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     The powerful effect of the wish washed over Will. Their mind processing information at near supercomputer speed for one or two seconds before most of the information was lost to whatever ether Will had come from.

     All that was left were a few pieces of information. The first, that the best chance of everyone’s safety was to be reborn as soon as they could. With the magical equivalent of digging deep and somehow finding the power to lift a car; a wave of magic was infused in everyone in the entire town. Greatly increasing their chances of surviving.

     The second was that The old mines inside the flying mountain would be a great hiding spot. With a mental wave; Will’s lantern, as well as a few books and ‘essentials’, were all transported to the end of the first layer of the old coal mine.

     Third, a full supply of magical runes. Zippy's clothes were covered in tiny lights like the night sky, but when Will focused hard on the memories something else became evident. The cloak’s tiny lights were actually stasis patterns with runes inside them. The language of magic had literally been written into the mage’s clothes!

     The fourth and most important was: a method to the madness.

     Anything can happen in reality, it’s far stranger than fiction and much more adaptable than any game ever created. Hence, why rules exist, to create some semblance of fairness and order instead of just might makes right.

     “Well, seems as good a place as any” Will spoke to no one in particular. However, being alone for the first time in their life was an interesting experience.

     Will set out to the task of sculpting their surroundings. “If rules will be needed, why not start simple.” The genie thought aloud. Changing the room they were in into the form of a rudimentary treasury.

     Shelves lined the walls, four pillars stood near the center of the room each halfway between the wall and the central pedestal holding Will’s lamp. After discovering and scanning over some cave moss. Will soon discovered the element and life compatibilities needed to be created to make it. Reading about glowing moss but not being able to find any; Will started experimenting.

     The first experiment wound up putting far too much solidity mana, basically earth mana, into the tiny plant and it turned into a fungus. In a way, the plant was dead now, yet also still alive. “Such an odd creation.”

     The second had more promising results but was still unusable for this task. After successfully creating a patch of moss and infusing it with plasma mana, basically fire magic into the moss it started to glow and dissolve. The plant didn’t turn to a bonfire, instead; floating in place before slowly breaking apart, as if a wind was carrying away the dust that made up its body.

     “Huh, weeeeeird. It seems that if I infuse too much of that mana without any life it turns into something else entirely...” Will’s habit of thinking aloud this time did not go unnoticed as an animal crawled toward the lamp.

     Climbing the pillar without the genie’s noticing the Opossum was able to knock on the lamp with its paw, inadvertently signing the long ancient contract of being granted a wish.

     “What? Huh, you have got to be kidding me.” Will said in exasperation as the opossum opened up its mouth as wide as possible and screamed at them in confusion.

     The scream lasted a good half-minute before Will could feel his magics working. “Uhm… Wish granted I guess.” The genie said as red ribbons of light surrounded the opossum as it grew taller and raised up on its hind legs.

     The opossum was now standing on his back legs. He was wearing a sweater vest and had a monocle in his left eye. Speaking with a near aristocratic accent, “Well I do thank you for that. I’m not quite sure what I wished for but I see now that you are a being of great power.”

     Will, unsure exactly what their power just did, looked on in confusion at the intelligent animal. “Uh, hi there.”

     “Well hello to you too. I see you’re new to the neighborhood and I’d love to welcome you to the caves!” The opossum said, throwing his… arms out.

     “Well, thank you, but I really need to get back to designing things for my dungeon. I have a lot of things to think about.” Will said, turning their flame back to the task at hand.

     “Dungeon? What’s that? Oh, I would love to help, I love helping… I think,” even when unsure this opossum still sounds ‘fancy.’

     “I need to find a way to make people work for their wishes, find out what they want ahead of time, and if it’s too dangerous, find a way to take them out. I just had something horrible happen when I granted a wish I shouldn’t have. That won’t happen again.”

     “Well, Why not just ask your intrepid wish seekers as they enter?” The opossum said matter-of-factly.

     Will, not considering the obvious choice before; takes a moment to think about this then shakes their head. “I also need to get back to making this glow moss.”

     “Glow? There are some bugs further down in the mine that glow, think those will help?” The opossum asked enthusiastically.

     “Worth a shot, I’ll work on the entrance then, do you think you can bring me some?” Will asked, a small amount of joy returning to their voice.

     “Can do!” The opossum soluted so fast he nearly fell over.

     “Got a name?” Will asked curiously. “I can’t just call you Opossum forever.”

     “I do quite like the name Theodore good master.” The Opossum bowed slightly and got on all fours scurrying deeper into the mines.

     Before Will could disapprove of the title Theodore was already down a slope.

     Returning their attention to the front of the cave Will had a genius idea from one of the older encyclopedias. Multiple civilizations had an idea of a statue biting off a liar's hand. In the first main corridor, Will formed a door out of pure earth-solid magic and then infused it with the pure essence of life magic. Skills that would have taken a human a year or more to learn were simply intuitive to the raw form of magic.

