“By the gods, he did it!” Salmahim exclaimed as I neared their group the next day. “Most impressive Angus, most impressive indeed. How was the battle?”
“Easier than the scorprican king.” I replied. “Being immune to poison really helped.”
“No wonder you haven’t had issues with the kings. The last one doesn’t rely on poison though, so I suggest you prepare carefully.”
“I fully intend to. But first, I believe we had a deal? It just so happens that I have two pieces of the scorprican king’s set, and I’m missing two pieces of the armored lizard king set.” I said, pulling out the two pieces I had.
“Ah, perfect. Let’s see, you have the armor, pants, and helm, correct? Then let’s make the trade, and after you don the set in all its glory I will tell you of the final king.”
Armored Lizard King’s surefooted greaves
Set item (1 of 5)
Crafted from the body of Einlorkis, these greaves will give you solid footing on almost any terrain.
Surefooted: Wearer can maintain balance and normal motion on almost every terrain up to a 75% grade.
+30% resist poison
Armored Lizard King’s greedy gloves
Set item (1 of 5)
Like the dragons that were possibly his ancestors, Einlorkis enjoyed hoarding treasure. That trait has been passed on to these gloves.
Greedy: +25% money in loot drops
+15% chance of finding magic items
Armored Lizard King’s set complete!
For equipping the entire set of the Armored Lizard King, you gain the following bonuses:
3 of 5 set items:
+15% resist magic
4 of 5 set items:
Beam reflection: Magic effects that fire a beam have a 20% chance of being reflected back at the caster or caster’s allies
5 of 5 set items:
+25% increase to poison damage and duration
Miasmatic retribution: 10% chance to deploy a poisonous fog when taking damage. Poison does 100-125 damage per second for 5 seconds to all pools (health, stamina, mana). Does not affect constructs or undead.
“Wow, talk about an impressive set.” I muttered, bending and flexing to examine it. “Why does it not cover my forearms though?”
“That brings us to the third king. Long ago, this land was a paradise. The central portion was neutral ground between three kingdoms, kept specifically for meetings between them. Peace lasted for generations, and the land thrived. Then the lich came. Nobody knows when he arrived, just that he took up residence in the neutral ground and slowly spread his poison through the land. Biding his time. Letting weak willed advisors be taken over by shades he dispatched in the darkest of nights. A small squabble here. Holding a grudge. Petty things really. Poisoned words and passive aggressive comments said with smiling faces.
Einlorkis, land famed for their flexible army. Lightly armored and trained as cavalry, archer and swordsman, there were very few that could gain the upper hand in battle against them. Each soldier was granted a shield enchanted to parry magics.
Though the second kingdoms name has been lost, their dreaded scorprican soldiers lived on. Bearing heavy armor and a multitude of weapons, few dared take the field against them. Those that chose to wage shadow wars fared even worse. The scorprican assassins owned the night, employing a multitude of poisons to finish their dark deeds.
Last was a kingdom of magic might, ruled by Bael. A shining example of a kingdom, they embraced their elementals and flourished. Content with their lives, they rarely ventured out on campaigns of conquest. Choosing instead to live in harmony, one would be sadly mistaken to think them easy pickings. For what city life has made men forget is this: nature unleashed is primal fury. Several armies in the past had tried their borders, only to find the land itself rising in revolt against their trespass.
As the lich’s machinations wore on, the peace gradually failed. Soon each ruler felt that the others were coveting their kingdoms. Laws were changed, and the free exchange of people and ideas dried up. People from Einlorkis became second class citizens in the other kingdoms, and in turn reduced rights of foreigners. Hatred and envy flourished, and the lich laughed in his hidden crypt. Resentment was born, and it all came to a head the day of the renewing of the vow.
