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Expecting to sink his teeth into warm, soft flesh, the werewolf was stunned when, instead, it got a mouth full of hard metal. Hard metal with claws on the end. Thorn caught the lunging werewolf by the open mouth, large fingers wrapping around its head, his meaty hand preventing its jaws from being able to shut.

Shocked at not being able to close its mouth, the werewolf struggled briefly until Thorn clenched his hand, ending its life. The two other attacking werewolves could not help but pause. While they were mostly fearless, watching the giant in front of them deal effortlessly with their companion put a damper on their aggression. Cautiously, they circled, unsure how they could hurt him.

Sneering, Thorn threw the carcass in his hand at one werewolf while drawing his tetsubo from his inventory and lunging at the other. His weapon hummed through the air, smashing into the side of his target, sending the unfortunate monster flying through the air until the crumbling stone wall stopped it abruptly. The last werewolf, dodging out of the way of its companion’s corpse, tried to take the opportunity to attack, only to feel an unstoppable pressure crushing down on its head.

Not bothering to check if the last werewolf he just slapped down was still alive, Thorn turned to see how the girls were doing in time to see Velin burning the legs off her opponent. Wincing, Thorn reinforced his conviction to never get on the War Priestess’ wrong side. Across the yard, Mina had just taken control of her fight, stunning the attacking werewolf with her [Sub Zero] spell.

Seeing that Mina’s ice spikes were not dealing a lot of damage, Thorn started over, only to see Mina wave her wand. The number of ice spikes abruptly increased, pounding down on the werewolf in an unending storm. Soon, the little that remained of the monster was buried under a pile of ice.

“You ladies alright?”

“Yes, thanks to your quick response.” Velin looked around carefully before dispelling her magic armor. Obviously exhausted, she sat down abruptly.

“What happened?”

“When I first came in, I saw some werewolves come out of the keep.” Mina walked over, carrying Akira. “The three you fought. They did not see me, so I was going to try and get closer, but I was ambushed. Thankfully, Velin saw the two ‘guards’ as they jumped me and was able to pull one of them away. I’m sorry, I almost ruined everything because I wasn’t prepared.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Thorn waved a hand, wiping his other gauntlet off on one of the dead werewolves. Cleaning up the bodies while the girls rested from the adrenaline-packed fight, Thorn did not bother trying to skin the werewolves. Three of the werewolves had been crushed, burned, or ripped apart, and the other two were pretty badly damaged as well.

After ten minutes, Velin had recovered, and they made their way into the keep itself. As they were resting, Thorn had kept a close watch on the entrance to the keep, assuming that the loud sound he made smashing the courtyard gate open would have drawn other enemies, but no beasts appeared, leading Velin to mention that the keep might actually be a dungeon.

Sure enough, as they walked into the keep’s entrance, Thorn got a popup.

*ding*

Dungeon: Greymane Keep

You have discovered Greymane Keep. Built on the ruins of the Temple of the Moon, Greymane Keep has been infested with evil werewolves, spreading corruption to the surrounding area. Proceed at your own risk.


Curious, Thorn pulled up the quest that Thomas had given him.

Quest Updated - Lord of Greymane

Elder Thomas, the Greymane Village leader, has asked you to break the curse hanging over these lands by claiming your position as the Lord of Greymane. To break the curse, you must sit in the Wolf Throne while wearing the Ring of the Wolf Lord. As an added requirement, defeat all of the werewolves in the castle.


5/100 Werewolves

0/1 Greater Werewolf


Rewards:

Title: Lord Greymane Unlocked

Area: Greymane Keep

Area: Fang Forest

Area: Greymane Village

Area: The Twins


Noting that the five werewolves that they had killed in the courtyard counted toward the quest, Thorn nodded in satisfaction. The burning desire to wipe out the werewolves grew hotter, and he could not help but crack his knuckles.

“Whoa, slow down, big guy.” Mina tugged on his arm ineffectually as he walked through the staging room at the dungeon entrance. “We need to come up with some sort of plan.”

“Weren’t you the one who just wanted to deal with problems as they came up?”

Mina ignored his teasing, turning to look at Velin.

“Mina is right. We need a plan. We have the potions that will attract the werewolves, and it would be a complete waste to not use them with these narrow hallways.”

