Delta watched as three more spiders rushed into the tunnel. They scrambled over each other as they burst into the web room. Since Deo and his friends hadn’t left yet, her tripwire hadn’t been able to reset.
Which was a shame because at the speeds the large spiders were going, it wouldn’t take them long to reach the Grove where the teens were milling around as Amanster managed to lose the boar in a sharp turn and refused to get off of the very tall mushroom that grew on one side of the room. The Boar prowled around the mushroom, snorting.
Poppy pulled down her hood and Delta couldn’t tell if she was laughing or just mumbling loudly. The girl didn’t actually do anything to help Amanster.
And as long there were people in her dungeon, Delta couldn’t use her menus. While Deo had proven to be... enthusiastic in his fighting, Delta had no idea if Poppy or Amanster were as powerful.
The spiders crossed the mudroom, two of them hitting the mud hard as the final one hit the right path.
“Mr Mushy! Boar! Guard the room,” she called and Delta watched as Mr Mushy put Deo back down on the ground from where Deo had been sitting on the large cap to watch Amanster’s struggle and cheer him on. Deo had seemed to enjoy how peaceful her monster acted after their... ‘duel’.The boar snorted and ran off onto the thicket of mushrooms, blending in.
“Francois, get them out of there!” Delta called as her Magic Goblin rushed down the hall. Delta had a feeling that they could handle themselves... it just didn’t sit well in her stomach to let people who looked a lot younger than she felt comfortable with face a danger she would be able slow down or maybe even stop.
They had come to adventure, not deal with the consequences of Delta’s harvesting missions. Deo might be able to kill them, Poppy and Amanster too, but it didn’t make it right.
Delta would rather ask first then assume. If one of those spiders got a lucky bite or something equally bad then Delta would have to see someones child die. A young life... snuffed out.
Delta gripped her hands into fists as the spiders burst into the far end off the room, the large arachnids scattering as Mr Mushy swung his fists.
“Mans! Come!” Francois called to the room as all three of the teens turned to the noise.
“Poppy! It’s a gob!” Amanster warned and Deo rushed forward, hesitating as he stared intently at the large fang-filled mouth of Francois.
“HAIL! POPPY? WHAT IS IT SAYING?” Deo shouted and Poppy’s hands were glowing softly.
“Mans! Master Core wants you to run! Come!” Francois said in a huff and ran back down the tunnel.
“It wants us to follow it. It said the dungeon said so,” Poppy said with a sigh as a spider flew overhead and vanished into a patch of Rutgot. Delta wondered if Deo just had trouble listening to things or he was too excited to understand.
“It’s a trap!” Amanster said in refusal and Deo looked down the tunnel. Delta tried to shoo them mentally as her boar tried to tackle the two spiders ahead of them and caught one in the side with his tusk. It turned and Delta winced as it buried its fangs into the Boar’s face. Her boar squealed, and they both crashed into a mushroom.
“Nyeh... those spiders are fighting the dungeon monsters. Something isn’t right,” Poppy said and walked down the tunnel.
“...We have to go this way anyway... Goblin or not,” she shrugged and vanished. Deo pointed down the hall with his sword.
“ONWARDS! TO GLOR-” he was cut off as the third spider that had been missing for the last few seconds burst out, fangs leaking a clear fluid at the exposed neck of Deo. Delta screamed but the insect glowed a dark purple colour and dropped to the ground as it twitched.
The purple energy flowed to Amanster’s outstretched hand.
“I hate this place,” Amanster waved his hands and looked over the Grove and after hesitating for a moment, sent the purple energy at Delta’s stumbling Boar. The puncture wounds on its face healed over and Delta watched with amazement as her Boar looked a lot better.
“Nothing makes sense, why are monsters killing monsters? Why is this place so weird? Where is Poppy?!” he demanded louder as Mr Mushy calmly grabbed the spider biting his face with one hand. He eyed it and Delta waved her hands.
“Hug it! Hug it!” she yelled and Mr Mushy made a pleased noise and began to hug the spider who flailed. Delta knew this would normally be an odd thing to request, but she had a feeling that Mr Mushy didn’t quite understand how to control his-
The spider popped like a hairy balloon and Delta covered her mouth in shock as Mr Mushy looked confused at his now empty hands.
Her Boar was charging his spider again but his face was covered in web that made him stumble, he tripped over a rock and the spider jumped on the boar, biting hard. Deo looked ready to rush in and help but Amanster dragged him down the tunnel, ignoring his loud protests.
“Mr Mushy! Help him!” Delta begged and the Spider took another bite before the boar stumbled to a standing position and then toppled back down as the poison in his system seemed to hurt him.
