Stairs are New, Right? – Chapter 81
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Chapter 82 - Take a Sniff

Chapter 83 - Jimmy!

Doyle sighs, ‘Yeah, it would be nice if I could spread these bags around. Cost too much to do much of that, though. Just setting one as loot costs more than a fourth of the floors total. Like seriously, 1317 world energy! Not that I am going to stop from putting one on the floor. Loot isn’t dropping that often yet so it shouldn’t be a problem. I really wish the real cost wasn’t so high or I would have made sure one of the first groups to the floor would get one.’

Ally shrugs, ‘It would be nice but seriously, you’re tearing a part of your territory out to develop these bags. I bet even the non-loot bags will have that cost. Of course they won’t be leaving the dungeon so they won’t matter as much.’

Doyle shakes his core, ‘I’m not too worried about that part. In just the time we’ve been talking, I’ve expanded outward by five times the amount used to make that bag. Now that sounds like a lot, but honestly the bags don’t take much at all.’

Ally laughs, ‘You just cheat. Creating literal space? Thats crazy! Most mortals don’t even get a chance to touch on that unless they specialize in dimension based magic. You know all those stories that have some hidden realm opening up or being controlled by some sect or kingdom?’

‘Yeah, there are a lot of those things around but that isn’t because they are easy to make. Rather, they just tend to collect as it takes a while for them to go away. After all, they are technically separate dimensions, just like your dungeon is. The dimension they are originally spawned in can die, and they will just drift around in the void until something catches them.’

‘This is also why they tend to have such amazing treasures. Not because the items are particularly rare where it was from, but extra-dimensional materials tend to behave in odd ways. A normal knife made of the equivalent of iron could end up being an indestructible god weapon. It could also end up exploding in atomic fury when taken out so a coin flip there. Still, people crowd into them.’ She shrugs.

Doyle tilts to the side, ‘Huh, fair enough. Though not much I can do with that at the moment. In fact, there isn’t much else I can do right now.’

Ally looks over to one of the windows. ‘I guess that is a good thing because dawn is coming and with it more groups. They aren’t too likely to make it to the third floor this early but you never know. The settlement has cut away a lot of dead weight.’

Doyle bobs his core, ‘Yeah, not much we can do about that.’

Time passes and they are both proven wrong. Noon comes and goes without a single one person approaching the portal. Not that they aren’t around the area. At any point in time there are about ten people training their skills. That means over a third of the remaining people in the settlement are there.

It isn’t until dinner that he finds out what is going on. Ace had set everyone to modifying the walls. They worked just fine for some wolves, but he was planning ahead. Jan and her group hadn’t disappeared, and there had been those few thugs that escaped by the river. Ace wanted to be ready for human opposition. The founders and the new core members had put their life into the place and they didn’t want to lose it.

This time the walls were going to be proper monuments to the effort they have put in. The walls are being built up out of rubble from the town and then Kellinger would stone shape it all together. Besides that, they are building wood houses between the inner and outer wall. They do plan to delve the dungeon in a couple days but for now they are focused on developing the town. Ace was only going to let them back in so soon because skills had sped up the construction work.

The few days pass quickly for him as he zones out. Doyle looks over his floors, but all he changes is adding a few more lootable storage bags. Not as a permanent thing, he just wanted to up the chances of one dropping. Besides that, he enjoyed watching the work that was done on the inner wall.

Though it isn’t much of an inner wall anymore. Ace had gone through with making it a giant building. Over the course of the afternoon Kellinger shifted stones non-stop until they formed an enormous dome over the entrance portal, covering the entire area affected by the energy well. 

There aren’t even holes to let light in. Instead, the settlement has gone through a lot of effort to bring in some pre-system lights. To power them, they spread all of the solar panels they scavenged across the top of the dome.

Now bright and early the next day, a group has gathered in front of the entrance once again. Jim, Bill, Tess, Jeremy, Kellinger, and Kelly all step into the dungeon ready for the first couple goats. Of course those goats aren’t there anymore, and that makes the group quite worried. They needn’t be though as they stomp through the rest of the floor easily.

With Doyle’s changes to the floor, there isn’t anything to resist them. The closest to danger they come is in the big goat room. Even then that mostly comes from the unexpected strength of the high level goat.

The second floor hasn’t changed all that much, which is a relief to the group. Then they reach the end and Jim facepalms. “Of course there’s a third floor! That could explain the reduction on the other floors. The dungeon must have moved stuff around to make it or something. Anyway, I know I’m the nominal leader for the group, but what are all of your opinions on exploring the third floor?”

