Feb 18, 2020 7:29 AM
Lynne becomes a Dungeon Keeper
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...she wonders if they might be able to stop him.

She wonders if she can afford to assume that, even if it's possible.

She thinks... no. She still needs to treat him like an active threat until she has personally verified that he isn't.

So... what else can she do to him?

Aloneness is the most central and obvious example of a Tower curse, but it's not the only one. She knows the more benign variants, too: little exclusions that protect someone from their fear of mice or spiders by ensuring that they never see one again, illegal in some jurisdictions but not banned by international treaty. She doesn't think something like that would be likely to help very much more than Aloneness already has.

...what if she went the other direction?

What if she took everything out of his world, himself included?

That's... honestly super horrifying and she probably shouldn't even be considering it. It would either kill him more thoroughly than she can imagine anything being killed, or trap him as a disembodied consciousness with no possibility of external input until something else took care of the killing him part.

On the other hand, if she doesn't do it, he might destroy her dungeon heart and condemn her to eternal torment.

...she thinks about it. And watches him in the meantime. And tries to come up with a less drastic solution.

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Eventually the warriors manage to hamstring the Reaper. After some discussion, the knight climbs onto the Reaper's back and sets about cutting his throat.

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This is good. Probably. She would like to minimize the number of war crimes she commits today. Even though at this point she is absolutely sure that this place has no connection whatsoever with any place she's heard of.

...but she still finds herself reaching for the magic that would let her exclude the universe from his awareness, and holding it ready in case he gets free somehow and comes charging back.

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After about a minute, the knight manages to cut an artery open, and the Reaper stops moving. The knight hurriedly removes the pieces of her armor that were touching the demon.

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Okay. The emergency appears to be over. Or at least this emergency appears to be over. Other emergencies may be en route.

She really wishes she knew enough to know what questions to ask. Having all possible information at your fingertips may sound exciting, but it doesn't actually do you any good unless you have some idea of what it is that you need to know.

Well, more information about what sort of thing she's turned into seems like a reasonable place to start. She reaches out into the shimmering current and looks. And keeps an eye on the body of the Reaper, in case of further developments.

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Claimed ground provides mana to it's owner's dungeon heart; the more territory a keeper claims, the more mana they will have available.

Keepers can be recognized by their glowing red eyes, which persist no matter what form they wear.

Keepers lead armies of monsters from the Underworld, often assisted by Overworlder mercenaries and mind-control victims, seeking to kill or enslave the people of the Overworld, and often also to war against one another and against the free Underworld states. They are immortal unless killed, and generally can only be killed by destroying all of their dungeon hearts. Some devise diabolical schemes which take centuries to mature.

Disobedient servants of a Keeper can expect to be tortured.

Dungeon Hearts serve as gates to the realm of the Dark Gods, through which Corruption flows, poisoning the land, causing disease, blight, extreme weather, and so on. Also making aesthetics spookier and more risque.

A minion's bond to their Keeper can be broken by sufficiently extreme anger on the minion's part.

Like anyone else, a Keeper can become a minion of another Keeper; generally such "Subordinate Keepers" serve as the lieutenants of their masters' armies.

If a keeper angers a Dark God and does not have a more powerful Dark God protecting them, they can expect to have their Dungeon Heart cursed, removing their and their minions' protection from the worse effects of its corruption and subjecting them to horrific diseases and so forth.

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...well. Corruption is going on the 'problems to solve' list, then.

..does she have glowing red eyes? She doesn't feel like she has glowing red eyes.

She summons a small fraction of her vision briefly to check.

Her eyes are glowing... purple. There's red there, but it's being drowned out by blue, resulting in an actually quite pretty shade of indigo.

Okay. So that's a thing that's happening.

If she can trust her sense of aesthetics here—and you generally can, where Heartlands are involved—then the Tower has a strong interest in helping her deal with her current situation. Insofar as the Tower is interested in things. No one's ever been quite sure how conscious Heartlands actually are, and if anyone's ever managed to reach deep enough into the Tower to find out, they did not share their results with the world. But anyway—regardless of whether it has a mind, you can certainly think of it as having preferences, and if it's mitigating her red glow like that, it's signaling a preference to mitigate the rest of this nonsense too.

