“I’ll escort her back,” Isanella promised as she emerged from Fera’s kitchen a short while later. She looked a little more melancholic than before. Seth gave her a deep frown.
“I could... “ oh what was the word?
“Herd you back with my magic? I do not experience joy if you are harmed,” Seth said. The goblin shook her head at their exchange.
It must truly be the oddest of experiences for a Dungeon to hear foreigners exchange words with each other. Isanella shook her head and held her lute tighter with a glint in her eyes.
“We will...destroy all foes,” she said back in Seth’s own mother tongue. Her expertise in Seth’s language was oddly militaristic. She had words and phrases that often related to or involved battle in some manner.
Seth was beginning to think Isanella had been near his people in a skirmish of some sort. Which was definitely odd since Isanella was a sweet house wife and a marvelous tea maker, but they all had pasts.
Nina was twirling her new apron. She said something to the bartender who smirked.
For someone who was basically being drafted into servitude, Nina didn’t seem that torn. Perhaps because the mushroom soup was simply that good of a treat, or maybe it was the offer of further rewards.
Isanella waved goodbye and leaned down to plant a kiss on one of the singing mushrooms. She said something soft to it and it responded with a soft affectionate piano melody.
Fera handed Nina a list of things that Seth thought could either be simple food items or parts of a dragon (his written understanding of the country wasn’t much better than his spoken one), but honestly Seth wasn’t sure which was worse in Durence.
The town had a very Quiss-like manner of making simple things end up on fire.
He waved them farewell and honestly was a little amused that he was about to have a much deeper conversation with the Dungeon born than the villagers he had been staying with.
Seth really needed to knuckle down and learn the local tongue. He just needed a teacher... someone that wasn’t Mr Jones the knowledge Demon.
“GRIM!” Deo called and Grimnoire closed his eyes and counted to five before he turned to see Deo and two weirdos with him. One was the Potter’s kid. Bass or something. The other was that priestess girl but...
Grim opened his mouth and then closed it again.
Her basic robe and hood was gone.
The long flowing and glowing white robe she now donned was like a walking cloud. Her aura, hidden before, was being pushed to the surface and golden Mana of honesty soaked into the air around her. The robe was so thin and odd... that the tail end broke apart and reformed as rocks or twigs tried to snag on it. The sleeves were longer than the girl’s hands and yet when she went to hide her face, her hands simply fazed through the material as if it was “no hinderace.
The material shimmered as if a hidden sun were glowing off the girl’s body. Dozens of intricate tiny symbols pulsed with her Mana and a glow settled over Deo and Vas. They grinned as if tickled.
She looked like one strong gust would blow the outfit away but the sheer density of the costume gave off vibes of virtue and innocence.
It was, to Grim, the ultimate balance between eye-catching and inspiring.
The girl went pink at Grim’s staring and pulled her new hood up. The divine image was ruined by a childish pop up halo, that had been quickly sewn on at the last minute, that hovered over the girl’s head.
“THE HALO WAS MY IDEA!” Deo calmly explained.
“I should have guessed, Brawndo. How you convince masters of the art into doing childish things is a mystery,” he snipped. The boy’s bubble was annoyingly bright today.
“I got a new bowtie,” Jazz...Lass... said and his cheery red bowtie looked rather nice if nothing else.
Grim looked at Deo and waited.
The boy pulled out a freshly carved flute.
“CRAM MADE ME A FLUTE! I WANTED TO PLAY YOU A SONG BECAUSE YOU LOOKED DOWN!” he said and put the piece to his mouth,
The first clear note was like an arrow, it shot through Grim and he knew he was too late.
Deo and singing was... fine if Grim was to be honest . Deo and instruments?
A rather different story.
Deo’s fingers flew over the flute as the melody warbled out into some epic stanza and he didn’t stop. For thirty seconds straight Deo made an endless tune as his fingers moved like a master over the wooden instrument. The wind was redirected, the birds gathered in awe, and deep in some hellish abyss a devil put his fiddle down in defeat. Kemy’s cloud dress was struggling to hold together and the potter boy was gaping in shock as Deo’s own hair was being flung about as the music reached the crescendo of this epic solo.
