This chapter opens with Dale having developed a Spidey sense from having cold water dumped on him on random mornings by Hans, he of the inconsistent accent. Apparently this has leveled up Dale’s ability to anticipate surprise attacks, and he wakes up early to grab the bucket out of Hans’ hands and toss it on him instead. Immediately afterwards there is a meeting with the chef, who has this weird quirk where he yells at maximum volume on auto-pilot and has to remember to lower his voice. This is apparently because he’s used to talking to soldiers, who I guess have terrible hearing? He also threatens Dale and his group into collecting herbs from him (again, it was a quest they did last time, not that it wound up making a difference much at all).
Now not only was he able to keep up in his heavy plate armor, he had a good handle on the skills and abilities he needed to decidedly defeat the deadly denizens of the dark dungeon.
That alliteration at the end feels like the author has gotten bored with his own story and is throwing in little tricks like this in the prose just to keep himself entertained. I have no idea if that’s actually what happened here, but that’s what it feels like and that’s a problem by itself. The narrator shouldn’t suddenly come to life and have specific speech patterns like this unless it’s first-person or third-person limited and matches the voice of the character, which this doesn’t. This sounds like Cal is still talking, showing off his basic linguistic abilities like an eight year old for Dani, but he doesn’t narrate Dale’s chapters. Having it crop up in chapters where it’s not Cal narrating feels less like those things were meant to be Cal’s narration and more like Cal just so happens to talk pretty much exactly like the author. Which is weird, because while the characters are kind of shallow, Dungeon Born doesn’t have that problem where different characters have near-identical mannerisms, with sometimes the addition of a single agonizingly terrible quirk (not that Dungeon Born is shy about attempting to characterize its supporting cast with agonizing quirks, like the chef who yells for dumb reasons or Hans’ terrible on-again off-again accent, but it’s not actually necessary, characters have noticeably different personalities on their own).
Dale and co. make a quick raid, all goes smoothly, and then they return. In fact, it all went so smoothly that I’m not sure why it even happened, why they didn’t just let this conversation Dale walks in on happen as soon as he woke up. In any case, the actual plot gets going with this conversation:
[“]This will be the center of the goings on in the area, and who better to guide people than the church?!” The taller man angrily intoned, his voice ringing out clearly in a manner trained to catch attention.
“The PORTAL MAGES!” Frank roared, throwing his hands into the air. “That is their exact job! They guide and send people where they want to go!”
“Well the church sends them where they need to go!” The tall man boomed back, unimpressed. Frank saw Dale’s group walking over and visibly worked to calm himself.
“It’s a moot point, the man who owns all this land is here, he’ll make the decision.” Frank declared smugly, knowing that Dale was a friend.
“Excellent, where is he?” The taller man demanded. Frank pointed at the group, and he walked over. Going directly to Hans, whose face he could see was grinning, the man introduced himself.
It’s not at all clear why the Cleric here thinks that Hans is the land owner. It all leads to one of those terrible moments in fiction where all the characters act like something is just hilarious but the joke is actually kind of awful:
[“]I demand that you tell him that this is the perfect location for a church!” He finished in a ringing tone that reached every ear.
Hans looked from father Richard to Frank, “Well then. Frank, it is the perfect location for a church.” Hans told his Guild Master, and nearly burst into laughter at the look of triumph on Richard’s face, and the wry look on Frank’s.
“And. There. You. Have. It!” Richard crowed, throwing his hands in the air and beaming.
“Excuse me Father but-” Dale began, unfortunately he wasn’t able to match Father Richards pealing voice.
“The Lord provides, and we will have a beautiful place of worship and-”
“Hey!” Frank barked, thrusting his finger at Hans. “He isn’t the landowner.”
“He-” Richard whirled on the now maniacally laughing Hans and fixed him with a glare.
“Father, it is the perfect place!” Hans laughed so hard he fell over, “I… Ha-hah… I told him, just like you asked!” Everyone was chuckling except the crestfallen priest, so Dale decided to speak up.
This whole joke rests on Richard mistaking Hans for the landowner, and it’s not at all clear why. Moreover, this bit of mistaken identity might’ve been worth half a “heh” and instead Hans is almost literally rolling on floor laughing while pretty much every onlooker is audibly laughing.
Richard begins talking to Dale and he explains that he owns the entire mountain.
“I bought the land from both the Lion and the Phoenix Kingdom, just in case. It helped that my intelligence as a sheepherder was somewhat underestimated. Both Kingdoms assumed I wanted uninterrupted grazing pastures, not a valuable resource like a dungeon.”
“Brilliant!” Frank whispered. He hadn’t realized the forethought Dale had put into his good fortune.
