We went on with our training until Retel managed to reach level 8. After that, we abandoned our hunts, following Heod’s suggestion, and focused to just walk our way towards Sendria.
Sticking to the main road, we encountered more and more fellow travelers as we neared the city’s outskirts.
Merchant caravans followed by guards, simple carts pulled by donkeys and mules led by farmers, brimming with products destined to the city’s bazaar.
The scenery around us changed, as the wild green sea slowly receded, until the whole landscape became covered in cultivated fields and farmlands.
From time to time, even small clusters of houses began to appear on the side of the road, some of them belonging to local farmers or used as lodgings to accommodate weary travelers.
Before entering the city, we decided to rest into one of such buildings, a rural inn on the roadside.
The reason…because we’re in tatters. From the days we spent hunting in the Grasslands, our clothes became tattered and ragged, and no proper guard would let someone with such ragged appearance as us enter their precious city. So, in order to fix our appearance and tidy ourselves, we decided to spend a night in the inn.
Of course, the possibility of sleeping in a proper bed after so many days spent under the stars is really, really appealing.
We depart from the inn with the first light of the new day, donning clean and proper clothes taken from my inventory. I scavenged them from the Fort before, with the intention of selling them. Instead, I ended up wasting my entire wardrobe after the many battles that we fought in the Grasslands. It seems we will be forced to do some proper shopping once we get into the city.
The road is busy even during early morning hours. And, this time, we are walking on a proper road, wide and made by smooth, paved stones.
In the distance, the walls of Sendria can be seen. Perspective is tricky, so I cannot properly judge their size from my position, still…they are impressive. Wonder how I’ll feel right beside them…
The city itself seems to be pretty huge. According to Heod, Sendria has a population of about 250000 inhabitants, holding the largest concentration of people in this region. The high population is due to two reasons: the presence of the Dungeons, a place that attracts thousands of people to the city, both for the Dungeon itself and for the manufacturing and service business that bloomed around it. Next, but not least important, Sendria has a fluvial port.
Well, it’s more of a lakeside port, since the city itself is situated between a lake and the mountain range that contains the Dungeon. Still, the lake, called Indora Lake, is born from the Indora river, a huge river that crosses a long distance, touching several countries in its way to the Sea. The river and lake offer calm waters for circulation of goods, and transporting goods from the lake to other cities seems to be one of the most important activities in Sendria.
The lake is located west of Sendria. The west wall is open, as it hosts the harbor facilities and docks. On the North side, the mountain range called Dohara Mountains act as a natural barrier for the city. Sendria itself looks almost like it’s coming out from the mountains, like some sort of growth from the rocks.
<> says Heod while pointing out at the black, huge structures that are near the foot of the mountain range.
Heod’ s explanation about the city continues with anecdotes and various stories…
It seems the old man is really knowledgeable about Sendria, since, according to him, he spent there some years during his youth.
Well, we still have a long walk to do before we reach the city.
As we go towards the main road, the countryside ends abruptly, devolving into a mess of wooden barracks and tents. The air smells terribly, since there seems to be an open-air, rudimentary sewage system, with waste flowing near the houses and dirt-track roads.
It’s like seeing a scene from a third-world country, with scrawny children playing in the dirt, while old people watch on them from their shabby houses.
Truly a difficult thing to see and just pass by.
According to Heod, these slums accommodate those that are denied entry in the city. Poor people without any possibility to pay the entrance fee, workers employed illegally in the near farmlands.
Of course, situations like the one in front of me should be a common sight in this world, where society is basically a medieval one. Where the noble and rich trample the poor and so on.
Seeing it with my own eyes is unpleasant. It’s not like I can do anything for this people, aside from making small donations that would help my ego more than them.
Perhaps, if I find some kind of association or church that tends to the poor I could give a helping hand, but for now the only thing I can do is look at them, and walk away.
The slums extend almost to the outer walls of Sendria. Almost like another city grew up around the main one.
Small alleys branch from the main road, woven around the wooden sheds like a web. Losing the sense of direction would be too easy if one were to venture into that intricate maze.
Well, we only need to stick to the main road, since for now we have no business in the slums.
More and more people crowd the road as we get near to the city’s walls.
<> mutters Retel, while Levia looks around with sparkling eyes, captivated by the huge walls adorned with statues.
The wall is about 7 or even 8 meters tall, with battlements and archer towers on the top. It is still manned, with guards patrolling on the walkways and even some stationed at the battlements.
The craftsmanship behind this construction is really incredible…
It truly is a magnificent sight, the polished white surface of the walls engraved with bas relief motif, white marble warriors locked into an eternal battle against their enemies of stone.
Still, the stark contrast between the Southern and Northern wall is astounding. The Southern wall is white, finely decorated, build more to appease the eye than to be a proper defense barrier. The North wall, however, is built with black stone, towering on the rest of the city. Without any kind of decoration, it hosts several guard towers, clearly visible even from below and at such distance. It is built with function in mind, without any frills for aesthetics or such.
