Chapter Four: Pact
Brandr was frustrated. He’d long since made it to the surface. He was fully formed now, whatever that meant. His crystal form had grown a bit more and his ability to control his environment had improved. There was, however, a major catch. He could not leave. There was a metre tall, metre wide exit, more than enough for his twelve-centimetre tall self and yet he could not walk through it. It didn’t matter what he did. He could no more leave his corridor than he could extend his spiritual sense beyond his domain without adding to it, another thing that frustrated him to no end.
Pausing his mental rant to watch the rat attempting to sneak up on him in the worst way possible, he reaffirmed that the worst things weren’t the aforementioned mistakes but two things in particular. Ever since he created the entrance, all sorts of creatures kept venturing into his domain intent on devouring him. It didn’t take long to figure out that they were being attracted here by his aura. Sadly, there was nothing he could do to stop them.
He couldn’t close the entrance. He had tried. Nothing he did worked and even attempting to block it with summoned blocks of marble did not work. He was never able to seal off the entrance completely. It was simply impossible. Sealing off his aura did not work either. He could shield his crystal just fine but that did not matter when his energy continuously seeped out of the entrance and walls of his abode regardless of what he did. The creatures would be unable to find him but experience had shown that they would simply mill around the corridor and never leave.
None of this compared to the absolute worst thing of all. Absentmindedly incinerating the rat with a gout of flame, he prepared himself to face it. Sure enough, the rat had barely finished burning when out of nowhere, his new nemesis popped up.
|Congratulations! All invaders have been vanquished.|
Brandr couldn’t blink it away fast enough. The blue panels had been tormenting him for days now. They showed up out of nowhere whenever he did something, carrying outlandish messages. He remembered one that said, “Mana threshold reached. Create new floor?” What on earth was a mana threshold and why in all the hells would he need a new floor?
Fighting back the urge to go on another rant, he focused on his current project. He was building a pavilion out of ruby encrusted marble. He wasn’t sure why but his instincts told him to build and since he had nothing better to do, he did. He wasn’t sure what he was to build yet but something told him that he was doing the right thing, just not the right way. He’d already scrapped numerous projects. They had all been the wrong size. He knew that now. Whatever he was building, he wasn’t building it for himself. Apparently, a sprawling estate made solely from marble with ruby flowers and sapphire plants was useless if it was made to the scale of a seven-centimetre tall person. Who knew?
Thankfully, he could still cultivate. That, together with the building were the only things that allowed him to keep his sanity. Not that his cultivation did not have problems. It was difficult to properly cultivate when every time something entered your abode you heard clarion calls in your head. Also, the urge to build and expand continued to push and pull at him. Even so, he made every effort he could, he had to.
His cultivation had dropped to the Aurous Core tier. Considering it had been millennia since he became a deity, finding out that he had somehow dropped six ranks was… dismaying, to say the least. Still, Brandr believed he handled it pretty well. Obsessively cultivating in the face of all his current troubles and distractions wasn’t avoidance, it was exactly what any dedicated cultivator should do. Luckily, he still had access to his techniques even though many could not be used due to his low rank. However, the leg of a mosquito was still meat.
There was one strange thing he’d noticed about his strange new form. He could absorb life and spiritual energy. World essence was one thing but Brandr had discovered that whenever a creature died in his abode, he absorbed part of its life force and spiritual energy in addition to its remains. Now, ordinarily, that would set his alarm bells rings ringing but Brandr found that he didn’t much care especially with how he’d ended up in this world and what happened the moment he met his predecessor.
Whatever creature whose form he had taken lured creatures into its home then butchered and devoured them. It was a bit unusual but it was not the weirdest thing he had ever seen or heard of. He’d once fought a demon that scattered bits of its soul as parasitic spores that latched onto the souls of creatures they encountered and drained them of their life force. When you considered that, whatever he currently was was actually pretty tame.
Right then, clarion bells went off in his head and a corresponding blue panel appeared in his vision.
Used to this by now, Brandr did not even turn his head. Blinking the panel away, he concentrated on the ruby plant sculptures and patterns he was causing to grow on his marble pavilion. As he did so, a portion of his attention watched the entrance of his corridor. This was one of the tricks he had discovered. Everything in his abode was already in his perception. How keenly he observed something varied but they were all there, in his mind, always. This made it incredibly easy to multitask when it came to things happening in his corridor.
The invaders this time were two humanoid creatures, the first Brandr had ever seen since regaining consciousness all those days ago. Regrettably, they did not match the descriptions of any creature he knew. For one thing, the tallest was only about thirty-five centimetres tall and the other one was five centimetres shorter. Additionally, they had green skin, brown hair and sharply pointed ears. To his shock, they flew through the air on wings that resembled those of a dragonfly or a beetle.
