The Duel I

Tales of the Dungeon Mistress

By

Accipiter G. Goshawk

Hey everyone, it’s been a while! Let’s get right into it, shall we?

She had barely managed to reach the rocky outcrop before the storm hit. Deadly gusts of sand, dust and glass spiralled in a merry-go-round of blades that tore into the ruins of the small village, reducing the decrepit wooden boards to splinters.

She’d noticed the change in air pressure three days ago. Immediately she’d deviated from the trail to Arten Junction and made for the mountains. She’d marched day and night, forcing her tired muscles to continue moving despite the lack of sleep. She rested only briefly to suck a quick gulp of water from her canister or to change her clothes at sunset and dawn.

Now she was crouching deep in the small maze of rocky caverns at the base of the mountain range, trying to get a fire going despite the errant gusts of wind that penetrated into her small hideout. After an hour of moving sand and debris to protect the entrance and struggling to find some form of fuel, she was rewarded by a small sliver of light and warmth that crackled merrily in the centre of the cave.

Sighing, she finally sat down and removed her goggles and mask. Her first breath of air was a brief relief, followed by a fit of coughing, as dust entered her tired lungs. She took a swig of water and slowed her breathing, willing the fit to subside. Slowly, her muscles relaxed. She reached for her pack and the movement brought her bandoleer of chance into the light of the fire: countless colours swirled into existence as every dice captured the flames’ light and sent it dancing around the walls of the cavern.

The Dungeon Mistress smiled to herself, then turned her mind back to the tasks at hand. Water was followed by food, then bedding for the night accompanied by a small evil-looking device that was never far from her twitching hand.

She spent the next few days in a cycle of meals, writing and scavenging. Her explorations of the cave network revealed it to be the lair of some long-dead desert predator, whose bones still littered the floor. She collected some of these and set about carving them into new dice. By the time she had finished her first set, the wind had let up, and cooler air had begun to filter into the cave.

Called by the promise of a clear night, she made her way to the mouth of the cave. She was rewarded with a vision of unparalleled splendour: endless sand dunes, shining under the light of the stars and the crescent moon. She shivered as the temperature began to slowly dip below freezing, but remained outside a while longer. Thoughtfully, she pulled her goggles over her eyes and adjusted the mode to night-vision and zoom.

Slowly, she scanned the horizon.

Her head stopped abruptly as she caught sight of an odd construction topping a small hill.

“A pyramid…?

*          *          *

The story continues in Part II...

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