The wooly bullies were acting out of territorial concerns.
The wolf? He wanted MEAT.
Pulsivar and Mopsy smelled like predators, so they weren’t his first choice.
No, that honor fell to Graves.
And Graves fell as the enormous, horse-sized wolf leaped on his back, and fastened his jaws around the man’s head, worrying it. Only his helm saved him from serious damage.
His helm and Fluffbear, as she squeaked a challenge, slammed Mopsy into him, and started raining down Dolorous Strikes that hit all out of proportion to her size. She’d activated holy smite early in the sheep battle, and the glowing, enlarged field of divine energy that trailed after her weapon and left afterimages flashed as it sliced red numbers out of the wolf.
Then Kayin was on the thing from behind, backstabbing for all she was worth.
“Hold the square!” Threadbare called, worried as their formation started to fall apart…
…but he needn’t, for to his amazement, the sheep were as worried about the wolf as he was. They backed off, forming a wooly ring, and the ewes in the herd got to work, healing up their bah rams.
“Madeline, go toast some healers!” Garon called, as soon as it was clear they wouldn’t get rushed.
“On it!” She broke ranks and flapped upward, diving towards the biggest clusters of fluffy ewes. “Hey ewe assholes! Bahninate!
Turns out, wool is pretty combustible. Burning sheep fled the herd, bleating and crying. Though the others didn’t follow suit, it did thin out a few of their healers.
The wolf fought savagely, laying into Fluffbear and Mopsy, and Threadbare focused on mending her, while she healed Mopsy.
Then Pulsivar was in there, laying into it with a full pounce and rake, only to get tossed off contemptuously. The black bobcat squalled and came in for another run… but got slammed backward, sent head over tail.
The group closed in, surrounding it, overcoming it by sheer weight of numbers-
-and the Wolf grinned, and said “Where Wolf?” Then it leaped, as mightily as it had before, leaving the group and vanishing back into the herd.
“Healing? Please?” Graves croaked, blinking blearily at the dumbfounded sheep, who looked around for the wolf…
…and saw it was gone.
But hey, wait! There were intruders in their territory!
The sheep looked at each other, and again the fuzzy tide surged inward. “Reassemble! Get back in form-“
“RA-A-A-AM!” A wooly bully called, colliding with the little wooden minotaur. Garon went flying. Madeline darted down and caught him, and descended to rejoin the formation.
“Zuula got you!” The shaman said. “Fast Regeneration!” She told Graves, then hopped up to his shoulder, to get a little more room to cast. “Call Vines!” Ropes of plant matter shot out of the ground on their flank, blunting the worst of the charge. But the Bullies were big, and her vines weren’t infinite, and it would only hold them for a little while, she knew. No point in calling thorns either, their woolly hides would ignore those.
Graves glanced back to Threadbare, bashing a ram in the head with his shield as he sidestepped it. “Permission to go full death knight?”
“What does that mean?” Threadbare called back, raising his voice over the bleating and screaming.
“The cats need to get clear!”
“Missus Fluffbear, get them out!” Threadbare called.
It took a few seconds, but the little paladin managed to leap Mopsy clear. And where Mopsy went, Pulsivar did as well. He’d learned THAT much, at least.
“All right you jerks,” Graves said, raising his sword up high. “Bony Armor! Graveblade!”
Bloody bones ripped from the sheep’s corpses, and gathered around him, splattering him with gore. Gray, sickly energy coalesced around his sword, almost like smoke made solid. Leading with his shield, hacking into the herd around him, the Death Knight left the formation and began his gory work.
Glub and Marva started to move to back him up, but Cecelia called them back. “He’s got this! Watch!”
The Graveblade didn’t seem to kill sheep any faster, but it wasn’t meant to.
No, what that buff did, was turn anything that Graves killed into a zombie.
One by one, the sheep he hacked down fell. One by one they rose, baahing “Brai-ai-ai-ains,” and doing their best to chew their former herdmates to death.
They didn’t turn on Graves, thankfully. His Undead Truce class feature was proof against that.
And as for the golems…
Cecelia stood very still, as a zombie sheep waddled up to her, gave her a sniff, then walked away, bleating for brains.
No flesh, no meat, nothing good to eat.
