Chapter 1: The Little Snake And The Bad-Things
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I curled upon myself, idly chewing the tip of my tail. The Great Core - even smaller than myself - rested upon its nearby pedestal. Gleaming light shone down upon me like a divine benediction. Somehow, it warmed my scales, a soothing comfort in the otherwise damp and cold room that we called home.

It was just the two of us - the Great Core and I. Something told me that such a thing should not be; I should be one among many, each of us willing to die to protect our creator. It was that same part of myself that worried for the Core’s health, the part that knew that it would die without hesitation in its defense. I was worried.

And so I curled upon myself, idly chewing the tip of my tail.

It was comforting.

I could hear the noises of the bad-things echoing through the cracks in our little room’s walls. I could hear the scraping of claws and screeches of battle. I could hear the forever-war that raged on in the World Dungeon outside.

I had gone outside more than once. I had seen the bad-things. They were not like me, nor were they like the Great Core.

They had not seen me, however. I had hidden my small form within the wall-cracks; I had slithered my way through its labyrinth of fissures. Many of the bad-things were giants, behemoths that could swallow both me and the Great Core in one massive gulp. It was frightening, the world of the bad-things.

No, the Great Core’s little world was much better. Soothing. Safe. I let go of my tail, flicking out a forked tongue to taste the air. It tasted like home - as it should, for it was here that I was born. It was here that I was created. It was here that I was named.

For a moment, I let the thought-light wash over me. I simply wanted to see it.


Name: Paradox

Species: Snake, ?

Major Title: ?

Minor Titles: None

Innate Traits: [Venomous I]

Blooded Traits: Locked

Resistances: [Piercing Resistance - Basic I] [Venom Resistance - Basic I]

Level: 0

Trait Points: 0

 

Core Skills: None

Lesser Core Skills: None

 

Description: A tiny snake with great potential.


Paradox. The thought-light revealed to me my name; it revealed who I was. It told me that I had great potential. That, I thought, was a bit obvious. I was the one and only creation of the Great Core - and the Great Core was the most magnificent of all.

How could I not possess great potential?

I still needed to reach that potential, however. It was a daunting thought, forcing me to curl further into myself and bite just a little harder. I was careful not to break the skin, gnawing on the hard scales without piercing the soft flesh underneath. I had made that mistake once; I had left the Great Core without its defender for an entire day while I recovered from my own venom. The memory still shamed me. I would not make that mistake again.

The bad-things outside would not steal the Great Core - not with me here to defend it. I hissed in defiance. The bad-things screamed back.

I froze, lifting my head and sampling the air. I found the heady taste of blood. Something was happening outside.

The bad-things continued to scream, their shrieks and roars slipping through the assorted cracks and crevices that opened up into the World Dungeon outside. Worriedly, I slithered across the room, leaving the soothing glow of the Great Core behind.

I skirted around the slow-spots that had been scattered across the room, each proof of the great power of the Great Core. The fast-spots, I was less avoidant of, slithering into them to speed along my journey - by a little too much. Going too fast, I slammed into the wall.

Shaking it off, I stuck my head through a nearby wall-crack, cautiously peeking outside. The cave was lit, as it always was, by a variety of glow-caps that cropped up in huddled circles. Faintly glowing droplets of mana-water, infused with the diffused power of the Great Core and other not-so-Great Dungeon Cores, dripped from the high ceiling. A many-legged bad-thing skittered to the puddle of mana-water that was left behind, lapping it up greedily.

I flicked out a tongue, tasting the air. Through the heady scent of blood, I could smell the faint power in the mana-water. Since my creation, I had always received food-drink from the Great Core’s power, and had not tasted the mana-water that sometimes dripped in the dangerous outside. I had always wanted to, but could not risk slithering too far from the Great Core. I was its only defender against the bad-things if they were to attack.

Even now, the bad-things were fighting. That was not unusual, as there were many different bad-things that came from many different Dungeons. They fought for their Cores - lesser though they were - in a bid for dominance, seeking to consume the others.

