“The whole situation is pretty complicated.” Flashing a brief smile as a greeting, Velin immediately launched into her explanation when her image appeared next to Mina’s in the video chat. “I ran across a story that talked about a group called the Night Walkers. From what I could figure out, they were followers of Hati and were a monastic order based out of the area where you are currently. There was no mention of Greymane Keep, but there was a mention of the Temple of the Night, a monastery fortress from which the Night Walkers operated.
“The reason I say that this is complicated is because the leader of the fortress was also the Lord of the valley, and held a position of political importance. Anyway, what I want to say is that there may be an opportunity to pick up a class or something related to the Night Walkers, and more importantly, a class related to the Lord of the valley.”
“Why would that be such a big deal?” Thorn asked impassively, hiding his astonishment at Velin’s conjecture. This lady was a bit too sharp sometimes.
“Land. Wolfkin are not currently a playable race, but we’ve seen this pattern before in Nova Terra. The game introduces a few players to the race, gives out a few quests specific to them, and then unlocks them as a playable race with a specific start area. There is huge economic advantage to controlling starter areas, especially starter areas that come with a unique race. It could turn into nothing, but if what I think is true, there are going to be a lot of guilds eyeing this area soon.”
“Alright. Let’s think of a plan. Mina said you are on your way, right?”
“Yes. We should be there in three days.”
“Cool, come to Greymane village when you get here. I bought a map that I’ll send to you.”
Saying goodbye, Thorn could only shake his head. He had not told the elven War Priestess about his title or the content of his quest, but she had still dug up so much information it was scary. Even worse, if she could find it, it was likely that there were others who could do the same.
Thorn had not given it much thought, but in the back of his mind he was worried about Angdrin and his Crimson Snakes. After two encounters that both turned out poorly for the member of Ragnarok, it seemed likely that Thorn had made an enemy. Combined with the fact that he was now running around with two former members of Ragnarok and a grudge against another one of their officers, Thorn could see himself getting into conflict with the powerful guild easily.
While he had not done much research on the subject, Thorn had suspected that the quest he was on was going to end in opening up this territory for players. According to what Velin had said, the primary means of making money for guilds was controlling territory. If his instincts were correct, this path would paint a giant target on his already large back.
Since all of this was only speculation at this point, Thorn put these things aside and continued his search for herbs. The forest was quiet, and Akira was staying ahead of him, jumping from branch to branch. Every once in awhile, Thorn would come across a plant that looked like an herb and would get out [The Complete Alchemist], a book that he had looted from the abandoned wolfkin city.
Comparing the plant against the pictures, he would try and determine if it was worth anything. If it looked like an herb of any sort, he would carefully dig it out and store it in his inventory before continuing his search.
After six hours of walking through the woods, Thorn had found 2 Wolfsbane and 3 Silverleaf. He had picked up a number of other plants that seemed valuable as well, but he was a far cry from what he needed for the potions. It was getting into the mid-afternoon, so he stopped to eat and then decided to venture a bit farther out. According to his book, both Zimph root and Blue Bells liked more sunlight, so he thought he would have better luck along the edge of the forest where the valley started to rise.
The old timber of the forest was spread out enough that Thorn did not have any trouble weaving through the tall trees, allowing him to arrive at the eastern edge of the forest with plenty of daylight left. He scoured the edge of the forest, successfully digging out seven Zimph roots. Or at least, he assumed they were Zimph roots. While he had a book to compare to, he really had no experience with plants, so he was sort of guessing.
As Thorn put away the last of the roots, Akira came zipping back, dashing from tree to tree until she was above Thorn’s head.
“Master, master! There are big smelly wolves ahead! There are bunches of them! They have a gross cave and everything!”
“Whoa, calm down Akira. Where are they?”
“Up ahead, I can show you. You should bash them so they leave and stop making the forest smelly! Come on, come on!” Turning on her heel, the furry ailuridae dashed off again, almost disappearing from sight as she rushed ahead.
“Hey, slow down. How am I supposed to follow you like that?”
“Master, you are too slow! What if they leave? Then you can’t bash them!”
Shaking his head, Thorn followed behind his battle pet. After walking for a few minutes, Thorn saw Akira crouched on a branch, peering around a tree. Trying to move as quietly as possible, Thorn moved up to the trunk of the tree, peeking his head around it. Ahead of him, three large, corrupted wolves lounged in front of a small cave carved into the side of the hill.
Akira scampered down the tree, climbing out on Thorn’s broad shoulder to whisper into his ear, “Master, there are six smelly wolves.”
“I only see three.”
“I smell six different, gross smells. I have the best nose, so you can trust me.” Akira patted Thorn’s head comfortingly with her tiny claws.
“Okay, let’s sneak up on them,” Thorn whispered back, pulling his arbalest out of his inventory and loading it as quietly as he could.
“Uh, master, that doesn’t seem like it is going to work.”
“Why not? If we sneak up on them, we might be able to take a couple of them down before they can react.”
“But, master, you are too loud.”
“You sound like an earth dragon when you walk, master. Even when you tiptoe.” Akira looked at Thorn innocently. “Or, if not an earth dragon, then maybe a whole herd of big deer. Really big deer. Or moose.”
“Wait, so they know we are here?” Thorn planted his face into his hand. “Then why are we whispering?”
“I’m not sure, master, but you were doing it, so I did it too.”
