James's vision tunneled to his younger brother. The little boy that was always by his side growing up was replaced with a hulking mass of metal, but there was no doubt it was him. James instinctively stepped forward to ask his brother if he was okay, if he needed help, but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.
“James,” Frode said as he turned the human cub by the shoulder, “I need you to focus.”
James blinked. Was he back in the village? No, he was in some terrible spirit battleground. They were being attacked. Michael was there. His brother was the fifth enemy hero. His arrival demolished their odds of winning and the mere fact that he was somehow on the enemy team caused James to freeze and mess up the attack signal. James whirled to the tower. All the enemy heroes were attacking the tower, including his brother. James briefly considered calling out to him but was interrupted when a fist-sized object fell from the sky and exploded against Michael’s helm, shoving him to the ground.
“It must be the Scroll of the Falling Star,” James whispered to himself as another star fell and knocked Ogrim to the ground. His party was completing the plan without him. He needed to help and worry about his brother later. He had no idea how Michael got here, but the fact that he was here at all means he could respawn. If Michael saw him and didn’t stop fighting, James would have to just kill him.
“James!” Frode yelled with a surprising amount authority, “Look at me!”
The human cub turned to face the chieftain’s advisor, “What? I need to fight!”
James wasn’t sure how or why Frode was here with them, but he knew he shouldn’t be wasting his time with pleasantries.
The advisor knelt and reached a large hand out, placing one finger on James’s chest. “I, Frode, Advisor to the Chieftain of the Clan of Honor, Student of might and magic, accept you as our cub.”
James felt a familiar tingle envelope his body as he stood there in confusion. Did Frode never accept him as an adopted Martyr cub before? James’s attention was drawn away to a blinking notification at the bottom of his peripherals. His body screamed at him to turn around and join the fight but he recalled setting up his interface to never bother him unless the information would help him in battle. He mentally reached out to the notification, opening it.
You have been gifted a mark by the Advisor to the Chieftain of the sole surviving Martyr clan. At the current rank your mark grants you the below special abilities:
Summon Martyr -Summon one Martyr to your location to assist you in battle. Cooldown, one month.
Martyr’s Rage -Sacrifice your own lifeblood to temporarily increase your combat prowess. Grants magic immunity and increases physical damage dealt by 25%. Costs1health point per second.
James did some quick mental math and cursed himself once again for not investing in Constitution. The magic immunity of his new ability would be indispensable for taking on Morga and gave him a renewed hope, but he could only use the ability sparingly because of his low constitution. With 60 health points, he would have a minute to use his ability before it killed him, and that was only if he was at full Health and didn’t take any damage. James knew it would have to do though and counted his blessing that he didn’t go into shock in the spirit battleground... at least not from receiving damage.
James looked up before he could let the thought of letting his team down get to him. He caught the fading essence of Frode just before the advisor completely disappeared from the spirit battleground. James turned his attention to the fight underway at the middle tower just in time to see Alex deal the final blow to Morga. Torunn let out a sigh of relief as he finally released her limp body from his embrace. So far the plan was progressing nicely, even without James’s signal.
James activated Jump Strike just in time to see Patrick bowling the enemy team into the tower. Most of the minions were dead, or close to it. James hoped his empowered landing would be enough to finish them off. That way he could focus on the remaining enemy heroes and his brother.
‘Glad to have you back,’ Lilly said telepathically as James crashed into the ground, causing the earth to shutter beneath him. James couldn’t reply. The area was awash with swinging weapons, claws, and the occasional spell. James ducked as Ogrim’s heavy mace passed over his head. He stepped back in an effort to thwart the giant’s perceived counter attack but bumped into a solid body behind him, halting his progress. James couldn’t dodge with everyone so closely grouped. He looked up to Ogrim and could see the giant realized the same thing. Instead of dealing an easy strike to James though, the giant activated his Mace Slam ability and stunned everyone except Lilly and Alex, who managed to Blink away.
James was left staring in the direction he was facing just before the Ogrim activated his ability, unable to move. His body tingled as it prepared to be struck. Realizing he didn’t want to find out how much damage the enemy team could do with a free five seconds; James activated Martyr’s Rage and broke out of his stunned state. He felt the skin of his back tighten and rip, causing immeasurable pain to course through his body. Instead of falling to the ground and screaming though, the pain awoken an anger inside him that he didn’t know existed. The anger fueled his muscles and honed his intuition. Suddenly, he knew where to strike, who to strike, and when. He saw the battlefield in a new light. It was no longer a blur of colors and pain; it was a puzzle he could solve by decimating everything before him.
