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Willow took off her VR headset as she sat up in bed, sighing. Together with Dawn, she’d been training the others for hours now, trying to get their level up and to get them used to mechanics of HF. Juniper didn’t seem too impressed with the butchering and some other elements of it, she was much more squeamish than the others, which Willow had known. And Sage seemed to have the same reactions to the game that Willow had had mostly, icked out by some things while still enjoying other parts. Only Opal really seemed to enjoy everything in this game. But then, he was into the gross stuff. He’d always been like that. When he wasn’t playing DoE, he was usually hanging out in the most gruelling and gory horror games he could find, so she shouldn’t have been surprised really.

Then Willow opened the chat with Soleil, who’d left a couple of messages.

Rotnem: Beta codes have been applied to the available accounts.

Rotnem: It seems Sage and Violet are there with you?

Rotnem: Is everything going well? Just checking there are no issues.

The final message had been from three hours ago.

Willow: I’m good. Everyone got into HF fine, we’ve been helping them to power level so that they’re not so far behind.

The message from Soleil was fast.

Rotnem: We?

Willow: Dawn is helping. I thought that two people who could explain the game would probably better than just me.

Rotnem: Good, I’m glad to hear that.

Rotnem: Anything else?

Willow hadn’t sorted her thoughts enough yet about what she’d seen in the cave, especially not what it could mean for what they were doing and what they were going to try to do.

Willow: Not yet.

Willow: Still trying to find things.

Rotnem: Let me know when you find something.

Willow: Will do.

Willow: Thank the person at HF for the beta keys and the mod tools for me, will you?

Rotnem: Will do. Good luck to you.

Willow: Thanks.

She stood up, definitely in need of something to eat now. There were so many things going on and she needed to clear her mind a little. Things were slowly falling into place, but she had no idea as to what place or how everything slotted together.

There was a plan slowly forming in her mind, but it didn’t have a real shape yet. They had a couple of days left to figure it out, so hopefully the plan would be more solid by then.

***

*Two days until the release of the most anticipated game of this decade, Helheim Fallen Online!

Order your copy now!*

Two days to solve the issue of the blitzed accounts. Sure, Sage had given her some good ideas about the code and the programming, but that didn’t really give her that much to go on, really. Just enough not to be too lost.

Two days.

Two days to train her friends more. Two days to find the place where this code that chooses people to blitz and actually blitzes their accounts actually was located. And two days to make it stop.

It felt like she had some time but at the same time no time at all. When she started, there were ten days until release, now there were two days left, and she felt like she’d barely made any progress at all. She’d lost and then gained her friends, she’d gotten her ass handed to her in the game and then had figured out that there was much more going on int he background and the coding than they all even suspected when this all started.

Dawn: Meadow!

Willow’s vision blinked for a moment as a hungry lynx jumped onto her.

[Hungry Lynx hit you for 65 damage]

Jikes.

[Opal hit Hungry Lynx for 98 damage]

[Sage hit Hungry Lynx for 64 damage]

[+25 XP]

The lynx curled at her feet. Dead. She stepped aside as Sage came over and butchered the animal.

They were still trying to power level, and even Willow had gained a few levels by now, just from how much content they’d been working through.

It was like they were a machine. Find mobs, kill mobs, butcher mobs, round up items and other things from the area, and then move to the next area. They were running a couple of areas in a circle, moving to the next when they’d killed all of them off, instead of waiting for the respawns. That way, when they came back to the area, there would be new mobs to kill.

[Iris hit Hungry Lynx for 198 damage]

[Opal hit Hungry Lynx for 101 damage]

[Juniper hit Hungry Lynx for 86 damage]

She looked around, finding Sage’s attention on a different mob instead. She held up her hand, pulling up the %Elementalbolt and throwing it at the other lynx, just as Sage also attacked it.

[You hit Hungry Lynx for 135 damage]

[Sage hit Hungry Lynx for 67 damage]

[+25 XP]

[+25 XP]

The notifications came in fast and steady. She barely even had to look at what was going on, just helping everyone out by helping them kill stuff as fast as possible.

[You’ve reached level 18!]

[+4 Strength]

[+2 Dexterity]

[+6 Intelligence]

[+5 Wisdom]

[+4 Endurance]

[Iris has reached level 18!]

[+5 Attack]

[+3 Defence]

She pulled up her character screen to check what her stats were by now.

Name: Meadow

Race: Draugr

Class: Seidhr

Level: 18

Health: 469

Mana: 458

Armour: 28

Strength: 83

Dexterity: 32

Intelligence: 124

Wisdom: 97

Endurance: 72

 

Fylgja:

Name: Iris

Race: Dreki

Level: 18

Attack: 209

Defence: 184

She was making good progress with her levels. Although, she had no idea how useful that would be in whatever they were going to face later on. They’d all agreed that trying to get as high level as possible would probably be their best bet for whatever they were going to face later. Too low level wouldn’t be useful at all, no matter what. But getting at least a little bit better geared up and having a good range of attacks and options to protect themselves would make any battle easier. Or it would make them feel more confident that it would be easier, which in this case was about the same.

At least, that was the idea. That was about all the plan they had.

Sage: Meadow, we’re moving.

She looked around, realising she kept spacing out today, and that wasn’t good. She’d not slept much last night, her brain constantly going over what they were going to have to do, what they’d done in the past and all sorts of things like that. Her brain being able to come up with multiple in some cases odd solutions was great. Her brain deciding to do that when she was trying to sleep and had to be active again the next day wasn’t so great…

She felt a weight around her shoulders and then Violet pulled her against her.