The white, sculpted wall in front of us opens with a large gate, located under an Arc opening in the wall. Inside the Arc, a sturdy looking wooden gate stands tall and locked.
Guards are stationed in front of the gate, and it looks like they are inspecting the merchants’ carts before letting them into the city.
Someone is making a small commotion, but is quickly being captured and reprimanded by some of the guards…perhaps it was someone incapable of paying the entrance tax?
We stand in line along with the crowd, waiting for our turn to enter the city.
Standing in line for more than an hour, we slowly advance, one step at a time.
Finally, our turn came.
A bored guard signals us to go his way. Wearing a bowl-shaped helmet that leaves his face exposed, the guard is sitting beside a small wooden desk. His red uniform’s shirt is swollen on his belly portion, showing a physique more suited to desk work than guard duty.
A lush pair of mustaches crown the guard’s lips, swaying as he mutters something disrespectful about his superiors.
<> he shouts while ringing a small brass bell.
The first to have his identity checked is Retel, followed by Levia and Heod.
Although the guard scoffs at them, it seems to be more because he hates his duty than for him being displeased by their race. Now that I think of it, no one did any kind of disrespectful remark towards my friends since we left the village.
My turn comes last. I don’t know why, but I always get nervous with this kind of situations. I remember in my old life, I felt the same way as I was forced to go through ID check at airports. Of course, I did not have anything to hide, nor I have it now…it’s just…stressing for me.
Hell, I feel more comfortable while fighting monsters than dealing with authorities…
He looks at me a few times, while he hands the Identity Stone I just gave him to one of his colleagues. It seems that the verification is not made in front of me, but inside a room built in the wall. I wonder if magic is involved…no, it definitely is.
<> he tells while handing me back my stone. He scribbles something on a parchment and hands it to me. It looks like some sort of receipt of payment, with the sum written on it.
I hand the money to the guard. He inspects the coins for a moment, before nodding with his head.
<<Please, sign the document here>>
The signed document is collected again by the guard, who then peels off the surface of the parchment. It looks like the carbon copy papers of my world, where the things written on the sheet would be copied on a second sheet below. The guard hands me the original document, while he keeps the copied part.
This simple thing about the paper makes me wonder how advanced this civilization really is. Since things around look pretty medieval, I expected paper or parchment to be scarce commodities, used only by nobles and such…instead it seems like paper is produced properly in this city, and is not even regarded as something uncommon, instead being widely used…
<<Well, Mr Roshal, welcome to Sindria. Stroll along. Next!>> says the guard while suppressing a yawn.
After sighing in relief, I join my comrades again. On one side of the big wooden gate a small door is opened by a tall guardsman. He signals us to go through, gesturing quickly with his free hand. Once we get inside, the door is closed on our backs.
Finally, we are past Sendria’s walls.
The atmosphere inside the walls is completely different from the slums around the city. Paved roads, houses built in stone and wood. Alleys brimming with people and merchants selling their products from wooden stalls or in-house built stores.
A proper city, with a tidy and beautiful appearance.
We walk along the main road, gazing with wonder all around us.
Heod asks for our opinion about the destination.
<<Hm, I would like to tour around a bit before going to Guild…maybe we could go and do a bit of shopping?>>
Levia’s suggestion is not bad. Since we need to buy some stuff, we could just do it while touring the city a bit…
Well…Retel makes a point here.
And so we decided on our course of action.
Following the main street, we end up in the main square. A huge open space, decorated with trees and statues, and a magnificent marble fountain located right in the middle.
Levia is running around with sparkling eyes, captivated by the beauty that the city offers. The fountain itself is really a work of art, with statues comparable to the old greek masterpieces from my world.
It’s almost like the figures cast in white marble were alive, locked in a movement that lasted for hundreds of years.
Some tourist groups are touring around the square, lead by young women that explain with enthusiasm the story behind each monument.
It will be nice to have a proper tour of the city…but, right now, we have other priorities.
We leave the square behind, heading towards the West district. As we leave the main square, the scenery slowly changes. The residential buildings that characterize the mains street give way to commercial buildings, taverns and artisan shops. Elaborate clothes and fancy armors and weapons are exposed inside the shops, without any kind of price tag being shown. Perhaps, this area is reserved for high-class stores and such…
As we move towards the West district, the quality of the shops becomes more and more inclined towards common goods instead of luxury items.
Finally, we reach another plaza, smaller than the main square but still quite big. It’s packed with people and merchant stalls, selling all kinds of items from simple groceries to strange looking apparatus and herbs.
Heod is acting almost like a tourist guide, giving advice and explanation whenever we encounter a notable place.
Still, we decide to postpone our visit to the Bazaar, heading straight to the Estate office.
Holding out the reference paper that the kind merchant gave us, we enter the two-story building. Inside, a receptionist with a kind smile greets us from her desk.