See, the three kingdoms had together crafted a contract, a binding magic to encompass all. So long as all three remained, they would come to the aid of the others. This magic was enchanted into a tablet, and split among the three kings so that none may alter it. Every fifty years, the tablet was restored with the magic of the neutral ground, the vows reaffirmed. In their ignorance, the kings were convinced to bring a fake to the ceremony. On the surface, each piece of the fake would place their kingdom as ruling the others. But, the lich. He was ever so subtle, and nobody thought to check how each magic would combine. Instead of one kingdom controlling the other two, disaster befell all three. For the altered runes combined into a magic circle, funneling the power of the kings down. Deep below where they all met, to the throne room of the Lich Zandkazaar. Reveling in the betrayal, he flexed his new powers.
Einlorkis, king and country, were transformed into the armored lizards. The forgotten king and his army were combined with their assassins, becoming the dreaded scorpricans. And Bael? The burning hatred that he had infused throughout his land and elementals warped everyone into the djinni. Not caring, Zandkazaar let the blasted lands of Bael spread, creating a desert kingdom ruled by him and him alone.”
We all sat in silence, contemplating the loss of three kingdoms. All men made signs against evil, and I sat down with a sigh. I even took a puff of the hookah, passing it on. I had expected some backstory, but this? How in the world had some guild not stumbled upon this quest?
“So.” I broke the silence. “What do we do now? There must be a reason why you have asked me to help. Whatever it takes, I’m in.”
“You still wish to help?” Salmahim asked, surprised.
“I have issues with the lich anyway, but I can’t stand by and let this stand. I just don’t know why you waited for me.”
“We seek a hero.” Salmahim answered. “One who doesn’t shy from a challenge. Not for the glory, or for the rewards, but to test his limits and surpass them. He must also possess the fortitude to shoulder monumental tasks alone.”
“I’m not alone though.” I pointed out. “My nightliger companion has been indispensable. Without him, I would be dead several times over.”
“And when he reaches the end of his strength, trusts in nature’s companion.” One of the other men answered. “Not only that, he must care for his companion more than himself. We’ve seen your battles Angus. Without any thought but for Inkler, you burned through your entire supply of blasted winds, didn’t you? All to ensure that he wasn’t poisoned.”
I sat there, gob smacked. They had been watching me? Not that I minded, but it was a little disconcerting. “I. What else could I do? He was raised by a dear friend, and I couldn’t let him come to harm. I’d never forgive myself.”
“Of course. And so the citizens of Bael felt about their elementals. My people would see a kindred spirit in yourself, and so we are all in agreement. As the last representative of Bael, I ask that you free our king from his cursed existence.”
Hidden quest unlocked!
Deliverance of the three kings
You have heard the stories of three fallen kingdoms. Led to ruin by Zandkazaar, will you free the final king from his tormented existence?
“Where can I find him?” I asked, accepting the quest.
“In the far side of the deep desert, beyond where the sand sharks hunt, you shall find him and his queen. Ever the matched pair, beware their combined magics.”
“Before you go, we wish to see your nightliger. Will you allow us to gift him our aid?” Salmahim asked.
“Of course. Come to me, Inkler.” With a flash of magic, he was by my side. Handling the transition much better, he was still on his guard. “Relax buddy. These are friends.” Extending his nose and carefully sniffing each man, he soon started purring and rubbing against them. The one from Bael seemed to be his favorite, and it was nice seeing the look of genuine happiness on his face at the cat’s antics.
“Follow us inside.” Salmahim said, once everyone had settled a bit. We entered through a cloth door, surprisingly heading deep underground almost instantly. By the time we had descended three stories or so, the stairs ended in a large cafeteria style room. Salmahim led us straight through, pulling a key from somewhere in his robes and unlocking several different locks on a solid iron door. Once that was done, another walked up and did the same with a different set of keys. Finally, the one from Bael stepped forward and placed a hand glowing with mana upon the door. Through [Mystic vision] I saw one of the most intricate spell circles circle rapidly before flashing back down into his hand. After the third of the locks were undone, the door opened and we went through.
Inside I froze, as they had a full sized transmutation circle like the alchemist guild. “You’ve seen one of these before, yes?” The representative from Bael asked. “Then you know what we are going to do. We will transmute your plates, freeing you to turn Inkler into a variant. This will save you several days.”
