“Hey, who’s that, Al?” Sam nudged his partner, who dropped his fork in disgust.
“That new girl. She looks plant based.”
“So what? My meal looks plant based.”
Al frowned, looking at his scalloped potatoes with longing. He’d give almost anything for an uninterrupted meal.
Al had been working with Sam for the last month. At first, their dungeon delving had been successful, the loot rolling in, but as of late they were barely escaping the treacherous flora and fauna with their lives.
It hadn’t helped that Al felt less and less like he was pulling his weight on their runs. He had specced out as a tank class, but they were reaching levels where his gear was becoming ineffective.
On their last run, he had practically died while falling into a deadfall trap, and Sam had laughed in his face while extracting him. He shuddered to think what might have happened if he hadn’t stashed that extra healing potion in his pack.
The paranoia that something was going to go wrong was getting to him. For their next run, he would suggest that they raid an easier area so he could get materials for some better gear.
He kept eating, ignoring his partner’s ebullience, shoveling the potatoes in as fast as he could. He was dog tired, and just wanted some rest.
Monsters were not an unusual sight at the guildhouse. The discovery of a new dungeon had drawn creatures from all over. All of them trying to make a buck. They needed to eat just like anybody else.
Some of them flaunted their assets more than others, however. The guild didn’t seem to care how their staff moonlighted. There were more than a few attractive guild workers who also worked as prostitutes. Whoever Sam was talking about was probably just one more.
“I wonder what sorts of sexual acts she can perform with those tendrils,” Sam speculated, drinking a mouthful of beer. “I bet she’s great in bed.”
“Fine,” Al sighed, tired of being distracted. He pushed his plate away and cracked his knuckles. “Who has the guild hired this time, and what kind of freaky sex acts are you thinking of performing with her?”
He turned and looked at the quest board, eyes freezing as he caught sight of a stunning plant woman. Curls of red hair billowed over her shoulders, running down to cover the tops of her breasts. She was wearing a set of living armor, twigs and vines curling out from all the attachment points. From her head sprouted a red flower, the interior colored a brilliant yellow. It tilted back and forth as she nodded, a faint sprinkle of pollen blowing off her head like dandruff.
She looked amazing, like someone out his dreams. Admittedly, his dreams were less ambitious as of late, but even so, he could easily imagine what might happen if he had the confidence to proposition her.
A bitter taste settled in the back of his mouth. With the way his finances were going, she was way out of his league. He’d have to grind for months to even afford a single night with her, and that wasn’t likely to happen if he kept having to spend all of his hard earned cash on items to keep him alive.
“Gents,” she declared, tapping a wooden rod against the bar at the front of the room.
Her voice was soft, but commanding. It drew your attention, like fresh beads of dew on morning leaves. He blinked, mesmerized by her presence.
Turning, she prodded at a series of quests which had been added to the board. “Several female adventurers have gone missing delving on the fourth level. This being a fairly innocuous area of the dungeon, the guild has decided to sponsor search quests for higher level male adventurers only to figure out what’s going on.”
A female ogre smacked an open palm on her wooden table. “That’s blatant discrimination!” she declared, her eye bulging in its socket.
The plant woman looked away, not willing to face the ogre directly. “Sorry ladies, but the guild isn’t taking any chances. Even if it’s someone of your… caliber.”
The ogre grunted and began to gnaw on a bone, grinding it into dust with her sharpened teeth. Her table mates pulled away, turning pale.
The plant woman smiled brightly, addressing the rest of the crowd. “Now, for completing these quests, standard rewards will be quadrupled and you will be given twenty meal vouchers.”
The dwarf who was wiping down the counter paused and looked up at the crowd, which was making a sound of disbelief. He grunted. “It’s already been paid for,” he said with a high pitched voice. “No premium meal items… those are still priced regularly.”
A small groan rocked the room, but Al could tell their excitement hadn’t been dampened too severely. The chef was a four armed Naga, legendary for the rarity of her race as well as her skill at producing the best quality meals in the region. Of course they were interested.
He was interested, too, but any excitement he felt was tempered by the knowledge that these quests were too high level for him. He was already going to have to grind some of the lower difficulty levels to restock his inventory.
The plant based woman turned, her flower dipping as she smiled brightly. “Who’s in?” she asked, grinning as a line of adventurers began to form.
“This is our ticket!” shouted Sam, punching Al’s shoulder. “If we accomplish this quest, I’ll bet we’ll have the capital to push down to level twenty. You’ve been talking about that since you’ve arrived!”
Al nodded, his mouth full of potatoes. It was true. Level twenty was the gateway to the richest parts of the dungeon. If he could survive there, he could hire himself out as a guard to protect some of the mining operations, or even be a courier. He could ditch his tank role and get a job where his sole duty wasn’t taking the hardest hits dungeon creatures could deliver.
“Let’s do it! I’ll go register us right away!”
Al frowned, swallowing his mouthful of food. “Hold on, there,” he said, chasing the food with a draught of ale.
