Despite just how close the violent shaking felt, there were no signs of new passages created by the ancients. All anybody was able to find were some existing tunnels that were partially caved in as a result and would need clearing before they could be easily traversed again.
The whole situation left us confused and curious. Was it really the ancients that caused such shaking then, or was it something else? Could it have been an earthquake like Lucia considered?
Or was it something else?
We had no idea. All we knew was that something had to cause the shaking. It did not simply come from nowhere for no reason.
But as for what that reason was, we had no idea.
Fortunately, everybody was alright. Both outposts were in good condition and, if anything, were protected even better now due to the tunnels in front of them being the ones that were partially caved in. Of course, such obstacles would serve as defense for both attackers and defenders, but it would also serve to slow down any attackers. They were still going to be removed, though, as the fallen rocks obstructed vision enough that they could potentially allow attackers to sneak up from behind them.
As for the source of the shaking, we decided to expand our search.
“Now would be a good time to search more of the tunnels,” Lucia said. “And north and west passages should be cleared. Any hunters in them are probably already on their way back to the camp after that, and I doubt that any new hunters will be coming over. Well… assuming that they were able to feel the shaking from the camp. Either way, I doubt that there are any humans in those tunnels right now. If there are any, they’re probably getting out as quickly as they can.”
“Elder CORE,” Novla spoke up, “what of the village? They may know something and are probably searching on their own right now. If they find something, we should know about it.”
I thought about each of their suggestions with my arms crossed over my chest. I may have felt uneasy about sending my monsters even farther out after such a mysterious event, but we could not allow the event to remain unexplained. It was more dangerous to allow the shaking without understanding it than to send my monsters out to potentially find the cause of it.
“As much as you may not like this, let us look at the positive,” Deiti said to me, “At least we know that our dungeon—”
“My dungeon,” I thought back to her.
“You are still going on about that?” She sighed in my mind. “As I was saying, at least we know that the dungeon—”
“You are as stubborn as a rock. At least we know that your – there, I said it. Are you happy? At least we know that your dungeon is sturdy enough to not suffer damage from such a pitiful shaking.”
“Is it that much of a positive if what it resisted was pitiful?”
“Well… no, but – alright. It was more than pitiful shaking. However, you must understand that now is a time where you put your hands on your hips, puff your chest out, lift your head up high, and call all potential threats pitiful to reassure our – your monsters that everything is fine. It is also to give praise to me and my aether, of course. Given that you are the dungeon and that you were made of my aether, that means it is my aether within these walls and ceilings that resisted crumbling! I deserve no insignificant amount of praise for such a feat.”
Deiti, admittedly, made an excellent point.
That was why I placed my hands on my hips, stuck out my chest, and lifted my head high.
“Not only do my monsters bring excellent ideas to me, but I have proved that such pitiful shaking could never bring harm to us! No matter the rumbling, it will never be great enough to bring down the ceiling nor to break down the walls!” I shouted.
Novla and Lucia looked a bit confused from my sudden boost in mood and change of topic, but Corra was happy to clap for me with a wide smile on her face. “You are incredible, my lord! Nothing could ever break through your dungeon, and we should discover the source of the pitiful shake to destroy it for ever even attempting to bring harm to you!”
“I am not hearing any praise for me,” Deiti told me.
“We will,” I told Corra. “We will find the source and ensure that it never tries again.”
Corra looked at me with those eyes of hers that were always full of loving adoration and nodded. “Yes, my lord!”
“By the way,” Lucia spoke up. “I’m curious about something. When you said ‘my monsters,’ were you… including me? Because Novla and I were the ones you gave you ideas, but you said monsters as in plural, so—”
“Yes,” I answered. “I consider you to be one of my monsters now.”
“But I’m a human.”
“What is your point?”
“Well, maybe it’s just the researcher in me who likes things to be properly classified. It’s not a big deal. I was just curious.”
“One, it does not matter what species you are. If you serve me, you are one of my monsters. Two, it sounds better to call you all my monsters in a speech than to say my monsters and human.”
“I… guess that makes sense.”
“Now then! My Obsidian Guard!” I shouted, turning to face those made of obsidian who were waiting for my next order. “Because this will be for exploration and you are to return here the moment you face danger, you will be split into three groups. Dian and Sidi, you will both take groups of four constructs to explore the north and west passages. The five constructs not chosen for their groups, you will head to Deta’s village to see if they have any information that they can share with us. Corra will go with you.”
“My – my lord?” Corra asked. “Are you sure that you would not rather me stay with you by your side?”
“You can speak their language. You will need to talk with them to gather the information. The Obsidian Guard is going with you for protection and in case they require any help.”
A sad sigh left Corra’s lips.
But I knew how to make her feel better.
I placed a hand on the top of her head to gently rub her before saying, “I appreciate everything that you do for me. You are invaluable to me.”
“I – I am, my lord?” Corra asked, looking up at me with tears forming at the corners of her eyes. They were not tears of sadness, mind you. Rather, they were tears of overwhelming joy.
“Of course. I may not even be here if it was not for you being by my side. You are beyond important to me, Corra.”
She brought her hands up to rest over her racing heart as her lips parted for her panting breath. “My – my lord!” Her cheeks quickly became flushed as she pressed her thighs together. “If you say such things to me while we are around the others… I – I will not be able to resist.”
“There is no need to resist. You should embrace that which you feel!”
“Embrace the pride that you feel in being my monster!”
“My – my lord?”
“All of you – every single one of my monsters, I appreciate everything that each and every one of you do! All of you are invaluable to me! Saying that any of you are important is an insult to your worth to me!” I shouted, looking around at all of my monsters.
