Chapter Two: Dungeon Report
Tapping the crystal ball, he pushed it to the centre of the table so it could display its recording for all to see. The video was projected into the air above the table. It showed the warden walking up to the dungeon’s entrance. Rewalt heard several people draw breath when the ten-metre tall marble entrance with its flanking sculptures was revealed. Because the recording crystal was levitating behind the warden’s shoulder, they saw not just the scenery but also the impact it had on firsthand viewers.
In the recording, the warden stood there, stunned by the scene. He walked up to one of the lion-like statues and felt it with his fingers as if making sure they were not alive. Eventually, he regained his senses and remembered his mission. Walking around the entrance, he spoke softly to himself, listing off the details his perception skill discovered about the place only to stand in stunned silence when he reached the dungeon’s plaque. The audience was the same. The entire Senior Council sat in silence and read the words of the plaque together.
Warriors! Men-at-arms and Soldiers of fortune!
Step forward and prove your mettle!
Before you lies The Realm of Valour, an elite dungeon.
The sacred ground for all who stride the martial path.
Only the strong and daring may delve into its depths,
And only the victorious may receive its bounty.
Courage. Power. Skill. Will. All may be found within.
Wealth, Glory, Honour and Power beyond compare await you.
There is but one absolute command;
Covet not the Realm Heart!
At this point, the Grand Marshall, a burly seven-metre tall giant in plate armour was unable to hold his piece any longer and asked, “This what you meant when you said the dungeon was named but not named?”
“Yes!” Rewalt answered, craning his head upward so he could address his colleague. Jovic was a good friend and battle comrade but damn did he take up space indoors. His seat had to specially spaced from the Emperor so that he was always close enough to lend a hand but far enough that his shadow did not leave their liege in the darkness.
“Clearly, it is cognizant enough to call itself the Realm of Valour, but the item lore on its loot refers to it as the unknown dungeon.”
“I think I can explain that!” Volicina said, speaking up.
Grandmistress Volicina was the normative head of the Mages Guild. A bitter old crone whose skill at the arcane arts was outshined only by her talent at politicking. The kingdom had better arcane masters but none more skilled at words than Volicina. Rewalt had a grudging respect for her the kind reserved for people whose achievements you respected but not the tactics by which they came by them.
“Dungeon are nature spirits. There’s very little difference between them, land gods and higher order beings like demons and angels. In that sense, what we usually refer to as a dungeon’s name is more often than not a title conferred to them by those that visit it. Their true names are secret things known only by themselves, their dungeon pixies and other dungeons.
“Lore text is often subjective, but it has rules it follows. The laws that govern it are difficult to understand. The dungeon has a name but not one we know or should know. A dungeon’s public name needs to be recognised by its visitors. Perhaps until we begin to refer to it as The Realm of Valour or by some other such title, it will remain unnamed to us.”
“The issue is actually quite interesting. A name is an identifier that people recognise you by, but it is more simply what they call you. If people call you by something other than your given name, is that not a name given to you? In fact, it bears some looking into. If this is the case with dungeons then perhaps, demons and other divine entities are not as immune to bindings by incorrect name as we…”
“That’s quite enough, Lady Volicina!” The Emperor commanded. “It is indeed interesting, but clearly it is a matter for another day. Please focus on the task at hand.”
The old lady had the decency to blush, the pink reaching down past her weathered cheeks and down her neck into the low cut front of her robe. Rewalt pulled his eyes away before they something they could not unsee.
The recording was still moving forward, Gauwyn was examining the obelisk that required the adventurers to register themselves and the wall that recorded their deeds. Written boldly on the latter was a series of words.
Floor One, First Clear: Coenbert’s Defenders. Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Floor One, Fastest Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes by Coenbert’s Defenders.
Quickly, Rewalt explained what the words meant and how the system worked. Manipulating the viewing crystal, he fast-forwarded to a more relevant time: the warden’s first meeting with the adventuring party that had called itself Coenbert’s Defenders. The council watched as Sieg narrated his story. In the meantime, Rewalt took out another viewing crystal and displayed another recording beside the first. This one concerning Guawyn’s examination of the loot obtained in the dungeon.
The Grandmaster of the Adventurer’s Guild did not bother with the minutia. His simply showed split-second clips of the herbs and leathers looted from the dungeon before getting to the good stuff.
“All the items shown thus far were looted from the first floor, but in my humble opinion this is the prize of the lot”, he said displaying the bow for all to see. As expected, it received lots of attention. A few even leaned forward so they could examine it better. Soon, they realised just what they were looking at.
“Masterwork? An E-rank masterwork? How’s that possible?” The Prince asked in astonishment.
