Gat strode through his little village, staring at the sudden change that was going on throughout it. It was odd to see so many people that he didn’t know in his village. The village, though it had been founded less than a century ago, did not have much traffic from foreign entities. Even merchants were a rarity that only visited the town a handful of times a year, and even then only a few would come at the time.
Today, the population of the village had grown over the course of a few days by an additional sixty people, increasing the population by fifty percent. For a village as small as Nam, sixty people was a staggering increase in population density. By order of the king, the village of Nam was to be expanded into a more fitting settlement, given its proximity to the dungeon. The village itself would get more than just a basic expansion of living quarters. There would be several facilities that would be opened, including an inn and tavern, an adventurers guild, barracks, supply stores, and even an apothecary with medical facilities.
The plan seemed quite grand for the villagers, especially since they expansion was going to be a large boon for them, as the demand for their crops and cattle had suddenly increased, rising the amount of profit they could gather. Moreover, the crown was sponsoring their expansion to a certain degree, which meant that they would be compensated for facilitating the growth of their town. In fact, the crown had even granted the villagers more territory for farming, encouraging them to prepare for the future growth of their village.
The only real downside for the original inhabitants of Nam village were that they were going to get a lot of visitors really quickly, and they didn’t have much of a say as to who would come. However, the benefits of expanding their village would prove to be astronomical in comparison to what they currently had. More people meant more money, which meant a more prosperous settlement in the long run, if it was managed appropriately of course.
The deal had been too sweet to pass up, and the entire village had thrown their support behind the expansion, working overtime to increase their farmland, craft shop stands, or to house the new arrivals.
Though the new arrivals consisted mostly of carpenters, architects, and generally labourers that were tasked with readying the basic facilities that were promised the town (most notably the adventurers guild and the barracks), the true stars of the show had been the Azure Arrow team, who had returned from the dungeon looking rather worn out on the first time that anyone had approached the dungeon.
Interestingly enough, Azure Arrow had been quite tight lipped about the first dungeon dive, only citing that it was lurking with all matter of creatures, but that they were unable to say more than that until they had discussed it with their superiors at the time. But now? Now they freely talked about it to anyone that would ask.
Gat could not help but to daydream about the adventure every time he heard about it from the adventurers. Snakes that hid in the shadows, rats the size of cats that pounced at your face, pit-falls that could cripple you, and kobolds that swung spears at your heart. All of it placed neatly in a realm of fairy tales, where the beauty could fool you into a false sense of security.
He had heard the story of how the members of Azure Arrow dove into the dungeon at least half a dozen times over the last week, and still he could not get tired of it. His favourite part was the final battle with the Kobolds. The Kobolds had been adversaries so fearsome that they had manage to wound the members of Azure Arrow multiple times, going as far as pushing them back, if only for a moment.
At first, Gat had found the story rather… lacking. In his mind, it was natural that a monster had been able to push back a human, even if they were adventurers. Adventurers were still human after all, only that they were a bit stronger and wiser than the average human when it came to fighting monsters.
Or that’s what he had thought anyways.
The day after Azure Arrow returned, he had awoken to the sound of wood clashing against wood, in a series of thumping sounds. Tired but curious, Gat got himself dressed and went to check on the disturbance, only to be baffled at his findings. Before him, two members of Azure arrow spared with wooden weapons. A roguish man with wooden knives and a the red-head leader with her wooden sword dashed around the clearing at quick speeds, engaging and disengaging in a flurry of blows that lasted only moments at the time. Each movement was precise and determined, aiming to injure the opponent, if not disable them.
The rogue was clearly the more slippery of the two of them, dodging as many blows as he could rather than to take the attacks head on. He reminded Gat of a snake that coiled up to attack, retreating quickly when its offensive was blocked or diverted. On the other hand, the Redhead was more like wolf, carefully circling her prey, diverting the blow of the tacks or blocking them entirely, only to retaliate with powerful hits that pushed the rogue back every time they connected.
