Rephaim — Chapter 10

Clay shook awake. He stared blankly at the ceiling. Something was off.

The floor creaked by the door.

Clay rolled out of bed, landing on his feet.

A shadowy figure dashed through the crack in the door.

The golem barreled over to the door and scanned the hall. Empty. Whoever the intruder was, they’d gotten away.

Looking over to the table, Clay saw that his equipment was still there. Whoever had trespassed, they hadn’t had the chance to loot his belongings. The golem let out a sigh of relief.

The security he’d felt in this new guild hall had evaporated. He seemed to be a target wherever he went.

Throwing on his iron armor and strapping his sword to his waist, the golem departed from the room. With a last look down the hall, he headed downstairs.

“Hi there, Clay!” He was surprised to hear his name.

Mindy sat behind her desk at the front of the guild hall. A wide smile across her face.

“So, what mission will you choose today?” She asked enthusiastically.

Today? He wondered. How could she tell?

“I’m not sure.” Clay thought of the pygmy trolls, then thought again. The basilisks had caught him unaware. He didn’t want to have another such experience.

“Well, just let me know if you see anything you like.” The young woman replied.

Clay moved into the dining hall. The room was full of activity. The various races stuck mostly to their own kind, but there were a number of tables filled with people of different races sitting down planning their next mission. As Clay walked through the crowd, he felt the attention on him.

“Hey, you.” A male drow called out to him as he walked by.

Clay turned to the man with a cocked eyebrow.

“Yeah, you.” The man waved in an inviting gesture. “Come, join me for a drink.”

Shrugging inwardly, the golem walked over to the man’s table.

“Another ale, for my friend.” The drow called to the barmaid. The woman nodded as she went to fetch the drink.

“Good day to you, my friend.” The drow said with a smile.

“Good day.” Clay replied, as he took a seat across the table from the elf.

“I saw that mess you brought in yesterday.” The man said. “Color me impressed.”

Clay nodded as a mug was placed before him. He took a sip of the stinking beverage.

“My name’s Cassia.” The drow stuck out his hand.

The golem reached out and shook the hand, “Clay.”

“Strong grip.” The man leaned to the side, looking at the sword strapped to Clay’s hip. “I like that.”

Clay continued to nurse his drink.

Cassia eyed the silent golem. “Would you consider taking on a partner?”

Clay had figured that the drow would ask something like this. He recalled the pair of dwarves who had proposed a similar idea. He didn’t like the idea of being led into a trap.

“I’m not sure that’s what I’m looking for at this time.” Clay said, setting his drink aside.

The drow elf’s eyes widened, “Don’t be too hasty to make up your mind. If you’re planning to take on the more valuable missions, you’ll need to find a team.”

That did make sense. Even with the E ranked mission, he’d gotten in over his head. If not for his stone flesh, he might not have made it back at all.

“I suppose.” Clay said.

Seeing his opening, Cassia pressed on. “I’ve been a member of this hunter’s guild for the last few months. Mostly the low level hunts, E and D class assignments.”

Clay picked up his mug and took a sip

“Once you reach C class, things start getting trickier. The monsters get smarter.” The drow took a swig from his own mug. “Out in the plains you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you. And any light draws too much attention for a hunter.”

The golem decided not to mention how well he could see in the dark, after his visit with the goddess of the first flame.

“You seem tough, and I have no doubt you can handle yourself. But, truth is, I need the help.” The drow’s expression dropped.

Clay observed the change in the man. His suspicion giving way to sympathy. Hunting really was a dangerous occupation.

“What can you do?” Clay asked.

Cassia’s face brightened, “I’m a brewer.”

“Brewer?” Clay didn’t know what that meant.

“Yes.” he man said with enthusiasm. “I specialize in potions and poisons.”

“Did you have any missions in mind?” Clay asked. He didn’t have any better plans for his next mission, and he didn’t expect Cassia to betray him.

“Oh, yes!” The drow practically shouted. Then calmed himself, “Yes. I’ve been there a couple of times, but the numbers have forced me to retreat.”

