On the second day in her attempt to destroy my dungeon Hecate already has reached my final defense, a gigantic labyrinthine room filled with traps, trolls, switches, among a few extra surprises as well. Even though she has the strength to destroy any monster that I could possibly summon, she still needed numbers to pass the final hurtle to reach my crystal.
She was forced to leave for almost half a day while recruiting a rag-tag bunch of humanoids and monsters. Most of which don’t seem to thrilled with the idea of following Hecate’s orders, or just orders in general as they make their way through the labyrinth corridors.
There are few paths to take at the start of the labyrinth so many continue down the same paths until they branch off each taking their own way, and they have managed to find quite a few of the fake switches one of which resulting in a rather nasty fire trap that singed all the hair off of one of a dog like beastkin’s head.
It isn’t till they find the first actual switch that things really start to come together, and Hecate orders one of the non-sentient monsters to remain behind to guard the switch. It isn’t a monster I am familiar with but it seems to be some kind of mix between a goblin and a troll.
Once they spread out quite a bit more I will test its strength, but for now I let them continue on. Before any of the members separate from the group Hecate hands them a sheet of parchment that appears to be a communication parchment.
They at least bare the writing that Exeter’s communications parchments all contain, but still it does hurt a bit to see them being used against me in this fashion. There is one dwarf looking man relaxing in front of the locked door, and he seems to be the one watching to find if they hit a correct switch or not.
I don’t know how long it will take them like this, but unless I can slow them down Hecate might have been right about ending my life before the day ends.
The merciless trolls don’t stand a chance against Hecate’s group while all together, but the more that break off the group the more of a pattern I start to see. Only a small handful, handles most of the combat while the others stick towards the back.
Hecate talked about the trolls, so I am sure she wouldn’t bring them if they couldn’t at least handle them, but then again maybe she thinks once the trolls have been cleared they won’t have to worry about monsters after that.
The spawning rooms are made with one way doors that can’t be seen from the outside, so I couldn’t have the crystal hidden in one, but summoning monsters in one isn’t an issue. After the group has split off enough from one another and gotten far enough away from the monster on the first switch I decide it is time to test its strength.
I just want to gauge its strength, so I only send in a single troll, it isn’t exactly a fair fight, and Hecate’s monster manages to kill the troll without moving from his spot, but I did learn that even against two trolls this other monster might start having difficulty, if I threw something like a minotaur at it I am sure it would go down.
I don’t want to do that yet though, because the dwarf would warn Hecate about the switch being released, and they would know that monsters can get in behind them, so for now I let the monster have its victory as it starts to chew on the trolls toes.
They have split far enough apart now that with the trolls they run into I can see what most of their power levels are, and it looks like it is going to be a close call. The 4 non-sentient monsters and maybe 2 of the humanoids I would have no trouble with taking out.
3 of the members of the group are a real problem and I think they are far too strong for me as well, that makes 4 of them that I don’t think I can kill, that leaves 11 of them up in the air, I would like to be able to do away with them as well to be on the safe side, but I have to drop at least half of them.
The human man that seemed into Hecate was one of the 2 humanoids I am pretty sure I can kill, and he is coming up on one of the real switches. He is far enough from the others I decide to have one of the hellhounds I summoned the night before try to prevent him from reaching the switch.
The hellhound doesn’t have much room to move around in, and I think the human man could cause him quite a bit of damage, but the man decides he is going to run for it instead, trying to scribble on the communication parchment as he goes.
The hellhound manages to snatch him up in its jaws before he makes more than a long squiggly line on the parchment, and after a few crunching sounds that is all there was too it. Some of the humanoids and demi-humans instantly stop dead in their tracks, and their hesitation makes me nervous for a different reason, as I too receive a message.
Dungeon Core #211 [Colt] perished to the fangs of the hellhound #2
I am shocked that the man I just killed was a dungeon core, but was is even more shocking is the fact half of the members of Hecate’s group seemed to stop in their tracks, so they must of received the message, so that must mean they are dungeon cores as well.
