Chapter 45: Sticky hubris comes at a price. Faith is free, but it is hard to hold on to
1.7k 18 82
X
Reading Options
Font Size
A- 15px A+
Width
Reset
X
Table of Contents
Loading... please wait.

“Crystals of thin ice slowly fall from the darkness above my head.

However, I do not understand how they could do so, as I know that up there is nothing but solid rock for a good kilometer, at least.

My campfire wavers in the wind present here in the frozen wastes. Yet this airy presence has no business being down here either. Where is the wind coming from? We’re underground. It just doesn’t make any sense.

This is the perplexing nature of dungeons. They are entirely magical environments that only adhere to the rules of nature in the loosest sense.

If I bend down now and dig through the snow beneath my boots, I could touch dried, dead grass, lying beneath it. It would appear as if I were in a frozen tundra on the surface.

Again, I am underground. How can there be grass here to die beneath the snow?

There can’t be.

This means that the dungeon-core not only created a frozen environment in this underground chamber that perfectly resembles a real frozen wasteland, which it can’t possibly have ever witnessed itself given the location of the dungeon, but it even put in the effort to seed grass in such an impossible location, only to smother and kill it with snow. All of this is done in the name of authenticity alone. There’s no reason for the grass to be here, other than for the artistic detail.

What does this tell us about dungeon-cores?

It tells us that they are more than just simple hive-minded constructs. There’s something else behind the masters of these places.

I am afraid to say that this frightens me more, than if it were some hive-minded critter.”

 

~ Journal entry, written by Barnatus Barnacious, while collecting notes for his future title - ‘The Big Book of Dungeons’

 


 

- [Dungeon Breached Concluded!] -

Killed Intruders: 00

Average Level: ???

Fled Intruders: 01

Killed Defenders: 13

Difficulty: ???

 

~ [Isaiah] ~
+3434 EXPERIENCE POINTS.
EXP: 2350/2350
EXP: 2538/2950

 

Level Up!
~ [Isaiah] ~
You are now a level {13} dungeon-core!
Level: 13 Experience: 2538/2950
Attribute: Holy
Soul-Points: 40/40
Presence: 5.1 km Obols: 000

 

It is bad.

 

Very bad.

 

Isaiah hovers downward, looking at the mess below. People had run and trampled over one another to find shelter from the rain in the carriages. Others had moved towards the tower. Others still were dragged away by the uthra, kicking and screaming, while they were acting as wild animals in terrified pain while trying to escape the rain.

 

— The torn up soil, showing clear lines where they had tried to claw themselves in with their hands and fingers are proof of this.

 

Some of the priests had managed to gather together outside and cast a collection of magical barriers to stay beneath, but the damaging rain ate through these very quickly. Those who had managed to get inside of a carriage, the guards and the cardinals, have had poor luck too, as they had neglected to remember in their haste that the carriages are attached to living beings; the anqas. The large, bipedal birds that pull the constructs along.

 

The animals had been out in the rain and were severely wounded and in their just as terrified panic, had scrambled, sprinting away and causing the carriages to crash over into trees and statues and drag along the mud. Some of the anqas had managed to get away. Some of them remain strapped into their reins, their feathers burnt away and their gravely bodies twitching.

 

Isaiah lowers itself down to one of the large birds that lays on its side, holding a hand over its breast.

 

~ [Isaiah] ~
(Isaiah) used: [Minor Heal] on (Anqa)

Cost: {4} SOUL

Restored target HP to 23% {13%}

 

The poor bird. Isaiah feels terrible for it. It should heal it some more. This minor spell is weak, but it can cast it a few times.

 

People groan and moan all around itself. Isaiah stops, its hand hovering over the anqa as it turns to look at a priestess who is huddled together into a ball in the mud, her hood and sleeves pulled out high. But her hands and body are all still clearly burned.

 

— There are dozens just like her, some in better state, some in worse.

 

Isaiah looks back down at the anqa.

 

It doesn’t have enough magic itself to heal all of them.

 

“Red,” says Isaiah, lowering its hand back down. Red flies in, looking a bit worn out. She’s losing height as she flies forward, always drifting down towards the ground. “Is the hot-spring working?” it asks. “Bring as many there as you can.” It tilts its head. “Are you alright?”

