Ami and her companions arrived within a bare chamber of her dungeon. With the bright white and blue tones of its walls, it felt much more cheerful than Arachne's unfinished tunnels. As soon as the young Keeper's feet made contact with the smooth chequerboard-patterned floor tiles, her muscles seemed to relax, and some of the built-up tension left them. Her underlings, old and new, seemed to have more difficulty with the arrival. Even the Reaper stumbled and had to put a hoof forward to restore his balance. Snyder fared the worst of the lot, for the portly man appeared half a metre above the ground and botched his landing. Ami hurried over and extended her hand, helping him to pull himself back to his feet. "Sorry about that. I don't have much practice transporting anyone but myself or the imps," the girl explained.

"It was an... interesting experience," Jered commented cautiously. Next to him, the long blond strands of Cathy's hair were whipping left and right as she moved her head to take in the sparse features of the room. Her gaze swept over the azure murals interrupting the white brick pattern at regular intervals, took in the vaulted arches supporting the ceiling, skipped over the door-less exits at each end of the rectangular chamber, and finally came to rest on the disorderly stack of books in the far corner of the room.

"It's, err, fairly clean," the swordswoman noted, obviously reaching to find something complimentary to say. It immediately brought to mind the fact that she herself, as well as Jered and Ami, were covered in drying mud and worse.

"Though it is still is a dungeon," her brown-haired boyfriend added, inspecting the vaguely suggestive female silhouettes that formed the murals. "Interesting choice of decorations."

"The imps just keep adding them to any blank wall they can find," Ami sighed, busy with removing the fat frog from her ear. The animal had clamped down on one of her small blue earrings, which added some pain to the general discomfort of being attacked by a slimy amphibian. Both of her hands closed around her diminutive attacker when she finally got a firm grip on it, and the frog croaked angrily as she held it out in front of her. "This isn't normal frog behaviour."

Snyder, who ducked his head nervously whenever a dampened beat of the dungeon heart rumbled through the underground, ventured a guess "Well, well. It is possible that this is not a frog at all, but another victim of the evil warlock, transformed into this unappealing form."

Ami's irritated expression turned into one of pity. "Really? Do you know how to turn it back?"

"The traditional means would be a kiss by a prince or princess," Jered supplied with a grin, "fortunately, being a Keeper should make you some kind of Princess of Darkness."

Ami narrowed her eyes and eyed the squirming animal dubiously. The frog seemed just as offended by the suggestion. Sweating nervously, Snyder nearly choked. Jered, what are you thinking, teasing a Keeper? "That's just a children's story," the red-headed acolyte blurted out quickly. Transformation magic usually isn't permanent. Just give it some time."

"Oh, good." Great. Now she had to take care of a large frog who could turn back into a hero at any moment and had already made it abundantly clear that it didn't like her. Ami was tired after all the misadventures of the day. "You, imp!" She motioned one of her servants over. "Put this frog down at the bottom of the deepest pit you can find. Gently. Make sure that the pit is safe and no harm comes to the frog!" The amphibian gave a croak of protest when it was unceremoniously dropped into the sack the imp was holding open, but to no avail.

"Was that a good idea?" Cathy asked, watching the back of the small servant as it scurried off. Ami shrugged "I can't keep carrying it around, and the imp is going to do exactly what it was told, so there is no danger. Besides, I'll be keeping an eye on it from afar."

"I see," the blonde gulped at that reminder of the shorter girl's abilities. "So, what do we do now?"

"All of you take a bath," the Reaper ordered, leaning on his scythe. "I have met bile demons who smelled better than you sorry bunch. What did you do, take a dive in a septic tank?"

The team's response was pre-empted by new arrivals. "Look! Told you we has intruders!" an ugly green head was poking in through the left entrance. A tiara with a blue gem in its centre rested on its forehead.

Another face with long triangular ears appeared above the first one in the door frame. "Not intruders! They with Big Ugly!" The Reaper sneered in the goblins' direction at the nickname.

