Her brave Adventurers were not exactly... in perfect shape to take on an undead horde. Having just faced off against an army of spiders, Delta’s frogs needed some time to catch their breath. Not that Rale would admit to being at anything less than 100%.
Jack, who was something called a “Kobold” according to Nu, stayed resting near her core. The first ‘proper’ rest the guy had gotten in 20... or 40 years. Delta wanted to pretend she was expecting a trap or distrusted the Kobold but she didn’t.
Jack sounded quite insane... and very lonely. He rambled on about undead, bombs, eating bones, and licking walls... but he refused to stop talking. He almost seemed a little needy for any ounce of conversation.
How long had he been underground?
Delta let him sleep as Renny stood guard. The Mime was still wary of the lizard but after a couple of quick words... the Mime just gave Jack odd looks.
Another victim of the Silence... a brother in arms in some ways.
So...with nothing else to do and definitely not dwelling on her dream, Delta did what she did best.
Make things better by making them worse.
The empty room beyond the Circus had been her focus until the Spiders attacked. Now, the only evidence of that was the glowing egg in her tunnel... well, at least that was what Delta hoped. If anything survived above then that would just be annoying.
Imagine if the town had seen her make a little mess and got angry or something? She might die from the embarrassment!
She pushed that thought aside to focus on the lone room that now curved to meet the new Spider Tunnel. The room here still had some of the Spider Queen’s purple tinge, but it was aimless and docile. Delta tapped her chin as she sat on empty air to think.
If this was to be a shortcut via combat... then this room had to be a defence from the strong but not the smart. That only made sense.
Some sort of puzzle room... should it be spider themed or something? Delta had Mana and DP to spare, really.
Nu hadn’t lied about the Third Floor and the Egg draining the excess.
Her Mana was now maxed at 200 and her DP was near the 800s.
It was insane and so much was open to Delta. She shook that idea off for a moment, getting lost in what she could do compared to what she wanted was just asking for trouble. She eyed the open room and made a giant gate of solid iron bars, spending a little more mana to add thick vines interwoven through the fence like gate to add some more weight to the whole thing.
She focused and a growth of metal and Mana bubbled at the centre of the gate, forming a spider with eight limbs made of metal. The top of which was still within reach of an average person. Delta grinned as she manipulated the next part with careful intent.
Each limb of the spider filled out with a spinning password lock. Eight passwords needed to bypass the lock and Delta spent 2 Mana a piece to set the passwords.
Each limb needed one of these names. Some limbs shrunk as their passwords were shorter and some grew as their names were bigger. If people wanted quick access to the second floor, then they damn well better know who they were skipping and not giving proper respect to. Delta focused and pulled up the menu of her efforts.
Delta pursed her lips.
She pretended to cough as she dragged her finger down the list as if by accident.
The menu went blank and the gate become a dark iron gate covered in ivy as a spider with actual ruby eyes glared down at approchers. It looked so life-like...
Delta had to remind herself that it could be.
She floated down the tunnel and watched as Cois poked the giant egg.
“- make you into a giant omelet! I missed the fight and you go and die before I can show off!” he growled. The fire loving goblin poked his staff harder and the egg pulsed as one side seemed to bulge as the Queen inside moved.
“Stop that, this is a new being. She can’t be held accountable for her previous life or how much of a horrid mother she was,” Delta chided. Cois, to his credit, didn’t jump at her voice.
“I guess but is she just gonna sleep there all day?!” he demanded as if offended by the ‘laziness’ of the egg.
Delta was about to comment when the egg wobbled as it drained just a tad more Mana and glowed orange. The egg shook from side to side for a long moment.
All that excess Mana the egg had taken had really sped things up.
Cois looked heavenwards as the egg split in half and a flood of birth yolk and goo covered his form. Delta covered her mouth in horror but Cois stood frozen on the spot as a tiny form fell to the ground.
The spider had a human torso and eight spindly legs that took a long moment to gain its’ balance. Delta peered closely with interest.
“Queenie?” she called.
The form turned slowly and bright orange eyes blinked at Delta, then Cois. The spider legs scuttled forward.
“Papa... Cois!” the young boy beamed. Cois looked like the spider boy had just pulled his heart out in a painful manner.
“Spider... goo... slimey,” he croaked. The Spider boy blinked.
“Not goo. I am Queenie,” the boy declared proudly.
Delta watched as the young thing turned to her form shyly.
“You’re...Momma? No... burning... Grandma Delta!” the boy beamed. Delta felt like the damn creature had just shot her in the kneecaps.
“G-grandma?” Delta blustered. Cois choked.
“Papa?” Cois screamed on the inside. Queenie the boy spider merely hummed as he examined his new land.
