Hovering out past the pit, I just go in the first direction that seems reasonable to be honest. I suppose the library all looks the same no matter where you go, so this way is as good as any. Before I vanish into the shelves, I take one look back at the dungeon-master behind me still fast asleep at the table floating over the chasm. I guess I’ll just have to come back later when they aren’t completely out of it.
Going through my new memories of this place though, that doesn’t really seem to be a common occurrence. The dungeon-master drinks a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. You know? Charles says its a coping mechanism for all the stress, but I just think it’s an unhealthy addiction caused by an attempt to escape their life in the only way that they can. But what do I know, I’m not a psychology textbook. I’m a book about dungeon flora and fungi. Not that exciting honestly, but it’s a good gig and somebody has to do it. So why not me?
Entering the shelves on the quieter side of the library, I slowly hover past many of the different sections on obscure topics. Things that we don’t need every day, but maybe the dungeon-master might on one of those weird days, you know? Like, dungeon life is usually fairly bog standard once you get all the formulas and chains of events down. Once you get to know all of the trash-mobs and creatures and all of that then there aren’t many surprises, but you have to learn all of it first. But when you do you just kind of make things happen because you know how it all fits together already, because this has happened a million times before.
But there are weird things that happen every now and then that we need to know how to react to. Especially with the floors being all jumbled. Take the red-dragon for example, red-dragons are extremely aggressive and territorial, but also just want to sleep for most of the day. That makes them ideal dungeon guardians, very low maintenance. Give them a cave, some heat and some shiny coins and they’ll guard a staircase for the rest of their lives, no questions asked.
But what do you do when you want to get your own guys up that staircase later on because the layout has changed and now you need to get past it after all? Well, that’s tricky because red-dragons just plain don’t like anything that isn’t directly related to them. That’s why we have books on red-dragons here. It turns out that red-dragons in particular value the concept of tribute. Give them something to eat or to collect in their hoard and they have no issue with letting someone pass by. We never knew that before we read about it, so this has been a learning experience for us all really. But that’s why the library is important.
Or another example, the pale white-blue luminescent fungus we have scattered around the dungeon on some of the worse off areas. We didn’t make that. It grew on its own, independent of the resets even; it just keeps spreading. It turns out that it grows out of areas filled with an extraordinarily high amount of magical residue, the Hero-Grave, the Moonlight-Arena and other such places. It’s been spreading around further and further despite our attempts to cull it. The Hidden-Village slimes are getting kind of fuzzy these days, you know? But it seems harmless as far as we can tell. The dungeon-master actually kind of likes it because we have an undead flavored dungeon and it really fits the aesthetic they say. I’m still uncertain about it myself honestly though. If the mycelium spread too deep it could cave in the walls and we’d have some real problems then. Do you know how hard it is to get a mason down here these days? Mold is a giant health hazard and I think we should take it a little more seriously.
I look at the many books around me, filling the shelves as I float past. Not all of us are alive, most of them are just plain old books. There is the occasional mimic scattered around in between just to keep things spicy, but for the most part it’s just dead paper. The secret-stairs could be literally anywhere. How many books are in the library? Not even I know, we don’t really have a cataloging system honestly. We just kind of fly around until we find whatever it is we’re looking for. There’s definitely room for some optimization here, but well, the boss has sort of given up the ghost on that, you know?
Besides, it’s hard to keep track when the shelves keep moving around.
As if on command, the room starts rumbling. For my own safety I rise up higher out from between them and watch as the room reorganizes itself below me. Shelves sliding in all directions as if some all-seeing eye from above was playing a giant block puzzle with the room itself. But no, it’s just what the room does. What the dungeon does. See, I’m not supposed to tell you this. It’s actually kind of an industry secret but-
The shelves stop, having rearranged themselves in some new fashion and I return down to between them to continue my search. But a lot of what happens in the dungeon isn’t even planned by us, made or crafted in any way. It just kind of… happens, you know?
The dungeon, all dungeons follow many of the same rules that govern all of the life around us. And one of the big factors in a dungeon is the property of emergence. Little things make up one big thing. Hundreds of muscles make a body, ten-thousand droplets of toxic sludge make a puddle, one-hundred and one core floors make up the dungeon. But there is a side effect, an unintended side effect. The muscles become a body that spasms and moves, the puddle springs to life and becomes an ooze, aware and feeling anguish at its own existence, the dungeon… well… it sometimes kind of does its own thing too, you know? Actually, a lot more than we like to admit. There’s a ghost in the machine if you will.
People would get spooked if they knew, honestly. But the truth is the dungeon itself has… emergent properties in a sense. It’s living and breathing in a way I can’t explain. These moving shelves? We aren’t doing that. It’s the dungeon. We don’t know why it does it, but it does and we just kind of play along because we have a show to run and at the end of the day it’s good for us too. The respawn as the scholar? That was the dungeon. The dungeon-master wanted me to be a red-cap because they were mad I didn’t make out with the thief-girl, but the respawn was scribbled over by something when nobody was looking.
Things just keep getting weirder and weirder these days which is hard to believe, but it’s the truth. But there is something going on here. Something that’s too high above my pay grade to know. Not that we get paid, mind you.
A pinging sound gets my attention. Sure enough it’s exactly what I expected.