Fran didn’t keep the Fabio hair. It did fade as Nu promised, but oddly, the goblin actually seemed a little sad to see it go.
Nina left after a while as Fera deemed her first day ‘amusing’. Delta wished the girl luck as she headed off with a pouch of random herbs, mushrooms, and fruit as a day payment. Delta really needed some kind of official currency to work with…
She gave the first floor a quick check over, making sure Maestro was still peachy with his new form before she turned to her goblins.
Hob and Gob had been pretty much just gathering things but they seemed more bored than ever.
“New job for you two!” She grinned. The two siblings shared a look, then seemed eager.
“Grab some random things around the Dungeon and take them to Durence, see if you can sell them or trade things. Listen to Quiss or Ruli if you dunno what to do. You are to follow the law and not steal anything,” she instructed.
“Gobbos to become merchants?” Gob asked interested.
“Honest merchants,” Delta agreed.
“Not sure make a lot of money by being honest,” Hob admitted.
“Morally honest,” Delta amended.
“No ripping off poor humies, no selling slaves, and no drugs unless approved by local government,” Gob listed. Delta stared.
“We learn from Delta! Ideas come into head sometimes,” Hob beamed. Delta was glad she didn’t have to teach goblins how to be better humans than a lot of humans.
She focused and a slow formation of wheels came into existence.
“Give me a moment to get this right,” she said cheerfully.
“We want a sign as well for shop!” Hob yelled and Delta nearly added a Mobious strip to the cart instead of a wheel in surprise.
“Like what?” She asked.
The goblins shared a look.
Durence had seen a lot of things. It was the epicentre of weirdness, most residents would admit. There were warriors of great renown, wizards of many forbidden and bizarre arts, many monsters passing as human, and even things that didn’t bother trying.
Durence was weird.
So it was not everyday that people stopped in the street to stare at something.
“Come and see ‘Hob and Gob’s Bits and Bobs’! Fresh Dungeon loot without having to Dungeon! Come spend your humany items for great Dungeon treasure!” A small goblin yelled, waving an orange flag with a weird triangle on it.
A cart had been loaded out in glowing orange runes that blazed with the same triangle symbol. A large pile of mushrooms, flowers, jars of honey, and raw fish were on display. The cart itself had a sleeping duck on one side. It had a little sash that said ‘Security’.
There was a silence broken only by an excited yell of a child carrying many flowers of his own and being followed by a shell shocked girl in a cloud robe and an amused giant woman known as Ruli.
“DELTA’S FRIENDS! IT IS I, DEO! WELCOME TO MY HOME! I’M GLAD YOU FINALLY CAME TO VISIT!” The boy beamed and the goblins waved at him lazily.
“Yo, Delta sends regards and gives all previous good dungeon delvers 50% off on their first purchase,” the goblin with the flag greeted.
“Quiss is going to blow his lid when he sees this,” Ruli grinned at the duck. The people watching quickly shuffled off at those words. The local PeaceKeeper had a temper not many liked to encourage.
“I’ll take all your fish, what do you want for them?” Ruli asked the newcomers. They shared a look.
“One… thing of worth?” One of them offered weakly. Ruli pursed her lips.
“You’re gonna need help. Stay here and don’t sell anything. I’ll go grab Smalls and Happy,” she sighed. Deo looked up.
“WHO’S HAPPY?” He asked, still holding all of those flowers and items for Ruli.
At the name, all the nearby business shut their windows and closed their curtains. Ruli looked at the quiet street.
“Happy is the merchant of Death. He’s the kind of guy that turns family owned bakeries into multi-city monster factories of product,” she said dryly.
“HE SOUNDS HELPFUL!” Deo beamed once more.
“He just has some quirks that makes him a pain to get involved with but I owe Delta for the sweet as- I mean cool sword I have now,” Ruli said seriously.
“What kinda quirks? Our items need to be used more sooner than later! Brother Hob here thinks maybe two days max,” the other goblin announced.
“Happy tends to… be excitable about everything,” Ruli said with pained voice.
