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A note from Void Herald

There won't be a chapter this Thursday. Long short story, I'm finally visiting my family/friends in France after four months in confinement abroad (because BLEEP Covid). New chapter will be posted on Saturday. 

Somewhere in the New World, Holly Woods’ mountain,

Months after the battle of El Dolrado.


Sitting on his throne, in the deepest, darkest room of his dungeon, Furibon was giddy with excitement.

At long last, his contributions had been recognized!

“Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of Today’s Dungeon,” a tall, bulky red fiend spoke to a floating mirror, transferring the images back to Happyland. “I am your host Pepito, and today, we are going to interview this year Deadie Awards’ favorite, the lich archrival of Vainqueur Knightsbane himself… Furibon!”

“Former rival. We forgot one another.” Furibon observed the demon more closely, finding him vaguely familiar. “Weren’t you the announcer in Brandon Maure’s arena?”

“Yes, I lost my job shortly after Vainqueur ate the audience,” the fiend said. “But after six months of despair and homelessness, I bounced back to take the world of monsterbiz by storm!”

Good to see the survivors of Ishfania’s old regime had all turned a new leaf, even Miss Maure. This only confirmed Furibon’s belief that revenge was a pointless waste of time. After all, if he had spent all his time plotting Knightsbane’s demise, he wouldn’t have achieved his dream of building a famous dungeon.

“Mr. Furibon, your dungeon, ‘The Tomb of Furibon,’ has been nominated for the Deadie Awards in five categories, including ‘Most Lethal Dungeon,’ ‘Best Supporting Miniboss,’ ‘Best Dungeon Boss,’ ‘Best Dungeon Design,’ and ‘Best Dungeon Sound Design.’ Since this is your first official work, you must feel honored.”

“I am very proud,” Furibon replied. “Especially the best sound design one. My team struggled a lot to put all these rats in the walls. A dungeon is more than a place; it’s an atmosphere. Truth to be told, I intended to participate a year ago with my Castle of Murmurin, but...”

“Knightsbane?”

“Knightsbane.” A shame, he had been very proud of his Black Beast miniboss. “It is true that I have become an adventurer, and achieved fame fighting the evil [Toon] monsters inhabiting Holly Woods. But at heart, I will always remain a dungeon hobbyist.”

“Well then, you may have a new chance to pit your passion against Vainqueur Knightsbane! Do you know that he is expected to participate as one of the adventurers’ team, alongside [Paladin] superstar Kia Bekele?”

Furibon chuckled. “Very funny.”

“This is not a joke.”

The lich marked a long pause, as he realized the fiend was serious. “I never thought I would feel empathy for a [Paladin of Mithras],” the lich admitted, after considering the implications. “I hope that she is safe.”

“To showcase his dungeon design, Furibon and his team agreed to give us a full, live demonstration,” the fiend declared, immediately changing the subject. “Let’s meet our contestants.”

“[Furibon’s Scrying Ball],” Furibon cast a spell of his own design, a spectral crystal ball showing the dungeon’s entrance room appearing before him. His teammates had gathered in a great stone hall, separated from the dungeon’s first corridor by a purple energy barrier and a dragon statue.

“Sarat Dillon,” the fiend commentator pointed at black-furred, female beastkin. She carried a bandolier full of bombs, potions, and Monster Poker cards. “A Ratling [Alchemist] [Gambler] whose absurd luck protects her from everything!”

“It’s not luck, it’s fate,” the ratkin protested, the fiend’s voice having carried through the divination mirror. She had served Furibon as his training partner, before the final duel with Knightsbane.

“Marty Orcling, goblin-slayer extraordinaire.” The unofficial leader of the team was a mighty orc, covered by an iron armor and wielding a magical bow. “A [Bowman] [Mercenary], he combines combat effectiveness with a keen tactical mind.”

“Just because my classes have low Intelligence growths, doesn’t mean I’m stupid,” the orc declared.

The fiend then pointed at the fairest member of the group, a pink-haired elf dressed like a belly dancer; her beauty hiding her saber’s deadliness. “Jenny Starflower, half [Bard], one quarter [Fencer], and one quarter [Dancer]. A murder machine who kills evil with style.”

“I’m bi-neutral, so I can go both ways,” the elf replied.

“Finally, Mister Raptor.” The last, a hawk-like member of the team hung on his staff with a defeated expression. “A birdkin [Wizard] and [Priest of Dice], the main reason why his team has survived despite their suicidal urges.”

