The battle rampaged onward as a symphony of frost and flames little more than a thrumming cacophony smothered by the game’s smart noise cancellation. In the encampment, throughout the surrounding forests, high into the skies above, red and white-hot flames met tainted ice in violent, steaming explosions. Lush trees caught ablaze one moment only to be frozen into charred blocks the next; however, the encampment was more or less intact save for all the slashed tents and corpse piles. The icy Undead and growing number of raised dragons held the line nicely.
Boots on shallow water in the river, Rowan sipped from a crystal flask before raising the next dragon corpse and bolstering the Harpy line. The blueberry taste of Gabrielle’s craft was as sweet and sharp as her. The sensation was that of swimming in a desert spring while, the chilly draught warming in Rowan’s stomach. Renewed mana dispersed throughout his flesh.
And even now, while the world was burning around him, she wouldn’t depart his thoughts as though she owned a portion of his mind and lived in it. It wouldn’t be surprising if the AI controller had done something to his brain to make his deal with her more binding—during Draesear’s ‘slight tuning’. If so, had he also done something to his beautiful Gabrielle? Did it even matter at this point? For she alone allowed him a sliver of happiness. Well, more than a sliver.
Interrupting those musings, at the left, another one of the elite Dark Humans’ party icons changed from a blank slate to an onyx bow and arrow. Dark Ranger. A shuddering wave in the air then came from the temple’s direction, laced with a despairful feeling. Six out of the first seven were done minus Ayla. Hers was going to be the last of the first batch.
Rowan stowed the Mana Draught and rushed back up the hill alongside his personal escort now featuring several Red Dragons of varying size. The younglings were markedly smaller than the full adults, and they displayed a much more limited arsenal of fire skills.
Rapidly chanting, Rowan threw bone marshmallows in between Rime Blinks to replenish any downed Harpies. The front line couldn’t be overlooked. The dragons’ defensive stats were amazingly low for the number of slots they each occupied. A fair trade-off for insane melee and mid-range damage.
Catching Rowan’s eye, from Redwing’s position in the swarm’s center, a slice of black and white plasma boomeranged above the moons and missed a dragon’s wing by six feet. A second missed by less, the dragon serving in a belly roll. A third lopped it right off. Impressive. Seth’s kill-count was up to seven or eight now.
Rowan neared a dragon corpse by a charred mahogany tree. Several Red Dragons took notice, glancing downward. They were catching on quickly but couldn’t do anything other when Hapries and Dragonflies were on their tails, wings, and bellies. Rowan summoned his magic and and raised the corpse. Seth took command of the puppet instead of Redwing this time.
Then from high above, a mortar-type attack spewing white miasma collided with over twenty Harpies, stunning them in place for five seconds. But even that was long enough for the enemy dragons to capitalize on. Focused white-hot flames from a dozen gaping maws melted the lot in seconds. The attack was from one of those hulking dragons the size of a football field, Rowan reasoned. It had finally lumbered into range, but the mist was too dense to get a read on its location, the battle denser.
On the way to the next corpse by a rock formation, Rowan typed a message into the chatbox for some assistance.
Rowan Black (Raid Chat): Ambiguous, does your Detection Ward pick up a massive dragon?
Four tense seconds passed without a reply. Rowan tisked, blinked to the corpse, and raised the downed dragon missing a claw and half of its wing. Redwing claimed it. More precious seconds fell away, and Rowan pinged her for a reply.
The chatbox beeped, finally.
Ambiguous Pain: Was sorting through all the entries. Here.
Elder Red Dragon Brute: Level 347
Red outlines appeared in the mist with labels indicating distance. It was parked two-thirds of a mile away. There were two, the second still coming. And still no boss. Maybe it was scared. Who knows.
They were too far for a Lament, and Rowan briefly considered sneaking through the forest before a louder beep trilled.
Ambiguous Pain: A group of fifteen is nearing! I think they’re on flying mounts. Coming fast! No assassins though.
Only fifteen? And no assassins? That couldn’t be right.
Ambiguous Pain: They’re on you!
Parting through the Red Dragons’ arc formation and the swarm, a glittering, multi-layered sphere of translucent golden-white coated mana dispersed the mist. A different white miasma coated the sphere. High-tier Light Screens—effective for fending off missile and mortar-type attacks.
Just great. What do they want? Please tell me they aren’t here to join me.
