Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.4 – Second Thoughts

“If you talk to God, you are praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.”

  • Thomas Szasz

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Pain lanced through Caden. It was worse than before. It grew. He was blinded by the pain; all his awareness compressed to single moment. For that timeless instant, all thought, all self, was shed, and Caden was nothing but pain. The moment snapped with a sharp

CRACK!

It was the loudest noise Caden had ever heard; it resounded through his very being. The pain returned and was once more

CRACK!

CRACK!

Caden lived a cycle of pain and thunderous shaking sound until suddenly everything went still.

For a moment, all he did was revel in the peace, in the sheer bliss that was the absence of pain and sound. His thoughts and self were scattered in a way that had not happened since he was human. In fact… it felt very much like coming awake. All the world was returning to focus. He felt his aura, its threads humming with energy. He felt rock, and air, and water, and living things. And when all started to feel normal, the pop-ups returned.

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Dungeon Formed

Congratulations on founding a dungeon! All your powers are greater when acting in space set aside for the dungeon. There is one exception: Humans and other humanoid sentients will greatly destabilize your ability to act directly in their proximity. Certain actions or abilities may be exempt from this restriction.

+250 AP for your first dungeon!

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Warning! Actions Taken!

Your core was at 7% integrity and falling apart. Founding a dungeon should have saved you. However, due to massive trauma, additional action was required. The nature of your very existence was changed to save you from destruction.

Self awareness found…

Current Name: N/A / Exsan invalid. Exsan personal name reapplied

Self-referential name “Caden,” applied.

Menu and displays personalized for sentient.

Congratulations on being alive!

-Due to severe healing (93%), this dungeon instance cannot be removed or left for 465 days

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Wait what…? Before Caden could look more into exactly what the hell that meant, more pop-ups appeared.

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Previous Information Now Available

Non-critical information was withheld due to life-threatening conditions, it will now appear. Future notifications will appear in a small icon to be reviewed later.

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Titles Gained!

Wounded Healer III

You placed another life above your own repeatedly.

— Normal reward incompatible with species – reward will be adapted.

You are the first dungeon variant to achieve any degree of this title.

Title changed for new species, title is now:

Dungeon Martyr III (First)

You have demonstrated compassion and self-sacrifice, repeatedly, even as your own life was placed in jeopardy. These are not characteristics inherent to a dungeon. You are something new, and the first dungeon to bear this title, and all life is open to your beneficence.

(First) +1000 Ability Points

+700 Ability Points (100,200,400)

(First) +You may use your skills around and on other life, bypassing the normal restristions, provided you have no ill intent.

+Easier to learn and cheaper to buy healing related skills (15% Discount)

Touch of the Grave I

You have brought someone back from the brink of death. You have touched the grave and the boundary of souls.

+100 Ability Points

+Slightly easier to learn and cheaper to buy life or death related skills (5% Discount)

Seen the Infinite Void

You have been to the surface of the world under your own power. You have seen the void of the sky and felt its corrosive touch on your aura. You have seen, survived, and returned to the depths of the world.

+100 Ability Points

+Your aura is stable a tiny distance above ground, or out of cave entrances

Investment Specialist

Your first 1500 Ability Points were spent on long-term investments. This investment can be be repaid many-fold over time.

+10% Ability Point Gain from Leveling

+Hidden (Reward Deferred)

Back from the Brink I

You survived that which should have killed you. Did you learn caution or boldness?

+100 Ability Points

+All skills are easier to learn while you are in personal danger.

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Your status has changed!

Status

Dungeon Name: None

Name 1: Caden

Name 2: Exsan

Species Type: Dungeon Core

Subspecies: Twin Souled

Level: 3

Crystal Integrity: 100% – Undamaged

Status Effects: Location Bound – 495 Days

Available Mana – Caden: 4/50

Available Mana – Exsan: 4/50

Passive Mana Generation: 63/Day

Next level: Costs 60 Mana

Subsections Available: 1

Ability Points: 2075

Skills: Directed Mana Absorption II,

Limited Omniscience (Dungeon)

Soul Mana II

Dungeon Aura Expansion II

Manipulate Earth II

Learning II

Enhanced Aura Perception II

Ambient Mana Manipulation II

Meditation II

Interdimensional Repository II

Aura Mobility II

Destructive Assimilation II

Matter Fabrication II

Found Dungeon

Titles: (Shared)

