The wizened Martyr curiously took in his surroundings with a grimace. His confused body language quickly turned aggressive when his eyes fell upon the Oana villagers.
James threw his hands out, “Don’t attack them! They won’t hurt us.”
Frode growled, “Won’t hurt us?”
“No, they are… unintelligent. There is a bigger threat than the villagers anyway. We think we found the source of the Oana army that has been trying to take over the savanna.”
Frode relaxed slightly and narrowed his eyes, “The Mystic…”
James was taken aback by the Advisor’s words, “Yes, how did you know there was a Mystic?”
“I have been suspicious for a while now. At first, I only sensed a new power in the savanna and nothing more, but as my power grew, my senses became more refined. I suspected a Mystic was behind the Oana attacks and the extremely cold air,” Frode explained.
James briefly considered telling the aging Martyr that the cold air was called Winter, but had more pressing issues, “Why didn’t you give me a warning or something?”
Frode smiled, “I had a hunch that you would be drawn to it, and wanted to test my hypothesis. I am still struggling to unravel the mysteries of why your kind has entered this world and my hypothesis was correct. You and the other humans from…” Frode paused, trying to think of a word, “Earth. You and the other Earth humans are tied to many events now. I don’t know why, but now it is clear that if there is a mystery to be solved, you all will uncover the path to answers. If I simply told you that I suspected that there was a Mystic attacking the Savanna, my test would be ruined.”
James was relieved to know that the Advisor just wasn’t some unintelligent NPC like he had previously suspected, but still didn’t follow Frode’s logic and wasn’t happy the advisor put his mission at risk in order to test a theory, “Freydis gave us the quest that lead us here though, so doesn’t that ruin your test?”
Frode’s face twisted in confusion and asked a series of questions that lead James to believe that Frode wasn’t aware of their quest interface. That fact surprised James, considering that the NPCs did have access to statistic, equipment, and skills interfaces.
James shook his head, interrupting Frode’s puzzlement, “We will talk about it later. Alex can tell you all about it after we deal with this Mystic. Let get ready to fight.”
Frode reluctantly agreed. The party followed a strategy from Alex and stacked outside the hut flap, ready to burst in like special forces clearing a house.
Alex held up his fingers and counted down, “Three… Two…”
James felt the hip bump from Patrick, who was ahead of him in line, then the sudden absence of the red-head. James hip bumped Frode, the last member of the party and ran into the tent. He was met with an overwhelmingly cold wind that caused him to shield his face. The wind pushed him back, causing James’s to stumble as he cringed from the pain. He could hear laughter from what he could only assume was the Oana mystic.
“Perfect timing! One of my pesky villagers seemed to grow a brain and ran away from me! Your life energy is just what I needed!” The Mystic laughed.
Finally, the freezing gust of air coming from the Mystic died down and James was able to see the Mystic for the first time. She was clearly a female, with an odd mixture of feminine aspects that were almost as much lizard as they were humanoid. The Mystic held a staff in one hand and a book in another. She was busily combining through the pages of her book, so James took a look around. All of his party members were completed frozen, unable to move. James realized that was why the Mystic wasn’t in a rush to attack him. She obviously didn’t expect James to be immune to the freeze spell, and neither did James himself. He was sure it must have been from his Embrant class. All the snow and cold surfaces he touched since he got the class seemed less cold than they should be if they even felt cold at all. James grimaced at the pain his party must have felt. Even though cold affected him less than his party members, the cold blast still hurt him. It must have been excruciating for everyone else. Luckily, James could tell from his party leader interface that the spell only did minor damage.
James turned his head just enough to get a glance of Patrick, who was frozen mid-charge, Maul held high in the air and a grimace on his face. James then looked at Patrick’s icon in his Party Leader Interface and found the debuff affecting him.
Frozen – All movement & abilities are inaccessible for 29 seconds.
The debuff timer counted down as James looked at it. He estimated that the full debuff lasted 40 seconds total, which meant it was an extremely powerful spell. James was pretty sure he could have killed almost any enemy he had come across so far in the game world if he had a full 40 seconds to attack unimpeded. James’s turned his attention back to the Mystic with an unperceivable movement. By the fact that she was now dancing, James assumed that she had found whatever page she was looking for in her book. He wasn’t sure what that page of her book said, but he was sure he didn’t want the Mystic to do whatever she was going to do next.
James did a quick calculation and decided that he had enough health left to activate Martyr’s Rage long enough for his party to become unfrozen. James activated Jump Strike.
The Mystic spotted him in the air and shrieked, more because she didn’t expect anyone to be able to move than because she was afraid of James. Her brief hesitation allowed James to land with a fiery explosion that caught a portion of the hut on fire. James’s took advantage of his five-second stun effect and attacked the Mystic with both of his blades. He half expected that the Mystic would have fallen with only a few strikes, but to James’s dismay, she had some sort of shield covering her body. James’s strikes barely drew blood, even when he swung with all of his might. He could tell that her scales were protecting her from some of the damage, but even when he swung his blade at her unscaled stomach he was met with the same resistance.
With an explosion of ice, James was thrown onto his back. His five seconds must have been up. James forced himself to his feet and charged.
The Mystic met his eyes as he ran toward her and giggled, “You are very unlucky! One more second and you would have had my mana completely spent! Luckily, I still have enough mana left over for THIS!” The Mystic said, her lighthearted words changing into a ferocious scream as she spoke.