I have killed 5 dungeon cores in the past, but 4 were when I didn’t have access to [Menu], but this is still the first time I have killed a dungeon core inside my own dungeon. I received close to 80,000xp from his death, but he couldn’t possibly been that high of level. I also received messages about new monsters, items, traps, and even a few new skills as well.
I can’t say I will make a habit of killing dungeon cores because of this, but if they are in my dungeon I seem to gain quite the boost from it. I unfortunately didn’t rank up with my hero skill, but I did receive a new skill.
Dungeon Defender (Rank 1): Defending your dungeon against other dungeon cores is no small feat, and you gain +50 to all abilities per rank. Also once per rank you can cause a forced evolution to one of your monsters giving them all applicable benefits of such an evolution. Dungeon Defender does not gain rank by levels but by loss of life from other dungeon cores within your dungeon.
The benefits from the skill are relatively the same as the Heroic skill, but this forced evolution thing sounds interesting. That elder earth dragon of Hecate’s that died in my dungeon has become the most expensive monster I can currently summon, but to summon one of them and make it evolve seems like a waste of a one-time use thing.
I don’t think even that would be enough to stop Hecate however, so I might as well hold on to it for now.
The other dungeon cores in my dungeon quickly send messages with the communication parchment about the death of Colt. This causes Hecate to regroup with several of them and they look try to find the hellhound.
As soon as Colt died I had it retreat back into one of the spawn rooms with Colt’s body, so they can’t even be certain where he fell. Things continue on for the next few hours while they attempt to find all the switches, and only two so far have even made it to the second floor.
They have managed to find the switch Colt was close too as well as one more, so far Hecate has had the non-sentient monsters man the switches but other than the hippogriff they are all on switches now.
I have used the time in an attempt to find out which dungeon cores are within my dungeon, but going through the [Archjusticar Menu] one at a time is proving time consuming. If I could just find out who they are I might be able to reason with them.
If all else fails I can use my justicar points to weaken them, I might be able to do the same to Hecate, but as she is no longer part of a dungeon, and I don’t know if she is an adventurer or not I have no way of choosing her as a target.
The first dungeon core I am able to find that is currently in my dungeon is Dungeon Core #301 [Daggit] and he is the dog beastkin that had his hair singed off by one of the traps. He is also one of the weaker members of the group, so even if I manage to convince him, if he can’t convince the others I am not sure what good it will do.
(Dungeon Core #301 [Daggit] attacking the Archjusticar of the Elders will result in negative consequences. Not only from the Elders, but as the Archjusticar myself I can use my ability to not only hinder you but your dungeon as well. This attack is entirely based off of the misunderstanding that I and/or Dyson was responsible for Dungeon Core #1 [Maric]’s death, and if you would be open to speak with me we can perhaps clear this situation up, and you can perhaps be compensated for your assistance in this matter.)
After sending the message however, it doesn’t seem he even acknowledges that he received one, so perhaps the block on my communication isn’t limited to distance, but who and what kind of messages that can be sent.
If that is the case I am going to have to remove a few more players off the board in hopes to keep them at bay long enough for Zoey, or the others to reach Madam Erin.
I send a few more messages to Daggit, but he still does not seem to be receiving them, I don’t want to just outright kill another dungeon core if it can be avoided, but I can’t risk transferring to him to speak with him myself.
Instead I use one of the dwarves that Madam Erin sent along with one of the hellhounds to back him up. When Daggit rounds the next corner he is met with the large hellhound staring down at him. Daggit quickly begins to panic, but the dwarf steps out from between the hellhounds legs.
Dwarf: “Wait! Dungeon Core #212 just wants to talk.”
Daggit: “Like he promised Maric right before he died?!”
Dwarf: “I am not only here on Two-Twelve’s orders, but under the orders of Elder Madam Erin, and I assure you this is a misunderstanding.”
Daggit: “How can it be a misunderstanding, he met with Two-Twelve, and Dyson killed him before he even returned to his dungeon!”
Dwarf: “Someone has manipulated [Menu] into using Dyson’s name while killing dungeon cores. Don’t you think the Elders would of have taken action against Dyson by now especially after losing not only Maric, but two of the Dungeon Core Elders as well?”
