Greg hung back, observing everything with keen eyes. Two of the other adventurers, eager to please, walked in front of him to scout the way. He let them, content to watch, for now.
Walking into the strange cave was an experience. Greg closed his eyes, operating his mantra at full blast.
All things in the world were dependent on the essence of heaven and earth. This energy was the lifeblood of the world and the source of all mystical phenomenon. Cultivators relied on it for their powers, refining and storing this essence to fuel their auras and abilities. Like all natural resources, it was not distributed equally over the planet. For the most part, ambient world essence had a recognised universal level. However, there were some places where the concentration differed.
Zones with high concentrations of world essence were prized by cultivators as blessed lands. Mystical phenomenon and resources were more likely to appear in such areas. Cultivation was also faster and easier in such places. Places of low essence concentration, however, had the opposite effects.
There was something strange about this place. Unfortunately, Greg could not quite put his finger on it. Reaching out, he ran his hand along the wall next to him. It was lined with slate. He could say with full confidence that the stones used were neither worked by hand nor by tools.
‘Earth shaping’, he concluded. he had seen similar works in some high-class establishments.
‘Does that mean the senior who left this place had the earth attribute?’ he asked himself. The uneasy feeling still hadn’t left. It was some sort of weird feedback from his burgeoning spiritual senses. ‘Is it coming from the wall?’ he wondered. Earth shaping could be used to layer enchantments over stone. Could that be what was throwing him off?
Were it not for the pressing nature of his circumstances, he would have prefered to spend a bit more time puzzling it out. Already, Stella had walked in behind him. He could not afford to wait. He pushed his impromptu team to walk faster. Making their way down the corridor, they came upon a pair of stone doors.
“Open it!” he commanded.
The two in the lead hurriedly got to work, pushing open the heavy stone doors. They led into a huge room easily fifty metres across. From what Greg could see, the chamber was L shaped. The way they came was the lower bar, and even that was at least fifteen metres wide. The other side was closer to forty. Stella and the hounds came in behind them, their footfall echoing through the room.
“It’s empty?” the woman asked in disbelief.
Greg was having trouble with that himself. The giant chamber was completely empty. The ceiling had a few light stones, but besides them, there was nothing else; no furnishings, no treasure, nothing.
“Could someone have looted it already?” he asked Stella, his voice dripping with suspicion.
The scarred lady backed away immediately. “Impossible! We were the first here. The place was undisturbed, I swear it!”
Truthfully, the room was simply new. Fletcher simply had not had the time or resources to fill the space. Without creatures to guard them, anything place here was essentially free loot for any dungeon invaders. Creating inanimate objects was easy for a dungeon. Life, on the other hand, required a spark. The stock Fletcher started with had long since run out. If he wanted more creatures, he would have to harvest the living.
“Boss Greg!” called one of the scouts. “There are two doors, one to the north and another west. Which way do we go?”
Greg let the question hang, choosing instead to continue staring at the woman in front of him. Scared that he would attack, Stella was unable to turn away. The moment lingered, and she began to fidget in discomfort. Confident that she would not dare lie to him, Greg turned back to the task at hand.
“We’ll go west!” he announced.
That door was directly across from them, so it was easier to get to. Unfortunately, unlike the one they had just come through, this one was locked. It was as smaller, not wide enough for two people to walk through abreast. One of the scouts took out a lockpicking set and got to work. It must have been a simple lock because he had it open in no time flat.
The door shut behind them, but before Greg could turn and find out why, a loud rumbling in front of him called for his attention. A massive boulder that completely filled the corridor careened toward them like a maddened bull. It had to be at least three metres wide.
Greg did not hesitate, with reflexes forged from two decades of adventuring, he turned and shoving the others out of the way, he reached for one of the iron hoops that served as the handles of the stone door.
It was not there! His eyes hurriedly searched for a purchase hold whiles his brain reminded him that the door opened outwards in his direction.
“SHIT!” he cursed.
