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Malora was the first one to reach the mountain side behind the barracks. She had decided to bring a staff and a few daggers as her main weapons. The armory hadn’t provided anything better than leather armor, so she brought that along too. Her hair was tied back and she felt it sway about with the breeze. She usually didn’t notice the morning air, but today she decided to bask in it. With her ears being pointier than they were on Earth, she actually felt the tips catching some wind of their own. It was a very strange feeling, having the tips of your ears more sensitive than the rest. Malora didn’t mind it though, she was actually starting to enjoy it.

Naheem arrived next. He was dressed in form fitting clothing, but nothing that looked like actual armor. Malora assumed that made sense since in their fight with the abomination, Naheem had been betting more on not getting hit instead of trying to take a hit. She absentmindedly wondered if his healing spell would be useful on himself, though she was having a hard time imagining Naheem beating himself up. The thought did bring a smile to her face though.

Nargol arrived next. The pig was outfitted with a drum strapped to his chest and two mallets that were to be used to hit the drum. Nargol had even gone to the effort to find a cap with a little feather in it. Malora watched him with her eyebrows raised, “A drum? Where did you even find one?”

Nargol beamed, “I was lucky enough that one of the other trainees brought it for his own entertainment. I was lucky enough to buy it off of him as my chosen weapon when I became Bard was a drum.”

Malora clapped excitedly, “That’s so cool! Have you used any of your abilities yet?”

Nargol lost just a little bit of his confidence, “Not yet, but I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to pick it up easily during today’s training.”

Malora had some doubts about that, but didn’t say anything as Roark finally arrived with a yawn. She cocked her head and looked at him, wondering why he was acting that tired. Roark either didn’t see or pointedly ignored the look she was giving him. He had brought his 2-handed warhammer and seemed to have 2 smaller hammers on his belt as well. He had chosen some leather armor today as well, but Malora knew he didn’t mind getting hit when it came to fighting. She did wonder about his class, Challenger, but Roark hadn’t given the party much information about it. The only thing he had told them was that it was a front-line class and encouraged him to fight stronger enemies. While he had been the only one thrilled about that last part, Malora had to admit that the class seemed to suit him quite well.

Other trainees started to arrive. Morcant arrived with 3 other were-people. Varsuth was next with the remainder of the half-breeds. The humans were the final trainees to show up. Headmaster Malik was not long after. By his side was the hooded figure, still covering every part of her body. Malik looked over the trainees. All in all there were 13 people left. Malora and her group of 4. Morcant and his group of 4. Varsuth and 2 other half-breeds and the last humans. The Headmaster looked at the humans, “You two, with the half-breeds. Varsuth, party of 5.” The trainees hurried into their new group while Varsuth nodded at the Headmaster. Malik walked over to the mountain and started inspecting the wall like he was looking for something. He found what appeared to be a hidden lever and a part of the wall opened up.
The wall opened up into a copse of trees. The Headmaster led the group through the trees. Malora was flabbergasted. Why were all of these trees hidden inside a mountain? They continued on until they broke through the trees and walked into a cave. The walls were all made of slate with water running down the side. The water would travel down the base of the walls and meet in the middle of the room where a small pool formed. In the middle of the pool was a black pad made of obsidian glass. On the end of the arch was a blue crystalline arch. Looking around the pool Malora noticed that there were sconces holding up smaller crystals that let out an eerie blue light. Over the pool floated a crystal dish waist-high that circled the obsidian pad in a continuous cycle. Malora looked into the crystalline arch and saw what looked like the night sky. It was a beautiful sight to see, and Malik let the trainees gaze in awe over the room before he walked over to the pad.

“Has anyone ever heard about dungeons?”

The noble kids raised their hands, but most of the hands stayed down. Malora had heard about dungeons in games, but wasn’t sure if that knowledge would apply here.

The Headmaster nodded at the nobles before continuing, “This is a dungeon that the Adventuring Guild commissioned a dungeon architect to create. That architect lives here in this dungeon and maintains it. Your job is to go through and complete this dungeon. As this was commissioned by the Adventuring Guild for training purposes, we can alter the difficulty up here in the front.”

Malora raised her hand, “Umm, sorry, but could we get a little more information? I feel like I’m flying blind here.”

Malik sighed and rubbed his temples, “Right, I forgot. So from the beginning. A dungeon is created by a dungeon architect, don’t ask me how as that is not my job to know. Dungeons have monsters that are created through raw mana and regenerate once the architect resets it. One thing to note about dungeons though is that if you die, you’re not fully dead yet. A dead adventurer, or really anyone that doesn’t belong in the dungeon, drops their soul in the form of a shining gold ball of light. If you touch the ball, the soul then belongs to you. You can release the soul once you get out of the dungeon to revive the individual who died. If you’re the one who died in the dungeon, be aware that you will lose 25% of one of your attributes as well as any experience you gained in the dungeon. Some people also use soul power for other purposes, but that’s not important for our explanation.”