Daggit: “They are just afraid of him that is why if we weaken his power base, and then maybe we can put an end to his takeover!”
Dwarf: “Two-Twelve really does not wish to harm other dungeon cores if at all possible, and that is why he sent me to speak with you now. Even you should know that among those Hecate has gathered, if Two-Twelve wished to weaken the group you would be among the list, so why else would he send me to speak with you instead of just eliminate you?”
Daggit: “What is it you are asking of me, to abandon Hecate a join Two-Twelve?”
Dwarf: “Just speak to Hecate, tell her if she would just take a moment to speak to the other elders this entire situation could clear itself up.”
Daggit: “Two-Twelve is only trying to buy himself more time.”
Dwarf: “Don’t you think by now if Two-Twelve and Dyson really were responsible for Maric’s death, that Two-Twelve wouldn’t have just called for Dyson to put a stop to all of this from the very beginning?”
Daggit: “Hecate told us she was able to secure a way that prevents Two-Twelve from contacting Dyson, so that won’t work!”
Dwarf: “All we ask is you just speak to Hecate, or even speak to the Elders yourself.”
Daggit: “You are just trying to get me to use [Communication], Hecate warned us it would be dangerous for us to use it here.”
Dwarf: “Then use the communication parchment and just tell Hecate what I told you, Two-Twelve really does which to end this peacefully.”
Daggit: “Tell that to Colt!” –He says while readying a large maul to attack.-
The dwarf looks up and says. “Sorry Two-Twelve, I did what I could.” –The dwarf then retreats between the hellhounds legs heading back towards the safety of one of the spawning room.-
Daggit then charges the hellhound swinging his large maul. The hellhound takes quite a bit of damage, but it grabs the end of the maul in its jaws jerking it from the hands of Daggit. Daggit begins to panic, but the hellhound drops the maul at Daggits feet and then sits down.
Daggit looks confused, hesitant to pick up the maul again in fear it might be a trap. Instead he takes a few steps back and begins casting a spell. The hallway doesn’t give much room for the hellhound to dodge, but it returns to its feet and just quickly flees leaving Daggit alone in the hallway.
Daggit maintains his confused expression, maintaining his guard. After a few minutes he pulls out his communication parchment.
Daggit: (Hecate, we need to speak, I learned something that you might need to hear. I just spoke to a dwarf that said this entire situation is a misunderstanding.)
Hecate: (You spoke to a sentient monster from the dungeon?)
Daggit: (It said it wasn’t from Two-Twelve’s dungeon but Madam Erin’s.)
One of the female dungeon cores quickly begins moving though the labyrinth while sending a message on the parchment herself.
Woman: (Be careful! It is sure to be a trap!)
The woman dungeon core is the closest to Daggit, so by the time he replies with (I don’t think it is.) the woman dungeon core is just around the corner. It happens so fast it takes me a second to process what happened,
As the woman dungeon core rounds the corner to reach Daggit her body contorts and she becomes a hulking troll, that catches Daggit off guard and he is quickly pummeled to death.
Dungeon Core #301 [Daggit] perished at the hands of a merciless troll.
I receive another rank in my Dungeon Defender skill among unlocking more monsters, items, skills, and close to 200,000xp, and the woman then quickly removes something from her finger returning to her former appearance. She quickly takes up her parchment and scribbles the words.
Woman: (I’m sorry, I was too late, I tried to get to him, but I didn’t make it in time…)
Hecate: (There you have it everyone, don’t let your guard down. Let’s show Two-Twelve that we won’t fall for his tricks anymore!)
This complicates matters quite a bit. Now not only do we have to worry about Hecate, and these dungeon cores ending our lives, but also their own ulterior motives. I decide I need to continue to try to discover who the remaining dungeon cores are, especially this traitor that is among them.
Even changing ones shape to a troll won’t change the death message in [Menu] that takes more than just shape changing, so this traitor must be working with the ones attacking the elders, or is the culprit themselves.
