I had one hell of a hangover.
Not since the first day had I been so disoriented. It took me four or five tries to even think, let alone figure out what had happened. Everything hurt, and given how big I was there was a lot of everything to hurt. My walls ached, my floors smarted, my core felt raw and even [Genius Loci] buzzed unpleasantly as I tried to focus on things.
It drove home that I wasn’t a person. Not really. I was something inhabiting a dungeon body that did whatever the hell it wanted, when it wanted, and there was very little I could do to stop it. The ANATHEMA anger had completely wiped me out, and I was incredibly lucky that I’d even come back from it. Combined with the fact that my thoughts still fell into a void when I tried to consider writing and the utter lack of magic from the same problem, and I felt pretty damn crippled for a supposed Power.
The overlay floated in my mind or whatever it was, something separate from the rest of my senses, which made it unique in that it was the only thing that didn’t hurt at the moment. What drew my attention first was the Day 115 floating in the bottom. So I’d lost a whole day. A whole damn day and the most important one to date, and to compound that I couldn’t remember a single thing. Fortunately for me the log in the overlay was at least somewhat revealing and reassured me that Shayma and Iniri were both alive, since both [Genius Loci] and the Companion bonds still hurt too much to be of any use locating them.
127 entities killed (expand)
Level 9 ANATHEMA Core defeated.
3 trait points awarded.
Size Requirements significantly reduced for next level advancement.
Level 9 ANATHEMA Core absorbed.
Dungeon gains additional Core.
[Dungeon Conquerer] Title gained: Defeat a higher-level dungeon core. Unlocks combat versions of [Assimilation], [Boring Tendril], [Customization].
[Dual-Core] Title gained: Acquire a second Core. Unlocks Core Specialization traits.
Size requirements for level increase met.
Dungeon Level increases by 1.
Trait points increase by 1.
Shayma Ell Companion level advances to 6.
60,000 experience gained for advancing a Companion to rank 6.
Shayma Ell has gained [Trickster] experience. Calculating…
Advancement to Level 20 available.
Iniri Tarnil Companion level advances to 2.
20,000 Experience gained for advancing a Companion to rank 2.
The rest of the log was less clear. No, that wasn’t true. It was absolutely clear so far as it went, but I had no idea what the implications were. I could...have extra cores? The benefits of defeating a Red Core seemed pretty significant, three level-ups worth of trait points plus a discount, and that extra core, whatever good it did. The titles seemed neat too, but I didn’t like that I had no idea how I’d accomplished the feat. It meant I didn’t know if I could do it again.
Actually I didn’t want to do it again. I was pretty sure that the ANATHEMA anger had some more subtle effect than what I was noticing because now that I was clear-headed I felt I had been pretty stupid. Why did I just blow trait points on the [Bane] thing when I had no idea what it did? Why did I decide to tunnel to Meil without thinking it through? Or at least consulting Iniri and Shayma beforehand to make sure it was actually something they could manage. Despite the hangover I felt more clarity than I had since the army attacked, and that was not a fun thing to realize.
I peeked at the entities killed section and unfortunately it didn’t just contain monsters. There were twenty-odd civilians in there, all low-level [Merchant] or [Coachman] or [Laborer]. Everything else was a monster of some sort, every single one of them with the prefix of “Nascent.” So...I killed Vok Nal’s spawners maybe? The mage-king himself wasn’t in my kill list, which was worrying, but hopefully Yamal or Liril or someone had managed to take him out. I was pretty sure if I’d eaten his dungeon core, he couldn’t have much power left.
Another peek with [Genius Loci] showed that everything still hurt too much to see clearly, so I flipped over to my Status to see where I was with things.
Blue Core Dungeon Level 7 (x2)
Core 1 HP 3/8
Core 2 HP 4/8
Hardened Stone: 150.000/1400
Mana Latticework: 12.000/28
Free Experience: 81150
5203 (Expand List)
- Architecture: 10: Architecture costs reduced. Build speed increased.
- Furniture (Bed, chair, desk, dresser, window…)
- Traps: 10: Trap costs reduced. Traps reset automatically. Traps may be deployed automatically.
- Steam Mine
- Core Defense
- Bait: 7: All Bait cost reduced. Bait decays slowly when separated from dungeon. (Expand)
- Features: 10 (Level Max): All Features cost reduced. All Features formation time reduced.
