Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.07 – Metamorphosis

“The Adar take on some of the characteristics of the terrain and dungeons they dwell within. Some of the changes are skin deep, and others more profound. Regardless, they adapt well to changing conditions.”

-Heug the Physician, Common Physiology of Near-Human Counterparts

The others had left Zidaun to his prayers with a smile or nod as they exited the room. Zidaun sighed and allowed himself to fall into his awareness of the surrounding aura. With a push of intent and a drain to his mana he grew the stone of the door until it sealed. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.07 – Metamorphosis”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon 3.06 – Making Sacrifices

“Real magic can never be made by offering someone else’s liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back.”

– Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

With all other routes explored it was time to investigate the buildings. Since only one of the buildings had a dashed line leading to it they decided to enter that one first.

In contrast to the grotto, the interior of the building was bright as daylight. Though it was bright, the light came from indirect sources overhead. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon 3.06 – Making Sacrifices”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.05 – Going in Circles

“Never forget that the Adar are the largest nation on Grergene. Each settlement is its own city state, but when any one is threatened they act with complete unity. The Adar are not human. They do not quarrel; they do not fight amongst themselves; they do not backstab; you cannot get a better deal by going to a different colony. Offering them status is useless. With the Adar it is best to be forthright, honest, and to never ever break your word. In other words, for political matters, treat the Adar as though they held a knife to your neck and a polite smile on their lips.”

  • A Guide to Grergenen Politics

Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.05 – Going in Circles”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.04 – Plato’s and Darwin’s Cave

“Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved.”

-Thomas Fuller

There was a part of Caden that wanted to deny that he was the usurper in this body. When Exsan had possessed no sentience of his own it mattered little, but Exsan was sentient now. So he had made concessions, even as he demanded his own. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.04 – Plato’s and Darwin’s Cave”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.02 – To Those Who Wait

“Every step of life shows much caution is required.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Arriving at the most convenient place to enter the dungeon had taken Zidaun and the others only a few days. He had expected it to take longer, but the dungeon’s resonance was detectable much farther than he expected. Admittedly, riding on the slogi had helped immensely. He would not want to even try making a journey over this much snow without one. After their arrival the slogi had promptly created their own burrow beneath the snow and began the pseudo hibernation that made them such useful transports in freezing weather. They would be ready whenever the team was ready to leave. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.02 – To Those Who Wait”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.01 – Grand Nopening

Good help is hard to find”

-Anonymous

The dungeon’s old and doesn’t care,

It drops the spiders in your hair.

But the dungeon’s web is far more great,

You’ll hunt for gold but find your fate.”

-Children’s Rhyme

Caden wished he could trade Exsan for a dungeon fairy, because his current companion was clearly defective. He even looked into the AP menu to see if some kind of companion was purchasable.

It wasn’t.

He looked for help menus for information of any kind, but there was nothing. Nothing that is, with the exception of Exsan. And Exsan’s problem was that while he understood what Caden said, he failed to understand the implied information he should be providing. While his language lessons we’re going well, as far as Exsan’s diction, they completely failed to cover his failure to grasp what was desired when he was questioned.

In some ways, Caden felt like he was talking to a computer, it would do exactly what one asked of it, and only that. Caden had never fully realized how imprecise the English language was, until he tried to specify exactly what information he wanted Exsan to provide without him needing to explicitly ask for it every time. It turned out, that precisely defining the concept of relevant information was practically impossible. Caden hoped that Exsan would learn simply from repetition, because Caden had to constantly define what information was needed.

Caden’s exasperation with Exsan was nothing new, but this particular episode was more exasperating than usual. Exsan had finally completed connecting his aura and almost the tunnel to the outside. Upon doing this, a prompt had immediately appeared.

|

Outside connection is about to complete, would you like to make this a dungeon entrance? Available dungeon entrances 2/2.

Yes. No.

|

Caden had, of course, immediately replied yes, only to see this:

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Dungeon does not meet requirements. Dungeon core must be accessible to entrants.

|

Of course, it had not defined what accessible meant. And Exsan had been no help, nor had he bothered to warn Caden that this would happen. He knew that he should have expected something like this. After all, how could a dungeon ever be in danger and be destroyed if no one could access the core.