Then, too, there were the Coreless. They were the baddest of the bad-things, nearly making me hiss each time that I saw one. The Coreless wore the ore-flesh of the earth, reshaped into a protective second skin that shone brightly with mana, making them even stronger. I knew that, were the Great Core threatened, my fangs would only bounce off helplessly. It was an unnerving thought.

The Coreless made ugly jabbers to one another, so unlike my own elegant hisses. I couldn’t make fang or tail of any of it.

 “Why are there so many Dungeon minions in this area? There’s not any nearby Cores on the map to be drawing them in!” one of them shouted, perhaps voicing some sort of mating call.

A female Coreless answered the call, confirming my thought-guess.

“The map isn’t always right,” the female grunted, conveying her lack of desire to reproduce. “Could be that they’re sensing one behind the nearby walls. As long as there’s any opening at all, a Core has the chance to be formed.”

The male Coreless tried again. “How will we find it?” He swung his fang of ore-flesh at an approaching bad-thing, trying to impress the female. His mating ritual must have been the source of the blood-smell, proving his might in a battle against bad-things.

Though the female did not seem impressed, only the largest of the bad-things remained. The smaller bad-things, each still far larger than I, had long since fled from the battle of giants. Soon enough, only the Coreless remained; the bad-things had fled, running back to their pitiful Cores-that-were-not-Great. I hissed my amusement.

The male Coreless paused in the cleansing of his ore-flesh fang, the mana-glow dimming as his hand passed over it..

“Did you hear that? There was a sound in the wall.”

Though I could not understand them, I knew something was wrong. The baddest-things had turned towards the wall-that-concealed-the-Great-Core. They had turned towards me.

I jerked my head back, slithering quietly over to the Great Core’s pedestal. I curled into myself, chewing my tail in fright. I was not a coward. I was willing to die for the Great Core, the greatest of all cores, that which created me. But die, I would. Then, the Great Core would be vulnerable.

I stood little chance against a single giant, let alone two. I could only wait, praying to the Great Core, and hope for blessed victory.

I heard a thump, followed by another. That was then trailed by louder and louder thumps, each setting the wall-that-concealed-the-Great-Core trembling. I, too, trembled.

The Coreless were coming for the Great Core. They would be here soon. There was little that I could do.

In that moment, I felt despair unlike I had ever felt before. In every other moment, I had been content in the knowledge of the Great Core’s continued existence; it was proof that I had purpose, and that it had not been mistaken in creating me as its sole defender.

I was no longer content.

The wall-that-concealed-the-Great-Core trembled its last. A large section shattered, broken by a giant block of ore-flesh wielded by the male Coreless. He let out an evil cry, overcome with glee in his discovery of the greatest of Cores.

“It’s here! Tiny little thing, but I found it.”

He walked inside, coughing as the heavy dust showed its displeasure. I hissed my support for the final attack of the wall-that-was, praying to the Great Core for its victory. Even in its death, it tried its best to choke the giant invaders - more proof of the Great Core’s incomparable majesty, that stone itself would work to defend it.

Though the wall-that-was fought valiantly, it was finally defeated. I hissed again, this time voicing my grief and displeasure. All who fought for the Great Core were family, whether they were created by the Great Core or not.

The female Coreless followed the male through the opening in the wall-that-was, entering the most sacred of rooms. She, too, made disgusting and evil noises.

“Huh. I’ve never seen a Core room without any minions. Do you think it just formed?”

“I don’t think so,” the male jabbered. They stood still, not coming any closer. I could only imagine that they were astounded by the might of the Great Core and unwilling to move further. He pointed at one of the sacred fast-spots, confirming my thought-guess.

“See that distortion? It’s been here long enough to alter the room with its affinity.”

“Is that a time-field?” the female jabbered back, overwhelmed by the power of the Great Core.

“I’ve never seen one myself, but I’ve heard that this is what they look like. Only one way to be sure, though.” The male waved his hand in the fast-spot, nearly falling to the floor when the limb moved faster than he expected. Unfortunately, he recovered.

“Yep. It’s a Time-affinity Dungeon Core. That’s a pretty rare find.”

The Coreless began to walk around the sacred fast-spots and the annoying-but-still-sacred slow-spots. I hissed, preparing myself to strike.

For the Great Core that created me, I was ready to give my life.

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