King Duran rubbed his head as he listened to the nobles in front of him arguing. As soon as word of the situation at the dungeon town reached the city, the noble party had been immediately been called together for a vote on the matter. The issue at hand had been the rumors of malicious forces at work in the area. With the confirmation of the presence of worgs and rumors of evil demons roaming that area, the vote had been brought up to destroy the dungeon or let it stay.
"Order, I will have order in the room!" He called out, banging a wooden mallet on the table. The heads of the ten major noble families had gathered around the oaken table, and they quieted down as the orators stood up.
Father Tobias strolled to the front of the room, his robes lightly gliding across the floor. He faced the nobles and bowed deeply to them. "Good day to you men of noble blood." He began, "I wish it was under better circumstances that we could meet."
He cleared his throat and held his hands out, "It is my unfortunate duty to bring to bare the issue of the day. It weeks past, the presence of the newly formed dungeon has brought much wealth to our fair city and your coffers." He waited through the mutterings of agreement, "In that time, the dungeon town has risen remarkably and become a special place for many interests. It is unfortunate, then, that the area has become a bastion of evil and corruption."
He held up his hands to quiet to gasps and angry murmurs, "Thanks to the constant reports from the adventurer guilds, we know of the pack of worgs that was defeated some time ago. We now know that some of the pack survived and have become floor bosses in the dungeon. In addition to this, rumors have abounded the area of creatures of demonic origin in the area."
At this, the second orator stood up. Lord Mannis cleared his throat as he took a place next to Father Tobias. "Good father, while I agree that the surviving worgs are troublesome, it is not a cause for worry. The dungeon has been confirmed to only hold the two worgs; which is hardly a cause for concern. In addition to that, many adventurers are praising the dungeon now as the loot as improved considerably in recent days. In regards to the rumors of demons," He waved his hand dismissively, "That is all they are at the moment, mere rumors spread by superstitious shepherds. There has been nothing to substantiate them and no reason to destroy a precious source of wealth."
Father Tobias raised an eyebrow, "So, you lack the faith to follow through on rumors of festering evil?"
Lord Mannis snorted at the veiled job, "If evil truly was festering in the area, I would be calling for my troops at this very moment. Wargs, for instance, would have been a valid concern; worgs on the other hand are merely stronger beasts and have no connection to any infernal origin."
The good father smiled pleasantly and held his hands out, "What of the strange instances the reports have mentioned: the people with their memories missing or the murders in the night?"
Lord Mannis scratched his chin, "It is sad when newcomers drink so much they loss a hold of their facilities and wake up in barns with nary a stitch of clothing on their backs. In regards to the rumors, disagreements always arise when wealth is involved."
Father Tobias sighed and let his hands down, "I see there is little incentive for destroying the dungeon at this time. However, may I petition this council to allow for a bastion of faith to be established at the town? It would do well to alleviate some of the concerns that many followers have."
Lord Mannis smiled and bowed to him, "My dear Father, I will pay for the expenditures myself; no need to trouble the council on such trivial matters."
"Oh ho ho, how generous you are Lord Mannis."
"Indeed Father Tobias, I have often heard that word used to describe me." The two shared a laugh, though for some reason everyone else in the room felt chills down their back. Even in this council room, the two men held power that rivaled that of the king.
King Duran banged his mallet on the table, "In regard to the dungeon, the matter has been settled. Lord Mannis will finance the construction of a church at the town and Father Tobias will see to it that it is properly staffed and blessed for emergencies. All in favor?"
Fists thumped the table together, a sign of agreement from all present.
"Now, the next order of business is the war. Our latest reports . . ."
Ken knocked on the door and waited.
"Come in." A voice called out.
He walked into the room of his sister, Princess Diana. The princess had made a complete recovery a few days ago, but the healers had denied visitors to her room until now.
"How are you feeling Diana?"