One opponent was slippery and vicious, the other one was steady and tenacious. The two were evenly matched in a dance of adrenaline and sweat, until their partner, the large man called James, stepped in to stop them.
The sight of the two warriors facing off had changed Gat’s perspective of them completely, and it had caused him to realize how dangerous those kobolds truly were. It didn’t matter if the Kobolds had had aid from wolves in that last stand. Considering the speed and strength of Azure arrow, he was surprised that the Kobolds had managed to even slow down the members of Azure arrow, much less injure them or push them back, however fleeting that moment had been.
He shuddered to think what would have happened if he had entered that dungeon on his own the day when he discovered the dungeon himself. He had no doubt in his mind that he would have ended up as a corpse before he had even been halfway through the first floor. It was a terrifying thought.
However, at the same the idea of challenging the dungeon excited him greatly. Just imagining the adrenaline, the challenge, the pure excitement of diving into the unknown stimulated something deep inside of him. It was a feeling that sang to blood, and pulled at something deep in his heart.
…Perhaps it was time for a career change after all.
It’s interesting to see how the little village I come to know recently has begun to change. Within one week, the Adventurer’s guild main building was already getting close to being completed, though the training grounds were mostly just fenced off and used to spar at the moment. The training grounds would require little time to be completed however, as they would mostly consist of stationary targets to train against and wide open spaces for group drills to be carried out.
On that note, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised but the inn with the tavern is well on its way to being completed too. In fact, the tavern area of the inn is nearly done, and it will open for business soon. This is even more impressive considering that the tavern and inn only started to be constructed three days after the adventurer’s guild, and it was being constructed by only five people.
Then again, perhaps it would be weird if the inn wasn’t one of the first things to open up. Adventurers are largely known for their need to drink and party after a long day of adventuring, after all. As an adventurer myself though, I can certainly understand why that’s the case. Sometimes you are risking your life for days out in the bush, hunting down dangerous monsters or stopping criminal groups for a good sum of money. In those occasions where you could die at any moment, were a single missed blow could end your life, or a wrong sound could reveal your location to a wandering beast… Who wouldn’t accumulate stress?
Mental stress was one of the eternal enemies of adventurers. There was a need to relieve stress regularly, and few outlets were more available to people than good company and good drink. As a matter of fact, it is encouraged that we go and relax at the tavern by the guild itself, as it relieves mental stress. And everyone knowns that living in constant high alert and high stress is detrimental for a person over the long term. High stress can lead to lack of sleep, which in turn leads to lack of focus, which leads to slowed reaction times, which for an adventurer could easily mean death.
I chuckle at myself at the sudden turn of my thoughts. My mind went from marvelling at the speed at which the town is changing to death.
Funny how that happens sometimes.
I let my morbid thoughts slide out of my mind without resistance, and return to walking towards my destination whilst inspecting the progress occurring through the village. Soon I approach a tent that has been pitched amongst the construction zones for various residences, and I hear the familiar voices of the rest of my teammates.
“About time you got here Ziggy.” Adder blurts out, grinning with that odd, tilted, mocking smile of his. “What happened? Got lost on your way to the washroom?”
“Just admiring the progress around here. These workers are working quickly.” I reply as I step into the ten-man tent. It’s not very big, but it’s enough for the five us plus the table that has a map of the village and the dungeon. It must have been drawn by Adder. He doesn’t have many talents other than fighting with his knives and drawing… unless you count his ability to make people want to strangle him as a talent.
“Of course they are being quick.” Ella chimed in. “A total of fifty carpenters and labourers. That is plenty to build a basic structure in a few days. Besides, there are a few master crafters sent by the king himself. They should drastically increase the rate at which the entire thing progresses.”
“Hmm… how much do you figure that those two master craftsmen cost?” James asks, mildly curious. “I would love to have something designed by them.”
