Editors: genericIntent, Scott
Author’s notes: It has been a very busy week so far, I only finished the job I was currently working on (painting an apartment) yesterday. Good news is that now I have a lot of time to get writing. I will first be writing chapter 2 of COTE and then the final two chapters of EO Volume 5! I will also shortly be going through all the old chapters and updating the previous/next chapter links. It is something I have passionately avoided for months, but now it must be done with the new tale coming.
As a full chapter release. It is greatly appreciated if you can show your support to take a minute of your time to follow the link and vote for End Online at TopWebFiction.com! Votes are reset weekly so even if you have voted before, please do so again! ^.^
For all of you that donate $1 or more a month to support me on Patreon, the chapter plan for this chapter is now available! I am a little unsure if people who support me on Patreon can see the posts from prior to joining. If you become a Patron and can’t see the posts, please send me a message there so I can work on a solution.
Editor’s notes:… [I tried to get something out of genericIntent, but apparently my torture and interrogation techniques have room for improvement]
As soon as I step off the boat and onto the sand, a notification appears.
Congratulations. As an explorer of a new land, you have been granted a new title. Desert Pilgrim ~ +20% Movement on soft and uneven terrain ~ +5 Agility ~ +5% Fire resistance Do you wish to equip? Please note, current title will be lost. Yes / No
Considering that my previous title became invalid when my identity was revealed, I immediately accept the new title.
I notice everyone else stopping momentarily as they step off the boat as well. Some people consider the message, while others are overjoyed at their fortune.
Fen remains on the ship as everyone else departs. I turn around to face her from the shore and see her crouching down. Every muscle on her body quivers momentarily before she launches herself off the ship with all her might. The ‘Bastion’ sinks several meters into the water from the counterforce as she leaps toward the shore, landing safely several tens of meters from the water.
The great white wolf trots over to kneel down next to me in a resting position. She looks at me with affection, resting her head on her two front paws. I place one hand against her shoulder, entrusting my weight to her.
While I am lost in a world containing only Fen and I, everyone else groups together in their parties. Sir Laurence, Verde, Mason, Matrix and CaptainGordon look at me with indecision. They are unable to decide whether they should approach, or leave us two together. They eventually decide to approach.
“Lost,” Mason gently interrupts the mood between Fen and I, “We had best head off soon. We need to find a water source where we can set up a base to explore from.”
“Can’t we just use the ship? Here we have both food and water, right?” I ask curiously.
Sir Laurence speaks up with disapproval, “The food and water on the ship have dwindled from the long journey. Besides, I have been on that ship long enough. I want to explore the land.”
“Got it. We had best be off then,” I look at my companion and see her not moving. “Fen?”
The wolf grumbles softly before standing up, and I can tell she doesn’t want to move too much.
‘Is she still recovering from the sickness? No, that can’t be it. Perhaps the heat?” I wonder to myself silently.
Walking away from the coast, we use the position of the sun to help us travel south. The sand is soft beneath our feet and our boots sink into it with each step, greatly slowing our travelling speed.
Near the coast the sand dunes are small, forming short ridges that are easy to pass over. This changes as we get further inland. The sand dunes are easily five or six meters high and so steep at points that we are forced to find a different approach to ascend them.
The heat and humidity begin to affect everyone, causing us to breathe deeply through our mouths and sweat to bead on our foreheads. My cloak prevents most of the heat from affecting me, but it does nothing to mitigate the humidity. While the air feels slightly warmer, it has a sticky texture and an unpleasantness similar to drinking warm water on a hot day.
“Enemy!” Matrix calls out in a panic as we are half way up on of the dunes.
I hastily turn my head to look down near the base of the dune and see five scorpions the size of cars rushing at us. Their legs click with each movement and sand is kicked behind them as they move forward.
“SomaHealer, Lockon, behind me! MoonKite, you take the lead!” Mikhail calls out and organizes his party members, who immediately spring into action.
Faster than Mikhail prepares for combat, our party gathers without the need for words. Being familiar with each others’ roles, Matrix and I take the forefront positions. Sir Laurence protects Verde as the vanguard while Mason fights from the rear. Fen uses her high speed to move around and magic to attack the enemy.
CaptainGordon, on the other hand, stands in place stupidly while not knowing what to do. I can’t blame him though, as he isn’t overly familiar with how we fight. When I take a closer look at him, I notice that he hasn’t even drawn the sword just visible beneath his cloak.
‘Is this guy not planning to help us fight?’ I muse.
Mason’s arrows connect first, drawing the attention of three scorpions away from the others as we move off to the side. The remaining two attack Mikhail’s party who remain in position on the dune. Due to having a higher position, they don’t seem to have any trouble fending off the scorpions’ attacks.
“Creature Analysis,” I speak quietly, inspecting the scorpions.
Name: Blue Scorching Scorpion Level: 210 Health: 8400 Magic: 0 Stamina: 1420 ??
