Damien and Tyson were scouting ahead, Serah walking behind them, her great shield at the ready, and Marie resting in the tree’s, moving silently from branch to branch, keeping her eyes open for anything up high.

The rest of the group was keeping their distance, trying to stay out of sight and moving on signal. Whenever they heard the loud buzzing of Serah’s insectile wings they would move up again.

They’d been trekking through the woods because of a supposedly magical spring Lynda and Vince had heard rumours of. The reason they were being so cautious was because there were dozens of stories about people vanishing from the woods. And they weren’t fond of the idea of being carried off. They had developed the signals purely for this venture, and would blame Lynda if they got lost.

When they came upon a clearing there was a clear sense of relief. Immediately Lynda approached the small stream. She knelt down and shook her head.

“This one’s clean.” She said, straightening and looking around. The others had already started to relax, and she sighed. “I suppose a break is warranted.” She approached Vince and sat next to him, her mind racing through what she would be doing for her next experiment.

Peter was spending the time trying to get Willow to sit still, instead of spending the whole time chasing butterflies. Damien was leaning against Serah’s abdomen, resting his head against her human stomach. Sam and Hui were sparring while Tyson and Marie watched. As the match continued it drew the others attention, all of them watching the mock battle intensely.

As the contest wore on, they failed to see something else enter the clearing. A golem, with dark clay forming her body and black hair trailing behind her. She charged into the battle without a word, running through Tyson to reach them. The parties attention quickly turned to the golem, who had already struck Sam and was turning on Hui.

“Where the fuck did this thing come?” Peter asked as he drew his blades.

“Must protect. Cannot surrender.” Was the robotic response from the golem.

Hui made a sweeping move at the golem’s leg, but was caught and thrown into the approaching Peter. She hit him feet first, rebounding to land back on her feet, while Peter was sent sprawling back into the grass.

An arrow flew through the air, the golem catching it and turning to Tyson, who was already knocking another. She was about to charge when a shout came from the edge of the clearing.

“Stop!” The owner of the voice emerged as the golem moved from a battle position to standing at attention. “I… I’m so sorry. This was not what I intended.” The man wheezed. He was well built, with greying hair and sharp blue eyes.

Sam was slowly getting up from the unexpected haymaker that he’d been hit with, Hui marching up to the man.

“Just what the hell do you think your machine was doing?!” She shouted, her still burning feet leaving scorch marks in the soft grass.

“I’m sorry, she’s… It was my fault. She’s meant to be sweet and kind, but I just don’t have the skill I used to I guess.” His eyes went dim as he approached the golem. “I hope you don’t remember this, I’d hate to think of you punishing yourself for it…” He pulled out a notebook, writing several notes down, then wiping off some lightly painted runes. The golem went rigid.

“What are you even doing?” Vince asked, looking over the golem. She was a masterful example of her kind, every little detail flawlessly represented, each curve masterfully made. Even the intricate face bore a master craftsman’s touch, the appearance even bearing a resemblance of a bone structure underneath.

“Did you make her?” He asked, running a hand through her silken hair.

“No… Well, not entirely. There were cracks and such, but I can’t take credit for the detail. I’m a potter normally, but when I saw her I just couldn’t leave her.” Lynda floated up to the inactive golem.

“Do you actually know any runes?” The man looked indignant, then hung his head.

“No, I’ve been working from some runes in a nearby ruin.” Several of the adventurers eyes lit up.

“Did you say there was a nearby ruin?” Peter asked, the glint of coin already in his eyes. The man nodded.

“It’s not far. I-I can take you there.” They all looked to each other, then to Lynda.

“Was there a spring near this ruin? The man thinks for a moment.

“No, but I could hear running water.” She nods, thinking for a moment.

“It is a better chance than wandering. Yes, this will work well, in exchange I can give you the runes you need to make her yours.” The man brightened up, a smile on his face.

“Yes, yes! I’ll take you there, just set her free, please.” Lynda raised an eyebrow at the man’s words, but painted on some basic servitude runes onto the back of her neck. She ‘woke up’ and looked at Lynda.