“Until now,” the birdkin complained with a gloomy voice. “BLEEP you, Furi.”

“I have the [Panacea], I can cure you of almost anything,” Furibon replied calmly. “And you still owe me your life, for that El Dorado mess.”

“Yeah, but I thought we would pay you a vacation or something. Not give you a free torture session!”

“Raptor, you’re exaggerating,” Jenny said. “Sure, Furi is cranky, but he would never go that far.”

“He is right though, the goal of a dungeon is not to have fun,” Furibon whispered to the fiend reporter, low enough that his team wouldn’t hear. “It is to emotionally drain the will of adventurers, to destroy them physically and mentally. I prefer the old-school approach of crafting every room to heighten the pain.”

“What do you have to say to the new ‘randomized rogue dungeon’ movement then?” the demon asked him. “They’ve had a lot of success in recent years, especially against the unpredictable dragon adventurers.”

“They’re hacks! A dungeon is art! Each room must be exquisitely crafted, or else it is not memorable!” The lich did have a trap room summoning random high-level monsters, but it was only a one-time gimmick. “As for dragons, I have found the ultimate defense against their dungeon raids.”

His team was already scouting the barrier, Marty shooting an arrow through, only for the projectile to disintegrate on contact. They turned to examine the dragon statue, noticing a hole in the mouth, and inscriptions written on the jaws.

2500 gold coins per person.

“I make them pay.”

“We have to pay a fee to get in?!” Jenny complained.

“Everytime,” Furibon replied through the scrying ball. “And even for a demonstration, I won’t give you free tickets.”

“After everything we’ve been through together?” Sarat complained. “You traitor!”

The entire team loudly protested and tried to find a way through the barrier without paying for it. In vain; only a spellcaster in Furibon’s own league could even hope to get through.

As for the rest of the dungeon, he had it built with the best material. Even dragons couldn’t break through it, and the multiple magical defenses canceled favorite tactics such as teleportation, intangibility...

“It’s to force them to commit,” Furibon explained to the demon, as his team ended up paying the tribute after failing to bypass the barrier. “The problem with adventurers is that they scout dungeons. They go in, kill monsters, get out, heal, and then come back. By inflicting a monetary penalty each time they enter, I force them to commit to finishing the dungeon in one attempt.”

It also paid for the dungeon maintenance.

These traps weren’t cheap.


Furibon was very proud of his death course.

Magically lengthened with spatial magic, this tremendously long hallway was a marvel of engineering. As soon as the team stepped inside, they had triggered the main trap: a rolling boulder launched right behind them. Since the hallway went down into the earth, like the entire dungeon, they quickly found themselves with no way to go but forward.

The boulder was made of Starmetal, the most powerful alloy on Outremonde, and completely immune to magic. It couldn’t be teleported, moved out, or stopped. It could even crush intangible creatures.

And Furibon had set it on fire with oil.

Of course, the lich wanted his challengers to struggle for their life, so he had booby-trapped the entire hallway too. His poor team was frantically racing through it, trying to dodge spells cast at them by booby-trapped wands hidden in the walls. Lightning bolts, fireballs, acid… the necromancer had spared no expense.

“Oh, I see that someone loves the classics!” the fiend said, as Sarat triggered a hidden hole on the ground and barely hanged to the edge; a trap that could hold a humanoid, but not big enough to stop the boulder. “Is that a snake pit?”

“Somewhat. I have found that snakes in the pits end up eating one another and starving unless they are fed a steady supply of meat.”

“That’s why ancient tombs’ traps tend to degrade, folks, they were never made to last past a hundred years,” the demon told his fiendish audience. “Even Akhenapep, who held the record of awards for a single dungeon with Sablar’s Tower, had to turn his snakes into undead.”

“I thought about undead too, but then my teammate Marty suggested an innovative solution,” Furibon explained, zooming inside the pit, “Robots.”

“Robots?”

On a closer look, the pit was full of acid-spewing, mechanical serpents. They hissed at the ratkin, whose orc ally struggled to get her out before the boulder crushed them both.

“Robot snakes, robot sharks, robovermin,” Furibon explained. “All environment-friendly golems that can endure the test of time.”

“So your teammate is trapped between a rock and a hard place?” the fiend laughed, while Furibon wasn’t amused. “So you deny allegations that golem automatization causes job losses?”

“I feel golem automatization completes a dungeon’s workforce instead of replacing it,” Furibon said, although he was thankful for the decreased labor cost.


