The Net

I hovered over maps in the little guard post between my dungeon and Kronos's border. It's stereotypical to call all dwarves miners, but Keystone cheerfully leaned into it while giving both overhead and elevation sketches of the necropolis.

"Finally got my mitts on the records from the group that felled Damala." In addition to his own sketches, Keystone set several maps down on the table. Bonehead looked from maps, to Keystone, then tilted his head.

The dwarf frowned, looking to the maps, "Technically I shouldn't have these, and bringing them to a place where a dungeon could figure out where we had sections demolished to bury stuff we didn't want brought out?" A grunt from the dungineer before pointing to his rough sketches. "If everything I've got is right, Kronos starts at roughly the same level Good Neighbor and Herbie's primary room configurations start."

More papers being shuffled about showing a bird's eye view of each along with the outlines of both structures. Then translucent papers lay over these to show more structures. "Past explorations between Damala's fall and confirmation of Lonely Hill's activity, Delvers had mapped these structures."

Bonehead tapped the layered paper sheets thoughtfully, a boney finger tracing structural borders before tapping the hollowed central section. Almost as if asking a question, or more likely making an observation.

"Aye lad," Keystone nodded, "None of the outlaying structures connect to Kronos's holdings, and til Good Neighbor was attacked all were self contained. Going theory is they were built as storehouses by Damala, and as time wasters for any group of Delvers."

I considered this information, and Finnal seemed to come to the same conclusion I did. "That's nice and all, but it's likely there are either a couple secret tunnels or some other pathway your teams aren't missing." His finger traced the known crypts and non-dungeon areas. "Otherwise Kronos is giving a lot of space over hoping Delvers get bogged down in a box hunt." He then pulled a grease pencil out of a vest pocket, unwrapped it, and made a series of marks. "Hey Keystone, do you know if Lonely Hill is watching?"

The dwarf squinted before looking roughly at where my awareness centered, and smiled. "Aye lad. He seems aware that us planning inside his walls means he should pay attention. Speak yer mind."

"Alright," Finnal tapped the map, which caused me to prod Bonehead to look at it more intently so they knew I was paying attention. More grease pencil marks. Now showing where Good Neighbor had expanded after its invasion. "I get that you'll want to expand, grow directly stronger since you are on top of the fairly obvious threat. However," He then gestured to the elevation map, "That's a lot of ground between you and even the closest unoccupied crypts, much less your actual neighbors."

Bonehead, at my request, nodded to show I was following along.

Finnal then overlay a map of the floor directly bordering Kronos over the elevation map. "Assuming consistent floor height and stairwells," A blank sheet of translucent paper where he started drawing out rectangles consistent with the known dimensions of Good Neighbor, Herbie, and my chapels. Then slightly larger rectangles to showcase the floor-space between chapel and crypt opening.

I looked at this map. that left a lot of space untouched in the middle. Space enough for a series of rooms all the size of the floor we were on now, with space enough for hallways between.

Bonehead held up a hand to motion for Finnal to wait. Spiders started moving. Several from the ceiling to this room, more from the training room beside us, and still more from above. All of them exited the dungeon. All of them headed to this first ring of crypts.

Bonehead took Finnal's grease pencil and on a blank sheet of paper wrote, 'Boss is sending out spiders to explore. Took most of his remaining mana. We're almost at equilibrium point anyway. So couldn't expand even if we wanted.'

The Rogue blinked after taking his pencil back when Bonehead offered. "Equi-wha?"

"The point where incoming mana is in rough balance with outflow to keep up expenses." Keystone elaborated. "Given he has three Champions, one multi-phase boss fight, and judging by the gear he'd stowed in the other chapel planning on a second, all on top of the loot he's been spawning and quests given out? He hasn't a lot of wiggle room even if he wanted"

Which caused Jjaro to pipe up. "Isn't that strange for dungeons?"

"Well t'be fair. Lonely Hill is quite odd." Keystone offered before looking at where my awareness centered. "Not to offend, but ye do be rather Strange." Which was fair. "Also you've been prioritizing monsters over territory. Is this intentional?"

Bonehead nodded once.

"Ah," A sigh from the dwarf as he spread the papers out. "Suggest y'get th'two other dungeons over here t'have a look." Bonehead's head tilt mirrored my own confusion. "I know er gonna share w'em anyway so jus git et o'vr with."

Why does this guy's accent have to become thick enough to need a chainsaw to understand when he gets stressed? For that matter I wasn't sure if I should even be around for whatever plans they have.

Bonehead seemed to have similar reservations as he gestured for Finnal to hand the pencil over again. If this doesn't blow up in my face I'm seriously going to have to do the Isekai thing and see what I can do about jump starting industrialization. Still, it would work well enough. "Might not be safe to share full plans with this dungeon since it will be the first to be overrun."

Finnal frowned at the note. "We treat you and your dungeon like it's already lost means we're treating you as disposable. Friends don't do that."

