Lutz lay there feeling disoriented and with the beginnings of a fairly severe headache running. After the fight with the hairless lupine, he had thought he'd feel worse. Slowly he sat up and looked around, finding the place fairly empty save for a couple healers.

And two armed guards.

It was only then that he realized he wasn't in the communal area of the bunkhouse. Instead, he was in the private room that Thom had taken as his own. There was a frown as Lutz made himself go over the order of events that happened. They were attacked at night. Gnolls, lupine or whatever regional one wanted to use, ran right into the line of goblin skirmishers he had taken charge of and most had been cut down while he had been spared.

As one of the healers approached Lutz held a hand up, palm forward, to signal for the Leifalin to stay back. "Gimme a minute. There's a reason for guards being in here. Head's killing me. Lemme walk through this."

The diminutive being nodded and stepped back.

He remembered the thing's hot breath. Moreover, he remembered wondering why these things were fur-less, what those black lines were. At first he had thought they were tattoos or some kind of war paint. Now that he wasn't being drooled on by one trying to chew through his neck he considered what happened when he saw the one that attacked him pull his sword free. Goblins had good low-light vision. There were monsters with better, but even with it being dark he could still see his sword had cleanly run through his attacker.

And yet it had sat up. He saw the wound filling in and close up. It had moved like something jerking and puppeting the body about.

The healer said there was something wrong with him, but he didn't know what. There were armed guards with him in a room separate from everyone else in the caravan. As he lowered his hand he patted himself over, noticing that his weapons and gear had been removed. It was then he took a slow breath as he was confronted by what this likely meant. When he exhaled he looked to one of the healers, "How long do I have?"

There was a slow shake of the halfling's head. "We don't know, other than whatever is inside you is growing. We've tried everything we can think of short of putting you to sleep and hoping we can find someone in Sancrest."

"By the time you got me there, this will have spread too far." Lutz's voice sounded grim as he saw the healer's slow nod as confirmation. "That leaves either one of the dungeons having something to slow this down, or treating this like a zombie situation."

"Aye," The other healer, a dwarven woman, gave Lutz a nod. "We think the dungeons are talking 'mongst themselves before sending a minion that can talk, or at least a skeleton with a slate board. We're wanting to hope, but-"

A nod from the goblin. "I know." There was a sigh as he sat there. "How're Ally and Campbell holding up?"

This got a quizzical head tilt from the dwarf, "Campbell?"

"Stone Soup," Lutz explained. "Long story involving a farm community a couple seasons into the three of us traveling together."

This got a nod before the Dwarf spoke, "Other than worry and frustration at their inability to really help? They're helping coordinate trying to figure out who attacked."

"Alright." Lutz's voice was soft, "Now if any of you have anything to write with I'd appreciate a few things to get taken down while I've presence of mind to think things through."

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Charlotte sat there unobtrusive in a small corner web in the bunkhouse. To her, Thom wasn't entirely out of line for his opinions. She had been lucky in coming to a dungeon that thought to reach out and to be an equal not just with peers, but to those under its banner. However, she could see how such beings could fall to feeling like they are God-Kings in the making.

And yet.

Thom hrmphed loudly at the Goblin at the door. "Like I told you last time, and the time before that, and the time before that. We're Fine."

The Goblin chittered in this odd language of theirs. Charlotte could feel some familiarity there. She could almost make out specific order of things. Subject, Operative. Verb. Then there would be the odd cluster of goblins that would go Subject Verb Object. It was both fascinating and frustrating how she knew and didn't know what they were saying.

'Why is he acting like this?' One goblin would look to their companion before taking the carved wooden box and note from Good Neighbor.

The second goblin shrugged, 'From what the skeletons say he is both afraid we might catch whatever the Delver has, and he just doesn't like Dungeons.'

Charlotte took the opportunity presented by the open door to exit her post. This left several of her kin in place to observe as Thom frowned at the box, but was gentle in taking it. He would stand there, reading the note to the goblins. "Based on loot recovered from the attackers, as well as what they looked like, we believe what is attacking Lutz is fungal based. This box contains what we feel will help slow its spread, but between potential magical components to the infection and our own inexperience, we urge that if your healers feel that more harm than good would be done use your best judgment. We have made requests to Stone Soup and Ally Starsong to assist in tracking down where these things were sent from to find more information. Units have been placed near to hand."

