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galaxyspark
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Interlude 22.2
As Mari's spell centered over his shoulder wound, Caldwell felt that familiar sense of warmth that comes with healing magic. He'd had injuries healed in the past: by his dad when he was a kid, by Ludo when he'd gotten into bad scrapes. But Mari's healing seemed more intense, somehow. It was more than a little embarassing. So instead of just sitting as still as he could and letting the spell do its work, he spoke up.

"Your, uh, your healing's as good as your protection spells." he stammered, suppressing the nervous urge to adjust his glasses.

Mari, who up until this point had done an admirable job hiding her discomfort, shook her head and blushed just a bit. "Th-that's not true. If my protection spell was worth anything you wouldn't have been hurt like this."

"C'mon, your protection spell is the only reason I wasn't ripped in half. They did this much even with it protecting me, and those things were way stronger than anything I've faced before. So if anything, your spell holding up means your casting is really top notch."

"Oh... well, thank you. But even so, I wasn't any help during the actual battle. I was so scared that I ended up huddled against a boulder with a shield spell, and the harpies left me alone."

"Hey it turned out in the end, so don't feel bad. Sheesh, I mean, my heart is still pounding from how scared I was. We're all out of our element here." said Caldwell. Mari didn't respond, but pressed her hand a little more firmly against Caldwell's wound as it healed up. The pain receded, and was replaced by a pleasant numbness.

"All of us except for Sil. I couldn't believe that last thing he did... it felt like I blinked, and the harpies were all cut up." said Mari.

"Yeah, he's the real deal. I'd hate to be on the other side of that attack."

Caldwell had seen that technique once before, from hundreds of feet away up in the stands of the Colosseo. Even at that distance, it had seemed like a gap of time was erased between when Sil drew his sword, and when the attack landed. Bram had theorized it must be a High Magic spell, and having been so close to it this second time, Caldwell wanted to agree.

There wasn't any other way to explain it. Despite the violent winds whipping all around, he'd felt his skin prickle as the dark wave coming from Sil had enveloped him in an instant. But then, before his mind could fully process the feeling, it was over; Like the seconds inbetween had vanished. It was far more terrifying of a skill to witness from this close.

He opened his mouth to comment on it, but saw that Mari's eyes were closed as she focused on completing her spell. Still anxious, but not wanting to interrupt any further, he sat quietly and let his mind begin to wander.

'Is this really alright? Sil was able to finish that fight thanks to his special ability... but without some quick thinking, we all could've died. We came that close to it, and this is only the first set of monsters we've encountered here.'

'Monsters are usually around the same level of strength distributed throughout a dungeon, with a few exceptions. So we can reasonably assume the other battles are going to be as deadly as this one. If it's a monster Sil can't harm, or an ambusher, or a strong spellcaster...'

'No, I can't get into what-ifs. Stay focused. There's no sign of a rift around here, so we'll just have to keep fighting until we find a spot that will let us escape. And we'll have to pray to the goddess that it's a fight we can win.'

Despite himself, he let out a dejected sigh. There was a jab of pain from his shoulder as he did, and he reflexively winced.

"Hey," said Mari, her cheeks still red as she tried to put on an authoritative face. "No sighing, ok? We'll... we'll get out of this." she mumbled. "The goddess brought us all here for a reason, and she won't just lead us to our deaths. And b-besides that you should stay still, or I might heal this wrong. You wouldn't want any scars. So, no sighing."

Caldwell smiled, despite himself. "Right."

A short distance away, the other three were chatting together in excited tones. They were smiling, and relieved as the tension of battle continued to fade. The feeling amongst the group was still tense, of course, and the pressure of the dungeon was weighing on all of them, but having eked out a victory left them feeling just a bit more encouraged. Sil in particular was brimming with an energy that Caldwell hadn't seen before.

'Oh right, Dungeonkin feel more at home in dungeons, don't they? And they feel the dungeon pressure differently than us, Sophia said something along those lines I think... It's Sil's first time in one, so I guess he must be feeling the rush.'

