Thorn was still sitting by the fire looking through his in-game browser when the others returned. While it had been a full ten hours since they had logged out for Thorn, only an hour and a half had passed for them. Enough time to stretch, take a shower and grab something to eat. As for Thorn, he had been watching martial arts videos the entire time. However, before he could settle on a particular style, Mina and the others arrived at the camp. Closing the browser, he stood up to greet them, dwarfing even Ouroboros’ six feet.
"Geez, you are big," Mina complained, craning her neck to look up at Thorn's face. At 5' 3", she was just over half his height and barely came up to his belly button.
"Hey, Thorn," greeted Ouroboros. "You all rested up?"
Nodding, Thorn gathered all his stuff and put out the fire.
"Excellent. We're heading to the valley now. I'll explain on the way." Leading the group, Ouroboros started outlining the task at hand. "About ten miles out, there’s a small valley that is currently occupied by a few different tribes of kobolds. Normally they aren't a big issue because the tribes fight each other incessantly, but there are reports that they have united. Kobolds reproduce quickly, so they become a huge threat when they get organized.
"There have been reports of kobold Greater Shaman showing up, so we have been tasked with scouting the situation and killing the Greater Shaman. It is a five-man job, but our guild works in groups of four, so we thought it would be a good idea to bring a porter along. Oh, that reminds me. We haven't actually talked about our classes yet. I'm a Holy Guardian, Mina is an Ice Witch, Jorge is a Shadow Assassin, and Velin is a War Priestess."
"Wow, you all have classes? That is pretty impressive," commented Thorn.
Classes in Nova Terra were a rare and somewhat controversial part of the game. While the game put forth the claim that anyone could do anything in game, the ancient inheritances scattered around the land that allowed players to gain special classes were not available to everyone. These classes unlocked special abilities and paths that allowed the players who received them to grow into powerful characters.
Classes could be almost anything, and there were countless classes scattered throughout the game. Organized into three ranks, a class' strength was determined by the number of words in its name. Classes like Warrior, Priest, Mage, and Rogue, were common and could be acquired through specialized statues that could be collected from difficult dungeons. Each statue could, for a price, grant the class it was associated with to any number of people.
Rarer were two-word classes like Holy Guardian, Great Sage, Ghostly Warlock, and Master Thief. Two-word classes were powerful, uncommon, and granted from a limited number of mini-statues that were given as rewards for long quest chains. Every uncommon class holder was considered an elite of the highest order, and for Mina, Ouroboros, Velin, and Jorge to all be uncommon class holders showed that not only were they professional gamers, but they were among the best.
Smirking at Thorn's starstruck expression, Jorge looked at Thorn's monstrous frame and said, "What about you? You must have picked up a crazy class to get a body like that."
"Haha," laughed Thorn, embarrassed, "I'm pretty tall in real life."
"You must be almost seven feet tall!" exclaimed the normally quiet Velin after doing some quick math.
"Ha, she thinks I made myself taller," thought Thorn. "Still, that was some quick math."
"Haha, something like that." Changing the subject Thorn, asked about their classes. "Did you all have to complete long quests to get your classes? I heard that was the only way to get uncommon classes."
"Sort of. Ouroboros and I were able to do much of our quests together, which helped the whole thing go faster," said Mina. "Jorge got his on his own while Velin got hers when she joined Ragnarok."
"Mina, that's enough," said Ouroboros, shooting her a disapproving look.
"Oops, sorry. There goes my mouth again." Covering her mouth with an exaggerated grimace, she peeked at Thorn. "I shouldn't be talking about it. Top secret information and all that."
"I'm sorry, I didn’t realize it was private," said Thorn.
"No problem, it just isn't something that players go around talking about. To professional gamers, knowing someone's class is like having a guidebook to their capabilities, so you can imagine that people guard that information," replied Ouroboros with a wave. "Mina should know better. But I'm sure she would have blabbed it out even if you hadn’t asked."
Sticking her tongue out at Ouroboros, Mina grabbed Velin's arm and pulled her off to the side.
