Hob was delighted, so much spiders for the dungeon!
It was almost cheating as Ruli drunkenly looked at them and they just died moments later. The mime was bringing up the rear, mindlessly throwing the pile of twitching corpses onto some invisible cart of death.
This was the farthest they had ever gone into the forest. They had even seen one or two new types of spiders... smaller, but leaking a horrible foul liquid from their fangs. Hob grinned at Gob as the trees grew so tightly together that sunlight was dimmed enough to create a undergrowth of shadows.
He was yanked back suddenly and he yelped.
“Spider got me!” he panicked, but looked up to see that it was Ruli. The bottle she had been sipping from paused before her lips. The glazed and childish look she had been wearing since she had found them was gone.
Instead, Ruli’s whole being had changed in a second. The red eyes were now alert, completely focused on the darkness ahead.
“Don’t move,” she warned as her voice turned cold as stone.
Hob blinked and tried to see what she was seeing, but the darkness ahead was the same as the rest. Webs hung like vines on every branch, cocooned beasts long since drained of their bodily fluids and organs strung up like morbid ornaments.
“Quack...” Waddles said, speaking for the first time. Hob looked back at the duck that was resting on Gob’s head like a feathery crown. The black duck was also looking ruffled... unsettled.
“So... this is where it begins? The realm of the spiders? Tch, so quick, but they are basically on top of Delta. Hey, you guys see it?” Ruli asked them. Hob shook his head.
“Dark but same,” he shrugged. Ruli paced slightly side to side before she gently forced Hob’s head to look straight ahead.
“Don’t focus on the dark or the webs. Just...unfocus... just let your eyes wander,” she instructed. Hob had no clue what the mad woman was on about, but she had Hob’s head in one large hand so he couldn’t exactly argue.
He stared and tried to pretend he was staring at something with numbers. Instantly, his eyes glazed and he spaced out. That was when the air changed. A purple haze frizzled like stars when one got hit too hard in the face. He snapped his head around to look, but it vanished as soon as his eyes focused again.
“Yeah... good work. That, my friends, is a domain. Something powerful is at the center of that,” Ruli stood and crossed her arms, drunk, but her mind was working automatically to assess this new threat.
“Domain?” Gob repeated as he tried to see the same thing Hob saw. Ruli turned and began to walk back.
“You guys aren’t safe beyond here,” she stated. That made Hob bare his teeth.
“We’re strong ‘cause of Delta! We take spiders!” he argued. Ruli slowed and then Hob felt his heart slow as twin red eyes of a monster looked down at him, the long mane of black hair and dark skin wreathed in shadows. Gone was the cheerful Ruli and in her place was a beast that had been hiding there all along.
Hob couldn’t move as Ruli slowly crouched and patted his head.
“Yeah, she did, but you are not strong enough for this, gobbo,” she winked and continued walking after a second.
“Just spiders...” Hob weakly pointed out. Ruli drained the last of her drink and handed it to Renny.
“Give it to Delta, I’m hoping all this hooch we give her will make a waterfall of booze,” she grinned before she answered Hob, the light back to Durence growing as they retreated. No more Spiders attacked them.
“These spiders are still around. Durence didn’t have time for monster attacks and most threats simply wilted and died off when the Mana got so low... not these things. They held on,” Ruli spoke, relaxing every step they got away from the shadows.
“What’s a domain?” Hob repeated Gob’s question.
“Monsters are... well... Listen, Mana is key to a lot of things. People, plants, water, and air in rich places can all give Mana. Dungeons can absorb that and make shit with it. In return, they produce Dungeon Mana that saturates the land. It’s a pretty stable circle with some hiccups here and there, but nothing that isn’t manageable if you aren’t an idiot or desperate,” Ruli talked as she scratched her head.
“Monsters do the same. They take mana, but the stuff they put out? Not good. It’s a miasma that bends everything within that area to suit the monsters. People breath it in long enough?” she slowed and eyed the forest.
“Well, the source is usually eliminated before long if it’s near a town, but domains are like dungeons and grow in power. Shit gets nastier and the land gets more twisted,” she spat.
“This one is new. It used the explosive growth of Delta’s Mana to grow far quicker and must have slipped under the radar as everyone focused on Delta. Monsters love Dungeons. The worst Domains are those that have taken over a dungeon. They feed each other,” she looked at them.
Hob was lost, but he tried to his best to follow along.
“Big monster... makes bad area... and area no good for other monsters or people?” he said slowly. Ruli nodded.
“If people build walls then monsters make miasma. I’ll report it to my Ma tomorrow. She’ll want to get this snipped before long-” Ruli’s voice died off as a man calmly strolled past.
“Ah, Miss Ruli, pleasure to see you again,” Mr. Japes smiled. Hob and Gob quickly hid behind Renny. Hob’s heart was racing, the memory of this man scarred into their memory.
