Delta tried not to groan as Jack reported back with the hulking demon backing him up. It wasn’t like Jack had exactly done something wrong, but Delta would have liked to have been included in the negotiations before the demon, Runilac, had agreed to be a less murdery neighbour. The demon was quite clear that he had no intention of being either a contract or an enemy.
The skeleton in the maid costume was just a strange cherry on top of the weird dessert. Delta was now absolutely sure she had never had a pure-blooded demon in her Dungeon for one reason. Runilac was like a void. Ruli had the vibe of being less to her dungeon senses but louder to her human side. Runilac just acted like dark space where her mana flowed, hitting the space and being forced to part around him. It was unnerving to a degree Delta hadn’t felt before. It made Runilac utterly alien to her instincts as he freely and unashamedly admitted he was not native to this world.
“I’m bound by some twits deeper in the fortress. I can’t act against them physically, so the best me and Robin here can do is forge and stay out of your way,” Runilac explained gruffly as her gargoyles all seemed to be trying to square up and show a display of strength against this stranger. Vanguard being the worst, scowling at the muscled demon as if he were here to sweep Delta off to the pits of hell itself. It was sweet if not a bit funny.
“What about knowledge? What can you tell me about the Silence cult people...group...things,” Delta asked which Jack translated for her. Runilac could hear her, but he hadn’t had time to adapt to her power and said she sounded far away for the moment.
“I guess... they’re human, wield some magic, some had weapons, and they all worshipped some lost god,” Runilac said easily. Delta had to admit, it wasn’t untrue from what she had seen.
“Anything else?” she tried. Robin the skeleton had been quiet up to now, spoke up.
“Master has given knowledge freely! He deserves your mighty gifts and power freely given for even this tidbit of free trade!” Robin said haughty. Jack winced and Delta blinked at the comment. Before she could answer, Doctor strode forward, his plague doctor mask looking more pointy than normal.
“Ah, I see this is to be a business transaction. Very well, we have nothing to offer and desire nothing of yours, please return to the dead-end hole you resided in and we shall brick you up once more. Our apologies for disturbing you,” the gargoyle said with such a succinct tone that Delta had to admit he could make anything sound charming yet rude.
The skeleton’s blazing eyes met Doctor’s for a long moment.
“Robin, knock it off,” Runilac grumbled. The skeleton instantly backed off, bowing its head.
“Of course, my master. I shall flay the skin off my back as punishment for speaking out,” it said gravely. Delta stared, mouthing the words over as if trying to understand them.
“Forgive Robin, I made them with care and might have been too gentle in places,” the demon said and exhaled.
“May... I have a drink before we talk?” he asked and Delta nodded, her faint form just visible to him.
“Of course! You’re a guest so no payment needed and since you’ve been trapped, you can even have food if ya like!” Delta beamed. Runliac’s lips twitched.
“I hope you have a maiden running the bar, being served by the innocent has an added taste!” he said with a glint to his eyes. Delta froze. She thought of Fera. Maiden. Fera... Innocent.
“My bartender has never been with someone, killed someone, or even ripped someone off. Her virtue is unmatched,” Delta promised. Runliac perked up. Jack was grinning widely at her.
“I need to see this,” he told her quietly.
Delta covered her eyes.
The bar surface creaked, blood vessels popped, and bone threatened to give. The challengers of the children and Kemy all stared in horror at the scene. Fera was sweating and her eyes looked smoky as her body heat rose in the stress. The giant muscle bound form of Runilac was also looking feral and intent on pushing his power deeper and harder, forcing the goblin to bend. Fera’s hand budged slightly to the surface as Runilac showed he had superior physical strength in their arm-wrestling bet.
Fera focused and she activated an ability she hadn’t used before. By having almost all the goblins in the room, her own power grew immensely, suddenly making the demon buckle in surprise.
There was an almighty crash and the demon was flung across the room as Fera slammed him hard.
“Dungeon home team wins!” Fran cried, toasting his mug of Shroom Pop. Everyone cheered except the humans. Deo did, however.
“Well,” Fera began, panting before mopping her frown with the rag she used to wipe the surfaces of the table.
“I want those iron flagons and forks delivered before the week is up!” she grinned in victory.
“Robin... I may be in lust or early stages of a crush, make a note to forge a spiked wooing mace for the goblin,” the demon mumbled as he tried to extract his horns from the wall. He finally managed to sit down and Delta eyed the group of Durence kids. She didn’t want to discuss Silence trouble around them. Fran seemed to sense her thoughts.
“Champions of the first floor. It is time for the second floor,” he announced and Delta blinked, barely seeing a smoky outline of the challengers. They had moved so fast! She didn’t even have time to stare at Kemy’s staff or comment on it. The girl was so adventurous! Delta was proud of her growing confidence, if not worried about her style.
“She wasn’t a bother, but the priestess was making my nose itch,” Runilac admitted. Delta chose to ignore that comment. Kemy smelled fine to her. Even a little like sweet nectar and chocolate. Delta wouldn’t mind that as a perfume.
“So, tell me about the Silence,” Delta asked quietly. The demon shrugged. He nursed his own drink which seemed to literally be hissing smoke. Fera’s concoction of fire crystal and spicy herbs.
