Delta watched as step one of the ‘plan’ was formed. The tunnel to Wyin groaned as three large stone doors formed. The thick stone sapped a lot of her Mana but Delta felt pleased as the thickness of the stone promised no one could punch through unless they were from Durence.
They were almost faceless but the System wouldn’t allow Delta to simply seal the tunnel off and have no way to clear it within human limits...
In the middle of all three doors was a simple keyhole. Devina held out a similar stone key and slid it into the first lock. The key went all the way in. She stood back as the door slid down, taking the key with it. A nimble enough person might be able to snatch it back... Delta would have to add some sort of twist or catch to the door. The first door slid down to simply reveal another stone door. Frustrating but Delta was sure people would accept it if they were used to Dungeons.
Besides, the keys were more easily found after the next step in the ‘plan’.
With a command, she brought the door back up and Devina took the key back.
Delta shook her head.
“No, best to make sure we give everyone a fair shake and therefore nobody should go crazy and try to murder Bob or the frogs for keys,” she replied. Devina merely looked calm as she cut in.
“We are not defenseless,” she reminded Delta.
“Yeah but doesn’t mean I want someone trying to gut you every moment of every day,” Delta disagreed. She moved forward and adjusted her tie.
“Besides, you’re the wandering guide that trades information for people’s valuables,” Delta commented dryly. Devina smiled pleasantly.
“Just enough to set them on the right path,” she agreed. Delta closed her eyes and with a little push of Mana the surface of the stone door before her crumbled to show two images. A simplistic carving in the rock showed a bee sampling a flower and on the other side the picture of a deep pool behind a waterfall.
Lizzie and Bob. The key to the first door could be found at either. Below she scribed a simple sentence.
Face the nest of sweet but take none. Dive deep where there is no sun. One key will open the way but if it is covered in blood you will be facing the Lady of the forest this day.
“Sarcasm isn’t handy. This is your idea and sort of mine. You wanted things to be interesting so I’m making a theme. Now onto the second! I like making rhymes like I’m some ancient elvish doormaker...” Delta grinned and the first door lowered at her command. She turned to Devina.
“Here, take this and the other key to the Bee nest and Bob’s pool. Explain what they have to do. I won’t be long and Nu will bind them later,” Delta promised Devina as she formed a second key that was already tuned to the first Door.
She’d call it the Door of the Wild.
The next door had her thinking. Now, this needed a bit more of a personal touch. The stone shaved away from the surface of the second door to form her next two images. Two faces, one keyhole. Delta stood back to admire her work as the faces of Luna and Giant appeared. They both had an ‘area’ so to speak of. She would have to add a challenge to the hot springs but Giant was easy enough.
Rest your weary soul in the peaceful spring. Face the giant on the bridge, challenge his mighty swing. A test of trust and a test of skill but be warned let there be no blood drawn in lust. The thorns are watching.
A bit long but she would be worried some might take ‘challenge’ as some permission to kill Giant if they knocked him off the bridge. Having already made a single key for each door, Delta formed the second key as she called Luna and Giant. Their beings flickered into awareness at her call.
Luna was a flickering light of energy while Giant was more akin to a calm candle.
Delta named the second door quickly in her head. The Door of the People
Delta eyed her screen and was glad to see she had just enough Mana to finish the last door... if she didn’t go overboard with the carving.
Nu had convinced her of this one but Delta was really not sure it was a good idea. The stone shivered as Delta worked on the images. Before long a series of tiny Pygmy mushrooms looked out from the door and next to them, a circus tent.
Delta felt a little uneasy sending people after the little folks but Nu assured her that they were quick on their feet. Delta guessed that being last, the adventurers might be more tired...
She got to work on the message.
The last door needs the final key. Seek the little ones in the dark. Look up in awe at the ringleader’s park. The key will be found at the heart of their room. Seek not their end or you invite your doom
Nu’s excitement was a little infectious but it wasn’t like Delta wasn’t feeling the same. As it was now, getting the keys from the Pygmies and Renny would be...rather quick if they managed to remain polite to the Mime, unless he decided to put on a show of course.
Both areas were in need of some improvements.
Delta looked around and wondered where Hob and Gob where? They usually did not to take that long gathering thing...
The spider smashed a fallen log out of its way as the goblins ran for their lives back to the ‘clear’ zone.
“Spiders...big...now!” Hob grunted as the monster behind them chased them with rampant rage.
Gob just ran faster.
They had beaten one spider with ease since it was only the size of a pig but the gobs soon learned they had merely met the new breed of ‘children’.
The spider abruptly stopped, dirt flying everywhere as its legs dug in deeply to halt its movement. The goblins kept running for a bit but then turned to see the spider hesitate before it twitched. It moved forward a step before it was almost yanked back.
It quickly ran back into the deep shadows of the trees.