“It is possible, your highness”, answered the old dwarf who was Grandmaster of the Craft Guilds, his tone thoughtful. “Masterworks are more a testament to the skill of the craftsman and not the grade of his materials or the rank of the final product. A true master can make a masterwork out of anything. It just so happens that very few if any masters would bother making low-rank products.
“It would be like asking a great artist to draw in the dirt with a stick. As beautiful as the work might be, it would be unbefitting to his skill or status”, he added.
“There is more to it than that”, came Volicina’s croaking voice. She gave the dwarf a disapproving look before speaking to the Prince. “Artificers don’t like to admit it, but there is a cap on their abilities were materials are involved. You cannot make a towering statue out of say, a handful of twigs. Nor can you make a marble sculpture from sand. There is also the matter of expertise. An artist can draw in the dirt with a stick, but a painter would be at a loss. He would never make anything considered a masterwork if not working in his medium and his masterworks would always be in the same style.”
The dwarf ignored her. Fixing his steely eyes on the Grandmaster of the Adventurers’ Guild, he asked, “This came out of the dungeon, truly?”
“From the very first floor as boss loot!” Rewalt confirmed.
“How?” came the other’s response.
“I honestly do not know”, Rewalt admitted. “There is a lot more if you’re suspicious.”
Mana lighting up on his fingertips, he pulled up images of each piece of boss loot recovered from the dungeon and the boss it dropped from. A picture of the Blightwasp Hive was placed above the bow. The Armoured Bear and his breastplate came up as did the Wisps and their staff and finally the Lion sculpture and the spatial rings. Gasps could be heard up and down the table. One low-rank masterwork was one thing. Seeing four in the row from the same dungeon was another.
“This is every piece of boss loot from the dungeon!” Rewalt introduced. He felt like an auctioneer showing his catalogue. “Each is a masterwork ranked E to D with at least one masterwork skill. Ignoring the other peculiarities, this is enough to classify this dungeon as an equipment based dungeon. The only problem…”
The others had stopped listening to him. Each was clamouring for the Emperor’s attention.
“Your Majesty, I humbly request that a contingent of artificers be sent to this new dungeon to safeguard the equipment and assess the value of the dungeon and its loot.
“Your Majesty, It is clear from the report that the dungeon contains a trove of arcane knowledge and materials. From its behaviour and contents, it is clear that this is a variant unlike any we have ever seen. I would like to submit a proposal to temporarily place it until the control of the Mages Guild, so we can conduct proper studies into its nature before opening it to the public”, said Grandmistress Volicina.
“I beg Your Majesty to remember your people in Egion who are always last to enjoy the Empire’s bounty. It is our plea that an injunction be placed on the exploration of this dungeon until my people are able to send a troop of warriors to join in the undertaking”, said the Egionian envoy, his forked tongue slipping free from his fanged jaw in his haste to speak.
The others were not to be outdone.
The Dwarven envoy spoke next, “A dungeon requires management, Your Majesty. It is the earnest request of your people that we be allowed to manage this new dungeon. We are the closest! If given your leave we can have people at the site tomorrow. They will assess the site, build lodgings and prepare the place for exploitation. Please, Your Majesty! It is obvious to all that the dwarves are the best people to handle this undertaking. Let us do so in your name.”
“I am afraid I must disagree with the Dwarven Envoy, Your Majesty!” exclaimed the Oread representing The Galronde. “Clearly, my people are best suited to the task. We are just as close. The dungeon is strange, but it is still a dungeon, and it still has a dungeon pixie. My people can quickly suss out its secrets have them before you in a fortnight. Additionally, this humble servant would like to remind the council that my lord’s revels are famed throughout the land. Under his management, the dungeon town will be the absolute best possible.”
Rewalt tried to speak, to bring them back under control but they spoke over him, their voices grwoing louder and louder. It was the Emperor who stepped in and brought order to the table so he could continue making his point.
“The bosses!” he said, stating the obvious. He did not blame his colleagues for ignoring the monstrous figures. The equipment was much too eye-catching. However, it was his duty to call attention to the issue. It would be his people delving into those depths to get the things they wanted.
“Each and every one of them is so dangerous it boggles the mind”, he exclaimed. Enlarging the hive. He spoke saying, “This is the first-floor boss, It is a legion boss with mass debilitation attacks.”
Playing short recordings of the Bloodsoaked Foxes’ dungeon dive, he added, “The second-floor boss. A fourth-ranked variant armoured bear with super strength, martial skills and a skill that grants it superior magic resistance! The third floor is guarded by a commander and his two flunkies, all of them with stealth abilities, immunity to physical damage and a wealth of ranged elemental skills.”
“What is it you want?” Arch Duke Annaeus asked.
Rewalt took a deep breath and started listing his demands.
Bedlam erupted in the chamber again.