hear that?” Caleb places his head and hands against the doors and we all go totally silent. A thud can be heard from the other side, then another. I press my hand on the door alongside Caleb and can feel the light vibrations coming from the other side.

“What is that?” I ask confused and a little horrified.

“I don’t know, but we need to find another way inside,” Caleb takes a couple steps back looking up the wall trying to decide on a strategy.

“Michael would you please go around the east-side wall there and Ben could you go around the west and we can see if there’s another way in or a weak point we could take advantage of.” Michael grunts at receiving an order from the convict but complies.

It’s almost an hour before Michael and Ben make it all the way around and return to us.

“What’s the consensus?” Caleb asks them.

“Nothing on my side,” Ben sighs apologetically.

“Michael?” Caleb asks the quiet knight. Michael smiled.

“There’s a stable that reaches all the way up the side of the wall, we could climb up it and drop down inside.”

“Seriously? That’ll be perfect!” Ben shouts excitedly. Caleb nods and Michael leads us towards the stable. Within minutes we reach the rickety wooden horse-housing our gaze rising to the top of the stone wall with the peak of the roof just barely touching the battlement.

“That’s a long climb,” Ben says astonished at how tall the wall suddenly becomes when you realize that you’re going to have to climb it.

“Shouldn’t be too hard,” Caleb says taking off his hood and thrusting his cape out behind him before leaping onto the bottom of the roof in one jump.

“Why does a stable have to be so tall anyways? I mean horses aren’t that tall.” Ben, Michael, and I stare in amazement as Caleb quickly and effortlessly makes his way up the structure.

“So are you guys going up too? I’d feel a lot more comfortable with someone else with him.” I state looking at the other two.

“I’m good, not a big heights fan to be honest,” Ben chuckles.

“Do I look like someone that climbs walls?” Michael sarcastically replies. I roll my eyes and mumble to myself deciding that it’s up to me.

“Volobu!” I shout and begin to float into the air. I reach the top of the wall and call out one further spell, “Dessoru,” causing me to slowly land on the top of the wall.

“And that’s the power of magic,” Ben sings jabbing his elbow into Michaels armor and retracting it in pain. I look back just as Caleb leaps to my side. I turn back to look below us, houses line the cobblestone streets but not a person in sight. I look at my companion with a confused look and he returns it.

“What’s the consensus up there?” I turn to see Ben and Michael intently looking towards us.

“Um, not a whole lot to report on honestly, there’s no one here.” I shout back.

“Well how about the tow of you head over to the front gate and let us inside maybe?”

“Yeah you got it.” I look at Caleb and the two of us leap down to a nearby roof of a small cottage and slide down it onto the ground. We look around each corner and move silently from house to house hiding behind each wall ready for any danger that might be hiding and waiting to pop out at us. Nothing. We make out the door in the distance and notice a figure standing in front of it.

“What is he doing?” I whisper to my companion.

“I think he’s…bumping against the door.”

“Do you think he’s blind?” Caleb doesn’t respond and rather disappears around a corner and reappears a few feet behind the man. Suddenly the figure spins around to face him, as if the professional assassin was as noticeable as an amateur, and starts to rush the rogue. I rush to my friend’s side just as he pulls out his dagger and with a quick sweep of his arm the being drops to the ground and his head, totally separated from the rest of his body follows close behind.

Chapter 2: On the Road

We walked down the dirt path outside of Quinn-Land; interestingly enough that’s literally the name of the town. We had stopped for about an hour in the village to grab supplies before we left, thankfully Quinn had managed to spare us some of his highly protected coin to pay for our general needs on this journey. He didn’t, though, give us enough money to get ourselves some horses which made me more and more annoyed with each tired step I take.

“You know what would be cool?” Ben suddenly chimes up.

“What’s that Ben?” I ask with a huff of exhaustion. Amazingly enough Ben carried a massive bagful of his wares along with us hoping to sell some weapons throughout this travel.

“What if we started a guild?” Ben states excitedly.

“What kind of a guild?”

“Like a mercenary’s guild, we could be soldiers for hire.” I nod lightly at this suggestion thinking it could be an interesting business to venture into.

“I like it,” I smile.

“Yeah? What about you guys?” he turns to Caleb who walks to the right of him and then looks back at Michael who is close behind. Ever since we left Michael has been closely watching and following the rogue keeping his hand on the hilt of his sword ready for Caleb to spring at any moment.

