Delta sat quietly as Quiss stalked about the Pond room as Ruli snapped questions at him. She hugged her knees, lacking any sort of physical limbs it was mostly for the feeling really. Delta’s mood could be summed up as somewhat… not good.
Ruli’s words swam about in her head over and over but Delta just waited as Quiss argued with Francois. Delta wasn’t sure if she felt so happy to have people so close now. Ruli’s message seemed pretty blunt in what Delta would have to do. Not because she was manic but because people would come for her and if Ruli’s tone had been any indication…
Delta didn’t want to be a murderer, not even by proxy. Delta also didn’t want a life of pain and misery.
The coin flipped endlessly in the air, one side being death for people, the other death for Delta.
It would spin for now but Delta felt her mood darken as she knew it wouldn’t last forever.
The only upside was that her Mana was nearly full. That was pretty interesting, and she wondered how fast her mana regen would be if her dungeon was full of people.
She relayed this question to the two guests with Francois’ help.
“It depends. A Mage like myself or a decent hunter like Ruli would provide ample mana due to her natural stores. We both possess a decent share, mine is naturally higher of course. An average farmer would give you but a fraction of that. It’s natural evolution and competition between people and dungeons, you see? People become stronger over time and produce more mana. They grow bored of weak dungeons and move on to stronger dungeons where their strength is challenged and the dungeon that needs more mana receives stronger sources of mana to draw upon,” Quiss sniffed. Ruli rolled her eyes.
“Don’t let nerds like Quiss fool ya, we can’t actually measure how much mana people have. Dungeons can be done with guessing and time... People? Just a general estimate. Still, the mage that can cast 20 fireballs compared to the guy that managed a 100 can also give you a decent idea instead of wasting time calculating stars, runes, souls and all that hubbub for a rough ‘Mana Point’ count,” Ruli sniggered and Quiss hesitated and then agreed.
“Mana points are a flux system for the Calculators,” Quiss said dryly and Delta was absorbing all of this with great interest.
“Kaklotors?” her goblin managed and Quiss’ face became pained. Ruli snorted at the attempt butt Francois showed no signs of shame at his words.
“Calculators are, how do we say, obsessed with numbers. They can generally form in most professions that fit into the realm of dungeon adventurers but you see them with a lot of Clerics, Mages, and Rangers…” Quiss mumbled and Ruli eyed the goblin.
“Doesn’t matter how good a weapon served you, doesn’t matter how many times a shield got you through a dungeon, doesn’t matter if your spell stone was a gift from a dear friend, Calcs will toss it all away at the slightest chance of more power. The shield that may be slightly better made or the enchanted sword that looks better? Calcs will talk shit and explain why it’s ‘logical’ or ‘just the sane thing to do’ to just dump good pieces of gear that can still serve you. Its greed plain and simple,” Ruli looked like she wanted to spit but held back out of respect.
“It's efficient, I cannot deny that, but its callous too. I admit that I have some bad habits in common with them but the nature of these people have become infamous to a degree that the name ‘Calculators’ is often in the same sentence as pretty foul curse words,” Quiss paused and looked down at Francois.
“Is it fine? Its drooling,” he asked not sounding at all concerned as Francois’s eyes were blank as he stared at Quiss. Ruli wiped her own mouth and yawned.
“Nah, you just drone on,” Ruli snipped at Quiss. Delta giggled and blinked in surprise as her bad mood ebbed away slightly as the two talked. Francois heard her and danced slightly.
“Drone! Drone!” he cackled and Quiss looked like he had just swallowed a lemon. Delta snorted and couldn’t help the fits of giggles that kept coming. Ruli looked around as if feeling something.
Quiss looked annoyed.
“This is going to take too long. I cannot honestly help Dungeon Core Delta sometime in this life if her translator is at the reading level of one Haldi’s cheeses. Actually thinking about it, Haldi’s cheeses might be better from what I have seen.” Quiss retorted exasperated. Francois sniffed, tasting the words and not liking them much.
“Well, as far as I know. There’s no Gob shaman here,” Ruli stretched and Delta paused and opened her menu.
Well… there was no shaman but there was a goblin apprentice. What exactly was that?
Delta wondered if that would help things on her end by upgrading the goblin. Francois… took some time but in the end, he managed to convey Delta’s wishes. Quiss and Ruli shared a look and then left the dungeon, both rather quiet.
Delta’s menus appeared the moment the last flutter of Quiss’ coat left the entrance. Delta purchased the upgrade while focusing on Francois. Unlike the Mushy, her goblin simply sat down heavily and closed his eyes.
Then… Delta waited.