All hail Queen ‘Queenie’ the boy Arachne. Delta had no idea how to explain it but as Cois tried to free himself while cursing, the young child giggled and echoed his rude words, Delta knew she would break whoever hurt her sweet spider child.
She needed Muffet over here ASAP.
Her group was ready for war but Delta was too busy watching as Muffet slowly taught Quee, the shortened name for Queenie, how to form webs and how to use his eight legs... Quee constantly turned his head to make sure his Papa Cois was watching.
Not that Cois had any choice... being webbed to the wall after all. He had tried to escape but Quee cried and Delta’s frosty glare had sent the goblin sulking back. Muffet turned out to be a good aunt and excellent teacher on all things spider.
Before long Quee had learned to make a web, dance, drink tea, and even look slightly noble. Some of those were definitely related to spiders. Another thing he could do was manipulate darkness, as they found out after some testing. His power was strongest when the sun set, Sis confirmed this.
Watching the young boy giggle as he scuttled away from Muffet as she tried to teach him a complex triple web knot, Delta smiled.
This Queen... was already ten times better than the raging frigid ice Queen from before. Even if he was A different sex and age...
Well, Delta’s templates had been on the fritz since creating the frogs, no real shock there.
“Quee... I need to take Cois on a mission, he’ll be back soon,” she spoke and Quee scuttled to Cois as he freed himself easily from the web.
“Not papa! Take Numb or nasty Billy! I want papa!” he buried his face into Cois’ shoulder. The goblin sighed in deep suffering.
“Boy, listen to me. I am Cois. The great master of fire and power, not-” he tried to speak but Quee held on tightly.
“Papa, don’t go!” the spider boy begged. Cois faltered.
“Master... of space... and fire-” he tried feebly. The black-haired child with skin of deep chocolate sniffled.
“I’m going to bring you a surprise and a treasure!” Cois suddenly announced and Quee looked up with surprise before his face split into a beaming smile.
“Really?” the child asked with awe. Cois shot Delta a panicked look and she merely gave him a cold look in return.
“Yes! I just... need to go get it but you can’t have it if you don’t behave and RELEASE ME!” Cois roared but the boy looked pleased, ramming into Cois to give him one last hug,
“I’ll be the best boy! I can’t wait for my surprise,” Quee told Muffet who was giving Cois a terrible look of disappointment.
They departed and Cois looked down at the ground.
“Is there... treasure... down there?” he finally asked. Delta didn’t point out she could make treasure or toys and let the goblin suffer.
“Good chance of... not really. It was a stuffy fort with dead people,” she mused aloud. This was revenge for Kemy and Quee after all.
Delta paused and grinned, she had to make those two meet! Cois grumbled. He looked back to the spinning tunnel of orange and purple which already had some flimsy webs forming. The goblin sighed in disgust.
“What a pest. Making me a liar if I don’t do this stupid adventure,” he complained and Delta briefly nudged him with her new solidity before her arm broke apart in a mist.
“Look at it this way, there are dead things that you get to set on fire!” she reminded. That did cheer the goblin pyromancer up dramatically for some unknown reason. Delta rolled her eyes as the goblin shot off to gather Numb and Billy to join the first raid party. Delta mentally rolled the team formation over in her head.
Rale was her Paladin, a mighty warrior of the faith, faith that if it can go in the river, it can be rescued. Devina as the cleric, her spirit abilities were mostly still untested but she filled the role nicely. Luna wanted to rest beside her hot springs, and reflect on what she had learned in the last battle.
Rather wise of her but the bump on her head from Gramps suggested the idea was not entirely her own. Billy the archer filled the sneaky rogue slot just as fine. Cois was their mage, over-specialised in the ‘burn burn burn’ school of things. Numb being a monk warrior, rounded things out.
The goblin had to be good at cracking skulls at this point... what better place to start than with actual walking skeletons? Not that Delta was going to sit around and do nothing, she was going to use that weird ability that she had used way back when Devina entered Renny’s circus for the first time.
To see through their eyes in this halfway point of real and dungeon space.
Honestly, as creepy as the place felt, a real castle of her own to remodel was sort of exciting. She could have fake passages behind paintings! Suits of armours for goblins and frogs! Tapestries of Bob!
Oh... and what kind of boss would she have?
A king? Some royal knight? Or a demonic jester?
Hm... seemed too close to Renny. Delta smiled as she hummed, her voice carrying as Maestro softly spread her tune across all of the Dungeon.
Despite her creepy dream, which she had a feeling was more like some spooky psychological attempt to freak her out, Delta didn’t feel so nervous now that she had rallied her forces. Jack was... Jack was the odd man out and if he insisted on being her guide for the Third Floor, she wanted to have a talk with him first.