Wait, is this some kind of high-class estate business?
We present our introduction paper to the female receptionist. She examines it for a moment, before inviting us to take a seat in the room.
<<Sorry, the Manager here is a busy man, you will have to wait a while before meeting him>>
She says with a kind and professional tone.
The waiting room where she leads us is furnished by sofas and a table. As we sit there, she comes back bringing refreshments.
<<So, these are the people that my good for nothing friend sent here, am I right?>>
A tall, bearded man makes his entrance in the room. His clothes are…shabby, and his appearance disarrayed. Long, unkempt air and a face that looks like the man isn’t getting enough sleep.
All of us stand up and greet the man, but he simply gestures us to sit down again.
Maxim sits down with us. Although he has an unkempt appearance, his eyes brim with intelligence.
I cannot believe how random this meeting is…does his friend just give recommendation papers to anyone he meets on the road?
Still, we’re here, so…
After properly introducing ourselves, Heod starts to explain the type of building we’re looking for. I leave the job to him, since it would be strange if negotiations for renting a house are conducted by a teenager like me, right?
<<So, let me get this straight, mr Heod. You are looking for a house for you and your apprentices, that has a small basement or other room where it is possible to conduct your alchemy. As a matter of facts, my business has some houses that fit your description. Now, would you like to visit them?>>
As we agree, he leaves the room, appointing one of his employees to guide us to the houses he mentioned.
Following the employee, we tour around several housing quarters. Some of the buildings he shows us have prohibitive prices, so we immediately rule them out, much to the employee’s dissatisfaction.
Still, after spending almost the whole day house hunting, we finally find a suitable place.
Located on the edge between West and North districts, it’s equally distant from the marketplace and the Guild buildings. A one story house with a small basement.
According to our guide, it belonged to an herborist, so the basement is already predisposed to be furnished with alchemical equipment.
The house itself is small, with a kitchen, a bathroom and three rooms. The furniture provided with the house seems to be in good conditions, although it’s not like it’s composed by high class items or such.
Still, it’s a plain looking house, without anything that makes it stand out in the neighborhood.
The price for each month’s rent is 800 Sendria Crowns. Luckily, they accept foreign currency here, since my funds are in Aldora money. The exchange value is roughly equivalent, so it’s not like I will lose money due to change rates.
The price is sill too high for us, tho.
As soon as he hears the cost, Heod rages out.
<<Eight-hundred? For this third-rate place? Unbelievable!>>
I look at him with eyes wide in surprise…is he going senile here?
Apparently…it is how things work here. Goods do not have a set price, instead buyer and seller haggle the price, often vigorously, until a compromise is reached.
<<It’s like a delicate dance…the seller starts with an unreasonable price, way higher than what he really wants for what he’s selling. The buyer then proposes another price, significantly lower, and so on, until a price that satisfies both is reached. And people enjoy doing so here, so the more angry negotiations sounds, the more it will be “entertaining” for the seller…well, it’s a weird custom, but that’s how it goes in this part of the world>>
Heod explains the negotiations to us once we decided on the final price. He managed to haggle down the monthly rent to 600 Crowns, making it a bit easier for our pockets. Still, between the deposit fee and advanced payment for the month, we’ve already lost more than half of our combined funds.
We immediately signed the contract and paid the necessary expenses. As the employee scurries away to deposit the contract and our payment, we start accommodating ourselves in the new house.
<<It’s fine, it’s fine…also, it’s not like we could find any place cheaper than this, you know? Trust me, we made a good deal here. If I ever find that merchant again, I will have to buy him a beer or two>>
Laughing, Heod shifts his attention again to the basement. Although the house is properly furnished, the basement is still stripped bare, since the previous owner took away all equipment and furniture from it.
<<Well, let’s get to work, shall we?>>
Following Heod’s remark, I start to pull out some objects from my inventory. Equipment, taken from Heod’s laboratory in Nudria village.
The building was badly damaged during the battles and the subsequent attack by the Hero, however we managed to recuperate some of Heod’s equipment, stashing it away for future use.
Bossed around by the old man, we arrange the equipment following his directions. He even makes me and Retel drag a bed to the basement, since, as the old man said, he would be sleeping there.
A true scientist…
The lab is up and running in a few hours, exhausted, we go upstairs to fix us some dinner, since we ended up working until dark.
<<Well, tomorrow will be a busy day. It’s best if we split up, so that we manage to get everything in order. I will go to get permissions for my little shop here, while you guys will go to the adventurer guild>>
Munching on a piece of bread, the old man talks about the plans for the next day.
After discussing about it some more, we decided the tasks for the next day.
As he said, Heod will take care of documents and permits to start his alchemy business, while me, Retel and Levia will head to the marketplace. We decided to postpone our registration at the guild, in order to go there with proper equipment.
Calling it a day, we each head to our own room. Since the house has three separate rooms, and the old man decided to sleep in his new laboratory, we can have a single room for each of us.
