The morning sun rose in the valley, driving back the deep mist that blanketed the forest. Thorn watched with fascination as the mist retreated around him, melting under the warm rays of the sun. He looked over his shoulder at Velin and Mina. The elven War Priestess looked as unperturbed as always, pouring over something in her notebook. Mina, on the other hand, was grumbling under her breath about everything that her eyes fell on.
Amused, Thorn turned back to look at the stone spire peeking over the trees ahead. They had left the inn before the sun was up at Velin’s insistence. Thorn had been planning to sleep in, but Velin had argued that an earlier start would ensure that they would be able to complete their quest before nightfall. Truthfully, sleeping in was more of a habit than anything else, as the time-dilation in Nova Terra made it easy for players to stay up for multiple days at a time, so neither Thorn nor Velin took Mina’s grumbles seriously.
With a blue flash, Thorn’s furry battle pet appeared, chattering excitedly and jumping to his shoulder.
“Master, master! Where are we going today?”
“Hey, Akira.” Scratching behind her ears, Thorn stroked Akira’s head. “We’ve got a big day ahead of us and a lot of work for you to do, okay? You’ll need to be at the top of your game, alright?”
“Hah, of course.” Akira wiggled her three tails in excitement. “I am the best ailuridae, so of course I’ll be amazing.”
Smiling, Thorn turned back to look at Velin, who was still going over her notes. Rather than bothering her, Thorn pulled out the rest of his breakfast and began to eat it in earnest. He had found a virtual shop in Fantasia that sold breakfast burritos, so he bought three hundred of them. Kept warm and fresh by his inventory, he had been enjoying them for breakfast over the last couple days.
Watching Thorn eat a full burrito in two bites, Mina could only stare, her appetite disappearing. There was something off-putting about watching food being thrown into the bottomless pit that Thorn called a stomach.
“Don’t you ever stop eating?”
Ignoring Mina, Thorn continued eating his breakfast burritos, only stopping after he had finished his tenth. Velin had finished what she was doing and walked up to stand beside him, her tall, slim figure only coming up to the bottom of his chest.
“This might be pretty tricky, but I think we have a good shot at completing this quest in one day, if we can focus. It will depend on a few things. First, is this a dungeon or just a field quest? A field quest is any normal quest. We can stop and start a field quest as we want, because the environment is not locked like a dungeon. If, on the other hand, this quest is in a dungeon, we will have to try and power through it in one go.
“Second, how strong are the basic werewolves? If they are all as dangerous as that Gargish you told us about then, we are in a lot of trouble. However, I believe that Gargish, the Blood Hunter, was actually Gargish Moonclaw, the former Lord Greymane. That would explain why you got the ring and quest from him. It would also indicate that we have some hope, as it is unlikely that the regular werewolves will be as strong as he was.
“Still, we are going to have to pay careful attention to how many werewolves we pull at one time. This leads us to the third and fourth points, the two potions that we picked up from Charles this morning. The scent erasure potion will last for four hours, while the attraction potions can each be used five times. We have five of each potion, so we will have to ration them wisely.”
“So each use of an attraction potion needs to attract four werewolves on average? Are we going to be able to deal with four werewolves?” Thorn asked, scratching his head.
“Given your track record so far, I don’t think it will be an issue.” Velin smiled. “The larger concern is the density of the distribution of werewolves and the layout of the castle.”
“Are you two done yet?” From the side, Mina frowned unhappily at Thorn and Velin. “Why do you have to over-plan everything? Thorn, just smash them while Velin heals you. I’ll slow them down or shoot them full of holes. What’s so hard? I mean, this is a game, right?”
“Fair.” Thorn shrugged. “Mina has a good point. We are probably better off just rolling with whatever situations crop up.”
“Agreed. I would, however, recommend that we use the scent erasing potion before we get any closer to the keep.” Velin put away her notebook and withdrew four blue potions, handing one each to Mina and Thorn, and uncorking another for Akira.
Looking at the glowing blue liquid in the vial, Thorn had the strangest impression that his life was never going to be the same again. For so long, his reality had plodded along, mostly unchanging. And now he was standing in a mist covered forest, about to drink a blue, glowing, magic potion before assaulting a castle full of werewolves in order to reclaim a giant wolf god’s statue. How life changed.
