There it was again. The rat trap triggered, the bait gone. And that hole was undeniably getting bigger.

Fletcher tried to peer into the hole while holding the lamp close, but there was nothing to be seen. Just a short hole, barely wide and deep enough to stick a forearm into. A bit of prodding with the broom handle didn’t scare anything up either.

Oddly, it didn’t look like the hole actually went anywhere. Just a dead end. Maybe whatever was triggering the trap wasn’t gaining access through this hole?

Fletcher scooped up some first from the small courtyard outside and stuffed it into the hole, filling it as best he could. “Let’s see something crawl out of that!” he thought.

Fletcher struggled to finish swallowing the mouthful of stew he had been chewing on when the latest notification had popped up. +1xp was again floating up the edge of his vision, but it had only been a few hours since he’d reset the trap. And blocked off the hole. So where were these coming from?

“You ok, son?” his Da asked, having noticed Fletcher staring at nothing in the middle of their evening meal.

“Uh. Yeah, no” he stammered, “I don’t think I locked the cellar when I went down there earlier. I’ll sort it out after supper”.

His Da just frowned before going back to reading the news sheet, as was his usual suppertime routine. Not a man of many words, unless he was trying to make a sale. Or haranguing the miller…

Fletcher stared down the dark cellar stairs, shadows dancing in the swaying lamp light.

He braced himself and headed downwards, heading straight for the hole in the wall. Maybe this was all a coincidence, and the random experience he’d been getting had nothing to do with what was happening down here? What if non Adventurers simply did get random xp, but never talked about it because it never amounted to anything? Would this keep happening and he’d simply learn to ignore it as he got older?

He moved the bag of flour that he’d left obscuring the rat trap adjacent to the hole - the filled in hole that was no longer filled in, and noticeably larger than it had been even a few hours ago. It was also with a complete lack of surprise that he noticed that the trap had been triggered again.

But there was a difference this time. There, next to the otherwise spotless rat trap, lay what was unmistakably a desiccated rat’s paw. No body. No blood. Just a single rat’s paw that looked like it had been lying there for weeks, not hours.

Fletcher lay on his bed, unable to sleep as he poured over everything he knew about Dungeons, staring at the rat’s paw that he’d picked up.

Had the cellar started collapsing into an existing Dungeon? Impossible - Dungeons were separate spaces. ‘Pocket Dimensions’ he’d heard them called.

Dungeons had been around literally forever, and more than one attempt had been made over the aeons to try and dig into the areas where logic dictated they should be. They simply weren’t there - other than the entrance to the Dungeon, the rest of its structure had no bearing on reality.

He’d heard that some Dungeon entrances actually appeared as doorways in otherwise unremarkable walls. Unremarkable until you realised that there was no doorway visible from the other side of the wall. And that the doorway - no, portal - was quite unbreakable.

Even if you knocked down the rest of the wall, the doorways would be standing there, leading brave Adventurers to who knows where.

And the paw is his hand? It was certainly consistent with what he’d heard about monsters slain in Dungeons, and it would explain the triggered traps with no body or blood. Monsters killed in Dungeons simply vanished once killed, and now and then they would leave behind random bits and pieces of what Adventurers called Loot.

But no monster had ever been spotted coming out of a Dungeon. If they were able to leave the Dungeon, they would have taken over the world by now! It was difficult to even get a monster to go anywhere near the portal, since it was the one thing that seemed to terrify them.

Speaking of which, Dungeon portals were anything but inconspicuous, and even in the dark of the cellar the odd shimmer and glow of a Dungeon portal would be hard to miss. Especially in the dark. And he’d seen nothing of the sort.

Fletcher tossed and turned as he mulled over the possibilities.


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