ULTIMA ONLINE FAN FICTION
THE DUNGEON CRAWL BY LORD BRYTT OF BAJA

I remember starting to lose consciousness. I remember that all I could do was look down past Remus at the frothing line of Ophidians beating at the other side of the door, thinking of several expletives and wondering why I wasn’t dead yet. Yes. Why wasn’t I dead?? Maimed, and not a breath away from a new cotton robe for the closet, but not dead. Two healers had set up a station in the corner of the large chamber to the south, but I was too far away and the Balron was still around somewhere….


This being my first major crawl, I had little idea of what to expect. I packed modestly. Take enough black pearl to hit hard, but don’t impede mobility or cause too much risk for loss. A handful of corked potions, a scrinium to resurrect someone if I lose my mana, and two flasks of chambord for my nerves. Okay. I’m ready.

Fearing I would be late, I grabbed my rune and met the team in front of the Mint of Vesper. But team isn’t correct. It was more of a horde. Greta had somehow constructed an army that could have sieged the forces of Minax. It really was incredible. Gates opened in chorus, bringing ten… twenty… thirty… (I lost count around there) all making last minute replacements to bow strings, oiling swords, or rehearsing vowels and gestures. Suddenly I was one of a dozen or more Grandmaster mages, and it was decided that we should spread our talents and gather with the warriors in squads of four to six. Teamed with Adian, Vega, and a few others, I closed in to where they had announced Greta was speaking.

“In just a moment, I will open the first gate,” she began. “If there are latecomers, they will be gated in once we have begun.”

I think that’s about when I opened the first of two flasks. People were disappearing through the gate, and I remembering idly wondering if they were coming out a meat grinder the other side. Still, though, I had promised myself that I would be one of the first mages to step through. After waiting a few moments for the warriors and archers, I kicked my heels and followed through.

The other side was quiet. A lava pool bubbled to the north. A couple of scouts ran ahead while the rest watched the glittering lights of In Lor and Arch Protection crackle and flare. Strangely, I felt more comfortable here, now, in a dark fiery pit, surrounded by artisans of conquest in every kind of armor than I had at the bank, pensive and eager and impatient. There was a hunt. And we were ready. Ready to fight. Ready to heal. And to die, if necessary.

The cry came from the scouts that we had incoming. Someone behind me cried out, “Wyrm!!” and I saw the largest leathery wings I have ever seen. Flanked by two wyverns, the nightmarish Zeus of dragons let out a thunderous roar as it charged into the milling warriors. I think I heard someone die right then. But the echo of “Corp Por!”s behind that was incredible. I dumped a full load of mana, then another on the beast. By the time I hit the start of my third, it was gone, and the Looters gleaned the corpse. Someone called that it was too easy. Before we could start to mill again, though, Greta announced we were headed upstairs to clean out a floor of Destard. This brought whoops and hollers from the army and we marched upstairs to lay siege.

I saw a lot of things on the floor above us. I saw my first Shadow Wyrm. I saw daemons and wyverns and skeletal dragons, none of which I had ever seen as close-up as I did tonight. And I fought. Mana drain after mana drain. Reagent after reagent. Someone needs healing behind me. I hear a cry, and one of the front line warriors has fallen. There are so many beasts. They are coming faster, aren’t they? How much time has gone by? Six separate wars are raging in the same room, and I don’t know which one to fight. I hit where I can and stay close to the front. I watch for anyone who starts to spasm, or the vapors of a fallen spirit, and pray that I’m quick enough to help. Daemon bodies litter the floor, and the stench is overwhelming. I pick my way through the bodies to a larger chamber that held a dark pentagram and several demonic runes. This seemed to be to where the front line has moved. I stayed close to the warriors that are fighting solo, observing carefully for any signs of magical wounds or toxins, all the while pummeling flamestrikes or bolts. This was thrilling.