Caldwell then glanced down at the Spellcaster, which was dormant now that the battle had ended. Smoke had stopped pouring from it just a bit ago, but the tracking spell that looked like a cat was still stuck to it.

"There, your shoulder should be all good. Now let me see your arm." She took it in her hand, and soon the healing glow enveloped it. "Hmm, this one's not as bad. It shouldn't take too long."

Caldwell was still looking at the Spellcaster pensively. "Is your weapon... broken?" asked Mari. Caldwell shook his head.

"No, I don't think so. At least, I hope it's not." he responded. "I haven't had a chance to properly test it, so I'm still figuring out how it works. It's a lot like other magic items, like wands or staves, but most of its functions are based in alchemy instead. I think I have an idea on what happened during the fight. I was the one who drafted the initial design, which included an essence limiter, but now I think my dad must have implemented a second limiter in place as well."

"Limiter...?" said Mari, her brows coming together slightly in confusion.

"It's a basic part of alchemy, y'know? The transfer of energy. When essence passes through the Spellcaster, it goes into the orihalcon core and becomes amplified in power up to a level set by the limiter, before passing through the catalyst and producing an effect. That part's simple. But if that's all it did, then the excess energy buffered against the limiter would eventually overload the magic circuit and damage the system. The whole thing might explode... like some of my earlier models."

"I think there's a maximum amount of energy that can pass through the Spellcaster in a set period of time before it automatically stops working, and vents the rest of that energy as smoke."

"If we assume that each spell type uses a certain amount of energy, then it becomes clearer." said Caldwell, now in alchemical research mode. "Type 1, rapid fire, uses 1 'block' of energy. Type 2, sphere type, uses 2 blocks. Type 3, beam type, uses 3 blocks. And Type 4, well, I guess I haven't tried it yet, so who knows."

Mari was already lost, but was still politely listening to him and nodding.

"In my first battle using it, against that chimera, I used the first three spell types once, for a total of 6 energy blocks. It didn't vent any smoke back then. In this fight, I used Type 3 twice, also for a total of 6 energy blocks, but then tried to use Type 3 a third time, which must have tripped the limiter and prevented the Spellcaster from overheating."

"It's a genius design method, honestly. It preserves all the parts of the weapon while allowing for the maximum possible damage output. I just got carried away thinking it was some invincible super weapon. Now the only question left is..." he said, flipping the weapon over and looking at the type setting dial. "What's going to happen when I use Type 4...?"

"All done." said Mari, quickly pulling her hand away. "Um, it wasn't as bad as it could've been, but you should still get it looked at when we get back, ok?"

"Right."

'When we get back.' thought Caldwell, standing up. Mari was such an optimistic person that that "when" was the natural thing to say, rather than "if".

"I'm glad you're here, Mari." said Caldwell, smiling. Mari instantly became flustered, blushing scarlet and raising her staff in both hands in front of her.

"Wh- I mean, thank you, but let's just, um, focus on moving ahead, ok? And don't get hurt any more, so I won't have to heal you again, ok??" she stammered.

His shoulder was a little sore, but the healing was flawless. All told he could've made out much worse. The harpy's talons had torn straight through his favorite scarf, which was the real tragedy here. He mourned silently for a moment, then gathered himself.

"Everyone, are we good to go?" he asked to the group.

"I think so, boss!" said Lynne, saluting.

"Boss...?"

"You gave such good orders in that fight that I wanna call you boss, boss!"

"Uh... fine, whatever." said Caldwell, shifting uncomfortably. Was this adventure just going to be a series of embarassing moments? Blundering into this dungeon, failing to kill the harpy on his first attack, having a girl like Mari tend to him so closely... at this rate he'd die of embarassment before any monsters could get to him.

