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60 THE UNDERWORLD!

 Lone watched the enemy players close the distance.

"We can't defeat them, Their levels are too high for us. Even if they don't kill us the monsters will." She was worried.

"We have to find a way out of here." Dave inspected the boss again, hoping he could make another Drahma situation happen. But the werewolf's tag was still showing bright red, the color of a hostile mob.

We're not getting away without fighting this time.

Lone turned and looked directly into his eyes.

"Just kill me so you can activate End Mission." She lifted her chin in both offer and defiance.

"What?!"

"The entire game community is out to get you. If you get killed, your big quest will be a failure. But, if you kill me then you can escape to the Dead-Realm."

She's a good Dungeon-partner. Not many people would sacrifice themselves like that, not even in VR.

"I could..." he said slowly, "but I really don't want to.

"Let's just head over to the boss-room, I want to get a closer look at those carvings on the door."

Dave summoned the Undead Boyz to him, and they moved into the boss room together.

He sent the Undead to distract the werewolf, and with Lone Arrow, worked his way around the fight to the door.

Pain Killer and Monsune rushed to the bottom of the stairs in an effort to keep the draugr and the archer in sight.

Their faces lit up in recognition at the same time, then shocked-anger and greed quickly followed.

"It's them! The two players that effed-up the Ice Palace!" Pain-killer moved to pursue, dropping the unnecessary torch and equipping his heavy tower-shield.

"This is BIG-TIME, Pain. Killing Mr. Skeletal will give us access to the expansion!"

"But where are they going?" Pain Killer was leading Monsune, circling well around the boss and the undead attacking the boss an undead fight.

"I knew it!" Dave was elated. One of the carvings was a representation of the Bone Palace in the Undead Realms. Maybe there was a way for them to escape.

He reached out to trace the image with a finger. When his finger touched the stone the entire door burst into light. He stepped back, startled, an arm covering his eyes.

Variable conditions met:

Member of a Race from the Underworld

'Friendly' Reputation with an Epic Tier (or above) denizen from the Underworld

Make an Offering to the Abyss of the Underworld

Touch the Portal to the Underworld to activate it.

Congratulations!

You have opened the Way to the Underworld

The werewolf boss spun away from beating on the Undead and gaped at the glowing door. He screamed in triumph and started running desperately toward the glowing entrance, entirely ignoring the Undead Boyz' and their attacks to kite or root him.

Richar sprinted toward the door and took a flying leap, diving headlong at the glowing stone. Instead of a crunching impact when he struck, the glow grew to intolerable levels and the silhouette of the boss silently fused into the stone door.

The light from the door receded and went out, leaving them blinking from the aftereffects. The only sign left of the boss monster was the new image of a werewolf, carved into the stone.

Conquest Server Announcement!

The Way to the underworld is open!

For the next 72 hours EXP is doubled for all players in the underworld.

The passage to the Underworld will remain open for three days (game time).

Getting a server-wide announcement for finding the hidden location surprised Dave.

Do you want other players to see your First to Discover accomplishments (2) in the Conquest Historical Archives? (You can change this preference later)

Y/N?

Dave muttered, "No."

For being First to open the Way to the Underworld your rewards are the following:

Cape of the Scavenger (Can be collected from any shop in the Dead-Realm)

+10,000 Contribution Point

The door emitted a series of pops and cracking sounds. Dust drifted down through the flickering torchlight, and a line appeared in the middle of the wide door, splitting it in two. With a protracted groan, the two halves began to swing inward.

The open door revealed a large unlit room, of simple stone, without any other visible doors or windows. But most of the floor was gone, the flagstones missing and crumbled away almost to the base of the walls. The edges bordered a hole of swirling impenetrable darkness, like another reality.

"Holy shit!" said Pain Killer. He looked up from reading the announcements and saw the swirling portal through the open doors. Then he looked at the two enemy players.

"Okay," he snarled, "Send a message to the guild-master. We're gonna kill the draugr and his arrow-bitch, and claim this expansion."

The server-wide message didn't announce the location of the entrance. Killing the draugr would net them a handsome reward, but the location of the underworld entrance was the true gold. They would get a percentage, a tiny one, of all the wealth the guild pulled in from their 'discovery.' But that tiny percentage could potentially make them two of the richest individuals in the game.

The guild players checked their gear and set their buffs, then moved, more determined than ever to take out the two annoyances.

Dave was looking down into the pit, trying to see something, anything. He could just jump, it was unlikely a portal would just kill the user once it was opened and acknowledged by the system. He hated relying on meta-gaming like that, but...

