Perhaps what I had done was a mistake, but just as I could not divine the minds of my minions, I pinned my hopes on Kronos being unable to do the same with theirs. It cost little, and while I had no way of Knowing how this would play out. My seeing her read rather than discard gave me hope.

As I left that place, my awareness drifting, I allowed myself a small joy.

Which was soon compounded when Herbie got my attention. At first no words were said. yet I could see his newly gifted spiders at work. A dozen of them all working in concert, spinning and weaving, braiding around a wire his imps had left in my dungeon, jacketing this line with silk braid. My awareness brushed against it as more spiders glued then wove it into place, affixing it to the stone just inside my entrance. It did not look terribly pretty, but it held as these spiders continued to work, weaving as they followed this metal wire and now so did I. The whole affair looked familiar, yet the context and place were so unlike any other place where wire and power might be applied that its function eluded me.

Then the wire split. Another line had been grafted and welded onto the first before it splintered off in a new direction with yet more spiders braiding a silk jacket around it. While I was curious, I wished to follow the primary back to its source within Herbie's own dungeon. His inherent domains were stone shaping and jewel crafting. This held neither, though perhaps the wire was crafted through negotiation with Good Neighbor for the use of their forge.

What was going on here?


My awareness backed from the line in surprise. It wasn't a voice. Not in the same way direct communication had been, but I could feel the intent flow through the wire. Gingerly I made myself focus on the wire within the silk braid.

-Apperatus needed. Raw contact with proto-network not-ideal. Takes too much focus away from other tasks.

That. Wait. Was the wire the conductor, the silk, or both? If I was seeing this right, the silk braiding would act as a weatherproofing layer to protect the wire from corrosion, but the silk itself was a mana conductor.

Again, the not-voice.

Reception of signal from Lonely Hill is strong. Hello. Welcome to the first iteration beyond my own borders. Optimization needed, mechanisms crafted to make the things needed. For a basic way to get messages to and from this will be more than enough.

Then a curious sensation. I could feel something else there other than myself.

Welcome to the Inter-Dungeon Messaging Protocol. I am Herbie, its creator. In time I wish to iterate so there is a proper store and forward system, mailboxes, and a way to connect our differing quest and bulletin boards to each other so Delvers can better coordinate.

IMP. There's a joke there, something about IT gremlins sense of humor. Still. If the bugs could be ironed out I'm all for it. Even a simple messaging system so we don't have to send runners is going to be invaluable, but all thee other features? Especially if they were avalible for delvers to use? Literally game changing.

Hello? Am I using this thing right?

Yes you are. Seeing a problem though since it's hard to tell you two apart. Will need a way to bake identifiers in. Since there are only three of us as of right now that shouldn't be an immediate concern. Too many other features and issues need addressing.

Hey, I did electrical work before ... Here ... I love your use of woven silk as insulation and weatherproofing, but while it has a lot of tensile strength, it doesn't have much sheer strength. So while this single branched line is great for a proof of concept, maybe you and me can hash out for what the next iteration will be?

This is agreeable yes. I mostly dabbled in old hardware, so someone who actually did line work would help immensely.

Lonely Hill here. As a reminder; I'm currently playing host to two fairly major sounding delver factions. Thank you for taking most of the spiders off my hands Herbie, and the gemstone for Nyx's staff is beautiful. GN, Bonehead loves the armor, Nyx made phenomenal use of the staff when she fought Renaldo, made the old mage yield in their fight. After you two grow some i hope to send her to train with you both. For now I must disengage.

Great news man! Send Renaldo over so he can look over my alchemy setup to see what I'm missing.

Understood LH. the spiders have been most useful. As have the books from your library on enchanting. I would like Keystone's presence when convenient as he may either be able to directly aid in improving my stone golems, or would have the ability to call on someone who does.

I wasn't aware I had those books. When did that happen? Questions for later. I left the two of them to excitedly chatter away. They were friends from before. I don't know how I knew, but they were and are again. Best to get out of their way and let them work. That is one thing I remembered of them.

Jen caught my attention as she followed Finnal from the guard post that acted as a war room.

"I don't get it. you said you don't want to count Lonely Hill as disposable," Jen frowned as she trailed behind the halfling rogue. "But you're not wanting it to expand so it can grow stronger."

One of Finnal's hands ran through the girl's short cropped white hair. "It's a compromise. We're likely to get help if and when Keystone gets his report in, but for now the situation is static." He waved to Bonehead, who waved back at the pair. "None of the smaller crypts appear to be connected, so having the other two dungeons take them over both denies Kronos assets and a way to open a second front, and it makes both of those dungeons strong enough to push through with their own allies."

They stopped near my front entrance and he gave his apprentice a wry smile. "It's like that time You and me worked with Shir and Julian."

The laughter from Jen might not have been pretty, but it was just so bubbly. "Oh yea that was amazing."

"There weren't enough guards, and all of us brought something to the table." Finnal then pointed to the newly lain braided silk cable leading away from my entrance. "Huh that's new. Wonder where it goes."

Herbie, GN. Not sure where they'll go first but Finnal and Jen are following the line out.


Cool. I'll get the goblins to start warming up.

It still unnerved me just how much Jen looked like the goblin creatures from Good Neighbor. A little more meat on the bone, hair. Better bathing routine. Maybe Dungeons were how new races and communities spread here? Hard to say. Not enough information when I don't even know what's past the Necropolis fence.

For a moment I considered checking to see what Ishida was doing, then reconsidered. I was probably already pressing my luck as is both in her receptiveness, and Kronos finding out and assuming I was trying to subvert one of its minions.

