65 Distant Desperation
Another item that Zoey found that intrigued her was a mini Krepelin that actually flew! It was a small model that fit in her hand, but the craftsmanship was incredibly detailed and the flight system was apparently true to a modern Kreppelin. It also came with a small wooden wand that was used to control the ship. It was a rather expensive toy, but Zoey hoped to learn more about Kreppelin design from it.
A short while later when they were leaving the marketplace there was a sudden commotion at the entrance of the town. A Vekt came sprinting through the gates waving her four arms in the air while yelling.
"Dungeon! Dungeon! A dungeon opened up north of town!" The Vekt yelled at the top of her lungs as she ran through the marketplace. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at each other for a moment, then all hell broke loose. Human and Vekt alike dropped what they were doing, grabbed their gear and beelined it to the front gate. Vendors tore down their shops and frantically hauled their stuff back to their homes so they could join the rush. The mercs that were in the market area either headed out the gate with the rest of the rush or headed to the Kreppelin docks to join with their companies.
Zoey was surprised that a dungeon appearing would illicit a response like this from the inhabitants of Sand Pit. Everyone she could see had a frenzied look in their eyes as they feverishly tried to force their way through the throng of people and out of the gate. The only exception was Athena. She had been watching Zoey's reaction to the comotion with a grin on her face.
"What? Is there something on my face?" Zoey asked Athena when she caught the other woman's stare.
"Oh nothing," Athena said with a wave and a smile, "I just found it interesting how you reacted. Do you want to go check it out?"
Zoey was interested in seeing what another dungeon would have in store, and she could see the gleam in Athena's topaz eyes that said she was ready for an adventure.
"Sure. But I don't know how you plan to get through this mess," Zoey said as she motioned to the still packed town exit.
"I have my ways hun, you just follow me!" Athena slapped Zoey on the shoulder, startling the sleeping Viridi who was stretched out on the other shoulder, getting a dissatisfied growl from the feline.
Athena laughed and made a face at Viridi then took off into the maze of streets carved into the sandstone as Zoey followed. After several turns, doubling back a few times, going up then down, they reached their destination.
Athena had led them to a large underground reservoir that seemed to be the water source for Sand Pit. There was a large amount of pipes and magical machinery that looked like a filtering and purification plant, but Zoey was a little confused as she could not see an exit down here.
"Ready for another swim hun?" Athena asked with a grin.
Zoey raised her eyebrows in surprise, "Through the water?" She asked Athena.
Athena replied with a laugh and simply dived into the water. Zoey shook her head with a laugh. She sent Viridi warning to hold her breath through their link and dove in after her friend. The water was a cool refresher from the heat that seemed to be the norm out here on the savannah. Zoey swam after Athena as she led them through the underwater passages and out from under the town of Sand Pit.
They emerged in an underground cavern that was a distance away from the town. Zoey wondered how such a place had remained undiscovered for so long, but got her answer soon enough. As they were about to leave the cave, Athena called out to Zoey.
"Hold on, you won't be able to leave if you don't have the key."
Athena took Zoey's hand and used her magic to draw a rune on the back. Once applied, the rune glowed, then sunk into Zoey's skin. Athena then did the same to Viridi and led them from the cave. Zoey felt a slight tingle on her skin when she came out into the open, and when she looked back the entrance to the cave was gone!
"It's called a physical illusion. It's designed for security and concealment. I got a tool that can create them from an acquaintance of mine," Athena explained.
"Impressive," Zoey said as she admired the illusion.
"Come on, let's go see what the fuss was about," Athena said with excitement in her voice.
It was not hard to find the location where the dungeon had appeared. After all there was a line of adventurers stretching the entire kilometer from Sand Pit to the portal, and no less than three Kreppelins floating in the air around it. Zoey and Athena stopped a ways away on a small rise where they could see what was happening.
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It was absolute chaos. The three Kreppelins belonged to the three strongest merc groups in Sand Pit and they were clearly trying to gain control of the portal and who could enter the dungeon. The adventurers on the other hand had only one goal, get into the portal. If they managed to get into the portal before anyone else, they would have first shot at the loot inside. Everyone knew that the dungeons had incredible artifacts that could change one's fate.
From where they stood, Athena and Zoey could see that mercs would have control of the area eventually as they were more organized and had better gear than the rest. Despite the desperation and desire to get into the portal, most of the adventurers were unwilling to risk their life in doing so. Only a few were desperate enough to actually fight their way through the mercs to get inside the dungeon. Some made it through, and some didn't, meeting their ends on mercenary blades for their trouble.
Zoey, Viridi, and Athena simply waited for everything to calm down. They had no idea what was in the dungeon, but there was a good chance that it would not be easy to clear it.