Having tons of rock fall on her wasn’t the problem Tessa expected it to be. The falling debris blocked even Pillowcase’s enhanced vision and the cacophony made regular speech impossible, but she didn’t need to see or speak to react the room collapsing.
“Out!” she yelled on the team channel. “Through the door and out!”
When she’d pulled the lever, a new door had opened in the wall in the back of the cave. Tessa had only had the briefest of glimpses of the corridor beyond it but since she hadn’t seen a crash cascade of rocks piling down in there, it had to be better than staying in the room.
Most of the rest of the team was stunned back the disaster that was enveloping them so Tessa reach out and tossed the nearest one through the door. Rip wasn’t exactly pleased with that, but with her [Archer] reflexes she managed to land on her feet.
Lisa followed, her [Vampiric] speed not actually any greater than the rest of the team’s. She’d shaken off her surprise instantly and was moving on instinct as much as anything else.
Only Obby moved faster than her, diving clear of the rubble and rolling to land in front of RIp to be the shield the team needed for the inevitable monster attack that was waiting for them.
Tessa helped Starchild through the door after a rock clipped the [Druid] in the head. That had seemed like it was Starchild’s luck running out, but, as it turned out, it was Tessa who’d exhausted her good fortune.
She noticed the problem a tiny fraction of a second before the disaster sucked her up.
The rocks were still falling. How?
Shouldn’t they be piling up?
Enough had fallen that a pile should have formed. Or, really, the room should have filled up.
But it hadn’t.
Rocks continued to fall and a moment too late, Tessa understood why that was.
The ceiling wasn’t the only things that was falling – the floor was crumbling away too, huge pieces falling into whatever unknowable abyss lay below the entry room.
Except it wasn’t going to be unknowable for long, because she was tumbling right into it along with Matt and Lady Midnight.
As she fell, some analytical part of her mind observed that the room wasn’t just a trap, it was a timed puzzle. The [Bone Spiders] were intentionally over-powered for a first encounter in order to force the party to find a method of avoiding them. Once they found the lever, they needed to be ready to execute the ‘get the hell out of room’ mechanic within probably ten seconds. It wouldn’t have been hard if they’d known to expect it and had been prepared for it, but, as with many first time runs of a dungeon, they’d had to learn things through painful error after painful error.
“Tessa!” Lisa’s yell on the team channel reached Tessa before she stopped falling.
By about a quarter of a second.
A lot of her health bar vanished on the impact, and the same was true for Matt and Lady Midnight. An identical percentage in fact, since falling damage was treated differently than other forms of blunt trauma.
Since there were still rocks falling, Tessa rolled back to her feet, and grabbed her two teammates by their hands to haul them off the pile of rocks that was forming around them.
Each of them got pummeled more as they fled and by the time they were safely down an irregular tunnel Matt was about one mouse bite away from death and Lady Midnight was no more than twice as durable.
“Tessa, Matt, Midnight, where are you?” Lisa asked, her panic replaced with the frost of a healer making triage decisions. “We can still see your health bars in the party list. Are you buried under that rubble?”
Tessa breathed a sigh of relief on seeing that the rest of the team was still in solid shape.
“We’re not buried,” Tessa said. Her injuries were already starting to mend thanks to her [Clothwork] passive abilities. As a [Regeneration] based [Tank] she was expected to routinely take awful amount of damage and simply walk it all off.
“But we are cut off,” Lady Midnight said, pointing to the entrance of the tunnel which had been completely filled by the a solid wall of earth.
“We can try to get you out of there,” Rip said.
“Except that we’re cut off too,” Starchild said.
Tessa was surprised enough rocks had fallen to fill the pit to that level but then another idea occurred to her.
“We can get through the door again if we need to do,” Lisa said, confirming Tessa’s suspicion.
“Probably not worth the effort,” Tessa said. “This wasn’t a random accident. That room was designed as a trap. I’m betting when the door shut on you, some magic kicker on it returned the room to its previous state, [Bone Spides] and nanowire webbing included.”
Lisa cursed and wasn’t bleeped out by the game’s profanity filter. Tessa had always thought the profanity filter was ridiculous but she’d left it on fairly often, in part just to see what sort of absurd changes the filter made to otherwise innocuous phrases. Under the present circumstances though, she was glad that the real [Fallen Kingdoms] didn’t have that sort of censorship in place.
“It’ll be okay,” she said. “If I’m right, the two paths we’re on should meet up somewhere a little further on. The trap was just a recycle of the one in the [Crystal Monkey Cave] right?”
“I haven’t been in that dungeon in ten years,” Lady Midnight said.
“Nobody has,” Lisa said. “Or almost nobody. Everyone just skips past the mid-level dungeons now since the loot in them is worthless.”
“I was planning to see if Starchild could solo them,” Pete said. “I think she’s got the build for it.”
“That’s good,” Tessa said. “That should mean that you four won’t have any trouble making it to the meeting point.”
“This wasn’t a bad split for the team,” Obby said. “We’ve got tanks and healers on both sides.”
