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Terraria: From Start to End

Chapter Text

There was a knocking at the door. Then, it became a loud thumping. It shuddered under the weight of many blows and an unsettling groan slipped through the woodworks.

"Oh great," Xeno muttered, "another one. Do we really have to stay up all night doing this?"

"You could just go to bed," Scott said.

"Yeah, yeah," Xeno said as he grabbed the wooden sword he'd made earlier from the table, "and be eaten alive?"

"The door's sturdy enough, it'll hold."

"Well, when you wake up without a face don't come screaming to me," he said, walking to the door.

"I am pretty sure I would be dead at that point but okay, sure," Scott said, yawning in the wooden chair. "You know, this thing is pretty uncomfortable."

"Wow, thanks. Hey, I have an idea. I can live in the house I built, and you can go get chased by zombies."

"I have a bow and you don-"

The thumping grew three times louder, banging at almost every second, with multiple eerie groans consuming the poorly built wooden house.

"Hey, when I open the door, can you help kill them?" Xeno said.

"I was just going to go to sleep but that works too," Scott picked his bow up from the floor and notched an arrow.

Scott stood up and set his eyes on the shaking door.

"Here we go.."

Xeno ripped the door open and four zombies stumbled inside, blood oozing from cuts in their greenish-gray flesh. Their eyes started ahead, empty, with one of the zombies at the back, peculiarly, having a blue slime stuck on its head.

An arrow impaled the first zombie in the chest with a loud twang. Xeno glanced back at Scott and then stepped back. He positioned his sword and struck the zombie in the gut when it came into range. As he pulled out the bloodied sword, a zombie grabbed his arm. Crap! He kicked it in the shin and stabbed at it but it swiped his blade to the ground, where it clattered uselessly. 

Just as Xeno thought he was a goner, the zombie's neck became a bloody waterfall, an arrow impaled into one of its veins.

"Shut the door! Shut the door!" Scott yelled.

Xeno slammed the door shut but it was thrown back, crashing into his head. The pain seemed to split him in half like somebody had taken axe to his skull. The room became blurry and started to shift. Dizziness overtook him and he lost control and slammed into the table. He had enough of a mind to crawl over to the other side of the house, away from the approaching enemies.

"Are you okay?" Scott asked.

"Not really, but I'll make it." As the pain mitigated and the room became clearer, he managed to discern that the door was now closed - probably by Scott. The banging continued, with each additional spike of noise feeling like a hammer was being thrown at his head. Xeno sat down and Scott took a seat opposite him. Scott, or 'the guide', as he called himself, looked to be in about his twenties or thirties. He had slightly scruffy light brown hair, along with eyes of the same color. He had on a shirt with a color that Xeno couldn't quite name - was it light gray or very light green? Were his shoes black or was that an illusion? Was he really having an existential crisis over the color of Scott's clothes?

Scott's shoes were definitely black. He also had on a pair of light blue pants that were slightly torn at the hem, most likely from the scuffle with the zombies, (which, by the way, were still banging on the door).

Xeno leaned back in his chair. Maybe the guy was a little full of himself. but he had been rather helpful. 

Xeno had been shaken awake on the grass with a terrible headache. He had had no idea where he was and no recollection of how he had gotten there. You're lucky you're still alive , Scott had said as he helped him up from the ground. He had no idea what that meant, but throughout the day it became much more apparent that this land of 'Terraria' was more dangerous than the tranquil forest he woke up in had led him to believe. Scott told him about terrible beasts that lived in distant lands and gargantuan monsters that could kill even the most powerful of people. Even the slimes, which looked docile at first, proved to be a dangerous foe - they were a nuisance, at least. Not to mention the zombies, which were still banging on that door.

"I got two of them with my bow - the others... well, they're still out there," Scott said. 

Scott took a few coins from his pocket and placed them on the table. 

"Three silver coins... I collected 'em from those zombies. Might be useful for something."

"There's nothing to buy," Xeno murmured.

"That might change - who knows?" Scott replied.

"Right. Well, now what?"

"I'd say sleep but honestly those zombies are too loud to get any rest. "

"Yeah, I guess so," Xeno replied as he looked around the house he had built only a few hours before. It wasn't a very big structure - it was only one room. After leaving space for the doors to open inside, it would probably wouldn't fit much more. The chair he had cut from logs was not the most comfortable thing in the world. The table itself was a bit shabby and he knew he would probably get a splinter from it at some point. The workbench he had built, - the first piece of furniture he had ever constructed - was shorter than the table and stood off to the side, to the right of the door that stood behind Scott. 

Xeno's back ached from the long day of work. At either end of the building were wooden doors, which seemed to hold the zombies out well despite the incessant barrage of attacks, which happened to still be going on with no signs of stopping. There were no windows in the house, so he could only guess what was going on outside. There was no moonlight or stars to illuminate the room. Instead, a few torches lit the room up with a warm - albeit dim - glow. While the glow seemed toasty, the room itself was not. A cold draft blew in from under the doors, but, of course, Xeno could do nothing but shiver and hope for daytime to come sooner. It wasn't the best home, but it was a home. Home, sweet home.

Chapter Text

Xeno woke to the sound of slimes squishing on top of the ceiling. The light peeking underneath the doors told him it was daytime - he must have fallen asleep at some point. With a yawn, he lifted his head from the table and stretched. His back ached - the floor would have been better than that good for nothing chair, Xeno thought. On the table sat his wooden sword and copper shortsword. His axe and pickaxe were sitting by the door behind him. He wasn't quite sure what to do next - there was a whole world out there. Xeno figured he should ask Scott - he prided himself in being the 'Guide' after all. He was more experienced at this adventure stuff, at the least.

Xeno grabbed his tools (except the copper shortsword, because that was useless) and stepped outside. After hours of being in the dimly lit shelter, the influx of light blinded him, and he had to shield himself with his hands.

After a few minutes, he was able to see again. It was a fair morning - not too warm, not too cold. The house was situated in a grassy area, somewhere between a grassland and a fully fledged forest. The trees nearby the home were fairly tall, although he had cut down a few already. He made sure to plant a new acorn for every tree he chopped down, just to be sustainable. The forest floor was littered with patches of tall grass and small yellow flowers. Some more somewhat orange and red flowers stood off to the side, and a few spotted mushrooms grew under the shade to his right.

Scott was nowhere to be seen, but there was still life in the forest. A blue jay flew from tree to tree, chirping. A small white bunny hopped from side to side, stopping only to take bites of the flora. A few bright yellow sulphur butterflies danced among the marigolds, and emerald green grasshoppers leaped among the forest floor. Maybe this Terraria place wasn't so bad after all.

Then Xeno got bodyslammed by a slime.

He was slammed into the ground and his first reflex was to kick the slime out of existence. Only, being a mass of gelatin, it just absorbed his blow. In fact, it practically consumed his foot.

Xeno fumbled for his sword and made a slice in the slime, spewing green gel everywhere. He kicked it again and managed to dislodge his foot. Stumbling to the ground, he took another whack at it.

"Woah, woah, what's going on here?" Scott said from around the corner.

"Just another slime... ambushed me, though, that's the thing," Xeno replied, backing away from the blob with his sword poised for an attack.

Scott raised his bow, drew an arrow, and placed it into position. With a twang of string and a breeze in the air, the arrow pierced the slime and more gel broke off. The slime squished together and bounced rapidly, leaning in for an attack. Right as it leaped into the air, Xeno sliced with his sword. The slime cut in half immediately and exploded into a pile of sticky green gel, among which several copper coins sat.

"You're a pretty good shot," Xeno said between heavy gulps of air.

"I guess I am," Scott said as he placed his bow down by the house, "They say it's the brush, not the painter - or is it the other way around? I don't remember. Speaking of gear... your current equipment simply won't do. You need to make better armor than just your clothes."

"Out of what, exactly?"

"Wood, probably."

"Better get chopping, then," Xeno said, grabbing his copper axe along with the coins.

"Oh, and one more thing," Scott said, "speaking of those coins..."

"Yes?" Xeno asked, lifting the axe over his shoulder.

"Of course, you cannot spend it right now, but that may change. If you want a merchant to move in, you will need to gather plenty of money. Fifty silver coins should do the trick!"

"Fifty?" Xeno said, his jaw dropping. Fifty coins? Fifty? Did I hear that right? He must have said fifteen, not fifty, right?!

"Yes, fifty," Scott said. "It's a bit of money, but not too much. I know you only have around 4 silver coins, but you'll get more in no time. Lots of monsters here carry money with them, and you'll be able to sell things too to people."

Xeno sighed. How was he supposed to sell things if the person to sell things to needed him to, well, sell things? "Right. I'm just going to go chop some trees."

"You do that," Scott said, picking his bow up from the ground, "I'll be busy shooting slimes."

Xeno spent a few minutes looking for a sizeable tree. The short ones were just better to leave be. After finding one that stood about three times the height of the shelter, he lifted his axe into position and got ready to strike. WIth a crash, the blade wedged itself into the trunk, just a few feet above the stump. The bark splintered and fell to the ground. After pulling the axe out, Xeno was left with a decent cut in the tree. With the second slice, the cut deepened and splinters of wood broke off from the trunk. Around the site of impact, the bark was being stripped away. Several leaves floated down from the branches. A few twigs landed on the ground.

The tree shuddered under the third blow of the axe. More leaves rained down from above. A tree branch crashed into the forest floor and shattered. High above, a cardinal took flight. Xeno watched it until it flew out of view behind the trees.

On the fourth blow, the tree groaned and started to lean to one side. Xeno pulled his axe out and took a few steps back. The bark cracked. The wood splintered. Leaves fell onto the ground like rain in a thunderstorm. The wood began to crack as the tree's weight crushed the stump.

With a snap, the tree broke from the trunk and soared towards the ground. It slammed into the forest floor, and, once the dust cleared, Xeno got to work cutting the logs into usable pieces. Soon enough, he could start working on his new equipment. First, he decided to create a helmet. He took a block of wood and placed it on the table. Using the copper shortsword (finally, that thing had a use), he began to cut through the wood. Slice. Slice. Slice. A cut here, a chip there. Knock off a piece of wood, rip that off there- and, ouch, that's a splinter.

After about an hour, he had himself a helmet. He placed it on his head one last time to make sure it fit. It was a simple thing with a few ridges on top, that fit snugly around the top of his head and the back, covering most of his hair with only a few fringes of black sticking out. Next came the breastplate, which took a few minutes longer, and, finally, the greaves. It was a slow start - if he was ever going to save Terraria, he would need to be much more powerful.

And save Terraria, he had to. That was what Scott explained to him when he woke up in the middle of a forest with no recollection of why he was there. He had a small semblance of a purpose, but it was fuzzy at best. He barely knew about this world and he had to save? From the corruption?

If he was going to save it, he would need more than just a sword, too.

Xeno decided a bow would also be handy. He took another block of wood and sliced it apart until he had a long board, which he soaked in water and slowly bent. Then, he poked holes on either end of it and tied a piece of string through them. He pulled the string back to test it, tightened it, then tested it again. Satisfied with the outcome, he walked outside.

"Finally came out to see the light of day, huh?" Scott said. "Nice armor."

"Thanks. I made a bow, too," Xeno said, showing the weapon in all its glory.

"But I'll always be the better archer," Scott said, lifting his bow and notching an arrow into it. "Watch me hit that tree!" He released the string and the arrow exploded outwards, rocketing towards the sky. The late morning breeze poured over the arrow as it soared. It blasted far over the house and steadily approached the target, arching ever so slightly.

It hit a branch and snapped in half.

"Let's see you do better," Scott murmured.

"Sure," Xeno challenged, "I mean, you missed so badly you probably killed a bird."

"As long as it wasn't made of solid gold I don't mind," Scott said, looking at the tree he had meant to hit.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Xeno asked.

"It means that the only animals worth much around here are the ones made of literal gold."

"That can happen?"

"Yes."

"Oh."

"Well, anyway," Scott said. "So, Xeno, if you are such a great shot, didn't you say you were going to try and hit that tree?"

"Uh, yeah," Xeno said, staring at the tree. Now that he looked at it more thoroughly, he was a bit worried. There was no way he was going to hit that tree on his first try. He had never even shot a bow before! Or had he, in his previous life, the one before Terraria? He had no idea. Now, this was his reality - and in this reality, he had never shot a bow. Why did I accept this challenge?

"So, uh, funny thing. You know, so, how, I made the bow, right? So, weird, I know, I... sort of... don't have any arrows. Would you, say, mind lending me one or two?"

"No."

"Wow, aren't you the nicest guy I've met so far in Terraria."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Scott said. "By the way, since I am the nicest guy in all of Terraria, I'll warn you that there's a slime about to kill you."

"Oh, what the heck-" Xeno turned around to see a gelatin blob of a blue slime leaping in for an attack. With a flick of the wrist, he sent it back a few yards with a good sized cut.

On the slime's second leap forward, Scott shot it. It slammed into the ground before bouncing upright again. It jumped towards Xeno, but he swatted it down. Scott blasted it with an arrow and Xeno got into position to make one final attack. The slime jumped forward and Xeno heaved his sword up and over his head, crushing the slime into pieces.

"You know," Xeno said, "Considering we use the remains of slimes to make torches, couldn't we just set them on fire? They're pretty flammable."

"I don't think it would die. At least, it would burn for a long time. Those torches last ages," Scott said as he shot a green slime into oblivion, loading arrow after arrow into his bow.

"Oh well. Now what?"

"Seeing as you got yourself better gear..." As he spoke, Scott shot one more arrow. It sliced straight through the gelatin and the entire creature disintegrated. "I would go exploring."

"What for?" The prospect of going out into the world seemed daunting. He wasn't exactly a big fan of the slimes, and they were the easy things to kill. There were far worse monsters out there - he knew that. What if he got trapped outside during night? There would be no saving him then.

"There is treasure hidden all over the world. Many civilizations once called Terraria home, and they have left all sorts of things. Some amazing things can be found underground!" Scott explained, "You will need to become better equipped. Many of these ancient civilizations had huge infrastructure networks. They were capable of creating many items you are not able to. The boots of Hermes, for instance, supposedly let one run extremely quickly. The way of making these boots has been lost to the Corruption, and, due to this, the only way of obtaining them is through looting these old civilizations."

"I'm not going to lie, I could use a pair of those boots. Is there any specific thing I should look out for? Cities, or anything?" Xeno said, swaying from side to side. He was becoming a little antsy. Talking was great and all, but without much doing some impatience was expected.

"Most of the cities are gone, reclaimed by the Corruption. The only remaining structures are underground or buried. Many people took their possessions deep in the caverns in order to survive. Of course, most of them died, though the odd survivor or two comes up to the surface every once in a while - usually the descendants of the people who first fled the surface." Scott seemed to be inching ever towards the door. His eyes bounced from Xeno, the sky, a blue slime that was bouncing around in the distance, and the house. "Anyway, they have extensive rail networks," he said, speaking ever so slightly faster, "some of the jungle people have ancient temples, and the desert wanderers built great pyramids ages ago. You can find many houses underground as well. Rumor has it there's even a great labyrinth in this region. If you don't mind, I'm going to go inside now."

"Alright, I'll be on my way," Xeno said, stepping a few feet forward.

