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Violet pulled Willow up, making her stand on her feet. Violet’s eyes were dark, filled with emotions, though she wasn’t crying. They all knew what this meant for what would happen down the line. The level of danger had now been set.

If they lost, even a little, they would be out, this was an all or nothing situation. There was no going back.

[Time until midnight 03:23:35]

Juniper: Try to summon your pet.

She stood in front of Willow.

Willow hit the pet cast button on her bar, but nothing happened. It was greyed out, but her mana was low too. Maybe that was the problem… But a sinking feeling in her stomach told her something else.

Meadow: Can’t yet.

Sage: Me neither.

Dawn: Still low on mana.

Violet handed her a mana potion, pushing it into her hands, her gaze was determined now.

Violet: Drink this. Then we start moving.

Willow nodded. They had to keep going. Waiting out here wasn’t going to solve anything. It wasn’t going to make things better. And she had no idea how long the trolls would stay as stone, or if there was a respawn rate on them or something. They had no information, they were going in blind.

Meadow: Let’s go.

She took a sip from the potion Violet had given her, pulling a face. It tasted sour, so sour. But at least that seemed to clear her mind somewhat, which she could really use right now.

They had to get moving. They could worry about Opal later, they could worry about what happened to him when they had gotten back out.

She knew that Soleil had said something about keeping an eye on her friends, and when Sage had gotten blitzed, she’d also known pretty quickly. So, no matter what, Soleil could probably find him and get to him.

Their only task was to keep going. Because a handful of players Soleil could try to get back, but she wouldn’t be able to help much when it would become hundreds or thousands of blitzed accounts.

Sage and Dawn were also drinking from a mana potion as they walked down the same cave as they had ran back out of not too long ago.

Back into the cave, hoping that they would be able to get through the strange door before they were caught by new trolls or whatever.

***

The ‘house’ where the trolls were living made her feel like she was nothing but a doll. Everything was so much bigger than she was and walking through it was something totally different than standing outside and looking in.

The scent of the cooked meat was pretty nice, apart from the fact that this was supposed to be meat from NPCs who were the same races as that they were. This wasn’t supposed to be ‘nice’ meat at all, but the game had done pretty well with the scent of the roasted meat. Priorities, right?

They walked up to a piece of wall they’d seen from the window, right under the old HF logo on the wall.

Willow pulled up the X-ray vision screen, looking at the wall with it. There it was, a door which they couldn’t see in the regular game, but it was visible when she stripped the layer of texture off.

She reached out, and as the tips of her fingers hit the wall where the door was, a shock went through her. At the same time, the door suddenly appeared in front of them, all bright and shiny, like some sort of magical object in the game.

[Your account is not on the lists of whitelisted accounts to go into this area, your account and location will be recorded and reported to the Helheim Fallen Online creators.

Please turn around and leave this area.]

Willow swallowed hard. Of course, it made sense that the game creators would try to stop them. Random players walking into this area probably wasn’t the plan. But she pushed on and opened the door. The space behind it was pitch black, like it didn’t exist, and even as she hovered the scan over it, nothing appeared. Okay…

She looked back at the others.

Meadow: Keep going?

Everyone nodded. Then Sage reached out to her and took her hand.

Sage: Let’s try not to lose each other.

Willow nodded and watched as Sage took Dawn’s hand, and Dawn took Violet’s hand, who took Juniper’s hand. Then she stepped into the darkness, into the black. Trusting that there would be something on the other side to catch her.

Everything around her disappeared, until she stepped onto a solid floor again and with each step she took, more light came back.

They were in a cave of some sort, but definitely not the same as the one they’d just left. This cave looked like they were much further below the surface, the walls around them stretching out far and wide, and she couldn’t see the bottom of the cave anywhere.

She could see a bridge in front of them, and more things that looked like bridges going from the wall to a spire in the middle of the cave. Everything here looked like it had been built around the spire, around a core.

Sage: Meadow…

She looked back, and everyone stared at something at her back. Willow reached behind her and grabbed her staff. She never used the thing, but now the end of the staff glowed up, like a torch in the darkness around them, making it easier to see each other. It wasn’t the light of a fire, or some digital light, but instead the gem on top of the staff glowed.

Meadow: Wow.

That was cool, and interesting. She looked at the weapons of the others and Dawn and Sage’s staves also had a light at the end, while Violet and Juniper’s weapons were still the same.

Then she tried to summon Iris again, but even though her mana was fully recharged again, the spell was still greyed out. That wasn’t good. Sage and Dawn shook their heads, they couldn’t summon anything either.

So, not only were they down one player, their pets also had been affected by the death from the trolls. Not good.

Willow sighed, looking to the spire in the middle of the cave. If they had to go anywhere in this place, it was probably there. The spire’s light fluctuated, a constant brightening and darkening, like a heartbeat.

[Time until midnight 02:57:25]

Had it taken them that long to get back through the cave and out here? Really? Wow.

The door behind them had a red-ish outline against the otherwise dark wall. They would worry about how to get back out when they got there. They had to go forward first. She took a couple of steps towards the bridge, each step giving her more courage.

They’d passed the trolls, they could face anything. Together, they could face anything.

Hopefully.

***

The world around them looked almost like the roots of a huge tree, and they were walking over one of the roots. Roots which curled up around each other, which curled and curved, hanging from other roots until they were big enough to latch onto the outside wall. It was almost like they were in some way at the roots of the big mythological tree Yggdrasil. Like they were on their way to the main root of the tree.