"Could be worse, I guess," she murmurs to herself.

Now—oh, here's a question: what's up with the imps? Did the Reaper get rid of them permanently? Have they shown up again while she wasn't paying attention? What is their deal, anyway?

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A different set of four imps, who didn't exist before, have shown up. They are pretty confused about everything on account of not having existed before. They are exploring the dungeon.

Imps are created magically by dungeon hearts. A heart with fewer than four imps will produce imps until there are four, and there is also a spell (cast thus) with which a Keeper can create additional imps out of mana. Imps feed on mana, taking from their masters' mana supplies.

Imps are mischievous, pettily cruel, and totally incapable of disobeying their masters' wills. They are both talented at and magically good at earthworks. Spaces they dig out are held up by their masters' magic. They can claim ground like so, and reinforce walls like so.

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...so the magic just... makes... people... to be her slaves.. whether she likes it or not. Slightly evil people. That's... that's just great.

...how people-ish are they exactly. She'd like to know how concerned she should be about making sure they don't all get murdered again.

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They make complex short-term plans and a have a complex understanding of how the world works, but have no discernible awareness of the long-term future. They can appreciate works of art. They can understand complex language but can't produce it. They have good concept of mind. Some of them come to care about the wellbeing of one or two fellow imps. They have concepts of self but no concept of freedom or independence.

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Okay, imps are super concerning but she doesn't presently have the ability to do anything about that, so, moving on!

Does she have a way to fill in that tunnel entrance? Because now that she thinks about it she is pretty sure that she would not like to have her dungeon be accessible from the outside. She can always dig it back out again if she needs to leave to find food. Can Dungeon Keepers make food? She goes looking for information about possible tunnel-filling and food-creating capabilities.

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Tunnel-filling capacities; here is a spell which can induce a cave-in, although it will take multiple castings to make an imp-made tunnel impassible. Here is a much more difficult and time-consuming spell, until now known only to one Dungeon keeper, which directly creates a block of seemingly-undisturbed earth connected to its surroundings.

Food creation; Here's how a keeper can create a chicken coop, with chickens in it, from gold on claimed ground. Such a coop will also magically supply itself with feed. The chickens and feed created this way, like all directly-magically-created food, are not nourishing except to poultry. But the eggs they produce, and the chickens who hatch from those eggs in time, are entirely normal.

Only chickens can be used this way; chickens are special. One scientifically-minded and pork-loving keeper has been attempting to create animals who count as chickens but are in most respects like pigs, but has so far been unsuccessful.

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Pig-chickens. Well, that's a possible avenue of research that can go at the bottom of her list for after all the immediate crises are solved.

She directs her imps (with only a very small amount of internal screaming) to dig out a room next to the dungeon heart for her to put a chicken coop in, and she casts the undisturbed-earth spell a few times to fill in that tunnel entrance very thoroughly, and has the imps claim the territory of the future chicken coop site. Now, about that gold... what are the usual avenues for acquiring some? She certainly isn't going to steal it. (She suspects that normally you steal it.)

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The ground her imps claim becomes floored with an intricate abstract mosaic of rectangular and triangular tiles in various hues and shades of blue, some black, and lines of iridescent silver. The walls acquire similar patterns, and carvings, and tapestries. The torches are replaced with fountains of glowing water, jets sprayng from symmetrical, abstract, organic-and spiky blue stone structures set in the wall. These fountains and ones similar in design set in the floor feeding streams running through raised channels that form part of the pattern of the mosaic. The ceiling becomes arched and gabled. The arches are dark blue with irregular pentagonal cross-sections; a 90-degree angle pointing towards the center of the room, then 135 degree angles so the arches meet the wall and the ceiling at right angles. Along and coming out from the 90-degree edge are silver lines in a pattern suggesting ribcages. The ceiling itsself is sky blue with black and silver lines in a lattice pattern. Between the arches black lace hangs in an impression of spiderwebs. The entire room is symmetrical, with the sole exception of the spiderweb lace.

