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A note from MinningDragon

Hello everyone! NEW CHAPTER FOR YOU ALL!

A couple of updates about the release fo the book: 

1. They want me to expand on the series. This means that Shadow Alley is hoping to release at least a trilogy of books of Dungeon Heart if the first book sells well. 

2. We are hoping to release the first book this year (hopefully in time for christmas?). 

3. Because of the way the books are going to be released, some of the story will change a bit (don't worry, I will be expanding the Dungeon Heart universe, so you wont be getting a shorter or cut out version of the book).

4. We are aiming to have each book be between 100,000 and 115,000 words right now, so you are guaranteed to have a nice read without it being the size of a brick. 

 

So yeah. Thats whats going on there. I am hoping to give you guys a solid read with every book, and I will be giving you a larger story than what you are getting here in RR. I am totally going to try to expand the universe and make the story even larger. So look forwards to it! For now, I'll keep updating RR until then. 
Enough of that, story time! 

 

With the arrival of spring, the entire landscape of Nam began to change. The snow that blanketed the area in its icy embrace began to melt away, and the greenery of the forest began to resurface with vigor. However, with the changing of the seasons, the landscape was not the only thing to have changed. Spring came and was greeted with the sight of an entirely different view of the village of Nam. No longer just a mere village full of untrained villagers and country bumpkins, the village had expanded such that the returning merchants from the capital doubted their eyes at first. Walls and watch towers greeted them instead of the modest houses they had seen last time, and there were even a couple of young men at the entrance keeping guard.

In all fairness, they did not look much like proper guards, the only thing distinguishing them from the rest of the villagers was an iron helmet that was standard for the army of the kingdom, and a pair of short swords at their hips. They were clearly new recruits that had probably only learned the basics of the sword, but that was already miles ahead of what any merchant would have expected for what half a year ago had been a remote village at the edge of the kingdom. The speed of the development could only be called explosive considering the circumstances and manpower available to such a village.

This was encouraging for the merchants, as it was solid proof that there was a substantial amount of money flowing through the village for it to develop so quickly. More money meant more business, and that always meant that they would profit. That said, it was not only merchants who had began to roam the roads that led to Nam. Now that the rumors had spread to every corner of the kingdom and the village had expanded to what could be considered a small town, adventurers, bards, entrepreneurs, and even barbers began to trickle towards it.

It was a risky venture for most of these people to be sure. Many of them left their homes miles away and sold their belongings in the hopes of starting a new future for themselves in the village that they had heard so much about. They were braving the elements, the wild beasts, and highwaymen for what they saw as a beacon of hope for their future. However, not all of the travelers to Nam were particularly excited to be there.

One such person was Maxim Trevol, a proud sorcerer from the mages’ guild of the capital of the kingdom. A man in his thirties, he was slightly taller than the average man, but due to his slim frame, he gave the appearance of being fairly tall from a distance. His green eyes peered at the window of his carriage as he approached the village, mildly bored by the trip. He had little interest in the countryside, and much would have preferred to be in the guild, reading through some archaic book or immersed in some research of his own creation.

While he could appreciate the beauty of the countryside, he had been staring at for weeks now, and frankly he had gotten bored of it within the first three days. Thankfully, he had brought some books to entertain himself, but even those were starting to bore him in this long journey. He could not help but to regret not being able to acquire an enchanted bag of holding or a storage ring, but they were rarities that he could not afford to pay for. Though if he had one, he would have filled it to the brim with as many subjects of his research and artifacts as he could have managed to fit in.

Yawning to himself, he was about to lazily stretch his arms out before him when the carriage rolled to a stop. Seconds later, he heard the voice of a man outside, and there was a gentle knock on the carriage door. Realizing that his journey was finally at is end, he smiled to himself lightly as he turned his head towards the sound. What looked to be a novice guard appeared in his line of vison when he peered through the window of his carriage, at which point opened the door talk to him.

“Good day there.” The young guard said to him with a neutral voice. “Welcome to Nam. Are you um… Lord Maxim Trevol?”

“Not a lord, despite being a sorcerer.” Maxim corrected him. “But yes, that would be me.”