Malora scrunched her face, this seemed like a lot to take in. “So basically a dungeon has monsters and stuff and we have to get to the end once we get in in order to get the treasure or defeat the bad guy or whatever. If we die, our soul goes up in a golden ball of light and it’s up to the party to grab our soul and save us in the outside world?”

Malik nodded, “If your whole party dies then the architect will collect your souls and deliver them back to us. We pay a hefty price per soul collected that way though, so the better option is not to die. The architect saving you is also a grace of this dungeon, as architects can use your soul power to increase their dungeons in other ways. Any other questions?”

Malora raised her hand again, “So we’re clearing this dungeon just so we can get experience. Any treasure that we get along the way?” She struggled to keep the excitement out of her voice and failed.

The Headmaster nodded, “Once you have completed the dungeon, you will get a reward based on your performance and the type of class you are. Most dungeons have loot inside, this one may or may not, but we had it designed to where you get something at the end. Now, if there are no more questions, which group wants to go in first?”

Malora saw Roark going ready to volunteer, but Morcant beat him to the punch. The were-rabbit looked more determined than Malora had ever seen him. He walked forward to the pad with his other were-folk. “We will be the first party. We missed out on the previous excitement, my people will not take a step back this time.”

Malik nodded and gestured towards the crystalline arch. “We will observe you from here, good luck trainees.”

Morcant and his party walked through the archway of the night sky and disappeared. Malik motioned the rest of the trainees over to him and the hooded figure. “We can observe their progress from the crystal dish here. Be on the pad since once I touch it, the reflection will appear in the pool below us. Watch and learn, either from their successes or mistakes.”

Malora saw the pool reflect the party of were-folk that had just officially entered the dungeon. A were-dog led the way followed by Morcant and a were-cat. A were-pig brought up the rear. Malora saw that as soon as they entered they slid down a watery slope and started shivering before the pig cast something and they each looked a little more comfortable. They slid into a small cavern that had crystals emitting small lights around the room.

The group seemed unsure of where to go. Malora could only see above the party, so she wasn’t sure what the next step for them was. The dog seemed to sniff in the air and they found a path to the left. They walked carefully and ended up at a small hut. The dog sniffed around and Malora saw him ready for battle and signal to the others. Morcant and the were-cat surrounded the were-pig while the dog took the front. They waited. It was to the point where the were-cat dropped her guard from waiting that the enemy pounced. Goblins seemed to come out of the walls and fall upon the party.

The pig activated an ability that covered the party with a shield. Morcant disappeared into a shroud of darkness while the cat was throwing light bombs at the goblins. The dog took the brunt of the attack and had 3 goblins on his front and 2 on each side. Luckily, the shield was holding and he didn’t have to worry about his flanks. The dog let loose a roar that looked to be loud since a couple of the goblins covered their ears. Malora couldn’t hear anything through the reflection so she was going based off of what she could see.

4 goblins were trying to backstab the healer, but the pig had his head bowed and looked completely focused on the spell. The dog lashed out with a sword and cut through a goblin’s defenses to behead him. Another goblin filled his spot and jabbed towards the dog, but he retreated and dodged the hit. Morcant appeared behind the goblins on the healer and started backstabbing. He would dart in with a knife and then dance out of the way. It wasn’t long before he had severed the spines of the 4 goblins and each lay twitching on the floor. The cat had hit 4 other goblins with light bombs. These goblins were rubbing their eyes and not seeming to know where they were. Morcant took the opportunity and disappeared into the shadows again to start backstabbing the blinded ones. Finally, it was just the 3 goblins left in front of the dog. He shield bashed one and parried another. The final goblin finally found an opening and reached in to stab the dog when his arm fell off. Morcant had intercepted the blow with a dismemberment of his own. The last 2 goblins tried to run, but their retreat was short-lived as Morcant hunted them down. The party cleaned off their weapons and looted the corpses, trying to see if they had anything useful.

Roark leaned over to Malora and whispered, “If I had known that Morcant would be as useful as he was, I probably would have egged him on more. He looks like a fun opponent.”

Malora rolled her eyes, “Pay attention, it’ll help to know what surprises are in store.”

Roark sighed but leaned back to his position. The party had finished their looting and had moved on. The rest of the hallway turned out to be a dead-end, so they went back the way they had come. They moved on to the rest of the cave and found a passageway at the end of the cave. They entered and it drove them sharply to the right. The tunnel continued winding through the mountain. Malora could see some of the annoyance on the were-cat’s face as she was doing so many sharp angles. The dog would keep his nose in the air though, and was able to warn the party of 3 more goblin ambushes that happened. The party made quick work of the goblins and pushed on. The crystals were starting to give less and less light, so the cat summoned orbs to help bring sight to the party.

