They were at the Mudroom. Delta was beside herself with excitement. They entered and the only other challenge she had managed to afford appeared. Smalls was holding Waddles in his arms. Delta has been rather shocked when Smalls has just gushed over Waddles’ feathers and elegant form. The duck had, of course, preened like a peacock that could curse someone with bad luck.
Delta had no idea her fatal guardian has such a flaw. It was cute how Waddles allowed the slim man to carry him and pretended he wasn’t loving the attention from what was clearly a very experienced adventurer.
“Well, this is more my style!” Cram grinned, his features seemed to be easier to see in the bright light of the numerous torches of this room. Delta saw how his skin was dark but not in the way she expected.
Cram’s skin seemed to be more ashen than merely dark, it had a certain texture to its appearance. The black skin was hard to see surrounded by his beard, wild hair, and furs he had on his body. Delta could see almost perfectly in her dungeon but having actual light show definition on the man’s face revealed a lot.
Cram wasn’t human. Not... exactly. His jaw moved in a way that people’s just didn’t, his wide eyes were yellow instead of white and he looked like he had no iris but just solid black pupils. He snorted and Delta was startled, stumbling back as Cram moved through her. Delta patted her cheeks to calm herself.
Staring into someone’s eyes like that... Delta chided herself for taking advantage of her invisibility to rudely stare. Cram’s biology was nothing to be ogling at. He was a guest.
The words of the challenge appeared in the air as before.
Using the platforms, cross the room in ten seconds or less.
Crams nodded and did a few stretches as he eyed the platforms.
“Tch, I like the thinking. I pay to see some prissy priest or knight fall into the pit. Smalls, stop petting the duck and get ready,” Crams said with a sigh as Smalls feed Waddles a cracker from his pocket.
The smaller man smiled brightly as Waddles dropped to the ground and... waddled back to his pond. Pleasant quacking echoing down the tunnel a moment later.
“Listen, you get a big head because that duck gave you some good luck...” Cram trailed off, warning playfully and Smalls put a hand to his mouth as if shocked.
“Me? Gloat? Crams, dear friend. I would never. I have been praised as a very humble tailor, a good neighbour, a joy in people’s lives, a beauty in a few towns... well, what can I say? I am just cursed with good fortune,” he said and Cram snorted.
The message ended and Smalls blinked at it.
“Odd fellow,” he commented and Cram shrugged.
“This entire place is odd. Now, you doing this or not?” Cram gestured to the room. Delta was staring at the air where Nu’s box faded as if it was some kind of phantom. The second floor?
She hesitated, not wanting to miss the two men’s journey but Nu seemed to be intent with his message. She had no plans with the second floor but... now she felt curious.
“Watch, I have the good luck of the duck, I accept the challenge!” Smalls bowed and leapt forward. The platform tilted and he began to slide before he jumped again on to another fake platform where he abruptly toppled down into the mud with a wet splat and a screech.
There was a beat of silence as Cram peered over the edge with a large grin.
“Lucky or not. Wrong is wrong. You chose wrong,” he guffawed and nodded to the wood.
“Fakes slightly bob and the edges look smoother than the solid ones. Guess... I should have told you that before... whoops?” he said innocently as Smalls stood up, covered in mud.
“I will hurt you,” he growled. Cram just grinned and accepted the challenge.
Cram moved and Delta blinked as the man cleared the room, barely lingering on a platform longer than a second before h touched down on the far side. Delta was gaping. How did someone that big move so... so... like that?!
Cram reached down and plucked Smalls out of the mud like a soaked cat. The orange circle on his hand glowed and a stack of perfectly cut wooden logs landed in a neat pile to one side. Cram bent down to examine them as Smalls flexed his hands.
Delta watched as Smalls’ clothes twisted themselves, each thread twitching in response to Smalls’ finger movements. Mud oozed out and seemed to be unable to find a way back into the man's clothes. His skin and hair was still slick with mud, however. Also, he was glaring at one of Nu’s signs.
Delta moved away as Cram picked up a log.
“Huh... not bad quality. Basic mana-infused wood but not bad at all...” Cram’s voice grew quieter as Delta zoomed away. She was eager to hear more but she dived down into the second floor.
She paused near her core and waited for a moment.
Sure enough. Nu appeared.