“Japes. Why I am not surprised you knew about this and...haven’t reported it?” Ruli’s tone went cold. Hob held himself close to the woman... he could make a run for it. The man had more jars and pots on his person. He had to run... but Ruli was here. Ruli was strong!
“Oh, the little Domain? I happen to be collecting the Miasma. Wonderful product, so much use in many fields. Overall, I suspect many will petition the elders to keep the Domain around. Not just I would have an interest,” Japes’ delicate ponytail and gentlemanly smile made Hob feel like a tiny spore.
“Domains aren’t farms or hunting spots. They can never be controlled forever, they’ll grow beyond you one day. It’s just a fact,” Ruli lightly tapped her fingers over a knife strapped to her belt. Japes’ smile stretched into a wide monstrous grin.
“But that is when it is at the most juicest... just the moment it can rip out your throat… is when you get the most reward,” Japes’ body trembled with excitement as he walked past.
“After all, Durence’s own miasma won’t be far behind,” he said in parting, heading into the shadows beyond.
“I hate him... come on,” Ruli said quietly and Hob found that his own hands were shaking. The memory of being sealed in one of those jars was too much for Hob or Gob to ever feel relaxed around that man.
Ahead of them Renny calmly relaxed his hand on what seemed to be a weapon as the echo of Japes’ footsteps faded.
They needed to get stronger. Strong enough not to fear the jar man.
The last spider melted away.
She wasn’t ungrateful or even angry at her Goblins, but the sight of so many dead things crashing into her entrance would unsettle anyone. Especially when they squished on impact.
The good news was her DP skyrocketed!
The bad news was... so did her Mana.
She felt like three or more kidney stones suddenly appeared at her side and her appendix burst for fun on top it.
She gasped and Nu was at her side in an instant.
I was expecting three or four spiders... not this many. Hold on, I’ll… I’ll do something!
Nu promised quickly and vanished.
Delta curled on the floor gasping and she looked up to see Mr Mushy sitting down, looking sad as he tried to hold her. Her goblins were next, muttering and begging to be told how to help. Maestro’s voice demanded Nu to hurry up.
Delta was happy... to not be alone.
Nu knew he had options. He just had to find them. He could waste the mana and make stupid things, but the very nature of who he was forbade it.
“Help me!” he sent to Sys. There was a moment of silence before Sys’ return answer made him rush to the Store room.
The Mana vent. It increased her total mana handling. It also empowered this room. Nu shivered as he opened the Menu to the room.
Bonus: All simplistic and material items cost 50% less when spawned in this room. As long as it’s simple and handy to a curious adventurer, it is cheaper! This is due to the mana vent. All rooms built over a mana vent gain a passive bonus.
Keep all food fresh until removed from its container. 5 DP
Make all food rot if all food is taken more than needed or by greed. 10 DP
Allow simple foods to automatically be added to the buffet table. 8 DP
Allow the shelves and pots to produce random resources that can be found on other floors. 30 DP
The Mana vent wasn’t listed as an upgrade... not to him anyway.
Okay, DP spending wasn’t going to help.
Nu flew himself down to the second floor and remembered the plan! It required lots of Mana to get the basics done and with any luck...
Nu’s screen vanished down the Pygmy den and glared at one wall.
“Create corridor!” he demanded, the wall exploded back, dust and dirt vanishing into air as a long dark cave dug itself out. At the end he created another room. He didn’t give it a purpose, merely turned inwards and blasted out another corridor.
Another room... another tunnel.
Delta felt one of the kidney stones pop and the tiny relief under the pain felt amazing.
“Nu... thank you,” she croaked.
Nu moved the Pygmy Village to the end of this twisting serpentine route of tunnels and rooms. That altogether had cost about 100 mana.
Nu pushed his speed to the max and almost crashed through Wilhelm as he landed in the circus, he wished he could do more but he only created two tunnels and two rooms.
This drained another 40 mana.
The good news was that with that altogether... Delta’s total mana capacity would now be 109 with these new rooms. Sighing, he moved just a little slower, his panic retreating as this was working. He could both help Delta and keep his function intact. Build...expand...help Delta.
He casually wandered back into the main jungle room and choose a random direction as he blasted another room, tunnel, then a last room. Hopefully Delta could take over from here, the casual spending without Delta’s approval was making him highly uneasy.
The spending was intoxicating. Dangerously so.
As he was about to retreat to see how Delta was doing with her new Mana limit of 119 when something stopped him.
In the newest room...
He turned to see a vent that spewed blue motes of Mana into the air. A Mana Spring. Great, just what they needed...
Once Delta was under control, they could celebrate that they were going to be getting 21 mana a day for free, but until Nu got the rest of the Mana down, he could only curse his luck.
Delta walked forward, hand on her stomach.
