Jen was found by Keystone at the entrance to Good Neighbor. The old dwarf looked at the teenage rogue as she stirred. "Well lass, ye learn anythin?"

"Yea," The young rogue leaned against the door to Good Neighbor's crypt. "If it were playing for keeps, I'd be compost by now."

Keystone handed her a health potion, "Dun beat yerself up ov'r it. Lonely Hill has fairly strong minions, an y've been able t'go toe to toe wi'Bonehead pretty consistently. Did y'get anythin?"

A blink as Jen searched herself, frowning at the lost coinage before palming her prize, "Yea actually. Pretty sure it left the quest items alone. So..." She trailed off, filling the silence by uncorking the offered potion and upending it.

As those two talked my awareness moved to the staff Good Neighbor's core was embedded in. I was honestly proud of that trick with the putties making false architecture. That was genuinely inspired. I might want to pull something like that in the future considering how close I got to having an adventurer just randomly mistaken me for loot.

Confusion from Good Neighbor. Then I explained, pulling up the feel of my essence being leeched at the Delver's touch. Then said delver's less than gracious response to the olive branch of a quest offered.


Maybe make it more a piece of architecture than make it appear to be a piece of loot? Then again? If either of us could figure out how to make glass, with your alchemical setup decoys could be made, or at the very least I imagine that staff properly enchanted and infused, would make one hell of a find for a proper boss fight. Would need to be very sparing with that kind of gear though, don't want people thinking they can just chainsaw through you with no effort.


It's ... Give me a moment. I keep having these fragments of memory without context. Like there was a 'Before' to my being here.


Nah, it'll either sort itself out or it won't. I just wanted you to know that presenting your core like that isn't an entirely smart move, but I do have to compliment you on the execution. Anyway, many things to tend to. If you have an older dwarf roll in with a mace. That's the same guy that's been giving me evaluations. Apparently, Delvers have whole guilds dedicated to exploring Dungeons to see if they're safe for others to wander in casually if they need to be treated as hostile but not dangerous, or what. Probably would decide to starve one if it got murder-happy. He's fairly experienced, so don't feel bad piling on, but don't get too nasty.


I found this arrangement agreeable as I withdrew my attention. Good Neighbor was living up to its given name and working with it felt like I was making the right call. Granted I COULD conquer everything here and even tell myself it was for the sake of being strong enough to oppose Kronos, but I'd rather there be others as a second layer between Kronos and anything else if I fall.

Happier thoughts now. Kronos wasn't something that could feasibly be dealt with, so focus on what could be. For me, that meant go see if I could find the new neighbor by sending spiders out. Mostly I sent tarantulas, but each group of tarantula had a weaver with them to trail silk back to my territory. Even the groups that didn't find the new neighbor could help weave a net for me to get more accurate tracking on anything coming and going.

I could have just sent skeletons to where Good Neighbor told me, but I wanted to explore. Was there a third dungeon? Did Kronos somehow have another surface exit I didn't know of?

Granted I did send a few skeletons but they knew they were in no real rush.

In the meantime, I re-focused on Laginn's reshaping the tunnel to my core. People could get in if they crawled, which would severely limit options. I would need to be creative there in time, but for now, I had to focus on the doorway.



Hrm. I had an idea, but I haven't the resources or mana to make a trade with Good Neighbor. Not yet. So for now I had to rely on the tried, true, and overused trick of shoving a bookshelf in front of it. Far from ideal, but it could be moved for when resources are built up to line the crawlspace with traps, spiders, and other ways to make it clear to everyone that no, you do not go in there. Ever.

That was going to let me open the east chapel back up. A few more coins scattered about, a flawed soul tear added to the loot Delvers could get. The spell on display was actually not the same one from before. It was still invoking Gaia, but it was a more powerful magic that now included fighters and rogues on the list of classes that could get something out of it.

I needed new creatures.


Wait. What? My awareness flicked and of course, Keystone would have gotten the five putty bits. Had hoped he'd leave it off for either Jjaro, Arin, or someone else but done is done. The added mana gave me an idea.

This was a graveyard. This was a chapel. Did I have access to Spirits?

I could see the milky outline of a vaguely humanoid-shaped thing floating in the room, but on doing what passed for squinting showed that was a 'for my convenience' effect and it should be near invisible to Delvers. Also, it didn't have a traditional spawner. If I read this right, It would respawn in the room it was assigned to, but I would have to actively buy more, and I was limited to twice the number of crypts I directly controlled.