“I mostly have second hand knowledge. Buggers are immortal from age and general wear and tear. Not even the good Lich style, but something else. They function off black ooze and something they called ‘Black Seeds’. I always knew the Vegan trend would be trouble, but I didn’t expect this,” Runilac sighed as he took a deep drink and belched sparks. Delta knew these were the little Bro’s leftovers in people. The Silence had been able to use their seeds as... immortality power? But wouldn’t that drain it or something?
“They had tons of people dragged into the deeps to be... used for something. I wasn’t really out of the forge a lot so all I knew is what went down, didn’t come back up,” Runilac said softly. Delta paused, Renny’s family and circus flashing to mind.
“I heard something about that,” she admitted. She was aware of how quiet the bar was, but chose not to bring it to attention. Her monsters deserved to know this too.
“I met the leaders once, but my forge was in the first fortress, so I didn’t see the other three much. The one that rules where your dungeon managed to breach? I met her more than a few times,” Runilac’s nostrils flared. He slowly released his grip on the groaning wooden mug in his hands.
“So four fortess in total you know of?” Delta listed, trying to absorb this all to memory. The more she knew about her foes and monsters lurking below, the better. The demon snorted.
“If only things were so equal. Two forts, one castle, and the palace. Power in groups like this is rather skewed from what I saw. The leader, the one the others had to bow to? Yeah, he made my skin crawl,” Runilac said seriously. He listed names.
“I heard titles. The One of the Ending Light, She of Settled Darkness and He of the Broken Silence. All led by the one they only named in the deepest of shadows,” Runilac leaned in, as if to share a secret.
Her Dungeon clenched as if the cold earth was responding to the intent behind the name. Delta couldn’t breathe for a long moment before it passed. Siblings lost a brother... and the leader of the evil cult went by Nephew. Was... was this cult lead by some demi-god?!
Hell, if Bro could make monsters while Sis could open portals to gods... why couldn’t the Lil Bro make a single kid? Runliac went on, not seeing Delta’s inner turmoil.
“The fortress you got to is led by She of Settled Darkness. A real piece of work. Had her name slip a few times. Princess Mharia. Most call her Princess Marrow, but never to her face if the rumors were true,” the demon was served another drink.
“Don’t suppose she’s a weak little girl that uses weak monsters to do her work?” Delta asked, drawing a circle on the bar table.
“Wouldn’t know. I’m bound to the owner of the second fort. Some ass who went by the name ‘Lord of Ending Light’. He’s like a young demon trying to be all blood-knight. It’s sad,” the demon snorted.
“That’s all I really know. Like I said, wasn’t allowed to wander out my forge for long,” he grumbled. Delta let him drink.
It was no big deal. The demon only alluded to the fact that Delta might be facing this world’s version of the Anti-Christ.
“I need to go do some things, feel free to eat and drink until you feel ready to work. I’ll... find you metal or something,” Delta mumbled, distracted.
She had work to do.
Her Mana had consumed the leading rooms to the demon forge by the time she returned to the third floor.
You have absorbed X6 Reforming Guard Golems.
You have absorbed one iron spike trap.
You have absorbed 1 forge room.
New monsters unlocked. New upgrades unlocked. New room blueprint unlocked.
The golems were neat, but the cost and her limited Monster space on this floor wasn’t making her eager to make one. Between Jeb, Gnashly, her four gargoyles, and her Libro Golem, she was working with a single space.
She looked at the room before the forge, and decided this would be a nice spawn room for the gargoyles. They had been without one for too long and they could help Runilac in case the Silence forces attacked or any future adventurous groups.
In a way, it was two birds with one stone. Delta was going to hammer out an arrangement between her monsters and the blacksmith. She snorted at herself. Nu nearby grumbled at her, but he seemed to be absorbing the news of the potential Nephew.
She focused, making large stone pillars rise with places to perch on top. Her Mana and DP were coming along nicely, her Mana being full and the absorbing of the Forge room making her DP increase.
With some effort, the pillars of stone grew and connected like winding paths. In her mind, gargoyles lingered in gothic high places. She made the stone dark and the ambient light in the room become dull with some effort. She hummed as she worked, the dungeon process always relaxing to her.
She made false windows that had silk curtains. The materials she had gotten by absorbing most things on the Third Floor. If Delta was being honest, she was pretending she was Dracula and trying to imagine how the fabulous vampire would design his castle. Some suits of armour here and there... some cobwebs...
Delta wondered about the Feng Shui of floating Medusa heads but considered it going overboard.
She opened her menu and grinned at the newly listed option.
Foreboding Gargoyle Spawn Room. 60 DP
She purchased it and the room began to shift around her with a gothic groan. The colour fading to red and black... the sound of fake rain dripping out the fake windows loudly...
The smell of old European countries filled the air and Delta looked around. Was that... faint pipe organ music?!
She spun wildly as a bat flew past, the critter made free from the purchase screeched dramatically.
“What is a man?” a voice called. Delta pushed against a wall in panic.
“I’m not Metroidvania enough for this!” she screamed in response.
“Man is the term for people Jeb, mostly the male variety if you want to get into detail,” Doctor’s voice commented lightly. The large troll emerged into the room, confused but interested followed by the gargoyle.
They both met Delta’s wide eyes.
“You... heard nothing,” she warned.
Both monsters just nodded.