I have nothing witty to say here. It's AU, there will be blood, and there will be language. Don't worry if none of the characters are recognizable just yet, I can promise they'll show up in the next chapter although perhaps one makes a small cameo at the end here? Well, we'll see... Rating will probably be bumped up later.
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.
"Watch out for the tail!"
Poisonous spines pierced the dirt harmlessly as their intended target jumped deftly back. The beast, a full-grown manticore, let out a low death-rattle as the knight's sword moved back with the man. Though formidable, the manticore had stood little chance against this group of fighters.
"Dead already? Hmph. Stupid bastard should've put up a better fight if he's the strongest thing in this area. Maybe we shouldn't have cut off its wings at the very beginning…" The group's rogue unceremoniously kicked the corpse once. "Anyway, mageling, you needed tail spines, right? Grab 'em while they're fresh; the poison'll stay longer."
The youngest member rushed forward to complete his task. As the mage carefully removed the spines he needed with thickly-gloved hands, the knight cleaned and sheathed his sword.
"It was a good battle. Our veteran didn't even have to step in much to help out."
"Still too easy." The rogue grumbled, flexing his own steel-clawed gloves. "I didn't even get to use these."
"The time will come." The knight replied easily. "Are you done collecting what you need? It's time to move to the final area."
"…-ight, nine…ten." The mage nodded after he recounted the spines he'd taken. "G-Got 'em."
"Then let's go."
Footsteps echoed along the dark corridor.
"Why haven't we heard of this one before? It's so pathetically easy, like something you'd send a bunch of beginners to." The leader, clad in full knight's regalia, scoffed as he swung the torch about to light the path. "There better be something good at the end of this."
"I know, right? The last thing we fought was that manticore, for crying out loud! Usually you'd see a dark cat or two by this point, maybe even some of those hell ravens in the lower dungeons, but what has there been so far? Nothing but rats. Hey, shine that light over here for a bit."
"Huh? Oh, sure."
"Not in my face, you ass! At the wall! The wall! I wanna mark the direction we're headi—…whoa."
The entire group –four people in total—turned to look at the now-lit stretch of stone wall to see just what had caught the rogue's attention.
"What in the…"
The aged rock was gouged, covered in marks from bladed weapons and claws alike. Most of the markings were arrows, all pointing in the same direction down the hall. Some overlapped, some bold ones etched deeply across the others, some timid ones were fitted in between the others, lightly etched—or were they starting to fade? The light revealed the same sort of etchings on the opposite wall.
"Creepy." The rogue snickered. "Maybe we've never heard of this one because there's nothing left to get from it."
"Y-You mean it's been a-abandoned?" The most timid of their group piped up. "Th-Then there's no reason to go further, r-right?"
The knight laughed as he began walking forward again. "Yeah, right. Maybe something's settled in the final section that's small enough for you to take on yourself. You'd even get all the recognition for it – it'd be nice. Might even boost your rank a level."
"O-Oh…" The young mage was clearly disheartened by this idea, but continued forward anyway. The only source of light around was firmly held in the knight's metal-covered hand, after all.
The fourth member, a grizzled and scarred man, remained silent throughout the exchange. Any veteran such as him could tell this place had easily been abandoned by both man and monster alike, but even he felt the strangest urge that something wasn't quite right. It was almost as if…
"Here we are!" A grin spread across the knight's handsome face as he held the torch up to inspect the door. It was oddly intricate for one so deep in a dungeon, and closer to what one might expect leading into one of the grand temples found in the largest cities.
"Weird. I didn't think there would be catacombs this far from the city." The rogue sniffed. "The labyrinth didn't even seem like it was one. Y'only really find these kinds of doors where there are rich people buried."
"Yes, and you would know all about robbing catacombs, wouldn't you?" The knight muttered as he pushed one of the large doors open. A rush of cool, stale air flooded out of the pitch-black room ahead and the knight pressed forward, the mage and the rogue following after—although it was clear that mage was being pushed from behind by the rogue.
"Hey, old man! Mind watching the door for us?" The cheeky voice of the rogue echoed flatly throughout the chamber. The grizzled man merely grunted in return, taking his place in the open doorway. "Thank you~, it won't take long~!"
"A-ah! W-Watch where y-you're touching!"
"Hey, hey, did you know? Final dungeon doors always swing into the room. You know why?" The man's grin was undeniably stretched across his face, although the darkness of the room made it impossible to see. "It's because if the party needs to run, they can pull the door shut behind them! Boss monsters might be strong, but they aren't terribly smart, so it never occurs to them that they can just pull the door back open!"
"You'll have to get used to the idea eventually." The only other sound that could be heard was the faint crackling of the torch as the knight attempted to see just how large the chamber was. He stepped forward.
"Dude, what the hell are you stepping on, bones? They better not be bones, because if they are—"
"Like I can tell! The light isn't working right for some reason! I bet I wouldn't be able to see even if I held it an inch from the floor!" The knight growled back, obviously frustrated.
"Stop fucking moving!"
"That wasn't me!"
"Well then who was it?"
The only sound now was a frightened whimper from the youngest of them.
"Get back to the door!" The old man shouted, gesturing wildly from what little light the doorway let in. "We're out-classed, GET BACK TO THE—"
The darkness pulsed once, and the door slammed shut, relieving the man of what he thoughtlessly stuck into the room to grab his party's attention—one of his arms below the elbow. He was thrown bodily back into the corridor and left to grit his teeth from the pain as his teammates were left to face whatever lurked in that final chamber. All he could hear were the desperate thumps and cries and screams of terror.
Who are you?
And all at once, the noises stopped. He couldn't hear anything through the door except for that terrifying voice; low and rough, but too feminine to belong to a man. Silence, and then a strangled shriek, high-pitched and terrible. Seconds felt like lifetimes as they passed. Another cry rang out as something scraped along the inside of the metal door, followed by a dull thump.
'Is it really, you monster?'
…Was what the veteran, and now sole survivor, wanted to shout, wanted to curse at the being behind the door, but his throat refused to work. There wasn't any more he could do for the rest of his party. He made a clumsy tourniquet for his arm and stumbled off through the darkness of the maze, desperate to reach the beginning.
'No wonder there wasn't anything to fight along the way—not if the last monster is terrifying enough to drive everything else away.'
Blood squelched under its feet as IT left the bodies of those unfortunate adventurers behind. IT would feed later. No matter, since IT wasn't hungry just yet. Cloth rustled and armor clanked softly as the being returned to the place it previously occupied. The silence and darkness of the room returned as IT returned to its slumber.