The dungeon was monstrous.
She didn’t even realize it was a dungeon at first, since on first sight she just thought the walls were cliffs. The sky was quite convincing too, with the occasional cloud scudding past the mountain peak rising to the west. It was the sun that gave it away, since it shed no warmth even at the peak of the day.
Once she noticed it, the signs were everywhere. The temperature, just this side of cool, didn’t match the season. The faint wind, coming from all directions with no apparent source, had no relation to the visible weather. She’d never been in a dungeon before, as [Herbalist] was not a combat Class. Not that some adventurers couldn’t use a good [Herbalist] to find which plants they should scrounge from inside dungeons, but actually delving wasn’t appealing.
Of her whole family, only cousin Venn had aspired to be a Classer, officially getting his second-tier combat Class shortly before going missing near Wildwood. Which was exactly why the Marn clan was entirely content with the soil of low-mana areas where they didn’t have to worry about shadows with teeth or whatever other horrors lurked where the mana grew thick enough to taste. Actually being inside a dungeon was a worrying prospect.
Except that none of Iniri’s people seemed to be worried at all. The town had no defenses, and to be fair, there was no hint of monsters anywhere that she could see. There was just a large expanse of grass, a few trees, and nothing else. It seemed more unnatural the longer she looked at it, so she left the milling and confused crowd of her fellow villagers to investigate. [Herbalist] gave her enough skill to appraise both of the only two plants she could see.
Tayan Grass - This grass is ordinary dungeon grass has been altered to grow from the mana of this particular dungeon. Other than its blue-green color, it has no unusual properties.
Tayantan Tree - This tree is unique to the dungeon in which it grows, with a hard wood that is well-suited to channeling mana. It bears a fruit that restores small amounts of health, stamina, and mana.
Despite the appraisal, she thought the color of the grass was unusual enough a property to remark on. If it ever grew taller it could be woven into a number of interesting things, something especially important given the lack of decent cordage otherwise. The trees though. The trees alone could establish an orchard that could support a family for generations. At least, a family in a low-mana area.
Going to farm resources in high-mana areas was more lucrative, yes, but restricted to those with at least a dabbling in a combat Class, given the danger of even normal vermin there. While everyone wanted icefruit, what everyone actually ate was apples and potatoes. There were no monsters or mana-beasts here though, or so she was assured, and in that tree danced visions of a long dynasty and comfortable evening years.
“Miss Marn?” One of the queen’s lieutenants accosted her, politely, where she was contemplating the tree. “We were told the other elders wanted you. They want your opinion on the farming area.”
“You’re not putting fields around the town?” Taelah lifted her eyebrows. She’d seen only a footpath leading out into grass, nothing that was appropriate for all the wagons they’d brought. They could manage a longer trek, but it’d be a slog. And it’d be a slog every trip until they trampled down some roads or one of Iniri’s Classers made some for them.
If they had to make that slog they would, because they were Anton’s Village and they wouldn’t just vanish into a larger town. Admittedly, a larger town that seemed mostly deserted. Despite the fact that it could probably house five hundred there only seemed to be Iniri’s men and women, settled into the manor and the few buildings around it.
“No, Blue has a farming area set up for you.”
“That’s thoughtful of Lord Blue, but with all respect it would be far easier to provide for the town if we use the fields outside it.”
“Lord…? Shayma didn’t tell you anything, did she?”
“She told us we’d be going to a secure holding,” Taelah said, suddenly wary. That was all that had been important at the time, and yet, it seemed the girl had omitted some details. She’d known the offer was too good.
“Well, yes, it is that.” The armored man looked down at her. “This dungeon is...aware. It’s a Power by the name of Blue.”
She blinked at him. “I...what?” Gears spun in her head, refused to catch, and then she decided they didn’t matter. “Look, it doesn’t matter whether or not we have a god watching over us, logistics are still more difficult without roads.”
He laughed. “I’m sure that will amuse him. No, there are roads, but not here. There’s a permanent teleport to the farms.”
“...what.” This time she couldn’t ignore it. The teleport to get to the town was bad enough. Not that the experience had been negative, in fact it had been utterly unremarkable in every respect but the change in location, but nobody had permanent teleports set up. Especially not for farms! She wasn’t that familiar with high-level magery but even she would say pouring an ocean of gold into a shortcut for farmers was too much.
“You’ll get used to it. This way.” She followed him, half-suspiciously, along the clean cobbled roads to a broad square with a circle inscribed in it. The rest of Anton’s Village was there, guiding their wagons into place as they were directed into the circle, where they vanished. Glenn waved at her, and she strode forward to meet him.
“There’s another one of these through there,” he said, waving around. “Not exactly the same, but close. It has barns and fields and such though. Get this - fields are already ploughed.”
“I see.” She was still suspicious. When something sounded too good to be true, it probably was, and Anton’s Village hadn’t survived the Great Drought and the Borenath Uprising by being careless and stupid. She scowled at the circle and then stepped into it herself.
With a flash of blue she was elsewhere, still in the dungeon as far as she could tell, but now there were fields. Barns, silos, even houses, too. All of them laid out and scattered like some children’s idea of farmland, without any regard for how beasts of burden would have to travel or, for that matter, the farmers themselves.
Stepping outside the teleport circle as more people came through, she scooped up a handful of the soil, feeling the texture. At least the dirt was good. “Well, this is a good start,” she admitted grudgingly. “But we’ll have to rebuild everything. Just for starters half those silos and barns should be near the teleport. These fields are all over the place, too. You want to mix the -”
She broke off as before her very eyes buildings started rising from the ground nearby. The only time she’d seen such a conjurer’s trick was when Shayma had produced the teleporter for the village. This was on an entirely different level, and she watched as in less than a minute, half a dozen storage buildings appeared in a neat row. She was speechless. There was nothing to say to that.
For about five seconds.
“Get the rest of the elders,” she told a passing child, sending her scampering back into the crowd. It was time to teach a dungeon how to farm.