“Weird. Spider didn’t care before,” Hob itched his sweaty nose.
“Spiders are weird bugs. But big now,” Gob agreed. Looking around, they weren’t too far from the path to the village and even closer to home.
“Maybe Delta scared it off?” Gob mused as he headed towards the Dungeon.
“Maybe scary humans in village?” Hob added.
“We tell Delta that we need bigger pointy things or booms to go deeper,” Gob stated. Hob shook his head.
“Wish Cois could come. This would be easier with fire...” he sighed as he turned the puzzle on the door to the right place.
The spider returned to the deep webbed heart of the forest as it quickly hurried to where it was directed.
High above in a round cocoon of deep blood red web, a voice sounded out.
“Not the right time. Dig... dig... We shall feast soon. My children, the culling will start as the sun goes down. The weak here will perish and make room for the strong. Devour the weak and make to my side... my children. Eat and grow,” the voice commanded and it was followed by wet tearing noises. A weak one had been found.
Their numbers dropped but their power rose.
The spider quickly dived deep into the rough tunnel that had been carved. The mutants that had formed potent venom to melt the stone, but not flesh, worked until they died.
Such is the way. The strong survive and the new breed would gather strength quicker than the old.
He attached his silk to the hollowed out animal used as a cart for the dirt to be carried out.
Dig... dig... dig...
“Spiders? Didn’t they vanish?” Delta blinked, thinking back to the monsters that had broken in a long time ago.
“Neary ate us. They’re hiding good things in the deep woods!” Hob promised. Gob nodded enthusiastically in agreement. That was a problem. A lot of her Mana came from her two gobs returning every so often with things.
If they said they had to go deeper because they were running out of things to discover... Well, Delta had no problem trying to fix that.
She opened both their menus. There wasn’t straight up upgrades per say but there were some options she could give them.
Both were pretty simple with the items they had equipped. Basic wooden armor and wooden weapons.
She could get them better equipment but unlike her other monsters, she couldn’t give them passives or evolve them.
There was another set of options, however.
Delta quickly checked on Hob.
Jobs! Her contracted monsters had gotten jobs instead of evolving! Delta saw each one cost 20 DP which wasn’t bad so to speak.
Could Delta do this for all her contracted monsters? Could she upgrade Renny’s class?
Questions for later!
She purchased both upgrades and her goblins blinked at the screens before them. Both gave each other a grin before they hit yes on their screens.
They glowed slightly but they didn’t change in any noticeable way.
“Are you guys alright?” Delta asked. Hob blinked at himself.
“I know how to use bow and arrow and knife better,” he nodded. Gob looked pleased.
“I knows how to best smash head in!” he bragged before he coughed politely at Delta’s deadpan expression.
Luckily, Delta could spend some DP to form items she had never made before.
She formed a simple steel helmet and sturdy leather vest for Hob before conjuring up a basic bow and quiver for him. She imagined a crossbow might be a bit unwieldy when trying to move quickly and needing to stop and reload.
She gave him a cheap looking serrated dagger to sit at his hip.
Honestly, Delta really did feel like an Elf Queen right now. Giving out gifts to small people about to go fight giant spiders.
For Gob, she gave him a similar helmet and a crude brigandine that exposed his arms. In one hand he now carried a simple wooden shield with a metal border and in the other a large club with an iron capped head.
Her DP dinked down but she didn’t mind if it kept her two goblins safe.
“You know how to use them?” Delta asked with a smile. There was a confidence in them that they lacked before.
“Yeah! I’ll bring you tons of spiders,” Hob promised. Gob slapped the metal club a few times against his leg.
“I’ll bring you spider smears!” he grinned.
Delta watched as they ran back outside, armed with their new equipment and Jobs.
She wondered, if unlike evolution, they would simply get better on their own due to the power of jobs? Could Delta evolve their jobs once they hit some limit to their skills?
It was an interesting idea and one she would have to watch out for. Until she could ask Ruli or Quiss for the details.
She took a peek at Waddles a few seconds later and peered at his menu.
Delta shakily closed the menu and backed away from a staring duck.
“You go back to sleep... and stay unemployed...please,” Delta said nervously.
The Key of the Bees was set at the very top, inside where the flowing honey was made. The key had taken on a golden sheen, oddly enough, as Lizzie the Queen accepted her role as a key guardian.
“So, swarm but don’t sting unless they get nasty. If they can climb up the honey coated rock and reach in without fear, that’s a pass. They try to smoke you or something then scare them off,” Delta explained, happy to throw herself back into work and forget about the potential Overlord Duck business.
The Queen merely nodded.
Delta grinned and floated slightly away.
She opened two menus. One for Lizzie and one for the area.
Lizzie had some great upgrades. Delta only had about 67 DP left but it was tempting to try and get some of the upgrades but she held on to her points until she checked the next menu.
