The statue room served as what could only be the Cult of the Silence’s vision for life and the world. A glass statue filled with an odd swirling mist in the shape of a giant round mouth full of tentacles and fangs that buried deep into the World.
There was just something a little off about the statue.
Well, two things besides the evil jellyfish trying to snack on it.
“Oh dear… they think the world is flat?” Delta mumbled as the maw held the land like a table on a stand. The land was coloured and made of various materials. Someone had gone to great lengths to implant gems of different colour in various places.
Delta could see a golden amber crystal glowing inside a tiny model of a city. A sapphire and Emerald had been squished together in a city that looked bisected. A deep red one looked to be somewhere in a desert and Delta snorted.
“Red in the desert? Cliche much?” she said and Devina cleared her throat. Sounding like she was trying to say something she was a little awkward to admit. Delta paused but the room was oddly empty of foes for the moment.
Nu blinked into view next to her, looking much better than before.
“Nu… right, let me share the science of my world,” Delta said with a finger wag.
Delta cocked her head and suddenly she felt like she was being ping-ponged across a game board or a pinball machine. Sis let her flow between herself and… others.
This connection… this path was so rocky and confusing that Delta wanted to hurl. She pinged off a wall of gold.
“Oh! Hello, did Sis get the Core-Conn- “ the blazing gold man asked and Delta was yanked dozens of meters… miles.
“I want a party!”
“I want a ball!
Two children argued over and over and didn’t even notice her.
She was flung hard into a new direction and she threw up. Orange Mana splattered the flying tunnel and Delta finally began to scream in panic.
“I WANT OFF!” she yelled. She flew past dozens of tiny forming paths. Some barely looking like mouseholes. Nothing intelligent could be found there, Delta knew. She saw a wall of fire and a face formed. Smooth and beautiful, the face stared.
“She wasn’t kidding about you. How the hell do you exist with only three-”
The face was gone and Delta was flung to the far reaches of this world and felt so homesick she wanted to cry. But never did she see the planet curve or see the vast horizon dip. The tunnel she rode in was straight… curving only so much up, down or sideways for some time until something happened.
She reached the End.
Delta felt the tunnel come to a sudden stop. She almost fell into the vast abyss below. There were no stars down, only above.
“What… the… frig?” she whispered.
That was when she saw something odd. Well, just as odd as the world having an edge. One of the stars above crashed into the ends of the world. The incoming light chipped and was reduced to a mere tear drop and it hit a mountain that acted like a fence to the Edge.
Delta felt her chest compress. A sense of knowing hit her and she watched as the gem buried itself deep into the Earth.
She could feel… someone behind her.
“It’s not perfect but it’s what I managed to create.” the young girl’s voice said and she mumbled something.
“See?” the girl sounded pleased but Delta couldn’t bear to turn and look. Her experience with omnipotent children had never been good. A ghostly scene appeared over the landscape, and the empty abyss beyond the mountain was filled in as if a fog of war had been removed. The land stretched and formed as the hole where the tear had fallen in began to give off whitish Mana.
The world expanded and the darkness was covered a little more. Soon, monsters and people, little puppets, began to explore this new land.
“The World is fragile. Cores are like nails. They help hold it together.” Sis explained and Delta fell backward and gasped as she was back in her core room.
“The world is flat?!” She protested this. Sis’s voice was fleeting and a little blunt, breaking apart fast as Delta returned to reality.
Sis’ voice vanished back into the system, her voice coming from a pure white box that crumbled away. Nu watched this with a little interest.
Nu was cut off as Delta grabbed him and glared.
“Those were other Dungeons? We have a chat function? Do you mean I was too weak with only two floors?” she shook the box rapidly.
Nu flickered out of existence and adjusted himself with those hands.
Nu was teasing but the words hit Delta like a ton of bricks.
Siblings… Dungeons… her people now.
Nu offered and Delta rubbed at her face.
