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A maximum of 5 people may enter the Haunted Iron Mine Dungeon.

You may increase the player capacity by selecting the Dungeoneer talent in the Guilds talent tree.
You may increase the companion capacity by selecting the Dungeoneer talent in the Leadership talent tree.


An impermeable barrier of green light pushed Jim back from the entrance of the Haunted Iron Mine. He knew that 28 refugees lurked within the dungeon, but it would seem that he’d have to leave most of his army behind.

“Damn it,” Jim said.

“What is it mate?” Martin asked.

“Only 5 of us can enter the dungeon. We’ll have to leave almost everyone behind.”

“Yeah. Course. That’s how dungeons work, mate. We’ll just leave everyone else up here to make a camp and get the cooking started while we get our hands dirty.”

“We should fortify this place,” Burke said. “This iron mine is so close to the camp. We can’t let bandits repopulate in this area or we’ll be ambushed every time we try to leave town. "And," he added the most important reason almost as an afterthought, "if the iron is as pure as that wizard bloke we killed thinks, we also ought to try and take it for ourselves.”

Would you like to claim the Haunted Iron Mine for Andrew’s Refugee Camp?

Requires:
Successful clear of the Haunted Iron Mine Dungeon.
50 units of wood.
50 units of stone.

Rewards: Safe access to the first levels of the Haunted Iron Mine.


Jim agreed with both Burke and the system’s prompt. He arranged for the hunters and militiamen who wouldn’t be able to enter the mine to gather the required materials. The twelve freed lizardmen also volunteered to help construct a simple shelter.

“Please, let us help you,” the lizardwoman who Jim had first questioned pleaded. “It’s the least we can do.”

“Uh. Okay,” Jim said. He initially thought to send the rescued refugees back with one of the wagons, but the night had blackened to a sullen pitch and the shaken people were in no state to travel such a foreboding evening.

Vanessa and Langdon left instructions with their respective troops and then they were ready.

“Martin,” Jim asked. “How much do you know about dungeons? You didn’t seem surprised when I brought them up before.”

“Oh, plenty. Used to clear them all the time with Jonothon. People like Andrew would pay him to wipe ‘em out. Sometimes they wanted the stuff inside, sometimes they began to leak monsters and needed controlling. Might be a bit hard for us, though.”

“What?”

“He means that none of us can heal,” Burke said. “Usually have to hire a town’s priest or herbalist or whoever. Can’t regenerate normally in a dungeon, and the buggers inside can get pretty tough.”

“Should we just give up, then?” Jim asked. “We need to rescue those refugees, but if it’s a death trap we can come back tomorrow with Samouel.”

“Oh. No need to give up,” Burke said. “Won’t be any worse than those undead we fought back on the northern road.”

Vanessa interrupted. “We should give up. If it’s going to be anything like that we’ll get swarmed. Martin almost died last time.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it ‘nes,” Martin said. Jim found the two’s growing relationship endearing. “Last time, we didn’t have Jim.”

“What? Yes, we did. I nearly died too.”

“I mean the fire, mate. Ya got pretty handy with that stick, but the fire is where it’s really at.”

Langdon, who had stood silently all this time, nodded and spoke. “The dungeon will be fine, Jim. Martin’s right and, even if he isn’t, we can always back out.”

“Yeah. Let’s just do this,” Burke said. “I’ll go first.” Burke walked through the green mist that now parted for their group.

Inside the mine, Jim inspected his surroundings. A minecart track spiralled down and to the right, in the middle of the central shaft. On the left wall of the shaft, a cross-shaft had been drilled at a perpendicular angle. Other than that simple layout, nothing else could be seen of the rough-cut, dusty chamber. With only the one option, Jim, Martin, Langdon, Burke, and Vanessa started into the depths.

At the first cross-shaft, the dungeon party stopped.

“We’d better check it out,” Langdon suggested. “Better not leave unexplored areas behind us. Ya don’t want any baddies jumping ya from behind when ya fighting baddies from the front.”

“Yeah. I learned that lesson last time. Let’s go. Vanessa, stay at the entrance and call out if something’s coming.”

“I’ll scream nice and loud, honoured elder,” Vanessa said. Martin chuckled and followed Jim into the cross shaft.