He lifted a hand and started ticking off points on his fingers. “I’m down to just the one health potion. On our last quest, we lost our rope escaping from a pit, and the lantern is out of fuel. We spent most of our treasure on new equipment and we can barely afford our night’s stay at this inn.”
Sam guffawed. “All the more reason to take this on! Come on, man, this is fourth level! A milk run! What have we been doing, tenth level? Whatever we run into shouldn’t be able to get through your new armor!”
Al put down his mug with a thump. “I’m sorry, Sam, I just need some time to get my head back on straight. Those spiders we faced drained a lot of my constitution with their poison attacks. I’m just not up to taking on something new right now.”
Sam shrugged and waggled his eyebrows. “Fair enough. Would you at least be my wingman? I bet the new girl would love hearing some of our adventuring tales!”
Al pulled a piece of parchment out his pocket and examined his stats. He sighed. The meal hadn’t completely replenished his health points; he was going to need to lie down for a nap. “No, I really can’t. I’m dead on my feet.”
“Your loss,” replied Sam, pointing at him as he rose from the wooden bench. “I’m still going to give it a shot.”
Al rolled his eyes and rapped his knuckles against the table. “Check please!”
His lip curled as he spotted Sam running up to the green plant woman, her curls bouncing as she laughed at one of his jokes. Always the popular one, he thought bitterly. Always the one to whom things came easily.
Damn, he was a sad sack of a man. Yes, he was jealous. He shook himself. Being depressed like this would only spoil any chance they had of winning good loot tomorrow.
He passed several rooms, hearing shrieks of pleasure and muffled, playful banter. Ignoring all of it, he shuffled up a few floors, opening the door to the cheapest accommodations. Lying down on a mat of tattered straw, he did his best to forget his troubles as he shuffled off to sleep.
Al woke to a loud thumping noise on the door of his room. He groaned and turned over, ignoring the pricks delivered by his straw mattress.
“Coming!” he shouted, climbing out of bed.
He had fallen asleep in his gambeson, lacking any pyjamas to change into. The entire night was a bust, tossing and turning due to strange noises that penetrated the cheap walls of the inn.
He grunted, moving over to the door. He would have preferred to sleep in the dungeon at this rate. Perhaps next time he would suggest it.
When his hand touched the latch, the door burst open, revealing the wiry form of his partner. He looked like he had just taken a bath, his hair perfectly coiffed. The rings on his fingers sparkled as he gave a half wave. The privilege of being a rogue class.
“Good morning! I told her we’d take the quest! " Sam declared.
“You what?” Al pressed a few fingers to his temple. “You fucked her, didn’t you, and she convinced you to do the quest.”
Sam at least had the good grace to look embarrassed and a little worried. He blinked, trace of green flashing in his eyes. “She told me that it should be simple for us, and I know you badly need the meal tickets.”
Al stepped closer, examining his face. “Is that you or her pollen doing the talking?”
“Just me!” He drew back, haughty. “I did make sure to take a bath afterwards to remove any trace of her influence.” He sniffed. Are you happy now? You’re always warning me about safety.”
Al grunted. He supposed he didn’t have a good reason to rebuff the fellow. The quest he had accepted for them was reasonable for their level, and he hated that. Hated that his wishes were being ignored.
“Come on!” wheedled Sam. “With those coupons, we won’t go hungry for at least a few months!”
Al frowned and berated himself. He was going to give in, but he detested himself for it. No need to take it out on Sam, though.
He sighed. “I’ll be ready in a bit, let me grab my gear, I’ll meet you in the lobby.”
Sam smiled, that charismatic grin that got him into and out of so much trouble. “Awesome, partner! I know we’ll do great!”
Al waved him off, shutting the door. It was going to take more than just words to make this happen.
He grunted, gathering what little remained of his supplies into his haversack. The single, remaining health potion, enough rations for a few days, a fifty foot length of rope, a box of stick matches, and his last torch. Not much for dungeon delving, but it would at least save him from some of the most common pitfalls.
He gathered up his mail and draped it over his shoulders, letting it flow over his sagging belly. He put on a similar covering over his pants, dragging the interlocking links of metal over his knees Plate armor of any kind was far outside his budget, so he had to make do.
There wasn’t much in the upper levels of the dungeon which could penetrate his current set of armor, anyway, though toxic liquids were always a concern. That was what he used his shield and polearm for.
The shield strapped to his left arm, and provided limited protection, though he was surely glad he had it when a hedgehog like monster had fired its spines at him.
Even more important was his long spear, topped with a combination pointed tip and axe head. If he could keep the monsters at a distance, he didn’t need to test the efficacy of his armor. Prevention was worth far more than a pound of cure.
He slung the sack over his shoulder, tipping his weapon down so that it would fit through the door.
All he felt was a general sense of weariness. He knew he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to go dungeon delving. He knew his chances of injury were high. He also knew he had little choice.
This quest had better be worth the meal vouchers, or he would force Sam to do all the dirty laundry. He’d like to see him chatting up one of the bints at the bar while covered in suds.