I don’t think I will be able to change Hecate’s mind with this traitor among them, but exposing the traitor might be just what I need right now as well. First however I need to find out who it is.
Over the next hour I find two more of the dungeon cores in my [Archjusticar Menu] but neither one of them are the traitor, one is Dungeon Core #312 [Echo] and Dungeon Core #385 [Emery]. That leaves only two more dungeon cores for me to identify including the traitor.
The dungeon core Emery also managed to find another one of the switches, but he was on the far other side of the Labyrinth compared to Hecate, so he is manning the switch himself. It is also unfortunate he is one of the stronger of the members of Hecate’s group, so I don’t think I will be able to remove him from his spot.
Even if the remaining humanoids and demi-humans in Hecate’s group are not dungeon cores, they still could be bound to a dungeon that owed either Hecate or Maric a favor as well, so I pay close attention to them as well to maybe find some clues into their identities as well.
With a little under an hour of daylight remaining I finally discover the identity of the traitor dungeon core. She is Dungeon Core #634 [Rosalinda], and looking at her information she is by far stronger than I am. In fact she is strong enough that I can easily see her being the one responsible for the death of the Elders.
I don’t know how she would stack against Hecate, but even looking at her information it doesn’t seem to help me find a way to be able to expose her. She does have over 20 ranks in the Heroic skill, so she definitely isn’t a stranger to killing other dungeon cores.
I think now my best bet is my monsters I sent out to get help. I don’t know how long it will take my swan beastkin to fly over the forest, but with a bit of luck at least Zoey should be reaching Madam Erin’s dungeon here shortly, so maybe I only have to hold on for a bit longer.
I still have one more dungeon core to identify, so while the group gets ever closer to clearing the labyrinth, and continue to find something/anything that can help me though this alive.
I can’t say I feel better, I pushed myself way to hard trying to reach Uthaira, I was just trying to get as far away from that beastkin woman as possible, but even after reaching Uthaira and taking several women to an inn I still woke up this morning quite dissatisfied.
I at least discovered it had no relation to the fact she was a beastkin, because when I was selecting my bed companions none of the beastkin women seemed appealing. That only leaves me with even more questions however, as if I still don’t find beastkin women attractive, then what made that woman from Llewelyn’s dungeon so special?
I don’t have time to worry about that however because I have to present myself to King Aaron now, in hopes to get close enough to Laura to have a few choice words with her. If there is one advantage of the beastkin woman being on my mind, is the normally difficult task of leaving my bed, is quite simple, and I don’t even look back as I exit the room.
I arrive at the castle and inform a guard that I am to report to the grand marshal in a matter she asked me to accomplish, and after being forced to wait for an unreasonable amount of time, the beastkin grand marshal approaches me.
Female beastkin: “I see you made good time on your return trip. I heard the dungeon in question collapsed only two days ago.”
“I was eager to be of further serve to the king, and Southern Merretta’s steeds are quite capable.”
Female beastkin: “I did a bit of digging on you Duke Dingleberry, is it…? I have to say it is quite an unusual name, and other then your name and title I have been unable to uncover any more information about you.”
Laura was intended to be my first target, so the name I choose to associate with this ring was something I meant to be a slap in her face, but I guess choosing a duke was a bit over doing it. Of course the only way they could of known the name I choose was due to the notice of Llewelyn’s death, so that still leaves me to wonder why I failed to receive such a message.
“Aw, but there seems to be a misunderstanding, as that is not a title, but my name, my name is Duke, but I don’t recall giving it out to anyone, so how was it you managed to learn of my name?”
Beastkin woman: “We have our ways. Now where do you hail from Mister Dingleberry?”
“Duke is fine, and I come from the island kingdom of Senyen. Strange that you were able to acquire my name, and yet didn’t even know from where I came.”
Beastkin woman: “Senyen…? That would explain why there was no further information about you, but you don’t look like a pirate.”
“And you don’t look like the demi-human man eater, that you hear others say when referring to the grand marshal of Southern Merretta.”