“Why won’t you die, you stupid sword thing?!” Jenny the elf snarled, as she frantically stabbed a screaming excalitrap. The beast kept Raptor the priest against the ground, while the rest of the team kept two chest mimics at bay.

After wisely ignoring all ‘free supplies’ Furibon had left on their way—all of them poisoned— the group hadn’t been able to resist the lure of a room full of chests. “I am still amazed that adventurers haven’t wised up to this predatory tactic,” the fiend commentator said. “Someone should have developed spells to tell chests from mimic apart by now.”

“It wouldn’t help,” the lich said, loud enough to be heard by his team. “Every chest in the first half of the dungeon is a powerful mimic immune to magical detection.”

“Every chest?” Raptor complained, outraged.

“Every last one, each more powerful than the last,” Furibon replied, before whispering to the fiend commentator. “But the treasure chests in the second half are genuine, and full of powerful treasures.”

“But if challengers have been expecting all chests to be mimics, won’t they ignore them?” the fiend asked, keeping his voice low enough for the team to remain in the dark.

“Exactly. I want them to ignore the genuine treasures, only to feel regret and cry tears of pain when they realize the truth.”

“That is brilliant in its cruelty.”

“A friend has a saying,” the lich said. “They are so doomed, it becomes art.”

By now, the group had managed to kill the mimics, with no loot to show for it. They only earned the key for the next room.

Carefully, wary of traps, Marty the orc opened the nearest lock, and then quickly backed away when the door opened. He raised his bow and aimed at whatever awaited beyond the threshold.

Only to find an innocent duck. The bird looked up at the orc, who frowned in confusion.

Jenny the elf’s eyes widened in horror. “Marty, shoot the duck.”

“What?” the archer asked back, as a sadistic gleam filled the bird’s eyes.

“Shoot the BLEEPing duck!”

The monster quacked and threw itself at the group. Much faster, the archer reacted on instinct and shot the bird dead.

BOOM!

A mighty explosion of flames and feathers threw Marty against the opposite wall, shaking the entire room.

“W-what was that?” Raptor asked, rushing to his ally’s side to heal him.

“A [Suicide Duck]!” Jenny shouted. “They explode on contact as a defense mechanism, inflicting around three hundred [Fire] damage!”

“Wait, they kill themselves as a survival mechanism?” Sarat asked. “Isn’t that self-defeating?”

“Predators tend to go extinct around them very quickly,” Furibon replied mirthfully.

Jenny sighed. “Marty, just shoot the ducks when you see them.”

Furibon pushed a button on his throne, a wall opening in the treasure chest room.

Dozens of bird eyes looked at the adventurer crew from the shadows, and ominous quacking sounds echoed through the dungeon.


After losing arms and eyes, after suffering wounds and humiliations, the team finally made it to the true treasure room.

A hoard worthy of Knightsbane’s awaited them, a mountain of gold, gems, and magical items, buried in a vault the size of a city district.

But as soon as they entered, the room’s doors locked up behind them. The adventurers prepared themselves for battle, as a mountain of coins shifted and adopted a humanoid shape. The treasure gained arms and legs, to better crush the thieves.

A [Mythical Coin Golem] miniboss.

“[Desperation]!” Marty the orc readied his bow, empowering it with all his might; his arrow became a searing missile of fiery light, hitting the golem at the speed of cannonballs.

Much to Furibon’s astonishment, the arrow pierced through the golem and blew it up in one strike. The projectile continued its course and fragmented the vault’s ceiling upon hitting it.

“I knew Furi would pull off something like this when we reached the hoard,” Marty boasted, as the miniboss collapsed, “so I brought [Artislayer] arrows in bulk.”

“I empowered them with alchemy before we came here,” Sarat added, raising her newly amputated left arm. “See? You’re so predictable, Furi!”

“Well, that’s disappointing,” Furibon admitted. One should never underestimate adventurers. “But you aren’t done yet.”

He clicked on a new mechanism in his throne, the layout of the entire dungeon changing. New areas replaced the old, traps rebuilt themselves, and the death course adopted its true form.

“For now, you have to get out of the dungeon,” the lich explained. “By braving its second half!”

“I lost an arm, Furi!” Sarat the ratkin complained. “That’s not funny!”