The Light Screen construct planted onto the ground, morphed into a hemishphere. A guy, donned in ornate Paladin armor, on a Light Shard led the group, his helmet in his hand. Strong masculine features glared. Much stronger than Dorian’s pretty-boy face that had a tendency to morph into a pig’s. Lance Rider was the leader’s name, revealed by a quick Examine across the group. None were anything special. Without those shields, they’d be dead in seconds. They were no threat.
Rowan’s eyelids blinked once. Dorian wasn’t there.
An average-looking guy in brown leather holding a Red Dragon Whelp, Jonathan Bladestrider, hovered forward on his own Light Shard. They were both World Bosses. Tier two. He yelled, “Rowan! Do you remember me?! I shall not stand by without acting again! Never again! Justice has come for you! We have come for you! The righteous many will always triumph over the wicked few and heal the scars you have dealt—”
“Thank you, Jonathan,” Lance said and slipped forward to their shields’ limit. His glare sank deeper into his brow.
Meanwhile, Rowan was puzzling over this Jonathan lad. I had met this guy before? And what’s with the NPC-like act? Is he a roleplayer?
Lance exhaled and pointed with a gauntleted hand, that index finger very stubby. “I have already filed a support ticket and alerted the real world authorities. I don’t know what they will do for something like this, but it doesn’t look good for you. Have you seen Ayla’s thread? Everyone knows what you’ve done to her, mate. Hand her over before you make it worse for yourself. Where is she?”
Something about that irked Rowan to no end. Lance didn’t know what they were going to do… yet it didn’t look good for Rowan somehow. Those who blindly follow authority figures were the worst kind of… monkeys.
But least the the distraction was working.
While Rowan considered next words, another miasma blast sailed overhead and stunned fewer Harpies. Redwing and Seth’s micromanagement was improving. They were skilled lieutenants—extremely valuable. And the Red Dragons’ onslaught was thinning. Their wide arc was thinning. Very good. Rowan didn’t even need to reinforce now.
“Look at me when I talk to you!” Lance roared. “Where is Ayla Frost?!”
A pudgy guy sporting a heavy beard and goofy glasses, Blinte Rancore, said, “And where’s Gabby? Hand her over as well.”
What. The. Flying. Fuck? Hand her over?
Rowan couldn’t stop a crazed laugh from blasting from his lungs. “She’s busy at the temple, but I wish she were here right next to me!” Her handy curses could pierce any area shield.
Confusion twisted a few of their faces, but Blinte’s beard shook as he yelled, “So you can violate her like you violated Ayla in front of everyone?! You’re disgusting! Let them go!”
Eyes bulging under the hood, Rowan was at a complete loss. When did Gabrielle start playing the victim as well? That wasn’t part of the plan! It wouldn’t have worked, but this guy apparently cared about Gabrielle for some reason. What was happening? Nothing made sense. Phantom ducks circled Rowan’s head. Monkeys. These were truly monkeys. Gabrielle couldn’t be more right.
“How could you do something so horrible to such beautiful creatures?!” Jonathan barked.
Beautiful creatures. Rowan had to agree no matter how weird it sounded. Gabrielle truly was a beautiful creature. Looking away, he flicked her a message.
Rowan Black (To Gabby LeMort): Did you know you are my beautiful creature?
Her reply was near-instant.
Gabby LeMort: Ah… thanks?
And another as a miasma blast detonated among a group of Dragonflies at the corner of Rowan’s eye.
Gabby LeMort: But I guess that’s a step up from calling my pussy a precious treasure. Hehehe. =P
A grin had to be swallowed.
Rowan Black: Btw do you know a Blinte Rancore? He and a small weak group are here demanding me to let you and Ayla go.
Gabby LeMort: Huh? Me? Ya sure ya got that right? And I don’t know him, but I saw him on the forums a few times.
“Let them go!” Blinte yelled again, his fists balled. So overly emotional. Why?
“Nah,” Rowan simply said. “Not done with either of them.”
“Let them gooo!”
Rowan couldn’t not mess with someone like this. “How can I let someone with a pussy like Ayla’s go? She was so tight and hot and wet. Gabby’s too. Their screams were so delicious while I shocked and fucked them silly. And I really could fuck them all night. I wish I knew where they live in the real—”
“LEEET. THEEEM. GOOOO!” A lot of spittle flew from his teeth.
Okay. Blinte was not stable upstairs. The others, however, looked saner, reacting with varying levels of disgust and outrage. The typical comments came—stuff about how sick and depraved and inhumane Rowan was. The usual. Cool.
