“AHAHAHAHAHA! Run back to the beginning!” Derrick laughed as we watched the feed from the dungeon core room. “God, that’s effing awesome. Too bad you couldn’t do that no matter where they died.”
“Eh, pretty sure the devs would nix that. Besides, you need checkpoints in a game.” I replied. “Mind passing the plate o’ bacon?”
“Playdough bacon? The fuck you talking about?”
“Not playdough, plate o’ bacon.” Jon corrected handing me the plate.
“You men and your carnivorous tendencies. Better enjoy it now Jon, we aren’t switching our diet to bacon when the testing is done.” Phoebe said with a glare, one that was a lot scarier when she was a werecreature.
“Maybe once a week?” Jon asked.
“So, what’s the penalty for resurrection in the dungeon?” Derrick nudged me, stealing a handful of bacon. Bastard forgot he had giant sized hands.
“Well, the body getting moved back to the previous spot gets a lovely debuff for the duration of the dungeon. An extra 5% damage received. The raid leader gets a choice the first time, defense or attack. Whatever one he chooses, the entire raid loses 0.5% per body returned in that manner. If they miss both timers, they lose 1%, along with the initial 0.5%.”
“Damn. So no matter what, they are going to lose 6% to either attack or defense?”
“Yep.” I said with a smile. “It seems harsh, but there are only a few areas where the body can be completely lost. Having a portion of the split raid die to the last man was one of those areas, so they haven’t been doing too bad.”
“I’m sure they would agree.” He chuckled.
“Hey, not my fault they didn’t go with an even split along the paths. They could have sent one person down two of the paths, and only lost 1% to the raid.”
“True, true. Have we seen the last of the nastiness?”
“Good lord no! I even added a few to the middle group of levels that I think you’ll enjoy.” I answered. “Oh, here we go. Looks like the group is back.”
“Quick question Marty.” Phoebe nudged my shoulder. “How did they fail the water jugs test? Did you have some insanely tight limits on how accurate you had to be?”
“Nope. They just didn’t pay attention. The insides of the jugs were different shapes. The three gallon was square, while the five gallon had a rounded interior. Plus, the five gallon one was slightly wider at the bottom than at the top.” Everyone still looked confused, so I kept explaining. “Three gallons in the five-gallon pitcher would be above the line of the three-gallon pitcher because the insides are slightly smaller and shaped different.” That got a few confused nods, I guess they were just going to take me at my word. Which was good, because I didn’t have a better way to explain it.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mr. Whisker’s POV
Choose your fate
Raid leader, you have had bodies of your raid not recovered before being transported to the last safe spot. You now have a choice to make as to your punishment. This choice is permanent, and will affect the entire group.
Defense or Attack?
You have chosen defense! As your raid’s punishment, every body that is recovered due to transportation will lower the defense of the raid by 0.5% up to a maximum of 35%. Should you reach this maximum, the penalty will start accumulating on the attack power as well.
Beware: Should you not resurrect a body that has transported within the 20 minute timer, the raid will suffer an additional 1% penalty to defense.
Total penalty: 6%
“YO! What the hell is this debuff?” Cinderfy yelled as soon as we returned. It was a lot quicker since we could skip the path nonsense, looks like it was a one and done deal.
“Penalty for each one of us being resurrected at the beginning of the dungeon. Half a percent for each body, up to a max of 35%. So healers, make sure that we keep people rezzed. If we are in battle, and you can’t get a chance, call out to the mages and they can burn a scroll. Oh, and if you are one of the bodies that is sent back, you also receive 5% more damage for the duration of the dungeon. Not sure how high it stacks, but keep that in mind healers. Almost all of our guardians are going to be taking more damage. I’m actually glad that our tanks were with King and Dave.”
“Jesus this dungeon fucking sucks.” GoldGuard muttered, and several people nearby agreed with him.
“Anyway, let’s get back on track. King, are you ready to lead us down to the next level?”
“Yeah. Same rope trick as last time.” He said, handing RaiderDave the end of the rope. A few minutes in we heard a slight commotion, but the rope didn’t jerk out of Dave’s hand so I assumed King survived.