“Sometimes, I consider teaching you about sexuality… but watching you be so dense is hilarious, and you do not deserve such knowledge for how cruelly you treat me,” Deiti said, though I was not sure what she was talking about and thus ignored her.
Back to Corra, she realized what I was saying and why. I might not have understood it then, but I can understand now just how disappointed she was when she realized that I was simply stating my respect for all of my monsters.
But I still had something else to say to her. “Corra.”
A bit of life returned to Corra’s eyes as she looked up at me. “Yes, my lord?”
“I will reward you upon your return.”
“You – you will?”
“I will. I never go back on my word.”
“What will the reward be?”
“Anything you want.”
“Master already gives us anything,” Ahti said, now peeking over Ahti’s shoulder. To this day, I have no idea how Ahti was able to sneak up behind Corra like that without being seen nor heard until she revealed herself. “Corra needs a better reward.”
“Ah-Ahti!” Corra shouted. “Any reward from my master – I mean, my lord, is more than enough for me!”
“No,” I said. “Ahti is right. How foolish—”
“Try using ‘impudent’ instead,” Deiti randomly chimed in.
I did like how that sounded. “How impudent of me to offer a reward that is already given at all times. However… what else is there to reward if I am already willing to do anything? Would any other reward not fall underneath anything?”
A red blush appeared on Corra’s cheeks as she shy looked away from me. “My – my lord… if I may… could – could I be so selfish as to ask you for privacy later? Just… the two of us. Alone, together.”
“I may have to teach you about sexuality after all. Well, at least I may experience such pleasurable feelings through you,” Deiti said.
“Is that what you want?” I asked Corra.
“Yes, my lord,” Corra answered, still looking away as she touched the tips of her pointer fingers together.
“Then that is what I shall reward you with! Look forward to it, Corra, for it shall be the greatest privacy that two have ever had together! You will never forget it!”
Rather than cry from happiness and say, “Yes, my lord!” like she normally would, Corra’s face turned an extremely bright color of red as she cried… from what I only now understand to be from embarrassment. Of course, she still muttered out, “Ye-yes, my lord.”
“What a large promise for somebody who does not even know the concept of pleasing a woman,” Deiti teased. “Fortunately for you, I am kind, and I am positive that you will be thankful for me and learn to appreciate me after I teach you about what you will need to do later. Truly, what would you do without me?”
“I would spend less time having to hear your voice,” I told Deiti before turning my attention back to my monsters. “Let us not waste any time! Dian, Sidi, choose the constructs to go with you. Corra, take the rest with you to Deta’s village. Make sure to stay safe, return at the first sign of danger, and to do your best!”
“Yes, my lord!” Corra and Dian shouted while Sidi at least opened her mouth to pretend that she was shouting alongside them.
While Dian and Sidi took groups of constructs with them to explore the north and west passages beyond where we had visited before, Corra took the remaining constructs down to Deta’s village.
Dian and Sidi did not find anything of interest. They learned more of the layout of the tunnels, which was useful, but they did not learn find anything that could point to the source of the tremors.
Wait, why have I not been calling the shaking “tremors” this entire time? Tremors is much more impressive.
Well, I may fix that later.
Back to the exploration, while neither Dian nor Sidi may have found anything… Corra did.
A group of kobolds ran toward Corra’s group. Each of the kobolds were covered in dust and some had spots of blood on them, but it could not have been their blood as they lacked any injuries. When the kobolds noticed her, they stopped and the one in front said, “Wait! You – serve dungeon?”
“I serve my lord, CORE, yes,” Corra answered. “What happened?” The kobold ran up to her and grabbed onto her arms, causing her to look at him with a look of disgust before pulling away from him. “Did I say that you could touch me?! Only my lord may—”
“Please! Ancient attack! Village, destroyed! Ancients killing us!”
Corra’s look of disgust calmed into an expression of concern. “The ancients attacked?”
“Yes! Still fighting! Sent us to get help!”
“To ask for my lord’s help?”
Corra raised a thumb up to her mouth to nibble on the tip of it before looking the kobolds over. Each of the kobolds looked like they could hardly stand between the exhaustion and fear forcing their legs to tremble. Corra then looked back at the constructs who were waiting for her orders. “If the others were here, then… but there are not enough of us.” With a sigh, Corra looked back at the kobolds and said, “We were given orders to return as—”
“Please!” the kobold shouted. “Will all die if no help!” He once more grabbed onto her, but she did not pull away with disgust this time.
Corra was silent.
She knew that I would have wanted her to return.
But she was being begged for help by her own kind. Even if she was created from my dungeon rather than naturally given life like them, she was still a kobold herself in the beginning, and now she was faced by a group of kobolds fearful for their lives as they begged her for help.
“You,” Corra said, “are… under my lord’s protection. Even if you do not live with us in the dungeon, you all belong to him. Your lives belong to him.”
The kobolds looked at her, unsure of what she was getting at.
“That… that is why I cannot allow any threat to inflict harm upon you. If some pitiful threat is killing those who belong to my lord, then this threat deserves a fate worse than death.” She turned to look at one of the constructs. “You. You’re faster than them, so run ahead back to the dungeon. Inform my lord of what is happening and request that the rest of the Obsidian Guard be sent to the village.” She looked back at the group of kobolds. “Continue along this path. You will reach the dungeon and find safety there.”
The construct who was ordered to return to me held his shield and spear out to Corra.
Corra smiled and said, “Thank you, but they are too heavy for me and I would not fight as well with them. Hurry back to our lord.”
The construct nodded and did as ordered.
As for the kobolds, they gathered around Corra to shout, “Thank you!” a few times before running after the construct.
It was only Corra and four constructs now.
“Alright,” Corra said, followed by a nervous sigh. “Let us show what happens to those who threaten my lord’s subjects.”