151 Depths of the Dungeon
Max had been in the middle of throwing another beast carcase back down the tunnel when a loud explosion rang out behind him. There had been several gunshots and explosions, but this one seemed different. It wasn't long before he knew why.
The beasts that had been throwing themselves at him in a maddened frenzy suddenly stopped. Through his ability to sense their minds he could feel a sudden emptiness, a loss of something. He quickly realized that the beasts had been set free from one part of whatever had controlled them. The other part however, the part that inflicted pain, was still there.
In the absence of a controlling force, the beasts simply collapsed on the ground, whimpering and groaning from the pain still affecting their mind.
Max turned and ran down the tunnel to the room where Zoey and Viridi had been fighting to see what had happened. Despite his confidence that Zoey would win, he was still concerned for her safety.
When he got to the room, he saw the collapsed carcass of the corrupted creature slumped in the center. Beyond it was Zoey lying on the ground and Viridi sitting up next to her. He quickly dashed over to them and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that they were okay.
Zoey looked a little tired to him, he could tell even if he could not see her face. The edges of her clothing were tattered from the fight she had been in. As strong as she was, the fight had taken a lot out of her. He promised himself to make sure she got some rest once they were out of this place.
"The beasts are still in pain, but they are no longer being controlled," he said to her as he looked back at the tunnel.
"Right," Zoey said as she got to her feet. "Let's clean up this mess, then we'll finish it."
Max followed Zoey as she approached the corrupted creature's body to retrieve the essence stone. The black tar-like substance in and around it smelled horrible, making him hold his breath and wrinkle his nose.
He watched attentively as Zoey collected the essence stone, then with Viridi's help, constructed a strange magical array that she then used to cleanse the corrupted energy from the area. Max knew she was using the power from her Arbiter's Mark, the pure white energy completely cleansing the area thoroughly.
Once they were done and the area was clean, they proceeded onwards deeper into the dungeon. Even though they had killed the corrupted creature, there was still a foul energy worming its way through the dungeon. Max could only vaguely sense this through the beasts, but Zoey seemed to know exactly where it was coming from.
They continued deeper and deeper, the air growing thicker and fouler the further they went. Max was starting to get a little worried as he could see Viridi's fur was standing on edge as if she sensed something. Zoey as well seemed on edge, her breathing was getting shallower as if she was under some sort of strain.
Before he could voice his concern they arrived at their destination.
They had reached the depths of the dungeon.
Zoey did not like this.
She was on edge, and she didn't know why. There was this indescribable feeling in the air that was making her skin crawl and her hair stand on edge. Not only her, Viridi was also sensing it through their link, although Max seemed unaffected.
Whatever it was, they were getting close, but she did not like the feeling one bit. It was like the taste of brimstone in the back of her throat, sticking there and refusing to go away. It seemed familiar and yet alien at the same time, but she knew it was not a good thing, whatever it was.
When they finally reached their destination, they found themselves at the end of a long tunnel before a set of huge metal doors. It took all three of them putting their strength to it to get it to even budge. They managed to force it open wide enough for them to squeeze through, then they entered the room.
They found themselves in a dome-shaped cavern steeped in the miasma and fog that was so prevalent throughout the dungeon. The strange sensation Zoey and Viridi felt grew even stronger, setting them both on edge as they looked around for the source.
They didn't have to look far.
In the center of the room was something that could only be described as a gateway to hell. What they saw seemed to be some kind of portal, a circle suspended in mid-air from which a foul substance was pouring out of into a pool below it. The substance was very similar to the tar-like insides of the corrupted creature, although this was more potent, with its foul stench seeming to invade every breath.
The portal was the thing that was setting Zoey and Viridi on edge. That strange sense of familiar yet alien was stronger than ever, and yet she could not identify what it was that made her feel that way. There seemed to be a presence on the other side of the portal, an ancient, evil presence. From it Zoey could feel only the need to consume, to destroy, to corrupt...
For a terrifying moment she thought it may have to do with the enemy that had destroyed her old universe, but she quickly dismissed that thought. If it were the enemy she would know by now. She would never forget the sensation of the enemy, but there was no denying that there was some similarity here.
Looking around, Zoey could see that the suspended portal seem to be linked to a crystalline orb on a pedestal set just outside the pool of corrupted fluid. The orb hummed with power, and Zoey felt that it was somehow connected to everything around her. She reasoned that this orb must be the dungeon core that Athena had mentioned to her once before.
If what Athena had said was correct, taking the dungeon core should cause the dungeon to collapse completely, and that would put an end to this mess once and for all.
A stranger's voice caused the three of them jump and spin around. When they turned, Zoey was surprised to see someone that she hadn't seen in a quite a while.
The goddess Sethrii was standing there behind them.
She was not dressed in her customary black silk gown, but in obsidian battle armor that gleamed with a dull sheen in the darkness. On her hip was a sword of the same obsidian as her armor, and Zoey could sense it's divine power even from where she stood.
Sethrii's rose colored eyes were filled with anger, different from what Zoey had ever seen from her before. The goddess was clearly upset, and the only question was why.
Zoey and Viridi didn't really react too much to the goddess's appearance, but Max had never seen her before and had taken a defensive stance in front of Zoey after he had realized someone had snuck up on them. The situation had him confused especially since this woman had called Zoey by name.
Sethrii however ignored him and looked past them at the portal, narrowing her eyes dangerously as she took in the sight. She suddenly raised her hand and snapped her fingers. Following that, the portal behind them snapped closed with a crack that rang through the room.
Zoey felt near immediate relief after the portal closed, the strange sensation and tension she had felt seem to just disappear. Whatever had been behind that portal was now gone. Then Sethrii took a deep breath and looked back to Zoey, her almond-shaped, rose colored eyes losing her anger and regaining a thoughtful look.
She was met with a questioning look. Zoey had no idea why she had suddenly appeared here of all places.
"It's been awhile," Zoey said questioningly to the other woman.
Sethrii chuckled as she summoned a table and some chairs with a wave of her hand. She motioned for them to have a seat has she took one of the chairs herself. After some hesitation, Max followed Zoey sat at the table while Viridi laid down behind them.
Once they were seated, the goddess looked at them with a smile.
"I bet you're wondering why I'm here."