This talk of 'ancients', mysterious creatures of supreme power that supposedly rule in the depths of our world is naught but superstitious nonsense. As a scholar, how can I put my faith in hearsay, tattered records and stories passed down over centuries? I need evidence. I need facts, verified by firsthand accounts. When we actually sit down and try to prove the existence of these monsters, what do we actually have?
Almost no written records survived the Rending, certainly not any that I can access or have heard of, a fact which I believe lends credence to my own arguments. If the pre-cataclysm society was so powerful, so wondrous, as many of my contemporaries would claim, then surely they would have survived the scourge of the Dungeon far better than they did. Waves are nothing new, we have experienced hundreds of them in the millennia since they first began. Many kingdoms maintain cities, outposts and forts in the Dungeon during these times, something that we know the civilisations of old were unable, or barely able to do.
"Oh," those who disagree would say, "you are comparing people with hundreds of years of accumulated expertise against those taken by surprise, without any knowledge of what lay beneath their feet!"
A foolish point that only lends further strength to my view. My detractors seem to be unable to see the contradiction they themselves have constructed. Were the old kingdoms immensely powerful centres of learning and strength far in excess of what we now possess, as they claim? Or were they weak, falling victim to the ravages of the wave and being swept away by a tide of weaker monsters capable of existing on the surface? It can't be both!
I have heard such nonsense as to suggest that the first wave that occurred during the Rending was simply of a scale larger than any that has occurred since, but again I ask: where is the proof? More than a thousand years later we have records of waves all over Pangera that date back centuries, and nothing such as what is posited to have taken place has ever been recorded. Not only has it never been recorded, the level of mana readings have never approached even HALF what would be necessary to create the conditions they describe.
It is my studied opinion that, as I have stated before in my earlier writings, the Cataclysm was indeed a real event, to say otherwise would be foolish as the weight of evidence on this matter is conclusive, but that rather than the delusion of impossibly strong societies falling to monsters of such strength that have never been seen or heard from again, instead the Cataclysm consisted of weak, unprepared societies falling victim to what was, at worst, a slightly above average wave.
The 'ancients' are simply an excuse for weak minded and lazy researchers who are unwilling to let go of the concept of a pre-Dungeon 'golden age' despite the lack of concrete evidence. In truth, the old-races of Pangera have never been stronger and the ancients do not exist. These are the facts and I challenge any who dispute me to provide evidence to the contrary. I am supremely confident that I won't be taken up on my offer, since no such evidence exists.
- Excerpt from the Challenge Letter of Scholar Grans to the Tower.
The power! The unbelievable power! Flinging spells and chomping my way through the rampaging hordes is far more fun that it really ought to be, and deep down I think I feel the stirrings of the long slumbering Dark Anthony. No! I reject thee, evil one! I need to get a grip on myself, this pointless and wanton slaying doesn't serve my purposes as well as I need.
[Come on, Crinis, Tiny! You need to get up here and vacuum in as much experience as you can. Can't have you lagging behind me and Invidia forever! Let's go, go, go!]
Tiny gives me a look that speaks volumes. I've been wanting to, but you jumped in front of me and I haven't been able to hit a monster since, idiot. Which may be true, but there's no need to frame it quite so roughly, Tiny! Forgive me, alright? I got carried away!
[Yes, Master!] Crinis is far more forgiving and leaps forward, her blobby body taking on the form of its full terror, her three mouths revealing themselves from within the shadows of her form.
After those gnashing maws appear, Crinis takes a brief moment to gather her strength before she unleashes the devastating scream that I heard once before in Rylleh. The effect on the monsters nearby is instantaneous as many rear back clutching at their heads or simply dropping to the ground, writhing as their sanity is assaulted by the psychic waves of fear that accompany her roar. Waves I can sense now, thanks to my antennae. Just how sensitive are these things? I can clearly detect the mental assault that rides along her voice, somehow attacking the mind of her foes without even employing mind magic. It's like an injection of pure fear, straight into the vein, and it appears to work wonders on the foe in front of us as they cower back from Crinis, revealed in her full majesty.
What happens next to those monsters cowering in terror, I would rather not describe. Let's just say I wish I could avert my eyes.
[Don't forget the Biomass!] I call over my shoulder, having pressed my face up against the tunnel wall. It's not perfect but it's better than nothing. [You guys need to max out your mutations before you evolve. I know it's not easy to get space to eat, so take turns or something. If you need help, call Invidia or me and we can chip in.]
With a roar, Tiny pushes off the ground and barrels forward, charging headlong into the next wave of monsters as they press forward. We've been making solid progress, pushing down the tunnel and putting some distance between us and the checkpoint manned by the Colony behind us. My hope is that the deeper we can go, the more checkpoints we can relieve by cutting off the flow of demons to as many places as we can. The endless hordes of shadow monsters are a pain, to be sure, but for now the majority of them are still in the first three tiers, with a few tier fours mixed in. I've no doubt there are tier five shadow monsters hiding out below, but for now they're managing to hold on and haven't been ousted from their hunting grounds as of yet. Something that will likely change as the wave goes on.
No, the real threat to the Colony right now is the demons climbing up from the third strata. From what Granin told me during our discussions before I left, there aren't actually that many connecting points between the second and third strata, for 'reasons that will become clear when I see it'. Which means the monsters climbing up into the territory claimed by the Colony may be coming from as few as one or two entrances. If we can push down and plug one of those for a while then that'll take a lot of heat off the Colony while they finish building their defensive network. Getting that deep is going to be a massive pain in the butt though, to be honest, I'm not even sure that we'll be able to manage it. Doesn't hurt to try though. Let's see how far down we can get!