“Can I go back to screaming at mushrooms and setting things on fire?” she mumbled. The answer came as her monsters finished shutting the doors and her Mana seeped into the room. Delta blinked as the room and corridor became a part of her dungeon!
That was easy… and worrying. Why would they just let her take that room? She was about to ask when the room began to tremble. Not like ‘things may be closer than they appear’ shaking but more like every inch of the room was shaking as her Mana began to churn.
Delta slowly turned her head to look at him.
Delta pursed her lips at the unintended jab and was about to ask what had changed when the room abruptly exploded.
Delta coughed as did most of her monsters as orange smoke filtered out of the room.
The statue to the Silence and the intent to eat the world was replaced by something completely new. The flat world glowed with a bright new orange orb and the maws of the monster below were gone as the four corners of the world were now supported by…
“Mushrooms! Good for soup!” Jeb declared. Delta stared as the world became more detailed… there were even some very tiny orbs of new colours on the map. Delta peered at the odd map and Durence had even been filled in but there seemed to be ants on the damn thing. She tried to sweep them off but only managed to do something akin to zooming in.
There were little multi-coloured orbs moving above. She poked one, the one with a more orangish tinge to it.
Grim?! Grim the kid with the attitude and so many issues that Delta wanted to choke him? That Grim? She did another one. Deo… Poppy, Amanstar… Ruli was a little to the side and even near her core symbol.
Good ole Ruli.
But many of the adults that had visited didn’t appear clearly. Was it because they were stronger or because the kids were more likely to take her Mana in? Delta had to assume that was how she was tracking them.
Ruli’s orb looked half red and the other half… looked well, less like an orb and more like a scaled tail.
Odd but that was Ruli.
“I like it but now I’m worried that people are going to abuse this. Anyone who visits like Kemy.” Delta tapped the girl’s orb in the middle of Durence with a frown. “She can be tracked by any asshat who tricks me long enough to get here.” she announced. The rest of the room looked a little nicer.
Four pillars now guarded the statue and Aztec themed carvings covered the surface. Goblins drinking, A long one with Bob looking rather scary, Fran and his lance of light… Delta smiled at them all.
Nu pointed to something and Delta rushed over with excitement then her face went blank as a tiny arm looked to show a figure trapped under mushrooms and goblins.
“If it wasn’t so accurate I’d be pinching you right now.” she said bluntly. She opened the Menu.
She purchased the puzzle one instantly. Her pressing issue was securing the map. A room guardian could wait just a bit. She didn’t want to give up a potential room guardian elsewhere by selecting this one now. The four pillars rotated and a wall of orange light flashed as a hum resonated from the four pillars. Cois sniffed at it and poked it without much thought.
He passed through just fine but Delta was still gasping.
“Nu, I got forcefields!” she exclaimed with joy. Nu seemed to say something then corrected himself.
Delta stared and the box turned away, almost guilty.
“You still upset by that memory jab you threw?” she asked lightly, Nu didn’t say anything.
Delta smiled. She eyed the four pillars and saw many more images had been added. The pillars now had four turning sections with each turning side having an image of a monster. There were quite a few that Delta did not own.
Some hydra, a minotaur… a little pixie? Delta eyed the creature then eyed Nu.
“I bet if I had a Dungeon pixie instead of a grumpy menu, I would still be on the first floor. A slip of the… uh… keyboard isn’t going to change the fact that you’re my friend.” Delta smiled. She watched as Billy easily solved the puzzle by sliding the correct 16 monsters that could be found in Delta’s Dungeon in a line. The light flickered off. Billy nudged one side and the light flicked back on.
Billy stared, and then Delta watched as he flicked the barrier on and off… on and off…
It was like a kid and a fridge at night…
“You wanna make it up to me? I need defence strategies for this room. We got three doors and that means three ways of being attacked, four if you count the way we came in.” she said seriously. Nu perked up and began to scheme. Billy focused on a little orb near the golden Dungeon core in the large city.