Snorting loudly, Adder is the one to reply to James, clearly amused. “Boy, James, buddy, friend. Master craftsmen charge in gold pieces. Often upwards of double digits. Does that answer your question?”
“Ugh… They get paid better than we do.” James grumbles with a mildly dissatisfied expression.
“There is a reason why they are called master craftsmen James.” I added. “There is only a handful in the entire kingdom. The entire continent has about a hundred… maybe two hundred, at best. The fact that we could get two master carpenters is already an achievement in itself. The king must have had a hand in acquiring them directly.”
“The king really wants this place to be up and running quickly huh?” Mei spoke up offhandedly, her eyes looking down at the map of the area around the village.
“Of course he does.” Ella replied. “There are very few dungeons in the kingdom. Every dungeon is a useful resource for training and for gathering materials. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that dungeons are directly tied to the economic growth of a nation. A single dungeon can provide a vast amount of resources over the years. Of course, this largely depends on the size and quality of the dungeon. A large dungeon that provides high quality materials will obviously have a higher impact on the economy than a small dungeon that provides lower quality materials. Moreover, you need to consider that every dungeon can provide a kingdom with live training for adventurers and the military. Experience fighting living things is a very valuable thing, even though it doesn’t have a price tag attached to it.”
“I suppose you are right.” Mei sighed as she looked up. “The quicker we can get this place up and running, the better it will be for the kingdom as a whole. I am curious to see if this dungeon will have a specialty though.”
“A specialty?” I asked confused for a second, before it clicks what she means. “Oh, you mean a special product or resource it specializes in producing. Isn’t that quite rare though? Most dungeons only are good for gathering fighting experience and perhaps gathering some common monster parts.”
Mei looks up at me with those lovely grey-blue eyes, staring directly at me. “That might be true. But aren’t you forgetting something?”
“Hm…” I think about it for a moment, stroking my short beard with my hand as I think about it for a moment. “Ah, you mean the spears?”
“Correct.” Mei nods sharply.
“Didn’t we just take that from the kobolds though?” I ask with a bit of confusion. “They should be just common spears.”
James snorts at that, and turns to look at me dead on. “Trust me, they are not. Perhaps you didn’t notice because you weren’t fighting them upfront, but those were magnificently crafted weapons despite the simplicity behind them. I tried one out before handing them over to the guild to get them identified. They were perfectly balanced, sharpened enough to retain an edge but not enough to make them brittle, and the tips were made with unique care. The spears were sturdy enough to withstand a blow from my hammer without breaking too.”
I stood there, quiet for a moment as I digested this information. James was amongst us the strongest one physically. I have seen him use his hammer to crush the head of a wild boar as easily as if it was a melon, and yet the spears had somehow managed to withstand those blows. Say what you want about deflecting the blows or blocking them only partially. The fact that they could survive a blow from that steel hammer at all was a testament to their durability.
“I see… Now I am curious too.” I hummed out, smiling at the news.
“Save that curiosity for later. The hawk is here.” Ella interrupted as a hawk flew into the tent a second later, landing neatly on Ella’s outstretched gloved hand. She quickly pulled on a little metal tube that the hawk had on its leg, and extracted a small roll of parchment from it. She cleared her throat and begin to read it out.
“Members of Azure Arrow, you are hereby authorized to go do a routine inspection on the recently confirmed dungeon that lies north of the village of Nam. You are to conduct a check dive, in order to confirm the state of the dungeon as it is possible it has begun to create a second floor now. Send a report once your check is concluded.
Additionally, the examination for the spears you have handed in for inspection has been concluded. The analysis concludes that the spears are masterwork level, in terms of quality. The tips are crafted with Damascus steel, with a technique that is unknown. The handles are also made of good quality wood that has some give to it, which helps absorb impacts to an extent. The price for each spear is quoted at around three and half gold pieces…”
Ella stopped talking as she gaped at the sum of money, stopping to read it again. “Three and a half gold pieces… Lord, that’s two gold pieces and ten silver for each of us!”