‘Hmm, that’s strange. Why are they called ‘Blue’?’ I wonder to myself, with a note of caution edging into my awareness.
As the scorpions attack our front line, Matrix uses fire magic on his sword to launch flame blades while maintaining a safe distance from their tail attacks. I attempt to use my throwing knives, but they simply rebound off hard carapaces. Mason’s attacks also seem to be relatively ineffective. I suspect the scorpions have a strong resistance to or are immune to fire.
A barrage of ice spears several times the usual size pierce the scorpions but fail to go all the way through. Regardless, Fen moves sideways as more oversized ice spears form around her body.
Sir Laurence and Verde attack one of the scorpions from their flank, but their attacks do little damage.
The shining knight adopts a defensive stance and begins to chant. I am surprised to discover that he is in fact using two chants, one after another, for a single spell.
“Group Target, Stone Resonance!” He finally calls out, completing his spell.
A soft golden glow shines down on everyone in the party, applying a boost to endurance and health. As the spell falls on me, I somehow feel like I have become increasingly sturdy.
“Careful!” Mason calls out in warning.
The car-sized scorpions are incredibly cunning, waiting for our attention to waver just the slightest bit before activating their sacred arts. Their tails begin to glow with a poisonous green aura. Sensing a formidable danger in those tails I use ‘Backstab’ to avoid the attack.
The scorpions suddenly strike like lightning, leaving afterimages behind them. One of their stingers pierce directly through the center of my afterimage from using backstab and cause an explosion of sand in its place.
Another stinger attacks Matrix, who desperately attempts to dodge. The attack is simply too fast and the sand has slowed his movement too well. The venomous stinger passes through his hip. The attack doesn’t finish there, as he is raised up while skewered and flung away. Matrix lands about thirty meters away, creating a small crater in the sand around him. In the party window in my peripheral vision, I see he has already lost more than half of his health and is poisoned!
“Sir Laurence!” I call out as he uses his shield to partially block the third stinger and is knocked back several meters, “Matrix needs healing! That poison will probably kill him.”
The prince nods, dragging Verde with him to keep protecting her as he moves toward Matrix’s location.
The scorpion I am fighting dies as I use my ‘Triple Stab’ sacred art, and I immediately move to cover Sir Laurence and Verde from the scorpion chasing them. The enemy ignores me initially and relentlessly pursues the two, but as my damage accumulates, it eventually targets me.
I hear a strange crackling sound from behind me and turn my head to see a frightening scene. The dead scorpion corpse has spontaneously combusted, producing a cobalt fireball ten meters in diameter. I finally understand why the scorpion is called ‘Blue Scorching Scorpions’.
In front of me, a few unexpected swings of the scorpion’s claws catch me off guard and rapidly take me down to a quarter health. Fen’s ice bolts increase in number and press the scorpion as I withdraw in a panic to consume a few healing herbs.
An arrow seemingly enchanted with strong air pressure and gravitational fluctuation cuts through the scorpion while I am trying to keep my distance. I am surprised at first, but then notice that the scorpion Mason was fighting has also turned into a large fireball on the sand.
This scorpion’s health was already low from the combination of Sir Laurence and Verde’s attacks and then Fen’s and mine after, so Mason’s assistance easily finishes it off.
“Get back away from the corpse!” Mason shouts as it dies.
“I know, I know,” I call out, amused, while retreating beyond the range of the flames.
With the battle over, I finally realize just how strong those scorpions were. Not only were their attacks lightning fast, but their defense was incredible and the sand didn’t affect their manoeuvrability in the slightest.
Sir Laurence and Verde return with Matrix who is now in much better shape, and my health is slowly rising above the halfway point. I look to Mikhail’s party to see if they need any backup, but am shocked instead.
Mikhail and his three teammates are casually sitting a little away from the flames left by the death of their two scorpions. What is surprising is that those flames have already dwindled down to a small ball of a single meter in diameter.
It is a given that they won’t burn forever and will slowly extinguish, but the first scorpion of ours that was killed is still fuelling a blaze of about five meters in diameter.
‘What could it be that helped them defeat the scorpions so quickly? It wasn’t equipment or level. So was it tactics?’ I try to figure it out, but unfortunately I could not inspect the bodies as they had already been enveloped and burned away by the flames
As the blue fireballs from the corpses become smaller, a reflection of light catches my eye. Waiting for the flames to completely vanish, I walk over to the area and inspect the ground. I notice several fingernail-sized shards of glass, each colored with a light blue tint.
The blue flames emitted from the corpses of the scorpions must be hot beyond imagination to be able to melt the sand. While my dire flame is practically unstoppable and could be described as ‘Immortal’, this blue flame would come under the description of ‘Almighty’.
I attempt to pick one of them up but end up causing it to sink into the sand and vanish. Sifting my fingers through the sand also turns out to be pointless. Taking more care with the next shard, I gingerly pick it up.
