In Delta’s honest opinion, when one troll is good... two must surely be great. It was... sort of. Delta watched as the second troll appeared. This one smaller but wider. The cave troll finished materialising and Delta was confused when she thought she saw sea weed clumped together on the top of the troll’s head.
Jeb peered in with wide and excited eyes. The troll turned and grumbled.
“What you staring at?” the troll growled. Jeb moved in closer.
“Sister! You are in Ma’s Dungeon!” Jeb proclaimed. Sister?
Delta tried not to stare but there was nothing that would be considered human femininity in the troll. Then again, Delta was using human eyes. Maybe to a troll, this new monster was a bomb shell?
“I know that, rockhead. I know where I am, innit? I ain’t dumb, eh?!” the troll roared and Jeb smiled as if this was a great joke. He reached forward to pet the troll’s head and there was a crunch as the troll buried her fist into Jeb’s grinning face.
“You stink of troll soup. Don’t mess my hair!” she warned. Jeb said something but his nose being flat made it harder to understand him. The troll wore a large shoulder-to-knee cloth thing that might have been a sheet but for the dirt and mushrooms growing on it. The twin shoulder straps and thick pockets made it seem almost… homemade.
The troll finally noticed Delta and her bravado and anger turned to silent blinking.
“Hello...” Delta said slowly.
“...Hey, Ma,” the troll mumbled. There was a long pause.
“I dun wanna share a cave with this idiot. Can you make another cave?” the troll asked and Jeb blinked.
“I can sleep outside!” he offered.
“I’ll wake up to find your big butt blocking the cave entrance,” came the retort.
“I’ll work on it but you need a name. Anything you wanna be called or-” Delta began and the troll crossed her arms.
Delta closed her mouth and she could almost feel Nu’s smug amusement hovering nearby.
“That name is a bit... misleading,” Delta tried as the female troll went to inspect the troll room, noticing the old furnace and anvil.
“Man-eater,” came the next grunted suggestion.
“How about Daisy? Or Rose or...Terra or Gaia?” Delta walked around so the troll was looking at her. Again, the troll looked away as if she didn’t want to look at Delta.
“Heart-Gnasher!” she suddenly exclaimed. That seemed to make the troll happy and Delta knew she would have to be clever here... well, just a little clever.
“Sure...” she began and Cois nearby made a choking noise of protest.
“But we’ll shorten it uh... Gnashly because nicknames are good too,” Delta nodded. The troll thought this over.
“I like it. It’s like a secret...I’m Gnashly,” the troll bobbed her head and the seaweed like hair bobbed.
“Gnashly and Jebediah!” Jeb crowed and he almost got another punch for his efforts.
Gnashly grabbed a very old rusty knife from the blacksmith table, which had become a part of the room now and cut her long hair shorter.
“Getting in ma eyes,” she complained.
The action actually was interesting and Delta watched as her hair began to bubble and grow almost straight away.
Troll regen was a bitch it seemed when you had a bad hair style.
The chopped parts wilted but Delta noticed they hadn’t faded. Gnashly chopped and chopped but the hair kept growing like weeds.
“Hey, you mind not shedding everywhere?” Cois yelled. Gnashly glared down at the gob.
“Shut it before I sit on you,” she snarled. Cois scampered up her back and tisked at the messy growing hair.
“You never heard of maintenance? Watch,” he commanded and gathered the hair with firm hands and began to tie it into a ratty knot with one overlapping strand acting like a hairband.
“Saw that human woman in leather pants that came with Kemy the good-doer. She had her hair up like this?” Cois said and admired his work.
Delta smiled but didn’t say anything as Gnashly slowly felt her knotted hair. It held up but it did look like she had stuck her head into a blender.
“It’s good. You live for now,” Gnashly complimented Cois.
“Yeah yeah, growl at the gob who can control fire,” Cois waved this off. Billy snorted from the shadows.
“‘Control’ is a strong word,” he mocked. Delta was already summoning some cloth long enough for Gnashly to learn to tie her own hair up.
Jeb watched the scene and rubbed his own bald rocky head sadly.
Delta sadly did not have a toupee to conjure. Unless she could make something from boar hair and mushroom fibres...
Best not think about it before Sis did just that.
