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Four Gargoyles made Delta’s monster limit weep. She had one more left, due to the the fact that absorbing the Silence’s land seemed to give her more resources than normal earth. Odd, but if Sis had a grudge against these people, then she could see her omnipotent system slipping her some nifty bonuses to help out. Two trolls, four Gargoyles… and one monster spot left.

Delta politely sat on Nu’s statue that hid her new Mana well. Delta had questions about that thing, but she wasn’t going to be rude as the four creatures chatted like old friends that had come to Delta’s Dungeon rather than being created there and then.

Delta had a sneaking suspicion… She had only rarely created monsters in bulk before and that was her goblins and a few of her frogs.

Nu created these monsters in bulk… together. Could it be like twins? Monsters created for the same exact purpose and order? Could that form bonds between them that monsters created separately wouldn't have?

She would just have to watch them closely. Delta mentally referred to them by their faces until they chose their names. They were rather firm they would choose their own names. Delta could hopefully respect that.

Bat was a simple speaker. His bulk and size made him the obvious powerhouse of the group. He wasn’t tall but he was stacked. Delta saw him as a rocky bowling ball really.

Plague Doctor, or Doctor for short, was a tall spindly gargoyle with wings like silk as they spread. His manner and speech were elegant and soft spoken.

Dragon seemed to be some sarcastic being. He answered in mockery more than not. He managed to be polite to Delta, but she could see it was a struggle.

The last one, the handsome-looking gargoyle that had to have been sculpted after some fallen angel… merely listened and watched Delta for orders… or any hint of disapproval.

Together they looked like a group that would be dangerous for the unaware to tackle… and Delta hadn’t even upgraded them yet.

“Are you guys…” she said shyly, unsure on how these beings felt towards her… Nu had made them, not Delta. It was like these creatures didn’t have as much reason to like her as her other monsters. What if they had Nu’s desire to Dungeon proper?

The group went silent, four sets of eyes turned to her. Wings twitched and claws relaxed.

Delta mumbled as the creatures levelled their powerful gazes on her.

“My lady, ignore their ugly visages and gather your courage. We are eager to hear your command,” Doctor said gently. Dragon and Bat touched their faces in shock while Angel merely watched. Bat and Dragon knocked into each other trying to step forward at the same time.

“Yeah, ignore his ugly face!” they both said loudly, pointing to Angel who turned his flat expression to them.

“While a few of us are… lacking in tact, we are all ready to do your bidding. I am quite excited to visit the Kitchens and see if we can take over the remaining rooms,” Doctor said and then tilted his head as if hearing something.

“‘Doctor’… yes. My Lady core, I would like that name very much,” he said with joy. Damn it… Delta had been projecting too loudly again. But Doctor seemed happy, it was hard to see since his stone mask didn’t have a face but Delta nodded quickly.

“Sure!” she said and then shrugged, trying not to seem too eager to talk to them.

“I got rare herbs… and stuff if you wanna be a doctor,” she suggested then waved it off.

“Not that… You have… listen,” she finished lamely.

She blinked as she felt brief patting on her head. Doctor leaned back up and tilted his head.

“Too kind. You are a very good Core already,” he announced. Delta had to force herself not to float through the ceiling and bury her face.

“Damn! I need a name and quick!” Dragon spat and turned a few times, his stone tail swished, the spikes on the end looking deadly.

Delta watched as he paced up the wall, using his claws to easily keep himself righted as he reached the ceiling. Bat yawned, leaned against a growing tree in the garden and turned to stone.

Doctor turned to Angel and gestured for him to speak up.

Delta went quiet, eager to see this one speak.

“I will be Vanguard,” he said simply, voice lower than that of Delta’s human kill count. He turned, crossing his arms that barely peeked out from his huge leathery wings. Doctor touched the tip of his beak with a hint of annoyance.

“Forgive him, Milady. Vanguard is shy,” he said and the giant man turned, fury on his face. Doctor faced him down but it was Van who turned away first before he skulked off to rest near a grove of trees growing in between a few of the doors. The shadows offering him comfort.

Doctor held out an arm for Delta. “May we walk?” he offered, tilting his nose down with a hint of humor. Delta did so, her touch breaking every few seconds but she roughly managed to keep in time with Doctor.

