31 The First Trial
As Zoey descended down the stairs the amount of glowing moss increased. By the time she reached the bottom the entire area was dimly lit by the bioluminescence. Since her body had been improved significantly on the trip to this universe, her eyes could easily make out the area ahead even in the dim light. Scanning the area Zoey was able to see a large open cave area that widened and stretched into the distance. Stalactites hung from the ceiling like sharp teeth and stalagmites rose from the floor of the cave looking like the uneven teeth of a prehistoric beast. The bioluminescent moss was growing everywhere in the cave, giving the entire area an uncanny glow. The air was humid and smelled of limestone, but she couldn't detect any trace of poison in the air.
Once she had made certain that the immediate area was safe, she progressed into the cave. There were traces of others having passed through this cave before her, so all she had to do was follow the traces deeper into the cave. She was not sure what creatures she would encounter or what traps were waiting for her, but she would remain alert. As she moved along all she could hear was the dripping of moisture from the ceiling of the cave.
Before long she found her first evidence of activity. She had stopped at the edge of a steep incline that dropped down into an arena of sorts. The arena was a mess from what seemed to be a large amount of previous battles. The floor was scarred and torn from spells and attacks that previous challengers had left behind. Around the perimeter of the arena she could see the bones of countless dead humanoid creatures. She was unable to determine the species, but the majority were not human. Although she could see some human and Vekt remains among the bones, the vast majority seemed to be a deformed humanoid variety. The human and Vekt remains were likely the previous challengers that did not make it through, and the rest were probably part of the test seeing the large amount. Zoey wondered if the test would still activate if she entered the arena seeing how long it had been since any challengers had come through here.
Not willing to just stand around, she stepped onto the incline and gracefully slid her way into the arena, lightly leaping the last few meters to clear the remains piled on the outer edge. The moment her feet touched the floor of the arena, there was a sudden surge of magical energy that pulsed through the area like the heartbeat of some gigantic beast. The magic pulse grew faster and faster as Zoey made her way to the center of the arena, building up to a crescendo. Finally, there was an audible crack, and Zoey witnessed a portal very similar to the one that brought her here open at the opposite end of the arena from where she entered.
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She readied herself, bringing up her 9mm custom and her knife and aiming her sights at the portal. The magic pulsing disappeared and there was a moment of tense silence. Then the portal rippled and something came through screaming like a demon. At first glance the screaming humanoid creature was green, ugly, and fit into the description that Zoey once heard on Gaia of a goblin. It was covered in filth and completely nude, with an elongated head and a long, wide mouth filled with sharp looking teeth. It was not very tall, around a meter, and had gangly arms that carried a club that was covered in who knows what manner of filth and dried blood.
The goblin only took a second to spot Zoey and immediately charged at her with another scream, running as fast as its legs would allow, its red eyes glowing with mad rage. Zoey grimaced in disgust and squeezed the trigger of her 9mm. The magic slug left the barrel with a supersonic crack and vaporized the goblin's head. Carried by its momentum, the body tumbled to the ground and slid a few meters closer to Zoey, leaving behind a streak of blood on the ground. The corpse twitched a few times, then lay still. Zoey wrinkled her nose at the putrid smell that came off the goblin. it was not a pleasant smell at all.
She returned her attention back to the portal to find its surface rippling again, signaling more visitors. The second goblin to come through screaming did not anticipate a magical slug would be waiting for it the instant it stepped through the portal. It never even saw what killed it. Then they began coming through the portal nonstop in a hellish choir of screams, their red eyes locking onto Zoey, and then sprinting at her screaming the whole time.
Zoey kept her mind calm and her aim steady. Her sights moved from target to target, placing a single shot for each. Every crack of her 9mm silenced a screaming goblin, dropping the twitching corpses to the bloody floor. There was a distance of about fifteen meters between her and the portal, and not a single goblin made it past the ten meter mark alive.
After she fired twenty slugs at the oncoming goblin horde, she smoothly swapped magazines and continued firing with practiced ease. After twenty more shots she did the same with barely a lul in firing. By this point the forty plus goblin corpses littered the ground between her and the portal causing the ones that came through to slip and fall over the bloody bodies strewn about. This gave Zoey more time to aim and shoot, and allowed her to refill her spent magazines while she was at it. It was simple for her to refill the magic in the magazines while she kept steadily killing the screaming creatures.
When the portal stopped spitting out goblins, she had lost count how many she had killed. The arena floor ran red with blood and the countless bodies lay piled over a meter high in some places where they had climbed over each other to try and reach her. She calmly reloaded her magazines and made sure her handgun was still in good shape. Just as she finished, the portal disappeared. Then the piled high goblin corpses began suddenly to dissolve into a grey mass of particles that formed into a cloud hovering in the arena as the bodies decayed. It smelled like burnt flesh and Zoey had to cover her nose to ward off the smell.
Then, the strange particle cloud began to swirl and churn, eventually coalescing into a solid box like shape at the far end of the arena, leaving behind only the bones of the goblins she had killed. Looking closer, the particles had somehow formed into a chest of some find. How typical of a dungeon. At the far end of the room past the chest, a part of the arena wall moved aside with a groan, revealing the stairs to the area below.
She had passed the first trial!