My first order of business was learning the capabilities of my new spawnable minions: Hellbats. I poured Infernal Essence into the soul forge and watched them come to life. They were like bats from Earth but their fags were much larger, and their black skin was marked with hexagonal shapes that almost looked like scales. Black fur clumped together on their chests, and three talons protruded from the tops of their wings. Each Hellbat had a wingspan the size of my elf’s arm, and twin crimson eyes glowed within sunken eye sockets. Bone-white claws jutted from their feet while fangs curved from their mouths.
The minions were simple creatures--their consciousness wasn’t anything at all like Puck’s, for instance. Undisturbed, they hung from the ceiling, shrouded in shadow, utterly uninterested in anything. If I’d been a scientist about this, I’d have said that the Imps had evolved from bats - there were plenty of similarities, at least biologically - but they were the perfect low-level mob for Zagorath. Spawning them was probably the most fun I’d experienced in this world so far. I channeled emotion into the Hellbats, and they acted accordingly. With a prod of my dungeon’s mind, I could whip them into a frenzy.
Beneath the cloud of bats, Bertha and Puck prepared to strike. My champions dealt with the minions in single killing-blows, the half-troll cleaving in two with her new halberd and Puck’s shadow-spheres devouring them with pitch-black explosions. It didn’t take long to realize that the Hellbats weren’t exactly the tankiest of minions, but they still served a purpose. Given enough of the flying monsters, they could overwhelm an enemy. Their fangs and claws could also inflict tiny cuts, and death by a thousand cuts could certainly become a finishing move.
Channeling my essence into the black machine gave me a rush, and whenever a Hellbat was killed, I sucked the essence back into my jewel. I discovered that spawning a single bat required inserting 15 Infernal Essence into the soul forge, but an individual creature generated 16 when killed. The gains were minimal, but it was a sure way to acquire additional essence while remaining in my dungeon. Puck and Bertha weren’t afflicted with critical injuries, so I was able to wait a few hours before I needed to spend any resources on healing them.
The low-risk farming provided a perfect method of farming. All I needed to do was reach out to the deceased bats, consume the delicious darkness within their corpses, and then siphon it back through the forge again. It felt so natural and so organic; I figured it had to be how any other dungeon core would do it. Whenever I delivered a bat to its death by Puck or Bertha, I felt no flicker of fear from the spawned monsters. Rather, they almost gratefully flapped free of their corporeal forms and returned to my gem in a rush of essence.
After almost sixteen hours of farming, my champions had averaged fifty kills per hour with only a few breaks to heal their wounds at a cost of 50 Infernal Essence. I concentrated on the center of my jewel, and a text box flashed before me.
Type: Infernal Core
Physical - 350/10,000
Infernal - 850
Soul - 500
Bertha the Hell Troll/Human (Obsidian Sands)
Puck the Infernal Imp
Spring Trap (Physical)
My dungeon had made quite the progression, but I wasn’t finished for the day. Puck and Bertha were spent, so I allowed them to rest while I focused on renovations.
All of my gaming experience involved raiding dungeons, not constructing them. Consuming walls, burrowing into the mountain, and decorating my very own den of death and destruction was a thrill. Every inch of stone or obsidian I brought into my core gave me more power, more length, and more size.
Rather than have the soul forge vulnerable to any overzealous Adventurers, I sealed the alcove behind a wall of obsidian three-feet thick. Now that I was starting to divide the spaces, I decided that the alcove would be better served by a specific name: the Forge Chamber. Satisfied with my decision, I covered the stone wall separating the Forge Chamber from the main antechamber with jutting spikes similar to those I’d fashioned over the entrance archway. It didn’t look like an entrance, however, but some kind of area for barbaric torture. The modification suited my dungeon’s theme while also keeping the most valuable items away from prying hands. I wasn’t quite satisfied with it yet; it needed more style. I took my time morphing the obsidian wall and used my Physical Essence judiciously until I had produced a mural resembling a huge bat with an open maw and dripping fangs.
