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I traced out a second copy of the spell. The icon for my [Branch of Healing] notice shimmered gold then changed. My attention focused on the butler, to see if he’d undergo the same changes as the dogs.

Boils popped and folded back into normal skin. Their oozing puss vanished quickly. Vibrant green returned to once milky white eyes. The dogs bounced and spun in a circle around the transforming mansion minion.

By the time he was done, I felt dirty about trying to clean him. His immaculate clothing would be tainted by even being near my muddy body, much less a bar rag. The hook-nose remained violently curved and he refused to look at me.

“Those belong outside or back in their room,” he said.

“I think you mean thanks for returning me to a normal human being and not some undead mucus monster.”

“Indeed. Sadly, this status change is unlikely to last. It never does.”

“So, you’ve been healed before.”

“And killed before. Death is disquieting and leaves me with gas. Now, please take your friends and leave so that I might await a proper gutting from someone who carries a blade.”

“Sure.” I paused for a moment and considered further responses. Healing him twice had made him go from full undead to human. He had a point though; this place was controlled by some spreading [Blight] effect. It also didn’t make a lot of sense, because normally killing non-player characters, Locals, resulted in them dying forever.

Sure, there were quest chains that might counter permanent death. Some places were stuck in time loops where everyone resurrected at midnight. I’d been in one of those on a prior Friday. This place simply used undeath as a justification for recycling Locals into bosses.

I still felt sick to my stomach, but the slime feeling had faded once this butler reverted to human. The surrounding room seemed a bit brighter. The closest window had less grease. I could keep spamming heals on monsters around here, but my mana would never be enough to counter this place.

“Is there something I could heal?”

“Ah. A bleeding heart out to set the world’s problems right. You’re simply not strong enough to take on the missus, her children, or the curse residing over this manor. It was set into motion by something far stronger than you could image.”

My eyes fluttered. A stupid teenager might be affronted and think there were ways to overcome any obstacle through being clever. I knew this character had limits and I might not be strong enough to overcome them before deciding to reset.

While Continue Online didn’t have “levels” in the classic sense, it still had Ranks which were a measurement of skills and player ability. If the machine said I was too weak to take on people, then they were probably right.

“I’ve no desire to take on any sort of—” I stopped and sighed deeply. “Look. I’ll have a staff soon that will probably double my healing. If this place has gold, I’ll even come back next weekend and spam restoration spells until I’m blue in the face.” Especially if it meant I wouldn’t have to group up. Eventually [Branch of Healing] could become ranged. Or after I had a drink or ten, I’d figure out a way to make it ranged.

“Spam? How delightfully barbarous. Regardless, there’s no doubt in my mind that your services would cause confusion rather than solve the underlying issue. So, on your merry way. Take these dogs with you. Perhaps put them somewhere nice with a healthy tree.”

“I don’t want the dogs,” I insisted quickly.

“Ah. Well, since you’ve rudely sent Fitzgerald to the underworld, no one else will care for them. Not even the missus. I’m afraid they’ll die without proper care and perhaps somewhere less, infested then here.”

I narrowed my eyes and sniffed. Quest text popped up.

Quest!

All Dogs Go To Havens

Five dogs follow you. Five dogs in need of a new home. Perhaps you know of a place where they might be sheltered from the horrors invading their current home? We bet you do. We bet you don’t even need a hint. But here’s one anyway. What would a [Druid] do?

+3 [Divine Attention]!

Rewards

Perhaps, in time of need, a proper [Druid] could summon canine companions to help him.

Failure

Well. Nothing would change. Which is kind of sad.

“Do you have anything to drink in here?” I asked.

“Ah. Perhaps we do. Take the dogs out and I’m sure I could find a drink suitable for one of your nature.”

He said nature like other people said animal. It impressed me, so I nodded. The game popped up a quest accepted message and I remembered my earlier rant about companions. This whole nature versus nurture concept bugged me too. I put an ounce of thought into the problem and figured out the issue. I didn’t like the idea of long term commitment, at all.

But I couldn’t leave someone stranded. These dogs would go full on undead minion. They’d be chopped up by some other party roaming through here. Rose had been right in saying they were puppies and needed help. I didn’t have to like it, but she’d had a point.

“Deal. I’ll find them a home. You throw in some booze for my time and sanity. We can meet here in a few weeks and I’ll put you back together.”