Clay recalled his encounter with the basilisks. It was probably for the best that he had a partner to watch his back.

Cassia got up and walked over to the wall of poster, picked one off the wall, and walked back to Clay. “This one.”

C ranked mission, crimson dart frogs, two hundred dinal.

“These pests have been plaguing the water mines that sustain Jaskar. We go in, harvest the eyes of ten frogs, and repeat as necessary.

The golem thought it over. It sounded like a good idea. He had been wondering where the people of the Orgas plains got their water from. This would be a good opportunity to find out.

“Okay.” Clay said. “I’ll join you for the hunt.”

“Outstanding.” Cassia practically danced.

The pair brought the mission flier to Mindy, the receptionist, and got the last few details of the hunt. “You’ll be going into the Manat family water mines. Just show them your hunter’s guild paperwork and they’ll let you in.”

“Thanks, Mindy.” Clay said.

‘Of course, Clay. It’s what I do.” She said with a wink.

Cassia mumbled his appreciation, but the receptionist payed him no mind.

“Good luck.” She called as they walked out into the perpetual night of Jaskar’s streets.

Outside the shelter of the hunter’s guild, Clay observed how jumpy Cassia was.

To Clay’s eyes the shadows fled from the illumination of the purple gemstones and caged fire that lined the streets. But, he reasoned that the shadows must be overpowering to the drows eyes.

Cassia pulled out a wand that had one of the gemstones attached to its end. The purple colored light chased the shadows away. The elf seemed significantly calmer with his drawn light.

As they navigated the dark city streets, Clay began to wonder. “Can you tell me anything about the families of Jaskar? I’ve heard of the Rayin and Manat families, but I don’t know much about them.”

Cassia thought for a moment. ”There are lots of families that run Jaskar. The Rayin and Manat families are two of the main suppliers of ores to the city. The Rayin family specializes in bloodstones. They’re not the only ones, but they own the majority of the market. The Manat family specializes in aquastones. Most of the water consumed in Jaskar comes from their mines.”

The drow hesitated, “Another house to be aware of is the Rephan family. They own the markets. Any business that any of the other families want to conduct goes through them.”

“But, you should steer clear of the families. The guilds deal more fairly. And, you’re less likely to wind up dead.”

Or in prison. Clay thought to himself.

The pair passed through the checkpoint of the East gate and continued along the road.

“The Manat water mines aren’t far.” Cassia said, considerably tenser after leaving the safety of the city.

To Clay’s eyes the glowing embers that rose out of the charred ground danced with the shadows, chasing the dark in an elaborate game. But, he could tell that the drow with his gemstone wand was experiencing the Orgas plains much differently. The anxious elf jumping as the light shifted.

A wagon passed by as they walked along the road and Cassia danced around the golem.

Clay saw the landscape all around them punctured by cave entrances. He reasoned that they must be drawing close to their destination. The road split ahead of them.

“This road will lead us to the mines.” The drow said.

Te road became significantly more uneven as they turned off the main road. Loose gravel slid under their feet.

Ahead, Clay saw two drow elf guards standing in front of a cave entrance, spears ready at their sides. The crunch of gravel gave away the newcomer’s presence as the two guards brandished their weapons.

“Halt. Who goes there?” One of them called into the shadows.

Cassia walked forward, his gemstone wand leading the way.

“Um, hello. We’re with the hunter’s guild. We’ve come to deal with the crimson dart frog infestation.” The nervous elf squeaked out.

“Oh, it’s you.” The guard said in recognition, lowering his spear.

“Y-yes, I have a partner this time.”

As they approached, Clay could see the skeptical looks on the guard’s face. He wondered how many times Cassia had been here.

“Papers.” The guard said mechanically.

As they showed their paperwork to the guards the cavern ahead reverberated with a long growl. The guards gave a last skeptical glance at the pair as they waved them through.

Clay drew his sword.

“Wait.” Cassia called, fumbling with his vest. “I have something for you to coat your sword with.”

The drow pulled out a vial that refracted the purple light of his wand with a sickly yellow hue. Coming up besides Clay, Cassia popped the cork on his vial.

