30 Secrets of the Exile Frontier
By mid morning she had killed another five Rank 1 Ice Venom Sky Snakes and added the materials to her pack. According to the information she could find on ranking up her magic power, it would take about ten essence stones of the appropriate rank to level up to the next rank. So ten Rank 1 stones would get her to Rank 2, and it would take ten Rank 2 stones to get to Rank 3. Alternatively she could use Rank 1 stones to get herself to Rank 3, but it would take a considerable amount. At Rank 2 it would take fifty Rank 1 stones to get to rank 3, and that number would only increase the higher the rank.
In total she had twenty Rank 1 stones, but she was after Rank 2 snakes so she could get herself to the next rank. But something was off in the forest today. Unlike the day before when the Rank 2 Ice Venom Sky Snake had shown up, the silence today was thicker, more pronounced. There was a strange magic that could be sensed in the air, a stale, old feeling that made Zoey's bones feel heavy.
She was put on guard by the strange atmosphere, and moved forward carefully, always keeping an eye on her surroundings. The deeper she went into the area, the stronger the strange aura of magic became until she could actually see it in the air like a fog.
Against her better judgement, Zoey kept going deeper. Her purpose in this universe was to survive, but she still felt the desire for adventure that had kindled once again inside her. She was slowly regaining her sense of wonder and curiosity she had lost so long ago on Gaia. So she kept moving deeper into the fog, cautious, but curious.
As she went deeper she began so sense something ahead. It felt like there was a doorway from which all the magic fog was seeping out from. Soon enough, she found the doorway. She had been to this very spot during her hunt yesterday, and there had been nothing here, yet now she saw a massive five meter tall, three meter wide doorway to somewhere in the center of the clearing. From the doorway she could see the strange magic fog seeping out and into the forest around the area, giving the whole place a gloomy, suffocating feeling.
The doorway seemed to be some kind of portal to another place entirely. Looking into the portal all she could see was black depths descending into absolute darkness. She could not see any end. She looked around the side of the portal and found that from the other side it was as if the portal did not even exist.
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Scratching her head about the strange phenomenon Zoey moved to the side and sat down. She was not sure if she wanted to enter into the portal without knowing what was in store her her in there. For all she knew it was some sort of prison with no way out. She opened her interface with a thought and started looking through Sethrii's database for any information she could find about this strange occurrence.
Sure enough, with a little searching she found her answer. It seemed like Sethrii had an extensive amount of info on these portals. They were known to the inhabitants of Darren as dungeons, and were the leftover remnants of a god's former project. Long ago a god had set up a series of portals that led to a different realm that the god had created. These portals were designed to test the capabilities of whomever entered. If you managed to successfully clear a dungeon, you would be rewarded. What those rewards were was not specified. Each portal was completely random as to what was inside, but they all contained traps and hundreds, sometimes thousands of enemies that would incessantly come after any challenger.
However, at some point the creator of these dungeon portals lost interest in them and stopped maintaining the system, causing the entire thing to become unreliable and unstable. Once you could regularly find dungeons and even predict where they would appear, but now it was nearly impossible to find even a single one. If you did manage to find one, the people of Darren considered it a godsend.
Despite the risks involved, the dungeons were considered treasure troves of valuables and riches. All the would be adventurers that died trying to clear a dungeon only added to the store of riches to be found within. If you managed to actually clear one, unless you were the unluckiest person alive, you would still benefit in some way.
Once she finished reading the info she found, Zoey went back and stood in front of the dungeon portal. She had mostly decided to enter the portal. If anything she was confident in her ability to clear it based on the information she read. They were designed to test, not to outright kill the challenger. Besides, if she could make it through and find some interesting trinkets on the way, it would be worth it.
With her mind made up, she made one last check of her gear, and stepped into the portal. She experienced a second of complete sensory loss, and suddenly, she was somewhere else. She found herself in a dimly lit cave of some kind. There was some kind of glowing moss on the walls that allowed her to see what was around her. She was in some kind of staging room meant for preparation before entering the dungeon. At the far end she could see steps leading into darkness, and there was no sign of the portal that led her here.
So she was left with only one option. Move on into the depths of the dungeon. Calming her excitement, she unsheathed her knife and 9mm custom, and headed down the stairs, guided by the glowing moss on the walls as she walked.
She was ready to uncover the secrets that lurked in the depths.