Ranking Officer Walundra: “Huh? What do you mean their trackers went dark?”
He pokes the crystal on the table, trying to get it to light back up.
Senior Scryer, Rank A, Blick: “They’re dark, sir.”
Officer Walundra stares at the table for a moment, before looking around the room.
Walundra: “Slime-shit. We haven’t had a lights out since… gods, I don’t even remember. Are you sure this thing is on?”
Blick: “The scrying crystal is active, sir. They’re either in a hole or they’ve been removed.”
Officer Walundra leans back upright, crossing his arms and closing his eyes.
A lack of communication is present.
Walundra: “Okay. Saddle up team two. I want full tracking. Give me resonation crystals on each and every one of them. Front and back.”
He points at the regional map on the table.
“Something’s gone wrong. I want to know what it is.”
Blick: “Should I notify the central-authority and request a destruction team?”
Walundra lets out an audible tsk, his eyebrow’s twitching.
Walundra: “Boy. Are you trying to cost me my job?!”
Officer Walundra approaches Scryer Blick.
“If we lost a team, I’m through. They’re probably just lost in the forest. Send in the B-team to find them.”
Officer Walundra looks my way, as I record into the memory-shard.
Walundra: “You! Turn that thing off!”
He walks towards me.
I do not obey his or-
~Broken magical security transmission, intercepted by a band of wayfarers who have set-up a bandit’s lair on top of a powerful leyline, several days prior
The humming man kneels down, holding out his gloved hand towards the ground, a finger outstretched to graze a standing flower that moves in the soft, spring gale. Its cupped head flushly blooms free, sticking out from a cluster that is nested near a strong, healthy tree.
The calm butterfly, crawling along the petals of the flower, indifferent to the man’s presence, wanders up his finger and crawls around the bends of his brown, leather glove. He lifts it up, watching as it slowly flaps its wings in an idle state of movement. Then, as a new push of wind comes, it flies off with it, carried away, together with a soft swarm of loosened petals of many colors.
He stands there, the fabric of his wizard’s hat billowing in the wind for a time, before he turns to look back all around himself.
Calmly, he watches with all the time in the world.
The tower grows larger.
“Health-potions!” calls a voice. A woman with many bottles on her body, a battle-alchemist, seems to be selling potions to groups of adventurers. “Come get your health-potions! Fifty Obols each!”
He wanders down the way.
“You folks need the tactics for the sub-boss on floor five?” asks another man, talking to an adventuring party. “I got them right here!” he says, shaking a scroll in his hands. “Only one-hundred Obols!” he says. “A small price to pay for your lives, right?”
The humming man smiles and plants his hands on his hips, lifting his gaze up along the length of the tower.
What an interesting place.
The thing that caught his interest isn’t visible here, the time disturbance in this area. But this, as a whole, is also interesting.
— A new dungeon? A new kind of dungeon?
Armored anqas screech behind him, riding in fast. The crowd turns to look, clearing the way as a group of five very serious looking people arrive on the scene.
The humming man simply stands there in the middle of the road, his hands on his hips, continuing to enjoy the scene. One of the rider’s swipes around in annoyance, his anqa veering to the side as a butterfly awkwardly slaps into his face.
The anqa, which was on track to trample him, bends around the chronomancer and the group of riders simply ride past him, as if indifferent or entirely unaware of the idea of running him down as they rush towards the entrance of the dungeon and look around the area.
He adjusts his wizard's hat and returns to his work, looking at the twitching butterfly down on the ground, unable to get back up because of its broken wings and legs.
— Maybe the thing he's looking for is inside?
Red flies in. “Yeah. I saw. They’re here,” she says. The two of them look down. It looks like they’re talking to the people, trying to get information.
Although it looks more like a series of interrogations, than a conversation.
“We probably have until they sniff out the area and finish spooking all of them,” says Red.
Red lifts a hand, looking to the side. “Yeah. I saw,” she repeats.
Isaiah tensely looks back towards the status window that had appeared.
Isaiah looks away, staring back down towards the second team of inspectors, who have finally arrived. “Can we just crush them again?” it asks.
“We can sure as hell try,” replies Red. “But I think these guys are going to be more careful than the last ones.”
“…Do you think I should speak with them?” asks Isaiah. “What if I make an appearance? If I just try to tell them the truth?”
Red shakes her head. “Listen. I get that it sounds like a good idea, but think about it,” she says, tapping the side of her head. “You’re gonna fly down there, where you’re vulnerable, into a troop of murder-masters who are already on edge.”
“I will approach them peacefully,” suggests Isaiah.
“I’m not sure they’ll care,” replies Red. She presses her fingers together. “They’ll probably just trap you in some magic like they did with Emerald,” she explains. “Then you can explain as much as you want, but you’re gonna be fucked, because again, I doubt they care.” Red crosses her arms. “That’s ignoring the whole Beulah incident. That guy with the weird clothes is still skulking around. Look. He’s talking to them right now.”