The butler reared his head back and gave me a once over. His nose wrinkled in disgust. Then he turned to the rest of the room and his nose twitched furiously. He pulled out a handkerchief and started working on the countertop, polishing away at a spot of grime that would never come out.

“Oh I do so hate when I’m seeing the world through these eyes.”

The puppies resumed eating every stray bit of kibble in the room. They chased the handkerchief as it fluttered across countertops. I almost wanted to ask the butler for more information, but it’d probably be a sob story I already knew from too many other games and movies over the years.

This place was cursed. When they were undead, the mess around them made sense, because it fit. When he was proper and healthy, this place felt wrong because it went against his current nature.

I stared at my feet briefly then opened the map. There were notes on there from Johnny. [Friday?] repeated over and over along with [Help!].

The butler reminded me of patients I’d worked with in the real world. They were stuck in a self-abusive pattern. Something would be wrong that caused their physical body to break. They’d heal, and a few months later need another ride to the hospital. This place, this rot filled manor and the players roaming it, would send the butler through this pattern over and over.

Then I had a happier thought. Maybe if we cured this place, there’d be more than a single bottle of liquor. After that thought I felt like clicking my heels. I had my own personal adventure that didn’t involve drama, yet. To unveil the secrets of [Widow’s Children] and break the curse once and for all. There were surely good rewards for solving a reoccurring problem within [Arcadia]. Skills and stuff that youngsters like them enjoyed, and maybe I’d feel like I’d made a difference before needing to re-roll.

“However, I know you Traveler types. Many refuse to let sleeping dogs lie, as it were. Be aware that this curse, should you choose to try to remove it, was placed by a very angry Voice. To challenge it means defying our world’s gods.”

I shrugged. Fictional gods didn’t scare me. They bothered me. Annoyed me. Filled my resting head with virtual images that weren’t real but come Monday I’d be back at work and they’d be stuck in here messing with some other poor sap.

“Let’s go, squad.”

The dogs yipped in unison, tripped over each other, and followed me out the door toward whatever mess Johnny had gotten into.

“Good luck, sir,” the butler said behind us. “You’ll be needing it.”

As we stepped away, his voice twisted into something darker sounding. Grimier, like when we’d first met him.

I sighed. Two full heals and he’d only fought back the curse for the span of a conversation. I counted myself lucky that he’d not presented himself as an aggressive house member.

A puppy yipped at me. I glanced down to see they’d formed a weird sort of line. In the front was a leader, who watched me with one ear half cocked. Three more behind him ambled together in a pack, tripping over each other. The fifth kept getting distracted.

“No. I’m not naming you.”

The lead puppy barked, and I would have bet money on him frowning.

“I’m bad with names. It’d have to be… your traits or something. If one of you is a scout, we call you Scout. If one of you eats everything, you can be…” I faded off in confusion.

There were too many dog names in stories, but I hadn’t read much as a child. Most of my knowledge came second hand through video games. Fenris was a big monster boss in a lot of them. These puppies did not seem like monster bosses. Snowball, Stupid, and Sniffles were also out. Dad had wanted to get a dog as part of his halfhearted attempts to be a parent, but it never happened.

I’d served with a man who worked with a bomb sniffing dog. They’d named him Lucky, but that felt too common.

The thoughts went on and on as I warmed to the idea of having canine companions. Especially if they could be tied to a [Druid] ability where they were stored somewhere safe while I was offline or if they came close to death. I think that bothered me the most, knowing a virtual pet could die in front of me.

“Tell you what. You guys—” Two dogs barked at me and I got the feeling they were disagreeing with being called “guys” probably because of my skill. “Okay. You all.” I paused and waited. No yips corrected me. “You all survive tonight. The next… two hours. After that I’ll take you to the place where I planted my trees and we’ll see what happens.”

The lead dog barked.

“And I’ll see about giving you real names. Something suitable.”

The five barked excitedly and ran off.

I smiled, despite my general dislike for Continue Online’s desire to shove relationships in my face. Worst case scenario, I’d re-roll this character after finding someone to take care of the dogs. Easy enough. It didn’t have to be a complete ditch like I’d done on prior characters.

“I could be Father Friday,” I said to myself then sighed. Being a parent didn’t suit me. Taking care of youngsters, canine or otherwise, was not a skill I had. Heck, every time a child graced my ambulance, I nearly panicked. Kids were scary.