     The earth magic gave the wall form, the solid magic giving it substance, making it truly as hard as rock instead of merely loosely packed dirt. The life magic then boosted both sides, like an alchemist adding a magical reagent; the form of the dirt changed, becoming rock hard quartz. The life magic empowered the stone keeping it solid, making it denser and denser until the proposed door was only one-fourth of the right size.

     “Huh, well, I guess it worked but that’s a weird side effect. I didn’t expect it to shrink.” Will mused as Theodore returned from the depths. An odd spider with pincers dead in his mouth. A faint glow could be seen from it.

     “Gotcha this!” The opossum said proudly, dropping it on the floor.

     Will, disliking corpses used death magic until the form was pure energy cycling through their mind.

     What came next was a shock to the young genie, “what, whoa! I didn’t know I could learn this way!”

     Quickly, combining the aspect of the bug with the moss created an odd side effect. The moss was glowing yes, but so faintly. Pouring life magic into the moss caused its size to triple, the glow getting much stronger. “There we go!”

     Just so they know exactly how to remake it Will absorbed the plant with death magic again. Learning the exactness and how much certain chemicals are needed allowed the small genie to lose themselves in their task. Light filtered through the cave tunnels signaling the start of a new day before Will pulled themself out of tinkering with chemical and magical ratios.

     “Woah, how long did I get focused for there?” Will asked sleepily, like waking up from a nine-hour catnap after a double shift.

     “Hm? Oh, all night, I went to sleep soon after.” Theodore somehow had a small hot plate and skillet, cooking a pair of eggs for breakfast.

     “Oh… anything happen?”

     Theodore looking up from his eggs clearly not awake enough for this conversation. “Yeah, a guy with a shield showed up, said he’ll come to see you in a couple of days. Said something bout Zippy being pretty sure you’re making some sort of challenge so they’re giving you time. Oh yeah, and something about stop bringing random things to life, but I'm not sure what that means.”

     Will laughed, feeling much better after their long research session, “Pretty sure I know what he means, you should have brought up you were already alive.”

     Theodore looked aghast at the mere notion that the man could have been speaking about him.

     Will got back to work, deciding to finish the door first, doing the same process from last night three times. Combining the blocks by melting them together via plasma magic created a strong door that should be near impossible to break without magic or explosives.

     Then, after the protection was in place, Will took the most pleasure in the coming stage.

     Sculpting!

     Out of the stone of the wall, Will carved out seven gargoyle heads. Each of them with a deep hole in their mouth for hands to be inserted. Then, carved above them:

     ‘Name your wish. The truthful may pass, the foolish will be punished.’

     With that made Will only felt right trying to put honesty runes inside of the statues. This was both difficult and time-consuming. Runes needed to be precise or their effects could go… awry. Explosions were the least of your worries. So, instead of inside their mouths; by flattening the back of the statues head and slowly carving, Will was able to make a mouth of truth.

     “So, uhm, boss, What do you get out of this arrangement exactly?” Theodore asked slightly confused.

     “What do you mean? I get to choose who’s wishes I grant.” Will said with a hint of pride.

     “Yeah, but… won’t that like… drain you or something? You seem to be magic, and if you use magic then…” Theodore trailed off, his point made.

     Will thought hard, not wanting to remember the days before but something caught their attention. “Well, I guess extreme emotions give me power.”

     Theodore grinned a devilish grin that should be impossible for a normal opossum, “Why not test them? Make them work for it? I mean, isn't you becoming stronger a way for you to protect yourself against bad wishes and the like? I mean, even shield guy felt it was the obvious choice.”

     “I suppose so.” Will thought, and then, an idea came from memory, a spark of life magic danced across their hand.

     Creating a rabbit out of thin air it flopped to the ground, breathing, alive, but not doing anything.

     “Lunch?” Theodore asked.

     “No. Well. Maybe. I think this is the answer to our problem.”

     “Uh huhhhh, you gain power from… bunnies?” Theodore asked mockingly.

     “Not really no, but didn’t you notice something? I had this idea, I know it’s cruel and such to take away the free will of a living creature, and it’s wrong to kill a creature with a will of its own. So, I just made an animal that comes with no base will of its own!” Will said in a moment of triumph.

     “So… how do you use this to get more power?” Theodore asked, making a rolling motion with his hand to get on with it.

     “If I make the wish candidates fight their way to me, I can get enough emotional energy to not only offset all the wishes but possibly grow stronger!” Will said with happiness in their voice.

     “So… They fight bunnies?” Theodore asked in an even jokier tone.

     “Hey, Bunnies could be tough enemies, especially if I like covered them in rocks or made em real fast or big.” Will said defensively.

    “Keep telling yourself that, so, mind if I eat it? It’s not going anywhere.” Theodore chided.

    Will let out a long defeated sigh, “Go ahead.”

    As Theodore tore open his new meal Will got back to work. Sculpting out the first challenge room, “I could place a skills test of some kind or… skills, hmmmmm.”

