Chapter 1: Restful Prelude
Melody was dying. She had gathered her family in her bedroom, just in time for one last goodbye together. Eli, her brother, was stoically keeping as brave a face as he could, but his eyes were itching with repressed tears. Cadence, her sweet daughter, was clinging to her mother's hand, gently caressing her cheek to carry that warmth with her to her death. And Dorian, her beloved husband… was shattered. He was trying his best to be strong, but she could tell, in his eyes... he was desperate, and so afraid.
Dorian could barely keep the lump in his throat down and his eyes dry as Melody slowly and weakly said her goodbyes. He wasn't ready. He wanted more time… another life with Melody… why did it all have to end so soon? How could Melody cope with this? How could he cope with this?
He heard quiet sobbing, realising that Cadence was crying in her mother's shoulder, tears ceaselessly streaming down. "Mom… I'm gonna miss you so much…" Melody looked at all them, and give them one last smile. That's how she want them to remember her; happy to have spent her life with them. She laid back, eyes closed, and sighed a deep breath…
And then nothing.
She said no more. Smiled no more.
There was a moment of silence. It happened. Melody died.
"Mom…?" Cadence said with a shaky voice. "Mom…!" She said again, this time grasping her, wanting something, anything, to come out of her again.
"Cadence." Dorian said, desperately crying not to cry. He turned her to him softly and hugged her. He left her cry as she buried her face and her sobbing in his chest. Eli said nothing, choosing to take off his hat in mourning and respect. And despite his best attempts, Dorian couldn't stop himself from tearing up and holding Cadence as tightly as she was holding him.
Dorian looked up again, just to make sure, maybe Melody hadn't left, maybe she still had a little more…
Nothing. Nothing but a silent corpse. Not a word, not a breath, not a heartbeat.
Despair gripped Dorian. He didn't know what to do anymore… his whole life was his family, Melody, Cadence, and Eli... and now he felt like a broken man. A million pieces barely held together, wanting to shatter. What was he supposed to do?
He couldn't carry on without Melody. She was his life, his light, his whole heart was hers.
And now it was empty, silent. And in agony. Tears burst from his eyes, trying his best to muffle his cries, doing his best to comfort Cadence, but he felt too weak to do anything. He… he didn't save her. He failed her. He could've done so much more… and now… his family was torn apart.
How could he take care of Cadence with a mother? How could he support her without Melody? How could he keep on going without her touch, her eyes, her words?
"Dad…" Cadence cried in a trembling voice… "I want mom back... I want her back… why can't I have her back…? Why did she have to go like this?" Dorian held her even closer, but her body was holding too much grief to be calmed, to make the crying stop. "It's not fair… why did she… why did she have to go…?"
The answers never came. Dorian and Cadence remained where they were, in each other's arms, with Eli's strong arms giving them strength on their shaking backs, desperate to find comfort and reassurance, for anything to relieve the pain, until the sun came up, and they still couldn't let go, still beside their departed Melody.
~~~ A few days later ~~~
Cadence's soft, beautiful voice filled the air as she sang before the coffin. Several villagers had shown up to mourn and remember her. Nobody said a word, choosing to be silently moved by Cadence's comforting verses.
Many had given Dorian and Eli their condolences. The latter was politely thanking them all beside Dorian, who had remained mostly silently, dry tear trails still visible of his face, as he stared at the coffin.
He couldn't believe it. He just couldn't. Melody, she… she was so happy, so healthy… they were going to spend so many more years together… and now… he'd be without her. Cadence would be motherless the rest of her life… and he would never hear her voice, the cheerful songs she played for them… never, ever again.
He couldn't. It just… he couldn't live like this.
"I promise you, Melody…" Dorian murmured, barely above a whisper. "I promise you… I'll get you back one day…" He said, his heart already set in its way. He would see her again, alive and well, and so would Cadence.
Eli could only glance at him with a deep concern, unsure of what to make of his words.
~~~ A few hours later ~~~
Everyone had already departed. The grieving family members were the only ones by the coffin. Cadence idly stood by, watching the roses left on top shake and flutter in the cool breeze. Not too far behind her, were her father and uncle, talking over matters. She could barely make out their words.