Following her pointing finger, Thorn took in the dark stone hallway at the end of the room. Wide enough for him to pass through if he ducked, Thorn immediately understood Velin’s intention. It would be a relatively simple matter for him to block off the tunnel and deal with any werewolves that tried to attack him. Backed up by Velin and Akira’s healing and Mina’s ice spells and curses, Thorn was confident in being able to wipe out a thousand werewolves, let alone the 95 they needed to kill for the quest.

“Sounds good. But we will need to make sure we don’t let any werewolves get behind us. We’ll have to clear slowly.” Lighting a torch, Thorn led the way, trying to stay as quiet as possible.

The flickering torch light reflecting off of the dark grey stone that made up the walls of the keep set the tone of the dungeon expedition perfectly. As stealthily as possible, they moved down the dark hallway, until Akira remarked dryly, “Master, you realize that sneaking around while holding a torch is pretty pointless, right?”

Blushing slightly at his stupidity, Thorn quickly put the torch out, explaining Akira’s comment to Velin and Mina, causing them to chuckle. He continued to lead through the hallway, stepping over rubble and around deteriorating furniture.

Quite soon, they came to a large room dominated by rotting tables and benches. The center of the hall featured a large fire pit, a rusty spit and roasting rack hanging over it. Moth-eaten tapestries hung from the vaulted ceiling, and place settings lay scattered on the floor. Chairs were overturned, and the sickening smell of rotten meat permeated the air. Thorn could only imagine how grand it had looked at one time.

However, what really drew Thorn’s attention were the four werewolves who had been ripping apart a human body that lay on one of the tables across the room. For a moment, Thorn and the four simply stared at each other, then with piercing howls, they threw away their meal and rushed him.

Anticipating their movement, Thorn took a large step forward and hooked one of the tables with his foot. With a flick, the table tumbled through the air toward the oncoming werewolves, forcing them to dodge and granting Thorn and the girls a few more seconds. They bounded across the room, jumping over tables and passed chairs, their glistening teeth and claws straight out of a horror film. Motioning the girls back, Thorn retreated until he stood in the hallway, just outside the threshold of the great room.

Within less than a second, the first werewolf reached him and pounced, when suddenly everything seemed to slow down, just like it had when Gargish jumped him. Feeling all of his senses sharpen exponentially, Thorn blinked in confusion at the slow motion pounce coming closer and closer. It was as if everything within the range of his senses came into sharp relief, categorized neatly in his head.

He knew the number of chairs in the room, could count the stones in the wall to his left and was absolutely sure where the leap was going to take the werewolf. It wasn’t until he was halfway through counting the werewolf’s teeth that he remembered that the monster was trying to disembowel him, and the tetsubo in his hand shot forward in a straight stab.

Calculating the werewolf’s trajectory, Thorn pushed himself back slightly and then stabbed up as fast as he could. Everything sped back up, and the werewolf ran into the end of the tetsubo with a dull thud and a screech of pain. Rolling with it, Thorn stepped forward and thrust his tetsubo into the center of the werewolf’s heart a second time.

Blood dripped to the floor as the struggling monster was thrown off to the side. Crouching slightly, Thorn got ready to take on the others. He barely had time to take a defensive stance before the next one reached him, throwing a rapid series of slashes. Pushing into his opponent, Thorn managed to block most of the damage with his arms and shoulders but earned himself some deep lacerations for his efforts. Seeing the werewolf trying to back up, Thorn helped it along by snapping a kick into its stomach, watching it as it blasted backward, crushing a table before it hit the stone wall.

Watching proved to be a mistake, as the third and fourth werewolves hit him at the same time, one trying to bite into his shoulder as the other tried to gouge out his side with wicked looking claws. A cold blast raced past Thorn’s side as Mina jumped into the fight, stunning one of the werewolves.

Seeing that the werewolf at his side had been dealt with, Thorn instinctively reached out and grabbed the head of the other werewolf and ripped it off his shoulder before throwing the startled monster at the wall so hard its skull shattered. As for the last werewolf, it only had time to gape in stunned astonishment before a fist smashed its head back, snapping its vertebrae like twigs.

Now bleeding profusely from his shoulder and side, Thorn could feel the familiar weakness creeping in. Thankfully, Velin was quick with a healing spell and, in no time, warm energy filled him again.