"They all big uglies," a third goblin joined the others, also with a tiara on its head. "Look! Scary Eyes Girl here too!"

"Idiot! Her eyes blue, not red!" the first one corrected. "What they doing here?"

"This girl happens to be the Keeper," the red demon informed them, pointing down at Ami. He wasn't in the mood to deal with goblin nonsense right now. Or ever.

The largest goblin leaned forward, blinking incredulously. "Oh, me see. Big Ugly think we stupid! She too harmless looking!"

As one, the adventurers turned to look at Ami and took a step away. Even the hiding goblins peering into the room seemed to duck down a bit. The Reaper alone stayed where he was, observing through half-lidded yellow eyes. Ami's eyebrows shot up as everyone kept staring at her with bated breath. "What?" she asked into the silence, crossing her arms in front of her chest defensively.

"Aren't- Aren't you going to convince them by revealing your grotesque and horrifying true form now?" Snyder asked, a hint of disappointment quivering in his voice.

The three goblin heads peering around the door frame nodded. "Yes. Is traditional."

Ami blinked at the expectant expressions surrounding her, then closed her mouth with an audible snap. She turned her head and threw a pleading look at the Reaper, who just snickered at her predicament. "But I'm human! I really look like this!"

The goblins discussed this amongst themselves. "Prove you Keeper," they demanded.

Hanging her head, Ami gave the trio a shove with her insubstantial hand, and the gangly three humanoids fell face-first into the room. "Happy now?"

The heroes gaped as they caught sight of the green creatures' bodies: each of them was wearing an adjusted version of Sailor Mercury's uniform. Sure, a few of the bows were damaged, missing, or displaced, but the overall frilly effect remained.

"I bet this wasn't what you were expecting when she told you that all the girls where she came from wore something like this," Cathy joked at Jered's expense when she recovered from her surprise. For once, the wavy haired man was having trouble recovering his wits faster than her. She rounded on Ami and put her hands on her hips. "I hope you aren't planning on putting me into one of those outfits too!"

Ami waved her hands in denial, palms facing outward. "No, no. They weren't even supposed to get that outfit. Maybe the dungeon heart malfunctioned or someth-"

"The dungeon heart malfunctioned?" Jered shrieked, his voice taking on an unusually high pitch. "Don't tell me we signed up with a dungeon keeper whose dungeon heart isn't working right!"

"Well, that might explain a few things", Snyder speculated, looking at Ami, and using one hand to thoughtfully massage the stubble on his chin.

"I don't think there's anything important wrong with it," Ami defended the heart, feeling oddly protective about the artefact. "I can't be entirely sure it's in pristine condition after all the centuries it was in here, of course, but so far, it hasn't had any strange hiccups yet. Aside from my transformation," she admitted. Then her expression brightened. "Actually, that's a really fast and thorough way to get us all clean if you don't mind-"

"NO!" The Reaper stepped in front of Ami, leaned over her with fangs bared and eyes flashing, and growled "Keeper, if I have to put up with this again, I will try my best to kill each and every living thing in this dungeon!"

Ami nervously took a step back. "Err, well, ..." She straightened, a mischievous gleam appearing in her red-flashing eyes "Why don't you go and heat the bath water, then?" The Reaper jerked as if pulled upward and disappeared, accompanied by the soft whistling of air rushing in to fill the vacuum where he had been.

"A- are you sure you can keep that thing under control?" Snyder asked, shivering. He should have never went along with this. He really had to keep reminding himself that the blue-haired girl was a Keeper. One that was apparently scary enough to have the allegiance of a horned reaper, even if it was an uneasy alliance.

"Even if he rebelled, my ice attack could stop him with a single hit," Ami tried to calm down the redhead, who didn't seem convinced.

"How comes you have a horned reaper serving you in the first place?" Jered wanted to know. "You don't really seem to get along."Or that competent.