Instead, I went to see what Bonehead was doing, which was trouncing a pair of newbies who had tried to take him on. To their credit they hadn't gone in without a plan by the looks of things. The rouge had planted a knife in Bonehead's back right at the shoulder, and the fighter of the duo took advantage of the immobilized right arm. It's just that Bonehead fought as well with his left as his right hand, and he never stayed put to give the fighter a clear target.

He managed to grab the thief, spin him around into his buddy's attack, and then started stomping on both while they were down. Then motioned for two skeletons to drag the pair to the entrance. Odd thing is he actually left the pair with a soul tear each and their equipment intact. He must've been impressed by the effort.

When he got back to the center of the arena Renaldo was there waiting. Cue headtilt from Bonehead.

"The Keep is itself a massive dungeon." Renaldo explained, "One that encourages and expects even researchers like me to go out into the world." The mage tapped his staff against the ground before taking a wide stance, staff held high.

Bonehead gave the old man a deep bow before charging.

It was an intentionally straightforward attack. One met with a frontal shield. yet when the slight glint of its activation ocored, Bonehead leapt, then used the shield asa stepping stone, abusing the fact it would seek to push against whatever struck. Right as it pushed away his legs uncurled, propelling him higher than he would otherwise. High enough that he was able to quickly draw and fire an arrow from his bow straight down.

Renaldo's eyes went wide, the shield pivoting upward, cracking at the arrow strike. yet Bonehead was still carried downward by momentum, and while the shield raised to block the arrow, he hit the ground, rolling forward, then lashed out with a foot, and struck the mage's back.

To his credit, Renaldo tucked his shoulder and rolled, spinning to face his opponent with his staff held high. "Clever for a bag of bones." For a moment he would see Bonehead seem to impossibly grin as he beckoned for the mage to rise. "Lets see you out-think this!"

Flame erupted from the end of Renaldo's staff, at first billowing wide before contracting to formg a series of finger wide lashes. that snaked out, cracking and hissing as Bonehead hopped just away from their reach. Another arrow was fired, then another. Both caught by the writhing tendrils of fire as Renaldo slowly advanced. Grinning. Cackling. "Come now. What is the solution to the equation this fight represents?"

As he spoke, Renaldo's hands let go of the staff, allowing it to hover in front of him as more flame-tendrils burst from its opposing end. I could see a third eye, lidless and wreathed in flame, open at the halfling's forehead.

The Bone-Guard ringed the arena as Bonehead sliced through tendrils that got close.

Renaldo hissed, his staff spun, tendrils lashing out to try plucking the Guard-Captain's sword from his hand only for the staff to be thrown off balance, forcing Renaldo to let go of he blade. He hissed as his opponent charged, Arms crossed, letting his greaves absorb the inevitable flurry of strikes.

Skeletal feet stomped. Staves struck against the ground. Swords beat against scabbards.

Spectral hands were summoned by the mage to try grasping at Bonehead only to be batted aside. the effort leaving him open to a wall of force, sending him sailing back until he collided with the braided silk ropes that ringed the arena.

In the crowd now were Goblins from Good Neighbor. Gargoyles and Grotesques from herbie. There were Delvers in the crowd now. Filling the room as the pair fought.

Again Bonehead leapt high with an arrow at the ready, this one bone white and blinding as it was loosed. Renaldo's shield splintered, fragments of the arrow striking the Mage's third eye.

For a moment, out of the corner of my awareness. I could have sworn I saw Ishida peeking through the door from the guard station. Then when I looked closer, she wasn't there.

All of these spectators. All as one. Then the Chant started. Somehow, impossibly, it started from within the Bone-Guard itself. It was then picked up by others. Goblin. Delver. Denizen. Not. All caught up in the chant.

"Rip. And. Tear."

Renaldo swung, fae-fire flaring where short sword blade was caught by his hand. His counter-strike caught when Bonehead grappled the wrist of his other hand, and then headbutted him. When Renaldo screamed, a gout offlame shot out, wreathing my skeleton's face in hellish sulfuric flame.

Again the chant.

"Rip. And. Tear."

Bonehead's grip tightened on the Mage's arm, attempting to lift him, only to have his knee buckled when the halfling mage's foot lashed out. Both combatants fell to the ground. Only Renaldo stood, aiming his staff , bathing his opponent in fire.

Bonehead rose even as his form was burning away. At the last, as everything that he was gave out his blade struck, shattering the Mage's staff.

Then there was stillness. Renaldo standing there breathless. Leaning on the remains of his staff as all vigor left him a tired old man again.

The crowd rushed the mage, cheering, offering healing, potions of restoration. Renaldo smiled warmly as a pair of magi. Equipment breaking seemed to be simi-common and there were ways to make repairs.

When Bonehead re-entered the room Renaldo was there, staff newly repaired and the Skeleton's sword in his other hand. "Well Sir that was perhaps the best workout I've had in a century." He offered the blade, grip first, to his opponent before tottering to the chest. "Let's see what that battle netted me hm?"

A new staff. A near copy to the one Nyx wielded. Renaldo blinked at it, feeling the unnaturally warm wood, tracing the haft of it with deft fingers. "A dungeon who's rewards match the delver! Wonderful! you have no idea how often dungeons just set and forget, leaving Delvers to figure out what to do with gear useless to them. Thank you."

Bonehead bowed to the old man then to the crowd.

Alright, that guy chainsawing through the guy that tried to eat me suddenly makes more sense. I'm gonna have to send my goblins over for proper drills with him.

That fight held much worthy of study and review. It ... brings back memories.

Keystone had caught my attention near to my door. "I've reports t'make lad, recommendations t'give. W'luck I'll have help coming soon. You an th'other two show too much promise to not recommend we invest resources in helping. Mayhap y'can help us get th'rest of this place in order."


Main Story Index

Current Arc Index



Go Home