His mood improving, he whistled as he maneuvered his way down the inn’s rickety staircase.
The first level of the dungeon was a piece of cake. They had encountered a few small spiders and slimes, which had put up little resistance.
They had utilized their usual tactics on the monsters. Al would push in with his shield and polearm, menacing them at close range. The monsters would invariably try to attack him, at which point Sam would throw off his camouflage and stab them in the back.
It was far more efficient than delving by himself, giving him all the more reason to put up with the rogue. As much as he pained to admit it.
“Say, where are all the other adventurers?” asked Al, cleaning green gunk from their latest conquest off the tip of his weapon. “I expected the entire area to be flooded with delvers.”
He had rather thought they would be traveling in a band. Not that he minded the lack of competition, but it was making him nervous.
“They’ve assigned us to search different areas,” replied Sam, rubbing down his knives with a cloth.
He peered at them and smiled, breathing on one and polishing it back to a mirror shine. “I found us an inside track, though. Martia told me on the down low that the largest cluster of missing girls was in the aqueduct sector. Should be a milk run for us to make a sweep through there.”
The so-called aqueduct sector had been built by an older civilization which had taken up residence in the dungeon. To survive, they had grown mushrooms and crafted intricate jewelry from mines situated in the lower levels.
Nobody was sure why they had left, but many speculated that they had been driven out as stronger monsters had moved up from below. All that had been left behind was the product of their hard work—a complex system of waterworks routing the underground rivers into reservoirs and millponds.
Adventurers had driven the monsters back out, leaving the sector as a good place for beginners to get some experience. Or seasoned adventurers down on their luck.
Al frowned, bothered at how easy it was for Sam to gather intelligence. “You’re on a first name basis with her? What else did she tell you?”
Sam smirked. “Most of it was uncontrollable screaming with a few yesses thrown in for good measure.”
Al rolled his eyes. He should have expected as much.
“She did give me an elevator token, though.” He dangled a card in front of Al’s face.
Al’s eyes bulged. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?” he snapped, grabbing the token to examine it more closely.
The rectangular stone had a raised border, with a red gem embedded in the center. Two heralds with long trumpets faced each other, the bells of their instruments resting on top of the jewel. With this, they could gain access to the elevator!
The elevator was special, a vertical shaft blasted through the rock that could take you down into the depths via electrical power. The lift had been built by the vanished civilization, with electrification coming later. Still, only the bravest had tried the lower levels. Many hadn’t come back.
That was all immaterial to Sam. With the pass, it would take them a matter of minutes to get down to the fourth level! This quest would be done in time for dinner!
He imagined a bowl filled to the brim with hearty stew, chunks of meat floating in a pool of chicken stock. A loaf of crusty bread accompanied the dish, with a pat of butter served on the side. He could almost see the steam wafting up from the bowl.
He gritted his teeth. “There has to be a catch. There’s always a catch.”
“No catch,” grinned the rogue. “Just a few helpful tips and directions.”
“Yes, I’m sure she appreciated your tip just fine.”
Sam had the good grace to blush.
“Fine, then, I see no reason to hang around here. Let’s get moving.” He rolled his shoulders, hefting his polearm.
He was already itching to see combat, which was always a bad sign. Eagerness made him sloppy.
At any rate, it didn’t matter all that much with the opposition they were currently facing, and the elevator wasn’t that far away.
“Say, Sam, what are you planning to do with the reward?” asked Al.
Sam tucked the elevator token into his vest. “This may come as a surprise to you, but I don’t plan on spending the rest of my days down here. Each small quest is a stepping stone to getting out of here and finding something better, no matter how pleasurable some of the… interludes… around here might be.”
“So what’s your long term, plan, then? Ditch me and go spelunking in the lower levels?”
Sam blinked. “Actually, no. I’ve done some scouting down to level twenty and that’s no place for a sole survivor. My skills work best when I’m in a team. I wouldn’t mind picking up some more members for our little group. Closing out this quest may be our opportunity to make us look more attractive.”
It was Al’s turn to blink. He honestly hadn’t thought that Sam was anything more than a pretty face. Maybe it was him who was being the stick in the mud.
He grunted, but said nothing, mulling it over for a moment. “Alright,” he said. “If we succeed in this, let’s go looking for more party members.”
“That’s the spirit!” said Sam, skipping ahead. The daggers in his waistband flashed as he turned the corner, his hands held near to their hilts just in case they encountered more monsters.
In any event, they didn’t. The rest of their trip to the elevator shaft was surprisingly peaceful.
Sam stood in front of the doors, peering at the edifice quizzically. Traced into the golden rock was iconography of a gang of people mining rocks. What ore they were after was lost to time, though it must have been quite valuable for them to have celebrated the process with such painstaking art.
“It looks like it’s supposed to open, but how?” asked Sam.
Al shrugged. He was no wizard with mechanical devices. He was good at soaking up hits, not at solving problems.
