It is not what art offers or does not offer. It is about what it leads you to discover upon the road of practise. Every imperfection is a reflection. Every failure is a lesson. Every success is a quiet weeping of the soul as if blooms. You see failure and ugliness. I see beauty. I see life. I see perfection. You are my success, never forget this. When you are ready, you will know this. I might even have the courage to tell you when you are awake. - Jolin Japes, Master Potter, Lost Explorer, Father.
Delta wandered the first floor, her company walking softly next to her.
“Waddles, you don’t ask for much. Be honest, am I setting myself up for failure? Can I really make living with people peacefully an option?” Delta asked and the duck followed her voice into the Mushroom Grove.
He quacked and Delta closed her eyes. The noise became feelings, feelings became numbers, the numbers became meaning.
Her life, her existence, was based around numbers and she began to see how things could be numbers. How things became more than just numbers but could also just be reduced to numbers at the end of the day. Nu handled nothing but numbers every second. Time, space, ratios, dimensions, elements, predictions, abstract knowledge sorting... Nu did it all so easily but to be fair, he struggled to see the joy in some very basic things or meaning.
Delta smiled as Nu popped up more signs around the dungeon.
Well, maybe he could see the joy in some things.
“Big pig lives here, you have been warned - Nu”
Delta didn’t mind the drain on her Mana, even Nu needed a form of expression to help him work out the kinks to his awareness.
She focused back on Waddles.
His words were not so much clear replies but impressions of his mind and hint towards his intent.
Waddles honestly did not care for humans or peace. He just wanted to swim in his pond, mess with the fish and make people have a bad time if it suited his mood.
Waddles was the odd one. Delta didn’t know much about him. Where he was summoned from by Quiss. What he did before the summoning or if he was a being before being magically conjured.
Questions with no real answers. Delta smiled as Waddles flapped his wings a few times.
That was Waddles for ‘Do what you want and people will deal.’
“Inspirational, thank you!” Delta bowed her head slightly. Her gobs returned and Delta watched as they dragged a large spider corpse with them.
Gob looked slightly sick but perked up once he was back in the dungeon space. Delta needed some antivenom or something if the spiders came in force next time. Delta was honestly surprised she hadn’t seen more of them. They hadn’t seemed very smart from what she saw of the last three but she couldn’t get careless.
The corpse dissolved but nothing appeared in her menu. Delta wondered if she had gained all she would get from the common spider grunt? It made her wonder what other levels of spiders there might be that could come for her dungeon.
Obviously, there had to be some broodmother or a queen, those were just staples across any fantasy she had read or played. Delta paced as Waddles went to rest on Boary. The two accepted each other without much problem. Boary being far more accommodating than Waddles seemed to warrant but Delta guessed no one wanted to have bad luck.
Delta tapped her chin as she thought, feeling like a smart person as she did so.
Two floors, two options.
It was already making her a bit nervous about how to go forward with things. Would she be better improving the first floor and getting a lot of mana off people as they visited? Or should she rush the second floor more to have more defence between people and her core?
Improving the second floor had appeal with a boss, secret rooms, challenges... but it was costly and her only source of income was her wonderful contracted monsters.
“Think, think, think. More options or improved basics?” she asked aloud. On the other hand, planing this sort of thing made her grin as her old gamer mindset kicked in.
How wonderful she was doing a pacifist playthrough with her own life.
Delta paused and chewed that over.
“What we need is people. From people, we need tributes and mana off their bodies. For that, we need a lure. Mrs Dabberghast has the grove, Ruli has the fishing spot... guess we got Fran for challenging. What we need is something for the others. We don’t have anything for the treasure seekers,” Delta slapped a fist into her open hand.
“Dark. So, what can we do? I mean this also brings up what to do if someone beats Fran and doesn’t kill him, they don’t get loot. So, they’re getting punished for obeying my rules which is bullcrap,” Delta sighed. Nu’s screen blinked a few times.