- Boring Tendril (Root Upgrade) (23 Biomass): Digs into and consumes material external to the dungeon
- Combat Boring Tendril (150 Biomass, 5 Stonesteel, 5 Gold, 2 Mana Lattice): Digs into and destroys foreign dungeon material.
- Assimilation (Consumes mana and biomass over time): Converts non-dungeon material into dungeon material.
- Combat Assimilation (Consumes large amounts of mana and biomass over time): Attacks and converts foreign dungeon material.
- Digester (3 biomass): Consumes prey and objects on the dungeon floor
- Maw: (15 biomass) Converts organics into Biomass.
- Storage Crystal 5: Provides external storage of non-inventory resources
- Small: 100 Stone 10 Iron 1 Gold 100 Mana | 25 Storage
- Lesser: 200 Stone 20 Iron 1 Gold 250 Mana | 50 Storage
- Normal: 400 Stone 40 Iron 1 Gold 500 Mana | 100 Storage
- Composting Chamber: Consumes organic waste or [Biomass] to create [Fertilizer].
- Breeding: 8: Breeding costs reduced. Breeding station strength upgraded. Breeding station resiliency upgraded.
- Breeding Station (50 biomass): Used for breeding monsters
- Blue Core Breeding Station 10 (250 biomass): Used for Blue Core breeding.
- Purifier Breeding Station 6 (500 biomass): Used for Purifier breeding.
- Fluid Handling || Upgrades: Heat Resist 6, Corrosion Resist 1. Maximum pressure increased. : Level 9
- Tank (scalable)
- Ecology: Level 10 Max: Ecology costs reduced. Growth time reduced. Yields increased. Mundane mutations allowed.
- Tayan grass
- Tayantan tree. Fruit: Blue Tayan Fruit. Restorative properties.
- Tayan moss. Mild Healing Properties.
- Grey: Produces Stone. Gem: Earth Primal Source
- White: Produces Ice. Gem: Ice Primal Source
- Red: Produces heat and Iron. Gem: Fire Primal Source
- Steam: Generates Steam. Gem: Hot Stone
- Carbonized: Absorbs Heat. Generates Coal. Gem: Alchemical Coal
- Crystalline: Crystallizes Local Resources. Light-Sensitive. Gem: Alchemical Diamond
- Latticework: Generates Mana Latticework. Light-Sensitive. Gem: Core Lattice
- Blue Chrysthenium: Generates Water. Gem: Water Primal Source
- Deepwater: Increases Local Pressure. Enriches Local Resources. Gem: Purifying Stone
- Green: Increases local plant growth. Gem: Nature Primal Source
- Mossy: Regenerative Pollen. Gem: Healing Primal Source
- Radiant: Produces Light. Gem: Light Primal Source
- Umbral: Produces Shadow. Gem: Shadow Primal Source
- Illusory. Invisible. Gem: Illusion Primal Source
- Wind. Generates breezes. Gem: Wind Primal Source
- Storm. Clings to ceilings. Generates rain and lightning. Gem: Storm Primal Source
- Kinetic. Pinwheel. Captures wind and water power. Gem: Kinetic Primal Source
- Mundane Flora (Expand)
- Metallurgy: 5
- Crucible Crystal (size 100): 20 Gold, 50 Iron, 150 Stonesteel, 3 Fire Affinity Source Gems: Converts metals to liquid version.
- Alloy Crystal (size 200): 50 Gold, 50 Iron, 250 Stonesteel, 5 Kinetic Affinity Source Gems: Mixes liquid metals into alloys.
- Infusion Crystal (size 100): 20 Gold, 50 Iron, 150 Stonesteel, 10 Purifying Gems: Allows mixing of non-metal stored material with liquid metals.
- Hardening Crystal (size 100): 20 Gold, 50 Iron, 150 Stonesteel, 10 Alchemical Diamonds: Converts liquid metals into solid form.
- Fabrication: 5
- Assembler: 1000 Biomass, 10 Gold, 10 Steel, 100 Stonesteel: Allows Dungeon to assemble dungeon items into more complex products.
- Fields: 10: Field costs reduced. Field deployment time reduced. Field strength cap increased. Multiple field types can be used at once.
