Chapter Eighteen: Gauwyn’s Troubles
Gauwyn leaned back in his chair as he looked through his notes for the right numbers. Idly brushing away a couple of black and blue ants, he Pulled out the sheet he was looking for and presented it to the gathered images as if it was a shield. In some ways it was. The questions asked at these meetings often put him on the spot in ways a simple monster ambush never did. Inwardly, he groaned. Oh, how he missed those simple days. Outwardly though, he forced his jaw to move.
“At the moment, we have 1418 registered residents with more arriving every day. While construction remains on schedule, it is being rapidly outpaced by the new arrivals. Additionally, the special needs of some of our guests are proving to strain our already meagre resources.
“Ah…my people have arrived, I take it?” the Giant Emissary said with a pleased smile, no doubt pleased that his people were not being left out. He had missed the first meeting and greatly regretted it.
“Seventy-one of them as of yestereve”, Gauwyn announced with a tired look in his eyes. 4 weeks worth of food gone in less than five days. He was sure if his office was not soundproofed he would hear them hollering across the mostly quiet landscape.
“More food will be sent your way”, his Guildmaster said with a note of understanding.
That was not enough and the Warden made sure to say so. “With respect sir, food is the least of our problems.”
“Granted, it is a pressing need but the problem is greater than that. More than half the town’s inhabitants are adventurers and the rest are merchants and builders”, he said, sweeping the gathering with his eyes so it was clear he was addressing the entire council. Nevertheless, as he spoke, Gauwyn was aware that nothing he was about to say would be new to them. He had hit on much the same points in the previous meeting a week ago. However, that was more the reason to try. He had not gotten anywhere then so he had to press the matter now.
“As I speak, we have cleared the surroundings of everything and I do mean everything. Black Briar Knoll is bald now and there is not a tree or large bush in sight. Every rock has been overturned. The only things we could possibly hunt are ants…” he said flicking another of the buggers off his table. “…flies and crows. All our water is conjured and the least said about our waste the better.”
He took a moment to breathe and reign himself in. “The dwarves have been very helpful and I am thankful but no settlement was meant to run like this”, he said with a grateful nod towards the Dwarven Emissary.
“State your point, Warden!”
“Black Briar Town needs more than adventurers”, he proclaimed. “We need people to run the town itself. There is practically nothing to do in this town but sit around and wait for a delve slot. The town is expanding but the houses are empty because adventurers would rather sleep on the streets than spend money on accommodation. Few delve slots and idle adventurers means crime is fast becoming a serious problem.”
“These things take time”, the Grandmaster of the Merchant Guild tried to explain. “Like you, we are working around the clock. Getting people to resettle is very difficult especially in your area. Longstanding dwarven mining rights in that area have closed it off from the empire at large. The fact that the forest nearby is inundated with fae is not helping. Transportation to your rocky hinterland is yet another major factor.
“Give news of the dungeon and the town the time it needs to percolate. In the meantime, we have drawn up statutes for land rights and tax exemptions. That would get those interested in the business prospects moving soon enough. Besides, very soon, those adventurers you’re complaining about will become your biggest draw. The sheer convenience of living and working in the same area is not to be discounted. If history is anything to go by, there will be hundreds of adventurers moving their families there in the coming months.”
Gauwyn frowned. Talk was cheap. After adventurers and dwarven builders, the most significant groups were merchants and researchers from the Mage Guild. The two groups had all but washed their hands off the actual running of the town, focusing all their efforts instead on the proceeds of the dungeon. Things were different from when he was an itinerant warrior. He had access to the numbers now and he could see just how little of the dungeon’s riches were being funnelled back into the town. Worse, half the merchants kept trying to sneak past him to smuggle dungeon goods out from under his nose. However, a look from his Guildmaster made him swallow his words. Forcefully calming himself, he reminded himself that the time would come.
“How’s the development of the dungeon coming?” the High Pontifex asked eager to get on with the reason for the meeting.
“As agreed on last week, I increased the number of daily slots from three to four. However, we have instead seen a drop in dungeon delves on account of our fae situation.”
Knowing the gathering would turn to her soon, the Oread quickly answered. “An envoy from the forest will soon be at your town, Warden. I estimate two days at the latest. They should be able to sort out our issues with the dungeon fae and provide this council with some much-needed answers.”
Gauwyn nodded in acknowledgement. That would be very helpful. As for the delay, he would let that slide because he understood that time worked slightly different for the fae.
“You’ll be pleased to know that the crackdown on underdealing and smuggling is well underway though how long that will hold as more adventurers gain access to these new spatial rings is questionable”, he announced.
“Is there still no way to inspect the rings?” the Crafts Master asked the Master of the Mage Guild.
“I’m afraid not. Not without permission of the owner, at least. The binding is quite strong. The only sure way we’ve found to break it forcefully is to kill the user. It is possible to wear it away but that even takes time as well as harms the owner.”
“How are you dealing with the issue?” the Saurian Emissary asked Gauwyn.
“Luckily, only six teams have made it past the fourth floor. However, this still means that there are at least sixty rings in play. We know the owners and so for now, we are monitoring them until better solutions are found.”
Monitoring dungeon loot had become one of Gauwyn’s responsibilities. Several of the dungeon’s products had quickly jumped onto the list of prohibited items. Simply being in possession of them required a writ from the adventurers’ guild and selling them without oversight was a punishable crime. Currently, all Blightwasp related materials fell on this list as did the venom of the malevenomous serpents. The volatile nature of the sun and moon stones had also caused the few that had been excavated to be listed as well. Blightwasp materials, in particular, were incredibly problematic. A new supercharged poison appearing on the market was a bad thing. Who knew?