Taking care of the dogs meant a free drink. That meant something. This place must have good bottles somewhere in its cellars. I’d even be tempted to split a bottle with my party members provided they were old enough. Video game or not, they were old enough to play, drink, and die for their countries.

They’d lowered requirements for liquor to eighteen during the war I’d been in. Some lawmakers believed if men were being sent to die for their country, the least America could do was let them get plastered. It created problems, it solved others, but liquor is still one of the kindest drugs on the market.

The five dogs were too loud. I paused. They fumbled about then stopped to stare at me. Well, four of them. The fifth stared at the floor, following an invisible bug as it traveled across the floor.

“Okay. Rules. To survive and meet Uncle StoneMason and Aunt Rose, we need to be quiet. We need to be sneaky and listen for monsters,” I whispered.

“Light feet,” I said, setting forward slowly. My feet slid along the ground, barely lifting so as to avoid the whump of pressure from putting them back down. Being barefoot helped. My example wasn’t the best, but it should help. I’d played a [Rogue] style character for a month or two before needing to restart.

Two dogs followed my example. The rest stared in confusion. Except the one tracking a bug.

“Keep trying. But no barking.”

The fifth finally joined us and barked loudly. The leader turned and nipped his litter mate’s nose. They fumbled over each other down the hall while two puppies continued trying to be sneaky.

I shook my head. We were in the middle of a mostly clear dungeon. Our rankings showed only two groups left in the fight. Three were gray, meaning they’d died or logged off. Of those groups no longer in the rankings, one remained above us. If Johnny were here, he’d tell me the smart bet was on Pile Driver’s group being the team still alive, and the one in first place.

Their points held still while my party of five confused not-puppies moved forward. On we went, slowly and steadily toward Johnny’s position. The notes changed a bit as, I presumed, StoneMason and Rose caught up with our runaway scout.

The messages were [F?], [F!], [STAFF], and last was [FREE DRINKS] with a glitzy border that would have been home on the Las Vegas strip. Not that Vegas was what it used to be anymore.

I debated simply leaving the mansion’s grounds all together. The thought had passed through my head multiple times but I wanted my staff and the reward for keeping these puppies safe. My chances of getting out were better if we continued on through the cleared areas and toward our party members.

“Hey, airhead, shush,” I said

Attention

Do you want to name this pet "Airhead"?

I debated then pressed no on the pop-up. It might fight for now, but in a week they might have completely different personalities.

Onward they went, with the fearlessness only the young had. I’d been that way once, years ago. Four halls went by. A few ambling monsters were about, but none of them were too scary or even remotely aggressive. Anything recklessly attacking a lower Ranked Traveler had likely attacked one of the other groups already.

We made it onto a half-covered porch. Moonlight flooded the rotten wood deck. A solid line cut across where the overhanging roof blocked light. Dead bodies strewn haphazardly.

One of the pups sniffed.

“Bad,” I said. “Smelly. Undead. Rotting.”

The short words might have worked on a child, but the dog simply cocked his head to one side as if I’d spoken in tongues.

I waved at the quintet’s potential leader and said, “If it’s dead, don’t bother it. I don’t dig through bodies for loot.”

It was a disgusting practice, made all the worse by Continue Online’s realism factor. I’d once seen a man happily digging through piles of shit for gold coins. He’d failed, and I’d been revolted. Patching people together in real life was hard enough. Dismembering the dead for coins in a game insisting with full graphics, was worse.

“Trap.” I pointed toward the far end of the porch.

Attention

Do you want to name this pet "Trap"?

“No. That’s a trap. Johnny marked that spot. He marked over there too. Then…” and so it went. I pointed out to the dogs what they were seeing. It didn’t necessarily help them and there were no pop-up messages, but it made me feel better.

I liked talking to people. I didn’t like being alone. Rushing to catch up with the others might put me face to face with too many monsters and I’d simply die. Then I’d be out of the game, stuck in real life, and without anyone virtual to chat.

At least, not in a game that offered a real sense of interaction like Trillium’s games. Somehow virtual hangouts felt lackluster when compared to a world like this.

We kept going. Room by room, hall by hall. The place had been cleaned out and even some of Johnny’s trap notes were out of date. Other Travelers had clearly opened up every room they could find.

Then I found one of the deceased parties. They were in a dining room with sheets over all the tables and chairs. The only indication of it being a dining room was the low handing chandelier over the white cloth.

