Chapter Three: Dungeon Delvers
Gauwyn stared out at the gathered tents, thinking to himself, ‘Things are going to get hectic quick.’
Ugmar, the old guild master in Arnham had mustered nearly a hundred adventurers and sent them up to the dungeon. The man was determined not to miss out on the dungeon’s bounty. Gauwyn could guess that his own involvement must have prompted the action. Arnham’s guildmaster had surely realised by now that the dungeon would never be left under his management. If so, this was an attempt to grab what he could, while he could.
Adding to this headache was a fully outfitted dwarven platoon. The dungeon was not far from their borders. Technically, it lay in the buffer space left between dwarven and fae territories, but the Warden doubted that the distinction mattered anymore. They were here to stake their claim. As much as Gauwyn had expected the dwarves to show. He had not counted on them appearing this quickly. His mind went to the surviving smith in Coenbert’s party.
‘Did he downplay his relations with his people or are the people in the capital merely working faster than expected.’
The Warden’s orders were to hold the fort until a decision was reached in the capital, but he doubted he could. With the original delvers, The Bloodsoaked Foxes, the other adventurers and now, the dwarven platoon all roiling in the mix, the place was a powder keg. All he needed now was a contingent of fae and a party of giants to finish his set. Maybe even a saurians battle troop to add to the collection. Gauwyn muttered a quick prayer. Hopefully, he had not tempted fate.
Still, something had to be done. The Warden could not keep the adventurers sitting around forever. They were here for blood and gold. Adventurers were a rowdy bunch even at the best of times. If he set himself up as the one keeping them from their payday, it would backfire spectacularly. As for the dwarves, he was in good standing with them. They would respect his authority. However, not even that would keep them still if they saw the humans waltzing in and out of the dungeon while they stayed idle.
Coenbert stood in the crowd, his crutches biting into his armpits. What remained of his party arrayed themselves at his side. The Warden had called an assembly and requested that every soul be present. The guardian could only hope that was not for the reason he thought it was.
“Everyone,” The Warden yelled to the crowd. “I would first like to thank you for being patient over the last few days. I know it’s been tough. That is why I am glad to announce that the dungeon will be opened temporarily.”
The adventurers cheered prompting the Warden to raise his hands for silence. Coenbert could only look at the man in disbelief. Surely, it was a joke. He was going to let this motley bunch in? Not even the party the Warden had personally helmed came out unscathed, and he wanted these greedy idiots to storm into the same trap. What happened to ‘waiting for expert help’ and ‘making the dungeon safer’?
“I know that I said the guild wanted it closed until we could find out more about it”, lied the Warden with a straight face. “However, it’s been decided that we can handle some of this ourselves. Adventurers can go into the dungeon on one condition, and it is that you report everything you learn and find to me. Don’t worry, the guild will pay top price for your loot!
“Adventurers talk, and I understand that some stories have already made their rounds. I encourage you to take stock in them. This dungeon is nothing like anything I have ever seen. That is the reason you have been forced to wait so long. Our preliminary findings tell us that it is a variant of some sort so do not go in thinking it would be like the others.
“You have no doubt heard of the loot it holds; superb weapons, armour and treasure. All of that is true, but what is also true is the protections you must get through are the most deadly I have ever seen in a dungeon this size. A minor lapse in judgement or guard will lead to your death. If you get chosen to join a delving team, remember to be careful in there!” he warned.
Unfortunately, the warning fell on mostly deaf ears. Coenbert even heard an adventurer close by snort in derision. This was what he was afraid of. At their core, adventurers were mercenaries. They braved danger all the time in pursuit of wealth. Telling them a place was dangerous was like telling them that fire was hot. Sure it could burn the unwary, but it was a something they were so used to that they did not even think about it. No one stopped to ask or consider whether it was a torch, a bonfire, or a burning building.
As a result, the Warden’s warnings were largely ignored. Perhaps, he expected this for his next pronouncement put a definite cap on their possible stupidity.
“For the time being, only adventurers of the third rank or higher may enter the dungeon”, he said to their dismay. “We need experts who can map out the place, avoid the traps and beat back the monsters. The depths are unknown and anything can happen in there so we’re only sending the best. Full parties of at least five adventurers will enter at three separate times in a single day. I’ll let you sort it out among yourselves, but the final decisions rest with me. Every morning I will announce the parties selected and be sure to submit your request by the end of the day.”
“NO UNAUTHORISED ENTRIES!” the Warden yelled. He wanted to make his point as clear as possible.
“If I catch anyone trying to sneak in I’ll have their guild marks seized, their loot confiscated and their names blacklisted from here to Devian! Cross me and you’ll never work another job in your life”, he added.
“Stick to the rules and you’ll have nothing to worry about. You can delve right into the dungeon and search for all the treasures you want.”
The gathered adventurers cheered, dreams of wealth and fame already on their minds. Those who would not be able to enter quickly tried to get in good with the higher ranked adventurers. They might not get involved with the fighting but there were still other jobs to be done. Others, the more confident ones tried to form teams. Coenbert looked at them with pity. Most were rank twos and threes. He doubted even half would return alive.