Left with no choice, he took a step back and charged, his body awash with his aura. His power swirled around him, boosting his speed and endurance such that when his shoulder met the door, it shattered before him. He went sprawling back into the room he had just left. The others with him were not so lucky.
Greg heard rather than saw their terrified screams followed by the crunching that ensued when the stone boulder rolled over them and then finally the bang when the rock met the too small entrance of the stone door he smashed in his escape. Before he could so much as get back on his feet, it was all over. Greg winced, as much from the pain coming from his shoulder as the sight before him.
“MISS STELLA!” one of the hounds yelled fruitlessly.
“Holy shit!” Fletcher exclaimed loudly.
Startled, Duros turned his rather blocky head towards the dungeon core’s hiding place. Realising that it was nothing but another display of his creator’s eccentricities, he turned back to his vigil.
Fletcher ignored the stalwart elemental. Four adventurers had just fallen for his boulder trap. He never expected it would be so effective. The thing was more of a gag trap than anything. It was simply dungeon 101 to have them. They added to the ambience more than anything.
Searching his memory, Fletcher could not find one single instance in his vast knowledge of literature and movies where a rolling boulder worked. The heroes either outrun it or found a place to hide and wait for it to pass by. Their designers were trash. His had killed four in its first run.
‘Note to self’, he said appreciatively. ‘Doors and bottlenecks are OP.’
Killed four humans!
- Acquired ç̶̧͛͂͒͊̀̈́̓͂u̴͉̫̥͚̘̙̺̔̀̿̅̀͘l̸̡͇͙̙͉̱̰͌͂͑̈́̑̊̉t̵̜̓́̈̚͜i̷̼͖̗̭̟̥͖̿̏͐̈v̷̨̘͙̎̊ả̶̛̛̲͕̳̣̻̜͉͕̽̚t̵͇̜̱̮̥̩̗͐́ḯ̵͖̟̦͓̙̮͙̐͜͝n̴̛̦̭͂͜g̷̡̧͚̲̲͂͆ human template
- Acquired ç̶̧͛͂͒͊̀̈́̓͂u̴͉̫̥͚̘̙̺̔̀̿̅̀͘l̸̡͇͙̙͉̱̰͌͂͑̈́̑̊̉t̵̜̓́̈̚͜i̷̼͖̗̭̟̥͖̿̏͐̈v̷̨̘͙̎̊ả̶̛̛̲͕̳̣̻̜͉͕̽̚t̵͇̜̱̮̥̩̗͐́ḯ̵͖̟̦͓̙̮͙̐͜͝n̴̛̦̭͂͜g̷̡̧͚̲̲͂ human animus x 4
- Acquired material for undead
- Acquired spatial ring x 2
- Acquired ̶̮̦͓͎͒͆̆͋͛͑̿̐̾́̃̈d̵̟͚̰͊ą̷͓̣̪͈̼͇̖̹̜͕͑̉͒͌̾͒͂̓́̐͘ḙ̴̜͙̞̗̖̽̈́̈̊̒͂̕͠͠m̵̧̪̹̼̋̿́̆̆̉̑̓̚o̴̭̱̣̻̙̓͊̀̔̓ņ̸̟̺̩͈̠͓̆͒͝ beast cores x 17
World Seed 54827795, the materials you are about to absorb cannot be identified. Corruption may occur. Are you sure you want to proceed?
That’s the end of it, I’m afraid. Hopefully, that’s enough to make up for missing last week’s chapter. Yes, I know it ends on a cliffhanger but I’m sorry, there isn’t anymore.
This was the product of a writing exercise and you know what? There’s another! One that is, to me, much better. This followed your standard dungeon story template, that one, despite having the same world setting, was more involved. There were personal stakes, intrigue, monsters even some face slapping. Better still, I wrote more of it. I even designed the dungeon floors. That one would go up on patreon later. I free wrote most of it so it needs some editing.
Tell me what you thought of this story in the discord server. There’ll be cookies for anyone who can tell me what the big twist at the end of this chapter is supposed to be.