The Chimeras and Elves find the room that contains the source of the barrier.
Only a few of the moving corpses were hostile towards us. Most of those, beyond the ones that we had avoided fighting earlier, weren’t hard to avoid or subdue. (Even though they were the bodies of those that had tortured us for so long, we didn’t want to kill them, either to avoid killing in general or because we didn’t want to let them escape the torture happening there. It was hard to tell which was the reason.) Some of the other groups of Chimeras were beginning to leave the dungeon for good, waiting outside to tend to wounds and begin to bring back all of the records we had gathered. But those of us who were with the elves weren’t going to leave until we had destroyed the barrier that was preventing Valla from reaching out for help.
Scout led the group to where he believed the whirlwind of energy was coming from, and then once everyone could feel the energy, we were able to follow our own senses. And our own senses led the group to a black door made of heavier steel than anything else in the Dungeon. In the room around us, there were things written on the walls in red, and there were more records, and there were sealed vials filled with dust. The room was dark except for the glowing of the dust inside the containers. All of us stepped carefully towards the door. I watched as Valla lifted her hand up and pressed it against the door.
“Whatever is behind this door, it’s producing the barrier,” she said. “It’s the source of the energy we’re feeling.”
“And whatever it is, it seems the scientists really didn’t want anything to get in,” Sentinel muttered.
“Have any of you ever seen this room before?” Harold asked, turning to Sentinel, who shook his head.
“No. And judging by the warnings all over the walls, most of the scientists weren’t even allowed to go into this room.” Sentinel looked back at the rest of us. “I don’t have any idea what we’re about to find behind this door. Stay on your guard, everyone.”
“How are we even going to get in? There are multiple locks on this door…” Rune growled, pinning his ears back at the door.
“We could force it open,” Storm said. “I’d be willing to kick it down.”
“And risk needing me to make another barrier to keep whatever’s inside away from us?” I hissed. “What if it’s filled to the brim with dust and we all get sick?”
“Gray’s right,” Snitch said, narrowing his eyes. “And look at the ceiling.”
Slowly, we each began to do so, and what I saw stopped my heart for a second. There were tubes embedded between the stones, carrying a current of dust into the walls of the dungeon, leading from the wall separating us from the room with the barrier to a few steps away from the opposite wall, where the tubes seemed to go deeper into the walls.
“...Is whatever we’re about to find producing dust?” Safiena asked, her voice sounding more and more strained as we all came to the same conclusion.
“That might be the case,” Snitch said. “And… elves. Didn’t you all mention that there’s a clear line between areas with and without the dust?”
The elves looked at Snitch, and suddenly a fear came over them, and then over the rest of us.
“The barrier might be containing the dust here,” Valla said under her breath. “It might be the only reason it hasn’t spread…”
There was a long moment of silence. My mind felt numb. If we destroyed the barrier, it would save us. But the dust would spread… unless whatever produced the barrier was also what was producing dust, in which case, it would die with the barrier… but… could we count on that?
“People will die if we destroy the barrier,” Sentinel said, keeping his voice low. “Innocent people. People who had no idea the dungeon even existed.”
“Honestly?” Snitch was glaring at his brother. “I don’t care about them. They can learn to deal with it.”
“But before they do, most of them will die,” Harold said.
“You can shut up,” Snitch snapped. “You weren’t in the dungeon with us, elf. You didn’t experience what we did in here! I don’t give a damn if humanity dies. Hey, it would win the war for us! This could be the best thing for us!”
“Do you really not care even a little bit about the people who had no idea about the dungeon, Snitch?” Scout’s voice was a low growl. “We don’t have much of a fucking option other than to destroy the barrier, because we will die if we don’t. But do you really have to gloat about it like this?”
“And do you think that they’d care about us if they knew about us, Scout? You’re not that naive, are you?” Snitch walked towards Scout and was baring his fangs. Scout was completely unimpressed and unafraid.
“Some of them wouldn’t. But some of them would. Do you want those who would to die before they even know why they’re dying?”
Snitch laughed, shaking his head. “Look at this boy. Always trying to pretend that people outside of this area care about us.”
Valla narrowed her eyes at Snitch, but said nothing. The other elves also stayed silent, but gave no indication of how they were feeling.