As it turns out, the shards are called ‘Cobalt Glass Shard’ by the system. It is a slow process of picking them up due to the possibility of losing them in the sand, but from each fireball between twenty and thirty are formed.
“They’re useless,” I raise my head to see Mikhail the Stalwart looking down on me picking up the shards. “They have no value and are considered a rubbish item. I recommend ignoring them only because I don’t want you to waste your time.”
I can’t see his facial expression through the helmet, and his voice is calm, but something about the way he speaks makes annoys me.
I stubbornly clench my jaw before forcing myself to speak politely, “Perhaps, but I think this is an item local to this place and can’t be gotten elsewhere. How could we know so much about it without investigating its uses properly?”
Mikhail seems to pause in surprise, but quickly recovers, “I just looked at the item description earlier. It has no uses for crafting and is only a cosmetic item. Perhaps you could glue them to something to create a mosaic or some fake jewellery, but that’s about it.”
What he says is true, there is no information in regard to using the glass in crafting. Perhaps this doesn’t appear until the crafting skill is high enough to use it, but to dismiss it immediately is a bit much.
I continue picking up the glass shards until there are none left. I also offer to share them among everyone. MoonKite takes five simply because she thinks they are incredibly pretty and Mason takes ten to test creating glass arrowheads. The leftover amount of just over a hundred shards goes directly into my inventory.
Both of our parties head off as soon as I am done, once again climbing over monstrous sand dunes as our water supply steadily depletes. My cloak also has an effect that prevents the heat from increasing the drain on my satiety level, leaving me with more water than everyone else. I share some with the others in my team so we can keep an equal amount per person.
We encounter a new group of ‘Blue Scorching Scorpions’ every five to ten minutes. Occasionally just two or three appear and we easily get rid of them. Other times there are as many as eight or nine, causing us to adopt a fighting retreat to prevent us from being surrounded and swarmed by the mob. The ‘Cobalt Glass Shards’ that form from the sand after the fire have next to no weight, so I don’t hesitate to collect as many of them as possible.
My level has also been steadily increasing. The scorpions give an extremely generous amount of experience when they are killed. I open my stats window to inspect my character.
Name: Lost(Desert Pilgrim) Health: 2248/2934 Stamina: 891/891 Mana: 2190/2190 Lvl: 221 Lvl UP: 51% Str: 67 +44 Agi: 206 +70 Dex: 74 +43 Int: 31 + 20 Mnd: 47 Lck: 31 Infamy: 19 Alignment: -39 God: Grael Belief: 78 Equipped Skills: Class Skill: White Warrior (SLvl 25, 39%) [Unavailable] Potion Production (SLvl 17, 64%) Mining (SLvl 15, 15%) Smithing (SLvl 13, 12%) Grael's Essence (SLvl 7, 80%) Origin of Dire Flame (SLvl 7, 80%) [Empty] [Empty] Reserve Skills: [Empty] *************************************************** Non-skill resistances and bonuses Cutting resistance: 5% Impact resistance: -5% Poison resistance: 12% Acid resistance: 6% Flame resistance: 14% Ice resistance 5% ~ +5% chance to completely resist all minor to intermediate poisons *************************************************** Skills Sacred Art Cost Triple Thrust 11 Stamina CrossX 19 Stamina Backstab 80 Stamina Pincer 100 Stamina Multi Mirage 175 Stamina Magic Cost Minor Dire Flame 800 Mana
Just after I close my character window and climb an especially large sand dune, I notice a familiar shape in the distance. It is a pyramid, a tomb created by a specific ancient civilization. There isn’t only one, but six or seven spread out with a mile or two in between each.
“Hey, how about we go there?” I ask everyone with brimming enthusiasm.
“I would like to,” Mason seems to be conflicted, “but we really need to find a water source first.”
“Perhaps there is one inside.”
“That’s impossible. The pyramid will be a dungeon similar to a tomb. There is nothing inside of a tomb except for bones, dust, and sand.”
Everyone else is completely unable to decide whether or not to go. Everyone wants to explore a new, uncharted dungeon, but argues that we have a greater priority at the moment.
We log off to get some rest but my thoughts are fixated on the pyramids and prevent me from having peaceful rest. I log back on the following day, weary from a lack of sleep.
We come across a few different kinds of monsters. ‘Sand Wraiths’ which are immune to physical attacks and highly resistant against fire. Small fox-faced humanoids about half the size of an adult wielding various bows and covered with sand-stained rags. My creature analysis reveals that they are called ‘Sahar Tribesman’.
I am completely useless against the ‘Sand Wraiths’ but the ‘Sahar Tribesman’ are easy to kill. They are numerous, with a single group easily having twenty to thirty of them. Despite having a strong coordination amongst themselves, they have low defense and health.
