Just as Aurivy promised, it was less than a week before we came across another strange event. The weather was fair, not a cloud to be seen, and the crew was happily singing aboard the deck of the Jolly Dodger. “The King will take his tribute, the King will take his due.” Dis’ni started them off, a wide grin on her face before the rest of the crew echoed in chorus.
“With the blood of princes flowing, the King stands true…”
She nodded her head, jumping back and hooking a leg on the rope ladder on the central mast, lightly swaying about while her body captivated the eyes of the crew. “Beneath the ocean deep, beneath the ebb and flow!”
Another chorus followed her words, as if mesmerized by the sight of her body and the sound of her voice. I could faintly feel an energy behind her voice, a faint divine energy that caused me to raise an eyebrow. Bards could eventually produce divine energy of their own, albeit only a small drop compared to the endless oceans of the gods. “The King shall watch the traveler, watching from his throne!”
Dis’ni let out a loud laugh, easily scaling the ladder and jumping from it to stand atop the boom of the sail. She grabbed a nearby rope, standing steadily as she stared down at the crew. “Let loose your sails, let fly your spells, the prince is coming soon!”
“And if the King shall find you, the prince will spell your--” The chorus began to shout out once again, more energetically with each verse, before they were suddenly interrupted.
“What?!” Emona’s outburst nearly made Dis’ni lose her balance, but she didn’t even seem to notice. “Saru!” She glanced down to the scout that had been joining in the singing on the deck. “Up in the nest! Turn your eyes to the port!”
Saru blinked in confusion, but didn’t hesitate to obey the order. He easily scaled the rope ladder, moving to his perch in the basket above. Turning to the left, he focused his eyes out into the distance. “Captain! We’ve got land!” He shouted down in surprise, and he was right to be surprised.
This was the first island that the shaman had not been able to locate ahead of time. However, that revelation only made Emona laugh in excitement. “All ships, hard to port!” She shouted out, her voice infused with mana. “We got an island that can’t be seen by nature, and ye know what that means!”
“A Dungeon!” Not only Emona’s voice, but several voices from the crew and nearby ships shouted out in surprise, all at once. Emona didn’t have to repeat herself again, and the wind suddenly shifted, every ship making a hard left to change course towards the island. We gave each other a wide berth so as not to crash, but aside from that we were making a beeline to the distant island.
Finally. I thought to myself with a smile, and soon I was able to realize just how Emona had discovered the dungeon island in the first place.
Just a few minutes after we had turned, I felt my connection with the natural energy cut off. Naturally, this caught me by surprise, until I remembered that a dungeon’s ambient mana blocked off natural energy. And indeed, I could sense a thin mana permeating the atmosphere.
Yet, looking out ahead, all that could be seen was a small island, barely a hundred meters in diameter. It was like a flat rock surface had been carved out just a few inches above sea level, with only one distinct feature. At the center of the island, a large cube of stone broke the flat surface, no more than ten meters thick. On the side of the stone facing us, an ornately carved stone door was held tightly shut.
Huh… Rivy really did good work if it can carve a door like that. I nodded my head as I saw that, smiling inwardly. Judging by the atmosphere of the crew, it was easy to see that the beastkin greatly valued dungeons. It was to such a degree that they took a detour on such an important mission to investigate one.
“Surround the dungeon and drop anchor, men!” Emona shouted out, and the twelve ships began to form a circle around the small island, each dropping off large boulders from their sides. Surprisingly, the water was not very deep here, and they had to tie off the anchors once they hit the bottom to remove the slack.
“All ashore that’s going ashore!” At her cry, the entire crew jumped off the ship excitedly. Many landed directly on the island, while others had to swim a short distance. As for myself, I used my ki to enhance my jump, allowing me to land alongside Kelly.
“Look what we got here.” She said with a grin, looking at the stone cube. “Seems to be our lucky day.”
“Aye.” One of the other captains said as he pulled himself out of the water. This one was a felyn man with a strong build, yet he hadn’t been able to make the jump all the way to the island. “We hadn’t been expecting to find something like this here…”
The other captains likewise had to pull themselves out of the water. Oddly enough, not a single one had trained as a monk. Though, it did make sense given that they were all summoners. The last to shake herself dry was Emona, who smiled broadly as she looked around.
“This be a great opportunity for us, lads. Yet, we can’t be too hasty. No tellin’ if something might come out of the waters while we’re inside. Best to only send in a small group.” The other captains all nodded in agreement.
“Who will go, then?” The muscular felyn captain asked in excitement.
“Calm yerself, man.” Emona laughed loudly, shaking her head. “We captains’d be useless in the dungeon. Passages too narrow for the Kraken.” The other captains all drooped with disappointment at the realization that they wouldn’t be joining. “We’ll be on the defensive side. Each captain, choose one or two to represent your ship for the search team. The rest’ll stay behind.”
