"Are you alright, Granin?"
The old Shaper raised his head wearily to meet the concerned gaze of his youngest triad member. Torrinna Laksham gleamed in the darkness of the Shadow Realm, a product of the ore she'd been able to obtain to form her True Skin, an infused variant of Manganese she'd stumbled on by chance. He tried not to glance at the padded leather armour that covered her left leg. He should probably be grateful the warrior circle left her any of the precious material at all, but he couldn't help but feel bitter and suspect they'd ensured that she wouldn't have enough to form a whole skin. She was tough as nails though, more than willing to bear the shame of being incomplete in order to utilise the enhanced properties of the ore to enhance her Shaping. The Circle had high expectations of her, as did the cult.
"I'm fine," he muttered, waving away her concerns. "When you get to my age these jaunts in the Dungeon become more taxing on the system."
A pair of serious eyes looked down on him as he rested after his recent exertions. The confrontation between Balta and the monster had put everyone on edge. The creature appeared more than willing to try to get under the silver fool's skin and being a puffed up warrior, the glorious leader was unwilling to endure what he saw as an inferior creature's mocking. In the end, his own triad members had been forced to restrain the enraged warrior before he'd thrown himself upon the restrained monster in a blind rage. A ridiculous display for an esteemed member of the warrior Circle and a complete embarrassment for his family. Granin was hoping they'd settle for paying off the members of the delve to keep it quiet rather than resort to more extreme measures. Not that the monster cared.
"I don't think I've ever seen a creature with such a low sense of self preservation," he burst out.
Laksham raised one stony eyebrow.
"You expected the candidate to cooperate after we chased it down and abducted it? I think he's being well behaved all things considered."
Granin was a little taken aback.
"Him? That sounds a little familiar. Have you been communicating with the specimen much, Laksham?"
He knew she'd been speaking to it via a mind bridge, as had Nium, the second of the triad, it was necessary that he himself not be the only one making contact with the creature. But now he began to suspect that they may have been speaking more than he assumed.
"This is the first time I've come into contact with a proper candidate. You can't blame for being curious. What if he's the one?"
"Don't let your imagination run wild," he rebuked the young shaper. "It's not a proper candidate yet. I'm not certain what the leadership is planning right now, this isn't the sort of action that we would normally take. I do know that the cult hasn't decided to throw our support behind this creature yet."
"You really shouldn't refer to him as an it. You know as well as I do that he's a Sapient creature. He was a human before he was reborn here as a monster, he deserves to be treated with some respect."
"I won't hold him being human against him," Granin retorted, "you need to recognise that whatever it was before, it is now a creature of the Dungeon. A monster. We may have a different opinion of creatures from the Dungeon than most people, but there is still a certain level of caution that I recommend in you. They don't play by the same rules we do and we must always be cautious in our dealings with them."
"I am always careful," Laksham stated, her gaze steady and calm.
Granin rolled his eyes and pushed himself back onto his weary feet. He wasn't about to argue with the young Shaper, he wouldn't win even if he tried. She was a stubborn as an actual rock, this one. It wasn't a problem, she was smart and cautious, he could trust her to make good decisions. It was the other Shaper in his triad he was worried about. Nium could be a little more impetuous and things might get complicated if the monster was able to sway him into doing something stupid.
"It's almost time to perform the healing again, isn't it?" Laksham spoke suddenly.
"Dammit, I'd almost forgotten. Could you handle it this time? I need to go find Nium."
A nod was his only reply before Laksham moved away into the darkness surrounded them, making her way toward the monster's ape pet. He almost envied the ease with which she was able to sense it out. At her age he hadn't been able to wield a fraction of that sort of skill. Pushing his misplaced jealousy aside, Granin moved back toward the rest of the group. They weren't far away, the warrior triads stood close together keeping watch over their cargo. The monster seemed to be behaving itself, its antennae looping in slow lazy circles as its legless body remained perfectly still. He wasn't sure how, but he just knew that it was paying close attention to him the moment he walked into sight. It was unnerving being around a creature whose line of sight was impossible to track.
He quickly wove a mind bridge to his fellow Shaper in order to communicate privately.
[Nium, has the specimen told us where it's other pet has gone?]
[Not a word about it. Denies everything. I feel like if I keep asking, he's going to start denying even having a second pet.]
'He?' Granin grimaced.
[I know for a fact that they communicated when the ape came in for healing. All I want to know is that there isn't some creature out there plotting an ambush or some desperate rescue attempt that will get people killed.]
[Come on, Granin. He's not that stupid. This is a highly intelligent monster we have here, he knows he isn't getting away. He's quite pleasant once you get to know him.]
[Right. I'm going to limit your contact with the specimen for the rest of this trip.]
[You're getting too close to the specimen!]
[You know its name?!]
[Of course! Me and Anthony are buds!]
He couldn't help but sigh and pinch his brow. Did young members of the cult lack caution towards monsters completely these days?! The idea of the cult was to raise up a new ancient, yes. That didn't mean that they make nice with every monster to fall into their hands!
[That's it! No more communicating with the monster for you! Go help the slightly more sensible member of our triad to heal the ape pet. I'll deal with this.]
Breaking of the connection he re-wove the mind bridge toward the monster who sat still and innocent looking as a thousand kilogram lamb.
[Trying to make my people sympathetic?]
The antennae flicked in such a way as to elicit exasperation.
[I've been dragged around legless for days now you stone headed stone head! You can hardly blame me for reaching out for a chat! How much longer until we get to this gate anyway?]
[Two more days. You make sure you behave until then.]
[I'll be good.]