- Regeneration 7: Improves Health and Stamina regeneration
- Rejuvenation 5: Significantly improves Health, Stamina, and Mana regeneration
- Murk 5: Creates tangibly obscured area.
- Growth 5: Improves the growth rate of flora. Consumes [Fertilizer].
- Abundance 5: Significantly increases flora growth and yield.
- Spatial 6
- Spatial Control 5: Up to 10x growing or shrinking along any number of axes.
- Link 5: Provides transport between two doors (mana cost per use)
- [Portal] 5: Creates constant connection between two openings
- Teleporter 5: Provides a permanent transport system between two points
- [Spatial Overlay] 5: Overlaps two areas of space.
- [Customization]: Combines [Alteration] and [Camouflage]: Allows complete customization of all dungeon features to any scope. Allows saving of customized versions.
- [Combat Customization]: Allows application of [Customization] to foreign dungeon material within range.
- [Relocate]: Move a dungeon feature. Time based on complexity and size of feature.
- [Temperature Control 9]: Increase and decrease temperature of areas inside dungeon.
- [Reclaim 7]: Remove a dungeon feature and absorb a portion of its cost.
- [Warding]: Adds [Warding] Field as well as active ability. Active ability allows the dungeon to deflect or suppress any scrying within range of [Genius Loci].
- [Mana Manipulation] 7: Allows the Dungeon to directly manipulate its mana structure.
- [Mana Logic] 1: Allows the Dungeon to link mana structures.
- [Tempered Wisdom] 5: Combines Insight, Intuition, Foresight, and Luck. Provides low-level instinctive knowledge of the world. Allows appraisal of individuals and items. Unlocks magic use. Allows for projecting probable outcomes.
- [Blue Core]: The Dungeon takes direct possession of bred entities. Breeding options restricted. Unlocks dungeon options.
- [Genius Loci]: The Dungeon no longer needs sensory organs to discern its own interior or the nearby area. Massively improves the ability of the Dungeon to appraise individuals and items inside it. Effect degrades with distance from dungeon architecture.
- [Soul Perception] 5 - The Dungeon can detect some aspects of the soul.
- [Fluid Handling]: Unlocks Fluid Handling category.
- [Dungeon Ecology]: Unlocks Ecology category.
- [Spatial Manipulation]: Unlocks Spatial Fields
- [Metalworking]: Allows integration of stored metals into dungeon elements.
- [Metallurgy]: Unlocks Metallurgy category.
- [Efficiency] 5: Global reduction in mana and material costs.
- [Extension]: Genius Loci effect extends through Companions.
- Induct Companion
- Shayma Ell: 6
- Manage Skills
- Iniri Tarnil: 2
[Breeder]: Improves Breeding options
[Blue Core]: Restricts Breeding options. Unlocks Breeding options.
[Purifier]: Severely restricts Breeding options. Unlocks Dungeon Options. Unlocks Companion Options.
[Source Purifier]: The Dungeon's Source creations evolve to Primal Sources.
[Merciful]: Gain experience from driving off enemies without killing them
[Sworn Protector]: You may summon your Companions to your Core
[Defender’s Superiority]: Gain experience for creating new defensive options
[Dungeon Conquerer]: Unlocks combat versions of [Assimilator], [Boring Tendril], [Customization].
[Dual-Core]: Unlocks Core Specialization Traits.
Trait Points: 4
Material Precision: Three decimal points of precision for material quantities.
ANATHEMA Disruption: Your mana becomes a [Bane].