“But why are those three not responding to us? Oh, wait. It is so the others can flank us, right?” Turning his head, Thorn could make out three large, corrupted wolves stalking silently through the trees behind him. “Hah. Akira, in the future, if someone or something is trying to sneak up on us, please let me know.”
“Okay, master, I can do that.”
Judging the distance, Thorn knew he would not get more than one shot with his arbalest, so he readied his tetsubo in his other hand. He had been debating the effectiveness of the mace-like weapon versus fighting unarmed and had found it better when dealing with multiple enemies, but now was not the time to debate that.
The corrupted wolves, seeing him turn around, paused, the largest of the group taking an aggressive step forward to stare at him. Lifting its head, it barked out a sharp command, sending its two companions farther out to the side to flank Thorn’s position.
“Master, the smelly dogs by the cave got up. I think they are coming over.” Akira had jumped back up in the tree and was watching the wolves by the cave.
“Okay, I got it. Stay up in the tree and don’t get near the fight, okay?”
Now completely surrounded, Thorn’s eyes narrowed. This was the worst possible situation. These corrupted wolves were bigger than the ones he had fought outside of Berum by almost fifty percent. The spikes growing from their shoulders were heavier, their claws longer, and a faint rotting stench drifted from their panting mouths.
It was obvious from their attempted ambush that these corrupted wolves were smarter, as well. They had neatly encircled Thorn, putting him at a serious disadvantage. Quickly considering his options, Thorn knew that he needed to break out. His body tensed as he glanced to each side. The wolves flanking him were both smaller than the leader by almost a foot, so Thorn decided to go left. Just as he was about to launch himself forward, a thought drifted into his mind, causing him to fix his eyes on the largest wolf.
If he went left or right, the three wolves closing in from the cave would be able to attack him from the side, while the enormous wolf leader would attack him from the other, keeping him in his current situation. And if the wolf he targeted backed up or delayed him, he would still be completely surrounded.
If that was the case, it might be better to just crush the biggest corrupted wolf in the pack; maybe that would intimidate the others. Settling on this new plan in a split second, Thorn launched himself forward, dashing straight toward the corrupted wolf leader. As he moved, his massive crossbow swung to the side and, with a loud hiss, the bolt blurred through the air, burying itself in the chest of the corrupted wolf on the left.
Thorn’s massive frame barreled forward, moving significantly faster than one would expect from something his size. The corrupted wolf leader, startled by Thorn’s charge, was not interested in backing down and, with a howl, charged out to meet him, its fetid maw opened wide.
The sharp howls of the four remaining wolves rang out behind Thorn, mixed with Akira’s sharp chittering, but he ignored all of it, focusing all of his attention on the muscular bundle of razor sharp teeth and claws in front of him. Just before they smashed into each other, the giant corrupted wolf launched itself into the air, swinging wildly with its claws.
Thorn planted himself, his left foot driving into the ground as he got ready to swing, hitting the ground so hard that his foot actually sank into the dirt. Thorn swung his tetsubo with all the strength he could muster, smashing it into the leaping wolf’s shoulder and side. With a yelp, the corrupted wolf abruptly changed direction, pinballing through the forest, smashing into trees as Thorn’s blow sent it flying.
Using the follow through of his swing, Thorn turned around just in time to see another corrupted wolf jumping at him. With a roar, Thorn dropped his tetsubo and caught the wolf around the throat with his right hand, smashing it into the ground. He hissed in pain as the flailing claws of the creature dragged gouges up his arm, mentally cursing himself for not having equipped his armor.
With no time to spare for his bleeding wounds, he grabbed his tetsubo from the ground and smashed the wolf’s head in with the butt end, stepping over the corpse to meet the three approaching wolves. Despite Thorn’s show of force, the corrupted wolves showed nothing but madness in their eyes as they charged him. Fury, excitement, anticipation, and a whole host of other feelings began to build in Thorn’s chest as he readied himself. There was something in this bloody, dangerous conflict that he loved.
Knowing that he was not going to get out of this fight unscathed, Thorn threw caution to the wind and thundered forward, his weapon swinging. A few tense moments later, he had successfully crushed another corrupted wolf but at the price of a wicked-looking cut along his ribs and back.
The last two corrupted wolves had learned nothing from their dead companions and lunged forward, their jaws snapping. Jumping to the side to avoid them, Thorn smashed through them, his tetsubo whirling as Master Sun had taught him. Locked in the deadly dance, Thorn focused on defending against the two corrupted wolves. Just as he had learned, he spun and blocked, smashing out with attacks when he was able.
The wolves snapped at him, dodging back as best as they could. Not letting up, Thorn pressed forward, breaking the neck of one corrupted wolf with a smashing blow. The last corrupted wolf stood no chance on its own and, while it managed to maul Thorn’s arm with its last desperate attack, it died soon after.
Breathing out heavily, Thorn stood on the blood-splattered, torn up ground, his heart rate slowly calming down. The fight had been intense, but he had made it through mostly unscathed. Nothing that wouldn’t heal with a bit of rest, at least. The corrupted wolves had been unexpectedly difficult to fight. They were stronger and bigger than the corrupted wolves he had fought before, and smarter as well.
If it had not been for his conversation with Akira, they may have succeeded in their attempt to ambush Thorn, which would have been even more dangerous.
“Master! Watch out!”
Snapped out of his thoughts, Thorn felt a sharp, piercing pain as the corrupted wolf leader sank its teeth into his back!
Support "Nova Terra: Titan"
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.