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A note from Vincent Archer

Time to find out what's in the tower. If we can.

The next chapter is on Saturday because I'm busy on Sunday and probably won't be able to post. Actually, two chapters since we have one of the short interludes from the Expedition.

PS: It turns out there's a couple of missing paragraphs from the previous chapter, but the end with "no more Juggling" was good enough that I let it lapse. Basically, they kill dinner on the way back to town, nothing important (well, except some XP). You can go back to the previous chapter to see the missing bits if you really want.

(Y6, July 11th)

 

Breakfast was over, and the trio gathered back at the bottom of their tower. The partially deconstructed sealed door beckoned.

“Remind me why we open this?” asked Birkathane.

“Because it’s there. And Quan says there’s stuff inside.”

Vantegaard had picked a local knife. His original commando knife had been handed to Quandocor to be used as a skinning knife for his Skinning skill, and the dagger was kept as a weapon.

They all set in to flush mortar and pick stones.

 

As lunchtime neared, they hit a milestone. Most of the upper left of the door was cleared, and the entrance was almost useable. If you contorted yourself enough, you might be able to pass thru.

But Vantegaard cautioned them.

“If it’s a dungeon and we get into trouble, we need to exit quickly.”

“So you want more cleared.”

“At least until any of us can go thru with minimum effort, yes.”

“Has anyone told you you’re particularly bad as a Mayor?”

“You wanted me. Now you got to deal with me.”

 

A few hours more and they had a large opening. With a quarter of the stonework out, the cleanup was going faster. And they got lots of Meditation practice.

At the mid-afternoon point, the left side of the door was almost cleared, with a thigh-high barrier remaining on the bottom.

Vantegaard got mollified by the pleading looks from Birkathane.

“Okay. I think that’s good enough.”

He quickly added.

“But I want that door fully cleared at one point.”

“So, we explore?”

“We explore. Time to use your lamp before its batteries die, Quan.”

 

The first room was empty. It wasn’t large either. Arches led to a central room and leftward to another room, while a stair was visible turning around the tower wall to the right.

The air was stale, but not particularly unpleasant. No smells of decay or anything.

Birkathane pointed out rings set on the walls.

“Looks like torch points.”

“We may have to light this up. But later.”

“Do we go up, or?”

“I think we should be systematic. Plus, it wouldn’t do if some critters ambushed us from behind.”

 

The ground floor was… disappointing. Four empty rooms. The central room’s ceiling was higher than the rest of the rooms, and there were inner windows from the next floor. But otherwise, it was completely devoid of anything.

The other rooms to the left were equally empty of anything, save iron rings for torches. The last room had a stair going down, but the tower’s basement was empty as well. Another round room, with a depression in the middle, and six pillars around it. More torch points. And a whole heap of nothing.

“Any idea what it was for?”

“Don’t know. Cult things? A small arena for fist fighting?”

“I know. Cockfights!”

“Cock… fights? Seriously, Birka?”

 

Vantegaard smiled when they reached the second floor. A door closed the stairs leading to the next level.

“Ok, let’s check this floor,” said Quandocor.

Vantegaard let a small sigh. The door would wait a bit. Two vaulted arches were leading in both directions from this room, and the small internal window they’d seen on from the ground floor.

He peeked through the opening, but the lamp wasn’t showing much. They’d seen it all from below anyway.

The left room had a door separating it from the next one. Time for a sound kicking. Apparently, the door’s level was low enough, and the door snapped open.

But just like the ground floor, there was nothing in the rooms, save for torch rings and doors separating each of the five rooms. Making a full round of the floor, the trio waited until Vantegaard had finally kicked the door and trudged toward the third floor.

 

The first room on the floor had a door leading inward, and yet another closed stair. And torch rings. And nothing else, again.

“This is disappointing.”

Birkathane countered “I think the floor above is the one I was in. There was some furniture, including that chest I didn’t open. So, maybe only the bottom of the tower is empty.”

Vantegaard knocked the inner door and they filed in after him.

That central room had five doors, regularly spaced, but had rounded pillars protruding from the walls between each. There were torch rings, but there were also real torch sconces. Wrought iron things set next to each door. The lamp showed also some symbols engraved over each door, save the one they’d come in.

“What is that? Writing?”

“Don’t think so. Nobody’s found real written things.”

Vantegaard looked more carefully.

“It’s more of a drawing than a character or hieroglyph, or whatever.”

Only two of the openings had door closing them. They checked the two open rooms and found them empty as well.

“At least, we’ll have a kickass tower to use.”

“What I want to know is where are the items Quan’s skill said there was.”

“Probably upstairs.”

 

The first door led to a room with at least a modicum of furniture. There were a table and an overturned chair. They looked further, but there were no other items inside. Quandocor reached and righted the chair.