“So, you know what to expect? The Third Floor isn’t safe yet,” Delta began to explain. Gnashly retreated to the cave to experiment with tying her hair up without being seen but her voice flooded out like a swarm of bats.
“Undead eedjits and some quiet bugger. Just smash anyone that comes from that side unless they talk or something... if they come from the stairs... ignore them or rob them,” Gnashly responded, sounding bored.
“Well, don’t rob them unless they’re asses but, basically. So... uh...welcome to the Dungeon!” Delta called. This was one of the awkward summons. The breaking-down of the monster creation system and her own general weirdness was enough to either make smooth summons or awkward ones.
There was the third type that resulted in Delta babbling at the bottom of her pond.
Delta did her best not think of those summons.
“Thanks... I’ll find something to do... I hear ya like us monsters being busy or something,” Gnashly’s voice toned down to a quiet thoughtful sound.
“Just take your time... I’ll let you settle in with Jeb and come back later,” Delta could feel the almost unsaid request to give the new troll some space.
This was an awkward one alright.
She’d come around. Delta suspected having her, Jeb, the gobs, and Nu around was a lot of pressure to have a calling moments after being created. Gnashly needed time to just think.
Delta could appreciate that and even encouraged her monsters to think.
She stood in the map room with a serious expression.
Far too serious. Delta looked around the room and could almost see the shadows waiting for Delta to forget to have fun or to be too grim. That was no good.
She pondered her options.
Her Mana was soaking into the garden beyond, where it would slow down even more to absorb the 7 rooms beyond as she cleared them out one by one.
Still, the garden was getting absorbed rather quickly and cleanly.
A terrible foe. A great monster.
It rose about them and towered like a demon to their light. Still, not one of them broke formation or turned tail. They were the mighty Mana. They would fear no demon, no monster and certainly... not this... gazebo!
They took the arches together and a few of the men fell through the gaps below. Several screams for fallen comrades that were absorbed by the Mana legion below but onwards they climbed this demonic garden accessory.
It began to twitch and tried to run, finally revealing its true form but the magically enchanted furniture was still... just an object. It lacked lifeforce and thus... was prey!
All for the Dungeon! All FOR DELTA!
Delta was kinda glad she wasn’t forced to watch the process, it would drive her to tears with the boredom of things just... being converted. Best to make the most of her time.
She opened the Map Menu and smirked at the Guardian option.
It was almost unhealthy how close she was to doing these two options together, but the security of the third floor and preventing assholes from accessing the map was... just that important.
She purchased the guardian option and the light flashed in the room before it rocketed down the hall and into the library. Delta blinked, not sure why another room was being involved but she followed it, actually running in her excitement.
The connection between the map and the library grew tighter and every book on the library shelves were shaking as Delta phased into the room.
Then it all went still. Delta narrowed her eyes.
“As the Dungeon Master, I command you to reveal yourself!” she flung a hand forward, giddy and nervous.
If she got another mimic, that would be a bit of a let down.
Like a switch had been flipped, the books began to rocket off the shelves and swirl in the air. The actual damn bookcases themselves sunk into the floor to create a wide open space as more and more books mashed together to form a blocky humanoid figure.
It stood about eight feet tall and the blocky multicolored covers that made up its form were constantly shifting and being replaced except for the lone book at the head which laid open.
The pages were blank and then two black ink dots seeped from inside the pages and became visible.
Delta stared up at the giant book thing.
“Libraries...book-transformers in disguise?” she guessed.
The menu appeared.
“Grim... you buffed my monster,” Delta mumbled but then tried her winning smile.
“Hello! Welcome to the Dungeon! Wow... saying that twice in less than ten minutes is a bad sign,” Delta said that last part to herself.
The Golem didn’t move. It didn’t speak or write words on its facebook. Delta held up a hand to collect herself from that unintentional pun and had to fight a smile.
The Golem didn’t respond or move.
She eyed the Menu and it began to add more details.
That made two monsters with a huge weakness to fire! First the trolls and now Booky. Delta would honestly be upset at such a weakness on the floor but...
Anyone who made it through the first floor after using fire would probably be too traumatised to ever risk setting anything else on fire again in her Dungeon.
Booky broke apart suddenly and the shelves returned.
