A note from RinoZ

My son has caught covid so my schedule is even more up in the air this week than normal.


(He's doing fine, sniffles etc. It's the isolation that's driving us all a little batty)

Life in the fourth stratum is considered by many to be the pinnacle of existence. The rich mana intensive atmosphere, the wealth and prosperity available to those who are strong enough to hunt the powerful monsters, the abundance for those who can pay for it. Many empires of Pangera have shifted their capitals to this layer of the Dungeon over the thousands of years since the breaking.

This has caused a strange environment to arise in the fourth, as it is, without a doubt, a place of tremendous danger. The monsters that populate the stratum are without a doubt powerful and vicious, many of them being intelligent creatures capable of great cunning, even communication. The great sky-wyrms, the most threatening of their kind, have roamed the mountains for hundreds of years; growing up to a hundred metres long, they are fearsome opponents and have caused the downfall of many a hunting party, or even cities.

Thankfully, the ingenuity of the sapient peoples is nigh limitless. In their fortified mountain cities it is possible to live an extremely comfortable, and secure life, though that peace has been bought, and continues to be paid for, in the sacrifices of others.

  • Excerpt from 'The Life of the Great' by Tiritus

[Oh! There you are. Thank goodness.]


The great bear snout snuffs about before she shoves her head through the narrow opening and I spy her big bear eyes blinking at me owlishly.

[I've been trying to dig you out, the termites are everywhere.]

[Yeah, I noticed. How the heck did you manage to find me?]

[Bears are good diggers,] she says a little defensively, [I've got strong claws and a great sense of smell. Why wouldn't I be able to find you?]

Fair enough. I certainly can buy the part about the strong claws. Those things are beyond strong, they're terrifying. I've seen them cut the air.

[Tiny and Invidia are over that direction,] I angle my antenna to droop down in front of her face and then point to the side, [and Crinis is over that way,] another point. [Though she is also over this way. Her situation is a little complicated.]

She has plenty of shadows to work with, little pockets of darkness that she can saturate with mana and slip tentacles through.

[Where are the termites? Do we know where they are coming from?] Sarah asks me.

I rotate the ends of my antennae in a full circle.

[Like you said, they're coming from everywhere. From what we can gather, they're busy crawling over the rubble that Tiny brought down on us, digging their way through.]

Oddly enough, Tiny may have actually done us a favour with his reckless roof-punching. Right at the moment when the cockroach descended scum were aiming to flood us with overwhelming numbers, the big idiot literally brought the house down. I don't doubt he destroyed a large number of termites with that one punch, but more importantly, he succeeded in buying time.

After all, that's the whole point of this exercise. Unable to bring their numbers to bear against us, our foes are forced to dig through literal tons of material before they can put the bite on us. Still, it's only a matter of time, and not much of it, before they clear the rubble and get to us. In order to have a fighting chance, we need to get the band back together before that happens.

The issue is shifting all of this rubbish without dropping it all suddenly on our heads.

[Hold on a second, Sarah. I might have just had an idea.]

I pull a few of my mental constructs away from the constant manipulation of earth mana and put them back onto gravity duty, except this time I invert it. A reverse gravity domain. It's tricky as heck to pull off, but with that much combined brain power on the job, I figure it out eventually.

The purple sphere expands outwards from me, lightening everything it touches. Even compressed, the mana can't power the domain enough to lift the rock entirely, but it's enough to lighten the load.

[Is that you, master?]

[Yeah, I thought it might help.]

[It is! Keep going.]

[Right, let's try and meet up. Stay put, Tiny. We'll dig to you. Have you managed to solidify that area, Invidia?]


[Great. Alright Sarah, give me a second and I'll clear some space for you, then we can dig together.]

I have to move quick, the termites are wriggling all over the rock, thousands of them now. With a few great swipes of my mandibles I clear enough room for Sarah to squeeze through and then the two of us are squashed together in a very cramped area.

[Right! This way!]


With the two of us digging together, and the load being significantly lightened by the domain, we make excellent progress, only having to pause a few times to squish a termite before we manage to make contact with Tiny. The big ape is healing nicely under the careful ministrations of Invidia, but the gorilla is looking a little crestfallen.

[Don't worry about it, Tiny,] I try to encourage him, [just maybe, the next time you want to punch something, think about whether or not it's going to fall on your head and maybe crush you. Okay?]

That's a lot of thinking to do before he applies his fists to something, at least for Tiny, but he nods morosely as he accepts the wisdom of my words. Perhaps not getting crushed under hundreds of tons would have been better. As a result, he hasn't been able to uppercut anything for almost ten minutes!

I can practically feel the thoughts turning over in my first pet's brain, but I refrain from thwacking him for the time being. I get the feeling that positive reinforcement works better than thwacks for Tiny. Besides, his skull is so hard now since his tier six evolution that hitting him is more likely to break my antenna than anything else!

[Crinis, are you here?]

[One second…]

The shadows around us deepen into blacker than black before a tentacle pops through, followed by more. Luckily they compress themselves down until Crinis herself emerges in the centre, squished into a volleyball sized shape with three little mouths hissing around her circumference.

[Alright, we're all on together again. Good work team. Now we need to figure out what to do next. Any ideas, gang? How about you Sarah? … Sarah?]

The bear jumps a little.

[Oh. Sorry. I thought I heard something?]



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Bio: Working older person with family who really likes webnovels and decided to write one. Here we are!

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