“What the what…” James whispered as the party entered the mouth of a cavern even larger than Ogrim’s. Unlike Ogrim’s cavern though, this one was barren. There was no scaffolding, small brutes running around with pickaxes, nor was there a sparkling throne of precious metal ore. In fact, there were only three things in this cavern, at least as far as James could count. Two of those things were large cages. James could almost make out the figure of human bodies in the cage, but he was too far away to determine if they were alive or not. The sacks of potatoes that James suspected, or rather hoped, was actually human prisoners that he could rescue came in and out of his vision as the large legs of a lumbering creature paced the cavern.
“I’m not sure if we can defeat that thing,” Alex said perceptively.
James looked up to get a good view of the creature. It looked to be entirely made of stone. In fact, if it stayed still long enough James figured he would lose sight of it entirely. It was so large that even it’s human form wasn’t a dead giveaway that thing was alive at all. It’s arms, legs, and all of its proportions were so proportional that they were entirely unproportional to a human. In that way, the human form wasn’t human-like at all.
“It’s a golem,” Patrick said matter-of-factly, “ a rather old one too.”
James gave Patrick a sideways stare, searching for any hints of emotion on the red-head face that would let him know if he was just being funny or if Patrick actually knew something about the creature. Before James could verbalize the question that he thought his sideways stare would ask, Patrick, activated his Bulldoze ability.
As the ringing in James’s ears finally subsided he could make out a faint, “JENKINS!” roar from the red-head, moments before he smashed into Golem.
“Damn,” a frustrated Alex said as he hastily fastened his spiked gloves, “why are we always chasing after him?”
“Who is Jenkins?” James said, still not fully recovered from the combination of Patrick’s sudden blast of broken sound waves and the shaking of the ground as the Golem walked.
James shook his head and surveyed the Golem for any weak points that he could Jump Strike to. No highlighted areas or exposed beating rock hearts presented themselves, so James threw some Firebolts to buy himself some time to think. The Golem swayed after Patrick’s impact. It fell against the wall as Patrick tumbled to the ground. James watched as the red-head gathered himself and prepared to charge the giant rock beast again. The red-head ran. The Golem swayed. A portion of the cavern wall crumbled under the Golems heavy hands, causing it to further lose its balance. In an effort to regain its footing, the Golem bashed its head into the wall. Dust and loose boulders exploded from every surface that was made out of rock, which was all of them. The Golem scrambled, which James thought was an odd sight to watch, if not slightly silly, because of the Golem’s massive size and inherent slowness.
“Shit,” Alex swore as realization dawned.
James widened his eyes as he watched the red-head skid to a halt mid war cry, which wasn’t a frequent occurrence. James knew that once Patrick had his hard head made up, it was nearly impossible to get him to change his mind. In this circumstance though, the cumulative weight of a giant stone Golem falling towards him must have been enough for Patrick to change his mind and run away.
He’s not going to make it, that idiot. Should I Jump Strike? James thought, attempting to work out a plan of action in a split second. No, I will be squished along with him.
“Blink!” James said to Alex so fast that the command seemed to consist of less than one syllable.
“I can’t!” Alex replied, “He is too heavy! I won’t be able to blink away with him!”
James cringed. He did recall reading Alex’s character notes in Omero’s notebook. The veteran’s blink ability was progressing nicely and he did have the ability to blink with things, but it was dependant on a complex formula of his strength, sneak skill and the weight of the thing that they haven't exactly managed to figure out. They didn’t need a complete formula to deduce that Patrick was much heavier than he looked and that Alex’s blink skill was nowhere near strong enough to pull the feat off though.
With one of his commands as a leader useless, James sent his brain into overtime to find another solution. He was becoming quite good at the whole leadership thing. He studied Omero’s notes every opportunity he got, he went over ability combinations as he ate, and he often couldn’t fall asleep at night because his body was too preoccupied imagining intense battle scenarios that weren't actually happening. He wasn’t always the best leader, and he wasn’t now, but he was decent. He knew that if anyone could come up with a solution it was him. Sure, Alex was arguably born a better leader than James, but James had been putting in the work, studying the craft, while Alex and everyone else not including Torunn was preoccupied with their own personal growth. Not James though, he was focused on preparing for situations like this. Situations where his party would need a quick thinker, someone that was intimately familiar with the party’s dynamics and could come up with out of the box and genius solutions. Then it came to him.
“Run,” James commanded.
“What?” Alex asked, dumbfounded.
“TAKE COVER!” James yelled as he dove behind a large boulder. A second later, Alex landed on top of James. Two seconds later, a deafening blast echoed through the entire floor of the dungeon as the Golem hit the ground. Somewhere between two and three seconds later, a wave of force blasted past James, taking his boots along with it.
Damnit, James thought, forgot to tuck my feet.
As the dust settled, James stood up and checked on the situation with his overzealous companion. Patrick was nowhere to be seen.
“Did he die?” Alex asked.