"Oh, one more thing," Scott said, halfway through the door, "If you see a pot, be sure to smash it open. They contain all sorts of useful supplies."

"Why would people put their things in pots?" Xeno asked.

"Why not?" Scott said, leaning out of the doorway.

"Wait, what am I supposed to do if it becomes night-" Xeno began to ask, but he had already shut the door. Oh well. It's not like I'm going to be going too far.

Xeno gathered up his tools and set out through the forest. A comfortable breeze blew over the warm day. For the most part, it was a comfortable stroll. He managed to avoid most of the slimes, although he had a sticky run-in with a green one that ambushed him from behind a tree. After about half an hour, he came across a small hill. It was rather unassuming, with nothing but a few dayblooms growing by its side and a few trees nestled on its top. A mossy boulder sat to the side. Unlike the other hills he had come across, however, this one had a cave inside. In fact, from looking through the hole, Xeno could see light pouring in from the other side as well. A few vines draped over the entrance.

Oh well. It's not too long. I might as well go through it, he thought. After all, what if there was treasure in it? Xeno brushed the vines to the side and walked inside.

The walls were coated in moss and lichen, to the point where the walls looked to be nothing but green. A thick ivy grew over the floor and the walls, seeming to strangle the rock. Thick, dark green vines hung down from the ceiling. The tunnel was thick with a damp, earthy smell. As Xeno walked through the cave, leaves blown in from outside crunched under his boots. The sound echoed from wall to wall. Even though he could see the light at the other end, it was quite dark inside. It was about time to make a torch. He took a stick from his collection of items and stuck a ball of gel onto it. After about half a minute of fumbling around with a piece of stone, trying to light the torch, he finally created a flame. Almost immediately, the fire flared up and a warm glow permeated throughout the tunnel. He stuck it to the wall with some gel (that stuff was sticky!), praying that the entire cave wouldn't set on fire.

With the tunnel now basked in light, Xeno could see there was more than just plants. On the floor and ceiling, there were several patches of stone - in the distance, he even saw a glittering orange metal. He would definitely have to check that out. There were also pots on the floor. A lot of them. He counted up seven in total, all looking slightly different. Some were light brown, though two were a dark chocolate hue. A few of them were wide, some were medium-sized, and one was abnormally tall. About half of the pots had a shine to them that shimmered under the torchlight, while the other half was made of dull material. One of the pots was even a light green. If Scott was correct, they would contain some supplies. In the middle of the cave, there was even an old, dusty wooden chest. That probably had something good inside, too.

Xeno squatted by the first pot. He wasn't the biggest fan of the idea of sticking his hand into a dusty, spiderweb filled, most likely dirty pot, so he opted to turn it over instead. Nothing dropped out. He shook it a few times and slapped the end of it, but nothing came out but dust. He sighed and got to work on the second pot. This time, a few copper coins dropped.

The third pot had a coil of rope in it, and the fourth had nothing again. The fifth contained several unlit torches, while the sixth contained a whopping twenty-seven arrows! His ammunition problem was over for the time being. Maybe he would even go back and do that archery competition he said he'd do. Finally, he came to the seventh pot. The whole squat and flip over routine was starting to have an effect on his back so he opted for something more direct.

Xeno kicked the pot against the wall.

It shattered into multiple pieces with a loud crash. When the dust cleared, Xeno was left with a few silver coins. Now, he was up to eight of them. After scooping up the coins, Xeno stepped over to the chest. It was wooden, with an iron fringe, along with a belt of iron that went down the middle of the lid. It was a bit rusty and moss grew over the wood.

Xeno grabbed hold on the lid and threw the chest open, tearing apart a few cobwebs that drifted to the ground. A wave of dust poured over the edges and flooded the cave. He sneezed and closed his eyes until the dust subsided. He swatted the last remnants away and looked inside.

On top, there were three shiny orange bars. They were decently heavy, but the metal would most likely prove useful in the future. Below the metal were five triangular shaped bottles with red liquid sloshing inside. After brushing the dust off of them, the insides were surprisingly clean. Below the red filled bottles were eight empty ones shaped like jars. Xeno decided to take them, although if he ran out of space they would probably get the boot. Next to the bottles was a coil of rope, and below that were two potions. Xeno took them out and shook the cobwebs from that. Using his hand, he wiped the dust off. The bottles were shaped like two glass trapezoids placed on top of each other. The handle was two round gray balls stacked together. Inside the bottle a bright blue liquid rolled from side to side. He would have tasted it, but that probably wasn't a good idea. Worst come to worst he would die, or he would wake up in the forest naked with no kidneys and a bucket on his head. After putting the bottles of liquid away, Xeno looked to the bottom of the chest. There was a huge pile of arrows - perfect for his bow. He gathered them up in armfuls, discarding the broken ones.

Right as Xeno was about to move away from the chest, he saw one last item at the bottom, buried beneath broken shafts, arrowheads, and feathers. He had mistaken it to be a broken arrow, but it was longer than the arrow shafts. He pulled it out from amongst the arrows, wondering what it was. It was a medium-sized, stick with a rich, dark chocolate brown color. On one side of it was a vibrant leaf that seemed to be infused into the stick, which happened to be much smoother and finer than anything in the wild. Clearly, somebody had created this.

Xeno was going to leave it behind, but something about it felt different. It seemed to emanate energy, as if a powerful magic was pulsing through it. It was warm to the touch, oddly enough, despite the cave being rather cool in temperature. It felt important, whatever it was. He decided to stash it with the rest of his things. He could always discard it later, after all.

There was one last thing he needed to do in the tunnel - mine that orange metal. He walked on over to it. Situated halfway between the torch and the other entrance, it was basked in light. It shimmered and Xeno could see his reflection. As his hazel eyes stared back at him, he had to be frank with himself - he looked sort of ridiculous in that bulky wooden armor.

The metal looked to be the same metal that comprised the three metal bars he found and most of his tools. He grabbed his pickaxe and dug at the metal until it was broken into several chunks. After smashing each chunk into smaller bits, he gathered up all the ore and stored it away. At that moment, the stick with the green leaf fell out and clattered on the floor. As Xeno bent down to pick it up, he heard a squishing noise.

He should have been prepared for it, but the slime hit him like a ton of bricks, slamming him into the ground. The pain crept through him, like ice freezing up a river. He couldn't move without his head exploding into agony. His vision looked like two realities had collided, and he began to see double as a ringing penetrated his ears. He tried to punch the slime off to no avail. While he felt only one slime, he saw six, all in varying levels of transparency.

His sword out of reach, Xeno grabbed the stick as tight as he could and impaled the green slime with it. There was a sizzling noise.

In his vision, the slime exploded into flames. It was thrown outside the cave, illuminating the darkness. The flames quickly consumed it, although all six of the supposed slimes continued to bounce. All together, morphing into one, they bounced over him, leaving a trail of flames that seemed to split into a million translucent pieces. The only thought he could create was the decision that his eyes were lying to him.

Soon, his vision cleared. The slime became one. Nonetheless, a pounding headache ripped through his head. The slime bounced in front of him - on fire, to his surprise. Out of his stupor, he finally was able to reach for his sword. With a quick slice, the slime was no more. But when he reached for the stick, he found that not only was it not cold, it was very warm to the touch. A wisp of smoke rose from its end. Had this unassuming stick really done that? Maybe Scott will know more.

Xeno stood up, his head aching. At the very least, the helmet had absorbed a decent amount of the fall. He now faced the other side of the cave. A chill blew in from the dark outside. Now, the only decent source of light was the torch, which illuminated the two entrances to the cave with a warm glow. The sky looked like salt had been sprinkled across a black tablecloth. Past it all, the moon stared down as the sky's eye, spreading a meager amount of light across. Xeno turned around and walked to the entrance he had come. The direction of home.

Groans came from every side. He could hear the distinct sounds of shambling feet and something sinister seemed to be flying overhead. He started to regret not going back inside to clarify what he should do during night. Would he just have to run back? Despite the daunting presence of the night, the adventure had been worth it. He now had nine silver coins to his name, several coils of rope, enough arrows to kill a slime army, and many other things. Home was a decent distance away. He would have to ask Scott about the bottles full of liquid, and, most importantly, that mysterious stick. Maybe he would even be able to build a furnace and melt down the copper ore he found. But to do all that, he had to return home, and returning home meant venturing through the night. Xeno sighed, picked up his sword, and walked out.

Author's Note: Thanks for reading ^.^! As you can see, this chapter is a good deal longer than the first one, so it took more time. By the way, what if the story had both crimson and corruption instead of just one? (Because I honestly can't choose.)

Chapter Text

When Xeno walked outside, a zombie took notice. Its skin was a light shade of green and its clothes had been reduced to rags. Blood oozed from wounds all over its body, and, on its head, it barely had any skin, only red, bloody flesh exposed to the night sky. It groaned as it shambled towards him. As he stared at the monster, he wondered if it had ever once been human. Had the people of the destroyed kingdoms become zombies?

Xeno pulled out his bow and arrow and fired at the zombie. Xeno shot another arrow before he was forced to draw his sword.

His first slice missed and cut off the zombie's left hand. He impaled the zombie in the stomach next, ignoring the spilling blood, then ripped the sword out to prepare for the swarm of zombies nearby. The fights seemed to never end. He fired arrow after arrow. His arms ached from swinging his sword. Zombie after zombie came after him, and zombie after zombie died before him. Soon, his sword was drenched in blood along with his breastplate. As he felled zombie after zombie, their clawing and bites were starting to have a toll on him. He was only able to walk for a few minutes without more zombies shuffling towards him

And the smell. He should've expected that rotting corpses would smell bad, but it still caught him by surprise. The odor was absolutely putrid. The more zombies he killed, the more it stuck to him. Dried blood, rotting flesh, torn skin, slime. Between the dried blood stuck to his armor and the smell, he knew he would have to wash in the morning. Now, four zombies shambled towards him. Xeno grabbed his bow and reached for his arrows. 

He felt nothing. 

As the first zombie came upon him, he drew his sword. Tired, and in pain, he missed most of his attacks. The zombie made several hits on him. There was a tug on his shoulder and something dripped down his back.  He turned and kicked the zombie in the shin before the first one tackled him to the ground. He punched and kicked, but it was on top of him in an instant. As the four zombies crowded around, gnawing at his armor, clawing at his face, and ripping at his arms, he felt strangely at peace. What was the point of all this? He had no memories, no reason to live. All he knew was a man named Scott and an unrelenting world. And now? He had gone and gotten himself killed.

He gripped his sword tightly with both hands at his side, submerged in a sea of pain. Even as death seemed to approach him, he couldn't get himself to move. The zombie next to him was biting only his shoulder plate - the wooden armor was a good choice, after all. He hoped it liked the taste cellulose. With every second passing, trapped under an ever-growing horde, he wondered what the point of it all was. He had woken up in a strange land, and followed strange tasks set forth by a strange man who seemed to know all about him. Of course, he had to act. He knew that. Every second that he lay down was another monster on his heels. 

Anger began to build inside of him. He felt worthless and detached from reality. But he wasn't worthless and he knew that. And if he was detached from this reality, he was going to attach himself with a titanium anchor and a thousand iron chains. Which meant he had to act.

He swung the sword up, splitting the zombie's head down the middle. He didn't care that its blood was pouring all over him, he just wanted it dead. While he smashed the zombie's skull in, he kicked another zombie and punched a third. Xeno leaped to his feet and hurled the sword into the skull-smashed zombie. Its head blew off like a petal in the wind. He kicked away the two zombies in front of him and turned to stab the fourth zombie with the wand.

Its head exploded into flames and smoke. A billowing cloud rose from its socket. 

The other couple of zombies were met with slashes, kicking, punching, and bludgeoning, until he If these zombies thought they could kill him, they were wrong. He lived to prove them wrong.

Xeno was disarmed, so he used his pickaxe. His pickaxe got stuck, so he used his axe. His axe was thrown to the side, so he used his hands. His hands became tired, but he continued until there was nothing but a heap of flesh, bone, and blood before him. Four zombies reduced to mangled piles of skin and muscle swimming upon an ocean of blood. 

He leaned on his knees, taking deep breath after deep breath. He had killed those four zombies, but more would replace them. He knew he had to get out of there, and fast.

Xeno began to run. He didn't know where and he didn't care. He ran wherever his feet would take him. At first, it was going great - the zombies began to fall behind. 

Then, the adrenaline wore out. The pain hit him like a ton of bricks. His back felt like it had been bludgeoned with a hammer. His head was imploding in on itself, his arms were falling from his body, and his legs had long lost all feeling. He collapsed onto the ground. Blood from his cuts dripped onto the ground and pooled around his face, but moving was too agonizing. He balled up his fists, hoping the tension would relieve the pain from the cuts and scrapes he had. His right arm bled profusely onto the grass. 

He felt extremely drowsy, like the world was fading in and out of existence with a blink of the eye. No! He had to stay awake. He had to. But it was easy not to. There was a sparkling sound and a star slammed into the ground a few yards from his face with a bright yellow glow. The lack of sleep and physical exertion was getting to him - now he was even having hallucinations. He had to stay awake. He had to stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake . The words repeated in his head again, and again, and again. But it was just... so easy to fall asleep. To let the drowsiness pull him in. He was already downed. What difference did it really make? Still, his mind droned on. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay... awake...

 

 

Xeno awoke in the morning in a chair in a room. At first, he was too tired to notice anything, but, after a few minutes, he remembered the previous night. The first thing he noticed was that he was in the house. Had it all been a dream? He was definitely back home. Maybe he had just fallen asleep and dreamed about that battle. 

The second thing he noticed was the pain. His head throbbed. Every joint in his body ached. He had cuts all over his hands, arms, and face that stung. Bruises everywhere. Blood on his clothes. No, it hadn't been a dream. Couldn't have been. But how was he back home, anyway? He noticed right arm had been bandaged with gauze. A small knot sat at his elbow. A deep red stain spread across the bandages. Scott had probably bandaged it for him. 

Even if the guy didn't give him any arrows, he was still the nicest person he had met in Terraria - he was the only person he had met in Terraria, but that was besides the point. At the very least, his armor was clean and sitting next to the door, along with his tools and backpack. Clearly, Scott had done some cleaning. Had the guy really dragged him all the way back home? He probably would have died out there - thank Hermes that Scott (or whoever it was) found him when he did.

Xeno had gone exploring already, but was it enough? He had little to show for it, except for a wand that seemed to be able to set things on fire - but he couldn't control it. Apart from that he had - what - a few bottles of liquid, some rope, gel, and some coins? Not exactly worth getting mauled by zombies. Although, ripping their heads off and desecrating their organs did feel pretty good.

The door opened and Scott walked inside. He looked a bit disheveled and a bit of gel stuck to his shoulders.

"Fighting slimes, again?" Xeno asked.

"Yeah, the usual." Scott replied.

"Why don't you just stay inside so you don't have to deal with those monstrosities?"

"Says the person who went outside during the night and got absolutely destroyed by zombies."

"You have a point," Xeno said, yawning. "So did you take me back here ooor?"

"Yeah. Found you face planted into the ground next to a pool of your own blood. Looks like your arm got bitten pretty bad. You got blood on my clothes, though, so eugh," Scott said.

"Thanks, man."