First of its Kind

Skill Evolution

Mana Specialist I

Escape Artist IV (Deception)

Dungeon Martyr III (First)

Touch of the Grave I

Seen the Infinite Void

Investment Specialist

Back from the Brink I

Titles: (Caden)

Reborn Soul

Titles: (Exsan)

Immortal Soul

Caden was not sure what to think. There was just too much information. He had almost died… again. There was at least the comfort of knowing that there was life after death in some form or other. He had existed as a soul after dying for a minute or two before he had been grabbed and placed here. Honestly he still had no idea what the real afterlife was like… unless of course this was it. Maybe everyone started out their first life and it just… never ended. They were reborn somewhere else, and when they died it happened again. Or not.

This line of inquiry was probably not the most important thing to be worrying about at the moment. Caden was aware that he was avoiding what it might mean to have a twin soul with Exsan. His other half had just been impulses, but it had half the mana now. And he needed more than half the mana to level up!

There was another noticeable change too. His crystal, his core, had changed drastically. Firstly he was larger; Caden supposed this was probably due to forming the dungeon. The other change was much more ominous. He had changed shape and colors. He looked more like a natural crystal now, a diamond shape with one end stretched out. It looked like perfectly normal crystal growth along much of it, but other parts had a glassy sheen where the crystal looked sheared due to immense pressure. Perhaps that was a reflection of the terrible damage he had done to himself. The crystal was separated into bands of color. A deep ruby red at the top, like the original crystal that held Caden’s soul, then it transitioned into the familiar purple, and then it became an obsidian black like the original dungeon core. It was a very clear representation that his core was no longer a single integrated whole.

Oh, yeah, couldn’t forget the whole… hanging in midair thing either.

A thought spoke into Caden’s mind a moment later: I? What? Who?

Caden had a moment of deja-vu. Those were not his thoughts, nor strictly speaking were they thoughts. They were… concepts. This time, however, Caden felt no intrinsic feeling of impulses or instincts. This was not some hidden part of himself manifesting into his thoughts. There was a feeling of connection, but it was clearly foreign; it was not himself.

Caden sent a thought of his own down the connection: Exsan?

There was no response. Caden tried again, with different thoughts and greetings, but there was still nothing. Right. Okay. So the voice in his head had become a little more… individualistic. That wasn’t a problem, right? He laughed at himself, his own internal voice taking on a slightly hysterical edge. He was sharing everything with a presumably psychopathic dungeon, what could possibly go wrong?

Caden forced himself to calm down. There was nothing to be done about this, right? Okay, so then, he needed to just proceed as if nothing was wrong. He would deal with Exsan whenever it became an actual issue.

Okay, grasp the situation. Well, first the positive, he had saved someone’s life. Caden had to be honest with himself, if he had known what would happen as a result, he was not sure he would have done it. Again though, it was done, it was the right thing to do. He even got a nifty title out of it. He could mess with living things, though only for good. Well… that would have made healing that guy go much faster.

There was the issue with the surface too. Honestly, that sucked. He might not need sunlight, and air, and all the requirements he had as a human, but he still craved the light. He wanted to be out in the open air. He had imagined a vast forest dungeon with rivers and meadows. Well, his new title did say he could have his aura extend a tiny distance. But, what was a tiny distance? If dungeons stretched out for miles, a tiny distance might be a hundred feet. That would be more than enough. But it could just as easily be an inch, or less.

Getting ahead of himself again. Assess the current situation. He was healed, but also stuck. He now had a dungeon. That was the place to start. The place. Where, exactly, was he? Caden allowed himself a moment of calm and truly listened to his senses.

The area he currently occupied with his aura was large, much greater than any area he had held previously. He could not hope to grasp everything at once, so he simply started from the center and worked his way out.

At the center was the core, floating in the air. All the vast strands of his aura converged there. They had changed. They were stronger and more numerous. When he focused the very fabric of the world seemed clogged with the fog of his aura. It was dense and omnipresent.