"Dorian… I know you're shaken up, but… he have to figure this out." He said, trying to get a promising word out of Dorian. "He have to work it out. You have to take care of Cadence, and I'll have to work even harder to keep things afloat…"
Eli waited a second for Dorian to respond. "Actually…" He finally spoke. "I might need you to take care of her for me sometimes." He stated, finally look back at him, hoping for his consent.
"What do you mean?" Eli replied, sensing there was more to his words that was apparent.
Dorian was trying to figure out the best way to explain. "I'm going to go into exploring again. I might be away from time to time, and you'll have to take care of Cadence then."
"What? Why?" Eli asked, shocked to hear Dorian talk about leaving Cadence, instead of becoming closer to her. He frowned at him. "Don't tell me… you're planning to bring her back."
"Yes. I have to, Eli… I have to bring her back."
"You can't do that! She told you to not go looking for it!" Eli yelled, a mixture of anger and disappointment aimed towards him.
"Now I have no choice, Eli… I have to find the Golden Lute." It was the only thing… the only thing that could mend his heart, to give her life again.
"And abandon your child?" He exclaimed, incredulous that it seemed to matter so little to him.
"With these notes, it shouldn't take long to find." He said, referring to the scrolls sticking out of his pouch, strapped to his belt. They were Melody's old family notes, hidden away in the basement. He secured them as soon as he could… he couldn't lose these. He couldn't bear to lose anything more.
Eli had no words, only anger and scorn towards Dorian. Now more than ever, Cadence needed a good parent… and instead, he wanted to go off, chasing cursed contraptions lost somewhere far away, for only a tiny chance to see Melody again. Dorian needed to move on, not cling to these ridiculous plans.
Nearby, Cadence was listening in as best as she could. She didn't understand everything that they had said, but from she'd gathered, once thing was becoming increasingly clear:
There were going to be a difficult couple of years ahead of her.
Chapter 2: Discordant Ensemble
It had been a month since Melody died.
At first, things seemed to go as well as anyone could have hoped. Everyone was trying to cope with the loss whichever way they could. Dorian dutifully and patiently tended to everything Cadence needed. Being a single parent was proving very difficult for him to adjust to. She noticed he smiled a lot less. He was quieter. Eli said it was nothing to worry about, and was just him mourning, but Cadence could tell something else was wrong.
One very early morning, she found him rummaging through a chest. It was dusty and had cobwebs clinging to it by the sides. She knew it had been stored in the basement for a long time. Apparently, it was filled with notes and letters.
"Dad?" She asked. It was only then that he noticed her presence, and turned around, looking quite surprised. "Oh. Hey, Cadence. Shouldn't you still be sleeping?" He asked, as he continued to look for something inside.
"I heard furniture being moved." She replied, Dorian turning his face away in embarrassment. He had hoped he could keep this hidden from Cadence. "What's going on?"
Dorian paused for a second. He hadn't planned on how to explain it to her. "I'm… I'm going to go on a small adventure, Cadence. I'll be back in just a couple of days. Eli will stay with you until I come back." He found what he was looking for, and quickly stored it in his pouch. Cadence noticed a few travelling supplies on the table. This wasn't just a sudden idea… he'd planned this.
"Where are you going? What are you looking for?" Cadence asked. She wasn't too keen on the idea. She'd not prefer the house to be any quieter right now…
Dorian sighed and hanged his head. Should he tell her…? He was adamant about finding a way of bringing her back, but was it wise to share the whole truth with her? He figured there'd be too many questions. Better to keep it under wraps for now. One day, he'd tell her, when she was older. "I'm just going to try and find some treasure." But could he really expect to bring back something? "Well… I'm going to try and find clues about hidden treasures. It won't take long, I promise."
Treasure? Why would he want to look for treasure? Did it have something to do with mom? He rarely, if ever, left for treasure when mom was around. She had told her that his father used to, before they were married, but was happy to settle in with her instead. So… why was he leaving for treasure now?
"Dad, I…" Cadence started, but hesitated to continue. She didn't want him to leave, and she knew there was something odd about this.
Dorian looked at her, then knelt down in front of her and smiled. "Don't worry, Cadence. If I'm right and I find what I'm looking for, I promise you that things will get better. Everything will be okay. It'll just take me a little time, okay?" He said, with encouragement and comfort.
