Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.10 – Trappings of Power

“I have never seen a greater monster or miracle in the world than myself.”

  • Michel de Montaigne

Caden had been forced to be patient by circumstances and the sudden acquisition of the tools needed to make a functional dungeon was more than welcome. Up to this point, everything he had done had been made from scratch or from putting pieces of patterns together. Part of the reason he had delayed creating the dungeon proper was the knowledge that he would need to come up with everything from scratch. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.10 – Trappings of Power”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.9 – Soul-Mates

“The gods are masters of souls. Your actions in life are a mirror of your soul which even as it reflects is altered. In death you are drawn to whomever you are most closely aligned with. Heaven and hell are both the same, they are simply the people you spend eternity with. Be who you want to live with forever.”

  • Ecer the Wise, Prophet of Otga

Caden had been working on the entry cave for longer than he thought. Between his own mana and Exsan’s, they were close to being able to level again. He decided now would be a good time to meditate. The impact of his soul was not so fresh and he was ready to see it again. Hopefully he would learn more about his own soul. He was not sure what it meant that he could examine it now, but he knew he had a strong affinity for soul skills and he would be a fool not to use that. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.9 – Soul-Mates”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.8 – Mood Lighting

“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.”

– Thomas Aquinas

Caden hated waiting. He was good at it when it was necessary, but he still hated it. He had managed to reach the surface with his aura, but his dungeon was expanding slowly. He had tried to speed it up, but nothing had happened. So, since it seemed waiting was inevitable, he had continued on with other projects. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.8 – Mood Lighting”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.7 – Expecting Company

“Rule # 1 – The dungeon is trying to kill you, don’t die. Dead adventurers don’t spend gold.”

  • 50 Rules For Dungeon Divers

For a moment Caden was struck dumb with surprise, too shocked to even think a proper reply.

Exsan?

No. I Exsan. Who you? Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.7 – Expecting Company”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.5 – Life at Home

“The fires of creation were loosed from the heavens and man cried out in agony, for no mortal flesh could stand its glory. Then Yamash Spoke and darkness passed over his face. The heavens trembled and cried out and day was split from the night. And thus was the start of the first night.”

  • The Hour of Creation, translated from Unresa

For now Caden started with the basics. He got samples of everything that he could find. Crunchy crackling obsidian, grainy basalt, dusty limestone, a thousand flavors just from the variations in the stone. The water was richer, the flavors of life made an organic soup in an ever changing mixture. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.5 – Life at Home”

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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| Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.4 – Second Thoughts”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.3 – A Tale of Two Cities

“The nine seasons are: Thaw, Calm, Rain, Grow, Harvest, Burn, Storm, Recede, and Freeze.”

-Children’s Primer

Zidaun had felt the unmistakable sprouting of a new dungeon just a few hours before. Now he was caught in the rising wind of preparations for the trek out to the location. It was almost straight south and, he was fairly sure, it was planted firmly in the the midst of the southern mountains, the Lances. A little to the north of the mountains would be preferable, of course, as it would be both easier to get to and less likely to be in disputed territory. Not that a war would ever apply to him, it would merely be inconveniently far if it lay too deep in the Lances. Adar were neutral, no matter how many petty wars the various Human powers got involved in. Of course, he thought wryly, no Adar could truly understand Humans anyway, they lacked the instinctive kinship all Adar took for granted. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.3 – A Tale of Two Cities”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.2 – When You Really Need to Go

“If danger arises in the present moment, there may be an emotion. There may even be pain. But that’s a challenge, not a problem. For a problem to exist you need time and repetitive mind activity.”

  • Eckhart Tolle

“Rule # 23 – Be wary of working with amateurs. They will, with the best of intentions, claim to be brave. What they are not, however, is trained. In the moment of danger, they will instead do the first thing that enters their mind.”

  • 50 Rules for Dungeon Divers

Caden looked at the countdown. Less than an hour and a half left. He looked at the flowing sewer water hesitating. He had two potentially very good options. If he followed the water to where it drained away he might find an entirely new ecosystem, plus who knew what might have floated away to be trapped there. However, going upstream was an equally good choice. Heavier objects and obstructions could yield materials he would not find below. Also, upstream would be both richer in nutrients, as well as remnants of creatures or plants from the surface. However, the closer he came to the sewer entrance the more danger of having to deal with people in some fashion. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.2 – When You Really Need to Go”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.1 – Up Shit Creek

“Life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends and what you put into it.

  • Tom Lehrer

“Skills make all the difference. Prospectors will find gold in the stream were all others find only mud.”

  • An Adventurer’s Guide to Prosperity

Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.1 – Up Shit Creek”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 1.9 – Interlude – Mourning Prayers

“Between two worlds life hovers like a star, twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge.”

