We backed up as the floor slid apart down the middle to reveal a staircase.
Globba hopped down the steps and waited for us at the bottom.

Strangely, I didn't get a bad vibe. Curiosity won over. "It's worth a quick look?"

She pursed her lips, moving her head to get a better view of the chamber below. We moved around the rim, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary, just an empty chamber with four white plaster walls.

Estra pointed down. "What is there to look at? It's empty."

I shrugged. "If it's a trap, it's an odd one, and Globba doesn't seem alarmed."

A crack formed down the middle of the back wall of the chamber below. Two panels came apart sending light from the other side. I watched with an open mouth as a football sized eyeball came through, a creature of flesh and metal. The alien was held up by a number of thick metallic coils from between the two panels. A multitude of tendrils followed after it.

[Race: [t3] Dungeon Core]

Whoa! That's what we need to kill. But why would it reveal itself so readily? Something didn't add up. We backed away from the rim in the floor and hastily moved to the passage we came in.

A squeaking voice came from it. "Wait, wait wait!" It said in a pleading tone, sounding like an electric chipmunk.

We turned and peeked over the rim into the chamber below. Globba waved us over down to her.

"I need help!" the shrill voice said from below.

"Yeah?" I boomed into the chamber, and waited.

Estra moved her head forward to get a better look. "I never seen one before," she whispered to me.

Shortly after, a single wary tendril wriggled over the rim from below, then three more followed. Carefully, the eyeball peeked out, like a cat ready to dart at the slightest movement or sound. It blinked.

I waved and it ducked for cover, but quickly came back, timidly waving one of its tendrils in response.

We squatted down to meet it eye to eye. Or ... four eyes to a single eye, in this case. I got a close look at the spherical creature with an iris shaded orange to deep red. The organic eyeball was encapsulated in a shiny metallic frame, and a cluster of metallic coils protruded out the back.

"I need your help. Please." It darted its gaze from me to Estra and back. "When you picked up that door, I realized you could get me out. You could carry and provide me with mana. Please!" It rolled up a couple of its tendrils to appear as if someone had their hands together, pleading.

"Awww. It's adorable, we should help it." Estra beamed, then reached out to pet it.

I nearly pulled Estra's hand back in alarm, but hesitated. I would never try to pet a wild raccoon - it could be rabid, or could bite or claw. But this one could talk and I got a good vibe from it. Tried as I could, I couldn't spot where its mouth was located in order to speak. Did it even have a mouth, nose or ears?

The eyeball squinted and let Estra brush her hand over the metallic sheath that was smooth and surprisingly warm to the touch.

"I am not a pet," it said. "I'm Milu, and-"

I snorted making it duck for cover again, but it came back quicker this time.

"Milu you said? Why can’t you leave, Milu?" I asked. "Who is stopping you? Or what?”

Milu blinked a couple of times. “I am .. I am tethered to this cell.” The eyeball shook from side to side. "I can't leave by myself."

We stood and followed the coils down the stairs into the chamber below, where Globba was taking a nap. The panels to Milu's cell opened completely to reveal a small spherical room straight out of Hoarders. Every single square inch of the walls was layered with shelves overflowing with all manner of mundane items: forks, knives, plates, books, and trinkets. Random pieces of junk found their way into this hovel.

Milu pulled back into its cell and coiled up on top its tendrils that went from the eyeball down into the floor where it was attached to. “I can’t survive without mana. This place feeds me. This place imprisons me."

I scratched my head. “I thought .. I thought everyone absorbed mana from the world around? Isn’t that what you told me, Estra?”

“Not me." Milu shook from side to side, staring at the floor dejectedly. "I need an outside mana source to survive.”

I pointed at the floor. "Can you even detach yourself?"

Milu nodded. "I can for a short time, but then I'd need to return for mana. Even then I can't get far since I weigh over 200 kg."