“Those are rogues. Or something.” Three girls and one man wearing face paint were propped up in four separate corners of a dining room. “See how their bodies are on the sides like that? It’s probably a trap too. Let’s not—” Before my words could sink in, the airhead puppy wandered right into the middle of the room.

All the white sheets flew into the air and spun around. The chairs creaked and groaned. We’d triggered something by walking into the room.

The small leader puppy of the pack charged forward after the airheaded one and pulled him back by the scruff of his neck. I grabbed one of the chairs and shoved it into the doorway before anything could close it on us. In two seconds I opened the chat interface, typed out “HELP” and closed it again.

By then, the table in the middle of the room that had been covered, stood. Not like a table propping itself up, but like an ape made of twisted metal dripping muscle and bones.

“Run!” I shouted at the gaggle of dogs.

In room’s corners, the four party members of a defeated group, flopped to their sides. White blankets from the furniture picked separate corners and wrapped around the bodies. An eye-blink later they stood.

The table Frankenstein monster lifted a leg and brought it crashing down. The air shook. Something, presumably the table, screeched.

I turned, grabbed the two sneaky-in-training puppies being slow at the wrong time and ran.

Up and over the chair I went, down the hall. Behind me the doors slammed shut and the monster screamed. Banging noises told me it wouldn’t easily give up the chase.

“Boss?” I said and continued huffing. “Boss. Got to be a boss. In the dining room.”

Before I’d fully rounded a corner to escape into the labyrinthine halls of this mansion, the door splintered. As I turned, I saw the large twisted shape of a man-shaped living table pull itself down the hall. Something crashed and the floor cracked.

“Keep running! This is natural selection at work. Those who fall behind get eaten.”

Something popped up on my screen. I almost threw a squirming puppy at it but managed to focus on flight instead of fight.

“Come on, guys! Friday’s had enough and wants to go drink. Come on!” The leader dog nipped at his two floor bound pack-mates to keep them moving. Ten seconds, thirty, maybe a minute. I couldn’t tell how long we ran because these halls all looked the same. We’d traveled by at least ten nightstands, which was the closest measurement for distance that I could figure out.

My chest hurt. The pounding noise behind us grew closer. We were going to die. I threw both dogs with terrible underhanded tosses. They spun out, yipped, and tumbled over each other.

I reached out for a vase holding dead flowers then spun while tossing it. My bare feet slipped as a foul scent washed over me. I caught another glimpse. The table had a warped face under it and weird mutated arms with ropes of hair wrapped around its neck.

My vase slammed into the obtrusive face. I fought the urge to stop and cheer by remembering we were fleeing for our virtual lives.

Ahead of me, the four dogs had all turned, ready to take a stance to fight. The fifth watched the hallway ahead, then yipped. His tail immediately wagging.

“Friday!” Rose shouted. She held up the bright lantern which acted as a beacon.

The table monster yelled. My head rocked from the sheer force behind its shout.

“Go!” I said then coughed dryly

“Stony!” Rose waved one arm in our direction. I closed my eyes briefly then stumbled forward. The light overpowered nearly everything.

A blurry vision of StoneMason peeked out from some corner. One of the dogs yelped. The others yipped and barked at their packmate. Our tank stomped down the hall at high speeds, straight for the home wrecking table from hell.

“This way!” Johnny said from a side room ahead. I could almost make him out but Rose’s light continued to nearly blind me. The puppies didn’t hesitate, veering straight for him. Their barks were my only real source of information.

“Faster!” Rose said.

StoneMason grunts echoed down the hall from behind me. Rose shouted again but I didn’t understand. My ears still pounded from the sudden horror scene. One arm lifted to shield against the light while someone’s hands grabbed my clothes and yanked. I stumbled and fell into the room onto the pile of puppies.

They squirmed to get free. “Dammit,” I cursed at myself. I’d been too careless with the pack and assumed nothing could scare me. Living furniture certainly rated as new and terrifying.

Two large objects flew past the door and down the hall. A wall shuddered as they collided with it. Some sharp object caused the floor to screech as StoneMason and the table rounded another corner.

I stood and tried to process what was going on. Thick layers of dust floated down from the ceiling. Johnny paced along the wall, with one ear pressed tightly against a far wall. He had a skill that let him echo vibrations to detech movement.

“Where’s,” Johnny asked. The remainder drowned under ringing.

The flashbacks made me short tempered. This whole stupid dungeon had been his fault. I grabbed his shoulders and shook him.