A private message popped up.

Violet: What’s wrong? Are you upset?

Willow shook her head.

Meadow: Just tired. I wish I knew how or if we’d be able to solve this.

If they couldn’t ‘fix’ the code, then, as soon as the game went live, it would start picking out people who they’d decided weren’t ‘worth’ it and would probably blitz their accounts, as they’d done to Violet during the beta. She wasn’t looking forward to that prospect.

Violet: I know. Have you heard something from Soleil yet?

Meadow: No. Not much. She’s waiting on news from us.

Violet: Right.

Then Violet started pulling her along to the rest of the group, who had started to kill off some wolves.

Violet: All we can do is try to prepare for the worst.

Meadow: True.

Violet: We’re going to make it happen. I know we will.

Violet flashed her a smile and then pulled her bow, shooting a wolf before she jumped in and pulled out two daggers, finishing it off in a flurry of attacks.

Willow couldn’t help but smile, but then she turned her hand and healed Violet for a moment. Violet had still managed to have gotten hit by the wolf twice. If Violet was going to survive in PVE on her own, she really had to consider her own squishiness when it came to monsters. Sure, right now, Dawn and Willow healed her when needed, but that wouldn’t keep happening, especially if they were going to play this game more after all the problems were over.

But first, they had to make sure that they could keep playing…

***

The group had moved to a zone that Willow hadn’t been in yet. With the six of them, they were able to take on monsters who were a good number of levels above them instead of having to stay around their own level.

In this zone, they had to fight big brown bears. They looked similar to Sage’s fylgja, but the biggest difference was that they were definitely not as friendly, well, that, and the crazed look in their eyes. Apparently, the normal story line that would have brought them into this zone would have explained that they’d been poisoned by the newcomers to turn against the creatures that they used to live in peace with. Fun, very fun.

[Opal hit Crazed Bear for 102 damage]

[Juniper hit Crazed Bear for 89 damage]

[Crazed Bear hit Opal for 126 damage]

[Iris hit Crazed Bear for 203 damage]

[Sage hit Crazed Bear for 75 damage]

[Violet hit Crazed Bear for 92 damage]

[Willow hit Crazed Bear for 132 damage]

[Crazed Bear hit Opal for 128 damage]

[Dawn hit Crazed Bear for 143 damage]

[+35 XP]

The bear fell down, curling up and letting out a loud death groan. Opal butchered the bear and didn’t look unhappy with the items he got from it.

Then, next to her, Juniper fell forward, a bear on her back.

What the?!

Willow pulled up a bolt and threw it at the bear as quickly as she could.

[You hit Crazed Bear for 133 damage]

[Sage hit Crazed Bear for 74 damage]

[Dawn hit Crazed Bear for 149 damage]

Juniper was finally able to crawl from under the bear, more than three quarters of her health gone. Jikes.

Willow tried healing her as fast as she could, as Dawn helped too. They had not expected that to happen.

[You healed Juniper for 157 health]

[Dawn healed Juniper for 179 health]

[Violet hit Crazed Bear for 87 damage]

[Opal hit Crazed Bear for 99 damage]

[Sage hit Crazed Bear for 79 damage]

[Iris hit Crazed Bear for 201 damage]

[Juniper hit Crazed Bear for 88 damage]

[+35 XP]

That was… That was definitely not something they’d expected to happen. They through they were safe, but apparently a bear had spawned behind them, and they hadn’t realised it. Fighting mobs way above their level helped with the XP gain, but it also meant that everyone was a lot more squishy if they did get hit, especially classes that weren’t made for melee combat.

Juniper: Wow. That was scary.

Opal: Tell me about it. I suddenly saw your HP go from full to almost gone. I thought that you’d gotten hit by a system bug or something, not just a bear.

When Willow looked at they others, everyone looked spooked. They’d been flying through the content, easily, but this was the first time that they realised that things weren’t that easy in this game… That even in a group they could get surprised.

Sage: Pay more attention, people. We don’t want anyone to suddenly drop out on us.

Opal: Yeah.

Dawn: Yeah.

Violet: Definitely.

Willow looked behind her, the area was small, it was just the path they’d taken into this location, but even in that small space was a spawn point. They shouldn’t have been this reckless when they stormed in.

Juniper: Next one!

She’d obviously recovered from her shock, ready for more. Then she pointed at a bear a little off but waited with attacking it until Opal, Sage’s bear, Iris and Violet were already on their way to hit it. Then, with a satisfied grin, she pulled the arrow on her bow back and let it fly, hitting the bear right before the others reached it.

Willow grabbed Juniper and pulled her to the side, hoping to get her out of the easy range of whatever may try to maim her from behind next. She wasn’t going to let anything sneak up on them again, not now.

Just as the others killed the bear, a new one spawned not too far off, and as Willow pointed at it, Iris ran for it, getting in close range, before firing her cone of fire. The others now also saw the bear and went for it, just as Willow used her AOE spell on it.

[Iris hit Crazed Bear for 200 damage]

[You hit Crazed Bear for 145 damage]

Opal: Meadow! Why?

As she looked his way, she saw that the heat of the AOE kept Opal from attacking the bear too, it may not do any damage to him, but that didn’t mean that the heat of it wasn’t uncomfortable.

Meadow: Sorry!

Opal shook his head and grabbed his axe with two hands before he yelled and jumped at the bear, letting the axe cleave into its side as he came down. He didn’t seem particularly upset by it, especially in the way that he cleaved the bear to pieces.

They were a good team. If there was any group of people who could help her save everyone, it would be this group.

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EEngberts

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