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Rated: 18+ · Novel · Fantasy · #2316596
After the fight with the Dread Spider, a new enemy appears.

He was not ready for those two big red dots. They were dots on a map, but they represent real live adversaries. He just didn't know what they were.

The lofty, dimly lit tunnel ended in a larger, darker, cavernous chamber. The declivity was steep, five heads lower than the tunnel. Several large boulders had fallen from the high ceiling, creating a perimeter of rocks around the chamber's floor. Carter, Arista, Seth, Corin, and Hammy descended slowly from the tunnel, holding on to rocks jutting out the cliff's wall. Landing on the floor, they hid behind one of the more enormous boulders.

Carter sent his circular light flying forward several dozen heads high and told it to get brighter.

With the chamber lit up, the perceived size expanded and was now twice as big as the other cavern they fell into. Light permeated the far side, joining in with the bio-luminescent flowers to illuminate two giant red sacks that appeared on the cliff's wall. The sacks were rutted with dark veins and were fifty heads tall. It could have been the diffused light, but Carter could swear the insides of the sacks were moving.

"What are those?" asked Hammy as she pointed to the sacks. She looked over towards all-knowing brainiac Seth.

Seth threw her hands up and said, "Not sure. I've never seen anything like that before. It's almost as if it's alive."

"Smarty doesn't know what they are?" said Corin as she started to panic.

Carter didn't know what they were either. Was it the spider's home? Are there more giant spiders living in there?

"Not going to wait to find out," said Carter as he cautiously walked around the large boulder and started heading toward the red dots.

"My map showed it as an enemy, so let's burn it down," said Carter with a smirk.

The women watched Carter leave with consternation. They didn't know what Carter was going to do. A low hum came from the two red sacks as he drew closer.

Carter lifted his hand, and a fireball started to grow. The moving flame covered Carter in an eerie glow as its tendril dissipated into the murky dark.

"Fire Magic?" said Seth as she looked at Arista.

"Healing and fire magic together, that's rare," added Seth.

Carter didn't care if it was rare; he just did it.

He had to be careful; his mana was running low with all the previous healing magic he used. He decided he would stop the Fireball spell when his head became dizzy.

The area around Carter lit up brightly, showing the chamber's floor covered in friable skeletons that crumbled under his feet and treasure in the form of coins. He stopped walking, thinking that he was close enough to his target.

"Um, have you ever seen a fireball that size before?" asked Corin with a look of concern.

"I've never seen a fireball spell before. Is that too big?" asked Arista. The size was about the size of the boulder they were hiding behind.

Corin held her hands about a head apart and said, "That's the largest I've ever seen."

"Wicked," said Seth as she peered around the boulder.

"Not 'wicked'. It's going to take this whole cavern down!" said Corin as she placed her back against the boulder and kneeled.

The cave pressure pulsated, followed by a loud ripping sound from the crimson sacks as they burst open.

"The sacks are opening up! They're spiders!" yelled Arista. The floating light reflected off the little bodies of thousands of emerging red spiders.

Carter couldn't hold the fireball anymore and released it toward the red sacks on the wall. He watched it fly across the cavern like a proud daddy who had just given birth.

Arista grabbed Seth and Hammy and pulled them behind the boulder beside Corin, who was already bracing and praying to Nature. As Arista covered her head, she screamed towards Carter, "Take cover, you idiot!"

The explosion shook the whole chamber, sending a tempest of debris and breakdown flying everywhere. The women held their heads down, protecting their fragile lives. Her ears rang with the crashing of stone, yet Arista thought she heard Carter yelling in a comedic Doppler effect as he flew overhead. Little rocks and burning-mashed spider guts dropped from the sky.

The blast hit Carter hard, lifting him off his feet and forcing him to flap his arms as he flew backward. He landed seventy heads back into the tunnel and became covered in two heads of dirt and rubble. The women fared better as the boulder took most of the fireball's explosion.

He started coughing, and dirt and spider guts flew out of his mouth. He sat up and wiped what dirt he could off. His laugh started quietly but then grew into a hardy laugh. Carter found himself laughing at himself. He stood up, plowed his feet through the rubble, and jumped back into the cavern again. Four dust-covered, gut-covered faces looked up at him.