Kelly is the first to speak up. “I’m sure you all know my answer. There is something new to explore and I wouldn’t mind being on the forefront of it. Though of course this is with the understanding that Ace would probably want us to retreat and come back with a bigger group.”

Most of the others agree with this. Only Kellinger has a different opinion. “I don’t mind if we pop into the first room, even if there is something too much for us, we can just retreat through the portal. I however do not think we should explore it. While the first floor’s change might seem to make it easier, that is only because we can take goats no problem. I counted and there were more goats in bigger groups. Normal groups would have a moderate problem. About the only thing easier is the last fight and removal of the gotcha assassin vine. Also, some of the goats had clearly received a non-standard power up. Just that alone threw us off so who knows what might be on this next floor.”

After some more debate, the rest end up agreeing with Kellinger at least a little bit. They head into the third floor where they are met with another empty room. Jim looks around, “Well, this looks more like a cave than any of the other floors. A little moist though, and I think I can hear running water. Kellinger, can you do anything with water or are you limited to stone?”

Kellinger shrugs, “I’m not limited to stone but I’m not able to deal with water. A little too loose for me to control at the moment.”

Jim shakes his head, “Fair enough, hopefully this isn’t some sort of lake or river we are dealing with. Now lets move out.”

The team leaves the entrance only to be greeted by an empty room with a staircase down. Jim stops anyone from getting close to the stairs. “Let me take a look. This is the first time something like this has happened. It should be another floor because it isn’t a portal but even with the ramps the previous floor was just a plane of rooms.”

He crouches down and stalks over to the hole, a rough almost staircase is all he can see. Jim tosses a small pebble and it clatters for a little before stopping out of sight at the bottom. “Well it looks like the lower part of the floor is lit up as well. I do have to wonder what is up with this but I guess we will find out.”

Kellinger speaks up at this point. “Didn’t we agree to turn back at anything too out of the ordinary? I think this counts.”

Jim shrugs, “There were the ramps, so it isn’t too much out of line.”

Kelly laughs, “You’ve both forgotten about the second floor’s staircase already? It isn’t quite one to one being made of wood and part of a single room, but still. Are we really going to turn around just because of some stairs?”

Kellinger sighs while Jeremy laughs and volunteers to go first. As he freely admits, “I am sort of trained for this kind of thing. I doubt anything on just the third floor of the dungeon would be able to stop me from escaping.”

With Jim’s permission, Jeremy glides down the staircase, silent as a whisper. At the bottom, most of the room is dry, but at the corner opposite the stairs is the room’s exit and a small puddle of water with some mushrooms growing. Satisfied the room isn’t too much of a threat, he retreats a short distance up the stairs and gestures for the others to join him.

Once grouped up again Jeremy points towards the mushrooms. “I don’t like that. Most of them are normal, even edible, but that one at the edge is highly poisonous.”

Jim also isn’t too happy about the fungus growth. “Poisonous mushrooms are all fine and dandy, but they shouldn’t be growing like that. The walls and the floor have dirt packed into the crevices, yet this is the first sign of mushroom growth? We should have seen some upstairs.”

Kellinger sighs, “Yet this still isn’t enough to turn around, is it?”

Both Jim and Jeremy laugh. Jeremy wipes away a tear, “Of course not! I don’t know about Jim over there but these valuable ingredients for me and my wife. She would tan my hide if I didn’t try and collect as many samples as I can manage.”

Kellinger shakes his head but as a whole the group proceeds. The next room is the same size, but there are puddles all over the floor. In fact, they can see a small trickle of water flowing from a hallway to the right and down into a hallway at their left. That and a lot of mushrooms growing from all likely locations, even a few on the ceiling.

Jeremy looks around and shakes his head. “This is a bit more than I expected. There is something not right with all the mushrooms though.”

Jim nods his head, “I just tried to analyze a few and while most just show up as normal mushrooms, some failed to be IDed. They aren’t even special ones. Something is up and I want to know what it is.”

Bill and Tess who had mostly kept to themselves until now interrupt. Tess speaking up first, “I can feel something to the right.”

Bill nods, “The water source should be there instead of the trickle continuing on through another room.”

Jim raises an eyebrow, “Well, good to know. I guess finding the source wouldn’t be too bad of a thing.”

Tess shakes her head, “There is more than just a water source, no matter how useful that sort of thing could end up being.”

Kellinger rolls his eyes, “I would be worried if we found nothing. We’ve already gone four rooms without finding a single monster. The less monsters there are the stronger they will be. Just think of how many goats are being thrown around! I don’t want to fight something that can replace the deluge of horned furballs without some info.”

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