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Rated: 18+ · Novel · Fantasy · #2316994
Carter finds himself with an enchantress of Illusion and more monsters.

*TowerG* Tower Floor 7

"One-hundred and forty-two!" cheered Carter with a clenched fist pumped in the air. Seven giant snake carcasses lie on the ground before him. They magically vanished, replaced by gold and silver coins and the ubiquitous snake meat. This level had become a real grind feast. That's what his step-sister, Ivy, called video games, where all you do is kill monsters repeatedly to level up. Ivy hated that, but Carter always loved the grind.

This Tower floor was broken and now only provided giant poisonous snakes. These beasts were fifteen heads long, with giant poisonous fangs and solid, armored scales. Previously, the Giant Goblin Boss had conscripted the plentiful goblins of this floor and tried to kill Carter. They failed. Hence, no more Goblins.

Carter is stuck with this one type of monster until the Tower magically reset the floor level to have all new monsters.

Up ahead, almost near the corner of the Tower's wall, was the staircase that went up. The wall was within walking distance, yet he couldn't tell. The magic used to create this Tower was spectacular—illusionary magic at the highest degree.

Carter stopped looking for the wizard behind the curtain, an old reference to an old movie that he forgot the name of and saw a small cave nestled into the front of a large mountain. He looked around to see if the coast was clear. No monsters could be seen.

"Let's go eat some of that Snake meat," said Carter to no one. He tramped the path up to the mountain's cave in no time. He flung out his Light spell and walked into the cave. A giant cavern filled with limestone and crystals greeted him with his echoing footprints and dim plant light. Anticipating his meal, he sat down towards the entrance, pulled some extra-old firewood out of his copious haversack, and threw it on the ground. The logs were arranged in an optimal burning pattern, and a spell was used to light them on fire. Reaching in his bag again, two pieces of snake meat were snagged. His stomach roared with delight.

"Shoot. How am I supposed to cook it?" asked Carter.

An idea came to his head. He grabbed his sword from his rucksack and placed the meat on the blade. The meat clung to the blade, and he held it to the fire. A smile came over his face as he pulled out a fork and plate.

"Where there is a will, there is a way," said Carter.

"You are right with that sentiment," came a female voice from deep within the cavern.

Carter whipped his sword around, snake meat still sizzling on it. A slight frown came to his face as he realized he should have checked the rest of the cave out.

"Don't let me stop you from eating," repeated the voice.

"Oh, thanks," said Carter, placing the food back into the fire.

A loud noise echoed through the cavern, and then night became day. Carter looked towards the ceiling and saw bright, magic lights attached to the ceiling, illuminating the large cavern. He recalled his diminutive light and went back to cooking.

"You're very carefree, aren't you?" said the voice while approaching Carter's campfire. He looked up and smiled. The woman had an angelic face with a sharp nose.

"Just hungry," said Carter. He didn't bother to stand up.

"My name is Aerofat," said the beautiful half-elf. Her pointed ears were adorned in gold earcuffs. Her red hair was long and braided, reaching to her bosom. Her white dress flattened her ample breast to produce gravity-defying cleavage that made Carter stare. Slits in the side of her dress gave the illusion that her legs were longer than they were.

"Mage Aerofat from the Chronicles of the Tower," said Carter while turning over his cooking meal.

"You know of me?" said Aerofat. Her intensive eye contact with Carter was making him feel a little uneasy.

"I found your journal at your formal manse," said Carter, pulling it out of his bag.

"You did? Can I have it back?" asked Aerofat with her hands held too close to the campfire.

The journal was thrown with lackluster care across the fire to the waiting hands of Aerofat.

The sizzling sound of the snake meat catching on fire prompted Carter to whip his sword upward and pull his meal out of the fire. Balancing his plate on his lap, he shook his sword up and down to liberate the cooked steaks. This proved more challenging than expected as the meat was being obstinate. Carter got impatient, grabbed the cooked, sizzling meat with his hand, and threw it on the plate. He wanted to yell from the pain but resisted the urge.

As she flipped the pages, Aerofat's nose was four inches away from her journal. But more importantly, she didn't see him burn his fingers.

"So, who runs this tower?" asked Carter.