Without an invader, she guessed even a golem-like Booky would get bored. At least if someone wanted to use her map, they would have to trade knowledge or burn Booky to ashes to even get at it.
That made Delta feel better knowing that people she considered guests and friends would be safe.
Still, she wanted the garden secure and the feast hall ready to be defended before she urged her monsters onwards.
Delta floated to the kitchen, eager for the room converting to be done.
The Gazebo had evaded them well until now. All but this corner was now Deltian. Their hard work had beaten this monster's sheer tenacity to live. Foolish! When it fought hard, the Mana would go beyond hard! It would reach the pinnacle of Delta Mana and push on!
No mere Gazebo could halt their advance!
First the dirt... then the mushrooms, then the dead... then this Gazebo then... one day very soon, the gods themselves would be a feast!
If Delta, the great mother... wanted a god, of course.
The Gazebo reared back and they charged, aiming to nibble it atom by atom. Their hearts beat as one and they destroyed their foe!
Victory! The thing writhed and just when they nearly had it down, it kicked hard off the wall, flipping like a table to a far door, crashing through it with great accuracy.
The Mana went still.
Then it bubbled like a furious foamy bath.
The Mana reared back and charged at the door but the Gazebo, scared and missing two arches, kicked the door shut. The clear cut between their space and Delta made them unable to move on. Monsters! Life in one form or another existed on the other side!
They had been repelled!
They carved that Gazebo’s image into the very core of themselves. Every atom of Delta would know that Gazebo.
Know it and hate it...
“You know, gazebos are kind of tacky. I think there's one in the garden. I might get rid of it,” Delta told Jeb as he tried to stir black burned soup
“Gazbos sound boring,” Jeb agreed happily as he sent his sample up the dumbwaiter for Fera to taste.
The black sludge moved and Delta blinked as a lost Pygmy Mushroom seemed trapped in it like tar before the lift vanished.
“I saw those buggers sneaking down the stairs. They’re kinda aggressive,” he said. Delta glared at him.
“They’re sweet things! Jeb, don’t cook anymore of the Pygmies!” she chided.
Jeb eyed his hand, where about a dozen darts failed to pierce his skin.
“Can’t help it... they took over a cupboard. Got Piggys in the kitchen now. Like bugs but no bugs here because Fera doesn’t allow it,” Jeb nodded. Delta stared owlishly at them.
She stuck her head into the lonely cupboard at the back of the kitchen.
A tiny... village was being made. The young leader of the group chittered and made shrill cries telling a story. Delta got the jist.
They had declared this floor a sort of training ground where they sent their warriors to train and survive against the black cook. Delta guessed once they became lethargic enough... they returned to the second floor and sent a new batch to train.
It was a holy pilgrimage... to a kitchen.
The village consisted of a hole in a bucket and various pots and pans being turned upside down with wooden spoons used as bridges.
Okay, maybe not as harmless as Delta liked to believe. She cleared her throat and the entire village went silent as they stared up at her.
“Did you harm Jeb? Or try to?” she asked, voice sharp. The various tiny cute pygmies bowed and their cute beady eyes sparkled-
Delta gathered her willpower and glared.
“I will not accept you harming Jeb or ruining his cooking. If you are here... you help Jeb or I swear to every God I remember that I will make you write apology notes to him,” she warned.
There was no movement before one by one, the Pygmies raised their hands to form a wonky triangle above their heads.
Their version of ‘your word is law’.
Delta felt a bit crummy about being strict but them’s the breaks when raising a Dungeon of monsters.
One by one, they trotted out the cupboard and climbed until they were near Jeb. Jack hastily dove for cover.
Jeb blinked but didn’t seem alarmed like Jack. One by one the Pygmies raised their hands and soft trilling noise began to emanate from the tiny forms until a full-blown hymn and choir filled the kitchen.
The song of the people entranced Delta and Jeb. The pitch grew higher until it was a bird song of emotion.
Then they bowed, the song ending.
That was when chaos happened as all ten pygmies shot off to various parts of the kitchen to gather supplies, while the three wisest of them studied the recipe Fera had written in very basic diagrams for Jeb.