“Brilliant” is laying it on kind of thick, but hey, fair enough, Dale really is doing some reasonably intelligent advance planning here.
When land was purchased, any deeds were signed with Mana-infused ink that was impossible to fake or forge. The contracts had to be honored by both Kingdoms, when before the contested nature of the mountain would allow one of the Kingdoms to attempt a hostile takeover if he had only bought from the other. In fact, the contract for the land would also be enforced magically, Frank wondered if Dale knew about this aspect of his purchase.
Here we’ve landed back in what looks like the author writing stream of consciousness and doing no editing, though, realizing that a contract is too flimsy to prevent a pair of hostile kingdoms bickering over a contested territory that contains a valuable resource from trying to invade and hastily appending a magical solution. “The contract would be enforced magically” seems like the first thing that should’ve been brought up. In a story that didn’t already show so many signs of doing little to no editing, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed, since the important information got out there by the end of the paragraph and it doesn’t really make a big difference one way or another, which goes to show how early mistakes can harm not just the scene they’re in, but can agitate a reader into noticing things they otherwise would not (something which is certainly amplified by the let’s read format, but even reading normally, the problem does not go away entirely).
Anyway, Richard turns out to be A-ranked, so Dale signs the land over to him. I’m, uh, not sure what the connection there is. He doesn’t seem to be afraid that Richard is going to flat-out murder him if he refuses, and he’s got a lot more to lose from Frank, who might renege on the deal to train him properly and who he has worried might flat-out murder him, even when Frank had no reason to want to do so.
“Well. The spot, ah, is yours it. . . seems. Let’s make a lease shall we? What are you willing to offer as payment?” Dale tried not to be stunned by the casual display of apocalyptic destructive capabilities.
Father Richard snorted at Dale’s attempt to seem nonchalant. “Many things. Firstly, I will build my own building. I will provide healing to people as needed, for a small offering. With this many people, families are bound to arrive, it won’t always be the simple military camp it is now. A church in the area will alleviate many concerns families may have. I will teach and train youngsters for no charge, and accept any into my order who are gifted with an affinity for celestial Essence.”
“I will be able to provide them a means to gain this Essence, in the proper ways. Often, children with celestial affinity are small or weak because they cannot gain any Essence, I will teach them how to properly cultivate through their prayers.”
“Finally, I will provide a bank to the community that will not be corrupt as a non-morally guided bank would be. We will only take a small amount in fees that will provide the bulk of our income, and our rent to you, which will be determined by a percentage of the gross amount we earn.”
In retrospect, I should probably have summarized this, so as to conserve my highlights for other things. I can only highlight up to a quarter of the total text.
In any case, it looks like a town with adventurer-related services springing up around the dungeon is going to be an ongoing theme, which just makes me more sad that Dale is taking the role of adventurer rather than quest giver. Managing the town’s services and trying to keep all the competing interests here to raid the dungeon would’ve been way more interesting than the recounting of clearing a three room Diablo clone dungeon that we get every time Dale descends below. This whole “Quest ATM vs. Dungeon Heart” premise sounds better and better every time I see Dungeon Born missing an opportunity to embrace it.
Also, I notice that Dale hands the land over to Richard without even asking Frank what the portal mages would’ve done with it.
Apparently, the promise of long life and vast riches caused people to ignore the danger inherent in this occupational choice.
Yeah, except the “vast riches” you’re offering is like a week’s wages.
Also, turns out Dani’s not done tutorializing after all, because she now explains to Cal that in order to hit D-rank he needs to turn his chi spiral into a fractal spiral. It’s not terrible metaphysics, but it’s also not clear what upgrade in actual power this will afford Cal, beyond having a larger energy reserve, and it’s not clear what he can actually do with a larger energy reserve that he can’t already. Nothing seems to require a minimum amount of energy greater than what he already has access to, nor does he seem to be under any time pressure to do anything that might make it useful to him to be able to do lots of stuff at once. What does he care whether or not it takes him a few weeks of spending from and then topping off his essence reserve to accomplish something? He’s under no time pressure, and has no plans to expand his influence or build more fortifications anyway.
In order to make his spiral made of spirals, Cal needs to seal off his dungeon so he can be undistracted for several days, without having to constantly respawn mobs.
Before attempting my breakthrough, I etched in the enchantment for protection and durability I had gained from a shield after a lucky kill some time ago. At the activation portion of the Rune, where I would normally deposit Essence into, instead I placed the corrupted Core, which was full of earth, and created a shunt that sent its energy into the Rune. The energy oozed into the pattern, slowly filling it to completion, until with a dull flash and an awkward flatulence-esk noise, it successfully activated the Rune!
So apparently corrupted energy can activate runes just like regular energy can, provided you can move the stuff around at all.