It’s good to have some privacy, after all.
The next morning, we head out after consuming a quick breakfast. We leave Heod the sum required to get authorizations, and an extra for the unavoidable bribes he will need to pay. For a total amount of 600 crowns. Apparently, authorization papers for a new business cost almost the same as one month of rent. Well, it’s not like I have any kind of grasp about the economy here, so I’ m just praying that our funds are enough for everything we wanted to accomplish here…
Heading out from the house, we head towards the marketplace. It should be easy, since we just need to follow the main road…
And of course, we get lost. Confused by the roads and masses of people just walking around, we end up losing our sense of direction, wandering among back alleys and small roads that look too similar one to another.
I remember finding the same food stall almost four times, as we try to reach the marketplace.
In the end, we manage to regain a sense of direction, mainly by bothering a lot of people in search of directions.
We spent two precious hours doing so…
Still, the marketplace, or better, the Bazaar, like it’s called by locals, is truly chaotic. Merchants shout from their stalls, inviting passersby to browse their goods and even insulting other merchants, competing to attract more clients towards their goods.
People strolling through the stalls happily chatter between themselves, while other are haggling prices with merchants to obtain a good bargain.
The section we came in seems to be dedicated to food, however, and food it’s not what we came here to buy right now.
We need equipment, and armor, specifically.
During our hunts, the lack of defense gear made it really risky. If we want to survive in the Dungeon, we need to find proper defensive equipment.
Giving up all pretenses about finding the way by ourselves, we ask for directions to the weapon and armor section of the Bazaar.
As before, some people blatantly ignore our plea, while other provide false direction. One guy even tries to hit on Levia, in a bad, arrogant way. Well, let’s just say that he managed to learn how heavy a beastkin girl’s fists can be.
Nonetheless, after scurrying around in the marketplace, we finally managed to find the weapon and armor stalls.
All around us, marvelous looking weapons and grandiose armor are shown, with merchants shouting their lungs off as they promote the legendary blacksmith’s armor, or the swords enchanted by a royal magician or such…
Of course, most of those claims are false, and the items shown not only do not possess any kind of magical properties, but are also plain average in terms of manufacture and performance.
At least, that’s what Navi’s analysis shows. No special properties, no rare materials used. The only info shown about each item displayed is the term “common” before the item’s name. So, lots of “common swords”, “common spear” and such, sold at prices way higher than their actual value, apparently.
We move on, browsing the stalls on our way.
It seems that the good items are not in plain view here. The central stalls, the ones with flamboyant merchants and extravagant weapon designs where those gaining the most attention from common folks and curious people. However, a different kind of crowd was strolling around the more hidden stalls, those located into the back alleys of the market place. There, no shopkeeper raised his voice to attract customers, as the exposed merchandise spoke for itself.
Solid weapons, without any kind of aesthetic design that would hinder function, and armor with crude looks made to be sturdy and protective, not for show. Of course, there were some ornate pieces, but made with actual taste, without any excessive ornaments or components without any practical purpose.
The clients browsing the stalls were also of a different kind from those at the central stalls. Hardened looks, physiques shaped by battle. These people were warriors, professionals that knew their way with weapons and armor, and could discern a properly crafted item from a cheap piece of equipment.
Of course, the quality of the items varies also from stall to stall, from the works of very famous blacksmiths in the city, accompanied by impossible price tags, to works from minor artisans and even apprentices, with lower price but also more imperfect.
We’re drawn to one of such stalls. It’ s basically just a rug with some items placed upon, not even a proper stall, and no one seems to give the items exposed more than a simple look. The young girl attending the business has a bored look on her face, as she stares the back of passing people who ignore her stall.
As we approach her, her expression changes into a big and wide smile
<<Welcome, welcome! Here you will find the marvelous works by Levandri, the true master blacksmith of Sendria! Please, dear customer, feel free to browse through such marvelous goods!>>
She says with her arms wide open.
Although her selection of items is limited to only some piece of equipment and few weapons, the quality seems good, with some of the weapons labeled “superior” by Navi’s analysis. More than so, the prices are…cheap.
We make proper introductions, as we try some of the items she has on display. The girl happily goes through each piece of equipment, describing the function and helping us to put it on. Still…it’s not enough for our needs. I would have preferred to have at least a complete set of armor for the three of us, instead she only has separate pieces, like pauldrons, chestpiece and gauntlets, without selling proper sets.
<<Well, these are the only items I have for display right now…but, if you visit our workshop, I might be able to make proper sets for the three of you. It will take some time, tho, and I need proper materials to do so>>
After her remark, we agree to follow her to the workshop. The idea of getting custom equipment made for us is appealing, although the cost could be prohibitive…still, giving a look wouldn’t hurt us.
The girl, Martha, leads us into one of the back alleys from the marketplace. She just took the items on display and dismounted her stall before telling us to follow her.
