Chapter 34 Dungeon diving
“Why not tell her the truth? She seemed eager enough to walk to her death alone...” an agitated Jaime told Alice. Ilea had left a while ago, the guards had confirmed seeing her walk towards the cave systems.
“I’m well aware of that Jaime. Do remember who you’re talking to.” Alice replied with not a hint of cheerfulness on her face.
“I don’t have the funds to pay her and with this she even has a good motivation to not lose track of her objectives. You heard her stories, she seems to just wander from one place to the other without aim.
I can’t have her reappear in a year, saying she found the capital of the Elves. We need results fast Jaime.” she said, taking a sip of the now cold tea.
“She saved you. I simply cannot accept that you would act this way...my lady. You sent her to her death, like all the others you sent her...” Jaime was interrupted by Alice’s cup which loudly clattered on the plate below.
“I’m aware that she saved me Jaime. Where were you when they!!?...” she trailed off, steadying her shaking hand “It is necessary, for the family and for Dawntree...it’s necessary...for me.” Alice said, a sad expression crossing her face. The first real one that she showed that afternoon.
She got up from her chair and walked to the door “Additionally I think you underestimate her. She can teleport a short range and can take out five seasoned adventurers with little difficulty.” Alice said but didn’t lie to herself about the difference in difficulty that Ilea would face in a Taleen ruin. Jaime was tactful enough not to point out the obvious.
“Come now, it’s nearly time for my training. Maybe I’ll finally get rid of this useless healer class...” she said, smiling bitterly at the refusal she gave Ilea about learning her class, yet too proud to ask her now.
Ilea reached the lowest level of the city in a leisurely jog. The mountain was looming from above, casting nearly a third of the city in shadow. At the lowest part Ilea could see waited a seemingly unending tunnel into the void. ‘I’d be scared of that stuff falling down on me at some point...’ Ilea though as she looked up on the hundreds of tons of solid rock.
The living space became less cramped as she got closer to the tunnel, fewer people in normal clothing and more adventurers occupying the space. Small fires often burned with food cooking on top of them.
After around two hundred meters of free space between the last house and the tunnel there was another wall that separated the city from whatever lay beyond. The defenses were much less impressive than what Ilea saw above but there was likely less of a threat coming from below.
Reaching the still nearly seven meters high wall, a guard stopped her. “Level fifty and above. You with the guild?” he asked to which she nodded. The level statement seemed more like information for her, everyone could identify her level after all.
“Sure you want to leave alone?” Ilea got a little annoyed at his question.
‘I obviously meet the requirements to go through, the guards in this town...seriously.’ Ilea decided to simply ignore the man and walk through the gate. He didn’t stop her and shrugged, with an annoyed frown on his face.
On the other side, Ilea started running into the darkness. The first couple dozen meters were illuminated by some torches but after that adventurers seemed to be on their own. She saw a group of five adventurers walking before her while what seemed to be their leader gave a small pep talk.
“We’re the Piercing Eagles, don’t forget that. We’re gonna defy the evil that lays beyond this point!” the man said, lifting his shining great sword into the air.
‘They’re gonna die...’ Ilea though as she ran past them. On the map it seemed like the tunnel would go on for at least two kilometers before even starting to branch in any direction. ‘If they post scouts there with some sort of light magic or whatever then they’d have a pretty good early warning system...’ she thought.
Activating her buffs, her speed multiplied and she crossed the two kilometers in no time. Before she could go into any branch tunnels there was another wall built inside the tunnel. This one looked more rough than the one above but didn’t seem any less sturdy.
There were magical lamps all over the battlements and some stone houses were standing before the wall. The diameter of the tunnel at that point was still around fifty meters. Certainly not the best choke point to fight off anything that came from the deep but nonetheless the tightest spot in the tunnel.
There were more guards here as well and a lot of them were at a higher level than Ilea. One of them quickly spoke to her as she walked up to the gate.
“Out is free but entering again is a fee of one silver and we’ll have to examine you and your items. For any kilogram of goods above what you can carry on your body and in your backpack there’s a tax of ten coppers.” like a machine, the guard went through the information.
Ilea just nodded and exited through the gate. What greeted her on the other side was certainly not what she expected.
