Chapter 11 – Stronghold’d

After a crazy and dangerous adventure through the Nether fortress to find the Blaze enemy, the group emerges from the Nether portal at the island base. They are singed and exhausted after battling a number of Blaze. It had been dangerous as the Blaze can fly and shoot fire which will leave you burning for quite a while and possibly kill you due to it. That they spawn in pairs doesn’t help either. However, somehow the team had survived through team effort and now have the Blaze powder they need.

“-and it was like the monsters were afraid of the Endermen,” Ashling finishes explaining to Silver as he exits. He was telling Silver about the adventures before Silver had shown up in the cave.
“I blame the upgraded AI on that one, even though it’s pretty strange,” Silver answers.

This portal is also located in a cave. However, this particular cave is obvious that it was mined out due to it being more like a square room compared to the cave’s rough edges. Torches are placed along the walls in an orderly fashion, and through a small passageway a corridor is located that seems to lead to the main room of the base.

“So, are we going to go back there again at some point?” Sharon wonders once everyone is out. Silver shakes his head rapidly. “Oh, I sure hope not! What we need right now is more Ender Pearls,” he says and heads out towards the exit.

It’s almost noon. The island is as monster free as ever thanks to the torches, and both sheep and chickens are aimlessly wandering around the chunk of land. Some of them are swimming around in the water, just as aimlessly. Apparently the increased AI didn’t affect them as much.

A fresh breeze hits our characters as they exit the cave, being outside for the first time in what seems days. In Minecraft days this is correct, but it’s been about an hour and a half since they first entered the cave across the sea.

Silver begins to walk along the shore, the others follow.

“If we are going to The End, we need to find a stronghold in the overworld, right?” Greenmushroom asks, mostly for confirmation since he’s reading the wiki page about it.

“Yes, well. About that. I have some good news and some bad news,” Silver smiles. Sharon and Ashling groans as they have been the subject to many of Silver’s ‘good news, bad news’ routine. Either it is actually good news and bad news, but it can also be any subversion of it, like only good news, only bad news, no news at all, or neutral news. It has even happened that both news were the same piece of news.

“Give me the bad news first,” Greenmushroom says.
“The bad news is that we still don’t have enough Eye of Ender for the portal yet,” Silver answers.
“We knew that, what’s the good news?”
Silver brightens up.
“The good news is that we know where the stronghold is, behold!” he dramatically says and points with both his arms at a hole in the ground next to a tree. They had apparently walked over to where Martin had been mining.

“I feel like I should know the answer to this one, but the stronghold is underground?” Ashling wonders since the hole doesn’t look remotely like a location to the fabled end game.

Instead of answering the question, Silver smiles and heads down the hole. “Follow me!” he says as he descends down the spiral staircase that has been cut out. The others follow with a mix of curiosity and excitement. They haven’t been playing for too long and they are already close to the end, even though they have already lost two of the six players.

The staircase leads the characters down quite a bit. It ends at the start of a very shapely cut out tunnel that leads straight ahead and seems to end in a proper tunnel. The walls are aligned with torches placed systematically. From the far end of the tunnel they can hear the sound of something, but its source and meaning too distorted by the echo of the cave to understand.

As they get closer, the sound becomes more intelligible, a song, and a fairly upbeat one at that. When they are close to the end of the tunnel they can hear the song more clearly and quickly realise what’s going on. Sharon stops when she hears who the singer is, then quickly rushes to the source of the song.

“-and the morning blue is warning you! This avalanche is storming through, in the dawn of this mooooorning blue! Just take me awa-OW!”

Martin stumbles forward after Sharon punched him in the back. She’s looking pretty angry and still has her fist raised. The others quickly appear, having heard someone get punched.

“What?” Martin says, confused. She had held back a bit with the punch, but it still hurt and was really out of the blue, but then he realise, right before Sharon says it. “We thought you died!” There is a hint of sadness mixed with the anger.

“Sorry?” is all Martin can say. He should have known trying to joke with people who doesn’t know how the game fully works would probably backfire.

Sharon suddenly turns towards Silver and angrily points at him. “You knew this, didn’t you?!”
Silver takes a step back to not get poked by Sharon. “No,” he quickly says.
“Well, I had a feeling he was kidding, as there was no ‘has left the game’ message,” he adds.

Sharon storms out through the tunnel, back towards the staircase.
“Where are you going?” Greenmushroom asks.
“I need some air!” she angrily shouts back and disappears through the tunnel, the echo of her loud stomps fading out more and more with each step until it’s completely quiet.

Everyone just looks towards the tunnel, waiting for something or just trying to comprehend what just happened. Silver is the first one to break the silence. “She’s aware that air doesn’t actually exist in this game, right?”
Ashling facepalms and mumbles: ”Out of all the things, that’s what you point out?”