For a second, all was going well. Graves was killing living sheep, the sheep couldn’t hurt him fast enough to bring him down, and the growing tide of zombies was throwing their ranks into confusion and panic. The circle around the toys slipped, started to break-
-and in the sudden gap, Threadbare could see Pulsivar, Mopsy, and Fluffbear, fighting for their lives against the wolf. It stood on two legs now, wooly skin thrown on its back like a cape, lashing down at Fluffbear with sweeping strikes.
Threadbare ran that way with all his might, moving with long-practiced agility, great bounds eating up the grass as he hopped Zuula’s vines, but he was far away, so very far, and as he watched the wolf backhanded Fluffbear off Mopsy and turned to focus on the two cats, chasing Pulsivar. A Caterwaul rose up from the bobcat as he dodged for all he was worth-
-but it wasn’t enough. The wolf’s jaws closed around Pulsivar.
“I challenge you!” Threadbare called, tucking his scepter in its loop, hanging it over his shoulder as he stretched his claws.
Your Challenge skill is now level 10!
“Drain Life!” the little bear threw in for good measure, as the wolf turned around in surprise, then yelped and dropped the limp cat as a red ’21’ tore from him and swirled into Threadbare.
Your Drain Life skill is now level 8!
Mopsy tore at the wolf’s flank as Fluffbear ran to Pulsivar’s twitching form, but the wolf ignored them both and growled at Threadbare as he loped toward his tiny tormentor.
Threadbare ignored the moxie damage, and the notice that flashed up.
You have resisted The Wherewolf’s Growl!
Your Stubborn skill is now level 10!
No, Threadbare ignored all else, as he rushed straight into the wolf’s jaws, as they came crashing down around him, for massive damage.
CON +1
Your Golem Body skill is now level 32!
Your Toughness skill is now level 24!
The wolf tried to shake him. Threadbare felt one of his legs rip free, ignored it, ignored his pants tearing away as they went with the leg, and squirmed, right into the wolf’s throat.
The wolf froze, as the little golem’s claws jabbed into it, right through the back of its cheeks.
“Adjust Weight,” Threadbare said, there in the wolf’s gullet.
And the wolf coughed as the little bear swelled up to almost twice his regular size.
Inside the wolf’s throat.
The wolf went berserk, shaking its head, clawing at its mouth, unable to get its paws in at a good angle. Not that it mattered. Whenever Threadbare felt a tear, he’d whisper “Mend Golem.”
He had to ration his air carefully. There wasn’t much inside the wolf’s throat.
Especially since he was blocking any from getting in to the wolf’s lungs.
And after a minute, its struggles weakened, and slowed. Then it fell over. But Threadbare stayed stuck in.
In the end, the wolf died in an appropriate fashion, choked to death on a mouthful of fluff way bigger than he could handle.
By slaying a creature through suffocation you have unlocked the Air Elementalist Job!
You cannot become an air elementalist at this time!
Only then, did Threadbare dig himself out. It was very messy, but eventually the wolf gave way, and he stared out into the sky… and at the distant figures of his running friends, heading toward him. He glanced around, realized that he was in a different part of the field. The wolf, in its struggles, had panicked and fled, evidently.
“I’m all right!” He called, emerging bloody and torn from the wolf. But it didn’t matter, because Pulsivar was one of the ones coming toward him, and he was very, very relieved to see the big cat alive and mobile.
While waiting for his friends he managed a few clean and presses, and a mend for his torn trousers, and then his friends were up to him. He glanced over at the herd of sheep zombies, shuffling slowly towards the group, drawn by the lure of living cats to eat.
“Should we be worried about those?” Threadbare asked.
Graves glanced back. “No. They’re temporary, and-“ he blinked behind his visor. “Oh my goodness the levels. Status. Help.” He blinked again. “Okay, Death Knight only gets nastier.”
“I don’t think I want you to teach me that job after all,” Missus Fluffbear squeaked, watching the zombies who weren’t chasing them feeding on their fallen comrades. “That’s really not Yorgum’s um… style. Ooooh, levels!”
And indeed, now that the rolling waves of sheep were done, the party was reaping the rewards. In more ways than one, as Madeline searched the suffocated midboss for gold, and Zuula hunted for other items.
Threadbare was no exception to the gain.
You are now a level 13 Cave Bear!
WIS +10
Armor +5
Endurance +5
Mental Fortitude +5
You are now a level 8 Duelist!
+3 AGI
+3 DEX
+3 STR
You are now a level 9 Duelist!
+3 AGI
+3 DEX
+3 STR
You are now a level 16 Golemist!