“No,” James said after a quick glance to his party leader interface, “He did take a lot of damage though,” James paused to pull up his map. Patrick’s player icon was smack dab in the middle of the area that encompassed the avalanche of stone that was the Golems body. James wasn’t completed sure, but he guessed that Patrick didn’t manage to escape the falling Golem and was instead directly under it. The only reason he wasn’t sure of it was that somehow, Patrick was still alive, “I think… he is under the Golem.”
“GRRRRRAGGh,” A voice that resembled the sound of two sedimentary rocks attempting to grind each other into dust with their own rough surfaces complained. The Golem’s head rose and peaked around the room, it's vaguely human-like face a perfect mixture of earthen animosity and gravel bewilderment.
“Uhh, should we attack?” Alex inquired.
James happened to be wondering the same thing but didn’t have the opportunity to come up with another one of his genius plan of attacks. The Golem’s eyes, that happened to be boulders half the size of James, locked onto Alex as he talked. The boulder-eyes heated up, turning magma red. The Golem swiped out his arm, attempting to crush the tiny creatures that made it fall over. James figured that the Golem must have been angry since it arm moved much faster than he thought possible. He idly wondered if falling down was one of the worst things that could happen to Golems as he reflexively activated Jump Strike. He flew the air and couldn’t help but wonder how long it would take the lumbering creature to get back up to its feet.
Not long enough, James thought as he flew through the air and watched the Golem deftly sit up. The freshly revealed ground was perfectly flat from where the Golem smashed into it, except for a human-shaped indent. Patrick dizzily crawled out. How do you even survive these type of things, James thought, remembered all the times Patrick took an amount of damage that easily would have killed anyone else in the party.
James landed on the Golems head in an explosion of fire that the giant rock beast either promptly ignored or promptly failed to feel. James was slightly offended that the creature didn’t even pay any attention to his upgraded Jump Strike landing.
“Go get the prisoners!” James yelled as he shoved his short swords into the top rock that served as the Golem’s head. The creature howled in pain.
Ah, that got your attention, didn’t it? James snarled to himself, moments before he was thrown off of the berserking pile of rocks. He landed harshly, losing a fifth of his health in the process. James quickly pulled a healing poultice from his Satchel and ate it, figuring it had to work on internal wounds as well as external ones. Finally, the Golem got to its feet. James ran in the opposite direction of his party, yelling obscenities and persuasive insults the entire time. The Golem didn’t take the bait though and instead turned to Patrick and Alex, who were almost to the large metal cages.
A loud sound echoed through the cavern as the Golem bashed its fists into the walls. Dust exploded from everywhere, shortening James’s line of vision and getting into his eyes in the process. His insults directed towards the Golem became more personal. James had to slow his pace so he didn’t run into anything and launched a few Firebolts in the direction he last saw the rock monster. Suddenly, he smashed into one of the walls he was trying to avoid, only, he was pretty sure there was no wall there moments ago. James checked his map and confirmed his paranoid suspicion - the Golem had caved in the tunnel so they couldn’t escape.
“It blocked the prisoners off!” Patrick’s voice bullied its way through the dust particles in the air.
Realizing that there was only one option left, James mentally targeting the glowing red eyes that were now facing him and activated Jump Strike. The dust that always seemed to get into James’s eyes turned out to be a blessing as it hid James’s attack. He smashed into the Golems face unobstructed and dug his short swords into the Golems eyes. James’s world became a twister that was moving faster than naturally possible as the Golem flailed around in pain. James became acutely aware of the lava dripping onto his hand and thanked his Embrant class. Without it, he would have certainly let go of the short swords that were keeping him attached to the Golem. James had no desire to fall to the ground again. Partly because the healing poultice didn’t, in fact, heal internal wounds and another fall or two from such a height was likely to send him to respawn, but mostly it was because James wanted to take out the Golem’s other eye while he was up there. It was more efficient that way.
When the Golem seemed to be going less berserk, James pulled out one of his short swords then shoved it back into the creature’s face, one foot to the left. He did the same thing with his other short sword, then repeated the process until he was able to destroy the Golem’s other eye-bolder. Magma flooded out of the wound and the creature went even more berserk that when he was fully berserk moments before. James suspected such a reaction though. He was very experienced with the rage that was caused by something tiny falling into your eye, causing you to lose your eyesight. James brought his legs up to the creature and used them to vault away. He sailed through the air rather clumsily until deciding to activate his new Dual Wield skill. James short swords were torn from his hands and took on a mind of their own. They spun around James. He did his best to follow their progress, but the fact that he was also spinning made it difficult. The swords increased their speed until they became a permanent silver streak in his vision, just outside of his reach. The streak grew until it encompasses his whole body and shut him out from the rest of the world. James did his best to orient himself to gravity and found that he could move relatively easy within the orb. Suddenly, the orb burst into flame and exploded outward. James fell the remaining inch or two to the ground with the slightest of bends in his knees. He looked down as if to ask the ground when it got so close and noticed that his Legion Commander’s Short Sword was now back in his hand.
James pointed his nose upward, “Not too shabby, not too shabby.” Satisfied with his new ability, James activated his Jump Strike once again and joined his companions in battle against the Golem.