Ten Years Earlier
I had led them to their deaths, and their screams echoed back up the tunnel to me.
They weren’t evil people, or even particularly bad ones…just immensely stupid, and wealthy enough to hire me to be stupid with them. Unfortunately for them, the chthonic monstrosity that rose out of the pit back up the tunnel wasn’t impressed with either their status or wealth. Judging from their cries, it was more interested in eating them alive.
They were just going to have to get eaten without me, since my price for being stupid had suddenly inflated when the monster attacked.
Besides, at the moment I had problems of my own.
I couldn’t see a thing in the blackness, and fumbled in frantic desperation for the little bottle of Alchemists Fire that I kept on a string around my neck for just such an emergency. It threatened to slip out of my hand due to all the blood running down from my shoulder. I had picked this passage because I remembered the map saying it ended in a dead end, which meant the odds of encountering something nasty in it would be lower and I would only have to face a threat from one direction. Just my luck, the odds in this case didn’t play out the way I had hoped.
The thing that had come out of that hole in the wall and bit my shoulder, causing me to lose my lantern, still squirmed under my boot. I hadn’t got much of a look at it—just enough to know I had stumbled across my own man-eating beast to contend with.
I needed to get some light fast, before it managed to free itself.
Even injured, the nasty thing was strong and I knew I could only keep it pinned a few more seconds. And if I didn’t have a light to fight by when it did…
“Mr. Noble!” I yelled back down the tunnel, trying to be heard over the screams of the dying. “If you’re still alive, and not too busy, I could use a hand here!” I didn’t have time to say more as the thing jerked free from under my boot, just as I managed to put the droplets from my little belt flask into the bottle.
Yep. Time to move.
I leaped forward into the darkness, curling around the bottle and flask to protect them as the two reagents mixed, and rolled on the stone floor. Red light flared under my chin, the reaction of the ingredients mixing…and when I came to my feet against the back wall, it was with a glowing flare of brilliance hanging from around my neck. The fact it was so bright meant I used too much stuff from the flask, and that the light wouldn’t last as long, but I had bigger worries in front of me.
The reptilian horror extended from a large hole in the wall that was situated near the tunnel floor. It featured a whitish crocodilian head situated on the end of a body like an armored albino snake. Whether that was really its body, or a very long neck, was impossible to tell with the rest of thing inside the hole. But enough shared the room with me for it to actually rear higher than my own head, its jaws agape in the crimson glow. My dagger protruded from the creature’s side, about a foot down from its head, where I had driven it when it first came out of the wall and bit me.
It didn’t look very happy with me about that.
“Oh Mr. Nooooobllllee!” I pulled the smaller backup dagger I kept in my sleeve. I had nowhere to retreat, being cut off from the way I came by the serpentine beast.