“Do you have the iden-eyeden…the uh…” The young guard struggled for a moment with the unfamiliar word, nearly biting his tongue in the process.

“Identification?” Max supplemented helpfully, to which the man nodded firmly.

“That thing, yes.”

“That I do.” Max replied, producing from his robe a piece of parchment with a stamp at the bottom. The guard took while to read the document slowly, clearly struggling in some areas as he tried to understand some words that were likely unfamiliar to him. Despite this, Max did not particularly mind. Rather, he was impressed that he knew how to read at all. Literacy was not a commonality in villages at the fringes of the kingdom… Or any nation that he knew of really. Literacy was a rarity among commoners for the most part, even within the larger cities.

Finally, seeing the stamp at the bottom and confirming the contents, the guard smiled at Max and nodded his head. “Looks right to me. The big building right down the road is the inn. From there you can easily see the building that is for the guild, its not too far from it. It has the black roof.”

“I appreciate that.” Max said as he waved to his coachman to let him know that all was clear to proceed. It was a short ride to the guild, where he got off and told the coachman to wait for him. He was mildly impressed by the craftsmanship of the guild building upon arrival. He had heard that the adventurers’ guild had rushed to set up a base in Nam, so he had expected it to be quite rough and of a modest size considering all that, but in reality he was met with a very presentable two story building that seemed to even have a field for training next to it.

Shrugging his shoulders, he moved on past his surprise and marched into the building with curiosity. Reaching the counter, he found a male receptionist with a prim mustache at the front desk. Much to his surprise, the place was mostly empty, with only a few scattered adventurers having a seat around or gazing at a large notice board that contained what he assumed were quests. He would have thought that after all the noise that the dungeon had made across the country that it would be filled with fledgling adventurers.

“Good day sir.” The man with the mustache said with a polite tone. His voice carried a slight accent, which he did not quite recognize, accentuating slightly the o’s and i’s of his speech. “I don’t believe you are from around here. How can I be of service?”

“Ah, yes. I am Maxim Trevol. I am from the mages’ guild, I am to meet with Sir Ikfes?” He replied, presenting the man the same document he had shown the guard at the entrance of the town.

Nodding politely, the man pinched the edge of his mustache lightly as if he had been expecting that answer. Briefly looking over the letter, the man clearly was far more adept at reading that the guard, and soon took Max up the stairs to the guild masters office. Opening the door for him, the man excused himself and returned to the front desk as Max was still heading into the room.

“Ah, you must be Max.” Ikfes smiles at Max, his amber eyes clear as and sharp. Max had the feeling that this man missed very little with those ember eyes of his. “Welcome, welcome. We have been expecting you. I hope the trip did not exhaust you too much.”

“Ah, it was not so bad. I had my books to keep me company, otherwise it would have been dreadfully boring.” Max admits. “Still, I must say that the state of this village is far more impressive than what I expected. It doesn’t look like your typical village at the edge of nowhere.”

Ikfes barked a short laugh, mildly amused by his bluntness. “It is quite different doesn’t it? Well, the crown has invested quite a bit to redevelop the village you see. I would go as far to say as this is the most intensive development near a dungeon that the kingdom has seen in recent history.”

“That’s quite the feat isn’t it…” Max said thoughtfully. He supposed that a dungeon that had been this famous deserved attention, particularly one that was not far from the border of with Illeb, and within a reasonable distance of the kingdom of Amiz, both of which had a tenuous relationship with Mussol. Despite having the advantage of being in a rather hard to reach due to the mountains for Illeb and having to cross a fair distance to reach it from Amiz, if things suddenly turned for the worse, the dungeon would be undoubtedly one of the key targets for either of them. Still… It was just a young dungeon despite all the noise it made… was it really worth all of this?

“Trying to connect the dots are ye?” Ikfes said with a grin, surprising Max out of his thoughts. He could not have been quiet for more than a couple of seconds, yet Ikfes had read him like a book.

