Ch. 001: The Beginning
August 12, 2019
I slapped at the obnoxious noise coming from the nightstand next to my bed then turned back over to try to get some more sleep. ‘It’s too damned early,’ I thought. A few seconds after I got comfortable again, I remembered why my alarm was set in the first place. I quickly got out of bed and started dancing around my room.
I heard some laughing coming from behind me. As I turned I saw my mother standing in the doorway. “Happy birthday, Jonathan! When you’re done celebrating, wash up. Breakfast is almost ready,” she said.
“I was just about to. I want to get going as soon as possible.”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, go ahead,” she replied, stepping out of the way so I could make my way to the washroom.
I closed the washroom door and undressed and checked myself out in the mirror. I’m a pretty good looking dude, if I have anything to say about it. I’ve got short black hair, blue eyes, and a nicely chiseled body. Over the past few years, I went through a massive growth spurt and topped out at 6’5” and 253 pounds. I put a lot of work in to put on muscle, partly for highschool football, but mostly for when I turned eighteen and could finally delve into some dungeons with my friends.
I thought back to my history lessons in school. People have been delving into dungeons for their treasures and to get stronger for thousands of years. It used to be that anyone could delve into a dungeon. It was at a point about eleven hundred years ago where all everyone did was delve into dungeons. Parents were even taking their young children into dungeons with them because they couldn’t find anyone to watch them. As the result of so many people doing dungeons, society and progress all but halted, and the Middle Ages were the result.
Luckily, high level adventurers recognized what was happening, and decided to try to put humanity back on track. They formed the Adventurer’s Guild and started heavily recruiting other adventurers to start policing the dungeons. They began guarding the entrances to dungeons and limiting who could go in. No one under the age of 18 was allowed to enter a dungeon, and for a few years, parents weren’t allowed to go into a dungeon if they had young children at home.
They began opening up schools to prioritize education, and eventually allowed adults with children back into the dungeon, but only during the hours where their children were at school. It took a long time, but eventually it evened out to where there were there were still a lot of adventurers, but there were also a lot of people who had other jobs.
There were also a lot of people who dedicated themselves to knowledge, rather than adventuring. As a result, science developed alongside magic, giving us the things we have today. Some things are powered by mana, while others are powered by electricity. For example, nearly every neighborhood is powered by electricity, but every home has a backup generator that runs off mana. If power is interrupted, then the occupants of the home can use their mana to charge up the generator to keep power in their home. Most personal devices, like phones, as well as vehicles run off of mana, rather than another source of fuel.
I stopped thinking about history and moved over to the shower. I stepped in and turned it on to the temperature I like. I quickly cleaned myself and shaved before drying off and heading back to my room. I got dressed in my leather armor, grabbed my new backpack and weapons, and walked downstairs. I set them down on the floor near the front door and then went to the kitchen.
“Good morning,” I greeted, as I arrived. My father was reading the news on his tablet while my mother was finishing up breakfast.
“Good morning, Jonathan. Happy birthday!” my father exclaimed.
“Thank you,” I replied, moving over to get a cup of coffee. My father always had a pot of coffee ready, so I grabbed a mug from the cupboard and filled it up. I put a little bit of cream and sugar in it before moving to sit at the kitchen table.
Taking my phone out of my pocket, I checked my messages. It was still early, so I wasn’t surprised there weren’t any messages from my friends. I sent off some quick texts to my friends telling them I’d be picking them up in about twenty to thirty minutes.
I put my phone away as my mother started bringing over large plates loaded with food. She set one down in front of my father and myself, and then went back to get her own. Hers had significantly less food than either my fathers’ or my own. We both tended to eat a hell of a lot of food.
I quickly dug into the food in front of me. There was a stack of pancakes, bacon, sausages and eggs, and some roasted potatoes to go along with it. I loved my mother’s cooking, and I quickly demolished every last crumb on my plate. I got up and rinsed it in the sink, then put it in the dishwasher. I refilled my mug full of coffee, and then sat back down at the table.
“So what time do you want me back tonight?” I asked.
My father finished chewing and then answered, “No later than 20:00. Some people you need to meet are coming for dinner tonight. If your friends aren’t busy, bring them too.”
“Who do I need to meet?”