“We are well aware of our purpose, to guard you from the beasts below. There is a hint of worry of what is to become of us after you liberate the floor and take it, as you no doubt will,” Doctor explained casually.

“Whatever you want! Creation purpose is just a short term thing. I’m hoping that you’ll find something that interests you,” Delta spoke up, feeling better in a one-on-one conversation. Doctor hummed.

“We have a sense of things in the Dungeon and can see that. But on this floor we only have a kitchen, a library, and a feast hall, so far. Job opportunities are scarce, unless we wish to do gardening. I was hoping to ask when you will be taking on the other doors. We can hear movement beyond them. No doubt various legions are gathering under each door to march on the Dungeon. It would be best to take them out soon, so we can limit the numbers we face and open more opportunities for ourselves,” Doctor spoke slowly and with the utmost effort to be respectful.

“Do you think we should attack soon?” Delta asked, trying to make sure she had a grasp of Doctor’s character.

The gargoyle slowed as he slowly turned his beak to Delta.

“Infection must be cut out before it spreads. I am happy to wield the knife if you so desire,” he almost hummed.

Delta looked around the garden. She had to agree. Letting foes attack from all sides was just a bad idea. Also, there was no telling how much more the main door to the deepest part of the fortress was hiding.

“Which door do we deal with first?” she asked quietly.

“I can answer that,” Jack’s voice said from behind. Delta spun to see the Kobold staring at a single door that looked… plainer than the rest.

Doctor’s claws didn’t reveal themselves but he did slightly take a step forward to cover Delta.

“Jack? What’s in there?” she asked. Odd reaction from Doctor, he must know that Jack was a contractee…

“A hole. I’m hoping you can do something to it,” Jack replied quietly.

That tone worried Delta.

It really did.

--

The door exploded open as a grey blur sent mud and soil flying as it tried to slow itself.

“Dozer on the job!” Bat… Dozer declared as he readied himself for an attack.

“Not so rough! You don’t have a respawn point!” Delta warned, distressed. Doctor and Vanguard entered next. Dragon, still struggling with a name, took up the rear. Jack followed behind, body stiff with a fear that he refused to explain.

All Delta knew was that Jack was sure there would be no enemies in this room.

How Jack knew that… Delta didn’t know.

From the garden, the door revealed a long dark tunnel. Jack easily made some vials that glowed with a deep green as he shook them. Delta beamed at them and tried not to despair at her inability to touch things.

She wanted to rave in the dark spooky tunnel…

Armed with a glow vial each, the goyles traversed the tunnel. Delta was using Doctor’s eyes to see.
It was… weird. Like Doctor had heavily lidded glasses on but if he so desired, his mask became transparent from the inside. It wasn’t a mask, really… just his face.

The tunnel was long but ended in a single room. The temperature here was horrid. Her goyles were getting a sheen of ice over their forms and Jack was so nervous he was mumbling to himself.

There was a crude wall made from stone that had frozen over and as Doctor neared it, a single path inwards lead to a sudden drop into a round hole. A weird contraption was built above the hole. It looked like a rack to contain people and to lower them into the hole, and the thing had adjustable neck collars and head straps to keep the prisoner looking one way only… down.

Doctor looked into the hole. Jack tried to yell something but Doctor leaned right over and peered in. The hole wasn’t dark. It was empty.

Pure… clean… non-existence.

It travelled deep… too deep. It was horrid and Delta watched as Vanguard dropped his glow vial down it. The light spun and bounced a few times off the wall before it was crushed. A audible crunch sounded and from deep below, an arctic wind exploded up and filled the room with guttural howling.

The wind seeped into Jack and her goyles and flew down the tunnel where it crashed against her garden. Jack was howling in bleak despair now and all her goyles toppled, gasping.

A deep coldness was burying deep into them.

It was in the deepest part of the ice that Delta felt the cruelty. The utter hatred for warmth and life. It buried deep into her monsters and it enjoyed what it felt. Their pain and their fear. It drank it up like it was a delicious meal it deeply needed.

Delta was ignored. It chewed and nibbled on her freezing monsters like she wasn't any kind of threat.

Like she was unable to stop it. Like Delta was just a child that this coldness could push aside.

She grabbed one of the cold tendrils and bent it like an arm. The whole ice cloud froze.