Cadence thought for a second. "Okay, dad. I trust you. Come back soon, okay?"
~~~ Some years later ~~~
"Alright, I'm off! I'll be back in a week!" Dorian exclaimed as he hauled his backpack over his shoulder and let the house.
Cadence watched him leave with forlorn eyes. Every time he came back, he'd said he'd gotten a little closer to his goal, a clue, a location, a rumor… but at this point, she felt resigned.
When he first started, he left the house at most a few times a year. Now, it was almost once per month. He sounded enthusiastic, and the chest in the basement kept getting heavier, but still, it did nothing to make the long days shorter, the quiet nights less lonely.
It wasn't that Eli wasn't a good uncle. He was, he obviously cared for her, and he did his best. But still… he just didn't make for a great surrogate father. He was willing, but she always liked how her dad did things. How he shared his stories, helped her learn how to use household tools, and gave her weapon training. Eli tried, and gave his share of wisdom, but his ways were clumsy and rough sometimes.
"Uncle Eli?" She asked, as he turned to look at her across the table.
"...what do you think dad's really up to?" She questioned, and waited patiently for his answer. Eli didn't know what to say. Whenever he tried to get the truth out of Dorian, he was always vague and eluding him. Of course, he was still after that magical lute. It couldn't be anything else.
That thing had already tormented this family enough. Melody swore to never look for it and retrieve it, and their mother had disappeared trying to get rid of it. And now, Dorian's mind was consumed by the idea of using to bring his wife back. He didn't want Cadence to become involved in this mess, either.
"I don't really know. Let's hope you dad stops chasing pointless quests soon enough, and comes back home to his family."
~~~ A few years later ~~~
"I've found it! I've got it this time!" Dorian exclaimed as he swung the front door with unusual excitement. He barely had time to notice the confused look on Cadence's face as he rushed past her to retrieve the basement chest.
Cadence sat there, having half a mind to ask him why he'd been gone for two weeks, when he came bursting through the room carrying the huge chest in both hands. He quickly dropped it and opened the lock. He went through the piles of notes quickly, searching for something in particular.
"Dad? What's going on?" She asked, as Eli came through the hall door, obviously wondering what all the noise was about.
"I've found it! I know where it is!" He exclaimed, not even turning around.
"I've found…!" He paused. He was so close… perhaps it was time to tell her… no, still too soon. Only when he had it in his hands, he'd share his plan. Oh, it had been so long… so many years looking, searching, it was closer than ever. "I know where the great treasure is! I definitely know where it is! And I'm going to bring it back!" He shouted, as he pulled out the notes he was looking for. With a satisfied sigh, he closed it and locked it again.
Within minutes, he had everything ready. A backpack with water and food, a shovel, a torch, a simple dagger, a pouch, a small set of explosives, extra clothes for colder climate, and all the notes he needed.
He was almost out the door again already when he turned back at his family. As he looked at them, his resolve to find it only strengthened. Soon, they would be a whole family again. He would have his beloved again. Cadence would have a mother again. This would make it all worth.
"I know you've got a lot of questions, but I promise you, I'll answer them soon. When I return, I'll tell you what I've been looking for, and why I've been hunting for it. Cadence, I'm sorry I've been away, but when I come back, it'll all be over. I'll be home for good, I promise." He said, trying his best to reassure them. He was anxious. This was it. This was the moment he'd been waiting for.
Cadence looked down, not sure how much to trust him. He was almost never this excited or lively about his findings. She looked at Eli, wondering if he approved. He only gave her an unsure look. Despite his absences, he knew her dad meant what he said.
"Okay, just... " Cadence wasn't sure how to say what she felt. "Come back home, okay? I'll be waiting for you."
Dorian smiled in return, and gave his daughter a strong hug, and Eli a polite farewell, before turning around and leaving her again, with a quick rhythm in his walk. Cadence and Eli only hoped he knew what he was doing.
Chapter 3: Chamber Suite
Dorian stood on the clearing of the abandoned graveyard. This is where his latest notes took him. With trepidation, he walked over to the indicated spot, and begun to dig his way down. He was so focused on the objective he'd been dreaming of, he hardly noticed the purple smoke that had been rising from the ground, and it was too late by the time he felt the ground beneath him shake and crumble.