A day later, when our water and food supplies are beginning to run out, I spot an oasis surrounded by several palm trees from the peak of a large sand dune.
Trembling with excitement, I don’t even consider that it may be an illusion in the desert. It is far too lifelike to be caused by the refraction of light. Focusing my eyes, I even see several different types of enemies patrolling the oasis.
As soon as everyone else is aware of the oasis, they begin rushing toward the water, drawing weapons to slaughter any enemies in the way.
Fen stops beside me, a deep thirst showing in her eyes. She hasn’t drunk much water this entire time, but I thought that may be because her nature is that of ice. Clearly, she was only restraining herself for my sake.
“Fen, let’s get there first,” I say enthusiastically to the wolf next to me.
Getting ready to sprint away and overtake everyone, I feel an icy breath on the back of my neck. Before I can react, the endless blue sky fills my vision as I am thrown up in the air. Gravity then takes hold and I begin to fall.
I land on a soft surface, completely unlike the sand I expect. I grab onto a few tufts of pure white fur and realize I am on top of Fen. The wolf crouches down and I have a flashback of riding Grael.
She construes my grabbing onto her tighter in a panic as a signal to move, loping forward at maximum speed. The massive sand dune in front of us, which we would normally follow along to find a point where we could climb it, proves to be nothing against her size and speed. She easily climbs up the nearly vertical slope and reaches the top in less than a second.
Behind us, I see a large cloud of sand kicked up by her paws. The cloud is enormous, actually similar to a sand storm.
“Fen, we need to get everyone else too,” I remark sternly while she pauses at the top of the dune.
The wolf snorts and ignores me but I press the matter and she eventually listens.
“Lost! There you are!” Mason exclaims as he sees Fen descend the sand dune with me on her back.
“Hah, sorry, we were just scouting the area,” I lie, not wanting to tell him we nearly abandoned them. “Everyone, get on. We will rush to the oasis and get water before the others do!”
Mikhail’s group has already left us behind, scampering up the sand dune and disappearing over it to get to the water source as soon as possible. CaptainGordon, however, was still with us. I don’t know what the other party members’ thoughts are, but I accept him as a part of our group.
Fen crouches down next to them to allow everyone to get on top, but they seem a little reluctant. One by one they eventually climb on. The last person is Verde, who Fen glares at but still allows her to get on. Verde’s face suddenly becomes terrified, and it looks like she operates an invisible menu as if she is about to log off, but stops just as unexpectedly. I give her a puzzled look and she climbs onto Fen with extreme hesitance.
Knowing how fast Fen is, Sir Laurence grabs some fur to brace himself. Everyone else follows his example and holds on to some fur or the person in front of them.
With everyone sitting on her, Fen’s movements are slightly slower than before. The weight is clearly not that much to her as she easily ascends the sand dune again, which none of us could have done. I may have been able to get to the top with a long running start, but I would most likely end up hitting the wall of sand or falling backwards where it is nearly vertical. Fen’s ability to climb the impossible slope is unmatched.
From the top of the slope, I can see Mikhail’s party not too far away fighting a small group of ‘Sahar Tribesmen’. We completely ignore them and rush forward.
The hot, sandy wind blows into my eyes, causing me to squint and be unable to see properly.
‘Everyone else is probably in the same situation,’ I think to myself while trying to turn my head and check but failing as my vision is still blurry.
Fen’s speed drastically increases when running downhill, but slows down enough to see clearly as she climbs up another impassable slope. Whenever we reach a group of enemies, scorpions, the Sahar, or sand wraiths, Fen summons ice walls to hold them back as we pass by like a flash.
I can only imagine what Mikhail and his party are thinking, seeing us taking an impossible path atop a great white wolf to rush toward the oasis. I silently chuckle to myself, mentally picturing his dumbstruck stare.
“Fen, Stop!” I shout at the wolf, hoping she will hear me over the rushing wind.
She does, and fortunately stops atop the last sand dune before the oasis. There is a hundred meters between the water and us, but the ground is completely flat. No matter how I look at it or think about why it is so flat, I can’t help but see this as a trap.
We all dismount the wolf and carefully proceed. With the second step on the flat surface, all the sand starts to quiver. Several small sinkholes appear, but rather than being there to catch us and drag us under, they start to spit out monsters. ‘Blue Scorching Scorpions’, ‘Sahar Tribesmen’, ‘Sand Wraiths’ and something new: a swarm of flying creatures, several tens of thousands strong.
“Creature Analysis,” I bark tersely, glaring at the unknown flying creature.
Name: Desert Locust Level: 133 Health: 300 Magic: 0 Stamina: 50 ??
Taking up a defensive formation, we proceed cautiously. All the monsters seem to notice us at the same time, charging as a single unit. The ‘Desert Locusts’ are the first to reach us, attacking with their vast superiority in numbers.