At one point, I had to run back for reagents and returned just as Greta announced they were waiting for me to return before they proceeded to the Terathan keep. I grabbed my reagents and looked back for the rest of my party, but they had all gone. Adian hadn’t been able to maneuver due to the crowds, or he would have continued. Some of the others had the same problem, or had simply finished their hunt for the evening. I followed through the glowing gate to the keep and asked someone on the other side if there was an open party that needed a mage. Greta and Remus said I could stick with them.

I don’t think I really had known what the Terathans were. They kept calling out about a contract breached, terms revoked, defilers.... There were also Ophidian Shamans by the score. They marched the hallways and came at us in small packs. Down went the first avenger, then a shaman, and pretty soon the floor was littered. You didn’t want to be caught off your guard against them, but as we were, we seemed unstoppable. Yet I don’t think I had realized exactly where we were within the keep until someone to my right yelled, “Everyone head east! Now!! Hurry!!” Rounding the corner to my east and heading north, I drew rein in before proceeding, eyes wide.

The Slayer stood down the end of a very narrow corridor teemed with Ophidians. His muscular, metallic form was massive, and faster than anything I had seen in Britannia, excepting a vorpal bunny. Greta and Remus and all of the warrior heroes barred the entrance to the narrow corridor, waiting for the doors to open or break. Braced. Tense. Waiting.

The doors opened. I flipped to the page in my spellbook I’d kept my index finger in all the while, and hurled everything I had at the beast as he charged through the Ophidians and into the ranks. Someone died. Another, as the Balron lashed out. Greater heal. Corp Por. Flamestrike. The lights go out, and a chorus of desperate In Lors rings before the Corp Pors return. Someone ran back to the door and barred it before the throng of Ophidian shamans could drive through. I drew a step nearer for a better shot, but felt secure that I was far enough away from him to be safe. Two regiments of men stood between him and me.

Oh… how wrong I was!

I still have no idea how it happened, or what he hit me with. Somewhere between my last incantation and running my fingers over the next dose of black pearl, I was suddenly gasping for air on the floor and in agony. My energy drained away, my shocked body being ripped apart by something I couldn’t see. I’d never felt so much pain! In that half of a second, I watched my body tear and realized I was beyond healing. I had no chance at a heal spell or to unstop one of the precious bottles of viscous yellow liquid in my satchel. In that half of a second, all I could think of was resignation. Collapse. Death is here, and I should not have been so arrogant! I should not have been so stupid. Well, here comes my white robe for the afterlife. May someone guide me once I’m there.

I was watching my own blood pool on the floor, watching my life tick away like seconds on a clock, and somewhere between one and zero…. time stopped. My thoughts started to stick together and blur….

I remember starting to lose consciousness. I remember that all I could do was look down past Remus at the frothing line of Ophidians beating at the other side of the door, thinking of several expletives and wondering why I wasn’t dead yet. Yes. Why wasn’t I dead?? Maimed, and not a breath away from a new cotton robe for the closet, but not dead. Two healers had set up a station in the corner of the large chamber to the south, but I was too far away and the Balron was still around somewhere….

Something had kept me here. I don’t know if it was karma or luck but I didn’t have the time to sniff a gift fish! Grabbing the statuette from my pocket, I summoned my steed and assessed the room. The Ophidians had broken through to the north. The balron tore men apart to the south. I knew I had been lucky, but I was still finished if the Balron saw me. I also knew, though, that whether by one balron or eight shamans, one hit is all it would take. I ran south and charged the Balron.

I don’t know if I’m luckier that the balron left me alive, or that I crossed him in that split second between finishing a kill and looking for his next. Brushing his back with my shoulder, I had rounded two corners and had my hands on the ginseng before it occurred to him I was still a threat! I was alive, and it felt incredible!

Healed and royally pissed off, I rejoined the survivors to serve justice to this daemon of daemons. A lethal merry-go-round formed, with a balron in the center, and a dance of warriors encircling him. Slash, cut, run, heal. Help the wounded. Look for hero bodies under litters of stinking corpses. Return to the balron, and let the mana fly! In moments, he was gone.

And for all the trepidation I had expressed and though all the others had died and been risen, been maimed and been healed, I joined the artisans around me in calling for more!