Randidly looked up at the towering goliath above him just in time to see its leg smash forward, aiming for his chest. The thing appeared to be made of maggots, hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of maggots, wriggling and falling free, leaving a trail of nightmarish waste along the ground behind it. What was even more troubling was that there was another of the same behind the first, lumbering forward.
The nightmarish bouncy-ball-with-arms creatures scrambled backwards, moving out of the way, clearing a path for their larger reinforcements. There was a split second where Randidly hesitated, wondering if dodging was the best option, because the nightmare creatures remained close, ready to pounce.
This, combined with the growing head pain, caused Randidly to wait a bit too long; the foot of maggots struck him in the chest, throwing him dozens of feet backwards and smashing him into a tree.
Luckily, the tree instantly cracked, and Randidly was able to collapse to the ground in relative peace. But it was a shock, the strength of that strike. The pain of it was enough to shake some of the edge from the constant headache. And when he scanned the two maggot goliaths rushing closer, Randidly felt a sinking feeling in his stomach.
It was going to be very hard to destroy their bodies enough to get at the creatures that made up their core. There was simply too much mass to their bodies. Idly, Randidly removed a maggot from his shirt and hopped to his feet, rubbing his toes in the ground.
Sighing, Randidly stopped for a second as the enemies approached and just enjoyed the feeling of Golden Roots of Yggdrasil. It truly did so much for him, beyond just increasing his Health and Mana regeneration. It felt right, having this connection to the Earth. It made it so much easier to feel grounded, and to prepare for the fight that was about to arrive, knowing he could count on the ground beneath him for support.
To see the effect, Randidly used two Hammers of the Dawn, striking the large maggot goliath. Huge chunks of the body were burnt away, smashed to pieces, and the remainder quickly caught on fire. Heedless, it continued forward, reaching out a maggot-y hand towards Randidly.
So it seemed that he hadn’t hit anything vital. But if this was an illusion, and Randidly had missed completely, what ACTUALLY happened? What damage had the spell done?
Then Randidly had a flash of inspiration. If the aimed spells didn’t work… just rely on the unaimed ones. There was still a single chunk of Aether shrapnel in Burning Footsteps, but maybe it would help Randidly understand what was going on around him.
After activating the skill, Randidly immediately regretted the decision, but he gritted his teeth and rushed forward, weaving back and forth around the maggot goliaths as they swiped at him with their large hands. This seemed to infuriate the smaller monstrosities, which screeched and leapt towards Randidly.
Randidly wasn’t sure what this was supposed to really do, but he avoided combat with them while he sprinted back and forth, covering the area with a burning trail of footsteps, which would hopefully hem in the monstrosities.
Immediately, one of the monstrosities skittered to a stop, looking down at the flames in front of it. Then it raised its singular eye and hissed.
Randidly grinned. Better you than me, bud.
In that moment, another monstrosity took the opportunity to run up behind its friend and use the other as a springboard to throw itself up over the fallen first and to the area where Randidly had paused.
Shrugging, Randidly slapped the creature out of the air and into the fire.
Immediately, the cadence of the noises it was creating changed, and the illusion faded away, leaving just a single, small grey humanoid, rolling in the flames, clearly pushed beyond its pain tolerance. Randidly could only shake his head sadly; this fellow wouldn’t survive a single day in Shal’s training program, let alone Azriel’s.
Unfortunately, there were two problems with this plan. Technically three.
The first was that the pain in his head was reaching the point where it was making it very, very difficult to focus, and it was only getting worse as these larger monstrosities acted, using an even more advanced form of the illusion technique.
The second, or second two problems, were that the maggot goliaths didn’t seem affected in the slightest. A pillar of maggots swept across, striking Randidly and sending him flying, almost senseless from the force of the blow.
This time there was no trees, just the long slope to crash into and slowly roll down, Randidly’s pride taking a huge hit in the process. After dozens of meters of rolling, he finally managed to latch onto the ground and get a sense of what was going on. The maggot goliath that had taken a hit from the hammers had completely recovered while Randidly wasn’t looking, the illusion bastard.
The other, displaying a surprising amount of dexterity, leapt across the space between them, aiming to directly crush Randidly. After scrambling narrowly to the side, Randidly belatedly deactivated Burning Footsteps, the strange buzzings in his head fading somewhat.
Of course, it wasn’t that the pain stopped. It just wasn’t constantly increasing anymore. As fast.
They were strong, too strong, and fast. This level of opponent would dominate a Zone easily. Either this game had a terrible case of vindictive RNG, or they were using his own strength against him. Most likely the latter, although it was clear that these monsters had been able to kill some other nearby people.
“Simon…” Randidly growled, his eyes scanning the area. No more threats. But there was a shadowy figure farther up the hill, that seemed to be watching the whole experience with eyes far too intelligent for Randidly to be comfortable.
He raised his hand and fired off a Mana Bolt. It wasn’t a polished spell, compared to some of his others, but it was one that was backed by a very high Intelligence, and the price tag was just right. The bolt of energy slammed into the figure and sent it staggering, but then Randidly had no more time; the goliaths had arrived.
Simon, as if belatedly realizing what Randidly wanted, formed his lopsided arrows in the air, directing him to the spots where he could strike the monsters. Feeling slightly without confidence, Randidly advanced. Even if the opponent was here, this level of maggots… there were simply so many that it would be difficult to do damage through them all.
But his hands were sharp and vicious, coolly cutting through the flesh, seeking.
The arrow shifted, and Randidly could only grin. The fact that it ran meant he was close. His barrage intensified, doing his best to hit the areas in a logical fashion, and after a few seconds, his Talon Strike sank into the flesh of a shoulder, and the maggots trembled, and flickered around him, revealing a furious copper face about at his chest.
Only after cutting off the creature’s head did Randidly speak. “Spill your blood for me… and bring your progenitor out here. Simon! Next!”
Randidly couldn’t hesitate now; the pain was constantly growing. To his mounting horror, his vision was beginning to swim, from the pain alone. Not that his vision was particularly useful against these enemies, but… this was a level of pain that Randidly had hitherto not experienced. It certainly wasn’t a good sign.
With a roar, Randidly leapt at the next maggot goliath. Even if it could hide in its body, it was still stuck on the ground. If he moved with enough force…
But mid flight, he sensed the blow coming and twisted to the side, letting it glance off of him, rather than smash him again. Still, this strike knocked him farther than he would have guessed. This opponent moved forward like a living, floating bubble of mercury, twisting and sliding, its body full of thick tentacles of dark, reflective metal.
Grimacing, Randidly looked around. The other monstrosities gathered closer, aiming for him. The remaining maggot goliath bellowed and rushed closer. This metal creature, likely the Raid Boss itself, seemed content to just ooze slowly nearer, helping its minions surround and swarm Randidly.
The headache had sharply increased in intensity, and that continued to rise. His eyes were watering, and everything was vibrating. It was impossible to see, and his hearing was beginning to be drowned out by a ringing that emerged from his soul.
Randidly growled, his higher functions of communications falling away and reverting to his baser caveman instincts.
He would kill them if they approached closer.
They moved closer.
With eyes burning brightly, Randidly raised his head to stare at the sky, and then he activated a skill absolutely embedded with chunks of foreign Aether. Even though it was dangerous… Randidly couldn’t find it in himself to care. He was swept up in a great rage, a growling, hungry thing that refused to acknowledge the opponents before him. He would crush them.
Besides, how much worse could the pain get?
Activating the skill, Randidly’s consciousness went white, and then the human parts of Randidly slowly shut down from overexposure to pain.