He shook his head. “You’ll have to wait until tonight to find out. Make sure you’re back in time,” he warned.
I looked at the clock that read 06:58, so I would have over 12 hours to work with. I drained my second cup of coffee and then rinsed it out, placing it in the dishwasher as well. “Well, time is wasting, so I’m going to go meet up with my friends. I’ll be back by 20:00,” I said, moving over and kissing my mother on the cheek.
She smiled. “There is a basket of food for you and your friends by the front door,” she said.
I nodded and picked up scabbard, spear and backpack. “I’ll see you guys later.” I made my way out to my truck, putting my things in the back before going back for the food basket. I put it between the seats in the front of my truck and then got in and started it up.
I made my way to my best friend Mason’s house. I knew he probably wouldn’t be up yet, so I turned off my truck and knocked on the door. After a moment, a petite woman my mother’s age opened the door.
“Good morning, Jonathan. Mason is still sleeping, so you’ll have to wake him up,” she said.
“Morning, Mrs. Reeves.” She stepped to the side and I made my way upstairs to Mason’s room. I knew the perfect way to wake him up. He was pretty big into drumming when we were younger. We used to talk about forming a band with our friends. He was so into drumming that he got his parents to get him a drum set one year for Christmas.
Opening the door to his room, I saw that he was completely dead to the world, like always. I sat down at his drum set. Coincidentally, I got pretty good at drum solos after he got his drum set, so I broke out one of my favorites, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham - Moby Dick.
After a few seconds of playing, Mason tried covering his ears with his pillows but I continued playing. After another 30 seconds, he got up and threw his pillows at me. “Asshole,” he spat, making his way out of the room.
As he made his way to the bathroom, I shouted, “If you’re not ready in 10 minutes, I’m leaving without you. I’ll be downstairs.”
I walked back downstairs and talked to Mrs. Reeves until Mason came downstairs with his rucksack on his back, and a large halberd in one hand. He gave his mother a kiss on the cheek and turned to me saying, “Let’s go, and as punishment for waking me up, you’re buying me breakfast.”
“Already taken care of,” I chuckled. “Bye, Mrs. Reeves.”
“See you later, boys!” she replied.
Mason put his stuff in the back of the truck while I got in and rummaged through the food basket until I found what I was looking for. When he got in the passenger side, I handed him a breakfast wrap and one of the thermoses full of coffee.
“Thanks,” he grumbled, still waking up.
I nodded and started the truck, heading to another of our friends’ house next. When we got there, Benjamin was already waiting for us. He was sitting on the front steps of his house looking as his phone. I had to honk before he looked up. When he saw who it was, he put his phone in his pocket and came over. He quickly stowed his own stuff in the back of the truck and got in the back.
“Hey guys, good to see you,” he said.
Mason was too busy stuffing his face, so I replied for both of us. “You too, Ben. You have everything you need?”
“Yeah. I was looking at a list on my phone to make sure I had everything.”
“Ok. Let’s hope the girls are ready to go,” I said, putting the truck in drive. It was another short drive to our final stop. As we pulled up, I was amazed to see that the girls were ready. They too, were engrossed in their phones and I had to honk to get their attention. Mason and I got out of the truck and helped them with their stuff.
“Hey girls,” I said. “Sorry we’re late, Mason slept in again.”
“We figured...” Anja replied.
“...let’s go,” Sonja finished for her twin.
We put their stuff in the back of the truck as well and headed to our destination.
When we started moving, Anja and Sonja were the first to speak. “Happy birthday, Johnny!” they chorused.
Mason and Ben wished me a happy birthday as well.
“Thanks guys,” I laughed. “So are you all excited for your first dungeon? I sure as hell am.”
Mason snorted, “Of course we’re all excited. We had to wait weeks for your dumb ass to turn eighteen since we agreed not to start until we were all able to go in.”
“Well sooooooorry,” I replied with a chuckle.
“Don’t mind him, Johnny,” Sonja said. “He’s got a few screws loose, and it’s early. Has he had his coffee yet this morning?”
“Yup,” I nodded. “My mom put together a lunch for all of us and included a couple thermoses of coffee in there. She knows Mason is incapable of functioning without a couple cups of coffee.”
“Assholes,” mumbled Mason, before taking a long drink of coffee.