The goblins shared another long look but everything went quiet when Quiss turned the corner and froze.
The duck on the cart opened one red eye.
“You…” Quiss said with a heavy tone.
The duck stared right back.
“They’ll be fine. I mean Waddles is scary enough to handle most things and I’m sure my gobs will be perfect gentlemen,” Delta said to an unimpressed Fera.
“And I’m a dainty princess locked in a tower,” Fera said bluntly. Delta could give her that. Things would go wrong but if Delta was lucky it would go wrong in the best way possible.
“The Circus is on its way, the secret Garden is doing just fine, Maestro and Wyin got a shiny new update, I dunno what I should do next…” Delta mused.
“It’s your day off, why do anything?” Fran asked as he flicked his hair. He had drank another ‘Delta Surprise Shot’ as Fera had dubbed it. It was funny now, especially when his steed, Bacon had the same flowing locks on his own head.
Maybe because they were one unit, they shared the mutation?
“Like if there were any challengers, you’d turn them down because it was your day off?” Delta teased. Fran flicked his long locks with a smirk.
“A warrior’s work is never done,” he said casually.
Fera placed her hand on the counter and leaned in.
“How about giving ole Fera a tune up? I got three food areas to managed and only two hands. Maybe see what this girl can have to aid her, hm?” Delta’s bartender hummed. Delta nodded, blushing a little.
She had dumped a lot of work on her recently.
Delta focused on Fera and opened her specific menu.
It had a lot of options.
That was just her titles! Delta gaped for a moment before she quickly checked the rest of the box.
“Which one was that Nu?” She asked brightly.
“Right… dark cult library. I shouldn’t expect romance novels or cheesy hero books,” she sighed. Nu blinked once.
“We shouldn’t judge Jack’s religion. Anyway…” she said and went back to the impatient looking Fera’s box.
Delta was a little at a loss.
Fran was supposed to be her scariest goblin and Fera here was angling for super boss?!
She meekly purchased the enchanted helpers and the breakfast combo for now. Some help and coffee for Fera to brew for herself to make sure the goblin didn’t rebel for a pay raise and hold her core hostage with pure Fera rage.
“Can I learn a rune from you? I’m sure it won’t hurt!” Delta requested. Fera was already mixing things in a grinder.
“Sure, Ma, I can already hear dishes self cleaning and stew stirring on its own. Do whatever ya like. This goblin is one happy cookie!” Fera grinned. She met Delta’s eyes and Delta saw.
Under the gruff and scary layer… there was another tougher and crusty layer… but below that was a soul that truly loved Delta.
“Promise me you won’t go superboss and take over the Dungeon if people annoy you too much?” She asked and Fera crossed her arms.
“I make no such promise. I will try not to remove so many heads for my wall but that’s all I promise when it comes to idiots,” she said and went back to grinding coffee beans or something that looked like coffee beans.
Shrugging, Delta purchased the rune.
Fera flashed before her eyes and Delta seemed to meld into the Goblin for a moment.
Fera. Fera. Fera.
What was a ‘Fera’? Tough? Grouchy? Even maybe a little mean?
Fera disregarded all of those words and broke the nose of the one saying them. Fera was pure blunt self love and confidence in one’s own home. To be Fera, is to be proud. There is no greater insult to Fera than to look down on her work or insult her mother.
Fera’s heart was stone but inside were veins of love for her family. Golden rich and of the highest purity. But her love was her own treasure. It was not a bauble for others to admire or pluck. Fera’s love for her home was her very existence.
Food to be made, idiots to calm down, guests to assure…
Fera did these things with pride and ease because she was created as the hearth to warm this family.
She would burn those who would dare try to take them.
Delta snapped back into her own head in a daze as Nu gave her a nudge.
“Fera is… she is a good goblin,” Delta finally said and one of Fera’s ears flicked but she said nothing to indicate she heard this.
Delta smiled to herself and floated off to ponder what she had felt, to gather her thoughts.
Cois sniffed as he eyed his empty glass.