“Double tug.” Dave reported. “Rope went slack?”
“He’s probably coming back up. Give him a minute.” I replied. Five agonizing minutes later and King appeared at the top of the stairs.
“One convoluted trap midway down. There’s a step that triggers a series of blades to swing down in front of you as a hammer swings down from behind. Not only that, but if you take more than two minutes on the same step then it will turn into a slide. Just the one step, but if you don’t have enough agility it could easily send you tumbling down.”
“How did you mark the step?” I asked.
“Nailed a red ribbon into both sides of the wall right above the step. Just avoid that one and you should be fine.”
“Still space the raid out?”
“Yeah. Ten seconds between people just in case.”
“You guys agree with that?” I asked Lucy and Dave, getting nods from both of them. “Alright, let’s go with the tanks and guardians first, then anyone with leather armor and finally healers and mages. That way if someone falls down they are less likely to crush whoever is beneath them.” The raid got into order, and made our way down the steps. Thankfully there were no incidents. When we entered the next floor, a popup distracted me from the odd looking forest floor we were on.
Welcome to the Miasma Forest!
“Fuck Smokey the Bear, I hereby request permission to burn this bitch to the ground!” Cinderfy shouted when he saw the forest.
“Good adventurers, please hear me out.” Half the raid jumped and readied weapons as a tall elven lady with plant armor appeared.
“Nice spear.” EricDaRad noted, admiring the weapon. Two branches were tightly wound together and fused, splitting right at the end to form two leaf shaped blades parallel to each other, with maybe a two-inch gap between.
“Lady Gaia!” NotABandAid yelled, rushing forward and kneeling at the feet of the avatar. “How may we assist you?”
“Rise my priestess, and listen to my tale. Long ago, seeds of evil were planted in this world. Knowing what they would spawn, I worked to mitigate their powers. I created vast forests that would surround the evil and drain its power. Alas, my work was but a stopgap. As you can see from the trees behind me, the forests are slowly becoming corrupted and have reached a dangerous point. The slightest of nudges will determine whether the forest recovers, or falls forever. The forest and I need your help. Destroy the five evils I have marked on your map, as swiftly as possible. Save as much of my beloved forest as you can, and you shall be rewarded.”
Gaia has sent a full avatar to plead for your assistance in saving a forest. This is a timed event. Once the quest is accepted, a bar will appear noting the makeup of the forest. Should the red overtake the blue completely, you will fail the quest.
Destroy the five evils before the forest is completely corrupted
Fail to kill one or more of the evils. Let the forest be completely corrupted. Destroy the forest.
Success: Increased reputation with all factions related to Gaia, boon for the duration of the raid.
Failure: Decreased reputation with Gaia. Destroying the forest will result in hatred from all factions related to Gaia as well as Divine Retribution.
“Of course we will help Lady Gaia.” I answered. Turning to Cinder, I said, “Request to burn it to the ground denied. Try and limit your flames. I assume they will be incredibly effective, but there is a major risk of destroying the forest by accident.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t be the one to call down Divine Retribution on the raid. It’s hard enough without shooting ourselves in the foot.” He promised.
“I thank you adventurers. I have marked the positions on your maps. Beware the central position, it is the strongest evil. You should attack it in full force, and destroying the other evils will weaken it slightly.”
“Alright, time to split into four hunting groups. Everyone gets a healer and a tank. Ice Queen, you will be in Cinderfy’s group just in case a fire breaks out. Cinder, can you grant all the tanks a fire buff to their weapons? Sages, you will be split among the remaining groups since you can all use boosted water. Guardians, protect your healers. I’ll take the group with Cinder, Dave, Lucy and King will take the remaining groups. Dave, you have the southeast target. Lucy southwest. King is northeast, and I’ll take the northwest. Once your target is down, meet up north of the final boss.”