Grim felt inspired, annoyed, awed, grumpy, and a little jealous. The worst thing was that Deo didn’t even know how annoyingly good he was at this.
The boy could make music dance to his tune and never even knew about it.
Deo beamed, huffing a little after turning his loud voice into a loud flute solo.
“FEEL BETTER?” he asked. Grim jerkily nodded.
“Ecstatic,” he said clearly. He made sure never to look away or mumble. The priestess spoke but she was not even in Deo’s sight. Usually the boy was good enough to constantly be checking his comrades’ faces in case they were talking but he seemed rather focused on Grim.
The girl closed her eyes.
“Holy mother of truth, give me strength and the courage to help this boy... please... let me help him. He means well and he does not deserve this fate,” she said clearly and Grim actually raised one brow.
“Wow, lady, he’s deaf not hopeless. You could wait until he was out of the proverbial earshot before saying that,” he grunted and turned to leave.
Deo called after him and he was pulled into a one-armed hug as Deo made a suddenly interesting decision.
The Second floor... of Delta.
Grim’s eyes glazed over at thoughts of success and loot.
Kemy was staring in absolute shock at the two boys.
That boy had... understood her. She hadn’t meant to be heard hence why her prayer was in a deep lost tongue of the first folk who worshipped her Goddess. The last of the language hosted in her monastery for at least four generations of Truth Seekers.
How did this boy… someone who had never left his village… know her language?
Seth was on a mission to explore the Dungeon. He planned to see what wonders this place might have. Even better, he could treat it as a nice trip since she was unwilling to kill Seth unless he stepped out line.
Really, it was no different than walking on the Sovereign soil of another nation. Respect the laws or face punishment.
The matter of who would win was a moot point. Seth would lose the nice guest status he had and that would be a shame.
The first order of business was to see Isanella’s friend.
He asked Fera who merely guided him to a hidden passage behind a wall which he thanked her for with a promise to clean her bar and a compliment on the amazing soup.
“Don’t flirt with me, water boy. No discounts for return trips,” she grumbled but her ears did look a little bit perkier.
Seth was charming, he knew it… the various men, women and others of the world knew it very well. If Seth had a bad side, it was that he fell in love too easily and broke too many hearts when he found he could never settle in one place for very long.
He was a bit too much like the ocean like that.
And like the ocean, he could ruin an entire city's existence.
He had planned to very much do so. He sighed as he traversed the tunnel. Quiss chose one target, and he chose another.
The city or the tree. Which was to blame?
Did it matter? Both were going to be hurting when he and Quiss were done. For a tree who let a monster nest in its branches without care and the city who tried to wage war on it.
Seth frowned harder.
Why did it have to be so… childish.
The town was no better. It would not even let Seth bury his master on their land due to ‘being on the tree’s side’. Her rites, her peace... her ways… were all denied because Seth had remained peaceful until it was too late. Not willing to use magic as a tool of power and fear like Quiss did.
His friend screaming and trying to burn a tree that didn’t even care he was there.
Then his master rose and Seth had to kill her for a second time.
He paused and took a deep breath as he saw the tunnel was becoming covered in ice and sloshing water.
He cooled down and whistled a tune his master had loved.
Down the tunnel, came floating words and Seth nearly stumbled in shock.
“The waves met the sun and a wonderful sight to my eyes. On this cliff I do stand, I cry in joy at their meeting. Come now... let the stars shine and let them become our saviors...” the words were even sung exactly like-
“Tough song. Sorry, it slipped out. I meant no pain to your heart,” a giant demonic beast tipped his cap slightly. Seth stared at the giant mushroom demon monster whose roots spread up and out of sight. His large stone structure acted like a trial and a stage.
The beast itself was of nightmares but his words were soft...
“You are Isanella’s companion?” he asked. The mushroom bowed.
“Aren’t I LUCKY! But seriously, between the two of you, you’re both going to make me drown in tears. Don’t you people have happy songs?” he said, half in exasperation and half in jest.
Seth then saw sitting nearby on the top most step was that small creature, Missy.
She waved and trilled a bird song. Maestro beamed.
“She’s so talented!” he bragged. Seth opened his mouth.
His heart still ached at the song and he closed his eyes before smiling.