For all their caution with the first sub-tunnel, they needn’t have worried. The walls were lined with veins of ore, but otherwise, the tunnel was featureless. They continued down the main shaft. More perpendicular tunnels sprouted at every quarter turn of the central spiral. The next seven tunnels were entirely empty except for metal ore, just as the first had been. The ninth through twelfth tunnels clutched much richer veins of ore in their cracks and crevasses; however, piles of bones also littered the floor.

Burke took no chances with a dungeon called “The Haunted Mine,” and used the butt of his spear to smash every single bone into a fine powder. On the thirteenth tunnel – always unlucky 13 – Burke’s bone smashing got them all into trouble. Rather than breaking into inanimate dust, a red 4 clacked off the large femur bone Burke had struck.

“Back! Quickly,” Burke called. The thirteenth tunnel’s floor had been heaped with bones. Now, the entire pile vibrated. Bones began to swirl together in the air and dark shadows of magic streaked from the cracks in the wall, forming ligaments and tendons between the hovering bones. 11 level 2 skeleton warriors with 20 HP each shambled at them. The monsters were identical to those they had fought on the northern road and Jim shrank back.

Unlike the cowering Jim, Burke, Langdon, and Martin fused together at the shoulder, as if pulled by magnets. In the tight confines of the tunnel, they formed a snug seal with the cavern walls, keeping Jim safe behind them. The shambling skeletons charged haphazardly at the soldiers and were felled as they approached. Each spear thrust smashed through a rib cage, pelvis or skull for, at the minimum, 15 damage. The level 2 enemies disintegrated before Jim’s eyes and he realised he’d panicked for nothing: The only reason the level 2 warriors had been any threat last time was because of the elite spectral captain suppressing Jim’s elites.

Without such a suppressing force appearing in any of the next half-dozen cross tunnels, the 5-man team had no problems clearing out the next few floors of the dungeon. Even the level 4 and 5 skeleton warriors that appeared as they got deeper only managed to land a single lucky hit on the overeager Martin.

The easy progress caused Jim to make a mistake that, in hindsight, he really shouldn’t have allowed to happen. They got cocky. After the skeleton warriors started to get stronger in the mineshafts, Martin had called Vanessa in to help them chip away at the enemies’ larger health pools. On the twentieth tunnel, Jim’s force almost died.

Peng!

A metal-tipped arrow shattered a zombie warrior’s skull, critically hitting for 28 damage, before ricocheting from a truly enormous ore vein at the back of the cavern. Jim turned to congratulate Vanessa on the shot but, rather than any such congratulations, he yelled.

“Vanessa! Duck! Sphairapyra!”

Vanessa, warned by either Jim’s order to duck or his brilliant ball of flame that crackled and popped as it blazed straight at her chest, dove sideways.

Jim’s fireball streaked over Vanessa’s shoulder and burst on a zombie’s chest. The spell, which was now at the maximum skill rank of 10/10 from the target-rich environment of the mines, emitted a charred 33. The zombie that the spell had struck didn’t even lose half its HP from the spell that cost Jim almost a third of his mana pool.

Zombie Miner, level 5 Undead.
HP: 42/75


The unnaturally tough zombie shambled forward, despite glowing orange with flickering flames. Vanessa’s roll had carried her mostly out of harm’s way, but Jim didn’t want to take any risks. Jim cast another 100 MP, 100% spell power fireball. A second smouldering 33 burned away from the zombie’s body. Now, missing 69 of its HP, the zombie stumbled, the wounds greatly lowered the threat the monster posed.

Vanessa steadied herself from her side roll and pulled an arrow from her belt quiver. Jim looked between Vanessa and the slowed, but still approaching zombie. She wouldn’t have enough time to draw and shoot. Jim stepped forward. He needn’t have bothered. Vanessa didn’t bother to notch the arrow to her bow. Instead, she just slammed the shaft through the zombie’s eye. Then, for good measure, she drew her dagger and drove it into the zombie’s skull. The two rapid strikes dealt a significant amount of overkill damage.

