Author’s Note: I’ve been trying to put blue screens into the chapters but none of the table makers I’ve worked with seems capable of giving us the royalroadl blue panels that have become such a fixture in the LitRPG genre. I’ll look for more but in the meantime, we’ll have to make do with our current format. However, if you have a suggestion that will help, please don’t keep it to yourself. Let me know in the comments section.
Chapter Five: A Dungeon, Am I?
The sprites, as he knew now them to be called, had moved in. He had been forced to expand his corridor and create chambers and homes for them. His domain now had forty-eight new inhabitants all of whom were sworn to his service. Honestly, the whole thing had been a no-brainer for him.
Brandr had listened well to the proposed terms. Oaths of service, loyalty and obedience in exchange for shelter and protection? He’d had several swear such to him over the millennia. However, none of them were here. He’d have to start again from scratch. Luckily, he had his first recruits already. The only thing he had been hung up on was the oath. This world was different. He could not sense the heavenly daos as he knew them so he couldn’t have them act as guarantors.
Initially, he came up with a life oath that had nasty consequences for oath breakers but it wasn’t necessary. Apparently, the world will here did its part to uphold contracts or as they were called, pacts. He still had the sprites swear his oath as an added security measure. All took was a single day and he had forty-eight vassals.
Unfortunately, none were as valuable as Thorn Clearwing. He’d really picked up something precious there. Even now, the Sprite Lord was making itself useful, marshalling his people and putting them to work at improving his dungeon. Many were out foraging, bringing food, items, plants and animals. Most were earmarked for their living but a bit of everything was sacrificed to him.
|New material gained: Cedarwood|
|New creature gained: Glenweaver|
|New plant gained: Willow seeds|
|New plant gained: Elderberries|
|New item gained: Silver Coin (currency of The Kingdom of Glendale)|
|New material gained: Silver|
|New item gained: Onyx figurine (eagle)|
|New material gained: Onyx|
The torrent of blue panels he was receiving was proof of that. In spite of this, the greatest boon that had come from taking in Thorn wasn’t the free labour. It was the knowledge. It’s true what they say. Having an elder at home is like having a treasure. From the moment the sprite lord started laying out the terms of the pact, Brandr knew who wanted. Thorn was experienced. You could see it in his eyes. Even the way he acted after meeting Brandr spoke to this. If he was going to have to be directly bonded to a ‘guide’ why not the one who looked he actually knew something.
Brandr had yet to regret his choice. Utilising his newfound bond as well as a soul-searching technique, he was able to copy the majority of Thorn’s declarative knowledge for himself. It allowed him to learn just what kind of world he was in and more importantly, what he was.
Turns out he was a dungeon and his strange crystal form, something called a dungeon core. From what he could make out, dungeons were some sort of living, sentient mystic realm. It was either one of two things. According to the first, he was crystalline core than managed a set domain called a dungeon. This domain was full realm on its own and could conceivably contain and produce anything. The second theory held that he was, in fact, the domain itself only with the majority of his conscious will housed in central crystal much like the way the will of a body resided in a brain.
From his experience, the second was more likely. If he was the first then it stood to reason that he could always abandon or destroy this domain and create a new one. However, everything, including his instinct told him that that was suicide. Also, he could not even leave the domain. According to Thorn’s knowledge, should his core ever be forcibly taken out he’d die and so too would anything living in his domain.
Dungeons were basically, living versions of the greatest traps ever made. They collected and purified mana, which was what this world’s inhabitants called world essence, and used it to create lures that attracted living beings into their depths. All so that they could feed off their life force and spiritual energy. to do this, they created three main kinds of things.
The first were lures which could be anything so long as some being on the other side would find possessing it reason enough to step into the dungeon. The second were traps to incapacitate, kill and prevent their prey from leaving whilst inside and the last were defenders. These defenders were living things that inhabited a dungeon and acted as its fangs and claws. They hunted and killed the invaders/prey and well as prevented the dungeon core so that no invader could simply walk up to it and destroy it as that would kill the dungeon and all its creatures.
However, dungeons did not necessarily have to kill their invaders. Killing would give it a major payload but it could just as easily leach the vital energies it needed off its invaders without generating the bad blood that arose from slaughtering hundreds of thousands of creatures. Also, dungeons could recreate or produce anything they had ever absorbed. This explained why he had previously been able to create marble, ruby, etc with a metaphorical click of the fingers.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. Brandr discovered he could create copies of any creature that had perished within his domain. Right now, that meant he could create about five different kinds of rodent and numerous varieties of insects that the sprites kept bringing in but eventually, that would change.
The more he learned, the more he saw similarities between dungeons and mystic realms. It was uncanny. Dungeons were among the greatest sources of raw magical material and mana to the entire world. Wars were fought over them and one of the ultimate indicators of a nation’s wealth and strength were the dungeons under its control. With a dungeon you could train warriors, extract precious resources and improve your nation’s ambient mana, They drew it in from the void, purified it and expelled the excess into the prime plane.
Brandr would never have guessed that his domain or dungeon was in a completely different space from the ‘real world’. That was why creating an entrance was so important and why they were practically indestructible. His entrance was his tether to the real world. It was the only way in or out. It might seem like he was a cave under a hill but that wasn’t the case. People could dig all they wanted into his ‘hill’ and never enter his dungeon.
Once the entrance was created, the space of the dungeon itself was cast into the void. The only thing that remained in the prime plane was the entrance. Mentally, Brandr mused that perhaps that was why he never been able to extend his senses past his domain. Dungeons never developed that skill because it was completely useless. Maybe, there had been something around him before but not anymore now that his dungeon was fully formed. From this point on, everything he created would be a simulation of his original environment or something he would create or ‘unlock’ as time went on.
He wasn’t quite sure what that last bit meant but the bottom line was quite clear. There was a growth system involved. Whatever he ate, he could recreate. The more beings he lured in, the more powerful he would get. This might be the big difference between a dungeon and a mystic realm. The mystic realms he knew were places of wonder, danger and bounty. In spite or perhaps because of this, they had to be managed carefully to ensure that they were never overly depleted or destroyed. The number that went in, the times it was opened, what and how much could be brought out were all strictly managed.
In fact, the worst thing for a mystic realm ecologically speaking was for it to be discovered by cultivators. Here, it was the exact opposite… mostly. So long as they did not destroy him outright, he could expect a long and fruitful partnership with the people around him. Just as he thought this, more information flashed through his mind concerning dungeons and their relationships with their respective kingdoms, causing him to revise his previous statement.
It turned out dungeons and mystic realms were not that different in that aspect. Knowledge about dungeons that were destroyed in fights for control, taken out as strategic targets in wars between states, exterminated by their own partners over paranoia, had their cores stolen by secessionists or thieves, were invaded by monsters, had their cores made into jewels or used for arcane rituals, were sold to smugglers, destroyed by religious fanatics, pumped up adventurers and much more filled his head.
Brandr frowned. That was bad. Clearly, association with sentient beings was, in fact, the greatest danger to a dungeon as well as the greatest boon. Measures would have to be taken. Brow furrowed in thought, he called his bound sprite over. His last brush with death had nearly been his final one. He doubted the reaper would be so lax if they met again so soon.