He barely had time to step away before it gave way, and fell deep beneath the earth. It seemed to be swallowing him, and could only helplessly flail as he went through the moving earth, only to finally reach a clearing, and then landed feet first on solid ground.
The only thing he remembered was the sound of a sickening crush.
And next thing he knew, he was lying down on his ground, his supplies thrown around him. He inspected his legs, but they seemed to be intact. Odd, he could've sworn he had broken them. Not wasting time on this mystery, he gathered his things, and ventured deeper into a staircase leading down into a crypt.
It was faint at first, but soon enough it was unmistakable; the sound of music echoing throughout the floor and walls. It was music unlike anything he'd ever heard. And yet, he felt his heart beating in sync with it. For every percussive beat, his heart beat along. He had no idea what it meant, but he knew that he just wanted to get the lute and out of here. His family would be waiting for him on the surface.
Soon enough, he heard monsters grumbling and growling. He readied his dagger, ready to fight his way through anything his way.
He had trained himself in fighting for many years, but it was different when one could only move their arms when the drums echoed through the rooms.
Not nearly as bizarre as finding a wandering, opera-singing shopkeeper who had step up shop in the middle of the crypt. If he wasn't trying to tend to his scratches and scrapes, he perhaps would've admired his marvelous voice, or asked him what he was doing here, but instead, he quickly perused the items for sale.
A compass, hmm. It'd come in handy to keep his bearing and not get lost. He paid the shopkeeper and quickly went on his way. Following the compass seemed to lead him to more and more stairs, yet another oddity he was happy to overlook. Led by the faint memory of Melody's smile, and the booming music, he pressed on.
More floors, more monsters, more stairs. More rooms, more scrabbles, more injuries. As if the gigantic chess set wasn't enough of a stressful encounter, leaving him exhausted, there were even more stairs waiting for him. He paused to eat some food and recovered, and continued on.
It seemed to never end. Though Dorian kept finding more items in his journey, pickaxes to break through tough walls, armor that could help him withstanding many hits, and even a magical ring that made him stronger, as well as many scrolls that gave him powerful spells, he could barely keep up fighting against the endless onslaught of undead creatures. He had black patches of skin, from the times he couldn't elude the dragons' fireballs, dark bruises from the hoofs of nightmares, and ears that still rung with the shrieks of banshees.
With every section of this crypt, his body was becoming more and more beaten. There were the marks of powerful tentacles crushing his arteries on his skin, scratches of dozens of dancing zombies on his clothes, and he felt like his heart was going to explode as he run as fast as he could whilst fighting a hooded skeleton and his scythe.
And even though he felt like his heart couldn't give anymore, he was still alive and ready to fight, a powerful force keeping him alive, and the fear of loneliness without Melody relentlessly driving him forward.
He went down the next flight of stairs. Another room, another arena, surely yet another hideous monstrosity locked up to secure this lute… how did her mother ever manage to bury it so deep beneath the earth, and hide it behind so many undead guardians…?
He swung open the doors, ready to fight whatever would oppose him next.
This one was different. An elevated platform, full of dancing enemies that seemed to pay him no mind. At the centre, a tall, slender figure, covered in skulls and dark clothing, and in its decrepit hands…
"The Golden Lute!" Dorian shouted, his eyes scarcely believing it. He had finally seen it… and he called the attention of the figure, busily playing the lute, the source of all the music, animating everything in this dungeon.
"Who are you?" The figure questioned, playing a menacing chord to accentuate his power.
Dorian steeled himself, trying to best to stand up tall and strong despite the various injuries all around his body, and the immense fatigue, his heart constantly keeping his strength and stamina healthy. "I'm here to take the lute!" For Melody, he reminded himself… for his family, he had to win this.
The figure merely laughed in return. "You, taking the lute from me? You are so amusing..." His voice became darker and deeper. "You'll never have this lute, it's mine! Your heart is my puppet now, and soon, you'll be just another minion for me to control!" He said, playing another dark chord.
Dorian felt his heart reverberate in response, but there was no way he'd stop now, when he was closer than ever. "We'll see about that!" He shouted, before hurdling several explosives towards the platform, destroying parts of it and letting loose the monsters that had been standing on it. After fighting those off, he inevitably landed one at the musician's feet, forcing him to teleport, but leaving the lute behind.