From within the swarm of locusts, small glows of green begin to shine like gemstones. All of a sudden my instincts about the locusts make sense.
“Be careful of the green lights! It’s the locusts using a poison sacred art!” I shout out to warn the party.
Fortunately, the locusts giving off the emerald light move relatively slowly and are easy to avoid if one is careful. I only need to be careful with my speed so that I don’t rush toward one while trying to avoid another.
A single slash takes down several locusts when placed properly. Sir Laurence and Matrix have the advantage with their larger swords, cutting down tens of locusts with a single strike. Fen attempts to make more numerous but smaller ice bolts, but apparently she can only make them so small.
The rest of the monsters finally catch up to the locust swarm and attack us from all sides. The most deadly are the poisonous scorpions. Tens of arrows fly through the swarm of locusts from a score of ‘Sahar Tribesmen’ with bows.
Fen saves the day, creating a wall of solid ice to protect from the arrows and even taking out a small section of the locusts.
“The locust attacks do next to no damage!” Verde calls out in a melodic voice, singing praise to my ears. “Focus on the larger enemies!”
I don’t know why, but something about Verde reminds me of her old self. The connection is somewhere in the back of my mind, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Before I can figure it out, our situation suddenly turns from bad to worse.
Fen’s ice wall doesn’t last anywhere near as long as I had hoped. Cracks form along the surface like a spiderweb before the countless monsters forcibly break through.
Seeing the small army in front of me, anxiety and hopelessness takes over my thoughts. In my heart, I know there is no possible way to survive this.
I turn to Fen and plead, “Fen, please, escape from here. You cannot die here. You cannot die, ever.”
The rest of the party looks at me strangely, but I do not care about their opinions at the moment.
In response, Fen begins to glow with an ice-blue aura as a crystalline ball of ice forms in the sky. As we watch, several sharp points begin to emerge from within the ball. As soon as the ball is no longer round but shaped like a clove of needles, a thunderclap sounds.
My jaw drops as thousands of icy needles launch at the area around us, impaling through nearly every monster surrounding us. The weaker monsters instantly die, including all the locusts and most of the Sahar.
I turn and stare at Fen incredulously for unleashing such an attack. My stomach clenches as I see her crouching on the ground, panting to catch her breath. The corner of my vision reveals that not only did that attack take the rest of her mana, but half of her health points as well.
“Fen, why would you do that if it costs so much?” I mutter unhappily.
The wolf must have heard me. Fen looks toward me with unfathomable affection. Looking into her eyes causes a longing in my chest. I think of all the times I have woken up to find her attached to me, and realize that I no longer dislike it. Instead, I only want to experience it just once more.
“Attack!” I roar while charging forward, using the battle to shake myself free of anxiety’s clutches.
There is a slight pause, but my team still backs me up and attacks the remaining enemies. Fen’s cluster bomb killed most of them; the remainder are low on health and are easily killed.
Another thunderclap sounds and the final scorpion dies, only this time the noise doesn’t come from Fen but CaptainGordon instead. Everyone turns to look for the source of the noise, only to see the pirate holding a strange looking pistol in his hand. The tip of the gun is still emitting smoke from the shot.
‘A gun?’ My thoughts must mirror everyone else’s, as they are also staring at the weapon with a blank look.
“Umm, CaptainGordon, what is that?” I ask the pirate, still refusing to believe that there is a gun in this game.
“It be a gun. Truly marvelous, ain’t it?” CaptainGordon responds, awash in pride.
“We can see that. Where did it come from?” Mason is as confused as everyone else.
“Made it me’self,” The pirate holsters the gun back underneath his coat and out of sight. “Hrmm, please don’t be spreadin’ rumors ’bout it. I don’t want unnecessary attention. I be never escapin’ then.”
“Do not worry, your secret is safe with us,” I assure him as the shock of seeing a gun in a swords and magic game fades.
Various loot litters the area, ready to be collected. As Fen is my companion, all her kills produce item windows for me, but since I am in a party, anyone else in the party can pick it up.
“You are all already here and the battle is over?” MoonKite’s voice comes from just outside our group.
I turn to find Mikhail and his party standing there looking around. It is convenient that they appeared only as soon as the battle is over. I wonder whether they were simply waiting for the right moment to appear.
“Your timing is a little convenient, isn’t it? Judging by how fast you were travelling earlier, you should have arrived a while ago,” Mason reflects my thoughts to the other group.
“We don’t have a mount to rush here as you do. When we saw that, we were no longer in such a hurry,” Mikhail states from beneath his helmet as if it is a matter of fact.
Despite wanting to pursue the topic further, their party’s concerns are none of mine. Regardless, I still reflect the same expression rest of our party by looking at them with disdain.
“We had best fill our water skins. I don’t know about you, but our water supply is starting to become more barren than this desert,” Mikhail states as he and his party leisurely walk toward the oasis.