Nu’s words looked and even sounded pleased. Delta blinked and then turned back to the stairs.
“Nu? How... they’re still here!” Delta said, confusion making her hands wave uselessly at the ceiling. Nu took a moment to resize his boxes and adjust his font and colour slightly.
Delta nodded slowly.
“If you could appear even briefly, it might mean you could appear when people were in the dungeon but... you could have just said so in the other box. Why the cloak and dagger act?” she wondered and Nu just gave a little sigh of a ding.
Nu paused for a moment and Delta felt a lump settling in her throat as she waited.
“Nu...” Delta said, voice thick as she reached out to put a hand on Nu’s box edge. He shook himself and he glowed slightly brighter.
Nu demanded and Delta moved back as the mood whiplash slapped her again.
“Wha- Nu, I was watching people explore my dungeon! I wanna see their reactions to everything!” Delta said, putting her hand on her hips. Nu spun tapped the door to the jungle.
Delta guiltily kicked the ground.
“Not... too...I mean if it was really cute or I got to know them,” Delta chuckled weakly as Nu’s box went dark blue.
Men and woman with big pointy swords are not cute animal babies. Repeat after me, they are not.
Delta opened her mouth and an image of Deo laughing with a perplexed Vas rushed into her head. The way Amanster grumbled but followed along made her smile appear slowly
They were all teens and whatever Vas was but they were all so damn cute! Scary but Delta couldn’t help but like them.
“Hmm... I won’t be chained to the second floor I got to have my fun too! So... a deal!” Delta offered and Nu turned sky blue with curiosity.
“I’ll work on the second floor but...I wanna be there when they meet Fran,” she stated and Nu seemed to take a few seconds to reply.
Delta’s face just went blank.
”You can’t stay in bed all day watching people hurt themselves and do stupid stuff while their friends laugh at them,” she said with a clipped tone. Nu turned a dreamy midnight blue.
Delta rolled her eyes so hard she was sure she could see her brains.
Nu wasn't wrong. The two upstairs were giving a nice chunk of mana to play around with. That would mean more challenges once they were gone but for now...
She marched into the Jungle room. Rale stood to attention as he leapt from the river where he had been snoozing.
“Mother Delta, you are back!” he said and Delta smiled at his more relaxed posture. The frogman looked a lot less... tense then before.
“Hey Rale, don’t mind me. Just gonna get some things done. Any requests?” she half-joked. Rale shook his head and looked around.
“I will await your vision. It will be grand,” he bowed his head again and Delta watched he dried off rather quickly.
“Hey, Rale? Do me a favour,” she called and her newest monster went still.
“Anything,” he promised and Delta hoped he’d relax maybe a little more.
“If anyone falls into the river and needs help, fish them out will you?” she asked casually and Rale looked confused.
“Would we not want intruders to drown?” he wondered and Delta stretched, eyeing the series of pots at the bottom of the river where Mr Mushy had been visiting. The fungi had been trying to be super nice to Rale.
“Nah, I like them alive. Thanks, Rale,” she said and Rale nodded without a word.
Delta turned slowly, fingers flexing as she tried to imagine what to do.
Options... upon options.
Delta thought about that.
She looked at Rale, at the pots, at the river. An idea struck her.
“Ya know, Nu. Every good jungle level has one thing, well, even every good game level even,” she smirked and looked at the source of the river.
She opened the menu and found the right section to see what it would cost.
“Nu.. why does it cost a lot less for a lot more height alteration?” she asked slowly and Nu just blinked slowly.
Delta just nodded and hit confirm, smile wide.
10 mana blinked away and the room rumbled. The river rose as a solid mass of stone grew out of the ground. The water started falling down the expanding space and crashed into the gaping riverbed where it formed a round lake before it gushed into the river along the jungle.
The noise of water thundering down onto rocks was so loud that Delta could almost lose herself. Feeling childish, she paid another 10 mana to take the new lake and pulled it down, making the semi-shallow pool into a deep gaping hole where no light reached.
With a twirl, she moved to the rough wet stone behind the bottom of the waterfall.
A room here? It feels like an interesting choice. Is it something you planned?
Nu’s words hung for a moment before Delta clenched her fist a giant room hollowed out into a room behind the waterfall.