“What kind of money is in it?” Caleb whispers just loud enough for Ben and I to hear.

“Well it depends if we can make a name for ourselves,” Ben chuckles. “In fact if we really get going on this we could start making a reputation for ourselves during this quest.”

Michael clears his throat. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He states simply.

“Oh and why’s that?” Ben muses at the knight’s statement.

“Our mission is to find and capture this Jonathon and return him to lord Quinn, we should not be stopping for any other reason.”

“So you’re telling me that if you saw a child about to be viciously beaten by a plains troll, that you would just walk on by without helping him? Doesn’t seem very knightly of you,” Ben’s smile becomes an evil grin as he plays the part of the devil’s advocate.

“Well…I suppose I would stop in a situation like that…”

“And that’s exactly what I’m saying! Making a name for oneself can be easy and you can easily do it without taking too much time off your current goal.”

“Well I suppose,” Michael grunts.

“If there’s money in it then I’m in,” Caleb smoothly states. I swear I see a small smirk form at the corner of his lips.

“Well honestly I was planning on quitting as Quinn’s wizard anyways, so yeah I’d love to join,” Ben smiles proudly as I say this.

“That’s wonderful!” Ben shouts in happiness and turns back to Michael.

“Well sir knight, you’re the only one who hasn’t said anything yet what would you say to my offer?”

“My duties are with Lord Quinn,” he says dutifully not turning to even look at his addresser.

“Awe c’mon you can’t tell me that ole Quinn and you are that chummy,” Ben laughs.

“I am quite fond of the man,” Michael says not faltering his focus in any way.

“Oh? You say you’re quite fond of him eh?” Ben chuckles and glances in my direction with a wink causing me to burst out laughing.

“Now what is this?” Michael shouts turning towards Ben and I who are now both laughing uncontrollably. Michael stops and an angry frown erupts from his face.

“I’m sure you….and Quinn are just….best of pals,” Ben can barely make out his words between fits of laughter.

“Yes quite good buddies indeed,” I say with a wink followed by Ben and I toppling to the ground in hilarity. Suddenly Caleb himself begins to laugh a deep-throated booming laugh startling us all.

“HA HA HA I’ve changed my mind I definitely want to work with the three of you!” Ben and I pick ourselves up from the ground, this guy might be a little creepy but he doesn’t seem so bad. We continue to laugh at which point even the knight himself has cooled down and gives a little grin.

“I can see this journey being quite entertaining, and if we must stop then let us, but I can’t make any promises on your offer,” Michael says with a smile and continues walking.

“A maybe is good enough for me,” Ben states happily as we catch up to the armor-clad man and walk down the road with a slightly stronger bond than before.

Chapter 1: A Quest for the Best

“Bring me my wizard!” I can hear Quinn shout from the main hall. I sigh with annoyance, my research isn’t finished yet and I know that within seconds he’s going to send one of his knights in here to fetch me and Azorach knows they won’t take no for an answer.

As predicted my door burst open moments later, in steps a knight clad entirely in his armor. Slowly he reaches up and removes his helmet.

“Ah sir Michael,” I greet seeing the familiar face of one of lord Quinn’s most trusted soldiers. “I’m guessing you’re here to fetch me.”

“Yes I uh…” Michael stops in surprise. “You truly do have magic powers.” He states in amazement. I can tell what he’s thinking; he thinks I can predict things before they happen. Sadly, though, that ability does not fall under my range of magical powers.

“Yes well let’s get this over with quickly,” I say grabbing my cloak on the way to the door. Apparently the “master,” as he has so dubbed himself, gets frustrated when I do not wear the cloak that he claims makes me look more “wizard-ish.” I choose only to wear it so as not to be forced to listen to half-an-hour worth of complaining from him about looking more professional in his presence.

“Right this way,” sings the unusually tall knight as if it was part of a script. The man claimed he had giants blood inside of him and thus giving him his excessive increase of height. As he walks his metal armor clanks annoyingly, you might have been able to pick up on it but I really don’t like it here. Too big a place for one man and an army to simply live and rule over people whose needs are not being met. I don’t like being grouped in with this crowd when all I do is work for the man just like everyone else in this kingdom, only difference is that I’m in the same building as he as opposed to the fields or the mines. If it weren’t for the fact that I needed money to buy supplies to continue my research I’d quit.