"You're welcome. Anyways, I was cooking some soup over the campfire. I already ate, but you weren't awake until now. I'll go get you some." Scott went out the door and came back, a few minutes later, with a steaming wooden bowl in his hands. He placed it on the table, along with a glass of red liquid.

"What's the red stuff?" Xeno asked.

"Healing potion."

"The heck is that?" 

"That red liquid I found in your backpack. You are lucky you found five bottles of the stuff. It's supposed to make you heal faster, and it works, surprisingly." Scott explained. "Anyways, since table manners are dead like half the population, I'm going to excuse myself to murder more slimes."

"Why do you need to kill so many, anyway?" Xeno said. He took a spoonful of the soup and drank it. It tasted quite good - it had a forest like undertone tasting of mushrooms, nuts, and wild vegetables. "You know, your soup is pretty good."

"Thanks," Scott said, "I'm just gathering coins. By the way, the soup is also made with those forest mushrooms you see laying around. They are also supposed to have healing properties, and, considering they are an ingredient in health potion, I don't doubt that."

"Oh, and what do those light blue potions do?" Xeno asked.

"Oh, those? Recall potions. They teleport you back to home. Quite rare, actually - use them sparingly."

"Would've been nice to know that before," Xeno muttered. "Speaking of which, what is that weird fire wand thing?"

"The wand of sparking? Oh, yeah, that. As you might have seen it sets things on fire," Scott said, "Anyway, I'll be off now. Goodbye." 

"See you later," Xeno said. Scott left, bow in hand, leaving him to his soup.

It actually tasted quite good, and the health potion itself wasn't too bad, although it was strong in flavor. After drinking up all the soup and potion, the pain was already starting to disappear. Maybe now would be a decent time to take inventory of his supplies - he had nothing better to do, anyway. He walked over, trying to tread as carefully as he could so no odd movements would cause sudden pain. He knelt down to his backup, opened it up, and placed his supplies on the table.

First, Xeno had his equipment. His tools were all clean, but they still had a lingering smell of flesh and blood. His wooden armor and sword were a bit chipped, but that was about it. His copper tool seemed to be fine. And that useless copper shortsword hadn't been touched since day one. It was the only thing in the room that didn't smell like blood. The wand itself, which he still didn't know how to use, had a few flecks of blood. His bow was pretty clean, at the least.

Then, there were his items. He had quite a few. First off were the unlit torches. He had too many of them to count, so he moved on to the next selection. There was, of course, a huge heap of gel, both green and blue. There were two coils of rope, slightly chafed, a ball of cobwebs, eight bottles, and the potions. One health potion was half empty, while the other four were full to the brim. The two 'recall' potions hadn't been touched at all. Then, of course, he had his metal. Three copper bars and seventeen chunks of ore. Maybe he would be able to smelt down the ore to make a better sword at some point.

Xeno sighed. Being cooped inside, especially in such a small house, was irritating. He knew he could make his injuries worse by going outside, but that didn't matter to him. He felt a little undignified with the whole situation. Wasn't he supposed to be a hero? The person who was supposed to save other people? Not have to be saved by them? 

If he was going to save this land - whatever that entailed - Xeno was going to need to train. He shuffled to the door, with each movement being more careful and deliberate than the last. He carried nothing more than his wand. Anything more and his arms would have given out.

The morning sunlight, even as dim as it was, was blinding (he was starting to regret not adding windows). Xeno squinted - it was still early. The grass was wet with dew. A few butterflies hovered around the forest flora. The temperature was on the cooler side and a light wind blew the branches of the trees. He was glad it was a little cold - out of his three tasks, after all, one of them involved playing with fire.

The guide himself was nowhere to be seen. Good, he thought. Being alone would be nice. He found a good location, a good distance from the home, where he could get peace and quiet, but not too far because his legs were killing him.

It was a decent sized grove, with enough empty space for him to practice magic and not start a forest fire. He hobbled to the center and sat down on the grass. He would have practiced more than just magic, but his entire body was sore. Anything else would require too much movement.

Xeno grabbed the so called 'wand of sparking' and swirled it around in his hand, trying to get a feel for it. The wand just felt magic. It pulsed and buzzed in his palm. Even though the morning was cold, the wand was warm to the touch. Just because it was magic, though, didn't mean he knew what the heck he was supposed to do with it. Point it at things and say "Burnius Forestus? Kilius Plantius? Flamius Ramius Ravioli Masteroli Set Flamerime to Thatius Slime?"

No. Clearly he didn't need an incantation. And it shouldn't be that hard, he thought, considering he had already done it before, just without knowing how. He grabbed the wand and swished it around in the air, trying to make the magic do something. Anything. 

Everything blanked out.

When Xeno came to, he was sprawled on the ground. And the wand - it was smoking! After a few minutes of resting - the small amount of magic had taken the energy out of him - Xeno got ready to try again, and hopefully actually make a fire this time. He focused on the wand, and the buzzing magic inside of it. The rest of the world - the wet grass blowing in the wind, the birds that leaped from tree to tree, chirping, and the butterflies dancing above his head - all became nothing more than a mere backdrop. It was as if everything in the world was blotched out, except for that wand.

Yes! He could feel it getting hotter. Smoke began to rise, and sparks! Live, real sparks! He could do it, yes, he had finally learned magic!

The sparks died off and the smoke blew away.  The wand became cool once more. Xeno sighed. At last he knew why he had been able to do it earlier, but not now. Back when he was fighting, he was in danger. His mind had automatically filtered out his surroundings and focused on killing his attackers. Thus, the magic worked. Now, he was getting distracted. It frustrated him that he couldn't control when he could create the flames. 

Xeno decided to try one more time - if that failed, too, then maybe it would be for the best that he returned home and got some rest. He held the wand with a firm grasp, took a deep breath, and submerged into concentration. 

Ignore the butterflies.

Ignore the cold.

Ignore the wind.

Ignore the grass.

Ignore it all.

Focus. Focus. Focus. Focus on the energy. Pulsing. Buzzing. Magic. 

Hotter, hotter, hotter. It's getting hotter. Don't lose focus. Ignore the heat.

Focus, focus, focus...

Indeed, a flame was starting to brew on the tip of the wand. At the sight, he wanted to jump for joy, but he had to concentrate. Otherwise, he would never make it work. Sparks began to fly from the tiny, match-light sized fire, and a wisp of smoke rose. Focus, focus, focus, he told himself. The world before him began to blur, except for the wand and the hand that grasped it. Soon, the flame grew larger and larger. Yes, yes, it was working! Now, time to aim!

He moved the wand up swiftly. The flame sizzled and burned out. Xeno told himself that he would leave after the third failure, but oh no, that was not going to happen. 

Xeno stayed in the forest for hours upon hours, practicing his magic. All around him, squirrels ran up trees, white bunnies hopped and nibbled on the grass, and cardinals flew high above. It was hard to ignore the bustling, but serene activity of the forest. The scene was calming, at least, and not a single slime approached him the whole day.

His first few attempts failed, with not even a single spark appearing. Xeno chalked it up to his excitement from the first half-success and tried again. The next few tries yielded a few wisps of smoke and few wayward sparks, but nothing substantial enough to harm an opponent. His next attempt was just as poor, forming nothing but a haze of smoke. Xeno ended up coughing over the amount of smoke he had created. Clearly, magic could go wrong in rather strange ways.

Oddly enough, Xeno seemed to be doing worse the more he tried. His mind started to ache just as much as his body, and he couldn't muster up the strength to continue the magic. His stomach rumbled - he hadn't eaten since early in the morning.

Xeno checked the sky to determine the time. Judging by the sun's position, it seemed to be about an hour or so past noon. He decided not to return home. It was too far and his body and mind were already in pain. And well, he just didn't want to interact with anybody. He was too frustrated from all his failures, and the guide taking care of him was a bit awkward, although he was glad for the help. He felt a little bad, though - Scott would probably be confused and worried as to why he wasn't there. I should've left a note, he thought, but due to the missing wand, Scott might just figure it out.

Since he didn't have a campfire to cook over, Xeno settled for foraging wild mushrooms. He knew the ones in the soup were edible, so he grabbed only those, which were orange with red spots. They tasted mild, like any other mushroom, except for a slightly tart and also bitter undertone. After eating quite a few, he wondered if it was just the rest of not working or if the mushrooms were relieving some of his fatigue. The guide had said something to that effect, and, hey, maybe it was true.

Then, Xeno managed a lucky find - three bushes chock full of juicy wild blueberries. He ate them straight from the bush. They were a delicious, sweet addition to his makeshift meal, although they did stain his hands. But hey, he was already covered in red. At this rate, he would become the entire rainbow. 

Xeno returned to work. His first three attempts yielded a few sparks and smoke - a good sign, but it was no inferno. The next heated the wand to unbearable levels but produced not even a wisp of smoke. The fourth and fifth yielded some good news at once - the small, match-like flames, although they burned out after a few seconds. It seemed like his luck was changing for the better. Perhaps the ball of fire wasn't a fluke, after all.

Xeno didn't know how many attempts he tried that day - probably over a hundred, but by the end he was barely able to stay awake, much less produce a fire. The only flame anything close to the original fire was a one off occurrence - Xeno never produced anything of the same magnitude throughout the rest of the day. Throughout all his practices, as well, he had never come across any attempt half as strong as what he had used the previous night. 

As the sun began to fall, Xeno fled the grove. Soon, night would be upon him, and night meant getting mauled by four zombies at once while you lose all feeling in your limbs. 

 

 

For the next few days, Xeno continued to practice in the grove. By the end of the second day of training, he could almost always produce sparks, except when he was extremely tired. Like before, his performance began to drop throughout the day. Nonetheless, he manged quite a few match-sized fires and a few larger ones akin to the success he had had the day before. Once, with a small ball of flame, he had managed to discharge it from the wand and send it flying into the ground.

On the third day, most of Xeno's injuries had healed to the point where he could move around normally. With his health improved, he was able to create decent sized fireballs with little smoke. He only had a few failures throughout the day, mostly toward the end. He was even able to make two of the fireballs soar through the air for a few yards.

On the fourth day, he was able to consistently create fire, and around half of the time he could control it too. His aim was more or less just firing in a general direction, however, with little accuracy. By the end of the day, he had mastered most of the fire creation aspect of the magic. Now, he just needed to focus on aiming.

During the fifth day, Xeno was finally able to take the bandages off of his left arm. With his limb less restrained, he could more easily configure the magic and point at his targets. Every attempt produced fire with almost no smoke. Often, he could fling the fireball up to five yards away. Sometimes, it would crash into the ground, or go off in the wrong direction, but as he practiced more and more these occurrences became less common. He was becoming much faster as well, and could produce a moderate flame in only a second. By the early afternoon, Xeno felt he could finally use the wand of sparking on an enemy. He had just the perfect thing in mind.

Seeking out a slime only took a minute. Xeno lured the green blob into the grove. It was squishy, bouncy, sticky, and flammable.

"You know," he said, talking to the slime (could they even hear things?), "we kill your kind for torches."

The slime bounced at him but he sidestepped it.

"Now, I'm going to get revenge on all the times you've ambushed me," he said, waving the wand in front of him.

It bounced away. 

A fire exploded from the wand and blasted towards the slime, crashing into it like an arrow. It burst into flames and started to sporadically jump into the air, like a firework blasting from the ground. Wisps of smoker rose from the slime and billowed into a thin gray haze. The monster tried to roll on the ground, but the fire was consuming it from the inside as well. It started to melt, and the air filled with the acrid scent of burning gel. As it leaped from side to side, ignoring Xeno completely, it left a black sludge behind. The top of the slime began to collapse and its sides gave way too, like a wax figure melting in the summer heat. The way the gel ripped off the slime was like sweat. 

The fire gained new heights and embers flew onto the grass. The slime seemed like it was taking a while to burn. Even though it was losing shape, it continued to bounce in the grove, occasionally trying to attack Xeno. Every time it made a leap, it left a charred, paste-like residue on the grass. 

He decided to give the fire a helping hand. He threw one more fireball at it.

The slime exploded, literally just exploded. Flaming pieces of gel fired off in every direction as the main body was reduced to a burning pool of sludge. His first real demonstration had been a success. 

After a few more practice attempts, with the burning gel as a backdrop, he made his way home. That night, he decided, he would try his fire on a more dangerous enemy. As he walked home, wand in one hand, blueberries in another (those things tasted amazing), he felt powerful for once. He had done it. He was finally able to control the elusive magic of the wand. Maybe being a hero wasn't too hard, after all.

Xeno arrived back at the house in good time. It was nearing the evening, which was perfect for his plans. He would rest until then. Frankly, he was exhausted. He threw open the door, smacked the wand on the table and sat down. He laid his head down on his arms and closed his eyes. A few minutes later, the door opened.

"Hey, Xeno. You okay?" Scott asked.

"Yeah," Xeno murmured, keeping his head down, "I'm fine, just tired. Managed to kill a slime with the wand."

"Nice. Do you have any more plans for today?"

"Oh, yeah, I was going to kill a zombie..."

"Yes, because the last time you tried that nothing went wrong," Scott said.

"Sheesh, I'll do it near the house. And I'm more powerful now, anyway," Xeno said.

"Oh. We didn't need a home anyway. A pile of cinders will do," Scott said.

"Not right next to it, duh."

"Wildfire, then?"

"You know," Xeno said, "wouldn't it be such a shame if a fireball accidentally blew your face off right now?"

"Apart from the fact you would set the entire house on fire and I would shoot you in the head, seems like a great idea!" Scott exclaimed, "Wouldn't it also be a shame if I left the doors open and a few zombies stumbled in and ate all your limbs?"

"Oh come on, that's not even funny. You do that every day." Xeno said, finally lifting his head.

"Oh well. Good luck with your fighting session. Don't forget to not get your face mauled."

"If you think I'm going to die so much, why not come with me?" Xeno suggested.

"Eh, maybe tomorrow." Scott yawned, "you know, are we going to get beds any time soon?"

"Man, aren't you super nice."

"Since I am the nicest guy in Terraria, actually, I did find you this shackle." He held up a round piece of spiky metal shaped like a wristband.

"What the actual heck would I need that for?"

Scott shrugged, "It would keep zombies from biting your arm, at least. Just slide it over your armor and it will shred their mouths."

"Ugh, fine, if you insist, I'll wear it." Xeno grabbed the 'shackle' from Scott. He wasn't sure what good it would do, but whatever.

When nighttime arrived, Xeno threw on his armor and the 'shackle,' gathered his weaponry, and went outside. He needed to find a zombie, preferably one with a slime stuck on its head (the burning would be amazing). 

Xeno found the perfect target about half an hour into his session. He had killed the other zombies using his sword, (he still had no arrows), to conserve his magical energy, or his "mana" as Scott called it. When the zombie was a good five yards away, Xeno started to create a fireball. He was getting his revenge. 

The slime exploded into flames. The zombie stumbled around as fire consumed its entire head into a fireball. The inferno slowly spread from the slime to the zombie's body, as it reached out for him but missed. The flames spread to the zombie's clothes and before long the entire creature was burning. As the gel burned, it began to melt and drip, in turn burning and scarring the zombie, whose flesh began to charr in the heat.

Flesh and blood, blackened, melted off and dripped down its burning neck. The zombie, stuck on the ground, made no attempt to attack Xeno. Its skin began to peel away from the body as the burning sludge consumed its upper body.