Alright, Nyx. You and two of the hands are to be the encounter for the spell book here. No, it's not OK if you kill Delvers and suck out their life energy that's a big no-no. Oops... dang it. I need a lefty here. I've got a cool idea. There we are. Alright Nyx, these two are in your group. They're support, and if you can, I want you to wield them- Yea like that.

I would have grinned were it possible as Nyx took both hands, making it seem as if they were its own.

Which gave me an amazing idea. After Laginn and a few other hands came over with what I'd asked, Nyx got a cloak wrapped around its non-existent frame, leaving a hood drawn up with two smoldering yellow eyes, bleached white hands holding an iron-tipped staff. The staff's topper would have to wait, but for now, it was good enough. For effect I made Nyx wear a pair of boots.

OK, that is amazing. Tattered red robes, an eternally shadowed face with soft glowing eyes, and a wizard's staff.

The best part was as soon as the first phase of the fight ends, the robes could vanish and the hands become independent attackers. I love this idea to death and after the delvers are done downstairs I'm gonna need Nyx here to train with Bonehead. Of course, I'll want a second one for the other chapel, but that's going to have to wait.

Mental note. Delvers can hear me laughing. I think I caused a few newbies to scatter, and the regulars are acting creeped out. Can't blame them really.

Slowly Finnal peeked his head through the chapel's entryway. "Huh, new boss encounter. This must've been the big surprise that was being worked on." Oh, that is such a great point. Only Dill and Keystone knew my Core had been found. So everyone else was probably confused about why the chapel was barred.

Now I'm going to have to keep the other one closed til I have a chance to summon Erebus as a match for Nyx here. Plus loot that'll be worth the encounter.

As Final explored the chapel Nyx watched for a moment, and tapped her staff against the floor before moving to leaf through the spell book at the pulpit. Every now and again she would look to see what Finnal was doing before going back to her book. Only when Finnal approached the pulpit would the book close and Nyx straighten. Her staff would rap loudly against the stone, the Metal on stone noise reverberating and echoing unnaturally as she walked towards the middle of the room before pointing to the door, giving Finnal one last opportunity to leave.

The Halfling-Rogue grinned and saluted with his blade before vanishing. No, not quite. I could tell what he did, which was to wrap shadows around himself. Yet I couldn't see him.

Nyx mimed laughter before jabbing the shadows nearest her with the end of her staff, causing Finnal to roll away. He frowned, "Oh... Kay, you have True Sight. This is gonna be annoying."

As he rushed her she cast a spell that slowed Finnal's movements. Which he countered with a potion that- No it didn't cleanse the debuff. Instead, it sped him up even more. His blade met her staff. "I've fought casters before."

They disengaged, and she tried casting something. A series of dark spikes lashed out from nearby shadows. Finnal danced aside, pulling a round canister. A potion? No, wait. A string was pulled and it started to smolder.

Wait, they've got grenades here?!

Nyx's staff rose to strike it from the air when Finnal lobbed it at her. Except on contact, it exploded in a flash of light, leaving Nyx dazed. The stun wasn't long-lasting, but it left my specter open for a series of attacks of opportunity.

Well done. Now, what about phase two?

The robes dropped along with the staff. Finnal started towards the book and was stopped as the pair of Hands grabbed his ankles. "Wha-?" A moment of panic, and then he saw Nyx as a heat shimmer. "Clever!" A barked laugh as he twisted, spinning like a dancer until the Hands were forced to let go. A second dagger now held as he kicked the first one, then the other hand away, to leave him and the specter to fight alone.

And yet, the Hands had bought Nyx time to cast an ice spell, freezing over the dagger in his right hand. Finnal lept into the air, and the dagger in his left hand flew, striking the space Nyx's spectral body occupied. She tried to move and found herself rooted in place, leaving her unable to dodge the rogue's iced-over dagger that then got plunged between her glowing eyes.

Finnal tilted his head this way and then that before picking the robes up and paused when he saw what fell out. "You've got to be kidding me." The Soul Tear Laginn had taken from him was now his again. Except the quality had been improved. Maybe from being in my care? Hard to say.

Still, that was something not random. I'd wanted him to end up getting the thing back but hadn't found a good opportunity.


Huh. My awareness spun, and twisted, then was beside one of my skeletons standing in front of a crypt much like the one leading to Good Neighbor. The one addition to this was a putty from Good Neighbor laying perfectly still at the crypt opening. Again, intelligent use of available minions. I love that. Leave it still and non-reactive and nobody would have reason to suspect someone is monitoring everything coming in and out.

Two questions were now immediate and on my mind:

How did Good Neighbor get information from this watch-slime?

How do I talk to it so I can get information on how to best proceed?


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