“You leveled golemist again? So quickly?” Cecelia said, taking a break from checking her own status to look at the party screen. “This has to be because you’re double dipping. Taking in experience every time we win a fight.”
“More like dipping sevenfold,” Garon pointed out. “Besides the cats and Fluffbear and Graves, we’re all earning him experience. And that’s not counting the Golem Guardians boost that you guys are getting. And the Creator’s Guardians boost.” Garon sighed. “We need to reshuffle. Marva, would you be upset if you went back in the pack?”
“Not at all,” Cecelia’s double said. “If you’re sure you don’t need me anymore, Lord.” She smiled at Threadbare.
“It’s fine. You’ve done plenty. Thank you!” He hugged her, and golden light flared.
You have healed Prinses Seselia 140 points!
Your Innocent Embrace skill is now level 15!
Back in she went, and as zombie sheep collapsed in the distance, their animation timers up, the group reshuffled the party.
Fluffbear got tucked in with Pulsivar, Mopsy, and Graves, who immediately animated the Wolf as a slavering, red-eyed ghoul. Zuula talked Pulsivar and Mopsy into letting it be. Graves also rummaged around in the pack and pulled out a black, twisted wand. “It’s tight enough in here I might have to drain the charges left in this thing,” he decided.
“That’s the one from that Arxus guy, who tried to taunt ya in the fort, ain’t it?”
“Yep,” Graves said. “Just a drain-life wand with a hair trigger. Can suck someone dry in a matter of seconds.”
Everyone else went in Threadbare’s party, and Garon’s old group sighed in relief as Threadbare’s twin animator and Golemist buffs amped up their stats. Not by a HUGE amount, but enough to give them another edge.
Your Creator’s Guardians skill is now level 28!
Your Creator’s Guardians skill is now level 29!
Your Creator’s Guardians skill is now level 30!
“Here. De crowning touch.” Zuula offered Threadbare a wolfshide cloak.
“Where did that come from?” He glanced over to the slavering, ghouled where wolf, and didn’t see any bare patches, beyond a few wounds.
“Don’t ask how loot drop. Just put on de cape.”
“What does it do?”
“Enhance natural weapons. Like, oh, bear claws.”
“What?” Madeline said. “Oooh! I could… I… nah, you eahned that one the hahd way. But if you find a bettah cape, I got dibs on yah old one.”
“Adjust Outfit,” Threadbare said, and snapped the cloak tight in his hands until it was teddy sized. Then it went around him like a mantle.
Your Adjust Outfit skill is now level 5!
Cecelia got the Sheep’s fleece that it had worn, which evidently made the wearer seem less threatening to monsters. Then it was time to get moving, before the wooly bullies and their midboss minder reformed.
The rest of the trip across the field went a lot easier. Refreshed and refilled for the most part by their level-ups, the remaining, fairly-small Wooly Bully herd fell with little trouble.
About the only thing that gave them pause was a herd of sheep-like humanoids in bikinis pursued by a very excited giant in a kilt waving a barrel of alcohol that Graves announced to be watered-down scotch, after the fight was done. But the wandering scotchman and the beautiful sheeple weren’t that hard to put down, and the group was through the distant archway and into the far tower of Jotunher before anything else found them.
They were confronted by a stairwell, with signs pointing up and down. The one pointing up read “Tightens.” The one pointing down read “Luusens.”
And immediately, Threadbare’s nose flared at a familiar odor.
Your Scents and Sensibility skill is now level 21!
“I smell gunpowder,” he announced. “The Lurker is close.”
“Up or down?” Cecelia asked.
“I don’t know.” Threadbare said, sniffing at the stairs going in both directions. “All I know is that a gun got fired around here at some point.”
“Up,” said Madeline. “This dungeon, tallah is bettah, right? So the dungeon wants you to go to the tallest place. That’s wheah he’s heading.”
“If you want I can scout ahead,” Kayin offered. “But…”
“Yeah. It might not be you who returns, just the Lurker wearing your face. Since he’s near, we need to stick together. Come on.”
“One minute,” said Threadbare, patting Pulsivar’s back. “Bodyguard Pulsivar.”
Your Bodyguard skill is now level 9!
The big cat had come way too near to losing another life against that wolf. He might not have many ways to help protect him, but Threadbare would take what hits he could for his fuzzy brother.
Thus readied, he led the way up the stairs, with Missus Fluffbear falling in on the flank.