It’s only moments before we reach the main hall where Quinn paced around looking furious. Behind him sits his gold throne covered in red velvet padding which he hated sitting in. Say what you want about the guy but I can totally relate with not wanting to sit around in a chair all day no matter how comfortable it looked.

“Oh thank Azorach,” Quinn exclaimed as I stand in front of him unenthusiastically awaiting whatever chore he is going to ask me to do.

“What can I do for you sir?” I ask trying to sound as interested as possibly. He takes a deep breath and I prepare for some long explanation, I might as well have put everything away in my study because I can tell this is going to take a while.

“Alright so here’s the thing,” Quinn begins his hands raised to his chest in preparation to gesture about to help emphasize his upcoming story. “You know the kingdom next door?”

“You mean the kingdom of Jordom? The King’s personal favorite and capital of the entire Jaaron region, as well as the primary weapons manufacturer and supplier of our military?” My tone of sarcasm is almost palpable.

“Yes, yes don’t make it sound so pleasant!” Quinn practically shrieks at me. “Anyways, by King Jaaron’s request a prisoner was moved from the kingdom of Jordom and placed under my care, a warlock going by the name Jonathon. Well in an effort to prank us the lord Jordom slipped the evildoer the key to his shackles and thus the warlock escaped our custody the moment he was brought in. Not only that, but he also managed to kill three of my guards and apparently put a curse on the woman who runs the royal clothing shop here in town causing all the clothes she makes to turn to the most awful shade of dull light blue you’ve ever seen.” He paused and noticed the robes I was wearing, the same ones he forces me to wear in his presence, and the color they exhibited: a dull light blue.

He looks back up and stares at me awaiting my reply.

“Well what would my lord wish for me to do?” I ask.

“I want you and a party of people of my choosing to go find him and bring him to me. ALIVE!” He practically jabs me in the eye with his finger as he shouts the last word, enunciating it to make sure it sinks deep within my brain. I roll my eyes, just what I needed a quest.

“Of course my lord,” I try not to sound too unenthusiastic. “When would you like me to get started?”
“Immediately,” he laughs as if it were obvious, he walks away and sits on his throne. “I’m guessing you’re wondering who I will be sending with you.”

“On pins and needles,” I mumble to myself.

“What was that wizard!?” Quinn shouts not quite hearing my complaint.

“Yes I would very much like to know sir,” I reply.

“Good, guards bring in the weapons maker!” The noble shouts to the back of the room where two of his armored soldiers stand on either side of his throne-room’s heavy wooden doors. They each reach towards each other and grab the handles in the center and swing the doors open revealing a dark figure from behind. In walks a short man but with a beard long enough to make up for his lack in stature. He walks confidently in each step a heavy one.

“It’s about damn time,” the man’s voice drips heavily with a gruff Scottish accent, yet quick and cool enough to make one think he must be a salesman.

“Ah Skyler this here is Ben a half-dwarf,” Quinn introduces. The short man bows to me his beard folding over itself as it hit the ground not far below him. “He is a weapons expert,” he continues.

“Any non-magic weapon you could ever want I’ve got it,” my new acquaintance explains with a smile across his face that one could barely make out if it weren’t for his happy tone. “Course you’re a magic user so I suppose that doesn’t do you much good,” the man jokes.

“Well I could always enchant one,” I suggest.

“Yeah? You can do that?” Ben states in surprise as if he’d never heard of such a thing.

“Sure that’s how all magical weapons are made all you need is a wizard or other magic..”

“Alright you two can we get back to the rest of the group before you end up discussing the creation of the galaxy and the meaning of life or whatnot,” Quinn interrupts hoping to bring the conversation back to himself.

“Your next fellow-quester is…well it’s a little awkward to explain.” Ben and I look at each other confused. Suddenly Michael and another knight enter the room holding a man bound by ropes wearing a hooded cape and mask. “This is Caleb a rogue who recently tried to steal from me and in the process managed to take out six of my guards.”

The man did not struggle but the two knights were very rough with him as they pushed him closer to the front of the room obviously unhappy with the fact they he killed six of their friends.

“Are you sure this is a good idea my-lord?” Ben asks and I nod in agreement. “Are you sure we can handle a convict?”