Grinning, Thorn downed the potion in a single gulp.
You have consumed a magical potion that erases your scent. For the next four hours, your body and anything you are wearing will not produce any scent. This potion can be consumed once every four hours.
Racial Trait: Titan’s Endurance
Due to your natural resistance to physical conditions, the duration of the [Scentless] potion you just consumed has been reduced to one hour.
“Well. That sucks,” Thorn muttered, reading the second notification again.
“I have natural resistance,” Thorn sighed, sharing the second notification with the curious witch.
“Are you serious? Is that your racial trait? Gross.” Mina shook her head. “Velin, he has resistance to magic potions. Actually, it looks like he has resistance to most physical effects.”
“I have resistance to mental effects, as well.” Thorn smiled smugly, sharing his [Titan’s Strength] racial trait.
“Literally disgusting.” Mina rolled her eyes at his boasting.
“If that potion is only going to last for an hour, we better get moving.” Velin started toward the keep, carefully writing down the descriptions of Thorn’s racial traits as she walked.
Within minutes of setting out, they approached the road leading up to the keep. Built on the ruins of the Temple of the Moon, Greymane Keep was perched on the side of a mountain, a single dirt road rising steeply from the forest up to the mist-shrouded castle. The keep was a gloomy, gothic-looking place, overgrown with ivy and in complete disrepair. Despite the bright morning sun, the mist surrounding the keep seemed to be a permanent fixture, lending it a spooky air.
Climbing the rough switchback road, Thorn and the others soon found themselves in the shadow of its southern wall. Looking at the crumbling stone and weed-ridden gate, Mina could not help but shiver.
“Master, are you sure you want this place? It smells funny,” said Akira, jumping down from Thorn’s shoulder and sniffing the fallen rubble.
“Eh, even if I don’t keep it, clearing out the werewolves will be good for the village. And who knows, something good might come of it.”
“If you say so.”
The keep lacked a proper moat, but there was a deep pit at the edge of the wall running underneath an old wooden drawbridge that looked like it would snap in a stiff breeze. Nervous, Thorn tested it carefully before putting his full weight onto it. Though it groaned in protest, the bridge held, so Thorn whispered a quick prayer and tried to walk as lightly as he could.
The four carefully crossed the rotting wooden drawbridge as a few shafts of sunlight broke through the heavy clouds, bathing the castle in a warm, golden glow. Almost instantly, Akira’s mood brightened, and she began to frolic through the tall grass and overgrown shrubbery. Thorn watched her with an amused look. He had never had a pet before, so this was a completely novel experience for him. An experience that he was quite enjoying.
While the sun did much to dispel the gloom of the castle, it was evident that the gloom wouldn’t give up without a fight. Seeping from the castle was a dark grey miasma that seemed to actively battle the sunlight, preventing it from reaching inside. Thorn walked up to the castle’s gate and looked at it curiously.
Despite the age of the castle, the gate seemed in relatively good shape, not showing the same rot that the drawbridge did. Pushing hard on one of the doors, Thorn managed to get it open wide enough for the girls before the door caught on a rock.
“Hold on, let me see what it is caught on.” Mina pushed Thorn to the side and squeezed in through the opening in the doors.
“Alright, but be careful. Yell if there are any enemies.”
After a moment of silence, Mina called back through the entrance in a quiet voice, “Umm, we may have some trouble.”
“What is going on? Mina?” Not getting a response to her question, Velin squeezed through the small opening in the doors. Waiting outside, Thorn had no way of seeing what was happening in the courtyard of the keep.
Hearing Velin’s yell, Thorn instantly sprang into action. Gripping the partially opened door, he heaved, the muscles in his shoulders and arms rippling as he exerted all his strength.
With a thunderous sound, the thick, wooden castle gate splintered, shattering into pieces as Thorn ripped it from its hinges. Taking a long step past the ruined gate into the courtyard, Thorn saw a group of werewolves bounding across the yard of the keep toward Mina, who was desperately warding off a werewolf in a tattered blue uniform. Near her, Velin struggled with another, similarly dressed werewolf.