Mana Efficiency: Improves flow of mana within the Dungeon. Higher flow provides larger benefits. (1)
Tracking: Companions can sense the location of the current ANATHEMA. (1)
Burrowing: Upgrades [Boring Tendril] into [Burrower]. (1)
Field Potency: Increases the maximum effect of Fields. (1)
Core Specialization: Ecology: Allows creation of additional resource types with [Dungeon Ecology]. Unlocks the ability to generate abstract Affinities with [Dungeon Ecology]. (4)
Core Specialization: Defense: Increases experience generated by defensive structures. Unlocks additional defensive materials. (4)
Core Specialization: Dungeon Combat: Increases potency of combat versions of Skills and structures. Unlocks additional combat Skills. (4)
Core Specialization: Habitation: Grants Dungeon Skills based on the species of Dungeon inhabitants. Improves the species traits of Dungeon inhabitants. (4)
Core Specialization: Companions: Unlocks additional Companion options. Increases rate of Companion advancement. (4)
Spawn Core: Allows the Dungeon to generate additional Cores. (20)
Manifest: Allows the Dungeon to condense its mana into physical form. (30)
Antithesis: The dungeon’s existence becomes inimical to its ANATHEMA. Contact results in annihilation. (35)
Inventory: 109473 items (expand)
Wait. I’d eaten a level nine core, why was everything level seven? In fact, given that it had only been in control of Meil, and not even all of Meil, how the hell did it get to be level nine in the first place? Either they were cheating or I was gimped or...something. It wasn’t fair that a pathetic little dungeon core like Meil’s could be three levels higher than me.
Given that I’d tangled with something significantly higher level than me, and apparently I was not optimized, for a dungeon, I guess I should have felt lucky that I’d come out on top. Mostly though I just felt awful. This was the first time I’d actually seen Core HP something other than full, and now that I had two cores, both damaged, that meant I got to experience twice the hurt. Joy.
What I didn’t understand was how I had no mana. Actually zero. I didn’t think I’d ever gotten that low before, and even if it was at zero why was it staying there? Weren’t my mana dynamos...oh. Right. They probably weren’t working. Given how much everything hurt I was probably pretty wrecked. Still, there was natural regeneration so...was something still active?
I fumbled out blindly, vaguely feeling that there were some Fields still active, and shut them off. Instantly I felt better as my mana was no longer being drained to zero or below. Half the aches and pains went away once I was no longer trying to support something I physically couldn’t, but only half. Clearly whatever had happened during dungeon-to-dungeon combat had really messed me up but, as they say, should have seen the other guy. Focusing [Genius Loci] only sent a sharp stabbing pain through me, rather than a blinding one.
Meil had become...well, me. I was the other guy.
That was not unexpected. I wasn’t really intending to hold the city, but if the other dungeon had taken it over, and I had taken over the other dungeon, it was a logical conclusion. What was unexpected was that the interior of my real body, or whatever it was going to be called because it wasn’t like one part of me was less me than other parts, was in shambles.
First off, everything was dark. Not that I needed the light to see with [Genius Loci], but it was probably pretty unpleasant for everyone stuck inside the various chambers. I went to fix that right away, turning on light panels instead of bothering with the whole sky thing. I wasn’t up for that yet. The revealed scenery was not pretty, since somehow all my buildings were melted and deformed, even the wood parts which made no sense. It had to have been some sort of dungeon-specific attack, since it only affected things my biology was wound into, primarily buildings. The spatial fields were perfectly fine. Thank god, because if they’d collapsed everyone would be dead.
The mana dynamos were pretty well broken too. Most of the elements were in place but almost all of them were dead, withered flowers and trees peppered throughout huge swaths of grass gone dry and brown. Still, some of them still lived and I was practiced enough with [Mana Manipulation] to string things back together. It was a frail and limping thing at first, compared to what I’d made before, but it was enough for a start.
“Ah, you’re awake.” Ansae stretched and yawned, apparently just waking up from a nap as mana started to move. “Good job not dying.”
I had a dozen smart replies for that, none of which I could get to her so I just let her be and continued inventory. The farmers that had remained behind were looking particularly unhappy, though a few ragged cheers floated out as light revealed their tattered farms. From the look of it they’d made a bonfire, which normally would annoy me but in this case I didn’t blame them.
The defenders and refugees stuck inside the main chamber and attached killbox had Classers with them to make their own light but they, too, welcomed the return of life to the area. The teleportation field had broken at some point so everyone was stuck on that side, but given how many people were filling the hospital beds I’d made and even spilling out of them onto the floor, that was probably okay. The beds hadn’t collapsed since I’d made it a habit to pull myself out of the furniture so it stood on its own, but parts of the hastily erected chamber were showing clear signs of distortion, which couldn’t have been very pleasant.