And so we began. I would go around placing plates to be transmuted, and someone would be there sacrificing their mana. The original group of five went through, and then others started filtering in from somewhere. I didn’t ask, but it made my heart swell with pride to be a part of this. I didn’t care that some developer probably scripted this. Here, peoples from three fallen kingdoms were coming together as they once did. I wanted, no. I was determined to see a future where they didn’t have to fear the lich that destroyed their lives. After nearly an hour of transmutations, we were done.
“Inkler.” I said, kneeling down by him and scratching along his jaw. “I don’t know if you are nervous about this, but I want to reassure you that this will be fine. I went through it. It’ll be slightly scary with all the flashing lights, but you saw what that did, right? The stacks of plates will circle, and eventually combine with you to make you stronger. Afterwards, we won’t have mana for 24 hours. So I guess we’ll have to sit in the inn and eat cassowack legs, right?”
At the mention of his favorite food, he shoved past me and sat in the middle of the circle. Tail wrapped around his feet, he simply looked at me licking his lips. “Hurry up, I’m hungry.” He seemed to be saying, so I chuckled as I got up and double checked everything was in order. I activated the vid recorder, as I’m sure Jon and the others would enjoy seeing this.
“Ready bud?” I asked, before grabbing the protruding rods.
You are about to start a variation ritual.
You have initialized a ritual to turn the nightliger known as Inkler into a variant. Each creature may undergo this only once, no matter how many evolutions they obtain. Are you sure you wish to continue with these reagents?
Hitting yes, I felt the mana flow out of me. Something this large must have been computer assisted, as I didn’t have any troubles keeping the flow even. Each of the ten stacks of perfect armor plates started glowing, then levitated. As the light show progressed, Inkler’s fur started to puff out from the electricity in the air. I didn’t let it distract me, as I could always watch it later. With a blinding flash of light, the ritual finished.
Nightliger, magebane variant
A new variant of nightliger, this one has been infused with the perfected armor plating of the desert armored lizard. Each plate can be moved independently, and is incredibly resistant to magic attacks. Any magic attack of a beam nature can be reflected, and those that explode on contact will experience a deteriorated effect. As a bonus from using perfect tier armor plating, the nightliger has obtained the following skill:
Energized retribution: Once per hour, Inkler may absorb all spells of a specific element. When three spells of the same element have been absorbed, they will be redirected at the caster with as much mana as Inkler wishes to add to it. Should he choose, the redirected spell may also be converted to an opposite element.
Limitations: When absorbing, spells of a different element may not be reflected. If struck with a different element than was absorbed, the new spell will do critical damage boosted by the amount of mana in the absorbed spells.
If the absorbed spell is not released within five minutes, Inkler will release the mana in an AoE attack with him at the center. Damage based on the amount of mana absorbed + 1/3 of Inkler’s mana reserves.
Inkler looked badass. He was already hard to see in the dark, but now different plates would flash randomly with light. Instead of giving him away, they tended to destroy what you thought his body looked like. There was just the slightest bit of a gap between the scales, keeping them from clicking together as he moved. Breathing heavily from exhaustion, he limped over to where I was and let me start rubbing between his ears. “You did awesome buddy. And woe be to any mage who tries to take you down.” While he was laying there, enjoying the rubbing, I looked at the other popup I had gotten.
Alchemy rank up!
You have performed a complicated alchemical ritual, using the highest quality of components available. Your alchemy skill has increased from Advanced level 9 to Master level 1.
60% chance to brew a higher quality potion or poison
Crafting quest alert!
You have advanced to master level with your alchemy skill. Please return to a guild representative for verification of your master quality creation and your reward.
“We’ll have to see Mardigan tomorrow bud. Whatever he’s going to give us can wait for a day. Come on, let’s go back to the inn and rest.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“How’s the desert treating you, night ranger?” Derrick chuckled as I strolled to a seat at the café.