Mr Mushy swiped and the spider that Amanster had attacked stood up and rushed down the tunnel after the yelling Deo. The second spider made a break for it, narrowly missing Mr Mushy grabbing at its leg.
“Go! Please, help the humans!” Delta ordered and her large monster lumbered off. Delta wanted to follow but she sunk to her knees next to the Boar. It snorted weakly and Delta tried to pet it but she didn’t feel its fur nor did the Boar react to her touch. Delta longed to feel the touch of another creature. Especially now when her Grove Guardian wheezed as its body shuddered. Delta whispered softly to it.
“You were amazing... you were so cool,” she said and couldn’t stop her eyes from becoming hot and blurry as tears formed.
“You don’t even have a name and I didn’t spend time with you much... and I-I asked you to fight for me and you did. Thank you,” Delta choked out and the Boar snorted weakly and its tail whipped once.
Delta laid down next to it, her mind screaming she didn’t have time for this but it hurt to even think of leaving it alone in its final moments.
This was it. This was what it was like to be a dungeon. To watch those that she talk to, saw, felt happy to have around... die so this... game could be enjoyed. Delta didn’t like it, she didn’t like it at all. She didn’t check to see if the Boar was able to be respawned or if she had to purchase such a thing. Now it was too late and Delta felt like a horrible person for not even checking... not even able to do so now due to her guests.
The Boar closed its eyes and then before Delta’s own eyes, melted into a white mist and vanished. Leaving behind a large wooden shield with the boar motif on the front. The slightly jutting out tusks made look dangerous to hit someone with it.
“Boar... you dropped loot...you were... even cooler than I thought,” Delta whispered, cheeks blotchy as she stood, turning to hurry and catch up to the fleeing adventurers.
A menu appeared as she left the room and Delta tripped and crashed to the ground as she read it.
Delta laid there for a moment and wondered why the menu waited until after she had her heart torn out before telling her this.
Still... Delta prayed that she never had to do that again. She promised she would check all monsters for a respawn option after this was all over. Even if she never got a second floor in a 100 years, Delta would rather keep her friends and cave critters. Shiny upgrades and a sprawling second floor just wasn’t worth the pain that she’d feel losing her friends.
She got up and zoomed down the tunnel.
Francois the second was not accustomed to many things that had happened in his short life. Being created, he had a rough idea of things he was supposed to do and things he was supposed to kill. When he became an Apprentice Goblin that list evolved to things he had to deal with, things he chose to deal with, and things the Master forced him to deal with.
This was one of those things his master made him deal with.
“To the towers! Spiders coming!” Francois yelled as Billy the Goblin Archer hesitated at the sight of the humans but shot down the tunnel at the approaching spiders. He turned and pointed to two spots.
“Sticky trap, follow me!” he ordered and began to weave between the traps and up the hill.
“Nyeh, that goblin is a mage... do goblins speak to people?” the girl in the large hood asked as she shuffled up the hill as if goblin-eating spiders weren’t just about to enter the room. The fire headed child rushed up and cheered. His voice made Francois’ ears bleed. The last one, the dark haired man with glasses and a scowl to match the ‘Quiss’ man stalked up the hill.
His aura was dark and foreboding. It also smelled of strawberries. It was an odd combination and Francois turned and aimed his staff down the hill as the first sight of a hairy leg appeared.
“Burn!” he cackled and fire erupted from his staff, making one of those beasts scream. Fire was wonderful, fire was powerful, and he rather burn things than be forced to talk to them. But if his master wished him to be nice and polite...
A box appeared for the umpteeth time since he evolved, and he growled.
Would you like to evol-
Francois waved it away as Billy fired another arrow into the spider that rushed up the hill, sliding as its legs hit the first trap and its body was sent off balance by one of the legs suddenly not moving.
Hob and Gob threw rocks, and they squished into the spider's body. The second one used the first spider to jump and reach the tower with agility only a truly desperate creature could manage. It got one leg up and Numb the thug slammed down on it with his toothy club. The spider slid down and crashed into the first one.
“Nyeh... Salamander Style: Fireacid,” the girl said with the energy level of the various mushrooms that sprouted around the dungeon, which was to say not very much. The result was interesting and Francois enjoyed seeing the bubbling red liquid splash down over the tower like a stream off boiling oil.
“POPPY THAT WAS AMAZING! RIGHT, AMANSTER! WE’RE WORKING WITH GOBLINS!” fire head pointed out to the dark child who just gave him a look that Francois could respect.
A loathing, annoyed, offended, and a pinch of done. Francois could really respect such a look. He readied another fireball as his Master’s voice came to him.
“-ucking dramatic menus. My cheeks feel puffy...” she sniffed and Francois stood straighter, trying to show how powerful he was to his master.
