[I do not wish to burden you with knowledge that you may not be prepared to understand. My order has spent much time plumbing the mysteries behind this place and despite centuries of effort, we have only been able to learn a portion of the whole truth. Even that limited understanding came largely through the intervention of an outside influence.]

I have a feeling I should pull up a chair and whip out my spiral bound notebook as the teacher is about to launch into lecture. So naturally did the lizard slip into a lecturing tone that I presume he's actually well practiced in it.

[Master! What is happening here? Do we need to fight?] Crinis breaks into my thoughts.
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[I think we're okay. He seems to want to explain something to us. Stay alert, just in case.]

[Of course, Master.]

[I do have a name,] the Kaarmodo drawled.

[Well… if you never tell me what it is, you can hardly complain that I don't use it.]

[That… is true. Hmmm. We tend not to share our names with outsiders, but this may be a special circumstance. It is truly rare for one of my order to have such an opportunity. Hmmm. My name is Ivran'tep, second scholar of the tower at Gold Peak.]

[Nice to meet you champ. My name is Anthony…. I'm an ant.]

[Hmm… Indeed. You are.]

An awkward pause develops as Ivran'tep examines me slowly, his large angular head turning slight fractions this way and that.

[Hmmm... As I say, we don't tend to have the opportunity to talk with those such as yourself, especially when you are in fit state to speak coherently back. Too often, the process of being inserted into the Dungeon and left to fend for themselves is too much for your minds. Garralosh herself was almost completely lost by the time we became aware of her. I have been with her for many years, but I was rarely was she able to speak with me.]

I'm taken aback by how up front he's being with me.

[So you know all about us then? Humans from Earth, inserted into the Dungeon as monsters to spice up the place?]

[Hmm. The records of my order go back over a thousand years and we have encountered less than ten of your kind across the entire globe. We have heard of this 'Earth' before, but we know precious little about it. We also do not know why your kind is brought here. Do you have some clue?]


I think I might keep the fact I can talk to the Dungeon itself quiet for the time being.

[Who knows? Maybe the Dungeon gets bored.]

[Hmm. Perhaps so. Perhaps so. There may be some merit in this suggestion. I will ponder on it later. For now though, are you in possession of Garralosh's core?]

HUCK!! I don't want to think about that stupid gem. Don't even want to remember it exists!

[I am. Not here with me, obviously, but … yes.]

[That is a rare treasure. I would be very careful that the knowledge of what you have doesn't travel far. A core of that type is exceptionally rare and exceptionally powerful.]

I can't help but shrink back from Ivran'tep at those words.

[Your saying you don't want it?]

He blinks slowly.

[I do not. We are not interested in the core, we are interested in those with the power to absorb it.]

[You say 'we'. I presume you're referring to your order? Is this a Kaarmodo sorcerous cabal of some sort?]

[No. My order is not limited to the Kaarmodo, although we are quite accepted in the mountain empire. We are found across the face of Pangera among those with great knowledge of this world and the courage to face it.]

[Does this collection of esteemed scholars have a name?]

[The conclave of the Red Truth.]

[That doesn't sound ominous at all.]

[Hmm. It does sound ominous. Deliberately so. We bear dangerous knowledge and must act as such.]

Well that makes me nervous.

[Look. I'm not sure I want to have any part of this 'dangerous knowledge'. Please tell me what it is that you want to say, but try not to… you know… unleash any eldritch truths on me.]

[I can do this. Hmm. You have heard of the Ancients…?]

Thinking back, I do know that Formo the Sophos mentioned something about them.

[Vaguely. Very old monsters that live very deep in the Dungeon. That's about all I got.]

[It is sufficient. There are many old monsters who live deep but the true ancients number only nineteen. They seek to make that number whole, they wish for another to join their ranks.]

I do not like where this is going.

[My order seeks to assist them in this endeavour, indeed, it is our sole purpose. There are many who would prefer that such a thing never came to pass. There is conflict, of a sort.]

[So that's why you were following Garralosh around? Keeping her alive when others were trying to bottle her up and kill her?]

[Yes.]

[And when you met me you decided to back off a little because… You feel you might have found a better prospect?]

[Yes.]

[Nards.]

[I do not know what this word means.]

[It's uh, never mind. I don't really think I'm down for this. I'm happy just doing my thing.]

[It is not intended that we would force this arrangement on you. There are many candidates for the final seat at the highest table. I am but one agent, and the charge with whom I worked has now fallen. I will return to my people now, it has been many years and we yearn for home. Should you choose to make use of that core, then perhaps, there will come a time that we meet again.]

There's a note of finality in the communication from Ivran'tep. It's clear he wants to leave. He said as much, but also left many questions.

[Just one thing,] I break in before he can turn to leave, then I hesitate. [I-If I were to reconstitute her core. Garralosh's core, then would … she … come back?]

The narrow eyes of the Kaarmodo blink slowly as he processes my words.

[No,] he responds. [I do not know where your souls go, when you die here. But they are not contained in the core. She is gone.]

[Alright… Thanks for that.]

[Farewell. Good luck to you, Anthony. I hope that you find it within yourself to ascend. Only then will you have a chance to break free.]

With that, the Lizard and his entourage turn and walk into the forest. It isn't long before they are gone completely from my sight. Mind abuzz with concerns, I begin to walk back to the nest. I have so much to think about, I'm not even sure where to start. I can't wait to go hunting in the Dungeon.

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