The last room was much more interesting. There were shelves on the side and a table pushed to the rear wall. Vantegaard pointed out the top shelf.

“Looks like more stuff for you Birka.”

The shelf had broken shards of glass, but a dozen of fat bottles. They picked the bottles and moved them to the table. All, save one, were empty, without anything to close them. But the last one had a wood stopper. Birkathane shook the bottle a bit.

“Feels like there’s a liquid inside.”

“If I were you, I’d wait to open it.”

“I’m not a fool. I’ll try to find what it is later.”

She put the bottle back on the table next to the empty ones.

 

The fourth floor elicited a satisfied comment from Birkathane upon seeing a window opening to outside.

“Yes. That’s where I came thru. See, the stair to the next floor has its door already open.”

There was another closed door leading to the tower center, but the right side was open.

“That’s the chest room direction?”

“That’s the room.”

The next room also had a window, but that one was very small, more like a slit in the wall. Birkathane pointed out the small chest under the window.

“That’s the one.”

“It doesn’t look locked.”

“I didn’t try. In case there was a trap or something.”

“Shall we?”

“Let’s do this.”

Quandocor approached the chest, looking carefully to see if there was something special. The only notable feature was the front handle, so he raised slowly the cover before pointing the lamp inside.

There were… bundles of cloth.

Birkathane pulled the first one. It looked reddish in the torch’s light. A rectangle, 60-70cm wide, 1m50 long.

“Feels like velvet.”

They slowly peeled away each bundle of cloth. The rectangles were around the same size. Half of them looked reddish, the other half were greenish. Despite the obvious age of the whole thing, they were in perfect condition.

“Is that what you sensed Quan?”

Vantegaard replied to her.

“I doubt he’s sensing crafting stuff. Am I right?”

“The skill says little, but it feels like it should be more specific. Unless maybe it only spots stuff I’m interested in.”

“Not in the market for cloth bolts?”

“Nope.”

 

There was only one room beyond the chest room, also with its tiny window. That one had a long table and a set of chairs, and a… flower tray on it? There was some ceramic rectangular tray that looked like it was a flowerpot for a house. Absolutely empty, without a trace of anything.

They backtracked toward the entrance, then kicked the inner door.

“Now we’re talking.”

The central room had chests. Plural. Without apparent locks.

Unfortunately, the three chests were all empty.

“I don’t know. Maybe we can take them and use in our homes?”

Vantegaard laughed.

“We’re… what? One-third of the way. There’s still a lot to loot.”

“Assuming there are lots.”

The rear of the room opened to another room with a larger window. They took turns looking over their village.

The other two rooms were behind more doors but didn’t hold much riches either. The last room was filled with iron spikes, 1m thin needles stacked on the wall.

 

The fifth-floor room had nothing, save another door on the stair to the next floor.

“What? No other rooms?”

“Don’t know. Maybe there are secret doors? Or maybe you go up, then down.”

Up they went.

 

The sixth floor was weird. It was an oversized floor with a single room filling the entire tower. The ceiling was easily three times further than the other floors had been. The stairs kept on climbing, with a stone railing and cover. This was the kind of covered stairs you would have expected on the outside of the building, but here, it was entirely inside. Tall and thin windows let light all over the room.

Birkathane pointed out the two openings with stairs going down.

“I was right. You go back down into the sixth floor.”

“Fifth floor. I counted.”

“Sixth. I counted.”

Quandocor snorted.

“European or American count.”

“Ah, shit. Forgot, you Americans can’t decide if it’s a ground floor or first floor.”

 

“Ah. Now that is worth the climb.”

The room was an armory. There was a rack with pikes, a bunch of maces, all kinds of weapons, two gigantic shields that were almost as tall as Quandocor… and three staves.

     Iron-shod Staff (lvl ?), well-crafted item (?)

     Bronze-shod Staff (lvl ?), well-crafted item (?)

     Silver-shod Staff (lvl ?), expert-crafted item (?)

“Jackpot. You win at life, Quan.”

“Can’t see the stats.”

“Me neither. But I can hazard a guess that the items’ power goes bronze, iron, silver.”

“So, I should pick the silver staff?”

“The only problem is that until you can see the stats, you won’t benefit from them.”

Birkathane countered.

“It can’t be worse than the one we improvised yesterday.”

“True.”

 

The exploration came to an end on the seventh – or ninth, depending on how you counted the triple-sized room – floor. The room did have a small window, but the door at the end resisted Vantegaard’s attempt to kick it open. They were at two-thirds of the tower’s height, but the remaining was far too well protected.

“That’s it?”

“That’s it. Until I can raise my skill to knock the door, or we find another way to open it.”

Vantegaard felt tempted. He was keeping points for the next leyline configuration, but he had more than enough… and the leyline configurations did not seem too common after all.

