The party all agreed that Omero should be the one to put on the disguise and infiltrate the Oana village. He had the Inveigler class that allowed him to get an idea of how people were reacting to his words, even if they didn’t show it through body language. James didn’t think Omero would be doing much speaking though, and was only tasked with learning how many Oana were in the village, what types they were, and most importantly, learning what was going on behind the earthen walls. James figured that if something went wrong and Omero was sent to respawn, the rest of the party would still be able to attack without him.
“It’s kind of like we are zipping up an overly large baby into a onesie,” Patrick commented with a chuckle as he helped guide Omero’s arm into the sleeve.
Alex raised an eyebrow at the comment, “You have children?”
Patrick scoffed, “Thankfully no. I can’t imagine being separated from my own children because of this whole game world thing, but I did have a little niece. I used to watch her at night and zip her up in her pajamas,” Patrick grunted as he finally fished Omero’s arm into the sleeve,” she was much more cooperative though!”
“Trust me, buddy, this is much more awkward for me than it is for you,” Omero said as he pulled over the hood of the disguise.
The party let out a collective gasp. Before them stood a real-life Oana villager, complete with lizard scales and long clawed fingers. Even Omero’s face was completely transformed to flawlessly resemble the face of one of the lizard creatures.
James snapped his fingers in front of Omero’s lizard-like eyes and confirmed that the Italian could see through the disguise, “Okay, we only have ten minutes so let’s get moving! Learn as much as you can about the village without causing a stir and retreat back to our camp before your timer runs out. Go go go!”
The party watched as Omero ran toward the gate in the Earthen wall they discovered earlier.
Michael let out a chuckle, “Look at his little tail wiggle!”
The party nervously waited at their camp, ready to fight if it came to it.
“Anyone know how long it has been?” Patrick asked as he twirled his True Iron Mail around in the air.
“56, 57,58,59, 9 minutes” James counted out loud.
“There he is!” Michael exclaimed as he pointed to an Oana villager who was casually walking out of the village. Omero’s picked up his relaxed pace until he was sprinting at full speed. As Omero ran, parts of his disguise started to slowly dissolve into thin air. By the time Omero reached the party, his disguise was completely gone.
Omero keeled over and struggled to catch his breath, “I… Almost… had to mate with one of them…”
“What?” James said confused. That was not how he thought Omero would begin his report.
The Italian nodded and stood up, “Yea, maybe not mate in the sense of the word that we know, but they definitely needed me to make more of them or make them more powerful or something. I didn’t stick around long enough to get more information about it though.”
“So what was it like? How many warriors were in there?” Alex questioned.
Omero nodded, “The village was quite large, but it seemed empty. I saw a few villagers walking around, but they didn’t take any notice of me. In the center of the village was a large hut. I peaked my head inside and was immediately summoned by a female who said I was not excused from the mating ritual. I managed to run away before she caught up with me. I only counted ten of the larger Oana. They had weapons so I assume they were the soldiers you guys were talking about.”
James gave a glance to Alex, “Do you think Dreng managed to wipe out their entire army?”
Alex shrugged, “It sounds like it. If the village was as large as Omero says and it was empty, that means they aren’t as populated as usual. It is still possible that there are other warriors that he didn’t see,” Alex turned to Omero, “How many buildings were there and how many were you able to check?”
“There were dozens of small huts and tents next to the inside of the wall. I was able to check out a few, but only saw villagers in them. The hut in the center of the village was the only building that really stood out from the others.” Omero reported.
“What about the inside the center hut?” inquired James.
“I didn’t get a good look, but it was clear that there was some sort of magic happening in the hut, like a spell or something. The Oana soldiers were all inside, but I couldn’t tell what they were doing.”
James nodded and congratulated Omero on the job well done and began to think of a plan.
James ran his hand along the earthen wall of the Oana village as his party snuck up to the gate. He could tell the wall was cold, but it didn’t bother him in any way. Just like when he buried his hand in snow the other night, James didn’t feel the cold. He could tell If something was cold, but he couldn’t feel it in a normal sense. It was as if he was immune to it or something.
The party reached the portion of the wall they agreed upon earlier and Patrick began to step away from the wall. The party tossed around the idea of having James jump over the wall with his jump strike ability. That way he could open the gate from the inside and let the rest of the party in, but unfortunately, his ability didn’t work that way. He had to be able to target something to activate jump strike, and James wasn’t able to see over the wall. Patrick’s bulldoze ability didn’t have that limit though, so everyone decided that the redhead would just punch a hole in the wall.
Everyone braced themselves against the wall. Patrick gave them a thumbs up and a sinister smile before crouching down like an Olympic sprinter. Everyone waited for Patrick to activate his ability and slam into the wall, but Patrick just stayed still.
