DC/RH Special

DC/RH BK II, CH 27: Into the Dungeon

Chapter Twenty-seven: Into the Dungeon

The entrance to the ‘Realm of Valour” was an imposing thing. The giant marble arch stood ten metres tall and its surface gleamed even in the sunlight with the glow of powerful magic. The arch was adorned with intricate carvings and ornate symbols that glimmered softly but drew the eye. Wide enough to allow several people to pass through side by side, and tall enough for a giant to pass with lots of clearance, the dungeon entrance seems to beckon the viewer forward, into the dark recesses of the hill and beyond.

The hillside surrounding the dungeon was covered in lush greenery and thick black brambles, and a cool breeze carries the scent of fresh earth and damp moss. It is a beautiful natural sight that evokes the feeling of the faerie forest to the west of it but even that beauty is overcast as it is too simple and subtle to compete with the bold statement of the dungeon. Like everything else in the area, it was forced to take a backseat to it.

Even before you got to the dungeon, you had to confront the guardians. No, not the perimeter and checkpoint set up by the guild. The massive mounds of stone carved into fierce lions that roared into the faces of those brave enough to challenge the realm of valour. Each was four metres tall and two wide and they stood on their plinths, mouths wide. Whether they were roaring as intimidation or warning was unknown but many an adventurer found themselves solemn on their approach when they passed under the watchful eyes of those two magnificent sculptors.

The entrance archway leads into a large, dimly-lit chamber within the hill, where the air is cool. The walls are smooth and polished, carved from the same marble as the arch. The floor is made of large, flat stones with light stones along the ceiling, casting a bright pure light that leaves the antechamber feeling like a cathedral.

In the centre of the chamber, stands a large circular platform, also made of marble, and on top of that platform, there sits a solemn stone plinth almost altar-like in the near reverent atmosphere. The plinth is covered in intricate carvings and glyphs, and the light stone above it is, compared to others in the chamber, incredibly bright and focused with its light a veritable beam that shines on the plinth and any standing on it. This is where parties wishing to delve into the dungeon register that their achievements might be recognised and recorded on the far wall on the right of the chamber.

In all. every first-time comer to the dungeon can’t help but stand in awe before the arch and the hollowed hill beyond, a sight old hands never tire of seeing. One can’t help but feel a sense of mystery, danger and wonder when staring into the dungeon depths. There is an assurance that those who are brave enough to explore its depths will find great treasures and artefacts, but only if they face and overcome the many trials that lie ahead.

Thorn looked over the team he was supposed to guide through his master’s domain. While he had originally extended his offer only to his old friends, he was not surprised to see that the adventurer’s guild had snuck a few people into the party. His surprise came when he saw that Count Allerton had succeeded as well. 

‘Must be better connected than I thought’, the dungeon knight realised.

Sarod had come alone unless the mage adept appointed to the dungeon town counted since they were technically from the same guild. Ulak had brought his grandchildren as well as the captain of his honour guard, likely to help protect them. Count Allerton’s addition, he learnt, was actually his second son and spare. Then came Druidmaster Nader before finally the faerie contingent; his Hazel and a pixie whose scowl followed him everywhere he went. No need to ask what that was for.

“Last gear check?” he reminded them before standing back and watching them bustle about with a small smile. 

Watching adventurers get ready for a mission was always a sight. The obsessive checking and re-checking of equipment could tell you a lot about a person.

The other dwarf, the one Thorn recognised as Ulak’s bodyguard, stood silent and waiting, watching the others. The grizzled warrior was confident in his preparations and skill. Only time would tell if that proved true. Allerton’s son with his suit of shining plate armour and shining great sword looked confused for a moment before simply copying the others around him. The boy was strong — as powerful as Thorn himself by all indicators– but clearly woefully inexperienced. That might be why his father pushed him into the group besides the obvious nepotism.

Turning to his right, the dungeon knight laughed as Ulak barked orders at his grandchildren. The lass had her face set into an annoyed expression but the other young dwarf simply looked embarrassed. He shook his head. They’d learn to appreciate those checks one day. Only the spirits knew how many times their lives were on the line, virtually saved or damned because of it. An amused chuckle right next to him had him meet Sarod’s eyes. The wizard made a good show of checking his voluminous sleeves. They appeared empty but the next moment the conjurer reached behind him into his hood and pulled out a two-metre-long mage staff. Before he knew it, Thorn was bowled over with laughter and no small amount of nostalgia. He hadn’t seen that gag in so long he had actually forgotten it.

