“And then we got here,” Dean finished, looking around at his spellbound audience.
They all began to clap and cheer.
“Fascinating!” one of the villagers said. The villagers all clumped together, chatting and talking, sneaking peeks at Dad and Dean as they talked.
Then, in unison, they turned back towards Dean and Dad.
“Would you like to trade with us?” asked one of the villagers.
“We sell many items! Are you interested in fancy iron armor?” asked another.
“Hey there, people from the upside. There are many trees up there . . . I was hoping you had some sticks that you could sell to me?” asked a third. Dean looked at Dad and Dad looked at Dean. This must be the fletcher that Brian Blacksmith talked about. The one that was desperately in need of sticks!
He looked very hopeless. “I always ask whenever we get a visitor and no one ever thinks to bring any. Sticks might be kinda worthless upside, but down here, they are worth their weight in emeralds.”
A couple of the other villagers chuckled. Apparently that last bit had been a a joke. Dad sighed. Dean stepped in front of him.
“Well that is actually why both of us came down here,” Dean said.
The fletcher’s eyes raised, slowly filling with the magical glimmer of hope.
“Wait, really? I am so grateful to you both!” said the fletcher. “You can’t imagine how long it has been since I’ve actually been able to make stuff!”
Dad smiled. “You have Brian Blacksmith to thank for that,” he said.
“Yeah, he sent us down here because of your increasing problems with acquiring sticks,” Dean added. Then he frowned. “Say, how did he know that you needed sticks, yet he didn’t bring you any sticks himself?”
The fletcher laughed. “Haven’t you ever heard of batmail?”
Seeing the confusion on their faces, he continued.
“Right then. So what I do when I want to send a message up is craft a note using a book and my trusty quill. Then I go to the bat cage, give the note to the bat, and let him fly. He goes all the way up to Brian, and Brian hands out the mail from there. I call it the Fred – Brian Postal Service. You know, because I am Fred the Fletcher.”
“Oh, we didn’t know. Nice to meet you, Fred. I am Dean and this is my dad, Dad.”
He cocked his head, confusion evident on his face.
“Hello!” Dad said. “Yeah, I’m a Dad named Dad. Just roll with it.”
Fred nodded. “Well it is nice to meet you both, and thank you for bringing the sticks. Now may I buy those bundles of sticks that you have for emeralds?” Fred asked.
“You one hundred percent can! You can count them out if you need to, but we have 28 emeralds worth of sticks,” Dean said. “I mean, that was kinda the whole point of us tearing up the wood in the mine. We need 28 emeralds worth to buy those awesome magic swords from Brian the Blacksmith.”
“Hmm, that will be a lot of sticks,” Fred said, his blocky hand doing a strange sort of rub on his blocky chin. “I may have to restock emeralds because of the amount. Tell you what, I restock two times a day. Whenever I run out of emeralds to trade then I will let you know when I have more emeralds. I have 11 emeralds right now. So give me those sticks, will ya?”
Dean was impressed. Despite being a blocky computer game character, Fred was making a good deal.
Of course neither Dean nor Dad could pass up on the offer. They had exploring to do and the big thing about exploring is that it requires emeralds.
No emeralds, no awesome equipment. At least not quickly.
“Deal,” Dean said, getting the sticks from his inventory then handing them out. And Fred also did the same thing, trading his 11 emeralds for 352 sticks.
“Great doing business with you. If it wasn’t for you I would still be in need of sticks.”
“No problem,” Dean replied. “Everyone needs a helping hand. Just like how you needed those sticks and we needed emeralds. We helped each other out and that is a great thing to do.”
“It certainly is,” Fred the Fletcher said, beaming.
In Dean’s vision an achievement rose up, congratulating him for a deal well done.
“I think all of us are going to become good friends,” Dad said, his face rising into a smile.
“Yeah, that we might,” Fred said. “That we might.”
Suddenly Fred’s eyes were glowing, and particles started gathering around him!
“What’s happening Fred?” Dean asked.
“I think I’m leveling up! Hey, Dean, come trade with me to see what’s new,” Fred said.
“Woah!” Dean said as he looked at Fred’s deals. The new deals were 26 flint for an emerald and 2 emeralds for a bow!
“Fred, your stuff is awesome!” Dean shouted.
“What new deals do I have?” Fred asked.
Dean cocked his head. It seemed like something he should know.
“You have a deal for 26 flint for an emerald and you have a deal of 2 emeralds for a bow!” Dean said. “And you have ten gravel and 1 gem for ten flint. That one seems a little strange to me, but anything is better than nothing.”
“Cool” Dad said absent-mindedly. He’d moved away a little bit and he was looking around the place, seemingly searching for something new and interesting.
Suddenly the gate to the basecamp opened up, a metal door that opened by pushing a large button in the ceiling above it. It waited 3 seconds while the villager walked in and over, and then it closed on its own.
Dean nudged Dad. “We should really see what is outside. We’re far down and I bet we can get a lot of good ores. Maybe even some red stone!”
Dad nodded. “Adventure is my middle name, Dean. Let’s go!”
The two of them waved goodbye to Fred the Fletcher, then went to the door. Dean pushed the button and the two of them went through.
They looked around, checking out the marvel of the Underdark. It was dark, it was very wide and it was very deep. But there were patches of lava that lit up spots here and there, keeping a rather overall dim light running through all of the dungeon.
In the distance they could see a legion of monsters.
“Woah, this is super cool” Dean said.
Dad nodded and they stood a long moment, checking the place out. Right near to the village there was some gold, spots of iron. Even one block of emerald. They mined it all, Dad watching Dean’s back while Dean dug the metal out of the ground.
Then they headed back inside.
Viewing the Colony of the Deep Dark from this angle put the whole place into a new light. It was an amazing feat of Mark Roberesque engineering.
There were platforms hanging on chains with a camp and houses built into the stone of one massive cave. It also had another wall like the exact same one from the entrance.
Dean looked over the residents with impressed eyes. These were not just normal villagers. In fact they were more then normal. They had lived in this cave for decades!
Most villagers would have died so long ago. The ones that lived here . . . they seemed smarter and wiser. Maybe even stronger than the ones he was sued to.
“Well, once we get our swords, I think this city might make a fine headquarters for our adventures?” Dean asked.
“Absolutely. I think we should explore the cave later after we’re done with our trading on the surface,” Dad replied.
“Good idea. Well, Nature, fear us for soon we shall conquer your heights in glorious adventure!”
Dad laughed. “Yeah. That’s good. I like it. Come on. Let’s go find a place to sleep, and trade for the rest of our emeralds in the morning.”
The two of them walked through the village, looking for a place to sleep. Walking through an interior wall, they found that the villagers of the Deep Dark had a sort of flophouse filled with many beds, all next to each other.
It was like they were all a family. There were some other homes that were separate, chiseled into the stone of the place with seperate beds for the richer people. But for the most part, everyone here worked together, ate together, and slept next to each other.
Dean jumped into a red bed, and Dad grabbed a black one next to him.
“So how are you liking the game so far, Dean?” Dad asked. “Is it everything that you thought it would be?”
He turned when Dean didn’t answer, and he saw his son lying there, eyes closed, and a giant blocky smile on his face.
Maybe that was answer enough.