"Curse you!" His foe shouted, slowly approaching from the corner he escaped to. Seeing his chance, Dorian grabbed the lute, feeling its immense power in its strings. It was his at last… but there was no way he could leave without achieving victory first.
He raced towards the figure, trying his best to play the lute in sync with the arena's echoing song. Unfortunately, he was never much of a musician, and so he would keep missing beats, feeling his heart stop every time he did, leaving him rooted and vulnerable.
"RISE!" The figure shouted, and from nowhere, a massive red dragon appeared, its angry eyes set on Dorian, who chose to deal with the massive creature before focusing on its master. But he soon regretted it, for he kept summoning more and more minions… and Dorian kept losing his focus, starting to lose the rhythm…
He heard laughter behind a small mob of undead. "It's amusing. You can't even handle the power of the lute! Now… time to face the music! RISE!" And yet even more undead… Dorian had no way out. The lute was powerful, but he couldn't wipe them out fast enough…
He was cornered. Between the minotaur and the armored skeletons, he didn't know what to do… no exit, he had to keep playing… he couldn't…
The minotaur struck Dorian one last time. He fell to the ground, letting go of the lute, seeing it bounce away. His torso felt like it was on fire. He heard slow footsteps approaching him… he slit open his eyes, to see the figure reclaiming the lute, cackling incessantly.
"No… Melody, Cadence… I have to… I… I'm sorry… I failed..." Dorian struggled to speak, until his body finally gave out.
And just like that, between the reverberating walls on the crypt, his heart finally stopped.
Dorian lay dead, the necrodancer's minions receding back to the darkness as he approached his limp corpse.
"Hmmm… you're quite different from the other intruders… strong and sturdy… you even managed to make this far…" The necrodancer mused, as he changed the beat to something much slower, much more sinister, a fitting theme for a new scheme.
"I think you'll make for one very, very special minion… I have special plans in store for you…" He announced with a grin, which turned into another low chuckle, as he menacing hovered the corpse, his fingers playing a new song, twisting this new, determined heart, warping it to his command, cursing him to soon follow his every command...
Chapter 4: Dissonant Duet
The command reverberated through the air, its magic rattling the bells around the room. With a jolt, the Dead Ringer awoke and stood up straight, firmly grasping his gigantic hammer. He looked through the crack in his bellhead, seeing an arena prepared for him, and an entrance right in front, as the music shook the chamber.
"There's a nuisance that's disturbing my crypt. Get rid of her!" The necrodancer commanded from below, and the Dead Ringer felt the voice ringing in the bell, hypnotising him, echoing the order through his head a thousand times, unable to resist the spell. He wordlessly accepted his task. He would stop the intruder.
Just then, the doors opened with a loud thud, and a young woman walked through them, heavily armoured and equipped. No matter how sturdy she was, she'd be no match for him and his own minions. As the battle started, he went to one of the bells, took his hammer, and rang the bell with a deafening strike, and a gigantic dragon suddenly appeared, its eyes and nose focused squarely on the intruder.
As the Dead Ringer slowly walked towards the next bell, he got a good look at the intruder through his crack. It was difficult to think, as his bellhead was constantly vibrating with the music, deafening him and making it impossible to resist the commands, but he couldn't help but feel that this intruder… somehow, he'd seen her before.
No matter. It wouldn't disrupt his plan. She was in his line of attack, and so began to charge at her. He couldn't really see directly in front of him, but she couldn't have gone very far. The doors were sealed and the sarcophagi were already summoning more and more undead to destroy her. He could hear the sounds of her sword clashing against scales, and finally, a deep growl, a dragon's last breath. Perhaps he'd have to raise the difficulty, up the challenge.
As he reached the wall, he heard another, deafening striking of a bell. The foolish girl probably tried to struck one of his bells. Ha! That would just summon a huge ogre that could squash her to oblivion with a single swing. He slowly walked to another bell, to make sure to keep her crowded and busy for another of his charges. She was dealing powerful blows to the ogre, but it seemed to go down even faster as she swung with powerful arms and grunts of exertion. She was adapting, and even the toughest minions he could summon were starting to look weak compared to her.