“So how far are we planning on going in the dungeon today?” Ben asked.
“We’ll play it by ear,” I replied, looking at the clock on the dash. “It’s almost 07:30 now, and it’ll take us another half hour to get there. The evaluation will take another hour or so, so we’ll probably be able to start at 09:00. My parents want me to be back at home at 20:00 for dinner, and to meet some people. So we’ll need to be out of there by 19:00 to give us enough time to get back. So as far as we can go in 10 hours, I guess. You’re all invited to dinner as well.”
“Cool. 10 hours is plenty of time for our first delve.”
“Who do they want you to meet?” Mason asked.
“I have no idea. My dad stressed that I needed to be home by 20:00, so it must be important.” I answered. “Changing the subject, I’m assuming we’re still going with the specializations we talked about?”
“Sonja and I are still decided. Sonja will be using a bow initially, and I’ll be using daggers or short swords. Once we get to a certain level,we might, and I’ll use a bow or crossbow, and Sonja will use daggers or short swords. Once we get high enough level, we’ll probably specialize further,” said Anja. “Are we sure we don’t need a mage or something?”
“Nah, I’ll have that covered,” Ben answered. “I’m still planning on going with auras, so I’ll be able to deal damage or modify everyone’s damage to a different type if it’s needed. With different auras, we should be able to bypass any defenses we come up against.”
“Awesome,” I said. “I’m still going sword and board until we hit higher level, so that only leaves you, Mace.”
“I wouldn’t have brought my halberd if I had changed my mind,” said Mason.
“Great! We’re set then,” I said.
We spent the last twenty minutes of our trip discussing our plans before arriving at the dungeon that had sprung up in the middle of Gatineau Park. A couple of kids camping with their parents found it while playing, and their parents called the Adventurer’s Guild right away to report it.
When a dungeon is discovered, the Adventurer’s Guild sends in a team to determine the rating of the dungeon, and to set up a monitoring station outside the dungeon. Every adventurer interested in delving into the dungeon is required to show their ID and sign in to the dungeon before they can go in. This allows the Adventurer’s Guild to keep track of how many adventurers are in the dungeon at all times. The rating of a dungeon is determined by how many floors there are, and how difficult it is. For example, the dungeon in Gatineau Park has a rating of 20-I. This means it has 20 floors, and is suitable for adventurers from level 1 up to 10, as noted by the roman numeral ‘I’. There is a dungeon in the Amazon rainforest with a current rating of 523-XXXV, which means that it has 523 floors and is suitable for adventurers from level 341-350. Every couple of months the ratings change as more floors are discovered, and the difficulty increases.
Dungeons have been found to be inexhaustible. The monitoring stations outside every dungeon are able to keep track of the progress of a dungeon. It starts at 100% and as adventurers delve into the dungeon and defeat monsters, it slowly decreases. When it hits 0%, every adventurer in the dungeon is teleported back to the entrance and the dungeon closes itself off for a certain amount of time. The higher the rating, the longer it takes before it reopens. Usually, when the dungeon reopens, the difficulty is a bit higher, and more floors are added.
The Adventurer’s Guild keeps all the information about dungeons online. I checked last night before I went to sleep and the progress was at 63% for the dungeon in we were going to. It has been open for about a week now, so if the current rate continues then it will probably close itself in under 2 weeks. When it reopens, the rating will be a bit higher.
The other thing about the progress of a dungeon is that as the percentage gets lower, the density and amount of monsters increases. As a result, the dungeon becomes harder and harder, but also allows you to level up faster, if you and your party can handle it. Our group will be starting at around 63% progress, so it will be quite a bit harder than if we started off at 100%.
It was 08:02 when we arrived at the closest parking lot. The dungeon was on government land, and they definitely weren’t going to cut down a bunch of trees to make a parking lot closer to the dungeon. Fortunately for us, the Adventurer’s Guild set up a Waygate people can use to teleport right to the entrance of the dungeon for a modest fee, saving us an hour long hike.
I went through the food basket my mother put together for us and started handing out wraps, drinks and some other snacks to everyone. I wouldn’t hear the end of it if her food basket got damaged or destroyed. It is enchanted with Enlarge to have more space on the inside, as well as Preservation to keep the food inside at the same temperature as it was when it was put in the basket. The wraps would stay hot, and the drinks would stay cold.