“What is your command?” She asked, getting a look of horror from the man.

“What did you do?”

“Follow. I gave her some basic functionality runes to keep her under control until we reach the ruin. I shall put in the final runes then, at your request.” The man calmed down slightly and nodded.

“Okay. Okay, I’ll take you to it.” He said, steeling himself. He led them through the forest, including some parts that were dense enough to block out most of the light. When they finally reached the entrance, it was clear they were the first there in a long time.

The entrance was covered in vines and moss, while any paths that may have existed were covered by decades of plant growth. There were parts of the wall that had been cleared, revealing runes carved into the bricks.

“Hey, Lyn, what’s this say?” Sam asked, pointing at the uncovered runes. With a wave of her hand most of the entrance was cleared of plants, though some parts of the carving was worn away.

“A home for pain, we buried… fallen. A home for… we bury our... Not enter, fools of greed, for our treasures are… and our wealth left... That’s all that’s still legible.” Peter and Tyson were smiling.

“Sounds like there’s some good stuff in here.” Sam stated with his own grin. Lynda looked at the golem.

“Tell me what you want in her.” She looked at the man, wiping the golem’s runes off once more.

“Kind and caring, a helpful woman with patience and a will of her own.” Lynda smiled, forgoing the paint brush and taking a carving tool. With it she carved the desired runes into the golem’s plate, each one glowing upon completion. When the carving tool was removed from her for the last time, she began to tremble.

“I-I-I…” She seemed to be having difficulty speaking. The man put a hand on her shoulder and she threw herself at him. “Oh gods. Thank you, thank you for getting me out of there. I… I don’t know how much longer I could have resisted it.” The adventurers raise their eyebrows.

“Resist what?” Marie asked, eyes watching for anything drawn by the noise.

“The weapon… The weapon that’s down there is relentless. You can’t go in there, please. They… I was its guardian, made expressly to stop it from being found. You can’t resist it.” They all looked at each other.

“A weapon? You mean, like, some kind of monster?” She shook her head, her body shaking less with each moment.

“No, not a monster, this… Thing only wants to kill. To slaughter the living until it can be free from its host.” She looks into the entrance with terror in her eyes.

“In an age long passed, it slaughtered my creators family, and when its host was finally killed, we were sent to destroy it.” She looked down in shame. “We failed, and the best we could do was seal it within. Please, do not let more death come from that cursed blade.” They all shared a glance, then a sigh.

“We find good loot and it’s cursed, or someone actually lives there, sometimes I wish we were a bit more ruthless.” Tyson whined.

“We have company.” Sarah whispered, alerting all of them to the sounds of crunching leaves and breaking twigs.

“Who is it?” Damien asked, grabbing his shield.

“We’ve got to be at least a month from any order border, who else do we know who falls into the ruthless category?” Peter growled, grabbing his blades and standing in front of Willow protectively.

Before anything else could be said three arrows launched from the overgrowth as four men ran into view.  Peter roared with his battle cry the moment their black armour passed through the brush.

“What the hell are they doing here?” Sam shouted, getting into the fray. Tyson hid behind Serah’s shield, looking for the archers. He only saw one, a woman who had clear green eyes locked on him.

“Great, she’s here.” He groaned as he pulled a shot, ducking out and into the bushes. “Look out for Dina!” He shouted as he ducked into the bushes. An arrow buried itself into the tree next to him, and he looked back to see the elf glaring at him.

Damien heard the warning, turning to see the elves viridian eyes staring at him. Shit. He bolted for her, pulling his shield up and running low to get to the woman. He felt the impact of the arrows, one even pushing through so that a part of the head poked into his arm. As he closed in on her she moved back, turning the charge into a chase.

“Long time no see, Dina.” He called, the battle had grown faint, and he was starting to wonder if he’d run into a trap.

“Same to you, bug lover.” The soft reply came from behind him. He barely brought his shield around to block the arrow, the head snapping and bouncing off of his chest plate. He spotted her and kept her eyes in his view. The rest of her face was covered by a green ranger’s hood and a bandit’s muffler.

