“Destroy the totem!” James yelled out from his cage. Alex and Patrick called out similar instructions, but James knew Michael was already aware of what he needed to do. His brother had been trying to destroy the totem for a while now. Every time his brother made a move to destroy the totem, Ogrim either used his Mace Slam ability and stunned Michael or unleashed a flurry of strikes that caused him to back away from the totem. The problem was that James didn’t know how else he could help.

“I’m trying!” Michael called out through gritted teeth as he dodged a mace swing. James winced. He wasn’t helping and calling out obvious instructions was just distracting his brother. He needed to find another way to help, but couldn’t think of anything. The cage he was in was rock solid and even seemed to dampen magic or abilities. Alex even tried to Blink out of the cage, but couldn’t. Patrick, who was unequivocally the strongest of the prisoners, couldn’t even manage to bend one of the dark metal bars that held them.

Frustration built within James. He tried to recite in his head that if his brother died he would just respawn and everything would be okay, but it wasn’t helping. Even though he knew everything would be okay, he couldn’t bear to see his younger brother, his only real family, be hit and hurt with such ferocity. James flash backed to when he discovered his brother being beaten up by multiple bullies back at school, years ago. When James realized what was happened to his brother he stepped in and saved him. He felt the same way then as he did now. Absolute rage filled him. Unbridled violence built up in his body, waiting to bring to justice to anyone that would hurt his family. And yet, James couldn’t do anything about it, because he was caged like an animal. It was maddening.

That was when James realized his true power. It didn’t lie in his strength or even his intelligence. His power lay within his friends, with the Martyrs, and with his brother. They all had things they were good at. What James needed to be good at was organizing all of their strengths into the most effective combinations. Right now they were a disorganized mess. James knew that wasn’t what got them into this situation, not entirely at least. James was sure he would find himself in unfortunate situations again in the future. He was sure that there would be times where he wouldn’t be able to do anything to help his party. They would have to help themselves, and that was okay. What James needed to do was make sure they all knew what to do and where always on the same page. If James had done that better then Torunn and Lilly wouldn’t be here risking their actual lives for no reason.

James decided that when he got out of here he would work on some sort of training or school for his village. There was so much information going around that some of it was falling through cracks. If his village was to survive, he needed a way to make sure everyone was trained and had access to the same information. James’s strategy of investing in Wisdom and Intelligence has been pretty useful at getting new information - information that had helped his party and allowed him access to opportunities that he otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. James knew that was good for his party. James also knew that he didn’t utilize all that information to the best of his ability. If he realized this sooner he would have found time to make sure Torunn knew not to risk his life for James. If he realized this sooner, he could have been a better leader. That was what he was, wasn’t he? His strategy to invest in Wisdom had set him up to keep pace with his parties level advancements while he focused on things other than leveling up. Without that strategy, he would just be another weak fighter or mage. Now though, he had the party leader and builder interfaces. James shook his head. He wasn’t convinced if he was a leader or not. If he was though, he knew he hadn’t been a good one. James vowed to become better...

Suddenly, Torunn fell from somewhere up high and crashed into Ogrim.

“About time,” Michael said as he rushed in to take advantage of the opportunity granted by Torunn.

“No,” James said, defeated. He had hoped that Torunn would have found Lilly and went back to the village. Instead, Torunn came back, putting his life at risk again.

James watched as his game brother and real brother fought Ogrim. Michael attacked, Torunn distracted, and when one of them was vulnerable the other was ready to step in. Their teamwork was just as good as his and Torunn’s had been.

A vibration echoed through the cave floor, causing James to sit on his feet instead of his bottom. Ore jumped and scattered about on the ground. James looked around for the source of the vibration. Ogrim wasn’t doing anything special and neither was anyone in his party. Then a beam of golden light connected to Ogrim. James followed it to the totem and realized that it grew. Another face sprouted below the angry one. The new face seemed excited, but that wasn’t the emotion James felt when he realized what this new level of the totem did. James’s sorrow grew as he watched Ogrim’s health bar slowly fill up. He had been just below half before the totem grew and began to heal him. Michael’s health bar was low as well, and James knew his brother wouldn’t survive another attack. If Michael died that would leave Torunn to face Ogrim alone. Maybe Lilly would join in if she was still around, but James wasn’t sure he wanted her to. That would just put two people that couldn’t respawn at risk of permanently dying.

“It’s healing him!” Patrick called out from his cage, late to the party as usual.

“We can’t get close!” Michael yelled out as he and Torunn regained their consciousness. They had been stunned after attempting to attack the totem together. James could tell Michael wasn’t keen on the idea of attempting a totem dive again.

A loud roar echoed through the cavern, causing everyone to stop in their tracks. Chills went up James back as he struggled to grasp what was happening. A shadow grew on the cavern’s floor so large that it even seemed to worry the buffed up Ogre. Ogrim stepped back and flashed a confused look at Michael and Torunn. Michael didn’t react, just in case whatever was roaring was here to help him, but James recognized his bluff face. Michael gave the same look every time they played poker and he bet more than his cards could handle. It was clear that Michael didn’t even know where the roar was coming from.

Suddenly, the shadow began to shrink, and Ogrim’s confidence grew once again. James saw Torunn look up, so he followed his gaze. One of the Martyr cubs was falling towards Ogrim with tremendous speed. James's eyes widened as he realized the cub was going to belly flop right onto the ground. Just before he could call out and tell someone to catch the cub, it smashed into Ogrim’s totem, belly first.

Everyone went silent as the beams of light that connected Ogrim to the totem died out. The Martyr cub let out a groan and rolled over, revealing a destroyed totem.

“My man!” Patrick yelled out, forcefully standing and throwing his fist into the air, only for it to bump unforgivingly into the top of his cage. Patrick gripped his hand in regret and whispered, “Good job, little Patrick. Belly of steel.”


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About the author


Bio: Writer of disparate LitRPG stories.

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

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