"Hello? Is somebody there?"

A frightened voice echoed in a dark, dank hallway. A lone woman walked slowly and carefully, always listening for danger ahead. She stopped, straining to look ahead in the darkness, where she was sure she'd heard something. Footsteps, perhaps, she couldn't be sure. These halls deep under the earth were home to many mysterious noises, whispers of an underground city long since abandoned. After a few moments of listening and hearing nothing, the weary woman continued onward, toward what she hoped would lead her to safety.

From not long after she had finally become a priestess, leaving behind her acolyte clothing to don the robes of her new class, Ruthlyn had spent a lot of time down here. In the caves near the eastern town of Payon, where a civilization perished mysteriously long ago, she strived to become stronger, to master her new skills. However, it was very dangerous here, especially for her. When the spirits of the previous occupants of this dilapidated village sensed her presence, they did not hesitate to welcome her with force. However, they were undead, vampires actually, which could not be better for Ruthlyn. As a servant of God with access to holy power, her skills that would normally heal the living dealt damage to evil creatures like these. That was her strongest weapon here, but unfortunately, it required quite a bit of energy, and at the moment, she didn't have much left.

Her only hope was to get to the doorway she knew she was close to, that led down some stairs to a deeper area of the cave, and another abandoned town. Or perhaps it was part of the same town; Ruthlyn did not know much of the history of this place. What she did know was that just down those stairs was one of the only places she often saw life in this cave. She'd see a passing traveler now or then, but people generally stayed out of this area of the cave. Down in the next section, there were far fewer of the angry munaks and bonguns—those were the names given to the vampires, the munaks being the females and the bonguns being the males. And often, at the bottom of the stairs, weary adventurers and explorers, and even fighters, would sit to rest, creating a small crowd that served to keep each other safe. That is where Ruthlyn needed to get to now.

She passed a pond that was home to a few dozen hydras that would ignore her as long as she stayed out of their reach. Squinting in the darkness that was punctuated by a few torches along the wall, Ruth could see the red outline of a munak on the other side of the pond, but it hadn't seen her yet. She stayed close to the wall, as far away from the pond as she could be, and continued forward slowly and quietly.

Entering the next narrow hallway, she knew she only had to get around the corner in front of her to find the large room where the stairs were. She would be safe soon.

After only a few yards, the hallway opened into the room she was looking for, and the first thing Ruthlyn saw was a small cluster of buildings most of which had broken out windows and doors hanging from their hinges, and all of which were run down to the point of being uninhabitable.

Turning left to face the stairs that would lead her to safety, she stopped dead, her breath catching in her throat. Standing between her and those steps was a pale figure with its back to her. It was nothing more than a skeleton wearing some rather flimsy armor and wielding a sharp dagger in each hand. Ruthlyn had encountered only a few of these before. They were once soldiers that patrolled and guarded this underground civilization, now only shells of what they used to be. But still quite dangerous, nonetheless.

While the skeleton still had its back to her, Ruthlyn quietly moved against the wall behind her. Never taking her eyes off the soldier, she inched along toward the stairs with her back to the wall. She only hoped she could get close enough to the doorway to make a run for it, and pray there would be someone on the next level who could help her.

After a few long moments, the skeleton suddenly turned towards Ruthlyn, and their eyes locked. Seeing no other option, she ran full speed toward the old wooden doorway and took the stairs down with lightning speed. She didn't even know if the creature was following her, nor did she care. She jumped the last few stairs and landed on solid ground, calling out for help as she steadied herself.

She looked up to see with relief that there were indeed a handful of people in the large room, most sitting and resting, a few standing and talking. At the moment, however, they had all turned to look at the woman who had interrupted the quiet. A few started towards her, the first to reach her being a tall, lanky man with rather wild, spiky white hair. He looked at her with a question in his eyes, which grew wide with understanding when he was what came running down the stairs behind her.