We silently follow behind them, but I angrily pray that the creator of this game spawns more enemies from the sand to attack them. With my plea unanswered, I begin to fantasize about attacking them and wiping them out. I only refrain because that isn’t the type of player I am.
Everyone fills all their water skins with enough water to last several days. CaptainGordon marks our position on a map he has been creating with his ‘Cartography’ skill so we can return here for more water if we need to.
A familiar feeling comes over me as I finish filling up my water skins and I look around expectantly. There are herbs nearby.
Around the base of the trees, nearly hidden out of sight, are multiple herbs miraculously growing from the sand. Rushing over, I find a large quantity of ‘Red Medicinal Herbs’ and a new herb a tier higher than the last, ‘Purple Medicinal Herb’. There is an equal amount of both the red and purple medicinal herbs, giving me a large boost to restoring damage and creating potions for emergency use.
I find several other herbs with unknown usages, but will most likely be used in cooking instead of concocting potions. There are more herbs of all kinds at the trees around other parts of the massive oasis, but the monsters in those parts have not been cleared yet so I can’t safely collect them.
A single ‘Purple Recovery Potion’ requires three ‘Purple Medicinal Herbs’ and a vial of water. It also recovers an enormous amount of health points. To be exact, it’s 2520 points of health in twenty seconds.
Predictably, the potion is a toxic purple color similar to that seen on the old cartoons when someone with no cooking skills attempts to make curry. The taste is just as off-putting. I sincerely feel bad for feeding one to Fen, but it is the fastest way to recover her lost health points.
After discussing where to go next, we decide we will visit the pyramid dungeon before travelling further south. Mikhail vaguely implies there is something to the south, but refuses to confirm whether it is the truth or not. He claims it is just a rumor he overheard in a crowded street.
Using CaptainGordon’s map as a reference, we begin backtracking toward the pyramids. I suggest simply following our footsteps in the sand, but Mikhail and Mason both point out that the wind has erased our tracks.
Fen doesn’t carry us over the dunes since we are travelling with Mikhail and his party, but nonetheless, it is still relatively easy to head back in a straight line.
Travelling the opposite direction as before, we easily climb the gentle slope of the dunes and slide down the opposite side. Walking back this way is twice as fast as finding an accessible route to get here.
Night falls as we approach the pyramids, so we decide to camp for the night before entering in the morning. I cook a dinner using the meat of a snake-like monster we came across during the day. There are no vegetables to be found in this desolate land, and my stock is completely empty, but trying a few new herbs as spices on the snake meat creates a delicious dish regardless.
For the first time in a long while, I wake without Fen in my sleeping bag. It’s surprising to realize how lonely I feel. Right. Of course, in her wolf form it is impossible for her to join me. My imagination runs wild as I picture her returning to her human form and sneaking into my sleeping bag to hide her nudity. The thought causes a manly reaction. And then I blush.
Of course, Fen still manages to irritate me upon waking. Unable to join me in the bed, she has curled her body around me in my sleep and effectively smothered me. Due to the system assisting my sleep, I do not wake as what she did does not register as an attack, but upon waking I find myself unable to breath and enter into a violent coughing fit. The rest of the party arise at the same time, and comically look at my odd display.
After packing up all our belongings and storing them back in our inventories, we head toward the nearest pyramid. The entrance to the pyramid is far too small to allow Fen entrance and I am forced to ask her to stand guard outside. She rampages for a while, trying to prevent me from entering, but eventually relents. She lies down next the the entrance, emitting a terrifying aura while glaring at me. I feel pretty guilty for not staying by her, but the party needs me and Fen will be safe here.
As we enter, my pulse quickens in excitement. I am always eager to explore a new dungeon, but something about this one has me particularly enthused.
Small flames burn in pockets carved into the sandstone walls, providing the passage with flickering light. The air is also arid and stale, since not a single breeze blows through to alleviate the heat.
The entrance passage abruptly comes to a halt and we enter a cube-shaped antechamber. The walls are covered with glyphs in a cryptic pattern.
“Lost? Is everything okay? We are heading on,” Mason’s voice sounds from somewhere behind me.
I realize I have been staring at the symbols on the wall for a long time and completely forgot about the passage of time. The others have been waiting patiently, but even patience has its limit.
“Ah, sorry. I will be right there,” I find it difficult to remove myself from the wall, eventually having to forcibly shut my eyes and turn around.
Entering Emperor Rahad's Tomb
The message appears as I leave the antechamber and head deeper into the pyramid. The passage widens to about ten meters. Flames still flicker from the inlets on the sandstone wall, but a black fog dims the light and prevents us from seeing more than twenty meters in front us.
The dungeon is like a labyrinth, one branch splitting off into three, then those splitting off into three more. Of the nine eventual paths, four end up connecting together and causing us to end up back where we started, two more result in dead ends, and the remaining three split up into even more passages leading into the dark and decrepit unknown.
