“Can I turn the lights on now?” I ask, staring into the pitch-black darkness around me.
There’s a long pause before Samie mutters something under her breath I can’t hear. A blue glow suddenly blinks to life in front of me, Samie’s window hovering in the air.
Taking the hint, I summon my own window, glancing around the room. It’s an exact copy of the entrance room to the Castle of the Lizard, a long grand hallway with a single heavy wooden door, flanked by two large horned suits of armor.
Glancing back, I try to spot the top of the staircase, but I can’t even see the light of the lanterns from down here, “it’s a long way up.”
“We’ll worry about that when we leave,” and she starts heading towards the large door.
I follow her, noting the broken lanterns littering the floor. This floor wasn’t always dark. An unease settles in the back of my mind, slowly I pull my spear off my back, testing the weight as I ready. Samie must have a similar sense, because she pulls out her bow and lets me take the lead, notching an arrow.
Looking back, I make sure Samie is ready, at her nod I turn back around and slowly push the large door open. It creaks and groans, but swings open easily. I wait a second and when nothing happens, I grab the corner of my window and slide it further into the room. It can’t go more than five feet from me, but it does help light the area. Broken cabinets, crushed flowers, and ripped-apart paintings liter the ground. Something definitely happened here.
“That friend you had who cleared this section,” I start slowly glancing around at the wreckage, “she mention anything like this?”
I don’t lower my spear as I walk further into the hallway and Samie keeps her arrow notched as she follows.
“Have any idea of what could have happened?” I ask, as I carefully step over a destroyed cabinet.
Samie shakes her head no, as she pushes a broken lantern with her foot, a deep frown on her face, “I’ve never heard of a section’s content changing. Despite its rarity, the Castle of the Lizard is considered one of the easier doors. An annoying maze challenge, but nothing hard for players who are careful.”
I pause at the first fork in the path, glancing left and right, “Do you want to go back up?”
Samie ponders it, face scrunched in thought, before she shakes her head no, “We’ll mark our path, and be extra careful. We only need two artifacts from this floor, then we can head straight to the third floor.”
“The third floor could be worse,” I point out, even as I take the offered knife and carve a small triangle into the stone.
“I’ll take our chances.”
“Left?” I ask gesturing towards the dark tunnel.
Samie shrugs, “Sure.”
I set off down the tunnel, keeping my spear at the ready. We walk in silence, and at every sound, we both pause and listen. There are definitely monsters wandering the halls, by the snorts and howls we hear echoing around us.
After around an hour of slowly moving through the maze, carefully marking our path as we go, we find a door, half-blocked by a fallen cabinet.
“It will be loud if we move it,” Samie notes scanning the tunnels surrounding us.
“Yeah, but both of us are tired and this is the only door we’ve seen in ages,” I remind, slinging my spear onto my back as I lean down, “keep an eye out I’ll move it.”
Samie huffs, but keeps her large circle eyes fixed to the darkness. The cabinet is fairly large, about 5 feet long and 4 tall. It's also smashed to bits. I don’t need to move all of it, just the large shelf blocking the handle. Grabbing the wooden plank, I carefully tug, it doesn’t move. I wiggle it around, trying to unstick it. A few pieces of wood tumble out of the pile and clatter to the floor.
“Daniela,” Samie hisses in warning, glancing quickly between both tunnels, “quietly.”
“I’m trying,” I hiss back, using my foot to clear out some of the wreckage so it's not in such a large pile. Tugging again, I get a few inches before it catches on something. I pull again, but it’s not going anywhere.
I frown at the wreckage, I could easily pull the shelf out, but it wouldn’t be quiet, “if I pull the shelf back can you reach the handle?”
“I don’t think I’m moving this thing without causing a racket,” and I point up, to where the lanterns are barely hanging to the ceiling, and then to the loose chain that disappears into the cabinet pieces. “One wrong move, and that whole thing will come down.”
“Move over,” and Samie squeezes next to me, reaching around splintering wood. I pull the plank as far away from the door as I feel is safe, as Samie grabs for the handle blindly. There’s a faint click, and I see the door swing open.
“Fuck-,” I curse quickly covering my eyes from the light.
My grip slips on the plank, the momentum enough to dislodge it. Samie grabs me by the shirt and hauls me inside the doorway as the tangle of lanterns over our head’s creaks and snaps, smashing to the ground in a near-deafening clatter.
Samie slams the door close as angry howls start echoing throughout the maze. She rounds on me with a deep frown, “You almost got us killed!”
I raise my hands in surrender, “I wasn’t trying to!” I protest, “And you can’t tell me you weren’t surprised by the light too!” I say gesturing around to the brightly lit room we’re hiding in. “We were planning on staying for a while anyway.”
“This isn’t a game,” she hisses, stalking off to the other side of the room, not even bothering to look at anything, just plopping down in a chair far away from the door. She slings off her bag and pulls out a stick and a small switchblade, beginning to aggressively whittle another arrow.
Deciding it would be best to leave her be for now, I shift my attention to the chamber. It’s larger than any of the side rooms I’ve been in before. It’s also packed full of things. Obviously, some sort of storeroom, boxes upon boxes line the heavy-duty shelves covering all the walls. Off in the left corner where Samie is angrily working, is a cluttered desk, there’s a matching one on the right side.