Delta blinked before smiling at the name that appeared.
“Noland!” she said, it felt like a year since she saw the man but couldn’t have been more than a week or so at the most.
She wondered how the Taxman turned inspector was?
Delta bet he was having a good time going home.
Noland dreaded this.
Returning to file his tax returns, sacks of gold for the purists, and a report on the Durence Dungeon… Delta. Oddly, he felt like he was back in that Dungeon for a second. A pulse of warmth down his spine… he shrugged it off and went inside the Royal Banking Association.
He was going to get promoted and he knew what that title was… ‘Durence Dungeon Record Keeper’. Not the worst name but it did mean he was off his comfy routine of touring for taxes and now a dedicated man to the Dungeon.
The bank didn’t like rotating taxmen and bankers between Dungeons as it made them into more generalized officials rather than competent experts of that particular Dungeon. Some Dungeons only let you see some of their secrets if you absorbed enough of their Mana or visited enough times.
Old Reg, the bank manager, had been inside the Royal Dungeon more than any adventurer and the guy had a room dedicated to him.
Yes, it depicted Reg as the most boring human alive but at least the dungeon honored him in some way.
Noland paused and then hastily bowed as Princess Serma exited the bank with two Royal Knights and a ragtag bunch of people.
“Mas, we shall begin tomorrow. Are you sure I can’t buy you more equipment or get you some training?” the princess asked the rather young boy. The boy beamed.
“Nah, I got my new sword you gave me! I’m ready to chop monster’s heads off! And I got you! You’re awesome at blasting things.” Mas, the boy, praised. The Princess retained a cool face but Noland could almost see a smile playing in her eyes. One of the Royal Knights, Lady Brilda of the Spear, who seldom spoke and with brevity when she did… but today she seemed to be on fire.
“Do not address the Princess without deep respect and gratitude. Not just anyone gets gifts from the princess.” she reminded the lad and the spear on her back glowed slightly. Zane the Blood Night yawned and the sheer aura of these people should have shaken Noland.
It did make him look away, but honestly… after being stuck with Dabberghast and Quiss in a dungeon, he almost felt a little… let down by meeting the famed Royal Knights again. He remembered not being able to breathe around them before.
“You like Serma a lot, you’re almost like sisters.” Mas winked as the Mouse mage behind them shook his head. Brilda paused, and for the first time Noland had ever heard of…
The woman looked lost for words.
“Close Mas. Lady Brilda has protected me since I was young.” Princes Serma explained as they walked past. Zane slowed and sniffed the air.
He turned to Noland in the distance and tilted his head.
“You… Taxman, where did you come from?” Zane walked over and people rushed to part from his path. Noland tried to look calm and even meek. The man before him could and might even kill him citing some stupid defence law of the Knights but he honestly didn’t care.
He had seen an opera singing demon mushroom and the scariest jungle he had ever heard of. And that was not including the tree woman.
He stared blankly into the man’s eyes.
“Do you have clearance for that information?” Noland asked with one raised brow. Zane leaned down with a smile that hid his annoyance.
“I am a Royal Knight, doesn’t that cut me some slack?” he pressed. Noland thought about it. About letting Zane know about Quiss… Dabberghast… about Deo that odd child… and Delta.
“No. No it doesn’t. Good day, Royal Knight. Please return to scaring people and killing things while I do my best to make sure this kingdom doesn’t collapse under the weight of bureaucracy and gold.” He walked past, and Zane’s huge hand softly touched his shoulder.
“I’ll be filling out forms and paperwork to get permission. You got a real ‘fuck em’ look for a weedy guy and I wanna know what place did that to you. Might have some good fighting there.” Zane grinned, and his madness showed for just a moment before he reigned it in.
“Later, Tax.” Zane wandered off after the waiting princess’ group.
Noland finally breathed. He had been toughened up but that direct touch had made Noland feel like an egg before a dragon.
He could be boiled, fried, smashed, eaten whole, or heated until he broke.
