Chapter 1

Dungeon Runner 3

Chapter 1 banner

All of the colors of the world—the green hills, the far-off forest, and the City of Creannan’s walls—elongated and twisted. There was a collective intake of breath as if every person in the city decided to inhale at once.

Then everything snapped together.

Entin Soroy, leader of the Dungeon Runners, stood somewhere he had not been before: a new waypoint?

Crooked trees leaned this way and that, covered in odd bunches of mushrooms. Their branches stretched toward the afternoon sky, supporting verdant leaves and curious birds tweeting casually.

A ring of golden pixels streamed around the platform, indicating that he, his party—Triton and Aayra, excluding Bailey, who was still regrowing her leg—and Dren Becker’s daughter Ava were temporarily invulnerable.

Ava, with as much attitude as a girl in her early twenties could muster, rolled her honey-brown eyes and hurried off the circular stone. The golden pixels turned gray and faded.

She brushed her brunette hair behind an ear and looked back to give Entin an impatient glare. She wore the default brown shorts and shirt like they did, bare feet trudging the dirt.

Entin summoned his game screen and followed. The map of the Land was an ocean of black, indicating unexplored territory. This new waypoint placed them about eight miles north of the Troken Dungeon.

“How did you find this waypoint?” he asked. Traveling this far into the Wilds was cogging impressive. Most of the adventurers barely poked the forest beyond the city’s walls.

Ava blew out a lungful of air and continued marching down the path, choosing to ignore him as she had since first meeting them near the city.

Yo, maybe,” Triton added, keeping a keen eye on Ava’s figure, staring lower than would appear appropriate, “she’s got a bad case of the Echo.”

“I don’t!” Ava said, glaring back at the blue-haired guy, prompting him to grin.

“I got her to say something. Score!”

“The Echo doesn’t do that,” Aayra said, speaking from experience. “Even the worst cases of it wouldn’t prevent someone from talking. She just thinks herself superior.”

Ava whipped around, hands on her hips. “As if. Don’t pull me into that stupid bickering about class. This is a complete waste of time. I should be the one to save my parents, not a bunch of . . . Runners.” She said the word with distaste.

Entin dismissed his game screen. It collapsed to blue and silver pixels. “Alright, what’s stopping you then?”

“My pa, that’s who,” she said, then immediately crouched, a finger pressed to her lips. Everyone followed her example, becoming alert.

Something snorted beyond a few trees and bushes. It sounded like a Pa’unog, one of the piglike mounts the Gunthek used.

Ava grabbed the front of her shirt and frowned, evidently expecting to find her bow. She caught him watching her and mouthed, Scout.

A low, rhythmic wet voice sounded like the scout was talking. The words didn’t make sense and flowed as if in a bored drawl.

Two Guntheks rounded a bush not more than twenty feet ahead. They looked like frogs except for their black beaks. Each stood about four feet tall, had bulging yellow bellies, wore scraps of leather for armor, and carried spears.

Ava tensed and eased back until Entin signaled her to stop. For scouts, they weren’t very observant. In fact, the most observant of the party was likely the Pa’unog that the leading Gunthek rode.

It was a muscular creature with matching green skin to its rider. Jagged black tusks extended out nearly a foot ahead of it, likely used to impale its prey. It sniffed the air, head rolling left and right.

“Ruo bi ba oughruk,” said the leader. Its companion, smaller and lighter in skin color, made a high-pitched noise and croaked as if in laughter. That abruptly stopped when the leading Gunthek slammed the shaft of its spear down upon its companion’s head.

A minute later, the two scouts disappeared around a tree, only present by the sound of the leading Gunthek’s monologue.

Ava stood, finding herself very close to Triton, who had somehow moved up next to her while everyone was distracted.

Yo,” he said and grinned. “You dating anyone?”

She let out a breath, rolled her eyes, and marched forward, hurrying her step. “The dungeon’s up here,” she whispered. “But the Guntheks patrol this area, so we need to be careful.”

Triton nodded. “I’m the best at being careful and stuff. It’s practically my middle name.”

“I thought,” Aayra said with a smirk, “Danger was your middle name?”

“Who says I can’t have more than one middle name? And cogs, girlio, I said practically. Way to miss a detail, Ms. Genius.”

Entin, not for the first time that day, wondered whether he had invited the right people to be Dungeon Runners. This whole thing was a trial, one that had succeeded well in the undersea library.

But now they were being tested by adventurers. If they could pull this off, word would spread, and new jobs—lucrative jobs—would fall into their laps.