“What would you rather we do, Scout?” Snitch hissed in his face.
“We don’t have a choice. We’re destroying the barrier. It’s the only way we can survive.”
“But your precious humans would die!”
“Yeah. And we’re all going to die if we don’t. I never said we shouldn’t destroy it, you asshole. But you’re celebrating the deaths of people who will die for something that they had nothing to do with and that they probably aren’t even aware of.”
“I legitimately don’t even care, Scout.”
“This is irrelevant,” Sentinel said, shaking his head. “We need to destroy the barrier for our own sake. Snitch, stop provoking Scout regarding it.”
“I’m not the one-”
“Snitch. Stop. Provoking. Him. He is not the only one who will take no pleasure in the knowledge that we’re about to make a decision that will kill innocent people.”
Snitch bared his fangs, but sunk back. Scout turned away from him and stood next to Storm and I. I glanced up at Storm’s face as he glanced at me. We were both struggling to come to terms with the situation.
“...We still need to figure out how to get inside the room,” Harold said softly.
“Of course,” Scout muttered.
“...I have an idea,” Valla said, glancing at me and Storm. I tilted my head at her a little bit. “It’s just an idea but… it might work.”
“Then say it,” Sentinel said.
“Well… light and dark magic clashes, and that is dangerous. But if we had someone using a more neutral element try to shield the outside of the room… maybe, even, make another barrier around the room to contain the explosions while they’re happening. It wouldn’t need to be permanent, just last long enough to let us get away from it.”
“That could work,” Harold said immediately. “Storm, Gray, and Valla could destroy the room from outside, and Rune and I could make a barrier to contain the explosions and prevent them from bringing this whole structure down onto us. That way, we wouldn’t even have to open the door.”
Sentinel nodded. “Good call. Gray, Storm, Rune? Are you all willing to do that?”
I closed my eyes, but nodded. “As long as we can keep it under control,” I growled. Storm nodded.
“It’s safer than anything else we’ve thought of,” Storm said, half to everyone else but half to himself. Valla nodded.
“Then you five can get ready for that,” Sentinel said. “The rest of us will stay back.”
We nodded, and watched as the others left the room. Scout put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a small smile and a nod before leaving. Fayne seemed to do the same for Valla. Safiena watched Valla and I as close as possible without risking seeming hostile to the others. And then, the five of us were the only ones left.
“Okay,” Valla said with a deep breath. “Storm? Gray?”
“Yes?” I put my hand on her shoulder to calm her down. She was trembling and looked pale.
“For the explosion… I’ll try to create enough light magic around the source of the barrier to react to your magic. Then I need you two to try to do the same. Rune, Harold?”
“As soon as they start trying to throw their energy into the room, you need to have the barrier up already, and then as soon as Storm, Gray, and I start to feel the clashing, we’ll leave the energy there and stop, and we’ll get out of this room and start leaving. When we’re out of the dungeon, I’ll check to make sure the barrier has been destroyed. Does that sound good?”
“Yeah,” I said, and the others nodded. Valla nodded, and we all turned towards the door. I watched as Valla raised her energy, her hands beginning to glow a soft yellow. As she reached towards the door, the glow began to extend from her fingers towards the door, and then passed through it.
She closed her eyes, and I could sense that the energy she was gathering around the source of the barrier was growing. After a long moment, she opened her eyes. They were glowing the same light yellow as her hands.
“Now,” she whispered to Storm and I.
We immediately both began to gather our own energy to throw into the room, and Rune began to gather his energy, with Harold taking some of his energy and beginning to amplify his own. I closed my eyes and focused on keeping it away from Valla’s magic until it was inside the room and close to the source of the barrier. As soon as my magic was near the source of the barrier, I sensed Storm’s magic also near it, and we waited a second for the barrier to gain some strength, before throwing our energy at Valla’s.
Immediately, Valla cut off the connection between the energy she had raised and herself, and Storm and I did the same.
“Run,” she said out loud, and Rune and Harold stopped holding the barrier up and we all turned away and ran.
The rumbles and crashes behind us combined with the sudden surge in energy and cessation of the whirlwind of energy were more than enough to tell us that whatever was in the room, was no longer intact.