“Give me my staff,” I yelled. My own voice made the vertigo worse. The sound of my heartbeat threatened to drown me. Tingles arched from my lips to my toes.

The wall thudded. Someone screamed. All five puppies barked at the doorway. It was too much.

I saw red bars. Those meant something. I screamed at Johnny and shook him again. We needed healing. StoneMason’s bar flashed angrily as another chunk vanished. He would be dead at this rate. I needed the bonus to area of effect spells and the effective Rank increase.

I took a deep breath and struggled to steady myself. This was harder than my day job. There, the machine did everything. Here, it was me. Just like those days in the war. It was me, trying my damnedest.

Johnny’s mouth opened and shut like a fish. “What is tha—”

“My staff.”

It felt as though Johnny hadn’t heard me say it the first time.

The wall shook as something, presumably StoneMason and the [Dinner of Four] table monster, crashed into the wall. A wailing noise came down the hall sounding almost human. I suddenly remembered the four dead Travelers we’d left behind to be wrapped in white blankets.

“I got it. Just give me a second.” Johnny’s hands dug down into pockets that couldn’t have been that deep. They had to be magic or some excuse for player inventory.

I didn’t even know when he’d slipped away from my shaking or when I’d fallen to my knees. My stomach flipped and I felt acid crawl up into my mouth. I couldn’t remember if I’d gotten out to have food or go to the bathroom after the first boss. I felt like I’d skipped both things.

Johnny shoved the weapon into my hands and I grabbed onto it tightly, clutching the reminder of my past characters.

Staff of Thaddeus

Prior to his fall in the great war leading to the [Soulless World] events, this staff was one of many blessed by the now deceased Voice of Lost Causes. These are often given out to promising young priests to help remind them the Voices will stand by their side.

Prayer for the newly risen priest; No one is lost as long as hope is held close. Who we were before embracing our belief is less important than who we are after embracing our sacred commitments.

Provides the following

[Desperate Heals]

[Illumination]

[Sanctified]

[Priestly Aura]

[Priestly Aura] was garbage every [Priest] got when reaching far enough on their Path. It meant nothing more than they were priests. [Sanctified] wouldn’t be helpful in a pinch.

The glowing effect of [Illumining] was nice but it didn’t help when trying to sneak. That didn’t matter now. I’d be able to put the effect into use to see what the heck was going on in the chaos, plus the first skill was what I really needed.

[Desperate Heals]

The lower the caster’s mana and health, the more a single heal is increased. While in a party, this can impact the group as a whole.

It didn’t exactly double my Path as I’d professed, but it certainly helped a lot. Especially now.

“I did good?” Johnny asked.

I bit my tongue to keep from saying the staff should never have been lost in the first place. I ran my fingers up and down the side. The pointed spear like tip threw me off, but the text called it a staff, so that’s what I thought of it as. Etchings were along the side that reminded me of the twin serpents that went around the classic Greek symbol for healing. Honestly, that was the only one I knew. It was called a caduceus.

It wasn’t a belief in god or the Voices, so the text meant nothing. What it stood for meant everything. Out there, I was a crappy doctor who served in a support role for some machine. They could have put anyone in the seat and trained them to repeat the machine.

Here, I could actually heal something and know my choices made a difference.

“Friday?” Johnny asked.

“Thank you,” I shouted and stood. We needed real heals. I needed to do my damn job.

Rose’s bar had taken hits. I didn’t know where she went. StoneMason’s should be on the other end of the thumps. My staff didn’t help with damage so I’d have to stick to the basics. Heal until I ran out of mana. Heal some more. Pray nothing killed me while I kept the party together.

“It’s just like China all over again,” I muttered.

The staff felt different than I remembered. When I’d been the prior Friday, it made my body feel warm and tingly. As if something filled me. Now it felt steadying, as if I held on to to a thick tree that could support all manner of life and creatures.

The dogs huddled in a pack behind me. I stumbled forward under their pressure. To my right there were two shambling linen wrapped shamblers. My lips twisted in a frown. Healing them might cancel out the possession but since they were being moved by cloth, it probably didn’t matter.

“Friday!” Rose shouted. She dashed into another room. Her face bled and the other two white clothed monsters chased after her.

I sighed deeply and worked to keep myself relaxed. The earlier panic faded as the staff’s stable presence helped me. We’d make this work, or I’d die horribly and should be able to keep the staff. As long as a player didn’t kill me and screw up what stayed behind on my dead body.