They pointed for Jeb to start chopping as bowls and pots were rolled into position. The Pygmies rolled the bowls and pots from the insides like hamsters in a wheel.
Delta had a feeling they might have... taken this help thing to heart. Oops?
The kitchen was soon like a circus of jumping tiny mushrooms, with acts of plate tossing, knife catching, and Jeb’s off-key singing.
“I’m on drugs... I’m still a prisoner... maybe they fished out that Mindskinner from the pit? Nope. don’t remember that place...” Jack rambled as he eyed the scene.
Delta wanted to enjoy the scene but her senses snapped to something.
She had guests!
“Boys! We have guests!” Delta gasped. Jeb stopped singing for a moment.
“They wanna be our guest?” he asked innocently as a knife flew past his face and was caught by another pygmy.
Delta could only smile.
Nina could only stare.
“It’s got a fancy door. Any idea what those symbols are?” she asked Isanella who stood back after putting in the symbols in the right order.
The weird thick sided triangle glowed orange as the doors peeled apart and granted them access.
“No idea. It must be important to Delta. Perhaps we can ask?” the woman mused as she held her lute with excitement. Nina noticed that Isanella was less interested in exploring or finding the bar than meeting her... new friend.
“I before see the mighty Delta tube. We must ride on!” Seth said with excitement. He pointed to one of the symbols.
“Be-tha. Beeeta!” he repeated and smiled. Nina merely smiled at Seth. Sometimes he made sense... sometimes he didn’t.
“What is a Beeta, Seth?” Isanella asked as they climbed the stairs down into the cool air of the Dungeon.
“Beta! Was a... how would one talk? Beta was like one thing then another. Beta grew like tree but changed like hunter,” he waved one hand.
“Sounds like Dabberghast,” Nina grinned. Seth humored her before looking distant.
“If Delta is strange Dungeon. Beta is...odd creature. Master knew more and Quiss not so much,” Seth looked around the room as he finally touched the Dungeon ground.
Nina followed suit and, never having been in a dungeon before, had no idea if what she saw was normal or not.
Isanella eyed a door and she wandered over.
“This is new,” she said politely and opened the door with the sign ‘Memorial’ above it.
Nina gasped as the white stone room beyond seemed to hold distilled melancholy in the air as they entered.
The statue of a tall woman peering down at them sadly made Nina’s chest feel...tight.
“It feels like a Dungeon having a memorial room would be mocking or bragging but this place is just depressing,” Nina said finally. Isanella held her hand up to briefly touch the statue’s hand.
“Because it’s genuine. That sort of thing sticks out,” she commented. Seth stayed by the door as he eyed the room with a long look. Nina had no idea what he was thinking.
Wizards didn’t quite see the world like other people did.
Nina couldn’t explain it but after serving Quiss his beer for so many years, it was something she had picked up on. Even Haldi was the same.
Two very different people but their ties to magic made them see things that others might not focus on. For better or worse. Quiss once ranted, rather drunkenly, how a stain on a wooden table was like a symbol of the eastern water kingdom and that it foretold an arrival of an envoy.
Which Nina had laughed at and at that very second she clicked that the envoy had come... Seth had come.
Nina also knew that Wizards were tricky and there was a good chance Quiss knew Seth would be coming.
They departed the room and Nina dropped some of her tips and a bar napkin into the tribute bowl.
“Us underpaid working girls have to stick together,” she said quietly as her form of prayer for a good trip. The things one picked up from listening to people complain about Dungeons and adventures was amazing when no one paid attention to you.
Before Durence, Nina had picked up more gossip and juicy tidbits than the local spymaster. But that got to be its own trouble in the end so Nina ended up in a sleepy place where nothing she heard mattered and nothing she did could change that.
It was liberating.
But who knows how that was going to change now, with Durence’s Dungeon mixing things up.
They set off down the tunnel as Isanella strummed some light notes. Just casual flicks on her lute but it made Nina’s skin prickle with pleasure. Then she hummed and Nina was a little ashamed that Seth had to hold out an arm to stop her from walking face first into a web.
“Sorry,” she mumbled as she had a quick flash to one of her selves nearly dropping a glass that she was trying to balance. Another view saw herself doing dishes half-heartedly.
Not too bad for now but Nina really had to get back before something went wrong.