Royal Knights… the most worrying thing was that Zane was hardly the worst.
Delta watched as the doors were repaired and toughened to withstand any more mobs of skeleton bears. Not that she had to worry with her having the bigger monster in the form of Jeb. Now Jack was naming the doors slowly.
“That one there leads to the old forge. Nothing useful there besides weapons, some explosive powder, and about a dozen or so metals. Next is the library to the other side. Lots of good reads like ‘100 Ways to Cook Your Foes’, ‘The Bloody History of Kings’ and ‘Huff the Magical Dragon pop up book’.” Jack listed.
“Any monsters?” Devina asked quietly. Jack rubbed his red scaled chin.
“Got some ‘So, You Love Chimeras?’ and ‘Hydras: Eight heads, One Stomach!’” he offered. Devina’s glare could melt steel.
“…Not really. I think they got bored reading the same things over and over. With everything sort of resetting or reverting, they can’t even write their own stuff. It’s why they learned to talk to themselves or build pets. Boredom I think.” Jack explained.
“For those wanting silence and the end of all, they’re not great at enjoying doing nothing.” Cois sneered. Rale was calmly watching the north door, peering out as it led deeper into the fortress. If an army was gonna come, it would come from there.
Delta wanted to go that way last if she could help it. She liked to make sure her side rooms didn’t hide anything before she left her back and her monsters open for a flank attack of some ambush.
“Library first. Knowledge and power and all that.” she told Devina.
“Jeb, you stay here and guard the room.” Delta told him. Jeb gave her a thumbs up, trying three times to get the right finger up.
“I will sit against the door, Ma! Not gonna open with my butt in the way.” he promised. Delta liked her troll. He was a smasher, a charmer, and now… a door stop.
“Keep the doors open on the way to the library. Jeb is strong but I want a clear path in case you need to come help.” Delta said quietly.
Her group travelled slowly down the hallways.
Delta gave Jeb a last look, the troll kicking his legs and humming like a meat grinder. Just a little more and they could get to the forge and make it into a cave for Jeb.
She had a feeling that it would work better than the library.
The connecting hallway was more of the same. Stone floors with fake windows. Curtains looked limp and almost ghostly, the lone painting depicted some grand city sinking into a hole. Cheery.
The door to the library was actually a little bit smaller than the rest and when Rale pushed it open with the end of his trident, it creaked and began to open slowly.
Rale hit it again and it crashed into the wall inside.
“No time for creepy doors! Books must be defeated!” he declared. The silence, the normal kind, was all that was there.
Tall shelves of bound books, scrolls, picture books, and even some DIY titles stood out. Jack wasn’t kidding when he said it was empty. The smell was of a quaint place of books, the odd reversion power of this fortress managing to actually keep the mold out quite well.
Good thing it wasn’t all dark and creepy. There were about ten rows of bookcases. The far end of the room had a smallish desk where a librarian could watch like a hawk but it stood empty. Smaller paintings filled the walls and a few banners hung nearby.
It was all standard fields, forests, meadows, dogs playing poker, a DnD style battle against a dragon, very plain things. The banners were of a deep purple and showed a tiny crest of a moon cracking in half.
Delta watched as her Mana flowed down the hall and the lone painting exploded into more orange smoke before the Mana slowed to a crawl just inside the Library.
“That’s twice today my ‘mental faculties’ have been brought into question.”
“Does it have pictures of cute piglets at the end?” she tried.
“Then take your time going through it all!” Delta scampered to see the new painting in the hall.
The sinking city was gone, showing the sun shining down on her Dungeon Entrance. The trees torn down now, replaced with giant mushrooms, and the light making her home look… magical, not dangerous.
“Much better,” Delta grinned.
Jeb was fast asleep in the three minutes they had been gone.
His snot bubble was large and Delta felt like she shouldn’t find the monster cute but really… Jeb was cute in his own way when he wasn’t chewing bones and such. The slowly regrowing arm was a bit creepy though.