“How are you not fucking banned yet!” a girl in Priest robes shrieked over the others.
“May the gods have mercy on your spirit, Rowan!” Jonathan.
The monkey screeches were painful to the ears. The only reason Rowan did not send his minions on the lot was to buy time for everyone else. This could be a distraction on their side too—but for what? He shrugged and checked on the battle, glancing away again. The onslaught was really dwindling now. He looked to the chatbox.
Rowan Black (Raid Chat): Ambiguous, they’re stalling for something. Do you detect anything? Spawnstones? Any assassins strong enough to one-hit me?
Ambiguous Pain: Nothing. Their main group is still by the mountain pass, coming slowly.
Perplexed, Rowan scratched his cheekbone.
Then another one of the Dark Humans’ icons changed from a blank circle to an onyx shield. Void Rider. A wave of dark mana promptly came from the Dark Temple, but the righteous group didn’t appear to notice from within their pocket of light. How fortunate.
Lance sighed. He gestured for the monkeys to quiet. A Warrior restrained Blinte. “Rowan. Look. They’re going to have to log out sooner or later. This isn’t going to go on forever. So why don’t you cut it short and prevent further consequences for yourself?”
“You’re really trying to reason with me?”
His chin lifted. “I believe in the good in everyone, even the the worst of people. You must learn what you did to them is utterly despicable!”
“Despicable? How so?”
“Ayla is begging for help!”
The chatbox shook.
Ayla Frost (Raid Chat): My ritual is one stab away from completion. Ambiguous says the mana surge for DK is much more violent. They will definitely feel it. Signal when you’re ready for my grand unveiling. ">
Perfect timing. These fools were about to be in for the surprise of their lives. Rowan batted the air with his gloveless fingers. “That doesn't mean anything. She secretly loves it.” As in she secretly loves the act, but they didn’t need to know that. “You’re not a darkie like us.”
Lance said, “This isn’t about being a darkie! This is about being a decent person!”
“Hear hear! Nicely said!” Jonathan banged his chest with a fist.
Ignoring the jester, Rowan said seriously, “I think this is exactly about being a darkie. We are not alike, and you will shortly see exactly how wrong you are.”
Lance’s manly lips pinched. “You tortured and raped a woman, Rowan.”
Rowan’s face deadened beneath the hood. “She wishes someone like me would make a move on her.”
Lance frowned, and before he could retort, Rowan gave the signal with a go-ahead ping to Ayla.
In an instant after the ping hit her interface, a frigid, screaming wave of gale-force wind blasted from all directions. Thick dark-ice mana flowed into Rowan’s body in the surge, and terror briefly took over the faces of the righteous many before him. Blue light reflected off their Light Screens. Rowan glanced over his shoulder and found an icy beam lighting up the night sky. Had his own ascension been so dramatic? Viola’s Lunar Knight ascension had been barely more than a ripple like the others.
And above, the enemy dragons paused in their assault, heads angling toward the unfinished castle. Redwing and Seth didn’t grant them reprieve and slaughtered dozens in the momentary advantage. The shrieks of death complemented the light show nicely.
Ayla’s water droplet icon faded out, and an icy, menacing blade faded in, a skull at its guard. She was now a Death Knight.
Rowan turned back to the fools. “Guess who that was. I’ll give you a hint: her last name is Frost. Why did you think she changed it the other week?” It was a wide logical leap, so to clear all doubt, Rowan focused on Ayla’s party entry and shared it with them.
The expressions on their faces were priceless, Blinte most of all. Jonathan was a definite runner-up. They looked to be going through full-blown mental breakdowns, Jonathan’s lips quivering and Blinte’s eyes streaming tears. Monkey one, monkey two. No wonder people like Gabrielle and those in her secret society hid from the public and manipulated everything from behind the scenes. The masses were little more than animals. They deserved to be herded like animals—because that was the easiest and funnest way of working with them.
Lance visibly swallowed and stared down Rowan. He said in a vile tone, “If it were up to me, every last darkie would be banned from Aeon Chronicles.”
Rowan’s eyes rolled. “Then I’m glad it’s not up to you.”
The swarm collapsed on their puny defensive position, long ready. Their three Light Screens put up little resistance against the mixed fire and ice, their health bars draining in seconds. Rowan savored their cries and screams. Soon, the continent would be cleansed of these animals.