Man in the Arena


Dwarf Dude returned. There were a pair of skeletons in robes to greet him at the door. Well. Not exactly 'at the door' but they marched in from east and west chapels. Both wore black leather armor and even managed, albeit sloppily, to salute before passing each other to go to the chapel opposite where they came from.


"Can confirm Dungeon has built itself up since the last inspection." The Dwarf frowned. Watched Finnal and Bonehead trading blows as a handful of Delvers sat in a nearby cluster, apparently taking bets.


"Hey, Keystone!" Kinnal started, only to get sucker-punched by Bonehead. "Oof hey! Time out!"


Bonehead paused, stood straight, then looked to the Dwarf before giving a slight bow.


Keystone huh? I figured Dwarves would have more either Scottish or even Nordic names. Like Ragnar, or Dolgocht, or something. Eh, not really my place to judge.


Keystone looked to Bonehead. "So, you're the one that fought th'other dungeon's doorman?"


I have absolutely zero ideas how, but Bonehead managed to scowl.


Which got a sympathetic nod from the dwarf. "Aye that's why I'm here." Keystone gave a great huff before looking to Finnal, "If y'don't mind I need to assess this bag o'bones here."


Finnal stepped aside and gestured to my bone guard captain, "By all means."


The two squared up. Bonehead fought aggressively, jaw gaping wide as if snarling. He kept pressing, stepping inside keystone's effective range to try blunting his attacks. using his sword, but not the blade. He would continually strike with the pommel, aiming for the Dwarf's chest, and ribs. Always aiming for body shots.


Not that the Dwarf would let my minion have it all his own way. Once the shock of such an aggressive assault wore off he tried to Stomp, tried his own shoulder checks. He took advantage of his size by aiming for Bonehead's knees and shins. Thankfully the more painful anatomy wasn't there to be aimed at, but I will give the old dwarf points for the attempt.


Then the Dwarf inhaled. Shouting. I couldn't tell what, if any, words were said, but it was a concussive blast strong enough to blow Bonehead from the impromptu arena in the center of the room all the way to the stairs leading down.


Keystone raised his mace high. Beating his chest with his free hand. Never noticing the arrow until it hit the haft of his mace just above where he was holding it.


When Keystone turned, surprised, possibly a little angry. Bonehead had another arrow readied.


"Bonny Chance ye'll get me in one y'sack o'bones." Keystone growled low before rolling, Retrieving his downed weapon right as Bonehead's arrow sailed through the space the Dwarf's helmet had recently vacated. Even with blunt-tipped arrows that were still dangerous. At least it would have been back home. Even if the arrow didn't penetrate it could cause fractures, sending bone shards into the brain, or go through an eye, and it could just as well go through anyway.


But that was Home...


Home wasn't here?


No. Delvers routinely manage to deal with things that would leave most people at best with strains and sprains, or at worst dead.


I haven't seen or heard of any Humans. Elves are close in size. Halflings close in proportion.


What were halflings anyway? Halfling implies 'half of something.'




Yet here keystone charged my Bone Captain, smashing a third arrow out of the air. His free hand swung.


Bonehead's respawn timer started moments after contact.


Keystone looked at the space my captain occupied. "Right tough sod." A healing potion was pulled from his satchel, the red liquid revitalizing the old dwarf before he looked to Finnal. "And ye've been th'one t'train w'him?"


The Halfling's head tilted, "Sir. only other time I've heard your accent this thick was...." He shook his head after glancing at the other Delvers spectating. "But yes I've been sparring with this dungeon's creatures."


Again the gesture of putting two fingers against an ear, miming activating an earpiece. "Lonely Hill Dungeon is receiving aid from local Delvers in the form of drawing out their combat encounters."


Lonely Hill? It wasn't a Name, but it at least was something of identification.


He would watch a pair of skeletons march up from the next level down right as the two chapel skeletons marched down the stairs. "Dungeon also rotates its skeletal minions in an approximation of guard patrols. Unsure if this is designed to rotate out which minions receive attention from delvers, mimicry of living guards as part of Scion's given Captain Rank, aesthetic purposes, or some combination."


An inspection of the resources on offer told me two things; Resources Delvers regularly were attracted to would grow more potent over time, and resources that were ignored eventually would wither unless actively maintained.


Also Keystone's reaction when he picked up a spear from the weapon's rack beside the stairwell opening and found a pair of skeletal hands holding the haft as if it had been ripped off of some poor schmuck hands and all was honestly great. the fact one of said Hands was a lefty too just added that last little touch to the illusion and they even got the spacing pretty good for how a person would hold the weapon.