Lone Arrow looked at the two higher ranked guild-players coming for their blood, and fear hammered at her.

"Dave! They're coming. If you have a plan, now's the time!" she urged.

Dave didn't answer her with more talk. He simply turned and grabbed her with one arm, startling her. She was going to struggle out of his grip when he suddenly jumped, pulling her into the black hole with him.

You have entered the Underworld.

All EXP is doubled for the next 72 hours.

Monsters drop the best loot on First-death.

The Underworld can only be entered once each time the path opens.

If you die you will respawn at your last set-point outside the Underworld .

They fell through absolute darkness for what seemed like hours but was actually less than a minute. Their fall was accompanied by high-pitched screaming, most of it from Dave.

A pinpoint appeared in the unrelieved dark and grew, becoming a patch of dim orange light. The two players looked at each other and smiled in relief.

They watched it grow, the light becoming more discernible and details coming into focus. Finally, they were able to make out the source. The light came from a roiling lake of molten magma directly below them.

"This is sooo not good!" Dave resumed his screaming.

But before they plunged into a fatal magma-bath, something, a mysterious force, stopped their fall and moved them safely away from the pool of molten rock. They were deposited gently on the stone 'shore' bordering the magma lake.

Dave looked around, the stone they were standing on was a dark granite. Streams and rivulets of magma led from the big pool like tree roots glowing in the granite floor. The light from the magma didn't penetrate far but he couldn't see any walls from where he was. Or even if there was a ceiling.

Something out in the darkness moved, and Dave backed away, a futile gesture, because everything here could insta-kill him. A bizarre mountain, an amalgamation of rock and flesh stood up, shaking itself as if from a long slumber. Turning it looked directly at them impassively, through eyes that seemed to be made of flaming-magma. Since it wasn't doing anything hostile yet, Dave took the time to inspect it:

Gate Guardian Ramsha, Warden of the entrance to the Underworld

Level ???

HP ???

DN???

MA???

Do not provoke what guards the gates to hell, not even the gods dare its wrath.

At least this one has a green name-tag. Finally, a friendly NPC.

"Greetings warriors," boomed the guardian, still examining the pair as if they were interesting specimens under a microscope.

"It has been many long ages since mortals made their way to stand before me," it rumbled at them through monolith teeth.

"You will do," it finally boomed approval.

"I require your assistance for some house-cleaning."

Clean-up

Ramsha tasked you with some 'Clean-Up'

Kill quest

kill all the demons that you can while in the underworld

The more enemies you kill will grant you special rewards from Ramsha.

Quest timer

3 Days

Dave and Lone Arrow looked at each other, a little worried. Lesser demons had levels that started at around 250. At least. How were the two of them going to do Ramsha's crazy quest? They had less than 200 levels between them.

"That's impossible for us," she whispered.

"I think I know what's happening. This, the Underworld, is definitely related to the Undead expansion. The Undead expansion was supposed to open when enough players reached level 500.

"Then, ahem, I came along and the kick-off was premature. And now this--" Lone punched his shoulder.

"Oww! What the hell, Lone?!"

"This is all your fault! What are you going to do about it?"

Dave heard distant voices screaming, looking up, far up, he saw them falling toward the magma pool. Pain-killer and Monsune, following them. Hunting them.

"We run!" he said. And suited action to words.

Arrow was caught flat-footed, still in argument mode, his retreat left her far behind.

Screaming, "I'm going to kill your bony ass!"she raced after the draugr.

Arrow caught up to him quickly. Dave was glad, even though she punched him, again, when she moved up to run in line with him. At least she hit the other shoulder, so the damage was symmetrical.

Dave had no idea where he was going. Most of the cavern was dark, lit here and there by the sullen glow of the magma streams radiating from the central pool.

Monsune and his buddy weren't going to stop. If they messaged their guild before they jumped, then thousands of players would soon follow them. Every one of them mad to end a certain low-level draugr and his party.

They were in a tight spot.

Dave still didn't want to kill Lone. But if push came to shove...

"Slow down, I think there's something ahead," Lone Arrow said.

A...well, it was humanoid. But tall, tall and big, as big as an optimus prime...

Yeah. Dunno why we didn't see that before. Definitely a demon; goat legs, horns, and tail...the whole package.

The demon was sitting on its haunches, holding something greedily to its mouth, tearing chunks off it with sharp fangs. It lowered its prize and started chewing with obvious gusto, allowing Dave to see what was in its hands.

Apparently, Richar, the boss werewolf, didn't get to enjoy his homecoming for long.

"Ah cripes..."