"Carom, the arch-duke of the Tower of Aspirant. Mighty lord of the Houthdale, the Hellhound," said Aerofat, not looking up from her book.

Carter removed a chunk of snake meat from his plate and placed it into his mouth. It was sweet and juicy. It tasted great. He went to grab another piece, and then the food's aftertaste hit his tongue. He gagged just a little.

"That aftertaste is horrible," said Carter as he tore another piece off his plate.

Aerofat looked up at Carter for a moment and then back. "You ate that without removing the poison?" asked Aerofat with a slight grin. She shook her head and went back to reading her book.

Carter looked at the piece of meat in his hand. "Poison?" said Carter. He shrugged his shoulders and wolfed it down.

Aerofat finally put down her journal. She looked over at Carter lying on the ground, holding his stomach.

"First time eating poison? You get used to it," said Aerofat with a slight giggle. "Look at the bright side. It's supposed to up your resistance to poison."

Carter righted himself upwards and gaped with a blank look at Aerofat.

"Pain too much?" said Aerofat with a wicked grin.

"It does hurt, but I'm contemplating whether to eat some more or not," said Carter.

"I would say not to. Snake meat is for the addlebrained," said Aerofat.

Aerofat's grin went away as she stared at Carter. Was Carter dumb or intelligent? She couldn't tell.

Carter pulled his sword out, and Aerofat scooted back a little. He then pulled out two pieces of snake meat and slid them down his sword. He put them in the fire and then looked up at Aerofat.

"Are you stupid?" asked Aerofat.

"Stupid and hungry, I guess. My mother always called it pig-headed," said Carter. He pulled his hood off without thinking because sitting next to the fire was getting hot.

Aerofat stood up and grabbed Carter by his chin. She moved his face around and then sat back down.

"You're a male?" asked Aerofat rhetorically.

"Suppose so," said Carter.

"What kingdom do you hail from?" asked Aerofat.

"New York," said Carter. He turned his sizzling meat over.

"Where is that? I haven't heard of that kingdom," said Aerofat while thinking, "But I suppose I've been here for a few thousand years. Anything could have happened."

"You look very young for your age," complimented Carter, "The kingdom of New York is on Earth."

She stood up again and grabbed his chin again. She looked deep into his eyes.

Carter was starting to feel that he was being scrutinized too much. He pulled his face back, and she released her grip.

"No, shit. You might be the one to beat him. No wonder he is all agitated. Using up the Tower's energy by increasing the odds of getting bosses," said Aerofat.

Aerofat sat back down. Carter took his snake meat from the fire and placed it on his plate. The meat slid off the sword nicely this time.

"He sent me to find out how powerful you are, Carter. He wants a challenge," said Aerofat.

Carter took a piece of meat and placed it into his mouth. "Challenge? Are you here to challenge me?" he questioned. He wasn't paying that much attention to her.

"No, not yet. I am under Carom's command to watch you and ensure you reach the top," said Aerofat.
She showed Carter the mark on her arm.

"What is that?" asked Carter as he stared at her forearm, juices of the snake meat dripping down his chin.

"It's a goat," said Aerofat, pulling back her arm, "Carom's symbol."

"A goat. For real?" asked Carter with a little laugh. He shook his hand back and forth and added, "Don't worry, I'll get there. I'm just taking the long way."

Her green eyes stared keenly at him. The fire softened her face and made her look angelic and a little devilish at the same time.

"I should warn you that Carom has sent one of his enforcers with a legion of giant insects to take control of the Fort on Floor 9," said Aerofat.

"Fort?" asked Carter. He suspected it was where Commander Shi, Oz, and Raz had come from and went to. Carter had no connection with them. He had just met them on the floor before, so why was Carom using them as bait?

"About one hundred and twenty women have been living there for decades. They were beneath Carom's interests, and he allowed it. In his infinite wisdom, he thought this would make a great test to see what your character was like," said Aerofat.

"Oh?" asked Carter.

Aerofat pulled a scroll from her bag on her hip and handed it to Carter. Carter went to grab it but stopped midway. He pulled his hands back and wiped them on his cloak. "Snake grease," said Carter.