“Gods!” he exclaimed between breaths. “I can’t believe you’re still doing that.”

As each member of the group finished their preparations, they gathered around the dungeon knight for a final briefing. He outlined the plan, emphasising the importance of staying together and supporting each other, no matter what challenges they might face. If they worked fast, they could push their way to the fifth floor and continue tomorrow.

With their preparations complete and their spirits high, the group set off into the dungeon, ready to face whatever dangers lay ahead. 

It was long before they were walking through a beautiful grassy plain, the sun shining down upon them and the sweet scent of wildflowers filling the air. The grass was tall and lush, swaying gently in the breeze as they passed through it. As they walked, the adventurers marvelled at the beauty of the plain. The grass was a vibrant green, dotted with colourful wildflowers that danced in the breeze. In the distance, they could see a forest of tall trees, their leaves rustling softly in the wind.

Occasionally, they spotted small animals darting through the grass, and the sound of birds singing filled the air. As they journeyed, the group talked and laughed, sharing stories and jokes. They knew that the journey ahead would be long and difficult, but for now, they were content to enjoy the simple pleasures of the world around them.

For a few fleeting moments, the beauty of the grassy plain made them forget about the danger and adventure that awaited them. They were simply a group of friends, walking through a beautiful world and enjoying each other’s company.

The greying, middle-aged druid crouched down to examine the peculiar strain of magical grass. His curious eyes wondered how he had missed it before. Nader ran his rough hand gently over the grass, feeling the pulse of nature flowing through it. As he did, the grass began to shift and change, growing taller and thicker in response to his touch but so too did its warmth. It was as he suspected, a plant containing fire elemental magic.

Fascinated, the man reached into his satchel and pulled out a small vial. He carefully snipped off a few blades of the magical grass as well as some seeds and placed them inside the vial, sealing it tightly. 

“This needs further study,” he murmured to himself, tucking the vial back into his satchel.

As he stood up and continued on his way, he couldn’t help but wonder about the origin of this strange strain of grass. Something about it felt off, foreign. Was it a natural mutation, or had some kind of dungeon intervention caused it to grow this way? Was it the dungeon sprites?

Whatever the case, the man knew that it was a valuable discovery. He made a mental note to return to this spot later, to study the grass more closely and see what other secrets it might hold. For a druid, there was always something new to learn from the natural world, and this magical grass was just one more piece of the puzzle.

“I’m glad that caught your eye”, came the voice of their guide, having snuck up while he was occupied. “Too many ignore the smaller more subtle treasures of the dungeon.”

Nader grumbled mentally at the start. However, the expression on his face was conflicted. Asking for knowledge from the fae was always a testy thing and he was loath to do it even though he wanted to know.

“That’s the plant we used to do the troll in”, the dungeon knight said, speaking without being prompted. 

“Best way to kill trolls is fire!” he added with a harsh but faraway glare. “When I informed the dungeon of that it created these, tinder fescue. They feed flames like nothing else, making them stronger, hotter and brighter. Get enough of it burning and not even water can put it out as some adventurers have found to their dismay.”

“This is how you killed the troll?” Sarod said, suddenly right next to them, more tinder fescue in his hands.

Thorn nodded. “It happened right there!” he said pointing back towards the entrance they had taken into this chamber. “We dug a pit and lured him in. Then we got a fire going. Everyone made sure to toss in armfuls of tinder till he was ash.”

Silence had fallen over their little troupe. Nader shared a look with Adept Grimsby. This was exactly the sort of thing that turned him away from the fae. One moment, the little gnomish creature was helpful, even nice and the next, it spoke with such vitriol the grass around had genuinely started dying. Granted, he understood where this hate came from but that mercurial nature… it made them unreliable even dangerous at times.

Sarod nodded, not even blinking at Thorn’s outburst. Suddenly, pulling out heaps of tinder fescue with a wave and storing it away somewhere.

“It seems like a promising reagent.” 

“Come!’ he beckoned. “I understand the first-floor boss is weak to fire. It should provide a suitable target for testing.”

Suffice it to say, when they got to the boss, it didn’t stand a chance. 

Author’s Note:

Please expect updates to be a bit slow. I have made the mistake of injuring myself again. This time, my right hand. I was forced to wait for my brother to get off work so he could help me get this chapter out. I’ll see about getting a beta/proofreader to help out on the site to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

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