“Alright, I admit. It was my mistake. I didn’t know she would react like that, but I really should have seen it coming,” Martin sighs. He’s actually feeling bad that his joke went a bit too far.

“So,” Greenmushroom awkwardly says. “Are we going to check out the stronghold or are we going to wait for Sharon?”
“You go and explore it, it’s just down that tunnel. I’m going to go and check on Sharon,” Martin says and points towards one of the torch-lit tunnels. Silver takes charge and moves over to the entrance of it.

“Good luck!” Silver says to Martin before heading down the tunnel with Greenmushroom and Ashling.
“And to you too,” Martin replies, not as cheery as he usually is.

*

Martin ascends from the staircase. He notices Sharon staring through the forest, towards the sea. Not sure if he should get close or not, he stays partially hidden by the grass blocks at the surface.
“Hey, Sharon. I… uh… I just wanted to apologise again,” Martin awkwardly says. No response from Sharon.

“I should have known that joke was taking it to far, but no,” he continues after waiting a bit for an answer, but she’s just staring towards the sea, unmoving.

“Anyway, the others are going to explore the stronghold, and… uh… I know you like exploring, so, yeah…”

“Martin…” Sharon suddenly says with a quiet voice, almost cutting him out.

“Yes?” he replies.

“What in the world is that?!” Sharon’s energy suddenly returns as she points towards where she’s been staring for the past minute and looks at Martin, surprised. Martin looks over and is astonished to see a giant pillar sticking out of the sea not too far from the island. The tower is insanely thin compared to its height, which goes above the clouds and a bit more than that. The tower seems to be made out of chunks, and in varying levels there are lavafalls, caverns burrowing through the tower like Swiss cheese, pieces of the abovegrounds like plains and deserts.

Martin mouths the word ‘wha’, unable to take his eyes off the structure.

*

Meanwhile in the tunnels below, Silver and the gang has finally reached a wall that doesn’t seem to be made out of either dirt, gravel or rock, but rather some grey bricks. There is also a hole in the wall, big enough for two people walking side by side. There is torchlight from the other side, suggesting someone, probably Martin, has explored a bit of it already.

“Ooh, ominous,” Silver says with glee and leans in through the hole. Ashling leans in from Silver’s left to see and Greenmushroom looks through from the ground level, being only one block tall.

The room inside has only one interesting feature being a fountain. There are many corridors connected to the room and closed doors made out of iron are also scattered about, separating rooms. Randomly placed torches litter the room.

“So the End portal is in here somewhere?” Greenmushroom asks. Silver nods.
“Yeah, somewhere. This place is pretty big though, and we will probably not find it without at least getting in some trouble,” he confirms, thinking back to that one time he was going to venture to The End to stop a dragon take over the world. Of course, that time the AI wasn’t insanely advanced and he stumbled upon the portal chamber by chance.

“Silver, speaking of trouble, look!” Ashling says and points towards the darkness of one of the corridors. The only thing visible through the darkness is the glow from two pink eyes. Silver’s smile disappears as the long groan of the Enderman begins and it teleports into the lit room, staring at the guys.

They are really quick on pulling out their weapons, but the Enderman doesn’t attack. Instead it walks over to one of the walls and grabs it. This time, however, it doesn’t take the block, but rather just keeps a hold on the wall.

Suddenly, more Endermen appears, doing the same thing, grabbing hold on various parts of the stronghold. The whole place begins to shake.

“Run!” Greenmushroom shouts and dashes away from the stronghold. The others are quick to catch up and even run past the mushroom. Ashling has to pick up Greenmushroom while passing by.

As the characters run through the tunnel back out, the shake grow stronger and some stone blocks fall from the ceiling, almost crushing them. One of them actually hits Silver and he sustains a fair deal of damage, but since he keeps his food bar filled his life is full when it happens and he survives, for now.

*

Back outside, Sharon and Martin can feel the island shaking, and waves are pushing away from the island.

“Is this part of the game too?” Sharon wonders as she loses balance and falls.
“No!” Martin says, panicked and scared. He manages to grab a hold on a tree to stop him from falling. The chicken leans on Martin, but clucks out in fright and surprise as well. There’s a ‘pop’ sound as the chicken spawns an egg, which is quickly dragged into Martin’s inventory due to him standing too close to it.

Silver, Ashling and Greenmushroom exits the staircase, wide-eyed and exhausted. They barely outran the collapsing tunnels below.

“Martin!” Greenmushroom shouts between breaths, but Martin has no time to respond as the sky turns dark purple.
“Look!” Ashling says and points towards the top of the mysterious chunk pillar. Last time he told them to look it was bad news, and this time it’s also bad news. A dark purple cloud is formed at the top, which disappears really quickly, but now the stronghold is in its place.

The shaking stops and the sky slowly fades back to its blue colour.

Silver is the first one to say something.

“What.”

For once, everyone else had pretty much the same thought. What.

Next chapter

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