“One at a time in the future guys,” she requested weakly as Renny nodded seriously. Her goblins looked ashamed while Waddles merely went back to sleep in his pond.
She turned to see Nu floating back.
“Nu! I feel a lot better, but what did you do?” she asked, wincing as her sides jabbed. She felt bigger, a lot bigger as Nu seemed to have made more rooms but Nu merely eyed her.
“Nothing against your wishes. I made the basic layout of the second floor plan. The extra rooms were both progressive and helpful in spending Mana. I left the rest for you as I know your ideas can be... unpredictable,” the screen wrote.
“Thanks... uh... I can’t move too far right now. Let’s go for the Fort room, make sure it doesn’t need anything, and then the bar...” Delta said slowly, trying not to speak too loudly as her teeth ached.
The Fort room was looking more impressive with each visit. Looking up to the stone walls and metal gate that challengers would have to breach by climbing the steep hill. She opened the menu and saw what was available DP wise as she tried to think of what more to do to improve the Fort.
Allow pots of sticky glue to be refilled automatically. 10 DP
Make the glue flammable and burn with a variety of colours. 10 DP
Put a Toll Well near entrance for payment to pass unimpeded. 15 DP
Purchase ‘Guardian of the Well’. Requires Toll Well. 20 DP
Upgrade Towers to be solid stone. 10 DP
“Pay to win... but in a whole new context. Comes with free shame,” Delta snorted. A well where people dropped coins or treasure into and were allowed to pass. No one could say that her Dungeon wasn’t convenient if one was willing to pay for it.
Delta knew she could ease the cost of DP by doing some of the work herself, so she made a hole that dug into a large basin below the ground. It was like a second half to the room. She added some water and checked the menu again.
Put a Toll Well near the entrance for payment to pass unimpeded. 7 DP
Spending more mana was just making Delta feel even better as an extra benefit...
She purchased the Toll Well and a round circular set of stones appeared with a rope bucket that one could lower into the darkness below. A sign beside it told people what it was for.
Delta felt the rising gambling addiction try to make her buy the guardian, but she had other things to do first! She twitched, but finally closed the menu and eyed the room.
It was finally shaping up to be a proper recreation of a fort fight, but it was missing something. Delta walked over to where the adventurers would jump down and looked up.
She felt open... exposed...and honestly after getting past Boary... she might feel like this was a little unfair. The Dungeon was supposed to have the advantage but... it wouldn’t hurt to let people think she could play fair.
She created three simple wooden walls and a slight ditch to give people cover as they entered the room at least. Adding a rock one to give cover to the Toll Well. If people thought there was a second route down there? That was their own fault.
...Then again... maybe she should add a secret passage down there? Delta grinned but decided to hold out until she got that guardian. Whatever it was... another goblin? Some kind of fish? Some unspeakable horror? Delta would find out sooner or later, that was just how she rolled.
An idea hit her. Waddles had looked... well, he had looked the same when Delta asked him to go outside, but maybe if she squinted and pretended... she could say Waddles had fun being involved in the Dungeon!
She moved back to the Storeroom door and fashioned an iron lock and key to match. With some thought, she added a window in the door with bars to show the loot inside. She whistled as she hovered over Waddles, every bit of mana spending making her feel great!
“Waddles, I have a task for you.” Delta held up the iron key to the duck. “This is the Storeroom Key, it’s going to hang above your little nest. If anyone approaches, let them take the key, but if they’re kind of an ass, do your thing.” she nodded. Waddles met her eye and then slowly...
Delta took that as ‘I’d love to’.
A secret passage past her awesome Fort room needed to have it’s own test. It was just sad if the Fort room never got used as information about the secret passage spread. Then again, whoever wanted to tangle with Maestro over raiding a fort was insane in their own way.
Diving into the pond she focused on one of the last corridors she had available on the first floor and punched a long dark tunnel that flooded on both ends..
The pond became connected to the underwater basin of the Toll Well. The Toll Cave, as Delta called it, was sloped like the room above, but into deep, dark water. At the deepest the pond fish swam back and forth...
It was a small shortcut, but it was handy to those who knew it and wanted to skip the Mushroom grove and Mud room at the cost of getting wet.
It was... a little... Delta slowly felt her mind stare at the entirety of the first floor.
Besides some minor adjustments, growing more advanced mushrooms, and upgrading monsters and rooms to their next stages...
It was done.
The First Floor had reached the stage where every part was a thriving important section. The first room would test the adventurers, messy and rash or careful and aware. Waddles would test their greed and patience as would the fish.
The Mud room would push their quick thinking. If they entered the Storeroom, their alertness would be tested when surrounded by loot. Merry would see how they fare in a chaos. Maestro would test their... well...courage to say the least.
Boary and the Mushroom grove would be their first taste of how wonderful her Dungeon was... how much things were not as they seemed. The Fort room would test their tenacity or willingness to avoid pain.