“Oh kind bard of epic size. Let me share some songs I learned from Queens and Barmaids alike!” he offered.
De-stress… peaceful… kind…
He had to remember who he was and what his Master had loved about him. Right as he did the unspeakable, she smiled as he wept.
“Such an open heart... good boy,” she had smiled before the light faded.
His heart was open and now he poured out every shred of joyful moments and slightly exciting ones.
He sat near the two of them and used his powers to form a ring of ice crystals. They began to sound out clear notes as he made them vibrate at certain frequencies.
Missy clapped and Maestro was even more excited.
He joined in and Seth sang as the pain was soothed like ice over a wound… for the moment.
“We’ve got a support and a front liner. I’m a mid to close with simple tricks but I’m a glass, one hit wonder. Vas here has durability but he’s a gimmick character so it's best not to rely on him other than when he can step up. We’re lacking a mage to round up our weaknesses,” Grim said to Deo but flicking his eyes to the others to make sure they were paying attention.
“Delta isn’t actually a combat Dungeon. Plenty of ways to get through it without killing a thing!” Kemy beamed.
Grim looked up from his complicated map making and pieces on the board to stand in for them.
Kemy fidgeted under his look but he leaned back and grumbled.
“Fine… I guess we can just waltz in, sing some songs and get rewarded,” he huffed.
Not a combat Dungeon… clearly the cloudy wool was not only pulled over her frame but her eyes as well!
Delta was buffed to the max with epic monsters and unseen dangers. Sure, she might not use them but that could change with the mass arrival of adventurers. The Calcs…
Oh boy… they would not hear ‘peaceful’. Those psychos would hear ‘easy’ and bum rush the Dungeon
“WE COULD ASK DELTA TO PRETEND!” Deo suggested. Grim looked at him baffled for a moment before it clicked.
“I suppose but the spirit of the thing would feel off. It would be like when we were kids and hitting each other and declaring that person was dead as the other would protest,” he said slowly… it wasn’t… a bad idea.
If Delta could use blunt spears and pull punches… it was better than just taking a nifty tour.
“Okay. Deo… go ask. You know her best. I’ll get Poppy. She’s a mage and Amanstar could be good. Two healers are better than one. That makes a party of six…” he said and eyed the map with new eyes.
“Can I go back to my group?” Kemy asked. Grim didn’t even look up.
“No. You’ve been drafted into Team…” he sighed loudly, “Team Heroic Holy Pot and friends,” he said this like chewing glass.
Deo beamed and Vas tried to looked positive.
“At least we have numbers! Delta would gain some good experience from this as well,” he offered.
Delta was going to stomp them so hard that Grim was going to develop an orange butt next.
Ah well, it beat wandering the town and watching new shops appear and odd people start moving as the Mana reached a new level.
Someone even said they saw Madam Ghu at the pub.
Now that was weird.
“Stop moving!” Smalls hissed as Cram, covered in branches and leaves, was used as a tower by Smalls while he peered through a spyglass at the gathering of Deo and his friends.
The robe! Even as the user sat there looking ready to cry, she looked amazing!
“When you said you were going to ride me outside, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but this wasn’t the worst thing that sprung to mind,” Cram admitted as he chewed jerky. Smalls slapped the half-orc’s head a little.
“Don’t be crass. There are innocent materials- I mean small animals around,” he said watching the group split off as Deo walked with Kemy and Vas in the general direction of the Dungeon.
A Dungeon dive! Smalls nearly wanted to gush that his robe would see action so soon!
“It’s a good thing I’m made of muscle or you would have crushed my neck with those bird legs of yours by now,” Cram calmly plucked Smalls of his shoulder. The man barely came up to his chin as he glared.
“I have dancer legs!” he protested.
“You have bird legs. I’ve seen them crush actual skulls when you get pissed. Besides, I like your legs,” Cram walked off as he denatured himself of branches and leaves.
Smalls was quiet for a second.
“Not a bird,” he finally said.
He needed to hurry up and test his invisibility cloak. He couldn’t miss his model in action!
Seth listened as Maestro talked through various mushrooms as he headed to the Boss room. The ominous door was closed and the glaring goblin riding a pig imagery... boar down on him.
Hah, Seth amused himself greatly.
