A Giant Ritual Circle – Chapter 5
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Welcome to the stealth edit, one reference to sentient dungeons have been changed to say "awakened" dungeons. Awakened because all dungeons are sapient, some just don't have much of a mind.

Doyle just stands there for a moment after the dungeon core, Flisle, finishes his rant. He rubs the back of his neck, “So you’re asking if I want to become a dungeon? That actually sounds interesting enough and I never went out much anyway. Sure, I can go along with your plan. Admittedly, I should think it over more. This is a big choice after all.”

Zela looks away awkwardly while Flisle laughs, “You think you have a choice? Your choice was whether to accept me as your tutorial guide. We are way beyond choices at this point. The only thing left before I turn you into a dungeon core is a ritual. Zela will explain it while I go to prepare the ritual ingredients.” and with that the golem slumps over.

Zela bows to Doyle, “I am sorry about that. Please forgive him. He has never been the most personable person, even among other awakened dungeon cores. Before he became so powerful he at least attempted social niceties.”

Doyle sighs, “that was about what I expected anyway. He has this whole mad scientist vibe going on and those types don't tend to take no for an answer. I guess at this point you should lead us where we are going and maybe explain this ritual?”

Zela gestures to the stairs behind and flies through. As Doyle follows her down the stairs and through the field beyond she explains. “The tutorial is an amazing thing. You can learn and advance skills at an incredible speed. Death won’t even hold you back as it will bring you back over and over until you complete it. That last one could be seen as a dreadful thing for some, but hey, that’s just life sometimes.”

The two of them reach a rough circle of packed dirt. Zela floats to the center before she continues, “you won’t get to take advantage of it. As many a magic user who thought being a dungeon core was a shortcut to immortality have found. Normal skills and abilities don’t transfer very well. Even something as simple as meditation to regain mana faster doesn’t work. After all, a dungeon core has a distinct lack of a brain or nervous system for that to work on.”

“Under the System, it is easier to explain. The ritual resets everything. Your skills are gone, your level is zeroed, and it sets your birthday to when the ritual finishes. Besides that, as long as you get the general detail of the ritual right, it can’t fail in the classic sense. Instead, the farther from perfect it is the less memories you keep.”

“Millenium old magic users have a bit of leeway here. You, however, don’t have to worry about it because Flisle will be the one doing the ritual for you. Dungeon cores are one of the few species capable of drawing all the diagrams exact enough to not lose your memories. Not even the gods can claim that. My opinion is they cheat somehow.”

Doyle shrugs, “fair enough, but why can’t I just do the tutorial after the ritual?”

Zela gestures around, “everything you can see here is inside of Flisle’s dungeon. A dungeon’s domain is only theirs, and so you could not claim any territory. While your core can chill around as long as you want, you won’t be able to train your skills. In fact, if it wasn’t for Flisle taking over as your tutorial guide, you wouldn’t be able to finish here at all. As it is, he was able to add an alternative method to complete the tutorial.”

“Anyway, it looks like he almost has all the materials gathered. For normal materials Flisle would have been able to just pop it all into existence, but this stuff is rare.” She points behind Doyle and he turns to look. There are a mountain’s worth of a variety of materials.

Zela points out one material after another. “That there is a world jewel, forms in the center of an eon old planet and a big reason more people don’t try the ritual. Planets that old tend to be well guarded, so while not the rarest material here, it is the hardest to get. Those bones come from a variety of high level creatures, each one aligned with a single element like water. He provided those himself.”

“Under the bones is a literal ton of monster cores. Not locally sourced though, as the ritual needs it to be natural cores and there is no way we would use our own. Takes too much effort to develop them. Though I will have to cut this short as he just pinged me that he is about to set it up. We need to leave the area so as to not get in his way.”

As they leave, Doyle takes a glance back. The entire stack of material is now floating in the air, weaving an intricate dance. The two walk for a long while before Zela stops. She looks at where he stands and gestures for him to take a couple of steps further. Then they both just stand there and watch. Now that the area is clear, the action picks up.

All the grass in a giant circle that reaches right up to Doyle’s toes falls over dead. He takes another step back out of reflex. With the grass dead a wind sweeps through and carries it all off. Now bare dirt the ground shakes and sinks down as it compacts. The base now prepared a stream of metal shards flow out of the portal they entered the floor by. Each shard flies with a purpose to various parts of the cleared area where they carve out lines. Some lines are straight, others curve, and each line at a specific depth.

