Your middle tower is under attack.
“Craaappp!” James screamed to himself. He knew no one could hear him since he was dead, but he couldn’t help it. How were they going to come back from this? Morga killed him in one hit with her wand, despite his new soul items! And his entire party was sent to respawn soon after, even though they had one more teammate. “Crap."
Your middle tower was destroyed. 2 out of 3 towers remaining on the middle path.
Jesus. James thought, beginning to spiral out of control. Losing a tower was just icing on the cake. If they couldn’t kill the enemy heroes in a team fight where they had a numerical advantage, how could they be expected to win? James consciously flexed his resiliency. The spirit inside the vessel needed them to succeed. Lilly needed them to succeed. The entirety of the fledgling Martyr race needed them to succeed. If they lost this battle, then the Martyrs would most likely become extinct. The tiny amount of hope Lilly got from the village would be shattered. The same hope that helped her morn her parents and her home village. She needed that village, so did James, and so did the Martyrs. It was his new home in a crazy world filled with dangers and questions. It was his only chance at not going insane at the thought that the human race might have been destroyed. He needed to find a way to win this fight.
James mentally reached out to Noma. He couldn’t move or communicate with anyone until he respawned but he was able to access the spirit item interface. James knew if they were going to win they needed to get the right items and fight like a team. It was the only way.
Your middle tower is under attack.
They are going to get another tower, James thought but tried not to let the fact sidetrack him from his mission. He began to formulate a plan.
Torunn needed to be able to tackle Morga to ensure she couldn’t use her wand. If he could shut her down, then his party would be able to survive a little while longer. The witch’s damage was just too high to leave alive, so she needed to be the priority. Killing her first would buy them precious time to make a difference. James studied the spirit items until he found something Torunn could get that would help.
Blink Orb - Allows the user to teleport 30 meters in the direction of their choosing.
Torunn could Blink and wrestle the witch to the ground. If James remembered correctly, Alex also had a short-range teleport ability that he received from the sneak skill. Alex would be able to Blink to Morga and finish her off while Torunn made sure she couldn’t attack. What they needed now was a way to make sure Torunn and Alex had enough time to kill the witch, without Ogrim or someone else interfering. He returned to the soul item interface.
Scroll of the Falling Star - Single use - Allows the user to call down stars in a selected area. Deals 1% of total health as damage per second and slows movement speed by 30% for 20 seconds.
Lilly would be the best to use this item. It was seriously expensive for a single use item, but it looked worth it. James knew the scroll could take off 20% off everyone's health that was unlucky enough to be in the impact zone, but the real advantage was the slow effect. If Lilly could activate the scroll when all the melee enemies were close together, Torunn and Alex could Blink from afar and kill the witch without any opposition.
The enemy heroes still did a lot more damage than his party, so James knew killing the witch wasn’t a guaranteed win. If Patrick could somehow get behind the enemies and bulldoze them into a tower again, the extra damage would be a huge advantage. Morga usually sat at the back of her team and attacked from behind the melee fighters, so once Patrick and Torunn killed her, Patrick should be in the perfect position to use his bulldozing skill.
James thought on this idea and realized that even if everything went exactly right, there was still a problem. In the last team fight, they fought directly under their own tower. That should have given them a huge advantage since the tower, and his party could attack the enemy heroes. Except, in reality, the tower struck the enemy minions instead of the enemy heroes. The party needed to find a way to kill the minions quickly so that the tower would focus on the enemy heroes.
James returned to the soul interface to find another item that would help kill minions faster but respawned before he could find the things he needed.
“Okay, I have a plan. I know no one can talk, but you all should be able to hear me…” James said, briefing his party on what everyone needed to do before he heard another announcement.
Your middle tower was destroyed. 1 out of 3 towers remaining on the middle path.
“Crap! They are here!” James said as he looked over to where the cobblestone of his base ended, and the middle dirt path began. One last tower stood between the undead heroes and his base. “We are out of time. Stick with the plan. Once Morga is dead, focus on quickly killing the minions - they should be low on health from the scroll! After that, we will have the tower backing us up since it will only have heroes to attack.”
James hoped the plan would work. He would have to signal Lilly to activate the scroll at the perfect time so all the minions and enemy melee fighters would be affected.
