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Nothing better than the smell of dead goblins in the evening.

Your party earned 600 EXP (45 EXP each)

“Ten percent per level,” Basil calculated as he wiped the blood off his axe.

“Boss?” Bugsy asked as Rosemarine patched up his wounds with her pollen.

“We take a ten percent experience penalty per level of difference when we kill a monster,” Basil explained. “The six goblins were level one and I am level seven, so I took a seventy percent penalty.”

Plato quickly caught on to the implications. “Does that mean we don’t get experience from killing someone ten levels below us?”

“Mr. Megabug said that he barely got experience from killing goblins anymore,” Bugsy pointed out.

“That would make sense,” Basil replied. “The System can’t allow someone to become a god by killing rats over and over again.”

With the goblin pest extermination complete, Basil checked his party’s health. Rosemarine had done a great job at healing their wounds, although Basil felt a soreness in his ribs whenever he breathed and he would have to throw his destroyed sweatshirt away. Plato looked like the healthiest member of the party, and he had come back from the dead.

“You’re okay, buddy?” Basil asked.

“Of course I am,” Plato replied with pride. “I died, no big deal.”

“Quite unexpected,” Basil said before checking his pet’s stats. As he suspected, Plato’s new Perk had saved him.

Passive Perk: Nine Lives: When Plato would die, he instead benefits from an [Auto-Revive] effect bringing him back to life at critical health. Plato can be revived eight times before the Perk becomes inactive. Current lives left: 8/9.

“You can die seven more times,” Basil informed Plato. “The eighth death will stick.”

“Does it include old age?” the cat asked, his big yellow eyes wide with excitement. “Can I dream of living past fifteen?”

“I can’t say. Death by old age isn’t mentioned.”

“You know what, let’s test it out,” Plato decided. “I will avoid all risky endeavors until I die of old age.”

Basil doubted that the apocalypse would let them live peacefully for a year, let alone a decade.

“Boss, can we loot this place now?” Bugsy asked. “I hope the treasures are as good as your new necklace.”

The new necklace? Ah yes, the quest reward. It had slipped Basil’s mind in the heat of battle, but it appeared around his neck right after he slew Ogremoche.

Basil grabbed the item and checked its stats. The magical artifact had a miniature, horned skull for a charm and interlocked bones for a chain. How charming.

Ogre Necklace
Family: Accessory (Amulet)
Quality: D
Effect: Boosts the power of [Physical] attacks by 20 percent.
A necklace trendy among ogres ladies, usually fashioned from human pinkies.

The treasures in the goblins’ chests weren’t very interesting either. The first contained old leather boots far too small for Basil’s feet and the second a pile of metal ore that the System registered as ‘crafting material.’

Goblin Boots
Family: Accessory (Boots)
Quality: D
Restriction: Only small [Beast] or [Humanoid] Types can equip.
Effect: Increases Agility by +5.
Boots favored by cowards eager to run away from trouble.

“Do you want them, Plato?” Basil asked his cat. “Only beasts and humanoids can wear them, and they’re too small for me.”

“Sure.” To Basil’s surprise, the boots perfectly adjusted to the size and shape of Plato’s back legs after he put them on. The cat stood up like a human and swaggered. “How do I look?”

“Cute and brave,” Basil replied with a smirk. “Like the Puss in Boots.”

“Aww, there’s nothing for insects and no gold either,” Bugsy complained. The treasures had left him thoroughly disappointed. “This dungeon’s loot is junk!”

“Mister, can I eat them?” Rosemarine pointed at the dead goblins with her vines. “Healing everyone made me hungry.”

“It’s a waste of good food to leave them here,” Bugsy said. “I’m sure we could do something with Mr. Megabug’s stingers and Ogremoche’s bones too.”

“The pelts on the walls would make good carpets too,” Plato added.

Basil quickly figured out a potential loophole. “Stash everything in the Renault Kangoo. If the Inventory considers wheels as part of the car, maybe it will do the same with stuff kept inside the trunk.”

Basil’s theory proved correct. After stashing everything they could grab in his car, Basil registered it in his inventory without any problem. Even better, Bugsy had also discovered a tunnel hidden behind a tapestry after taking it down. Basil stored his old rifle separately in the inventory before exploring this new path.