He then reached out and grabbed the scroll, unrolled it, and stared at it with a blank look. "What is this?" asked Carter.

"It's a Thralldom scroll of Contest. It says that if you beat his enforcer, Forge the Ogre, and his Ant army, you will get the Fort's convicts as Thralls," said Aerofat.

"Convicts?" said Carter. He was starting to get upset. He didn't mind learning new information, but Aerofat's questioning was beginning to make him look dumb. He doesn't mind looking dumb by himself, but he didn't need an audience.

She didn't seem to mind the questions and answered him curtly. "Under threat of death, he made them sign the Thralldom of Conviction. It usually is used with prisoners of crime or war. Since the group of women had no Thrall symbols, he won them, fair and square."
"Can't the prize be a magic weapon or something? I have enough women who hate me already," said Carter. He went to hand the scroll back to Aerofat, but she held her hands in a "no" gesture, and Carter was left hanging. He placed it into his bag.

He grabbed another gut-wrenching piece of snake meat and placed it in his mouth. He started to cough involuntarily, and he hit himself in the chest. Aerofat watched him with stoic repose.

"Well, then," said Aerofat as she stood up and patted the dust off her butt. She pointed her finger behind Carter and added, "One other test for you. Behind those rocks is a legendary treasure. If you can make it there and grab it, you can have it," said Aerofat.

Carter placed the last bits of his food into his mouth, stood up, and turned around. Behind him, deeper in the cavern, was a giant ravine with floating dirt mounds separated about two feet apart.

"You have to jump from floating mound to floating mound to make it to the other side of the ravine," said Aerofat.

"Easy", thought Carter. He looked back towards Aerofat, and she had a look of anticipation.

A purple mist covered the dirt mounds, hindering his vision. He walked over to the edge of the ravine and looked across. He couldn't see the other side. He opened his bag and mentally told it to get the treasure. It remained unresponsive.

"Too far away," said Carter.

Walking back and forth along the edge, he looked for the easiest route. Seeing no easy way across, he chose the closest mound and jumped on it. His weight made it move up and down, and he had to steady himself with his hands held out. His head started hurting as if a hammer was hitting it. He looked back at Aerofat, and she still had the same look on her face, as if she was concentrating on something.

A sudden pain touched his shoulder, and he let out a scream. He recognized that pain. He had felt it many times before in the Forest. A spirit was attacking him, but he couldn't see it. He jumped back from the mound unto the edge of the ravine. Three blood trails from claw marks raked down his shoulders. His body gave out, and he fell to the ground.

"You didn't think it would be that easy!" screamed Aerofat as she stretched her hands towards the ravine.

Carter closed his eyes and released his spirit form. He rose out of his body and floated above himself. He looked across the cavern and saw spirits floating. But what was fascinating was that he couldn't see the floating dirt mounds or the deep ravine. There was just the cavern's floor of dirt.

The aberrations saw Carter's spirit and started to become furious and murderous, pushing the bounds of their fettering. They were driven into a frenzy, seeing a spirit.

They did not want to be confined to the dirt mounds and pushed against what seemed to Carter as an invisible wall.

With a primal scream, Carter's spirit began to fly toward the first Ghost. His hands turned into sharp claws, and he raised them over his head.

At first, he only felt a gradual pull on his spirit, but the force increased as the distance from his body grew. His body started flying backward uncontrollably toward his body.

The Forest was reclaiming his spirit, and the Tower was helping. As the invisible force pulled, Carter frantically dug his claws into the ground, guiding his spirit toward his physical body. His claw barely caught his outer thigh, and the force stopped abruptly.

He seemed to be anchored as long as he touched his body. He learned a valuable lesson today.

Aerofat let out a small scream as the willpower of the Ghost became too much for her. She released her control on the Ghosts and held her illusion of the ravine. She let out a small cry of relief.

"Sorry," she whispered.

She knew all the unfettered ghosts would attack Carter now. Carom forbade them from attacking her. But no such stipulation for Carter. The Contest had become a death trap.

Aerofat looked away. She would be chastised for not testing him properly, but she had no choice.