The party finally arrived at another cavern. This one seemed a little more peaceful. The party explored around and found an entrance leading onward as well as a small waterfall. The cat was drawn to the waterfall and found a way through. Malora watched as she found a treasure chest and called to the others. The dog followed and seemed to try and warn the cat when the lid to the chest opened and a great tongue latched itself onto the cat. The cat threw balls of light into the chest and tried to scratch the tongue. Morcant disappeared into the shadows and appeared behind the chest to start stabbing it. The chest had lifted the cat off the floor and into its mouth. It wasn’t until the dog joined the fray and stabbed straight down through the chest that it finally went limp. The cat had lost her left leg though, bitten off at the knee. The pig ran over to her and cast a healing spell. Any bleeding stopped, but her leg didn’t grow back.

Malora could see the party looking around. They were probably having a discussion on whether or not they would continue with a wounded companion. “Headmaster, should we go in there and support them?”

Malik glared at her, “Casualties happen on contracts and within dungeons. We may be able to restore her leg if they return, but we cannot replace the experience they’re gaining. Let them learn.”

Malora sighed. She understood his logic, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. She saw Roark looking bored at the spectacle. Her sight returned to the pool. It seemed that the party had decided to continue moving forward. They went towards the passageway on the opposite side of the room. It seemed to be covered in webs and angles upwards. Malora shuttered, that path didn’t look inviting in the slightest.

The party readied themselves while the cat cast more light orbs. They went through the passageway and cleared out the webs. They reached another waterfall sloping down and went through it. The waterfall led them to a ramp made of rock heading upwards. Water covered the rock, and multiple times the party slipped. The dog had cast some sort of earth boots that kept grib and ended up having to carry and support the rest of the party for them to make it up the ramp. They followed the ramp up to another cavern. The cavern opened up into a pool. Seeing no other way to cross, the party got into the pool that went about waist-deep.

The cat created a few more light orbs and threw them around the room. The party looked around and seemed to make a decision. Malora saw the slow progress and wondered what awaited them next. They found a slope leading up and out of the water. The party started working on climbing out, only to have water bombard them and attempt to keep them in the pool. The dog cast his earthen boots again and the party made it to the top, exhausted and wheezing. The water left them alone and they were granted a moment’s reprieve.

Once they caught their breath, they entered the next cavern. Malora saw a big spire in the middle, splitting it into 2 paths. The party seemed torn on where to go, but they eventually decided on the path to the right. Morcant was supporting the cat so that the other 2 could move unhindered. While this would halt his reactions during the start of a fight, it would let the healer and the tank move around unimpeded. The group found a path leading to the left, only this path was more of a crawl space covered with webs. The dog closed his eyes and focused before leading the way. While the crawl space wasn’t too cramped, it still gave Malora the jitters watching them move.

They arrived out of the crawlspace into another big cavern. Crystals were on the side of the wall covered with webs. The end of the room seemed to drop off. Malora saw the party cautiously head over to investigate. A slope went down into a whirlpool filled with torrential water.

Nargol leaned over to Malora at the new revelation, “With all of this water, I’m starting to think my fire affinity might be a little negated.”

Malora shrugged, “We have no idea how far they are in the dungeon, maybe fire will come in handy later? At the very least you can still drum for us.”

Nargol nodded thoughtfully and stepped back. The party had been inspecting the walls and found another opening. This one seemed tight and narrow and the dog almost didn’t fit through the crack. The cat used her body to shimmy through, relying more on her arms than the assistance of others. They traversed through the crack until they were stopped by spiders falling on top of their heads. The cat threw balls of light into their eyes again while the pig tried to cast his shield. He got bitten by a spider before he could get the spell off though and lost his concentration. He whipped out a small mace and started bashing in the spiderlings heads. Morcant had disappeared again and was appearing behind and on top of the spiders, stabbing as fast as his abilities would let him.

The dog was cornered. In this narrow of a passage he was virtually useless. He couldn’t swing his sword and the enemies were all around the party and his tank abilities had no effect. He was bashing the spiderlings that he could, but it wasn’t super effective. Spiderlings kept falling from the ceiling, and the party was killing them as fast as they could. Finally, they had all been smashed. The party looked a little worse for the wear though, and the cat had succumbed to an intense amount of bite wounds. Her soul rose up in a golden ball of light and the pig grabbed it. They shouldered on, not wanting to be in the tight space anymore than they had to.