A huge open cave spread before her with houses big and small. Someone was playing music nearby while two bystanders danced together. A fist fight between a woman and a man was being carried out while people cheered them on and bet on either of them.
“Welcome to the Root. By the looks of ya face you’re new ere. If ya want booze cam to Rick’s.” a small and obviously drunk man with barely a hair left on his head greeted her, pointing in an indiscernible direction.
Ilea kept walking and opened her arms in a welcoming gesture. “I’m home.” she exclaimed with a big smile on her face just as the woman knocked out the man in the fistfight and started kicking his groin. The advertiser behind her puked on the ground while a loud monster roar and laughter came from behind the building in front of her.
‘Wish I could stay and explore a bit. Later maybe.’ she thought and went the way the map in her notebook indicated. What was apparently called the Root wasn’t very big in size as the cave limited it and even though the people here seemed geared well enough, it was still a risk to build one’s shop at the edge of the adventurer town.
She found the next tunnel easily enough and started running again. A kilometer later, the right side of the wall opened up to a cliff. Beyond was a beautiful shining blue sea, illuminated by what seemed to be crystals below the water and on the far away walls. Ilea had to slow her pace for a minute to appreciate the sight.
There were creatures in the water as well which made Ilea hasten her pace again ‘Nope.’ she thought at the massive unclear silhouettes inside the water.
She quickly came up on a spacious cave again with several branching ways. The sea was still sparkling to her right and some burnt out fireplaces were strewn around the cave.
The only vegetation inside were a bunch of mushrooms, the only light was the sea and of course Ilea’s flames and runes. Although the runes were only visible on her exposed neck.
Looking around Ilea chose the next path and followed it. A much more boring route than with the sea next to her but after twenty minutes of running, she reached another opening. Blackness extended before her. Activating heat perception, the whole space took on a sort of blue tone.
It was so dark that Ilea must’ve seemed like a beacon in the night. Even with her enhanced senses she could barely see ten meters into the dark. With her sphere skill and heat vision it was easy to continue though. The sphere only had a radius of 15 meters but with her incredible reflexes it was enough to not suddenly run into a wall or a monster that somehow escaped her heat perception.
The cave was massive and pretty boring to Ilea as all she could see were the rocks in a sphere around her. No life seemed to be present. She ran at full speed for over an hour to reach the other side of the cave. There was detailed information included with Jaime’s map that explained where she had to go in there.
This kind of traveling continued for another six massive caves, several drops topping at fifty meters and even a quick swim through a dark lake. It took Ilea several minutes to build up the courage to swim. In the end she even got a notification for her troubles.
‘ding’ ‘You have learned the skill General: Fear Resistance – lvl 1:
You have overcome something truly terrifying to you. Your ability to deal with non magical fear is increased.’
Ilea was shivering when she exited the pond and immediately continued running.
Luckily there were several hidden markers scratched into specific stones or walls that she easily made out with her sphere skill. They matched with what she had on her map and after another two hours of traveling she finally found her destination.
A small crevice in the wall led her into a perfectly rectangular room with weird rune markings on the walls. ‘They look kinda mechanical...like when my friend replaced parts of my pc…’ she thought as she looked at the purposeful looking lines on the wall.
More eye catching though were the runes on the door of the room. They were of the same design but compared to the ones on the wall, these were glowing. A faint green glow exuded from the runes and illuminated a meter or two of rock in front of the wall. Above the door some sort of green moss grew but it didn’t have a glowing quality to it like the bluemoon grass.
It looked a bit like ivy to Ilea. With her magic perception she saw that the door glowed in a bright light while the ivy glowed too, albeit more subdued. Walking up to it, she obviously touched the ivy and identified it.
…....... ‘Well fuck me.’
The next step was basically instinct to Ilea as she ripped some of the ivy from the wall and lifted it to her mouth. Stopping right before putting the plant in her mouth, she chuckled.
“What the fuck has this world turned me into. A toddler?” she threw the ivy on the ground and approached the door. ‘I’ll eat some of it after I informed myself.’ remembering Alice’s words though, she picked the ivy back up and put it into her backpack.
