“‘Rule #37 – Every dungeon is unique. They may even be beautiful. This does not make them any less dangerous. See Rule #1’
-50 Rules for Dungeon Divers”
It had been little more than a week since Sevso found his life irretrievably altered. His new titles, along with the accompanying AP, would have been more than enough. The fifteen pieces of dungeon gold meant that he could get everything he had ever wanted. And the life debt turned everything he had gained to ashes.
A week prior –
Sevso woke up in the cave immensely confused. He had quickly learned of his new titles and status, but this did little to alleviate his clouded mind. The last thing he remembered was arguing about the dungeon presence he and Tadius had felt. They had argued about the reward. Sevso was no fool, he knew he was no match for Tadius. He was more than willing to give up the lion share of the reward. He had seen that killing gleam in Tadius’ eye though. He had turned to run. Then everything was pain and darkness. He knew that he was about to die. And then… he had woken up.
He was damp, but he had a rug beneath him and another lay on top of him. The rug below him had become sodden with water running off his body and clothes. He remembered the pain in his back and reached around to feel. He felt a hole cut into his shirt, but his body beneath was smooth and unmarked. He was unmarked anywhere. His whole body was free of scars. All his old injuries were gone.
He called up his health and stared. One hundred percent, perfect health. No one in the slums was ever at one hundred percent. Maybe when they were born, but not as they grew. By the Maw, no one was in perfect health without powerful healers! Well this would help explain his Lucky Fool V. What ridiculous circumstances had lead to him being healed by someone that powerful?
He called up his full status.
Health: 100% – Perfect Health
Status Effects: Life Debt (Permanent)
Primary Level: 5
Class: Street Tough
Secondary Classes: Orphan, Urchin, Pickpocket
Ability Points: 7850
Street Sense I
Borrow Authority I
Lucky Fool V
Back from the Brink I
If he got more titles he might need to hide them like his normal skills. That AP though! He called up his notifications.
Back from the Brink I
You survived that which should have killed you. Did you learn caution or boldness?
+100 Ability Points
+All skills are easier to learn while you are in personal danger.
Lucky Fool V
A series of circumstances entirely out of your control have conspired to save you from grave peril. The power of luck shone so brightly on you that you are left with a residual glow. However, beware. The power of luck that is left with you is no match for the sheer scope of the fortune that was required to save you.
+7750 Ability Points (250+500+1000+2000+4000)
+Random events are significantly more likely to be in your favor
+Chaos magic and skills are significantly easier to learn or buy (50% Discount)
Status Change: Life Debt
Your life has been saved by another with no thought of reward. Your life now belongs to them. Align yourself with their purposes and morals.
+Immunity to other life debts
-Actions taken against the wishes of your debt holder can result in pain, injury, and death.
Debt holder: Caden – Dungeon
And there it was. The reason for his gain and debt. After seeing that notice he realized he could feel where this Caden was with his mind, but his destination was impossibly far to the west and north. It had to be across the ocean, and he had no idea how he would get there. So, Sevso made his way out of the cave with the coins in his pouch. The cold was biting, but a few steps away from the cave had been enough to orient himself relative to the valley and the city. He was not far from the south city gate. He made up a story to tell the guards about going to the dungeon and being injured there. When he reached them, the blood on his clothes and the dazed look in his eyes must have been convincing, for they had asked no further questions.
He had no idea what a dungeon would want of him. The thought of being saved by one was beyond ludicrous. It had created a life debt, so obviously its motives had been simply to save him, but how did that make any sense? Dungeons were not supposed to be anything other than instinct.
He started by simply ensuring that he survived. He had been saved, so he could assume that he was supposed to remain alive. He could not return to the slums, Tadius would insure that he truly died if he saw him again. It was funny, he had more money now than the reward Tadius was so eager to keep for himself.
He went to the adventurer’s quarter. His bloodstained clothes earned him sympathetic looks from some of the adventurers on the street. He entered one of the most expensive shops, they should be able to make change. The attendant nearly turned him away, but had instead simply pursed his lips and kept a very close eye on him.
As Sevso had hoped, everything was clearly marked with pricing. He eventually chose a few simple sets of clothes and cured hide armor. The label indicated it was leather from a Fiarad. He honestly had no idea what monster that was, but he could not ask without endangering his guise as an adventurer. The total cost was four gold and two silvers. The attendant’s eyes went wide when Sevso gave him a single piece of dungeon gold.
The obsequious bowing and scraping that followed was amusing as the attendant told him it would only take a moment to make proper change. Five normal gold and thirty-eight silvers were presented by the owner of the establishment in a small fine leather pouch. The owner apologized for any inconvenience and told him that the measuring and resizing for his purchases would be ready within the hour.
He was escorted to a side room where another attendant had been all smiles as he was measured with knotted pieces of rope. Sevso tried to pretend boredom with the entire ordeal. After the fitting he was escorted to another room with fine wooden chairs and small servings of food and drink for him to enjoy while he waited. He had also, not so subtly, been presented with a basin of warm water and a towel. If this had been any other time, he might have relished the fawning attention. He would not miss the slums. He would count himself lucky if only half his friends there would stab him in the back for a single silver coin. However, for all that his body was working perfectly, he found his thoughts troubled and an immense tiredness pressed down on him.