He approached the third bell. He raised his hammer high up into the air, and struck down with a powerful impact, shaking the bell and conjuring a nightmare. The air around him darkened, but he could still detect her presence through the endless reverberations in his head. He could hear everything all at once, amplified beyond measure to detect even the softest of her footsteps, the swings of her broadsword. As he stepped towards the final bell, he examined her. The feeling persisted. He had seen her. She seemed… familiar. As if… maybe he knew who she was. Sometime long ago.
He was almost distracted from the bellowing grunt in the air as he heard the unmistakable sound of a dying nightmare. He lifted his hammer, and once again smashed the bell, summoning a huge minotaur, already charging straight at her. The four bells, now depleted of all their magic, were destroyed, and the Dead Ringer felt a surge of power coursing through him. He pursued the intruder, and as soon as he saw her through his crack, he lunged at her with unbelievable speed, crossing the entire arena in a single strike.
When he turned around to charge again, he heard the minotaur go down, in a single mighty swing. He was furious. Who was she? How could she defeat everything in her path? He'd put an end to this. He lunged yet again, barely missing her as she sidestepped him. He turned around and try again, always barely connecting with her torso as she eluded him. As he went from one side of the arena to another, he could not escape the thought that he definitely recognised her… from somewhere, sometime. But how? No name came to his mind… she was so familiar...
As the room was started to get crowded his skeletons, he once again spotted the perfect opportunity. She was right in the centre of the room, he had her straight in her sights. He lifted his hammer ready to swing with all his might, he flew at full speed right towards her.
Through the crack, he saw her dodge him once more, and-
The bellhead struck against the gong with incredible force, the vibrations shaking it back and forth, echoing louder and louder. The gong was squashed beyond recognition by the impact, and vibrated with the music no more. The Dead Ringer had collapsed against the crumbled and destroyed wall. And he saw the crack suddenly widen, until it longer trapped his head and mind, and cleanly broke in two pieces, both falling by his ringing ears.
He had been defeated. And it had been so swift, so unforeseen. For a moment, Dorian could only lie on his back, as the endless metallic ringing slowly faded away, until he heard footsteps approaching him. Oh no, the intruder, would she kill him, would she-
He lifted his head up. What he saw was… Cadence. His sweet, lovely Cadence… looking older, taller… and utterly shocked. All the memories of his life rushed back to him. Melody, the adventures, the notes, the maps, the crypt, the necrodancer, the lute… and the feeling of death, and undeath, of the curse upon him, commanding him, forcing his body to obey… and now, Cadence, followed him all the way down, looking for him, in such grave danger...
His eyes barely had time to well up with tears before he tried his best to explain. "Cadence… I'm sorry… I was under a spell…" He wanted to explain everything, everything he'd been trying to accomplish for so long, but all he could register was a look of utter confusion before a booming voice interrupted him.
"Leaving so soon?" It came from behind Cadence, a tall, unsightly figure, with a horrifying grin on his face, and the lute clutched in his hand. "I guess you don't have the HEART to face me!" He shouted, taunting him by showing them their hearts under his control, laughing at them, his mocking only fueling Dorian's sudden anger. Now that he was free of the curse, he would defeat him, once and for all. But this time… he had his daughter by his side. And if she made it this far… he knew he could trust her to help him, and together put an end to all this, and get his family back together.
Dorian got to his feet, ready to battle. "I think… I know how to defeat him, Cadence." He remember the lesson he'd learned the first time; the lute was his weakness, the only thing that could really damage him at all. He saw Cadence ready to jump at him, but he'd learned his lesson. Going solo was a bad idea. "But we'll have to work together. Follow my lead." He said, as the necrodancer vanished, and left a trail of purple smoke leading to stairs behind them. They could hear the unearthly music playing below them, audible through the floor.
They glanced at each other. There were so many questions, so many feeling unresolved. "Dad…" Cadence spoke, in a voice that Dorian almost couldn't bear to listen to. The years of neglect, the years of absence, his failure to bring Melody back… her voice was even starting to sound like her mother…
"Cadence… I'm so, so sorry. I know I've failed you. I failed to keep this family together." He needed to say this. They had to fight one more time, and he knew this could be their last meeting, so he had to said what mattered the most. "I'm sorry. But right now, we can make things right. If we can defeat him, I can finally finish what I set out to do. I can put this family back together. If we destroy him, and we can get out of here, you'll see why I came down here."