 

Red shakes her head. “We’re already ahead of you, chief,” she replies. “We squeezed a bunch of them in there, but we can’t fit all of them. It’s at full capacity.”

 

“Can we upgrade the structure?” asks Isaiah. “We’ll just make a second one. Crystal is fast.”

 

The uthra dusts herself off, shaking out her arms. “We can’t. Crystal’s burnt. Got some right on his ugly wings. He’s gonna need a while to heal if you don't fix him up.” Red looks around herself at the chaos. “I’m busy here.”

 

“- Green,” calls Isaiah off to the side. He’s a good builder. He can take care of it if Crystal is out of action for a while. Isaiah will have to find the uthra to heal him as fast as possible. Crystal is vital for the tower.

 

No uthra flies in in response to Isaiah’s call.

 

“Green didn’t make it, chief.” Isaiah stops, turning back towards Red. She’s hovering there, or doing her best to do so at least, given that she’s also been burnt by the rain. “Sorry.”

 

“…What?”

 

She shakes her head. “Look, I gotta get back to it,” she says, pointing over her shoulder. “We have to fix this now, or we’re going to be fucked on a level that I’ve never thought possible.” She shakes her head. “It’s almost impressive, really.”

 

Isaiah reaches out towards her.

 

~ [Isaiah] ~
(Isaiah) used: [Minor Heal] on (Red)

Cost: {4} SOUL

Restored target HP to 77% {67%}

 

“…Thanks,” says Red.

 

Isaiah shakes its head, watching Red fly off to pull a man out from beneath an overturned carriage. It wishes it could have done more than that tiny, useless heal.

 

The entity turns its head, looking down at the large bird it was knelt by, the anqa. Its eyes are closed and they remain that way.

 

Has it made a mistake?

 

It seems that it has, despite the lessons learned of its past, once again failed to consider the risk involved in sending its companions out into danger. It had used its ‘ascension’ ability to win over the humans, but it had failed to consider the consequences of doing so beyond that point of immediate return.

 

Perhaps there are still many lessons left to be learned by the entity known as Isaiah.

 


 

~ [Bishop Zacaries Montero] ~
Human, Male, Bishop

 

The wounded gather together on the road, nesting in the overhanging roofs outside of a healing spring. It has brought much relief to the most grievously wounded amongst them. But there isn’t enough space for everyone.

 

~ [Bishop Zacaries Montero] ~
(Bishop Zacaries Montero) used: [Grand Heal] on (Guardsman Otterborn)

Cost: {16} SOUL

Restored target HP to 100% {54%}

 

“T- thank you, Bishop,” says the man, standing back upright.

 

The old man sighs, exhaling as he holds his back and slumps over in turn. Casting any spell, let alone such a big one, really takes a lot out of him these days.

 

He looks to the side as a priestess of the tower, a dark-elf in a well-made robe, tends to his own wounded bodyguard, not with magical healing abilities, but with physical items such as bandages and alchemical salves.

 

Many of them are running around the area, helping the hurt, righting carriages, carrying off the dead to be examined.

 

He lifts his gaze towards the sky.

 

“Bishop!” hisses a voice to his side. He doesn’t have to look, he recognizes it as belonging to the cardinal of the northern city. “I warned you that this was folly!” The cardinal leans in. “If not heresy!” he says. The bishop turns his way.

 

“The witch has always lived here,” he replies. “You know this, cardinal,” explains the man. “If I recall, she used to live in your city, no?”

 

The cardinal narrows his eyes. “Look around yourself!” he snaps. “Can’t you see what this foolishness has caused?” He points over to the row of bodies being lined up by the tree-line. “We’re lucky it was only this. The gods went lightly on us for this hubris.”

 

Bishop Zacaries Montero shakes his head. “This wasn’t the work of the gods. It was the work of a witch,” he says. “- Or would you confuse the two, cardinal?” he asks, loudly. “Surely not a man of your position?”

 

The cardinal falls silent, his face turning sour, as he carefully eyes the area. The hot-springs are full of people and all of them are watching and listening. This isn’t the place. The man in red straightens himself back upright and walks off to his collection of followers.

