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in which Aestrix is a dungeon
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Aestrix doesn't remember the specifics of how exactly she became this... whatever thing... she decided to become, but she definitely remembers making a conscious choice and being kind of excited about the results of it. She wanted to do this, and while she's a little nervous, she thinks it will go well, and regardless, she will have fun.

She goes to sleep, and then when she starts to reawaken, it's done. Whatever 'it' is.

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"... done this how many times, Tanth?" a voice is saying.

    "I just worry, Kose. That last one ..." a different voice responds.

"I'll be fine. You get out of here so I can wake it up," the first voice replies.

There is the sound of footsteps, and then Aestrix suddenly receives a shot of energy, as though she's just downed a shot of coffee.

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???

Aestrix notes that she doesn't have a body anymore. The hell? She doesn't mind very much, because being a flesh sack of meat is kind of gross and often unpleasant, but it's weird to wake up to.

She takes a look around with her... senses...? It's not really properly vision, but she can definitely sense things. And she's... a room???

Her knowledge of writing tropes catches up with her. Wait, wait, wait. Is she a dungeon?? Because that sounds so cool and also like so much fun, no wonder she was excited!!

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"Hello!" says the woman standing next to Aestrix's central column. She is clad in a dress made of leaves, and two large wings extend behind her back. She addresses her remark to the small crystal floating a few inches above the pedestal that marks the center of the room. "How are you feeling?"

The pedestal is decorated with carved lines, and looks recently hewn. The rest of the room is made of old, worn stone. There are arcane symbols scratched into the walls near the ceiling, and a faded stain on the floor.

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Uh, can she talk, is that a thing she can directly do...?

"Hello?" she attempts. Oh, good, she can. "Fine, thank you, hello!" Social conditioning carries her onward past such frivolities of 'awkwardness' and onto: "How are you? Your wings are very pretty!"

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"Thank you!" Kose preens. "I'm quite attached to them," she jokes. "Anyways, hello! I'm your dungeon fairy."

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"That is the standard with wings," agrees Aestrix, amused. "I suppose that makes me a dungeon, then! I'm Aestrix. Do you come packaged with all of the knowledge I need to become a proper dungeon, that seems like how this is likely to work."

She did notice the Ominous Conversation that happened before she had the energy-boost, but, well. Sharing concern towards another's welfare is not in itself ominous, and she probably has a lot of power to do horrible things to this person, so. Honestly some concern is Pretty Legit, in her opinion.

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"I do!" she agrees, after a brief moment of hesitation. If Aestrix wasn't looking for it, she might not have noticed the brief look of alarm that crept across Kose's face. "I'm Kose. I've worked with a lot of dungeons before, helping them get established, so I'm pretty good at getting new dungeons up to speed."

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"Huh! And when they're set up you... go find and poke another one awake and help them be a dungeon, too? Well, pleasure to meet you, Kose. ... Does being a dungeon involve murder, because I would really rather not."

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"Oh, no! Murder is a really bad idea," Kose agrees, fidgeting with one of the many rings that adorn her fingers.

"When Adventurers struggle against a challenge in a dungeon, they provide the dungeon with energy that it can use to expand its territory or produce items. So it's important to challenge adventurers so that you can grow, but if you murder them then they can't come back and try again, so both you and they lose out," she explains.

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"Oh good! Mutually beneficial arrangements are the best kind. How flexible is the term 'challenge,' here, can I give them a gauntlet of puzzles or a rock wall to climb or...?"

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Kose settles crosslegged on the ground, to better deliver exposition. She smiles at Aestrix, apparently encouraged by her pacifistic bent.

"Puzzles are very popular," she agrees. "And so are feats of strength, dexterity, or daring. Many dungeons choose to make combat challenges using monsters, but you can -- and should -- also make your monsters so that they will spare downed or retreating adventurers. Usually I don't get into that until a bit later though, because there's a few basic things about being a dungeon that usually need to be dealt with first. Rest assured that we will have plenty of time to talk through what form your challenges will take."