“We must pierce the fabric of Salrakias!” Seth grimaced. The word was said like a drop of water falling from a leaf. All purr of the tongue and Nina shared a look with Isanella.
Exotic accents were just so fun. They smiled as Seth puzzled the web out. He poked one with a finger and Nina stared as the thing briskly froze over as if a winter chill had snapped over it. The frost was rapidly spreading before Isanella softly lowered Seth’s touch with a raised brow.
“No need to get so direct. I am sure if I simply ask and dance, the way will part,” she promised. She neared the web and strummed more notes. Sure enough, to Nina’s surprise, the web parted like a veil to reveal the silvery spun maze of lines and patterns.
More complex than any mere spider web should be.
Isanella moved in first and held out a hand for a spider to land on. That was something Nina found less magical.
“Good day, dear spider. May we pass if we do not destroy your lovely webs?” she asked and her voice had taken on an odd lilt as if speaking in a pitch Nina’s human ears couldn’t quite keep up with.
The spider raised two legs, slowly waltzing to some unheard tune and Isanella giggled.
More and more spiders appeared to climb on the woman and Nina took three large steps back so fast she nearly left another clone in her place. Seth looked impressed.
“Like Lady Prince of beasts. Magical and delicious... beautiful?” he mumbled. Yeah, Isanella could be the lady prince of whatever as long she kept the spiders firmly away from Nina.
The things vanished and a path was revealed as the spiders pulled webs to one side and one spider even pressed down on a thin trip wire hidden in all the web. How...innocent and harmless.
Maybe there was a spiked pitfall connected to it?
Nina would take spikes over the spiders. She could just clone enough of herselves to climb out and have traumatic nightmares about it later. Spiders... they stuck to you.
They began to slowly traverse the web maze and Isanella plucked a few of the berries at the offering of the spiders. A single spider sat on a thickly webbed throne and applauded their passage through.
Did it have... a tiny mushroom crown?
No, Nina was seeing things. They were at the door and Nina was interested to see a small window appear.
Challenged declined by asking for passage. Maybe next time?
Nina had been so freaked out, she hadn’t even seen a challenge box appear. Ah well, no more spiders. Nina was free until she had to leave and should she feel a bit dramatic, she might just bash her head in and jump to another one of her bodies.
She almost froze.
Oh no... she was Dramatic-Nina! Damn it, this body was just annoying, like the end of the world bad!
Shivering, she opened the door to freedom and froze again as a tiny form that barely came up to her chest stared up at her.
Curly black hair, ruby lips, pale skin of someone who lived underground, bright orange eyes, a shirt made of more web covered his torso.
All those things were fine.
It was where the boy ended and the spider began was where Nina toppled backwards in shock, screeching slightly.
“Oh hello, you are just as cute as my Deo,” Isanella said without batting an eyelid.
Nina would have gaped at her but she was too busy being utterly snagged by every web they had avoided so far.
“I’m taken! Tell my other me’s that I can see them slacking!” she whimpered. Seth blinked at her but something lowered from the ceiling. This spider... made Nina go very quiet.
It eyed her with those pearl like eyes.
It twitched a few legs and the web around Nina went slack.
“My my, what a rambunctious crowd. Did someone say Deo? How is the lad?” a booming voice called from the hall. Nina fled from the web pile as best she could and latched on to Seth and his magical freezy hands.
The being behind the Boy...spider....thing... loomed and it had to lean down slightly to see them all through the door.
“Ah, Mister Mushy, you look... different,” Isanella said, voice alarmed but happy.
“Ah yes, my dear lady Isanella. It is a treat to see you traverse these lovely halls once more. I did indeed gain new powers recently, but enough of that! This is my young charge until Master Cois returns, Quee,” the talking mushroom-man introduced the boy-spider.
The mushroom... was talking.
Whatever, it only had two legs and two eyes. Nina bolted for the door.
She slipped past, body pressed to the wall as the young spider-boy eyed her. It seemed curious about her, mostly staring at her legs with alarm.
“Uncle Mush... someone stole her legs!” he pointed.
“It’s rude to point. Humans only have two. Think of them as very large goblins but with a habit of bathing occasionally,” the mushroom explained.
