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James watched on his mini-map as his party chased Beholdar into enemy territory. The area once shrouded in darkness became visible for a small radius around each party member. It was enough for James to tell that they were not under attack, but not enough to permanently gain vision of the undead forest. He contemplated joining his party but the dangerously low health bar blinking at the bottom of his vision caused him to hesitate.

Gahh, I need to increase my health regen, James thought. Doing so would allow him to fight in a skirmish, and then be able to participate in another soon after. Right now though, James knew he wouldn’t survive another skirmish. He decided to go back to the base to see what he could get with his 19 souls as he waited for his health bar to refill.

‘I’m heading back. You guys should as well,’ James cautioned his party telepathically, ‘If the enemy heroes respawn while you are in their forest they will have a huge vision advantage!’

‘I’m not letting him go! He killed Alex!’ Lilly screamed, causing James to grasp his head in pain on his way back to the cobblestone base.

‘I can’t leave her alone out here,’ Patrick added glumly.

“It doesn’t matter! Alex will respawn! If you die you will give the enemy a ton of souls. That is what we need to focus on!” James replied, letting the frustration in his voice flow freely.

Screams of anger and pain filled James's brain as he ran through the forest, but he ignored them. By the time he arrived in front of the soul merchant, Lilly, Alex, and Patrick’s stasis-shocked bodies were there to meet him. James was extremely relieved to see that Lilly could respawn in this realm, even though he was fairly certain she couldn’t outside of it.

James opened Noma’s inventory of soul items while his three party members waited for their respawn timers to end.

“You were right, you know,” Alex said as his timer ended, and he regained control over his body.

James sighed. “I know."

“We need to work on our team fighting abilities. That last skirmish shows we have some good synergy, but the chase afterward showed we have no discipline.”

“I agree. It will be a priority if we can ever get out of here.”

***

James wailed on the last remaining monster of the forest encampment he was attacking. He figured he had time to get some souls on his way back up to the top tower, but he didn’t realize how easily he would get them. The new items he had traded his souls for were drastically decreasing the damage he took from the pack of dire bears he was attacking. The items allowed him to easily harvest souls while only losing about 15% of his health.

Dark Chainmail Greaves - Reduces damage taken by minions by 10% and heroes by 5%. Percentages increase temporarily by 1% for every 20 seconds in battle. Required Items - Chainmail Greaves, Dark Gem of Bloodlust.

One of the required items, the Dark Gem of Bloodlust, also could have been combined with a weapon. The resulting weapon would have gained more damage the longer it was used in battle. It was actually James’s first choice, but he knew with absolute certainty that Patrick would buy the same item. Spurred on by the knowledge that the redhead would choose damage-only weapons, James decided he needed to be able to take damage, so he could survive long enough in battle to make sure Patrick had the freedom to do damage. He hoped this strategy would result in fewer deaths of his party and therefore less of a soul advantage that was given to the undead heroes. James knew that the more souls they gained the stronger they grew, and he already had the sinking feeling that his party was falling behind.

Forest Child’s Slippers - Increases run speed by 10% and health regen by .5% a second when surrounded by trees (health regen does not work while in battle).

James used the power of his slippers to quickly exit the forest and join the minion battle at the top path’s tower. He appreciated the health regen bonus, but he made the soul investment on the slippers mainly because they were a required item for something else he wanted. James didn’t have enough souls to purchase the boots that would allow him to teleport to an ally, but he did have enough for the required slippers, a few sentries, and just enough teleportation scrolls to last him until he could afford the boots.

‘I haven’t seen any enemy heroes in a while,’ Torunn told the party telepathically.

‘I haven't seen any in the bottom forest either,” Patrick added.’

‘Nothing up top,’ James reported. ‘Maybe we should all venture into their forest and place some sentries?’

‘I don’t know,’ Alex cautioned, ‘I think they know something about this… this damn alternate universe or whatever you want to call it, that we don’t know.’

‘Let’s call it the Spirit Battleground,’ Lilly said.

