An adventuring bard with a tongue of silver healed the sick by day and by night, her fingers hard at work on the strings of her magic lute. She spun spider-webs of stories, interlacing with the airs she crafted- stories of decorum, poise, and daring victory. The memories of her exploits drifted into the cold starry sky, songs rising like smoke from a lone fire, and it was her daughter’s favourite thing in the whole world. Barely awake, Melody would sneak out of her bed simply to listen to tales of the crypt, wide eyed with wonder, her skin crawling with goose bumps. It was so much to take in! The monsters, the music, the undying sense of triumph… Melody dreamed of them all since she could remember.
Most of all, she wanted to beat the shit out of the NecroDancer. That was on her bucket list, and having the plague and dying kind of ruined it for her. But not for long.
She took her first breath of air for the first time in what felt like a decade, heaving and panting, awake in the aftermath of being newly alive- eyes surprisingly bright and full of fresh tears. Her husband and daughter were whole once more, filling the void her death tore with the hope and promise of vitality. It was thanks to the Golden Lute that the rotten remains of Melody’s corpse were reanimated. Perfectly permeated by her own heartbeat, Melody reached up to touch her daughter’s face. To hold Dorian’s hand, to feel his warm strength. She was a woman reborn, sobbing and laughing and glowing with the knowledge that she would never fall victim to disease, or even death. In those moments, she was undeadly; complete, and it scared her and thrilled her. The first thing she needed was answers. Explanations to how Cadence and Dorian managed to cheat fate so devilishly, and how they themselves survived.
Cadence was shivering with excitement, joy, and adrenaline. Her face, flushed red, told a story of complete exhilaration before she even opened her mouth. Carrying Melody in his arms, Dorian flashed a smile at his daughter, as if cuing her to finally tell.
“Mom, I just beat the shit out of the NecroDancer!”
Oh my fucking god. How could such a mind-blowing tragedy happen to Melody? Her daughter, barely an adult, and already beating the shit out of the NecroDancer at the tender age of- Melody shut her eyes and weakly asked Dorian how many years had passed since her soul departed, “Eleven.”- nineteen, probably. This was the least fair thing since having the plague and dying was invented.
It only took her a week to get her strength up. With the Golden Lute in her hands, Melody felt invincible, and it showed. Sometimes she felt that it whispered only to her, notes of encouragement and of hunger. Her mother never let her play it when she was a child, for fear of the corruption that lay deep within the instrument. Melody could now see why. The molten gold of the sound was irresistible, it wrapped around her wrists and claimed her as its mistress. Why reject it? She could, of course, she had to- but she loved it, and could do so much good with it- or evil, at a whim. The sacrifice she’d have to make would be painful, she knew, she was resolute, but, for now… Melody was finally free to chase her any wish.
Cadence and Dorian were surprised to watch her leave so soon, but Melody insisted she’d be back within a few days. The passion in her eyes was overwhelming, and her loved ones could only possess a total trust. Blowing Dorian a kiss as she descended into the crypt once again, she knew that this time, she was in complete control of her future.
It was almost too easy to kill the monsters from her mother’s legends. All she had to do was get the timing right, and when the rhythm resonated within her very bloodstream, it was second nature. Not before long, Melody cleared the first two zones without as much of a scratch, and even found something to double her health along with a crown of thorns that seemed to reward her for bloodthirst, a golden ring that matched her lute most stylishly, and some chainmail armour. She liked the crown of thorns the best, as it was a constant reminder of her rather visceral objective to beat the shit out of the NecroDancer. She had a bit of trouble with the faster pace of a being guarding the third zone that called himself Death Metal in an incredibly gravelly voice, but the challenging speed turned to a rush of power, and it was all over. In one of the chests that was rewarded to her for his defeat, Melody found a helm that protected her from bombs, and after much deliberation discarded her beloved crown, making a mental note to stock up on cheese and such. Only her determination prevented her from stopping to gaze agape at all the treasure and all the fearsome creatures that didn’t stand a chance.
