In the village of Nam, a commotion was in progress. There a certain static to the air, a curious jovial mood that seemed to be charged with excitement. Gat had finally returned to the village, looking a bit worse for the wear with how tired he looked, and with him he had a full team of adventurers. A team of five, a reasonable, standard party set up of two front line members, with the rest acting as support from the backline. All the members considered high C rank, which was to say they had considerable strength.
Add to that the fact that most villagers had never seen adventurers before, and one could understand why everyone was buzzing with excitement. To such common folk on the border of the kingdom, a high C rank individual was equitable to a heroic figure head and shoulders above the common folk.
At the lead of the group, a red-haired lady with a rapier at her hip. The young woman was a bit on the short side, slim, with wiry muscles and a sharp face and green eyes that seemed to radiate a no-nonsense stare. Her armor was marginal. A chest plate that covered her upper torso, while the rest of her body was protected by what seemed to be thick leather armor. With her analytical gaze and aura of authority, she looked every bit the hero that every child had imagined an adventurer would be.
Before her, a gentleman with a thick short beard, wearing modest clothes. His hair was taking on a silver color, at the edges. Though the man was in his early forties, his eyes were already showing signs of age, looking more wizened than a man his age would be expected to have. He bowed to the adventurer party with a small bend at his waist, his right hand curled into a fist that was pressed lightly against his chest. A common greeting of respect.
“Welcome, honored adventurers, to the village of Nam. We are grateful for your prompt arrival. I am the new village chief, Rowe Sheppard. I hope your journey here transpired without issues.”
The party leader bent her head towards the elder in a small bow, acknowledging him. “I am Ella Graz, high C rank adventurer, leader of the Azure Arrow adventurer’s party. I am here to lead my party in the investigation of the new dungeon. The journey here transpired without incident, thankfully.”
Stroking his lush beard, Rowe nodded at her words with a small satisfied smile. “Good, good. It eases my heart to hear that. Come, let us talk about your stay with us in a more suitable location than the village square. I have to apologize for the crowd, it seems my people are quite intrigued by you and your comrades.”
Ella nodded at the man simply, seemingly not even minding the stares of the local population. Her back straight as a ruler, her eyes determined and focused. A consummate professional in her career in the eyes of the people. Strong, attractive, and determined. More than one of the village’s men were intimidated and attracted to her at the same time.
The adventurers soon found themselves in the home of the village chief, seated at his dinner table with him while tea was prepared by his wife. The home was rustic, but charming, containing few luxuries, but cozy enough nonetheless.
“Right.” Rowe said as he looked at the adventurers. “So, may I ask about your comrades, Ms. Ella?”
“Certainly.” She replied, starting to wave her hand towards her team members, and began by introducing the biggest of them all, a large man that was easily 210 cm in height, dwarfing even the tallest man of the village by a fair bit. The man looked like he had been working out since the day he left his mother’s womb. “The big guy is James, he is our defense specialist. He doesn’t talk too much often, but there are few people in our rank that can take him and his tower shield down.”
Rowe had little doubt about that. He saw the man lift the 120 cm shield that was as wide as a man as if he was lifting a common stick. Add to that that the man was covered mostly in iron scaled-armor, and he made an impressive figure.
“Then we have our ranger, Mei. She is a fantastic shot with her bow and arrow, and able to track almost any creature under the heavens. Together with Adder, our rogue who specializes on knives and trap detection, they keep us safe from the back.”
Rowe’s eyes turned to see a female that was the counterpart to the large and burly Jason. She was small, lithe, and but with sharp eyes and firm shoulders. Mix that with her pixy-cut hair and her bow gave her an interesting and alluring look. Beside her, a roguish looking man with a well-kept mustache, several knives strapped across his belt. His tight leather armor clearly was designed to allow the best freedom of movement possible.
“And lastly, this is Ziggurd, our healer. He is well versed in healing magic.”
That was when Rowe’s eyes almost seemed to pop out of his skull. Healing magic was a difficult craft, and fairly rare even amongst magic users. Out here, in the edges of the kingdom of Mussol, a magic healer was a rare beyond compare. Most people got their healing from a priest or apothecaries, or perhaps from some ranger that had some basic knowledge on how to tend to wounds.
This was the reason why Rowe looked at the stout mage with curiosity. The man was a little plump around the middle, but his grey eyes and blonde beard gave him a bit of a jovial look. However, the staff he carried was gnarled and it radiated power. This man was clearly not someone to underestimate, despite his warm eyes and soft looking robe.