“Get. Out. Of. Them. NOW!” she ordered and from her garden, blazing hot Mana surged down like a roaring tide. She bent the writhing tendril and the thing tried to stab her, cut her… chill her.

Delta felt like she was being physically assaulted but she held on as the thing left her monsters and focused on her. It grabbed and pulled her towards the hole but her Mana filled the room and Delta roared as she tore the slimy little worm-like ropes.

She was fire to this beast’s ice. So, Delta would burn it like the bug it was.

She filled the hole. She stuffed enough Mana down there to give it so much congestion that the cold being choked.

“Hey… warn your little fanclub that I’m coming. When you show up crying like the brat you are, tell them Delta sent ya,” she growled. The hole rumbled as her Mana tore at the walls, the well… the hole… collapsing as Delta claimed the room.

From the collapsing hole came a hoarse scream but oddly it was easily drowned out by another thing.

FOR DELTA’S GLORY!”

It was many… many tiny voices and they utterly tore the hole into solid ground. Then it was over.

The room was just an empty room and her Mana vanished to settle into the place.

Delta turned to see Nu floating nearby.

“Pest control,” she answered innocently. She was interrupted as Jack jumped on the ground… kicking and screaming at where the hole was.

“Look now! Look at me now!” he spat and began hitting the room with his fists. He looked up and watched as the rack was consumed by her Mana… erased.

He curled up slowly, silently shaken with sobs.

“Look… at me… now,” he repeated. Delta leaned down and Jack looked up at her.

“You done blew it up. I can’t be any happier, eh?” he said through a tight throat. Delta was a little unsure what to say so did what she did best.

“Well I met this Kobold who was all about his booms. Got inspired I guess,” she tried. Jack snorted and looked to the ceiling.

“It sucks. The memories are still there. Being in that rack. I was hoping they’d blow up too,” he admitted.

Delta stood and Nu came close, his box writing small to avoid letting Jack see.

Nu’s warning was dire but Delta watched as Doctor picked up Jack and carried him out of the room.

“If it attacks my monsters… I’ll defend them. Simple as that.” she answered back and shook her head.

“There’s nothing human in that thing… nothing to reason or bargain with… it’s just pure… hunger,” she said hoarsely, rubbing her cheek where she had been cut. Her avatar had an actual scratch.

That was… scary if nothing else.

“Come on Nu, let’s go drink to victory and plan more things,” she suggested and they both left the room to follow her monsters.

---

In the darkness of the room where the hole once stood… the dirt shifted and began to sink. The room grew still as single mushroom unearthed itself.

It was a Bloodcurdler. The pure black cap that mutated on the second floor. It sat there for long moments before it inhaled. The lingering burning Mana of Delta being sucked in deeply. It began to glow darkly and deep under the room, the hole that was trying to rebirth itself paused as it felt burning roots strangle the earth… forming bars that the hole could not so easily bypass.

The Bloodcurdler evolved once more, and fire became its weapon.

---

Across the sea… settled into a deep valley where miles around one could see a godly tree brushing clouds with the top of its branches. The Godly tree was buried deep and grew high. It saw many things. The World Tree, as people called it, watched the events of this world go by. Forever content to stay where it was and grow.

Some would call it a Dungeon, but this was not correct by any means. It was a lifeform unto itself. It had grown and grown until even dragons and mighty elementals could not pierce its bark. Its many, many layers of growth grew different fruits, hosted different creatures, and even had some monster villages in a few parts.

The luck of growing into a leyline source had boosted its already mighty powers to new heights. Now, it produced Mana for the surrounding lands.

The country had grown rich and fertile simply due to the World Tree being here. Very few things could truly harm it now. Sometimes it forgot it could feel pain. Not unlike ten years ago.

Where some firespitter had left a black mark on his trunk.

That had angered the tree but the events that followed were interesting if nothing else. It felt one of its uppermost branches shift as the mightiest beast on his body moved. The tree paid it no mind. Their relationship was symbiotic.

It defended the tree and the tree fed it where meat could not. At that moment, It felt the world shift. A slight change. His many roots spread much farther than this land, and one close to a land that once felt dead and rotten… now tinged with spicy life.

There was a plant there… no, not a true plant but something close to it.