Caden had ultimately decided to treat the requirement literally. It would be accessible, but only in the strictest definition of the word. He had also decided that there were going to be decoys, lots and lots of them. He did, after all, have a title that would make finding him exceptionally difficult. Even the decoy cores would be practically impossible to get to.

In the end he created twenty different decoys, each of which was obsidian black, like the original dungeon core. He could not say for certain whether or not this was what dungeon cores actually looked like, but he figured it was a decent guess. To his surprise each began to float in the air as soon as they were made. Apparently, either his title accounted for this or decoys were a common thing dungeons could make. Only one of these cores could actually be seen. It was behind a twenty foot thick wall of ultra dense, but perfectly clear, crystal after the boss room.

The route needed to get to it was not hidden. It was in fact, patently obvious, and also a complete and utter death trap. The route through was filled with spinning blades of razor sharp reinforced obsidian, all of which were spinning at different rates. Theoretically, all of the blades would allow a person to get through when they were all in perfect alignment. Given the number of blades, Caden was fairly certain that this would not happen even a single time during a year.

All the other routes were much better hidden and even more deadly. They involved boiling water, pools of sulfuric acid, any and all of the various traps he had to come up with, and pleasant trips through monster infested areas that were under no restrictions, and also these areas had no loot whatsoever.

Getting to the real core involved diving through a half mile deep underwater cave system. The underwater area constantly branched and was filled with underwater monsters. After that was a climb of about a mile back up a perfectly smooth tunnel loaded with more deadly traps. The air in the shaft fluctuated wildly between stillness and violently blowing downwards. Each time the air stilled, what was blowing in the tunnel air changed.

This varied from aerosolized acid, to powdered crystal, and other nasty substances. The temperature also varied between boiling and freezing. Should anyone manage that, there was further nastiness. Also, the protections of sacrifice would not work there either.

Caden did not want to kill anyone, but he was not an idiot. Anyone going past the boss room and trying to access the core could not possibly mean him well, and he was going to assume they were trying to kill him. If they died, he considered it a clear case of self-defense. To Caden’s amusement, when he tried connecting the entrance again it worked. Honestly, he thought he was going to have to tone it down a bit.

As he accepted, a thrum of power vibrated down the strings of his aura and down the long miles of tunnel connecting to the entrance. The surge of energy unfurled into his aura and, a few moments later, the entire length of the tunnel became part of the dungeon to a diameter of fifty feet.

Caden swore.

Exsan was the worse dungeon companion ever. He stopped for a moment as a thought struck him. Technically, he was the dungeon companion… nope, he wasn’t going there.

Regardless, he now needed to customize the entire tunnel, so that it would match the intricacies of the dungeon’s decorations. His dungeon protection options did not work in his basic aura, so he had left the tunnel blank so he did not need to worry about theft.

For now, he built a blank stone cover over the entrance. After that he divided up the tunnel into hundreds of individual safe zones. That way, he could make changes to any unoccupied section automatically from a blueprint if he so desired. He whipped up a quick infinity knot pattern for the walls with a few dozen colors of stone winding over and under each other. They were designed so that each section would match up to each other, so the pattern would continue the entire tunnel. That way he only needed to design a knot for the beginning and mirror it for the other end. He used thirty feet of the available fifty foot width, and made the floor out of basic roughened stone for grip, since the entire path was a slight incline. He also provided lights for the entire tunnel, wincing at the cost in his available mana density. He would obviously need to replace them with self-sustaining lights as he got the mana.

Soon the dungeon was almost ready to be opened, though Caden was dithering about what design to use on the main entrance. He was tired, and even before the latest delay, he had not had a good few days.

-A few days prior-

Caden was an idiot. It was undeniable.

He had been messing with the runic arrays ever since he gained the alphabet without much success. Actually, that was understating the issue; every emblem he tried to make exploded in a twisted mess of metal and stone when he tried to activate it. Based on how violent some of damage to the surroundings was, he realized just how close to death he had come when he messed with the emblems Tam had made.

This, however, was not the only reason that he felt like an idiot. That was due to him forgetting he had placed the enchanted gate from the sewers in his storage and then promptly forgot about it. Admittedly he had been in the heat of the moment, but even so.

He had been looking at the work of Tam, and trying to figure out how to create emblems from that. That was like trying to figure out how to carve stone from looking at Michelangelo’s David. That was a great end point, sure, but when you are just starting to work a chisel you need something a little simpler. Or, as he had realized by looking at the gate, something more complex but much rougher.

