“I have never seen a greater monster or miracle in the world than myself.”
- Michel de Montaigne
Caden had been forced to be patient by circumstances and the sudden acquisition of the tools needed to make a functional dungeon was more than welcome. Up to this point, everything he had done had been made from scratch or from putting pieces of patterns together. Part of the reason he had delayed creating the dungeon proper was the knowledge that he would need to come up with everything from scratch.
Before getting started he did a quick check on Exsan’s progress. The tunnels extended far away from the main area of the dungeon and were mostly aura. He had tried to feel what Exsan was building toward before, but had yet to be successful. He tried again, blindly stretching out his senses. There was still nothing at first, but after a few minutes he could feel something. It was as if the constant resonance that played itself across his aura were being reflected back at him, an echo. It felt like him, but just slightly out of shift, out of tune. It was still incredibly faint, but now that he knew what to look for he could feel two sources. Each was in a direction Exsan was building toward.
One was closer than the other. The tunnels were getting closer to reaching it. If he had to guess each tunnel was more than five miles long by now. The dungeon had expanded a decent amount in the last few days, extending perhaps a hundred feet in radius each day. The tunnels were still, however, at least a few miles from the closest echo and well outside the dungeon’s territory. He had the time to get started, so he was going to quickly get everything new in order.
He began with a quick creation by dumping the full signal he had gained from the sewer into a small depression he formed into the stone. He registered it as an environment and then assigned it to the sewers. Now they should automatically be set up the correct way. He then used the various patterns he had gained for living creatures and properly reconstructed a small section of the sewers with living creatures. He left the rest alone. If he had done it properly, then the life here should spread. He created an isolated tank, assigned the sewer environment, divided it up into individual sections and placed the various stored eggs inside, making a small hatchery.
Next he made a decent sized room. On the ceiling he placed a ton of the new small mana lights he could create. The floor he covered several feet deep with soil. He added the various seeds he had stored away and planted each an inch or two below the ground. He was not certain of the correct planting depth, but fortunately he could adjust that if needed. He created a brief misting rain over the room and then left after setting an environment setting for the room. Hopefully this would work. If he could just get the seeds to sprout, he should be able to get enough information from the additional mass to recreate them and try again.
He created another room that was identical, but in this room he created seeds from patterns instead. These were seeds that he had never seen before. The wooden chair from Tam had produced a pattern for a tree and the seed from it was a thumb sized shiny brown. This went into the ground, along with seeds reconstructed from twigs and branches that had been floating through the sewers. Seeds from materials decaying amongst the dirt he had sampled joined them. He recreated seeds from dead and dried plants in caves up where his aura had reached. Every plant that he had gained enough information on was represented. Now that he had proper, bright, lights he might be able to get his forest after all.
For the moment traps were going to need to be his mainstay. Only a few simple traps were actually already available, but it was not like he would find recreating most of them particularly difficult. He created the pitfall trap (basic) the system had available for him. Basic was right. It was blatantly obvious. The cover was cracked stone that should not fool anyone. Maybe some newbie adventurers might fall in if they were distracted by something though. He made a few quick variations of the top, each getting progressively harder to spot, until the last version was perfectly smooth stone that was only a few millimeters thick. He put them together with the pitfall trap and named them accordingly, so that he had different difficulty versions to offer. He also insured that the cracks and stone on the top would match the surrounding stone or decor and randomize accordingly. There really were options for everything in this interface.
The spike trap was available for purchase, but he ignored it and just made it out of the basic pitfall trap adding hardened stone spikes. He made variations on the spikes, too. Making some needle thin and highly fragile that would break off and shatter inside the body. He made thicker, long, spikes that would create gaping wounds as a person fell on them. He continued making variations, though he considered his barbed spikes, both sturdy and breakable variations, to be particularly nasty. As was the pitfall trap that was wider at the bottom and had additional thin razor sharp spikes facing downwards. By the time he was done there was a small icon flashing for attention.
You have acquired a new title:
Innovator I (Dungeon)
You have successfully created structures using your own knowledge instead of purchasing them from the shop. Continue to innovate and make your dungeon even more lethal.
+When you make a design that is similar enough to a purchasable option you will be given that purchase for free
True to its word, the system had already given him a ton of variations on the pitfall and spike traps. Most were similar enough that he did not change much, borrowing a detail here or there, before he renamed any traps he felt were too similar and automatically sorted them out. No point in removing them, after all he might miss something and need them some time. So far, there was no indicated limit to the amount of designs he could store. And since he could search through them with a thought, he was not too worried about creating too many.
The pressure plate was simple enough to recreate. He simply used a stone being held up by several fragile columns of stone. They would break and drop the stone a bare millimeter onto a perfectly secure outer ledge of stone. The inner crystal and the stone it was helping hold would drop and set off a trap. Setting up a trip wire was equally simple. He even rigged a few trip wires that were designed to keep tension and would go off if it was cut or pulled on. Not to mention the two part traps that were triggered when you hopped onto the stone on the other side of trip wire. He also made trip wires at every possible angle and height, up to and including vertical.