When they found the first enormous giant corpse, he knew they were on the right track.
“Hurry!” He urged, eyes hunting around, buffed and keen, looking for the sneakiest of the Hand.
The gunshot sounded close! Threadbare and the rest upped the pace!
Through an opened set of double doors, past a few wine presses, over a few screws and giant-sized screwdrivers, past a giant-sized set of furniture currently disassembled with some incomprehensible instructions and a plate of meatballs next to it, the group made their way through the now-emptied giant-sized living area that for no reason they could tell had blue arrows on the floor. Occasionally they passed common household items with little namecards next to them, on which were written symbols that were presumably words in the giant tongue. Either that, or someone had really disliked an incorrectly-assembled wardrobe and very much misspelled the name they’d given it when they called it a DOMBAS.
Finally, they burst through a set of double doors, to witness the tail-end of an epic battle;
A three-foot tall teddy bear, with a wicked grin, leaped from floating rock to floating block, dancing around a blue-shirted giant wielding a pick. On the back of the shirt was a simple nametag, that read “Steve.” Below the ruins of what once was a floor, lay a void of inky blackness… the flagstones that were remaining were floating in midair, suspended by nothing in particular. As they watched, the giant brought the pick down in a flurry of chops, narrowly missing the teddy bear as he backflipped to a new set of blocks. The picked block crumbled and fell into nothingness…
…and a series of knives sunk into the flagstone Steve was standing on, destroying it in a rush of red numbers. Steve fell silently into the abyss, and a door across the hall shuddered open, revealing a treasure chest.
Then, as the toys started to head into the room, hopping gingerly from block to block, the teddy bear glanced over and grinned, quickdrawing his pistol. “Too easy!”
Cecelia squawked as her block got shot out from under her, and fell into the abyss…
“Call Golem!” Threadbare shouted.
Your Call Golem skill is now level 3!
…and instantly appeared in Threadbare’s arms. He sat her on Pulsivar’s back, as he urged the cat toward the Lurker.
“You cheater!” The bad parody of him yelled, in a horrible imitation of his voice. Then it hopped with incredible agility, making long bounds across widely-separated blocks, before darting through the newly-opened door.
“Don’t take risks!” Garon urged, and the toys, along with their living companions, made it slowly around the mostly-intact outer edge of the arena, hurrying through the door just before it started to close.
“What is spleef?” Zuula wondered, as she held up a t-shirt emblazoned with the words SPLEEF CHAMPION
“Where did you get that?” Glub asked.
“Treasure chest tucked in one corner. Shame to let it be.”
Garon shook his head, looking around the room. “Mom, that was risky.”
"Dis ain’t?” She pointed straight ahead.
A long hall, at the very top of Jotunher, the stone room was full of pillars upon pillars, some wooden and some stone. To either side, diamond-shaped windows let in light, lining the hall and casting golden beams down at the end, on the massive throne and its giant occupant. Easily twenty feet tall, with a club half her size at her side, the massive blue woman was draped in a toga and wearing a set of golden laurels. She had one massive foot up on the opposite knee, and was busy filing her toenails. Her waistline and stomach betokened many a good meal, but her arms were no less muscled than the guards downstairs had been.
“Where did he get to?” Threadbare said, looking around, at the many, many sight-obstructing pillars, and the countless patches of shadow broken by bright light. It was an ambusher’s paradise.
But Threadbare and his party weren’t the ones being ambushed, as it turned out.
“Hey! My name is Threadbare!” The Lurker shouted, stepping out from behind a pillar, and doffing his hat to the giant.
“No!” Garon shouted, running forward, waving his arms. “He’s a-“
The giant lady looked up at the Lurker’s disguised form, and stared with confusion… that turned to a grin. Such an adorable little thing!
“Fuck you, fartsniffer!” Fake Threadbare shot her in the face, turned around, slapped his bear ass, and ran giggling out of sight behind a different pillar.
“Oh shit,” Glub said, as the lady rose to her feet, grabbing up the club, and slamming it against the floor so hard the entire room shook. “It’s on!” he went flying, tumbling to the ground… as did most of the rest of the toys, and Graves, too.
And Threadbare as well, rolling out into the light, and looking up just in time to see the giant matron’s gaze fix on his, blood dripping out of the bullet wound in her cheek, and murder writ large in her eyes…
Spoiler: Spoiler



Support "Threadbare"

About the author

Andrew Seiple


Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In