It's digging time! My soul is soothed and my very being is suffused with peaceful serenity as I get busy chomping my way through the dirt and soil. The going is slower than I'd thought it would be, I'd underestimated the increased tunnel size required to fit my newfound bulk through. It really is quite discombobulating (is that a Sophos'ism?) to have ones' body change to such a massive degree. I'm more than double the size I was just one evolution ago. For my next evolution, which should be far away, I think I'll be focusing less on increasing my size and more on density. There should be a heap of easy gains to be had there since I enlarged myself so drastically last time.
Still, such thoughts melt away as I dig. They are transient, as the dirt is transient. With our labour and efforts, such things can be moved, they can be shifted, made light by the work of our face hands. Indeed, the only truth we find is that which we unearth for ourselves. Dig, for peace. Dig, for truth. No matter the reason, dig!
Time flows by and I'm truly disappointed to find that my time carving out this tunnel has come to an end as the rock crumbles before my chomping mandibles, opening up to reveal a dark, dark, cavern. Poking my head through I can see the other side of the fort some two hundred metres away on my right. The gate is more clearly visible from here, a tough looking steel grating covers even more imposing banded gates. The fort is built into the wall of the cavern itself, its stone walls curving to meet the cavern rock on either side. The ground leading downward toward where I currently spy from has been cleared away to allow clear sight lines and make it impossible to sneak up. Thankfully they weren't that thorough on the uphill side.
Well, it's none of my concern. I'm in the clear!
[We're through. Let's go guys! Second strata here we come!]
The excitement is real as Crinis and Tiny help me rip away the last of the stones and we tumble out into the main cavern. With barely a moment to pause and gather our balance, we bound forward into the dark. And it's dark for real. The light seems to sputter weakly throughout the cavern as we race forward, trying to put some distance between us and the fort.
Hugging one side of the rocky cavern walls, my antennae detect strange movement amongst the deepening shadows. Flitting forms dart about on the edges of my sight in an unnerving way. The other thing my antennae notice, is that it's getting bleedin' cold! With every step the temperature is dropping and my heat detection is falling away. Even the hints of creatures that I see seem to give off barely any heat.
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Come to think of it, does Crinis? I swivel my temperature awareness back to the enlarged blob riding on my back. Sure enough, as the heat leeches out of the air her temperature has fallen down to practically nothing.
[You cold, Crinis?]
[How about you Tiny?]
[Cold,] he grunts.
He actually spoke a word?! He must feel very strongly about it to manage to squeeze out actual language! That tells me I'm onto something here.
Another hundred metres down the tunnel we come to the tipping point. The tunnel curves down sharply here, as much as forty-five degrees, and before us is what I can only describe as a shoreline. Except it isn't water that eddies and swirls before my feet, but something else entirely. It's like a mist, or a fog that hugs the ground, except thicker, brought almost to the point of being liquid. It stretches out before us and seems to go on forever down the tunnel. I think this is the official border. Formo had told me I'd notice the change when I got to it, and here it is. Tentative, I dip one claw into the stuff. Just for a second.
It's like freaking ice! I snatch my limb back and the dark air seems to cling to it for a second before settling back down to its normal calm, unruffled swirling. You know, I knew it would be dark. But I didn't expect the cold. We're going deeper into the ground, shouldn't it be getting warmer?! This doesn't make any sense. But then again, it is mana. Who am I to tell it what it can and can't do?
Nothing for it. I'm not going to let a chill stop me from progressing on my path to adventure, awesome and colony world domination!
[Come on team, let's go!]
Leading boldly, I push forward, plunging down into the Second Strata. Immediately the cold washes over me, and as soon as my head pokes through the surface layer, I can appreciate just what the Shadow layer is all about. Dang it's dark! Where the heck is the light from the mana veins? That comforting blue glow I've relied on for so long?! I bring my head closer to the wall and to my shock I realise that the mana veins are still there, but no longer do they pulse with soothing blue mana, but black shadow magic now flows through the Dungeon's veins!
[Oooh, this is nice!] Crinis croons from my back.
I can feel her stretching her tentacles and her powerful flex as they reach out into the cold, dark air.
[This must feel like coming home in a way. How do you like the air here?]
[It's invigorating! I feel like I'm connected to every inch of space down here!]
I suppose that makes sense, since this place is so damn dark and completely saturated with the kind of mana she uses to reach through shadows. I wonder, does that mean that other shadow beasts are able to do the same? I don't like the sound of that!
I try to scry the dark tunnel with my eyes, but they just aren't doing much for me down here. I'm starting to get a little nervous. My heat sensing antennae are almost useless, my eyes are in the same useless senses boat. How the heck am I supposed to navigate? There could be shadow monsters reaching out of thin air to poke me in the eyes right now!
Quick! Mana sense! I mentally snap on the skill and I'm relieved to find that it works just dandy here the second layer. The thick mana in the air floods my senses, but just like eyes underwater, the sense still works, just not perfectly. Looks like I'll be grinding this Skill for the time being. Let's press forward!