    Changing their plan Will started creating a lounge, a free area where groups can make final preparations after they’ve made their wishes known. “Heh heh, now I'll have even more time to prepare if it's dangerous!”

    With a final push of sculpting, plumbing, and just a little bit of creativity. The death-magic powered toilets were done. Instantly turning any waste matter into pure unrefined mana, not very much, but it’s enough to justify not making a sewer. With creation and water-liquid magic attached to all the faucets, taps, and toilet bowls everything was ready. The waste would most likely wind up being the supply of energy for the faucets and lights.

     Next came the first room, “if this was truly to be a dungeon where people would come back it’ll need to change every few days at the very least.” With this knowledge in mind, Will began creating the basic design of the dungeon rooms, settling on five total at first. The rooms will be interchangeable, and magic will allow for the replacement of them at a later time.

     “Alright, I have five rooms, all reinforced with solid and life magic. Do I want to use all five for my premier?” Will thought aloud again, causing Theodore to go deeper into the caves again in search of anything other than a powerful being talking to itself in a dark room.

     Plastering the entire ceiling of the first room with glow moss. The first major problem was how to complete the no-kill order imparted in the wish that’s giving Will this much freedom. “Well, I mean, overhead displays and stuff are pretty useful…”

     Playing games from the mid-2010s in the old shop was paying off. The usefulness of seeing where your other team members are, seeing how many hits exactly till you’re knocked down. Or being able to map the area and so many other things were by themselves revolutionary, “Why not just give them what they want?”

     Quickly going back to the statues carved from the walls in the front Will went to adding to their already impressive runework. The scratch-tablet now held a truth enchantment, an enchantment of perception-altering, as well as an EE rune, standing for ‘Emergency Evacuation.”

     Finally interlacing all of the runes together, each rune had three points that need to touch all of those in sequence; else the runes just overwrite each other instead of all being applied at the same time. Will focused intently slowly unwinding each rune and turning them in their mind.

     Slowly and carefully Will tied the short lines of the runes back together, over and over like knitting but with explosives. The final rune looked nothing like the three separate, combining all three required some extra flourishes at the binding points so the entire rune looked like a massive circle.

     Two small triangles and the remains of a square could be seen poking out from the circular combination rune. Depending on how you looked at the rune it could look like a smiley face, or a cat’s head.

     Will, taking a moment to add just another layer of truth and Emergency Evacuation spread out the triangles to look like the face and head of an Axolotl. That is, if you squinted very very hard.

     Opening their mind's eye back to the world with magical sweat pouring down their body they let out a pained gasp.

     “AH! How long was I out this time?” Will asked, slightly panicked, this time the long moments of focus did not leave them as pleasantly refreshed.

     “Little over a day or so, The guy with the shield should be coming to talk soon, If I were you I wouldn't get back into that,” Theodore said while playing old pixelated video games on a wooden panel lined console Will had brought with them from Savvy Scavengers.

     Will groaned, “Alright, Alright, I'll do my best not to get sucked into my work to help balance the flow of all mana in the… what?”

     Just as it left Will’s mouth they realized the knowledge was there. Their purpose for existing, at least at first, so many truths were evident. “Was this because I was tinkering with magic? Oooooooh! I AM magic!” The knowledge started to fade, but much remained. Will’s mission: to return magical balance to the ravaged world. However, even that bit of purpose was fading.

     One more thing, the combination rune. Quickly Will placed the rune seven times, modifying the existing ones on the statues. Now, the door wouldn’t open unless everyone in the group put their hands in and got the enchantment.

     The outside was dark, day hadn’t come yet, however, a noise could be heard at the opening of the cave and Will’s voice boomed softly from a small rock in the ceiling, “Hi Jerome! Good to see you again!”

     The voice that returned was not that of a mid-thirties servant of the people. A weak, squeaky, and high pitched voice whimpered. “Is this the place wishes come true?”

     Her body fell forward into the mine, crossing the threshold into Will’s new domain and soon the genie was working tirelessly to seal the gashes and cuts along her legs and arms. The bruises were around her throat and wrist… Even still, with most of the damage reversed she didn’t wake. Not until Will started pouring life magic into her.

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A note from Blackguard

After the last chapter, I lost a couple of followers and favorites. I know that it seems I delved into the world of cliches, the untouchable one being "woman in a freezer."

I assure you that the story of Mary Anne and the others of the lost four is anything but over.

This chapter was more focused on the Dungeon aspect, I know it took a while to get here but I'm glad everyone stuck with me. There won't be a ton of Dungeon growth as I want Will's story to interlace with the 'Humans' of Barthel but expect a few chapters and half/chapters in this vein coming up. 

Anyway, Welcome to Arc 2 'Expansion'

Best Wishes,
Blackguard.


About the author

Blackguard

Bio: Amateur writer and ravenous reader. I do my best to keep consistent if not generous updates, comments are welcome and encouraged. Nonbinary Zebra.

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