“-Some good sights waiting for you. Third Floor is still needing some DIY fixing upping but Delta, sweet mother of us all, has a talent for making the ugly into weirdly wonderful,” he chortled. Seth liked Maestro.
The loud soul was someone who expected nothing of Seth but gave Seth his all regardless.
If there were ever a port to sail back to from time to time, then this Dungeon was shaping up to be it.
“Now… you wanna test yourself or I can peek in and let Fran give you a pass. Mum doesn’t mind for now,” Maestro offered. Seth blinked.
“I thought killing was frowned on here?” he asked. Maestro was quiet for a moment.
“Sir Fran is a spirit of battle. His rebirth after death only makes him train harder. It would honor him more if you fought, but you are free to pass,” Maestro suggested.
“I would be nothing if not interested to see a boss of Delta. Does my surrender still work in there?” he mused. Maestro hummed an acknowledgement.
“Dungeon wide, baby! Do not pass, do not collect 100 gold and go straight to the entrance,” he listed.
Seth smiled. He knocked.
The door slid open.
Seth stared at the wide underground arena with its white sand and carved empty audience seats.
From a large crack in the far wall something moved and Seth jumped a little as torches above him ignited, and then two more burst into flames followed by another two after that.
This repeated until the large brazier above the crack was a raging bonfire. A large form slipped out of the crack and Seth had to admit.
This Dungeon had style.
And a bar!
“Are you a challenger?” the well spoken goblin asked and Seth could see why this was Sir Fran. Not merely Fran the boss.
“I am, if you would have me?” Seth bowed. Sir Fran nodded under his helm, then the large pig knelt its front two legs to match.
“I could ask for no other honor but a duel between us,” Sir Fran said clearly.
He lowered his lance.
“I shall move in five seconds. Do be ready,” Fran said jovially as if this was something he hadn’t expected but was enjoying.
“Then I shall move in six,” Seth fired back. The hearty laugh made Seth smile as well.
“Don’t die human, I would like to buy you a drink afterwards,” Sir Fran called and his form blurred forward.
Seth pushed his hand out and a wall of water rushed forward to meet the charge. The wave was split into two with no loss of speed from Sir Fran.
He used the water as a whip, pulling hard on a stalactite to swing out of the way of the charge and landed roughly to the side where he stomped his foot causing a pillar of water to erupt where Sir Fran was trying to turn. The big pig had durability and weight as he was barely lifted off the ground. He curled his hand and the boss was enclosed in a swirling bubble of water. They struggled to escape but it followed their struggles inch by inch.
He was spending Mana now to make water, the dry arena working against him.
The bubble exploded in a flash of orange and steam that rushed towards Seth as the sheer pressure of Sir Fran’s stab created a funnel.
Focusing, he turned the boiling steam back into water by pushing it together so it only splashed on the sand and not Seth’s skin but the distraction let Sir Fran get close. He swung his lance. Seth raised one arm, ice spreading like scales to deflect the blow but he was still lifted clean off his feet and sent crashing across the arena.
He bounced up and surged forward like a rocket as he caused a wave to carry him forward.
He froze the water behind him creating a line across the arena that Fran would have to watch out for. He formed a water lance on his left arm and charged.
Fran reared his pig back and rushed forward to meet his joust. Seth grinned as his own lance spun like a drill and the pressure at its point became deadly.
He was surprised when Fran’s own lance exploded in orange light.
They collided in an explosion of orange lights and steam. Seth crashed against the stands in a safe water bubble but his arm was bleeding from a long cut where Fran had pierced through his iced scales and lightly grazed him.
That was going to sting once his adrenaline died down. But he gathered his shield into a single aqua blade and waited for the cloud of steam to fade.
No way was he going to fall for that old trick. No body… no win. He was proven right as Fran calmly walked out of the cloud, his pig looking a little flash-fried from the steam as well as Sir Fran now having a tan but nothing serious was injured.
“Hard for a first Level boss,” Seth said. Fran grinned.
“I have levels of difficulty. You simply are nearing the hardest but you’ll have to come back in a few days for that. The harder you hit, the harder I hit back,” the goblin said, not sounding tired at all.