CaptainGordon’s impressive mapmaking skills are a beacon of light, forming an accurate depiction of the passages we have used, and even showing passages we haven’t yet travelled.
As we go deeper, we discover countless traps set up throughout the tomb. They are unlike anything I have encountered in other dungeons; three times as frequent, and twice and deadly. I expect nothing less from an emperor’s final resting place to fend off graverobbers. Are we actually conquering a dungeon, or simply hunting for the deceased’s treasures?
The monsters are problematic. Around every corner, just after escaping a trap, sometimes even during a trap, they appear. Rotted skeletons and mummies with four arms crawl out of small openings along the base of the walls, while tens of giant scarabs will skitter down from the ceiling. One of the traps drops a total of seventeen four-armed mummies around us and nearly kills Matrix when he is caught by surprise.
I severely berate Mason and ask if his trap detection skill is even equipped after countless near death experiences, but considering the monsters in this dungeon range from level 200 to 300, his trap detection skill isn’t high enough to detect the traps before they are triggered. He still detects a couple of them, and his skill levels up multiple times as a result.
We all gain between four to seven levels in the dungeon and a couple of stat point increases before we reach the final boss room.
The final crypt of Emperor Rahad’s tomb is extremely well lit by roaring flames along the perimeter. The dome shaped walls also have the ancient symbols chiselled into them, all the way up to the epicenter of the roof where a carving of the night sky resides.
Mason hits me over the back of the head to bring my attention back to the boss who rises from a three meter long sarcophagus. Emperor Rahad clearly never passed on to the next life and decided to become an undead mummy of giant proportions to eliminate any and all intruders.
The boss towers three meters above me. A dozen cloth bandages begin to slowly unwrap from his body. Once the bandages reach near the ground, they stop unravelling. Looking closely, I realize that each bandage is vibrating at a unique frequency.
‘Hmm, that’s strange,’ A hint of danger enters my mind as I focus on Emperor Rahad.
Each and every bandage turns into a weapon that seems to have a mind of its own. They are as strong as steel and extend to up to five meters in length. Rahad also uses a sacred art that allows the bandages to penetrate into the ground and emerge anywhere in the chamber like spears. Each of his dozen cloth bandages can use the sacred art individually, or they can all use it at once. Either method is an unexpected attack and nearly impossible to block.
In addition to the independent movement of his bandages, Emperor Rahad also uses various fire magics to control the battlefield, from homing fireballs to minor volcanic eruptions on the floor.
The final boss room is only twenty meters in diameter, and anywhere within five meters of the boss is a danger zone which leaves very little room for evading him. The only reason we all barely manage to survive is the fact that Emperor Rahad moves quite slowly. Due to the boss’s insanely large health pool, killing him is a difficult proposition that could result in any of us dying at any given moment.
Mason’s arrows do little as the steel-like bandages respond automatically to block any long ranged attack. It still manages to occupy a few of the boss’s weapons and slow down its attacks while we attack from close range. Sir Laurence and Mikhail focus on defense and healing as we slowly whittle away Emperor Rahad’s health. The process is long but we eventually manage to bring him down.
The boss doesn’t drop any loot upon death, but a large amount of treasure is found in his sarcophagus. The game enforces fairness in splitting the rewards by allowing each person to find three or four items that only they can pick up. Of course, you can trade the items or give them away as you please afterwards.
When I inspect the sarcophagus, I find two ‘Unique’ items of women’s clothing which go together as a pair, an ‘Epic’ sceptre, and a ‘Unique’ whip. With a confused look, I stare at the skirt and a top. For some reason, I suspect that someone placed these here knowing that Fen needs new clothes.
Despite acquiring dozens of ‘Common’ crafting items, weapons, and rag-like armor, the inspection I give the boss rewards is much more profound.
Sergral Royal Skirt A female skirt from a lost ancient civilization. This attire was frequently worn by the wealthy and nobles. The fabric is made from the skin of a desert hydra which are known for their toughness and immunity to fire. Gems inlaid in the skirt were thought to repel harmful diseases and poisons. This was never proven and something only the population of Sergral believed in. Requirements: ~ Level 180 ~ Female Defence: 52 Durability: 78/78 Weight: 6.3 lbs Fire Resistance: +50% Abilities: ~ Immunity to all minor diseases and poisons. ~ Movement +20% ~ Ice affinity spell damage +20%
Sergral Royal Top A female summer top from a lost ancient civilization. The temperature of the ancient capital Sergral was always high. The material is from the skin of a burrowing sand scorpion that would hide from the sun beneath the desert. It provides little defense but will help keep the wearer cool. Requirements: ~ Level 180 Defence: 17 Durability: 38/38 Weight: 12.3 lbs Abilities: ~ Halves the depletion of satiety. Will also cool down the wearer's body drastically in hot weather. ~ Movement +10% ~ Ice affinity spell damage +10%
Emperor Rahad's Sceptre A sceptre used by Emperor Rahad when he ruled over his kingdom. The sceptre was said to provide a connection between the emperor and the gods. The sceptre is one of thirteen made from an ancient tree that was found growing in the middle of the desert. Thirteen men worked for thirteen days to chop the tree down and carve these sceptres. This sceptre is 2.1m long. Requirements: ~ Level 255 ~ Str 32 ~ Int 62 ~ Mnd 35 Weapon Type: Staff Attack: 125 - 134 Durability: 94/94 Weight: 12.5lbs Abilities: ~ Mana cost of spells is halved ~ Spell damage +35% ~ Wielder may pledge allegiance and join the religion of the sun god Seref ~ Can use Seref religious spells
‘Actually, would she even wear this?’ I wonder to myself with a wry smile.