Keri was drowsing where she sat, and Annit looked exhausted as the two of them stood guard over the wounded. I hadn’t thought about it before but of course Annit would have to know something about healing, even if it wasn’t her Class, after hanging around Keri for so long. Between the two of them it looked like they’d managed to stabilize nearly everyone, but only nearly. Off to the side twenty-two corpses were lying in rows. They all looked like they were civilian refugees, sliced half to ribbons, evidence of the fight I’d completely missed.
Tapping into my Companion bonds, I found both Iniri and Shayma in a house in Meil. Iniri looked to be deep in discussion with a whole group of people I didn’t recognize, despite it being barely after dawn. It was all politics: who was doing what and owed which and laws and things that I was, yet again, glad I didn’t have to deal with. Shayma was asleep, lying on a bed upstairs with her arms wrapped in bandages.
I hated to wake her, especially since she was hurt, but since I’d been insensate for so long I needed to ask questions. More importantly, I needed to let everyone know that I was okay. Though only okay for now, since I was still trying to set back up all my ecology stuff. It was surprising how quickly I ate through my biomass and stone stores when I didn’t have the income from the dynamos. Even though it’d ramp up as things got fixed, by my estimation it’d take me hours to get the first one back to form.
“Shayma, I’m awake! Are you okay? How is everything?” She stirred, blinked blearily, then opened her eyes wide.
“Blue! You’re alive!”
“Yes, I was just out for a while. There were…” I found myself struggling to articulate the way ANATHEMA had knocked me out and was annoyed by it,. Was it hard to express or was this more Dungeon shenanigans? The fact that the very word resulted in internal strangeness, like I couldn’t conceive of it without shouting inside my head showed that that was still an issue, even if I wasn’t directly under the control of it anymore. “The dungeon system screws me up when it kicks in, and it did for that fight. I think it was due to the ANATHEMA thing. I actually have a bunch of things to discuss with you later, remind me. But right now, what happened to your arms?”
“Um. I found the Red Core and wrapped my arms around it so you’d have access to it directly. It worked! But it burned me a lot, so.” She started to shrug, stopped. “[Regeneration] is taking care of it.”
“Oh jeez, I’m sorry. I’d whip up a healing Field for you but pretty much everything is broken right now, I’m still fixing it all. I’ll do that as soon as I have any mana to spare though.” That was awful. Sure, I knew there was a chance of her getting hurt when the assault was going on, but it sounded like I’d been the one who hurt her, through...whatever the hell the dungeon body was up to while I was under. Calling it me and not-me at the same time was inconsistent, but whatever. I still felt responsible. It was times like this that I really felt the lack of any way to just hold my little fox. Just hold her, not fuck her, and so far I hadn’t unlocked a [Hugging Station].
“It’s okay! I’ll heal, and you absolutely destroyed the Red Core. That dropped Vok Nal in his tracks and Iniri took care of the rest.” Shayma carefully swiveled to get out of bed, since she couldn’t use her arms or hands for anything. Someone had dressed her in what looked to be cotton pajamas, which would certainly be more comfortable than her other getup. Though when I thought about it, her armor had probably been ruined if she’d been burned that badly.
“Ruilin!” She called, alerting the Level 25 [Soldier] posted outside her bedroom, who rushed inside instantly, alert for anything. Not someone I’d seen before, so someone from Meil? He seemed competent enough anyway, since after assuring himself Shayma was in no immediate need of help he saluted.
“Can you send a message to Iniri that Blue’s awake again?”
“Yes ma’am!” He ran out of the room, headed down the stairs.
“I was worried,” Shayma said quietly.
“Says the lady who can’t even use her hands.”
“I’ll heal from that. But if something happens to you…”
What was there to say to that? “To be honest I’m worried too. Turns out I’ve got less control over myself than I thought and that’s not going to end well. No idea how to fix it but you and Iniri and Ansae should all know about it. It might be time for Iniri and Ansae to finally meet.”
Shayma blinked. “You sound like you’ve been doing a lot of thinking.”
“No, I just feel very clearheaded today. In pain, but clearheaded. It’s going to take a while to fix up...uhh, everything.”
“Meil is a bit of a wreck,” Shayma agreed.
It was. The tower that had been at the center was completely gone, a weird shapeless mound of stone where it had been. It looked like the terminal version of whatever had distorted my buildings, with my second core buried underneath it, but it was the only thing so melted. I didn’t know how I had melted it but clearly I had, and done a number on everything around besides. Some were burned, others collapsed, sunken into the ground, cut in half, blown over...
