Will’s purple penitent was half-way across the chasm when the rickety rope bridge finally snapped.
His heart jumped at the whip crack noise, and fell with the misshapen man-thing as it plummeted to its death in the fetid reddish mist filling the depths beneath them.
He’d misjudged the weight, damn it. He’d left one of the packs on the poor brute. The pack with a goodly portion of the camping supplies. Not to mention about 2/3 of his rations and a decently sized pouch of gold.
Will put his face in his hands and swore softly, repeatedly. He rubbed his face, feeling the stubble on his cheeks and chin. The penitent had been carrying his razor too.
He didn’t much like mistreating the brutes, mostly because he hated being one, but he supposed that was part of the system that made them so effective. If he died on this run, again, he was sure to recast as a penitent, doomed to serve another dungeoneer until such time as he either perished or earned enough karma points for his suffering to get recast as another dungeoneer.
He sat back on his heels. The sky was darkening fast, and it would be night sooner than not. What passed for hills in this blasted landscape cast ever deepening shadows, and the light of the world–he refused to call it a sun, because it wasn’t, blast it–hung low in the western sky.
Virtually none of the vegetation in the Perinkoth Crater region were useful. They were all scrub brush and gnarly, hardy sages. At least with the lowering of the Orb the heat would abate some.
Over the southern rim of the blast zone he could make out the Tower. His goal. Other dungeoneers he’d talked to often said that Perinkoth was a crappy and generally unreliable way to try and reach the end, but in Will’s mind it sure beat lots of the alternatives. His last mortal life he’d tried to cross the Cheninborg Bog. That hadn’t ended well. He shuddered at the parade of penitent cycles he’d gone through after that debacle. He’d been stuck with Roger the Red on one of those, and at this point he was pretty sure Roger wasn’t playing to win.
Will was. He wanted out. He needed out. The endless cycle of building karma, trying your luck, failing, and suffering under the cruel hands of his fellows grated on his soul. He had to make it this time. He had to.
So, the tower. He’d never been closer than now, not in any of his incarnations as a dungeoneer. This was the first time he’d tried a thief, though. Normally he went with a ranger or a fighter. Being a magic-user had been a terrible experience, but he’d heard of other dungeoneers who’d had great success that way. And no one ever played a cleric.
His goal might be within reach in a few days, depending on how many more of these chasms there were, and if he could cross with some more rope…
No, the blasted purple monster had his rope too. Shit!
He peered down into the chasm and caught his breath. Maybe all was not lost. The penitent lay on a miraculous outcropping of stone, barely obscured by the red mist. It didn’t appear to be eating the body, or it didn’t seem to be doing so from this distance. The lout was obviously dead, though. A body didn’t live with a head that deformed by impact.
“Sorry, whoever you were,” he muttered. Dungeoneers never knew who the penitents they bought were, and they were too dull to be able to tell their temporary masters their identity. It was a small mercy, he supposed. It kept truly vicious people from picking on specific fellows, though it didn’t stop the generic cruelty that made up life in the Dungeonworld.
As a thief, Will had a decent chance of scaling down to where his penitent’s corpse lay. He might be able to recover some of his gear and press onward. It looked to him like there might be another outcropping on the opposite wall that he might jump to. Maybe.
He glared once more at the Tower. In this light the imposing edifice was but a black, crooked finger silhouetted in the darkening sky. Lights were visible along its height, but he’d never seen them as more than pinpricks.
He would make it this time…
Will went over his remaining belongings and checked every strap of his armor and packs, made sure every piece of gear he had was firmly tied or hooked in place. He pulled his fingerless gloves tight, tugging on the straps once more. He moved a bag of climber’s chalk to the front of his belt and crawled out over the edge of the precipice.
His stomach threatened to void its contents as he swung out, but he kept it to a brief hiccup. His hands found cracks in the rock wall and his feet seemed to know where to go. Slowly, carefully, he descended the chasm wall.
The descent proved far easier that he’d anticipated. He felt very good about his choices. This might even be easy. At three fourths of the way to the penitent’s shelf the rock under his foot gave out with a splintering crack as it disintegrated into gravel. His right foot came free. His left hand slipped, then his left foot!
Will’s body slapped into the rock wall, and the fingers of his right hand screamed their protest. His grunt of agony seemed to bounce off the mist and mingle with it. He stared down at his impending doom and quailed when he saw the mist move, an eddy stirring its surface as though something moved underneath. Was there something down there?
Crap! No one had ever said there were things dwelling in the freaking chasm mists!
But then if they all died, who would be around to tell any other stupid dungeoneers about the danger?
He scrambled for a foothold, handhold, anything. There was no way he was going to fail, not this time, not again.
He had to make it to the end.
He had to kill the Dungeon Master.
This one came from my last dream before waking up this morning. I’m not entirely sure where it goes, but it might be an entertaining fantasy spoof.
Part of this should be the mystery of why these “dungeoneers” are here, what they’re doing. Will, who was intentionally named after Mr. Wheaton, and in some corner of my mind looks a little like him too, obviously has a goal.
I should write more of this, I think.