"Are we going over more sword skills today?" Behind him, Rulo heard Vena shout out her question with palpable excitment. "I've got all the basics down, you know? My footwork is perfect, my skills are great, even [Sure-strike] and that other one!"
"You mean the [Guard-break] skill." Rulo replied, as he continued leading their march deeper into the forest. There was a cold breeze today, the cover of canopy above their heads soaking up the warmth of the sun. "That's something you'll need, if you're ever up against armor."
"Yes, that one." Rule listed as Vena replied from somewhere behind him, footsteps quickening as she caught up to his pace. "Seems silly though, I don't know what sort of monster would have armor. Maybe those giant crabs? I've heard in town that some adventurers try to fight those for their shells, good for armor. Otherwise, I don't see the point."
"You can never have too many skills, daughter of mine."
"You say that, but then you only teach me the boring ones."
"Boring..." Rulo picked at a low hanging vine, as they continued down the path. "Remember, that I'm teaching you anything at all is simply fortune in itself. My own father... he never showed me how to do much more but swing a hammer."
"I'm not about to become a smith."
"No, no you're not, Vena." Rulo sighed, as they reached the clearing. "But that's exactly why we're having our lesson today."
"Do you mean sparring? Are we finally sparring, for real? Without the wooden swords?"
"No, that's not it." Rulo dusted off his shirt, checking the leather straps which held together his padded armor. The armor was worn. So very worn, scratched and even torn through in some places. The look of equipment that was well passed its prime, but not quite ready to give up the ghost. Still, despite all that, Rulo felt a sense of lingering attachment. "We're doing something else, instead."
"We're not sparring then? Then why did you drag me all the way out into the woods? Are we hunting? I have my bow-"
"Vena, repeat the three rules for me."
"What?" Vena stopped short at Rulo's raised hand, eyes narrowing suspiciously. "All of them?"
"Yes, daughter of mine: all of them."
"Is this a trick, father? You had me learn these years ago, before you even let me pick up a sword."
"There is no trick." Rulo replied. "Just answer."
"All... alright. The first rule is to trust your team."
"That's correct." Rulo nodded. "Go on."
"Second rule is trust your gut."
"Good, very good, and the last?"
"The last is: if you can't win, you should run."
"Yes." Rulo nodded, as he crossed his arms. "Those are the rules."
"So? I knew them already, I've known them for years." Vena scowled. "What's the point in asking me what I already know?"
"Because there are three more, that I haven't taught you." Rulo replied, sternly. "That's why we're here today."
"You took me all the way here, for a lecture? What about training? You told me you were going to teach me [Double-strike] soon. Or maybe [Warrior's rush?] Can you teach that one?"
"No, Vena. That's not why we're here."
"Because today we're going on your first descent." Rulo replied. "Your first dive as most people call them."
"... Is this a trick?"
"No trick, daughter."
"What will mother say?"
"Your Mother doesn't know."
"We're going into a dungeon?"
"The dungeon, Vena. They are all connected, like a web that finds itself deep into the earth. It is important to remember that."
"And we're going? Now?"
"Yes, we are... though not far. There is a specific entrance that is hidden here, in this forest. A cavern that has found itself cut off, ruined by a collapse nothing has yet seen fit to clear away."
"Where?" Turning about, Rulo watched as Vena's eyes darted about the clearing. "No..." She hissed, as she approached the brush along the north side, past the wooden post that marked the trail head deeper into the forest. "It was here the whole time? Are you serious father? The whole time?"
"It's been here since I was a boy."
"Why didn't you tell me? You know how badly I've wanted to go into a dungeon!"
"The dungeon, and that's exactly why I didn't tell you. Vena, I teach you not because I wish a life of Adventuring for you, but because I'd like you to survive it."
"You say my skill with a sword is better than yours! I've been ready!"
"Swinging a sword isn't what being an adventurer is about. That's what you do when something goes wrong, and there's no other way to fix it." Rulo pushed aside the foliage, as he took the lead again. Vena followed closely. "That, is something I hope you'll learn today."
Rulo took his first steps past the last of the underbrush, foot passing from soil to stone. It was familiar, this crossing. He'd heard it described in many ways, but Rulo had always found it to be almost... mystic. Darkness closing in around him, a feeling of excitement, of terror. The taste of mana, rich, wild, and angry... he stopped and closed his eyes, as it all began to close in around them.
"Yes, father?" Vena's reply seemed very loud in the space of the carvern's entrance. Though, at the same time, Rulo thought she sounded almost... silent. As if her voice were pulled away by a nonexistent wind.
"There are three more rules, that you've yet to learn." Rulo listened as his own words echoed off, down into the dark abyss before them. A tunnel that lead down, deeper into the stone and earth. "The first is simple. While you must trust your team: you can not trust them too much."
"I do. The only person I can rely on completely is myself." He heard her pause, before adding, "And you, father."
"Good. The second, is that while one must trust their gut, they must also trust their own heart. One's own beliefs, those can be a source of strength. Do you understand?"
"I... I think so." He heard her reply.
"There will come a time when you are torn. Unable to know what is the right choice to make. Unable to determine which way you will need to go, or what action is correct. There are times for logic and faith, just as there are times for instinct."
"I understand, father."
"What is the final rule?"
"It is tied, just as the others. Tied and wound about all that I have tried to teach you until now. The deeper you go into the depths, the more dangerous your journey will become. Rule rules I teach you are there to protect, and to guide."
"The rules will keep me safe."
"Yes, that is my hope."
"Then... the last rule?"
"The last rule... daughter, you are strong. You know this, you believe this, but on day there will be a fight you can not win."
"And if I can't win, I should run. I know that rule."
"Yes, you do, but not all in life is so simple."
"I don't understand."
"No, you don't. Not yet." Rulo let the air in his lungs fill him, deeply, then leave his flesh in a long sigh. Slowly, he began to walk forward into the dark. "But one day, there will be a situation: a battle, or a decision, in which you believe you can't win." Deeper into the abyss, Rulo let the cold soak into his bones as the dungeon beckoned. "And instead of running, you will stay and fight."
"But that's against...?"
"Yes, the final rule is that, in all things, there is always a choice. No matter the cost, there is always a choice."
"You're... You're saying I should break the rules. Why? Why would I do that?"
"Because one day, Vena... one day you will find something that matters more than your own life." Rulo replied, as he marched into the darkness. "Just as I have."