Apparently emblems usually had safeguards to prevent the messy business of them exploding. Tam’s creations were too simple. There were no safeguards, no extra tolerances, because Tam was obviously an absolute master of the craft and didn’t need them. His work fit together so perfectly that adding anything would detract from their function.

The gate on the other hand was messy. It had all the background that was needed when one could not create something flawlessly. It had overt runes for handling mana storage, tolerances to damage and wear, as well as some very basic runes to take mana from the area to power the emblem. It also had a single main function, which was to be incredibly strong. Exactly whom they had been wanting to keep in or out Caden couldn’t say, though he hoped it didn’t cause any issues.

If this had been all, Caden would have felt a bit dim, but would not have thought very much else about it.

No, Caden had started wondering what else he had left in his storage that he had forgotten about. That answer turned out to be much more complicated than he thought.

The first thing he found was simple. It was the dagger that had been embedded into the shoulder of the man he saved. He digested it and was pretty sure that between the metal and the handle he had patterns for iron, steel, and some kind of leather. Not to mention he had a pattern for a throwing dagger.

After that it turned out he had stone. Masses and masses and mountains of stone. All that stone he had been dissolving with his manipulate earth ability had not in fact been dissolving. It had all gone into his storage. The shear amount of material was mind boggling. Of course, he had cleared out giant spaces for the dungeon and all that material was now in his storage. And if there was some way to organize the storage better, it had yet to show up.

Between the spaces he had cleared and the tunnels Exsan had been constantly working on, Caden was guessing he had somewhere between a half-mile to a mile of cubic stone, dirt, and sand. Honestly, he was impressed with the sheer scope of his storage. However, he had no idea when it would fill up. So he had started an enormous and boring project. He took areas of stone that did not have any water filtering through them and compressed them as heavily as he could. Then he would put stone from his storage into place and compress that, repeating until he had filled the space opened up. Sure he could split his mind into multiple perspectives and get it done faster, but that just meant he experienced the same boring task multiple ways all at once.

Just as he was finishing that, he and Exsan finally hit level six. The extra 990 AP, and their mana regen rising to 132 per day were great. What made Caden want to hit a wall was the new ability. Appraise II. It gave details about a creature’s approximate strength, names of various items, and most importantly the value of materials appraised. It would have been wonderful if he could have had that to appraise everything he had been removing from his storage over the last few days. Now he was going to need to appraise all the types of stone and materials everywhere in the dungeon. He would also need to make sure the first dungeon level was at the appropriate minimal strength… again.

-Present-

Caden was now tired. Without actually being capable of being tired. Maybe he should look into his soul about that. Well, that would all come later. For now, it was time to open up the dungeon. He looked closely at the enormous blank slab that was waiting to become a door. Should he just repeat the phoenix theme? Surely he could come up with something new? These doors would hopefully be open most of the time…

Finally, he decided on something different. The exterior of the doors would usually be hidden against the mountainside, so why have doors at all? He created a model using inspiration from Earth, specifically the Greeks. Yes, a touch here, a touch there, and it was ready. It was time to begin.

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.13 – Interlude – Dungeon Thoughts

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 3.02 – To Those Who Wait

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.13 – Interlude – Dungeon Thoughts

“‘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. Continue reading “Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.13 – Interlude – Dungeon Thoughts”

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.12 – Man to Man Eating Monster Talk

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.”
Jonathan Swift

It took Exsan a few long moments, as Caden waited impatiently, to reply.

What talk?

Having people die in the dungeon is not the only way to get survival points right?

Yes.

Right. Not much of a talker.

How else do we get survival points?

Prey come, they leave. Get points. Survive other dungeons, get points. Quests give points. Special things.

Special things? Caden sighed inside, he obviously needed to teach Exsan to speak better. Admittedly he got the main points across, but the finer points were either beyond him or he simply did not see any reason to tell. Anyway it was mostly what he had expected. Though there was one…

What do you mean survive other dungeons?

Touch dungeon, can be conflict.

So only if we grow to touch another dungeon?

No, some move. Treat like prey.

That’s actually something something Caden should have considered. He had an ability that let the core pack up and move out. Presumably there were greater abilities that could move an entire dungeon. These kind of dungeons would be exceptionally dangerous.

How often do dungeons get attacked by other dungeons?

