Slaughtering a trio of [Starfire Worms] was amusing rather than terrifying thanks to the buffs Glimmerglass was supplying, but Starchild still took a particular satisfaction in it since it was the Worms who’d assaulted her.
Despite the chance for easy leveling, Starchild hadn’t tried to deliberately antagonize the dungeon’s wildlife. She was walking through their home after all and it was easy to remember how much she’d hated people who came blundering through her forest, destroying everything in their path.
The [Starfire Worms] though had burrowed through solid rock for the express purpose of ambushing Starchild and Glimmerglass at a moment when they were getting their bearings and appeared helpless.
“So you and Pete don’t share any memories at all?” Glimmerglass asked. A [Starfire Worm] was trying to devour her but she dodged it’s attacks with little more than casual steps to one side or the other.
“None,” Starchild said. “He’s described some things about your world, but I can only imagine them based on what I know. Things like cars and chainsaws that he’s talked about don’t evoked any imagery or familiarity.”
The other two worms spit acid at her, but the streams deflected off the shield which enveloped her. She smashed one of them with her staff and watched a satisfying quarter of its health bar evaporate. For a dungeon boss, even one split into a trio encounter, that was a more substantial hit than she’d expected to be able to make.
“That’s definitely different from me,” Glimmerglass said. “Even you saying those words gives me a sense of what they are from Tessa’s memories and I can’t speak directly to her at all anymore.”
“How are you sure that you are the same person then?” Pete asked. “I mean you have pretty different experiences and skills.”
“It’s difficult to describe from the outside, but when we’re together it’s easy to see,” Glimmerglass said. “When I can recall my memories of being Tessa, they’re like something I know I did, but that I’d just forgotten. Each one is connected to a whole web of others, and when I think about how I handled a programming problem a week ago, or how Tessa handled it, it fits together. Like, I remember more than the event. I remember the frustration surrounding it, and fatigue leading up to it, and the disgust at my coworkers who laughed when it got dumped on me. But I’ve never had coworkers like that as Glimmerglass. That’s unquestionably Tessa’s memory, from her point of view, and also mine.”
[Starfire Worms] were not the brightest of things, having been built as some form of security apparatus, but the one on Glimmerglass seemed noticeably deficient in tactical sense as it continued it’s futile quest to devour her despite the effortless ease with which she avoided it’s attacks.
“For Pete and I, there doesn’t seem to be that blending of viewpoints,” Starchild said. “He doesn’t feel like an aspect of me, but more like a friend.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I ever wanted to be Starchild when I was playing the game,” Pete said. “I just wanted to know her. I wanted to be her friend, if that sound doesn’t weird?”
“I’m not sure anything can sound weird under the circumstances,” Glimmerglass said. “I just found out my entire world has a strange analog in a game on another planet and that another shard of myself has been playing as me on that game.”
“That’s a lot to take in,” Starchild said, as she finished bashing the second [Starfire Worm] into a shower of sparks.
“It’s good fodder for an existential crisis,” Glimmerglass said. “The good new is, I’m an adventurer, and we have enough life and death crises to deal with that it’s easy to file existential ones away into the ‘deal with never’ bin. What about you though? How are you two handling being stuck together?”
“For me it’s like being supercharged,” Starchild said. “I think I’m running off my own stamina and Pete’s now, at least in terms of focus and motivation.”
“And for me this is like a very interactive dream,” Pete said. “I get to see all this amazing stuff and I can encourage Starchild or warn her about stuff to help make things turn out better. Well most of the time. We did have a few deaths back with our previous party.”
“Those weren’t your fault,” Starchild said, dispatching the last of the [Starfire Worms] and leveling up in the process.
“Doesn’t it feel odd having someone else looking over your shoulder? Or not having a body at all?” Glimmerglass asked.
“It probably should,” Starchild said. “But isn’t that part of an [Inspiration]? We’re used to feeling called to adventure. This feels less weird than that since I get to talk to the person who’s encouraging me and believing in me.”
“I hadn’t really thought about the ‘no body’ thing,” Pete said. “When we die, I have one, but once we respawn, I go back to being like this and it just feels more comfortable somehow? Like I’m one step removed from all the dangerous stuff so I can keep my wits about me a lot easier?”
“Wait, what do you mean ‘you have a body when you die’?” Glimmerglass asked. “I hadn’t even thought of that. When Pillowcase and Tessa died, they did the respawn run in Tessa’s ghost. When I died, I did it my own though, but we were able to switch between each of our bodies at will while we held the god soul. Which ghost do you two make respawn runs in?”
“Both,” Starchild said. “The last time we died, the both of us were there, side-by-side. It was pretty urgent that we get back to the fight so we ran to the [Heart Fire] and I didn’t think about it.”
“We weren’t the only ones like that either,” Pete said. “Some of our previous team had just one ghost and some had two. It didn’t seem weirder than anything else going on but I wonder if it tracks with how the…souls I guess? How the souls are setup?”
“ I know someone we could reach out to who might have a different experience than ours. One more like Glimmerglass and Tessa,” Starchild said.