"This dungeon..." said Bram as he hefted his spellbook. "It's gotta be B rank. Monsters don't employ those kind of group tactics in C rank dungeons. I'm sure that after that hurricane spell finished, the other harpies would have swooped back in to mop us up. We're lucky we ended the fight when we did."

"B rank..." Caldwell felt another jolt of fear down his spine. There was a lot more to rank designations than just a single letter increment. The difference between C and B rank was the difference between a fresh faced newbie adventurer and a well trained, well equipped wizard. In theory, a group of C rank adventurers somehow ending up in a B rank dungeon should be an absolute death sentence. The concept held water; without Sil, who was unranked but extremely skilled, they would have had no way to finish off the harpies and the harpy shaman's hurricane spell.

"We've got a few tricks up our sleeves, at least. Maybe we can get by regardless." said Bram dryly. "Which by the way, I gotta ask, what in the world is that weapon, Cal? Did I hear you right back in the sewer that there's orihalcon in there?"

"That's right." said Caldwell. "It's not a prototype any more-" Lynne rushed over to him, elated, and grabbed his arm.

"Uwaaaah Orihalcon, is it true?! You gotta show me, please! Please! It's a dream for a blacksmith like me to get to work with Orihalcon and I've never seen any before-"

"Hey hey hey, calm down. Maybe uh... after we get outta here, ok? I dont want to mess with the circuit before then." said Caldwell, doing his best to shake off the taller girl. "Bram, It's a gift from my dad but the original design is mine. It's the final version of the battle alchemy concept I had with the alchemic staff. Though I'm still, uh, working out a few kinks in its operation."

"But the thing was strong enough to smoke a B rank harpy." said Bram. "That's some serious firepower. My spells didn't even make the thing flinch, I'd have to bust out something serious like my White Fire Lance to do what you did."

"Really...?" said Caldwell. He had felt that rush of adrenaline at slaying the harpy in the battle, but hadn't stopped to consider the implications until just now. He knew it had to be thanks to the pure orihalcon core. After all, a crystal of that size and purity was only something to be found from A rank, or possibly AA rank dungeons and monsters.

'Dad... where the hell did you get this from...?' he thought absently.

"If all is well then let us be off." said Sil, still showing his sharp teeth in a big smile. "We must ride the high of this victory on into the next."

"Right." said Caldwell. "Now that we know what to expect, maybe we can be a little better prepared." He didn't really believe it even as he said it, but just saying it out loud made him feel a little more confident regardless. The truth was, there was no knowing what danger lay in store. "Everyone stay alert. C'mon, lets go."

And with that, they resumed their walk up the mountain path.
In case you missed it, make sure you go back to page 1 of this chapter and read the Author's Comment to read a written Interlude regarding what happened right after the group entered this new Dungeon!
galaxyspark
December 17th, 2018
Interlude 22.1
Spinning, falling, and a feeling of weightlessness- then nothing. Even the scream rising from his throat was cut off as his consciousness suddenly and violently was taken. When next Caldwell's senses came to him, he felt himself slam into a hard, flat surface.

He cried out in pain, shielding his face from a suddenly bright light in his eyes. Pebbles falling, clattering to the ground. A cracking sound, like a crumbling building. He opened his eyes, squinting against the blur and tears, and saw an indistinct mass
silhouetted against the sun hurtling towards him. He heaved his body to the side and rolled right as something crashed down where he had been lying moments earlier.

Adrenaline coursing, he shot up into a crouch and looked around wildly. His senses came to him all at once as the haze of confusion rapidly lifted. Biting cold wind, bright clear sunlight beaming from a perfect blue sky, rocky ground underfoot. Stretching off into the far distance was a series of mountain peaks covered in snow, their base hidden under a covering of thick white mist. What-?

More rubble came spiraling down from the midair with a crash. And scattered amongst it, his friends shouts of pain and confusion as they landed. After a few moments, it seemed the chaos had died down. Caldwell realized his breathing was shallow and ragged, and his heart was pounding, but since there seemed to be no immediate danger he willed himself to calm down. He took a few gulping breaths, then called out hoarsely,

"Is everyone alright?!"