Not common.

No, this time he needed more details than that.

How uncommon? Several times a year? Once every year or two? Decades, centuries?

Not sure. Long time. May never happen.

Caden breathed a little easier for a moment before realizing he wasn’t breathing at all. Right… all in his head. Okay, so the answer was probably closer to centuries than months. That was good. It also brought up the possibilty of preying on other dungeons rather than people. He was actually far more okay with that. The only problem was that he was a ridiculously young dungeon. No matter what dungeon he ended up attacking it would probably be way out of his league. Not to mention the not so small issue of how he would manage to attack them in the first place. Well… something to add to the extreme long term plans.

He had gotten distracted. Right, back to the issue at hand.

So we get points when people come in and then leave again. Why kill people at all?

Small. Points tiny. Death is big.

Again, it was about what Caden had expected. There had to be some reason dungeons wanted to kill rather than say… throwing an amazing party and then kicking everyone out at dawn and just collecting the points.

Tell me how the points work when they leave. Are the points altered by anything?

Yes, not always same. Points change.

He was obviously going to need to adjust to Exsan’s brevity. Exsan answered the questions, he just failed to understand the implicit request for specicifity.

Right. So what makes the points change, and how does it change?

Time. Longer time more points. Struggle. Danger. Almost kill prey, get more. Travel. Prey go long way, change level, more.

A sudden thought struck Caden. He had English at IX right? Shouldn’t that apply to Exsan? What if Exsan knew how to speak better and simply did not bother becasue shorter sentences worked just as well for him? If Exsan had simply not bothered to speak properly because he had failed to ask… Head meet wall.

Exsan? Do you know how to speak properly? Speak like I am for example, using complete sentences, and so on?

Not understand. Am speaking.

Apparently not. He wished it were that simple, even if he would have felt like the biggest idiot in the universe.

Right. Nevermind. Anyway… I … wanted to talk about people, about prey.

What about prey?

Do you remember how you said I belong to you?

Yes.

Okay. So I feel you belong to me too. We each belong to the other. We also own this dungeon, its space, creatures, plants, and so on. It belongs to both of us. Do you understand and agree?

Yes. All one. All same. Belong.

Good. Do you know what I used to be before we belonged to each other?

No. Before absent.

I used to be a person. I died, but I was what would consider prey. I was combined with you, our souls were joined.

You were prey. Now dungeon. Predator.

Well at least Exsan did not seem to care about him being a person. He seemed to be very focused on the present. If he had no need for the past or future right now in the present, he seemed to ignore it entirely. Caden was trying to get Exsan to understand something very ephemeral. Humans had a hard enough time with ethics as it was. Where was a professor of ethics and philosophy when you needed one?

I still remember my old life. I still feel like a person.

Will help.

Wait what?

You will? How?

Teach. Help kill. Make good predator. Consume much prey.

Oh. Yeah, not that easy. He was going to need to approach this from a different angle.

Okay, so everything in the dungeon is yours. However, you could let much of it be destroyed and not care, but you would not want me harmed at all. Is that right?

Yes.

Okay so what is different between me and the rest of the dungeon.

You me. You hurt. Hurt. Dungeon remake. No hurt.

Well he supposed that was basic. Pain was a good deterent. Humans had pain so they knew they were not supposed to do something, were approaching some limit of their body, or something was wrong. Since the dungeon experienced pain, it was a good bet that it responded to it.

People belong to each other. One dies, others hurt. It is not pain of the body. It is pain of mind. My mind is still human. People die and I will hurt. People that come in, they will belong to me. If they die it will hurt me. Do you understand?

Prey come, they die. You hurt?

Yes.

You die?

Caden hesitated. He could lie, but he was potentially going to be stuck with Exsan forever. He really needed Exsan to trust him.

No, pain only. However, I do not wish to be in pain. I wish to make a compromise.

How?

I want to offer a better chance for people to survive. If they give us a sacrifice that allows us to grow, then we shall spare them if they die. They will gain a certain… leeway. It is not infinite. They are not preserved forever. However, by helping us to grow they are given another chance.

This will encourage them to help us grow more. We can gain new things. New animals, new plants, more types of loot, items.

No.

Why not?

Not enough. Slow down. Gain not worth levels.

It is. If the dungeon gives people a second chance then more people will come. And by getting so many new things we will draw in more people with better loot.