"Oh, wow," I said. I didn't think it'd weigh that much. Milu appeared much smaller, even with all the tendrils and coils combined. Maybe it was made from super dense materials? "I'd love to help, but I can’t carry 200 kg." Maybe if I increased my strength to 400? Still, I’d be dead tired after a flight of stairs, or a short walk.

“I saw you do it! I did. You picked up that door, you're carrying.” Milu's tendrils were a flutter of excited movements, pointing at my new iron shield.

“Oh. You don’t understand. I can pick up a shield of any weight, but nothing else.” I brought my shield forward and knocked on it. “See? A shield.”

Milu balked, scratching at the back of its eyeball. “What if … what if …” It clicked its tendrils against the floor. “What if I become your shield?” Milu tilted sideways.

I raised my eyebrows. “You can turn into a shield?”

“No, but I can merge with yours.” Milu extended several tendrils to scrape the rusty surface of my 'shield', then came in for a close look.

I looked over to Estra. “What do you think?”

She cleared her throat, brows drawn together. "It also wanted our mana?"

“I only need ... 1 mana per minute to survive.” Milu said, one of its tendrils clicking nervously, glancing between us.

Estra scoffed, shaking her head. "That's a lot ... I don't know."

Nearly half of our mana regen, cane included. I supposed we could increase the [Spirit] stat. "And uhh, how would we give you this mana?”

“I can show you,” Milu said and moved a tendril toward us.

I took a step back and placed the shield in the way. “How about you tell me.” I said sternly. Milu pulled the tendril back.

“Uhh .. of course. Sure. I'd just wrap a tendril around your midsection. No harm. The cane I got you should satisfy the mana I'd need from you."

Estra pressed her lips together, looking at Milu sideways. "You got us the cane?"

Milu nodded. "From the golden slime. A gift for healing my servant." Milu pointed to Globba. "My troll. She’s a dungeon-born.”

"A what? What's a dungeon-born?” I squinted at Milu.

“A dungeon creature I created. I’m tethered to this cell, Globba is tethered to me. If I perish, she dies,” Milu added as an afterthought. “I can control all the creatures I create. All the dungeon cores can.”

That explained the golden slime, and the empty dungeon. It wanted us to find and rescue it. We had the mana and could carry heavy weight - both things it required.

"Can you create more of the golden slimes?" Estra asked. "We're in need of essence and equipment."

"Not for a while. I used up a lot of points on the one you killed. But I could help you with essence. You could harvest my troll." Milu pointed behind us where Globba slept.

I snorted. "No, no. That's quite alright." I had grown rather attached to having Globba around.

I looked over to Estra. "Well?"

She wobbled her head from side to side, looking up at the ceiling. "Hmmm. Sure, let's help."

I moved the shield forward. "Hop on."

Milu fluttered with energy. It grabbed a hold of the shield, then paused, looking over my shoulder. "Just one second," Milu said. "I'll upgrade my servant with remaining points."

It pulled back into its hovel, and a panel came up out of the floor. Milu clicked on its controls with speed and precision of a professional typist. Globba woke up and ran over to stand next to Milu.

The panel sunk back down and Globba went to stand in its place. A cylindrical glass container rose up out of the floor around her, all the way to the ceiling.

Milu clicked on its side controls and an iridescent liquid filled the container half-way. Steam rose from the liquid, fogging the glass on the inside in blue. Globba started spinning in place as the floor rotated. She spun faster and faster, until it was all a blur. Streaks and blotches of red splattered across the glass.

Estra gasped and squealed, my jaw dropped open, and my eyes went wide. The floor vibrated, a grinding noise intensified to the point where I was cupping my ear holes. I felt sick at the gruesome sight before me.

Milu clicked away at the controls. The loud noise dissipated to a low hum. The red-brown liquid sloshed around and bubbled. Within seconds, the liquid congealed into a new form.

The glass container sunk into the floor, and Globba? stepped forward.


About the author

Lord Zaika

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Bio: Sonny, I've got a whooooole theme park full of red delights for you.

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