“Well, you were the recommendation from the guild, so I suppose its not surprise they sent us someone with a good brain in their skulls.” He said as he leaned back in his chair slightly, though he kept his eyes fixed on Max. “Truth is, we have reason to believe that this dungeon is at least Phantom grade, if not higher. The problem lies with its geographical position, so the crown is going through some lengths to protect it, just in case.”

Ikfes said smoothly. Technically, he had not lied. The dungeon was certainly at least phantom grade in terms of potential, but in all likelihood its potential was much higher than that. However, as this information was quite sensitive, he had no reason to share it with the mage. The king and Ikfes already planned to announce it as a phantom grade dungeon in the near future, as in reality, its difficulty had not exceeded that of what was expected of a phantom grade dungeon. In the future, they would change its ranking as the dungeon evolved, but this allowed them to justify their actions without attracting more attention than they could afford to.

Max slowly nodded, his eyes expressing some of his surprise, but keeping his thoughts to himself. It indeed explained why the kingdom considered it so valuable. The kingdom of Mussol had only five dungeons, excluding the one close to Nam, out of which only one was a phantom class dungeon until now. It was not an exaggeration to say that securing a second phantom class dungeon could be the key to improving the kingdom’s strength and wealth.

“Now then,” Ikfes said as he shifted the attention away from the discussion, “let us talk about your assignment. As you might have guessed, this dungeon is quite important for the kingdom of Mussol and for the Adventurer’s guild. However, this place is remote, to say the least, which makes transporting and acquiring people and goods problematic. Therefore, to help alleviate the problem the crown has decided that it would be beneficial to start cultivating the talents of the people we already have available in the area. We already have people being trained in several areas, from woodworkers to farmers, and there is even a group of adventurers that is helping train the militia. However, we are severely lacking on the arcane arts. That’s where you come in.”

“I see. I suppose it makes sense.” Max replied. He had not been given too much of a reason why he had to come here. Just that his job was to identify and train people with the potential to be a mage. Perhaps this was why the guild had been so eager to send him to Nam too. He had no doubts that depending on the reports he sent back about the village and the dungeon, they might consider making a move to set up their own headquarters in the village. Well… on hindsight, the mages guild was probably already weighing the benefits of asserting their presence in Nam, so perhaps his reports would only influence the timing of their arrival.

“Good. We have already announced it to the residents about your arrival, and that you will be looking for potential magic users. The crown will cover your food and lodging, and they have sent a number of items to help any beginners you might encounter. We have them stored in one of the storage rooms, you have full access and control on how you use those resources. Any questions?”

“Ah, yes. Am I able to gather resources or enter the dungeon on my own in my free time?” He asked, and for a brief instant, the eyes of Ikfes seemed to become sharper, but it disappeared so quickly that he thought he might have imagined it.

“Certainly, after your first week. While I do not doubt your abilities, a dungeon is still a dungeon. If something were to happen to you before you have had a chance to inspect the entire militia at least, it could be troublesome. I would recommend you team up with a group of adventurers if you want to enter the dungeon as well. This dungeon is certainly no pushover.”

Max nodded slowly at the warning, trying to decipher if there was some hidden meaning to his words. It was hard to tell. Perhaps Ikfes already suspected that Max wanted to see if there were any materials that were beneficial for him, or perhaps he thought Max was the kind to get lost in his curiosity and abandon other responsibilities to indulge himself in his own research. Whatever the case, Max decided to take his advice to heart. He wasn’t a mage that specialized in combat anyways, so there was no harm in following the advise of what was arguably the best adventurer in the kingdom.

“Yes, of course.” Max replied. “When do I start?”

“Tomorrow at the training grounds. The first group should be there in the morning, at about ten.”

“Understood. I’ll come by early to inspect the items provided then.”

“Good. I have high hopes for you Max. The guild assured me you were quite the capable man. You may go now.”

And just like that, the life of Maxim Trevol changed paths without him knowing.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Arturus wandered the newest stage of the dungeon, marvelling not for the first time at the sheer ability that his father possessed. What would have normally been a hundred-meter chasm had turned into a phenomenal art piece that reminded him of a fractured earth. It was as if something had eaten parts of the floor, and someone else had tried to create bridges to keep the leftover land connected. Arturus did not know much about construction, but even he could appreciate and marvel at the fact that the structure remained sturdy and stable, despite its unique architecture.