“I’m hoping we’ll both be able to handle whatever comes next,” Tessa said. “I’m guessing that will depend on whether the encounters scale for our current party sizes.”
“They won’t,” Lisa said. “In the [Crystal Monkey Cave], if I’m remembering correctly, the collapsing room trap was a response check. You were supposed to all get out of it together.”
“Next time it’ll be a breeze,” Tessa said. Lady Midnight had finished healing herself and Matt to full, so Tessa started to carefully advance forward down the tunnel.
“We need to survive this one for there to be a next time,” Lisa said.
“Right. And if we do die, we need to remember to pay attention to our surroundings while we look for the [Heart Fire]. We don’t want to do a mapping run as ghosts if we don’t have to, but if we’re stuck with that, let’s make it count.”
“Promise me you’ll be safe,” Lisa said on their private channel.
“I’m not going to go looking for fun without you,” Tessa said. “The sooner we’re back together, the better.”
“Why didn’t you come through the door?” Lisa asked. “I tried to grab you.”
“I think I was still worried about the [Bone Spiders],” Tessa said. “I didn’t want to leave anyone behind to get eaten by them. I’m sorry though, I didn’t see you reaching for me.”
“That’s okay,” Lisa said. “The rocks were falling. I know you couldn’t do anything about it.”
“Next time I’ll know to try though,” Tessa said.
“Next time I’ll remember that the devs are lazy jerks,” Lisa said. “I bet there’s more recycled stuff in here.”
“Uh, no bet,” Tessa said, putting out her arm to bring Matt and Lady Mightnight to a halt.
In front of her the tunnel widened into a broad shaft with a series of mushrooms rising from the floor far below or sprouting from the walls. From the ceiling, or in some cases from the wall mushrooms, thick vines hung down.
“Those sadists,” Lady Midnight said when she saw what awaited them.
“What is it?” Rip asked.
“Mushrooms,” Tessa said, “In a deep, deep shaft. With vines to swing on.”
Lisa cursed again. Repeatedly this time.
“What’s wrong with mushroom?” Rip asked.
“Nothing,” Tessa said. “Providing you don’t mind falling several hundred feet to an insta-kill.”
“We started doing that intentionally after our seventh run of the [Depths of Tolboron],” Lisa said.
“Wait, we’re supposed to jump from one of the mushroom caps to the next right?” Matt asked.
“And swing between them when the jump is too far or long,” Tessa said.
“That doesn’t look easy,” Matt said.
“It’s not,” Tessa said. “But the best part is the moment sets foot on one of the mushrooms is when the mobs will appear.”
“So we need to do the jumping and swinging while things are trying to kill us?” Matt asked.
“Smart things too,” Tessa said. “At least in the earlier dungeon this was in.”
“Smart how?” Rip asked.
“Smart as in ‘they wait till your vulnerable to attack in the hope of messing up your jump or knocking you off a vine,” Lisa said. “And then when you go splat on the ground, they land to devour your body so you’re stuck rezzing at the [Heart Fire] and taking a nice big quality hit on all your gear.”
“I see why no one does this one anymore,” Rip said.
“Well, not this one,” Tessa said. “The [Depths of Tolboron] is one of the very old dungeons. The newer ones are usually more fun.”
“I’m not seeing a lot of fun up here,” Lisa said. “We made it to the shaft too. I think we’re we’re on the walkway right above you.”
The walkway in question was a good hundred feet higher up the shaft. Not a trivial distance to overcome.
“I’m surprised we got here without being attacked?” Obby said.
“We’re still stuck possibly fighting two battles at once if we all try to get onto the mushrooms,,” Tessa said.
“Could we lower people down with ropes instead?” Rip asked. “Or try to climb the walls?”
“That wasn’t an option in the game, but there’s nothing stopping us from trying it here,” Tessa said. “Except that the mobs that are probably lurking here don’t have the game limitation of only attacking us when we touch the mushrooms.”
“What if something else touches the mushrooms?” Rip asked.
“What kind of something else?” Tessa asked.
“This kind,” Rip said.
From high above, Tessa saw a flash of light followed by a detonation that sent pieces of one of the giant mushrooms raining down into the pit below.
Before she had time to admonish Rip for making a bad choice, the consequence of that choice appeared.
Tess had been expecting either spiders or bats to be the enemy. They were staples of a lot of low level quests and this felt like a ‘blast-from-the-past’ zone. Instead of spiders or bats though, the open air in front of her was filled with [Flying Poison Creepers].
The Creepers were a naturally occurring form of undead – if the spontaneous amalgamation of multiple dead bodies into a single chaotic whole could be called ‘natural’ in any sense. Their species designation was less important to Tessa however than their sensory capabilities.
Specifically whether the Creepers could sense then or had taken flight only because of the destruction of the mushroom.
“Incoming!” Obby yelled just as Tessa saw the Creepers random flight patterns flicker over to a purposeful and directed pair of flight plans.
“Behind me. Only engage the ones I’m on,” Tessa said. “If any break through, leave them alone, even if they attack you.”
There were too many Creeper diving towards them. Tessa knew she could hold them all, and she could only cling to the hope that she could survive the ones she did manage to provoke.