They repeated the same slow search of the hall leading to the Forge room. This hallway was bare, without even a houseplant to spruce things up. The people who lived here did not think much of the Forge room and as Delta watched her monsters approach, she smelled… eggs, rotten eggs and… burning coal.
Looking behind her, she didn’t see Jeb so she guessed it was the natural smell of the forge. What on Earth, flat as it was, could make such a stink?
Rale kicked the door open and something long and coiled inside the furnace lashed out. A snake skeleton tried to sink its fangs into her frog’s shoulder but he slammed the trident between its jaws.
“There’s a snake in the forge!” he said as if the others hadn’t been watching.
“Oh, that bugger? He's been growing for some time. Like a real snake but dunno how he’s escaping the revert field.” Jack said as he rushed in to stare at the whipping spiked tail of the creature. Each spike seemed to be less of a thorn and more of a bone that had been sharpened.
“Those are human ribs. I assume it convinced a few of the grunts around to join in to make it bigger. Though I doubt it asked.” Cois said and bashed his staff into the creature’s skull, causing it to recoil and rear up.
Delta imagined that if it was a cobra and had skin, this would be where its hood would flare.
Numb used Rale as a springboard and axe-kicked the somehow-hissing skull.
There was a <crack>, and then Numb grabbed the snake’s spine and bent it over his knee.
The snake crumbled, and more of the black smoke flew back through the air and under the door Jeb was guarding. Danger over, Delta sighed.
“Good thing Rale’s awareness is so good.” she mumbled. Devina gave her a dismayed look.
“He didn’t see it. He just reacted because Bob likes to tackle him and it’s now instinct to react like that to long bodied creatures. He’s an idiot!” she shook her head.
Having no words to counter that, Delta watched as this room was quickly consumed by her growing Mana.
The forge with its long abandoned hammer that looked fit for the hands of a giant. The stacks of metal ores and barrels of half-finished weapons. There was a large stand for some missing sword… but Delta ignored that as Cois began to audibly weep.
“My loot!” he cried. The black grainy powder was up next and Delta waved a few fingers about.
Better do this fast before Cois saw.
There was a heavy thunk.
“Oh wow! This item is magical and I can’t seem to absorb it!” Delta said loudly and peered down at the large shield with a golden spider on it. Thank you, forge, for the golden bars. Delta would be sure to put them to good use.
Cois was on the shield like a child on a new toy
“Mine! Mine! I mean… Well the boys’, but for now… Mine!” Cois hissed and tried to heft the shield. There was a long pause as the room was fully converted and that odd feeling of the Mana shaking began again.
Cois silently looked at Rale.
“Worry not, little fire bug. I shall keep it safe!” Rale picked it up with Cois still attached.
Delta smiled as the room began to shift into a new form. This bugged room configuration could be a pain…
“Release me, frog or I’ll stir fry you before feeding you to the closest thing to French people here!” Cois warned, Delta’s knowledge rearing its head in her monsters again.
The flash died down and the forge room looked… greenish.
Moss, vines, and even grass had run wild in the forge room, reclaiming it for nature. Glowing flowers and dripping stalagmites made Delta think of a buried ruin in a cave.
It was really nice and Delta could see it working well in her favor. She’d just need to adjust a few things.
She removed half the forge to make a semi-small room for Jeb, added a small basin of natural running water to one side and focused hard to think of what else screamed ‘Troll!’
Besides pile of bones and such.
Finally she decided on something cheap and easy. Near the top of the room, she built a cheap bridge that went nowhere.
Trolls and bridges. It was classic. She tried opening the menu - and sure enough, the option she wanted was there, mixed in with ways to restart the forge or even make a mine.
Other rooms could do that but Jeb’s survivability was too important. Delta liked him too much for him to die now and the hardcore Nu would see it as a strategic advantage to keep her biggest monster around for free.
Win-win. Troll Troll.
Delta hummed as she hit it.
