Chapter Forty: Fine Work
Coenbert sat with his back to the cave wall taking this break to sort through the turbulent thoughts tearing through his mind. He might not remember much from his dungeon diving days but he was certain that the first floor was not supposed to be this large. They had walked through kilometres of tunnels and vast expanses of grassland battling all sorts of vermin. Not the scattered goblins he remembered but woodland critters with their size and aggression multiplied by a factor of five.
Not too far away, Sieg was rebandaging a small wound. A giant rat had torn out a good chunk of flesh from his leg a few tunnels back and Coenbert found himself staring at the hole it had left. He should not have done so. Images of David’s body forced themselves out of their quarantine and back to the forefront of his mind. He tried to push them back but, this time, they would not budge. Nothing could remove the image of David just hanging there, held in place by the very things that took his life or of him falling, bloody and lifeless to the ground when they let him go.
‘Damn this!’ he screamed internally.
This was his adventuring debut all over again. He thought he put it behind him but it was back with a vengeance, reminding him just why he had quit dungeon diving. He had known David for years. The man was an integral part of his party and his loss hurt in more ways than one. Still, Coenbert was no longer that inexperienced youth from twelve years ago.
All are distractions!
And all the bane of warriors great.
They sap your will and cause the mind to stray;
A shield too slow to raise.
A sword hesitant to strike the killing blow.
A mind too lost to find the death that stalks it.
These were the things that kill a man!
A steady arm to brace a shield.
A sure hand to wield a blade.
A keen mind…
Coenbert recited the words of his god to himself and took comfort in them. When next he opened his eyes, they were focused again. Even his tiredness seemed to have been swept away. ‘Death comes to all with time’, he reminded himself. ‘The warrior is fortunate to meet his own on the field of battle, blade in hand.’
David was gone but they remained. Adventurers died all the time. This was the life they had chosen; blood, steel and loot. Speaking of loot, this dungeon was surprisingly generous. Their bags held a considerable number of leathers and furs. This was his first time seeing the like. Leathers and furs separately? No processing involved on their part. There were even teeth and bones of good quality as well as choice pieces of meat. Too bad they were forced to leave them behind. The best part? None of the goblin ears, rat tails, wolf paws or any of the other disgusting body parts he thought they would be collecting. Based on loot alone, this was the best dungeon he had ever heard of. Too bad everything else in it did its best to kill you.
He walked up to Bifund. The dwarf was still admiring the secret loot that had caused poor David to lose his life. A longsword that the dwarf had refused to let go off since they obtained it and he needed to know why?
“Spill!” he demanded.
“In a bit, I’m still examining its make”, the dwarf said with a dismissive gesture.
Coenbert had no time for that and he made it clear. “No. Now!”
The dwarf refused to look up, his face mere inches from the blade, its scabbard to his right and his fingers drummed on it in with a strange rhythm. “Don’t worry! I am not going to steal it. You can have it back when we get back. Of course, I would like the first chance at purchase…” he was saying when he finally raised it, only to cut his words short at the party leader’s expression.
“Spill!” Coenbert demanded again, this time with a note of finality in his tone.
Bifund did so immediately. “There are five grades of items; mundane, fine, masterwork and legendary though, I suppose you humans have ‘crude’ beginning the list. Each successive grade boasts multiple times the effects and power of the one before it. These grades are determined by the materials and craftsmanship used in the making of the item. However, an items renown or used can sometimes…”
“Skip the lecture. Get to the point. What is so special about the sword?” Coenbert spat. He was having none of that shitty exposition. You could practically see the dwarf’s brain working as it tried to recall the words of whatever notes he was reciting. Who did not know about item grades?
“This sword is of the fine grade!” the smith declared.
The guardian nearly choked on his own tongue at those words. “Are you sure?” he asked excitedly. Somewhere to his right he heard the second dwarf exclaim and rush over.
“Yes”, the smith revealed with a grin.