"It's a long story," Ami sighed. "Let's get cleaned up first."

Ami's dungeon did not contain a bath yet, so she added one. This wasn't so difficult, as all it required was several shallow basins, little more than pits in the ground. One reservoir for the cold water, one for the hot, two gender-separated pools with a dividing wall, and another empty reservoir to serve as a drain. Everything was connected by a few narrow channels that could be opened or closed at will with a stone slider. The necessary water she had conjured herself. There was probably a more elegant magical solution than having her minion fireball the warm-water reservoir to heat it up, but the current set-up was working out satisfactory. With a contented sigh, Ami slipped deeper into the liquid until it covered her up to her neck. Steam clouds were rising from the pool into the clammy dungeon air, obscuring Cathy at the other end of the pool. It had taken a lot of scrubbing and a few changes of the bath water, but at long last, everyone felt and smelled human again.

"So, to summarise, aside from the dungeon heart, you own a lot of empty corridors, a chicken farm, a library that until recently only had three books in it, a few dark corners full of beetles and goblin huts, and your only decent room has been claimed by a horned reaper?" Jered's rather chagrined voice penetrated the separating wall.

Ami blushed faintly, which had nothing at all to do with the fact that she was having a hard time not focusing her Keeper sight on whoever was talking to allow the men on the other side some privacy, oh no. She protested "Well, there are a lot of traps, too. And the treasure chamber."

"The gold is the only bright spot in this mess," the brown-haired men sighed. "As for your imp-operated traps - well, you only have four imps, and they are busy with other things most of the time, right? We are sooo doomed."

There was a splash as Ami sat up. "Please don't be so pessimistic. Anyone who wanted to come after us would have to find us first, and I'm not doing anything to draw attention. This place doesn't even have any exits to the surface." She had collapsed the one she had used, after all.

Snyder's voice cut in from the other side, still nervous "Ah, but I'm afraid you are wrong about that. This active dungeon heart of yours is pumping out dark power from whatever hells it is connected to with every heartbeat, and anything you don't use up spills out and taints the environment. After a while the effects will become highly visible."

Ami froze, remembering the spot of withered forest she had noticed when she took a first look at the surface. "Um, with side effects, do you mean things like plants dying?"

"Yes, that would be a common example of misfortune associated with a dungeon heart in the area," the acolyte confirmed.

"Oh. That's not good," Ami admitted after a short pause. "How likely is it that the Baron will remember which village you picked me up in?"

At this point, Cathy stirred. "It's almost inevitable that one of of his pen-pushers has gathered up and filed the letter from the Mayor to the Baron," the blonde stated tiredly.

"What?" Ami stood up with a jolt, startling the other woman. "How fast would he be here looking for the dungeon then, in your opinion?"

"Well, he's going to be busy investigating what remains of Arachne's dungeon, cleaning out the survivors and rewarding his loyal soldiers, but he'll want to move fast. Getting his force ready to march after the victory feast will take a day or two, the journey another two," Jered pondered from across the wall, "I think we have barely a weak, if this dungeon is anywhere close to where we first met." He did not sound happy.

"We don't have any time to lose, then! Snyder, you mentioned something about using up the dark power? How do I do that?" the blue-haired girl got a sinking feeling in her stomach.

From through the thin stone, the dampened voice of the acolyte answered "Well, ahem, I wouldn't call myself an expert on dark artefacts, but I would assume that you had to cast a lot of spells or to use it to fuel magical mechanisms here in the dungeon."

Stepping out of the pool, Ami looked at the washed fuku resting on the ground, still stained from the experiences of the night before. She doubted that she was ever going to be able to get it clean again, and wished she could just re-transform to replace it. Unfortunately, she was taking the Reaper's threat very seriously. "Hmm, I don't really know any extremely power-intensive spells."

Within the boiler room, the red demon raised an eyebrow when he overheard that statement. He could have sworn that the freeze spell was rather high magic. But the Keeper was continuing with her talk.