He hefted the shield in his hand. “We could try to prize the doors open with my shield, but I doubt it would work.”
His mind wandered, as it often did. Waiting around was never his strong suit.
His eyes traced the artwork, moving up the shovel of one of the miners. The rock made it look as though it had been crafted out of solid gold. Just a trick, to be sure, but he wished he had one of those shovels.
Mining seemed like rough, honest work. The type of work that didn’t require restocking health potions every evening. It was probably less dangerous than dungeon delving, too. Another strong point for getting out of here and finding a place to settle down.
The handle of the shovel was oddly shaped. Instead of a half circle grip, the end was distorted into a rectangular hole, a shallow depth cut into the rock. Al grinned. Even an idiot like him knew what that meant.
“Here, let me see that token,” requested Al.
Sam fished it out of his tunic and presented it to Al, giving him a curious look.
Admiring the gem built into the small stone, he walked up to the door and pressed it into place. A sharp click echoed in the chamber and the gigantic stone doors rumbled open.
“It… worked,” declared Sam, brows raised.
Al shrugged. “It was obvious even for me.”
Sam groaned. “Don’t sell yourself short, you’re not an idiot—most of the time.” There was a strange gleam in his eyes.
Al grunted, but didn’t reply, stepping over the threshold. He was far too busy trying to avoid thinking about how deep the elevator shaft actually was, and whether he would be killed instantly if the car plunged into the depths.
Sam followed behind and began studying the controls, clearly not having such concerns. He pressed a button, and the room lurched, sending Al stumbling into the far wall, his weapon jamming into the ceiling.
“Sorry about that,” said Sam, frowning. “It looks like you’re supposed to hold a button down, like this.”
The outer doors closed smoothly, and Al could feel a tremble under his feet, accompanied by a sinking motion. His heart lurched, and he was very much in danger of losing his last meal.
“I hate moving… contraptions,” he wheezed, sounding strangled.
“Cheer up, you old coot, it won’t be long. We’re already past the second floor.”
Al was more concerned at the moment that he hadn’t been able to extract his polearm from the ceiling. The pointed end had stuck into something squishy, and he didn’t have enough strength to move the butt end far enough to relieve the pressure. The ceiling appeared to be made out of something organic, vines twisted together into a thick mat.
He sighed and coughed, smelling wisteria. It was almost as though the last occupants had doused themselves with perfume. Resigned to the odor, he looked at the entrance side of the descending metal box. A large numeral had been scrawled on the wall, accompanied by crude sketches, somebody’s idea of fun. The graffiti clearly wasn’t original, as the drawings were amateurish, accompanied by terrible, lewd jokes.
“A slime a day keeps the women away,” said one, implying something far less innocent.
Soon enough, the numeral four dropped into view, followed by a set of stone doors, which ground open in front of them as the elevator approached. Al tried once more to extract his weapon from the ceiling, but it was firmly lodged into place. How embarrassing.
“Sam, I could use your assistance here,” he said reluctantly.
Sam looked at his predicament and guffawed. “How the heck did that happen? What bad luck!”
He joined Al and they strained together, putting their backs into it. A wet, squishing sound came from above, and the haft began to move, skidding across the floor.
A rumble came from above and a sheet of water came splashing down, catching Sam by surprise. Rivulets of liquid ran under his collar and streamed over his face, leaving his golden hair a bedraggled mess.
It was all Al could do to avoid laughing in his face, but he was sure his facial expression would give him away. He turned and coughed into his elbow.
Sam shook his head like a dog, water splattering all over the car. Al wasn’t spared the mess, but the small amount that landed on him didn’t amount to much more than a sprinkle.
“Let’s go get a fire started and dry you out,” he suggested.
“I suppose I did need a shower,” barked Sam, trying to take it in good cheer.
Al coughed again, successfully concealing his mirth at the cost of making his throat irritated. He lowered his weapon and marched out of the elevator, determined to clear away any enemies in his path.
His eyes roved back and forth, taking in the stone architecture. Level four had been the main living level of the ancient civilization, where they had spent most of their time and effort.
The walls were the same golden color as the elevator door, clad in the same rock. Perhaps it was made out of the ore they had been mining from the depths. Over time, the mortar had begun to crumble, but it was still holding up well.
He took a few steps further, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. “The monsters must be having a tea party somewhere else, let’s go.”
A muffled thump and low moan came from behind him. The hair on the back of his neck rose and he turned around to see Sam held in the elevator car by thick vines that had dropped from the ceiling.
Two of them had wrapped around his upper thighs, pulling him off the ground. Two more had thrust themselves under his arms. The end of a fifth vine had plugged his mouth, preventing him from calling out. He grabbed for his dagger, but a woman stepped up from behind, wrapping him in a bear hug.
He struggled to turn his wrists far enough to slash at her, but her arms were like stiff branches, preventing him from getting enough leverage to even dent her gnarly appendages. She grinned, leaning over to place one of her green hands around his gagged mouth.