The zombies’ attacks from the rear continued as a pattern for another four tunnels, growing in number. Vanessa and Jim were able to hold them back, but the group’s progress slowed without their help to fight the skeleton warriors. Longer engagements meant more opportunities for mistakes, and by the time they approached the 25th tunnel, scrapes and scratches the three melee fighters had obtained resulted in each man missing 10-20 health.

At the 25th tunnel, however, the until-now predictable dungeon changed. The cross-tunnel they’d expected to enter had collapsed. A sheet of melon-sized rocks piled unnaturally neatly against the tunnel entrance and five minecarts filled with rock and ore had been buried in a neat line that perfectly blocked the cross-shaft.

“Do you think we should—” Jim had been about to ask if they should clear the fallen tunnel when a sudden fit of coughing forced him to stop. The coughed, too. Putrid brown 1s sputtered from their lips as they coughed and the party was forced back up the central shaft to escape the noxious fumes.

A thick brown fog coalesced in front of Jim and the others, blocking them from reaching the entrance to the 25th tunnel shaft. A half-dozen rotting zombies erupted from the cloud and rushed the group. Martin, Langdon, and Burke readied their spears instinctively and pierced the bloated corpses that ran at them.

Putrescent Zombie, level 5 Undead.
HP: 75/75
Putrid Gas: Putrescent zombies periodically release putrid gas, dealing 1 damage to nearby living creatures.


The putrid gas burst from the bellies of the front three zombies as they willingly impaled themselves on the spears. The horrendous miasma thickened and goopy, almost-black 1s oozed from the militiamen’s clenched teeth.

“Back. Get back!” Jim ordered. The men staggered back from the assault and Jim readied a fireball to cover their retreat.

“Sphairapyra!”

Wumph.

Jim’s fireball grew to a massive inferno as it entered the putrid gas cloud. The explosion knocked everyone and everything back with massive concussive force. Jim’s ears rang, and a prompt informed him that he had the Deafened debuff and would be unable to cast spells. Casting more spells wouldn’t be necessary.

Awesome, charred 76s burst free of the blackened smoke cloud before them. Jim did not know, for sure, whether his Incineration talent, the flammable gas, or a particular vulnerability to fire caused the massive damage to the putrescent zombies. Whatever the case, all six had been reduced to ash and it had only cost them a dozen points of poison and concussion damage.

“… … …” Martin mouthed in Jim’s face.

“…?” Jim replied.

Could ya maybe yell “fire” or something next time?” Martin’s question sounded faint in the last few seconds of the Deafened debuff, but Jim got the point.

“Sorry.”

“I’m not a pyromaniac, Jim,” Burke said. “But damn do I love fire sometimes. No need to be sorry about it.” Burke brushed himself off and helped Jim up. Martin, in turn, helped Vanessa up. Langdon, who’d received the worst of the blast, had to help himself up. He didn’t look happy, but he didn’t audibly complain, either.

“Oh! Look at the tunnel entrance.” Vanessa pointed at the 25th offshoot mine shaft. The rocks had been blasted away and only the minecarts blocked the way. The group dragged the minecarts off the bare rock and onto the tracks and entered the shaft. They expected to find an even tougher fight at the back of the cavern.

The back of the cavern did not house hordes of skeletons or zombies. Instead, 28 scared and starving refugees looked at the soot-blackened forms of Jim and the others. Martin smiled, his white teeth contrasting humorously with his blackened face.

“Hello, there. We’ve come to rescue ya.”

After a brief period of hesitancy, and after Langdon and Jim pushed Martin aside, the lizardmen refugees eventually began to converse with the dungeon group. Langdon and Jim half-convinced, half-intimidated the lizardmen into returning to the surface. Burke had even browbeaten the weakened men and women to haul the minecarts back to the surface.

Jim glared at Burke. Burke shrugged and gestured back to the central shaft, that had levelled out before being cut into deep stairs.

“We can sort them out later,” Burke said. “Let’s finish this.”

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ForgottenManOnline

Bio: Hi,
My name's Tim and I'm writing Forgotten Man Online, a game-literature light novel web-series that I plan to release here, on Royal Road, and eventually hopefully through Amazon's Kindle platform.

I studied writing at university for three years and then became a high-school English teacher in Australia (6 years in). Hopefully, that means you will find my content to be of a high standard and that you will enjoy it, provided you can stand the British spelling of words :).

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