“Planned? No... Nu, this is tradition,” Delta raised her hands and with a deep breath let herself topple back into the pool, falling all the way to the bottom. The light above should be the same as the darkness around her to her eyes but it felt deeper. It felt like she could never reach the surface again.
“Nu... we need a turtle,” Delta said, almost dozing away in the dark pit.
“I’ll give it cannons on its back and spooky looking shell?” she tempted and Nu lit up like a beacon.
“We have everything needed for sheets, pillows and a frame right?” Delta floated back above the water, dry as ever. She briefly imagined what fish could evolve in these waters.
Delta looked at the water.
“Well. I kinda have an idea about that. Do you know anything about controlling tides?” Delta smiled as another idea washed over her.
Nu was such a tease. Delta looked around the room and then at the stone roof of the cave. She paid some more mana and a second room appeared near the back, only accessible by some stairs she managed to shape with the help of Nu.
“If we can just make the room flood so the actual restroom is dry but the way in or out is a gamble flood then we can probably make it less likely to have people camp endlessly. They’d have to swim through or stay until the tide goes out” Delta beamed, pleased with her idea.
“Just keep adding to the area and hope the room upgrade offers us a tide option,” Delta and then looked around as she formed two beds near the top level rest cave. The thundering of the waterfall was a little less loud but she hoped people would adjust.
“I wonder how those two are getting on?” she wondered.
“You have to buy one!” Smalls chided, looking upset. Cram’s face had turned dark with anger.
“I don’t have room, I’m carrying the wood!” he argued and Smalls pointed to the sad-looking mushroom man.
“He just made you a pot that looks like an ugly stump. He worked hard and you can’t just not... take it!” Smalls argued and Mr Mushy offered the pot again at Cram. The Grove was rather lively.
Mr Mushy’s little round eyes looked happy as it tried to offer Cram the pot again. The rough man sighed.
“I don’t need a pot,” he tried to explain. He wasn’t sure what to do. Monsters trying to kill him?
“Stop staring at me like that...” Cram muttered as Mr Mushy looked at him, expression turning worried and sad as he began to lower the offered pot. The monster’s body postured began to radiate confusion and hurt.
Smalls was furious and the jacket he wore twitched like an angry animal under the smaller man’s emotions.
Uh oh. Cram had seen that look when some quest desk clerk had snidely offered to buy Smalls’ pet rabbit at the time, claiming the golden fur would make a great scarf.
Cram’s gave the mushroom a weak smile.
“I’ll take five,” he whispered, trying not to feel shame at his cowardice. Smalls immediately turned into the sunshine jolly tailor that everyone loved.
Underneath, the tyrant of threads sat smugly as he watched Cram try to juggle the pots and wood in two arms.
“You could help,” he muttered to Smalls who began to whistle and twirl a small red velvet bag around one finger.
“Hey, hey... is that bag of holding? Smalls, I thought you sold them all?” Cram complained and Smalls looked innocently.
“I got rid of the unstable ones and the ones that didn’t play nice with each other. I kept the good ones,” he smirked and then appearing benevolent, let Cram put the wood and pots into the bag.
“Where is this one?” he nodded as the mushroom introduced by the bored goblin archer as ‘Mr Mushy’ followed them. The archer was gone into the Grove and Cram could hear him moving about.
“A bank offshore. Most bags are bank vaults now on this plane. No one wants to keep pulling eldritch beings out instead of lunch. Besides, it cost me a fortune and the magic is not cheap by any means. Hence why I don’t simply give you one,” Smalls explained and Cram grunted.
“I have one, it's called a backpack. I also use space on this plain... just forgot it. Besides, those things fail all the time and I can't be arsed going around the world to set up a new one...” he smirked, knowing Smalls had to do it multiple times. Mr Mushy petted Small’s fair hair and the man rolled his eyes.
Mr Mushy seemed to enjoy their company.
Cram wondered what a mushroom did with pottery. Who did it give it to? Besides saps like himself?
At the bottom of the river. Rale floated gently by as he nudged one of the ugly pots given to him by Mr Mushy. He twitched and never saw something float out of one of the pots and get washed downstream.
It bobbed along and eventually got tangled into grassroots that grew near the edge of the river.
It waited and took root as the dungeon feed it energy as needed.
The Gutrot Mushroom perked up and latched onto one of the trees lining the room and started changing shape.