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Dungeon Core Academy: Book 1


Technically, I was still a student at the Dungeon Core Academy.

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t die during their exam.

That was worrying to think about early in the day, so I tried to calm myself. Just relax. This is my first dungeon, and they don’t expect me to work wonders, right? I’m a new dungeon core. I was only resurrected a year ago, and I only just graduated from the academy.

They can’t expect too much, can they?

Those thoughts rushed through my head as the overseers took me, a core gem, from the academy and to my first dungeon. My very own lair, one that I would be responsible for from here on out…or until they finished evaluating me.

They placed me on a pedestal in the middle of the room, and then started to leave without even saying goodbye. I would have been surprised, except that Dungeon Core Academy overseers are famous for their lack of manners. Not that I was much better.

“Wait,” I said.

Two of them left, but one remained standing in the archway of the tunnel that led out of the dungeon. He wore black robes and a black mask, purposefully hiding his identity. It was likely he had taught one of my classes over the past year, but the rules of the dungeon evaluation meant I wasn’t supposed to see which overseers had brought me down here. The academy prizes tradition over everything. Well, everything except killing heroes.

“What if no heroes come?” I asked him.

“That is down to you, Beno.”

“What if they do, but my traps are too easy? Or my monsters are weak and crummy, like blind, one-legged goblins?”

“It is down to you to make sure you do not create blind, one-legged goblins. Good luck, young core.”

“There’s something you aren’t telling me, isn’t there?”

The overseer smiled. “Would you expect anything less?”

If my dungeon sucked by the end of the evaluation, that was it. They’d smash me up and use my gem parts in the resurrection of a new core for the academy. As much as I tried staying calm, it was a hell of a weight to put on a poor gem’s shoulders.

Still, no point dwelling. It was time to get started. Time to put into practice everything I had trained for, the reason I had been brought back from death in the first place.

Looking around, I saw that I was alone in a 6x6 foot square room. I was in the middle, raised on a pedestal.

This must be my core room. Out of all the rooms in a dungeon, this was the most important, because if a hero ever reached here…if they got through all my traps and my puzzles…

No use thinking about that. Better to act.

I already knew the first step, because I had actually paid attention in class. Becoming a dungeon core meant resurrection, a second chance at life. I’d breezed through my old life and somehow gotten myself killed, and I refused to mess this new one up.

So, time to begin.

Initialize. Show core stats.

I felt myself start to glow. Light shot out from me, colored green when it was filtered by my gem surface. The light spiraled around me, finally presenting as words written in the air that only I could read.

Name: Beno

Dungeon Core

Level 1

Core Purity: 100%

Essence: 1/1

One measly essence point. There wasn’t a lot a core could build with that. A little like giving a baker one grain of flour, a speck of egg white, and then asking him to bake a four-tiered cake. Still, like the overseer said, this was all down to me, and I knew what do to.

I focused on the wall ahead of me.


A chunk of mud dug out from the wall, splattering on the ground.

Skill gained! Digging – 1%

I checked my essence again.


Essence: 0.5/1

What was my regeneration rate? Hmm. At level 1, something like .4 per hour. Damn it. I’d need to dig out my own rooms in the dungeon, but at this rate, it’d take me a hundred years. And unless the overseers planned on evaluating me for that long, all I’d get was a big, fat fail.

Nope, that was too slow by any core’s standards, so I’d have to grow my essence a little. My total essence would increase when I leveled up, and I could only level up by killing things in my dungeon. Or by having a bunch of monsters do the killing for me, of course. But what about now, when I was monster-less?

Maybe I could…


I looked around. I knew that the overseers never put a new core in a room that had no resources, and I also knew that cores weren’t just pretty little gems. My body was useful for more than that! You’d never find a dungeon core gem sitting on a pretty lady’s ring finger, unless it was part of some diabolical scheme to murder a rich nobleman.

Swiveling around in my pedestal, I saw that on the mud wall behind me, there was a tiny patch of glowing green moss. Maybe an inch of it, so not much at all.

But, as was oft repeated in the Essence Use for Beginners class, it isn’t the size...it’s what you do with it. To me, that single patch of moss represented the difference between building a dungeon worthy of the underworld, or fading into nothing.

Draw, I commanded.

A tendril of light spun out from me, forming an arm and a hand. I guided it across the room, aiming for the glowing moss. My first attempt missed, and I hit the wall. There was no pain, and nothing happened to the wall.

 That would have been too easy; if my core arms could actually lift things, I’d

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