As well as stealing gold, dungeon keepers also:

-have their imps mine gold; this is in fact a pretty common approach

-mine or steal gems, which dungeon hearts can automatically convert into a volume of gold far larger than the gems they started with

-mine other metals, which can be converted into a much smaller quantity of gold

-steal various precious spices and timbers which can be converted into gold

-cast this spell, which converts mana to gold

-cast this more complex but more efficient version of the same spell

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Well that's convenient! She can just stand around making gold by magic until she has enough to build a chicken coop with, then. And... maybe also have her imps dig out another room. Once she has a food supply sorted out she's going to want to investigate other aspects of her powers.

She digs out and claims a sort of spiral around her dungeon heart: a grid of nine squares, with the dungeon heart in the middle and the chicken coop along one edge, each square connected to the next one by a single doorway and forming into a spiral pattern overall. While overseeing this excavation, she casts the gold spell—the worse one to start with, then the better one to see if she can, and then the better one a bunch more times. That should be plenty to build a chicken coop with, right?

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It is enough to build a chicken coop with. Especially once, in the course of excavating more rooms, her imps find a vein of gold.

It is normal for every Keeper's claimed territory to have a look unique to them. Facilities they create from gold, however, should all look the same. Nonetheless, her chicken coops are conspicuously squarer, bluer, and more neatly made than is normal.

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Heh. Good. The Tower is helping.

It's convenient that she has this of all Heartlands. The Temple might have been okay, and the Wasteland would have had a less horrifying solution to the horned reaper, and the Castle could have helped her fortify, but none of those are as good at finding things out, and she is really relying on her ability to find things out here.

Speaking of fortification, what are her options there? Does she have any? Reinforcing the walls has got to be something Keepers put time into, right?

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Imps can reinforce the walls in claimed areas without needing resources to do so. Dungeon Keepers usually also have their minions make various sorts of trap to protect their dungeons against enemies; here is how they make workshops which automatically stock themselves by transmuting gold.

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Hmmmm. That seems plausibly useful, but she doesn't want to build too many rooms, and...

If she reaches out looking for a list of all the rooms she can build, she suspects she won't be able to hold them all long enough to examine them. But even five or ten examples out of an unknown multitude of possibilities would be a better basis for deciding what to build first than haphazardly thinking of problems she has and then finding out if there are any rooms that solve them. She tries it.

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Dungeon Keepers can indeed build an enormous variety of rooms, with dungeon hearts being designed so that newly invented facilities can be programmed in. By default, it is programmed to create treasuries, chicken coops, bedrooms, library-come-laboratories, crystal balls used for communication, latrines, bathrooms, and rooms designed for combat training. Other popular room designs include living rooms, throne rooms, workshops like she already saw, prisons, torture chambers, temples to the Dark Gods, graveyards for making and respawning vampires, gladiatorial arenas, casinos, art galleries, larders for purchased food, theaters, playrooms for children, and a setup called a Scavenger Room containing giant eyeballs which are used to whisper into peoples' dreams, tempting them to join forces with the Dungeon Keeper or otherwise serve their ends.

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Well some of those are pretty concerning but some are definitely good to know about. She thinks she will put her living space—bedroom and bathroom—in the room just past the chicken coop, and a library in the room after that. Except that when planning this out it occurs to her that this means her bedroom is the only route between the place where food comes from and the rest of everything, and that sounds like it would be terrible if she literally ever has any other people in here.

She doesn't want to move the chicken coop. She doesn't want to sacrifice the meager defensibility of her room spiral by opening up new connections to take some part of the square off the path. She doesn't want to add her bedroom onto the *end* and that wouldn't help anyway, it would just make for a longer walk. She doesn't want to waste space on corridors... well, this grid layout is pretty spacious, maybe if... hmm, yes. She replaces some dirt and commands the excavation of some other dirt, and ends up with the large square corner space subdivided into a corridor and two smaller rooms, so that to get from the chicken coop to the library one steps through the innermost corner of that space and to get to her bedroom one steps into that innermost corner and then walks the whole length of that square and turns another corner up into a small cozy rectangle. Much better. Now she can give herself a bedroom and bathroom and library.

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Other rooms have fewer channels of flowing water than the chicken coop room, and differences in the details of the mosaics, but are mostly similar in design. The Tower continues to apply its aesthetics to her furniture.

The library comes with its shelves full of books, which is not how this normally works. It also has workbenches and a crystal ball configured to contact various book merchants willing to deal with Keepers.

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