The monster is a weird lizard-like creature, almost identical to a Komodo Dragon, except its back is covered with porcupine-like spines. Its back is to me, too busy with its meal, the sound of wet flesh being torn echoing faintly.
Slowly I back up, tightening my grip on the spear in my hands. The creature noses at its meal and knocks something away that clangs with a sharp metal sound against the wall. My stomach drops as I stare at the metal gauntlet, still attached to a humanoid arm.
Suddenly this all feels far too real. I stop my breathing, feeling the panic clawing at my throat. I can’t freak out now, the monster hasn’t spotted me yet, but it certainly will if I start having a panic attack.
Carefully I back up, retreating around the corner, till it’s out of sight.
I grip my spear tightly in my hands, they’ve started to shake lightly, but I need to do this. Who knows when I will get a better chance to test my skills? I needed to strike first to find out what combat was really like before it could result in my death. Worst case scenario it overpowers me, and I run, I’ll follow the marks back to the starting room and choose a different door.
“You can do this Nova,” I whisper to myself, trying to steady my breath. I couldn’t panic, I needed to be levelheaded, or this would be ten times harder.
Steady as I’m going to get, I adjust the grip on my spear, holding it out in front of me, but keeping it low to my waist, tip angled down. I had zero belief I could throw the spear effectively, which left just stabbing the monster.
Carefully I approach the lizard beast, its back is still turned to me, busying itself with ripping flesh out of the corpse. I can’t see the person’s face as they are lying on their stomach, but they don’t look much older than me. The panic claws higher.
I raise the spear higher, tightening my grip.
“1,” I count in my head, taking a deep breath, “2,” I square my feet, getting a firm stance, “3!” I lunge forward impaling the monster in the back, right between the spines.
“RAWQR!” it yells trashing and twisting, trying to reach back and snap at me. I’m starting to lose a grip on the beast as it forces my spear out of it during its thrashing.
“Stay down!” I yell, pushing forward again, shoving the beast into the wall where it knocks over a vase with a loud crash, sending glass shards scattering. One knicks my leg, cutting through the fabric of my pants. It stings but I hold my ground.
The creature must smell my blood because its eyes go a vibrant green and it thrashes with renewed vigor. I can barely hold on as it keeps wiggling, screeching, and yelling as it flails, uncaring of its own mounting injuries from the glass. Its teeth come dangerously close to my ankle and before I’m truly aware of what I’m doing, my foot is coming down hard on the lizard’s head.
It snarls and, in a panic, I shift my weight, keeping it pinned beath me as the spear slides in an extra inch. The monster howls.
“Just die already!” I yell, putting more pressure on my foot and the spear, sinking it deeper with a wet squish sound that I know will haunt me. “Don’t make this any harder than it needs to be!”
It growls back at me, and comes dangerously close to biting my boot, pointed teeth tearing a buckle clean off. I take that as a ‘no’.
Seems I'm going to need to do this the hard way.
Sticky green blood oozes onto the floor, staining the bottom of my pants a sick puke-ish color. It has a weird rotten seaweed smell that almost forces me to heave. But I push through the stench and twist my spear. There’s a wet tearing sound as it cries out in pain, and another gush of green blood spills across the tiles.
It’s fully subdued now, both of us know who the victor is, now it’s just a matter of when I’ll get my victory. While a spear was useful to keep my distance it was far from the most merciful weapon, the wound point is small and jagged. If I lifted the spear to stab it again the beast would wiggle free and I would be back at square one, which left the only option to sit and wait it out.
Even with a small wound, I was preventing it from scabbing, constantly pushing the spear point deeper, making sure to twist and rend the muscles. This was a far crueler death than I intended, forcing this creature to slowly bleed out helpless and pinned. It almost makes me feel sorry for it, but then I glance over at the fresh body torn apart on the tile and harden my resolve. If I didn’t kill it first, it was going to kill me.
It takes only another minute, a painfully long minute before it finally stops struggling. Another minute and its eyes blink close, breaths slowing to a stop. I wait another few seconds just to be sure.
With a sharp tug, I pull the spear free of the monster’s hide. I had really done it. I had just killed a monster. My breaths are still uneven, and my arms burn from the strain of keeping the creature pinned till it bleed out, but finally the deed was done.
There’s a strange crunching sound over my shoulder. I quickly leap off the monster and spin behind me, spear outstretched and ready, still dripping green blood.