Today marked a massive change to their lives, yet his party continued to treat it without respect. Lourne would know what to do. Maybe Entin just had to ask the man how to be a leader.

Ava climbed a tangled mess of roots. It led up to a stone ledge sandwiched between trees covered in moss and purple mushrooms.

Entin and the others followed. If not for Ava, he wouldn’t have thought twice about the ledge that led into a twisting path, walled by trees until it opened to a dungeon’s entrance.

A large octahedron-shaped white crystal hovered in front of a smooth-cut stone. Wisps of white lifted from the stone’s surface, drifting there like clouds. Four smaller black crystals in the same shape as the main crystal floated out from the center at forty-five-degree angles.

“How did you even find this?” he asked. Each dungeon entrance seemed to have been secreted away into the fantasy landscape.

“Does it matter?” Ava asked. “My parents aren’t going to last forever in there. And this dungeon has a modifier. If the entire party dies, we can’t try again, not to mention we won’t have any gear.”

This world had so many mysteries, yet no one wanted to share their knowledge. It was cogging obnoxious.

What would Lourne do?

The man would get straight to business, take charge, ask the right questions, and tell everyone what to do so they didn’t waste time.

“Send me an invite to your party,” Entin said, standing a little taller and taking command. It was, after all, what they were paying him for. “What’s the dungeon’s theme?”

“You can find that out when you get in there,” she said, summoning her red game screen. She tapped a few times until a new dialog appeared.

Party Invite

Accept or Decline?

Ava has invited you to her party.

“This is what’s going to happen,” he said, battling two fronts: anxiety and annoyance. He purposely let the invite dialog hover in the air. “We’re here to help you. If you won’t cooperate, we’re leaving.”

“Leaving!” she yelled, then cupped her mouth. In a much quieter tone, she said, “But I just brought you here and paid to unlock the waypoint for you. You can’t leave now.”

“I’m not working with someone who doesn’t want our help.”

“Yeah,” Triton said, always eager to add value to the conversation, “You have to want it.”

You, shut up.”

Aayra laughed.

Ava crossed her arms and breathed through her nose. “Fine. This is stupid. But fine. I’ll cooperate.”

“Good. Because you’re going to be one of my Runners.”


“Yes. I have three members. You and your parents make up another three, keeping us within the six-member max. And you’ve actually been in the dungeon. You know what we’re up against.

“So let me ask again, why waste time getting us if you can save the day? And what’s the dungeon’s theme?”

Ava looked at him, then flicked her eyes to the portal’s crystals before looking back. “I tried, okay? Redeemers’ folly, I tried and died four cogging times trying to get back to my parents. But all of the mobs are camping the entrance.”

“You were just going to send us in there to die?” Entin asked.

“To die?” Triton echoed, mimicking Entin’s aggravated expression.

She tensed. “No, I—”

“I get it,” Entin said, “you don’t want to be shown up by a Runner. But maybe you should stop thinking this is about ego and think more about fixing the problem you created.”

“I didn’t create the problem,” she said, miffed.

“You didn’t aggro the mobs and pull them to the entrance, making it so your parents can’t escape?”

“I was . . . helping. And if I can’t fight through them, what makes you think you can?”

Entin could feel the seconds ticking away to the point when her parents would materialize here with nothing and no way back to reclaim their gear.

He finally accepted the party invite. “Dungeon Runners,” he said, motioning to Triton and Aayra, sending each a party invite, “don’t fight monsters. We exploit dungeons. We avoid the enemy or aggro them away.

“You’re going to be our Grabber,” he said, pointing to Ava. “You know where you died, so you can get there and back the fastest. Triton and Aayra are Distractors. They will sacrifice themselves to keep the monsters from you.”

“That’s what you do?” Ava asked, something evidently clicking in her head. Her attitude seemed to wash away at that moment, realizing they were not crazy, low-level adventurers with no gear. It was all a strategy.

He nodded and asked her to quickly explain the details of the dungeon while he pointed two fingers at it and twisted his wrist, summoning its Information Box.

Abruel Dungeon

Exquisite · Rank 2
  • Dungeon Reset: 14h 41m
  • Treasures: 3/3
  • Leaderboard: Unclaimed
  • Modifiers: Limited 1


Dungeon Modifier

A limited dungeon can only be attempted the number of times indicated. Once started, if there are no party members in the dungeon, the dungeon instance ends, and the party cannot reattempt until the dungeon resets.

Death incurs a 5-minute cooldown before the party member may be permitted to re-enter.