“A what?” Delta answered with a blink. Nu flicked through a menu and brought up two screens. A chest design and the map showing the boss room.
Nu seemed smug at the implication of his importance and Delta sniffed haughtily at him.
“Of course. The room upgrade system. It adds new options based on what's in the room. The campfire near the pond became able to cook fish a lot better due to the pond. The berry bush was able to help the spiders dye their web, ergo objects, monsters, and the room can all interact with another as long as they share a space. Might take some time but I'm guessing if we put a chest in the boss room, we can bind it to Fran in some way then...” she trailed off and a huge smiled appeared as Nu took over.
Delta nodded and then pointed to the grove.
“I want a chest in here. I’m thinking of making a special key. Might take some effort but if I can make it pond by-” she was cut off as Nu vanished. Delta turned to the entrance of the dungeon.
She knew that voice.
“-to me at all times or I’ll tell your parents so fast your groundings will transcend time and space,” Ruli warned. A timid voice replied.
“I do not have parents,” a young person spoke. Delta blinked and honestly wanted to say male but it was their features that softened the face to a hard to say point. The hair was messy, almost like it was gelled to be so. The complexion was... Delta felt ‘dirt-covered’ worked as the young person looked around with wide curious eyes. It looked like its skin was covered with a thin layer of clay dust.
It wore a puffy white shirt that had a variety of stains and marks on it, working trousers that looked more suited to a paperboy of some early city and round black shoes.
All in all, the little backpack it carried just made Delta’s heart melt a little. Ruli ran a hand through her thick black hair and looked tired.
“Your master then, either or,” she amended and another voice came from the entrance.
“HELLO, DELTA! IT IS I, DEO!” the exuberant young man shouted as he slid into the dungeon as going for first base. Following behind was another familiar face.
The rather angry young man from before. Amanster.
“Yes, I’m sure the dungeon conscious could really forget such a volume,” he added with a wry tone. Deo grinned as he turned slowly as if trying to make sure Delta saw him.
The young person blinked at them.
“I am not sure why there are here, Miss Darknessbane. I don’t really know why I am here,” it added in as an afterthought. They looked honestly confused as they examined her entrance hall.
Ruli’s fingers edged towards the flask at her hip but she resisted at the last moment.
“You’re here to solve your master’s problem, peacefully. Deo and Amanstat had a school report and Deo wanted to do it on the dungeon and to be honest, I ran out of wood for him to chop for his punishment and Amanster needs to lose his edgeyness before he unlocks the goth class,” Ruli said bluntly.
Deo jumped from foot to foot and Amanster glowered.
Delta had guests and she felt so unready! Billy the ranger came rushing down the hall at her urging.
Ruli waved as the person with no name yet jumped back in alarm.
“Yo, Billy was it?” she asked and the quiet gob nodded. Deo rushed up and held out a hand.
“IS NUMB AROUND?!” he said, shaking the goblins arms so hard the creature was lifted off the ground.
Billy adjusted his hat which had been blown sideways by the question. He merely pointed down the tunnel into the gloom. Deo turned to Ruli and seemed to silently beg for them to hurry one. Ruli shook her head as if this was not what she had planned for the day.
“Hold yer magically empowered horses. Delta, this is Vas! They’re... well, a resident of Durence. It’s here to look for something that's bothering its master. Vas, say hi,” she nudged the person and it bowed its head.
“Greetings, great one. I am Vas, the tool of Master Japes. I am here to look for pottery or vase related incidents in the dungeon. I like trees, fire, naming pots and planting seeds for new trees to grow,” Vas lifted its head and looked shyly up at her ceiling. Ruli muttered something and Vas looked like it had frozen.
It swayed once or twice and Deo took it by the hand.
“COME ON! YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS PLACE! IT’S AMAZING!” Deo grinned and Vas looked at Deo’s hand clasping its own, barely peeking out the sleeves. Deo gave the first door a few test swings as if to show his point. Amanster watched Vas with narrowed eyes and Delta show actual caution to the boy’s face.