"Come on, Velin, let's walk over here away from all the stupid boys."
Worried that the atmosphere was going to get awkward, Thorn asked about the size of the valley they were going to, learning that it was about three miles wide and nine miles long. That reminded Mina of something that she had wanted to talk about, so she ran back over to Thorn's side, leaving Velin rolling her eyes.
Their trip did not take long, and the valley soon came into view. Stopping the party, Ouroboros laid out the plan.
"Based on our intel, there are six different tribes in the valley. At least three of them have a Shaman, so we will need to be aware while we are fighting them. The Greater Shaman is the main target this time, but we are not sure where he is; we’ll need to flush him out. The plan is to take down the three villages with Shaman to make the Greater Shaman mad. Jorge, you are in charge of clearing the path for us. It will be a pain if we alert the main camp, so no messing around, okay? Thorn, you'll stick with Mina, Velin, and me until we engage. Once we do, stay back until we’ve cleared the mobs, then pick up anything that drops. Oh, do you know how to skin animals?"
"I have never skinned anything before." Thorn shook his head.
"Okay, no problem. Mina, you are in charge of skinning after we clear. Try to show Thorn how as we are going," said Ouroboros, adjusting the large shield on his arm. Finished with the plan, he nodded to Jorge. "Let's go."
As soon as the words left his mouth, the entire air of the group changed. A deep calm settled over them as they prepared to move out. Jorge slipped into the forest, while Mina, not speaking for once, stepped close to Thorn. The two of them followed Ouroboros, whose friendly demeanor had chilled, a grim expression resting on his face. The only one who seemed unchanged was Velin, who continued following quietly as she had the whole time.
Every once in a while,, as they moved through the forest on the valley floor, Ouroboros would make adjustments in their direction. At first, Thorn did not recognize what was happening, but soon he realized that each time Ouroboros would make a change, a bird call would ring out. Furrowing his brows, he looked at Mina, who confirmed that the bird was actually Jorge.
Soon they began to see more evidence of Jorge's passing as they began to find fresh kobold corpses along their path. Goblin sized creatures, kobolds had a snout and ears like a dog and paws for feet. Their fur-covered skin was valuable in large enough quantity so Mina got to work, showing Thorn how to skin them, starting from the cut that Jorge had made on their neck or in their back. Despite her normally frivolous attitude, Mina was proficient at skinning, and after a couple demonstrations, Thorn had a good grasp of the basics. They continued on like this for a while before Ouroboros called for a halt.
"There should be a village up ahead. Jorge should be back after checking it out. Mina, we're going to go with a standard assault. Velin, the Shaman will be yours to deal with. If you have any issues, shout." Turning to look at Thorn, he smiled. "Thorn, all you need to do for the assault is watch. Kobolds are quite weak on their own but can be dangerous when they get into a group. Enough of them and their teeth and claws become a problem. The Shaman is a different story, though. Shamans have an annoying poison magic that is especially dangerous, so try to stay at least 100 feet back. That should keep you out of his range."
Nodding his head to indicate that he understood, Thorn followed behind the other three, his heartbeat speeding up. So far, he had only stumbled around Nova Terra, doing whatever came up. All of his encounters with enemies were with small groups, so he was interested to see how four people could handle an entire village of monsters. Plus, there was a lot of talk about how different elite players were from regular players, so he was excited to see how they would handle a large fight like this.
At the edge of the forest, a ramshackle wooden wall appeared before the group. From what Thorn could see, the wall, which stood about five feet tall, protected a few buildings that looked more like piles of junk, and a cave entrance. Dotted here and there were poles decorated with bones and feathers, giving the village a tribal feel.
Hearing another bird call, Ouroboros nodded to the others, and then, lowering his shield, he clashed his sword into it and charged! As his sword rang on the shield, a milky white wave spread out from him, covering the party in a white sheen, and Thorn received a notification that he had been blessed with Greater Fortitude.