Maybe not man, but friends don't let friends get killed because of intel leaks. Bonehead merely shook his head and shrugged, sitting back in his chair until a three foot tall stone grotesque and a mud-brown two and a half foot tall imp made their way into the room.

Bonehead got up and bowed to the pair. I swear i could almost hear him lamenting the lack of drink or snacks, which the imp waved off before each standing on a chair to look at the maps Keystone had on hand. through each minion I could feel their respective dungeons focus on this place, and hoped each were well.

"Alright." Keystone looked the two additions over and nodded, satisfied with what he saw. "Everyone's here." Again he gestured to the map so they could see how differing bits of the Necropolis connected, or rather didn't connect. Deep breath and a sigh from the dwarf, and when he spoke it was slow, with deliberate pauses. He seemed to not want to be misheard. "Lonely hill." He pointed to the structure that made up my sphere of influence. "Good Neighbor." He pointed to where Good Neighbor's conjoined crypts were. "Herbie." Another point on the map indicated.

Both creatures nodded to show their dungeons understood.

Keystone continued, "Lonely Hill is currently scouting to confirm, but guild data shows that the other crypts in this section of the Necropolis conform to the same layouts you both use, yet are as of right now completely empty. Lonely hill has also communicated that he is at an equilibrium, so expansion is both unlikely, and at this point I would, as the representative of the dungineer confederation, ask that he not make any further expansions."

There was visible confusion from the imp, and the grotesque, the stone creature that Herbie sent, pounded a clawed hand on the table. I felt confusion from the one, and anger from the other. After all, how dare these Delvers tell Them how to expand. Delvers could relocate at will and weren't at the mercy of whatever resources happened to fall near to them.

Bonehead put his hand up to motion for both to be quiet. Then when that didn't work he slammed his fist on the table, then when that got Herbie's attention, he gestured for Keystone to continue.

"Thank you," The dwarf's slow deliberate cadence continued. "I realize that is asking a great deal of all of you, but for the time being, and barring any unfortunate discoveries, Kronos is contained. It is subsisting off of whatever mana it happened to sit on top of when formed, which has to be substantive given the units it fielded are not cheap." That got all three minions at the table to lean in, now paying Keystone their undivided attention. "I need the both of you to hurry, expand, and grow to fill the ring of crypts closest to Kronos at an absolute minimum. That way it has nothing to expand out into without one of you three noticing."

That caused both Herbie and Good Neighbor's minions to go very still. I could hear the faint burble of their discussion, but I had my own thoughts to occupy my attention. Also, notifications were flooding in.

Bonehead wrote another note and showed it to the group. 'Spiders report all clear. All crypts still unclaimed. Dungeon will need to offload spiders to keep outflow of mana from spiking into unsustainability.'

The Grotesque that Herbie sent nodded, gesturing to itself.



My awareness of half my spiders, the ones outside of my domain, instantly snapped. Mana outflow lessened by a depressingly small amount, but for the moment it was enough to stym the flow and leave me with the potential to grow a reserve.

Good Neighbor's imp looked to Bonehead and made a thumbsup gesture before taking off its pack and setting it on the table before pointing from pack to Bonehead. Wait, did he actually finish? No time like the present to check, so I gave Bonehead the go ahead. Finnal and Keystone both gave appreciative whistles at the armor pieces removed. Dark overlapping plates of metal, and a cloak.

Not a cloak. A Coat. Looked almost like someone tried to make a modern take on an American Revolutionary War uniform greatcoat out of bluejean material and sewed a hood to the neck. There was something familiar to the design.

"Well lad," Keystone grinned, "We could use some good cheer. Try it on." The sentiment was echoed by everyone else at the table, causing Bonehead to first strap the armored greaves and vambraces. He gave an approving nod after flexing and moving in place. then the greatcoat that was worn over both the new armor as well as the studded leather he had been wearing. The Dwarf gave it a critical eye. "Needs better boots, an mayhap some gloves to hide his lack of meat, but on the whole a damned fine look.

It was also an eerily familiar look. A 'correct' look for Bonehead to have. I just had no idea how Good Neighbor would have known. Did we know each other before? Were we friends? Allies? Suddenly Good Neighbor's imp started dancing about excitedly. There was a plan behind those large black eyes. I just didn't know what.

When the imp calmed down, Bonehead gave the imp a small bow in thanks before tapping the papers with a finger before writing a single word.


It was Herbie's Grotesque's turn to dance excitedly in place. All eyes turned to it. Moments later a spider, one that used to be mine, climbed into its hand before producing a line of silk, which the Grotesque pointed to.

Wait what would spider's silk have to do with communication? He can't be thinking to use it to send spiders as messengers, the mana costs to transmit something through is prohibitively expensive if done as often as it would take for an effective messaging system.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

You're kidding me. Please tell me I'm completely off my rocker because that is both amazing sounding, and would take more infrastructure than I thought we had to even try something on that scale.

Herbie's Grotesque looked to where my awareness was centered and in spite of everything saying it wasn't possible. I saw a stone smile.

Gods of this place forgive us, for I know exactly what we're about to do.


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