Okay! I managed to schedule this and the following chapters. Tomorrow I’ll take my computer to be fixed. Hopefully, I’ll have good news in a couple of days.
That aside, let’s celebrate! It’s been eighteen months but finally, we’ve achieved our first patreon goal. We really made it past the $100 dollar mark. It might not seem like much to some of you guys but it means a lot to me. It means my dream of becoming a successful author, someone capable of living off his art, are viable.
Now, we might not be there yet but this is a sign that one day, we just might be. To celebrate we’ll have a mass release of three chapters today and from this moment on, we’ll increase the total number of releases per week to four. The fourth release will be a DC/Rh release so HURRAY! for those of you who were hoping for more of that. There’s so more news but that can wait till after.
Chapter Eight: Vulnerabilities
“You mentioned that once you had the power parameter you could get the others with feats?” he asked somewhat anxiously.
If that was true then he had to get the vitality as soon as possible. The thought of his life being over with one hit was probably the worst he had had to confront in this world so far.
“Normally, yes! Unless your race and/or class prevents that for some reason you have no worries. For example, many spectral creatures lack endurance and vitality. Nothing can touch them anyway. However, I do know that many have a parameter for resistance.”
“What about dungeons? What do you know about their parameters?” Brandr questioned him.
“Nothing, really”, Thorn answered. “No one knows and those who do aren’t telling.”
“Fine”, Brandr said, resolving himself. “What of the core itself? What happens when the crystal is damaged?”
“They die”, Thorn simply told him.
“They die? Just like that?” Brandr asked, hoping for more information.
“Well, they leak mana from their cracks until they are extinguished”, the sprite lord clarified. “That can be slow or fast depending on how badly they are damaged.”
“They have no means to recover?” Brandr asked stepping forward till he crowded his servant in.
Thorn seemed to think it over. “Now that you mention it. Dungeons core are usually quite vulnerable. If they are broken, they die. If they don’t feed, they starve to death. If they are stolen, the dungeon dies first and then the core. As powerful as they are, the cores are just hard gems. They are also quite passive, unable to do much if you approach them”.
Speaking wistfully, he continued. “Perhaps that is why they have to create monsters and dangers between themselves and their prey. It might not just matter of sustenance but their only protection.”
Brandr was unsure what to say about that. He could already sense intuitively that the sprite lord was right, but at the same time, that was definitely not the whole truth. The two of them were too different. Their parameters only further proved that point. Something, a cultivator’s instinct and not a dungeon one, told Brandr that he would have to search for the answers himself. His ponderings were cut short, however, when a sprite came barreling through the air towards them.
“My Lord!” the screeching sprite yelled. “Brown doves have spotted the troll a couple of day’s journey away from our last haunt!”
Thorn’s face turned brown instantly. He looked like he had coughed up his spleen.
“Is he headed straight there or is he following the trail?” he asked the sprite.
“The doves can’t tell that kind of thing”, the scout confessed. “We’d have to send others to make sure. They did, however, say that he looked like he was searching and some even noted it stopping to sniff the air like a wolf.”
Realising that this ‘troll’ was no doubt the enemy the sprite had warned him about, Brandr asked, “How far away is this haunt of yours from my domain?”
“It’s less than an hour’s journey”, Thorn exclaimed worriedly. “That troll can track fae. If it finds our former refuge then it will come straight here.”
This was one of the worst-case scenarios for Thorn. They’d succeeded in forming the pact but that wouldn’t matter if the troll killed them all. Now, that they were sworn to the dungeon, they couldn’t leave. Normally, they’d flee, get as far away as possible with as few losses as they could manage. Fighting was useless. There was no beating the troll. They’d come here for protection and now, it was about to turn into a death trap.
“Gather the warriors!” he yelled. “The decoy team has failed. Set the charms and get a team ready to go obscure our trail. We have to think of a way to…”
“Calm down”, Brandr told the jittery sprite. Inwardly, he frowned. It appeared that his new ‘guide’ had a fairly persistent enemy. One that was quite powerful given how he and his people were behaving. This was exactly the kind of situation he preferred not be in. A powerful enemy he knew nothing about. A creature that was hunting down the very people he’d just sworn to protect.
For a brief moment, Brandr felt like smacking himself on the head. Was this an effect of the soul injury? Who in the dao got himself involved in a matter that did not concern him without even a basic understanding of the parties and issues involved? It was stupid but that was only in hindsight. He’d wanted information. Information that the strange new beings held. He had not been wrong. The few discussions he’d had with Thorn had enlightened him to the nature of this world. Even so…
He probably should have kicked them out when the sprite lord told him that the creature following them had slaughtered his people. Everyone knew that antagonising the local powers was not what you wanted to do when you moved into a new neighbourhood. Despite his reluctance to admit fault, Brandr knew it lay with him. He’d automatically believed it would be a small matter. Something he’d accomplish with barely a wave of his hand.
For Dao Lord Brandr, that would have been easy. Tiny beings with a leader barely at foundation establishment. How powerful could their predator be? He’d completely forgotten about his current circumstances and now that he was learning about the world and the restrictions placed on him, he could see his folly. He was no longer a Dao Lord! That was something he’d have to engrave into his mind and consider when making decisions.
All his might, cultivation, wealth and influence were gone and he’d have to get used to that no matter how many years he’d spent enjoying and accumulating them. With reluctance, Brandr reasserted himself. He was a weak, newborn, strange creature slash mystic realm. He was no longer a god, a Dao Lord, Ruler of Worlds, Conqueror of the South, or any of those positions titles he once held. As much as it hurt to cast aside his pride and ego. He had to. If he did not get that fact straight, soon, he would no longer be living.
Resolving to do things right, he focused on his ‘guide’, “Exactly how powerful is this foe of yours?”
“The creature is a rank five variant monster”, Thorn said breathily. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I mean, normal trolls are bad enough but this one can use fae magic. For some reason, it is hunting us, tracking us via our magic. Any fae he catches, he stuffs down his throat. This creature fears not pain, nor injury. Nothing we have or do can keep it hurt for long.”
Brandr suppressed the urge to yell at the sprite. Nothing it had said, told him anything about the foe they faced. What exactly was this troll? What did he mean by saying they couldn’t keep it hurt for long? Calming himself, he thought about other ways to the information he sought. He could ask the other sprites but there nothing to suggest that they wouldn’t feed him something just as useless. Plus, going around Thorn, especially when some of his people had begun to doubt his leadership would not send a good image.
There was one more way, however, Brandr would rather not use it. The sprite lord was wary of him enough as is. This could cross some unspoken line. Ignoring everything but cold logic, Brandr tossed such considerations out. He would have the time and ways to win the sprites over afterwards and Thorn could be disturbed as he wanted after they survived this.
Creating a weak barrier around him and his bound sprite, he called it over, saying, “Open your mind and think of this troll!”
Once images and thoughts began to come through to Brandr by means of the link, he continued. “Good! Now remember, do not resist!” with that, Brandr dived completely into the sprite’s mind.