Martha’s shop is inside an old, shabby building. The sound of metal being hammered resounds in the air, as this alley is ridden with blacksmith workshops and forges.
As we enter inside the old building, a bell sounds as Martha opens the door.
<<Granny, I’m home! Come out, we have clients today!>>
Martha scurries into the back of the shop, calling someone while giving us a big smile.
<<Please, feel free to look around>>
An array of swords, axes and polearms are on display, along with shields, bows and even a complex arbalest with an elegant design. Some of them have prices that are not affordable for us right now, but the vast majority of items have good prices in relation for their quality. By the looks of it, however, it seems that the items here have been on display for long time, since dust seems to have piled on them.
Perhaps business is not going well for them?
As I think so, an old woman emerges from the back of the shop.
<<Oh, so we really have some customers here…well brat, it seems yer not so useless after all>>
The old woman comes to greet us. Apparently, she’s the shop’ s owner and main artisan.
<<Well, boys tell old Letha what yer looking for. Is it a shiny armor? Or a pretty sword to impress girls?>>
Her laughter resounds in the old shop. By the looks of it, it seems she’s making fun of us.
Well, we do look like an inexperienced bunch of brats…
As I say so, the old shopkeeper gives us a wry smile.
The old woman laughs again at my remark.
<<Well, planning to earn big money in the future eh? Let me tell ya, the Dungeon isn’t a pretty place, and it surely doesn’t make newcomers rich. Oh, get that look off your face…of course anyone with a bit of brain in their head can see right through you. A group of youngsters shopping for weapons and gear…what else could it be if not the latest group of dumb kids dreaming to become rich in that awful place?>>
She goes on and on about how dumb it is for youngsters to follow pointless dreams instead of getting a proper job, and as she talks, Martha’s smile fades with every word.
Well, here’s the reason why the business is going bad…the owner makes excellent items, but her toxic personality drives clients away. Her aversion towards young adventurers makes it even worse, in a city where adventurers are the majority of those who buy weapons and armor…
Still, I will not let her behavior intimidate me.
Of course, we could just go away and buy items some other place…but something tells me that sticking with her shop might be worth it. Maybe a hunch, maybe I just feel like bickering a bit with an old lady…
In the end, after taking so much verbal abuse from the old hag, we manage to get her to agree. She will make custom equipment for me and my companions, provided that we procure her materials from the Dungeon, for both her shop and to build our equipment.
After that, she takes our measurements for the custom equipment.
<>the old lady mutters to herself while cackling about it…
Being done with measurements, we browse the items on display once again. Since the custom equipment will take a while to be made, we need some cheap protection to use in the meantime.
Trying out various pieces of gear, we ended up buying leather equipment.
Not full sets, since those would be a little too expensive right now, but we at least got leather protectors for arms and chest. It will be enough, for now.
We also bought a proper spear for Retel and a metal buckler, while Levia got a new, composite short-bow and a proper quiver.
Luckily, the shopkeeper was in dire need of monster materials for her craft, so we managed to save a bit of money by trading some of our monster materials to her. She particularly appreciated the materials from Razor Beaks and Longhorns…it seems the pelts, horns and feathers from those beasts are widely used in her craft.
She asked, giving us a curious look.
Her eyes widened for a moment as she heard Retel’s response.
<<Well, not to be rude or anything…but…uhm, could you please sign some kind of contract about our agreement, perhaps?>>
Levia, who remained silent for most of the conversation between me and the old shopkeeper, actually saves us some trouble since we almost left with only a verbal agreement with her.
The old lady scoffs, but she sends her attendant to fetch parchment and ink and writes down the contract.
As me and my companions sign it, she hands a copy to us while keeping the other.
In the end, we left the shop with our new equipment. We spent most of our remaining funds for the new gear and the deposit for the custom armor contract. Still, we’re left with enough money to pay the registration fee in the guild.
We return home, getting lost only a few times before we actually made it there.
As we open the door, Heod greets us with a big smile on his face. A small, slim man is with him inside the house.
Apparently, he met one of his old acquaintances while he was going to get the documents for his shop. And, even more randomly, it turns out that the man himself was working in the authorization and authentication office, and so old Heod managed to obtain an authorization license even fatser thanks to his old acquaintance, and it seems they are in the middle of celebrating their reunion with conspicuous quantities of alcohol.
<<Just…don’t get too much drunk, old man>>
Retel mutters as we head out again.
Having donned our new equipment over clothes that are easier to move in, we decide to finally head to the Guild.
Located on the North district, the Guild’s main building is…nothing impressive. No fancy decoration or grandiose palace, it’s just a normal, plain looking building with a billboard stating “guild” on the entrance. That’s it. A bit underwhelming…
Inside, a row of reception desks are set up, each with a long line of people. All of them are young adventurers to be, since this building is reserved to new registrations, according to the billboard inside.
The line is managed with a number system. From a big basket near the entrance, you take a small piece of wood with a number carved on it. It seems that, this way, people do not try and jump the line causing some ruckus.
