James, Alex, and Patrick all sat in dark metal cages inside a large cavern somewhere below the spirit battleground. Scaffolding covered the walls as high as James could see. Various mini-Ogrims stood all along the scaffolding, mining various ore veins. The miners simply tossed the ore they managed to dislodge off the scaffolding and onto the floor.
Ogrim sat on a throne of unrefined ore toward the back of the room, flanked by cages full of human prisoners and one portal that James assumed went somewhere even more sinister than his current location. Ogrim’s throne sparkled as torchlight reflected off the various gems and diamonds scattered throughout it. James wondered why anyone would want to sit in such an uncomfortable looking chair. He watched as a miner threw a particularly shiny piece of ore from the scaffolding. It bounced off a cage, eliciting a scream from its inhabitant, and rolled to a stop in front of Ogrim. The giant brute reached forward and scooped the ore up, admiring the diamonds inside. James watched in awe as Ogrim stood up and smashed the ore into his chair, adding another shiny to his collection. The ore jutted out roughly, but somehow still assimilated with the other ores in the chair. Ogrim sat back down with a smile, paying no heed to the various gems digging into his bottom and back. James half expected the throne to crumble under Ogrim’s weight, but it proved to be sturdier than it looked.
“Ogrim’s skin must be so tough that he doesn’t even notice the rough surface. He probably just likes displaying the shinnies and that’s the only way he could think of how to do it,” James mused. Then he got an idea and decided to test just how tough Ogrim’s skin actually was.
“Hey, Ogre guy!” James yelled out from his cage in the direction of Ogrim. The giant brute just continued to watch over his workers, not paying James any mind.
“I don’t think he knows what an Ogre is,” a male prisoner in a cage adjacent to James replied. James nodded, appreciating the fact that this prisoner was coherent. The majority of the other prisoners were all crazy, likely driven mad by their current situation. James felt bad for them. The cave had probably been the only portion of the game that these humans had ever been exposed to. James knew from talking with the single coherent prisoner that they were all from Earth. He couldn’t imagine just going about his life like normal on Earth then being essentially kidnapped by the military, only to be thrown into an entirely new world he knew nothing about and put into a cage and tortured. It was no wonder they all went mad. Still, James was hopeful for them. If his brother was able to break free from his own delirium, then these prisoners should be able to as well.
“Yeah, you're probably right,” James responded to the prisoner. Craning his neck he looked a few cages down to check on Patrick and Alex. Alex was busy trying to explain to a group of prisoners what was going on. He even looked like he had managed to get through to a few of them. He explained to them that they were in a game and not in a dream. He told them that this was their home now, but not everywhere was like the cavern they were in. A few of the prisoners got upset and asked questions, but the majority of them just yelled obscenities at Alex and accused him of trying to trick them. James didn’t envy Alex. It was a tough conversation to have. He was sure that the majority of the slightly less incoherent prisoners probably clung on to the idea that this was all a bad dream. To have to explain to them that it wasn’t and that this was their real life was not an easy task. Still, if he could free the prisoners, and himself, then that conversation would have to be had many more times.
Patrick had resigned himself to take a nap, arguing that he already tried everything he could to get out of his cage. James had tried everything as well, but he wasn’t ready to give up yet. If he could just get into Ogrim’s head maybe he could piss him off enough that he would want to kill James. James would try his best to defend himself. Killing Ogrim was definitely his primary goal, but even if he failed, he would be able to respawn and come back with reinforcements. Shivers traveled up James’s shoulders as he imagined Dreng down in the cave with him. The chieftain would eat Ogrim for breakfast and pick his teeth with his bones. James wasn’t sure if Dreng would fit into the tunnels that led to the cavern, but James knew Dreng would try if he needed him to.
That’s when he remembered his Mark of the Martyr. He should be able to call on it and summon a Martyr to his location. James closed his eyes and focused on the idea, yet nothing happened. Frustrated, he thought back to the last time he used his mark to summon a Martyr. It was in his village, long before it became ‘his’ village. The undead were rampaging and they had the house he was staying in surrounded. It was then that he met Alex and Lilly for the first time. He used his ability to summon Frey, who saved them all. James tried his best to activate the mark the same way he did that time, but still, nothing happened.
“Crap, maybe the ability doesn’t work because of the portal,” James thought, defeated. Technically, the Martyrs were on an entirely different plane of existence. Or maybe they were just really far away and portals are just used for long distance travel? James had no idea, but either way, it wasn’t worth thinking about right now. All that was important was that the summon Martyr portion of his mark didn’t work. He would have to continue with his other plan.
Just when James was about to start yelling insults at Ogrim again he heard a noise come from behind the throne of ore. James turned his head slightly and squinted his eyes. The torchlight didn’t reach the area between Ogrim’s throne and the wall behind it, but James was pretty sure he saw Torunn. Had his game brother come to save him? Was Torunn called by his mark somehow? Did that mean Torunn was an adult now? James had so many questions. He was happy Torunn was here but was hoping his mark would call Dreng. James didn’t think Torunn would be able to handle Ogrim all by himself and was about to tell Torunn to stay put, but it was too late. Torunn was already stalking around the throne, preparing to attack.
“No!” James called out in reflex, causing Ogrim to look at him. Torunn hesitated. James didn’t want his game brother to fight. If he lost to Ogrim, he wouldn’t respawn.
“What?” Ogrim growled. When James didn’t answer Ogrim’s implied question, he got angry.
Good, get angry, you fool, James thought, purposely staying quiet.
Ogrim dismissed James with a wave of his hand, “Don’t worry, puny human. The Prince will be here for you soon,” he slumped back into his throne, “and then you will be out of my hair.”
“You don’t have any hair you bald, dumb, Ogre!” James yelled out, desperate to fuel Ogrim’s anger.
The brute immediately reached a hand up to his head and James realized he did actually have hair. James just never realized it before because it was so thin and the same color of his skin. Still, James could tell the ogre took care of it.
Ogrim’s face twisted into a snarl as he lovingly caressed his patch of hair. The brute slammed his feet into the ground, causing piles of ore all around the cavern to rattle and jump. Then he forcefully stood and stalked over to James, giant mace in hand.
“Is that all you had to do? Insult his receding hairline?” the coherent prison next to James quipped.
James couldn’t help but laugh. “I guess so.”
Before James could accomplish his lifelong dream of being smashed to death by a balding Ogre, screams sounded from the cavern entrance and Ogrim halted in his tracks.
“Go investigate!” Ogrim bellowed as he pointed his finger at the sound of the disturbance. Miner ogres jumped down from scaffolding in every direction, causing the ground to rumble and quake. Like a swarm of short bodybuilders, they all squeezed through the cavern entrance, intent on destroying whatever caused one of their brethren to scream in such a high-pitched manner.