The rest of the party respawned, and James gave a final look at his last middle tower. The enemy heroes could be seen killing the spirit minions just outside the tower’s range. He saw the fact that everyone had enough souls for the items they needed as a good sign. Still though, if this plan didn't work and they all died again, he wasn’t sure they would get another shot. There were two more towers within close range of each other protecting the spirit vessel, but it wasn’t clear if they would hold off the enemy team long enough for everyone to respawn again.
“We’re ready,” Alex reported.
James took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Torunn and Alex, leave the base through the bottom path and flank the enemy heroes through the forest. Hide there until you see the stars fall.”
The two party members with Blink abilities set out. James directed his party to the last middle tower then instructed them to stand back far enough that no one was at risk of being attacked. They wouldn't risk attacking outside the range of their spirit tower.
“Look out for Beholdar’s tentacles. I don’t think he would pull himself directly into our tower, but you never know. It could be their signal. Stay wary,” James warned.
James watched as the enemy heroes quickly killed the last minion wave that stood between them and the tower. They were so close James could see the knowing grin on Morga’s face.
“She is a bitch,” James said, finally feeling the anger Patrick had felt toward the overpowered enemy.
“Yeah, she is...” Lilly confirmed.
The four enemy heroes paused for a brief moment, allowing their minions to take the lead. James watched as the hate in the undead minions died and was replaced with a life-long dedication to get to the end of their path. When the minions pulled ahead, the enemy heroes followed behind them in a V formation, led by Ogrim. He swung his heavy mace in circles as he drooled and snarled like an enormous rabid bulldog.
This is it, James thought. If they couldn’t win this battle, everything was lost. Torunn and Lilly would die for good, as he was pretty sure they couldn’t respawn without the magic of the Spirit Battleground and Alex, Patrick, and he would respawn into a wrecked village that would only be home to the graves of the last Martyrs. He would have to start over and wander the Great Savanna until either his sadness consumed him, or some Savanna beast did. If he couldn’t win this battle, then he would be further from getting answers about what happened outside of the game, and he wasn’t sure he could wait much longer. He wondered if not knowing what happened to his brother and the rest of the human race would drive him crazy.
“No,” James told himself as he shook his head. He needed to be strong. He needed to be strong for himself, for his party, and for the Martyrs. He needed to be strong, so he could finally find his brother and the answers he needed. There was no question about it; this plan HAD to work.
James’s skin tingled as an entire lifetime of mistakes, awkward moments, failures, and regrets fueled his resolve. He would win. He had to. James flexed every muscle in his body as his determination grew.
“There is no other option,” he told himself.
The four enemies approached the last tower. James prepared his voice to yell out, to tell Lilly to activate the Scroll of the Falling Star but was interrupted by a loud explosion. Trees were ripped from the ground at the edge of the forest and thrown into the air. James stepped aside as a large branch landed where he was standing just moments before. He looked out in the direction the explosion came from, but couldn’t see through the dust. Ogrim, Beholdar, Morga, and Prince Kil’Lache all stopped their assault on the tower to see what exploded in the forest so close to them. James watched in confusion as the noise from battle seemed to mute.
Ogrim slowly turned his grey, pockmarked head toward James and gave him a sinister smile. The smile pushed up against James’s resolve but did not budge it. James stared back in defiance and caught a glimpse of Morga turning her head back into the action as well. Her dark lips twisted, showing rows of dead and rotting teeth. James did his best to stare her down too, but when he did, he could almost feel Ogrim mocking him like the big ugly creature knew something he didn’t. A splinter of a second later, Prince Kil’Lache’s crowned and ghostly head turned to James as well. The combined weight of the enemy stares battered into the wall that made up James’s resolve, threatening to bring it down.
Suddenly, time seemed to be moving entirely too fast for James. The focus he had just moments ago shattered into a million shards that James couldn’t comprehend putting back together. Every other piece of shrapnel still in the air from the explosion landed all at once. Someone called out to him, but James couldn’t locate who it was amid the kaleidoscope of movements, sounds, and emotions.
One thing stood out from the chaos. It made him happy at first. Then it confused him. Then it scared him more than anything ever had before. James wiped the dust and sweat from his eyes in an attempt to focus.
“Is that you, Michael?” James whispered.