“That’s more than some of the quests we take sometimes!” Adder added in excitedly, “In one day we managed to get the same pay out of a one week long mission! I love this dungeon already.”
I whistled at the sum of money, stroking my beard again. “Two gold pieces is enough to make sure a commoner can eat well for a half a year easily. That’s quite a sum. To gather in a day.”
“I hope that this is the specialty of the dungeon.” Adder added in excitedly. “Just imagine, if we can get this much in just the first floor, once it develops more floors it will be a literal gold mine!”
“Don’t get too excited yet.” Ella interrupted. “These could have been a fluke. Or it could also be that the dungeon only produces a fixed amount of high quality items in a given amount of time.”
“Shhhh…. Don’t ruin the moment for me yet.” Adder said happily, clearly ignoring her sensible words.
“Anyways.” Ella said as she ignored Adder as he went off into his own happy world, “Let me just finish the letter. Let’s see… It simply asks if we would wish to sell the spears to the adventurer’s guild or if we wish to retain them.”
We all looked at each other for a moment, before we simply came to the agreement we would just have them sold. None of us was a spear user anyways, so for us the money would be more beneficial anyways. Though if it had been a staff for magicians, I would have immediately claimed one for myself, if it had been of the same quality as those spears. As much as I love my staff, it is just a tool, and if I can get myself a tool that is more likely to keep me alive, I will gladly take it.
“Right, we got our orders men.” Ella said with a nod. “Tomorrow we depart for the dungeon. Pack your things and have a good night rest, the hike is rather long as we all know.”
“We should really look into having a path cleared to the dungeon.” James pitched in. “Two days to get to the dungeon is too long for the actual distance from here to there. If it wasn’t for all the winding paths we must take and all the obstacles we have to avoid, I bet it would take us less than half of the time to reach it.”
“That will have to wait James.” Ella said with a sigh, “Though I agree with your opinion, the expansion of the village comes first.”
“I know.” James said with a nod as he stood up and rolled his neck slowly. “I just wish there was some way to get there quicker. It’s not pleasant to go hike up that mountain for two days in full gear.”
“Oh, hush up you big ox.” I chuckled at him “If there is anyone here that can carry a metric ton of weight for two days straight in our group, it’s you. You will be fine.”
“Easy for you to say, Zig. You carry a robe and a stick for weapons and armour, in addition to whatever food and water you need. You don’t carry full plate armour.” James grumbled like a child, making it all the more funny to me.
“I am sure you can manage. We’ve been through worse before. Remember the time we had to catch the cursed fire goat on that ridge? A full week of hiking and you were fully armoured. If you could do that, you can do this.”
“Just because I can do it, it doesn’t mean I like doing it.” James replied, “I human can go for two weeks without food and live, but it doesn’t mean that anyone would enjoy doing it you know?”
“Okay, point taken.” I chuckle at his point, knowing fully well that what he said was true.
“So, we will meet here at the same time as always?” Mei interrupted, clearly eager to get out of this little meeting. Not that I can blame her, she has been distracted ever since she heard a certain “ethereal tune in the wind,” whatever that means. Whatever this tune was it has her quite enchanted, and she has been spending her days scouting the area around the village, searching for the source of it without any luck yet.
I have no doubt that the minute that this meeting is over, she is going to go right back out there to those woods, and get down to business, searching once more. She can be adorable when she obsesses over little things like that… at least until she decides that whatever caused it is dangerous. Then she starts using her arrows, and I would hate to get in her way when that happens.
Ella smiled and nodded at Mei’s question. “See you all at sunrise.”
Chuckling, I departed from the tent and began to walk back to my tent, when I heard a little squeak as I set my foot down. Looking down, I noticed a little mouse dart past me, running off into the bushes like a devil chased by a holy man. Poor thing, it’s probably dying of anxiety due to all the activity around here.