As a line gets finished, the metal shard that dug it melts down and flows into the massive circle in which they have drawn everything. While the circle is wide, it is also very shallow and so the metal shards are enough to fill it. Zela points at it as the metal cools and explains that, “that metal ring around the ritual is used to keep the energy inside. It uses a special alloy made of various metals that restrict the various mystical energies plus some lead.”

“You don’t need a special material for smaller rituals. Some human practitioners even do without the circle. Now I don’t advise that, but you can. Once a drawn ritual is bigger than a general human can make without moving, it needs something even if it is just a circle carved in the dirt.”

While she explains, the other materials up in the air fill the inner lines. Each skeleton gets ground against itself into a fine dust. The world jewel floats down into the center of the ritual. All the monster cores position themselves at various points where lines intersect or dead end to modify the flow or store power. Precious jewels shatter, rare silks unravel, gasses turn into liquid, potions sprinkle themselves, and herbs plant themselves at auspicious locations.

Even with so many things happening at once, it still takes over an hour to place all the materials. After they finish being filled, the ritual still isn’t ready. The herbs need to grow and various materials have to settle as the magic cycles. While they wait, Zela continues to point out the various materials used to make up the ritual. The part that interests Doyle is all her comments on what could have replaced each material.

Apparently stuff like potions and rituals don’t depend on specific ingredients so much as specific elements of the ingredients. Sure, some of the highest level recipes have required elements like how this ritual needs a world jewel, but that tends to be the exception.

Half a day passes by before it is all ready. A small sphere with mechanical arms attached to the side floats over to the two. The faceless drone, a common sight throughout the deeper floors, is currently being directly controlled by Flisle. First thing he does is pinch Zela for being such a blabbermouth. While he doesn’t mind Doyle learning so much he would have preferred she sells the information instead of just giving it away. With that done, he turns to Doyle and has him follow the drone into the ritual.

As they travel over the various lines, Flisle forms force fields so not a line is out of place. Now closer to the center of the ritual, Doyle notices the world jewel isn’t in the direct center but offset by a pace or two. Across from it is a leather mat, pinned to the ground with spikes made of jewel shards.

Flisle explains that, “the leather is where you will sit. You don’t need to be entirely on it. However you must never leave the area marked by those spikes that hold it down. To be honest, the leather isn’t an actual part of the ritual. But after enough time people realized it was easier to know you are in the right spot with it. That and people tend to fidget less with something padded to sit on.”

“Now you will sit on that for a good long while. For the first couple of hours you can do whatever you want within the spikes. At some point I will use a flash of light from outside the ritual to alert you to sit down. Within a few minutes of my warning your body will lose all ability to move and it will completely relax you, barring vital things like your heart. You must make sure when that happens you will not fall outside of the spikes.”

“That won’t be my problem, of course. I wouldn’t bother with all this nonsense if the System didn’t require I actually have your best interest in mind while I am your tutorial guide. But yeah, fall out of that area and you can expect to lose anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of your memories depending on how far out of the area you fall. Anyway, no time to waste. Go sit there and we can begin the ritual!”

The drone flees the area as Doyle sits down. A final yell from Flisle informs him that once it starts, it will block most communication. Then a shimmering globe of energy encompasses the ritual. More colors than natural flit across the surface, but soon Doyle’s attention attracted elsewhere. Ever so slowly a silvery white gleam leaks out of the world jewel.

Over the next few hours, this gleam travels through each line of the ritual. At one point it goes out of sight and Doyle stands up to check on the progress. It would have been mind numbing if not for the occasional excitement. At almost regular intervals the gleam would reach a dead end and the monster core located there would flare up. Doyle would guess at what materials had gone into making the color. Sometimes it was easy. One core glowed a bright ruby red after the gleam traveled through a length of bone dust. The illusion of flames that accompanied it pointed towards a beast of the fire element. Another however shifted between a hot pink and clear sparkles. Even after half a day of Zela’s explanations, he couldn’t guess what had caused that.

The ritual finishes warming up and Flisle signals him with a nice big flashing light display. The fact it yells in all caps at him to sit down and shut up makes it ever so clear this isn’t just another light display from the ritual. Doyle sits down cross-legged and hunches over with his arms crossed. He relaxes himself to test it and has to shift his legs so he doesn’t fall on his face. A few minutes pass before pain lances through his body. If he hadn’t gone slack moments before, he would have likely flailed about from it.

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