Finally, I saw smiles on the entirety of the raid. This was something familiar, and they were going to take out a lot of frustrations upon the enemy. I almost pitied them. Almost. Once everything was set, the raid split and took off into the forest.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Darkmoon Lucy’s POV
Something was very wrong with this forest. Not just with how it looked, but something in it sent my druid senses tingling. The trees were splitting, the rents in the bark leaking a yellow and purple streaked pus. The leaves were green near the edges of the limbs, but as you got closer to the core rapidly gained the purple hue. Oaks and maples were growing thorns, a concerning development. But the worst? The silence. A forest should have loads of sounds. Bugs, birds, animals rustling in the undergrowth. Something! I’d give a gold coin just to have a mosquito buzz in my damned ear so that I could swat at it. Anything to make it more normal.
“This place gives me the heebie jeebies.” Band Aid muttered.
“I hear ya. The whole forest feels, wrong.”
“Like we’re being watched.” She agreed. “I can almost hear the trees screaming.” I stayed silent, but I agreed with her.
“Slow down everyone, we are nearing the target.” I said. “We don’t have a scout, so we’re going to have to go in almost blind. I want Smiter and PlayWithMe in the lead. Smiter’s main, Play takes add ons. HitMe, you’ll be off tank since we have a spare. Scratch bodyguard Band Aid. Spice, I want you to start with a berm of earth behind the enemy, in case of a miss, and switch to fire. Brosef, you know your skills best. Choose your targets, hopefully they aren’t plants that get a boost from your light. I’ll start out on CC, then summon helpers when we know what we’re dealing with.” Everyone nodded, and we headed into a clearing. Each step kicked up clouds of purple dust, and we all gained a minor miasmatic poison debuff.
“Let’s make this quick, I can’t cleanse the debuff.” Band Aid spoke. “Looks like it will progress the longer the fight takes.” As soon as she finished, we heard a growl from a cave across the way. Lumbering out was a massive bear with a minor red glow around it.
Rabid bear guardian
There aren’t many things that can paralyze a forester with fear, but a rabid bear is one of them. It is always enraged, and will become more so as it loses life. Should your health drop below half, your chances of contracting rabies is drastically increased.
“Fuck me running.” Band Aid swore, and I couldn’t help but agree. The bear was oozing the same purple pus the trees were, and its eyes were a bright red. White foam at the corners of its mouth completed the horrendous visage, and it reared back and roared, freezing us in place as spittle flew.
“[Shield rush].” Smiter activated his skill to close the distance, and bashed the creature in the snout right as it dropped back to all fours. He took a wallop from an oversized paw in return, but rolled with the blow enough that it didn’t send him sprawling.
“Don’t just stand there, have at the bastard!” I shouted, trying to figure out my plan of attack. “[Binding vines].” While this spell normally targeted both feet, I went ahead and used the modification that let me double up on one of the bears paws, hoping that it could withstand the strength of the beast.
“Hide yer eyes Smiter! [Blinding burst]!” Brosef shouted a warning, and blinded the bear with a burst of light right in front of its eyes. It strained against the vines holding it in place, but they held and prevented it from rearing. Smiter moved to the bound side, and started slashing at the beast’s face.
“[Summon: Turtle Defender]. [Summon: Sprite of Might]. [Summon: Lightning wisp].” The turtle defender boosted defense, and could swap and take a few blows if things got dire, while the sprite of might would boost physical attacks. The lightning wisp would float above the bear and blast it with lightning every five to seven seconds.
“[Battle rhythm]. [Crippling blow].” PlayWithMe had snuck around behind the bear, and was focusing all of his attacks on the back of one of the bears legs. Bellows of rage and agony came from the bear, but it had to focus on Smiter as he kept bashing it in the head and trying to pierce one of the creature’s eyes.
“[Circle of healing].” Band aid used an area heal over time spell, that covered both Smiter and Play.
“[Mudpit].” SpiceMix created a small area of mud right underneath the bear, and it started sinking in. “[Desiccate].” Once the bear was sunk into the ground a bit, he removed all the water and managed to trap three of the four paws.
“ROOOAAAAAAA!!!!!!” With a massive bellow, the bear went into the first of its frenzies.
“[Spearing roots].” My spell pierced the bear from below, interrupting its roar. Smiter shook his head a bit, trying to throw off whatever debuff he had acquired from being so close.