Summoning more Hellbats while adventurers were diving my depths required some kind of shaft from the antechamber to the alcove, so I fashioned a vent directly above the ceiling. It was large enough for my flying minions to travel single-file, but I imagined even the smallest of adventurers would have trouble squeezing through it. If they tried, they’d be greeted by a Hellbat’s fangs. The vent also functioned as an area for my bats to sleep undisturbed until an unsuspecting adventurer was greeted by a surprise dive-bomb attack.
When this task was complete, I considered where to place Spring Traps. The center of my new and improved antechamber floor was too obvious. I had to think like an adventurer--where would they expect the traps? Right in the middle, of course, next to easy loot. Gavin wasn’t exactly the brightest of bulbs, but I wasn’t about to use a troll as the epitome of tactics and planning when it came to my prey. Better to sneakily place traps in less-obvious places.
Part of me suspected that Gavin had somehow seen my first trap on his way in, despite the low visibility. With this in mind, I carved simple etchings into the glassy black obsidian, making sure to keep the same thematic consistency. I intermingled the spring traps with the same throned properties of my entrance to hide the exit points of the stone spikes.
I placed spikes above the antechamber, too, on either side of the bat-vent. I wasn’t sure how soon I’d face adventurers with flying mounts, or enemies who could fly themselves, but it didn’t hurt to be safe.
The amount of obsidian I was using in the design of the place satisfied my penchant for black, and it was fitting for an Infernal dungeon, but it had the unfortunate side-effect of making Zagorath darker than the rooms used for developing old-school photographs. I didn’t care; I could sense everything as a dungeon core and Von Dominus had permanent night-vision. But the lack of light might deter some adventurers. Some would bring torches, sure, but I needed to account for even the most forgetful of visitors. My goal was to allure adventurers, and I needed a little light to attract them deeper into my floor.
I wanted visitors to gaze upon the terrifying splendor of my champions before they were brutally cut down.
I chewed on the problem while I thought back to the Gavin fight. The forge had been a perfect light source, but I couldn’t have it open to the adventurers. An idea struck me, and I sliced out hair-thin lines into the wall with the etching of the imposing bat. I outlined the the designs I’d placed into it until the scarlet light from the soul forge bled through the gaps. The bat’s huge, slitted eyes shone the brightest, but I made damn sure that the openings for the light were far too tight for even an arrow to slip through.
It didn’t quite illuminate the entire antechamber, but it was eye-catching and threatening. Long shadows reached across the obsidian floor from the glowing bat and almost touched the entrance tunnel. The sight sent ripples of pleasure over my gem as I considered the terror that would enter adventurers’ hearts when they descended the stairs to this room.
The thought of stairs made me undergo a much more grandiose project.
I began with two wide and sweeping staircases that curved from either side of the enormous bat carving. I consumed Physical Essence from the mountainside and immediately used it to fashion the steps. When they were complete, I excavated a room directly beneath the antechamber. It was much larger than the floor above it; fifty-feet high, four-hundred-feet long, and one-hundred-feet wide.
At almost the size of a football field, only a mountain as large as Zagorath could hold so grand a room. The sheer size reminded me of a throne room in an ancient castle stronghold, and the thought gave me another idea.
I decided it was time to get far more into character as the Viceroy of the Infernal Goddess.
Turning the obsidian floors to liquid, I carefully constructed two lanes from the staircase that twisted in and around themselves, curling into each other like a pretzel loop. I constructed a single passage leading to the other side of the enormous chamber.
My essence was in a constant flux, now; I’d found a perfect flow cycle. I could only hold so much Physical Essence, so I consumed as much as I had and then emptied three-quarters of it into the decoration for my simple maze. It was less of a maze, really, and more a funnel. Adventurers would race straight into what was quickly becoming my throne room, but I would have time to prepare for their arrival.
Within the curves of the new tunnels, I made sure to place six small alcoves. I built small demonic altars inside each one where I intended on placing rewards for those who made it that far.