Every guide said not to spend points on anything until you picked 12+ new skills. But if the door was just barely above his level… He’d just raised the skill by one point climbing, but…

Vantegaard kicked the door again, without results.

“Damn!”

“What for?”

“I put one point in Door Knocker. Just in case it was the last point missing for that door. But nope. I shouldn’t have.”

“So, we’re stuck.”

“No more tower for us” confirmed Vantegaard.

“So what now?” asked Quandocor.

“Time out.”

He looked out through the small window opening.

“Sunset is in an hour. Dinner at Van’s at that time, then.”

“What’s on the menu?”

“More wolf, I think.”

“I liked it. Much better than the cat.”

“This time, I’ll bring beans. My treat” said Quandocor.

“Sure.”

 

There was a man in front of the tower.

“Wreszcie ktoś!”

The trio looked at each other.

“Do you speak English?”

“Yes. I do. All English?”

“Not all, but it’s more common.”

“I’m Polish, but I speak English and German.”

“English will do.”

“Name’s Szalowca. I saw the tower from afar and found a sign, but there was no one around. Where everyone’s gone?”

“Everyone means just us, so far.”

“What? I thought if there was a town…”

“We’re newbies. Spawned a few days ago, and we’ve seen no one at all. Well, until you.”

“Spawned yesterday. I tried to see where I was, but… It’s hard. No sun.”

“The weather’s been overcast for the last days, yes.”

“So there’s no one around at all? Just us four?”

“There’s probably some other newbies, but they haven’t found the town yet.”

The trio took turns introducing themselves.

 

“So, we’ve decided to make this our town for the time. We’re exploring a bit, and trying to wait until respawn. That guy here…”

Quandocor pointed at Vantegaard.

“He’s got contacts with the Cartographers. If anyone can find out where exactly we are, it’s him.”

“Ah good. I mean, I know people all over the world, but finding out who’s around is good.”

“We think we might be in a completely unexplored zone.”

“I thought there were only three areas?”

Vantegaard corrected “The Cartographers have managed to tie all known maps into three zones, but that doesn’t mean there are no other places.”

Szalowca grimaced a bit.

Birkathane said “I know. It would be easier if you had all kinds of people around.”

“True.”

“Anyway, welcome to Fanduk.”

 

Vantegaard hesitated, then asked, “Got a build yet?”

“Yea. Mostly useless. I got stuff for throwing things and archery. And some magic. I got a Mana skill during setup and another generic magic. Then another Mana using the lottery. My first skill.”

“Generic magic?”

“Yes. It’s Variant Meditation. It lets me regenerate my lowest vital. So, stamina or mana or any other if I ever get a multi-mage.”

 

Variant Meditation

Tier 3 Fortitude

Action

Meditation isn’t singular. Meditation is whatever your need is.

 

Mental, magical or physical energies recharge at an accelerated rate while you are meditating. You regenerate the vital statistic with the most missing points, except Health. Meditation is interrupted if you take action.

 

Maximum meditation period: 10s

Cooldown: 542s

Vitals recovery: 2.5/s

Skill level 10 (base 2)

Advancement: 13%

 

Szalowca noticed the looks that all the three town founders exchanged. What was so strange about having a meditation skill. Granted, not every mage ended up with one but.

“That’s the Fanduk effect then. You got Meditation. We all got a Meditation skill during Setup.”

“Everyone?”

“It looks like everyone here spawns with a meditation skill. That’s… unheard from.”

Szalowca pointed up “Does that come from… the tower.”

“We don’t know. We haven’t been able to get to the upper floors. Maybe there’s a magic contraption that does this. If that’s what happened, it would be huge. World news.”

“Why?”

“No one’s ever found a way to affect the skills you get.”

Well, except with the leyline interfering, that is, thought Vantegaard.

“So we’ll be famous?”

“If we find something that does that.”

 

“So, do you want to settle here for the time, or keep looking?”

“If that’s going to be a famous town, I’ll be there. All my mates will be jealous of little Jan… Szalowca.”

“Then pick a home. Quandocor here will make you a sign to register. Then, join us for dinner.”

Vantegaard pointed out his home.

“Any reserved home?”

“No. Unless it has a sign, it’s yours.”

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A note from Vincent Archer

Vantegaard is the king of impulsive decisions that don't really pan out.


About the author

Vincent Archer

  • France

Bio: Vincent Archer wrote his first story around age 11. On a mechanical typewriter, with carbon paper for a mimeograph to distribute in class. His teacher knew enough to make vague encouraging noises rather than really tell him what she thought. He wrote more stories afterward, but Time has thankfully managed to erase every trace of them.

Now that his career has settled in a mix of routine and insanity and that he's figured out that herding cats would probably be easier, he's finally started to write stories again on a media rather than inside his brain. Some of those are even potentially good enough to show to other people.

Silvergates is his first attempt to finish one rather than admit defeat against the usual writer's block.

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