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"Yeah, I am not comfortable making monsters without some kind of safeguard in place to make sure everyone lives. And no permanently maiming or traumatizing them or, uh, whatever the various grab bag of horrible things I can probably do to people. There will be none of that. What sorts of things need to be dealt with, first? Am I, I dunno, starving to death from lack of giving anyone challenges right now?"

While she's talking, she starts poking at her floor, to see if she can start giving it a pretty floral pattern. Does changing the floor have a mirror feature like in an art program or something? Let's find out! Because this will absolutely be symmetrical.

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Kose frowns a little to herself in thought. "No, you're not starving to death," Kose replies. "You just need Adventurers to grow, not to sustain yourself. Well, not if you're not making items. But new dungeons usually get a little itchy, I think is the best way to describe it, until they go out and claim their first territory beyond their core room."

Kose reaches into her dress and pulls out a pendant on a long chain.

"A good first step is learning to focus your attention. Try focusing on this and seeing what you can discover about it," she suggests.

 

Aestrix's new-found dungeon powers don't come with a built-in mirror tool, but she might find that her newfound awareness of her own space makes it easy to make symmetrical patterns. It's a little bit like having propioception for the entire room and all of its contents -- moving things and changing things at precise distances to other things is as easy as holding her hands a certain distance apart or moving them symmetrically would be if she still had hands.

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"I guess I'm a little itchy," she muses, about her lack of claiming any area. It feels like she's... small. Vulnerable. She doesn't like it. "But there's a lot of new perceptions I'm being distracted by? It's not too bad."

Hmmmmm the strange perception will do for appropriately mirror purposes. It's kind of an interesting sort-of-physical challenge, to draw four things at once in different locations, but her dungeon brain is totally up for it. Not that she should, uh, focus on this right now. Instead she will do as directed, and focuses her attention on the pendant and chain.

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The chain is nothing special -- it is a mostly-pure alloy of two different metals. Aestrix might be able to recognize them as silver and copper if she metaphorically squints.

The pendant, on the other hand, is exceedingly peculiar. It feels like ordinary quartz, although polished to a shine, but there is something other tangled in it. A concept, or an idea, wound around the facets and inclusions of the crystal and pinned against the grain of the stone.

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She's totally going to metaphorically squint, does anyone here really think she is not a metaphorical squinter? They are wrong. She really, really is.

"Silver and copper chain, quartz pendant, and a... there's a thing tangled inside it, oh look at that, that's fascinating." Can she tell what the concept or idea is? Or is it just a vague impression of A Something?

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If she continues her metaphorical squinting, she can make out that it is related to the concept of sampling, attention, perception, and warmth. And these things are bound together in a way that makes it look as though the pendant -- grows warm when someone is paying attention to the recipient?

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She continues peering at it. Interesting, so it's set to do different things under different conditions, and those conditions are 'grow warm when someone is paying attention.' The obvious reason for that is that Aestrix herself can observe things without it being obvious under normal conditions. Kose has a pendant that lets her tell when a dungeon is paying attention to her.

Her immediate first instinct is to state this aloud like the try-hard honor student she totally is, but, uh, maybe... she should not let on that she's that smart just yet. It seems likely that she will cease to exist if her crystal thing is smashed or something. Maybe she should make an effort to not be threatening so no one feels it's smart to kill her. Thus: lie like a fucking rug about observational skills. It's a little uncomfortable squinting this much at something, sort of like getting a headache. She can ignore this without too much trouble, but it's a plausible reason for her to have stopped looking at the pendant before she figured out the details of it.

"Something... about warmth?? It warms under... some conditions??? Mrh, ow. That's really complicated," she adds, and then she stops looking at it. It's a really good thing she is a dungeon and therefore doesn't have facial expressions, because she is a garbage liar and she knows it. Smart enough to come up with good lies? Absolutely. Any good at follow through when it comes to making the right faces with her flesh face? Absolutely not. Just schooling tone is much easier.