Probably a good third of the city was in ruins, which made the death count I’d seen pretty low. Either that was luck, good planning by someone, or the population had already been scarce before the attack. I hoped it was one of the first two, since there were a couple thousand people still within the walls despite the damage. There were only a few hundred civilians on the other side of the teleport field though, so it might well be most of the current population came from outside the city. I could easily see Vok Nal plundering the population to make up for the army he’d lost.
“Everything is a wreck. I guess the mage-kings have their reputation for a reason.”
“Yes.” She agreed. Then hesitated. “I think everyone picked up a little Depletion, but Yamal...could you take a look?”
“Sure,” I said, though just from the sound of it things were bad. It didn’t take me long to find the man, since he was on the same level, also in bed. His troubles were more severe than Shayma’s.
That was the entirety of his stat block I could see. No Class, no Skills, no level or even stats. I was pretty sure that it wasn’t, this time, a failure of the overlay or whatever. No, the status meant that he’d been cut off from all that stuff completely. It’d all been consumed. Even if Purifying worked on men, which I did not want to test at all, it wouldn’t work when there was nothing left there to fix. That wasn’t even a probably; with my new clarity of mind I could feel [Tempered Wisdom] at work once again. To cap it all off, the Primal gem I’d given him had crumbled, lining his pocket with dust. That last seemed the most final.
“It...doesn’t look good, Shayma. It seems like his entire Class got ripped out of him. I’m not sure what happened to all the mana but honestly I’m surprised he’s still alive.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do to help?” Shayma knew best of anyone what she was asking, and was really the only person who could ask me. “We went back to get him after the fight and he was just out and his sword was gone.”
“I’m afraid not. So far as I can tell there’s nothing there to Purify. I have a few vague ideas how the process works and he doesn’t have any Class or even any of his own mana anymore for the Skill to work.”
Shayma nodded glumly. “I was afraid of that.”
Ruilin by now had managed to break through the various people hovering around Iniri and deliver the message. It seemed to me Iniri was glad to hear the news, or was at least grateful for the interruption, excusing herself and bounding up the steps with Ruilin laboring behind.
She burst into Shayma’s room and stared around her, as if she was trying to catch my nonexistent eye. “What in the Abyss happened?” She demanded.
Ah. She hadn’t been hurrying because she was happy, but because she was angry. Well, I was a little pissed myself, but since Shayma was the only one who could hear me I refrained from yelling. “You can tell her the dungeon here was half again my level. I did win but it wrecked me pretty bad.”
Shayma dutifully repeated that and Iniri deflated somewhat. “...it was a lot more difficult than I’d anticipated. I thought with just one city and no army...and it’s not like he was even competent.”
“Yeah it was pretty rough. I’m going to be spending the next, oh, week repairing everything.”
“What about Yas?” Iniri asked, before Shayma could even convey my comment.
“Blue says...there’s nothing left there to purify. His whole Class and mana are gone.”
Iniri growled wordlessly, pacing in the small room. “Isn’t here anything he can do?”
“I’m afraid not. I am trying to understand Purification more, so maybe there will be something in the future, but at the moment no.”
“This is not the victory I was hoping for,” Iniri sighed, sitting down on the bed next to Shayma. “We definitely can’t go against Tor Kot without the Adamant Fortress. Assuming even that is enough. It’s not like any of us have seen it before.”
Shayma made a motion to put an arm around Iniri, before wincing and stopping. “Well we only have one cube left. Um, assuming that the fourth one was still here in Meil. Blue?”
“Uhh let me check.”
I had to cast around in the inventory for a while, which was now absurdly huge thanks to Meil, but eventually I did locate all four cubes. I dropped them onto the nearby desk, interrupting Shayma and Iniri’s conversation with the sound.
“Well, that’s one thing gone right, at least.” Iniri patted Shayma’s shoulder, gingerly, then stood up to run her fingers over the cubes. “Though I guess one less mage-king in the world is its own reward.”
“Could you tell Iniri that I want to actually have a meeting thing with you and her and Ansae...err, maybe tonight. It’s going to depend on how long it takes to get things working again. I’ve got a lot of sorting and cleaning to do.”