"Starsong and Soup huh?" A thoughtful nod from Thom. "If there were more assurance that wasn't prelude to worse I'd offer to send a few of my own, but if we're to be attacked we'll do more good here." Thom would open the box, revealing several jars of cream and powders.

This was hurriedly snapped shut, "By the Rider are y'hoping to drive the rot out with smell?"

That got the goblin messengers to both chuckle, 'Told you he'd hate the smell. Five Obol. Pay up."

A second goblin frowned, digging coins out of a belt pouch as the pair turned to leave.

Thom's voice rose, causing the pair to stop. "Hey! If you find out who did this. Give 'em hell."

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Shinji knelt in front of his dungeon's core. The device it sat upon gave a quiet rhythmic beating sound in time to the light pulsing from the blue crystal. The room itself was ringed with putties essentially partitioning it off from the rest of the floor and giving its occupants a measure of privacy.

<I've got Toad working with Good Neighbor on the vial that thing dropped. The little guy thinks it's a type of fungus.>

Shinji's head tilted, 'isn't that good? You and the other dungeons have spoken of a world of wonders and have been using knowledge from there to make here better. If you know what it is you can fix it, right?'

The core dimmed. <I wish it were that simple. We're getting into territory where you would need not just doctors, but you'd need the sort of devices and everything else to make what you need. So unless we hit upon a miracle where Toad is somehow able to make anti-fungal medicine that will kill it without killing the host,>

As his dungeon refused to elaborate, Shinji nodded. 'The trader Thom has refused to allow any of us into the bunkhouse, but has allowed guards to relay to whichever units are stationed nearest what their condition is.'

<Thank you Shinji. Will you send Ishida and Bonehead in?>

Shinji rose to his feet before his skeletal hand touched the core that was Lonely Hill. Then a wall opened up, parting as if it were curtains to allow him to pass.

For a time the core sat there, pulsing in place as it considered events. Then, at his command, the wall parted. His Guard-Captain and Lead Troubleshooter walked in. Both held their backs high, posture and gait formal as they paced, then knelt in front of the core.

<Rise.> the core's 'voice' was formal. Both beings were near and dear to it, yet in this, he had to compartmentalize. Stow his feelings in favor of the problem at hand.

When both returned to their feet he spoke. <As of right now there is barely a plan in place for treating Lutz's condition, and any hope of a cure would take a miracle I can't afford to wait for.>

Ishida stiffened, which was a minor miracle in itself as she was a creature of magically animated stone. "I'm assuming, mostly because of my connection with Lutz's delving party and Bonehead's connection to me, you want a joint operation to try stabilizing relations with the Dungeoneer's guild?"

<Thank you for saving me the explanation.> The core brightened softly. <Bonehead. For the duration of this operation, I am transferring command of the Bone Guard to Shinji, and they are tasked with defending Thom's caravan both within my territory and as far as I can outside of it.> There was a pause as Bonehead shuffled about. <Objections?>

'Not an objection as such,' Bonehead's voice was not what non-residents could hear, yet he was clearly understood by those in the room. 'Shinji taking temporary command and using the guard as shield for guests is sound. However given the unknowns of this disease we cannot assume they," He gestured towards Ishida, "Or even she, would be immune to its effects. Fungus breaks down bone as well as meat, and we would not have soil without fungus to break and weather rock.'

There was a long moment as the Core rhythmically dimmed and then brightened much the same way a heart would. <you raise valid concerns. We're flying blind, which is why I'm wanting you two to escort the Dungioneers to scout our neighbors. If they are not then these invaders trespassed on their lands as well as ours, so I would want them as allies if at all possible, or if not at least gain as much information as possible on whoever did this.>

"And if they responsible?" Ishida's voice was hard as she asked the question.

The hardness of her tone was matched by the dungeon core's own. <Kill Them.>


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