“Get back to the hallway!” Thorn yelled, his deep voice booming through the great room. As quickly as possible, the three players ran back toward the hallway they had emerged from, Akira bounding ahead. Thomas had warned them to only use a bit of the attraction potion at a time since it was so potent, so Thorn could only imagine what dropping a whole bottle would do.
It was not long before he found out. Shortly after they made it to the entrance of the great hall, Thorn picked up the faint howls. From all around the castle, the chilling sound echoed. Within moments, Thorn could make out the grunts and growls of the werewolves as they began to pour into the large hall.
Werewolves bounded into the room from three of the four other entrances, their noses twitching. Dressed in a ragged collection of armor and uniforms, it was obvious that these werewolves had, at one point, been guards of Greymane Keep. Now twisted into monsters, the werewolves rushed into the great hall, sniffing the air as they came.
Grey, black, and brown fur mixed together as the werewolves were drawn like magnets to the place Mina had tripped. Almost uncontrollably, they crowded around, pushing to be the closest to the puddle on the ground. Fangs and claws flashed in the light as the werewolves jostled for position.
Not wanting to let this chance go to waste, Thorn knelt down and drew his arbalest, placing a pile of massive bolts against the wall next to him. The werewolves were so tightly clumped together that Thorn only had to aim in their general direction to guarantee that he would hit one. With a deep breath, he got ready to fire.
The City Defender series looked normal in Thorn’s hands, but standing next to it, Mina was once again struck by how absurdly large the siege crossbow was. Intended for use on a castle wall to defend against enemy siege weapons, the bolts were almost as tall as she was, and the metal bow was almost five inches thick at the center.
Normally, it would take at least three men to handle it while it was mounted on the wall yet, Thorn handled it like a normal crossbow. Due to Thorn’s modifications, the winch system was removed, making it impossible to draw without strength as insane as Thorn’s.
About to pull the trigger, Thorn felt a hand on his shoulder and paused. Velin walked forward quietly, muttering a spell subvocally as her long, elegant fingers brushed over the tips of the bolts, infusing them with a golden glow. Once she had finished casting her spell, she nodded at Thorn and stepped behind him again, readying a healing spell.
With another deep breath, Thorn pulled the trigger on the City Defender, the powerful thrumm of the string rumbling in the hallway. Without looking to see if he hit anything, Thorn grabbed his next bolt and slid it into place, pulling back the metal string of the arbalest at the same time. Almost as soon as the bolt was in place, he steadied the massive crossbow and pulled the trigger again, at the same time reaching for the third bolt.
Across the great hall, pandemonium reigned. The werewolves had not missed the loud noise of the arbalest firing, but none of them had immediately spotted Thorn and the girls in the entrance to the hall. Instead, they looked around in confusion for a split second. Their confusion did not last long though, as they soon felt the massive crossbow bolt that Thorn had fired ripping its way through their crowd.
The first werewolf the bolt hit simply exploded into pieces as the force of the bolt hit its back. The second werewolf was luckier and only lost an arm and a chunk of skin from its side as the bolt deflected. Spinning with brutal force, the bolt smashed into another group of werewolves, breaking bones and throwing them to the floor. Furious howls of pain mixed with the cries of surprise as all of the werewolves fixed their eyes on the bolt that had shattered against the floor after slamming through the crowd.
The sound of a second bolt shocked the crowd of werewolves out of their stunned state, and they instantly began to scatter. Yet how could they be faster than the arbalest bolt? Two more unlucky werewolves were hit and died instantly.
Not pausing, Thorn drew and fired the City Defender like a machine. So long as he aimed at a werewolf and pulled the trigger, the poor monster would vanish in a puff of red as the bolt passed through its location. Scrambling to get out of the way, the werewolves soon discovered Thorn’s figure kneeling in the entrance to the great hall, and with furious howls, they began to charge.
“Mina!” Velin shouted, pointing to a clump of werewolves charging over from the right side of the hall.
“[Avalanche],” the witch commanded, summoning a massive swirl of snow and ice in the path of the charging werewolves.
Releasing one last bolt, Thorn put the arbalest in his inventory and drew his tetsubo, launching himself forward into the large hall. Like a freight train, he plowed over the werewolves who were leading the charge, his sheer weight smashing them to the side. Already, he could feel the warmth of Velin’s healing spells landing on his back.
Grinning ferociously, Thorn began to lay about with his tetsubo. With a whir, the large metal-studded club cut through the air so fast that it almost disappeared. Even grazing a werewolf proved enough to draw blood, and those that were unfortunate enough to be in the weapon’s direct path simply ceased to exist.
Cutting his way through the werewolves in front of the hall, Thorn checked quickly to make sure that the girls were alright before charging left with a roar. His glance had showed that the werewolves that Mina had tied up were struggling to get past her crowd control spells, giving him time to finish off the enemies on the other side.
Mina was casting icy spell after icy spell, slowing the charging werewolves to a crawl. Next to her, the elven War Priestess cast healing spells in succession, making sure that Thorn’s health was staying topped up. This freed Thorn to attack with abandon, trading hits with the werewolves. The muted pain settings made even the most vicious cut feel like a sting, so Thorn’s intimate experience with suffering allowed him to ignore the attacks entirely.
Within minutes, he had cleared two thirds of the room and turned to support, Mina who was beginning to struggle to keep the werewolves back. Thorn helped by picking up one of the long tables and lobbing it through the air at them, forcing them to dodge backwards. Charging forward, he smashed the last few werewolves apart and then walked back to where Mina and Velin were standing in the doorway. Akira, hanging on Mina’s back, jumped up to Thorn’s broad shoulder.
“Master! I helped the pointy hat lady!”