“Not too bad. Need to kill at least a day out of game.”
“Oh? What could keep you out? You’re in there more than Derrick is.” Jon asked, sitting up in curiosity.
“Mana locked for a day. Got Inkler to become a variant.” Jon started bouncing in his seat a bit, so I continued. “Give me a second to eat, and I’ll tell you all about it. What have you guys been up to?” Working through the menu, I ordered some heart clogging goodness since it was all digital. Phoebe’s eyes got huge when she saw my burger. Two patties with three glorious slices of cheese, grilled onions and pickles. I had a side of fries, nacho sauce to dip them in, and half a pound of bacon.
“I was going to tell you about finally catching up to that reptile shifter, but now I’m oddly amazed by that burger. How can you eat it with no lettuce? Or tomato?”
“Tomato is in the ketchup. And I wouldn’t desecrate a burger with a leafy green vegetable. Sacrilege.” I mumbled around another juicy bite.
“Aaaanyway.” Derrick interrupted. “I’ve been going planes hopping, visiting all the different types of giants. Hoping to earn each of their field spells.”
“Oooh, that’ll be grand.” Jon said. “You earned any of them yet?”
“Not yet. It’s looking like its part questline, part reputation grind. I’ve found hints about there being a secret one though.”
“Secret?” Phoebe sat straight up and stared at Derrick. “What’s the secret?”
“I’m not sure, hence the secret part.” He chuckled. “Something about knowing the spells will grant you knowledge, should you learn to read between the lines. It referenced the oldest of giants, and only his descendants can channel the power.”
“Hmmm. Looks like a long grind for you. How are you going to keep getting around and grinding rep?” Jon asked.
“Simple. After visiting five planes, I got the astral walker title. I can now form an anchor on each plane for a teleport. It’s one way, but makes getting around sooooo much easier.”
“Ah, how I wish there were a monster teleportation network.” Phoebe lamented. “I wouldn’t have had to spend five days slogging through the mud to find a damn snake shapeshifter.”
“Please tell me the devs gave him a punny name. Wades nBoggs would be great.” Derrick chuckled, until he got slapped in the arm by Phoebe.
“It was a little funny hun.” Jon said, getting a glare in return. “Just saying.”
“Whatever. All I know is that I’m never heading into those blasted swamps again. I know they like their realism, but mosquito swarms are ridiculous.”
“Aren’t they level one monsters though?” I asked, trying to think what exactly the devs did to make the mosquitoes so annoying.
“Level zero.” Phoebe corrected. “They ignore armor and levels, and drain stamina only. So when you get drained, you have a very long, incredibly annoying journey back to civilization.”
“Or you could try holding your breath underwater.” I chuckled.
“I don’t do brackish swamp water.” Phoebe deadpanned at me. Thankfully Jon rescued me from the uncomfortable stare afterwards.
“So, now that you’ve eaten, what kind of variant did you make?”
“Inkler’s now a magekiller variant. He can deflect beam magics, and if he absorbs three of the same element attacks he can reflect it where he wants and add his mana to boost damage.”
“Wheeeeew.” Derrick whistled. “That’s a pretty good boost. With his natural agility, he’s going to be a pain in the butt for anyone attacking you.”
“Oh I can’t wait to see him in action. He’s growing too. Ever seen a nightliger whose head is level with your chest?”
“Nope.” Jon said matter of factly. “When they get that big, they are skilled enough you don’t see them. You just die.”
“Horribly, with a lot of clawing and biting.” Phoebe added. “So what are you going to unleash him on first? Aren’t you lich hunting?”
“That was the original plan.” I said, nodding. “I might’ve gotten sidetracked when I stumbled upon a hidden quest. Ever heard of the three desert kings?”
“Old news.” Jon said, deflating. When I mentioned hidden quest, his eyes had lit up for a second. “Scorpion, lizard, and djinni along with his wife. God, how I hated that fight.”
“That bad?” I asked.