Below him lay water. Deep, dark, and flowing slowly, it traveled ever deeper into the earth. Water actually lay everywhere around him. Mostly it traveled in caverns that water had carved over the ages, but in other places it seeped through porous layers of stone until it hit impenetrable rock or clay. Water dripped from stalactites. All throughout his aura Caden could feel the flow of water. It was dribbles here, a stream there, waterfalls, ancient slow rivers. There it carved away at the stone, dissolving it with imperceptible slowness. Elsewhere it deposited what it had stolen, layer upon layer, age by age, forming the infinitely patient construction of nature. And what had not been given by water, was given by fire.

Far beneath, at a few locations near the edge of his range, Caden could feel water bubbling up under immense heat and pressure. A few places it looked like it reached the rest of the cave system, bubbling into hot springs, or exploding into steam. Did they still count as geysers if they expelled underground? Other places the water mixed with sediment into constantly bubbling mud, and other places there was no water only super-heated gas forming sulfurous yellow fumaroles. It was above, though, that was the most obvious clue. The layers of natural stone changed, turning into basalt and obsidian. He could not say for sure how much there was, but his aura extended at least a few hundred feet up into it. He could feel the tension and structure of different layers deposited at different times, broken up with lava tubes and different minerals.

It was clear he was near a volcano that was at least semi-active. That seemed to be a good thing, for emerging with the water and air bubbling up from far below came mana. He could feel it everywhere, slowly pushed up from below within the stone, but the water and gas emerged practically glowing with it.

All of this was wonderful. It was beauty, nature, and power, but the life was what really mattered. Everywhere he looked he found life. Life in the water, life on the stone, and lots of life swarming around the geothermal areas. Huh, it looked like he had extremophiles. Caden wasn’t sure how to start a dungeon properly, but it was obvious that he had a good place to start from.

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.3

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.5

13 thoughts on “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.4 – Second Thoughts”

  1. Honestly, seeing all those natural interactions and water flows and stone layers sounds really interesting in and of itself, even more than whatever simple life hangs out there. The water scene is damn cool.

    Like

  2. I demand another chapter! Don’t make me get the whip!

    > when acting in space set aside for the dungeon
    in a space (though I suppose just space may be correct)
    > reward will be adapted
    Punctuation.
    > There was a feeling of connection, but it was clearly other, it was not himself.
    ‘it was clearly other’ doesn’t sound quite right

    Like

  3. Hmm, what would happen if he stuffed his strands into a spatial portal? Specifically the kind thats like a piece of paper with two circles cut out, then folded over to pass through both holes. Could he make mini- remote spaces or entrances?

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  4. The only way (iirc) to create a functional wormhole is to insert negative mass into it to keep the positive mass of the tunnel from pinching itself shut. So, technically, he can create “empty space” (which is considered negative mass in physics).
    I. Want. MORE!!

    Like

  5. Not really feeling the decision to split the dungeon consciousness in two. Previously the dungeon barely exhibited any will of its own beyond raw instinct. The fact that the system intervened so radically in the fundamental structure of the core’s personality seems as weird as if it had decided to grow a second head on a human body that only cared about eating junk food. It also feels like a betrayal of the first arc “you fought for months to gain your freedom so you could start a new life and explore a new world. JK! Now you share a body and half your power with a psychopath!”

    I’ve read at least two other dungeon stories that pulled the same two souls one crystal trope and it never really paid off. Maybe you have a compelling explanation and narrative reason for this though.

    Like

    1. Depends on their function, in the very long term I can forsee there being “good” “Neutral” and “evil” dungeons all over the world, and perhaps their colors would be red, purple, and black, respectively. So perhaps all that damage and shattering (shards being thrown?) that happened earlier (even while teleporting, so not bound to original spot) might have long lasting repercussions? The main “dungeon god” perhaps being this jointly ran one – the progenitor. Kinda looking forward to which direction this dungeon will be built (tower, plains/ surface, or hole?), and how Caden and Exsan end up complimenting each other! It also makes sense to me that the strongest dungeon in the world would show traits of all three types in this setting.

      Like

  6. Shouldn’t his Mana Specialist and Touch of the Grave skills be level 2 as well? One of the perks he got was that all skills start at level 2 (and those less are upgraded), after all.

    I hope that you are able to continue this story soon, as well. The next chapter has been password locked for a long time now.

    Like

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