Upon touching the door, nothing happened. The next thing Ilea tried was inserting a bit of mana. She nodded to herself as the runes sprang to life and the lines moved to the four corners of the door before the remaining rock just sort of crumbled.
“That doesn’t seem like an efficient door system...” she said out loud but couldn’t deny the cool special effect. ‘Well it’s not really a special effect, is it...’ she entered the room and found herself in one quite similar to the one before. Also empty but this time with two doors.
The growth of ivy could be seen on all walls. It didn’t cover the place but was certainly prevalent among the otherwise gray rock. ‘Or concrete...whatever these people built with...’ her thoughts were interrupted by a notification in her mind.
‘bliing’ ‘You have entered the Iztacalum dungeon.’
“Cheers mate, guess we’re invading the new world...” the healer said out loud and checked the adjacent rooms. They were both empty and looked exactly like the room she was standing in, just with only the door to enter.
‘It seems to be a pattern...where are the robots trying to murder me?’ she thought and advanced through the last remaining door. A big hallway spread before her, looking very similar in style as the rooms before. The rock crumbled here and there.
‘Taleens hmm? Certainly not a race for interior decoration...’ walking through the room she removed her notebook from the backpack and started to map out the whole thing while listening to the mechanical sounds of gears turning that were only interrupted by hissing steam from whatever pipes lay in the walls.
Luckily her swim was brief enough for the water not to have penetrated her pack too far. The notebook had an additional pouch as well which would save it even from a longer dive.
She started sketching the rooms rather small, any points of interest she would mark with a number that she’d describe or sketch in more detail on another page. She sat on the ground for the work and was finished in a couple minutes.
The next five hours were spent by doing exactly that. The dungeon seemed bigger than Ilea had expected. She did find some materials, rusted metal and some stony furniture after a while and soon came to the conclusion that she was currently in a storage part of the dungeon. ‘Or city or dwelling or whatever this was for the Taleen.’ she thought as she entered another big area through a massive five by five meter door.
Her arms relaxed to her sides and her eyes widened as she gazed upon the spectacle before her. She knew for a fact that she was underground in a cave but looking out into the street with houses on each side and glowing greenish magical lamps above made her feel more like she was in an ancient city on an autumn evening. Albeit a greenish evening.
Some of the lamps lay broken on the ground while others still flickered slightly, giving the whole view an eerie atmosphere. The seemingly empty and dead stone houses on each side, perfectly carved into the stone certainly didn’t help either.
Deciding to sketch later, Ilea walked into the only direction possible without checking all the houses for anything inside. Two minutes of following the street later, she came out on what looked like a square.
In the middle was what once had to be a fountain. There were some poles on the houses but no fabric still hung there, rust covering parts of the metal pipes.
At the other end of the square laid pieces of metal that Ilea was sure didn’t come from the broken lamps above. Coming closer, she noticed gashes in the stone floor and close houses while before her was a pile of half melted and cut apart greenish metal.
Going through the pile, she found something that resembled a mask or helmet. ‘Looks a bit like an insect but the angles are too even. Guess these are the robots trying to kill me… but who killed this one?’ She thought and suddenly stopped.
Backtracking, she removed her notebook again from her pack and started to map out the street and square. Anything notable got added as well. The houses held different furniture but either the dwarves preferred stone or anything else has rotted away a long time ago.
She moved through the houses and quickly started to notice the patterns in design. The lack of individualism made her sketching a lot easier and she was done with the street in no time.
The square was a bit of a different story, combined with the bigger building the had the poles fastened to it. Inside there was more than just stone beds and shelving. There was dust on the ground in some places, while the stone was discolored in some places.
‘I assume something was moved away rather recently…,’ Ilea thought, noticing some likely wooden splinters with her sphere of perception.
‘Probably the others Alice mentioned. They’re taking even the furniture?’ she marked where she found the splinters in her notebook and continued on.
The square itself had two roads leading away from it. Ilea chose the one where no metal remains littered the ground. Looking into the dark road, she was quite sure that her Fear resistance did its job quite well already.
‘This is like an alien movie… why do I remember that now?’ she thought with a groan and made herself continue down the path, the green light illuminating the perfectly cut rock while Ilea’s blue and red colors presented a stark contrast in the scenery.