‘Okay, I think they know something about this Spirit Battleground that we don’t,’ Alex continued. ‘I think we should farm souls and only attack when our towers are being damaged. That way we only take risks when losing a tower is on the line.’

‘I agree,’ confirmed Torunn.

‘Alright, everyone stays within the influence of the spirit vessel and doesn't cross the river,’ James concluded.

‘Wait, I would have to cross the river to attack the middle tower. Are we not pushing deep enough to attack towers?’ Patrick questioned.

‘No, I don’t think that is a good idea,’ James replied as he finished off the enemy minions that were close to his tower. When the last minion died James retreated to farm souls in the top forest. ‘Just defend towers when you need to and farm souls in the forest until we figure out what the enemy team is up to.’

‘Does everyone have teleportation scrolls?’ Alex inquired. ‘If not you should get them now, so we can react quickly as a team.’

‘Good idea, Alex,’ James said, giving the guy credit where it was due.

James went back to killing the creatures of the forest, his health already back to 100% due to his new slippers.

Your middle tower is under attack.

James checked his mini-map to see who was closest to the middle tower. Patrick was farming creatures in the same portion of the forest he was in, but was indeed closer to the middle tower. James thought briefly that he should explore the forest more thoroughly, maybe there where boons he wasn’t aware of hidden inside. Maybe he would discover something that could shed some light on what the enemy heroes were doing at the moment. Before James could instruct Patrick to defend the tower, the redhead called out that he was on his way over.

‘I’m pretty sure there are at least two enemy heroes over here. I can’t see much past the river unless I cross it. I’ve caught a glimpse of Beholdar’s tentacles and that bitch Morga is definitely here. I can’t get close at all without getting zapped by her wand. If they push I will die, come back me up!’ Patrick diligently reported.

‘I’m on my way,’ James replied, deciding not to waste a teleportation scroll and run the short distance to the middle path.

‘There is still no one at the bottom path or in our forest. Lilly and I are teleporting to the middle,’ Alex called over the telepathic party chat.

‘Hurry!’ Patrick cried.

Your middle tower is under attack.

James was the last person to arrive at the middle tower. All four of the enemy heroes where there and his arrival marked five members of his party to fight the enemies four. James figured that since his team had one more hero than the enemy team they had pretty good odds, but upon closer inspection, he could see Patrick and Alex were already down to half health. Lilly did her best to heal them from behind the protection of the tower, but could barely keep up with the damage they were taking.

“I’m almost out of mana!” Lilly cried out.

James activated Jump Strike into the frenzy of heroes surrounding the tower. He flew through the air and got a glimpse of Morga for the first time. She looked tiny and frail, but the aura surrounding her told James that that couldn’t be further from the truth. James poised his trusty Martyr Skinning Knife above his head, getting ready to strike. He was moments away from landing into the crowd of enemy heroes, his party members, and a swarm of undead minions. He could see the minions slowly but surely knocking down the tower's health unobstructed while his party struggled to keep the enemy heroes off the tower. Torunn wrestled with Ogrim in an effort to keep the giant from smashing the tower with its huge mace. James could see that even though Ogrim looked powerful, Morga seemed to be doing more damage with her bow and wand.

Suddenly, Morga noticed James in the air. The two locked eyes and time seemed to slow for James. He watched in horror as she reached behind her cloaked back with a clawed hand and pulled out a wand. A gem tipped the dark wooden stick and pulsed with power. She aimed it at James. The air around the wand visibly darkened - it wasn’t absorbed nor was it just dimmed - and James looked on in horror. He felt in his gut that the light didn’t just go out, it died. The wand was so powerful it killed everything around it, even light. Morga released the energy in her wand, and James watched as the spark impacted his chest. He was sent to respawn before he could even hit the ground.

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About the author

BigMartyrs

Bio: Writer of disparate LitRPG stories.

Current works = Legends of the Great Savanna (published) , Milton (Ongoing)

Stay in touch at JLLincoln.com

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