The beastkin woman looks visually upset, but maintains her composure while adding. “Yes, well my predecessor had quite the domineering personality, and it seems since we not only share race but subspecies, it has been a hard image to break.”
I can tell this woman is far under what Listel’s level was and with the strength to take out Llewelyn she is regarding me quite cautiously, but in making her uncomfortable, she will proceed to make this conversation as short as possible, and it seems to have worked because she then says.
Beastkin woman: “But you do seem to be who you claim, and it was confirmed that you had claimed the crystal in the water wells of Kerinog, I must warn you though if your goal is to harm King Aaron you will find the water wells of Kerinog don’t even hold a candle to the king’s strength.”
“I assure you I only wish to serve.”
Beastkin woman: “Well the king is quite the busy man, and although he does wish to congratulate you on your assistance in the matter of the dungeon I am afraid the meeting must be quite short and he will be unable to have time to converse with you. If you do wish to continue to be in service of the king after he congratulates you I am sure we can find something else you can do to be of service.”
“I understand, just to be in the room with him for a brief moment, is enough to be considered the greatest of honors.”
Beastkin woman: “Of course I will ask to hold your sword for you until the meeting is concluded.” –After I remove my sword from its scabbard she seems on the nervous side, but I present the blade to her and she then continues.- “Very well, follow me.” –She then heads back into the castle.-
As far as castles go it is nothing compared to mine, and you can tell it is made from shoddy human construction, I guess that means after I do away with Laura, King Aaron at least will still have his castle, that is if there is anything left of King Aaron.
The beastkin woman leads me to a room off to the side what appears to be the throne room, and asks me to take a seat. After another grueling couple of hours a human man approaches me this time to inform me they are ready for me.
Exiting the room we enter the throne room where not only dozens of guards but twice as many of the large steel golems hold positions in the room as well. I have to say instead of metal and men I find filling a throne room with women is a far better choice.
I was expecting while meeting with the king I might have to threaten him a bit to gain Laura’s attention, but it seems that won’t be necessary, because next to King Aaron sits Laura with a face of pure resentment, and curiosity.
After taking a knee as instructed King Aaron stands.
King Aaron: “Duke Dingleberry of Seyen, you have done a great service to our kingdom, through your efforts…blah…blah…”
Alright I am bored. “Alright, that’s enough.”
The human man that led me in the room seems quite nervous and tries to motion for me to be silent. King Aaron looks quite furious. Between heartbeats I cross the room locking one of my arms under Laura’s left armpit and around her neck, and with my other arm I twist her free arm around her back.
Everyone begins to panic including the king, and before Laura has a chance to flee from my grasp I quickly use one of my magic techniques.
All the guards and even the king seem unsure what to do, all of which have weapons drawn but don’t know what to do with them now. Laura tries to thrash about while trying to use her left arm to grab at me, but in the position she is in she just can’t reach.
“Now, it seems to be time we have a bit of a chat.”
Laura: “Who the hell do you think you are?! Release me at once, you don’t know who it is you are messing with.”
“Oh I am quite sure I know exactly who I am messing with Dungeon Core #105 [Laura].”
Laura: “Impossible, just who the hell are you?”
“No you see that isn’t how this works. I am the one that asks the questions, and you are the one that answers them.” –I say while putting enough pressure on her wrist bent behind her to hear the sound of the crack is loud enough that several of the guards flinch.-
The thing about reaching high levels is that although it gets much harder to become injured, an injury such as a broken bone or loss of limb might not put your life any danger, but the pain is still quite the same as it is for a being of a lower level.
Laura however looks far more angry then hurt, but it at least keeps her mouth shut long enough for me to begin my questioning.
“Now as far as dungeon cores go you are quite strong, but to be able to take out a dungeon core like Maric without even raising suspicion is quite a leap, and that doesn’t even include killing two of the Dungeon Core Elders right under their noses, so who else is involved in your little conspiracy?”
I try leading with Maric’s death to give her the wrong impression, and it seems to work as she says.
Laura: “You are here to avenge Maric, is that it? If I was able to kill Maric do you seriously think one of his little thralls would stand a chance?”