He feared that someone might have been crushed by the falling rubble; masonry, he now realized. What was left of the sewer tunnelway he'd been standing in only moments ago.

"Gahh... I'm ok...." called out Mari, whose white outfit was now thoroughly scratched and dirtied.

"Ow ow ow... me too!" said Lynne after a few moments of patting herself down, her head poking up from a pile of bricks.

Sil stood up, dust falling off of him in clouds. He slicked his hair back and closed his eyes mournfully. "I am-" His coolly delivered statement was cut short by a brick sliding down and cracking him on the head. He flinched, then stepped a few feet forward and adjusted his scarf, then slicked his hair back again. "Nevermind."

Caldwell looked around again, then upwards. There was no sign of where they'd come from at all.

Teleportation. He'd experienced the feeling before when traveling to dungeons. The weightlessness, the loss of consciousness. The only thing different was the imprecise manner in which it had occurred, causing all of them to fall into this heap.
While he was thinking rapidly, his mind moving a mile a minute, another sensation pressed down on him. A sort of weight that made his mind and body feel sluggish, a broiling fear that bubbled just under the surface. He'd felt this before as well, though not with this much intensity.

"A dungeon-!!" he said, eyes widening. Of course, all the clues had been there already. Thunderbirds showing up in a sewer where they'd never been seen previously, the ominous rumbling, monsters like that chimera appearing from underground. But the Archmage's Wards, and the Council were supposed to... How had a dungeon manifested below Aria, and remained long enough for monsters to leak out...?

"Everyone, gather up. It's not safe here." called out Bram. The decisiveness of his tone caused everyone to right themselves and gather close.

"D-does anyone need any healing?" said Mari. Her strained voice was barely above a whisper and her eyes darted around in a panic.

"No, I think I'm ok." At least until the adrenaline faded. Caldwell expected he was going to have some very angry bruises come tomorrow, if he were still alive.

"I guess you found your culprit, Cal. A dungeon, under the city..." said Bram, his face and tone both grim.

"I didn't think it was even possible for a dungeon to appear here, I couldn't have planned for something like this." mumbled Caldwell, panicked. "I'm sorry, I-"

"It's alright, nobody's hurt. So we can just get out of here and alert the Protectorate. Or- or the DEG." said Mari.

"I don't think it's going to be that easy." said Bram. Caldwell's mind was still racing, trying to analyze their situation, but it seemed like Bram had already figured something out. "Whatever portal we entered to come here is closed, and we don't have a ring of recall."

"Ah..." gasped Mari, visibly paling. Caldwell understood the unspoken meaning as well: without the Recall spell there may very well be no escape route from a dungeon.

"Not only that, but we don't have any idea what type of monsters are here, or what arcana rank this dungeon is." he continued, only the slightest quaver in his voice. "In the worst case we could be up against A rank enemies-"

"Fear not!" scoffed Sil, his volume causing everyone to jump. Kicking up a cloud of dust, he leapt into the air and landed spryly on the tallest piece of rubble.

"Arcana rank means nothing to the [Sword Saint of Darkness]!!" he proclaimed at the top of his lungs. Caldwell tried to form a reply, but just mutely stared at Sil along with everyone else. Caldwell glanced over his shoulder to make sure no monster had heard Sil's impassioned cry and came running to devour them all.

"My comrades, take heart, for you have a true hero amongst you this day." he continued. "Caldwell has led us to the heart of the evil beneath the city as he said he would, and now we shall strike at it's loathsome core and drive it from this world!!"

There was a moment of stunned silence, before Bram stepped forward angrily. "Wh- no, you maniac, we can't! Do you know what would happen if we, by some miracle, cleared the dungeon boss and took the core without a Recall spell?? The dungeon
would disappear with us in it!"

Caldwell felt a cold jet of fear travel down his spine as the enormity of the situation finally dawned on him.