Rowe took a second to rearrange his thoughts before clearing his throat.
“I see. It seems your party is well balanced.” He said carefully, a bit of awe slipping into his voice. These people were warriors to be true, seasoned veterans that have hunted monsters for a living.
Ella seemed to perk up slightly at that, her lips twitching upwards into a small smile. “Yes, we have been quite successful with this set up. Now then, shall we get on to the preparations with regards to our stay here?”
“Certainly.” Rowe accented with his head, his fingers intertwining before him as he looked at her with a serious face that was reserved for business only. “We are in your debt for your aid, and as such you are welcome to lodge at our local tavern free of charge. However, food would not be provided.”
“We are agreeable to such terms.” Ella nodded, “As you should know, should we determine there to be a dungeon, you should expect a branch of the adventurer’s guild to be built in the town. Depending on the level and development of the dungeon, the king may be informed and growth of the village should be expected in that event, unless the danger of the dungeon exceeds its use.”
Rowe nodded with professional ease, before she continued. “Excellent. In addition to this, I require any and all information that you may have regarding the dungeon.”
“We have limited information, as none of the villagers have dared to step close to the dungeon.”
“All the same, I would like to hear everything you know.” She insisted, keeping her face carefully neutral.
“Yes. Well to summarize, the dungeon is very near our village, but it takes about two days easy walk to the dungeon. Though the terrain varies a somewhat in the trajectory of the journey, it is in general steep and cluttered with wildlife, which is why it takes time to get there. The dungeon seems to appear as a cave with a mouth that seems to have been carved out rather than naturally created. As Gat surely told you, we are under the impression that there are rodents and snakes in the dungeon, but we are unsure as to monsters or more creatures. However, we have lived in this area for generations and never come across it, so it must be young. That sums it up.”
Ella sighed briefly. No idea of the traps, number of monsters, species, the amount of floors, or number of rooms. The only thing that she could hope is that the dungeon was really that young and not anything to worry about, in which case, they could set up an outpost for the guild and expand it slowly as the dungeon grew. That would be ideal.
“If that’s the case,” Ella followed up, “Then the exploration should be done quickly. We will rest here for the night and set out tomorrow for the dungeon. Is there any way to get to the dungeon faster than in two days?”
Rowe sat there and thought for a moment, considering things. “Not at the moment. If we built a road it would be significantly faster, but as it is now, even horses won’t do you much good in the forest. Even though the dungeon is directly north from us, there are a number of obstacles in the way, such as rivers and cliffs which require you go around them.”
Accepting this information, Ella thanked the chief for his help. She had much to think about as she and her team were led by Gat to the small tavern of the village, where they would be lodging for the night.
At least today they would sleep in a proper bed for the night after such a long ride to this isolated place. And tomorrow, with the assistance of Gat, the adventurer team would head to the presumed location of the dungeon, and start their exploration. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be any surprises and everything would be smooth sailing.
“Master?” Echo’s voice sounded in his head again. Ever since her evolution, she had started to act differently, showing more interest in her surroundings, herself, the creatures of the dungeon, and pretty much everything else. It was starting to get annoying for Smit. Couldn’t she see he was a busy dwarf.
“What is it this time?” He grunted at her as he kept working, only idly listening to her while he guided his mana.
“What is the purpose of your work? The golems that master is creating are clearly weak and of inferior quality. Why waste mana creating them?”
“Aesthetics, you fool.” He grunted at her, “I was a dwarf, and a craftsman at that. Every dwarf appreciates beauty, and I more so than others. I may be a dungeon core now, but I will not have anyone slander my dungeon and call it ugly. In fact, I will make it the most mesmerizing dungeon that anyone will lay their eyes on.”
“But master, this one is of the opinion that those golems are a waste of-”
“Yes, you’ve said that before, and I don’t care.” Smit replied bluntly. “Now hush up unless you have something else to talk about. I am busy.”
Smit had worked and worked relentlessly since the defeat of the bandits to improve his dungeon, splitting his attention between evolving his creatures and fixing his dungeon. While the natural ambiance of the dungeon was nice, it was lacking in décor. He would be damned if his new home would be called mundane.
He started with his golem creation to create statues. Unfortunately, the golems he could create were rather limited to whatever materials he had in the dungeon, namely dirt and rock. The MP cost for a stone of golem was easily ten times that of one made of dirt, and the cost of the golem further increased by the size and complexity of the golem, not to mention the specific rock type could influence the cost too.