There was a pause.

Gain not certain. Not enough.

It will also reduce my pain.

You survive.

If you believe that then I will show you a type of mental pain.

What pain?

For the first time he could recall, Exsan sounded a bit wary. Caden wanted to smile. He could be patient and ruthless if he needed to be.

Frustration.

Caden had prepared for this. He knew Exsan might not agree, but this was not something he was willing to give on. If it had been flatly impossible to get survival points any other way, he would have learned to live with that. However, as long as he had a choice, he wanted to cause as little death as possible.

Death was inevitable. Hell, he had died. The fact that people had souls was some comfort, but it did not make their lives unimportant. If he was going to consider himself a moral person this was a path he needed to tread his own way.

Splitting his mind into multiple points of focus, he began.

First he created an enormous mana crystal and began to drain all his mana into it. Then he used his mobile dungeon ability to unravel the aura at the end of each of the tunnels Exsan was creating. He placed all his focus on holding the mana crystal in one piece and on pulling any mana he had into it.

It only took a moment before Exsan fought him. The aura frothed in a fury of creation and destruction. This, however, was not a battle Exsan could win. Their wills were equal, but the mana gained from unraveling the aura was shared between them. However, creating aura took only from the one who made it.

Aura was cheap, so the battle continued for hours without any change. When Exsan finally started to run out of mana he spoke again.

Stop! There is no point. This useless.

Do you agree?

No.

Then I will not stop.

Exsan took a page from Caden’s book and began to dissolve aura from the surface, drawing mana in so he could continue the fight. Caden let him succeed for a few moments and then began to replicate what Exsan was doing, creating aura.

The fight was interminable. The aura from the surface was drained away and replaced as Exsan fought to keep enough mana to maintain the aura in the tunnels. The speed of creation and destruction was evenly matched. Exsan took another tack and attacked the mana crystal itself. Caden did not fight him directly. Instead he quickly stored the mana crystal and then released it from his storage at the edge of his aura in the empty air of a cavern. The mana crystal quickly fell out of their aura and out of reach.

Exsan tried to expand their aura to go after it, but immediately faced the same problem as in the tunnels as Caden dissolved the aura as fast as it could be created.

Stop. Will win.

This is not a battle that either of us can win.

You meditate. Can wait. Will rebuild.

It won’t be enough. I will demolish all our aura. Dismantle our dungeon. Destroy everything.

No. Will not agree. Fight you.

You will fight, but it will not be enough. For even if you do all of this: Fight me constantly. Battle for every step and make gains while I cannot fight you. Even if you fight me every step of every day for every foot, for every speck of mana to keep the dungeon working, this feeling of frustration will never end. You cannot win, because if you do this, and you succeed in killing people and gain the points you desire so much it will profit you nothing.

You. Need. Me. To. Level. If you do this then our pain shall be shared forever. I shall have the pain as you kill, but you shall have pain as you rack up survival points and can never ever spend them to level, because I will never agree. My compromise might be slower, it might be faster, but anything will be faster than an eternal stalemate. In truth I do not need to fight at all. All I need to do is never agree.

I will stop fighting you a moment so you can think properly, so long as you do the same.

There was a long pause then as their furious stalemate ended. He opened a notification he had not noticed and snorted with amusement. Aura expansion had reached level III. Apparently fighting endlessly with aura had acted as fantastic training.

As the pause extended Caden could practically hear Exsan thinking. No doubt he was looking for a way to win. Maybe he could, but battling Caden everyday would probably be slower than simply compromising anyway. It was not like dungeons did not already understand the idea of compromise.

Exsan had told him how he would lure in prey and balance between danger and loot. He even intended to make sure that the first people who came survived so that they could bring more people. Exsan simply had no desire to make this particular compromise. Well… too bad. Caden would let the dungeon kill people, that was an enormous concession on his part. However, he was going to give people the best chance possible before they died.

Mental pain. This… frustration. Understand. Will compromise.

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.11

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.13 – Interlude – Dungeon Thoughts

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.11 – Carnival of the Whatever

The more I have delved into dungeons, the more amazed I am at the power and majesty found in the deep ones. And more I wish I had time enough to see the small and simple ones grow.