The room changed once more and the remnants of the forge was turned into a proper cave. Besides that, the hole Delta made of the furnace was dug even deeper into a pit of darkness and wet earth.
The room felt a little wilder than before and Delta eagerly opened the new Menu.
Delta blinked once then another time.
“I can…only have one troll? It takes up three slots?” she said in dismay. She had resisted the gacha guardian and turning the forge into a mine. And while Jeb was safe, all she got told was that he was fat even in terms of the System!
She read on.
Oh. That was fine then. Delta could get the almost ‘buy one get one free’ deal in terms of Monster slots.
She silently apologized to Jeb for calling him fat when he was just big boned and perhaps big rocked as she bought all the options.
The Library would be done soon so really, it only left one direction to go. Jeb looked eager to follow the scent of ‘home’ and Delta let him.
The yells of excitement were what made Delta’s day… the following smells of cooking and the odor that produced, less so…
She could now see why ‘Troll Soup’ was so cheap. She hoped to God there were recipe books in that damn library because Delta was not putting up with that concoction of Jebs. It was like the Moonshine of soups.
Brewed in gasoline and mixed with dead possums.
She covered her nose and looked towards the last door.
Still, this direction gave her the willies, and she was not sure she really wanted to go on, but this thing had attacked Sis and Nu.
She wasn’t going to let that slide.
“Delta team, roll out!” she ordered.
She got looks of confusion and some amusement.
“I find that some books lie and rolling at the right time doesn't make you immune to damage, better to run if you can!” Jack offered.
“Just… go.” Delta said with a sigh.
The last pole was undented, helped along by the great return magic. He watched as the gate began to finally open after 40 years. Progress ever since that damn scaled rat had vanished. But he had sensed her.
His master demanded core shards and he would supply.
He turned on his steed, his dark lance glowing with the power of the Silence. He reared back as his skeleton horse glowed with the same power.
The gates opened loudly and the sounds of the end came.
The Captain of the Ending Light pointed his spear and the slaves and grunts he had pulled back to fix the gate joined the mass to rush through the Hall of the Last Feast and towards the depiction of the future…
The End had come, and it rode on a dead steed.
He charged, eyes ablaze with the power of Silence.
Ruli stood before the entrance to the second-floor boss room, covered in darts and Bob slime.
She wasn’t winded but she was nervous.
She had no idea why and it was pissing her off!
“Open up. I don’t have time for this puzzle bullshit. I need to help Delta!” she yelled. The door didn’t answer but Ruli was sure she was being heard.
“Listen to me, you childish dick of a monster. I heard from Quiss you’re some tree girl, well listen to me. I like your Mum and I want to help her. If you get in my way I will make you regret it. Don’t you take what’s happening down there seriously?” she yelled, her body bulking with power and nails turning into her clawed weapons.
The door opened.
“More than I care to… wild woman. Take the stairs, and if I see you without Mother Delta on the way up… I’ll make you regret it. Go now, your face pisses me off,” the woman… the actual tree woman hissed, the mist parting to show a clear path to a door that opened.
That feeling of wrong grew even worse.
“I’ll bring her back safe,” Ruli said and pushed on.
“….Thank you,” she heard and she turned but the mist had hidden the boss’ form from sight.
“Delta, can’t you just adopt more Frans? This one has issues,” she mumbled as she took the stairs two steps at a time.
Called… he was called.
He felt… they all felt the danger, but being her first, Fran came to a halt.
He turned to the feeling and knew someone… something deadly was coming for Mum. No…
Not while he drew breath. He pointed his lance to the door and screamed in rage at the mere idea of someone treading over Mother’s core.
He would crush their bones and feed them to Bacon.
Fran hit the door to the boss room, and the odd feeling of wrongness… of not belonging beyond this door hit him like a truck, but without Delta, he didn’t belong anywhere, so he urged Bacon on. Fran’s eyes blazed as orange as his lance.
He was her guardian… he would not fail again.