Isaiah looks back towards the crowd, seeing that the men who had chased Beulah are indeed talking to the inspectors. “Am I not safe until the dungeon is cleared?” asks Isaiah.
“You’re safe from attacks. But the humans figured cores out already,” replies Red. “They’re not going to kill you with attacks. They’ll just capture you and drag you outside of the dungeon-territory and then, well, that’s all it takes.” She thinks for a moment. “We could send long-ears, but she isn’t here and if we send Beulah, well, that leads us back to step one.” Red buzzes around. “He’s still adapting to his new way of life anyway. He’s not as chipper as the first one was.”
“A problem for tomorrow,” says Isaiah, rising to its feet.
“So, what’s the plan?” asks Red.
Isaiah looks towards it. “A good impression is off the table?”
Red shrugs. “Chief. In this metaphor, we don’t have a table to begin with.”
Isaiah nods. “Then get the others.”
“And then?” asks Red.
Isaiah narrows its eyes. “Ring the bell and bring me a rock.”
Red blinks. “A… rock?”
“A very big rock,” notes Isaiah. “Go. Two, actually.”
Red shrugs and then flies off.
It itself might be a dungeon-core and that binds it to the cosmic rules ascribed to dungeons. But those rules are based off of the unstated fact that all dungeons are underground.
Isaiah turns its head, letting a talon run along the sun-dial, the most precious object of any that it owns.
There is no more time to wait. A decision has to be made.
“- You should have seen it!” says the excited elven priestess, prayer beads wrapped in her hands. “It flew down from the sky and it just… carried him away.”
“It killed him?” asks the monk.
The elf leans in, shocked. “No! It saved him!” She points at the man off to the side, a noble guardsman. “They were going to execute him on the spot!” She doesn't mention that she was the one who had captured him to begin with.
“I see,” replies the monk, looking over to her colleagues.
The headpiece that she’s wearing, a circlet with a crystal in the front and the back, shimmers in the bright sunlight.
All five of them are wearing these scrying crystals, mounted to their heads. Regulations stipulate that everyone wears them at all times. But usually the more non-serious inspectors forgo regulations for the sake of ease and fashion-sense.
— They really aren’t hiring the best people these days. But it’s a cushy job. There’s rarely work, so people get too comfortable.
“Thank you,” says the monk, walking away to listen to her other colleagues’ questionings.
The headbands allow advanced scryers back at the city to see what they’re seeing and even what they aren’t, behind themselves. She taps it, making sure a signal is going through.
It vibrates in response.
Good. It seems like it’s working.
“- Harboring a fugitive from the law!” says the noble-guardsman, holding up a piece of paper. “We have an official arrest warrant and writ of execution here!”
The orc nods, looking towards the tower. To say that this is unusual behavior for a dungeon would be obvious. But there are far more obvious proofs here than that, he thinks, eyeing the tower that is pressing up towards the sky.
As his eyes wander back down, he notices the graveyard off to the side and simply walks off, without saying anything else to the man who is still trying to speak to him.
One of his colleagues, the clingy, quiet newcomer, shuffles after him.
He scoots after the orcish necromancer. Nervously, the young man looks around the area. There are a lot of people here. There are way too many people for a forest, actually. Forests should be quiet, calm places.
— Actually, this place is very quiet and calm, serene even, but the people ruin it. There are just too many of them and they’re all noisy.
The necromancer opens the gate to the graveyard, stepping in without a care in the world. He looks around at the well-tended graves and the vagrant spirits and lights that float around the area.
Hoisting the straps of his shield, packed on his back, tighter, he quickly scoots after the orc, not sure if he isn’t walking too close to him?
Is this weird?
He just likes following him the most. He’s quiet. The others always talk and try to explain things and interact. The orc is just… quiet.
He likes that.
The scrawny man rubs the dripping sweat from his face.
Why are there so many people here?
The humming man walks around the crowd. He walks up to the battle-alchemist, who is trying to hawk her wares to the people. Strolling right up to her, he continues to hum and then bends down, reaching to her belt.
Her hands are up in the air, holding different potions and he simply grabs a few of them from her body, standing right in front of her, and then simply swaps a few of them around on her belt.
— She doesn’t pay him any mind, not really seeing or noticing him at all.
Finishing, he steps back and continues to hum as he looks around the area for something else.
Walking over to a man with a bow, he plucks a specific arrow from his quiver and then thinks for a moment, before plucking out some of the feathering at very specific spots, before sliding it back into the man's quiver.
Nodding to himself, satisfied with whatever he has accomplished, the humming man walks past the two high-level inspectors, blocking anyone from entering the dungeon. The humming man does a slow, dance-like spin to tap against the crystals on their heads once each, before entering the dungeon, having never lost his momentum.
The bell atop the tower starts ringing noisily, heralding the start of some sort of event.