-Heastjack, the Researcher

Caden had felt something inside him gradually shift over the last hour. Apparently touching someone else’s soul had consequences. He looked at the various traps he had created with a mixture of pride and horror. He would hate to deploy some of these against anyone, but he honestly did not know what kind of power to expect from the people who came to the dungeon. Touching Exsan’s soul had apparently given him a portion of his ruthlessness temporarily. That was not entirely a bad thing; the traps he had created were effective looking. However, now he could see that his focus had been stolen away towards the lethal end of the spectrum. There was an entire slew of traps that were non-lethal and could be very effective. Water, mud, wind, nets, he had so many ways to delay and trip up an opponent.

His biggest concern at the moment, however, was information. He was a part of the system, but he did not know how dangerous the people coming were going to be. There was an entire range of difficulty that he could prepare for, but he had no idea what was appropriate, so how was he supposed to present a dungeon of the right type.

As he was considering this, Caden came up with an idea. There was no reason that he had to create the dungeon blind. He kept making that assumption. However, he could test the adventurers in non-standard ways. He already wanted his dungeon to be different, he should capitalize on that. With that in mind he got to work.

A little later and Caden was getting the basics prepared. Now that he had proper lighting available, he had decided that he would ultimately add a better lit area. To keep the areas separate he decided to call the current area he had made the Starlight Grotto. He was even able to make it official with his dungeon menu. Upon designating a name for it he had gotten an unexpected surprise.

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New area created: Starlight Grotto

Two subsection types available:

Dungeon (default)

Safe Zone

Please choose a type.

|

He had happily chosen the safe zone and gotten another notice.

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You have created your first safe zone. Please note:

Mutation and monster-spawn disabled in this area. Lethal traps will not function. Plants and animals will still experience growth that is faster than normal, though it will be slower than dungeon zones. Monsters under your control will not enter this zone under normal circumstances.

It is recomended that you create safe zones in sections, as you may not disband any safezone while a humanoid sentient is within.

|

This was actually a great relief. Caden had worried about the various species of plants and animals that he was working with, since he wanted to be able to work with wildlife without everything trying to kill people. This also meant he could create an actual rest area. He diverted himself from his task for a moment to prepare new areas with this information.

He made a new extremely large area that was isolated from the rest of the dungeon. He had to reroute a few streams out of the way, but he was able to work with an area that was mostly just stone to start with. He made it very tall. He made various sections with very deep dirt, sandy soil, clay, silt, and more. He needed to know what the plants he was going to grow actually prefered for their environment. He divided all the sections up and also used varying amounts of simulated rainfall, sunlight, etc…

When he was done with the basic environmental factors he named it The Greenhouse, and made it another safe zone. Then he planted all the species he had originally been working with. Hopefully now he would not need to worry about monstrous plants too much.

He created a similar series of aquatic environments that he called The Aquarium. He then made one for all the other subterrainian environments he had yet to cover, such as the mud pots, basic moist caves, and more. He put this one under the unimaginative name of The Cave. He was fairly certain he could rename it if he needed to later.

These were breeding areas. They would breed non-monstrous stock that he could use in safe areas. He could also re-introduce anything he grew into the monstrous environments to see if new variations would show up. He had watched the various mutations, but he had yet to detect any rhyme or reason to what changed. He knew that his aura was helping it happen, but knew little more than that.

As it was, any area he had not declared a safe zone, or part of his normal aura instead of the dungeon, was becoming a continual war zone of creatures growing, killing, attacking, eating, and reproducing. It was madness, but it was a madness that was focused on becoming more powerful and dangerous. Even the snotties in the sulfuric caves looked like they were starting to take on a life of their own. If he waited long enough he might end up with Darwin’s ideal creature.

There were a few creatures he had yet to recreate, but he was uncertain what kind of environment they liked. He shrugged mentally and created a few micebugs, ratbugs, coackroaches, and other miscellaneous creatures whose corpses had been drowned in sewers. He released them in a cave system that did not have any unique life. For good measure he grew a bunch of the moss and other plants and planted them on rocks and soil in the area. They might all die, but he might also get something special.

Caden got back to his original objective. The Starlight Grotto was massive, and even with all his statues, fountains, and lights, it had large areas that were simply blank stone hidden in the darkness. Caden decided that before anyone got into his dungeon, they were going to be tested. This way he could figure out what was appropriate.