For the purpose of decorating, he practiced his golem creation with hardened dirt golems, which would serve as statues to put on the walls of the dungeon. With the delicacy and accuracy that only a seasoned dwarven artisan could muster, Smit created replicas of the creatures found in his dungeon and placed them on the walls of his dungeon. Snakes, mice, wolves, insects, and kobolds were scattered around the dungeon, decorating the halls in a subtle matter, separated far enough apart as to not crowd the walls of the dungeon.
Ideally, once his guests stepped into his dungeon with a torch, the golems that doubled as statues would catch the light in such a way as to add a mystical aura to the place. It wasn’t nearly as beautiful as he wanted it to be, but he resolved to make his second floor something far more suitable for his tastes. Let the first floor stay like this, a gateway to the rest of his dungeon.
As for his creatures, amongst the most notable evolutions were the dungeon mice, who evolved to Dungeon rats, bigger than cats and with elongated claws that could slice through wood better than an axe. The second evolution that was worthy of note were the kobolds, which had created three evolutions, kobold chief, kobold warrior, and kobold shaman. The kobold warrior was about 10 cm taller than the original kobolds, but his mastery with weapons was higher, and his strength increased. The kobold shaman had acquired a bit of a blue tinge to her scales, her intelligence had increased, and she manipulated simple magic of water and earth, allowing her to heal and buff her allies with modest spells, in addition to allowing her to cast simple offensive spells.
Lastly, the kobold chief. He was by far the most impressive evolution. He had grown to an impressive 180 cm in height, dwarfing even the kobold warriors, managing to look far more ferocious. He seemed to have increased his strength and intelligence, demonstrating clear abilities to lead. Smit quite liked him, as he seemed to be a no-nonsense kobold, smacking the two kobold warriors if they started to argue. Much to Smit’s delight, the kobold collectively gained the ability to communicate with speech.
The implications of their speech with regard to their intelligence was promising. Hopefully, soon they would be intelligent enough to start learning things in a more organized form. As it was, they could barely utter more than a handful of words, but that was commendable considering that they had been “born” recently.
Smit sighed quietly in his mind, considering the next steps he should take, when a voice intruded upon his mind.
“Master? This one has a request.” Echo chimed in, her voice speaking hesitantly, but catching his attention quickly.
The sound of her voice invading his thoughts irritated Smit briefly as she interrupted his thoughts, before her words truly registered in his mind. Echo had never requested anything. While he wasn’t sure if this request was a good or bad sign, or perhaps neither, he was curious enough to hear her out. Ever since her evolution, she seemed more like an individual as opposed to a robotic entity, so perhaps this was just another manifestation of her individuality.
“What is it, Echo?”
“I would like to request a body.”
Smit frowned mentally at the idea. That was… an odd request. But one he could relate to. He also longed for a body, but he refused to take the form of anything that would not let him use his forge as he desired. A common kobold was far too weak, as were his current golems. As a matter of fact, a golem would be worse, as they normally had no sense of touch and dulled senses, which was detrimental for his work.
“I see…” Smit replied, mulling over the request. He didn’t see any harm in this, but creating a body might prove difficult. “I could do that. Why do you want a body?”
“Master, this one wishes to be of use beyond the occasional question. This one requests a body as an alternative to further aid master in the future.”
“I see. Well, you are my first creation, technically, so I suppose you do deserve a body of a sort. But what kind of body do you desire?”
Echo followed up flawlessly, almost as if she had rehearsed what to say beforehand. “This one requests a body with hands, preferably humanoid form. This one requests the body to be feminine.”
Smit sat pensive for a moment, considering his options. Despite the drain on his MP to the numerous dirt golems, he still had a massive mana pool due to the bandits, and he could certainly create a higher quality golem with that. However, he had been hoping to start on his second floor soon.
Bah, forget the second floor! Smit thought as excitement began to make his core shine. If he had a face, a large smirk would have been visible on his face. It has been far too long since this old dwarf has been able to craft a proper golem. Letting loose after all this time would be good.
“Alright. I shall accept your request.”
He could feel echo radiate a happy aura as she began to thank him earnestly. Quipping about her gratefulness and his great benevolence until he had to turn to her and fix her with a glare. Or that’s what he would have done if he had eyes anyways. As it stood, he couldn’t exactly do that, but his he radiated a stern aura that demanded her attention, making her stop her words.