Still, no incident of that type happens, and we simply wait our turn in line.
When the receptionist calls our number, we move from the line to the suggested desk. A middle aged woman with a kind smile greets us.
<<Greetings, and welcome to the Adventurer Guild. My name is Marion, and I will be in charge of your registration. Please, lend me your Identity Stones>>
We follow the woman’s instructions.
She inserts each stone in some kind of cylindrical device.
<<See, this device here is a special tool used by the Guild. It confirms the information on your stone, while at the same time it will be able to overwrite it with some new functions after your registration. See this green light? It means that the information in your stone is genuine, and we can proceed with the registration>>
After the explanation, she proceeds to collect the registration fee from us and some information not written into the Identity Stone, like our current equipment, preferred weapons and such. Next, she asked us about our experience with monsters, recommending some classes to follow before going straight into the Dungeon.
Then she handed us the cylinders.
<<Now, put your thumb here on the top, and press it. You will feel a little prick, don’t worry, it’s the tool that requires a drop of your blood to finish updating the stones>>
As we do what she says, the cylinders glow after receiving the drop of blood. The tool opens, revealing the Identity stones immersed into some kind of liquid, which rapidly solidifies into another, darker colored stone, almost identical to the original one.
Marion collects the cylinders again, opening them and handing us the original stones.
She then picks up the newly made stones.
She then hands us another document, which contains our Party Identification Number and several other information. According to Marion, this document must be given to the receptionist at the Dungeon Gateway before entering the Dungeon itself, as it is needed to properly accept requests from the Guild and during the formal paperwork needed before each expedition inside the Dungeon.
She then sends us off to the Dungeon Gateway.
A detached building from the main office, located at the North Wall.
After all, the main building in the city is only destined to registration of newcomers. The real Guild business, like commerce of monster materials and Dungeon deployment schedules and authorizations are managed at the Gateway, which also hosts the entrance gateway to the dungeon itself.
We decided to head directly there, and start our first exploration of the Dungeon.
From the main building, the Guild organizes a carriage service to the Gateway. The price for the service is comprised into the registration fee, so we decide to spare us the long walk and use the transport service.
The small carriage is being drawn by horses, and it reaches the North Wall in almost twenty minutes from the main building.
As we reach the North Wall, the huge scale of the building leaves us speechless. It could be several hundreds of meters high, built with black stones that shine as daylight touches them.
The stone is smooth to the touch, and feels almost like glass, cold and without the slightest hint of curvature or imperfection.
The Gateway Building’s entrance opens up inside the black wall. A simple gate with sturdy looking metal doors, without any kind of decoration.
The doors are open, and we can get inside without any kind of control.
It seems that this spot is also used as a touristic attraction, since most of the people around look like commoners, while the adventurers can easily be spotted since they carry their weapons and armor around.
We spend some time looking at the attractions here, ranging from monster replicas (which probably are just stuffed monsters corpses) to weapons of famous adventurers of the past. In the center of the entrance hall stands a huge monolith, with names carved on the entire surface. A small plaque identifies the monument as a memorial to the fallen soldiers during the last monster invasion. Since then, the Dungeon has been under strict control, with the population of monsters being hunted down by adventurers and even dedicated expeditions by the Sendria Army. Apparently, the regular army uses some of the lower levels as a training ground for their troops.
Eavesdropping on the tour guides should be bad…still, I can’t help it if they speak out loud and say interesting things, can’t I?
Well, we will leave the touristic attractions for another time…for now, it’s better to focus ourselves to the task at hand…
We head to the adventurer-reserved part of the building. After examining our Identity stones, the guard lets us in.
Inside, it looks like the main building, with receptionist desks and people waiting in line. A huge billboard stands in one of the corners, with the word “Material Requests” written on it. Several fliers are stapled to the board, perhaps written on them are the materials that the guild needs from the dungeon.
To accept a specific mission for materials, you only need to take the flier and bring it to the reception desk, apparently.
As we wait for our turn in line, we watch a lone girl make some commotion to one of the receptionists. She scurries away angrily, muttering some harsh words as she strolls away from the room.
Finally, the receptionist calls our number. With my heart racing in my chest, I approach the desk. A lifelong dream…the adventure of a lifetime inside a real Dungeon…
The receptionist, a kind, middle aged beast man informs us about the Material Requests. It seems that each party can only take one request at the time, in order to prevent some parties hoarding all requests.
Currently, the only requests posted are for high level monster materials, so we will not take any of those, as the target monsters will surely be too tough to deal with for us.
We simply ask for permission to enter and explore the Dungeon, handing out our Party ID to the receptionist and filling out the necessary paperwork.
It takes a while, but we finally manage to obtain our first authorization.
After doing so, we head to the Dungeon Gateway.
It’s nothing more than a carriage station, where automated carriages take adventurers to the Dungeon’s entrance.