He particularly enjoyed the waterfalls and the raw gems imbedded in the ground. The way the light bounced off them and filtered through them was gorgeous to him, and the sounds of the waterfalls along the rustle of the leaves was soothing. He enjoyed it so much that he had made it his mission to find the best viewing spots in the stage during his free time. It was oddly satisfying to find new angles and views where he could enjoy the scenery. One of his favourite places so far was a small island that was attached to the cliff wall, from where one could see the top four floors of Smit’s new stage. The angle allowed one to clearly see three waterfalls, the nearest of which created a thin mist that gave rise to a faint rainbow that accentuated the light bouncing off the crystals.

It was a gorgeous sight that soothed the mind and healed the spirit as far as Arturus was concerned. It had even become one of his favourite places to meditate when he had the chance, finding that he could find a calm state of mind more quickly when he sat there. This was especially true after the brief frenzies of Bloody Evolution, Arturus had found that meditating after fighting in this spot in particular was lovely.

There was also something special about the waterfalls when there had been a particularly intense round of Bloody Evolution. When the rounds were particularly long and vicious, the survivors of the struggle would often wash themselves in the pools of water that gave rise to the waterfalls. Though the corpses of their comrades disintegrated into nothing, the gore left behind on the bodies of the survivors would remain and coat their bodies. Once the frenzy of Bloody Evolution concluded, they would migrate to the pools to cleanse their bodies. It had become a ritual of sorts that the survivors participated in.

Arturus was not quite sure how or why it started, as it was not as if Smit had ordered them to do this, nor was there any dungeon law or requirement that demanded that the survivors did this. Yet, for some reason, this stage in particular had developed that peculiar custom. It almost had a religious connotation in a way, as the survivors would delight in the cleansing of their bodies, and those with sufficient intelligence would thank Smit softly for their wonderful life. While the existence of many of his creations were fleeting, they all understood that death was not the end for them, as death only meant the return to the warm embrace of the Father’s core.

It was a thing of beauty to witness for Arturus, the peace and calm after the chaotic war for survival. But besides the beauty of beholding so many creatures bathing in delight as their wounds healed through the power of Smit, there was a second lovely effect to this ritual. The once crystalline water would be died a lovely shade of pink as it washed away the last remains of the fight, and for a few breathtaking minutes, the waterfalls would become the color of a pink rose.

To Arturus, watching this rose water fall beautifully, dancing through the air as if to adorn the already gorgeous landscape, encapsulated the most visceral and instinctive reaction to his Father’s dungeon. The dungeon was without a doubt a gorgeous and elaborate world in and of itself, in which life and death danced to an unknown tune, and this dance gave rise to an odd balance of peace and chaos that stimulated his very instincts. The times of chaos aroused his primal instincts, his adrenaline pumped through his veins while his heart beat furiously to supply his body with the necessary supplies to survive… and when the chaos subsided, and the calm returned, the high of the battle gave way to the reassuring sensation of his Father’s power healing his wounds, and the sense of belonging permeated this entire being.

He could not consider this anything less than a full life, one of extremes that presented him with joy, challenges, beauty, and new experiences… and just a hint of carnage to boot. Best of all, he could share this unusual existence with his family. It was fulfilling for him. He could not help but to pity those that would never come to experience the level of satisfaction and contentment he did.

Arturus let out a light “bwoof” sound from his lips, as if to chuckle at his thoughts. It was funny to him to be capable of such thoughts. Not even half a year ago he was scarcely more than a predator with the mission to protect his father, his thoughts simple and his ability to reason was rather primitive. It was a difference between night and day comparing himself to how he used to be. His predatory instincts, while still very much present, they coexisted with his now more philosophical and intellectual side of his mind.

At that moment, something sailed through the air, penetrating the nearest waterfall with a light splashing sound before missing a bird that had been flying on the other side by a fair margin. Arturus’s ears caught the sound of a metallic clinking noise of metal striking stone, and then caught sight of the now slowed down arrow tumbling down to an island below. The arrow had managed to strike the stony underside of one of the floating islands above.