“Well I seem to have you right where I want you don’t I?” –I say while moving my arm up breaking her elbow next.-
She never calls out, which is quite disappointing, but she grits her teeth and makes eye contact with King Aaron. For being born a normal human he has seemed to master the use of using [Menu] discreetly, but I have been using those techniques for a century, so he might as well just spoke it out loud.
I choose to feign ignorance in hopes he will call one of Laura’s allies, but instead several beastkin, enter the room ready for war. The helmet on the grand marshal’s head covers her ears so it actually improves the quality of her face to the point it is going to be quite a shame to kill her.
“Adding a couple more people on top to a room full of those unable to act is really quite pointless, have you even thought this through.”
King Aaron: “If you hurt her, you will never make it out of here alive!”
“Honestly… You really think if I could end Laura I would be worried about her little boy toy? Now Laura, you still have yet to answer my question, and I am growing quite impatient.”
Laura: “I don’t know who you are, but it’s no secret that Maric and I didn’t see eye to eye, but to accuse me of his death is ludicrous. If you know about me and Maric, you are sure to know Dyson is the one that killed Maric, and the elders.”
“But I have it on good authority, that you have come up with a way to feed misinformation though [Menu], and going as far as kidnapping another dungeon core to test it on.”
Laura: “And he made off with the item, so if you want to accuse someone of manipulating [Menu] then maybe you should start with him!”
“And you expect me to believe a dungeon core under the age of 10 was able to kill Maric?”
Laura: “He is the one that lured Maric to some secret meeting, and then Maric died, so what do you think?!”
“If you expect me to believe a flimsy story like that you are mistaken, now you made the item once, and even if it was luck then it is possible for you to make another.”
Laura: “I didn’t make the damn thing!”
“Do tell, because that is not the impression the Elders have over the matter.”
Laura: “Of course I told them I made it, as long as they always wondered in the back of their mind if I could make another, they would have to treat me with respect!”
“And how is that working out for you…So where did you get it?”
Laura: “It came off of a beastkin slave that I purchased, the stupid human that sold me the slave didn’t even know what he had.”
“Then what was the point of kidnapping the young dungeon core, and this big plan you have been plotting for years?”
Laura: “Gowen kingdom is quickly growing to be a problem for Aaron, and with the continued help of Two-Twelve it will only get worse! If I could have gained control of his dungeon then I could have had Gowen in my pocket as well.”
“That is just human politics! What is it you are trying to accomplish?”
Laura: “Faron my have been a god to the humans, but once Aaron becomes the king and we rule all of the humans even the elders would have to acknowledge my accomplishments!”
“You seriously expect me to believe you have been plotting in secret all these years to what become the queen of the human world…?”
Laura: “I Will become queen!”
I am taken aback…This is what Laura’s big secret has been all these years? It can’t be possible. Can everything I thought of Laura been false. “You think the Elders truly care about humans? Why the secrecy all this time?”
Laura: “The Elders vastly underestimate the growth potential in the humanoid races, and the longer they stay ignorant the better. Besides do you think they would take me seriously? Even Faron’s endless potential as their god, he just squandered it by ignoring them.”
“That sounds no different than Dyson’s beliefs.”
Laura: “Dyson sees the potential in humans, but he too grossly underestimates what he could accomplish using the humans instead of leaving them to their own devices. That is why Dungeon Core #212 is so dangerous, he lacks the strength, but has taken a backwater human kingdom, and made it a rival to even Southern Merretta.”
“You said you received that item to manipulate [Menu] off of a slave you bought, does that mean it came from Duke Emerret?”
Laura: “That’s right, all the castle slaves are purchased through him.”
“Well I never thought I would believe that Dungeon Core #105 [Laura] was nothing more than a human lover. Well it looks like I will have to issue one hell of an apology later, but it seems you get to live another day.” –I say while releasing Laura.-
Laura quickly gains some distance while casting a spell to heal her arm and wrist while saying. “You think we would just let you go after all you have done?!”
“You aren’t even worth my time.” –I quickly cross the room grabbing my sword from the grand marshal, and then teleport from the room.-