“Ma is always doing weird things, right Fera?” He called and the goblin turned slightly at his call. Cois almost coughed as he saw a red rim to her eyes and a single tear to go with the runny nose.
“Are you cryin-” Cois said and he was pulled over the bar and out of sight as Fera knelt down.
“One word and I’ll throw you to the Pygmies as a cleaning rag,” she hissed, blowing her nose in a rag.
“Calm down! Jeez, what got your gobbo in a bunch?” He grumbled as he sat up.
“I saw her…” Fera said finally. At Cois’ confused look she rolled her eyes.
“Ma! She looked into me and I looked into her, and Cois?” She said and the use of his name freaked Cois out more than the crying.
“Ma is beautiful. So much light and heart… so much she keeps to herself for our sake,” Fera shook her head.
“She is a Dungeon Core. I bet she knows the secrets of the universe or things that’d break us. No big deal, we all know that,” Cois said with a shrug. Fera smacked him.
“Don’t be a dolt. Some things I saw-” she began and they both froze.
Nu floated above them.
The tone was frosty. Nu was like the cold earth to the warmth of Delta’s sun. Hard and firm in his words but reassuring as a leader. Delta was the brightness that gave them life, however.
“No offence, Menu. Ma can decide that,” Fera said and Cois shot her a wide eyed look for answering back.
“Problems don’t take holidays. She’s constantly giving and giving and we don’t give back. So, be like the menu you are and keep to your own business. If I want to talk to my Ma, I will,” Fera said with a hard glint.
“Again, Ma can decide that. You need to get it through your system that Ma doesn’t work like that. Consequences? Sure, but Ma is fair. So stop acting like you’re in charge,” Fera slammed her fist down on the bar and everyone went quiet.
Nu’s screen was blank for a long moment.
The challenge was simple but Fera leaned in, unfazed.
“Because you waited until Ma left before speaking up. I think that says all it needs to, eh?” She said casually and turned to make coffee.
The box moved into view.
“Isolating her is a stupid way to do it. You think Ma wouldn’t like to know people want her to open up? For the smartest thing around, you really suck at understanding Ma,” she snorted.
“Ma makes family and people. That means you have to live with some family that pisses you off something fierce. Welcome to the family, Nu!” Fera said and walked away.
“If we could, I’d do it to that idiot but alas we are stuck with each other,” Fera jabbed a finger at Cois who had his hand stuck in a glass mug.
“Well knit yourself some big boy pants and get a grip. Ma is a home and you’re lucky to be here!” Fera announced. Goblins cheered at this.
“Nu?” Ma’s voice came from the tunnel.
“Go and enjoy being her assistant. You have the funniest job around,” Fera shooed the box off.
Nu pondered that as he vanished.
Fera was wondering when the beings that controlled her very existence had become so… emotional. It was a good look for Ma. Not so much for Nu.
The pools of honey around the Bee spire hive were… quickly becoming like a pond of a hundred flavours. With every new flower or herb that Delta grew, the bees seemed to figure out a way to convert them into sweet honey.
Watching bees snoozing like giant puppies was like a balm for Delta’s soul. Watching other giant bees zoom past on energy root infusion was worrying. She looked around but didn’t find a honey pool of Delta Blooms.
Her bees were quite enough without extra stingers or heads! Delta slowed and bit her lip.
She was very tempted to give a bee some Fabio hair… the sight would be worth the potential World-Destroying Bee she might create.
Really, one little super bee was no big deal right? If the world could have a Ruli and Quiss, surely Delta was allowed some scary things as well!
She giggled at the thought and floated to the hotsprings where a happy Rale and Giant were soaking in the steamy waters.
“Truly this has been a great day for frog-kind! Your strength is a pleasure to test!” Rale said cheerfully. Giant nodded slowly.
“I will win next time,” was all he said.
Luna moved about with her robes and delicate gestures. She offered drinks to the frogs and smiled as Giant submerged himself in shyness.
