Ouroboros crouched down at the corner while Jorge slipped into the shadows on the opposite side of the corridor, seeming to melt into thin air. Behind Ouroboros was Mina, who readied her damage spells, while Velin stepped back about twenty-five feet and got ready to heal whoever needed it. Thorn crouched down half way between Mina and Velin with his arbalest at the ready.
Coming around the corner, the wolfkin never knew what hit them. As soon as the first two heads appeared, Mina let loose an ice spell, sending sharp shards of ice into them. Startled by the sudden assault, the rest of the wolfkin rushed around the corner to try and see who had cast the spell only to get pushed back by Ouroboros with his massive shield. This disoriented them enough that Jorge could jump from the shadows and begin cutting them down from behind while Velin cast a bulwark spell on Ouroboros. Within seconds all six of the monsters were bleeding out on the ground without being able to get off more than a yip.
As soon as the last mob hit the floor, its head crushed by a shield bash, Ouroboros waved Mina and Thorn forward saying, "Sweep and Clean, 30 seconds." Running forward, Thorn picked up all the fallen gear and the few coins that had fallen and watched in surprise as Jorge completely dismantled the six dead wolfkin in a whirlwind fashion. Before the 30 seconds were up, Thorn found himself holding the six hides that Jorge had recovered while Jorge was off again, scouting ahead. The efficiency of the group was staggering and proved to Thorn that he did have a long way to go to reach the level of these experienced players.
As the group moved forward again, Mina smirked at Thorn. "Haha, that look on your face is priceless. Now you know what it takes to be considered an elite player. Then again, we're pretty much the best, so don't expect other groups to match us," she said.
"No kidding. You guys have always worked well, but that was next level. I didn't even get to fire. How did you get so good?"
"Haaa," Mina sighed, "you don't want to know. Let me just say Ouroboros is a training demon. When we all started the game, he had us doing the most ridiculous things in order to get our teamwork down. Nova Terra gives hidden bonuses for how well you operate as a unit, so Ouroboros beat teamwork into us until we hit the point where it was instinctual. Plus, once you get used to the mob patterns, it isn't hard to come up with a good strategy."
"Mina!" barked Ouroboros, glaring at the petite redhead.
"Eeep! Sorry, boss, my mouth's sealed," said Mina. "Sorry, noob, can't give away our secrets."
"Oh, no problem," responded Thorn with a wave of his hand. "I didn't mean to pry."
After that, the group sped up, working their way through a few more patrols. Ouroboros began to push the group faster to the point that Thorn barely had time to toss the gear into his inventory before the next group of mobs was being taken down. They soon got to a large, open room where, Jorge reported, the second-floor boss and the main contingent of wolfkin were hanging out.
Almost without waiting for Jorge to finish speaking, Ouroboros called out, "Jorge, flank right, and focus healers. Velin on me, Mina go wild," and charged straight into the large room. He was moving so fast that the first couple of black-robed wolfkin to notice him were run over, getting crushed by his heavy metal boots. With a shout, he drew all attention to himself as Velin dropped a full set of buffs on him, making his shining armor and shield glow with holy light. Howling their surprise and anger, the large group of wolfkin drew their weapons and rushed forward, right into range for Mina to drop a metric ton of ice and snow on them.
"Avalanche!" Mina yelled, and then, muttering an incantation under her breath, she disappeared in a flash and reappeared behind two wolfkin struggling to dig themselves out of the waist-high snow that had been dumped on them, shoving two giant icicles through the back of their necks. With a gleeful laugh, she disappeared again, only to appear somewhere else to finish off another helpless wolfkin with her ice spikes.
In the back of the cave, an old wolfkin wielding a skull-topped cane screeched his displeasure and raised his cane toward Mina. Opening his mouth to bark out his chant, nothing emerged except for a wet gurgle and, in astonishment, he looked down to find frothing blood leaking from a neat hole in his windpipe and Jorge shoving a stiletto into his kidney.
After his initial rush forward, Ouroboros gave a loud shout and smashed his shield into the ground, where it stood upright. Transitioning his sword into a two-handed grip, he sprang forward, cutting down wolfkin left and right as if they were nothing but wisps of mist. Behind him, Velin stepped forward to the shield, almost as if she was stepping up to a pulpit, and began to speak arcane words. Powerful waves of energy rolled forth from her tongue as she preached victory for her friends and doom for their enemies.
In short, it was an utter slaughter as the four experienced adventurers rolled over the horde of wolfkin like a tidal wave. It was nothing like the fight on the first floor. Seeing a high skill party in action was an absolute treat, as far as Thorn was concerned, but it also highlighted the skill gap between him and them. Once they were serious, the gap became a canyon. Noticing that the wolfkin were all but dead, he sprang into action, gathering all the fallen loot and arranging the bodies so that Jorge could skin them.
After killing the last mob with a backhand swing, Ouroboros came back to where Thorn was and said, "Thorn, there is a slight change of plans. We are actually making better time than I thought we were going to, so I'd like to push into the third level right away. How are you doing on weight?"
"I’m fine." Thorn looked over his inventory. "I'm actually pretty empty, since most of what I've been picking up stacks."
"Awesome. You good for continuing?"
"Anyone else need a rest? Great, let's sweep and clean and get moving, folks." Sheathing his sword, Ouroboros walked toward the back wall and began to fiddle with some levers, soon revealing a dark staircase going up. Once they had looted the room, the group headed up to the third level, Jorge creeping ahead of the group to make sure the way was clear.