He started with a small building dedicated to traps. He was able to set it up so that only one person could go through it at a time. The traps here were very simple. They were all pitfall traps that were only a foot deep. What changed was the difficulty of seeing the traps. At first everything was well lit and the traps were painfully obvious. Then the lighting grew dimmer and the traps became ever more difficult to spot. He also changed the terrain, so that the adventurers would be traveling through stone corridors, then over a dirt path, then grass, sand, and more. He mixed up everything as much as he could, until eventually the room became very narrow, pitch black, and the traps were indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain. Caden as a human would not have been able to spot almost all of these, but he needed to know what adventurers were capable of.

When an adventurer had gone through the trap area they would be issued a token that said how well they did. That token was bound to them and would be needed to get through the primary door. Caden also made it so that the adventurers would not be able to repeat a test for some time. That should give him enough time to make changes as he learned about any visitors.

His second testing area was a measure of strength. This one had individual sections where people would go through and would need to move various weights from one location onto a button. The weights started off fairly light and became heavier and heavier. He was going to watch this one personally if he could, simply because they might use magic to move the weight and that would be interesting too.

After the individual portion, the strength test had a group section where weights with multiple sets of handles would need to be moved by multiple individuals. The weights in this section started from heavy up to the ridiculous. By reinforcing and strengthening the stone, Caden was able to create stones that must have weighed at least twenty tons that could still theoretically be lifted by the handles.

If they managed to lift that much weight then he would need to reconsider everything.

The third section was a test of dexterity and mobility. It started as simple climbs over objects with small jumps between them. These were sections that Caden could have done himself when he was human. From there the difficulty grew. He placed the later sections over nets or water, so that falling would not be dangerous. Eventually the adventurers would need to be able to push off a wall with their hands from a single hand hold over and around brightly colored obstacles to grip another single hold which would crumble away within moments to reach even more precarious perches. Overall various sections of this testing area reminded him of some ridiculous Japanese gameshow that was always playing when he went to sushi. He could not wait to watch people try it out.

The fourth area was a test of magical sensing. He honestly had no idea what people’s mana senses were like. However, Tam had seemed unable to see magic directly. The test first had tons of objects that was completely mundane and another that practically vibrated with magic. The mana crystals used for this were covered so no light would escape. The amount of mana grew gradually less and less, to see exactly what they could detect.

What else could he make? He considered various options. A puzzle room. Actually… he could create an entire series of puzzle rooms if he wanted. He was fairly certain that the vast array of puzzles from Earth would serve him in good stead with that. He could also create rooms with math puzzles and try to figure out the mathematic system of this world. He inscribed the ideas into stone for the moment. What he really needed was to find some kind of balance in the dungeon between himself and Exsan. He pulled up the ability point menu. He had been meaning to look through this anyway.

He took his time. He had far more options now than ever before. He discarded the various options for living creatures of any kind. Slowly he went through the options looking for anything that might work. There were things that altered survival points, including an ability that decreased the survival points needed to level. It was a small difference, but it was also rather cheap, so he marked it down as something to buy.

However, what he really wanted, was not there. There was no skill that would passively generate survival points. It had been a long shot. If it had been there, well, some dungeon would probably already cover the entire world. Okay, so that meant he would need to get them the normal way. There was an ability that made him think a bit though. It would grant more survival points for when an adventurer left the dungeon. That meant that survival points did not need to come from killing adventurers. Apparently having them enter the dungeon was sufficient. Caden was not an idiot, he was sure that this method had drawbacks, but it suggested a way to compromise.

He looked again. Exsan was not going to just accept a non-lethal dungeon. There needed to be a good reason. The adventurers would need to offer something. The first thing he thought of was mana, but if the survival points slowed down the mana would not be enough. They would have too much mana and not enough points in the balance. He thought about all the things he had gained before teleporting here. He had turned Tam’s wooden chair into what he needed to make a tree. What he really needed was variety. New items, new plants, and animals. For that he could offer protection. He would need a way to make it automatic though. He could not watch every individual and save them just in the nick of time. The dungeon system had some options, but not what he was currently looking for.

He sorted back through the abilities again. Eventually he found an ability called rule of law. He could create rules for the dungeon that would happen automatically. It said the laws were supposed to start out simple, but hopefully the abilities automatic promotion to level II would be enough for this. Well, it was time to go see if he could make a deal.

Exsan? We need to talk.

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.10

Saga of the Soul Dungeon – 2.12