Vas smiled slowly.
“Your hand is warm. Like the sun,” it said and Deo just beamed.
“MY MUM CALLS ME HER SUNSHINE SINCE I AM SO CHEERY!” he explained and Vas’s face lit up. Delta was about to gush and covered her mouth since this was just too much.
“Sunshine, it is fire and warmth. I like you!” Vas said with a large smile to mirror Deo’s. Ruli was drinking deeply from her flask and she looked at Amanster.
“Lose the scowl. He’s allowed to be friends with the golem if he wants. Can’t hog ‘sunshine’,” she teased and Amanster’s eyes glowed slightly purple.
“I don’t... trust it. Makes my sense go off,” he tried to explain quietly. Ruli thought about it.
“Vas is a golem. It’s false life with magic. You’re the son of a saint and a dead hedge necromancer. You’re good at sensing life. It’s like me chasing mechanical beasts, the routine feels right but it throws off all the wrong signals,” Ruli clapped a hand on his shoulder as both Deo and Vas crouched down to speak to Billy. Billy looked annoyed at the gesture but tolerated it.
“Billy, goblin sir, do you know anyone who is making pots in the dungeon?” Vask asked quietly and Billy actually let out a snort. He turned and made a ‘follow me’ gesture. Deo ran after Billy, pulling Vas by the hand as the golem stumbled to keep up with the slightly smaller teen.
Deo’s brightness and Vas’ simpleness made Delta strong.
They were worth it. Deo the sunshine and the golem who liked trees.
If she could make this dungeon work for them, it would be worth it.
Vas almost cried.
It was heartbreaking as it fell to its knees as Mr Mushy showed off his pottery effort.
“HELLO, MR MUSHY!” Deo called as Vas cradled a rather cracked pot. Mr Musy waved but didn’t seem able to stop staring at Vas.
Delta bit her lip. The reaction Vas was having to the pots was rather alarming.
Vas put the pot down and picked up a hardened lump that looked like a pretzel. It looked up at Mr Mushy and Delta blinked as anger blazed the golem’s eyes.
“How could...” it began but then exhaled. Deo picked one up turned it over. He looked at Vas then at Mr Mushy. He sat down and offered the misshapen pot to the golem.
Vas shook his head, almost unable to look at the thing. Ruli had gone down the new passage with Amanster. She was currently explaining to the young teen about mana vents and ways to use them but Delta couldn’t care less.
Not while this was happening.
“This monster has... it’s tortured these pots. They’re mockeries,” Vas whispered and Deo eyed the pot.
“I LIKE IT!” he said without hesitation and Mr Mushy clapped his hands with excitement and Vas looked more upset.
“But they cannot serve their purpose. They are pointless. They cannot contain, they cannot function as pleasing figures. They will be smashed if the master finds them!” Vas choked out and it tried to cover the pot in its body as if trying to prevent that very thing.
Mr Mushy reached out out a giant hand on Vas’ head. The golem looked up in fear but Mr Mushy closed his eyes. For a moment nothing happened and then Mr Mushy picked up one of his pots. He pointed to it then pointed to Vas.
He repeated this several times. Delta could feel the emotions.
Vas hesitated and Mr Mushy pointed to the pot and to himself. Repeating the motion.
Vas looked like it was struggling to get the idea.
“You are the same as the pot? But you are an organic being. A monster...” it trailed off and Deo grinned.
“MADE BY DELTA! MR MUSHY WAS MADE AND CREATED BY THE DUNGEON! SO HE IS LIKE A GOLEM AS WELL I GUESS!” Deo said, sounding pleased by his logic and Vas shook his head.
“If he is... how could he do this to his own creations?” Vas demanded and Deo itched his nose. Billy was watching as Numb snoozed against a mushroom. Boary was hiding from Deo.
“WELL... I GUESS...” Deo trailed off as Billy moved forward. Delta whispered to him, careful in her words.