"I think it's about time we had a proper planning session. Snyder, could you please work out some wards that will keep the energy from going to the surface? Cathy, Snyder, please try to think of things that we can do to improve our situation."After a moment, she added, loud enough that the monster in the adjacent room could hear it "If you have any suggestions that don't involve killing everything, I will want to hear them later too."

Ami had created yet another new room, this one with a large round stone table in its centre, surrounded by seats. Mercury symbols adorned the walls, but aside from that it seemed rather empty. As war planning sessions went, this one was actually proceeding fairly smoothly, at least when compared to what she was used to. Usagi and Rei would already be fighting over something trivial, while Luna would be trying and failing to get them to listen. Ami wondered how her friends were doing before turning her thoughts back onto more pressing matters. What made this meeting slightly awkward was the fact that everyone, except Snyder and the Reaper, was wearing togas made of a coarse red material. Their former sewage-soaked outfits had proven to be unsalvageable, and now the red demon's throne room was missing some more curtains.

Cathy hid a yawn behind her hand, looking about as tired as Ami felt. Nobody had gotten any sleep since that night on the road, and that had been more than twenty-four hours ago. "... so I'll see about drilling the goblins and beetles into something resembling combat shape once you provide the necessary facilities, Snyder will be working on the warding scheme, and Jered will be drawing as many maps as he can remember," the blonde gave a short recap of the results, "while you will be expanding the dungeon and going over these books." She gestured toward the tomes looted from Arachne's library, which had been sorted into three piles. The useful, the potentially interesting, and the outright evil. The latter was by far the largest of the three, and the horned reaper, long since bored with the debate, was browsing through it with interest. "Oh yeah, and then we need to decide on what to do about getting more recruits..."

Ami nodded, typing on the keyboard of her computer resting in front of her. "I think I'll start with studying the imp creation spell, and then continue on searching for one of those portals the Reaper mentioned." Looking at the dark circles under her companion's eyes, she decided to call it a night. "Thank you all. I think we are done here for today. I'll repeat once more that I didn't intend to drag you all into this, so if you want to leave, I will do what I can to move you somewhere safe.."

"And risk the bounty hunters? Thanks, but no thanks," Jered stated as he stood up. "I really could use a good night's sleep. Is it night? It's so hard to tell the time in here."

The new bedrooms for the human inhabitants of the dungeon were all on the same corridor and modelled on Ami's own at her mother's apartment. Not too lavish, but still unusual in this world, if Cathy's gasp when she opened the door to her room was any indication. Of course, there was neither electric light or heating (yet), so a fireplace provided an acceptable substitute. Ami was about to undress and get ready for bed when the Reaper let himself in unbidden, closing the door behind him with a slam as he stalked in.

"What are you doing here!? Explain yourself!" Ami nearly shrieked, whirling to face the demon. He was carrying a black-bound tome under his left arm. The right held his ever-present scythe.

"I came to talk about your most serious weakness as a Keeper, and didn't want to do so in front of the hired help," the demon sneered.

Ami crossed her arms in front of her chest as she looked up at the beast. "And that is?"

"You don't know how to create new dungeon hearts, and thus are stuck in this useless location. Even if you beat back the first assault, the next ones will just be bigger, and your enemies will know where you are," the Reaper explained, as if it should be obvious.

Ami looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well, where can I learn how to make one? Are there any books?"

The Reaper laughed, actually laughed, at her. " 'Are there any books?' she asks. No, of course there are NOT. The knowledge of how to make dungeon hearts is one of the most treasured and well-protected lores in the Underworld. Nearly every Keeper has to re-invent it for himself, through arduous and dedicated study that only barely fits within a mortal lifetime, and only succeeds if said individual has the approval of the dark gods. Nobody would commit such a treasure to a book, as all that would serve would be to produce rivals!"