“May I?” The drow asked, gesturing towards Clay’s brandished sword.

The golem held out his sword as Cassia dribbled the yellow goop onto the blade.

This poison has a crippling effect. Anything you cut will be unable to move for several seconds.” Cassia said with a proud smile.

The poison applied, Clay moved out in front of the drow.

The darkness of the cave pressed in on them. Even with the golem’s blessed vision he could barely ee past the glow of Cassia’s wand. He grew very appreciative of the drow’s light source.

The growling sounds kept coming from the depths of the tunnel. What had sounded like one long growl multiplied into many. As they advanced a number of the reverberating groans cut out.

Suddenly, a large fleshy mass came flying out from in front of them. The oozing mass clung to the chain mail on Clay’s chest. The golem felt himself being tugged forward, the sticky mess continued into the shadows. Repositioning his feet, Clay held himself back. The gooey mass on his chest tugged at the chain mail, the clinking sound of the iron rivets echoed in the tight chamber.

Bringing his sword up across his chest, Clay easily severed the soft tissues that pulled into the shadows.

An agonized cry sounded as the rope like tissue snapped back.

Clay struggled to pull the sticky flesh from his chest until, finally, the mass fell from his body. Advancing into the cave, he saw it.

Before him crouched a red amphibian. The crimson dart frog stood about half the height of a dwarf. Its bleeding tongue hung out from its gaping mouth.

Clay thought it odd how the creature stood blankly staring at him as he approached. Wasting no time, the golem swung down with his sword. The blade bit deep through the red flesh of the animal. He nearly cut the creature in two as it meekly observed his attack.

And, it was done.

Clay was somewhat surprised at the speed with which he had dispatched the creature. He thought about the crippling poison that Cassia had applied to his sword.

“Woah.” The drow beside him marveled.

Clay looked to the elf and shrugged.

Cassia took out his knife and began to harves the creatures eyes.

“Hold on a minute.” Cassia called out from his gory work. “If I can harvest the glands under its tongue, I’ll be able to brew up a new potion back in town.

Clay left the elf to his work and stepped forward until the light from Cassia’s wand ran out. Standing at the edge of the darkness, Clay heard the sounds of movement.

“Hurry up, more are coming.”

The elf finished his work and came up behind the golem.

Now, Clay held his sword out in front of him.

Another tongue shot out from the abyss. This time, Clay was ready for it. Swinging the blade down before him, the golem divided the flying mass of flesh down the middle. Another anguished scream was released from the shadows ahead. Clay stepped over the tangled mass of the creature’s tongue until he once again drove his sword deep into the red flesh of a crimson dart frog.

He wasn’t allowed a reprieve to collect his thoughts. The tunnel had opened into a wide cavern. Another tongue flew towards him. This time he wasn’t able to draw his sword up to protect against the assault.

Raising his gauntleted hand, he protected his face against the flying tongue. The sticky mass oozed around his fingers, and Clay proceeded to squeeze his fingers into a balled up fist. Blood drained from the soft tissues of the frog’s tongue.

Freeing his sword from the body of the dead creature, Clay once again severed the rope like tongue from its body.

Clay paid no attention to the animals agaony as he saw a dozen of the toads gathered before him. Large sacks over their throats filled with air as the creatures croaked defiantly at the intruders.

Suddenly, a vial went flying over Clay’s shoulder. The tincture crashed into the ground amidst the croaking mass of frogs. A yellow mist engulfed the creatures and their loud groaning ceased. Clay looked to Cassia.

“Now!” The elf screamed.

Wasting no more time, Clay plunged into the frogs midst. His sword swung in wide arcs, dismembering red toad after red toad. Wherever is sword couldn’t reach as it was tearing into another creatures flesh, his gauntleted fist pummeled. The cavern became a mess of blood and viscera as the golem desperately struck out against the frogs.

The sound of splashes sounded in the cave as reinforcements arrived for the desperate frogs. As the tongues began to fly at him once more, Clay heard the shattering of glass. Looking towards the sound, he saw more of the yellow mist rising into the air accompanied by a red mist. As this red mist fell upon the creatures, wheezing gasps of air were released from their gaping mouths. Clay watched as one after another the frogs that found themselves enveloped in the red gas dropped to the ground, the air leaving their lungs.

