17 Ariel

<---------- Third Person PoV---------->

"Hello?" A feminine voice called out into the Dungeon.

"Ummm, hello? Can you hear me?"

"Oh great, who is it now? Hey, Sylvan, go see who it is and what they want." Orion snapped at his wisp.

"Temper, temper, Orion. You know you have to let them in and try if they want to. Besides, it's been 3 months since the last humanoid entered."

"3 months, 6 days and 14 hours, thank you very much. It took nearly that entire time to get the stains out of the floor."

With natures grace, Sylph danced through the air towards the young woman standing near the gate entrance.

"Two steps forward, dear!" Sylph called out.

The young woman, unthinking, took two steps up, next to the box for entry fees.

"Are you the one who spared us?" she asked quietly.

"Hmmm? Spared you? No, dear. The only person I know of who's allowed free entry is Gareth, and you certainly aren't him."

"What does she want, Sylph?" asked Orion, testily.

"She's looking for someone who spared her, master."

"Spared her? Spared? I haven't spared anyone since I formed this dungeon and set up the traps. Not since... Oh." Orion's voice altered into something resembling a grouchy grandfather meeting his child after years of estrangement. "It's you. What do you want?"

"Please, sir, Master Orion, my name is Ariel, and I-"

"Who told you my name?" Orion roared. "Who sent you here? This is a dungeon little girl, not a play pen. You're what, 15? You should be home, safe with your family and friends, not staining my yard with your blood!"

Ariel's eyes teared at the screaming voice, sounding directly next to her ears. "Please sir, I just-"

"You just WHAT? Expect to be spared if you enter my yard again? Brought more friends to litter my yard, eat all my fruit, break my henhouse? You, What, young lady?"

Sobbing quietly, in a heartbreakingly quiet tone, Ariel replied, "I have nowhere else to go."

"..."

"Open the gate, Sylph."

-

Inside the safe room, Ariel's tears slowed as she sipped tea, wrapped in a thick piece of cloth.

"Master, this is not like you at all. You hate humans, and do everything in your power to bar them entry! Why let this girl in, when only Gareth has been afforded that right before."

"She has nowhere else to go, Sylph. The least I can do is give her a safe place to sleep, at least until Gareth arrives. He's due any day. He comes once a season."

"But Master!"

"No buts! Go off and find me some new beast or creature. Leave us alone for the night."

Sylph's wisp flickered disapprovingly, and slowly floated out the front door.

"Now, little Ariel, why don't you start at the beginning?"

<----------Ariel's PoV---------->

When we left the dungeon, everyone was in poor spirits. Even Martin, loaded with loot and experience, was shocked by the deaths that occurred.

But Barry and I were alive. His leg was healing nicely, no infection. We survived. What's more, we had a healthy dose of reality. Unclaimed Dungeons were deadly. Trying to get in was not worth the risk.

It took us weeks to get home, longer than the others due to Barry's wound. Only Martin stayed with us. He told me stories as we'd make camp, about how you spoke to him, the strange devices and rooms in your Dungeon. He even told me your name, and that he was sorry he couldn't stay with you.

By the time we had arrived, Barry's leg had healed, and I managed to gain enough experience picking plants and tending to his wounds to earn my class. Healer. A Utility class, able to brew potions and concoctions, tinctures and salves, and able to cast light magic in combat and outside it if necessary.

Seeing the thatched houses, the little brook meandering next to the village. Passing by the crop fields, greeting our neighbours. It was the best feeling. Our parents, sick with worry, suddenly relieved and papa hugging me so tight I thought he'd never let me go. It was amazing.

Martin stayed the night before continuing on his way. "I have a journey to start. I said I'd see the world, and I plan to keep my word," he said. It was bittersweet.

But that's when things went wrong.

Three days into our return, and the bandits came. They started by burning the houses where we slept. As my neighbours ran into the street, they cut them down. The same neighbours who waved me home, welcomed me back. Gone.

My parents never made it out of the house. Barry pulled me out, but the bandits saw us. He told me to run, and I-

"Enough." Orion said softly.

<----------Third Person PoV---------->

"Ariel, you have been through enough without reliving it again by telling me." Orion said. Drops of water formed above the pool of clean drinking water. "Why don't you get some sleep in the bed. If you need anything, you just call out to me. I'll hear you. We can talk more tomorrow."

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