Cadence remained silent for a moment. There were too many emotions to process right now. Joy to see him again after two years, anger that he left her, sorrow that he'd been a puppet all along, fear that they would die soon…
The look in his eyes, though, was still the same look she remembered her dad for. Reassuring, confident, determined.
If this would be their last night, then they would be together, as they were supposed to, fighting to their last heartbeats, ready to take down anything the necrodancer could bring. "Let's go." Was all she said, and it was all he needed to hear. They nodded at each other, ready for whatever was to come. One after the other, they descended the final set of stairs, where one last song, and their last challenge, awaited them.
Here, the music felt the strongest, being so close to the lute. As they walked up to the doors in sync, Dorian turned to his daughter.
"I know a trick." He said, catching her attention. "If you've got explosives, hurl them at his platform. You'll get to him much faster that way. Just be careful of the monsters that come down as well." He advised, and Cadence nodded, making sure to remember.
They stood in front of the doors, and opened them together.
The music in the air rushed towards them, and as they stepped inside, the walls shut behind them, marking the point of no return. They approached the platform, and Cadence quickly prepared a few of her plentiful bombs. She paid little attention to the sounds of the necrodancer reanimating more and more minions, focusing on getting him down to her level, and freeing the lute.
She made quick work of the stage, dealing with whatever creatures stepped down from it, before eventually having the lute within her reach. "You take it!" Dorian announced, fighting the monsters the necrodancer summoned to slow them. "You'd be better with it anyway. I've got your back!" He declared as he slashed whatever skeletons dared approach him, or his daughter.
Cadence nodded, and took the lute in her hands. She grasped it firmly and started to play along with the music. She felt its immense power surging through her, but it was still enchanted by the necrodancer.
"Give me that lute!" He demanded, and she replied with a bomb at his feet. She stepped away as she plucked the strings. She got out of the bomb's range just before it exploded, and saw the necrodancer teleport away. "Curse you!" He shouted, as he prepared to bring forth his next wave of monsters.
Making sure Dorian was still in good shape, Cadence began to strike back. This time, it was a much easier fight, Dorian thought. He could take care of all the distractions and loose ends while she focused on the necrodancer.
Cadence managed to get right next to the necrodancer a few times, each time playing a strong, harmonious riff that damaged him, forcing him to teleport away, little by little draining his strength.
They had a few close calls. Dorian had been caught in the blast of a gigantic explosion, incident a painful grunt and a reassurance that he was fine, they could keep going. Cadence had also stepped in too close at the wrong time, and ended up being frozen on the spot, and had to chase the necrodancer all over again, as her father kept trying to deal with the dragon sending fireballs their way.
And just when the fight seemed to never end, Cadence finally danced right beside the necrodancer one last time, and with all her might, played a powerful chord that blew him away, shattering his bones.
The necrodancer collapsed on the ground, eyes glazed, and his body, at long last, remained still.
As soon as his heart was struck dead, the entire crypt fell into silence.
A deep, dark silence.
All the undead minions collapsed to the ground, the magic moving their bodies leaving them at once. The floors and torches stopped flickering, instead a soft, quiet glow was all that lit the bottom of the crypt. And everything had stopped dancing, moving naturally again. But the silence… it was unsettling. Eerie. After housing endless music for so long… the magic vanishing from this place made it creepier.
Cadence looked down at the lute in her hands, the gold reflecting what little light was nearby, feeling its subtle magic in its frame. "All along, it was a… golden lute you were after." She said, finally knowing what her father had been searching for years. "But why…?" She turned around, wondering what he could possible what to do with this unholy item.
Dorian didn't know how to begin to answer all questions he knew she had, so he figured the best way to do so, was to show her its most wonderful spell. "You're about to find out." He said, turning around so they could begin their slow ascent, and finally leave this place, and to get his family back together after so long.
~~~ Sometime later that evening ~~~
Cadence and Dorian stood before Melody's tombstone. The engraving was still perfectly legible, though it was clear nobody had come by to maintain the place in many years. Dorian stood in front of it for a minute, his heart flooded with memories. Cadence wasn't sure what to feel. "What are we doing here?" She asked, still puzzled.