As the soft glow of Valen's magical light revealed the cracked rock walls covered in lichen, Thorn couldn't help but grin. The thrill of adventure made him happy to no end and getting to experience this was beyond a dream come true.
Once they made it to the top of the stairs, the party stopped and reorganized. Once again, Jorge disappeared down the hallway, only to come running back.
"Five skeleton warriors and two archers patrolling up ahead."
"Okay, swap up." Hearing that their enemies had changed, the group reorganized with Ouroboros taking point, Velin standing behind him, Mina and Thorn in the middle, and, finally, Jorge taking up the rear. As everyone prepped, Mina began to weave a strange spell, dark mist curling up from the floor. Taking out a small knife, she cut the tip of each of her fingers on her left hand and pressed a bleeding finger to each party member's forehead, having to jump to try and mark Thorn.
A faint, dark blue line attached to each of them, linking the whole group together in a web with Mina at the center. Seeing Thorn's interested look, she giggled. "I'm a Witch, not a Priest, so I don't heal. Since I only have self-heals, I use the power of sacrifice to move damage from one of you to me and then heal myself. That way you can continue to fight."
"Doesn't that hurt?"
"Meh, it's not bad. More of a tingle."
"Alright, let's get moving," Ouroboros cut in. Once he saw that everyone was ready, he led the way down the hall, toward the skeleton patrol. Like the fights on the second floor, this one was over before Thorn could get involved. As soon as he saw the skeletons, Ouroboros charged toward them, knocking them back against the stone wall as he shoved his way into the center of the group. At the same time, Velin chanted a spell, pointing at Ouroboros' armored back. A dense holy light fell on the Holy Guardian and radiance spilled from him in a ring, destroying the skeletons as soon as it touched them.
Within seconds, the skeleton patrol fell apart, unable to withstand the powerful holy energy radiating from Ouroboros. Behind the patrol, there was a large door and, opening it, they stepped into an old tomb that looked like it had not been opened for years. Dusty statues graced each side of a wide hall, and large cobwebs covered everything. As soon as the group was within the hall, the door slammed shut with a boom that sent dust flying into the air.
Out of the darkness glowing red eyes appeared one after another, and a slow shuffling sound brought them closer. Dark forms soon became visible as a horde of bone figures closed in on the group. Ouroboros slung his shield across his back and tightened up his grip on his sword. "Anytime you're ready, Velin."
Without a word, Velin reached out a hand to touch the knight and, with a low chant, began to imbue him with a holy blessing. As the light grew, so too did the volume of the chant until it rolled thunderously around the chamber. Reaching a crashing crescendo, Velin spat out the last word of the chant.She immediately began to chant again while Ouroboros dashed out toward the waiting horde, his great blade swinging in a magnificent arc, crushing bones like twigs.
Two slashes brought him deep into the center of the skeleton horde. As his second swing ended, Velin finished her second chant and pointed her finger at him, calling out "Burst!" in a loud voice. A pulse of light blasted out from Ouroboros, obliterating all of the skeletons around him in a spectacular fashion. The rest of the skeletons were cleaned up and, after looting everything, the group moved forward.
The tomb didn't seem to present any major challenge to the team, and they got deeper and deeper into the catacombs. Finally, they reached another large door, and Ouroboros stopped the group.
"Alright, I am guessing the boss is through here. We've done well so far and lucked out that there was no ambush, but that’s no reason to let our guard down. Thorn, you've been a big help in keeping us moving, so thank you. A couple things to pay attention to. First, this floor has not been very challenging at all, so it is likely that all the difficulty is at the boss. Second, it is a bit strange that we are running into undead. I know I mentioned that we might, but that was a guess based on the way the wolfkin are dressed and the fact that it might be a corrupted temple.
"If this is actually where Davyos betrayed his god and got the power of the Devil Blood Berserker, then it is likely that the final boss we are going to fight will be Karrandaras, the Betrayer. He is an archdevil and is pretty powerful. Good news is that it is very hard for an archdevil to actually manifest itself in this world, so it will not be a direct fight.
"Like all archdevils, his M.O. is going to be based on a competition of power and benefits, so we may be able to get away without a fight at all. Remember that the goal is to get classes, so we may need to cut a deal with him."
"Can we trust an archdevil?" Thorn asked.
"Sort of. You can trust them to be true to their nature, which is to squeeze every possible benefit they can from you. But devils tend to be on the lawful side, even if it is lawful evil," Velin replied.
"Okay, everyone ready?" Ouroboros asked. Once everyone nodded, he pushed open the door.
The room they walked into looked like a large cathedral, with giant stone pillars, stretching to the ceiling, running up each side of the room. The stone tile floor was open, except for a small platform with an altar. Approaching the altar, the group spread out, walking cautiously and looking for traps.
Finally, they stood in front of the altar, which seemed to be made out of a dark, rust-colored stone. Asking for the silver religious symbol that the last boss had dropped from Thorn, Ouroboros knelt and fit it into a depression on the front of the altar, jumping backward as the altar flared with a malevolent light. Swirling crimson lights burst from the dark wood, gathering into a strange, bloody-looking spirit.
[WHO HASS COME HERE?!] boomed the spirit, its voice sending chills down Thorn's spine.
"I am Ouroboros, and I have journeyed far to find you," replied the Holy Guardian, his tone calm, considering the terrifying aura the spirit emitted.
[HAVE YOU!? AND WHAT ISS IT THAT YOU SSEEK, OUROBOROSS!?]
"Power. Power of the Blood."
[AHHAHAHA!] cackled the spirit. [VERY WELL, MORTAL! LET USS SSEE IF YOU ARE WORTHY!]
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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.