“Of course!” Quinn laughs as if it were a joke. “Let me tell you how our government system works boys. We lords have three things in this world: money, power, and people who want to take one of those two things from us. These people, once we manage to catch them, typically have a skill they are quite good at, otherwise they are dead by the time we catch them, these are useful skills that we want SO what we do is pay them to use that skill FOR us rather than AGAINST us.” The noble smiles as Ben and I look at each other slightly disturbed at what’s been going on in our politics inner-workings.

“Just watch,” Quinn turns towards his knights. “Michael would you please untie my new friend,” he smiles holding his hand out to the masked figure. Michael angrily pulls out his sword; the criminal does not flinch, and swings down slicing the rope from the man’s body. Suddenly the man, now freed, spins around and disarms Michael taking the knight’s sword for himself. The mystery man quickly kicks Michael to the ground before the knight can even look up leaving him unable to pick himself off the floor due to the heavy armor surrounding his body. The man turns to us and looks as if to jump towards Quinn, I prepare my staff and Ben pulls a mini-cannon from somewhere on his person aiming it at the assailant.

“Woah, Woah, Woah,” Quinn laughs nervously holding up his hands to assure us there was nothing wrong. “Caleb come here,” he motions to the man who walks silently to Quinn’s side. “This is Caleb he is a dark elf who has abandoned the rest of his race to become a mercenary assassin and a thief. I planned out this whole show as a way to impress you but I can assure you there is no need to worry he is completely loyal to me.” Suddenly the sword in the newcomer’s hand is at Quinn’s throat.

“I want you to get one things clear, I am not loyal to you or any other man but myself. I do this job for you simply for the money, got it!” The man’s voice flows smoothly from his mouth, his tongue giving the slightest hiss as he spoke.

“Well I’ll keep that in mind,” Quinn laughed nervously as he cautiously reached up and moved the sword from his neck. Michael was just able to pick himself up off the ground and glared angrily in Caleb’s direction.

“Will this be all m’lord?” Ben asks with a bow.

“Actually I have one more companion I’d like you to bring along,” the noble turns to his knights his hand outstretched towards them. “My captain of the guard Michael,” The knight immediately comes to attention and salutes.

“If I may ask m’lord, wouldn’t it be an unwise decision to let me go with them and leave your lordship unprotected.” Michael stammers as he tries to convince the man to let him stay.

“No, no, no,” Quinn assures. “I will be fine I can protect myself.” I stifle a laugh but a high-pitched cough manages to escape. Quinn shoots me a glare. He motions for Michael to step down and join us in front of him.

“Alright you four,” I realize Quinn is going to give us a sending-off speech and I roll my eyes. “It’s glad to know that even though there are men out there who want to see me dead and take my power from me, that I still have you four good friends to count on. Now go forth and complete this quest and I assure you that you will all return rich men!” Suddenly Quinn’s voice falls to a mumble, “if you make it back at all.”

“Wait what did you say?” But my voice was drowned out as Quinn’s guards hustled us out of the lord’s home.

“May Azorach go with you!” Quinn shouts after us as the big oak doors close behind us.

Chapter 5: The Ladies Changing Room

As we cruised through downtown making our way towards the gym where we hoped our missing friend was hiding out. Quinn lay at Ben and my feet as we rock back and forth to Caleb’s crazy driving. Quinn continued to whine but all we were focused on was the road. Suddenly an idea jumped into my head, I reached forward and hit the power button on the radio and on popped a familiar sound: music. Thankfully the radio stations hadn’t quite gone down yet. We all smiled as the music played on, and chuckled when each song ended and there was awkward dead time where the host was supposed to be inserted.

It wasn’t too long before we reached the gym which was pleasantly empty aside from a handful of cars making it easy for us to find the perfect parking spot. As we neared the front door we saw it, Michael’s car; the silver one with both back handles broken off. He claimed it was because he was just too strong for his own good, we really didn’t care. All of our hopes sprang up when we saw the evidence of Michael’s locale.

Parking the car we paused for 3 minutes looking intently out of each window to make sure nothing was coming, and by nothing I mean zombies. The time passed slowly and to be totally honest I started to get bored.

“Can we go now?” I huffed, sitting back in my seat. Ben slowly leaned back not for a second taking his focus from the window he was looking out.