It seems the carriages here are moved by magic, traveling along a metal rail to reach their destination. We board one of the carriages, letting it carry us to destination.
The railway goes straight inside the mountain, traveling inside a huge tunnel through the rock.
After almost an hour, we finally reach the real Dungeon entrance.
We dismount the carriage and head out of the station. The entrance is nothing more than a tunnel in the rocks, leading down with a steep stone ladder.
[Navi: Leaving Sendria City- Entering Mahal Dungeon (first floor)]
The first level of the Dungeon is a big cave, illuminated by some crystals that emit a cold, blue light. The rock surface is covered in white moss, while mushrooms are growing between the rocks, in places where the light does not reach.
Several low level parties are around us, marveling at the structure. Newcomers, like us.
We decide to push on.
As we exit the main hallway, the passage becomes a narrow gallery, almost four meters wide. Limestone-like structures can be seen on the ceiling and rock floor, and the air around us is damp and heavy to breathe.
We are advancing in formation, with Retel as the vanguard and Levia in the rear, while I take center position.
A party of three…the receptionist at the desk made a displeased face when we explained our party composition. He said that it would be ok for the first five levels, however it would be risky after reaching the sixth level. The reason is…the monsters could easily outnumber us, and even a group of low level monster can pose a significant threat if they swarm on you.
Still, it should be fine for today, since we don’t aim to go too deep during our first exploration.
Of course, I don’t expect this floor to be bursting with enemies or rare treasures. Just by looking at the entrance, we could see a lot of people, and more are surely in the inner parts. This being the very first level, is probably used for newcomers to practice and train, and so, the number of monsters and possible materials to be found here is probably very low. I hope that the situation changes in the next levels, but it’s realistic to think that the levels from one to ten are most likely very exploited and devoid of anything useful.
According to the guild receptionist, this Dungeon has more than 200 levels, with some of them being still unexplored. Levels are grouped in numbers of ten, and each 10th level of a group has a special being overseeing it. In short words, a real life Boss Monster.
As one might expect, monster’s levels rise as you go down. For instance, level 1-2 monsters inhabit this floor, while the second floor hosts monsters whose level range between 2 and 5. And so on.
The highest level recorded for the first section is 20, and it was a rare Boss Monster that appeared only once since the Dungeon has been managed by the Guild. Usually, the 10th floor Boss is around level 15.
I smiled a bit when the receptionist shared this info…we held our ground fairly even against higher level monsters during our hunts in the Grasslands, so we should be totally fine in the first section. If we manage to be careful, that is.
We explore further and further inside. The only time I manage to detect a monster, it was already being engaged by another party, so we left the scene and headed further away.
It’s not good to swoop in and kill someone else ‘s prey.
Finally, after almost one entire hour of us just walking around, we manage to find something.
Not a monster, but a vein of material. A mineral, to be more precise. It glows with green light, hanging out of the Dungeon’s rock wall.
[Navi: Detected Material- Agathite (small clump) x1. Material properties: Mana charge (low), Brittle, Emit light (green)]
Agathite…it seems to be some kind of low quality magical stone.
<<Hey, old man, can you hear me?>>
I use Navi to try and contact Heod. As no reply comes by, I almost give up on this…
<<Oh? Roshal? Where are you?>>
It seems Navi’s communication can work even underground, and at such distance…good work, Navi!
I inform Heod about our find, asking him if the material is worth taking back with us.
Heod’s advice is a bit depressing…still, I decide to take it with me. Transporting it will not be a problem thanks to my Inventory, and even extraction is easy since I can just harvest it with Black Fluid.
[Navi: Material Property Gained- Emit light (green)]
Apparently, I can now make my Black Fluid emit some kind of fluorescence green light. It’s…I don’t know how to feel about this. Maybe it could be useful if I go fishing at night, using my skill to produce a fluorescent bait…
I shake my head and press on.
After a while, we engage a group of low level monsters. It’s our first Dungeon Battle! My heart pounds in excitement, as I savor this lifelong dream come true…
It does not even last for a single minute.
The three rat-like monsters charge at us, and a single strike from Retel’s spear is enough to kill two of them. Levia shots the remaining one with her bow, and that’s it.
I sigh and collect the monster materials. This time I did not even have the chance to do something beside collecting the remains.
In the end, we decide to conclude our first Dungeon Exploration. After a streak of easy-to win battles, we head to the surface again.
It was…a bit disappointing. The only kind of materials we found on the first level were different kinds of Agathite, varying only in color from the first one we gathered. The monsters were all low levels, and the materials they yielded were of low quality.
As expected, the Guild Market did not buy any of the things we brought back from the Dungeon.
We head home, silent along the way.
As come near…
A huge line of men is waiting outside the house, shouting in disappointment in front of the closed doors.
We approach the group, and they start protesting us, thinking that we are cutting the line in front of them.