Another cut was born and grew across James’s right arm, bringing more rage along with it. The Martyr skinning knife shot out of James's sheath to parry Ogrim’s maul. James knew he wouldn’t be able to halt the momentum of the heavy weapon, but instead altered it slightly. Ogrim’s snarl twisted into confusion when he saw that his stunned prey was able to fight back, but he noticed too late and the giant’s blade missed its target. James seized his opportunity and drove his own blade into the unbalanced giant and quickly pulled it out. Gore trailed his blade and followed it into the body of an unsuspecting Prince Kil'Lache. The ethereal creature whirled at the pain and spat out a word of power. James paused for a split second, realizing whatever spell the prince cast had no effect. He smiled, and charged the Prince again.
You have slain Prince Kil'Lache - 5 souls awarded to the killer and 1 to each assisting party member.
Torunn and Patrick regained their faculties as the stun faded and James knew he had only been enraged for 5 seconds. The war wasn’t over yet, but they might just win this battle after all. James turned to his brother, who now stood just outside the tower’s range with Ogrim. A smirk formed on James's manic face. His prey was fleeing.
“I will not cave to your trickery!” Michael cried as he hefted his sword and charged. James was in no mood to inquire what his brother was rambling about. All he knew was that Michael was in the way. James activated Jump Strike and met his brother head on. James landed heavily and stunned Michael, who was a good foot taller than him now. Back in the real world, Michael was still taller than him, but not by such a large margin. James knew his brother had invested a good deal of his points into Strength, much like Patrick.
“Speaking of the devil,” James said out loud as Patrick bowled into Ogrim, knocking him prone. The rest of the party advanced with a crowd of spirit minions to protect them. James and Patrick used the opportunity to do as much damage to the temporarily incapacitated enemies. Mid-strike, James contemplated deactivating his Martyr’s Rage, but the decision not to was quickly made for him. Beholdar reached out from the forest and wrapped a tentacle around James’s torso. James looked in the direction and met the tentacle creature with a smile as it pulled its body within range of James's blade. Beholdar activated his Gaze ability, fully expecting James to be incapacitated. The magic immunity granted from Martyr’s Rage once again showed its usefulness. James cut the tentacle wrapped around his torso in half and followed it up with a frenzy of attacks to the mass of wriggling tentacles. Beholdar was unable to cancel his worthless gaze to block the attacks and was immediately sent to respawn.
You have slain Beholdar - 5 souls awarded to the killer and 1 to each assisting party member.
A party member has slain Ogrim - you have received one soul for assisting in the kill.
The party converged on Michael, who struggled to get on his feet and behind the approaching wave of undead minions. The action was made awkward by his urgency and heavy plate armor.
Michael brandished his sword and pointed it at James, “You will not trick me again, Demon! I will defeat you and your brethren, just as I have in the dungeon!”
James deactivated Martyr’s rage and motioned for his party to halt. The desire to send his brother to respawn was still present, but much less prominent. Without the rage active, James felt he could think clearer, but in a different way. Martyr’s Rage caused him to see the path to survival more easily than he had ever seen it before, it cleared the mental fog of battle and allowed him to make split-second decisions, but without it, he realized he saw the path that would allow him to thrive, not just survive. He would have a better life with his brother involved; in fact, it was all he wanted since he entered the game, even before he learned he was trapped in it. He would spend a few precious seconds talking to his brother to find out what he had been through.
James briefly wondered if he stumbled upon the overall theme of the Martyr race’s demise. They were adept at survival. They somehow managed to live through countless Oana battles, and against all odds, some of them always managed to make it out alive. James had no doubt in his mind that if any other race would have faced the hardships that the Martyrs had, they would be extinct. The Martyrs were survivors. What they didn’t know how to do was thrive. James would have to teach them how to do that.
“Michael, I am not a demon, I am your brother! I don’t know what demons you speak about, but it is me!” James cried out across the clashing minions.
Michael’s face took on a pained expression. “No! Not again!” He charged.
“Stop!” James pleaded as he met his brother’s blade with his own.
The small Martyr skinning knife and the strength of the person wielding it was not enough to stop Michael's blade. It continued along its path, pushing James’s blade aside and cut a deep ravine into James’s chest. James fell back, disappointed, and motioned for his party to kill his brother.