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James watched in utter disbelief as his brother stood at the entrance to the cavern, disbelief that his brother was here and disbelief that he must have been the one to cast that horrifying spell that slaughtered an entire swarm of miners. Did this mean that his brother was normal now? As normal as a human who was unwillingly tossed into a game, tortured to the point of insanity, and able to wield a laughing skull of death could be?

James looked at Alex and Patrick, who had his same expression plastered on their faces, and back to Torunn, who was hiding back behind the throne of ore. James wanted Torunn to get out, to run, and to be anywhere his life wasn’t at risk. He wasn’t sure how he would handle losing Torunn, but he knew it wouldn’t be good. Even if this was a game, even if he would someday be able to get back to Earth, he knew he didn’t want Torunn to die. Still, despite all the subtle cues James could give him, the Martyr would not leave.

Michael stepped forward to the chagrin of Ogrim. James used the opportunity to whisper to Torunn one last time that he needed to leave. It was clear Torunn heard him again, but this time the Martyr’s face had a different expression on it. When before Torunn just had the stubborn expression that told James he was here to save him and that no matter what James said he would not leave, now his face was more panicked. Something had changed.

“Lilly,” Torunn whispered. James shrugged in confusion. “Lilly and a cub were with me.”

Then it dawned on James. His mark had pulled Torunn into the cave because he was already on the same side of the portal. Torunn and Lilly must have entered the spirit battleground when they noticed they were gone for too long.

“Shit,” James whispered as Ogrim yelled at Michael and prepared for a fight. Lilly couldn’t respawn either, and now she was probably all by herself in the spirit battleground or wherever. Torunn nodded when he saw the panic on James's face. “Go get them!” James whispered, starting to get angry. He couldn’t blame Torunn and Lilly for wanting to save him and the other Earth humans, but he was frustrated that they didn’t understand he could respawn. He would be fine if he died, but Torunn and Lilly would not. Now that he thought about it, it was even more frustrating. Torunn knew for a fact that he could respawn because he witnessed it himself.

James let out his frustrations with a scream and violent shake of his cage. He sat there gripping the bars that held him prisoner and shook them until he was spent.

***

Michael checked out his mana bar and confirmed that his mana would be too low to cast another bolt of death. His mana was never high enough that he could throw more than one bolt, but he figured he should double check anyway. On the off-chance that something happened, and his mana increased somehow, this fight would be much quicker. Michael wasn’t worried about defeating Ogrim; he was worried about how fast he would be able to defeat him. Every second that he took to do it was another second that the escort got closer. Michael charged, cutting Ogrim off mid-sentence.

“I am stronger now, Mi-” Ogrim’s pre-battle speech ended with a roar of pain as Michael’s mace collided with his shoulder. Ogrim raised his mace, intending to bring it down on Michael, but the human was already gone. Michael spun around to Ogrim’s back and leaped into the air, bringing his mace down onto Ogrim’s head. The Ogre roared in desperate pain and recklessly swung his mace in a wide arc as he turned to face Michael. The Earth human ducked to dodge the attack and used the momentum he gained from standing to drive his mace upward and into Ogrim’s chin, eliciting an angry growl from the brute.

Michael checked Ogrim’s health bar that was now displayed below his name and gritted his teeth. It was only down a by a fifth. This would take a little longer than Michael expected. Michael figured it had something to do with the fact he was using a mace, and Ogrim had unusually tough skin. His mace had sharp edges throughout it, but they weren’t long enough. Even when he landed what should have been a devastating blow, he couldn’t sink his weapon into the brute deep enough to do any real damage.

Ogrim unleashed a flurry of swings that caught Michael off guard. He knew Ogrim wasn’t as dumb as his miner minions, but still didn’t think he could move as fast as he was. Michael reeled backward just soon enough for Ogrim’s mace to narrowly miss him until he bumped into something hard. Michael’s backward movement halted. Ogrim took advantage of the situation in an instant. His mace swung towards Michael in a sweep that was parallel to the ground. It was too fast to dodge, so Michael jumped in the direction the mace was traveling, hoping to lessen the damage from its impact. As he jumped to his right, he caught a glimpse of his brother’s eyes just before the mace hit his back. In that instant, Michael could see that his brother was worried, afraid, and angry all at once. Michael checked his health bar, and his brother’s emotions became his own. That one hit from Ogrim knocked his health down by a fourth. Ogrim had gotten stronger since the spirit battleground, much stronger.