One of the spiders, missing a leg and looking deformed around the eyes due to the fire vomit jumped again and Francois engulfed it in a fiery explosion midair.
“Okay, that was cool,” Master Delta complimented and Francois looked smugly at the other goblins but then Billy shot an arrow through one eye of the final spider. How he did such a thing with those wonky arrows was beyond Francois.
“POPPY! DIDN’T THEY SAY THE DUNGEON WANTED US SAFE? OR OUT OF THE WAY? WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT MEANS?” the child screamed and Francois pleaded for his master to go mad and command him to end the child’s noise one way or another.
It never came and the hooded girl just looked to be thinking.
“Obviously, you idiot, the dungeon was only playing and might have a deal with the elders of the town. We could be in massive trouble since it’s had to waste resources to guard us or put up with our antics. If they find out then...” the dark child trailed off.
“The dungeon doesn’t want us dead. Nyeh... sounds like we caused it hassle...” she agreed and the child with the death wish spoke again.
“AH! WE OWE THE DUNGEON A LOT! I HAVE 6 COPPERS IN MY POCKET AND A HAM SANDWICH IN CASE OF HEROIC BREAK TIME!” he offered and Francois knew it was the best tribute they had got yet. The fact was both sad and annoying.
“Send Hob to finish that spider off with Numb. Oh, and send Gob back to the Grove for the shield, please. I didn’t know Boary could respawn nor that he dropped loot! Did you?” his master asked and Francois rolled a few answers around before picking a nice neutral evasion.
“It sounds like nice surprise, master,” he bowed his head and Delta sounded pleased.
“Sorry for making you do all this work but I really wanted make this place a kind of place where people can learn and grow and not die because they were used as meatshields,” she explained and Francois watched as Numb and the sound-breaking child shook hands and seemed eager to outshout each other, he felt his eye twitch.
“I mean it caused Boary some trouble as well since I should be preparing better and I guess that was me just being... pig-headed!” His master snorted and Francois felt that he should burn this world. Just one little spark in the right place...
But... no. He needed to be nice and he needed to be diplomatic.
Would you like to evo-
Francois bit down on a scream.
“I see... have you looked everywhere?” Quiss asked as he rubbed sleep from his eyes. The woman in the blue dress and white petticoat just nodded.
“....everywhere,” she answered, voice so soft and tender it was like a wind sprite dancing past his ears. Next to her was a man who just looked concerned.
Mr and Mrs Brawndo, parents of one Deo Brawndo, looked worried but they voiced their concern in the most silent of manners. Quiss just handed them a piece of paper and a pen.
“Write things down, it’ll go quicker,” Quiss tried to aim for polite but ended up sounding sleep-deprived and cranky. The next couple actually spoke and each word was like nails to the back of Quiss’ eyelids.
“Well, I got up for my energetic four am jog around the village when I saw Amanster’s room lacked the usual gloom about it, so being the number one dad, I knocked and waited exactly 12 seconds, kids need their space after all, and opened it to find that he was gone. It was odd because the sun would be out soon and Amanster had declared it his eternal foe but I think he just stays up all night summoning cantrip level demons,” the man beamed and Quiss felt the urge to go back to bed rise up.
Father Wollom, number one head priest of the town and among many, many other things, was the father of Amanster Wollom. Quiss just smiled, lips cracking at the effort.
The man was also a saint level cleric and could smite him off the very spot he stood on should he feel so inclined. He handed him a piece of paper and went to the last two people.
“Alright, Quiss? You look like shit,” the gruff man nodded and Quiss felt some faith in humanity return at speaking to someone normal.
“Garn, you look like something a bear spat out,” Quiss grunted and his Wife nodded at him.
“Peace Keeper Firesmasher. I hope the day finds you... dull,” she said curtly and Quiss gave her a long look.
“Madam Roth, I hope you stub your toe,” Quiss responded with equal politeness. Garn and Salli Roth were the parents of one Poppy Roth.
The girl wore a hood so big ,Quiss was expecting her to start chanting and hitting herself with a plank of wood any day now.
Poppy was also a rare Blue Mage. Not a skill that you could learn, only be born with. Well, besides the mutated one offs that sometimes happened when people cosplayed as a monster for too long.
Or the few body modification doctors in some cities but they were more often used to rid oneself of a bothersome birth trait ability or embarrassing growth. Not everyone liked to turn into a dragon, not everyone liked to attract animals when they sang in the shower. And everyone bar hardcore witches hated warts of course.
Three kids. Where, oh, where could they be the day after Quiss announced a new dungeon just outside of town?
It was a puzzle and one Quiss would normally allow for people to figure out themselves but with Delta involved, things could get really weird.
Well, the dungeon sounded like she was on top of things, Quiss could only hope she could control the three teens long enough for Quiss to get there.