“So, how did you find this place?” He asked.

“Who do you think got the potter here?” Was her reply. “We followed that golem here, then got split up after she went berserk. Don’t trust a potter to translate runes, word of advice.” Damien smiled, taking steps towards her voice, every step he got closer, she’d take one back.

“So where’s the snare? The net or whatever it is you have to trap me with?” He asked, all but positive she was sneering at him.

“There isn’t one. I wasn’t planning on finding you here, though I can’t say it isn’t appreciated.” Another arrow buried itself into his shield.

The battle had turned against the ambushers, and the few who were still conscious were being beaten back. Serah knew Damien had taken off after Dina, and once the others were safe, she went after him. His scent was thick through the woods, giving her a clear image of the chase that had ensued.

Damien and Dina were still at a standoff when they heard the humming of Serah’s wings.

“I guess that’s my cue. It’s so sad to have to watch you fall into her arms again, but I’m no fool. Next time, next time you’re mine.” She threw a smoke pellet into the ground and retreated, leaving Damien standing in a cloud of smoke. The next thing he felt was the heavy thump of Serah landing next to him, laying a hand on his shoulder.

“I know, I know, we’ll deal with her one day. Just not today.” They turned to go back to the others.

Peter, Willow, Sam and Hui were running through the ruin with the last two mercenaries keeping ahead of them. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” Peter shouted as they turned another corner.

“Not at all.” Was Sam’s reply. “But if they get that sword, we’re all in trouble.” They had entered what looked like the beginning of a crypt, with the already minimal light dimmed even further. Shit, that swords probably with whoever was wielding it. They heard two screams up ahead, and looked between each other.

“Shit.” Sam and Hui said together, running to see what had happened. The two came upon a very different scene to what they had been expecting. The woman of the two they’d been chasing was fucking her partners brains out, the hallmarks of a succubus now taking shape on her body. When they looked to the third figure in the room, they were struck by terror.

It was a woman, mostly, but her left eye shone with a red light. Her black hair seemed endless, pooling around her feet, her pale skin making it all the clearer. But the first thing they noticed was the blood red blade, covered in black vein like lines that was her right arm. The merging seemed to spread through her body, much of her right side covered in vine like growths that were studded with barbs. She was shuddering and her face had a look of ecstasy on it.

“Far too long.” She hissed, looking at the two. “It has been far too long since I tasted flesh. And this new sensation… Divine.” She spotted Sam and Hui, her smile growing wider.

“More flesh to carve and mould.” She swung her sword arm threateningly. The two took a brief moment to look at each other, before bolting back out the way they’d come. They passed Peter and Willow, who gave them confused looks before following the sprinting pair.

“They got the sword didn’t they?” Peter asked.

“More like the sword got them.” Hui replied, getting more confused looks.

“What?” Willow asked, looking behind them. Her eyes widened at the sight and she sped up, grabbing Peter as she overtook him.

“W-Willow, what the hell are you…?” He looked behind them, spotting the rushing cursed sword. “Run faster!” He screamed, holding on to Willow even tighter.

“Now you get it?!” Sam shouted as they left the crypt. The others met them partway through the dungeon, and they all made a stand. The sword slowed when she saw the number standing against her, then laughed.

“Do you have any idea of the odds I’ve faced?” Her eyes grew wide as something caught her attention. “You…” She hissed. They all turned around and saw the golem with the potter cowering behind her.

“You don’t have to do this.” He whispered to her, but she shook her head.

“This is what I was made for.” She took a step towards the sword, who charged straight through the group of adventurers, roaring. The two clashed with a crack, her stone hand stopping the cursed blade in its tracks. The strike brought a slight blush to her cheeks.

“You barely kept me in there, you really think you can beat me now?” The sword gloated. She brought her other hand around to grab the golems head, but soon found herself hurtling towards a wall instead. She slammed into the wall and bounced straight back into the battle, thrusting her sword arm forward.

The golem sidestepped the thrust, letting the unimpeded momentum bring her face into her fist, throwing her onto her back. She lay there for a moment, before striking upwards, catching the golem on the leg. There was no wound, but the effect was clear, as her cheeks flushed even harder and she stumbled.