The third zone was an elemental mystery: ice and fire coalescing to form beautiful caverns of stone that both burned to touch and slipped out of her fingers. While taking a break from the mesmerising change of scenery, Melody managed to stop by at a shop selling equipment and acquired some heavy plate armour and an obsidian torch glowing bright blue. Feeling very pleased with herself, Melody proceeded to kill three hellhounds, two yetis, and a dragon that breathed ice before promptly exiting. The fourth zone, too, was beautiful: a crumbling artefact of lilac stone and monsters out of myths. It was also a blur: after finding a titanium shovel, Melody was ambushed by a lich and spent her time searching for food to replenish her health. She learned a few secrets, like that cracks in the walls meant portals to special shops or arenas, and that if you bombed a statue, it was likely to provide you with useful resources. Too frantic and too direct, Melody’s urgency crossed the fifth zone so deft and so soon. The crypt was her element. The Golden Lute was hers to manipulate for both healing and harming. She relished the pleasure of it all.
Melody arrived at a room of cold grey stone, one that she recalled from all her mother’s songs. It was from the parts where the ballads got especially morbid and intense: this was a place where travellers perished and where the victorious found their fame and fortune. This was the heart of the crypt, a throne room for a diabolical puppeteer of both music and life itself - also known as the guy Melody was about to turn into a necro-pancake with her fists.
She kicked open the door and locked eyes with a monster of a man, his teeth as sharp and his eyes as red and glowing as the stories promised. His flesh was blue-grey: lifeless and permeated with a permanent chill. Those bright red eyes locked on the golden instrument in her hands, and he gave an enraged cry of possession and command: “The lute is mine! Give it to me!”
“Sure, but only if I get to beat the shit out of you with it first!”
After possibly the most humiliating threat Octavian ever heard, he began rapidly summoning skeletons in indignation. They’d do the dirty work for him, and if the woman survived, the walls would surely close in on them both before he allowed himself to suffer a blow so disgraceful. Deftly triggering traps, he moved through the room with ease, and even did a death drop to show off. However, the woman was more than capable of fighting off the monsters, even the ones that dropped bombs upon a fatal hit, and the room still looked like a modestly sized auditorium. Melody managed to hit the NecroDancer four times, his blood staining his robes a sickening burgundy. She was smiling. Her grin rivalled his as she wounded him again, breathlessly shouting that she was only getting started, and giving him a wink.
“So am I, my pet, so am I…”
Octavian summoned himself an impenetrable shield and an army of skeletons behind him, ready to face any terror a mere mortal could offer. Melody thought it much too easy, and stormed through his loyal toy soldiers, pushing him onto a teleportation trap without as much as a blink of the eye. Laughing, she drove him back to a pit of lava, the crimson liquid swirling with malevolence and energy. Did he think she was a mere mortal? Bending him over the edge of the small cliff, she grabbed him by the neck and choked him out until his grip on the shield loosened and it slipped out of his fingers and into the chasm. The room was getting smaller and smaller, and all Melody could hear was her own heartbeat as she grabbed and pushed him onto the cold grey floor. As she pummelled his face, the lute kept playing – all by itself, fuelled by the violence, chaos, and pride.
After punching him in the mouth a couple of times, she delivered a swift blow to his throat, making him cough up blood and spit out a few fangs. In a fit of inspiration, she caught one and forced it deep into one of his eyes, the glow leaking out quickly and pitifully. Melody stood up and kicked him in the gut a couple of times, then kneed him in the face. The NecroDancer was reduced to bloody scraps of his former glory as she beat the shit out of him. At this point, the hall was only a few metres in width, and Melody knew she had to act quickly.
“Sorry,” she whispered to the Golden Lute, as she took a massive swing and bashed his brains in, dislodging his jaw completely. He was completely unrecognizable when Melody spit on his face and kicked his living corpse into the lava, broken beyond repair and screaming in agony. The room’s animation stopped just in time for her to be able to exit- perfectly timed, in fact- and as Melody left the room with her knuckles dripping in spoiled blood, she realised that she has never felt better.
This one would really freak Dorian out, but it’s nothing he wasn’t used to, back in the day.