“Hello, you two,” she said with a throaty voice, imbuing her words with raw lust. “Our boy Sam here left last night before I could finish growing my gift for him.”
She moved her hand to clasp Sam’s jaw, squeezing his cheeks to pretend as though she was speaking for him. His eyes bulged, but he couldn’t manage more than a faint moan. “Thank you, Martia,” she said, her green eyes glowing with amusement. “I really enjoyed our time last night, and I would like to share your bed again.”
“Why, thank you,” she said, replying to herself. “We’ll spend lots of time together, after you accept my gift.”
She tilted her head over, exposing the brilliant yellow center of the flower which was growing out of her skull. Letting go of him with her right hand, she reached up and plucked a round nodule from deep in the center, showing it to Al, who had been stunned into inaction.
He blinked his eyes slowly, a bit dopey. The scent of wisteria curled around his head, making him feel more light headed with every breath. Had the plant woman done something to him? The polearm nestled in the crook of his arm felt heavy, and he wanted nothing more than to take a long nap.
Standing back up, she moved to one side and pressed the small pod into the top of Sam’s head, right in the center. “Natural germination can normally take up to three weeks, but I don’t have time for that. No, for you I have a special fertilizer.”
She pressed her hand firmly against his head as her forehead glowed green, so intense that Al was forced to look away. A calm, soothing hum emanated from the woman, but instead of calming down, an existential dread seized him. He could do nothing in the presence of her power!
The glow faded and Al looked again, surprised to see that Sam was still struggling, doing his best to fight the vines which held him tight. It was to no avail, as more branches had grown around him, locking down all his limbs.
Green tendrils sprouted from his head, inflating as they spread outwards in a circle. In the center, a green bud grew, swelling until it was the size of a fist before unfurling, deep red petals opening to reveal its yellow center. Sam groaned, but his struggles grew weaker, his eyes taking on a hint of green.
Martia’s face crinkled with mock sadness. “You don’t like it? How petulant of you. Well, I’ll leave you time to get acquainted with your control node. It sure does love your fertile ground. As you hang there, you can feel it spreading inside you, implanting its bulb inside your mind. Obedience will blossom.”
The flower grew, its tendrils flowing over Sam’s forehead and down his cheeks. The fat petals tilted over to one side, showing off more of the yellow interior. Small nodules marked its anthers, which bobbed up and down around the stigma.
The plant woman sighed. “New life smells so fresh! It’s a shame there have been so few plantings lately.”
The vines choking Sam’s mouth withdrew, withering away, but the rest of the cage surrounding his body still held him tight. His head lolled to one side and his lips worked, the veins on his face turning green. Whatever the plant lady had implanted in Sam was wreaking a powerful transformation on his body.
Suddenly, whatever hold the woman had over him vanished. He found himself clear headed, his belly doing back flips. He heaved, barely avoiding projecting the contents of his past meal over the dungeon floor.
Perhaps she had run out of pheromones, but whatever the reason, he had a chance to stop her. There was no time to analyze the situation. He hefted his weapon into position and charged, moving his shield in front of his face to block any other biological weapon she might attempt to use on him.
“It’s nice to meet you, but I have what I came for,” declared the plant woman. “If you’re foolish enough to try getting him back, try level fifty two.”
He heard the sound of the elevator starting to move, and realized he was almost out of time. He cried out with rage and frustration. It could have been confused by some as a battle cry, but he knew deep down that it was simple desperation.
There came a tremendous clang and his hands went numb, dropping from the haft of his polearm. His momentum carried him forward, his shield impacting with great force against a wall.
Ears ringing, he backed off, dropping his arms. The end of his weapon had gotten stuck between the two rock doors of the elevator, pinching it in place. Instinctively, he tried to remove it, but it was well and truly stuck.
A faint chuckle echoed from inside the elevator car. “So brave. Here, take this. You clearly aren’t smart enough to stay away. I look forward to seeing you soon!”
A rectangular elevator token flew through the crack in the doors, hitting him on the shin. Her faint laughter elevated into cackling. A cloud of gas followed, a sweet, purple substance which billowed into his face.
There was no chance for escape.
He was forced to breathe the heavy contaminant, which stuck in his lungs like chocolate sludge. He choked, consciousness fading away as the gas whirled around him.
Waking was an unpleasant affair. The gas had sat heavy in lungs, and he was obliged to cough up the soporific mixture for several minutes. By the time he was done, a small puddle of what appeared to be reddish syrup graced the floor.
He took stock of the situation. Nothing was missing, though his polearm was still stuck in the elevator doors. He had the elevator token, so it would be easy for him to escape.
He knew that trying to find help wouldn’t be easy. Most adventurers would dismiss his story as coming from a wine bottle. Who had ever heard of a monster posting a quest and abducting an adventurer who went on said quest?
No, if he was to rescue Sam he would have to do it himself. With his limited supplies, his chance of success was low. He was no rogue, to creep past legions of monsters to steal the man away. He would have to bulldoze his way in and hope that he could get back out again.