Prowling around the corner is another lizard monster, glass shattering under its feet as it approaches. The quills along its back are raised and it’s making a low guttural snarl, eyes fixed solely on me. There’s an answering snarl from somewhere behind it.
I had forgotten the one rule about this maze, stay quiet.
“Damn it!” I curse, breaking into a run, skidding down the hallway, and quickly making a left turn. I had no time to carefully mark my path anymore, the snarls and crashes were getting louder, and there was far more than just one lizard-porcupine chasing me.
I had just fought tooth and nail with one monster, I was exhausted. I couldn’t keep running and there was no way I would be able to kill another one, much less the five or six that were chasing me. I needed somewhere safe, and I needed it quickly.
Scanning the hallway, frantically looking for anything that might be of help, I reach out along the wall and knock a vase off its cabinet. The beautiful artwork shatters across the ground, and while normally I might feel slightly bad, I don’t waste any time grieving over the vase. Better a pot than me. It wouldn’t do much, but maybe the jagged broken glass would deter my pursuers at least a little bit.
I keep knocking over vases and armor, aware that I’m making far too much noise, but helpless to truly do anything about it. Then a break in the wall catches my eye, a door, wooden and iron reinforced. It wasn’t the exit door, it was far smaller, and it was set into the wall instead at the end of a hallway, but it was a door, and last I checked lizard monsters don’t have thumbs.
I lunge for it, scrambling at the handle, hoping and praying to whatever gods exist in this accursed game that it's not locked.
I push roughly and the door doesn’t move. My heart drops, body suddenly frozen to the spot. No this was my one chance I can’t-
There’s a snarl behind me, as the first of the lizard creatures round the far corner. I could keep running but I couldn’t go much further, my body was already pushed to the limit, my vision starting to swim.
Throwing all my weight into the next shove, I push-
“SNAP!” something breaks inside the door and it lurches open.
I’m frozen in shock for only a moment, unbelieving that I really got it open. There’s a hiss behind me and I dive inside, pushing the door closed with a heavy slam.
“BANG!” something heavy crashes into the wood, my breaths stutter, but I force my heart to calm as I rush backward, bracing against the door as it shudders. My breath comes in huge gasping pants, heartbeat thundering in my ears almost loud enough to drown out the snarling outside.
There’s another heavy push, stronger than the last, I claw at the stonework, wedging myself into the doorframe, pushing back as hard as my exhausted body can. Keeping my place, making sure the door doesn’t move too far. The spear uselessly falls from my hands, rolling across the tile further into the room.
“SCRAPE!” claws dig into the wood, trying to rend it to pieces, my heart stutters in my chest, even as I stay pressed tightly against the door, only an inch of wood separating me and being gutted by an angry monster.
There are several more bangs and slams, weight varying before slowly over the course of the next 30 minutes it dies down. There’s still low growling echoing from under the door and the distant clack of their nails against the floor, but it would seem they are losing interest. My legs give out at some point and I crash into the ground. The monsters try eagerly again to break in, but I stay braced, making sure the door doesn’t move.
Quickly they lose interest again, the sounds of their shuffling softly fading away. Just to be safe I stay braced against the door for another 15 minutes, slowly counting down the time in my head. Things continue to quiet and slowly my heartbeat stops ringing in my ears. I can tell they are still outside, prowling around for a tasty Nova snack, but they probably won’t try breaking down the door again.
Slowly I get up off the floor, my knees are a little weak, but I manage to stand. I start glancing around the room, wondering just what sort of place I'm stuck in for the time being. There are a few lanterns hanging from the walls in this room, matching the ones in the halls, they cast soft yellow light onto the floor, shadows twisting and flickering like ghosts. For a moment I'm reminded of Night, and the living shadow at his back, I shake the memory away and continue looking for my wayward spear. I find it in the center of the room, where it’s rolled into the only piece of furniture in the chamber. A large wooden chest.
Suddenly my years of gaming experience come crashing into me as my breath picks back up and my heart thunders in my ears, but for a very different reason - excitement.
“Well, this might make almost being a lizard’s dinner worth it,” I mutter racing over to the chest, forgetting all about my spear.
I give a few knocks to the wood, hoping that if the creature is some sort of chest monster it will awaken before I stick my hand inside. Next, I make an attempt to check it for traps, but I don’t really have any idea what a trapped chest looks like, but I feel confident that if there was a noticeable trap, I would have found it.
Slowly I lift the lid.