-Lord Byron

“The vales were mankind’s first homes. Protected from the elements and capable of growing crops, each vale is still occupied by a human or Adar city. In these places, life thrives, and it does so in ways wholly foreign to the rest of the world.”

-From A History of Civilization

 

Gnaeus allowed his spell to dissipate with a sigh. Otga’s devouring maw, now what should he do? The core was gone. The room looked barren now, with sections of the wall stripped away to remove the statues, chair, and spell emblems. There was only one object that the core had left behind. It was the statue of himself examining a smaller Gnaeus even as that smaller self examined the core. However, it contained a new addition, a large copy of the core behind and above the larger statue of himself.

He had found the original statue amusing at the time. It seemed a simple ridiculous repetition caused by the core imitating what it saw. The statues had been exceptional in detail, even if they were rough stone, but other than some traps there had been no creativity; each copied something that the core had actually seen him do. He was less amused now. There had been signs the dungeon was something more, but he had been so sure that he had restricted everything the dungeon could do. Especially since the dungeon never attacked him directly. Who ever heard of a dungeon with enough self control not to lash out at someone so near its core? If it was capable of acting as much as it did it should have used it to attempt an assault long ago. And anyway, he had known that the core was something new and special, so he had just disregarded any anomalies.

He was sure the core had left behind the statue on purpose. He did not know what it really meant though. A taunt, that even as it was studied by Gnaeus, he had missed the fact that it was already completely aware and studied him back? Perhaps it had left it as a gift? This was the only one that he had laughed at after all. Or was it something else, from a mind that might be completely alien? Gnaeus shook his head, too many possibilities. He didn’t even know if it had been self aware from the beginning, or if its learning skill had accelerated its progress beyond all reason. He had pulled in a blank soul from some other place. Had it been more than it seemed?

He pulled a lump of folerth out and examined the bright silvery metal. He frowned at the extremely expensive metal before putting it away; getting more would be a pain. Well… it’s not like he needed to contain a dungeon core anymore. No doubt he would need to make more emblems in the near future, but he could take his time with those.

He felt briefly the aura that had been left drifting in the room. Somehow the dungeon core had shed much of its aura and left it behind. He had secured it with a spell, surprised at how far the aura had gone into the back wall. The aura had started to drift down into the earth by the time he secured it in place. Already he could feel differences in the aura. It was less controlled, raw, with flickers of pure mana sparking across it. He would study this later, for now he would check his precautions.

His staff made soft clicking echoes against the stone as he walked away from his former containment room. Gnaeus tried to not think about the core being free under a major city. He would have been happy living in the middle of nowhere, but the guild would have objected. It did not matter that the city had not been attacked for centuries; law and tradition were not to be trifled with. The guildmaster, Matonasucus, had been reluctant to build a lab for Gnaeus at first, citing the impracticability of the expense. Of course, Matonasucus had happily arranged for the facility to be built as soon as Gnaeus had mentioned the possibility of getting back into guild politics out of boredom. So predictable.

The plain stone shifted to tiled blue and cream marble on the walls. The rugs on the floor cushioned the sound, even as light enchantments hung in the air beneath an intricately painted ceiling. Gnaeus rolled his eyes for the thousandth time as he transitioned to the overstated opulence. The guildmaster’s subtle revenge involved telling the architects, workers, and stone shapers the dwelling had to match Gnaeus’s status. Or maybe Matonasucus thought the opulence was an appropriate bribe to keep him away from politics? Considering how much Matonasucus liked his own indulgences it was hard to tell.

He sighed. Even as he had come to check on the core this morning his spell has stayed quiescent, assuring him that everything was as it should be. He laughed. It was hard to imagine a situation further from fine. His laughter was short lived and faded with a hard edge. He kept walking through the useless opulence until he reached the central core of his subterranean home.

It was one of the few rooms he had taken the trouble to insist be plain. The center of the room was a grey stone platform raised to waist height. On the walls six spell emblems of folerth gathered mana. Each had a silver line of folerth connecting to the neighboring emblems and a line set into the wall, then the floor, that finally terminated at each of the six mana batteries set into the platform. His central shield was centered here. An intricate emblem created a three layered shield. One layer protected this central room, another covered every room except the dungeon core room, and a final shield. It was meant to be a last defense, to ensure that no matter what happened the dungeon would be contained. It had failed.

The dungeon core should simply have not been able to fit through the shield. The dungeon core. Was that even the right term anymore? Certainly it was more than merely that. Some of the ancient dungeons were self aware, and Gnaeus was not even supposed to know that much. The Adar he accidentally learned it from had sworn him to silence once he realized Gnaeus knew. Other than spell emblems, dungeons were Gnaeus’ specialty.