"Your heart is clouded by uncertainty, hooded one. But mine is a heart without a drop of temerity; it burns only for my [destiny]!!"

"What the hell are you talking about? Get down here and-"

Ignoring their terse back-and-forth, Caldwell's thoughts turned inward. Was there any solution to the danger he'd gotten them all into...? Physically casting a spell of Recall involved High Magic, so not even someone as brilliant as Bram could attempt it. The dungeon layout seemed patterned after a mountainous peak, so something convenient like a staircase or ladder to the surface may not exist. No, no matter how he turned it around there was no easy solution. Unless-

"Sil, shut up for one second." said Caldwell, his heart resuming its furious pounding in his chest. Bram and Sil both quit their short argument and looked at him. "If... if monsters are escaping the dungeon, th-that means it's existed long enough for the barrier around it to weaken. We can search around and find one of those rifts and get back out that way."

"Or- or we could wait here, I'm sure the Protectorate is going to send someone to save us!" said Mari, her voice tremulous from how badly she was shaking with panic.

"No, Caldwell's right." said Bram, turning from Sil who was now striking a defiant pose from his high up perch. "You have to think of the worst possible outcome, then take steps to minimize the possibility of it happening. If the Council sends somebody, they could decide to eliminate the dungeon without ever realizing we're here. If this is a big dungeon, the chance of our being discovered is even smaller. Waiting isn't going to do us any good"

Lynne's face had been scrunched up this whole time, working through their problem in her own way. "Well, um, I've never been to a dungeon before, but I'll do what I can to help." she said, offering a tiny smile.

"That's-" a start, Caldwell wanted to say, but he was immediately interrupted.

"Oh! A worm fell in, too-!" blurted Lynne, her attention quickly turning from the matter at hand. She pulled the small shovel that was holstered at her back and slammed it into something just out of sight. After a few moments of disgusting, pulpy noises, she stood back up with a fist sized, ooze-covered ball in her hand.

"A ruminant! I got one! So basically, mission accomplished!" she said cheerily.

"I... I suppose so." said Caldwell, at a loss. Lynne was already helping out, in her own way, as everyone else seemed to relax slightly at her blithe enthusiasm.

"Enough talk!" yelled out Sil, still balancing on his perch. "There is a path ahead and behind, but my soul tells me we must climb this peak to discover our [Destiny]. Time is of the essence. come!"

And with that, he leaped once again and landed further up the slight incline of the path.

"Cal... you said he was the real Sil, right? Are you sure?" said Bram under his breath to Caldwell.

"Just... go with it." replied Caldwell, feeling strong secondhand embarrassment, as though he were responsible for Sil's behavior.

Thinking pragmatically, Sil was an unranked Colosseo fighter. But he'd taken on a B Ranked Minotaur and not only defeated it single-handedly, but had escaped with almost no damage. He was an extremely powerful asset, and might even be the key to all of them escaping this place alive.

"I need you to trust me." said Caldwell, a plan now forming piece by piece.

"I trust you, Caldwell." said Mari quietly, though she still looked pale.

He realized that the Spellcaster had been in his hand this entire time in a death grip. Forcing himself to relax a bit, he shifted his grip to both hands and started forward. "Whatever we have ahead of us, we have to support Sil. Without a doubt he's stronger than all of us combined, so all of our efforts in battle should be setting him up to get the kill. Got it?"

"Roger." said Bram. Then, after a moment, "If I die here I'm going to haunt you for eternity, got it?"

"Sure." chuckled Caldwell despite himself.

It was a terrible situation. It was all his fault that he and his friends were in it. There was nothing to laugh about, in fact he could die at any moment in this unfamiliar place. His heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest, and his body felt stretched taut with stress. And yet, despite it all, he felt a thrill.