“H-Help!” Clay heard Cassia cry.

Looking in the direction of the cry, Clay saw a long tongue gripping the drow elf.

Striding forward, Clay brought his sword down, severing the tongue. He ran over to the drow and, with a mighty grip, tore the sticky tongue from his partner’s body.

This pattern repeated over and over until the number of reinforcements reached zero. The poison gas clouds provided Clay the opportunity to strike out at the weakened animals with minimal opposition.

As the last of the red frogs slid to the ground in a bloody mess, Clay scanned the cavern. They were alone with the bodies.

Cassia sipped from one of his bottles as he regained his breath.

“Wow.” The drow huffed. “That was intense.”

Clay smiled at the elf. “Yes, it was.”

The golem reached into his clothes and pulled out a sack and his harvesting knife. The pair began their messy task of collecting the crimson dart frog eyes.

Cassia took significantly longer in his task as he harvested the glands in the creatures mouths.

But, eventually, their task was complete.

Rather than pushing deeper into the caverns, the pair of hunters decided to take the spoils of their hunt and return to Jaskar.

Upon exiting the cave, the pair of drow guards appeared surprised at the hunters return.

“We were sure you two were goners.” One of the guards said.

“Of course not.” Cassia said with newfound confidence. “They didn’t stand a chance.”

The pair left the Manat water mines and reentered the somewhat brighter Orgas plains.

Back at the hunter’s guild they showed their spoils to Mindy.

“Wow. You two don’t waste any time.” She said, impressed.

Cassia smiled, “Clay was amazing. He probably could have done it by himself.”

Clay thought on what the drow had said. It was true that he probably would have done fine alone, but the poisons had made things much easier.

“Alright, that’s one hundred and twenty four crimson dart frog eyes. An impressive haul. Your reward for this mission is two thousand four hundred dinal.” Mindy said as she counted out the coins.

Clay noticed the larger denomination coins as she paid them. Each received his half of the prize money.

As they left the reception desk they walked into the dining hall. Taking a seat, the drow waved down the barmaid.

“Two ales, please. And, two specials.”

The woman nodded as she fetched their meals.

“Outstanding job today.” The elf beamed.

“Yes, thank you for inviting me.” The golem truly did appreciate the teamwork that they had demonstrated on the hunt. He felt somewhat guilty for his initial suspicion of the man.

The woman returned with their drinks. “It’ll be just a little longer for the meal, the cook’s running slow today.”

“Not to worry.” The drow said with a smile.

As they sipped their beers, Clay thought about what to do next. Pulling his sword from its scabbard the golem noted the notches in the iron blade. He’d need to go back to the blacksmith and pick up a steel sword.

Cassia observed Clay’s concern. “I won’t be able to go out on another mission for a few days. I have some work to do with the brewer’s guild. You should stop in with them if you get the chance. Brewing can come in handy.”

Clay thought about the poisons that Cassia had used against the frogs. Truly the skill had a lot of uses for a hunter.

“I think I will.” Clay responded.

The barmaid returned with a plate of steaming tubers and a slab of meat.

“Here you go, gentlemen.” The woman said, somewhat flustered.

Loud voices could be heard coming from the door she’d just exited.

“I don’t care how! Just do it.”

The woman turned from the seated men and marched back out of the dining hall.

Cassia looked at Clay over his drink, “Not our business.”

Clay had to nod his agreement.

As they finished their meals, Cassia stuck out his hand. “Great working with you, Clay.”

“And, with you.” The golem shook the drow’s hand.

With that, they parted ways and Clay made his way back to his room.

Once locked away from the world, Clay remember his nocturnal visitor. Not wanting the intruder to find such easy entry a second time, the golem took the chair by the table and shoved it under the door handle.

Satisfied by the added security, Clay removed his armor and sword and placed them on the table.

Lying down on the bed, the golem relaxed into the half slumber of his sleep.