It tried to stand up, but Xeno blasted it with another fireball, ripping its arm clean off. Nonetheless, it leaped upward and bound for Xeno, who hurled another wave of flames at it. The putrid smell of charred slime and burning rotting flesh rose to his nostrils and he turned away. A minute later, he looked back. The zombie was dead.

Chapter Text

Xeno stared down at the winding cave before him. "Are you sure about this?"

"Perfectly safe," Scott said. This time, he had decided to come along, with his own set of wooden armor (that honestly looked sort of ridiculous to Xeno) and some copper tools he said he had bought from a merchant.

"Right." Xeno wasn't too sure. They had just walked into the cave, and already it had started to dip downward. It was steep enough that he would have to tread carefully. 

"Give me one of your coils of rope, please," Scott said. Xeno handed it over. As Scott threw the rope over the edge and tied it to a stalagmite, Xeno took out a torch. He struck it with his wand of sparking and placed it on the wall, where it pulsed with a radiating, warm glow. 

"Ready," Scott said. He grabbed hold of the rope, facing the cliff, and started to make his way down the steep efface. Xeno followed soon after, and lit a torch as soon as he reached the bottom.

It was an ordinary looking cave. The walls were an earthen mixture of dirt and clay, with the occasional patch of stone. Stalagmites rose from the ground to meet stalactites in the ceiling. An echo followed every step that Scott and Xeno took through the winding passages. The ground was covered in stones and pebbles that tripped them up. Far off, they could hear the sound of water trickling through fissures in the stone. Xeno had to constantly light new torches, but the meager illumination never seemed to suffice. The darkness always survived on the fringes, lurking, waiting for its chance to leap out from the shadows and attack. 

"What should we look out for?" Xeno asked, welcoming a break in the silence. " What should we look out for?" The echoes said. 

"Hmm, anything shiny, that's for sure," Hmm, anything shiny, that's for sure, " If you see wood, that probably means an underground cabin is nearby," If you see wood, that probably means an underground cabin is nearby, " There may be some other odds and ends around, as well," There may some other odds and ends around, as well, "Keep your eyes peeled - monsters will come after us, too." Keep your eyes peeled - monsters will come after us, too. 

The echo became louder and quieter at times. Sometimes it would be muffled, sometimes it would be distinct. Xeno figured the shape of the caves probably had something to do with it, but he didn't care for it much. By the time they found their first ore deposit, a shining pale yellow, about fifteen minutes into the mines, he had become used to it. 

"Stay guard," Scott said, "I'll go ahead and mine it. It doesn't look like much, though."

Xeno grabbed his sword and got ready to kill whatever ran at him. For a minute, there was nothing but the sound of Scott's pickaxe. Clink. Chink. Clack. Clang. Then, he heard a scurrying from around the corner. Something was coming for him, and, whatever it was, it was fast!

As the soon became louder, he got into position. The monster sounded like it was close to the ground, and, judging by the sound of the footsteps, was probably not that large, or at least very light. Xeno raised his sword into the air at an angle. When the monster came for him, he would slash down and destroy it in an instant.

Then, it turned the corner. He slammed his sword down but missed, and it ran past. Crap. He turned to look at the beast - a tiny monstrosity with black fur, a long tail, and a whiskered face-

It was a mouse. A mouse. And now his sword was stuck in the ground.

Scott looked up from his mining, "Well, I'm done. What happened with your sword?"

"Kind of just saw a mouse and went crazy," Xeno chuckled.

"Well, there's not too much to worry about in these caves. Pretty calm place, if I do say so myself."

Then, a red slime smashed Scott into the ground. A red slime? He had never seen that before. He stepped back, unsure of what to do - it was only a slime, right?

"Gah!" Scott rammed his sword into the slime. Xeno slashed it and it leaped backward. It tried to attack but he jabbed it away. Scott dived out from under the monster and turned to crush it with his sword. Xeno shot it with his wand of sparking and the slime burst into a fireball. The smell of burning gel became thick in the air as Scott poised for an attack beside Xeno.

The slime did not take kindly to Xeno's flames.

Scott shouted for him to watch out but by then the slime was surging towards him. He stuck out his sword to catch the monster only to be slammed into the ground. As his sword lacerated the slime a thick, hot paste began to ooze onto his armor. He ripped his now sword out and threw it to the right as Scott came in from the side. It took him a few more slices to realize it was burning - crap! He threw it to the side and started hurling punches. His body was starting to feel extremely hot and sweat beaded on his forehead. Smoke clouded his vision and he coughed as he jabbed at the monster. Xeno looked down and saw, to his horror, that his armor was smoldering. He felt burns peeling his skin and a fiery pain clutched his hands. 

As Xeno fought to keep the slime off of him, Scott impaled it with one end of his pickaxe and the slime started to tear away. Xeno started to claw his way out from under the blob. He fumbled for his wand of sparking. He grabbed it and pointed it at the red slime, hands quivering with pain. He raised his arm and fired. The slime rocketed backward and crashed into the wall. As bits of burning slime dropped to the ground, charred gel started to drip onto the ground. 

Xeno coughed as smoke fogged up the room. The cave was now quiet, except for the crackling of the flames and - to Xeno's frustration - the sounds of more slimes bouncing towards them.

"Come on," Scott said between heavy breaths, "roll on the ground to extinguish the fire." He too had managed to be set aflame.

"We don't have time!" Xeno shouted, "More of them are coming."

"Don't you see how we're going to burn alive-"

"Follow me!"

Xeno started to dash down the tunnels as fast as his legs would take him. Even as flames consumed him, he continued to run without stopping. It was so hot inside his breastplate that his lungs were practically on fire. 

Scott followed him, asking him where they were going. Xeno had no time to respond, he simply continued running. Towards the sound of trickling water.

He dove through tunnel after tunnel, sprinted past every convergence, and practically flew up every bump in the ground. Then, he stopped. Scott slammed on the brakes right behind him, almost throwing Xeno over the edge.

Xeno peered over the edge, heart pounding, lungs screaming, and legs folding over themselves. There seemed to be nothing but rocks - then, he saw a reflection, yards away from the edge. Water. It would end this scathing pain. Xeno took a breath deeper than the caverns themselves.

"Jump!"

"What!?" Scott said in disbelief, "You can't expect to make that, that's absurd!"

Xeno had never felt so tense in all of Terraria, before. He pushed off from the edge and slammed into the pool of water, submerging immediately. His mouth was forced open by the impact and a mouthful of water made its way into his lungs. A few seconds later there was another splash.

Xeno tried to swim up to the surface, and, in the pitch black, it seemed like he was heading up. Only, the time when he broke the surface of the water wasn't coming. He stopped swimming for a second, and his feet touched rock bottom. That definitely wasn't good. Oh god, he thought. I'm going to drown. Die in a random cave in the middle of nowhere.

Xeno could hear Scott struggling in the water in the distance, but he wouldn't be able to help him until he himself he got out. Xeno pushed through the water, feeling around for any edge. After a few steps, he found a rocky efface and began to climb. His lungs felt like they were about to implode and he knew he wouldn't be able to keep his breath in for long.

Xeno surfaced from the water and crawled onto the rocky shore. He breathed in lung-fulls of air after lung-fulls of air. Stale, musty cave air had never tasted so sweet. His stomach started to roll and within an instant, he was hurling water onto the rocks.

"Is that you?" Scott asked. At some point, he must have escaped the clutches of the water, Xeno supposed.

"Y-yeah," Xeno replied, "Where are you?"

"Somewhere by that pool of water," Scott said. With the echoes, Xeno had trouble locating the source of the sound.

"Here," Xeno said, "I'll light up a torch." He took his backpack off and opened it. He pulled a torch and placed the tip of the wand of sparking on the gel. A flurry of sparks burst from the wood and the gel started to burn, although not brightly.

Then, it went out, after only a second of glowing.

"What happened?" Scott said, a little bit closer this time.

"All my torches are soaked. They won't stay lit," Xeno replied.

"That isn't good... they won't dry out, either. Not down here," Scott said. "We have to leave."

Xeno grabbed the wand of sparking and lit it. A ball of flames appeared on the wand and a meager amount of light lit up the immediate area.

"Oh, there you are," he said, walking towards Scott. "I suppose we'll just climb back up with some rope." He looked up at the wall across from the pool, at the way they had come. The cliff was tall, definitely tall, but they would be able to climb up eventually. 

Squish. Squish. Squish.

"Hey," Xeno said, "So you know earlier how I mentioned there were slimes coming our way?"

Scott looked up at the cliff, bow notched. Squish. Squish. Squish.

A yellow slime soared over the edge.

"One of them is here." Xeno raised the wand and a flurry of flames set the slime on fire. The cave was suddenly basked in a ferocious glow. As the slime bounced towards him Xeno dived to the side and blasted it into the wall. Scott fired two arrows into it and Xeno tore it to shreds with one last fireball.

Xeno walked back to the pool, took out one of those jar-shaped bottles, and scooped up some water. A chill permeated the room, and here, at the pool, little light penetrated the darkness. He returned to the burning mess of slime and extinguished the flames. The gel sizzled and released one last burst of billowing smoke. The cavern was immediately shunned into darkness once more.

Xeno lit the end of the wand again to provide light as he dug in his backpack for some torches. He ripped off the wet gel and placed the dry gel on top. He lit a few torches and placed them around the cavern. Scott and Xeno wallowed in the new-found light and warmth.

Now that the cavern was lit up, he could finally sit and look around. Stalagmites rose from the ground and stalactites drooped down from the ceiling, like sharp fangs in a rocky jaw. Opposite him was a decently long opening where they had entered. And here, at the back of the cavern, was a huge pool of water. He turned to face it. 

It was of a good size. At the middle of the back of the pool, water trickled down from above, frothing and foaming, with a soothing, splashing sound. While they had managed to extinguish the flames before they caused any serious damage, his equipment had still been burnt. His breastplate was charred and his gauntlets were blackened and cracked. One of his fingers was now exposed to the air. His sword had it even worse - it was chipped, scratched, scorched and singed.

Thankfully, he would soon be replacing the shoddy (and, frankly, ridiculously looking) wooden armor soon, with metal tools and armor. There were several deposits of ore. There were three small deposits of that pale yellow ore - tin, Scott told him - and a white, slightly gray, even a tiny bit pink and brown ore that seemed to be less common - iron. Xeno and Scott took out their copper pickaxes and started mining. Many of the ores were in hard to access areas, but with a bit of rope and fiddling around they were able to get most of it. They left the ore in the ceiling since it simply wasn't worth the bother.

After they finally mined all the ore in the room, Xeno was feeling much more positive. Soon enough, they would have an expanded house with an anvil and furnace. He would have tin, maybe even iron, armor, and much better weaponry. If luck would have it, he would even find some magical items. 

"So, what do you think are the chances I'll get a pair of Hermes boots?" Xeno asked.

"Oh, they are fairly common. Rather easy to find if you know where to look. I had a few pairs once, but some goblins 'borrowed' them indefinitely," Scott said, scouting out the next passage away from the large cavern, torch in hand.

"You go adventuring?" 

"No, of course not. Why would I be in a cave right now? Silly me, must have accidentally walked down in here with a pickaxe and torches and must have accidentally killed a few slimes and tripped and mined some ore."

"Right. Goblins? You mentioned goblins," Xeno said.

"Nasty creatures, that's what they are. Before you know it they are breaking down your front door, shooting you up with arrows, blasting your windows with magic, and throwing spike balls at your face," Scott said, lighting up a torch. "Once they get wind of a formidable opponent, they try to stop them from becoming any more powerful."

"So, how do they decide when to attack?" Xeno asked as he traversed the cave.

"The folks' tale is that they send an army after you when you start meddling in the Corruption or Crimson. The Evils, that is what they are called. Especially if you start going underground. But sometimes, they don't bother with whole armies. Sometimes you just are unlucky and come across a patrol. They also send scouts out periodically, as well. But most of their force will come after you start diving deep into the Evils. Legend has it that the orbs, which bind together the Evil, can be broken." Scott started to mine a chunk of tin ore. "Of course, they have their own safeguards. Ancient guardians defend these places, coming after anyone who starts to destroy these orbs. There's the Eater of Worlds, for one. Lives in the Corruption. Then, there's the Brain of Cthulu."

Cc-thu-ch-cthul-lu? Xeno thought. It was a simple name, really, but something about it seemed downright vile. In his mind, it seemed almost impossible to pronounce. It was no ordinary name. How did he manage?

"Tell me more about this... Cth- Eater of Worlds."

"It is a giant worm that dwells in the Evil known as the Corruption- now hold on, I see a cabin ahead." Scott struck one last torch and placed it on the wall. Sure enough, the cave was cut in half by a wooden doorframe. Somebody must have tried to hide underground, but from the looks of it, they didn't make it. In the middle of the tunnel there was a pile of crushed bones and skulls, from at least five different people, with streaks of dried blood painted on. A trail of blood stained the rocks, leading from the front door to the bones.

"That's... odd..." Xeno said. As he looked at the skeletons, he was having second thoughts about the whole adventuring thing. He leaned down to examine them. "These bones are old, though..." Xeno said. "Whatever killed them probably isn't around anymore. Though, it is a little strange how they're piled up like this."

Scott looked down at the yellowing bones, "I am not sure these are human, either. Not that it matters, anyway. Come on, follow me," Scott walked over to the door and pulled it open. It made a deep creaking sound as if it hadn't been opened in years.

Xeno walked in behind him. The room had a musty scent of rotting wood, dust, and cobwebs. It was a small room, with a staircase on the other side. A copper chandelier had fallen from the ceiling and crashed into a table, shattering it in half and breaking two of the legs. The chair sat on its side. Cobwebs stretched between each candle arm and in the corners of the cabin. 

To the side lay a piano. Xeno walked over to it.

"Huh, a piano. Neat," Xeno said, leaning over the side of it. He wiped some of the dust off of the keys and pressed down. A resonating boom echoed across the walls. 

"I wouldn't do that, if I were you," Scott said.

"Can slimes even hear?" Xeno wondered.

"Hey, a blob made of nothing but gel shouldn't be able to move, but that isn't stopping the common slime."

"Fair point," Xeno said, walking over to a grandfather clock that stood next to the staircase to what seemed to be another room. "Funnily enough," he said, "The clock is still working." It was covered in spiderwebs and grime, but the hands were still moving, with a tick, tick, tick .

"Hmm... looks like it's night," Xeno said.

"Well, it's better to just wait out the night down here. Come on, let's go downstairs," Scott said.

The stairs creaked as they stepped down. Xeno lit a torch and placed it on the wall. The room was mostly empty, except for a golden chest that sat at the other end. Interestingly enough, there was another door. As the two of them walked over to the chest, they left footprints in the thick layer of dust that settled on the floor.  Xeno wiped some of the dust off of the lid. The gold shined in the torchlight. 

"Finally, maybe we'll actually find something useful," Xeno said. He lifted the lid up. Dust billowed out from the chest. Inside, among the spiderwebs and dust, was another coil of rope, seven bars of iron, more arrows, four of those 'lesser healing potions', a small vial with green liquid sloshing inside, and, oddly enough, a boomerang glowing with a blue light.