Patrick crouched in a bush, not far from the enemy heroes. He wasn’t comfortable, but the location kept him out of site from that bitch, Morga. His knees screamed at him as they struggled to support his now immense weight. Patrick wouldn’t give in to them though. James’s plan was a good one. It would hopefully get them out of a hopeless situation.
Patrick kept an eye on James just in case something went wrong with the signal. He had to move slightly now and then to see James through the enemy heroes, who were finished with the wave of minions and now approaching the last tower.
“Any second now,” Patrick lovingly whispered to his knees.
Any second now he would see James give the signal to Lilly. She would activate her scroll and then stars would fall from the sky. Patrick was pretty excited to see that happen. He wondered if they would be a bunch of tiny comets or just one big sun falling from the sky like a giant meteor. He focused on that feeling of excitement, so his nerves didn’t get the best of him. Even though he was bigger and stronger than he ever had been before, he still felt the same on the inside. Most of the time.
“Come on, James,” Patrick complained.
The time to give the signal was now. Patrick was about to see if he could see Alex from his position so he could non-verbally ask him what the hell was going on, but a loud explosion gave him pause. It came from directly across the path and inside the woods. Patrick had to quickly decide to jump out of the way of the incoming rocks and tree branches or stay put. He decided to stay put and ate the shrapnel, some of it hitting him in the face. He told himself that he stayed because moving would give up his position, but deep down he knew he was just too slow and lazy to react that fast. He was strong now, and the shrapnel only took off 3 percent of his health anyway.
As Patrick recovered from the explosion, he turned his attention to James and Lilly. They stood in awe looking in the direction of the blast. Patrick looked at the enemies and saw they were all looking at the explosion too.
The enemy heroes quickly resumed their attack on the tower. Patrick once again glanced at James for the signal.
“What are you doing, man?” Patrick whispered in frustration.
If they didn’t all react as one, this plan would inevitably fail, and to react as one, they needed a signal. Suddenly, a sound resonated from the explosion. Patrick turned his attention to where the forest exploded. The dust was finally settling, and he could make out a figure emerging from it. The figure's feet shook the ground with every step it took, causing Patrick's knees to hurt even more as he fought to maintain his balance. A name tag appeared above the figure's head.
Patrick paused as his mind raced with questions. Is this the fifth enemy hero? Where has he been the whole time?
One of Patrick's questions was answered when he caught a glimpse of Morga smiling at Michael and greeting him with a quick hug. It was like they had been childhood friends. Patrick snarled and knew any friend of Morga’s was an enemy of his.
The enemy heroes now numbered five and Patrick knew his team had lost whatever little advantage they had. He thought they might have stood a chance if the new enemy was weak, but Michael was huge and clad in thick metal armor. If the new enemy wasn’t best buds with Morga, Patrick certainly would have aspired to become as big and strong as him.
Suddenly, Patrick flashed back to his memory of when James, Torunn, and himself first journeyed across the Great Savanna and to the village. They were walking in the tall grass. Torunn was out scouting ahead while James walked next to him as they talked about their past lives. Patrick remembered the day vividly since it was the first happy day he had since he was transported into the game. And yet, Patrick had to question the memory. It couldn’t be as vivid as he thought he remembered. That was the day James told him that he had a brother and that his name was Michael.
“No, the memory must be wrong,” Patrick told himself, but when he got a better look at the new enemy his heart sank.
Michael looked exactly like James had described, except bigger and wearing armor. The last vestiges of doubt were removed from Patrick when his eyes fell on James. Not only did James not give the signal, but he was completely frozen. Patrick watched as a myriad of emotions showed on James's face: happiness, confusion, worry, panic, fear, and finally resignation. Patrick could tell James knew they were all going to die. They were all going to die because no matter what was on the line, James wouldn’t fight his only brother. All of it was readable on James’s face, as clear as day.
Patrick stood. He had to do something. If James wouldn’t attack Michael, then he had to. Michael could respawn after all, right?
As soon as Patrick attempted to move, he immediately caved to the urge that told him to run away. Patrick crouched back down, fear and indecision causing him to shake. He stood again, telling himself that that wasn’t who he was anymore. He wasn’t a nerd. He wasn’t a weakling. He wasn’t a coward, and he wasn’t going to run away!