 

The tearing of the land, the witnessing of the great many things they have seen of beauty and resplendent wonder since arriving here, seem so quickly forgotten. But the cardinal of the north is a man of material things, not of faith. He changes his mind, suiting whatever path he finds will be the most lucrative in the end.

 

— It seems he is averse now to the idea of a cooperation with the holy dungeon.

 

Bishop Zacaries Montero looks over at the many hurt. Some of them agree with his position. Others do not appear to do so, given their expressions. But they remain quiet because of rank and posture.

 

This is a problem.

 

A divide has been born amongst them. It will spread to the city and then further from there on out. This will only pull itself further apart, if he doesn’t get a hold of the situation soon.

 

It could get ugly.

 


 

~ [Caeli] ~
Human, Female, Battle Alchemist

 

Caeli pulls together a bundle of medicinal herbs. The adventurers outside had collected these just before.

 

The woman looks around herself at the alchemical laboratory she’s in. The priestess, Rorate, had said she could use this. Caeli still doesn’t really know what her own party's plan is here, other than to bide time until it’s safe to escape to freedom, if such a thing is even ever possible.

 

But in the meantime, she can put her skills to use to make some health-potions with this stuff.

 

Hell. Maybe she and the other two can even get permission to sell them here? In a little dungeon-kiosk of sorts?

 

— Some free samples first, though.

 

She begins her work.

 


 

~ [Sion] ~
Elf, Female, Priestess

 

Sion runs around outside, doing her best. She isn’t really strong and she’s a bit on the runty side of things, physically. But she has a lot of soul-points, so she can help get everyone back on their feet.

 

She watches as the entity known as Isaiah flies past her, its porcelain body untouched by anything so foul as a witch’s touch.

 

— It really has to be divine.

 

She looks at the burnt man, lying dead next to herself.

 

- For it to not be hurt by such a powerful spell, born of darkness.

 


 

~ [Beulah] ~
Human, Male, Thief

 

“Not sure how I’m really helping here,” says Beulah. “Can I go back to the shrine?”

 

“No! You can’t go back to the shrine!” snaps the red creature, the uthra. She points at him. “Get back to carrying that body, you freeloader!”

 

Beulah sighs, looking at the corpses he’s helping to move out of the way. Bodies don't really bother him. He's seen a lot of bodies in his life. In the backstreets of the city, it isn't uncommon at all.

 

- He really would rather be up in the shrine with the shrine-maidens though. The fabric of the windows needs to be replaced and he still has to redo the wooden floors of the entrance.

 

Oh well. Maybe this is the price he has to pay to get to be able to do the work he wants to do later on.

 


 

~ [Isaiah] ~

 

Isaiah looks around at the mess from above for a moment. It seems to be stabilizing now, an hour later.

 

“You have my apologies,” says Isaiah. “This was not my intent.”

 

The bishop shakes his head. “I believe in your message,” says the old man. “But the cardinals have lost their faith. I will do what I can, but…”

 

Isaiah nods. “I understand. Thank you, Bishop.” It looks at the man, not sure what to do now. How do men say goodbye to one another? It hardly remembers. Should it chirp at him?

 

No.

 

That would be odd.

 

Isaiah recalls, stretching out its hand towards him. “I hope to see you once again.”

 

But the bishop does not see it. His eyes are closed and his head is lowered in a deep, respectful bow.

 

“Goodbye, Isaiah,” says the bishop. Isaiah quickly pulls its hand back, hiding it. Perhaps such a human gesture would dispel the divine image they have been selling? “I will keep the faith.”

 

The man steps onto the carriage and Isaiah rises up into the air, its massive wings spreading out wide and receiving still, after everything, many awed gasps and exclamations. It shoots upwards into the air.

 

There is little else that it can do down here. But by being higher up, the uthra and all of the dungeon’s inhabitants will be stronger and more capable to work in its stead.

 

— Perhaps the lesson learned is that the best thing to do is often nothing at all.

 

 


Eh, it'll probably be fine. This probably won't lead down into a chaotic spiral of domino-falling events that will usher about the destruction of humanity or anything.

I am on vacation this week. Chapters will upload as usual, but expect a little delay here or there =)

82