Her Mushy had been almost instantaneously but her Goblin seemed to be taking some time. This raised a simple question. If her monsters evolved and adventures came in, what would happen?
Delta had a fleeting image of her monster mid-evolution and some creep killing the poor gob while it was defenceless. Delta was almost confident that she didn’t possess a ‘B’ button to spare her monster from such a fate. Delta moved over to the entrance and slowed as the barrier appeared.
Instead of white and cloudy, this barrier was orange.
That was new, abruptly the orange faded to white. Quiss and Ruli walked back in as if the orange barrier was not such a strange sight.
Delta zoomed back to Francois and saw him climbing to his feet. Her goblin looked… different.
The gnarled staff he held in one hand looked like it was roughly carved and still had small branches, stems and leaves on it. The loincloth and rock bag were replaced by a small robe, almost like a wrinkled poncho. Delta stared as the tiny circlet made of fangs and shiny stones rustled as Francois moved his head.
He opened his eyes and a glimmer of her normal gob showed but it felt… more focused somehow.
“Master,” he greeted as if feeling her approach. His voice was less squeaky and even slightly gruff. Quiss walked in with Ruli trailing behind.
“And now the gobs have magic. As if I didn’t need a reason to dislike them more,” Quiss said without any hint of shame. Francois snorted.
“Man had magic for long time. Not seem any better,” Francois fired back and Ruli chuckled.
“Oh look, it’s Goblin-Quiss,” she guffawed and Francois and Quiss snapped their heads to her, their faces did actually have the same look.
“Go get eaten by a bear,” Quiss replied eloquently. Delta moved about and nodded as she approved of her monsters appearance.
“You look good!” Delta praised and Francois bowed his head.
“Master is kind. I am happy to serve,” his voice lost the gruffness and Delta felt happy as Francois’ tone became warmer. Her goblin still liked her despite having cool magic!
As everyone got comfortable, Delta reminded herself to check her menus about monster summoning. She kept forgetting to check before but Delta really needed to see if she could summon evolved forms of her monsters or not.
It’d save time.
“Now, let’s see if I can make sense of why you’re so against living,” Quiss called as he sat down on the ground with little regard to his trousers.
Delta tried to ignore Francois’ staff as it glowed red at the tip.
Delta was too busy focusing on how little Quiss seemed to be worried about pissing off her new magic using goblin.
If that Goblin hit him with a fireball, Quiss would regret his cavalier attitude. Sure, it wouldn’t kill him but Quiss was partial to his hair.
The goblin seemed to fume before it sulked. Goblins may evolve but they seemed to keep the same spectrum of emotions pretty consistently.
“Master wishes not to be a killer,” the gob said and Quiss sent a little thanks to the Core, Delta, for upping the number of vowels this goblin knew. It was less likely to make him cry or drown Ruli every time she smiled at his annoyance.
“I get that but she must understand that the choice may not be so easily made. Our village can stall the news but people will detect a new dungeon that is growing as fast your Master’s,” Quiss said and lifted a fist full of sand and dropped it slowly.
“I do… greatly respect her choice and understand her reasons. To be born and decide not to want to just kill is a sign of a very intelligent woman,” Quiss added as an afterthought. The goblin slowly nodded.
“Why must you tell?” the question came and Quiss drew a crown in the sand.
“It’s the law. Dungeons, if left unreported, can grow beyond a town’s means to contain or control if things go bad. The Kingdom of Verluan, the land on which this dungeon and our town is, passed an ancient law that dungeons must be recorded and made public. This was to prevent potential rebels or usurpers from harnessing the power of a dungeon to fuel their armies in secret,” Quiss scratched his nose.
History was a minor hobby of his. He liked reading about stupid people and how they met their end.
This type of throne take-over happened three times. A lost prince was driven off in the dead of the night as some ugly uncle or aunt stole the throne and the child returned 10 years down the line with an army of twinked out knights and mercenaries wielding +6 heatblades or chugging Greater healing potions all night. One Queen wised up down the line and made the law that all dungeons must be reported and Mana experts were employed as taxmen and sent around the kingdom to sniff out hidden dungeons. And well… to collect taxes of course.
The discovery of the dungeon cult of Bunyip was still talked about today.
“Master wants to know what legal rights do Dungeons have?” the gob asked and Ruli thought about it.
“Dungeon Core destruction carries a life sentence. Unless the dungeon is forbidden then it’s a duty to destroy it. Uh… building around a dungeon other than structures considered ‘outposts’ is illegal unless the mayor of nearest town gives permission unless there is no town within a mile,” Ruli listed with her fingers. Quiss wasn’t sure if Ruli was trying to be polite so decided to help her out.