The narrow space opened up into a large cavern with the floor covered in a few inches of water. Malora winced, adding the water so that the party wouldn’t be able to rest was just mean. The party moved forward warily. The room was large enough to house a small keep with a giant crystal in the middle. They reached the crystal and 2 giant spiders appeared. One was smaller than the other and shot a glob of acid at the dog. He blocked with his shield but it burned through and he dropped the now-useless object. The other spider looked like it had armored chitin. It charged the party and the healer set up his barrier. The spider rammed against the barrier and was stopped in his tracks. Malora saw a barrel of sweat erupt from the pig and knew that he wouldn’t be able to last much longer.

Morcant disappeared into the shadows and wound up behind the acid spider. He wielded his daggers effectively and tore open part of its stomach. The spider thrashed about and jumped onto the wall, trying to smush the were-rabbit. Morcant dodged though and continued causing pain and damage to the spider.

The armored one continued ramming into the shield until the pig passed out. With a gleeful movement of its head it pounced upon the dog. The dog hadn’t wasted his time though, he had used an ability that covered his skin with rock. He and the spider traded blows, but Malora saw that the battle was already over. The spider was weaving webs around the dog’s arms and legs, weighing him down. The dog finally fell and the spider tore into his flesh with its legs.

Morcant still had the upper hand with the acid spider. He was switching between riding on top and underneath the spider, causing as much damage as he could. The spider was slowing down and eventually almost stopped moving altogether. Morcant hopped off the spider and wiped beads of sweat off of his brow. Malora watched in anticipation as the armored one and Morcant faced off. The armored one charged and Morcant used his shadow teleport ability to end up on top of the spider. His daggers appeared to be useless in that area though as they were just bouncing off of the chitin.

The spider rammed into the wall and shook its head. Morcant teleported to the other end of the room and started making gestures in the direction of the spider. The spider charged and again hit the wall as Morcant dodged out of the way. This continued on, and Malora thought that Morcant would win. Roark leaned over gleefully, “That spider looks to be a lot of fun. When Morcant loses I want to go in next.”

Malora furrowed her brow and looked at Roark, why was he saying that Morcant was going to lose? Her attention was pulled back to the pool as a gasp escaped the group of trainees. The armored spider had been spreading his near-invisible webs with every charge and Morcant had finally gotten stuck. The spider’s charge gored him and his insides blew out of his back. 3 more golden orbs arose out of each adventurer’s body and silence filled the rest of the trainees.

They saw a figure wearing a prismatic robe go in and collect the orbs before disappearing into the wall. The Headmaster ushered them all back off of the platform and into the pool. The robed figure stepped out of the wall and placed the orbs on the platform. He nodded his head at Malik before going back into the wall. One of the noble humans called out, “Wait! Can you use that to take me to the end of the dungeon so I can clear it? I don’t want to clear all of that, and my family can pay you well.”

The wall opened back up and the dungeon architect bowed. “Of course dear boy. I apologize for not thinking of that sooner. Please, follow me.” His voice sounded a little too cheery for Malora’s liking. Varsuth tried to hold back the boy, but the noble brushed him off and followed the architect. The noble’s image appeared in the pool as he was following the architect. The rest of the trainees gathered back onto the platform, eager to see what would happen. They stayed away from the golden orbs though, deciding that it would be best for the Headmaster to deal with the souls.

The architect led the noble through twists and turns until he led him into a cavern. He gestured and the noble boy walked triumphantly into the cavern. He got about 30 feet in before he looked back at the architect with confusion and the floor fell out from under him. His body was impaled by an impressive amount of spikes. A golden orb floated above his corpse and travelled to the dungeon architect.

The trainees got off of the platform again and the architect appeared a few moments later to deposit the soul onto the platform. “I think he really enjoyed the trip, would anyone else care to go with me?” Meeting silence the architect waved at Malik and whistled a tune as he walked back into an unseen opening of the wall.

The Headmaster went over to each of the golden orbs and touched them. He backed up and after a few moments each soul was returned in the form of a trainee. Malora noticed that the were-cat was still missing her leg. Morcant reached up and rubbed his ears back with a sigh of defeat. Malik looked the party up and down and dismissed them. He nodded at the hooded figure who was making notes on a pad. The noble boy was placing his hands all over his body, feeling for wounds no longer there.

The Headmaster watched the defeated party leave the cave. Morcant had decided to stay behind while the others supported the were-cat back to the healer’s hunt in camp. Malik looked at the other two groups of trainees. “Who’s next?”

Malora looked over at Varsuth and she could see the war within each other. Neither was overly excited to go into the death trap, and if the next group made it farther than they may be able to glean more information before heading in. Before either party leader could make a decision though, Roark spoke up, “We’re next.” Malora saw him wink at the party before disappearing into the crystalline arch.

“Dammit Roark. Alright guys, time to go.” The rest of the party followed after a moment’s hesitation. They knew about Roark’s love for violence, though they sincerely hoped that it wouldn’t get them into too much trouble this time.

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Ragnaroik

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