“Who’s that?” Glimmerglass asked.
“My sister,” Pete said. “I don’t know if there was ever a line between Melissa and Feralfang. I think they may have been the same person even before the [World Shift].”
Looking into the eyes of someone you love can make time standstill.
In Obby’s case no such thing happened of course. She was just an adventurer. Certainly not any kind of entity capable of shaping reality to suit her whims. If there was anyone like that in the world, the [Fallen Kingdoms] would be little more than a reflection of that entity’s desires and Obby was definitely not someone to violate the integrity of self-sustaining world like that.
And the memory of a kiss wasn’t really cheating right? Whistling a happy tune, she began to pick out a path towards her new friends.
She’d landed in one of the deep levels of the dungeon, well beyond the finished areas and remote enough that the creatures who’d scurried into the dim reaches had little kindness for those who distrubed the sanctity of their abodes.
“You can come out,” Obby said. She wasn’t invincible. She most determinedly wasn’t. If the [Shadowed Starwalkers] decided to attack her, there wasn’t a high chance that she’d survive.
“Who are you to call to us? We see many reflections in you?” The being who spoke peeled himself away from the stonework, a living patch of darkness deforming into three dimensions.
“I’m Oblivion’s Daughter, but you can call me Obby. It’s shorter and leaves people with fewer questions,” Obby said. She wasn’t gently soothing the questions about who she really was to the back of their awareness. That’s not something an adventurer would do. Well, not a tank at least.
“And you dare to trespass on our refuge?” Gray-of-Endless-Mist asked, his shadow form fading to a color matching his name.
“I do,” Obby said. “I know you’re pretty much the highest level things in this area of the dungeon.”
“And you do not fear us?” Gray-of-Endless-Mist asked.
Obby could see that the other shadows were moving and that Gray seemed to want to join their stalking hunt. She could also see that he didn’t know quite what to make of her and that was an advantage since unknown things were scary, even to scary folk.
“Why would I fear people I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to find so I could help them?” Obby asked.
“You sought us out?” The shifting shadows stopped shifting and Gray stepped back a half pace.
“Yeah, there’s something here, in the [Ruins of Heaven’s Grave], that you’re familiar with,” Obby said.
“We have learned much of this realm’s secrets,” Gray said as the shadows began to close in. Obby could tell they’d decided she was addled in some manner and not an actual threat.
“Oh, I meant something new,” she said. “You all know what a [Formless Hunger] is right?”
That froze the approaching shadows instantly.
“I thought so,” Obby said. “There’s one of them in the upper levels of the dungeon.”
“That’s not possible,” Gray said. “They can’t have followed us here. They can’t exist here.”
“It is having some trouble with that,” Obby said. “It’s eaten a divine spark, a whole town, and a few battle cruisers trying to fix those problems and it seems to be having middling luck with the results.”
“A divine spark? How could it consume such a thing?” another [Shadowed Starwalker], Black-of-a-Faded-Bruise asked.
“There was a battle that unearthed one,” Obby said. “The Hunger came into this world through it. Sort of.”
“Why would you tell us this?” Gray asked.
“Well, first because you’re in danger and you deserve to have more warning than a pseudopod of static bursting out of a wall and destroying your essence,” Obby said.
“It is not constrained by the matter here?” Black asked.
“Not in the slightest,” Obby said. “Not yet anyways.”
“Does it know we’re here?” Gray asked.
“No, or again, not yet,” Obby said. “It was expanding though, and likely will again once it works out some of its current issues. So it’s only a matter of time before it finds your scent.”
“No!” a third [Shadowed Starwalker] cried.
“We are no more than feed for such things. There cannot be one here!” Gray said.
“There is, but you don’t need to be food for it,” Obby said. “That’s the second reason I came. I can lead you to a spot where we’re gathering all the people we can find.”
“That will draw the the Hunger’s attention more than anything else. Why would we go there?” Gray asked.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Obby said. “Plus if you stand with us, we can protect you, where if you stay here, there won’t be much we can do if the Hunger decided to move in this direction first.”
“Strength in numbers? What strength can there be against a [Formless Hunger]? And why would your numbers ever accept us? We are [Life Drinkers],” Gray said.
“I know that gives you a bad rap in most places, but we’re already bringing in the [Vampires] and the [Demons], so trust me, you wouldn’t be that out of place,” Obby said.
“This is all a trick to gather us together so the Hunger will finish us all off at once!” Gray said.
“We don’t need a trick for that,” Obby said. “All we’d need to do is let the Hunger grow without telling you about it. Or can you run from something you can’t see coming and that can pass through solid walls?”
“We can hide,” Black said.
“By the time the Hunger spreads down here from the surface what makes you think there will be anywhere to hide?” Obby asked. “If we let it grow, it’s going to consume the entirety of the [High Beyond].”
“And what alternative do we have? What else can we do besides ‘let it grow’?”
“Oh? Didn’t I mention?” Obby said. “One of my team has beaten the Hunger twice now. And she keeps learning from it. If it tries to go for a third fight, I don’t think we’ll have a [Formless Hunger] left up here at all.”