James quietly chuckled when he realized what Patrick was waiting for. Olympic sprinters usually stayed in their starting positions until they heard a gunshot that signaled the start of the race, so James cleared his throat and did his best to mimic the sound.
“Bang!” James yelled, no longer worried about staying quiet.
Patrick’s red hair turned into a streak and seconds later a real bang caused James ears to ring. The dust cleared a moment later and James realized that the plan failed! The wall must have been too strong for Patrick to break through. Panic began to course through James’s body as he took in the scene. Alex, Michael, and Omero were standing around confused and fussing with their ears. Patrick’s unconscious body laid in a heap next to the wall. James took a long breath and did his best to focus. Behind him, he could hear a commotion. The Oana were wondering what was going on and were opening the gate. In a split second, James decided that they would have to stand and fight. If they tried to flee while carrying Patrick they would undoubtedly be captured. Alex seemed to catch onto what was going on shortly after James did and bent down in an effort to drag Patrick’s limp body away from danger. James yelled at him to stop and prepare to fight instead, but Alex couldn’t hear the command. James barely heard it himself and he was the one that gave it. James grabbed Alex by the shoulder, forcing him to stand up. Locking eyes with each of his party members, James unsheathed his Legendary Short Sword.
James turned to face the approaching Oana soldiers and told his party to follow him with a wave of his arm. Activating Jump Strike, James left his party and launched into the air. Seconds later he landed in a storm of debris and fire. Before the air could clear, James lashed out with his Legendary short sword, easily removing the scythe arm of a burning Oana soldier. James ducked a rogue slash that materialized from the smoke and rolled toward it. Hoping up to his feet, James found himself outside of the smoke cloud his jump strike left behind. He instinctually lashed out with both blades at the soldier attacking him. His blades were blocked, but he kept at it and rained down a flurry from both his short swords. The soldier parried his attacks with relative ease, but James could tell that his opponent was having trouble with the speed of the attacks coming down on him. James found strength in the fact that he had more endurance and speed than the Soldier but knew that even taking just one hit from the much stronger enemy would be extremely dangerous. James broke off from the Oana in front of him and dove back into his debris cloud, launched a fireball behind him and decapitated the Oana Soldier that received the stun effect from his jump strike. James quickly turned in an effort to face the Oana soldier who he boldly showed his back to… and tripped…
“Get back!” Alex yelled as he blinked next to James and used his Spiky Bracer Cover to block the scythe that was heading towards James.
James crawled forward, out of the crater he left behind and ran far enough away to get his bearing once again. He was careful not to step into the agro zones of any of the villagers. Alex was doing his best to deflect attacks but wasn’t able to do any of the attacking. The Oana soldiers had him outnumbered, and it was clear that the only reason Alex was alive was because of his high agility. James cast a firebolt into one of the Oana Soldiers, but it whizzed by his target and smashed into the earthen wall instead. James let out a curse and decided to get closer and try again. Luckily, Michael and Omero had caught up to the fight, freeing up Alex to deal damage. James flanked the Oana soldiers so that he was lined up with their sides. He launched a firebolt just behind their line in an effort to avoid his allies. James watched the firebolt fly through the air and promised himself to find a fire spell that could target his enemies, instead of flying in a straight path. James let out a breath he wasn’t aware he was holding as his spell crashed into an Oana Soldier and set it on fire. The soldier didn’t even seem to notice the fact that he was burning and continued to try and attack Omero. Whenever the Soldier got close though, Michael would shove his shoulder into the creature with a ferocious battle cry. For a split second, James got lost in the sight before him. His brother had transformed into someone, something he didn’t recognize anymore. The kindness and humor that could usually be found in his brother’s eyes was replaced with unbridled hate. Suddenly, Michaels hulking size became readily apparent to James once again. Michael brutally smashed his mace into the Oana soldiers and used his massive weight to elbow and shove the Oana away from Omero. He was a force to be reckoned with and held his own against the more numerous enemy with inhumane shouts and remorseless blows that cracked bones and caused blood to fill the air.
“Fuck it,” James said as he let himself feel the pain of losing his life back on Earth. He broke down the internal structures that allowed him to carry the responsibility of the wellbeing of his village and an entire race of Martyrs on his shoulders. James didn’t crumble under the weight though; he harnessed it and let it transform him. He no longer let the logical side of him hold back all the things that frustrated him or made him angry. James’s body flushed as he finally allowed himself to feel the injustice and unfairness of the world. He let everything go, and became a monster. The skin on James’s back burst in a shower of blood. The meaty ravines in his flesh grew and snaked up to his shoulders and down his arms. James battle senses sharpened and time slowed. James stalked forward. The Oana soldiers were unaware of the wrathful smile that was quickly closing the distance between them and the Martyr’s Rage.