I was weighing discussing the trait options with those three too. I mean, it was my Status, but we had common cause for the immediate or maybe even long-term future. They might have some insight I was lacking. Then again, they might not, since I was a dungeon and my Status and the whole way everything worked was different.
“Oh, so I finally get to meet this mysterious other resident of Blue’s.” Iniri smiled without much joy. “That should be interesting. So far as getting things working again...half of my petitioners want me to make you fix things and the other half want me to kick you out of Meil. They don’t understand the realities of the situation, but if you could give me any sort of answer to any of that, it’d make my life a lot easier.”
“I can do both. I don’t want to keep Meil anyway.” I had to figure out what to do with the second core. Put it inside another core defense setup, clearly, but beyond that, I wasn’t sure. “I’d fix all the damage I did myself anyway, but cleaning up the whole city isn’t going to be completely free.” Sure, it would be possible and maybe even easy once the rest of my infrastructure got repaired, but it would set a bad precedent to work miracles just because someone wanted me to.
“I wouldn’t expect it to be,” Iniri said dryly. “Favors from Powers are dangerous things. What would you want?”
Right. It took me a minute to come up with something, actually. If I wanted gold, Ansae was a better source. Plus I had enough of it at the moment. Other raw materials I wasn’t sure about, since I didn’t know what exactly...ah. Perfect. “I’d like a loan of crafters. Ones who can make Affinity equipment and the like. I’ll be supplying some of the materials but I’ll need cloth and leather.”
The Status sigil had been a bust, but maybe if I saw how other sorts of things were made I could duplicate it myself. Or if nothing else, I could get them to make new equipment for Shayma. Cloth producing plants I could grow, but I didn’t have anything that would process them, so maybe I could get inspiration for that. Leather was more of a problem, since Digesters and Maws just converted things to Biomass and leather was somewhat involved in its production, but there might be a chance. I’d have to buy herd animals anyway, if I wanted to be sufficient enough for Shayma and her gang.
Actually one thing I hadn’t done was try and shove any animal corpses into my metallurgical devices or storage crystals. I didn’t see why that’d work but I’d gotten some Skills and other unlocks from attempting things before, whether or not they made much sense, so it was worth a shot.
“That’s surprisingly reasonable,” Iniri said, looking fairly relieved. “I haven’t forgotten about the payment for the farms, either, but we’re still working on finding the bits of the treasury here that weren’t plundered.”
“I’ve waited this long, another few days or weeks won’t matter.”
“At least I can go give some good news to people. They’re less thankful to be freed from Vok Nal than you’d think.” She snorted. “Some of them anyway. Those who didn’t have family fed to the dungeon here.”
“So long as they don’t think I’m the same way.” I wasn’t sure if any of the survivors of Meil would be able to do me any harm but I really didn’t want to deal with people trying to take revenge against me for something Vok Nal did.
“Yes, I’ve made it clear that you’re different but I will make it extra clear that if they bother you, they don’t get their property restored.” Iniri stepped over to Shayma and gave her a very careful hug. “I suppose I should get back to it. Keep me posted if Blue has any more issues, hmm?”
“So long as he tells me about them,” Shayma said with a smile.
“And stay in bed! [Regeneration] or not, healing takes a lot out of you.”
“I’d say I’d get Keri over here but...she’s completely tapped out on stamina and mana and it’s going to be a while until I can do teleports anyway.” I wasn’t used to having such paltry resources.
“I’ll be fine,” Shayma insisted, both to Iniri and to me. Iniri left, and Shayma dutifully reclined on the bed again, carefully laying her arms down.
“So, I seriously do not remember anything from basically right before the attack to right before I contacted you. I missed the whole fight. Think you could fill me in while I work?”
“Sure, though mostly I just watched until the very end.” While Shayma related the trials and travails of dealing with Vok Nal, I continued combing through the various broken bits inside me. Apparently whatever the dungeon instincts were up to while I was out weren’t limited to just fighting the Meil dungeon.
My boring beetles had dug a number of haphazard tunnels down from my main body, long wandering things that dead-ended in moderately-sized spherical chambers, all empty. At least, that was what I assumed before I remembered my boring beetles were all over near Meil, and a second look showed that these weird tunnels were not made by anything of mine.