"Well then, do you have any suggestions on how to fix this, or are you only here to taunt me?" Ami snapped.

"I wouldn't be wasting my time here if I didn't have a solution," he threw the book in his arms onto her bed, where it bounced once on the springy mattress. "Obviously, you will have to get the knowledge from another Keeper, not that they would be inclined to share in any way. Fortunately, this book, which you were so quick to discard, could allow you to rip what you need right out of some pathetic fool's mind!"

"Possession?" Ami asked dubiously, leafing through the dark tome despite herself. As usual, written knowledge proved to be near-irresistible.

"Indeed. When possessing one of their underlings, a Dungeon Keeper can make full use of their skills and abilities. Thus, should you possess another Keeper, you would be able to create a new dungeon heart. The fun part," here the Reaper's grin became murderous, "is getting another Keeper to submit and agree to becoming your underling in the first place. You'll need to find one with no master and no spare hearts, too, then beat him so badly he sees no other option. Do you think you can manage this in less than a week, Keeper?" the monster taunted.

"Hmm," Ami muttered, putting one finger on her lips and wetting it so she could thumb through the book more easily. This was actually quite interesting, theory-wise, even if it contained a great number of unpleasant rants, ramblings, and anecdotes of the researcher who developed the spell. The final incantation seemed rather short and simple though, not really worthy of the many introductions that surrounded it.

Disappointed with the lack of reaction, the horned demon continued his taunts "Of course, with the way you are behaving, you will need a lot of practice before you can even think of taking over the mind of a willing minion, much less of a Keeper, who, even if subjugated, will do his best to resist your intrusion. In fact, I doubt you have the necessary mental fortitude."

Ami looked up, her eyes flashing red. She had some misgivings about this spell. Forcing total control on someone somehow seemed wrong, even if they agreed to it. Doing it for practice... she'd have to loathe the target a whole lot. Or maybe use it as punishment. Hmmm. Her eyes narrowed a bit and the corners of her mouth twitched up into an unnerving smile as she focused on the red demon. He actually took a step back.

"Keeper, I hope you aren't intending to try this on me! Your puny human mind couldn't hope to stand against the resistance I can put up!" he snarled angrily.

Ami's mouth widened into a toothy grin. "Perfect practice, in other words!"

"KEEPE-" In front of the horned reaper's eyes, the toga-clad form of the blue-haired girl blurred and darkened, turning into a coil of black lightning that unfurled and shot into him, arcing over his reddish skin. He staggered as if struck when something icy and determined slammed into his defences, only to meet the fires of his red hot fury. He could feel the Keeper's power trying to seize control, insinuating itself through the same connections that bound him to the dungeon heart, and blocked its path, pitting his own magic against it. Suddenly, he felt a numbing mental coldness rushing in like a battering ram, from a different direction, an even stronger blow than the attack that was still ongoing. What? This couldn't have been a distra-

Ami felt a brief moment of disorientation, followed by a burst of elation when her latest mental push just seemed to just break through the demon's resistance and shoved his presence aside. She looked down at herself, feeling strange and off-balance, but all opposition was gone as if it had never been. Yes, those were undoubtedly the beast's red pectorals, slightly whitened by hoarfrost. She felt a sudden urge to cover her chest. While she knew intellectually that she was in a male body, it wasn't easy fighting down instincts acquired during a lifetime. Unfortunately, there seemed to be nothing of the Reaper that she could access. No skills, no memories... no gain at all. Typical for one of his plans, she concluded sourly. Suddenly, she heard an inarticulate feminine scream of rage behind her, and was forcibly introduced to the drawbacks of being in a male body, through the inconsiderate application of a slender knee to her - or was that his - loincloth-covered crotch.

Yellow eyes watering, Ami dropped to her knees, and felt a light form jump on her back, or at least try to. With a loud grunt, her assailant stumbled backward. Wearing the Reaper's body, Ami turned to see a tiny blue-haired girl - herself, she realised dumbly - tear off the red toga that had caused her to stumble.