There was some synergy here... Delta could see how the honey becoming better slotted nicely into the Queen producing it at the double the speed.
Delta purchased both upgrades which left with about... 40 DP. Nodding, she also got the ability for Lizzie to make rare specialized bees. Leaving her with 20 DP.
Having more options was good! With Gob and Hob ready to take on tougher foes, she was sure her Mana and DP was gonna explode soon! Plus, if the honey lasted a few days outside then she could get an in on the honey market. Maybe Mrs. Dabberghast would help her sell it?
Noland’s words were still fresh in her mind.
Become valuable. Produce rare items and the Kingdom would be open to hearing her requests. If they knew she was willing to keep producing items of all sorts... then maybe she could request peaceful interactions.
Or at least make Durence stand up for her...
Wandering over to the hot springs, Delta watched as Luna painted the wooden fence that separated the spring into halves. Using crushed flowers and fruit, she used her fingers to paint a rather good attempt at a moon in the sky on one side and a rising sun on the other.
Delta looked about as Luna carefully made her way out the spring and shook herself off.
“If you’re looking for the key, I stuffed it between two of the fire crystals. Not really anywhere else to put it,” Luna said brightly. Delta looked at her art.
“You’re very good at that!” she praised. Luna shrugged.
“You made my world... not exactly impressive when compared to my doodle on the fence,” Luna disagree politely and Delta gave her a long look.
“I’ll get you some painting things soon,” she informed the young frog who opened her mouth to argue before Delta grinned.
“I know what it feels like to be stuck here with nothing to do,” Delta replied kindly. Luna shook her head.
“I would never complain about home and-” Luna was cut off as Delta gently hugged her.
“You’re allowed to. That’s the beauty of it,” she smiled softly. Luna frowned.
“But every inch of me screams that I shouldn’t. I had impulses to stop talking and bow... I have the urge to simply nod and agree with you,” Luna looked away as if lost. Delta merely shrugged.
“Then here is an order for you. Ignore those voices and be yourself. That should give you all the permission you need,” Delta bent down to open the menu.
“Be...Luna,” the frog whispered to herself.
That was... perfect.
“Luna? Want to become the Hot Spring Keeper and own the place?” she asked casually.
“What are the hours like?” came a cheeky reply.
“Neverending, I would assume, but the breaks are great,” Delta promised cheerfully. Luna nodded and Delta got the upgrade.
Luna’s change from simply dressed frog girl to what appeared made Delta’s jaw dropped.
The simple cloth wraps gone and in their place, a lavish purple robe, almost like a kimono hugged Luna’s frame, the fabric decorated with symbols of stars and half moons. Luna still lacked hair as a frog but her eyes and face looked more... feminine.
“Luna... you look... great!” Delta beamed.
“Did you know that there 56 ways to kill a man in a hot spring. 82 if I use both hands,” Luna greeted cheerfully. Delta’ smile twitched but she held on strong.
“Great! How do you feel as a keeper?” she inquired excitedly. Luna gave the robe a long look and then lifted it up slightly to show off very black boots with what Delta guessed was actual stilettos for heels.
“I like it. I feel... elegant. Yeah, that’s the word. Elegant,” she smirked as her black shoes were once again hidden under the robe of grace and delicacy.
Delta supposed it could be worse. Usually, when things like this happened, she ended up screaming or crying or both.
Luna clicked her fingers and the key slowly rose to the surface of the water when she neatly pocketed it. Delta noticed the stone key looked smaller and had a purple string looped through it now.
Delta was about to comment on how cute it was when something floated past her face.
It was a bee.
But this wasn’t like the other bees Delta had in her jungle. No, the Queen had apparently gotten lucky in her first new batch of children.
This Bee was...a monster.
“I’d be scared but it's awesome,” she said and Delta slowly backed away from the Supermajor Bee that was the size of her head. The oversized head it possessed looked at her, mandibles slowly closing. The wings beat fast, almost a blur. The body curved down like a dagger until it came to the stinger which was the size of her pinkie.
Delta knew that thing wasn’t falling off after one use.
It moved closer to her, its hulking form slower if not more threatening.
“You alright? Mum? You’re kinda white and since you’re orange, that’s saying a lot,” Luna’s voice was so distant. So far away.
The bee opened its wings and legs to their full width as if showing off.
There was... a gap in Delta’s memory after that but Nu found her gibbering in the Pygmy hole.
She gestured wildly at him and he merely looked pleased.
Now Delta had an image of a sad giant monster bee from hell and she became torn in her heart.
So, peeking out, she watched one of the big devils try to get nectar and the flower simply folded under it. It sat there for a long time, twitching as it tried to figure out what it had done wrong. The sight tugged hard at Delta’s sobbing heart.
No matter how devilish they looked... a sad bee was not acceptable!
Delta got to work.