She found the lizard in Fera’s bar, the lizard was sobbing as he drank and ate the various dishes Fera brought out.
“This here is going on your tab, you mad thing,” Fera reminded. Jack nodded, cheeks stuffed with pork and mushrooms. He made an almost comical gulp and Delta could almost see the food settle in his stomach.
“You are a short frumpy green goddess!” Jack said, showing his fangs as he smiled. Fera slowly reached under her bar with a blank expression.
“Fera... don’t shoot the guest, not until I’ve talked with him,” Delta said and Fera looked guilty as if being caught with her hand in a murderous cookie jar.
“Of course not, Ma. Wouldn’t dirty the floors! I just cleaned them,” she sniffed as the court of royal spiders minus Muffet all cheered and sipped at ‘Fera’s Three day old Mushroom Spring Water Wine’. They all toasted to the birth of Quee. One chittered about middle names, if 24 was too little but they didn’t want to be old fashioned.
The last ruling King danced in circles, clearly suggesting tradition was good and not to skip on the average 64 middle names. The Queen that had banned weaving competitions raised three legs.
She wanted her name to be in the first 20. The others all began to chide her for being greedy as they got drunk thimble sized cups.
Jack looked ready to join them but Fera shot him a look.
“Don’t bother my best customers,” she warned before vanishing to check on food and other mysteries behind the bar. Delta slid onto a stool, feeling the hard wooden seat for a precious few moments before she had to resort to floating just above it.
“Mr Jack-” she began and the lizard looked around in panic.
“It was a phase! I just wanted to be a gentleman bomber for a while!” he defended the title as if Delta had unearthed some hidden secret. Delta closed her mouth, thought about asking, then tried again.
“Jack, what made you keep going down there?” she asked and the Kobold made a long thinking face.
“Well, it was my promise, ain’t it? I promised that young soft hot piece of- I mean... huntress, lovely woman, that I would delay the Silence for as long as I could. My record is still going at 34... 52... I think it was 41 years. I ran out of day scratches in my hiding spots after a while,” he admitted. ‘Huntress’ made Delta think of Ruli, but ‘soft’ was not a word Delta would apply to the woman.
Maybe it had something to do with having no scales? But Ruli was still too young. Did she have an old sister or a mother in the business?
Delta had no idea, she resolved to ask next time the woman dropped by. She still couldn’t wait to show her the bar!
“But you ended up trapped underground!” Delta continued, feeling that was a lot for a promise. The Kobold shrugged.
“Wasn’t part of the plan but neither was surviving! Jackie-boy here is good at messing up plans!” he laughed a deep booming noise that had the fringes of despair and madness echoing in its tracks.
“I’m... sorry you had to go through that,” Delta said quietly. The Kobold blinked at her shape, to guests and outsiders, she was still a shimmering haze of orange, her voice seemed to be clear if Delta really focused on talking to Jack.
“Wasn’t your fault, was it? Nah, you’re my hero, you rescued me!” he slapped the bar in delight as if touching something other than stone and bone was a joy. Delta leaned on one hand in amusement.
“I’m more like a happy accident. Kind of my entire gimmick here to be honest. I do something and something…unexpected... happens,” she waved her other hand in airy amusement. Jack nodded as if he got that feeling to a personal level.
“I throw bombs at things and they explode, it’s the damnedest thing,” he looked skyward as if this had puzzled him for a long time. He shot her a sideways grin as very old playing cards slid from his sleeve and began to dance between his hands. That could have been Jack’s only form of entertainment besides killing the unkillable for decades...
“I wanna ask a favour, if that’s alright, Hero?” he said and Delta blinked at the nickname but merely nodded.
“I wanna clear that level. I... I need to clear the castle. I’ve been stuck on the same six or so rooms and massive main corridor for years. I had to destroy the main gate to keep... well to keep some real nasty orc shite trapped inside, pardon my Goblin, but knowing for the first time in years... The idea I can finally beat that damn place is filling my head up faster than that stumpy grumpy wonderful Fera’s cooking is filling my stomach,” the lizard grinned like a loon.
He barely seemed to react as a pot was flung from the kitchen with a huff. It clunked against his head and he looked at it before lowering the pot over his head and testing it.
“New equipment... better than skeleton bone helms and untouchable ghost panties,” he mumbled. Delta blinked but the Kobold rolled his head, pot sliding as he looked at her again.
“I’ll lend you my power, if you let me do that. Let me kick that castle’s arse so hard I’ll make the Silence yelp. How about it? I got bombs, questionable cooking methods... sometimes I break down crying and jibbering... and also I really like Mushrooms, they’re nice,” the Kobold tried to look earnest at that last attempt at flattery.