He could make moving parts and have the traps automatically go off at set intervals and then reset. These were simple enough to make with a mana turned gear system. He really only needed one gear to turn and it could power an entire basic machine. The mana systems that would propel what they were attached to in a single direction were great for setting up dart, spear, and arrow traps. He even took the time to make a giant rolling boulder trap. Maybe he would pair that with a golden idol at some point, just for sentiment. It’s not like anyone else in this world would find it amusing.
Traps with water, icy cold, boiling hot, or neither. Traps of sculpted ice. Traps with protruding blades. Traps with spinning blades. Powdered razor sharp crystal pressurized into the air with a rotating fan. Wind traps using moving stones to change air pressure, and the reverse to create a vacuum trap. Wind traps based around giant fans instead. When he took the fiber he used to make cloth and turned it into ultra fine powder he could get explosions. Actually he could get explosions from a surprising number of organic sources when powdered and ignited through friction, from simple sawdust to dried and powdered micro jellyfish.
By the time he was done he had created every type of trap he could think of. There were still traps that were available for purchase, with names like wind blade trap (basic), or hellspawn trap (basic), but any of the more mundane traps whose purpose was reasonably clear from the name he had created. He had improved his title to Innovator III (Dungeon) and earned another 150 AP too.
After all of this Caden took the time to think about how he wanted to design the dungeon space. Obviously he would want to start with basic obvious traps and gradually move on to more and more dangerous options. He also fully intended to post models of the various traps before the entrance. He would give fair warning. He did not want to kill anyone, but using nothing but nonlethal traps would just be overcome and ignored. He was looking at the spaces where he would need to clear out or go around native wildlife when he noticed something… odd.
Actually there were several things that were odd. He was looking at an underground stream and a section where a deep pool formed creating slow moving water. It was full of fish and other life forms. Truly full. There were far more fish, insects, and worms than he had seen this ecosystem support before. In fact he would have said that the ecosystem could not support this many. And some of the fish were double the size he had seen before. He looked up and down stream to see if he had merely happened upon some kind of spawning event. Nope, the entire stream was like this, and there were still large amounts of eggs everywhere, so it was not some sudden mass hatching. In fact… he was pretty sure that there were more eggs than before.
He broadened his search. The cave where moss hung from the ceiling into the steam had seen the moss go through massive growth. It was more like bushes hanging from the ceiling now. The little critters that tended it were everywhere and some of them were now the size of acorns. He could feel the moss growing while he watched. The moss looked like it was growing closer to the steam vents too, where he would have thought it too hot to survive. The insects on the ground had grown too. They were aggressively fighting over the scraps of moss or preying upon each other.
The wingless grasshoppers were swarming through their cavern. It looked almost like a procession of kites. They were more varied than before. Their colorless nature was lending itself to different color variations, and a few had grown in size and were more sparrow sized. Everywhere life was exploding with variety and population. Cave systems were supposed to be nutrient poor. This was not just absurd, but should be impossible.
He checked the drainage on the sewer, making sure he was not dumping massive amounts of nutrients into the other ecosystems. On checking the drainage he could tell that it still flowed into one of the barren cave systems he had joined together for drainage and was not seeping into anywhere else. As he checked farther up into the sewer system he could see that the life he started there had progressed much more than he had thought it would too. The relatively small section he had created had more than doubled and the life in the starting area was large. Some of the filter feeders had fans a foot across now.
When he check on his egg project everything had hatched. There were fish of all types. Some of the eggs that were identical had produced different offspring too. Colors, size, all these seemed to vary. This just confirmed what he had begun to suspect. Whatever was happening was not natural.
He took a quick look in his aura outside the dungeon itself. Nothing. Everything there was as it had been before. Cave systems and life that was appropriate.
He took a quick look at his seeds. Both rooms were a mess. Some plants had grown into full blades of grass. A few were small ferns or bushes. A few young trees were a foot tall. He absorbed anything that looked full grown. He made the room larger, moving all the plants farther apart and enclosing a few plants separately. He would probably need to keep an eye on some of these, especially the one vine that had been attempting to kill all its neighbors by strangling and growing up them. He had only been working on his traps for half a day at most!
He focused on the plants deeply. He could see the fern growing. Little buds formed into curling leaves which reached toward his artificial sky as they unfurled and grew. Roots reached deeper into the soil. A few plants had already hit the stone at the bottom. He could see the plants growing denser with mana. It was not altering his sight, however, if anything as the mana was growing denser the plants were growing easier to see.
He shifted his perspective, examining his own aura which he had tuned out by force of habit now. His aura was holding mana in the air, making the overall density of the mana richer everywhere. He had thought that the mana diffusion was just for manipulating his dungeon, but it was doing this too. The plants were connecting to his aura. The mana and his aura grew into the plants to fuel incredible unnatural growth. He remembered the eggs that had hatched. Not just growing, mutating too. He considered the aggression of the fish, the insects, even the strangling vine and remembered what Exsan had said.
Dungeon make monsters.