“How many bodies do you think are down there?
How many dead men, women and children do you think are laying in that hole? Their carcasses being dragged off into the shadows by clawed hands?
People with dreams and hopes. People who’ve spent their lives feeling joy and pain and love and fear and every emotion available to the palette of the living — And now, they’re gone.
Now, they're laying down in that hole.
- No, really. How many do you think it is a day? The amount of people who die in the dungeon?
I try to count sometimes. I sit here, outside, like I am now and I watch people go in and I see if they come out again later on. But it’s hard to be certain. Sometimes people stay for days. Sometimes the crowds are so large that I lose track of faces.
But despite the fact that, every day, some of those faces disappear, it doesn’t seem to bother the others.
There will always be more.
It doesn’t matter how many people die in the dungeon. With the economy thriving and with each family having swarms of children, there will always be more faces to replace the ones that screamed in the end.
Still, though, really… How many do you think it is?
I’m not sure and I’ve been here for a long time.”
~ Ramblings of a homeless man, sitting in an alley outside of a dungeon and speaking to himself as he watches the world go by
Isaiah stands there, feeling the freshly torn asunder landscape shake beneath its feet, as it separates from the rest of the world. The dungeon’s territorial radius spans roughly five kilometers at the moment, from one one edge to the other, as well as up towards the sky. But also down towards the core of the world below. Two and a half in each direction, using the tower as a center-point.
The people, the intruders, all have lost their balance and composition because of the powerful quake. The tower sways, swinging around back and forth like a blade of grass in a heavy gale. But the metal reinforcements that Gray has been providing it with for a time, as well as an ample pinch of dungeon-magic, keep the structure standing well and unbothered.
Soldiers try to regain their footing, fearing some sort of ambush, but they fail to do so in a coordinated fashion. The cardinals, the men in red, have fallen over each other into a heap, collecting like coagulating drops of blood.
Isaiah closes its eyes, looking through the vision of a statue.
A male blackbird sits in a nest, pressing its weight down onto a brood of chicks.
Red hides beneath the branch, holding everything stable, together with Black. She gives a thumbs-up to the statue.
Isaiah returns to its vision, relieved. This was a risky plan.
The quake comes to an end.
The ground stops shaking, the tower stops swaying, the strong reverberations cease moving through their bones.
The air is quiet.
There are no more noises, except for the flapping of the wings of flocks of startled birds, who slowly return to the trees and the rushing noise of water, as the river, pulled free from its source, runs free now on both ends of the ‘island’.
Crystal should be working on fixing that problem right now. The river is an integral feature of the landscape and the tower. Isaiah will not go without it.
The human man, robed in purple, with a strong, salt and pepper beard, gazes up its way in fear and uncertainty, mixed in with a confusing dash of joyousness. The monk steps over towards him, helping the bishop to his feet. The large bodyguard tries to step in, but is stopped by the bishop with a halting of his hand.
“…My name is Bishop Zacaries Montero…” says the older man, eyeing Isaiah up and down. “- Isaiah.”
Isaiah nods. “Then, let us speak,” says Isaiah. “For the first time. Let us speak, Bishop.”
The bishop nods, looking back towards his people, who are gathering themselves back together, but are now much quieter and apparently, willing to believe.
“I must apologize,” says the Bishop. “A wayward officer gave the order to destroy your tower,” he says, lowering his head. “I intervened as soon as I found out. But it was too late.”
Isaiah nods. It had at some point expected the church to get involved during the incursions, but they never did. “I am not surprised,” says Isaiah.
The monk is here, but she never really talks much. Whatever Rorate gave her really gave her a wild kick in the brain. It will have to speak with Rorate about the whole mushroom-brew thing. The potions might be too strong at the moment.
“- I recall the ways of your world, from when I was a part of it.” It shakes its head. “Come, Bishop Zacaries Montero,” says Isaiah. “Let me invite you and yours into my home. We shall speak as equals today.” It turns towards the dungeon. “There will be no blood and no death. Let us be done with it.”
It enters back into the fog.
The uthra fly in around itself and set to work.
— Everything needs to be a show with humans. They are stubborn. They need to see to be convinced. Talk alone will not suffice. It is risky to bring them up to the final-arena like this.
But this is the point of no return.
The light engulfs his eyes as he steps into the fog. It’s blue, like the fog of any dungeon-gate in the world. But then, something changes as it washes over him.
Lights of many colors fly around the dungeon-gate in a series of complicated patterns and movements. The blue, magical fog that makes up the entrance to an instance of a dungeon, shifts into a soft, golden hue that radiates out like the light of the sun of a new day.