I chuckled grimly at the thought. If they made it that far.
Anyone who snatched the items from the altars would be unable to resist diving further into the dungeon with the hopes of securing more powerful loot.
But they would find me.
And what would I look like when I greeted them?
I banked the thought as I opened up smaller tunnels and connected them with the bat-vents on the ground floor. The bats I had spawned earlier fluttered through their new playground. I lengthened the tunnel and made it run beneath the stairs and into the Pretzel treasure rooms.
The name was beginning to stick, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to come up with a sufficiently awesome one for it later. Hey, as long as it did the job.
Once the Pretzel side-altars, alcoves, and bat-vents were in place, I remembered my champions. All this time, and I hadn’t even spoken to them, so I cast my mind to the chamber above. Bertha was meditating again, seated in the center of the Antechamber cross-legged. The curve of her breast rose and fell softly as she inhaled and exhaled. Puck wasn’t so easily entertained with silence--he’d made a game out of seeing how fast he could blast through the new bat-vents without braining himself on the tighter corners.
Well, at least they were occupied.
My work was more important--I needed to keep pushing, expanding. There was no telling when Gavin’s guild would be on their way. Zagorath was the last bastion of faith in Lilith, and I needed to decorate it accordingly.
I cast my consciousness back to the empty, black space. The football-sized throne room was missing something essential.
Von Dominus needed a throne. Somewhereto rest, plan, and plot his next move. Probably over steepled fingers. The Evil Overlord thing was starting to get to my head, but it was giving me too much pleasure. I didn’t have a blueprint for the perfect throne, so I improvised by carving out a raised dais opposite the corridor that connected it to the Pretzel. There was a four-hundred-feet expanse that separate the corridor from the dais, and it would be quite the daunting task for adventurers to confront me.
It was perfect.
I elevated the dais a little more and formed six steps connecting it to the ground. I decided I would call this my First Floor, and instead of keeping my dungeon core inside the Forge Chamber, I wanted it here. I created a simple metal pillar that would hold my dungeon heart. It would be easily visible to adventurers, a tantalizing taste of my power. It was a risky location for the core should anyone attempt to steal it. I hollowed out the space beneath the pillar and manipulated a Spring Trap on a thin slate of stone. After a little tweaking, I managed to construct a trap that would trigger on reflex if anyone touched my stone. Immediately the pillar would drop beneath the ground, and the stone slate would secure the cavity so my jewel couldn’t be stolen. Then an array of stone spikes would impale whoever had the misfortune of thinking they could grab my gem.
My attention raced back to the untouched space in front of my dais, and I slid my consciousness into twisting demonic designs. I could only construct images I’d seen before, and I couldn’t make anything too detailed, but I carved sweeping motifs of gnarled claws, bat-like wings, and twisted imp tails.
I crowned the wall behind the dais with the culmination of my artistic endeavours: a forty-foot-high image of Lilith embossed into the stone. Surprisingly, it was my most detailed work yet, and it was almost so real that I expected the goddess to step out from the stone. It was a composite of obsidian and breadrock that sent a shiver through my jewel. It was a little over-the-top, but I imagined dungeon divers would quake in their armor upon seeing the goddess in her giant likeness.
I sent a brief mental command to Puck, telling him to bring my Core down to its fixing on its temporary cradle. He happily obeyed, and as my consciousness brushed past Bertha’s relaxed and meditative form, I felt her moan softly. She almost sounded impatient, but she smiled at my mental touch before letting her mind drift back to her meditations.
As soon as I was done with my dungeon renovations, I was going to present the half-troll with the kind of reward only Von Dominus could give.
Puck brought my gem to its cradle, and as he fixed it in place, I laughed silently. My core illuminated the fresh designs in the walls, and Lilith’s visage stared down at me with a lustful smile. In one way, it was a symbol of my devotion to her. In another, it was a picture of the woman I aimed to conquer.
For the moment, Zagorath’s First Floor was complete.