“I, DEO, CHALLENGE YOU, SIR PIG KNIGHT!” the boy screamed and Delta went to her happy place. It was filled with people that didn’t rush off and didn’t challenge her battle-lusting boss.
“Fair intruder! I accept! Now, we must set the rules... due to my master’s screaming,” Fran coughed and Deo just looked puzzled.
“Rules? Did you say rules?!” Amanster said as he crawled under the flailing Great Mushy.
Delta had forgotten that... Mr Mushy had never met his cousin. In fact, Mr Mushy was so happy to meet his evil, demented family member, he was hugging it with cheerful noises as the Great Mushy hissed in fury.
“Nyeh... this dungeon is weird but it’s nice...” she yawned. Fran pointed his spear at Deo, who held the new shield that dropped from Boary.
“Now, my master says that you can start at any time and you may forfe-” was all Fran got out before Deo charged.
“FOR GLORY!” he yelled.
Delta looked at the absolute chaos happening around her, three teens fighting her boss on one side. The screaming/cheerful mushrooms on the other and Francois was screaming at thin air over by the door leading to her core, while the rest of her goblins were sitting in the stands cheering Sir Fran on.
“No, no, no!” The goblin mage yelled at the air as if trying to make something go away, the act looked familiar...
But... no one was dying. Fran took careful swipes and made Bacon do a rather obvious charge towards Poppy. Deo landed on the pig’s butt after a flying leap and tried to grab at Sir Fran.
Bacon then showed what happened when a pig devoured too many Gutrot mushrooms in a short period of time.
Quiss stormed onto the dungeon as his mood grew darker. He came up short as three goblins... of various size and class, carried the three moaning teens out to the dungeon entrance hall.
“Darkness... take me,” Poppy whispered and Deo groaned quietly.
Amanster just didn’t move.
“Master said, they do well,” the gob with the little green hat and bow said. Quiss watched as he had three teens on the ground and only two hands.
“What happened?” he asked, reaching down and doing a quick check on their vitals.
“Bacon did a gutrot,” the fur covered gob muttered. Quiss didn’t know what that exactly meant nor did he have any inclination to find out, the smell wafting off the teens gave him an idea sadly.
“Is Delta around?” he requested, not wanting to even think about the damage these kids might have done in a single night.
All the goblins looked up at the same time.
“Master apologises and says she did best at watching them,” Arrow Gob shrugged. The usual mouthpiece, Francois, didn’t speak. He appeared to be sulking and glaring at something.
“The shield?” Quiss nodded to the wooden shield Deo refused to let go off as he drifted in and out of awareness.
“Screaming man earned loot...and Master congrats him,” Francois grumbled and turned to walk away.
“Hey! Do you have any carts or something. I can’t carry three teens on my own...” Quiss lied and Francois’ ears twitched.
“Master offer Hob and Gob... they leave dungeon... if promise to keep them safe,” the goblin added slyly and Quiss raised one brow sharply.
“Delta has contracted monsters?” he questioned, impressed and Francois just grinned and walked away.
“Master has three... thanks to you,” was the last thing Quiss heard before the goblin turned the corner. Well, if he didn’t have three teens to look after and a deep desire for his bed, Quiss would go after the smug goblin and shake it a few times to find out what the hell the bugger meant by that.
“Sure... I’ll keep your gobs from trouble to the best of my ability as a Peace Keeper,” Quiss promised. He wasn’t a very good at being a Peace Keeper, but he prided himself on doing well in the glare and intimidation department at least.
Two goblins ran out and looked at him.
“You are...” Quiss began and the goblins nodded.
“Hob/Gob!” they said and Quiss liked their quick-to-the-point attitude.
“Gob, grab the dark one who is beginning to twitch, Hob, grab the one who is still talking in his sleep,” he ordered and picked up Poppy.
Just bringing two contracted goblins back to the town that had at least three retired Goblin slayers seemed safe enough. Quiss guess it couldn’t hurt. Who knows... maybe he could make the little green guys do some his work for him before they had to return to the dungeon.
Contracted monsters changed everything. It explained how Delta was forming so fast. Still, the gobs were most likely unaware they’d never breed or even noticed how they no longer had to eat.
He definitely bet they hadn’t noticed how much they felt the need to protect Delta when the dungeon had people in it.
Most of all, Quiss bet the goblins were not aware of how many monsters, crazy people, animals, demi-beings, lost golems, and depraved lonely men would kill to take their place. Being a slave to a dungeon held a certain appeal to a lot of weirdos.
He just needed to talk to Delta before any humans offered themselves to her contracts. He had to make sure she was aware of the danger.
How much Delta could influence them and how much they could change her in turn.