<<No, no…we live here, it’s our house, you see?>>
As Levia says so, the crowd pesters her, yelling her to let them inside the shop, shouting some nonsense like they will pay extra…
Old man, what have you done here…
We manage to avoid the crowd and enter our home.
Inside, the old man sits at the table, grinning as he’s counting a huge pile of golden coins.
He does not even notice us when we call him.
Could it be…
<<Wait, you earned all this money on the first day?>>
Retel shouts as he touches the pile of coins.
Heod laughs out loud. He then takes a small vial from his pouch, keeping it between his fingers.
Wait…don’t tell me…is that money all due to the “helping tonic for adult stuff” that can be made from the mushrooms?
<<E-x-a-c-t-l-y! It’s the miracle potion made by the Genius Alchemist, the Secret of Beastkin vigor in the bedroom!>>
The old man bellows in laughter again…
<<Hey, are you scamming them, old man?>>
Heod’s smile turns serious as he hears my remark. He points his finger at me…
He laughs again…the old man sure loves his money.
The next morning we head out to the Dungeon again. This time, we will do a proper Dive.
A Dive is a long expedition, usually lasting more than a week. To do so, we head first to the marketplace to stock up on groceries and water. Normally, you would need to hire baggage carriers to haul provisions with you, but we can avoid those kind of things, thanks to my skill.
Our plan this time is to head straight to the fifth floor, without losing time in the first four. The reason is that from the fifth floor and beyond, the size of each floor increases and there are more monsters. Also, the number of adventurers that dwell in those floors is significantly lower.
The receptionist seems perplexed when I make the request for this type of mission, since he sees us without any kind of luggage.
To prevent him from denying access, I show him my Inventory skill.
<<Well, that’s some rare thing you got, boy>>
He compliments me, handing the papers to my group.
And so, we start a proper exploration.
In accordance to our plan, we try to hurry through the first floor. Luckily, the layout of chambers and corridors is not too confusing, and we manage to avoid losing much time inside the first floor, avoiding battles and without stopping to collect materials.
The second floor, however…
Narrow passageways, blind turns and twisting paths. Confused, we end up losing our sense of direction several times, even finding ourselves walk the same spot over and over.
Retel mutters in dissatisfaction, drinking a bit of water as we lay down for a moment of respite.
Enraged, I cast away the map from my hands.
It seems that the maps I bought from the marketplace are false. That serves me well…next time, I will buy them from the Guild instead, no matter how much they cost.
We decide to resume our exploration. This time, Levia starts marking the walls with a chalk sign, pointed in the direction we went in. It should help us to not get lost, hopefully.
The monsters in this level are annoying. Basically, they are just big insects, like spiders and wasps, but we did not consider something…
Even normal-sized spiders can induce a paralyzing fear in certain people, so it’s only natural that seeing a dog-sized giant spider will be terrifying to a phobic person, right?
Their appearance is indeed repulsing…even I shudder in front of them, and I had quite a fascination for spiders in my previous world, even kept one as a pet for some time…
Still, there is someone that is having it worse than me.
Unfortunately, Levia seems to have a serious fear of spiders and insects.
She was paralyzed by fear the first time we encountered the monsters, and got almost bit by a spider monster as she was laying on the ground, screaming, unable to shake it off.
Me and Retel were both dealing with other monsters, and it’s just by luck that we managed to get to her side fast enough to prevent injury.
This is too bothersome…we have some antidotes and potions with us, but our progress will be severely hindered if a core member of our party, the only one with healing skills, cannot fight effectively.
In tears, Levia hangs to Retel. Her breathing is still in disarray…
I come close, stroking her hair to reassure her a bit.
She’s shaking, taking heavy breaths while trying to get a hold of her fear.
Still, she looks at me with determination. Shaking her head, she pulls on her feet and strolls in front of us.
I admire her determination, I sure do. Still, I would have been ok even if she did not want to go further.
Being mindful of her condition, me and Retel try to deal with each insect monster as fast as we can.
I even end up injured, taking a sting on my arm from a flying wasp-like monster. It’s my fault for being too careless, still Levia makes a sad face as she treats my wound.
<<It’s not your fault, I just made a stupid mistake here>>
She tries to smile, but somehow her expression does not seem too sincere.
Still, she tries, hard, to overcome her fear.
Again, it’s admirable of her, how much effort she puts into forcing her body to move, to act, in order to protect us.
But, it’s not something that will go away after just some battles…we will need to be wary of this, in the future.
Luckily, we manage to find the floor exit after some hours. Leaving the dreadful second floor behind us, we press on to the third.
The scenery is completely different, with large passages whose floor is covered in ankle deep water.
<<So, a swamp floor. Great>>
Wading through the shallow water, we advance in the long corridor. Big mushrooms seem to grow on the rocks, while a moss like substance extend on almost everything that is near the water.
A faint mist clouds the air, not enough to hinder the visibility, but it surely gives the entire area a creepy atmosphere.
We do not even manage to take two steps into the new level, that something resounds in the air.
A scream, in the distance.