"Interesting,"  Scott said as Xeno pulled it out. "It looks magical - enchanted, would be my guess."

Xeno examined the boomerang. It was a medium shade of blue, with a red center and two streaks of white on either edge. It seemed to pulse with the same magic imbued into the wand of sparking. 

Xeno and Scott opened the door, finding themselves in another, smaller, cavern. Xeno lit the cave with a torch. It continued straight for only a little while before bending. Nonetheless, in this short strip of the cave, there were not only several pots but a chest as well. (Sadly, it was only wooden). 

"More treasure, already?" Xeno said. "Aren't we lucky."

The pots were filled with about what he expected - rope, coins, torches, lesser healing potions, and arrows. The only notable item was an odd potion - the bottle's shape was a triangle on top of a square, and inside a neon green liquid rolled from side to side. The torchlight hitting it seemed to be much brighter than ordinary, oddly enough.

Xeno stashed the potion away and opened the chest. It was predictably filled with the same sort of things he had found in the pots, only this time there were two items of note. The first was a long spear made of metal. Despite being in a chest for presumably years, it was in pristine condition and shimmered when Xeno wiped the dust and cobwebs off. Its handle was white, but the spearhead was yellow. Tin, perhaps?

The other item was a bag of herbs. Inside, he found a few plants and a few seeds. The first plant was a yellow flower - he had seen it on the surface plenty of times. Then, there was one with a green stem and blue leaves that looked like water droplets. Finally, there was a blue flower that felt cool to the touch. The seeds were all a vibrant cyan color. He wasn't sure what the plants were useful for, and he didn't feel like he would ever touch them again, but he took them anyway. Why not?

Scott and Xeno turned the corner. After a few deposits of tin, which they readily mined up, the tunnel began to droop downward. Xeno followed the tunnel until they came across another large cavern. To Xeno's surprise, there was a red, glittering crystalline heart stuck in the rock.

"That's a heart crystal, alright," Scott said.

"What?"

"Heart crystals are crystals found deep underground. They contain great magic and are said to bless anybody who channels their power with extra life energy," Scott explained.

"Am I supposed to do something with it or?" 

"Yes. Go up to it, and place your hands on it. It'll be like creating fire with your wand of sparking, in a way."

Xeno lay laid his tools down and walked up to the crystal. He placed his left hand on it, then this right. It was cool to the touch. Just like the glowing boomerang and the wand of sparking, there seemed to be magic flowing through it. While the wand of sparking felt fierce and powerful, and the glowing boomerang energetic, the heart crystal felt calm and vigorous. His hands began to go numb. Standing there for what seemed like hours, he began to feel detached from reality. He could feel the magic. The burns he had been injured with hours ago stopped paining him.

After a few minutes, the crystal had lost all its color. Xeno awoke from his stance and stepped back. It was now a transparent heart sitting in the rock. As soon as he got a few yards away, it started to crumble. Cracks spread across like bullets being shot into a pane of glass. Chunks of the crystal fell to the ground and rolled into the wall before shattering. Soon, the ground was littered with pellets. As time went on, the crystal began to crumble faster, until, a minute later, it had entirely broken. The shards on the ground shuddered for a second, then, they too, began to crumble. In a few seconds, they had all turned into dust. And when the dust settled, there was no sign that anything of importance had ever been there.

Chapter Text

"Hmm," Scott said, looking around the cavern, "Maybe it's time to leave... we have found a good amount of loot and we're going to need to deposit it, anyway."

"I am getting pretty hungry, and tired. But trekking back up there is going to be a pain." Xeno paused, then took off his backpack and squatted down to search through it. 

"Hm?" Scott asked, "What is it?"

"I have an idea," Xeno replied. After a few seconds, he had the two 'recall' potions in hand. "I knew these would come in handy."

"That's a pretty good idea," Scott said, "I forgot you found some of those - two, no less. Quite the convenience." 

Xeno handed one to Scott and popped off the stopper. "Cheers!" he said, clinking the bottle against Scott's.

"Oh, one last thing," Scott exclaimed, right as Xeno was about to guzzle the potion down, "If you feel like you want to die after drinking it, that's completely normal and you probably won't die," 

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?" Xeno lowered the bottle. "I probably won't die?"

"Well... it's perfectly safe, okay?" 

Xeno looked at the blue liquid sloshing inside. "You are sure about this, right? It isn't expired or poisoned or whatever?"

"No. The only way for a recall potion to expire," Scott replied, "would be if it was opened and left for several weeks. At that point, it would start to glitter and shine, similar to how a specular fish reacts to sunlight - they do call it the 'Mirror Fish' for a reason. Besides, if you really care so much, we can just walk-"

"Specular fish? Mirror fish? Glittering? Shining? Okay, fine, I'll drink it. Just stop looking at me like I'm an idiot." Without another word, Xeno gulped down the potion, along with a small amount of dust.

It tasted slightly sweet, but also a little bit sour. For a few moments, nothing happened. Then, the world seemed to fold in onto itself. His vision became blurred and the cave began to spin. Dizziness overtook him and the bottle clattered to the ground. The sound was much sharper and brutal than he remembered. He stumbled against the wall and collapsed onto the ground, head in his hands, eyes shut. The faint torch glow was making him nauseous, like knives were being forced through his skull. The sound of the bottle rattling on the stones were like bullets being shot into his eardrums.

Groans and the sounds of shuffling feet seemed to emanate from all sides. Eventually, the pain subsided to the point where he could open his eyes. He was lying on the grass in a forest. It was nighttime. For a moment, Xeno thought he was in some kind of weird cave. That is, before he stumbled to his feet and noticed the house in the distance.

"Come on," Scott said. Xeno was taken aback - he didn't realize he was there. "The zombies are coming," 

Xeno turned and ran to the house alongside Scott and slammed the door shut. Finally, he was able to throw off his charred armor. His clothes were a little singed, but it was nothing bad. Scott cooked some mushroom soup (which was pretty much all they ate).

"I suppose you experienced some of the side effects of the recall potion. Your body is rejecting it, for now, but eventually you'll be able to use it without much trouble," Scott said.

"Well, I suppose that's something to look forward to," Xeno said, stirring the soup broth around with his wooden spoon. "This house is really cramped. I was considering maybe making each of us our own homes and expanding this place to be a sort of workshop." 

"I suppose if you're up to it, that'd be nice."

"Hmm," Xeno looked around the room. He wished there were some windows he could gaze at the stars through. Then again, he liked being isolated from the zombies and other monsters that roamed the land. He began to fantasize all sorts of house ideas - maybe a balcony? A cozy fireplace with comfy chairs all around? A basement filled with kegs and barrels? Before he knew it, he was dozing off. 

 

 

A week and four days later, Xeno had finished construction. The main building, the 'workshop,' as he called it, had been expanded considerably. Walking in from the west, the blacksmithing area was to the left. He had knocked down all the walls to give the building a more airy feel. The new expansion was as large as the original room and was entirely made of stone bricks. It had a flat roof, unlike the rest of the building, with little extra detail except for a chimney and a single glass window. He had hung a tin chandelier up in the sitting area to provide a cozy glow. 

Inside the blacksmithing room were three objects - a furnace, an anvil, and a chest. The furnace was a large stone block with a hole cut into it. There was a ledge in front to lay his tools on. To the right of the furnace was an iron anvil, which he had used to create his armor and tools. The chest was storage for metals and other forging materials, although it was mostly empty at the time due to all the metal he had expended during the construction and forgin. He had even had to squeeze in an extra mining trip.

To the right of the table and chairs, he had created a workshop. Two windows side by side let the morning light. On one side there was a sawmill that he used to chop wood and create furniture, including a loom. The loom had a large wheel and a piece of red and blue fabric was draped over the seat to make it more comfortable. 

At the wall opposite the sawmill was a heavy work bench. It was a bulky structure that consisted of a main table, with two wooden supports at a front and one long support at the back, and a tools rack that extended above the table. He had created a few tools to work with at the work bench, namely an iron hammer, tin saw, a chisel, and even a pair of wire cutters. He had even sculpted a statue of a squirrel. Sure, it sort of looked like it had a tumor growing through its ear and that somebody had shot it in the eye with a shotgun, but he was quite proud of it. 

Opposite the door he had walked in through, he had created a kitchen area. A cooking pot sat above a fire pit. Above the pot, also known as the mushroom soup cooker deluxe, were several shelves filled with plates, silverware, bowls, and cups. 

Then, of course, he had the homes. His house was divided into two rooms. The first was a living room, with a table, some chairs, a sofa, and a grandfather clock (inspired by the one he had found in the underground cabin). The other room was, of course, a bedroom, with a dresser, a nightstand, and some other odds and ends. Only the main room had a window - he enjoyed being secluded while sleeping. It made him feel safer, in a way. Scott's house was about the same, with some minor differences. 

Xeno had even constructed a third house. Scott had been corresponding with one of his acquaintances, the merchant, who had agreed to move in on the condition that they proved there was a market for his goods - namely, by obtaining fifty silver coins. Between the two of them, they had about forty-three coins from all the slime killing, pot smashing, and chest looting. And now, with better equipment, they would be able to find even more cash. The morning after finishing the building, Xeno went to gather his gear to set out for some adventuring.

Xeno had long since relinquished the wooden gear. Now, he had a tin helmet, tin greaves, and even an iron breastplate. He had crafted an iron sword and bow as well, which he had tested on some slimes a few days earlier. He still used the copper tools he had with him from the start, since he ran out of metal.

"Seven coins, huh?" Scott said, sweeping the pile of forty-three to the side of the table. "We should be able to get that in a day's time, no problem." 

"What do you suggest would be the quickest way?" Xeno asked.

"Hmm... well, I suppose breaking open some pots would be the best way."

"Like in those surface tunnels?"

"Indeed. How about we split up to search for some?"

"Alright..." Xeno said. It wouldn't be too bad, right? Just a stroll through the forest. No heavy labor, and the only battles would be with slimes. 

"Just be back before nightfall," Scott said.

"Yes, yes," Xeno said. Just because he had gotten a bit scratched that one time, did Scott really have to remind him every time? He wasn't that incompetent.

Xeno grabbed his armor and threw it on. It was slightly heavy, but not unbearably so. He knew it would be pretty hot inside due it being made of metal, but thankfully he would be spending a good amount of the day inside cool tunnels. At least he wasn't in a desert or jungle. He had gotten rid of most of his things to make room in his backpack for whatever loot he might find, but he brought along three health potions, some arrows, and a coil of rope, just in case.

Xeno stepped into the forest. He decided to travel east, towards the tunnel he had previously visited. Scott would travel west. It was a fair day - not too hot, not too cold. A breeze poured through the trees and leaves drifted to the ground. There seemed to be no butterflies out, unlike the previous few days. 

About ten minutes into his journey, he came across a tunnel. At first he thought it was the one he had explored, but on closer inspection it was completely dark and looked undisturbed. The other one had, after all, been much further from the house. He figured he just missed the tunnel - there was a mossy boulder near the entrance that almost obstructed his view. 

Xeno grabbed one of his torches - he had spent a good half hour making new ones back when he was working on the house - and struck it with the wand of sparking. He placed it on the wall just outside the tunnel and walked inside, guided by its orange glow.

It was similar to the other cave in almost all respects, from the vines draped over the entrance to the moss and ivy coating the walls. Just like the other cave, there were pots on the floor, although there was no chest to speak of. Sadly enough, there was no ore deposit either. This cave, however, was home to a small spring near the entrance, where water frothed among the stones.

Within a minute, Xeno had destroyed all the pots and gathered all items of interest. There were more potions, more rope, and coins. One silver in total, to be exact. Now, there were only six more coins to go.

Just as Xeno was about to leave the tunnel out the other side, he heard the signature sound of a slime. Squish. Squish. Squish. He turned around and pulled out his wand of sparking - it would be a simple battle.

With a flick of the hand the green slimes was in flames. He stood there, watching the annoying little creature burn into a gooey mess. As he watched it bounce around and writhe, he felt a small twang of pity for the monster. But then again, it couldn't feel anything. Its only instinct was to kill. To kill him, specifically. Over time, the burning mass became obscured. Smoke started to fill the tunnel and Xeno backed out. There was too much smoke and too much fire - something was wrong. 

Of course! Xeno laughed at himself for being so stupid. He had set the slime on fire - in a cave filled with moss, ivy, and vines! No wonder it was burning so much.

Xeno was about to leave, sword over his shoulder, when he saw that the fire was much, much larger than he had expected. The flames started to spill outward, onto the grass and other plants nearby the cave entrance. If he was unlucky, there could even be a forest fire. 

Crap. Xeno grabbed a bottle from his backpack. He jerked his head back and forth, looking for water. The spring! But it was in the cave. He turned back to the tunnel. It was covered by a hazy layer of smoke, but he could hear the loud crackling of a roaring fire. The acrid smell of burning plants permeated the woods.

Xeno dashed into the smoke. Inside the metal armor, it was incredibly hot. He started coughing and wheezing. His armor protected him from burns, but he would overheat if he stayed in there too long. After a minute of fumbling, he finally touched water. He shoved the bottle into the water and practically threw its contents into the fire. The flames sizzled and died down a little. How long was this going to take? He could only manage for so long before the smoke in his lungs started to affect him.

He threw himself ferociously at the task. With every fill of the battle, and with every pour of the water, the fire began to weaken. Eventually, there was nothing left but charred plants and a few sparking embers. Xeno stomped out the last vestiges of flame with his feet. Within a minute, the smoke had cleared.

Xeno sat down to rest. He had a swig of the spring water, which tasted alright, apart from the fact it was filled with burnt plant matter and tasted like ashes. He ate some of the rations he had packed and continued on his journey.

Twenty-five minutes later, after he had slain several blue and green slimes, he arrived at the original tunnel he had looted. To his surprise, the torch inside was still burning.

For another half an hour, Xeno continued to search, until he found another tunnel. This one was less overgrown than all the others and even happened to have a deposit of tin ore. Of course, it also had several pots and a chest. He went to business destroying the pots. Grab that one, toss that one, kick this one, punch the large one, and smash the last one. Before he knew it, the ground was littered in shards and he had several new items in his possession.

There was the usual fare of arrows, shurikens, healing potions, and rope, but there were several unique things as well. For one, there was one of those so-called recall potions. That was a relief - at least he wouldn't have to walk home. Next, there a potion shaped like an 'O'. Inside, a yellow liquid seemed to glow dimly in the darkness. Hadn't he found a lime, glowing potion in the underground a few weeks ago? This one, however, seemed to shine the same no matter how much light there was.

Xeno had also found another potion of note - a potion that looked like an upside down pickaxe, or an anchor. This bottle had a dull, medium blue liquid inside. He put it in his backpack along with the shining potion - it would probably come in handy sometime. Now, it was time for the chest. 

Xeno threw the lid open. He wiped the dust away with his fingers and used a stick to pull out the cobwebs (he didn't touch them with his bare hands if he didn't have to - after all, who knew what kind of spiders could be nestled in those things?). 

He pulled the contents of the chest out and laid them out on the tunnel floor. On top were five small green balls with a metal piece attached to their tops. They were decently heavy for being so small. It looked as if there was a pin to pull out of the ball. Was it a grenade? 