The skirt is made from a brown hemp-like cloth with a single cord on the side to tie it at the waist. It will only reach halfway down her thighs with short slits at either side that allow for easy movement and are quite eye catching. Along the hem of the skirt is thin golden trim inlaid with several rubies.
The top is more shocking. I don’t even know if I can call it a top. It is practically a swimsuit top made from a brown hemp similar to the skirt.
Clothing sells on the online auction quite well to female players who are trying to make a fashion statement, but the prices are only a fraction of what a player will pay for a new weapon or armor. I will at least offer this clothing to Fen to see if she likes it before choosing to sell it.
The sceptre is a truly rare find. The value of such a weapon that allows the wielder to easily join a religion is unimaginable. And this is a completely unique religion too. My arms tremble slightly when I hold it, anticipating what it could sell for.
Everyone else is highly pleased with their rewards as well, each person taking a long time to look over their items, inspecting some of them more than once in excitement.
With everyone caught up in examining their items, I return mine to my inventory and move over to the inscriptions on the walls. Each symbol is a picture that seems to depict something. I try piecing words together for each symbol that would best describe it, but that is completely useless in trying to understand it.
The harder I try to understand the ancient language, the more interested I get. It is not something I have previously been interested in, but once I saw it in the game, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
After another hour, I am still lost in thought as we leave the dungeon. Fen’s mood also seems to have improved with her completely forgetting all anger upon my return. I rest against her silently as everyone begins talking, but I completely miss the start of the conversation.
“Lost? Haha, you’re completely absent again, I see. Are you okay? Did you get enough rest last night?” Mason asks with a hint of worry in his voice.
“Sorry! I was just lost in thought. What were you saying?”
“We are trying to decide where to go next. Mikhail and his party don’t seem to mind, I want to travel south to investigate Mikhail’s ‘rumor’. What about you?”
I look around at several other pyramids I can see, and consider having a look through them. I suspect each one is a different dungeon.
Giving it some thought, I finally decide to go with Mason’s idea, “We will head south. We can’t spend forever around these pyramids which are more than likely similar to one another. I’m curious as to what this something is that is toward the south, but I am tired and have some personal matters to attend to, how about we leave tomorrow?”
Mason chuckles lightly and nods his head. Mikhail’s party logs off immediately after deciding on a time. The rest of our party sticks around for a while as they see me approach Fen. I already told them about the clothing I got from the boss rewards, but haven’t shown them yet. I mentally curse at them to hurry up and log off as I know they are waiting for a show.
When I offer the clothing to Fen, she stares at it intently, unsure what to do. Looking between me and back at the clothing she grabs with her teeth and disappears over a dune nearby.
Ten minutes pass and she still hasn’t come back. I begin to wonder if something happened just as she walks over the dune in her human form.
Pure white hair extending just beyond her shoulders in a wild manner and an extremely flushed face are the first things I notice. A brown skirt with several small rubies and a corded belt covers her waist and upper thighs, but her slender legs still gracefully carry her over the sand one step at a time. A small navel is revealed above the skirt along with a lot of skin lacking a single blemish.
Her chest… is covered by her hands as she tries to hold the top against her breasts. A pair of strings hang down from the side of the top, showing that it is not tied at her back.
“I can’t… tie it…” Fen says with her crystal clear voice, shyly turning around to expose her entire bare back to me.
My face turns as red as a burning ember by this point. I hastily turn my head to glare at the others. Everyone is staring at us wide-eyed, lost for words. Upon seeing me look at them, they awkwardly look elsewhere, pretending to maintain conversations between themselves as if they didn’t see anything.
‘If you’re going to pretend, then stop glancing over here every two seconds!’ I want to shout out at them.
Awkwardly, with shaking hands and and my face completely red, I tie the back of Fen’s top as quickly as possible.
The wolf girl turns around bashfully, wrapping her arms around me and pressing her body to mine. At this very moment, I have a strong urge to unequip my armor.
I hear the noise of several people clearing their throats behind me, but when I turn around with my fists clenched, everyone has already logged off.