— He covers his eyes, stepping into the blinding light, hearing the steps of many dozen awed men behind himself.
A strong wind presses against him from the front, surging against his ornate robe and beard, as if pressing him back a step.
Bishop Zacaries Montero pushes forward, fighting against it.
His whole life, he has dedicated himself to the faith. His childhood, his adolescence, his adulthood, his senior years — All of it has been for a system of beliefs that have, since day one, been proven only by his own, individual faith and by nothing of more concrete substance than that. But now, here, some sixty years later… here it is.
— Proof. Something tangible. Something real. Something divine.
Noise fills his ears, the singing of an exquisitely-practiced choir rings out around himself, sending the hairs on his neck and arms to stand up on end. The light fades, but the wind and the song persists, elevating his spirit to a place that is higher than it was once before.
— Just as he is in body now.
The man lowers his arm, looking around himself at the verdant meadow he finds himself atop of, high above the world.
It is good that it had Crystal connect the organ on floor ten to the rest of the tower with some additional piping. The song being sung there by Rorate and the others carries through it, all the way up to here. She has gotten much better at singing. Perhaps listening to the birds really did help her a little?
As for the color of the dungeon-gate turning away from a magical blue to one of ocher gold, it is a painfully simple trick.
— Gold dust.
White has been mining gold for a long time now and Isaiah hadn’t known what to do with it, other than to make some tokens of pilgrimage. But, it turns out that with a little magical juice and some ‘creative architectural techniques’, as always, the gold dust can be sparsely dispersed in the blue fog of the dungeon-gate to change its color to a radiant, golden tone. It certainly fits the idea that they're selling very well.
Isaiah shakes its head. Crystal has really infected it with this stuff. But it can’t deny that the selling of an image is just as important to humans, if not even more so, as is the truth behind said image.
It turns around, watching as the bishop, as the cardinals and as every other soldier and priest walks in through the temporary shortcut, established from floor one, straight up to the roost.
Each and every one of them has an expression of some kind.
For some it is terror.
For some it is awe.
For some it is fervent, zealous excitement.
And for some it is a complicated mixture of these and also everything else in between.
That is at least until the blinding light fades away from their vision and they unguard their shielded eyes and they see the world for what it is, for what Isaiah sees it is from up so very high.
Men and women, elves, humans, orcs, everyone slowly wanders not to the houses, not to the sound of the singing, not to the large table that has been set up to receive guests for shared bread and talk, not to Isaiah, but rather, to the waist-high walled edge of the tower.
Nigh forty people stand there, below the shadow of the massive wings of Isaiah and stand frozen in stunned silence, as they look out over the world beyond from this great height.
The tower is already high, up some forty floors. But now that the landmass is rising too beneath itself, they are far above where they were before. The forest, the city, they are all much smaller than they might have seemed before to those immersed in them.
The bountiful hills to the north, from up so high are flatter.
The dark-forest to the east, ripped in twain, from up so high, seems much less frightening than it would be in person.
The great, beautiful ocean to the south retains its mystique and shares together with the tower’s height, an equal beauty in its vastness; it stretches on towards the distant horizon.
As for the human city to the west, the grandest, most significant feature in the region, dotted with high towers and cathedrals the size of giant’s fingers, it is… insignificant.
From this height, they see. Every house, every castle wall, every grand magical-academy and engine of siege, every sword and man and woman and great graves of heroes past are all simply… small. They are all so little, in comparison with the power of divinity.
The quake stopped long ago, but the legs of Bishop Zacaries Montero shake nonetheless.
— He falls to his knees and clasps his hands and prays aloud, his voice uncontrolled and hoarse.
The legion of priests and soldiers and the other holy men of the high-cloth all follow in suit.
This is good.
This is going well.
It turns its head towards Red, who zooms in, carrying a box full of golden pilgrimage tokens. Isaiah nods to her and Red nods back. The uthra set to their task of preparing the table and food and collecting the others to join them.
Isaiah will form a strong connection with the people of this world. They can pray to it, if they wish, if it eases their fears. They can fight the dungeon if they need to gather wealth and experience for their society. They can economize the region to a healthy extent and they can set up routes of trade and value. They can worship here and write tales of it and live here and do whatever else they want in peace, safety, and sanctuary.
As long as they don’t get in the way.
Isaiah watches the people, huddling down below itself in fear.
— They too, seem so small and fragile from up here, where it is flying, don’t they?