“[Immolate].” SpiceMix got its attention with a burst of flames that ignited the creature’s back, adding some damage over time. After that attack, we fell into a rhythm. Every other second, someone would use a spell or skill that had a chance to interrupt the bear, keeping it off its game. When the creature dropped into critical health, it reared up onto its back legs, where Play’s work paid off. The added weight broke something in the leg, and the bear toppled over.
“Tiiiiimmmmmbbbeeeerrrrrrrrr!” Play shouted, laughing as he moved up to start slashing on the bear’s back. Brosef and SpiceMix moved and started attacking the belly, and Smiter kept assaulting the head. Even though it was at its highest rage level, it couldn’t get to its feet and the added critical chances kept piling up. Within two minutes, the bear was dead.
“Loot the cave?” Smiter asked.
“Skip it for now, this is a timed event. Go ahead and loot the body, but we need to head to the meeting place and prep for the final boss.” I answered. “And everyone, nicely done. That was an excellent battle.” That cheered everyone up, and we headed toward the meeting place with a much better attitude.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Fuck me with a metal cactus.” DeathFromAbove swore as he got back to the group. I had sent him ahead to scout the area, see what we were dealing with.
“That’s, well that’s an image I can’t burn out of my mind. Thanks.” I shook my head. “Any particular reason? Just get straight to the. . . point.”
He stared at me for an uncomfortable three seconds after my bad pun, then just shook his head and got into the problem. “Found our enemy. It’s a moose.”
“A moose? Heh, they made a moose a guardian? Why’s that a big deal?”
“Seriously?” He asked incredulously. “There’s two animals Canadians don’t mess with, that you Americans always forget about. One is a polar bear, because they will eat you. The other is a moose.”
“Why though? Isn’t it just a big deer?”
“A big? NO! No, it isn’t just a big deer.” He said, mocking my words. “Moose have been known to pick fights with vehicles, and they usually win. They can kick in any direction, charge and trample you, and have massive horns to smash you with. Just a big deer. This big deer is so badass that wolves think twice about hunting them. Tell me, can Bambi scare a wolf pack?”
“Wow, damn man, chill out. Sorry, I didn’t realize they were that difficult. Since you’re the expert, what would you suggest?”
“In real life? Run. As fast and as far as you can, they usually don’t follow too far. Here? We’re fucked. That moose is chilling in a massive pond. A pond so polluted with miasma or whatever is in this damn place that it looks like a massive oil spill on top.”
“Ok, so we are going to have an issue. Everyone, here’s the plans. First one, see if we can draw the moose away from the lake and lay into it. This is the harder plan, though probably the safer one. Once it is out of the water, we surround it and wear it down. Peppermint will focus on ice attacks to slow it down, Brock will try and lock down one or two legs. Our moose expert has informed me they can kick in any direction, so those of you without heavy armor need to be watching for that. Stick and move, make Jess’ life easier. If you drop below half health, use potions to recover and stay out for a while.”
“I have a few poisons we can apply to weapons that’ll slow it down and cause a bit of DoT.” Blackthumb added. “But first I want to hear this other plan.”
“The moose is in a lake, with what looks like an oil slick. If we can get Brock to create a massive wall around the lake, we can set the lake on fire and prevent it from spreading to the forest.”
“For the record, I’m all in favor of the second plan.” Death chimed in. “You don’t want to mess with a moose, let alone one that has been altered by a dungeon.”
“While you guys start with the first plan, I’ll start making the earth berms. Since it doesn’t have to be packed, it shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes or so.” Brock said, and I saw Death shaking his head as he led the way.
After following him for a few minutes, we came to a clearing. The land gently sloped down into a barren patch of hoof marked earth, obviously the favorite access to the lake for the moose. The beast was nearly thirty feet away, half submerged. Occasionally his head would dip down, and reemerge chewing whatever underwater plants it was feasting on. The only difference between it and a normal moose was the purple horns, though I couldn’t see much of the body. Death’s description of the lake was spot on, as it had rainbow patches across the entirety of the surface.
Steelhide Moose Guardian
An evil miasma has altered this creature in unknown ways. Beware, as the massive concentrations of miasma in the waters of the lake strengthen and heal the creature.