“Not only that”, he added, holding the blade aloft. “This sword was not forged. It was artificed!”
“Let me see that!” the other dwarf demanded, trying to snatch it from Bifund’s hands.
“No, let me”, Coenbert said with his hand held out.
A core requirement for anyone who wanted to register as leader of any party was an identification or perception skill. It was imperative that a party leader be able to identify items on quests as well as glean information on his surroundings and the enemies his party encountered. Coenbert did not dare boast that his skill would be as good as the dwarves for inspecting the item but it should let him verify things for himself. Reluctantly, the sword, scabbard and all, was given to him, allowing him to make use of his skill.
Instantly, the world changed for him becoming sharper. Its colours became brighter and more distinct and the movements of the people around him, including the nervous twitches of his party members as they waited for his confirmation, were easily grasped by his mind. He looked down at the sword in his hand focusing on it and asking for its parameters. A panel appeared over it in response.
Name: Battle Blade | Grade: G | Quality: Fine
Description: A sword crafted in Dungeon of the Elite, bearing the markings of its origins. It is a simple weapon crafted with only one purpose – battle. It will not fail, save it is let down by its wielder or brought against a foe too great to bear. Even then it would only break preferring to fall in battle performing its purpose.
- Keen Edge: With the application of magic, this sword reveals its true, supernaturally sharp edge. It becomes capable of cutting through anything graded F and below.
- Reinforced: With the application of magic, this sword becomes tougher and harder to break becoming able to withstand forces up to grade F.
Coenbert looked at the sword with surprise. Despite being two grades lower, it made his prized sword look inferior by comparison. Then again, his sword was mundane. It possessed the strength to withstand even his most forceful strikes and after its attunement, it could channel his power. Until now, that had been more than good enough. The shocking part was how ordinary it looked.
He drew his own for comparison. His sword was slightly wider, made from refined steel with a modest garnet set in the pommel. Once, he had tried to get a mage to put a fire rune on it only to be told that the sword would not survive the attempt. Perhaps this was what he meant. Attunement aside, the only good thing about his sword was that it was good enough for someone of his rank to use. The dungeon sword, however, was two grades lower and had additional effects that his did not. It lacked any adornments but it was lighter than his own and of clearly superior make. Too bad it was still too weak for him to use.
“Here!” he said to the eagerly waiting dwarf as he reluctantly handed it over.
Suddenly and without warning, the cavern’s unnatural sunlight dimmed. Just before all went completely dark, a soft pale light began to replace it. The sunny atmosphere that helped make the dungeon tolerable was gone, replaced with shadows and barely there light. It provided enough to see by but only for a few feet. Colours were muted mostly transformed into shades of black and grey.
“What on earth just happened?”
“The sunstones!” Sanzur exclaimed. “They’ve dimmed.”
“NO, they haven’t!” Sieg pointed out. “They’re out entirely. Some other stone is emitting that light.”
“Could it be a moonstone?” Bifund asked.
“I’m thinking the same thing. Sun and moonstones set in a cycle, mimicking day and night. The moonstones coming alight would mean that we have been in here for at least four assuming that the dungeon is in sync with the outside world”, Sanzur said. He had some expertise in lapidary and so his interest peaked. For a few moments, his far was laid aside.
“I did not mention it earlier but the sunstones here are weird and definitely brighter than they should be. The moonstones look to be the same. If only we could get closer or better yet take one down for study…”
“All of this is well and all…” the healer interrupted. “…but none of you are talking about what we’re going to do about the boss room!”
Unable to help himself, Coenbert glanced towards the large tunnel entrance to his left. it had a simple marble archway, making it stand out from the rest of the drab cavern walls. Some cheeky bastard had even labelled it.
[The First Trial]
The term Fine/Fine work sounds weird in my head. I thought of replacing it with first-rate or exemplary but eventually decided not to.
What do you think it should be called?