She grabbed the sword by the throat and kissed her. Everyone was surprised by the action, including the sword. When she pulled back she looked at the potter again.

“It feels weak, doesn’t it?” She huskily asked the sword.

“W-What are you talking about?”

“Killing. It doesn’t have the same thrill as before it’s paled to what it once was.” The cursed sword cocked her head.

“How did you…?” The golem kissed her again.

“I felt it too, but I know how to get that feeling again.” Her eyes went wide.

“Yes, yes! Show me!” She pleaded. The golem’s eyes turned towards the potter again.

“Him.” She whispered, turning the sword to face him.

“Should I?” She raised her sword arm, and the golem lowered it.

“No, like this.” She walked towards him, cursed sword in tow. She released the cursed sword’s hand, and kissed the potter. After a few seconds she pulled back, and motioned for the sword to do the same. She looked at the golem, then the potter, then her arm. The metal vein like structure receded, exposing more pale flesh, until all that remained of the sword was a bladed gauntlet.

She used her unarmed hand and kissed him much more violently, pulling him into her and mashing their lips together. When she finally pulled away she had a dazed look.

“That… That was almost as good…” She muttered, before the golem took her by the hand and laid her down.

“This will feel much better.” She took the dazed potter by the hand and grabbed his belt.

“W-Wait, wha-“ Before he could actually say anything his pants were around his ankles and his length was exposed. At this point the band of adventurers decided to leave the three to it. They waited out the front of the ruin, most of the girls taking the opportunity to relieve some stress with their partners.

It was nightfall when the three emerged from the tomb, the cursed sword on one side and the golem on the other, a name etched into the centre of her neck.

So…” Sam asked, looking at the name inscribed on the golem. “Shaun, I don’t suppose you’ll need any help getting home with these two lovely ladies accompanying you?” The man smiled, looking at the two wrapped around his arms.

“No, no I think I’ll be fine, though you probably should have some compensation for everything you’ve done today.” They all had a smile on their face at that.

“Where you found her,” The golem gestured to the cursed sword, “there is a secret door, take the skull from the one on the alter, and it will open.” They nodded, Peter and Tyson already running back into the tomb.

“Thanks for that. I hope you all have a good life together.” Damien patted Shaun on the shoulder as he walked passed. The group returned to the final chamber of the crypt, the two who’d been cut nervously trying to find their way out.

After giving some simple directions they continued to the back room, finding the skeleton on the lone altar in the middle of the room.

“Is anyone else getting a bad feeling about this?” Damien asked as they approached the skeleton. Peter and Tyson ere already going to grab the skull.

“Nope!” They called together, grabbing it. They vanished in a small flash, that had Willow and Marie in a panic.

“W-Where’d they go?!” Willow cried, looking all over the room. Marie was running from wall to wall, looking for any clue of where they went. There was another flash and they returned, smiling and holding a chest between them. This lasted all of four seconds before Willow tackled Peter to the ground, and Marie wrapped herself around Tyson.

“You guys won’t believe how much treasure’s in there.” Tyson said between smothering kisses. Before the others could even react there was a loud rumble that soon turned into a full shuddering.

“Shit, move!” Sam shouted, once again bolting for the door. Willow grabbed the chest on Peter’s order. The whole group ran for it, Serah grabbing the slowest of them to carry. They made it out of the tomb as the entrance collapsed, leaving nothing but a caved in space of dusty bricks sticking out of the dirt.

Sam and Hui were panting even more heavily than the others. “W… wha… what’s in… In the… box?” Sam managed to puff out. Willow sat the box on the ground, Marie wedging her blade into it and forcing it open. The moment her blade touched the box it opened on its own, a small girl bouncing out.

“Hi there!” She said cheerily. Everyone was staring at her, either wide eyed or simply blank faced. She slowly go nervous about all the eyes on her, before they turned to Peter and Tyson.

“I’m gonna kill you!” Sam shouted and ran at the two, before suddenly finding himself floating away from them. Lynda sighed, still glaring at the two.