“They don’t have any, is what she’s trying to say without hurting your master’s feelings. Dungeons are seen as golems or techlems. Subservient, like dangerous monsters people keep around due to their rare properties or as status symbols. You have no privacy rights, you have no right to a court of law, you have no right to demand protection, you have no right to holidays, you hav- Listen, this world sees dungeons as factories for food, minerals, materials, monster harvesting, magic weapons developers, and so on,” Quiss’ tone had turned bitter.
He didn’t like telling a dungeon that seemed to be so undungeony that it made him feel guilty as he listed how, to humans, she was a beast. Livestock to be fed winter after winter for springtime returns. Delta made old thoughts Quiss had put to peace or didn’t really want to think about, bubble up and he found himself growing annoyed.
“So, you see, you might as well get on the level with your brothers and sisters. Build some spikes, make your monsters dangerous and accept that people are assholes and deserve it if they bother you,” Quiss snapped and Ruli shot him a dangerous look.
The Pond was quiet. Quiss felt his usual indifference settle in as he got ready for the dungeon getting angry or asking him to leave. He had done what Ruli had asked and told the Dungeon what she needed to hear.
Being a dungeon sucked and Quiss couldn’t imagine ever wanting to share their shoes. Murder machines or slaves. What a cruel fate-
“No. Master politely says that is giant load of troll dung.”
Quiss’ indifference was not prepared for a flat disagreement.
“Delta… I hate to be an ass twice in one minute but you have to unders-” Quiss began but the goblin just cut him off.
“No, you will understand. My Master says this. I will not kill. I will not be scared into killing. I will survive and keep my self. If you do not believe, Master says that is fine and thanks you for concern. Master will not lay down and die if people come for her. She had boss room, she had scary things. Master also wants to say she will stick to her goal. A… no-innocent kill run?” the gob stumbled over the last part.
Quiss was speechless. It was… not just the goblin. It was the very air itself that seemed to pulse.
“Master will make rules. Master will warn. Master will give chances to run. Personally, I think Master is too kind,” the goblin examined his staff with interest.
He listened and then appeared to sigh.
“Master wants dungeon to be place of wonder and adventure. This is Dungeon of Life and Learning,” the goblin seemed to listen for a while.
Quiss followed his gaze to a section of the wall. Nothing there but who knows what the beings of this dungeon saw compared to the outside world.
“Well… if you want to try. I can help,” Ruli shrugged and Quiss shot her a disapproving look.
“How will she grow if she doesn’t kill?” Quiss reminded her and the goblin snorted.
“You think dungeon is free? Master… no… little trinkets? Goodwill!” The goblin seemed to cackle.
Ruli just raised one brow.
“An entry fee? Uh… I don’t think people will like that,” Ruli said carefully and the goblin looked at her and smiled.
Quiss felt a little chill go down his spine at the look.
“Good then mans will think carefully about being stupid,” he hissed. He looked back at the wall then nodded.
“Come, Master wishes to show you her domain. I shall guide you and you give master hints,” the gob moved forward, using his staff like a walking stick in a novice manner.
“Come into my web, said the spider,” Quiss muttered and Ruli slapped him on the back.
“Don’t be silly, Quiss, we already went past the spiders!” she said cheerfully. Quiss disliked her, he disliked the goblin, he... felt uneasy about Delta's decision, and why did he not like the look on Ruli’s face as she walked slowly behind him as he approached some wet smelling room?
“You know? I think you need something for your skin,” Ruli said innocently and Quiss gripped his sun crystal gun.
“Oh?” he answered without much excitement.
“Yeah, ever had a mud bath? I hear they do wonders…” Ruli almost whispered in his hear.
Quiss hated everything as he saw the room ahead, he tried to move but Ruli, while weaker in magic and intellect, was his superior in the physical department.
He hit the mud with a splat and stood up slowly wiping the gunk from his eyes.
“Master said she has no towels. Go back to pond please, no mud in tunnels ahead,” the gob called, sounding as if he had learned this phrase by heart.
Quiss felt the fireball spell form on his lips and with force of will changed it at the last second. A confused duck appeared next to him and then quacked furiously at him. It wasn’t the first time Quiss had summoned this particular duck to avoid losing his temper.
“So, what do you think about Delta’s trap room?” Ruli asked with a sugar sweet voice above him. He almost threw the duck at her.
The fireballs spell came so naturally to him that he often miscast it to the summon duck spell to avoid removing the annoyances in his life. And when he finally made it to the ‘Grove’ passing another of the strange acid spitting mushrooms on the way that did not attack but gave him the old stink eye. He knew it would not be the last.