“I didn’t like them either but they grow on you against your will. I still have some daydreams about a Mushroom free level but for once... I really hope they make their way downstairs. Nothing cleans death faster than good ole insects and fungi,” she nodded then held out a hand.
“I got a contract space open since I got the Third Floor, I was going to kidnap- convince this sweet priestess girl to join but you sound like you might fit in better already,” Delta mused. Jack just listened and waited, eyeing her outstretched hand.
“I can’t break contracts yet... and I don’t know the whole gig behind them and honestly every contract besides Waddles got some upgrade or massive change. Waddles just kinda... well, let’s not mention Waddles,” Delta mumbled. She watched as Jack slowly took her hand.
“I don’t want to be a mindless slave... if I wanna go for a drink in that little shack the others set up outside, I’ll go and if people try to eat me, I wanna eat them back or least take a few fingers,” Jack warned. Delta shook her head.
“Sorry, I don’t do slaves. You’ll be lucky if within a week someone crazier doesn’t appear and join up. I have enough to manage without the guilt of that on my mind. Just be yourself, don’t blow up people that come without good reason, and... just remember, you’re free from the castle,” she leaned down and met the creature’s yellow slitted eyes.
“Hopping from one jail to another?” Jack replied.
Delta jerked her thumb to the general direction of the Dungeon.
“Door’s that way if you get bored or don’t like it. Just walk and walk until you feel free,” she promised.
“You’s one of them down-to-earth gals who screams a lot, aren’t you?” Jack grinned. Now that was offensive! Delta barely screamed anymore.
‘In rage’ didn’t count.
Jack downed his drink then shook her hand.
“Fire the contract up, Hero. I got some undead to make just dead,” he said with a wide mad grin.
Mad Jack the Kobold.
Delta was sure Quiss was going to have comments on this but what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt! Besides, knowing her luck, Sis would offer her a random monster to contract and Delta knew that would... be hard to resist.
Better the Devil Kobold she knew in the end.
The Menu appeared to them both.
At Jack’s amused stare, Delta looked down, cheeks going flushed.
“SIs is a bit... too nice,” she finally said.
“Seems to be a theme around here! Super nice but would kinda kill you in a second! I love it!” Jack cackled and accepted the contract.
He was surrounded by threads of glowing orange as Sis took her first steps to include him under Delta’s banner.
“Oh boy... I haven’t felt that deeply invaded since the grog fest of Orkansaw!” Jack said in a higher voice as he shook off the threads of power.
His ragged kilt, made of a reddish leather, was repaired and fell to his knees.. His odd tunic and cloak looked freshly cleaned and had been embroidered with little Delta symbols in various places. The cloak itself was pinned to the tunic by a golden Delta brooch. Lots of things clinked and rattled under that cloak.
Jack gave himself a once over. His claws trailed softly down the tunic and cloak.
“Oh, new threads! I haven’t felt this material before. I shall call it Deltiem!” he pointed as if discovering some important element.
Delta beamed as she felt the Kobold appear in her Dungeon senses, a new cog on the fringes of it all.
She was pleased to have contracted a mad bomber...
Her smile faltered. Was... that a good thing to be pleased about? Delta had to sit there for long moments to just mourn how her sense of ‘normal’ had died, unheard and unseen by Delta herself.
She eyed the ale with a longing.
That only grew when Cois stormed in, spotted the glowing orbs on Jack’s chest and began to... smile slowly. The Kobold turned and also froze.
“Is that the scent of burned… everything?” Jack asked in delight.
“Is that contained fire?” Cois repeated in the same tone.
They moved closer and Delta wondered if this was what folks back home felt when they saw atoms smashing together in a fusion reaction?
Meltdowns and disasters everywhere.
She stood and decided to point the new brothers of the school for ‘No boom is too big’ at the undead before she had to explain a crater to Durence.
She stood before the Third Floor Stairs after a few seconds.
What’s the plan?
Nu’s ever watchful box asked.
“Why Nu? It’s the most common theme in all of adventuring!” Delta announced. She turned and let her voice be felt through the entire Dungeon.
“You have to gather your party to venture forth!” she said and her words touched some monsters deeper and they answered the call with joy in their hearts.
Delta looked down the dark stairs.
“You know things are messed up when a Dungeon has to clear another Dungeon to get anywhere,” she mused aloud.
Is that where you think things got messed up? How nice...
Delta ignored the jab and remembered the children with no eyes.
“Watch out, you creepy corn-child rip-offs, Momma Delta is coming to hand out ass-kickings,” she called.
The stairs seemed to pause for a moment in their spooky atmosphere.
Then they grew dense and heavy in challenge.
“Nu, get me my buff lifeguard frog, my pyromaniac, my monk, the goth ranger, my voodoo frog, and the mad bomber I found in my basement,” she said seriously.
Nu didn’t bother responding.