“From now on, you two are not to touch anything, understood?” They both nodded at her order. The mimic watched the exchange, thoroughly confused.

“Um… Did I do something wrong?” She wondered, thinking about her entrance, hadn’t it been enthralling enough?

“No, you’re fine. Sorry, we’re all married, so we’re not too interested in your body.” Damien apologised, putting a hand on her shoulder.

“Oh, okay… I guess I’ll go back home then.” She started to go back into her chest when Vince stopped her.

“Um… Just a question. Do you have anything… Special, in there?” She cocked her head to one side, then the other, putting on a thinking face.

“Um… I’ve got a bunch of jewellery and stuff people kept throwing into me. Do you want some of it?” Vince smiled and nodded. She vanished into her chest, which rocked slightly from time to time.

After a few seconds she emerged, holding up two handfuls of various jewellery and some bottles. “Here you go!” She was cheery again, and as Vince went to take the offered things, she grabbed him and pulled him into her. Lynda sighed, and with a flick of her wrist the chest was ripped apart, followed by a scream.

The mimic was clutching to Vince, shivering and rubbing against him. She looked around with terrified eyes. The two were standing in a pile of various gold and silver ornaments, intermingled with crystal bottles. Vince was trying to push the little thing away but she just kept grabbing, crying the whole time.

“You should not have done that.” Lynda said in her ever flat voice, waving her hand and separating the two, the mimic desperately reaching out for Vince. She floated up next to Sam, who was sitting in the air with his arms and legs crossed.

“Lyn… That may have been a little extreme.” He said, motioning to the debris scattered about.

“She should not have tried to abduct my husband.” Was her reply.  “I’m sure Willow would have done something equally destructive if she had of taken Peter.” Sam rocked his head a little before nodding.

“Most likely, but you just destroyed her home.” Lynda lowered Sam back to the ground, releasing him from the levitation spell.

“Maybe she should give her a new one?” Hui walked up to her husband,  sly grin on her face.

“That sounds like an excellent idea Hui.” Sam got the same grin, both of them now looking at Lynda.

“Do you want to be left paralysed for the next two days?” She threatened, but everyone else was looking at her too.

“I think it’s a good idea.” Damien said, the others nodding in approval. Lynda looked around, then sighed at the overwhelming vote.

“Fine.” The mimic dropped and bolted back to Vince, wrapping herself back around him.

Tyson laughed. “Well, hey, if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have been out here in the first place.” He then felt a spreading numbness, and lost control of his legs, leaving him on his arse.

“Serah, could you please?” Damien sighed, knowing what the consequences would be when they got home. Serah grabbed Tyson and threw him onto her back.

“All in favour of going home?” Peter asked, getting a resounding yes from everyone but Lynda and Vince.

“But we haven’t even found the spring!” Vince whined, getting several glares.

“I think we’ve found enough for one day. Could you get us back Lyn?” Sam asked, not even getting a response before Lynda began to cast the teleportation spell. They appeared in her tower, just outside of town. The contents of the mimic’s chest were teleported with them.

“Okay, let’s split this up.” Sam started piling the belongings into different piles, one significantly bigger than the others.

“Alright, Lyn, Vince… Uh, what’s your name kiddo?” Sam asked the mimic, peeking over Vince’s shoulder.

“Kiri.” She cautiously reached a hand out from behind Vince, letting Sam shake her hand.

“Well, you three get the lion’s share this time ‘round.” Lynda raised an eyebrow.

“Really?” Sam nodded.

“Without you, Vince, we wouldn’t have even been out there, if Kiri hadn’t been there we wouldn’t have gotten anything, and without you… Um, Kiri wouldn’t have had to show us everything she had…” Lynda’s mouth twitched into the faintest hint of a smile. Once the portions were given out, they all left, Vince, Linda and Kiri starting to get to know one another.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going home, and falling asleep.” Sam sighed, Hui nodding.

“Well, we might go get something to eat first.” Tyson began, looking at Marie. “But I think we’ll do the same. What a day.” Damien nodded, wondering how long it would be before Dina found him again.