"KEEPER! BY ALL THE DARK GODS, WHAT DID YOU DO? FIX THIS! FIX THIS RIGHT NOW!" the girl screamed, her expression a mask of fury and bared teeth that was totally unfamiliar on the face that Ami saw every day in the mirror.

In shock, the Keeper took a step away from what was her own body advancing on her. "Reaper? Is that you?"

In response, the Reaper-wearing-Ami's-body lunged, catching the true owner of the body by surprise. Ami felt her shoulders hit the ground as she fell on her back. It almost didn't hurt in this body. Neither did the angry punches of what could only be the Reaper, who was venting his anger by climbing on Ami's chest and raining down blows. Realising that she wasn't in any real danger, the displaced senshi calmed down a bit. This side-effect had been rather unexpected. Was she really that small, she wondered as she watched her own body flail ineffectually, ignoring her unmotivated defences. How could she best restrain the demon wearing her flesh like this? She didn't want to cause any harm to what was basically herself, and this body she was in was was a lot stronger and more durable than what she was used to. Her contemplations were interrupted when she looked past the angry Reaper sitting on top of her and saw the bedroom door burst open, the space filling with the frightened faces of her three new hirelings, accompanied by a few goblins too. "Mercury, are you all right? We heard screa-"

Ami watched as Cathy's mouth dropped open and her eyes widened. The faces of her companions mirrored the expression. All three of them blushed deeply, making Ami realise what the situation had to look like to them. Here she was, looking like the Reaper's, lying on her back, while her possessed, sweating and naked form was straddling the red body. The beast wearing her flesh had moved on to attempted strangling, and was still screaming at the top of his, now her, lungs "...ONLY YOU COULD MESS UP LIKE THIS! I SHOULD-" The Reaper finally noticed that he had lost the attention of his target, a fact that made him nearly apoplectic with rage, and turned his head to look over his left shoulder at the new arrivals. Dishevelled Blue bangs hung straight down, covering the face in darkness except for a flashing red eye and the gleam of white teeth. "WHAT?" the Reaper snapped, spittle flying.

"Um, never mind," Jered said, being the first to re-boot his brain. "We'll come back later." The intruders fled, except for one especially slow goblin, who was grinning and chanting "Go go Keeper!" and had to be yanked out by his more alert companions before the door closed.

Ami felt the urge to bang her head against the ground in frustration and embarrassment, but the horned reaper in her body stood up and turned around, giving the impression that he was about to hunt down and murder anyone who had seen his strange predicament, current body be damned. Ami just managed to grab a slender ankle with a huge red and scaled hand. The Reaper went down, making Ami wince at the potential damage to her own body, but she couldn't just let him run through the halls naked and doing who-knows-what. "Calm down! CALM DOWN! How am I supposed to fix this if you don't cooperate?"

The argument finally seemed to get through, and the horned reaper in female form calmed down. Or maybe it was just the fact that Ami was using her Keeper power to keep the irate demon's form immobilised. "Fine," he snapped in Ami's voice, "get on with it!"

Bodyswitched Reaper

The senshi tried, she really did. "And put some clothes on," she ordered, bidding for time when her first attempts showed little results.

The reaper grumbled in irritation, and there was a circle of fire, tongues of flame snaking their way upwards, and then the Ami-lookalike was dressed - in the Reaper's usual outfit, complete with scythe. While the huge conjured metal pauldrons, chain and amulet, loincloth, and pair of greaves were all tailored to fit the more human form quite well, a major problem remained with the attire. It did not come with a bra, shirt, or anything of the sort, and was thus proudly presenting Ami's assets to the world.

Ami blinked. "That was not really what I meant. And cover your chest too!"

"Fix this and do it yourself! I am getting impatient!" the Reaper stomped his foot angrily, making its metal armour rattle.

