Happy New Year!
Chapter Fourteen: New Concerns
Thinking Brandr was scoffing at his mistake, Thorn corrected himself, “I… was a Sprite Lord!”
The words felt strange coming from his mouth. Strange because of the sudden unfamiliarity. Despite having been one for so long, when Thorn looked back now all he saw recognised was a small, powerless and uncertain fae. The new him was glad to have cast that weak form aside. He was so much more powerful now. So much better than he once was.
“What are you now?”
“I am a dungeon knight!” Thorn announced with pride. His hair flared as he did so as if someone had pumped the bellows.
Brandr eyed the fiery mop with a raised eyebrow. More and more of his faerie inhabitants were getting flashy, fire-like hair. Given what he had observed and what he had just learned, could it be that he and his powers were the reason?
His eyes scanned over more of Thorn’s changed features. The solid black eyes and fangs were interesting enough, but the former’s sprite skin had also changed from its old brown to an ashy grey. Plus, he was not an expert, but he was sure wings were not meant to fold into clothes.
“A dungeon knight, eh?” he said softly. “How different is that from a Sprite Lord?”
Thorn took a deep breath before trying to explain. “Faerie Knights are one of the martial arms of the fae courts, so all of my fighting abilities have been enhanced. They are also exemplars, representations of whatever power they are beholden to. In this case, that’s you. As a rule, higher fae can command lesser fae, especially those of similar alignment. So even though I’m no longer a Sprite Lord, I can still command the fae in the dungeon even if they rank up into different forms, so long as none of them of reach a tier higher than mine.”
“Oh? So what powers did you get from being beholden to me?” Brandr asked with a playful look in his eyes.
“Before, I could only see what you did with your dungeon and advise you on it”, Thorn reminded him. “Now, I can perform some of the functions myself. Additionally, I can draw strength not only from you and your special powers but also the concepts that empower you.”
Brandr sat straighter when he heard the dark fae mention the words ‘special powers’ immediately wondering how much he knew.
“I am a dungeon knight!” Thorn reasserted, his voice taking on an imperative tone. “My power is the power of the dungeon. My charge is its protection and the destruction of its enemies.”
“In the general, it means that I can command dungeon creatures and exert my will on parts of its domain, with your permission, of course”, he added at the end. “It also means that I grow in power as the dungeon grows and that I am empowered by the reaping of its invaders and the strength of its inhabitants.”
“That’s why I put in the harvest court clause in the proposed agreement”, he explained further. “I expect more and more sprites to switch to the dungeon template as time goes on. If we inform the other fae court of this, we can get their support if the Adventurers’ Guild pulls something and they, in turn, cannot claim they were not warned beforehand.”
Brandr gave a start at his words. Did his squeamish assistant just casually admit that his powers, as well as the powers of his people, came from devouring bodies and souls? And he was suddenly okay with that? When, how did that happen?
Tapping a crystalline finger against this thigh, Brandr realised that this transformation may have changed a lot more than he previously assumed. However, before he could voice his thoughts, Thorn revealed that he had one more surprise in store.
“In the particular, it means I gain my power and characteristics from my dungeon’s peculiarities. In this case, your immense well of mana and a connection to your divine domains”, as he spoke Thorn was rewarded with a look of astonishment on Brandr’s face. It vanished almost as soon as it came, but Thorn knew what he saw.
“These abilities will surely come in handy when you start spreading your influence among the adventurers, isn’t that right Dungeon God?” the dark-eyed fae said with a roguish smirk.
The council tensed as they attempted to digest the news they had just been given.
“You’re certain its a variant divinity?” The representative of the Mage Guild asked. The High Priest next to him leaned forward as well, eager to hear the answer.
“It would seem so”, a projection of Warden Gauwyn confirmed from atop the table.
“IT IS!” Druidmaster Narder exclaimed from the side, calling attention to himself.
All the members of the expedition were all present in the Grandmaster’s Office as three-dimensional projections of light atop the meeting table. They did so via an expensive magic crystal in their own meeting room. It was meant to be a quick way to contact the headquarters of the Adventurers’ Guild if ever the need arose. By Gauwyn’s reckoning, the current circumstances more than qualified.
“Do you have anything more to go besides the words of the fae you met?” The High Priest asked.
“No, but…” Narder said, in a rush to explain. “The signs are all there. The fae only confirms what we suspected. Besides, it is practically impossible for any young dungeon to do what he described. Unless it has power stemming from a variant divinity.”
“You are putting a lot of faith in the words of a strange unseelie whose identity, I might add, you cannot even confirm Druidmaster Narder”, the High Priest pointed out.
The Druid coloured so fiercely in his embarrassment that it was visible even through the washed-out blue-grey colour scheme of the projection. “All would be proven with time!” he asserted through gritted teeth.
“Does the fact that the dungeon is being tended to by fae, not that mean that its spawn times would be much reduced compared to the norm?” The merchant seated at the table asked. “How many delvers could it accommodate if we were to increase the dive slots?”
The others looked at her in disbelief as if wondering how that was what she took out of everything that had been revealed.
Following the stunned pause, Gauwyn answered her, saying, “I do not know.”
“Too much of that will depend on how many fae they have working and how much work they do. We’ll have to consult them if we hope to have any sense of their operation and even then, we will probably have to enter some kind of negotiations with them first”, he explained.
“How will such negotiations proceed?” the merchant asked stone-faced. “How soon can we get them done?”
“That is difficult…” Gauwyn began as he tried to think of an answer.
“By mandate, all matters relating to the fae courts are left to Duke Galronde under the authority of His Imperial Majesty. The creation of a new faerie court within imperial territories, if indeed that is what is happening, will have to go through the proper channels like everything else.” Lord Rewalt cut in. “Any other matters will follow suit.”
Feeling the weight of his eyes, the merchant bowed her head slightly to show deference and dropped the topic.
“Speaking of fae courts…” the mage said speaking up. “Harvest! That’s an autumn court, right?”
“Among other things”, Narder answered. “Besides, fruitfulness, actual harvests and preparation for winter, autumn is also the dark transition. Planting to harvest, warmth to frost, joy to melancholy, life to death, form to spirit…and so on. Like the season itself, autumn fae stride the Seelie, Unseelie divide. Harvest fae, in particular, range from creatures of the bough and grain, to those that pluck the leaves from trees or dye the world in the colours of autumn. Some more frightening individuals engage in the reaping of souls or delight in showing mortals glimpses of the far shore.”
“And Thorn Clearwing?” asked the
“He is certainly frightening.” The druid confirmed. “Of that, there is no question.”