For an unknown time all I could do was breath. That. That was a lot to take in. The worst part? I both know everything Bonehead said was true, and I have no proper memories of the life they spoke of. For that matter, two minions, neither flagged as intelligent, speaking. There is no guessing what was going on in Kronos's mind.

Kronos sent nothing else after me. Now, when I was at my most vulnerable, Kronos could have. Even with just Uchiumi alone probably would have managed to chainsaw through everything I had. So it wasn't as if Kronos needed a whole host of horrors.

So why didn't she?

I could feel the timers for my skeletons resume.

Laginn came down here, retrieving Bonehead's sword.

... My Grandfather's blade. One given to him in war. The Last World War ...

Yet I could not remember any specifics. There was nothing when I tried to conjure up images of some random day. A meal. A day out. Work. Nothing.

There was a series of snaps from Laginn. My attention focused. Discussion. Keystone talking to the Holy Knight.

"Y'be tellin me after y'went toe to toe wi'it," Keystone gestured to where Bonehead had respawned, "That skeleton went an'fought w'the statue Kronos has as its guard, Sir Knight?"the Dungeon Assessor sounded positively incredulous. Given Bonehead's performance the first time the two met I can't fault his skepticism.

A nod from the orcish knight, "On my Honor and by my Faith in Alnus I swear this is true." he looked to Bonehead. "He fought to save the Younglings. Our quarrel forgotten." He would kneel in front of Bonehead. "I owe you a debt for misjudging your character."

Bonehead motioned for the Knight to rise, and the pair clasped forearms. then when they let go of eachother he gestured first to the Knight, then to his arena. Then somehow, impossibly, smiled.

Keystone looked to Bonehead, "Can y'still speak lad?" A headshake from my guard-captain. "Aye well. It still needs reportin. So y'hold no ill will t'this knight or his church?"

A head shake from Bonehead before gesturing to the nearest delver.

"They be alright lad. Y'kept 'em safe." Keystone's expression serious. "Now 've 'erd reports of another dungeon near 'ere. Y'mind sparin a guide?"

Laginn tapped the Dwarf's boot then made a fist, thumb pointed towards the stairs leading up. "Alright. Lead on Laginn." There was a low rumbling chuckle. "Deft. Handy. Ye do be that now."

I let my attention focus on Jen. She sat there in the training area watching Bonehead. He motioned for her to come over, then when she jumped the newly repaired silk ropes to his fighting ring, he knelt down so they could see each other eye to eye. "I know Keystone said you can't talk anymore but, thank you for looking out for us."

Bonehead patted her back before letting go of the hug. His head tilted to one side to let her know he was listening.

Jen took out a leather journal book, which caused Bonehead to tilt his head quizzically. "Finnal drilled it into my head to have a way to make maps, take notes, and write down what people say." The slender girl giggled, "Being a rogue isn't all about stealing after all.

That got a nod from Bonehead. fair enough. Somehow there was the impression of smiling. Maybe the tilt of his head, or a trick of shadows.

The rogue continued, "Well. the way I see it. You did a bad thing. I don't know what," which made two of us, "But it's almost like she didn't want to fight you." Wait wait wait, run that by me again?

Bonehead seemed similarly perplexed, even going so far as to touch his neck to emphasize how the encounter ended. Jen nodded, patting Bonehead's shoulder. "Yea, that was the hurt doing the swinging. But try remembering her voice. Her face." She looked at my minion with an odd seriousness. "She might not want to actually hurt you, just drive you away so she can hate you in peace and not deal with the idea that you probably were working with what you had to do the least harm."

... Huh.

For someone who's probably only now realized boys exist, that's pretty insightful. Memory was fuzzy. Without the actual fight going on, or the pair of them yelling at each other, I could only feel the fuzzy shape of things. A desperate want to keep things from getting worse, and a once in an Ever chance falling in my lap.

Jen smirked as Bonehead's jaw dangled, his posture changing to show confusion. "I'm young, but I'm not stupid. you don't get apprenticed to one of the best lock-picks in the kingdom without having something going on."

This caused Bonehead to stand up, ruffle her hair then gesture for her to follow him to the center of the ring. What followed wasn't a big huge climactic fight. Just two friends working out. Letting the stress of what happened sit on a shelf til they finished. Couldn't speak for anyone else, but it was kinda nice seeing something low stakes. Jen even managed to knock Bonehead off his feet a couple times.

When they finished, he bowed to her before gesturing for her to go. A line had formed and technically he was on the clock. Though I will say that was pretty danged wholesome. Now I wanted noodles. I don't know why, but nice steaming bowl, home made broth. If all this ended with me standing, I decided in that moment, I was going to figure out how to have a little noodle bar somewhere delvers could easily find.

One more deep breath. Then on to see what was going on with the new neighbor.

Keystone was taking notes on both the dungeon's minions and layout. Fortunately, all the goings on hadn't affected the skeleton I had parked here. For some reason I wanted to name this dungeon Herbie. Something about Beatles made me think the name fit, dunno why but it felt right.

Herbie wasn't a complex dungeon in either physical construction, or in convrosation. Simple one or two word answers. Very straightforward approach to room layout. Beatles to act as ground scouts and cheap fodder. Bats to act as scouts and eyes in the sky. He seemed to be pleased by Keystone's method of taking down this big stone gargoyle he had as a chest guardian. The stonework was rough. All flat planes and angles, with bare suggestions of features rather than the intricate work that came to mind when I envisioned gargoyles and grotesques. Yet at the same time here it was. A sort of brutalist simplicity to its design. I found myself impressed at how much was conveyed with so few genuine details

Simple. Direct. However, it was clear that Herbie was far from Stupid.

No idea where his core was. Didn't ask. Wasn't any of my business. That he had a gargoyle, but no obvious spawner implied he had access to stone working. I had noticed a lack of statues in the overland, nor in either Good Neighbor's or My dungeons. Given the lack of alchemy stand I had to go under the assumption that Herbie was infusing the stonework directly with mana, rather than something fancy.

These suppositions were when one of the dog sized beetles showed my skeleton the stone carving room, then nearby, a station for cutting, polishing, and shaping gemstones. I had several questions, mostly how either were used considering none of Herbie's mnions had hands. Still, he had managed to make something work. Give him the chance to work before trying to muscle in and act like I had the better idea, even if setting something with hands to the work would probably yield better results.

Hm. This gave me ideas for the future. For now though. A simple quest. Five beetle shells, for which Herbie wanted five bundles of spider's silk. Apparently it had to be the sticky kind rather than the sort used for cordage. Fair enough. the 'five units of tarantula wool' was a bit strange, but could be interesting. We three needed to collaborate on how best to trade what with each other. Find some way for resources to be optimally used, refined, and distributed.

After what had happened in my own dungeon. Watching Herbie's dungeon work via my skeleton felt restive. I enjoyed the break. I was also glad my skeleton wasn't in anything's way.


Like with Good Neighbor, I accepted, and immediately felt a wave of irritation from Herbie. Not over anything I had overtly done, but at the room and monster arrangements in my dungeon. Well. Give and Take. Though if Herbie had any suggestions I was willing to listen.

I couldn't stake my life, those of my delvers, or allies, on Kronos continuing to be content simply fielding Ishida to chase me off.

For now though, with the alliance formed between Herbie, Good Neighbor, and Myself, there was work to do.


Main Story Index

Current Arc Index



Go Home