This is what adventure feels like, isn't it?
The "a while back" that Mari last saw Caldwell is actually over 5 years ago in our time. Crazy! Thank you for bearing with slow updates for a while, readers. We're back on track now.
galaxyspark
September 30th, 2017
Thank you to all the new readers and followers during the Month of Spellcross! Intermittent updates will resume in October.
galaxyspark
September 10th, 2017
@Ralend: It's the 5th Anniversary of Spellcross, so there's going to be at least one new page every day in September!
The page was busted for a little while because Dropbox changed its hotlinks, sorry about that. Everything should be back to normal and viewable again.
Sorry!!!
Hello Spellcross readers! I have a lot of explaining to do, don't I? First of all, I apologize for promising to give news back in December then not saying anything. That was poor judgment on my part and left all of you hanging. Secondly, Spellcross is not cancelled or dropped! A lot of exciting things have been happening in my life, and I'm in a much different place than I was during those first couple years of consistent updates (weird to think that this webcomic is almost 5 years old, huh?). That said, while it would be easy for me to say "indefinite hiatus!" or "I've moved on!", Spellcross really is a story that's near and dear to me, especially after pumping so much time and energy into it. With that in mind, though, my honest assessment of the past 2 years of updates is that it's been lacking. Updates happened sporadically, the quality varied immensely page to page, the story's moved at a snail's pace, and the art style even shifted several times.

That's why I'm not making any grand, sweeping promises in this update. I've made those before, and after a short time couldn't live up to them. What I want is to give a clear expectation to now and future readers. Spellcross, as a webcomic, is no longer the main focus of my life and pursuits. There was a time when I wanted to make tons of pages and print and sell a volume, but that's no longer in the cards for me. However, while drawing this comic is now on the backburner, the update schedule's still gonna improve. So, it's simple: my only goal going forward is more updates, more frequently! It may not be on specific days of the week, it might be a couple of pages at a time, but the comic is going to resume updating. I feel like a broken record at this point, but there's so much story left to tell and I want to present it to all of you, in time. Once again, sorry for the lack of info, and I hope you'll stick with Spellcross moving forward.

tl;dr - I apologize for leaving you all hanging! I'm going to be better about updating the comic from here on out.
galaxyspark
December 13th, 2016
Sorry for the lack of updates, everyone. Expect definitive news about the comic soon.
galaxyspark
February 22nd, 2016
@kcspice: I use a template of my own design, but at print size around 10x14. I'm not currently posting on other sites, but have plans to expand in the near future.
Bit of confusion on the last page (understandably so), but just so people don't get led astray I'd like to let you know that this person is NOT Bram's older brother Bale.
galaxyspark
December 27th, 2015
Check out the Spellcross Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/spellcross !
galaxyspark
December 22nd, 2015
This is the final page for the explosive Chapter 15. Things are really ramping up, huh? What will be Caldwell's fate? And has the cavalry arrived in time, or is it too late for his friends? Next update will be another silly interlude, followed by the title page for Chapter 16 "High Magus"!
galaxyspark
December 11th, 2015
@Guest: Sorry for missing this, thank you for spotting it. Fixed.
Heya readers. Stylistic change again, because the previous style (while nice to look at) was taking me take too long for each page. In order to finish Spellcross before I die of old age, I'm trying out something new. Please bear with it in the meantime.
@rogue: Good eye, I didn't see this error 'til just now. Fixed.
Check out the Spellcross Patreon here! : https://www.patreon.com/spellcross?ty=h

And of course, while there's lots of cool stuff on the Patreon, new pages of Spellcross will never be locked behind a paywall. Thanks again to everyone who reads and enjoys the comic!
"To be continued" is a stylistic thing, inspired by Jojo's Bizarre Adventure which has put it at the end of every chapter for more than twenty-five years.

Also believe it or not this chapter was the second longest yet at 33 pages, with chapter 12 coming in first at 35.
That's it for Chapter 14! Whew, what a ride it's been. Next update will be a silly intermission, followed of course by the title page for chapter 15.
The April Fools page has been moved over to Tales from Spellcross where it belongs. If you took it seriously, then I'm sorry.