"A little too much, huh?" asked Carter as he started walking around the boulder.

"Um, yeah, a little too much," said Arista as she coughed from the dust and wiped spider meat from her shoulder.

Seth looked at all the dirt and viscera lying on the ground. She made a fast calculation and looked at Arista.

"If those spiders had escaped, they would have killed everything on this floor," said Seth. Arista frowned, knowing how close they were to death.

Carter turned towards the blasted area and started walking forward. He opened his haversack and mentally told it to grab the coins that littered the ground. Given the state of the decaying skeletons, the owners and their coins must have been there for a long time. His feet plowed through the red spider mush that was a head tall, absorbing every coin in the area. He was glad it was still dark, or he might have had to share. He stopped momentarily, looked at his map, and saw that the red dots were gone, and this floor was empty of monsters. He started walking forward again without worry and a little richer.

His companions made nasty noises behind him as they squished through meaty spider paste.

"Ewww. This is so foul," said Arista.

Carter didn't care; he was already dirty as hell. What's a little spider guts?

Below the splattered spider nest was a large door that was slightly opened. He grabbed the edge and pulled it open far enough to fit through. His light flew from above and chased Carter through the large door.

An extensive set of stairs ascended upwards, white marble in style, with a finger-high coating of dust. He was pretty tired, and his mana had been drained. His haversack still had some "found" food, and he anticipated his feast once he reached the top. The women were reticent and followed Carter up the stairs.

The stairs ended in an enormous room filled with statues and tables. Carter walked over to the nearest table and wiped the dust clean. He pulled his haversack out and pulled out some bread and cheese. His food was picked up from dead people located around the forest. Red would save all the food he found in his haversack, knowing someone would need it. Heaven knows he wouldn't eat it. The haversack preserves whatever is thrown into it. Food never expires, and weapons never rust.

Arista pointed at the food and said, "Is that cheese?"

His chest started to hurt again as he contemplated whether to give all the women food or not. He pulled out five helping and handed them out.

They started eating it and were enjoying their meal immensely.

"You don't understand; we have been eating manna for decades! Anything different is better," said Arista.

"No problem," said Carter. He was beginning to understand what the skill Nature's promise was. He wasn't sure yet, but it made him help people who needed help. These women, a few hours ago, pushed him into a forty-head hole to die, and now he was feeding them.

Carter looked at the symbol on Arista's hand and asked, "What does that mean?"

She rubbed it a few times and said, "Thralldom."

Seth cleared her throat and said, "The system of Thralldom contains Masters and Thralls. There are several ways to get a Thrall. In our case, you were given them by our previous Master."

"Thralldom happens even if I didn't want Thralls?" asked Carter.

"It's not unheard of, but it doesn't happen too often. A person can also give themselves to someone for whatever reason," said Seth.

"That's how we became Arthur's Thralls. He gave us a place to stay for our Thralldom. We had no choice," said Arista.

"There is also a Criminal Thrall. Criminals are given a choice of prison or Thralldom. If they choose to be a Thrall, they will always be a Thrall, even if their Master dies," said Seth.

"My friend Lisa was a Criminal Thrall, and her Master died. When that happens, they become a Breecher. Anyone can then claim them and become their Master," said Corin.

"My friend Jan swore to nature a bet, lost, and then became the winner's Thrall," said Hammy.

"If I die, what happens to you all?" asked Carter.

"We go free," said Seth.

"So, why didn't you kill Arthur?" questioned Carter.

"Thralls can't kill Masters. It's one of the rules. If a Thrall doesn't do what the Master says, they get pain," said Seth as she touched her head, remembering the pain.

"Who enforces these rules?" asked Carter.

"Nature does. She is a stickler for rules. Marriage rules are even stricter," said Seth.

Carter never learned about Thralls in the castle. He remembered seeing a Thrall symbol on Iris's hand, his cat-beast maid in the castle. It seemed like ages ago.

The women were preoccupied with eating their food; they didn't notice Carter get up and leave. The vast and luxurious underground mansion tempted him to explore and find treasure.

"This place has got to hold something worthwhile finding," said Carter, holding onto his space-saving haversack.
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