The bar was just a good reward for being a good sport, Delta guessed. Still, she hoped no one was stupid enough to start a bar fight. She had seen the boomstick Fera kept under the countertop. A result of the fire crystal being worked over into a useable weapon. Finally... Fran and Bacon would get their tests, their battles.
It made something in Delta tingle with a knowledge that she had done something. But there was something she still owed to the people that would come. People who, despite their best attempts and Delta’s, would die.
She couldn’t pretend that it would never happen.
So, she stood in her entrance, well aware this was one of the hardest areas to affect with her powers but Sys... bless that girl... was one step ahead.
The Entrance room has one available add-on sub-room. As a fixed location, the Entrance can only have one subroom on each side for a maximum of two.
Build a memorial room: 40 MP and 10 DP
“Yes please. I’d like that very much,” she said as the screen closed. To one side of the slanted room, a door of solid wood appeared. Delta watched as Sys’ own image of the room came into existence.
Above the door was a bowing praying bust of herself. Her stone image was crying. The carved words in the stone frame around the door simple read ‘Memorial’
She walked inside and the wall was a rectangular room of solid stone slabs, the roof, the floor... all had these slabs. Burning torches illuminated the room, but a somber chill seemed to affect the air. On the farthest wall was the only unique thing in the room.
A statue of herself staring at all who entered.
“I look sad... why am I making myself sad?” she muttered.
Next to the stature, some of the nearest stone tablet had names carved into it. Names.
She stared as she moved closer. Three men had been carved before the farmer. They had no names, either since Sys wasn’t all-knowing or Delta needed to hear them before they appeared.
The words carved chilled Delta to the bone because before those three men there was one name...
£$%!* died on Day 0 of the Dungeon Calendar. Died to unknown.
Man with dagger died on day 0 of the Dungeon Calendar. Died to Hob
Man with sword died on day 0 of the Dungeon Calendar. Died to Gob
Woman with bow died on Day 0 of the Dungeon Calendar. Died to Fran
Dil’s Father the Farmer with Fire Gun died on Day 1 of the Dungeon Calendar. Died to Goblins
Delta turned and fled the room as finally the mana was equalled out...
Her face a mirror of the statue.
With her pain out of the way, Sys decided now was a good time to bombard her with notifications.
Kemy watched as Delem and Ayena went over their supplies. The air was brisk and the day was young.
From the Belon-Meter, a handy device that was only made by guilds and lasted only a year, the Mana in the town indicated the dungeon was only a month old at most but also had two levels.
Ayena had been arguing with Delem about it.
Kemy actually agreed with the archer, a dungeon so young with two levels must be barren of anything... Not that anyone that had been inside the dungeon had been willing to share much. She was staring into space when someone slowed to stand beside her.
She stared down at a teen with a scowl on his face.
“Yes?” Kemy asked politely. The boy spoke and Kemy stared at his orange tongue.
“I’m willing to sell you information on the Dungeon but I want you do something for me first,” he bargained. Kemy blinked a few times but nodded excitedly. She had a sense of when people were lying and this boy here wasn’t! He had information on the dungeon! The first quest of Durence and Kemy had been the one to get it!
“What’s the issue?” she asked, trying not to hop from foot to foot.
“Remove this curse, my tongue needs to be normal, I’d be happy if I was silver tongued but orange is just bad,” the boy grimaced. Kemy giggled.
“You’re funny but sure, let me try,” Kemy held a hand up, her necklace in the other.
“I beg of you, mighty goddess, hear your servant request your aid and banish this curse on this lost soul!” she chanted a little more dramatic than she needed but she had wanted to look a little cool...
Her amulet shined and a sparkle of gold flicked over the boy with the orange tongue. The spark reached the boy’s forehead and was repelled. Kemy stared as a rough symbol of a cloud with two horns appear on the skin.
“You...You’ve been blessed by a local god... I’ve never seen that mark before. Such power,” Kemy backed away. The boy blinked and shrugged.
“Every kid gets baptized by the local priest. Amanstar’s Dad, he jogs and gives us fruit,” he explained.
Kemy felt her goddess’ power ignored utterly. The local priest must have great power... or his god must be something old.
The uneasy feeling of this town grew again as the boy sighed.
“Thanks for trying. Here’s a free tip. Leave your valuables at home, or you’ll be left feeling looted” the boy warned before taking off, obviously at his wit’s end.
“Kemy, stop converting people and let’s go!” Delem yelled as the group headed off towards the gate. Kemy watched as the townsfolk all gave them sly looks. A cheerful woman with a large frame and reddish cheeks waved at them cheerfully.
“Good luck dearies. Don’t worry, Delta really grows on you!” she promised.
Kemy felt those words were... ominous.
“I hate this town,” she mumbled.