“Hard? If you wanted it hard, my rather good looking goblin… you only had to ask!” Seth pointed his pressurized water sword. It was shaking in his grip from the sheer force. A bit of a Mana sink but it looked cool.
Seth kinda wanted to look cool to Sir Fran.
“Then let us duel!” Fran roared. Seth kicked it up a notch and from his Mana, water rushed forward until he was soon riding a half-horse, half-fish creature as it swam through the air. Seth dived bringing a waterfall down after him as the edge turned into sharp pricks of ice.
Fran’s lance did that orange thing again and a wave of the first ice was cut away but it left Seth with an opening to use.
Fran was strong but he lacked good area denial or counters.
But Seth was a wizard. He had his own weaknesses like getting cocky or distracted by a pretty face or a strong jaw.
He stabbed and Fran turned his head so his helm took the blow, the sawing of metal was loud and it made the recoil hard to control. Fran jumped and Seth tried, and failed, to redirect the blade upwards.
Fran’s armored head smashed into Seth’s unprotected one.
His water collapsed and he rolled to the floor as Fran landed back on his pig and charged again.
Seth was cursing as he scrambled to dive out of the way. His nose was a mess and one eye had gone dark from Fran’s glancing blow. The goblin hadn’t even gotten a good enough swing into the motion!
This goblin was monstrous.
He stopped focusing and waves of water exploded in every direction, turning the arena into a swampy mess slowing Fran down in the muck.
He reared up making his pig jump for the solid audience stands where he had stable ground again.
Seth spun his body and, while most likely concussed, he wasn’t going to suffer magically from it. Seth’s power got stronger with less control.
It was a pain.
A waterspout formed, crashing into the ceiling as it sucked in falling rocks and balls of mud, turning the twister brown and filling it with projectiles. The air was howling and Seth was in the eye of this storm.
He let his power flow and roared in return to Fran’s earlier one.
Layers of the waterspout froze in rings of jagged ice as the Twister surged forward.
Wipe it all away! Let his waters be the canvas washer of the world!
His rings of ice were flung like disks and Fran was forced to do mighty leaps and charges around the stands to avoid being bisected.
A large shadow appeared on one side, Seth readied a wave of freezing water and swept the pig t away noisily.
But there was no Goblin.
From high above, amid the slight gaps where the ceiling dipped and his twister failed to touch, Fran dived directly down the clear tunnel at Seth.
Such cleverness… such power…
Seth… loved it.
He raised his hand,his whole arm turning to ice, becoming one with the element as the room was snapped frozen from the clear ice.
Five seconds, that was all Seth could handle of this spell… this form.
The twister froze and Fran’s own form was a frozen comet that was still aiming for Seth’s heart.
Seth snapped his finger and shards of ice became a storm as his arm exploded.
That was going to be a pain to grow back.
He blinked as the goblin comet, now in pieces, raced past him but the goblin’s lance still sunk deep into Seth’s shoulder.
He fell and the room went quiet.
Seth stared up at the remarkably well washed ceiling.
“Fine… it’s a draw… we’ll take turns buying rounds.” he called before passing out.
Delta sat in the ruined room, jaw dropped.
She should do something but she wasn’t able to move. The scene was just…
She wanted Fran’s autograph!
Home team was epic and she wanted to fist pump! Even if seeing Fran in proud icy chunks was a little upsetting, his sheer bliss was infectious!
“GO FRAN!” she cheered despite no one being left to hear her.
“FERA! Get the gobs to drag Seth into the bar. We need water and mushroom soup! Gob! Go get Quiss!” she began to act.
Fran’s new tiny core really did amazing things. It let him be adaptive to the Mana of the person who approaches his door. A Fran for everyone’s level of skill!
The First floor boss wasn’t going to be a pushover to OP people.
She was giddy and she felt like nothing could top that guest visit for some time!
Deo stared at the cave like entrance.
“Team Heroic Holy Pot and Friends... HAVE COME TO ASK A FAVOUR!” he jumped and cheered.
Kemy clapped politely.
Vas just inhaled and he looked distantly down the stairs.
“Empty… something is empty down there,” he whispered and followed his new friends down the stairs.
Under his shirt… a gem briefly glowed as it took in the fresh orange Mana.