They all looked up at once as Delta approached. Rale stood merrily and Delta closed her eyes. Rale was humanoid enough that there were things she didn’t want to see. There was a smacking noise and a splash.
“Have some decency or be banned,” Luna chided the submerged Rale as he flailed before bowing her head to Delta.
“Heyo, Mumo!” She greeted, her ‘hostess’ attitude dropped to reveal the punk underneath.
“How goes it, froggos?” Delta waved back as she settled on the edge of the female side, her feet just maybe feeling some warmth.
“The mighty Giant and the Lord of the River, Rale, have clashed in a most wonderful tale-” her epic monster began before Luna cut him off.
“They hit each other until one of them fell down. It went on for ages,” she summed up.
Delta could see that happening.
“I think the roots and herbs I’ve been growing should be the things you need for your key duty,” Delta told the elegantly dressed frog. This got her a huge gasp of excitement and some hopping from the female frog.
“Oh! Is it death bloom? Petal of a thousand bites? Devil’s kiss?! Oh! Is it the essence of suffocating moon?!” Luna demanded with unnaturally bright eyes.
Delta’s long looked made her chuckle nervously.
“Root of nice hugs?” She tried.
“Nu must have had a hand in your creation,” Delta sighed good naturedly. She brought up the Hot Springs Menu to see what was available.
Delta gave the list a long stare.
“Some of those are- you know what? I’m just going to roll with it,” Delta said aloud and her frogs all stared in silence.
Nu’s confused box appeared.
Delta purchased all of the things.
She had DP for days and Luna deserved… bubble jets and… body lotions, and just maybe some personal assassins, but Delta wasn’t quite sure on that last one. There was a slight rumble as a stand with various lotions and herbal mixes appeared and even some bath bombs.
Orange Tingle, Bee’s Knees, Maestro’s Lullaby and Fran’s Courage were but a few of the named products. A little door was carved out of a nearby boulder with a sign above it that said ‘employees only.’ It was only big enough for insects and Pygmies to use.
Delta was sure this had been a good idea. Most of her ideas were good.
Quee moved along the ceiling as more bundles of paper appeared. He sniffed it and it smelled… nice. Aunty Muffet told him he had a job now and she expected grandchildren within the next 100 years.
He flipped his growing hair out of his eyes and grunted.
Muffet gave sharp samba spins to him that translated to ‘don’t sass me, young man!’.
He gave a grunge shuffle which he knew came off as rude, but he still went back to his nest and slammed the webbing shut.
He put down the tickets and hoped he could sell some soon. Having a job besides guarding would be fun. He looked up at the rough sketch of a dancing skeleton with a mushroom cap. Something he had drawn himself!
It was signed by his hero.
Maestro. Quee was going to become a star just like him!
He hugged his webbed pillow close and rolled around on his bed at the idea of them dueting for Mum Delta to see. He giggled quietly and his face lit up in joy.
It would be… a dream come true!
They came with the setting of the sun.
Six shapes that descended into the bowels of the Dungeon.
Grim took the lead with a… grim expression.
“Remember, death or glory,” he said to his group. Poppy yawned.
“I gotta get back before curfew,” she disagreed. Amanstar held a bone staff and frowned behind his rimmed glasses.
“I have agreed to no such silly deal. It will be ‘success or go home’,” he corrected. Kemy looked around before she glanced back up at the tunnel where her guild waved cheerfully, promising to camp outside for her.
“SUCCESS AND/OR FRIENDSHIP! DEO IS HERE TO RULE WITH A GOLDEN HEART!” The air rippled and Grim’s eye twitched.
He turned to the last member.
“Vas, any remarks?” He asked through gritted teeth.
“I do not have a soul per se, so death is mostly temporary until my Master puts me back together. So I see no issue in your words,” Vas said camly.
Grim turned to the dark tunnel ahead.
“Glory or… friendship,” he said with no energy.
Team Holy Pot Hero, or whatever, was here.
Grim supposed if nothing else… he had a ranger to settle the score with. He licked his lips and his tongue tingled.