[Do you guys mind? My pet is feeling a little put upon here.]
As one the Sophos turn on me.
[MIND YOURSELF, BOY! THE EXPERTS ARE TALKING!]
Yikes. Not one to mince words, this one. Although, I could say the same for all of the Sophos I've met. They seem universally loud and pugnacious.
[THAT'S HIS PET, YOU NINCOMPOOP!]
[HOW DARE YOU!]
[OH, I DARE THAT AND MORE!]
[FORMO, YOU SLACK JAWED NINNY! I'LL MAKE PAJAMAS OUT OF YOUR FAVOURITE PET FOR YOUR WORDS!]
[YOU WANT TO TRY IT ASONAN? I'LL TURN YOUR HOUSE INTO A BIOMASS PANTRY. AND LAUGH! HEARTILY!]
[Calm down! Sheesh! No need to get so worked up!] I interject.
They turn on me once more.
[THIS- ahem. This is merely banter, old boy. Conflict between Sophos is- well, its unheard of.]
[AND NOT JUST BECAUSE WE CAN'T TALK!]
[OH HO! JOLLY GOOD JAPE!]
I'm not sure if my burgeoning headache or weariness will become more pressing in the short term. These damn Sophos are exhausting.
[WE WERE MERELY EXAMINING THE CHOICES YOU'D MADE WITH YOUR PET!] the one named Asonan shouts at me.
[I don't see why it's so interesting] I said, honestly. [For the most part, I let Crinis make her own choices.]
Silence fell at my words as the Sophos sightlessly stare at me for a moment before they turn back to studying Crinis.
[Anthony, you really let your pets make their own evolution decisions?]
[Even that one?] Formo points and Tiny as the ape continues to shovel handfuls of Biomass into his face.
[You didn't design their evolutions? Or manually control their evolutions?]
[I did a little work on Crinis before I reconstituted her, but my skill levels were low back then, and still are now, compared to yours I suppose, so I wasn't able to get much done. For the most part, I let them pick what they think will work out.]
I can tell the other Sophos are listening along the communal line as Formo queries me. I'm not sure why they have such an interest though, I feel a little defensive.
[Look. I'll come clean! On the one hand I can't be bothered to micromanage every little thing, on the other, they have their own minds, even if they're pets! They can decide what they want and how they want to go about it! These are big decisions, after all!]
[We don't disagree with that, we just find it interesting that your pets were able to make quite good decisions without your input.]
[Yes. Although with that one,] he points at Tiny again, [You'll need to intervene. The Lightning Fist Ape is an interesting creature, but it chews up its own mental attributes every time it evolves until it eventually becomes effectively mindless. We rarely bother with them due to the hassle, but if you can find a balance it could prove to be strong.]
[Uhh, that's great advice.]
[We tend not to give our pets such free reign. But I can respect your choice to do so.]
[WE REALLY CAN'T DECIDE HOW MUCH POTENTIAL THIS NEW SHADOW BEAST HAS,] another member of the Crinis fan club interjects. [IT'S AN INTERESTING NEW APPLICATION OF THE SHADOW FLESH ARCHETYPE. I'M CURIOUS TO SEE HOW IT WILL EVOLVE!]
[Well I think Crinis is pretty darn close to evolving right now, aren't you Crinis?]
[Ah! Yes, Master!]
[Well we can see that by looking at her core,] Formo says.
[How the heck can you look at her core without touching her?]
I can almost feel the Sophos around me rolling their non-existent eyes.
[Level up your skills Anthony. We hardly waste time on core shaping our real pets until we reach rank six.]
[Sheesh. I created a whole new species of Ant monster and I'm only rank three in core shaping.]
[YOU DID WHAT?!]
I get a solid mental blast right in the sconce at that. All of the Sophos turn to stare at me once more, but this time the air feels a little more tense.
[I, uh. I modified the Queen's core to produce offspring more like me and the species of the entire colony, including myself, changed when they were born.]
[WHAT A BLASTED THING TO DO!]
[BLOODY FANTASTIC IS WHAT IT IS!]
[ANTHONY MY BOY!] Formo is back to his head thumping loudest. [CREATING A NEW SPECIES IS A GRAND ACHIEVEMENT! ESPECIALLY FOR A LOST SOUL SUCH AS YOU! GOOD SHOW! GOOD SHOW INDEED!]
His pronouncement is met with a chorus of "GOOD SHOW!" and "INDEED, YES!" from the gallery.
[Phew. I have to admit for a second there I thought you guys might get angry at me for making super intelligent monster ants.]
[BAH! WE'RE NOT SO EASILY FRIGHTENED! WE'VE FOUGHT OFF SWARM MONSTERS DOZENS OF TIMES!]
[WE ARE NOT INTIMIDATED BY ANTS!]
[You know, that's nice to hear. It's good to find people who aren't afraid of monsters.]
[WHAT BOSH! WE ARE MONSTERS!]
[I even made a caste within the colony who are dedicated to core shaping after I was inspired by Formo's pets.]
[HOW DARE YOU, INSECT?!]
[NOW, THAT IS THREATENING!]
[NO! OF COURSE NOT!]
I sag to the floor a little, my legs splaying out. These Sophos are exhausting to deal with. Almost as if taking pity on me, the Sophos gather around to pat me on the carapace with their gnarled hands.
[It's rare that we find someone who values the shaping arts to such a degree. We're impressed, Anthony.]
[Lost souls such as yourself are not often in such a good position as you. Most that we come across are… disturbed, even from the beginning. That you have been able to defy the Dungeon and find a place in it is impressive.]
[Thanks. I've only run into one other of my kind and that was Garralosh.]
[Hmm. She died recently, did she not?]
[How do you know?]
[There are ways.]
[Be mysterious then. I know you mentioned another that you'd met.]
[Young Sarah! Fine young woman/bear.]
[How is that fair?!]
[What? That she started as a powerful bear? And Garralosh started as a fiendish crocodile, whilst you were an ant?]
[Just another reason to hate the Dungeon!]
No need to remind me about that. These guys really carried a grudge.
[COME YOUNG ANT MONSTER. LET US DISCUSS THE FINE ART OF CORE-SHAPING, AND IF YOU WISH WE CAN SPEAK OF WHAT WE KNOW OF YOUR KIND.]
[That'd be great!]