“You are being active,” came a soft voice. The tree did not have eyes or a mouth. Every little bark of wood or leaf was the tree itself. The defender of its branches was staring out at the sunrise.

“Beta… I feel there are those that would rise… like myself,” the tree spoke using the green around the beast that built a human like home in its branches.

“Just what the world needs, another arrogant asshole tree,” Beta announced and her tail swished as a dozen stingers formed and dissolved as Beta tried to choose a form to move about in.

“Perhaps, but this tree allowed the monster of monsters to live here, so respect shall be invoked,” the tree reminded.

The tail was simply gone a second later and more arms appeared.

“So you reminded me. I think something spiderish today… been a while since I was a spider. Maybe mix in some Iron Bear?” the woman said to herself.

Beta. It had been a mewling pig goblin beast when the tree had taken it under its branches. Now… it had eaten like a glutton and become a true monster.

“I’d prefer something like an ent or a dryad, but you care little for my opinion. I am telling you that in a distant land, there are powerful trees… and mushrooms… growing. It could challenge me for the leylines soon,” the tree stated.

“So? You got dozens. Ya think people haven’t noticed there’s no Dungeons here? Come on, Ygg, be a smarter tree than that,” Beta lost her human form entirely to become a centipede with swords for legs.

“One day, you will reveal to me what that name means, since you’re so amused by it,” The tree reminded.

“Alright, Treebeard, keep your nuts in place. So some young plants are getting power. You want me to go and nip it in the bud?” The worm form sprouted dragon wings making Beta into some nightmare waiting to be seen.

The tree thought… it searched its roots. For possibilities and problems.

“No, there is a coven of dark witches to the north. They have unearthed one of my roots. They plan nothing good, I assume. Make them naught but a memory,” the tree said, and Beta turned into a pure human this time. Her actual form.

It was of a human girl about the eve of her teens. The round shapely figure showed someone who ate well, but kept busy enough to make curves instead of energy reserves. In human terms, she would be seen as a rich daughter of some nobleman. All the food one could have, and the skin of a well-groomed person.

It was hard to imagine that underneath those twinkling green eyes were a thousand monsters she could become and mix to make new forms.

Beta… the monster of monsters.

“Sure. You keep looking for that eye and I’ll keep you alive. That was the deal,” the woman fell from her branches before a soaring eagle flew off.

Ygg knew that.

It was getting closer to where that mythical eye of the lost Nameless one was.

If Beta could find that… if the Tree could… They would both get their wishes.

How exciting.

--

“I’ve chosen!” Dragon said as he slurped down more meat in the feast hall. Delta looked up as Jack and Doctor were striking up an odd friendship over chemicals. Jeb and Gnashly stopped shoveling food into their own mouths.

“I am Draco!” Dragon announced. Vanguard, or Van as Delta took to calling him, shook his head.

“‘Dragon’,” he said. Dozer nodded.

“‘Dragon’ sounds less like a snot-nosed ponce going to whine at you,” he explained. Dragon crossed his arms.

“You’re all ponces. Fine. I’m ‘Dragon’. I’m generic Dragon,” he threw his hands up. Delta had flashbacks to her wishes to Sis for no dragons. So far with a Kobold and now Dragon… Sis had listened to her in every way but the symbolic.

“Dragon sounds cool! Like I can’t wait to tell people I have a mighty Dragon,” Delta promised. Dragon blinked at her before he pumped his impressive biceps.

“Y-yeah! Well, duh, I am mighty,” he laughed as he reached for his goblet… missing twice.

Vanguard met her eyes and smiled.

It was a small tiny thing.

Delta’s face went red and she sunk through the floor. Damn it, Nu! Why did you have to make him so handsome!

She felt a ping.

Delta reappeared.

“Seth is up! He’s going to floor two!” she yelped and zoomed off.

The silence in the hall was broken by Vanguard.

“Seth is a… man?” he growled. Jack nodded.

“Kinda a good-looking bloke with the power and actual non-assholeness to be decent,” he said, pointing to the kitchen. “Fera shared the gossip,” he added. Van glowered.

“Don’t get protective over her before you’ve even spoken 10 words, it’s creepy,” Doctor chided. The look he got back was even darker.

He rolled his non-visible eyes and went back to talking explosions with the interesting Kobold known as Jack.

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