A while ago, specks of light had started to fall around them. Just small flecks, creating some light in the large space. It was almost like they were specks of dust, but when Willow tried to catch one, it disappeared without a trace, leaving nothing behind. Like nothing had been there in the first place.

It was odd and a little uncanny but at least the light helped with seeing more of their surroundings. Not that there was much ‘more’ to see, but it at least made seeing at all more easy.

They’d been walking for over an hour, and Willow felt like they hadn’t gotten closer to the spine-spiral-thing at all. That didn’t bode well…

Suddenly, there was the sound of crackling, like a TV, and ahead of them, the air rippled like heat above a hot object or an old-school monitor with issues.

Willow stopped and she felt the others behind her do the same.

Juniper: What’s going on?

Meadow: No idea.

But it couldn’t be good.

Meadow: Wait here.

She looked behind her for a moment, making sure that they would do what she asked. Then she walked up to the pulsating air, holding out her staff in front of her.

As her staff touched the air, it flashed, and a female giant appeared on the bridge instead.

The name over her said ‘Modgud’, and her level wasn’t visible. Not good!

Willow stepped back a little, hoping to get out of immediate reach.

Modgud: You’re not supposed to be here.

Meadow: We want to pass.

Modgud: You cannot pass. Go back.

Meadow: We are going to pass.

Modgud: What is your purpose?

Meadow: We want to fix something broken in this game.

Hey, no matter if the thing could interpret that or not, she didn’t think the actual words mattered.

Modgud: You cannot go on. Return or I will have to make you return.

Yeah, no.

Willow carefully walked backwards to the group, keeping her eyes on the female guardian.

Meadow: Any idea?

Sage: Push her out of the way? I don’t think we can fight her.

Willow agreed with them on that, they wouldn’t be able to kill her. This monster was way too high level for them to defeat, that was for sure.

Meadow: Is that a plan?

Meadow: Try to get her off the road, don’t get too close. We don’t know what will happen then.

It could be that any attack from the guardian could blitz them, or just the final attack that would kill them. But after the trolls, they weren’t going to take any chances. None.

Juniper: yes.

Sage: Yes.

Dawn: Yes.

Violet: Yes.

Meadow: Let’s do this!

The guardian didn’t have any aggro on them, but they could attack it, which allowed them to get their first attack in first.

Meadow: Target her right side, all at the same time!

She held up her hand, just a simple bolt would have to do for a start, she didn’t have too many other attacks that were pure damage attacks.

Meadow: 3

Meadow: 2

Meadow: 1

Meadow: go!

She let the bolt go, targeting the right side of the guardian’s chest, around her, Sage’s ice bolt and Dawn’s fire bolt were joined by arrows from both Juniper and Violet. Most of the attacks hit the guardian, but her HP didn’t budge. Yeah, definitely way above where they could defeat it.

Modgud: You shall not pass!

The guardian came charging towards them.

Willow and the others threw anything at her that they could come up with. Dawn used his speed buff on Juniper and Violet so that they could shoot faster. And Willow and Sage threw attacks, binds, AOE, anything. Just to stop it, to slow it down.

Willow moved her hand in a way that was reverse to pulling up a shield, and as she did so, an energy wall pulled up before the guardian, which did seem to slow it down for a moment.

Oh, what a great moment to find out about a new skill… Cool, but she wasn’t exactly sure that it was useful here.

At least it slowed the guardian down, letting them catch their breath for a moment. They moved back, trying to put more distance between them and the guardian.

They had to get past her, but that wasn’t as easy, apparently. She kept pushing them backwards and this way they were only getting further and further away from where they had to be.

Dawn: Her leg, try to get her leg from under her.

Yeah, that made sense.

Willow pulled up a bolt, focusing on the guardian’s leg and foot, if they could make her trip, maybe it would help more.

Meadow: Go!

She threw bolt after bolt, as fast as she could. The light from everyone’s elemental attacks and the other things thrown at the guardians feet almost made it impossible to keep looking at where she was throwing. The flashes so bright.

The guardian stumbled for a moment, but then started walking towards them again.

No good. No good. No good.

Dawn: Keep going.

He stepped next to her, and when her eyes shot to him for a moment, there was a strange look in his eyes.

He had a plan, and she wasn’t going to like it, that was for sure.

Dawn: Keep going.

Meadow: Keep going!

She threw everything she could into the attacks, swapping between everything attack and AoE and debuff she had, just to keep the guardian off-balance and to stop her from coming too close.

A single private message was all she got as a warning.

Dawn: I’m sorry. Good luck.

Then he rushed towards the guardian, in his hand a bomb that was about to go off. She’d seen the bombs on the stalls in the markets before, but she didn’t know that Dawn had taken one with him. What had he expected to do with it?

No!

Meadow: Down!

She let herself fall to the floor, watching as Dawn grabbed onto the guardian’s side, the bomb still in his hands.

Then two things happened at the same time. As the guardian took hold of Dawn, crushing him, Dawn started to disintegrate, as Opal had, and the bomb went off, blasting the both of them off the bridge.

No way! No!

No!

The darkness after the flash of light made that she couldn’t see anything anymore for a while, the darkness and silence now overwhelming and made of shadows and panic.

She had no idea if it really worked, but she also couldn’t see or hear anything.

The world a total silence.

The quiet before the storm, but what storm?

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