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I walked for about a half mile before I moved across the silver seal in the middle of the bridge. It was written in some runic language that I had absolutely no reference for, but it was ten feet in diameter and had several blackened and cracked crystals embedded in a regular pattern. As soon as I crossed the entirety of it, I must have passed through the wall that was blocking Norikk’s sight. The rest of the bridge was lined with fire pots that burned a creepy blue. The bridge continued for another half mile or so, and the path wound up a cliff with several different temple looking buildings on it. Exhausted from my adventures so far, I decided to pitch my tent and sleep for a bit before trying to tackle the temples. As I went to take it out, I finally realized I had a flashing notification on my screen.

Alert!

You are the first to discover an unknown instance. Due to the nature of the quest you are on, your respawn point has been forcibly relocated to the silver seal you crossed. Once you have completed the instance you will be free to relocate it once again. Should you determine that you are unable to complete this instance, you can abandon your quest and ask an admin to return you to your previous respawn point.

Damn, why do they have to drop a trap like that on me? Well, can’t fix that so I’m going to head to bed. Let’s see what those temples have in store for me tomorrow.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Rat jerky is a shitty breakfast. It was filling though, and that was all that mattered. I headed into the first temple, and stopped for a second to admire the carvings on the door. The centerpiece was a light of some sort, sending out rays that had several races fleeing from it. Opening the doors was underwhelming. The temple was simply four plain columns surrounding an altar with a set of knives on it. I got a strange popup when I entered.

Challenge the curses I

You have found the daggers of the goblin heretic Tal’Valen. Long ago, when the races of this world were in a constant state of war, Tal’Valen emerged as a champion of goblinkind. His stealth unmatched, he would unleash devastation among the enemy in the night. Supplies would be poisoned, leaders assassinated, and weapons rendered useless. Despite his actions, the goblins were losing to the elves. After a particularly devastating loss, the goblin army had lost far too much ground and the gathering place of their families was threatened. The tattered remnants of the army prepared to hold as long as they could so the civilians could escape, and were counting on Tal’Valen to eliminate the elven leadership in the battle. However, fear for his own life lead Tal’Valen to abandon his duties in favor of his own life. He never attempted his assassination, the army was routed and the majority of the civilians slaughtered and survivors scattered. Thirteen of the remaining shamans banded together to see what happened, and collectively cursed TalValen and his cherished daggers to feel fear unending, until his final days. After his death, cold and alone, his daggers passed into history, where they have since been forgotten.

Challenge

Reward

Take up the daggers of Tal’Valen, and feel the fear that he did through his life. The time limit is one hour, and the fear will increase at specific intervals. This challenge is repeatable

???

What the heck? All I have to do is feel fear for an hour? Piece of cake. I grabbed ahold of the daggers, and found myself on a hill surrounded by gray fog. A bell rang in the distance, and I immediately felt eyes watching me from the mists. I tried swiping the daggers through the mist, but it simply parted around it. Whatever, this was simply slightly uncomfortable. I tried to see how much time was left, but all timekeeping devices had been disabled.

I hate this curse. I don’t know when it happened, but there were noises that started in the mists. Not loud, identifiable noises. Oh no, these were whispers of echoes. Never coming from the same point, or at a definite interval.

The first of the growls came from close enough I leapt back into the middle of the clearing, crouching down with the daggers brandished in a fighting pose. Bastards. Did they drop the temperature as well? Or is that just my imagination?

“What the? You wanna touch me ya bastards! Come on then, come touch me when I can see ya, I’ll give you a nice little cut with my knife here!” Bastards think it’s fun to sneak up on me and slash at my back and legs? I’ll get them. Wait, I though the clearing was larger than this? It can’t be shrinking, can it? I stretched my arms out, and sure enough both dagger tips were pressing into the mists. As soon as I noticed it, the clearing disappeared and I was surrounded by mists. I couldn’t even see past my waist, everything was swirling around me, thicker and thicker.

Then it appeared. A large shadow, indistinct shape. I was staring at it, and knew it was staring back at me somehow. Not only that, it could see me. I couldn’t move, this terrible pressure was locking me in place. My knees couldn’t even shake, everything was paralyzed. Heart racing, I could imagine it coming closer, taking its sweet time. Savoring my terror, knowing I could never escape. If Oblivion would let you, I would have long ago needed a new change of pants. I was helpless before it, as it raised up above me, higher and higher.

Congratulations!

You have passed the trial of Tal’Valen. You know the multitude of fears and how it can affect people. From false bravado to paralyzing terror, know those feelings. Remember them going forward.

Seriously? I went through all that and got no DAMN REWARD? Just as I thought that, a black glow emanated from the daggers, and coalesced above them before firing into my chest. I felt nothing, no pain, lost no health, no marks left on me. What the bloody hell is wrong with this temple? The doors opposite opened of their own accord, and I hurried to leave.

The temples path continued on, a simple switchback and a long set of stairs lead straight to the next temple. I was getting worried about the lack of enemies, but I was sure they would appear at some point. The doors contained more artwork, this time it was all out war. Instead of a single orb of rays, each combatant’s eyes seemed to glow with their own inner fire. Once again I entered to a plain church, this time the weapon was a vicious axe. Single blade, the back side had a hook shaped like an eagle’s beak, perfect for ripping out armor. The steel seemed to somehow hold a bloody tinge. Once again I got an alert as soon as I walked into the temple.

Challenge the Curses II

Behold the glory of the Axe of Bardzuuk. Bardzuuk was an orc berserker, feared throughout the land. Gleefully taking part in any battle, his rage quickly overtook his sanity. Lost in his rage, friend and foe fell to his blade in equal measure. There are reports of his blood literally boiling from his wounds sustained in battle, stories that blood splashed upon him from his foes would move to seal his wounds. Most historians believe these to be poetic exaggerations, but cannot truly be discounted. Come, adventurer! Can you navigate the rivers of bloodlust loosed by this blade?

