I’m a little nervous. What’s the story going to be? No matter what I don’t think it’s going to be something I like. Don’t keep me in suspense, let me hear the damage. Just how bad are things going to be. The three guards remain perfectly still during this time, watchful and poised they don’t miss a single movement I make. The three older shapers are a little more mobile, but not much. I get the feeling that these Golgari are a little more attached to stone than just having different varieties of it for skin. They are unusually still when they don’t have to be moving, as if becoming a rock themselves.
She nods her head in agreement.[That is correct. We seek to empower a monster in order than it may come to dominate the lower Strata and achieve a tier of evolution on par with the existing ancients.]
I’m a little surprised to hear that.[Do you actually know what tier the ancients are?] The theoretical maximum tier? I wonder how high it is! Ten? TWENTY?! [No, we don’t.]
Dang.[To our knowledge there have been only two conversations between the sapient races of the surface and the ancients. During the Cataclysm we now refer to as the ‘Time of Rending’, the mana level in the Dungeon rose to unprecedented heights. When the tunnels connected to the surface, mana from the centre of Pangera flooded the skies, followed a tidal wave of monsters that nearly washed away any remnant of civilisation on this world.]
Yikes.[Sounds pretty bad. How long ago was this?] [More than two thousand years ago. When the mana reached its peak, the ancients themselves were able to come to the surface for a time, devastating all that they found. Tales of the destruction they wrought are legend to this day. Scholars debate the history of these events, for not much that was written during that time survives today, but we do not believe the ancients sought to particularly destroy the surface world. In our Cult we are told that they devoured monsters more readily than they did us.] [Well why not? That’s how monsters get stronger after all.] [The ancients cannot evolve, nor can they level up. This we believe to be true. So why consume so much? Could it be that they sought to help rather than hinder?]
Giant monsters turn up and eat everything and these people think they were trying to be helpful?! Crazy talk.[Sure…] I lamely agree. [During this time, two conversations took place. The one you spoke to before spoke of the ‘Red Truth’. This is the name given to the knowledge that was passed on from a dialogue between a powerful Kaarmodo Wizard and Arconidem, who rose under their lands. For us, it was Yarrum, the Eternal Worm. A Shaper by the name of Irrin Stelix communed with the great worm before founding the Cult of the Worm in secret.] [So… what did they say? The ancients, I mean.]
All three of them snap their attention to me.[That we will not share,] the words are sharp, cutting. [Sure, sure. No need to get stressed!]
They relax about half a percent.
I think that works? There was a brief pause in the dialogue. I presume the three of them were discussing my incredible, sincere and fervent love of the ancients and worms. For my part, I continue to remain perfectly still whilst I watch them. No need to give anything away.[Did you notice anything odd about the last wave?] A new voice breaks into the conversation, younger, a little more light than the others. [How could I? It was the first wave I’d ever experienced.]
I don’t have a point of reference for that. The wave was immensely dangerous to us at first, but eventually turned into a boon for the colony, enabling us to harvest experience and Biomass at an unprecedented speed. By the end of it, I’d started hoping it might stick around. The solid defences we encountered on the way down to the second strata gave me pause though. There may have been more going on beneath us than I had assumed.[We thought that might be the case. Compared to other recent waves, this was much longer and more intense. The mana levels in the upper strata rose beyond what we would expect, by far, and the duration of the wave was much longer. Even now, the mana has yet to return to what we would consider normal levels.]
There is another brief pause as they confer.[Indeed. The Cult of the Worm has decided that it is likely another Cataclysm is coming. We never experienced the build up to the time of Rending, since, at that time the Dungeon had not breached the surface and was unknown. We believe that the waves will start to build, as if from an ocean, each one greater than the last and receding a shorter distance until the next arrives until the mana will crash over the surface of Pangera, perhaps for the last time.]
Why the heck would it be for the last time? You have no reason to think that?! Or perhaps they do, or perhaps they want me to think they do! Sneaky.[That’s interesting.] I try to stay focused. [For us, as well as those who follow the Red Truth, this has precipitated a call to action. The time for the final ancient to ascend is running short. We can no longer divide our efforts and resources in a dozen different directions, hoping that one of our candidates will achieve the final ascension. This approach has failed so far and there is no reason to believe it will serve for the final push. Instead, we are taking a different approach.] [Oh?] I’m not sure I like the sound of this. [We have gathered all of the monsters we are currently supporting here in this place. Although it is crude, the Cult has decided that the best way to determine the most worthy monster is through a trial by combat.] [… soooo … you want us to like .. Duel? For the right to be sponsored by you guys? What if we lose?] [Naturally, those monsters who lose will become fuel to speed the growth of the more deserving monster who wins.] [That’s cold. I’m a sapient creature you know? You want me to fight to the death like a slave?!] [We understand your past, but it isn’t your present. Time is short and we have been driven to these barbaric methods. We don’t like it, but we have no choice.]
You think you have no choice, but you don’t know for sure! By the by, I think that guy is perfectly happy at this turn of events. He’s looking at me as if I’m a juicy steak for his favourite dog.