There was an instant clamor of people vying for the limited positions. In fact, the only ones that were staying quiet were the scouts and other crew members that had yet to reach the level limit. They seemed to realize that they wouldn’t be so useful in a fight.
I had no doubt that Udona would ensure that I was chosen, so instead I walked up towards the door, glancing over it curiously. It was a double door, each side having waving patterns carved along it, as if two tsunamis were going to crash into the center. At the top of the door, I could see a row of words, surprisingly written in English. In my surprise, I found myself muttering as I read.
“The Four Elements Dungeon?” I blinked in confusion, before noticing that the noise behind me had suddenly quieted down. Turning to look, I found everyone staring directly at me.
“Ye can read the words, boy?” An ursa captain asked, his ears twitching slightly. Right… super hearing. Well, it doesn’t really matter, it fits with the whole ‘mysterious sage’ figure I was going for.
I simply nodded my head in response. “I’ve spent some time studying dungeons.”
A brief murmur arose between the crew members, before Emona broke out with a laugh. “That settles it, then. Tebor will represent the Jolly Dodger, along with Kelly. An element dungeon would likely be quite good for an elemental monk, aye?”
There were several other people who nodded along in agreement, and soon the team was set. In total, twenty people had been chosen, further divided into two teams of ten. The vanguard group included myself and Kelly, two mages, two warriors, a scout, a barbarian, an archer, and a monk. The second group actually included three clerics, two priests, two swordsmen, a summoner, and two knights.
Aside from the scout, the entire group had hit the current level limit. This gave us a great confidence in being able to clear out whatever monsters could be lurking within. Even if we encountered a level four hundred monster, it wouldn’t be impossible for us to kill it, without me even needing to use my Keeper abilities.
While the rest of the group was discussing the plan for how to handle the defense of the outside, I sent a message up to Terra. Oh, great goddess of stories, spin me a tale. Why does this dungeon have english writing?
Unofficial dungeon language? Terra asked a moment later with a light laugh. Most of the dungeons can’t learn the nuances of a language before the language naturally shifts into something else. Their learning ability is just too low, combined with all of the other subjects they have to be taught. So, since you put us in charge of the dungeons, we decided to make the dungeons share a universal language… yours. Several races are already calling it the ‘holy script’ or ‘devil’s writing’, depending on how they see dungeons.
And before you ask, yes it was intentional that we didn’t tell you. We were hoping you wouldn’t resist reading it out loud. Otherwise, why would they send a druid into a dungeon. You would have just ended up being told to wait outside and have to come back on your own another time.
I listened to her explanation, offering a faint nod in response. Alright… but next time, can you at least give me a warning? I understand liking to surprise me, but still.
Fine, fine. Party pooper… Terra grumbled, and I turned around to see the rest of the first group approaching me.
Since I was able to read the ‘language of the dungeons’, I had been nominated the de facto leader of the group. The plan itself was really simple, we scout ahead and clear out any dangers, and the second team comes in to treat any wounds and keep our backs defended.
“Let’s get going…” I spoke quietly as I turned and began to walk towards the dungeon, our scout Nox to my side. As we approached, the double doors began to slowly open, revealing a circular staircase leading down.
Lifting a hand, I cast a simple light spell, causing a glowing orb to float just above my palm. This was one of the easiest spells to cast, so nobody really seemed to even pay attention to it. I wouldn’t be surprised if almost everyone here were able to cast it as well.
After stepping foot onto the staircase, I took a glance over the edge, trying to see how deep it went. Maybe… two hundred meters? I thought my estimation inwardly, but since there was no sign of a monster, we simply continued onwards.
The walls of the corridor around us were completely smooth, the stairs just damp enough that we had to make the walk slowly. However, after descending a few dozen meters, I grew rather annoyed with the slight mana expenditure of the light spell, not wanting to waste the limited resource. So, I decided to show a bit of my hand to the others, speaking in English. “Can you give us a bit more lighting? Some of us can’t see in the dark.”
Rather than a verbal answer, the darkness of the corridor simply faded away, as if the entire dungeon had cast a light spell on itself. “Thank you.” I spoke up again, dismissing my own spell and doing my best to ignore the glances I could feel against my back.
Down and down our party went, the dim light offered a welcome respite. Neither the druid nor spirit hunter classes enhanced mana in any way, so I wasn’t quite willing to waste what little I had on such simple matters. Before too long, we had finally reached the bottom of the staircase, and a smooth floor greeted us. Directly in front of us was another door, this one marked by an ornate carving of fire.
Looks like this is where the dungeon adventure really begins.