Dorian swallowed the lump in his throat and tried to explain. "Cadence, this lute… it's not just for reviving undead armies… it can also heal the sick, cure wounds… and…" He had to take a deep breath. "It can bring the dead back to life, as they once were, before they passed away." He said. As they had returned to the surface and searched for Melody's grave, he had little time to reflect upon all the years of toil to get here, but now, he was overwhelmed by so many thoughts, he could hardly keep his composure.
"We're going to revive Mom?" She seemed incredulous. Was this… what he spent all those years doing? Trying to bring her back? This was what all the absence and adventures were for?
"Yes, we are. But first, we'll have to dig her up." Dorian said, taking out his shovel and slowly removing the earth between him and his wife. Cadence soon put the lute in her backpack and joined in, her heart trying to decide between so many emotions, unable to settle.
Soon enough, they heard the thunk of a shovel striking against wood, and quickly removed all the earth over the coffin. They briefly looked at each other before removing the lid together. They didn't know what was more shocking; the foul stench that rushed towards them, or seeing Melody as nothing but as a poorly clothed skeleton, long since devoid of any life.
They sat by the coffin, trying to get accustomed to the smell, but also to momentarily reflect upon the situation. They had gone straight to this place after their last battle, Dorian hadn't even removed any of equipment he had on him from his foolish adventure and painful defeat against the necrodancer.
"Dad?" Cadence asked. "You didn't have to do all this." Dorian didn't move, but he was listening. "All those years, trying to have a family the way you wanted it… you didn't have to. You could've just stayed at home, with Uncle Eli and I, and we could've been happy." She said, unsure of whether she was excited to see the lute bring her mother back, or deeply terrified.
When he didn't say anything, she continued. "I miss her, too, Dad. But was all this worth it? Will this even work?" Her voice had been rising steadily, but she paused and gave herself a moment to calm down. "I guess, what I'm trying to say is… I missed you. And I know you miss Mom, a lot, but you didn't have to do all this."
Dorian thought for a minute before answering. "I know, Cadence… and I'm sorry… all I wanted was my family, the way I had made it. And I know you've suffered because of it. But you need to realise, that's all in the past now. Right now, we can finally be together again. I have a lot to answer for, but also a lot of time to make it up for it, and a lot of time to get back everything I lost. And I want to do with your mom, so we can all be happy again." He said, both anxious and terrified to touch the lute, and to use it like this.
He stood up slowly, picked up the golden lute from the ground, and looked at Melody's skeleton. His eyes saw bones, clinging dead skin, and withered clothes. But his heart saw that rosy complexion, her shining eyes, her wonderful flowing hair. He would finally, finally… see her again.
"Are you ready?" He asked Cadence. After a second of hesitation, she nodded, standing beside him, wanting to believe this would make it work. Dorian listened to the sound of wind, fingers ready to play.
A soft tune began to emerge from the lute, a novice performance, but enough to make the lute shine and sparkle, and to make purple smoke to rise from the ground. A simple tune that grew louder, and more complex. He felt its magic swirl and surround Melody's corpse, the fabric of life and death intertwining, her soul emerging note by note.
With a mighty riff, and a booming voice, he summoned life back into Melody.
A sharp breath was heard from the coffin.
Written by "Bullet" Nick
Additional Editing and Revision by my friend Silver.
The original inspiration for this story came from a beautiful work of art, created by another friend of mine, the talented and kind madoka.
Special Thanks to:
Ryan Clark, creator of Crypt of the NecroDancer, for making this amazing game.
All the composers of this game's memorable and incredible soundtracks:
~Danny Baranowsky for his spectacular and electric OST.
~A_Rival for his kickass and rockin' EDM/Dubstep Remixes.
~FamilyJules7x for his epic and glorious Metal Remixes.
~Jake Kaufman AKA Virt for his wonderful and catchy Retro/Chiptune Remixes.
~The members of Girlfriend Records for their groovy and smooth Synthwave Remixes.
SpootyBiscuit AKA Spootaloo, for inspiring me to constantly become greater at this game.
r/necrodancer for the hours of discussion and shared love for the game.
All members of the NecroDancer community, for keeping this game alive and providing support.
You, the reader, for taking the time to read my story. I hope you enjoyed it.