In the end, though, what did he really owe the fellow? It was Sam’s libido that had brought them to this point.
He frowned. Still, nobody deserved the fate the plant woman had planned for the rogue. He gritted his teeth and cursed. The decision had already been made. His honor would be the death of him.
That said, it wasn’t immediately obvious how to proceed. Even using his considerable muscles, he wasn’t able to shift his weapon. He cast about, locating the elevator token on the ground. If he found the right spot to place it, perhaps he could summon the elevator and get the door to open.
He stood back, studying the chiseled doors. He almost wished he hadn’t. This was clearly an ode to fertility. Men and women grappled together in a variety of compromising poses, mouths agape as they rutted.
He squinted. Yes, that couple was indeed making love on top of a stove. He knew that there was a tendency to get cold underground, but that seemed a bit much.
His wandering eyes finally spotted a rectangular gap. He groaned. Of course it happened to fall between two pendulous breasts.
Standing up against the wall on his toes, he placed the rectangular token between her voluptuous assets, feeling a bit dirty for doing so.
The noise of distant machinery starting up relieved a small part of his anxiety. At least he hadn’t screwed that part up.
Still, he needed at least the barest thread of a plan before attempting to beard the monstress plant woman in her den.
He looked in his pack, frowning. The only thing he really had that might help was his torch. The plant life down below would hardly be at all disadvantaged by his healing potion, and he had no idea how he would use a rope offensively.
He was way under geared for this mission, but if he took the time to get proper supplies, Sam would probably be a slobbering plant man. What he had would have to do.
The motion and sound of his polearm clattering to the ground startled him. He blinked, watching the elevator doors opening to reveal an empty interior.
Cautious, he carefully inspected the ceiling, but found no evidence of the plant life which had been growing there earlier. There were only a few scattered dead branches left to mark its presence.
Even so, there was no way he was going to trust his eyes. He picked up his polearm and gave the ceiling a few test pokes.
The pointed end hit a dark spot and disappeared, pushing in farther than he had expected. Startled, he tried to pull it back, but it had gotten caught on something. He twisted it a few times and the pole dropped down, hitting the floor with a clunk.
It was at that point he noticed that the entire weapon easily fit within the elevator car without needing to be angled to one side. That little chit! She must have infested the roof of the elevator with her plants before he had stepped on board!
He gritted his teeth. How could he have been so unobservant? He sniffed, catching the faint scent of wisteria. Of course, that must be it. The woman had bamboozled him with her pheromones, dulling his senses until the perfect time to strike had arisen.
That didn’t explain how she had hidden in the elevator car, but he admitted he didn’t know the finer points of monster physiology. It was quite possible that she had squeezed herself through the gaps in the top of the carriage.
In the end, how she had managed to get the drop on them didn’t really change his situation, though he was worried that she might use the ability again to surprise him while chasing after Sam.
He grimaced and pressed the elevator down button, cursing himself. The car creaked to life, dropping downwards as the stone doors crashed shut. This was a dumb idea, a bad idea. The worst idea he had ever had.
But what else was there? He could go back to town and drown his sorrows for a time, soaking up the pity of the other dungeon delvers, but the idea of living off their largess stung his pride. Beneath it all, he was loyal, and couldn’t live with himself if he did nothing.
So down he went, dropping past level twenty, deeper than he had ever gone with Sam or anyone else. The air inside the box became damper, and the lighting hanging from the ceiling flickered.
He was unsure as to who had installed lighting in the claustrophobic box, but he was grateful to them. Wires hung from the ceiling, festooned with bulbous, white light bulbs. The lights flickered again, but continued to provide a cool glow.
Unable to understand how they were powered, he simply wished they wouldn’t go out. His torch wouldn’t last long if he lit it now, and he needed it to pursue the plant woman into her den.
He was past level thirty, now, and the graffiti on the walls was becoming disturbing. Before, it had tended to describe the contents of the floors, but now it had descended into thready writing. “Doom awaits below… turn back now!” read a scrawled warning in red ink.
He took his finger off the elevator button to examine it more closely, eventually deciding that it wasn’t written in blood. He would be lying if he had said the writing wasn’t getting to him, but he was on a mission, and wouldn’t be dissuaded from his current course.
There it was, floor fifty two. He let go of the button and watched the doors grind open with trepidation. A blast of humidity infiltrated the box and he felt it difficult to breath for a brief moment. Girding his loins, he took a firm grip on his weapon and pointed it out in front of him, taking his first step into the foreign environment.
Bioluminescent fungus lit the walls, leading him onwards through a sloping passageway. He took his first step out into the alien landscape, making a small noise when his foot sank into the floor. The ground was spongy, a mat of intertwining vines. He watched the vines nervously, but the organic material all appeared dead. There were no tentacles to trip him up.
He was hemmed in on all sides by the growth that climbed the walls. It was so thick that the passage had been turned into some kind of tunnel, with vines growing on all surfaces.