They flew at him fast, and Carter whipped his spirit claws around, tearing the Ghosts, one by one, into pieces. They had no idea of fear, and they screamed and yelled as they took pieces out of Carter's spirit. A few had targeted Carter's physical body, biting into his chest, and they died for neglecting Carter's spirit.

It was over as fast as it began. He was left with a badly wounded spirit and body. He merged back into his body and sat up.

"Oh, Nature, that hurt. This treasure better be worth it," said Carter. He started healing his body of all its unwanted holes. His spirit was another thing. It would repair itself over time.

Aerofat looked back toward Carter in disbelief. Why wasn't he being torn apart by the invisible ghosts? If only she could see them.

Carter pulled himself up and steeled himself for the jumping part of this Contest. He looked down the ravine and saw no bottom.

"Be careful! Some of the platforms will fall when you step on them", said Aerofat. She didn't know where the ghosts went but had to continue. She had to make this challenge as challenging as possible. She still needed to report back to Carom.

Carter hopped on the first platform again. It started wobbling and swaying. It felt so real. He closed his eyes.

He stepped off the first one and walked straight across in a straight line. A small scream came out of Aerofat as she fell to the ground. The illusion disappeared, and Carter found himself on the other side of the cavern.

He could see the door in the wall that went to the maintenance stairs. To the left of that door was a group of big rocks with what looked to be a door hidden behind them. Carter slipped between the rocks and entered the door. A small room opened before him, containing a podium that had a crown on it. Farther back were three familiar objects: cylinders with women in them.

He walked back to the Crown. It was gold in color, with three large red gems on top. It looked like a king's Crown but in a gaudy way.

"Must be the prize?" said Carter.

He picked it up in his hands and cast Detect Magic on it. It was magical, but he had no idea what it did. His hands held it momentarily as he contemplated what to do with it, then placed it on his head. The Crown started to glow, and then it disappeared. He felt his head and then looked around. It was gone. He aimed his bag toward the cylinders and stored the stasis chambers away.

He walked back out and found Aerofat sitting next to his fire. He meandered over to his spot and sat back down.

"How did you know?" said Aerofat.

"Know what?" asked Carter.

Either Carter was being clever, not showing his skills, or he just got lucky.

"Never mind. Did you find the Crown of Candora?" asked Aerofat.

"Yeah, I placed it on my head, and it disappeared," said Carter.

"You just stuck it on your head without wondering what it did?" asked Aerofat. She was glaring at him with astonishment.

Carter shrugged his shoulders, stood up, and put the campfire out. "Any way of letting me into the maintenance stairs?" asked Carter.

"No. You're not maintenance," said Aerofat. She leaned over and handed Carter a glowing bean.

"You want soup?" asked Carter.

"No, idiot. Eat it," said Aerofat.

Carter looked at her funny and said, "I've already eaten." He looked at the bean again and then threw it into his mouth.

It fizzled in his mouth, and it tasted like wintergreen.

Aerofat stared at Carter for a few minutes. Carter grew a glazed look, stared at the wall for a spell, and then blinked his eyes.

"Did the Memory Bean work?" asked Aerofat.

"Is that what that is? Ginkgo Biloba? My teacher used to take that," said Carter.

"I don't know what you just said. Do you know anything about the Crown of Candora?" asked Aerofat.

"Of course. The Crown is used to store mana in large amounts for reserves. It trickles off mana from your body to fill it. It can only be used if you have enough mana to access it. Queen Candora used it to transfer herself to a higher plane. The more energy is in the Crown, the more Magic you need to remove it," said Carter with a look of 'How stupid do you think I am?'.

"The Memory Bean worked," said Aerofat as she walked towards the maintenance door.

"Don't forget to save the fort," said Aerofat.

Carter stared at her while she walked over. She pulled something out of her pocket and looked back at Carter.

"Don't look!" said Aerofat as she placed her curvy figure in front of the door. The door lit up, allowing Carter to see through her flimsy dress, and she phased away, disappearing from the cavern.

"Is that door an illusion too?" said Carter as he ran toward it and tried to "phase" through it. A resounding ring echoed through the hallway as he ran into the door.

"Nope," said Carter, rubbing his nose as he turned around and headed out the entrance.
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