As he spoke tiny mushrooms set into the wall began to play small trumpets and horns as the mushroom bowed to Isanella and Seth again.
“My apologies. I am now Lord Mushy. A special creature of the Dungeon. You might remember the charming fellow playing the music as my brother, hm?” Lord Mushy seemed to almost jest at Isanella who was holding her lute with an excited expression.
The music died slightly to be replaced by a voice.
“Oh ho! Charming, only maybe brother? Amazingly talented and a superstar, of course! But enough about me, is that ISANELLA? Mushy, keep the one that looks ready to cry and the one that is staring at the pond room like its a soulmate. The star of the show must have his co-singer!” the deeper booming voice announced.
Nina gaped again. Were there any mushrooms in this place that didn’t make noise?
“What’s a soulmate?” Quee demanded coolly of Seth. The man had his eyes locked on the room down the hall. The glowing moss aided by the glowing mushrooms on the ceiling illuminated an almost mystical sight.
Nina could only see something black and small in the room. A duck maybe and that was actually much better than spiders.
“Someone you love very much,” Lord Mushy said kindly.
“Then Momma Delta is my soulmate!” the spider boy announced with a pleased expression. Isanella cooed at this but then she turned to Seth, pushed him towards Lord Mushy and bowed to the spiders.
“I shall come and dance soon, I am terribly sorry about the webs,” the woman said. The spiders waved this off as they made a big show of dethroning the spider and crowning a new leader with a dance.
Even the large spider of white colour danced.
Quee gasped and rushed into the room to join the party. New webs were strung up showing the downfall of a giant demon that looked suspiciously like Nina…
Lord Mushy closed the door and sighed.
“Long may she reign. Queen Arana Blade-legged seven eyed mysterious beauty of the spider kingdom, second of her name,” he snorted, his odd moustache twitching.
“I’ll explain the semantics of love and soulmates to the young lad when he grows a tad. No doubt he will fall in love with some lovely person who comes to the Dungeon,” he waved away the scene.
Isanella bowed once again and actually took off running down the hall before making a sharp left turn and vanishing around the corner.
“But not all relationships need to be of love. Some are just of shared passions and friendship,” Lord Mushy said, sounding content as Isanella’s giggling faded as a door shut.
“Is she in potential of pain?” Seth asked with a calm tone. Lord Mushy turned to him and Nina’s jaw dropped for a third time.
“Fuska nouta waferi Isanella estu Maestro hiopt,” the talking mushroom said flawlessly, and Seth’s own mouth dropped.
Seth fired back an eager question and the mushroom easily responded.
Soon, Nina felt lost as they began to laugh and talk about something. Quiss’ name was mentioned.
She got a little bored and wandered to the pond as the two followed, still yammering on in Seth’s language.
She couldn’t blame Seth... this was... the most he’d probably spoken without frustration or misunderstanding in ages.
Nina didn’t take it personally.
She did take it personally when one of her clones began to drink the beer instead of serve it. She sent it a mental slap and it quickly got back to work.
She bent down and stared at the duck as the odd room made her feel relaxed. Like a faux starry night in the woods. She smiled and splashed the water with her fingers.
“Here duckie... wanna be petted? Come to Big sis Nina,” she tutted and whistled.
The duck opened one red eye and stood. It waddled into the water and began to float closer.
Nina was pleased and reached for it.
That was when air bubbles breached the surface, appearing between the golden fish and the silvery ones... A dark shadow appeared briefly then the water exploded as the duck was lifted up into the air as a giant demonic hellish freaking alien soul sucking monstrous worm shrieked into view.
Nina screamed, the worm screamed and the duck flapped back to its nest to go back to sleep.
Nina was frozen for a moment, ready to split into Fury and Hunter and leave Drama behind before the worm flopped onto the beach and went still.
That confused Nina more than anything.
“Bob also wants to be petted, my dear. Be a champ, it likes that spot under one of its’ mandibles,” Lord Mushy offered.
Nina shakenly petted the wet glimmering skin and the shrieking became a long whine of pleasure.
Nina sat there, staring as her hand moved over the skin as her mental faculties made the other two clones also stare in horror.
“Drama is screwed.”
“Was nice knowing her, I guess.”
Nina was going to kill herself when she got home.