Charlotte hopped from Bonehead's shoulder to the sign, waving her forelimbs about. I don't know how smart my minions are. For a spider, Charlotte is terrifyingly aware of what's going on, and Bonehead's remarkably competent given the literal lack of a brain, but considering I could at best get vague impressions and had to read body language? I was still puzzling out what was going on when Bonehead took the warning sign from the cage it had been stuck to.
Charlotte had attached a silken strand to the cage and rode on the sign, spooling more and more out as Bonehead left, going back up the hidden entryway to this floor. I could feel Delvers. Maybe he was going to try warning them, if so the silk was a good idea. Let them follow it here. Spread word.
That isn't what kept my attention on this floor. I could feel the border of my dominion meet Kronos's at the threshold just at the caged corpses. What I felt there as I pressed my awareness against that border was unwelcoming.
Not very friendly as neighbors went. I tried to send a message. Hello? Hi? I come in peace?
I'm not a threat to you Kronos. Neither of us profit from war with the other. Can we Coexist?
Then I felt it. The pressure i had been exerting was more like a gentle tapping against a window to get someone's attention. What Kronos did was more on the order of getting kicked in the chest.
I could hear something coming from beyond my border. Something from the stairwell leading to Kronos. I could also feel Bonehead discarding his prior task to make his way to this point between where Mine and Kronos's territories met.
I don't want to fight.
I could feel a handful of Delvers. Most were making their way through the west chapel area, but I could feel one following Bonehead. Arin, the little potato that could. If the Delvers were investigating I'd rather all of them come instead of just the one.
What came through the stairwell was a golem of some sort. A thing of stone. Carved and polished into a human likeness. Female. Adorned with bronze armor; a breastplate, greaves, and forearm bracers. A black kilt made of leather segments preserved any theoretical modesty and was covered in runic writing.
No. Not Runic. I knew the language. the words there. Except.... it was wrong. Where invocations of protection and promises to defend were supposed to be, were promises of torment and rage. How did I know this? I couldn't even relay what the words were. This didn't make sense.
Then, when my attention focused back to the heart and now, a scythe was in her hands. Heavy iron blade. Black wooden handle with a heavy spike a the butt of the shaft. A farmer's tool turned weapon. there was a familiarity there too. I'd seen this weapon before. Saw runes along the curve of the blade glow.
'I... I'm sorry? I'm not trying to be in the way, but this is my home and I can't leave you with the burden alone.'
My... voice? Except I don't speak. Then all attempts to dredge for more stopped as I saw her enter my territory more fully. Striding into the floor properly. Then she stopped in the center of the floor. Making it clear to me that the proverbial gauntlet had been thrown down.
The statue's hair, shorn short, seemed to move as its attention turned to Bonehead. Its (her?) Scythe raised, blade high as it took a defensive stance.
Suddenly Bonehead's leather vest didn't seem like it would offer any sort of protection, and what skill he had might not be enough. Why were you here Arin?
The little potato looked the golem over and let out a low whistle. "Moderate level. We.... might be able to do this." There was obvious doubt in her voice mixed in with an attempt at bravado. Bonehead glanced back at her and tilted his head as if asking, 'we?' The potato chuckled. "Well. I happen to like your boss, and the idea of a dungeon that's just casually put Delvers out as trophies is unappealing.
Then I looked at the Golem. Really Looked.
Avatar of Synn
I could hear my voice again. Begging. 'Not like this.' And there was this cold spike in the middle of me. Then I let the memory go because I couldn't afford to hold on.
Bonehead had learned some, but considering he had only beginner Delvers to practice against? I shouldn't have been surprised that he got knocked prone. What did surprise me was the speed at this Gholem displayed. Leaping into the air, gracefully twirling, legs and body bending to avoid the ceiling before coming down, planting both legs on my Skeleton's back before landing in front of Arin, Scythe still raised.
To her(?) credit, Arin didn't look panicked. Instead, there was a pulse from her wand just before the Scythe made an impact, causing a faint blue dome to flare to life. Judging by the condensation and frost forming around the blade it was likely an ice shell.
Before Ishida could strike again, Bonehead swung at him, trying to decapitate the golem, and instead only meeting its Scythe.
Ishida shoved Bonehead back before charging. striking him in the face with the haft of its scythe before swinging, seemingly intent on bisecting him just below the ribs and it was only Bonehead grabbing the haft and holding it that kept him in one piece.
It... smiled. stone lips curling up and its face twisting into a cruel mockery of amusement.
And spoke. Two words, a bare whisper. "Chaos Divide."
Bonehead didn't so much as get torn apart as flat-out disintegrate.
Ishida would look to Arin, who was processing what happened. Then walked back to the stairwell and carved a line in the stone with its scythe before leaving my territory.
I AM YOUR-
'I'm not your-' The phantom memory protested. There was hurt in the not-me's voice, betrayal. sorrow.