Xeno stared at the tiny bomb in his hand. Certainly, it was a grenade. There was no doubt about it. His fingers trembled a little and his eyes darted between them all. Who knew when they would blow? They could have been there for a century. Such old items could malfunction. After pondering the situation for several minutes, Xeno sighed and placed the grenades into his backpack. The pins seemed to be firm and he didn't believe they would suddenly explode. Still, he felt uneasy. 

Then, there were a few more iron bars. Those would be useful for creating more armor, although his backpack was starting to get a little heavy. Then, there was a glass vial with bright green liquid inside. He would definitely have to ask Scott about all these potions. 

Underneath, there was a coil of rope and several empty bottles. He gathered them up and placed them in his inventory. Next to the rope was a small piece of technology. It was a square shaped piece of metal with a screen and a few buttons. It was completely covered in dust, but that didn't stop Xeno from pressing every button on the thing. 

To his surprise, the screen came to life. It had a green display, although he wasn't exactly sure what it was showing. Was it a map? It seemed to show a hill, although it was hollowed to show the tunnel. It was a map of some sorts. In the middle, there was a yellow dot. Was that him?

With the strange piece of technology in hand, he started to walk throughout the tunnel. Surely enough, the dot began to move, confirming his thoughts. If that was all it did, though, then what was the point?

He was starting to have second thoughts about all this hoarding (how many empty bottles did he really need?) when he noticed a glint from the pile. Curious, he pushed the grass aside.

Coins! Finally, something to actually make up for all this effort. But no, this wasn't some small picking. There was a whole small pile of silver coins, glittering under the dim sunlight that just barely penetrated the darkness. He began to count them out. Fourteen! There were fourteen coins in all. They had only needed seven, and already he had found sixteen on this journey - one from the previous cave, one from slimes, and of course the money he had just found.  He couldn't imagine how much Scott had.

Even though he had the money he needed, Xeno decided to continue. It was only in the middle of the afternoon, and he would be able to teleport home whenever he wanted, so it wasn't a big deal. It was kind of nice being alone, walking in the peaceful forest. Although, the further he walked, the less forest there seemed to be.

The grass started to become patchy and yellowed. Trees became less frequent until the landscape could barely even be called a forest anymore. The butterflies began to disappear, along with the vibrant flowers they hovered around. The birds' sweet chirps were overtaken by distant, harsh caws. The ground became more loose, and the remaining plants were scraggly and dry. 

Eventually, after forty-five minutes of walking, Xeno noticed that he really wasn't in a forest anymore. The ground bore little grass and there were no trees to speak of. Coming across a pond, he decided to rest. As he chewed on the dry, tasteless meat he had packed for the journey, he wondered where he was. He assumed he would find a desert if he walked only a little bit more. 

To appease his boredom, (the dry, half grassland, half desert landscape wasn't exactly interesting to look at), Xeno opened his backpack and looked at the assortment of items inside. He still had that enchanted boomerang, although he had never actually used it. Despite having been out for only a few hours, his backpack was surprisingly full. There were all the potions, for one, - many, many potions, as well as rope, torches, shurikens, arrows, and some other junk buried at the bottom. 

Xeno sighed. Maybe it was time to head back. There didn't seem to be much in this direction, anyway. He grabbed the recall potion from his bag and stared at the blue liquid inside. The potion would teleport him back home, or at least it was supposed to. Given the pain he had felt, however, when he last tried the potion, he wasn't incredibly eager to drink it. Even if there didn't seem to be much over in this direction, he thought, why not search it? It was kind of nice walking alone, at least.

He slung his backpack over his shoulder and continued walking through the dry grassland. Slowly, to the point where he barely noticed it, the ground became sandier and looser. Eventually, the grass started to fade into vast sand dunes. The bushes were replaced by spiky, branching cacti. Before he knew it, he was in a desert.

Xeno sat down to rest. The sun was beating down heavily and he was beginning to get a little tired. It had been five or six hours since he had left the house, judging from the position of the sun. He sighed. He already had the money he needed. Maybe Scott had returned home already. They hadn't agreed on a time, after all. 

Then again, he had found a desert. The terrain had completely changed over the course of maybe ten miles. He was curious to see what the deal was with it, at least. He grabbed his iron broadsword in hand and slung his backpack over his shoulder. He continued walking, when, at the crest of a large sand dune, his foot was swallowed up whole by the sand. 

Xeno tried to tug his foot away but to no avail. It seemed as if his leg was being pulled side to side - the sand started to quiver. Something was disturbing it from inside.

The sand exploded and he was slammed down, knocking the breath out of his lugs. He tried to steady himself but as sand splashed over him he started to roll down the hill. His sword went flying to the side as he crashed into the ground.

He fumbled for his sword but to no avail. He expected some kind of monstrous, wormy abomination to kill him any second, but his head was facing the other way, so he didn't know. He lifted himself out of the sand and scrambled backwards towards his sword. Something decently large and round was barreling down the hill towards him.

It crashed into him and he impaled it before falling to the ground. With a shove, he managed to push the thing off and get a good look at it. His heart pounded and he took a few deep breaths, wiping off sand from his armor. It was just a slime - nothing to be worked up over, he thought. He would be able to kill it in a few hits, easy. In fact, if he wasn't mistaken, it was already dead - it wasn't moving anymore, after all. 

Xeno stood up and tried to shake off the sand. A good amount of it had seeped into his armor and now uncomfortably grazed his skin and nestled in his clothes. Not to mention how it was warm in the desert. Inside the armor, it was even worse, like each and every metal plate was pushing a layer of dry heat against him, crushing him into a pile of pulp. As he approached the seemingly dead slime, beads of sweat ran down his neck.

He could see it twitching. It wasn't quite dead, after all. Could slimes experience pain? He figured he might as well put it out sooner than later. He grabbed his wand of sparking and pointed it at the quivering slime. Hopefully, setting the slime on fire wouldn't ruin his sword. He decided to pull it out just in case.

As soon as he lifted the blade out his legs buckled from an impact and he fell onto the slime. It squished together like a spring before launching him backwards into a cactus, which was obliterated immediately. He thanked the heavens he had armor on - even then, a few needles manage to stab him. As lukewarm cactus juice ran down his arm, Xeno fumbled around in his bag for something, anything that would kill the slime. His sword and wand had been thrown out of reach when the slime sent him backwards.

Screech! Roarwareech! Ignoring the obnoxious half-roaring, half-screeching of some creature, he rushed to find a suitable weapon. His bow? Yes, that could work! He grabbed hold of it and pointed it at the sandy yellow slime. He fired arrow after arrow, but it seemed the slime could absorb them with little damage. 

With a cry of frustration he notched yet another arrow. His chest pushed against his ribcage. His breathing became louder and more frantic. His aim was shaky at best. This slime was much stronger than all the others he had encountered before. His accuracy was so poor he couldn't land a single hit anymore.

Screech! Roarwareech!  What was that bird's problem? Would it just shut up and die? He notched another arrow and fired it at the large bird. It missed pitifully. With bitterness building in his heart, Xeno tossed the bow to the side. So much for fancy iron weaponry. The sword and bow had failed him - heck, even his trusty wand had proven useless.

The boomerang? He had never tried it - he would have to be a fool to think he could whip it out and suddenly be a master. 

He grabbed it with quivering hands. Its glow was mesmerizing and he felt a little calmer holding it, as if the magic itself was battling the terrible feeling in his gut. He poised for an attack. If this failed, he had no weaponry left. 

Xeno threw it with all his might and hope. It glided out of his hand and arced towards the slime gracefully, with a resplendent glow and a magical trail behind it.

Stuck. It was stuck in the slime. 

Resisting the urge to go over to the slime and rip it apart with his bare hands, he looked around for something. His backpack was just full of potions - he didn't even know what half of them did! There clearly was no weapon inside. If only he hadn't left that yellow spear at home. Something with long range would have been handy at that point. 

His hands touched something a metal ball, cool to the touch. Were they coins? No, that wouldn't make sense - wait, they were the grenades ! He pulled one out. As old as it seemed to be, it was only the tiniest bit rusty, and seemed like it would still work. But could he really trust himself with a grenade, of all things? It could easily destroy him. His hand trembled and he feared he would drop the grenade. Don't do anything stupid, he reminded himself.

With a heavy sigh, he pulled the pin. It seemed to weigh twenty tons in his palm, as if his hand would sink into the sand and drag the rest of his body down with it. Throw it. Throw it. THROW IT! As if something had finally clicked in his brain, he hurled the grenade into the approaching slime. It embedded into the monster, but it continued to move.

An icy dread gripped him as it approached, grenade inside, and he jumped to his feet before diving to the side and sprinting away as fast as he could. KABAOOM! Red, orange, and yellow exploded from the grenade as smoke and dust clouded the sky. When it finally cleared, there was a small charred hole. The slime itself had been annihilated, reduced to hundreds of torn pieces of yellow gel. Served it right, he thought. 

Screech! Roarwareech! It was that obnoxious bird again. It sounded nothing like the lovely birds in the forest, with their tweets and chirps and singing. This bird's screeching was like a dull knife being stabbed into his ears. Would it just shut up? It seemed to be getting closer. With nothing else to do, Xeno sat down and watched it. 

The screeching became louder and louder as the bird circled in the air. As it flew high above the desert, it seemed to become faster and faster. The sound of the bird's wings beating against the air became more powerful and heavier. With each loop it seemed to sink further and further towards the ground. After a minute, it was only half as high as it had been before.

Xeno could finally discern the bird's features. It seemed to be a vulture of sorts, with large, thick and broad gray wings with a pinkish gray body. Even from the ground, he could see that the bird's talons were as sharp as knives. Its eyes seemed to stalk him, following him around even as the bird turned and twisted in the air, piercing through his armor and stabbing at his soul. Something about the vulture made him uneasy, but he didn't know what it was.

Then, with a terrible screech, the vulture wheeled downward and plummeted towards the ground. No, not to the ground, why would it do that? Clearly, it was going after him. Wait, was it trying to kill?

The bird screeched and dived towards him. He leaped away but it maneuvered towards him. As he braced for impact, talons bounced off his armor. He let out a sigh of relief as he pulled out his iron bow. Maybe it would prove useful, this time. 

He fired an arrow at the bird, but it had already escaped to higher altitudes. Soon enough, however, it dove downwards again, allowing Xeno to fire off a few shots off at it. Most of them missed, but the occasional one struck true. Every time he hit the vulture, he felt a pang of accomplishment. Perhaps he really would take up Scott's offer on having an archery contest. 

Screech! Roarwareech! Screech! Roarwareech! Now the vulture's screeching was so loud and discordant he was having trouble on focusing on shooting. It seemed every time he took his eyes off the vulture for just a second, it would appear in a completely different place, only to move back in the blink of the eye. Furthermore, the arrows inside of it, which were little more than lines from this distance, seemed to appear and disappear at random.

Was he hallucinating? He had had several swigs of water lately, so he couldn't have been dying of dehydration. But there was no way in hell the vulture was that fast - something was up.

To get a better perspective on the matter, Xeno shielded himself from the sun's glare with his hand. At first, he had double vision, oddly enough, where he saw two vultures wheeling around in the sky. Strangely, however, it didn't seem to fade. Was he dehydrated and just didn't notice? No, that made no sense. Huh, now there were three?

Of course, the radar! He fished it out of his backpack and turned it on. On it, to his surprise, were four blips amidst the desert, all nearby him - three wheeling around in circles and one unmoving behind him. That confirmed his fears - there really were three vultures. Despite being scavengers, it seemed they really wanted to kill him. 

Xeno turned around to try and discern what the final red dot was. At first, he saw nothing but sand. Then, he noticed something squirming around on the ground, a huge, disgusting insect half buried into the ground.

Well, if it's buried, he thought, then it can't do anything - his train of thought was suddenly derailed when something hard hit him on the leg. He felt it even through his armor. Was one of the vultures taking a crap on him or something? He brushed off some sand from the metal plates. He could've sworn it came from that insect, but how did that work?

Xeno stepped over to the insect. It was a peculiar creature, with an orange and yellow body that blended in with the desert. It had two unsettling, glistening red eyes that stared straight at him. Two sharp legs rose from the sand, resting on the ground in front of the insect. From its head, two yellow, serrated mandibles rose, which were currently picking at the sand. They seemed to be gathering up sand. 

Xeno knew the monster was up to no good. When it had a ball of sand in its mandibles, it looked at him. All of a sudden it hurled the ball into his leg, knocking him off balance. He collapsed onto the sand. What kind of bug shot sand ?

He heard the heavy sounds of a vulture's wings. Talons grazed his armor as another ball of sand crashed into him. Trying his best to ignore the birds' terrible screeching, he walked over to the insect and kicked it in the face, dispersing the ball of sand it had created and bending one of its mandibles in a strange way.

Xeno considered using a grenade to blow it to pieces, but he knew that would be a waste. Even though it would be satisfying, he could just as easily chop it to pieces, which is what he intended to do. He pulled out his sword and hacked at it, cutting off one of its legs. Another swipe took its other leg and cut into its body. As the vultures circled closer and closer and as blood seeped from the insect's wounds, Xeno sliced at its head, ripping a mandible to shreds. Two more slices followed, and after the seventh the insect became still. 

A vulture slammed into him and a talon pierced through the joints of his armor, cutting him in the shoulder as he collapsed into the sand, a cloud of dust rising around him. Warm blood trickled down his back and he winced from the pain.

He gathered his bow, but found he only had a few arrows left. He fired off the last few shots he had, but only one hit a vulture. Now, he had no ranged weaponry. How was he going to fight three monstrous vultures without a bow? Why had he decided to explore this desert, anyway? There was nothing worth going through all this trouble in it. It wasn't like he had to fight the vultures.

If he ran, they would probably pursue him. But what if he teleported? Trying his best to ignore the sharp pain from his shoulder, he dug out a recall potion from his backpack, as a vulture swooped down for an attack. He smashed it with the bottle before ripping out the stopper and gulping down the liquid. The sweet and sour taste he vaguely knew from weeks before flooded his mouth.

The night sky became hazy. The screeches seemed to become distant, but at the same time they were swords being stabbed into his ears and twisted in his head. The feeling of pain from his wound only became worse and a terrible headache enveloped him. The desert scenery became blurry and he lost his sense of reality as he started to see double. 

It was as if a forest and a desert were trying to mix together in his mind, trembling and moving from side to side. Eventually, the terrible screeching subsided and the last traces of the desert faded. He lay on the grass for a minute, watching the leaves stir in the breeze, as if he wasn't quite sure if he was alive or not. When the pain finally ended, he stumbled to his feet. 

Light streamed out of all four buildings, illuminating the groaning zombies that shambled towards him. Scowling, he walked over to his house. He was too exhausted to deal with them. After throwing his armor onto the floor next to his bed, he got to work tying a bandage around his shoulder. He was hungry but too tired to head to the kitchen and cook something. He decided he would eat in the morning. 

With that, he climbed onto his bed and nestled himself under the covers. He was glad he had taken the time to build a home. Being built by himself only made it all the more cozy. Within a minute, he was asleep.

Sorry for not posting in a while. My motivation was dead and I was busy writing that 4th of July one-shot too. Expect a drabbles collection sometime in the near future, along with the next chapter. Reviews and constructive criticism are welcome as always.