Finally though, everything was ready.
It was a new experience in every way. The clothes fit like they had grown there. The leather of the boots was supple and perfect. The entire suit of armor shone like blackened oil. He was presented with a mirror and could not recognize himself.
After he left the shop, it proved simple to procure a room in a decent inn. The cost per night was a half silver. Before, he would have considered it extravagant beyond belief. Now it barely touched his funds. He gave into his tiredness and fell into a deep sleep on the softest bed he had ever felt.
– Present –
However, all of that had been a week ago. Since then he had pursued knowledge about dungeons.
His persona as a veteran adventurer had been his first avenue of exploration. The various adventurers had been more than happy to regale him with stories of their dungeon exploits, but none had known anything about what dungeons actually were, other than they were powered by cores of black crystal.
And so he had consulted with priests, and then the library. He had been sent to various scholars, but none could even begin to answer his question. He had even been sent to see a pale grey Adar with shimmering grassy hair, but when he asked if the Adaran thought dungeons could think and do something out of kindness they had simply laughed and told him to leave.
Eventually he learned about a mage by the name of Gnaeus who specialized in obscure dungeon lore. It had taken some arranging, apparently Gnaeus was not fond of visitors, but he had eventually secured an appointment.
He was waiting in the mages’ guild for that appointment right now.
Exsan existed. He was very good at it. For a very long time it was all he had done. Now he found thoughts creeping in like shadows no matter what he did. It was no wonder his counterpart immersed himself so much in meditation.
Some of his thoughts matched his long existence and were comfortable. He reflected on his domain: the tunnels that would let in prey, the monsters breeding with abandon, the dark earth that surrounded him with its embrace.
However, he found many of his thoughts turning toward Caden. Caden was… strange, but Exsan knew that he was his forever, and he would not give him up for anything. He did find his actions puzzling though. His “language lessons,” which Caden now insisted on every day, seemed pointless.
Caden performed many pointless actions. He had built and refined the Starlight Grotto, and even added a new room which was bright like daylight.
The new dungeon section Exsan could appreciate. It had a great many plants and animals that were locked into uselessly harmless forms, but this waste was minor. Amidst the innocent foliage it had hidden dangers and treasures enough to satisfy him. Caden had obviously understood his lesson about luring in more prey. The first would come to this easy environment and then more would follow. Even now Caden was working away at new levels to prepare.
A tunnel had almost reached one of the waiting presences, and Exsan waited with an endless hunger in his obsidian heart.
Gnaeus was reviewing his research when someone knocked on his door.
“By the maw, what is it?” he shouted. A messenger came in and spoke to him briefly. Apparently, an interview with him had been scheduled with neither his permission, nor knowledge.
“Tell the guildmaster,” he said, “if this isn’t worth my time I am not going to be happy.”
The messenger swore to him that the meeting would definitely be worth his time and gave him a rundown of everything that had happened so far. If what they thought was correct, Gnaeus indeed needed to see this person, and if, instead, what he suspected was true, he wanted to meet this Sevso even more.
“Fine, go fetch him,” he said.
A few minutes later Sevso was lead down the spiraling steps into his apartments. He led him to a small meeting room, activating various emblems as he did. He smiled as he got the results. It seemed everyone refused to believe what their various skills told them.
He, however, knew that the simplest explanation usually was the correct one. The messenger had already been dismissed, so he immediately asked the question he was most interested in.
“Why is a level five street tough meeting with me about dungeons?”
His guest looked surprised, and simply answered:
“Everyone just assumed that I must be something more, so I let them believe it.”
“You probably were not aware of this,” he said, “but a number of skills were used on you to try and verify who you were. The results… contradicted each other, so everyone assumed that you must have an incredibly powerful obfuscation skill or artifact. Everyone’s basic character analysis skills said you were level five and those with more advanced skills showed your class as street tough. However a number of things contradicted that. Your clothes are quite nice, though that’s an easy thing to fix, though the effort would be odd.”
“What convinced everyone were two things: first, merchant skills showed you had money. Quite a bit of it. And second, all the various mental intimidation and persuasion skills simply failed on you. Also, when people were implying that a bribe might make things go more quickly you simply stared at them.” Gnaeus laughed.
“Honestly. I think they might have found that part the most unnerving. Someone who is so powerful they can ignore the standard process of meeting someone high up is not someone to be trifled with. In fact by ignoring the bribing process you probably got to me a week or two earlier.”
“Did you know the Guild Master did not even tell me I had an appointment with you until you’d already arrived?” The man looked surprised.
“No, it’s true, he knows far too well how much I detest these kind of meetings. He’s probably expecting a very unpleasant conversation with me afterwards, but thought you were too powerful to not schedule a meeting. The irony is, you are a big enough puzzle that I’m perfectly happy to meet you. Though if you don’t satisfy my curiosity, you might be in a very big trouble. Well, you might have enough money to bribe your way out of it.”
Sevso regarded him nervously and regaled him with an incredible tale, and when he was done Gnaeus was pleasantly stunned. Perhaps, creating that dungeon had not been a mistake. If nothing else, he thought, he now had a way to track the dungeon down.