... enemy ...
The last word, unlike all the others from Kronos held something almost like Doubt in it. Anger. but.... it wasn't a forceful wall of adamantine will and intent. Where Malice had been was Pain. There was too much to consider.
My attention focused first on making sure Bonehead's timer was actually active and I hadn't just lost him. then I focused on Arin, who was busy heading to the main floor moving directly to Jjaro's side. the two hugged. then spoke. "There is a dungeon two floors down that is hostile. It took out this dungeon's strongest minion completely with one shot."
There were a few others around the pair when Arin said this. I didn't know them, but credit to the elfin priest when he spoke. "So I guess the best thing we can do is help this dungeon get stronger."
There wasn't some universal cheer, or a sudden burst of energy, but those that were around stayed longer than they might otherwise. At least going off of past Delver encounters this crop went to the trouble of intentionally triggering Everything I had.
Bonehead stepped out of the casket that served as his spawner and punched a support column in apparent frustration. I get you buddy. Mentally I used the mana gains from the day to flag the majority of the floor below as a training area. The library would need to be moved through so a guard post could be moved down to keep an eye on Kronos's border.
Well. The Bone Guard was going to get a workout.
As that was going on I'd parked Bonehead front and center in front of the stairway leading down to where my training room would be. He bounced on his feet, testing the heft of his short sword. Finnal walked in through the front door and Bonehead immediately pointed his blade at the Rogue, then to a wide empty patch of floor.
Finnal smirked. "Heard from the little ones that you got your femurs handed to you on a platter." He had a long knife in his left hand as he stalked to the designated arena.The couple of Delvers that were harvesting nearby stopped to watch the pair circle each other.
Long knife met short sword. Finnal would break contact. "Good, your basic blade work is there, but you need to work on area control and awareness." He blurred as he stepped. Bonehead immediately swung, blade stopping a hair's breadth from the rogue's neck. "Good. You're quick thinking." He smiled at his skeletal opponent. "Your problem is not your technique."
The two would continue fighting. Finnal continued to make observations, dodging as Bonehead continued coming ever-so-close to making contact. Given Finnal's easy manner, it seemed to me like he was holding back. Going easy. Giving Bonehead a target he could hit.
There was only so much I could say I was absolutely sure Bonehead understood, but the more I watched, the more I saw openings. The more I saw mistakes. My solutions weren't the ones Finnal gave. Where he would roll, I thought to weave out of range. Where he would weave out of range, I would want to step inside the opponent's weapon.
When their training session finished Finnal grunted, letting his guard down in a very overt and obvious 'come and get me' sort of gesture. Maybe Delvers know that I grow through victory more than simply letting them buzzsaw through? Maybe he wanted Bonehead to get a win in to help offset earlier. Hard to say.
⁂ ⁂ ⁂
Expanding Downward was a no-go. Heck. Building on the same floor as the entryway to Kronos's territory was a gamble, but I'd be stupid to not have an observation post of some sort. I'd put a few more skeleton spawners up and Bonehead started cycling out who was manning the guard post, and who was playing patty cake with Delvers. That way all of them get at least some amount of real training in with live opponents instead of just passively soaking in xp but not actually knowing more than the basics. I need flexible minions, not dumb muscle.
Especially with the way Ishida fought. When I thought back on how she essentially schooled Bonehead there were flashes. A pause here. A specific swing there. Stone to Flesh. Carved hair to platinum blonde locks.
Delvers approaching break the fog my mind was starting to slip into. Jjaro had brought a pair of elves. I smiled as one of them shot an arrow at Bonehead. Say what you will for the intellect of skeletons. They are utterly fearless. Case in point was Bonehead's response. Rather than attempt to block, flinch, or cover his face with his arms he... moved just a little bit to one side.
In return he knocked an arrow from his own bow. The Elf's eyes went wide and the too-skinny blonde dove just as the arrow flew.
Bonehead let his bow go. I noticed it seemed to find its own way to his back as he drew his sword. By the time the elf had recovered, the skeleton was on him, and it was all the pair could do to keep from being overwhelmed.
I pinged Charlotte to get spiders on deck to weave bandages if either got injured.
Then my attention turned to Jjarro him(?)self. the little potato was busy inspecting the new training room. "Very good." He clapped as a pair of skeletons fought, their match occasionally interrupted by Hands throwing things at them. Admittedly it wasn't a great training room, but weighted balls, heavy and speed bags. Dummies the creatures could attack. It felt nice. It also had, for some reason, a functioning cup chained to a water tank that, as I'd seen, provided some sort of debuff cleansing to delvers.
Charlotte dangled in front of Jjaro from the ceiling and waved her little forelimbs before dropping on his head.
Which amused me. Mostly because while I did want to work with these guys. I didn't want to get too chummy. Not yet.
Main Story Index
Current Arc Index