“You still have the djinni and his wife, right?” Phoebe asked, and continued at my nod. “Well, they are a matched pair. The king resists physical and fire, and will intercept any ranged attack on his wife. The wife is a marid.” When she saw my confused face, she explained a bit more. “Marids are basically the water version of the djinn. She resists magic attacks, and heals the king. Any ranged magics automatically change their target to her. Not only that, but they are soul linked. That lets them instantly change places once per minute on the battlefield. I can’t tell you how many dps we lost in that fight when the king and queen changed places and he unleashed his fiery tornado skill.”
“That sounds like it would hurt.”
“Understatement.” Jon took over. “It stacks burning damage up to 5 times, and creates a vortex so you can’t run away until the skill is over. All the while he is slashing at you with his sword.”
“An unblockable counterattack? Yeah, it’s a pain.” Derrick joined in. “I think we managed one interrupt, but that was blind luck. Was it Jimmy who had mistimed his shield bash, and ended up hitting the king right as they switched?”
“I think so.” Phoebe answered. “Of course, we were so mixed up in that fight it’s hard to remember everything.”
“I remember Paulie tried using his leap skill right as the king started spinning. The tornado shot him at least 30 feet in the air.” Jon said while chuckling. “Best part was on the way down. TALLY HOOOOOOOOOOO! SPLAT!” He used his hands to mime the falling, and the splat at the end. “I think he even got an achievement for that.”
“Airman.” Derrick said with a nod. “Lessen fall damage by 1%. He only had to have a boss send him airborne for three seconds with one blow.”
“Too bad the boss wasn’t there when he landed.” I said. “That could have been a massive damage multiplier.”
“Yeah, especially if he used one of his skills. It wasn’t a true spellsword class, but his temp enchantments were pretty good.” Phoebe said, before turning back to me. “Not that it’ll help you at all. You and Inkler are going to have a tough time of it.”
“I know.” I said, dreading the encounter. “I guess Inkler will have to focus on the wife first, and as soon as they switch I’ll have Inkler use his reality slash and get out of there. That should do some decent damage to the king, and I’ll have to rush over and start hacking away.”
“You could possibly root the king if you have the right spells.” Jon started, then cursed himself. “Damnit, forgot about the queen’s ability. That magic attack would automatically target her.”
“Just so I get this right though, I can use melee ranged magic attacks and target the king?”
“Yes, that’s what we ended up having to do. Let the rogues get their blades enchanted by the mages and turned them loose. We had several mages sit back and use rotating silences on the queen to keep her from healing.” Phoebe explained.
“Would silence work on that tornado skill?” I asked, hoping for a yes.
“Nope.” Derrick crushed my hopes. “It isn’t a spell, so silence wouldn’t work on it. You need something to interrupt a skill.”
“Damn. Alright, I guess I’ll have to think some things through. Would a temp ice enchant be the way to go for the king?”
“Yes, I think we determined that does the most damage. Water works pretty much the same, it just depends what is cheaper.” Jon said.
“Alright, thanks guys. And Jon, I’ll send you the backstory I got when I found this quest. I’m sure you’ll find it enjoyable. You just have to do it solo to get the quest apparently.”
“Have you gotten anything good out of it?”
“Yeah.” I said with a chuckle. “I got an upgraded set armor. Full armored lizard king set.”
“Oh, that’s a good rogue set.” Derrick said. “Never could get all the pieces at the same time, but even piecemeal it isn’t too shabby.”
“I hear that. It’s a hell of an upgrade to what I had been using. I think it’s a bit weird that it doesn’t come with bracers. What’s up with that?”
“No idea. Some sets are just like that though.” Derrick said with a nod. “There’s a heavy armor set that doesn’t have a helm. Lots of druid sets that skip out on boots. I guess the devs wanted people to be able to mix and match multiple sets if they wanted.” He started yawning on the last words, shaking his head. “Ugh, I guess that’s my cue guys. I’ll catch you tomorrow. Let us know how the fight goes Marty.” With a wave, he headed out and the rest of us were swiftly following him.
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.