68 Creepy Crawlies
Before the standoff lasted any longer, Athena went into action. She swung her staff with incredible speed dragging it across the ground and throwing up a sand screen in the faces of everyone around them. Zoey felt a moment of vertigo and displacement before she realized she was suddenly standing right in front the dungeon portal looking back at all the mercs and adventurers who were still reacting to the cloud of sand Athena had kicked up.
"As much as I'd love playing with you all, there a more important things to do. Later!" Athena's voice threw everyone into confusion as they realized that she wasn't where she was before.
The three leaders were first to recover and realize what had happened, but by then Athena had pulled Zoey through the portal and into the dungeon, leaving behind absolute chaos in their wake. Athena and Zoey appeared inside the dungeon a moment later as they stepped from the portal. Viridi popped her head out from under Zoey's hood as she sniffed the air, curious to where they were.
Zoey removed her mask as she glanced at Athena. How fast had she been moving when she grabbed Zoey? Zoey had activated her Dark Star Vision the instant Athena had acted, but she still had not seen Athena's movement at all when they moved to the portal. It was either faster than ZOey could comprehend, or some form of teleportation. Zoey was not sure which. With a sigh, she put those thoughts away an turned her attention to their new location.
In stark contrast to the first dungeon that Zoey had gone through, this one was not closed in caves. Instead, it was a vast, empty, featureless plain that stretched off into the distance. The sky was grey and cold, with not a speck of cloud to be seen. As they trio cautiously looked around the found absolutely nothing in the vicinity of the entrance portal.
"Over there," Athena said as she pointed off into the distance.
When Zoey looked she could faintly see a vertical black line stretching from the horizon to the sky, so faint you could barely see it.
"That must be the goal. Where are the others that made it into the dungeon?" Zoey asked as she glanced at Athena.
The other woman shrugged, "This might be a dungeon that separates the people that enter unless they are physically touching like we were... Or we were put into a random spot away from the others?"
Neither of them had the answer at the moment, so they simply headed towards the only visible goal, the black line on the horizon.
They walked for hours with nothing to see around them. No enemies attacked and no landscape changes were seen as they walked. The scenery was as dull as ever and the line on the horizon may have gotten clearer, but it also could be a trick of their imagination. To alleviate the boredom, Zoey discretely produced a ball with her Aether Engineer talent and started playing catch with Viridi. Soon enough Athena joined in and they were laughing and playing as they made their way through the empty plain.
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Several hours later, something finally happened. A timer appeared in the air in front of them. A timer that was counting down second by second starting from ten. Athena and Zoey looked at each other, then prepared themselves for whatever would happen. Zoey sent Viridi in to the sky to watch over them as the timer ticked down to one, then zero.
As the timer disappeared Zoey and Athena heard something shriek behind them. When they looked back the way they came, their eyes widened in unison as they saw insect centipedes flowing towards them across the ground like an obscene, living tide. There were thousands of them, and each was over a meter long with hundreds of legs and large drooling mandibles clamping and clashing as they made their was towards their prey hissing and shrieking.
"I hate centipedes!" Athena shouted as she glared at the wriggling mass approaching them.
"Yup!" Zoey echoed the feeling, "We need to move."
Despite their revulsion and distraction, they both knew that they could not fight the centipedes head on or they would simply be buried by the sheer number of them. They had to move and draw this out into a running battle. Both of them realized this and they started to run towards the black line on the horizon as the centipede tide approached.
Athena readied her staff as the insects drew closer and Zoey applied her Dark Star Control to her knife as they ran. They could outrun the insects, but that would only tire them out, and who knows what else was waiting out here to finish them off. They needed to keep moving and still cause damage at the same time. The opening shot however, was taken by Viridi in the sky. At Zoey's command she started sending Shadow Blades and Ice Venom at the thickest concentration of centipedes she could see in the insect tide. Shrieks and hisses filled the air as Viridi's strikes hit the insects, leaving many dead and even more too crippled to run.
Shortly after, Athena began to eliminate the centipedes that caught up to her with precise strikes from her staff that left behind crushed carapace, dead centipedes, and oozing puddles of black blood. Even while running she showed absolute control with her staff and amazing balance and grace as she shifted her weight with her strikes. Her form reminded Zoey of a warrior queen as she struck with devastating grace and never missed a stride as she did.
Zoey had it comparatively easy. She simply waved her left hand in swift, short motions as she ran, and her combat knife whistled through the air, following her motions like a diving falcon. Every hand motion claimed the head of a centipede, the knife puncturing clean through carapace covered heads with ruthless precision. Zoey didn't have to even come close to the gross insects as she killed them, and that was fine with her.