On picking the spear back up he scowled at the hands, "Off ye be. I gotta inspect th'wares." The two hands departed, scampering off on swift fingertips, leaving the dwarf to feel the balance and heft of first the polearm, then the maces, and then the swords on the rack. "Moderate weapon quality suitable for low to mid-level." He then placed the mace he had been handling back. "What keeps these from being viable for later groups is their lack of tear sockets."


Wait so that's what those gems do? Literally the materia system?


I will need to figure out how to rectify that shortfall.


Keystone continued on. Ignoring the spiders. Which, frankly, worked in my favor. I needed more minions, Hands were starting to reach the limits of what they could do in general, though I suspect using them as trap components, or just more targeted creature placement would make them useful for far longer.


If I were playing through this place though, I'd get bored of the lack of variety. I swear, as soon as the Kronos situation stops being an immediate hatchet aimed at my throat I'll have to expand past the complex's main entryway to see what that nets me.


Though, with this being a cemetery complex. I won't hold my breath. On the other hand. Ravens would be pretty sweet, or maybe gargoyles and grotesques. Not in the market for zombies if I can help it. Sure as hell don't want liches. As for vampires?


I can hear Richard Redding's voice complaining that somehow I got the Sparkly ones.


Still. My minion selection was probably a reflection of limited imagination. If what offerings I had changed and grew both based on what was available and what I wanted?


Do Dungeons all get the same options or is it location dependent? Is it dependent on the Dungeon?


Couldn't someone have dumped the manual in my lap, or given me an advisor? Scratch the second one. The evil advisor trope would probably be in full effect.


My awareness shifted. Centering on Charlotte as she paced along a web in the guard room leading down to Kronos's border. Each string was lightly touched and inspected. She was the size of my hand, and yet the tips of her legs could still balance on those whisper-fine threads. It was a marvel to watch her inspecting this weave, and then seemingly casually turn to bugs that had been wrapped up.


I squinted. They didn't have the same feel Kronos had. Then again maybe they were too slight to invest enough power in to produce a signature? Either she felt my attention or something twigged wrong. Charlotte waved her forelimbs about, causing a pair of normal-sized spiders to scurry along differing lines. Oh, you clever girl you. The power of delegation is wonderful.


So long as she could trust her subordinates.


The books from the now dismantled library were in temporary storage in the west chapel. Technically the westernmost room there was a designated library, but it didn't have enough space for proper sorting. Still. Better to put them there than risk Kronos's minions snatching more than they might have before I'd gotten there.


Deep mental breath. Where was Keystone.


Why was he There? My awareness spun and spiraled til I saw Keystone at the entryway to Kronos's dungeon. He rapped his mace against one of the caged corpses. When he spoke his voice carried, rolling through stone as if it were air. "I am Keystone. Son of Block-Chain. Son of Stone-Cutter. I have come to negotiate for the release of these bodies for a proper burial on behalf of their guilds and as a representative in good standing with the Confederation of Dungineers."


Again his mace rapped against one of the cages. This time producing an almost bell-like tone. "What say you?"


As answer. Kronos sent Ishida out again.


Keystone grinned. His mace out, casually swinging it to test the air before a fight, "Lass. I dunna think y'know who ye dealin-" th ease of his posture changed in a heartbeat. All thought of an easy encounter to teach respect was replaced by weariness. His mace moved from a low ready position to a cross body guard with the mace head held high.


A second figure was another golem the same as Ishida. Flashes of memory. Stone hair was to be blue as the ocean. Skin white as sea foam. She was taller than Ishida. The leather in her armor White to contrast Ishida's black. She also was armed with a sword.


No. Not... A ...sword.


The.

Sword.


Straight blade. round hilt guard. A blade thicker at the top than at the hilt. Blood red gems shot through the steel. Each one glowing.


Bonehead started running. If they attacked he would not get there in time.


To his credit, Keystone showed no outward fear. "Think what w'happen if I fall here." There was a firmness to his voice. "Others will come. Mayhap y'can pick us off by ones and twos. But what of dozens? What of an army? Or fer ye Worse. Starvatin as we'keep anyone an'anythin frim commin'in." I swear there were words there. Why did this man's accent have to get so incomprehensible?


Ishida and Uchiumi paused in their advance. Stone eyes. Blue eyes. Sky and Sea respectively. Then a single word.


"Go."


It was as if the very foundations of the world spoke. A thing more felt than heard. Keystone didn't argue. He took his leave, backing away from the pair, and not turning his back to Kronos's guardians until he reached the floor above.


"By the Raven and the Rider." He breathed. "lad." Was... he talking to me? He was looking at Bonehead. "Yer na ready fr'this. Not by League, Legend, or Prayer." There was a deathly seriousness to his voice. "Jus b'glad it dunna want t'take us all on."


When the guy that inspects dungeons for a living is scared...


-_-_-_-_-


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