It didn't impress Ami in her looming form at all. Do I really look that pathetic to him? "Well, there seems to be a bit of a problem," she stammered, with a sheepish expression that looked rather out of place on a horned reaper's features. "It doesn't seem to work."

"ARGH!" the Reaper made another lunge for Ami, this time armed with a scythe, which changed the threat factor considerably. The faux horned reaper wisely made a run for it. At least the Reaper's human body was bound to tire out before this one, or so she hoped.

Previous chapter: Next chapter:
Chapter 19: Escape from Arachne's Dungeon Chapter 21: Mad Science for Beginners



Attached comments:

  • 1) how to free herself from her dungeon heart without the whole dying/soul consigned to hell thing.
    1) Well, the only info she has on this is from the Reaper, who is an unreliable source at best, and she doesn't really have a reason to believe that her companions would know much about dungeon hearts. More importantly, getting an answer to that question wouldn't really help in the short run, due to it only meaning that she'd lose access to some of her few resources, while not getting rid of any of her problems, such as being considered an enemy by the forces of Good, and having to keep the horned reaper locked away somewhere safe.

    2) who might have an answer to the whole 'getting home' question. Sages, wizards, etcetera, who might have answers on the big magical questions. One of her new employees might well make for a courier/messenger role if anyone DOES have a clue.
    2) Same as the first question, it is important, but not really time-critical. Additionally, she does feel that she is responsible for the fate of her new companions, and just abandoning them - or even just giving the impression of planning to abandon them - would be wrong.
    In any case, these are two issues that she WILL want to investigate further as soon as there is no impending doom hanging over everyone's heads. I considered putting some of it into this episode, but couldn't really find a good place for it.
  • [Regarding defence of her dungeon heart]Killing Fields aren't a bad idea, but there are two large problems with it:

    1. the intruders usually dig their own entrances and don't take the carefully prepared one
    2. the "killing" part. Ami + killing what is basically well-meaning but misguided innocents = Um, yeah. Implausible.

    Moving to a different planet isn't a bad idea, but lets solve the problem of moving around on the same planet first, okay? ;)
  • A dungeon heart isn't the most portable of items, being about the size of a room.

    The placing of DH on other planets is not so workable. In DK 2 the whole campaign to gather portal gems, was just to get to the surface. What would Ami need to go to another planet?
    From what I have seen, the "portal" in "portal gem" actually refers to the fancy door seen in the DK2 intro. It shows the open doorway to the surface world, then the Reaper breaks in through the wall with a horde of skeletons, and a knight slowing him down long enough for a wizard to take one of the gems out of the locking mechanism, which seals the door and sends the others away.
  • In the outro, the Reaper is back in the same room and puts the gem back into the locking mechanism, whereupon the door starts to open and the defence system goes active.
  • [On Dark Gods and losing their favour] What would happen? Well, if you offend them in-game with shoddy sacrifices, they inflict the following punishments, in ascending order of severity:

    1. Kill all your chickens or something
    2. Infect all your creatures with a disease
    3. Make all your creatures angry at you.

    The first is more hilarious than serious, though it would probably result in a famine in a less game-mechanicky world. The second just weakens all your creatures to near-death, but doesn't kill (maybe also game mechanics), and the last is a whole lot of trouble getting everyone calmed down again. Probably encouraging everyone to rebel against the Keeper, in non-game turns. Aside from temple sacrifice effects, there's really not much info.
    As for what they can do for you - arcane secrets (finish research instantly), finish a trap instantly, send you special creatures such as horned reapers, cure bad spell effects, calm down angry creatures, and provide special items that fortify all dungeon walls. Oh, and creatures praying generate a lot of mana, especially former heroes whom you corrupted.
    All the direct interaction seen in the games happens at the temple, with the most powerful scripted event being a bunch of max level dark angels showing up after you gain the god's favour by being the first to slaughter 20 heroes on that map. All in all, you pretty much can't go wrong, as their influence is largely undefined.