She sends me an affronted look, “I have two, and I know you have one.”
I do my best to hide my surprise as I tease back, “Your aura reading tell you that?”
Samie huffs, “No. But you didn’t want to hand over your bag, which means you are hiding something, you're too new to have finished another section, which means you got lucky and found an artifact.”
“What do you mean lucky?”
“I’ve been in the Castle of the Lizard for two weeks,” she pats her bag, “and I’ve only picked up two of them.”
Oh wow, Chalice telling me the location of the artifact was a bigger deal than I thought. Too bad the treasure bear didn’t know the location of the other ones too. “But why move floors?”
By Samie’s stare she clearly finds that a stupid question, “Each section of the labyrinth follows a similar pattern,” she explains with a sigh. “Only a certain number of players are allowed in each part of the maze at a time. Each door has its own restrictions and allowed player count. And each time that section is cleared, anything the players did to complete the quest are re-distributed throughout the maze.”
“So, the monsters and artifacts have a respawn function,” I summarize.
“A what?” Samie asks, only giving me part of her attention as she checks a turn in the hallway.
“Never mind,” I say, following her down the left pathway, “how do you know how many people are in the section at a time?”
“The Castle of the Lizard has the smallest allowed player count out of all the sections. You can see in the expanded quest information in your window.”
I open the window and sure enough, there is a little button at the bottom of the quest. I push it and the text box extends.
[Mission Objective: 1/5 Artifacts.
-Expanded Quest information-
Full Objective: To complete this level, the player must collect five Artifacts and return them to the Treasury Guards on the lowest floor.
Floors cleared: 1/3
Current number of players competing: 3/5]
“Only 5 people are allowed at a time?” I ask with surprise. There was 100 people in my starting group, if every group had the same number, 5 is an incredibly low allotment.
“It’s the most elusive of the doors,” Samie explains, “No one knows why it only allows 5 people at a time. The quest isn’t even that hard, but people say it's hiding secrets. Not that I believe that.”
I tap a few more buttons on my status window looking for anything else the blue textbox is hiding, “This still doesn’t explain how you knew all artifacts are gone?”
“I met a player who had finished it before, she told me that there were 5 artifacts per level. I came in with a few companions but-,” Samie takes a deep breath, before sighing slowly, “they didn’t listen.”
So, they were dead. Maybe that corpse I ran into my first day was one of her teammates.
“Only three of us came in. I’m the only one still here, and I saw the number counter tick up,” she nods towards me, “when you entered.”
Well interesting and actually extremely useful information… That math didn’t add up, “That still leaves one person?”
Samie shrugs, pausing to try a door, the door opens easily, she glances in and at seeing the wrecked room, tisks and closes it again, “Supposedly there’s a weird guy who likes to live in this crazy place. No one has ever actually seen him, but no one has ever entered being the only one.”
“He must be pretty strong then,” I say. A stray thought skims past my awareness, ‘Would Chalice count?’ I shake the thought off, Chalice was obviously a NPC, had pretty much admitted to it, ‘Why else would the treasure bear make a point of calling me a player otherwise?’
“It’s just a rumor,” Samie says, “no one actually knows if he really exists. But to answer the original question, we found 4 of the artifacts, two were lost with my teammates. They will respawn, but it will take around a week before they are back, the lower floors will have all their artifacts still. There will be more than enough for the both of us.”
“Well, if the goal is to get to a lower floor…,” and I reach into my bag, fishing out the map I found yesterday, “this should help.”
Samie’s eyes widen as she snatches up the map, mouth slightly agape, “You found the map!”
“I got it yesterday; in the metal room we met in.”
“I thought that room was weird!” she hisses, scanning the map, before pointing at the stairs, “here.” And she starts tracing the pathway away from the exit, “We should head back to the start. From there we should be able to get there rather easily.”
She turns around and starts walking down the passageway we just took.
“Uh, can I have my map back?”
Samie pauses, glancing over at me with a conflicted expression before slowly handing it back, face twisted into a frown, “I’m really good with reading maps.”
I snort at her grumbled pout, holding out the map for her to see, “Activate item, Castle of Lizard Map.”
She raises an eyebrow, about to say something when the holographic overlay appears above the map. Her eyes widen, shock covering her face.
“What did you do?” she asks softly, carefully poking on the holographic messages, her fingers pass right through it and nothing happens. Apparently, the map is only useable by the one who activates it, that or the map just doesn’t like Samie.
“I activated it,” I explain, poking at the little purple triangle, the same message appears-
[Player’s current location]
“This is us,” and I move my finger to the stairs, “and this is where we are trying to go.” I hand the map over to Samie, who is still staring at it in wonder, “You can lead us there, map reader Samie, but I want it back once we get there.”
“Yeah, sure, yep,” and she nearly sticks her face in the map, tracing pathways to the lower floor, “how did I not know this was a thing?” she mutters to herself, trying again to poke at the purple triangle, but no message appears.
“So~,” I say rocking onto the back of my feet, “find a way to get us out?”
Samie glances back at me, straightening up with a cough and an embarrassed dark blue tint to her cheeks, “We are further than I would like, but it shouldn’t take us more than a day to get there.”
“Then we better set off right?”
She nods, walking back to the intersection we just left, walking a few passes down each pathway, watching the player tracker move in time, before settling on the left pathway. Quietly I follow after her, turn after turn, keeping an eye behind us, making sure no lizard-porcupines are sneaking up on our 6.