I suppose that’s the advantage of listing items aside from one another, Basil thought as he tossed a piece of goblin leg to Rosemarine. The carnivorous flower caught it in midair and hungrily swallowed it. I can put extra stuff in the car, but only the rifle will appear in my hands ready to serve on a moment’s notice.

“I don’t sense anyone, Boss,” Bugsy explained after checking the tunnel’s entrance with his antennae, “but I hear a rumbling noise.”

Plato raised his nose. “I smell steel.”

“Don’t lower your guard.” Basil walked into the tunnel first with his axe in hand. His pets followed after him without making a sound.

Stone turned to metal as they walked. Golden circuits glowing with energy appeared on the tunnel’s walls and colorful specks of dust floated in the air before Basil’s eyes. Had they entered a particle accelerator? A hidden bunker?

Halfway through the party’s journey into the dungeon’s depths, the primitive stone tunnel had transformed into a chiseled hallway plated in metal. A harsh red light shone at the end. Basil tensed up, half-expecting a fight in the next room.

Something awaited them, alright. Something spectacular.

Basil’s footsteps echoed into a large chamber. Faint auroras swirled in the air underneath a dome of advanced golden circuitry. A mechanical, two-meters tall monolith stood in the middle of the room like a divine obelisk. Its outer shell was black with a stylized golden ‘D’ logo engraved on its surface. Pulsating cables dug into the iron floor and a red forcefield protected the device from attacks.

Basil immediately identified the metal tower’s true nature.

The dungeon’s core was a server.

“I gotta say, I expected a shiny crystal,” Plato commented.

“Me too,” Bugsy said with a low voice. The centipede spoke with the same respectful tone one would use in a church. “This is my cradle, my origin. I can feel it in my bones.”

The forcefield faded away when Basil approached the server. A System screen appeared immediately afterwards to present him with his options.

Congratulations. By defeating Ogremoche and removing the neurotower’s barrier, you may now decide the dungeon’s fate. You can either claim it for your party or destroy it.
Here are the benefits of claiming a dungeon:
  • You can partly rearrange the dungeon to fit your preferences. As a level 5 dungeon, the Ogre’s Den is limited to five rooms.
  • A dungeon will allow your party to transition into a guild.
  • Party members can teleport back to the dungeon at any time. Any new dungeon claimed will be added to the teleportation network.
  • You can prevent the dungeon from spawning monsters or force newborn ones to obey your party. The monsters’ numbers, types, and levels depend on the dungeon. Monsters spawned before your takeover will stay independent.
However, you must select a player or monster who will act as the dungeon’s Boss. They will maintain the barrier around the neurotower so long as they remain alive within the dungeon’s confines. If they exit it, any intruder may hijack the core by selecting a new Boss.

The more Basil read the text, the less he liked it. Basil had wondered why someone as powerful as Megabug would bother with a dungeon creating weak goblins, but now it made more sense. The teleportation network and renewable minions made it invaluable to any invading army.

Basil probed for more information. “What happens if I destroy the dungeon?”

The neurotower channels the power of the Trimurti to reshape reality. Destroying the dungeon will stop the terraforming effect and the summoning of monsters within its area of effect. Incursions may still happen. A dungeon’s destruction cannot be undone.

“What do you mean by Incursions?”

This information is locked until the next Incursion event.

Basil snorted. “Stonewalled again?”

“Who cares, Boss? The dungeon is ours!” Bugsy snapped his mandibles in excitement. “We claim it and the forest is ours for the taking!”

“Fuck no.” Basil had made his decision. “We’re burning down the place.”

“Yes, this place is for the plebeians,” Plato said, with Rosemarine squealing in support of the decision. “It doesn’t even have a sofa!”

Bugsy choked in indignation. “But, but, but! But what about the army? We could take over the marshes in no time at all!”

“We already conquered them,” Basil pointed out. With Ogremoche dead and the goblins in disarray, the First Neighborhood War was as good as won.

“We could go farther!” Bugsy argued. “This place is a fortress, Boss! We won’t gain anything by throwing it away!”

“We will gain peace, Bugsy. Haven’t you heard what Megabug said? He was a scout, a grunt, and he nearly killed us all.” And in Plato’s case, successfully murdered him. “His superiors won’t give up on the dungeon. They will send someone else to claim it.”