As soon as I handed something to one of my friends, it would almost immediately disappear. Each of us is wearing a dimensional storage ring, which allows us to store 50 pounds of items inside. They also have a minor Preservation enchantment so it can keep food at the proper temperatures. Unlike the food basket, for the minor Preservation enchantment to work it has to occasionally be charged with mana. A full charge will usually keep the enchantment going for 2-3 hours depending on how full the storage is. There are better dimensional storage rings available, but they tend to get very expensive.
“Alright, grab your stuff and let’s go,” I said as I fastened my scabbard around my waist and grabbed my spear and shield. Since adventuring is so prominent in society, we had a class in school dedicated solely to weapons and tactics. I was always fascinated by the Spartan culture, so I modeled my weapon choices after the weapons they used back then, but with modern materials. They used a wooden spear called a Dory, with a sharpened iron head, as well as a spiked iron counterweight on the butt end. They tended to be between 78” and 118” in length and were mainly used in the phalanx formation. If they lost their spear, or it was broken, they would use their sword known as a xiphos.
A xiphos is a fairly short sword with a length between 18” and 24” and has a double-edged blade. It could be used for slashing or piercing and was made out of iron. Rounding out their ensemble, they had the shield known as the Aspis. It was a large, primarily wooden shield with a diameter of about 39”. They frequently had a thin layer of bronze on the outside to increase durability. As well as being a defensive tool, an Aspis could also be used as a blunt weapon. The handle was at the edge of the shield, and it was fastened to the arm with leather straps. This allowed a Spartan to punch at their enemy and strike them with the edge of their shield.
My weapons and shield were made with more modern materials. My spear was at the longer end at around 2.6 meters in length and was made using titanium for the shaft, and high carbon steel for the head and the butt of the spear. To keep the weight down, the shaft of the spear is hollow. Everything but the handle of my xiphos was made using high carbon steel as well. The weight would be almost identical, but it would be a hell of a lot more durable. My shield was made purely out of titanium. It’s thinner than a wooden and bronze aspis, but will be able to take a lot more punishment. There were other materials available that are better than steel and titanium, but they’re well out of my price range. For now, at least.
Mason and Ben were standing beside my truck waiting, since they didn’t have anything special they needed to put on. Mason just had his rucksack and his halberd. The same person that made my weapons also made his halberd. It was a bit longer than most halberds because Mason is just so damn tall. He is a bit taller than me at 6’7”, and his halberd is 84 inches long.
Like my spear, his halberd was made using hollow titanium for the haft, and carbon steel for the head. The haft of the halberd was only 72 inches long, and the head adds a foot of height to it. The halberd head has an axe blade on one side and a hook on the other, with a foot long spike at the top. It is a very versatile weapon. The axe blade can be used for chopping, the hook for grappling, and the spike for piercing.
Ben on the other hand, just had his wooden bo staff and a bandolier over his leather armor. Rather than holding ammo though, his bandolier had a variety of potions, from healing potions to cures for poisons we might run into in the dungeon. His bo staff might look ordinary, but it is made out of a rare wood called Magewood. Magewood is a somewhat flexible wood that allows its user to channel their mana through it to increase the potency of their spells. Since Ben is planning on becoming an Aura mage, all his auras will be quite a bit stronger than they otherwise would be. Channeling mana through Magewood also has the added bonus of strengthening the wood for as long as it is supplied with mana. Magewood with mana channeled through it is much stronger than steel, and is about twenty percent of the weight.
Ben’s family has a Magewood tree on their property that they guard fiercely. The 72 inches of wood used for his bo staff was harvested from a branch of the tree, and Ben said it will take about 100 years to regrow. The very slow growth of is just one of the factors of why Magewood is so expensive. It is very rare out in the wilderness, and no one has had any luck transplanting a Magewood tree, or growing one in artificial conditions. Ben’s ancestors were some of the first to come over to North America when it was discovered and they found the Magewood tree while exploring the continent. They quickly claimed the property, having recognized the tree, and have defended it since.
Anja was finishing putting on her belts to hold all her daggers, knives and swords. She was dressed in full black leather armor, with a hood as well. She has two butterfly swords in sheaths on her lower back, a pair of stilettos in sheathes over both hips, as well as a push dagger on each thigh. Finishing it off, she had her katana on her back. She looked very much like the stereotypical assassin or ninja.