“I said I would cure you, physically and emotionally.” He had even set an enormous bank account—his entire fortune and all winnings from his adventurer days—aside to fund an emergency revival, if needed. Even if Furibon would never admit it… he had grown fond of this group of screwups. “But even if we are f….”

“Friends,” Jenny said. “It’s called being friends, Furi.”

“Yes, yes,” the lich cleared his throat, embarrassed. “Still, I must treat every challenger all the same, for the sake of fairness.”

“In that case…” Raptor the priest brought out a pendant, hidden beneath his robes. “You won’t complain if I use this!”

Furibon froze, upon recognizing the item. “No…”

“An [Amulet of True Recall],” Raptor explained. “It teleports us back to our sanctuary and ignores teleportation blocks! It cost me all my money!”

“Oh, could it be that the dungeon master forgot to patch out that one weakness?” the fiend commentator asked.

“I did not anticipate this,” Furibon admitted. The amulet was powerful enough to bypass his own wards. “It won’t change a thing.”

Although his last trick would have a bit less impact.

“Everyone, take everything you can carry, and let’s teleport out,” the priest told his team. “I set the teleport point right before the barrier.”

“Where is my [Bottomless Bag]?” Sarat complained, checking her bandolier.

“I think the ducks blew it up,” Jenny replied icily, grabbing all the gold she could in her arms. The others had brought two bags and filled them to the brim with gold. Having enough of the dungeon, they very much wanted to escape as hastily as possible.

The priest activated the amulet, its power bypassing even Furibon’s mighty magical protections. The group vanished from the treasure room, teleported back to the entrance.

Furibon had his scrying ball follow the group, just as his last trap activated.

“What the…” Raptor’s eyes widened in terror.

Much to the group’s horror, their hard-won gold had lost its luster.

For the second they had crossed the barrier marking the dungeon’s frontier, they had triggered a contingency spell. One last joke, meant to punish adventurers for their greed and teach them the value of prudence.

In a second, all their gold had turned dark grey.

“Lead.” Marty the orc’s eyes became empty pits of despair. “It’s all lead.”

“The gold turns to lead when taken out of the dungeon,” Furibon said. “The best items in the vault were the unremarkable ones.”

This trick was why he had developed the [Transmute Gold to Lead] spell in the first place.

He had expected the first adventurers to discover this feature to cry. But instead, they stood in silence around their worthless loot, their face white and their gaze devoid of hope. They didn’t make a sound or scream in frustration.

They just broke.

“Beautiful.” The fiend nodded to himself. “So what do you reply to scaled people accusing you of lead addiction?”

“I admit that it has become a…” Furibon struggled to find a word, “a guilty pleasure.”

Still, when he looked at his destroyed team, he felt pain in his ribcage. Which said a lot, since he didn’t have a heart left.

“I am treating you all to a trip to Las Veganos,” Furibon said through the scrying sphere. “I will pay for your gambling tabs.”

“And you invite us to Leviathan Sushi?” Jenny looked up, hopeful.

Furibon sighed. “Yes.”

“Aw, I have tears in my eyes,” the fiend commentator said. “If only for the sake of the camera.”

“I hope you enjoyed this demonstration of passionate dungeon design,” Furibon said. He couldn’t wait to win his first Deadie Award.

“Indeed, dear audience, this is the dungeon behemoth that will certainly smash all competition,” the demon said to his mirror, before turning back toward Furibon. “Since we have five minutes before the interview ends, could you could give us your thoughts on the new Dragon-Fomor war?"

Furibon pondered the question, before realizing that he had no idea of what the fiend was talking about. “Excuse me?”

“What do you have to say about Vainqueur Knightsbane’s decision to call a dragon Conclave and burn Prydain to the ground?”

Oh.

Oh, it finally happened.

Furibon’s first instinct was to ignore the matter entirely. Nothing good could come out of associating with Knightsbane and Dalton, even if they had their good times; he would have a lot less headaches by remaining in his own hemisphere, far, far away from Murmurin.

However, he had heard the rumors. That fomors had gained levels and gathered weapons for war. His experience with the Century War had taught him that pointless conflicts led nowhere productive, but he had the feeling that this time, things might end differently.

Maybe he should look into it, just in case.

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A note from Void Herald

Yeah, no chapter this Thursday (next week will probably be a two chapters week too). I've finally returned to meet my friends and family after confinement, and more chapters of Never Die Twice have been commissionned than expected. I don't want to put on a hiatus, so I'm just putting some time aside.  

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About the author

Void Herald

Bio: I'm a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites.

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