It was fear that drove Haless forward.
All his life he'd been told that being brave was simply a matter of continuing forward when you were scared - but this wasn't bravery.
When Harold had been struck down, it had been bravery that pushed him to charge and finally break the goblin ambush.
When Tamra fell through a weak spot in the floor of the ruins they were exploring, it had been bravery that urged him to leap after her, diving headlong deeper into the dungeon.
It was bravery that prompted him to take the lead when Jarlavral finally pushed his luck too far gambling on how to disarm a trap.
Those were moments of bravery.
With three people left standing besides himself, he had made the call to find a way out of the gods-forsaken dungeon they'd been attempting to explore. The dungeon that had already claimed half of his group.
But the dungeon wasn't done with them yet. Rounding a corner, Haless was stopped in his tracks by a snarling group of hyena-like gnolls. They attacked with a swiftness none of the party expected, and while Haless himself managed to ward off the first vicious swings of his attacker, two of the last members of his party immediately fell.
With their deaths, all that was left was panic... so Haless turned and ran as fast as he could. He heard Tamra die as he ran. As her final screams finished echoing down the hallway, all that had been left was the wet tearing of flesh and the crunch of bone... and the steady footfalls of pursuit so close behind him that he had practically felt the gnoll's breath on his neck.
At one point in his mad dash, the gnoll caught up just enough to grab Haless's pack and drag him to the ground. Luck alone allowed him the grace to slip out of the backpack in a forward roll and recover at a dead sprint.
By the time the panic subsided, Haless was completely alone in pitch darkness. Without even realizing he'd done so, he had dropped his torch when his pack had been snagged and had just kept running.
So now it was not bravery that drove him forward through inky darkness... it was fear. Fear that he'd die down here, alone and hungry - or worse - that he'd die down here not alone.
Of all the ways he'd thought he'd go... lost without light or supplies in a dungeon had - ironically - never seemed to be all that likely.
So he blindly walked through inky darkness, with fear as his only company.
Whew! First post in over a month! Why the long gap you may ask? Well, my toddler blind-sided me with one of his riding toys as I was walking and in my subsequent fall/attempt not to fall ON him, I smashed my hand into a chair and gave myself a nice little boxer's fracture. So I've spent the last four-ish weeks in a cast, which was pretty much a dead-stop for any typing longer than a tweet.
But, as of last Wednesday, I'm finally cast-free again! So to celebrate this and return to my regular posting / creating regiment, I whipped up a quick random dungeon as soon as I could hold a pen again.
I imagine this dungeon to be part of a greater complex - the third or fourth level of some ruins - but it could just as well be a standalone dungeon complex to add under basically any ruin, building, or fortress.
I decided to pair this dungeon doodle with the small short-story I led with as it seemed like a fun way to bring a bit of life to the image.