Tracking the direction of the arrow had come from, the Saint Bear Wolf turned his head to find the source of the arrow. There, he was surprised to see his Father, two levels below, with a group of kobolds standing in line, their bows drawn as several birds slowly circled around a floor above them. The magpies drifted through the air lazily, seemingly unconcerned by the dangerous weapons aimed at them from below.

Tilting his head, Arturus only took a moment to understand the situation. Smit, who held general knowledge of how each and everyone of his weapons should function, was looking over them as they practiced their archery. Or would it be called crossbowmanship? Or was a crossbow still considered archery?

Curious at the situation, Arturus stood from his meditation spot and quickly made his way to the floor below him. Without anyone trying to pick a fight with him, Arturus didn’t take too long in reaching his father’s side. The kobolds were still practicing dutifully when he arrived, though their success was rather limited.

“Welcome, Arturus.” Smit said without taking his eye off the kobolds. He had already bestowed upon them what he knew about archery, which did not amount to more than the basics but there was nothing he could do about that.

“Seems like they are making some progress.” Arturus said as he sat down and watched, his large body shifting slightly as he watched a kobold miss another bird. “At least they are closer this time.”

Smit grunted a positive in reply, clearly thinking about the situation. He had never thought he would ever be overseeing training for kobolds in his previous life. The closest he had ever come to that was observing his employers utilize a weapon so that he could try to create something similar for them. He fell woefully short in terms of actual performance and understanding the hundred minute adjustments that someone had to do to actively carry out a perfect technique. Still, he did not have much of a choice.

“They have managed to hit less than a handful collectively.” He said thoughtfully. “But it’s a great improvement to even a couple days ago, where they could not hit them at all. As I thought, a crossbow is far better for a beginner to learn than a bow and arrow.”

Arturus nodded without questioning how he knew this or how a crossbow compared to other weapons. If his father said so, he must have had a reason. Besides, he created the kobolds and the crossbows, who was he to disagree with him? He could not even hold the damnable things, so he had zero ability to even judge how difficult it was even he had wanted to use it anyways.

“It will take some time.” Smit said after a moment, watching a kobold stick his tongue out between her teeth, carefully trying to take aim at a bird up above. “But I think that they can do it. I am unsure if its because the bloody evolution that allowed them to father experience quickly or because they are such flexible creatures, but they are slowly getting the hang of it. It will be a while before they can hit a moving man at any considerable distance, but this is good for now. They should be able to at least provide a modicum of support in a week or two at this rate.”

The kobold who had so carefully being taking aim, finally release her arrow and clip the wing of one of the magpies, before growling in frustration at missing the target. Undeterred, the kobold aimed down the crossbow, stepped on the stirrup at the front of it, and started to load the crossbow again. Beside her, others were either taking aim, or reloading as well.

“Once they become able to hit them regularly, I will increase the difficulty of their training. I will make the magpies fly in more complex patterns, and fly faster too.” Smit began to talk. “This will be good for them as well. The more they are used to dodging projectiles, the better they will be in the future too.”

“Projectiles?” Arturus asked as he tilted his head, hearing the unfamiliar word roll off Smit’s tongue.

“Anything that can be launched in the air and falls with time.” Smit grunted the explanation. “So this means arrows, rocks, balls, spears, hell the heads of your enemies too.” Smit said with a chuckle at his own joke. “All of them can be thought of as projectiles.”

“Interesting… so is magic a projectile too?” Arturus said questioningly, thinking back to what he had seen the kobold shamans done before with their water bullets.

“Hmm… Sometimes.” Smit replied thoughtfully. “As long as it falls to the ground with time. Then again. Magic has so many exceptions that I can say that every magic that you launch is a projectile.”

Arturus nodded and yawned as he accepted the answer before laying down beside smit, watching the kobolds try to shoot down the birds. The repetitive sounds of loading and firing the arrows was somehow relaxing when accompanied by the sound of the waterfalls. Smit reached out and stroked his fluffy fur, and Arturus found himself slowly drifting into sleep.

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MinningDragon

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