It was an infestation.
Armored Tunnel Crawler
Armored Tunnel Crawler
Armored Tunnel Crawler
I’d more or less forgotten about the tunnels beneath Ansae’s old lair, having closed them up and focused more on the mountain above, but they hadn’t gone away in the meantime. Even if I’d put up walls the tunnels still went somewhere. I had seen before that creatures were attracted to my mana, as it could still be felt even if it was invisible to most people’s [Mana Sight], and I had the feeling there was a lot of stuff down there. Ansae probably kept it trimmed back before, between eating all the mana and eating whatever bothered her, but now that she was ensconced inside the dungeon things were coming up.
These looked like my boring beetles, only larger. They were armored, of course, as the description said, cattle-sized things that were steadily chewing away at my stone underpinnings. There were fifteen of them, though that count was loose since some were trundling in and out of my limit of perception, heading out and down the tunnel network.
Unfortunately I was low on resources to deal with it. No mana, very little stone or metal...but I did have lava. Some of it had cooled, where the red chrystheniums had died, but I still had the stuff in my resource pool, so it wasn’t too hard to form a spigot and flood the chambers.
Well, flood was a relative term. It was molten rock, so it didn’t move very fast, and I didn’t have anywhere near enough to fill everything all the way to the brim, but it’d be enough to discourage the crawlers. Or so I thought.
Instead the damn things thrived off the lava. Several scurried close to the glowing front and apparently ate the heat from it, hardening it in a matter of seconds before starting to crunch down on the solidified rock. Even as I watched, three more Tunnelers wandered into my range of vision from the deeper tunnels.
Clearly I needed to work on my defenses again. Again. Surely there was something I could do using a more advanced knowledge of physics and mechanics than I’d used so far. Unfortunately, I didn’t know many details about a lot of useful weapons, and for those I did know the details of, I didn’t have the ability to make high-powered Fields or synthesize chemicals. I’d have to work within the system I had.
Ultimately I didn’t have much that I could do at the moment though, so I sealed everything off with ice, and that seemed to work, at least for the time being. I was glad that my problems right now were of the unintelligent variety, because if they’d been smart and hell-bent on causing me trouble, I’d have to rely on the remaining Classers or beg Ansae for help.
It’d hold for a while, so I went to check on other things. For some reason all my copper had been stuffed into the crucible and my magicite ore was in the infusion crystal, waiting for some metal. The latter was actually an interesting idea, but I wouldn’t want to use all the resources I had for it.
For whatever reason, and I was thankful for it, the dungeon-self hadn’t touched any of the habitation spaces, but there were a lot of little things in the experimental areas and the lava- and ice- portions. Various traps blocking off sections, the beginnings of a labyrinth in one of the icy places, and chunks had been taken out of the platforms strung over the lava so people could harvest the fire Affinity plants. It was like walking into your house to find someone else had been doing renovations, and it was really creepy.
That sense of unease was not helped by Shayma’s tale, which was far too close for comfort. “Jeez. If I hadn’t made that ring…”
“Or you hadn’t been able to Purify Iniri. Or...really, we were lucky. I thought we were over-prepared with three fourth-tiers and everything, but if Vok Nal actually knew how to fight…”
“Yeahhhh, let’s not do that again.” From the sound of it the mage-kings were powerful enough to breeze right through anything I could put up to defend myself. It made me wonder why they didn’t conquer more, actually. The only thing I could think of was that they needed to be in or at least near the dungeon territory to take advantage of that sheer amount of power. “I’m surprised it was that easy for Iniri to chop off his head though. I guess even fourth-tiers would die from that…”
“Probably not, actually,” Shayma disagreed. “Liril was surprised too. That was just basic control of light Affinity mana, which wouldn’t do much to a fourth-tier. I guess without his dungeon boost he was just...I don’t know, first tier?”
“And where is - oh.” His head was actually on a pike, out in front of the manor Iniri had claimed. Well, a big metal pole anyway, and it was a huge head. Death had done him no favors, but if he looked like that in life he had been very unfortunate. “...has anyone else ever killed a mage-king?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Well, even if it was by the skin of our teeth...good job us.” It came out a lot less enthusiastic than I intended.
Shayma giggled. “That’s the spirit.”