Looking over to Sonja, she was dressed very much the same way as her sister. She too, was in full black leather armor with the added hood. Her butterfly swords are sheathed on her lower back as well, but she doesn’t have any push daggers, and her stilettos are both in a sheath on her left hip. She also has a katana on her back. She has all those weapons just in case she needs to engage in melee combat, but her primary weapon is a compound bow. She went with a compound bow because it is smaller than other types of bows, while still having enough strength to be able to deal damage. Smaller is important, because dungeons can get pretty tight, which makes it difficult to maneuver with a large bow. It might seem odd that she doesn’t have any quivers, but that is because she stores all her arrows in her dimensional storage. As soon as she fires an arrow, a new one will appear in her hand, allowing for some ridiculous fire rates.
“Is everyone ready?” I asked, seeing Sonja was done equipping everything.
“Ben and I have been ready since we parked. We were just waiting on the slowpokes to hurry up,” Mason replied with a grin.
“That’s because you have a simple weapon for a simple mind, Mace,” Anja shot back, with her own grin.
“Ok, let’s go,” I said, moving over to the waygate. I stepped on it, and with a flash of light I appeared near the dungeon. I moved off the platform and waited for my friends. With flashes of light, each of them followed one by one. Once we were all through, I led us into the building attached to the dungeon. There were fewer people around than I figured there would be, but that’s probably because this is a beginner dungeon.
Once inside, we walked up to the main desk. The lady behind the desk looked up when I stopped and said, “Good morning! How can I help you?”
I saw she had a name tag and replied, “Good morning, Mrs. Murray. My friends and I are interested in exploring the dungeon. This is our first dungeon, so we need to get registered as adventurers, as well as go through our evaluations.”
“I see you are well informed. If all of you can hand over your phones, we’ll get started,” she said.
We all did as she asked. She plugged each of our phones into slots on her desk. When she was done plugging them in, all our information appeared on her screens. After a couple of minutes, she looked back up. “You have the option of naming your team. Do you all have a name in mind?” she asked.
“We’d like to be called ‘The Wolves’,” I answered.
She nodded and typed some things into the computer. When she was done, she unplugged our phones and handed them back to us saying, “You’re all set. Each of you is registered as an adventurer of the bronze ranked team ‘The Wolves.’ You’ll find all your information in the Adventurer’s Guild app that was installed on each of your phones. Head over to the next room for your evaluation. Good luck!”
We all thanked Mrs. Murray and went over to the evaluation room. We walked into a room that was rectangular in shape, and quite long. Spaced evenly along the walls were rooms numbered 1 through 10. There was a man sitting at a desk reading a tablet. We walked over to the desk and the man didn’t notice us, so I spoke up, “Excuse me.”
He jumped a bit when I started talking, and quickly put his tablet down. “Sorry about that. Was reading a very good book,” he said. He looked us all over and then back to me and continued, “You guys here for an evaluation?”
“Yes sir,” I replied.
“Very well. I’ll open up rooms 1 through 5. Each of you walk into one of the rooms. When the door closes, plug your phone into the socket on the wall and then stand on the X on the floor. When standing on the X, say ‘Initiate Evaluation’ out loud, and the evaluation will begin. You can head over to a room now,” he finished, as he pressed some buttons on his computer.
We thanked the man and then split up, each going into a different room with me picking room number 1. When the door closed, I plugged in my phone and moved to the X. In a clear voice, I said, “Initiate Evaluation.”
Nothing happened for a couple of seconds, and then the room darkened and a computerized voice came through speakers in front of me.
“Time dilation active…”
“Initializing: Stage 1…”
“Beginning scan of Jonathan Stevens…”
Beams of light shot from everywhere, seemingly scanning me from from every angle. After a minute or so, the beams of light disappeared. A display of its findings appeared as a hologram in front of me, and it started speaking again.
“Age: 18 years, 6 hours, 14 minutes, 23 seconds…”
It took a moment for what it told me my race was to sink in. I was reading the holographic display as the voice was listing everything but I have no idea what a Scyftar is.
“Wait, what is a Scyftar, and why am I listed as being one?” I yelled to the voice.