So long as the dungeon remained active, it would be a magnet for trouble. Basil aspired to enjoy a quiet life, and he wouldn’t have it so long as the dungeon remained active in the Barthes.

“We nearly died fighting a lone level 10 soldier,” Basil pointed. “Do you think we could survive a raiding party full of them?”

Bugsy grew less confident. “Maybe if we grind? I’m sorry, Boss, but destroying the dungeon sounds like a waste. We nearly died trying to take it!”

“Because you are blind to the truth.” Basil locked eyes with his centipede pet, and delivered onto him a holy revelation. “Why would we need a dungeon when we have a house?”

Bugsy’s eyes opened as Basil delivered the holy revelation upon him.

“We have unused guest rooms on the upper floor big enough for you,” Basil said as he invaded Bugsy’s personal space. The centipede attempted to retreat, but he couldn’t escape the truth. “We have a sofa so warm and comfortable that you will never want to stand up again. We have so many hours of recorded TV series and movies that you could spend a lifetime without watching them all. We have a central heating system and a chimney that will keep you warm at all times of the year.”

Bugsy could hardly believe his ears… or what could pass for ears among centipedes. “Even in winter?”

“Even in winter,” Basil replied softly. “The house is open to all those who believe in it.”

“I understand.” Bugsy repented from his lack of faith and ignorance. “We don’t need to take somebody else’s nest when we already have the perfect one!”

“Exactly.” Basil focused on the System screen. “Is destroying the dungeon going to kill us?”

Once the self-destruct sequence is launched, the dungeon will revert back to its original state. People inside the neurotower’s room will be unharmed, but individuals in other areas risk death or banishment to other dimensions.

“Then I have made my choice,” Basil said with a triumphant smile. “Destroy.”

Once chosen, this option cannot be undone. Do you confirm?

“I confirm.”

The server shook and the dungeon trembled.

Basil felt invisible energies wash over him like a tide of water. A rumbling noise coming from the circuitry followed. Bugsy’s antennae wavered in alarm, Rosemarine froze in place, and Plato tensed up. Only Basil remained absolutely confident in his success.

Strange colorful particles erupted from the server; blue and orange, yellow and violet, green and red and all the colors of the rainbow. They briefly blinded Basil’s vision with their numbers and brightness before fading away.

The ceiling shrank as the dome transformed into a smaller, cubical room before the party’s astonished eyes. The circuitry vanished from the walls, replaced with small windows. Computers and technological devices that Basil didn’t recognize materialized in the corners.

When at long last the lights died out, the group found themselves in a research room no bigger than a metal shack.

The water quality control station, Basil thought. A glance through the window showing the river outside confirmed his hypothesis.

Of the dungeon, only the server remained as a husk of its former self. Its circuits had fried from the heat, smoke rose from the cables, and the ‘D’ logo had melted on the iron shell. Basil doubted anyone could repair the device.

“Well, it’s done.” Plato stretched his legs. “Can we go back home now? I miss the sunlight.”

“When I evolve, I will eat the moon,” Rosemarine chirped.

“We won the war!” Bugsy rejoiced. “Nobody will climb the fence again!”

Basil didn’t join in the celebration. Instead, he gazed at the server’s remains and the damaged logo on its surface. Dismaker Labs wishes you a happy apocalypse, he thought. Are they a server company? Where did I see the name?

When Basil’s eyes turned to the server’s damaged processors, all became clear. “I remember!”

“What, Basil?” Plato asked with an annoyed look. “You remember what?”

“Where I saw the name Dismaker Labs and their logo!”

The answer had been in front of Basil all along.

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A note from Maxime J. Durand (Void Herald)

Hi guys, my good friend MelasD kindly asked for a favor; namely, one of his friends started writing a story of his own, Don't Call me a Grim Reaper. He asked me if I could plug a link to those who might be interested and here it is! If you've enjoyed Apocalypse Tamer's brand of comedy, I think you will enjoy this one too ;)

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Maxime J. Durand (Void Herald)

Bio: I'm Maxime Julien Durand ([email protected]), a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending all his time writing tales and forbidden scrolls.

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