And neither specialty had been enough to contain this new dungeon he had infused with a human soul. And not just any human soul either… No he had needed to summon one from… somewhere else. Any human soul on this world refused to join with a core. Their abilities, their own nature, were already set. Even a new born child was incompatible. He had needed a truly blank slate. Gnaeus assumed he had managed to get a human soul with no knowledge or self of any kind. Maybe he had. He had assumed that was why the dungeon, while fast to develop, seemed mostly normal. Right up until it disappeared.

His face twisted into a scowl as he looked at his shield emblem. Ever piece of it said it was functioning perfectly. Useless. He turned on his heel and moved away, his staff clacking on stone with each step.

He walked to the stairs leading up to the surface. How long had it been since he had been out of this place, months? At the least. He wondered if Thaw had come yet, it should have, but some years it came late. He turned aside from the stairs and went to his bed chamber. There he changed into simple white robes. No doubt Matonasucus would be annoyed if he saw him, but Gnaeus was beyond caring. Had been for years.

His feet led him back to the stairs and he climbed up. He was far below the city here, and the interminable climb gave room for his thoughts.

He had wanted to make a true impact on the world. That was what this was all about. He had read the histories, seen the ancient tomes, and he knew. Civilizations had risen before, and they all fell. He was considered exceptional, but he expected his society to also fall in the end. It was a cycle, anyone could see it if they read and studied hard enough. And no one knew exactly why. The scholars did not talk much about it, and the ruling class ignored it. Gnaeus had been less sanguine.

How many decades was it now since he had felt that discontent? Three, no it was almost four now. Even then he had been considered special. So he had used his wealth and talents to leverage a meeting with the best Seer in the world. As was true of all Seers that was all she was called. Her name had been forgotten to the past even as she looked to the future. He would never forget what she told him however.

He had explained the problem to her and she had simply nodded. Apparently her sight of the future foresaw this. She could see the cycles, and how all the different threads of fate could be woven. That was the most important thing, why people came to see a Seer in the first place. The future was not fixed. It was a tapestry what was still being woven and a single thread moved in the right place could change all that was to come.

And so he had asked her how to break the cycle. She told him she had been asked this question before. For most, if they had a way, it was too tenuous a possibility for her to see. A few she had given answers. And to him she had given one possibility, and a warning. If he gave a dungeon core a human soul he would break the cycle for the world, but it could end with either growth, or destruction.

He had thought it an impossible task many times over the past decades. He had cursed himself for a fool, railed against fate, and always, in the end, returned to his quest. Was this what was meant to happen? Was this the way the cycle broke? He had no answer. He had assumed that the knowledge he gained from the dungeon would let him break the cycle. At the least he assumed the knowledge would be a help to some future hero. Perhaps that was hubris; it was the new dungeon core itself that would determine the future now.

He was roused from his thoughts as he reached the top of the stairs. He paused for a moment, his breathing slightly labored, and then opened the door.

The guild house was much as it always was. Young servants and apprentices scurried hither and thither for their masters. And everywhere was sound. It washed over him as he walked the corridors. The warm babble of indistinct voices echoed off every wall. He had been alone too long. For all that he still worried his breath came surer, and his stride more lively. He made his way to the exit and stepped out.

The sun, Shurum, was high in its arc, and the day was biting cold. Snow lay a few feet high in any shadowed place. It was not Thaw yet, it was late. A slight distance from the sun he could see the faintly glowing ring of the maw, Otga. Soon Otga would excite her husband Shurum to passion, and Thaw would come.

The ageless valley that sheltered Allalus was shrouded in snow. Few traveled in Freeze, though the roads would still carry merchants on their endless runs between cities, and adventurers would be tramping back and forth to the closest dungeon. As the sun glinted off the snow he reflected that all seemed as it always had.

Gnaeus’ eyes were drawn to the north. There lay the most spectacular sight of the whole city. A waterfall and a cliff. Of course it was not just any waterfall, it was the waterfall, Plucia. A cascade of water that fell down a mile high cliff of granite year round. Now in late Freeze the water was thin, but it was also magnificent. Water had frozen as it ran down the cliff into thousands of fantastical icicles and floes, and the light of morning and evening would light the whole edifice like a torch. The Frozen Flame, it was called, sacred to the followers of Otga, and it was reserved for just before and after her courting dance started.

Even now the glinting of the light in the water and ice was majestic, but Gnaeus found his eyes once more drawn to the heavens. Otga and Shurum what had he wrought, and will it be creation… or destruction?

With heavy steps Gnaeus turned and began to make his way towards Otga’s temple. More than ever in his whole life Gnaeus hoped the the lady of fire, darkness, and chaos heard his prayers. Finally he reached the temple, the walls gleaming with crimson and black. He made his way to the altar and made a brief, but heartfelt prayer.

“Otga, have mercy on us all.”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 1.8

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – Arc 2 – Parting of the Ways