Diana stretched her arms out from underneath her covers. She was wearing her normal clothes in her bed, a sure sign she was feeling better. "Dear brother, you know better than anyone that nothing could hold me down, not even death."
Chuckling, Ken walked over to her and sat on her bed. "You know we were all really worried about you." He said, staring into her eyes seriously, "It was a very touch and go experience for a while there."
Diana smiled and hugged her brother, "I know, and I am sorry for worrying you and everyone else."
Ken smiled and returned her hug. When they were done, he cleared his throat, "I've been assigned by father to interview you on what you remember. He wants to know if you can name any other members involved."
Diana frowned as she began to think, "My memories are not clear after I left for the camp. I have been trying to remember it myself, but there is a large gap between leaving Duran and entering the dungeon. I'm sorry I couldn't have been more help in that regard."
Ken smiled and ruffled her hair, "It's alright, and we all know how traumatic that was for you. Tell me," He hesitated for a moment, "Do you suspect one of your family was involved in this atrocity."
Diana's face was completely neutral as she stared into the face of her big brother. "I don't know." She said honestly, "What I do now is that the seal was real, which means someone with great power or trickery used it or . . . "
Ken nodded, understanding her reluctance on the matter. No one ever wanted to suspect family. "One last thing, can you describe this mysterious dungeon hero, Doc?"
Diana stared at him, "I can only say that he was noble and possessed well intentions. It was too dark to make out his features, but I remember the strength in his arms as he carried out of the dungeon."
Sighing, Ken smiled wryly as he patted her hair, "Thank you for your time sister. I'll leave you now to your rest." They shared another hug and Ken left the room, filled with more questions than answers.
Diana waited until the door shut behind her brother. When she was sure she was gone, she began to shiver as she held herself. The fear had almost broken through her mask, but she had held it together. Every time one of her family came to check on her, she was overcome with fear and terror. Which one had been the one to target her, she had no idea; but, every hug given she searched for a dagger and every smile given to she searched for its falsehood.
'I'm not safe here.' She thought to herself, pulling the covers over her head, 'It's not safe for me here.' She could feel the agony of terror eating her very existence from within, and that frightened her more than anything else. Not only was someone trying to kill her, she was also on the path to becoming a danger herself to everyone around her.
She knew the reason for that. Many thought of her as the muscle head of the family, but she had learned insight and cunning from her eldest brothers at a young age.
'Those men were never out to kill me. Their role was merely to break me and turn me against my family.' She had thought long and hard about what had happened to her, and she had lied to her brother about no remembering anything; she knew Sir Koran was involved. 'If I hadn't taken steps to prevent this, I would have already fallen into the enemy's plans.'
Indeed, she had been quite out of it during her rescue, but she had retained enough of her mind to put into action a plan to save herself. Thankfully, it had been a partial success; though it did contain an unexpected side effect.
Her arm stopped shaking long enough to draw on her blanket, outing the fur in a circular pattern.
"Mr. Slime, I want to see you again."
Koran snarled as he through his cup against his tent. The wine spilled as it tumbled and landed on the floor. "Explain this to me again." He growled, "What did my father say?"
The messenger cowered from the man's hostile gaze, "You father bids you to not come home until this whole affair is forgotten with. He expects you to put on airs of generosity and spread your good name through the area."
Koran groaned as he sat down onto his chair, folding his hands in front of his face. He was tired of hanging out in the boonies with weaklings; he wanted to return to the city and pickup wenches again. The only women out here were too dangerous to use and throw away; even the bar maids were protected by the male patrons after hours.
His entire trip had gone to hell from start to finish. Exploring the dungeon had been interesting and all, but he had expected it to be an open and shut affair for a B ranked adventurer like himself. Instead, he had received a letter form one of his partners in the city slums to wait there for a potential payday.
