The machine was currently sitting motionlessly in the back of a cart as the dungeon explorers continued along their route. His body filled most of the cart, but they found places around him to tuck other random items and covered the cart with a burlap blanket. It felt somewhat humiliating. They saw him as nothing but cargo and now, because of the blanket, he couldn see.
Since he couldn see, he spent a lot of time listening in on the conversations around him. He couldn understand their words yet, but started to make note of every sound he heard. As the day went on, he realized that his memory was significantly better than it was in his previous life. He could quickly recall the exact sound of words, as well as their positioning in speech patterns. However, he still didn know the meaning of what he heard.
Perhaps this improved memory had to do with him being a machine. He wondered how similar his anatomy was to that of machinery from Earth. He hoped that he didn have to worry about running out of memory like an old computer.
Okay, lets work on figuring out how to get out of this situation.
Reviewing what information he had gained so far, the machine counted nine people in the party of humans. The current state of his body left him incredibly weak and slow, so brute forcing his way out of this situation wasn an option. Most of his joints were rusted and his body made a lot of noise when he tried to move, so stealth was off the table too. Assuming he couldn get away, what would happen to him? For now, all he could do was continue to play dead. As he thought through the situation, his frustration grew.
The conversations held by various members of the party suddenly changed. Someone excitedly gasped and they began to speak in tones of awe, as if they had seen something incredibly beautiful. The machine was perfectly still on the outside, but threw a fit in his mind.
Aaaarrgh, I want to see too! Damn blanket, get off my FACE!
In that moment, the blanket covering the machines head was violently torn open, ripped to the side by some unseen force. The party of dungeon divers were startled, but reacted immediately. Stopping in their tracks and pointing their weapons towards the cart, all their lighthearted conversations were instantly replaced with stern silence. The hired hands who were in charge of carrying the cargo and pulling the cart were surprised by the sudden sound and threw themselves to the ground while letting out frightened yelps. The fighters of the party circled around the cart and slowly moved in. If the machine could sweat, it would be swimming by now.
It couldn have been me, whats left of the blanket is still holding down all my limbs. Surely it was a coincidence, right?!
The machine held perfectly still, but was panicking on the inside. If he still had a heart, it would be pounding hard right now. The party slowly inspected every inch of the cart and even checked the road around them as well, but found nothing.
”It seems its gone now, whatever it was. ” The bearded leader was a cautious man and only spoke after he was certain there was no danger.
”Maybe it was just some scavenger that had a sudden stroke of courage. ” The little mage woman squinted her eyes at the distant roof of the cavern, watching for flying monsters. ”Lets find somewhere safe to rest. ”
Soon, the party quickly took up a defensive formation around the cargo as well as their three hired carriers, and resumed the journey. They were much quieter now, each of them keeping their guards up as they traveled.
With the tear in the carts cover, the machine could now view his surroundings unobstructed. However, when he was loaded into the cart, he was placed in such a way that left him facing the back of the party. He couldn see where they were headed, he could only see what was behind them. Currently, he was watching stone pillars pass by as the cart rolled along. Each pillar was expertly carved in such a way that made them look like trees. Stone roots were curled in bunches at the base of each pillar and appeared to even be piercing the stone ground beneath them like real roots. The trunks were cut with coarse, jagged lines to give the appearance of rough bark. Then above, smooth branches swayed out and divided into thousands of stone leaves before fusing with the ceiling of the tunnel. Each leaf was carved with intricate details, showing ruffled edges and water veins on the surface of each leaf.
As he was admiring the craftsmanship of each pillar, the machine realized he could see much farther than he could in his previous life. It wasn exactly that he could zoom in on what he saw, it was more like he could see with an incredible level of detail which let him know everything he needed to know at first glance. He made a mental note to remember incredible eyesight as one of his new advantages. Anyways, the craftsmanship of whoever carved all these tree-like pillars was phenomenal. The only thing which made the trees appear different from real trees were the branches. Each stone pillar had branches which were unnaturally smooth and curved in beautiful, swaying arcs.
Thinking back, the machine realized the same swaying pattern was carved into the sealed building he had previously tried to enter.
The cavern appeared to be only a part of a massive, underground labyrinth. The little mage woman walked beside the cart and appeared to be reading directions from a leather-bound book. It seemed the leather-bound book was most likely a map or perhaps an adventurers guide. The little mage called out directions and seemed to be reminding the others to take proper caution when crossing dangerous territory. It didn take long for the observant machine to learn and memorize a few directional terms. It helped that the little mage liked to wave her staff around when she spoke. It looked a bit comical, but it was useful for deducing at least part of whatever she said.
Soon, the party found a dead end and started to set up camp at the end of the wall. The little mage tucked the book into a satchel at her side, then proceeded to close her eyes as she held her staff with both hands. After a few seconds of concentration, she opened her eyes which had a tinge of green light emanating from them. With her left hand close to her body, she opened her palm as if she was preparing to push something away from her. Her right hand simultaneously swung the staff outwards to the right before swinging it overhead in a counterclockwise direction until the staff was parallel to the ground, the top of it held slightly in front of her left, opened palm. A moment later, a thin, translucent wall formed itself in front of the partys camp. The machine was impressed with the show of magic and guessed it was to form a protective barrier to keep monsters out while the company rested.
The other members of the party were each busy with their own tasks as well. Luckily, the cart was placed at the end of the cave wall, so the machine was able to watch everyone work. Some were helping the cleric set up cooking equipment while others were pitching tents or reviewing the condition of their equipment and performing routine maintenance.
Soon, the cleric was frying a mixture of vegetables over the flame of a magic heat stone, repeatedly tossing the contents of the pan up in a circular motion to mix everything while cooking it to perfection. As everyone else finished their tasks, they gathered around the chef with growling stomachs. The flames from the magic heat stone ravenously flared around the moving pan. The flames seemed as if they wanted to devour the clerics cooking themselves. The members of the party watched with salivating mouths. No matter how many times they saw him cook, it never got boring. Sadly, the machine realized it no longer had a sense of smell and couldn enjoy that part of the show.
As the cleric reached for a special seasoning to add to the mix, his eyes happened to pass over the cargo cart. He paused just briefly, the seasoning already in his hand, but his eyes elsewhere. Through the rip in the carts cover, the cleric could see the demons face. Its head was a strange shape, being elongated to the front with both sharp angles as well as smooth curves. Its head more resembled an expertly crafted container than the shape of a skull. One massive, black eye rested in the center of its head. It looked similar to the eye of an insect, its matte lens faintly covered in hexagonal lines. Three much smaller eyes of the same type were placed asymmetrically in other places below the main eye, two on the demons left side and one on its right. The tear in the carts cover was fairly small and only revealed the demons eye, the rest of the creatures body shrouded in darkness.
A shiver ran down the clerics spine. He knew it was dead, but from his perspective, the corpse of the demon seemed to be staring right at him.
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