Michael rolled to his feet and shook away his negative thoughts. His battle would be tougher now, but he still had to win. There was no other option. If the Lich King captured his brother then he would take away his soul, and with it, his ability to respawn. Michael had seen it first hand when he was a prisoner, and the process was terrifying. Still, though, Michael wasn’t sure James knew that the Lich King could steal souls. The only glimpses Michael got of the village where James lived made it seem like a peaceful place. How would his brother know about the Lich King and his powers? Of course, it was possible that James discovered the Lich’s ability after the fight in the Spirit Battleground. It was also possible that James was worried and afraid for a different reason. Either way, Michael needed to defeat Ogrim and get the hell out of the dungeon.

Ogrim began to laugh and told Michael he should have listened to his speech. Michael didn’t have time for it though, and charged, cutting Ogrim off again. Ogrim dug his feet into the ground and took up a defensive position. Just before their maces met, Michael changed direction - he knew the brute was strong and sturdy, but Ogrim was still slower than him. So, Michael used that to his advantage. He ran around the monster, who was expecting an attack and couldn’t adapt in time. Michael jumped onto Ogrim’s throne and used it to vault himself high into the air. Then Michael enacted the second part of his plan. His Mace wasn’t the best for fighting Ogrim because it’s sharp edges couldn't cut deep into the brute's skin. However, the one place it could still do a decent amount of damage was Ogrim’s head. Michael didn’t have to cut deep into Ogrim’s head to do a lot of damage. The sensitive bits were already close the surface.

Michael brought his mace down onto the confused Ogrim with all the force he could muster, and the weapon dug into the brute’s head with a wet thud. Michael didn’t react to the sound though. He was used to the brutality of this world now and besides, he knew from his last hit on Ogrim’s head that the brute would go into a frenzy after being hit there. Just as Michael suspected, Ogrim’s speed increased, and he unleashed another flurry of heavy blows. Michael was ready this time though and noticed that Ogrim’s berserker attack gave him a small vulnerability. Ogrim was swinging his mace so fast because he was treating it like a flail. When the mace struck out one way, Ogrim kept the momentum and put it into the next swing. The attacks were faster, compared to Ogrim’s usual, but they were also more predictable. Michael used this to his advantage as well. When the momentum of Ogrim’s mace took it away from the human, Michael used the throne to vault into the air again and land another blow to Ogrim’s head. This time though, Ogrim’s mace swing was predictable, so Michael opted to land behind Ogrim, and away from the path of his mace.

Ogrim swung his mace in another sweep and let his body follow the momentum until he was facing Michael once again. Michael ducked again. Now that he had figured out Ogrim’s attack pattern, Michael would be able to whittle him down pretty fast, all while taking little to no damage.

The Earth human and the brute continued their dance until Ogrim stood stalk still, covered in blood and panting. Red streamed down his head and painted his body in macabre streaks.

“You will not defeat me, Michael,” Ogrim huffed.

Michael waved the comment away and took one last breath before readying himself to charge again. Now was not the time to rest, and he knew it. The stakes were too high for him to leave anything on the battlefield.

Suddenly, Ogrim moved his hands in a quick pattern. Michael realized what was happening immediately, but it still happened too fast for him to do anything about it. Ogrim finished casting his spell, and a totem began to sprout from the ground. The totem consisted of wood with one pastel painted angry face carved into it. When the totem grew enough to fully uncover the angry face, a beam of red energy shot out and connected to Ogrim. Michael watched in horror as his opponent soaked up the power granted by the totem. Ogrim’s face intensified and his already huge muscles bulged a bit more. Then the Ogre grinned.

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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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