The smell of growing, living things permeated the area. He had the overwhelming feeling that this place wasn’t for humans. It was for the endless jungle.
Fortunately, the overgrown tunnel opened out into a larger room, filled with trees and shrubberies. He experienced a sense of wonder at the small fireflies that drifted through the open space, their bulbous ends flashing as they moved through the air lazily.
How could all this plant life grow without any sunlight? It was inconceivable to him that something like this could have existed in the deepest depths without anyone knowing about it. Certainly nobody in the bar had mentioned seeing anything like this!
The sound of running water caught his attention, drawing him to the side of the room. A small waterfall played over a cascade of rocks, dribbling into a stagnant pond. Curious, he leaned over to look closer at a set of lily pads.
He jerked back as a creature from below the surface jumped upwards, landing neatly on one of the pads. It turned and looked at him with large, wet eyes. “Ribbit,” said the frog.
He choked back laughter. He was getting nervous over nothing! Not everything down here would try to kill him.
A cool burst of air and a moaning noise from a side passage drew his attention, and the tension was back. He wasn’t down here on an exploration mission. He had an adventurer to rescue!
Taking slow steps, he maneuvered his way down the passage, stepping over thick roots which had overgrown the stairway. The moaning sounds were getting louder.
He moved softly through an arched stone opening, eyes widening as he took in the room. At the center was a circular table, hewn out of the rock. Stone chairs faced the table, occupied by at least twenty women.
He squinted, realizing that the moaning sound was coming from them. His paranoia aroused, he looked around the rest of the room before approaching. The exterior had been built up with a series of stone arches, long infested with endless vines. Doubtless more passageways extended from each, but he had no time to explore them now.
It was nerve wracking, however, to realize that this place was a maze. His chances of locating Sam and getting out cleanly had dropped drastically. He might have to satisfy himself with rescuing one of these women.
If he was able to escape with one of them, he would at least have proof that he could present to the guild in an attempt to put together a proper rescue mission. With that in mind, he approached the moaning women, trying to make out what was bothering them.
His eyes bulged as he looked over the victims, taking in the organic bondage they were experiencing. Their arms were locked behind their backs, glued together inside a rounded, green orb. The orb was filled with some sort of purple liquid, a container secured to their upper backs. The liquid contained a multitude of rounded white orbs, the size of chicken eggs.
Green tubing descended from the level of their wrists down below, curving to access their privates. From his angle, he could barely see the thick end of the tubes jammed into their vaginas. Their hips flexed in unison as a bulbous orb from the tubing was injected inside them.
That was disturbing enough, but for the extra tubing which extended either side from the growth on their backs, curling over their shoulders to attach to an organic mask that secured their mouths. The mask and tubes were transparent, allowing him to see purple liquid being pumped from the container into the woman’s mouth.
Her eyes closed, she moaned gently as the mask over her mouth flexed, feeding her one of the rounded orbs mixed with purple fluid. Her throat bulged as she swallowed it whole, a humming moan emanating from her stuffed throat.
A red flower was implanted on her skull, the yellow end flopping over to one side to reveal the interior. The petals moved gently as the organic system pumped more fluid into her.
At first blush, he wasn’t sure what he should do. He could try to extract one of the women from their bondage, but he wasn’t sure how to accomplish that. He didn’t have a knife with him, and using the sharp tip of the polearm could grossly injure one of them. He could light his torch, but he didn’t see how threatening the organic tubing with heat would be productive.
He laid his weapon on the stone table and approached the woman on his right, investigating her more closely. She didn’t open her eyes as he touched the tubing that flowed from her mouth. One of his fingers pressed into the yielding surface.
He wrapped his fingers around the tube, tugging at it. The woman groaned, but remained somnolent. He could feel a cool flow inside the tube, purple liquid gurgling as she sucked at her mask.
He placed his other hand on the second tube, determined to try removing the mask so that he could at least talk to her. He tugged on it, hard, yanking her head back and forth. He could see her lips spreading wider, but the mask refused to budge. The interior of the device must be gagging her mouth with a bulbous growth, preventing it from being removed!
Her eyes sprung open, watching him with glowing green orbs. He stumbled back, a terrible realization hitting him. These women hadn’t just been captured, they’d been converted! A faint chuckling noise hummed from her stuffed throat.
A strange buzz came from all around him, and he stumbled back. He was terrified to see that all of the women in the circle had woken up, their gagged throats vibrating to produce the unsettling noise.
They stood up and shuffled towards him, boxing him in. He briefly considered threatening them with his weapon, but he had foolishly allowed them to get within reach.
The flowers on their heads tilted towards him, their stamens pointed at him. They bumped into him, making that strange buzzing sound. Truly disturbed, he first tried to push them back, but they were insistent. Their flowers flexed, and he could see a purple gas hissing from within. If he stayed any longer, he would be forced to breath it in, and he had an idea of what it might do to him.
Thoroughly frightened, he shouted and backed away, shoving through the edge of the crowd. Their flowers kept watching him, spewing their gas, but otherwise they didn’t try to prevent his escape.