Ouroboros charged forward like a freight train, his metal armor shining in the morning sun. At first, Thorn was a bit confused, as they were not near the gate, but that confusion was soon cleared up as he watched Ouroboros speeding up. Lowering his body behind his shield as he reached the wall, Ouroboros gave a roar and bashed his way right through the wooden palisade!
Wood splintered and flew through the air as Ouroboros crushed his way through the wall, clearing two screeching kobolds with a casual swing of his sword. The kobolds, caught off guard, went running this way and that as Ouroboros laid into them. Mina and Velin, who had reached the destroyed wall, began to attack as well, leaving Thorn standing on the edge of the forest.
Mina, raising a wand with a shining blue gem on the end began to whisper, pointing her wand at a group of kobolds, who were blanketed in a cold, sleeting rain. As the icy sludge covered the kobolds, the heat drained out of their limbs, slowing them down. Unable to shake off the freezing spell, the kobolds began to struggle, losing more and more body heat by the second. Within a few seconds, their struggles slowed and then ceased, leaving only cold corpses.
Waving her wand toward another group, Mina continued her whispering, leaving behind nothing but bodies. Meanwhile, Velin stood in between Mina and Ouroboros, who was cutting down any kobold foolish enough to get in range of his sword. Standing there calmly, Velin seemed to be waiting for something to happen.
Thorn, watching from behind, was stunned by the efficiency of the team. Ouroboros, after crashing through the wall, had advanced until he was about twenty feet into the camp, where he now stood, holding the point against increasing waves of kobold warriors. Mina and Velin had come in after him, with Mina standing closest to the wall.
Despite their best efforts, any kobold that tried to approach from the sides was met with Mina's freezing spell, creating a natural wall of frozen bodies and ground on either side of the team. This forced the kobolds who wanted to attack to rush toward Ouroboros' position, where they were chopped into pieces by his flashing sword.
When Thorn thought that the fight would end without any climax, an angry screech rose from the mouth of the cave as a kobold with red dyed fur and countless bone totems rushed out. Or tried to. As soon as the screech sounded, Velin, who had been standing between Ouroboros and Mina, lifted her staff. Chanting, a light began to gather on the end of her staff, creating a blinding glow.
Even standing a hundred feet behind her, Thorn could feel the danger emanating from the gathering energy. Unfortunately for the kobolds, their Shaman was either too far away or not sensitive enough because he continued to rush forward, waving a wand of his own. Velin finished charging her staff and, with the last word, thrust it toward the Shaman.
From the tip of the staff, a bright beam of light the width of a tree branch shot out, cutting toward the Shaman! With a guttural growl, the Shaman activated one of his totems, covering himself with a blazing flame shield. The beam of light blasted into the shield, causing it to shake wildly. Pausing the beam for a brief second, the shield was unable to handle the strength of Velin's attack, and with a bang, it exploded in a wave of flame. Continuing forward, the beam of light struck the Shaman in the chest, instantly burning a hole right through him!
The beam of white light left a charred hole in everything it touched. Looking at the smoking trail it left, Thorn couldn't help but gulp. What a powerful spell!
‘How about I don't get on her bad side,' Thorn thought to himself, throwing a glance at Velin, who was wiping a fine layer of sweat from her forehead.
After the Shaman's death, the fight ended almost abruptly as the now leaderless kobolds fell into even more disarray, rushing around in panic. Unable to see Jorge at first, Thorn was about to ask about him when he noticed a kobold on the edge of the village jerk, a gleaming knife tip protruding from its chest. As it fell to the ground, Jorge was revealed behind its back. As soon as he retrieved his knife, Jorge faded away, moving on to his next target.
"Hmmm, must be some sort of stealth ability related to his class. I wonder if it would work for me?" Thorn mused. He could imagine the chaos it would cause if he could turn invisible.
Seeing that the group was cleaning up the last of the kobolds, Thorn sprang into action, pulling some of the corpses that had no heads back from the group and beginning to skin and loot them. Having gotten used to the method that Mina had taught him, it only took a bit over an hour to process the entire village. Many of the kobold's bodies had been destroyed beyond redemption, but even so, Thorn was astounded at how fast the process went.
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Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.