The best thing, though, they came armed and were capable of speech. He could hear them speaking to each other and even understand them. Excited but cautious, he stopped his work and flew to meet them, treading the air as if it was solid ground. This had the potential to be interesting.
“Is it supposed to be like this?” Echo asked his grandfather.
The dungeon was pitch black. All fae had excellent night vision. The darkness was no different to daytime to him but he found himself worrying all the same.
“I’m not sure!” the Sprite Lord confessed.
“I’ve never been in a dungeon this young before. Perhaps this one has yet to learn how to light its rooms or even a reason to”, he said uncertainly. “Just follow closely behind me and you’ll be fine.”
Soon even Thorn began to worry. The path was straight, too straight. All dungeons knew to obscure the way to their core. Yet, this one did not. The chamber was low and narrow, fine for him but something humans would not be able to stand upright in. It wasn’t even divided into rooms like he was used to and there weren’t any monsters. The lack of obstacles was alarming for the former adventurer. This was shaping up to be completely unlike any dungeon dive he had ever had. Despite the easy going, he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong.
Finally, he saw a light up ahead. At this point, they had been in the dungeon for ten minutes. He sighed with relief. Had things continued as they had, he would have pulled back. There was nothing more dangerous than the unknown. Unfortunately, when they came to it, they discovered that the light did not come from any ordinary light source. Seated on a small marble throne was a small humanoid made of ruby crystal. It smiled when it saw them.
A wave of power so intense that it completely arrested all the mana in his body washed over Thorn. His wings stopped moving and even his blood flow slowed. He wanted to scream for his grandson to get away but he couldn’t. He was totally paralysed. The mana the crystal figure put out was greater than anything Thorn had ever faced. It was like it was completely made of mana.
‘That’s the dungeon core!’ he realised. ‘It’s a variant.’
If he could, Thorn would have hightailed it out of there at this point, dragging his grandson with him. Variants were unpredictable. You could not judge them by the standards of their species because by their very nature they were different from all their kin.
“Well, what we do we have here?” it asked, speaking to him perfectly in the language of the fae. “Mind telling me what you are?”
Thorn found his face and jaw loosed. The rest of his body, though, remained immobile. Choosing his words very carefully, he answered.
“My name is Thorn Clearwing and I am the Sprite Lord of a colony not too far from here. Forgive me if I offend by trespassing, great one. I simply wished to speak to you.”
Brandr registered the creature’s words. Sprite Lord. That was either a title or the name of his race and or rank. Also, it mentioned a colony so it was not the only one of its kind. Whatever they were, they were quite big up close. However, that was probably because he himself was tiny.
“You are here, you might as well say what you came to say”, he told it, hoping to gain more clues from its speech.
“I beg your grace, great one, but are you the dungeon core?” Thorn asked.
Brandr rolled the words over his metaphorical tongue. Dungeon core. The words seemed familiar, right. They fit. He finally knew what he was. Giving no trace away, he told the winged creature. “I am!”
“Was that what you wished to ask me?”
“No, great one!” Thorn quickly answered. “I came here to make a request.”
Thorn held nothing back. He laid out what he wanted doing his best to make the deal as appealing to the creature before him as possible. He especially laid it on thick when speaking about how desperate and destitute his people were and how grateful they would be if he would take them in. He even made sure to warn the dungeon entity about his adversary. Thorn tried to make it understand that the troll was already in the area and that sooner or later, the allure of the dungeon would draw it here. When that happened, his people would fight it with the dungeon. It was the only way that they could both survive.
The Sprite Lord did not lie. He did not dare to. In his heyday, he’d been a rank four mage and even a member of a rank five adventuring party. Back then, he saw a lot of dungeons. On his own, he had once made it to the sixth floor of the Great Thane Dungeon and the record his party held involved taking the fourteenth floor. As result, he could tell. He now understood the real reason why dungeon had been so simple to navigate and why they did not encounter a single monster.
The variant dungeon core before him didn’t need them. From its mana emissions alone, he could tell that it was at least as powerful as the tenth-floor boss he and his party had fought in the Great Thane Dungeon. That kind of strength did not need assistance.
“I agree one condition”, the dungeon told him. “You will be the primary signatory to this…pact, not him”, it said, referring to his grandson.
“But, great one, my grandson is much younger and will adapt much quicker to suit your needs. He might not be as powerful but he has far more potential than I ever had. I assure you, he will be everything you need.”
“I don’t want him”, the dungeon told him. “It’s you or no deal.”
Unable to argue further, Thorn agreed.
“Excellent!” the dungeon responded. “Now, repeat after me!”
|A sprite lord, Thorn Clearwing is offering you a pact. Accepting this pact will bind Thorn Clearwing to you in place of a dungeon fairy. Will you accept?|
|Are you sure you wish to bond with Thorn Clearwing?|
|Congratulations on your new bond!|