“Quiet. I need to focus for this.”
He closed his mind to his surroundings, isolating himself until the feelings of being a dungeon ran in the back of his mind, freeing him to focus on the task at hand. First, he would envision Echo’s form. As per her request, he would make a feminine form, but he needed to decide upon the shape, the materials, and the purpose of the new body for echo.
Frowning, he contemplated the possibilities. Echo was relatively young, but her voice had shifted from emotionless and gender neutral to a more high-pitched feminine voice. She clearly had some desires and thoughts, and had shown signs of clear self-awareness. What could that inspire him to create?
He settled for her voice. He would use her voice rather than her attitude to inspire her body. Young, crisp, but lacking the elating vigor of young children. Echo would not be aged or a child, but her voice did not inspire in him the body of a mother. Her voice… what could that voice inspire?
An idea came to him, and quickly, he reached for his power, drawing up on his mana. He would create her out of stone and metal, and will those to a masterpiece.
He summoned labradorite, a blue rock that looked as if the sky and oceans themselves had frozen and solidified into stone. This stone was favored by diviners and healers, famed for its ability to give guidance when the right magic was applied to it. Best of all, it was as hard as granite, making it extremely durable.
Then he summoned iron and gold, fusing the two metals at great cost of his mana, but worth it for the alloy that he needed. With these materials, he endeavored to craft without hands, guiding his mana to create from scratch as his mana became depleted by the second. He made graceful and slender arms, toned legs that connected to attractive, yet not too prominent hips, a toned belly that showed rigidness but also allowed freedom of motion, shoulders that were sensibly broad but delicate in appearance, breasts that seemed perky but not obscenely large, a slender face without lips or eyes but with a cute sharp nose.
With the base completed, he set about the details. The eyes and lips crafted out of his metal alloy, as were the nails on her hands and feet, and the braided hair that wove its way down to the spot just between her shoulderblades from her head. The neck, her elbows, her knees, and her spine, all sported the delicate cover of alloy that seemed to adorn the beautiful blue mannequin. This was the image he had selected for Echo. A girl, perhaps seventeen years of age in appearance, measuring roughly 157 cm, and human enough in appearance to fool anyone had it not been for the fact that she was made of stone and metal. A true master piece that any king would love to have adorn his halls.
He wouldn’t leave it at that though. Now she needed to be armed, he would not have this creation fighting nude. Fortunately, that was a more simple matter, as her body didn’t truly need much protection considering the toughness of the material he had used. Thus, he simply willed the alloy of gold and iron to form into a metal crown for her head, gauntlets that covered her forearms and the back of her hand, a skirt of chainmail, and a breastplate that left her midsection exposed. The finishing touch was a halberd that he plucked from his walls, an elegant weapon crafted of damascus steel.
He looked over the body and smiled, satisfied with his stone Valkyrie. He didn’t even mind that he had spent twenty hours working on it, or the fact that he had spent a grand total of
31,450 MP in her creation, draining nearly the entirety of his reserves, leaving him with a meager 1,034 MP.
He smirked, satisfied with his first masterpiece. Truly a vessel fit for his first creation.
“It is done.” Smit said with satisfaction. He could almost feel the awe radiate from Echo. But before she had a chance to speak, he reached out and held her essence, and pushed it towards the golem on instinct.
|“Warning! You are about to bestow a body to [Echo]. Cost:150 Anima. Are you sure you would like to proceed?”|
Smit briefly checked his reserves and smirked. 153 anima was at his disposal. Without any hesitation, he accepted the procedure.
And on that day, the stone Valkyrie was born.
|Species: True Dungeon|
|Name: Smit||Age: 51 days|
|Mana: 1030 MP||Anima: 3|
|Mana Reg.: 110 MP/h||Anima Reg.: 2.75/day|
|Floors: 1||Inhabitants: 30 Species|
|Titles: Eager Creator; Guide of the Bloody Evolution; Legendary Craftsman; Reincarnated One|
|Abilities: Absorb matter; Alter environment; Bestow Knowledge; Break down components; Craftsmanship; Creation; Digging; Destroy creation; Dungeon Laws; Enhancement; Equivalent exchange; Ether manipulation; Evolution; Interdimensional Storage; Life bestowal; Life-energy harnessing; Mana absorption; Masterful mana manipulation; Modification of creations; Monster Link; Telepathy; Trap building; Transfer dungeon.|
|Resistances: Magic (general); Mind control|