James reflexively closed his eyes mid-charge, expecting the Mystic to throw something at his face. She didn’t though, and instead slammed her staff into the ground, causing the ground to rumble and James’s knees to buckle. The walls of the hut all around James suddenly began to move and grow. The wood and bone framework of the hut grew taller as if the whole building had only been buried underground and was being pulled out. James heard the Mystic yell something and felt a sharp pain echo within his body, causing him to gasp from breadth. Still, James charged. The Mystic screamed and pain echoed through James’s body yet again. This time though, he saw a blue light get pulled from him and travel to the Mystic. The light enveloped the Mystic and she yelled again. James realized in horror that she wasn’t yelling in anger or pain, but from the pleasure, she got from stealing whatever light James had inside his body. A split second later, James watched a light get stolen from the frozen Chieftain’s Advisor as well. James glanced at his icon in his party leader interface and confirmed that the light she was stealing was indeed his mana. James winced as he realized she was stealing the mana from his party in order to feed it into the growth of the building, and her shield.
With a roar, James activated Martyr’s rage. The skin on his back split as it always did, but this time he didn’t pause to relish the clarity that the pain brought. James charged. The Mystic met his blows with her staff with a surprising show of agility. James feigned an attack to draw her staff away from her then swung underneath it with his other blade. The Mystic simply jumped upward and James’s legendary short sword passed right underneath her.
“You fool, you are not a good enough fighter to hit me. Your agility is too low!” The Mystic said, attempting to get inside James’s head.
James didn’t reply, instead, he picked up his pace. Strike after strike was deflected, parried, or dodged, but James didn’t let up. Finally, James landed a strike, only for it to bounce off her scales, leaving the barest of a scratch.
The Mystic laughed, “And you’re not even strong enough to do any damage when you do get lucky enough to hit me! Really human, you don’t consider yourself a fighter do you?”
James didn’t respond, letting the Mystic think what she wanted. Her taunts had no effect on James’s sharpened mind. The Martyr’s Rage ability helped him see only the information that he needed in battle, only the information that was relevant to him winning. Even without Martyr’s rage though, James wouldn’t have been affected by her taunts. He knew what he was, and no amount of ridicule would make him forget.
Buff Received - Quick Agility Enhancement - Your agility is increased by 20 for 10 minutes.
James bladed whirled with his newfound agility. His eyes widened in awe at the speed he was moving and James briefly worried that he would knock himself off balance. Yet, no matter how fast his blades cut and whirled, his body instinctively knew where to move to stay balanced.
Buff Received - Hearty Strength Enhancement - Your strength is increased by 20 for 10 minutes.
With a ferocious roar, James’s muscles bulged. He smiled at the new power. It couldn’t have come at a better time. James leveraged his new strength and speed immediately, landing strike after strike on the Mystic. The lizard woman reeling under James onslaught. Seconds later, James had the Mystic on her knees with his Legion Commander’s Short Sword pressed to her neck. From his position above the beaten Mystic, James could see his party slowly unthawing. For some reason, Frode was able to escape the debuff faster than everyone else and was busy casting buffs in the corner.
For a brief second, James’s enraged eyes met with Omero’s. Without a second thought, James pressed down on his Legion Commander's Short Sword and viciously ripped it from the Mystic’s neck. Blood gushed from the Mystic and followed his blade out of her neck, some of it landing on a portion of the cabin that was on fire and evaporating with a sickening sizzle.
James deactivated his Martyr’s Rage ability and glanced at his angrily flashing health bar. Despite the flood of human emotions rushing back into his body as they always did after he deactivated his Martyr’s Rage, James couldn’t help but chuckle at what he saw.
“Heh, only one health point left…”
“Dude! You didn’t leave any of the action for me!” Patrick said in frustration as he raised his arms in the air and dropped them pitifully back down to his side.
James looted the corpse of the Mystic and motioned for his party to leave the burning hut. Outside, the Oana Villagers were ignorantly going about their day to day lives, unaware that the tallest and most prominent building in their village was on fire. They also didn’t seem concerned at all that their Oana Mystic was just slain.
“What now?” Michael asked as he joined the rest of the party just outside the burning hut.
“Now we prosper…” Frode said with his back turned to the party. The Chieftain's advisor was looking out over the Great Savanna from underneath the village gate.
James didn’t realize immediately due to his high from battle, but it quickly dawned on him. This was a huge moment in Martyr history. They had just gotten rid of the Mystic that was responsible for creating the hostile and intelligent Oana. James slowly walked up to Advisor and stood next to him, trying to see the Great Savanna through Frode’s eyes. The wizened advisor had spent much of his later years running from the Oana, but before then, Frode cared for the Savanna just like all the other Martyrs. It was their job, their calling. It was their ancestral oath and James could see that the Advisor was happy to be able to complete it once again. Still, James wasn’t as happy as he thought he would be. The Oana had been a threat from the very first moment he entered the game and was attacked by a scout that was fighting Torunn. Now though, they didn’t even seem relevant compared to the Lich King.
“I can’t go back with you,” James said, breaking the melancholy silence. He was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to celebrate the victory with the Martyr’s, but he had to go on. He accomplished Frey’s quest but still needed to find a way to protect his soul from the Lich King so he could free the rest of the human villagers in the dungeon.
Frode didn’t answer immediately, but eventually nodded and said, “I need to head back soon. Torunn already had his hands full with disgruntled Martyrs when I left, and it will take me a few days to get back, even at a full sprint. The Martyrs are getting increasingly upset about being trapped behind our town walls. The Chieftain will be happy to hear that the Oana threat is dealt with and the Martyr’s can leave the village and stretch their legs. We can finally go on with our lives and pick up where we left off before the Great Exodus,” Frode paused and looked down at his hands, turning them around and examining them like he was seeing them for the first time, “I have aged so much since then…”