“Yeah let’s go,” he replied but his mind was in another place. I slowly, and as quietly as possible, opened the door attempting to silence the click as I pulled the handle. It slowly swung open and I stepped out one foot at a time looking both ways as I did and pulling my sword out my short sword a little ways just in case. Nothing, I set the rest of myself on the ground and took three steps forward giving Ben some room to exit. Caleb crept out the front door and pointed his handgun out in case of danger while Quinn grunted as he sat up shotguns hanging by his sides and his hands in his armpits attempting to massage the pain away.

“Ow,” he cried as he pushed himself out of the vehicle. We all turned around and shushed him then quickly returned our focus to the matter at hand. The door was about 10 feet away, automatic doors that should still work, it was too soon for all electricity to have gone out. Sure enough they did and we entered the gym.

The first floor contained the information desk where one could set up their subscription to the gym and work out any other information. Behind that was stairs to get to the rest of the buildings floors; the gym didn’t offer elevators for the sole reason that stairs are better exercise, a clever concept I suppose. Behind the stairs was a brick wall with two open hallways leading left and right; the right one was for the ladies changing room, and the left for the guys because behind that brick wall was the pool.

“What’s the plan?” Caleb asks us as we find ourselves all standing in front of the info desk looking around as if expecting something bad to happen.

“It’s really quiet in here,” Quinn notes still holding his pits but based on his look of amazement it would seem that his pain has since subsided a little.

“Alright here’s what we’ll do..” Ben starts.

“I swear if you think we’re splitting up here and now…” I mutter.

“No no you’re right no splitting up,” Ben assures and we all sigh with relief. There are four floors in all counting the basement which would mean each of us would have to take one and I was definitely not planning on doing that.

“We’ll just take one floor at a time starting here, if anyone hears or see anything do NOT refrain from letting the rest of the group know it could mean life or death.” We all nod in agreement as Ben finishes his speech.

“Oh and one more thing,” he adds as we’re about to turn away. We all look at him intently knowing that whatever words come out of his mouth could lead to the success of this mission. “Be Quiet!” Again we nod and slowly start making our way towards the pool entrance.

“You go first,” Ben whispers motioning to me, causing my heart to leap into my throat.

“Why do I have to go first?” I complain trying to be as quiet as possible in concurrence with Ben’s recently made rule.

“Because you decided to be Mr. Melee and thus have the quietest weapons of us all, if anything comes out of there I don’t want to have to alert anything else around whilst killing it.” It was a valid point and I had no choice but to agree. We slowly made our way towards the wall and I began removing my shortest sword from its sheath, I started o slowly veer to the right but when I looked behind me the other guys were heading left paying no mind to the direction I was subtly moving towards.

“Guys where are you going?” I whisper rather loudly. They turn towards me and start looking around as if confused.

“Well, I mean it’s the guys’ changing room, it’s just habit.” Caleb states matter-of-factly.

“Dude everyone is gone, it’s our big chance to get to go into the girls’ changing room!”

“Yeah but if there’s no girls around here then what’s the point?” Quinn states.

“He makes a good point,” Caleb nods.

“Plus,” Ben starts to add. “Even if there are girls in there they’re probably zombies and I don’t think I wanna see a naked zombie chick to be totally honest.”

“Yeah but I mean it’s worth a shot right?” I ask practically begging for the chance to go inside. “Plus I hear they deck out the girls’ section really well.”

“What do you mean?” Caleb asks. By this point everyone is standing around without a care in the world simply having a conversation as if the world wasn’t ending.

“Like they put nice couches and stuff in them, I don’t know but I WANT to know!” I look around pleading with the others to join me.

“I mean maybe we find some nice smelling shampoo or something,” Quinn chimes in. We all turn to look at him our eyes sending judgment glares his way.

“What the heck, why not,” Ben finally agrees and the rest of the group faces my way. I slowly make my way inside my back against the wall being as sneaky and cautious as possible. I look around the corner; inside are the typical toilet stalls, shower heads, etc all looking just like the guys’ shower room. A mirror sits on the wall directly across from the stalls just above a row of sinks, all the stall doors are conveniently open and thanks to the reflection in the mirror I can see that they are all empty. I stretch my neck to see if there is any other notable detail before proceeding; nothing, no fancy couches or complimentary packets of makeup and conditioner, just a typical changing room.

“Well this is disappointing,” I sigh depressively as I pull away from the wall and walk straight in lowering my sword to waist-height. The others follow, each dropping a hint of their guard as they get a better look inside. We walk through quickly realizing there’s nothing special here and, at the end of the room and around another corner, we find the glass door leading into the pool.