“I am speaker of Dungeon Core Delta. My words are hers,” Billy warned and Vas straightened like it had been caught doing something rude. Deo looked excited but managed not to shout.
“Mr Mushy is learning. He does what he does with love and joy. With crude fire and cruder mud. From terrible materials and a dangerous method to him, Mr Mushy makes art. He risks his life with fire to make these pots. Maybe to you, they are malformed or ugly but to me, to Mr Mushy, they are beautiful because each is filled with his passion and love,” Delta spoke and Billy repeated her perfectly.
Vas looked like it was trying to shrink out of existence.
“M-my master, his senses are telling him they are not right!” it pleaded and Delta tried to soften her words.
“Art cannot be wrong if it's honest. If it breaks no law or better yet, harms no one. Then your master has no say over right or wrong. Art is just expression and I won’t let you call Mr Mushy wrong. Vas... wait... you work as a potter and you’re called Vas?” Delta asked and the golem nodded.
Delta broke out laughing and Billy pulled his hat down over his head to hide his embarrassment.
“Master is... needing a moment,” he said to the confused group.
“J-just... oh that hurt... just teach Mr Mushy how you do it and see if he gets better?” Delta suggested and Vas eyed the giant mushroom.
“I have not heard of a fungal pottery master... but I shouldn't! My master has not deemed me ready for a student,” Vas denied and Deo grabbed his hand again. Vas went still as Deo’s eyes went big. Mr Mushy bowed his head to show his eagerness.
“PLEASE HELP! MR MUSHY JUST WANTS TO MAKE POTS AND YOU MAKE POTS! WE CAN ALL BE POT BUDDIES AND COME HERE TO ENJOY SOME POTS!” he begged and Delta’s lips twitched again. So innocent...
If she got some ovens, she could make them all pot brownies. Delta giggled again.
“I... shouldn’t,” Vas said weakly and Deo beamed so hard that Delta felt her skin tan slightly.
If she ever went solar powered, the kid was going to make her rich.
“PLEASE! I, DEO, WILL BE IN YOUR DEBT AND PROMISE TO INVITE YOU TO MY NEXT SLEEPOVER!” he offered and Vas looked like it was suffering some mental meltdown.
“Poor thing. Now submit!” Delta cackled as Vas nodded with a jerk and Deo grinned and pulled out books and paper.
“GREAT! NOW, BILLY, CAN I ASK DELTA SOME QUESTIONS? IT'S FOR MY EDUCATION!” he explained and Billy looked up and Delta cleared her throat.
“Sure, I mean, how bad can it be?” she said as Mr Mushy bowed to Vas and fell over, almost squishing the golem.
What is your favourite colour?
Do you like swords, daggers or magic?
A: So far, I like goblins, they have them all.
How long have you lived in Durence?
A: A week and a bit.
What is your favourite place in Durence?
A: Uh... my dungeon I guess!
If you could be an animal for a day, what would you be?
A: A duck. Ducks rule.
Do you prefer infernal worship, nature worship, mechanical worship, saintly worship, or money worship?
A: Nature, I guess? Money, is there serious power in loving mon-
If a dustplane bird left Durence at 3pm and travelled 7.5 miles per minute to the capital that is 50 miles away, how much haste potion, learned in the beginning of alchemy class, would it take to dose the bird so to kill someone riding it from moving too fast?
A: I... what? No, wait, what was that? Is that your version of maths?! Uh... a... mouthful? A spoon full? What is wrong with this education?!
Do you think dungeons are evil?
A: It’s pretty easy to be. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to be a good person.
Do you think Durence could ever trust you?
A: I really hope so.
Does the coolest hero, awesome in every sense, known by all as DEO! Impress the dungeon?
A: Is that a real question? I mean, of course, you’re a little scary beam of sunshine that I hope never goes supernova.
Does Deo deserve to be grounded?
A: ha, yeah... no comment. You ain’t using me as an excuse.