At the sight of the werewolves, a deep, burning anger ignited in Thorn’s chest, sending his brain into overdrive. Roaring a challenge, the titan crouched slightly and launched himself into the air, flying toward the charging werewolves. Easily clearing the struggling girls, Thorn summoned his [Avatar of the Wolf] ability. As he flew through the air, silver light rippled around him, flowing like quicksilver around his hands and chest. Landing with a bang, the stone courtyard cracked and crumbled under his tremendous weight.
Still carrying a jagged piece of the keep’s gate, Thorn roared out another challenge and threw the piece of the gate at the approaching werewolves. Dodging nimbly, the three werewolves all got past it without getting hit, but it still slowed them. Taking advantage of the drop in momentum, Thorn charged into them, his large, clawed gauntlet taking a chunk of flesh from a werewolf who was still in the air, unable to dodge his swipe. Growling, the werewolves launched themselves at Thorn, entirely fearless, tangling him up in a furious melee.
“Akira, support Velin and Mina!” Thorn shouted.
Behind him, Velin was still struggling with the werewolf that had ambushed her, while Mina blinked this way and that, leading the last werewolf on a nerve-wracking chase. Squeaking furiously, Akira ran around on the edge of the fight, making sure to stay clear of the struggling players and out of the werewolves’ reach.
Velin, dodging skillfully out of the way of a fierce strike, lifted her staff, chanting in an arcane language. A bright glow burst from her staff, temporarily robbing her attacker of sight. When the light faded, it revealed the elven War Priestess clothed in thick platemail, made entirely from burning light.
No longer dodging, Velin accepted a strike from the enraged werewolf as she focused on the magic gathering at the tip of her staff. Sensing the growing danger, the werewolf attacked as furiously as it could, smashing against the glowing armor that surrounded Velin. Unable to cut through in time, the werewolf felt a sharp, burning pain rip through its stomach and looked down in horror, only to see its legs melting away under the intense light radiating from the end of Velin’s staff.
Across the yard, Mina was haphazardly dodging and teleporting, just barely staying ahead of the razor sharp claws and snapping teeth of the werewolf that had ambushed her. Her teleporting ability had a two second cooldown, so after teleporting, she would summon a trail of ice and slide along it, occasionally flicking out ice spikes that would jab into her attacker, leaving thin, bloody trails across his skin.
Knowing she could not keep it up, Mina gritted her teeth and looked around, her eyes lighting up as she spotted Akira, who was squeaking at the side. Slipping closer, Mina yelled, “Heal me!”
As an Ice Witch, the majority of Mina’s spells were quick to cast but weaker in power and would be used in bulk to overwhelm her enemies. Unfortunately, in order to cast most of her offensive spells, she needed to activate her [Aspect of Winter] ability, which was going to be painful since she did not have the initiative in this fight. If she wanted to get her footing back, she would have to bleed a bit. Gritting her teeth and hoping that Thorn’s battle pet could understand her, Mina abandoned her defense and readied her wand, a string of arcane syllables falling from her lips.
Howling in triumph, the attacking werewolf ripped into her, sending her flying as its claws left bloody gouges across her chest. Gloating, it was about to pounce on her when the temperature dropped dangerously low, causing its motions to freeze up.
“Sub Zero.” Her voice as bitterly cold as her spell, Mina rose to her feet, feeling the warm magic from Akira’s Royal Grace ability closing her wounds. Finally ready to fight, Mina gripped her wand and pointed at the stunned werewolf. It was her turn.
At first, Thorn was worried that the werewolves would be too much for their group to handle, but he quickly realized that they were quite similar to the five corrupted wolves he had fought in the valley a few days ago.
Large, hunched, and shaggy, the werewolves looked like overgrown, feral wolfkin. Knotted muscles covered in scars and mangy fur dominated their frame, broken only by their sharp claws and teeth. They were neither as quick or as strong as Thorn remembered Gargish, the Blood Hunter, had been and they were not particularly clever, either.
Despite the fact that he was facing off against three of them, Thorn quickly fell into a solid rhythm when he realized that he did not have to be afraid of their hits. Their claws had trouble with his armor, while his cut through them like a hot knife through butter. Growling furiously, one of the werewolves lunged forward, its maw opening wide. Sharp teeth glistened in the morning sunlight as its foul breath washed over Thorn.
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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.