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Kose nods and tucks it back into her dress. "Yes! It was a gift from one of my previous dungeons," she explains. "It warmed up when it thought about me. Which was nice when I was away."

Kose, on the other hand, is an excellent liar. Good enough that Aestrix has no particular way to discern this.

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She can still tell that this is bullshit, though. It's what makes logical sense, okay? This is clearly a dangerous thing to be doing. It makes much more sense to have a safety measure to know when to get out of dodge than to carry around a memento of a dungeon long past.

Aestrix totally wants to look at each and every one of Kose's rings to figure out what they do, because yes she noticed her playing with them, but she suspects that the rings are probably caught under the umbrella of 'the recipient.' That'd just be smart.

"That was sweet of them," she says sincerely, because it really is sweet for a dungeon to give someone a way to alert them if a potentially hostile dungeon is looking at them. She's tempted to offer to try to make another, but, uh, she is currently lying like a rug. Abort, etc.

She instead goes back to making floor patterns. This floor will be very pretty when she is done with it, though she's mostly working by moving the bits of stone around to make lighter and darker parts, and some subtle engraving. Not too much to trip over, but some. That'll be good for puzzles, later.

"So! Puzzles! I have thought of a couple basic ones, but don't know how viable they are with my current, uh, is there a term for dungeon power? My dungeon power budget."

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"I think some scholars call it a dungeon's extent," Kose offers. "There are ... some things which take energy, and some things which are basically free. Moving things around within your territory, creating monsters, or imbuing existing objects with magic are all free. Creating new items from nothing and extending your territory to cover new areas both take energy. I generally teach dungeons the basics of creating monsters and magic items using simple stones, but once you're set up, you'll want to put a good chunk of your energy into producing high quality items to lure Adventurers in to challenge you."

She taps her finger on her chin, thoughtfully. "There are some puzzles that might be too large to fit within the territory you can claim right of the bat. And there are some puzzles involving magic items that I think are probably be beyond your skill to create for now, because they require a delicate touch. But if you stick to 'manually' operated puzzles made of stone for now, I think you have a lot of flexibility! How about I show you how to claim the corridor outside, and then we can see about fitting your puzzle in there?"

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"Sure! Though - what counts as high quality? Can I make, uh. Water purification pebbles that suck up all of the non-water parts of a body of water? Or is it just material goods?" If it's just material goods, it's smart to do things like 'textiles,' because unless this place has some kind of industrialization going on, making cloth is hard.

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Kose blinks.

"It's making the physical items themselves that takes energy," she explains. "Making items magical isn't tiring. But how much magic you can attach to an item depends on its quality -- what material it's made of, and also its shape. So for good magic items, you usually want to start with a high-quality base. In the specific case of a water purifying pebble, the difficulty would be in having a continuous magical effect. Magic wears down over time outside a dungeon, and continuous effects wear out much more quickly than triggered effects."

"A pendant that purified water when it was dipped in it would be more efficient than one which purified water continuously," she suggests. "That way people could dunk it in their canteen after filling it, and know that the water was fresh."

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"Oh, I see. That makes sense. So things that only worked when people specifically take an action would last the longest. And high quality is how well things stick and how complicated they are. Would water purification be good? If not, I can probably make some pretty good textiles if I had the right materials..."

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"Water purification is definitely useful," she agrees. "Most settlements have decent sources of clean water, but that's mostly because you can't settle places that don't have clean water."

She adopts a more cautious tone. "Textiles are definitely valuable, but they're tricky to make from whole cloth, as it were. It's difficult to visualize all the necessary details to a sufficient level of precision when making them from firmament. Until you get very good at precision crafting you should either stick to making thread and then weaving it by hand, which an be a bit slow, or summoning items made of leather or metal that have easier to visualize textures."

She shakes her head.

"Anyway, I was explaining how to claim territory. If you 'push' your attention down the corridor, you should be able to claim it as part of you. Be careful not to go outside, though. It can be dangerous to try and expand so far."

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