Chapter Text

Xeno sat at the edge of the pond, fishing pole in hand. A light breeze blew on the grass and rustled the leaves of the trees, whose reflections were hazy upon the sapphire blue water. Flowers grew at the edges of the pond, among boulders and pebble beaches. They were lucky that it was only a twenty-minute walk north of the makeshift town.

Suddenly, something tugged on the pole. Xeno pulled as hard as he could for several seconds. The pond frothed and splashed before something exploded out of the water. The bass slammed into the beach and flopped around. Xeno picked it up and placed it into a bucket.

"'Ey, Xeno!" There was a distant, deep voice.

"Oh, hello Oten," he said. Oten, the dwarven Demolitionist, had walked over besides Xeno, who had just finished packing up his fishing equipment.

"Well, Scott wants to 'old a meeting of sorts, and he told me to go get you," Oten said.

"A meeting? What for?" Xeno asked.

"Well, word has it that Claire n' Yutpan, o', Andre was there too - well, those three discovered some ancient place to the east, a stronghold, dungeon o' sorts. Odd, 'ery odd, suspicious too."

"Huh," Xeno said, "I guess I'll just go over there and see what all the hubbub is about."

Xeno and Oten began to walk back towards the town - and a town it truly was. Xeno was surprised how it had turned from being just two people to six in the course of only a few days. After Walter, the merchant moved in, it started to snowball. 

A few days later, Oten had moved in. He proclaimed himself as a 'demolitionist' who specialized in explosives and mining operations. Indeed, whenever he went mining, he seemed to be able to find the ore in every nook and cranny. He had an incredible sense for ores and gemstones as if he were magnetic. Almost every day, he returned with topaz, amethyst, sapphire, emeralds, diamonds, tin, iron, tungsten, and even platinum

Apart from his amazing mining ability, however, there was another special aspect of him - he was a dwarf. At first, Xeno thought he was just a human. When he found out, he was a little surprised.  The concept of dwarves had been slightly familiar, but, without any memory, he hadn't been able to place it.

Oten was a tan-skinned, short man with a ginger beard. His hair was covered by a slightly dirty yellow mining helmet, equipped with a headlamp. He wore a dirtied brown vest with a white undershirt, and a pair of brown pants smeared with dirt from the caves.

Finally, the two of them arrived back at the 'town.' There were nine buildings in total. To the side sat the dining hall, storehouse, and the workshop - the original building. Seven houses were situated among the forest as well, roughly encircling a plaza surrounded by trees. Xeno put away his fishing gear at the house and walked over to the dining hall, where the meeting would be held.

It was a long building made of wood with sets of double doors on either end. A silver chandelier hung over the table, basking the room in a warm glow. There were five windows on either side, letting plenty of sunlight stream in. Everybody else was already there, seated around the dining table. Scott sat near the door.

"Ah, you finally arrived," Scott said. "We were all waiting for you."

"What took you so long, anyway?" Walter said. He was a merchant, but that was pretty much all Xeno knew about him. He was the oldest of the six. In fact, his hair and beard had already turned white. He was wearing a brown overcoat, a pair of blue pants, and a brown cap with a white feather. According to him, he had taken the feather from the corpse of a vulture he had killed.

"Let's get this show on the road," Andre said. 

"Oh yeah, definitely, I've been waiting forever," Claire replied.

"We mustn't waste time," Yutpan said. 

"Well, I'll be off," Oten said. "I have some business to attend to." With that, he left.

"Hmph," Walter said, "I will be leaving as well, as I have already heard this tale I have things to do. Good luck to you all." Without another word, he also left.

"Well then, shall we begin?” Yutpan said.

Those three were the newest arrivals - they had joined only the day before as a group. The first person was Andre, an arms dealer. He had black curly hair and wore a greenish-gray overcoat, a pair of jeans, and a red shirt as well. He usually carried some sort of gun with him at all times. He almost always carried his flintlock pistol for self-defense, although Xeno couldn't say he was happy that he had to endure the sharp sounds of gunshots every time a slime attacked.

Then there was Claire, the nurse. She had he wore a white nurse's outfit with a cap. A red cross was emblazoned on at the front. Blonde hair stuck out from beneath her hat, with a pony-tail tied behind her head. She was, supposedly, an amazing doctor, although Xeno hadn't yet had the misfortune of requiring her services.

And finally, there was Yutpan. He had black hair, but it was almost entirely hidden behind a resplendent purple turban. Well, purple except for a red diamond in the center. Furthermore, he had on an elaborate blue coat with a yellow zigzag pattern with a purple center. According to him, he had dyed his own clothes with. The purple dye was apparently from sea snails, and the blue dye was from some kind of sky flower that Xeno didn't remember clearly. The red diamond was even dyed with the husk of some giant beetle. 

"We didn't have time to talk about it last night," Claire began, "But we may have come across a major threat while arriving here." 

"What is it?" Xeno asked.

"Well," Claire said, "While gathering firewood for a campfire, we found a... h-how do I say it.. stronghold of sorts?"

"It looked to be very old," Yutpan clarified, "But it wasn't abandoned." 

"It wasn't abandoned?" Scott asked. "You can attest to that?"

"We aren't sure," Andre said, "but it seems clear that something is living in it. We found a messy old man sitting by the entrance. After talking to him, it was clear he had gone bonkers. Absolute mad. Dead in the brains."

"Oh come on, don't talk like that," Claire said.

"I mean..." Yutpan said, "It's kind of true...."

"What made him so crazy?" Xeno asked.

"Dude was talking about all this nutty stuff," Andre said, "About how his master wouldn't permit us to enter and how we were just going to get ourselves killed. He started talking about the Corruption and other weird crap. Guy was completely alone, too. I got no idea what master he was talking about."

"What if he wasn't insane and really did have a master?" Xeno said.

"He might not have been completely insane," Yutpain said. "What I mean by that is, well, perchance he was telling the truth." 

"Hmm," Scott said, deep in thought, "Suppose he really was telling the truth. What did he talk about?"

"After translating his insane speak," Claire said, "It seemed that his 'master' was a guardian of the stronghold, but that he would only come out at night. While the building itself was small, there was a large tunnel leading underground. I can only assume that the rest of the stronghold is underground. Furthermore, he said that the roots of Corruption and Crimson were about to take hold and that once so, they could not be stopped."

"Corruption and Crimson..." Xeno said. An icy dread flowed through his veins, but he didnt know why. "Right."

"The old man went on an on about some curse," Andre said. "Dude wouldn't stop talking about it."

"Do you believe him?" Scott asked.

"Geezer had red eyes, and that just ain't normal," Andre said. 

"I noticed another odd thing," Claire said.

"And what might that be?" Scott asked.

"Well, we first talked to him at dusk. By the time he had finished ranting, it was nighttime. Of course, zombies and demon eyes started attacking us. But, while we were fighting them off, the old man sat to the side. No monsters ever came after him."

"Huh," Xeno said, "That really is odd. Maybe he was working with the enemy in some way?"

"It would have to be on some fundamental level," Scott said. "Zombies don't take orders, after all."

"Fundamental level?" Yutpan asked. "Do you mean, say, through a magical connection?"

"Yes," Scott said. "Some kind of binding spell."

"Oh, whatever," Andre said. "I knew that guy was evil. Knew we couldn't we trust him. Here I was, ready to blow his brains in, but no."

"You can't just shoot everyone who seems a little suspicious," Claire shouted.

"Hmph," Andre said, arms crossed. "You said the same exact thing when I proposed defending us from those cloaked people following us."

"W-Wait, hold on. You were being followed?" Xeno asked.

"Indeed," Yutpan said. "They never came close enough to get a good look at them, however, but there were around three-five people following us. If I had to guess, I would assume they came from the stronghold and followed us, hoping to assassinate us in our sleep before the word got out."

"Although," Claire said, "I'm not quite sure how they found us. We had been covering our tracks for quite some time out of suspicion."

"Perhaps they're just well versed in following tracks," Yutpan said.

"But..." Xeno asked, "Did they ever, y'know, actually do something? Like, attack you?"

"You bet they did. Came at us with a bunch of swords and black magic crap. I shot one of them in the head but he just straight up teleported away."

"You attacked them first," Yutpan murmured.

Scott scooted his chair in. "Hmm... so, Claire, you said they found you despite your efforts to keep them at bay?"

"We were covering our tracks, making false leads, and barely sleeping," she said. "It was all an attempt to throw them off our trail. Yet, they found us anyway. I don't know how that happened."

"They kept a steady pace. They never went astray," Yutpan stated.

"I'm not exactly a wizard," Claire said, "but what if they used magic to track us?"

"It was a bunch of good-for-nothing mages who followed us. Well, Mr. Know It All," Andre said, looking at Scott, "could they have used magic to track us?"

Completely ignoring Andre's remarks, Scott continued. "Perhaps, although maintaining a magical link over such distances for  days on end would no doubt be tiring. There would have to be an extremely talented wizard to be able to do that."

"Why were they following you, anyway?" Xeno asked.

"They had their eye on us the entire time," Yutpan said, "Perhaps they meant to silence us - if so, that stronghold must be important. Or perhaps they just wanted to find out where we were going."

"Seems like a lot of effort just for curiosity's sake," Scott said.

"S-So you're saying that stronghold is important, after all?" Claire asked.

"It might be. I'd say we should investigate it, but that seems much too risky," Scott said.

Andre sighed. "Uh-huh. Can we get this meeting over with?" 

"Yes, I suppose so," Scott said. Andre walked out. "Thank you for your help- huh."

"You're welcome," Claire said. With that, she left. Yutpan followed a few moments later.

That left only Xeno and Scott, who was staring off into the space, clearly deep in thought. Xeno wasn't sure what to think. Curses, magic, strongholds - it was all too much. Why did they have to bother with any of this? Why were a bunch of lunatics potentially chasing them? How did they manage to track those three down? And would they launch an attack on them?

"So," Scott said, "This is all... rather troubling."

"Y-Yeah... I mean, if what Andre said is true, that means these people, whoever they are, can teleport."

"We need to ascertain their identity," Scott said, "But as of now we have no way of doing so. Eventually, we may go see this stronghold for ourselves. For now, however, we need to become stronger." 

Xeno sighed. Every day was becoming stronger. Mining, cutting down trees, fighting monsters - it all exhausted him. Every day he had to train. He had little idea what for, as if he was being dragged through mud in a barely conscious state. Clearly, something was afoot, much bigger than him. And all the while, he couldn't shake the feeling that someone, or something, was spying on them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Xeno walked out of the dining hall and yawned. There was still plenty of time left in the day - it was only mid-morning. He decided to head over to his house to relax. He had built a bookshelf, but he only had a few books - dusty, yellowed things that Oten had salvaged from an underground cabin.

 Xeno had some time to kill, however, so he grabbed the one with the most enticing title: ' A War of Evil: The Corruption & Crimson .' It had an interesting cover, too. It was red with a gold border, and the title was emblazoned in gold text. Below that was a picture also in gold. There looked to be some kind of giant worm with many eyes exploding from the ground. To the left of the worm's head was a giant brain, and a stream of disc-like monsters followed it behind, crossing over the worm's body. 

Were they the guardians Scott had mentioned? The Brain of Cthulu and the Eater of Worlds?

The pages were yellowed and the text was faded. The edge of the paper was torn. A few pages were wrinkled as if they had been soaked with water, and several had dirt smudges, but Xeno started to read it anyway. There was a lengthy introduction, explaining that the Corruption and Crimson, known as the two 'Evil-lands' or just the two 'Evils,' were two biomes in the world of Terraria fueled by chaos magic and monsters, which he already knew, more or less.

Both of the Evils slowly contaminated nearby plant life and other matter. The minds of animals were overtaken. Even rock would obtain an evil aura, if the Evil was left to brew for long enough.

The Evils have been well known to endanger or even destroy cities. The famous breadbasket city, Lethrindrir, infamously fell to the Crimson forty-nine years ago.  And the capital itself, Morthand, sees threat by a large mass of Corruption. Countless villages and towns have been swallowed up whole, their inhabitants becoming crazed monsters. It is said that the spirits of those who die to the Evils are corrupted.*

*Note that the act of 'Corrupting' something applies to both Crimson and Corruption.

Xeno, expectedly, was quite confused. What kingdom were they in? He would have to ask Scott. After all, he had no memories. Nonetheless, Xeno continued reading. The Corruption itself, it turned out, was a purple-ish biome characterized by huge chasms.

The stone walls of these chasms are made of a substance known as 'Ebonstone.' When stone is corrupted, it becomes much stronger, due to the binding pull effect of the chaos energy. The grass in the Corruption is purple and grows unchecked, as do thorny bushes. Vile mushrooms often dot the ground - it should be noted that these are highly potent in poison and should not be consumed. The trees of the Corruption have a purple tint. Just like the stone, the wood of the trees, called 'Ebonwood' is strengthened by the evil chaos energy. It is said that a sword cut from the wood of a corrupted tree is almost as powerful as iron.

The Corruption is inhabited by many monsters, as one would expect. The more undeveloped Corruption will have Eaters of Souls. Eaters of Souls are flying, multi-eyed monsters with pincers. Furthermore, there will also be a decent amount of Devourers. Devourers are large wormy monstrosities created when a worm is corrupted under the force of the Eater of Worlds.

The Eater of Worlds is a gigantic worm known as the Corrupt Guardian. At least one will always reside in a mass of Corruption. They carry with them great chaos energy, greatly speeding up the growth of the Corruption and aiding the monsters. At their greatest power, the Eater of Worlds can strike down a human in a single blow, and has even been known to ravage villages and towns. It is believed a good amount of its energy is storied in objects known as 'Shadow Orbs,' which grant immense protection to the Corruption. Destroying them is known to reduce the intensity of the Corruption.

However, meddling with these orbs may draw out the Eater of Worlds. It should be noted that after around three Shadow Orbs are destroyed, it is extremely likely for the guardian to take action, albeit it in a weaker state. Theoretically, it is possible to destroy an Eater of Worlds at that time. In fact, Eater of Worlds have been killed before, albeit very rarely.

Just as Xeno turned the page, engrossed in the book, something fell out. It was a torn piece of paper, folded many times. Just as he was about to throw it away, however, he decided to unfold it for curiosity's sake. 

Indeed, there was something written on it. It was covered from top to bottom in sketches, notes, arrows, and all sorts of things. Only, it was all written in a language he didn't understand, or even recognize. Only a few pieces were written in Common.

The first was near the top, with a sketch of the insides of an iron bomb, from the fuse to the gunpowder compartment. Next to it was some writing in Common.

> Ebon?

Below that was a sketch of the giant brain on the cover of ' A War of Evil: The Corruption and Crimson,' with the same things following it and all. Next to it was some more writing.

A minion of Him. Watches over Crimson.

Under that:

CPRs follow like a cloud. The guardian cannot be damaged until destroyed.

Then, there was a picture of a glowing, crystalline heart. But, it wasn't like the life crystal he had seen in the mine. It seemed to be like a human's heart, even. Next to it was more writing.

Crimson Heart. Similar to the Orb, but brings different gifts. The Brain reacts similar to the hearts as the Eater does to the SOs. 

Then, there was a sketch of a giant worm - the Eater of Worlds featured on the cover of the book. Next to it more notes were written in Common

The EOW is split into many parts. If one is destroyed, the two segments formed become independent. 