He could only think of running. He wanted out of here! Screw Sam, screw everything!
Leaving his weapon behind, he sprinted towards the entrance, terrified to see that it had been blocked by the plant woman, who was standing there watching him. Next to her stood a male figure, his face completely covered with one of the organic masks. His shirt had been removed, revealing bulging muscles.
He attempted to alter course, but the man jumped him, looping an arm around his neck and holding him close. He made a terrified noise, choking from the pressure applied by the stranger’s arm.
He briefly thought of the torch in his pack, but he knew without a doubt that the man holding him wouldn’t be dissuaded by a little fire. He was captured, and he knew it.
The plant woman chuckled, a low, husky sound. “I’ve been expecting you,” she said, a coarse rattle in her voice. “How do you like my broodmothers? They’ve been very busy with growing my children.”
She crooned. “I only lacked sufficient fertilization. It does no good to make the eggs when none of them can hatch. I’m so glad you’ve arrived. You see, Sam just isn’t enough man to go around!”
The plant woman wrapped her arms around his waist, vines from below reaching up to squeeze around his body. He could feel the soft flesh of her breasts pressing into his back, but he took no pleasure from her presence.
The man’s thick arms relaxed, and he moved to stand in front of Al, next to the group of infested women who had gathered to watch. For a moment, Al didn’t recognize the man. A red flower grew from his head, leaning over to show off its yellow interior. His head was hidden underneath a black mask, a hollow hiss of air coming from his breathing tube.
His muscled physique was impressive, arms broad. Almost as impressive as the erection he was currently sporting under his trousers.
“Sate your thirst, Sam,” said the woman. “Breed more of my babies.”
The man grunted, undoing the string that kept his trousers up. Dropping them, he exposed his thick length, stroking it once to ensure it was at the ready.
One of the women crowding around him turned and leaned over, bracing herself on one of her companions. She hummed as the tubing in her mask pushed another egg into her mouth. The growth in her snatch dropped out, purple liquid dripping onto the ground.
“I think you’ll like this part of the process,” the plant woman said conversationally. “Look closely, as you’ll be joining him soon.”
Sam moved in, sliding his thick dick into the captured woman’s lubricated hole, thrusting mechanically. The woman buzzed, moving with him to increase the sticky friction.
“The eggs of these adventurers just won’t do. I don’t need human children.” The monster’s voice pouted.
“So I came up with a more useful role for them. I implant my eggs into them, and they bear my children. No harm comes to my surrogate mothers, though I suppose after a while they are rather mentally broken.”
She shifted one hand to her hip. “All that’s needed is a male to fertilize them. That’s where you come in. Dungeon delvers are so easy to trick. You lot would do anything for a simple quest reward.”
The vines throttling his neck eased up, allowing him to wheeze. “What have you done to them?”
“A rather rhetorical question, don’t you think? As you can see with your own eyes, they belong to me. There’s nothing left for you to rescue. All that remains is for you to join them.”
He protested, struggling uselessly. “Now, now, there’s no need to get worked up.”
He could feel something cool and wet dropping onto his head. “Just wait for a moment, and you won’t need to think twice about it.”
She chuckled as he writhed, unable to break her vines. He could feel something shifting on his head, and could only imagine what she was doing to him. “All that time you spent trying to get ahead? To earn your keep from this dungeon? It was all pointless until you met me.”
He tried to protest, but his words came out confused. He couldn’t concentrate clearly, purple gas clouding his senses. There came a sharp poke on the top of his head accompanied by a warm glow on his scalp.
“Won’t it be nicer to give up? To get out of the rat race? To service all of my slaves with your friend until you’ve fertilized our offspring?”
The plant woman stroked his cock. “Perhaps I’ll find you some more companions. I’m always on the lookout for new growth opportunities.”
“Good boy, Al,” she whispered into his ear as he whimpered, his penis swelling without his volition. “If this works out, I may eventually release you, but only if you want to leave.” She moved in close and pressed her bosom against his side, her voice husky. “You probably won’t.”
One of the bound women sidled up to him, turning around to present her vagina. The implanted tube sloughed out of her, revealing a warm hole for his erect penis. She pushed herself down on his member, taking his length inside her with a warm squelching noise.
The plant woman swapped to stroking his cheek as the captured adventurer pounded up and down on him. “If you’re a very good boy,” said the plant woman, “I may even take you myself.” She kissed his cheek. “How delightful,” she chuckled.
The woman fucking him felt good, far better than he had imagined. “More,” he said, his lips moving involuntarily.
The woman accommodated his request, sliding back and forth faster and faster, the liquid inside the spherical orb on her back sloshing in its container. He wanted to fuck her until he exploded inside her. To make her womb swell with plant offspring. To obey his flower queen.
Red petals drooped over his forehead and his eyes rolled, the cavernous room taking on a green tinge. The woman on top of him buzzed with satisfaction as his penis jerked, fertilizing the plant woman’s eggs.