The door rattles behind me, I glance at it nervously, but it holds against whatever is hitting it. The sounds of monsters clawing and climbing over the rubble echoes around the large room, making it sound like there are 50 of the lizards outside instead of the more likely half dozen or so.
Slowly, I start walking around the shelves, peeking into open boxes and trying to figure out what the labels on their sides mean. Towards the back of the room, I find a long table, covered in broken pieces of equipment, maybe this was some sort of storage room for repairs?
I pick up one of the badly dented shields, twisting it this way and that. I know nothing about armor-making, but I can tell it was a nice shield before the large dent. Moving more broken swords and damaged armor out of the way, I find a few stray reports buried at the bottom. I can’t read what they say, but they look like inventory intake forms. I’m about to put them back down when I pause, one of the items has been crossed out, aggressively crossed out, to the point that whoever was doing it, ripped the form. I can’t see the label of what kind of item it is, not that it would matter as I won’t be able to understand it, but I can read the box number, 01352.
I look at a few of the other forms, there’s not a single crossed-out listing except for this one. Glancing around at the nearby boxes, there doesn’t seem to be any system to their placement, as the nearest boxes to me are labeled 00539 and 04591.
“This is probably nothing,” I tell myself even as I start scanning labels, keeping the form in my hands to check the numbers.
“This is stupid,” I mutter, even as I continue looking through the shelves, pushing boxes aside to look at the older crates in the back.
It takes me a good 40 minutes before I find it, shoved behind a slightly tilted shelf, a small box reading 01352. I almost knock the shelf over as I struggle to grab it, but I do finally get it.
The crate is small, about the size of a football, made of wood, despite its small size it's a rather heavy box, easily 10 or so pounds. There’s a bright label printed in all caps on each of the sides, a fragile warning I assume, so I decide to take a more careful approach to opening it. Thankfully, Samie hadn’t asked for her knife back. Wedging the blade in between the sections I twist, snapping the top off.
Sweeping some of the broken equipment out of the way, I carefully overturn the box on the table. A handful of wood shavings falls out, but nothing else. I shake the box lightly, and I can feel something dislodge, sliding out of the box and tumbling to the table, is another box, nearly the same size as the original.
“Oh, it's one of these,” I mutter, taking the knife and popping off the top again. I tilt it over, more wood shavings spilling out, but something else comes this time too, a wooden frame, obviously used to stop the object it is encasing from sliding around. Using the knife once again I pop the frame off, revealing a large near football-sized black gem.
“Ding!” “Ding!” “Ding!”
The window’s alarm rings in my head as I am bombarded with messages.
[Congratulations! Player has discovered a legendary item!]
[Player has completed hidden side quest [In the name of Justice]!]
[Player has obtained item [The Fallen Saint’s Heart].]
[Would Player like to use, consumable item [The Fallen Saint’s Heart]?]
“Wait! Hold on!” I say trying to wave the notifications away. “What do you mean heart? A consumable?”
The window doesn’t elaborate on any of the information it just spammed me with, instead the textboxes static and glitch, for a second the blue dims to an almost white, then with an almost violent “DING!”, a new blue window appears.
[Using item [The Fallen Saint’s heart]!]
I watch in a mix of horror and morbid wonder as the crystal’s surface ripples like a puddle of water, thousands of iridescent colors shifting and glittering in the waves. The ripples get stronger, the very stone itself shifting and reforming itself in my hands.
“I never said-,”
Like a balloon it “POPS!”
I’m blinded by the sudden light that spills across my vision like a broken can of paint, staining and covering every surface till everything is a blinding silver.
When I open my eyes I’m back in the familiar cosmic void. Distant galaxies shine in the distance. Thousands of small glittering stars swirl around my feet. The shifting multicolor light is now free from the crystal, shining and shifting in the air in front of me.
There’s a glitching sound and with a successful “ping!” the white textbox appears.
[Hidden Background Ability activated – [Wish-Eater]]
[[Wish-Eater] – Whenever you encounter a wish-heart that is not your own, you will absorb the wish into yourself. Consuming another Gallaxskye’s heart will grant you a second wish-heart and bestow upon you the shade of the Gallaxskye before you. Once you absorb a wish, you cannot give it back, and the wish you consume will be destroyed.]
[[Wish-Eater] has successfully absorbed wish-heart, [The Fallen Saint’s Heart].]
[Hidden Background Ability activated – [Memory of Dreams]]
[[Memory of Dreams] – as a Gallaxskye who has consumed the heart of another, you can choose to invoke a shade of the original wish holder, temporarily granting you abilities and knowledge from the original Gallaxskye. You may only activate this ability once every day. This state last 10 minutes.]
[[Memory of Dreams] is activating [Shade of the Fallen Saint]!]
[This is the first time Player has used [Shade of the Fallen Saint]! Activating first time use effect of [Memory of Dreams]!]
[[Memory of Dreams] is activating first time effect [Recall]!]
[Sending Player to target zone….]
[Load complete! Player will now enter the [Recall] zone created from [Shade of the Fallen Saint]!]
As the world starts to dim I catch one last white textbox glitching into view.
And the stars vanish as I fall into the void.