[Is there a particular reason why you Sophos are so loud?]
[LOUD? WE'RE TALKING MENTALLY YOU CRETIN. NOT A SOUND IS MADE!]
[Formo! You know exactly what I mean! Every time I form a mind bridge with a Sophos I've had my head rung like a bell! Can you tone it down a little?]
[WE ARE SIMPLY EXUBERANT, MY BOY! FULL OF BEANS!]
[I seriously doubt you eat beans, Formo.]
[WELL, NOT UNLESS IT WAS A BEAN MONSTER I SUPPOSE!]
[Just, take it down a notch, please?]
[I SHALL- ahem. I shall try. I must say young Anthony, I didn't expect that I would see you again. Judging by your change in size, you've been quite productive over the course of the wave.]
[Well, once the colony got rolling, the wave was almost more help than it was harm.]
[Hmm. I wonder if you understand why that might have been the case.]
[I'm not sure what you mean.]
[No matter. Come, my boy, let us wander this way. My domicile is found near the forge.]
The two of us continue our stroll through the Sophos community. I'm not sure what I expected, but the place is much more humble than I had assumed it would be. After my first meeting with Formo, I envisioned the Sophos to be an all-powerful community of core shapers without compare. I'd assumed that they would live in the lap of luxury, but that isn't the case.
The village is built along wide tunnels, with domiciles carved out of the rock. I'd asked where the giant worms and such lived and had been informed that most of them lived in holding areas beneath the village. I'd been a little surprised at that. I'd expected that they might treat their pets a little better, considering how much they relied on them. Tiny and Crinis have been sent down there as pets are discouraged in the upper levels. I've been assured they'll be treated with the utmost respect, and I really have no option but to trust them. Formo has never steered me wrong yet.
The other thing that struck me is the total lack of Mana Veins here. The walls are bizarrely clear of them, light instead being provided by a series of core powered lighting installations. I was pretty darn interested in learning how the heck they did that but Formo was cagey about it when I asked. Damn you, you bulbous headed Sophos! Give me your secrets!
Another thing that struck me was how few Sophos I saw. Most of them looked fairly similar, the real defining feature I could pick out was the mottled colouring of their skin. Most of their skin was green, but some had patches of red, or blue, or even orange I saw. Other than that, their featureless faces appears the same from one to the next. Mind you, they would probably say the same about us ants.
[I don't see a whole lot of your people around Formo. Is it a market day or something? People sleeping in?]
[What? Of course not! There just aren't many of us! We've worked hard to ruffle the Dungeon's feathers and it doesn't appreciate it, not a whit! So the spawn rate for Sophos is abysmally low.]
Even I can tell how bitter he is from his tone.
[How does that even work? The Dungeon just up and decided your people were monsters?]
[BAH! You touch on a sore subject, old boy. We don't much like talking about, but when the opportunity to rant about the Dungeon pops up, who am I to pass it up?!]
[I'm sure I wouldn't know.]
[INDEED! My people were underground dwellers long before the Dungeon appeared. When mana began to seep through the ground, we were the first to experience and make use of it. When the Dungeon tunnels connected to ours, we were the first to come into contact with monsters and battle them. The surfacers ignored our warnings and laughed at our pleas for help. I have to say, their attitude towards us was much the same back then as it is now.]
[STIFF UPPER LIP AND ALL THAT OLD SPORT! It's tough to keep a good Sophos down! We adapted, thrived even! But things began to change. After hundreds of years, we were so steeped in the mana of the Dungeon that the stupid System couldn't differentiate between us and monsters. In an instant, like a switch was flipped, we lost our Classes, we couldn't bear young, our levels were gone and only Biomass could sate us.]
My mind boggled. What a tragedy! How the heck did they survive?
[Just step this way. That was more than a thousand years ago, and there are some of us still alive from that time. We were nearly wiped out, I'm afraid to say, it was a close run thing. Luckily we'd relied on our pets from the outset, and they did not desert us. Now we build our settlements around any spawn point we know has produced a Sophos and we battle against the Dungeon wherever we can.]
[How do you actually fight the Dungeon? Is it a thing that you can hit? I thought it was more of a nebulous sort of…. Entity.]
I'm not sure how much I should share about my conversations with a mind that seems to think it runs the show around here. The Sophos may already know about it, or they might pin me down and dissect me. They seem pretty anti-system in general to me. Probably best if I play it cool.
[Oh, there is much about the Dungeon that can be learned, even when it doesn't want you to. It's also possible to work against the interests of the Dungeon, once you know what it wants. For example, have you seen the Expert Profile of a creature after consuming a ton of it?]
Ah, the profiles! I've unlocked a heap of those after all the fighting and eating that's gone on over the last few weeks and I haven't been bothered to read through them all. I actually unlocked Garralosh's full profile after eating her Biomass, considering there was only one of her the Expert Profile was unlocked straight away. I haven't been able to bring myself to read it yet. I mean, I killed and then ate her. I'd rather not learn something that gave me cause to regret it. As a fellow former human though, I probably owe it to her.
[Sure I have. Those damn centipedes were the first.]
Formo nodded his head.
[PRECICELY! Ahem. You were probably a mite taken aback by what it said. That profile gives a little insight into the dastardly intentions of the Dungeon.]
[If I recall correctly, that profile suggested that the centipedes were proving to be a good species and would be propagated further…]
[Right. Which means that species has been successful and the Dungeon wants to see more of it. Spawn rates will go up and new varieties will be tried, perhaps a shadow variant on the second strata, or perhaps further down than that.]
[What?!] I squawked. [Those filthy centipedes are trash. TRASH I SAY!]
[INDEED, OLD SPICE! SO IF YOU WERE TO GIVE THE SYSTEM WHAT FOR, THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION WOULD BE TO HUNT DOWN EVERY CLAW CENTIPEDE YOU COULD FIND AND WIPE THEM FROM THE DUNGEON IN ONE FELL SWOOP! THUS FOILING THE BLIGHTER'S PLANS!]
[You know what, I just might.]
I'm certain the colony would be happy to follow me in an anti-centipede crusade. I hate those things.
[Ah, just around here.]
The two of us turn a corner and I can't help but gasp. Before me the space opens up into a massive cavern and every surface is filled with circular work stations cut into the stone. Here and there I can see Sophos diligently meditating in the clear space in the centre of their stations, a core sitting in their gnarled hands as they strive to modify it to their wishes. There are cores, everywhere. Every bench hold dozens of the things and in the middle of the cavern a huge repository with tiered shelving runs from the floor to the ceiling and each layer is covered in cores.
I can't help but drool a little.
[WELCOME TO THE FORGE, YOU LUCKY DEVIL! NOT MANY GET TO SEE IT, YOU KNOW. HERE WE CREATE THE MOST FEARSOME PETS THE WHOLE WORLD OVER!]
The pride is obvious as Formo slips up control of his volume, but I don't mind too much. This is quite the sight!