Jokes aside, whilst higher-ranked professionals could shrug off their effects, the Ten Sorrows, as it had come to be known, was a nightmare for ordinary people. The fact that blightwasp venom was a very common reward on the first floor of the dungeon made it worse. Only the unpredictable nature of its effects had prevented widespread use. Even so, there had been several confirmed cases involving it. Four nobles had suffered from attacks where blightwasp venom was a factor.
Due to the fact that it was actually a curse and not a true poison, nearly all the antidotes on the market were useless against it. A curse removal spell worked but only if the victim survived long enough to receive help. Two of the four nobles had died without even knowing what hit them. The third suffered sudden paralysis that lasted days whilst the last suffered a strange hex that caused his skin and flesh to become fragile. Even a slight brush could break skin. His assassin used that to great advantage in her second attack. Cases of attacks in the dungeon town itself already numbered in in the high thirties.
Using the elixirs provided by the dungeon as a reference, the Mages Guild had made progress towards a cure. Sadly, their current offerings were far too costly to mass-produce. This made regulating the product itself a priority. Regrettably, Gauwyn could not just nab all the adventurers and seize their spoils. The adventurers themselves were not helping matters. Underdeclaring loot so they could turn around and sell it to the merchants had become a real problem.
“Given that I have no guardsmen to speak off, I have tried recruiting some of the adventurers to fill the roles. This has proved… difficult” the Warden ground out in frustration.
“With the growing value of the dungeon’s loot, there is little we can offer the adventurers that would make giving up delving to patrol the city worthwhile. The few who do are more likely to accept bribes and the like from their fellows than keep the peace” Gauwyn revealed.
“What a surprise?” the Grand Marshall scoffed. Breaking his silence to make his disdain of adventurers clear, he added sarcastically. “Unruly sell swords whoring themselves at the slightest hint of gold. I am shocked!”
The Master of the Adventurers’ Guild shot him a glare, one the Marshall returned with equal heat. Thus far, the former had rebutted his attempts to garrison the dungeon town. Initially, Gauwyn was in full support of his guildmaster. Dungeon business was adventurer business! Letting the army in would be crossing an unspoken line. Now, however, he was not sure. His brief time in charge had revealed his fellow adventurer to be less like questing warriors and more like uncultured vagabonds.
“You mentioned something about crime?” asked the High Pontifex, ever the peacemaker.
“Yes!” Gauwyn acknowledged. “Besides the smuggling. I’ve learned this week of bandits that have taken roost down the road. Thus far, two caravans have been robbed and fourteen people killed. I have already issued a mission to root them out. That said, I would like to request the building of a transport portal in the dungeon town.”
Gauwyn watched the council carefully as he spoke listening to them scoff at his request. Already, he was beginning to learn their tells. For instance, it was clear that the merchant and mage guild masters already knew this news. As did his own guild master. So did the Master of crafts and unsurprisingly, the Dwarven Emissary. Good! It would make the next part easier. Anticipation built in his chest as he studied them.
“That is a very excessive measure”, the master of the Mage Guild began. It was his men who would have to build the portal if the request was accepted. “The costs alone…”
Rudely interrupting his colleague, the master of crafts spoke, “Do you even understand your request, Warden? Only cities qualify for transport portals. To ask for city rights for a tiny town that hasn’t even begun to show returns on the investments is…”
Gauwyn snapped back just as hard. “If you had the sense to listen, you would know that the needs of the town far exceed the level required to possess a transport portal!”
Surprised by his outburst, the man sat back in his chair. He was not the only one. The entire council seemed taken aback. With all their eyes on him, Gauwyn was immediately aware that he had overstepped. This would probably bite him later.
“I confess. I don’t understand”, he said, softening his tone. “Every other dungeon has a dungeon portal. What makes this any different?”
“Both of those dungeons are centuries old and a hundred floors deep. Half the economies of their regions depend directly on them”, the High Pontifex tried to explain.
“The importance of the Realm of Valour is not any less. Investing in it now is the right choice”, Gauwyn argued.
The Master of merchants chose this chance to toss his two cents in. “There is a process to these things. Abunvorreh is right. The sheer costs involved run into the millions of gold. We’re not saying the dungeon is not worth it. We’re saying it is not worth it now. The correct thing to do would be to put aside some of its proceeds every month until the dungeon can pay for itself.”
“I’m afraid that’s not good enough”, Gauwyn stated coolly. “This portal will solve half the problems the town is facing. Personnel? Resources? All will be…”
The Master of the Merchant guild opened his mouth to say something only to be cut off again.
“Let the Warden finish!” his guild master said, finally stepping in.
“We all know that bandits on the road will always be a problem. Bandits and smugglers never go away. That makes things very difficult when you have a dungeon that churns out the sort of loot this one does. The resources it produces cannot be allowed to be intercepted. Especially now that we have discovered that the elite dungeon now produces skill crystals!” he announced.
The cacophony that followed was expected so Gauwyn knew to just wait it out.
Brandr waited a few minutes after the meeting ended before he opened his eyes. Watching through the eyes of his gu was very different from looking through his dungeon and caused severe disorientation if he switched back and forth too often. The benefits it brought were too valuable to give up but even he had to admit that he needed help.
Even with the vast multitasking abilities granted by his new dungeon form, maintaining attention on both the insides and outside of his domain was a supremely difficult task that only increased in difficulty the more places he surveilled. With both his dungeon as well as the town demanding increasing attention as they grew, he was going to have to find a way to delegate the task to his sprites or create a new dungeon monster to handle it.