Underneath it, was another note.

If led outside the CL, it will flee and regain strength, rendering one's efforts useless. Therefore, fight in CL. 

The same applies to B/C. Also note that the CL is immune to being pushed back by weaponry, but the B/C is not, allowing the use of spears to be more viable.

The last bit of text in Common was written next to a sketch of some donut-shaped monster.

Creeper. Follows the B/C and has no mind. A minion, even more than the SOC. 

It was all very cryptic. It seemed they had been written with their own codes and shorthands that he couldn't understand. All the acronyms didn't make it any easier. He had no idea what the other language even was. Now, he had even more things to discuss with Scott. 

Xeno continued to read for the rest of the day, learning more about the Corruption and Crimson than he had ever imagined existed. He had heard Scott talk about the Evils before, so it wasn't completely alien, but there was so much he didn't know. Finally, he put the book away. It was already sundown - he rushed over to the dining hall to have dinner.

Everybody was already there. That was, except Oten. He was probably late heading home. He usually arrived during the middle of dinner, anyway. 

Dinner was mushroom soup, the leaves of some plant, and cooked fish.  It was quite delicious, but Xeno wasn't able to enjoy it. What did all those notes mean? B/C? CL? SOC? CPR? And what language was it written in? The thoughts burrowed into his mind like a parasite and wouldn't leave. 

When dinner finally, ended, Xeno spoke.

"I have something you guys might want to take a look at," Xeno said.

"Hm? What is it?" Scott asked. Xeno fished the note out of his pocket and placed it on the table.

"W...What is this?" Claire asked. "And what language is most of this stuff written in?"

"Um... I would say that's actually three different languages other than Common. Looks like Dwarfish, Vinyr and Lihzahrd, to me. 

"The hell are those?" Andre said.

"Vinyr is an ancient language once spoken by dryads. Some still speak it to this day. And Lihzahrd is the language of the Lihzahrd people, who live in the jungle. And dwarfish is the language-"

"I know what dwarfish is, moron," Andre said.

"The Lihzahrd? I have not heard that name in a long time," Yutpan said.

"I've never heard of them," Claire said.

"I spoke to a traveling merchant a few months ago. He says that many of the Lihzahrd have joined forces with some unknown, dangerous group and have taken the Lost Temple as their base of operations," Yutpan replied.

"It's all just baseless conjecture," Andre said. "Don't mind it."

"Hey, um, would you guys happen to know what all these acronyms mean?" Xeno asked.

"B/C... SOC... CL... EOW, SO, CPR..." Scott murmured.

"I have no clue what the heck all these damn cryptic notes mean," Andre said.

"Hm," Yutpan commented, "I figure that EOW is short for 'Eater of Worlds.'"

"That makes sense," Xeno said.

"Other than that, however, I have no clue," Yutpan said.

"One of the notes mention 'Creepers' that follow the B/C. I think those are the CPRs mentioned in a different note," Claire deducted.

"Creepers? I think I've heard of those," Scott said. "B/C must be the Brain of Cthulu, then."

"What about SOC?" Andre asked.

"No clue," Scott said.

"Hmph. Xeno, where'd you get this thing, anyway?"

"It dropped out of an old book I was reading."

"That's odd..." Scott said. "Maybe they were taking notes from the book?"

"Well, it was a book about the Corruption and Crimson, so maybe?" Xeno noted. 

"I'm not quite sure what CL is..." Scott said, "But it has something to do with where the Eater of Worlds resides. Chasm Land, perhaps?"

"What about Corrupted Land?" Xeno asked.

"One of those two, seems like," Andre said.

"What's SO?" Claire asked.

"It's talking about Crimson Hearts. To be precise, Crimson Hearts are the Crimson version of Shadow Orbs-"

"Shadow Orb! That's it!" Claire shouted.

"Okay, that's all well and good," Andre said, "but what good is some acronyms if we don't know what the notes themselves mean?"

"That's true," Scott said. "And we still haven't figure out what >Ebon means."

"It's under a bomb..." Andre said. "I'm going to guess it's saying bombs can destroy this ebon stuff?"

"Ebonstone," Xeno said. "Seems like you're right."

"A note says that the Brain of Cthulu is a minion of 'Him,' but who is that?" Yutpan pondered. "Perhaps his identity will prove to be a useful clue in untangling the truth about Terraria."

"Him... well, it is the Brain of Cthulu , right? So maybe it's Cthulu?" Xeno said.

"Makes sense," Andre replied.

"Next up," Claire said, "is ' CPRs follow like a cloud. The guardian cannot be damaged until destroyed.'"

"Um..." Xeno said, "Well... I mean, the CPRs are creepers, which I'm assuming are those disc things. Maybe it's saying that you can't harm the Brain of Cthulu until the creepers are all dead?"

"That's probably true," Scott said.

"Then there's ' Crimson Heart. Similar to the Orb, but brings different gifts. The Brain reacts similar to the hearts as the Eater does to the SOs,'" Claire said.  

"Scott, do you know?" Xeno asked.

"I'm confused, too," he said.

"Well... maybe... maybe it's talking about how the Eater of Worlds attack people who destroy a good number of Shadow Crystals? So maybe the Brain of Cthulu acts the same way, but with Crimson Hearts?" Xeno said.

"It would seem that way," Yutpan said. "But what about the part where it mentions 'different gifts?'"

Nobody had an answer. 

"Oh well." Yutpan adjusted his turban. "Then... " The EOW is split into many parts. If one is destroyed, the two segments formed become independent."

"So it's talking about that Eater of Worlds thing," Andre said.

"Um... maybe it's saying that the worm turns into multiple worms if it is cut?" Claire suggested.

"I'm guessing that's what it means," Scott said.

"Now then... ' If led outside the CL, it will flee and regain strength, rendering one's efforts useless. Therefore, fight in CL. The same applies to B/C. Also note that the CL is immune to being pushed back by weaponry, but the B/C is not, allowing the use of spears to be more viable.'" Yutpan said.

"That's easy," Andre replied. "It's just saying if you leave the Corruption or Crimson, the respective guardian won't follow you. And it's just saying that you can knock the Brain of Cthulu back - that's all."

"And then..." Xeno said, "The last one is pretty self-explanatory. It's just talking about the creepers."

"Alright," Scott said. "It looks like we're done here. Oten's still in the mine, it seems like." 

"Are you sure he's okay?" Claire asked.

"He's probably fine," Scott said. "But Xeno, can you go and get him?"

"Oh yeah, sure," Xeno said. It was around six o' clock in the afternoon, according to the silver pocket watch he had created.

"While you're at it, have him read the dwarfish crap," Andre said.

"Right." Xeno grabbed the note and placed it into his pocket before heading to his house to get ready. Due to Oten's constant mining, they had a great quantity of ore. Now, he had a tungsten breastplate, tungsten helmet, and iron greaves. He had relinquished his iron blade and now used one forged from platinum. He still had the same iron bow, but now he had a tungsten pickaxe and tungsten axe. Even his fishing rod was made of reinforced metal.

Xeno grabbed his backpack and slung it over his shoulder before beginning the short twenty minute walk to the caves. Every so often, he checked his pocket to make sure the note was still there. It had a lot of confusing things on it, but Xeno had a gut feeling that it would be useful in the future. 

The cave was dimly lit by torches all along the walls. As he walked deeper and deeper, his footsteps began to echo and he heard the familiar trickling of water. He knew that any second now, the cave would begin to branch out. He would have to try and figure it out by which torches were the brightest and thus most recently lit. Even with his mining helmet, Oten liked to light up the caves. 

Xeno passed a few tunnels that he knew had been explored long ago. They were all dead ends. Then, he passed a few more dark ones. Finally, he saw a lit one amidst the dark passages and walked down it. Then, it split into two. While both sets of torches looked new, the ones going right were ever so slightly brighter.

Unfortunately, it was just a dead end. He sighed, went back, and took the left, which went steadily downward. Eventually, the slightly old torches were replaced by new ones that looked like they had only been placed a few hours ago. After half an hour of walking, going ever deeper, and after passing many dark passages, he came across a pit. A rope was tied around a rock formation. 

Xeno nervously peered over the edge. He grabbed the rope and pulled it taut. The rocks didn't budge, and the rope didn't snap, either. He was half relieved, half annoyed, since he had almost wanted an excuse not to go any further. Then again, he was worried about Oten. Was he dead?

He gripped the rope and used it to climb down the rock face. Thankfully, it wasn't a straight drop, and was more like a very, very steep passage, making it easy to find a foothold. When he reached the bottom, after what seemed like ages, the tunnel only went even deeper. There were many other branching paths, but, luckily, only one route was lit up.

Slowly, the earthy walls became more solid, infused with rock. Xeno was in unfamiliar territory - he drew his glimmering sword, expecting something to jump out at him at any moment. He came across a few red slimes along the way - fortunately, his platinum sword made quick work of them.

All of a sudden, he heard the sound of churning dirt. He held his sword, trying to locate the source of the sound, which grew louder by the second. All of a sudden, a worm exploded out of the wall and drilled into the other side. He slashed at it but missed.

The sound faded away, then returned in full swing. He poised for an attack. When the worm burst from the wall, he cut deep into it and slashed it in half before it could make it to the other side. It fell into the ground, dead.

He continued walking, blood dripping from his sword. The tunnel went steadily downward. Eventually, the cave came to be made entirely of stone. Stalagmites rose from the ground like teeth and stalactites peered down from above, as if they were knives ready to fall and cut his head into two.

Then, just as he was turning a corner, he heard footsteps. A chill went down his spine and an icy dread seemed to freeze his veins. He turned around, sword in hand. 

Nobody was there. Just the dimly lit tunnel. 

There were more footsteps, and a rattling sound. All of a sudden, a blade struck him in the joint of his armor and lacerated his side. Pain exploded throughout him, so sharp he almost collapsed. He turned around just in time to block a slice with his own sword. He tried to attack the enemy - a skeleton - but it blocked his attack. Xeno grit his teeth, ready to fall over from the pain. A terrible uneasiness built up in his stomach as he fought off the skeleton. Warm blood flowed down his leg. As he struck down each of the skeleton's blows, he got the sense that he was losing. Even if he survived, it was a long way back up. Would he be able to climb the rope if he was injured? And what had happened to Oten? 

Slowly, he got the upper hand. He managed to chip a bit of bone off the skeleton's ribcage. He broke off one of its ribs and struck its hand, shattering into pieces. Its sword dropped to the ground and shattered. It tried to fight back with his fist, but Xeno struck it in the head. Its skull imploded and it collapsed. 

He sighed and pulled some bandage from his backpack. He tied it around his waist. The wound immediately soaked it in blood, so he added an additional layer.

Hunched over in pain, he continued walking. He began to see signs that someone had been there recently - broken torches, dead slimes, and even a bat laying in a pool of its own blood. Xeno felt it with his fingers - it was still warm. It must have died recently - Oten could only be so far away, then. 

Then, he heard something. Sounds of footsteps, of swords clashing, and of bones rattling. He immediately began to move towards the source at a dash, ignoring the pain from his injury. 

He found himself in a large cavern and he immediately began looking around for where the fight was going on. Then, he saw it - a large cabin at the opposite side. Without wasting a single second he ran towards it. He slipped in through the open doorway.

Inside, Oten, as Xeno expected, was fighting off several skeletons ferociously. His eyes lit up when he saw Xeno, who immediately joined in and shattered one of the skeletons from behind. Two broke off from the others and started fighting him. Their swords of bone clashed against his own, but eventually they began to crack and one of them broke in half all-together. As pain coursed through his body, Xeno managed to break one's spine and cracked the other's leg, but only after sustaining several cuts to his armor and flesh. Oten rushed in and bashed the final monster's skull in. Where skeletons had been only a few minutes ago, there were now nothing but yellowed bones.

Oten's mining helmet was somewhat scratched and he had a few cuts here and there, but he hadn't sustained any serious injuries.

"What the heck was that all about?" Xeno said, breaking the silence. 

"Well, you see, they were waiting in here for me to enter. Attacked me as soon as I took one step inside. It was as if they knew I was coming," Oten said.

"Huh..." Xeno said. "That's odd. Monsters usually don't plan like that, I don't think. And we're talking about skeletons of all things. I mean, how smart can a brainless husk even be?"

"Smarter than slimes, at least. These skeletons keep ambushing me when I'm in the mines - even following me up the caves. I feel like something is watching me from 'far, using some kind of magic," Oten noted. "It had a subtle, evil presence since I stepped into the caves today. Monsters always knew where I was - they seemed to always be waiting just around the corner."

"That's... odd, definitely not normal. We should probably tell someone...

Oten looked at shoddily bandaged wound. "Are you hurt?"

"Huh? Oh, I'm fine, thanks." Xeno said.

"You don't exactly look fine. You might need Claire to take a look at that."

"I'm fine."

"...Right. So, Scott sent you down here, I'm assuming?" Oten said.

"How'd you know?" Xeno asked.

"Guy is such a worrywart - somebody doesn't come back for an hour, and he gets all spooked. This time, I guess it was fine. I suppose I was in a little trouble. Although, he really should stop doing that. I'm fine on my own."

"Well... there was another reason, too," Xeno said, pulling out the note and handing it to Oten. "You're a dwarf - can you read dwarfish?"

"What do we have here... Sure can - but, you do know that only a little bit of this is written in my language, right?"

"Yeah, but we need all the info we can get. Some of the other stuff on that note seemed to be useful info." Xeno said.

"Let's see here... ' We've discontinued the operation. The eye falls over us. They were waiting for us when we attempted to enter the chasm. They attacked while we were gone and ransacked our supplies as well. We are going into hiding.'" Oten read. "Bunch of cryptic mumbo jumbo."

"I guess," Xeno replied, although he wasn't sure. What if it did really have a meaning? Could it possibly help them? "By the way, was there any loot in the cabin?"

"Nothing 'orth taking," Oten said. "It was all old and rusted junk."

"Let's go, then." Xeno began to walk the way he had come.

It took hours of walking to get back to the surface - not to mention they were attacked several times along the way. It turned out that the bats in the caves were not only hostile, but ferocious. They were extremely speed and would claw into his face before he even had a chance to react. There were even more types of slimes, including a giant black one that split into many tiny ones after it was killed. By the time they reached the surface, it was night, not that they had expected any different. Xeno checked his pocket watch - it was 11 P.M.

But immediately, something seemed off. There were zombies everywhere , like a horde of them had appeared out of nowhere. As if a beacon had been placed in the middle of town, more and more clawed their way through the trees and approached the buildings. Deep, throaty groans filled in the air as the monsters shambled towards the small town.

Demon eyes flew in the air,  bouncing off roofs and between walls - even crashing into windows, and more steadily approached. He even saw one disappear down the workshop chimney. Gunshots, shouts, and the twanging of bows permeated the forest. Why were there so many monsters? And why did all of them suddenly have their eye on their small settlement?

The shrill sound of glass shattering filled the air.

"What the hell is going on?" Xeno said. 

"I'm not sure myself, but we need to go defend," Oten shouted, brandishing his iron sword.

"Y-Yeah, you're right." Xeno grabbed hold of his platinum blade and dashed alongside Oten, heading towards the shouts of their comrades.