Conditions

Rewards

Battle for glory! Slay your foes, slay your friends, slay all who come before you! Healing is for the weak, and orcs are not weak! Only by embracing the bloodlust shall you emerge victorious. This challenge may only be attempted three times.

????

Confident in my abilities, I grabbed the axe and found myself in a massive arena. It seems I automatically took the body of an orc, as I was now much taller and able to wield the axe normally. Bellowing as loud as I could, I headed toward the center of the arena and made a beckoning motion with my fingers. Several fighters stepped forward to my challenge, and we started a whirlwind of death. I made no motion to dodge, as my armor was strong. Where others managed to give me shallow wounds, my retribution was swift and lethal. “HAHAHAHAHAHA!” Oh, what glorious battle! Lost in the flow, I paid no heed to anything in my display. All who came forward would fall to my blade.

“Come then little elf, test your flimsy sword against my axe!” I taunted the newest challenger. His grim smile only fueled me further, and his weak slash against my forearm would result in my taking his hand! What? What trickery is this? “Using magic to boost your speed will not help you, for my axe’s hunger won’t be sated ‘til it has tasted your blood!” I charged forward, unleashing a flurry of strikes. Overhand, backhand, figure eight followed by a straight thrust to take his heart! Only to watch as all of my attacks were easily evaded, and his counter rode along my weapons haft and bit deep into my neck.

Attempt failed

You have two attempts remaining.

How did I fail? I was. . . not paying attention to anything. Damnit, I’m not going to lose this. Steeling myself, I grabbed the axe once again and entered the arena. I stayed out of the center this time, working my way slowly between fights. Jumping in on fights when someone had their back turned, taking them down in a 2 on 1. Immediately turning on those I had just helped, watching the shock and realization in their eyes as I went from ally to executioner. I still took wounding blows, but they weren’t important. I was whittling down the competition. I would win this!

Gaining confidence as I took down another elf from behind, I turned to the dwarf he was fighting. His reflexes saved him, as he dove out of the way of my attack, only taking a glancing blow. Towering over him, I kicked away his weapon as he feebly tried to fend me off. Raising my axe above my head, I prepared a killing blow only to find twin swords erupting from my stomach, crossing over each other somewhere inside me. The blades scissored as they disemboweled me, my spine and a bit of skin the only thing holding me together as I crashed down.

Attempt failed

One attempt remaining.

Damnit! I was so close! What the hell am I missing? Frustrated, I pulled the quest description up once again.

Challenge the Curses II

Behold the glory of the Axe of Bardzuuk. Bardzuuk was an orc berserker, feared throughout the land. Gleefully taking part in any battle, his rage quickly overtook his sanity. Lost in his rage, friend and foe fell to his blade in equal measure. There are reports of his blood literally boiling from his wounds sustained in battle, stories that blood splashed upon him from his foes would move to seal his wounds. Most historians believe these to be poetic exaggerations, but cannot truly be discounted. Come, adventurer! Can you navigate the rivers of bloodlust loosed by this blade?

Conditions

Rewards

Battle for glory! Slay your foes, slay your friends, slay all who come before you! Healing is for the weak, and orcs are not weak! Only by embracing the bloodlust shall you emerge victorious. This challenge may only be attempted three times.

????

Embracing bloodlust? You want me to rage through this one? Alright system, I’ll show you rage. Time to remember her Jon. All of it. The tests. The waiting, the uncertainty. Them. The insurance. Denials over stupid shit. You hit your deductible? Let’s delay so that expensive item she needs can get approved next year. Oh, we won’t flat out deny it, that’ld be too easy to spot. We’ll approve all the parts of the wheelchair except the seat. That’s fine, right? What? You can’t use it without the expensive seat? Ok, now that it is a new year we can approve it, just pay your deductible again. What do you mean, you won’t cover a pre-existing condition? This is the only plan she has ever had, she can’t have a pre-existing condition, you covered her when she started existing! No, I WILL NOT CALM DOWN! I AM RATIONAL! GIVE ME THAT GODDAMN AXE!

I appeared once again in the arena, and immediately swung at a body to my left, cleaving deep into the chest. Snarling as I ripped it free, I found target after target. There were no edges to my vision, it was simply a tunnel between me and the next target. Move enough to ensure their attack isn’t lethal, and strike them down. Rage, kill, slaughter. Somehow feel that blow coming from behind, swirling around and striking in retribution. Why? Why did it have to be like that? More come for slaughter, broken beneath my axe. Shields splinter under my fury, armor splits and dents. What’s this? You aren’t allowed to run you little shit! I hurl my axe at his back, burying it in his spine. Oh, you think I am harmless without my weapon? I charge into the bastards swing, slamming my armored fist into his face. Ripping his sword from his hands, I bury it in his chest. Weak sword, where’s my axe? WHERE’S MY DAMN AXE? Yank it from the body, find the last two opponents. See their knees shake? Good, that’s right. Fear me, for I am wrath. I charge the one on the right, spinning around his overhand strike to give me enough torque to cleave him in two. Dropping beneath the horizontal cut of the survivor. Surge forward, taking his heart with the spike of my axe. I grab him by the throat before he can fall, and ask, “Why? What do you mean she has hit her lifetime coverage? We can’t afford her medicine; she’ll die without it. Why? WHY DID MY DAUGHTER HAVE TO DIE?”

I’m back in the temple, sobbing on my knees. Whispering to myself now. “Why did she have to die? Her smile could light the world.”

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About the author

Mighty Moushie

Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.

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