“We seriously need to work on our coordination.” Velin’s voice was flat as she healed Thorn. “And you need to pay more attention. I noticed you looking away in the middle of the fight. While you have a lot of advantages, lethal strikes will still kill you outright.”

As Thorn continued to heal up, Velin explained that, due to the realism of Nova Terra, attacks did not deal a set amount of damage, instead health represented the state of the individual’s body. As damage accumulated, so did fatigue, making it harder to act the more damage a person took. This didn’t mean that death would automatically come when an avatar’s health hit zero, instead, it would come when the avatar succumbed to its fatigue.

This allowed characters to launch devastating sneak attacks by targeting critical areas. A critical strike would overwhelm the target with a powerful burst of pain and fatigue, killing the player and logging them out of Nova Terra.

The encounter that Thorn had with the four werewolves took only a few seconds, but it showcased exactly how lethal Nova Terra was. Not only were all four werewolves dead, but Thorn could easily have died as well. A bite to the shoulder was not that dangerous, but if the same attack had landed on his neck or head, it would have sent him out of the game instantly.

“Healing is strong, but my casts are not instant. If you get hit with a critical strike, you won’t last long enough for me to get a healing spell off. Since you are not a traditional tank, we need to set up some better patterns, as my normal ways of handling damage are not going to work with you.”

“Sure, what do you suggest?”

“Give me a moment.” Velin pulled out her notebook and started flipping through it while Thorn and Mina looted the bodies of the werewolves. After a few minutes, the elven Priestess snapped the book shut. “Here is the plan. Thorn, we are going to forgo the normal means of tanking. The hallways are too tight for you to swing your club around.”

“Tetsubo.”

“Sure. The hallways are too tight for you to swing your tetsubo, so we need to stay in open spaces like this one. Additionally, since you are able to kill the werewolves with a solid hit, why not turn offense into defense? We are going to revisit our ambush strategy, using this hall. Using the attraction potions that we were given, we will draw the werewolves back here, and then we will hit them. Preferably with a table or something like that.”

“Oooh, like a tower defense game!” Mina’s eyes glowed with excitement.

“Sort of. We want to lure the werewolves into the center of the room and then ambush them. There are five entrances to the hall. We can ignore the one we came through, leaving four, which means we either need to block off one, or someone has to handle two different hallways.”

“How about Akira?” Thorn scratched his head as he looked around the room. “She could run down a hallway to attract the werewolves’ attention.”

“Can she outrun a werewolf?”

“I’m honestly not sure.” Calling his battle pet over, Thorn stroked her fur as he questioned her. “Akira, can you outrun a werewolf?”

“Of course I can!” The little furry creature preened proudly. “I am the fastest Ailauride ever!”

“Uh huh. Well, she says she can.” Thorn shrugged his massive shoulders at Velin. “We can give it a try.”

“We should not need to do much running, as the potion should do most of the work for us.” Taking four of the potions out of her inventory, Velin handed them out. “Alright, the plan is simple. We will each walk halfway down a hallway and drop a bit of the potion. Try to get it on the wall. We’ll then wait to see who shows up. If no werewolves show up we will move to the 75% mark and repeat the process.

“Remember to retreat as soon as you apply it. We don’t want to get seperated. As soon as you have applied the potion, come back to that entrance.” Velin pointed to the doorway from which they had entered the great room. “We’ll stay in that hall until we see the werewolves, and then charge out to ambush them.”

“Sounds good.” Thorn nodded his head, holding a potion in his big hands. On a table, Akira crouched with a potion of her own.

“Haha, they won’t know what hit them,” Mina said, looking back at the others in excitement while she walked toward her hallway. Not paying attention, her foot caught on a rock, and she tripped, stumbling forward. Barely managing to get her feet under her, she finally stabilized, freezing as the glass bottle slipped from her hand and landed on the floor, shattering into a million pieces.

An astringent, bitter smell rose into the air as the potion splattered onto Mina. A large puddle spread out on the ground as she stared in horror at the mess she had made. Hearing the shatter, Thorn and Velin looked at each other for a moment and began to run.

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If you've enjoyed what you read and are interested in reading more, please consider supporting me on Patreon where you can read Book #1 and Book #2 and advanced chapters from Book #3. Come explore the world of Nova Terra and help me determine where the story goes.

You can find out more about me at sethring.com


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WildCard

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.

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