Chapter 23 - Dragon Hunters

"A LESSER DRAGONLING?" Carol fumed, "'Tis as big as a damn house, and ye tell me not only it be a wean but a lesser one? Aye, we're getting skelping alright."

"Uhm, yes. That's what Betty said." Taro fumbled about looking helpless at Carol's onslaught.

Somehow, we managed to make it back to the entrance. Apparently, the monster of this level was an infant dragon of a lesser variant. It had not yet developed fire-breathing related organs nor learned proper flying. Not that it mattered, it could still sneeze in our general direction and we drop dead.

As it were, it was now perched on top of the hill-mountain. Unblinking eyes locked onto the entrance. Seems like it had trouble going far away from its cave since it couldn't just fly in and out. Maybe the dungeon restricted monsters from leaving their area? Or perhaps it was just lazy. I was thankful enough for that; it had saved our lives.

According to Carol, she had activated two of her skills before going in - one to muffle footsteps, another to shroud her in darkness and mask her smell. The latter was a new one she got from her last Class Up. After following the only way in, she came upon a large hall-like structure with a small pile of old coins and dusty broken equipment in the center with the creature snoring nearby. She stayed by the foyer taking it all in when her mana ran out. She had miscalculated the drain by keeping two skills active for so long. As soon as it happened, she scrambled back towards us.

As we lingered by the entrance, lost in our thoughts, I noticed the dragon let out a big yawn, showing off sword-like teeth visible even at this distance. It let out a snort and left its perch. With small hops, it leaped down into the cavern mouth and vanished inside. I glanced at the others, seeing my determined look reflected in theirs. Time to hunt a dragon.

¤ ¤ ¤

"All right, anyone got any ideas?" (Julie, starting the brainstorming session)

"Head-on attacks are out. I bet we can't even scratch it. And I doubt magical attacks work either." (Arya)

"Nor can we take the risk to find out. Our only option is to attack from a range." (Divin)

"But I'm almost out of arrows. And I don't think they would much help either way. We shouldn't let it out the cave. Inside, its movements are restricted." (Julie)

"But how are we going to keep it inside? Even if we do, how will we damage it?" (Taro, panicking)

'And here I thought you wanted to wrestle with a full-grown dragon atop an active volcano. Heh.' (Me, in my head)

"..." (Everyone, lost in thought again)

"I may have something." (Me)

"What is it? Another trap?" (Julie)

"Well, sort of. I imagine it is still inside the hall, sleeping soundly thinking itself safe and secure from all attacks. Which it is, in a way. So we won't be attacking at all. What if we start a bonfire inside the cave and let the smoke in? Dragon or not, it still needs to breathe." (Me, a little smug)

"Y-You... You want to kill a dragon by suffocating it?" (Taro, bewildered)

"Bwhahahahaha, PEDRO!" (Carol, losing it)

"Asphyxiation. Yes, it could work..." (Divin, apparently visualizing the plan)

"Sometimes, you can be pretty scary, you know?" (Arya, looking at me sideways with a slight smile)

¤ ¤ ¤

Without dallying further, we got to work. The chances of this plan working were quite high - as long as preparations went off without a hitch. That meant the dragon had to wake up only when it was choking to death. Any earlier and all efforts go down the drain, along with our element of surprise.

Felling the trees was quite efficient with sharpened wind strikes of Taro's swings. Divin helped cut the logs into manageable pieces, which Carol piled into the cave somewhere. She had found a perfect place to light the fire, such that smoke would blow inwards naturally and clog the hall. Arya, Julie and I ferried the logs between Taro, Divin and Carol. Carol would also sneak in from time to time to check on the napping reptile.

We worked tirelessly. I wiped out my SP more often than not, requiring frequent breaks. Finally, after however many hours, our setup was complete. The dragon hadn't noticed us at all. Out "blootered" according to Carol.

I held a dry branch in my hand, not unlike a torch. We were standing outside near the entrance. I watched others gather around me, jaws set in grim determinations. Taking in a deep breath, I selected the top part of the branch and chain-casted Incendios on it. Soon enough, it was set aflame. I handed the makeshift torch to Carol, who promptly disappeared inside. Minutes ticked by as we waited. Eventually, a head of disheveled curly reds stormed out and we marched back to the level entrance in silence.

I wasn't sure what to expect. After the bone-chilling roars, I half expected the dragon to swoop in while I was shifting the logs. Later, I envisioned it exploding out of our hasty bonfire, enclosing on us like a giant iron maiden. Yet, nothing happened. Apparently, the stories about the pride of dragons weren't without merit. Or was it because of the stories that it was so? Either way, it was done now. In fact, this was the best-case scenario. All we had to do was wait.

¤ ¤ ¤

We did not have to wait for long. I felt the familiar pull of Class Up in my mind. 'So the dragon is dead. Looks like it died in its sleep.'

I was about to open my Status Window to check my gains when I halted my finger mid-air. Something felt... Off. Different somehow. So far, I was able to select any object by pointing my palm straight at. It didn't feel like I had to do that now. I could actually select multiple objects simultaneously - anywhere between five to ten, depending on factors like size and distance. Without pointing my palm at any one in particular. With a hunch, I lifted my other hand. While the area of effect stayed the same, I realized I could select at least three times as more objects. 'Holy Shit! Looks like I got another Perception related upgrade. An uber-powerful one at that'

Deciding to experiment with it later, I opened my Status Window.

[Expert] Mage - Level 15

Status Points
Health 530/530
Mana 1690/1690
Stamina 63/63
Experience 823/1600
Attributes Points
Strength 16
Vitality 16
Agility 16
Dexterity 17
Intelligence 26
Perception 22+1
Wisdom 20+1

Special Effects:

'Hmm, my mana is totally off the charts. Still not enough for the password hack test though. Did I rename that function? I should do it soon. Health is... okay I guess. Stamina is pathetic as always. Not much else to see. I bet others are salivating over new skills!' Slightly peeved, I opened up my repo. Renamed test to hack_pass, added the long-overdue incendio curse and moved questlist out of sight below so it won't interfere with my view of spells. Also added a few items to it, making it a proper list of quests. 'Yeah, that should do it.'

incendio x = (( x.temperature = x.temperature * 2 ))

petrificus_totalus x = (( x.temperature = x.temperature / 2 ))

identify o = echo o

hack_pass = i=0; while [ $i -le 255 ]; do echo "$(get_char $i) $(get_time)" >> password_hack | sudo -S echo; done;

get_char i = printf "\x$(printf %x $i)"

get_time = date +%s%N

petrificus_slowly x = while true; do (( x.temperature-- )); done;

incendio_slowly x = while true; do (( x.temperature++ )); done;

create_low_point l = while true; do (( l.potential-- )); done;

create_high_point h = while true; do (( h.potential++ )); done;

'All in order. How about my questlist?'

'This will do for now.' I closed my windows. 'Five more levels to go!'

Chapter 22 - Stupefy
Chapter 24 - End Game