[Branch Of Healing] wasn’t as good as [Dash of Light] or [Trickle of Energy]. I almost missed those [Priest] heals. Worrying about those items wouldn’t keep my small team alive.

Five puppies followed me into the room after Rose. Down the hall StoneMason, hopefully, crashed into another object. His health bar dipped again. I rammed one of the mummy-like monsters in the back. Five dogs landed on the creature, tearing it apart.

I almost remembered how to fight with a staff. It’d been a few months. My staff’s spear-like tip jabbed into the second’s mummy’s shoulder. It stumbled off course and I stepped past. Rose sprinted at the creature and stabbed it with her modified kitchen knives.

The mummified monster flailed and elbowed me in the face. I scrambled to get the staff that had been yanked out of my hands. Rose drove a blade into its face, right next to mine. I shuddered then pushed myself away to get up.

She continued stabbing. I eyed the door. The two other mummified monsters were coming in and StoneMason didn’t have enough health.

“Friday?” she asked.

I grabbed the staff, yanked it out, and stepped toward Rose’s rhythmically stabbing form. I ignored her dead expression and empty eyes. It had to be a trick of the game. Dots connected for a [Branch Of Healing]. [Desperate Heals] and my party’s overall health should make this one spell get her to full in a minute or two. She glanced at me but I didn’t have time to chat. StoneMason couldn’t die or we’d all be out of the race.

The dogs continued mauling the clearly weak mummy. Either the puppy squad was overpowered or the monsters were weaker than expected. Sometimes Continue Online made it hard to tell.

Rose staggered to her feet and swayed toward the other foe. Her cheeks had color but her eyes remained vacant.

“Back!” she yelled at the dogs. They ignored her attempts to finish off the mummy and continued yipping or snarling or whatever weird merger of noises puppies did when murdering undead.

I poked my head out the hallway and glanced to the right. Two shamblers limped toward us.

In the other direction, a large ugly messed up table careened back down the hall. StoneMason’s baby face peeked out from under a leg, or arm. Their path headed straight toward us.

“What?” Rose said from behind me.

Five dogs and Rose piled on my back. I couldn’t keep my footing, even with the staff as a prop. My body went into the hallway, right in front of StoneMason and the boss’s freight train charge.

StoneMason screamed. I saw red eyes and bulging veins. His damage had reached critical levels. A small red symbol I recognized was by his health bar. I’d had the same one on my [Barbarian] version of Friday. He was enraged, berserking, going crazy. He’d keep doing that until he regained some hit points.

I reached out and attempted to get a heal going. The room spun and yips pierced through. Some clattered and it sounded like a gunshot. I tensed and grabbed the staff tighter. [I’m so confused here… you said the table already fell on him and he was pinned down, but the next line has them going down again.]My weapon’s tip caught on some part of the hall. The two shamblers behind us were piled onto the reckless charge. Rose yelled.

StoneMason’s charge was too fast. The staff was cumbersome. Down we went, in a bad dog pile. Two flailing mummies served as my cushion, while the possessed table mockery squished me like a frail piece of lettuce in a sandwich.

Both arms were pinned and the staff clattered out of reach. My health bar dropped. My feet might be tough enough to handle the pressure. I propped one up and attempted to push myself out of the pile by using a wall.

My stomach rumbled. StoneMason’s arm was in reach and one limb worked. I traced out the healing spell. That was my job and I’d had enough practice ignoring my needs to follow training. Even fifteen years after leaving the service, I could still focus under fire.

My own red bar continued to cruise down. I jerked a leg and pain hit me. It felt as though my limbs were impaled. Rose and StoneMason were above me, hammering away at the dining room devil creature. StoneMason’s eyes still red as he hit over and over with his fists.

Each shock hurt me more. The mummies below gasped and cried out. I bent my hand in hopes of getting [Branch Of Healing] going on myself. It didn’t work. My eyes drifted to the party bars.

Johnny was perfectly fine. StoneMason’s health was going back up. Rose had reached full. Even our competition points were in the right direction.

But based on the pain and my bar, I’d be out of the game and they’d be alone.

“You owe me a drink,” I said with the last of my breath.

The pack of dogs barked and yipped. Tiny fangs tugged on an ear. Wetness licked my bare feet. Everything went black, and I logged out to solve my rumbling stomach and bladder issues.

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