“[Earth wall].” Brock started making his walls, casting his spells a few feet from the edge of the lake. Peppermint let him get a few casts in before attempting to pull the moose.
“[Glacial spike].” A large spear of ice shot forward, only to shatter against the hide of the creature. “What? Damn that’s a tough hide. Let’s see how you like this. [Boosted arctic javelin].” This was a smaller spear of ice, though it was much more refined and was made of the clear ice from the boosted element. This managed to take a sliver of health off the creature, which was swiftly healed. The moose looked over at us for a second before leaning down for another bite of food.
“Seriously?” Peppermint asked.
“Let me try. [Piercing shot][Snipe shot].” Death combined skills, firing an arrow at the moose’s head. It was going for the eye, but a wave of purple energy was released from the horns of the creature, deflecting the arrow.
“Looks like it’s happy to sit there thinking itself invulnerable.” I said, turning to Brock. “Go ahead and go with the second plan. We’ll keep an eye on the moose from here.” Turning back to Death, I asked him, “Not that I expect it, but is there any type of wind? I think we’ll all want to be upwind of what we are going to release with the burning lake.”
“I don’t feel any, but let’s check.” He reached down and pulled up a tuft of grass, throwing it in the air. Three repetitions from different places and with him facing different directions all had the grass moving northwest.
“Ok, now we need to think this over again. The winds are going to blow whatever we release right towards the central guardian.” Death said, concerned.
“I know, but we still don’t have a way to draw the moose out of the lake, so our hands are tied. Unless you want to fight in the water?”
“Any particular reason you haven’t tried a taunt from the shoreline? Kite it backwards so it is out of the water?” Citadel asked.
“Not particularly. We still have about ten minutes before Brock gets back. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try it.” I grumped. I really didn’t want to step into that water. “Everyone, listen up! I’m gonna try and pull the moose out of the lake. Take positions and prepare to attack.” I walked up to the lake, and winced as I realized the moose was out of range of my taunt skill. Stepping forward, I got a nasty popup.
You have entered a highly toxic environment! You have been poisoned! Metal instruments suffer constant durability damage!
Greater miasmatic poison:
Take 25 poison damage per second for 3 minutes, stacks up to three times (30 second delay between each stack)
Metal armors exposed to the water lose 25 durability per second until removed
Damnit, I need to hurry. I splashed forward until I was knee deep in water, and clanged my sword against my shield to taunt the moose. Again the bastard looked at me before lowering its head to eat some more. I didn’t waste any more time and immediately got out of the water.
“Thanks Jess. Death, you win. We can’t fight in the water; the poison damage would kill us. Not only that, but anything metal would be corroded during the fight and we would lose our equipment.” He shrugged, unconcerned and we sat down to wait for Brock to get back. While we waited, a welcome popup informed us of the raid progress.
The southwestern guardian has been defeated.
Guardians remaining: 3 of 4
Boss remaining: 1 of 1
Everyone cheered at that announcement, and a few minutes later Brock rejoined us. “Let me drink one more mana potion, and we can get this underway.” He panted, covered in sweat from his efforts.
“I’ll launch a boosted fireball, and you close off your ring?” Peppermint asked, getting a nod in return.
“Gah, I hate those potions. Sounds like a plan Peppermint, I’m ready when you are.” Brock replied.
Right after the blue fireball streaked through the gap, Brock sealed it inside. We heard the explosive impact, then a massive WHOOSH as the rest of the lake caught fire. I thought I heard a faint lowing from the moose, but it was swiftly drowned out as the fire spread and started billowing purplish black smoke into the air. Luckily for us the clouds drifted toward the center of the forest. Or unluckily, because I had no idea what would happen to the cloud and it would go through the main boss before striking another group of the raid. Hopefully it would be slightly dispersed by then. Everyone was tense for a while, listening for sounds of the moose trying to escape, but twenty minutes later our fears were unfounded.
The southeastern guardian has been defeated.
Guardians remaining: 2 of 4
Boss remaining: 1 of 1
A large miasmatic cloud has been released and has corrupted a large portion of the forest! Take care not to destroy much more.
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.