Koran had accepted the offer; he had no reason not too and it gave him an excuse to woe Mary in the meantime. Sure, she was a filthy half-breed not fit to be in the same room as him, but Koran was taught from a young age to be a practical man by his father. Even half-breeds had their uses, especially the pretty ones as long as they were dealt with after. Koran relished for the day he could take her to one of the other cities with more suitable laws and have her sold to a brothel. He, of course, would be her first customer and he would get off on her begging and pleading for his love. Pleasure slaves were well known to be taught their proper places.
Unfortunately, he hadn't counted on the job to involve the princess. He had recognized her when she came in, but hadn't known at the time she was the target. That led to problems, such as the fact that she HAD SEEN HIS FACE. If she remembered, she could place him as the cause of the incident and ruin everything he had worked for.
The letter had outlined that the girl needed to be properly broken. It had even been signed by the royal seal, meaning he couldn't back out of the deal once he had read it; otherwise his life would have been on the line. Still, he had taken steps to make sure no one could place him at the scene. He entrusted the job to his most trustworthy "friends"; the sons of lesser nobles who did whatever he wanted in order to gain prestige and influence.
Somehow, they had fumbled the job and completely ruined everything. They even had the audacity of dying before they could be suitably punished. Even worse, the princess had named them her attackers before passing out, which meant that eyes had turned a suspicious gaze onto him.
He cursed the mysterious dungeon savior Doc; cursed him for his interference in his affairs. Now, Koran was forced to play nice with weaklings in order to waive suspicion off of him, and now even his father was taking steps to distance him in case he was found guilty.
"Leave; tell my father I will remain here to preserve my good name." Koran commanded, "But, be sure to remind him that if I go down, I'll make sure he comes with me." They had the perfect father-son relationship: practical, distant, and fully connected. The messenger bowed low as he hurried out of the tent.
Koran mused on his chair. In order to salvage his name, he needed to make generous gestures to the people. He was well versed in political maneuvering and knew how to play with lesser beings, but his mood wasn't up for it.
A knock at his tent distracted his thoughts. "Enter," He announced, "State your business."
A man walked into his tent and smiled at him. "I hear you have been busy." He said, a sinister undertone to his voice, "Since you've had such a hard time, I decided I would come help you."
Koran turned red with anger and stood up suddenly, "Who are you to . . . "
With a blink, the man held up Koran with one hand by the neck. Koran gasped and struggled, but found he could not escape the iron grip of the man in front of him.
"You know," The man mused, "While I should kill you for your failure, I really should be thanking you. I haven't had this much fun in a while; killing through proxy gets tiring after a few decades. While you delayed my plans, you didn't actually fail completely so I guess you can live for now." With a casual toss, he threw Koran across the room into his bags.
Koran gasped for air as he struggled to his feet. Casually, the man put his foot onto Koran's head, keeping him in a knelling posture.
"Now, here is what's going to happen: you, in your generous spirit, are going to take a new adventurer under your wings and train him in the dungeon. You are going to help him with everything he needs, and then he are going to expand until you are teaching an entire class of new adventurers. Once your reputation has been restored, you will return to the city and help me deal with the royal guards for the next phase of my plan. Do you understand?"
"Yes, yes I do!" Koran cried out, "Please, tell me who you want trained and I'll do it!"
The man chuckled and removed his foot, "Why, me of course. I just recently registered as an F-ranked adventurer and am need of a mentor to teach me everything about dungeon diving. In fact, I think being taught how to kill a dungeon should be you last step."
Koran gasped, "If that happens, the whole town will fall into an uproar . . . "
"Yes, this will divert attention from the city. All according to plan you see." The man chuckled, "Don't worry, you and your father will be suitably rewarded for your assistance, have no fear. In fact, here is a small incentive to help you."
A bag dropped in front of Koran's hands. His greedy eyes widened as the bag deposited its contents of gold across his floor. Koran gulped audibly, "What do I call my new apprentice?"
"Call me Simon." The body of Simon smiled evilly, "Just, Simon for now."