“Thanks, Akira.” Thorn scratched his battle pet behind the ears as he talked to Mina and Velin. “How did it go on your end?”
“Great! Akira was a big help. Her heal is a full restore, which allows me to cast without worrying about mana drain.” Mina looked at Thorn’s furry pet enviously. “Are you sure you don’t want to sell her?”
“No way.” Thorn shook his head as he fed Akira a treat. “Velin, you were totally right. I’m much better at offense than I am at defense. It was helpful to not have to worry about defending while fighting.”
“Yes, that went much better. We’ll keep this pattern for now. The only thing we will need to worry about is if we get surrounded, but as long as we don’t let enemies get behind us, we should be fine.”
After resting for a moment, Thorn and Mina sifted through the drops while Velin meditated. With Akira using her healing ability on Mina, and Velin keeping Thorn topped up, they did not have to do much resting between fights. Velin, on the other hand, was using mana like water and needed almost ten minutes before she was ready to go again.
After picking up the drops, Thorn checked the hallways one by one, starting with the three hallways from which the werewolves had come. All three hallways led to empty rooms, abandoned in haste as the werewolves had picked up the smell of the potion. The last entrance had a thick, wooden door, so Thorn carefully eased the door open, revealing a hallway filled with cobwebs. From the undisturbed dust coating the floor, it was obvious that the hall hadn't been used in a long time, but soon the group came to a room with another werewolf in it.
The monster raised its head as Thorn opened the door. Seeing each other at the same time, it started to turn toward him. Without hesitation, Thorn stepped up and, feet squared, jabbed out with his left hand as fast as he could, completely flattening the werewolf's snout and crushing its jaw. He followed up with wrapping his right hand around its neck, choking the rising howl of pain and then smashed his left fist into its head again, silencing the monster for good.
It quickly evaporated into light, dropping a few coins, and Thorn examined his left gauntlet, which had been dented very slightly from the werewolf's teeth. Jabs worked quite well due to his absurd strength, but he didn't like the idea of harming his gear whenever he attacked an opponent.
Shrugging, since there was nothing he could currently do, Thorn and the girls continued on their way. Apart from a close call when they walked around the corner into a three-werewolf patrol, Thorn didn't have too much trouble swiftly killing the werewolves they encountered. Mina would obstruct them, and Thorn would wade forward and stomp them into the ground, all the while healed by Velin.
There were no more large fights on the first floor, and they had soon finished exploring it. Standing in front of the stairs to the second floor, Velin stopped the group.
“Before we go up to the second floor, we need to prepare. It has been three hours since we took our potions, which means Thorn’s has run out, and ours have less than a quarter left. This means we need to prepare for waves of enemies, since they will be able to sniff us out. We can set up a trap, but we will have to be very careful that we don’t attract the boss. Based on the size of the keep, it is unlikely that the dungeon is more than two floors, so we will probably be facing the boss on the next level, as well as all of the other werewolves.”
“Do we need to change up our approach?” Thorn asked, when Velin paused.
“No, I think we can maintain our current system, we just need to be ready to retreat if things start to go bad. These werewolves are not too dangerous because their defenses are weak. But if they do get hits in on me or Mina, we’ll be in trouble.”
“And this is why most people still run in the trinity formation,” Mina chimed in.
“Tank, heals, damage.” Mina rolled her eyes at Thorn’s question. “There can be more than three in the group, but the roles are pretty locked when it comes to combat. On the other hand, we’ve got damage out the window, but not having someone to control aggro is a major weakness. A tank’s role is less about taking damage, and more about controlling where enemies attack.”
“That is true. Ouroboros was really good at that.” Thorn nodded. More and more he was feeling the effect of not having a class. Even though he had abilities granted through his Avatar title, he was missing a lot of the basic abilities that came with even the standard classes.
Resolving to make getting a class his priority, Thorn sat down with the girls and took a quick break. Getting out a few sandwiches that he had purchased in town and a large jug of iced tea, they ate and chatted. Thorn had gotten better at asking questions about the game, and Mina was always happy to chatter on about anything, so Thorn was able to put their breaks to good use.
After conversing for ten minutes, they were fully rested. Getting up, Thorn brushed some crumbs off his pants and called Akira, who had been fighting with Mina over a couple cookies. Seeing that everyone was ready, he led the way up the stairs to the second floor of the dungeon. As they walked up the curling staircase, Thorn checked the status of his quest.
Lord of Greymane
Elder Thomas, the Greymane Village leader, has asked you to break the curse hanging over these lands in order to claim your position as the Lord of Greymane. In order to break the curse, 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.
0/1 Greater Werewolf
Title: Lord Greymane
Area: Greymane Castle
Area: Fang Forest
Area: Greymane Village
Area: The Twins
Thirty-three werewolves and a greater werewolf left, thought Thorn. Easily enough to provide a fatal challenge for the three of them should they not proceed carefully. Climbing up the dark stone staircase, Thorn could not help but marvel at the texture of the stone as he ran his armored fingers across the wall. Watching his fingers bounce along the slight inconsistencies, Thorn still found it hard to believe that all of this was just a game. More and more, he was beginning to treat this world as real.
The more he learned about Nova Terra, the less it seemed like a game, or a way to pass his time. Intellectually, he knew that his body was stuck in a giant tube, being treated by an advanced form of nanobots while his mind wandered around in this fantasy world. Yet everyday, he woke up and ate, talked and fought, growing more at home in this virtual space. He could feel his mind adapting to the new rules of his body, and a small part of him was wondering if he would be able to adapt to life in his real body ever again.
Hearing the tink, tink, tink of his gauntlets on the stone blocks, Thorn felt a poke and suddenly realized that Velin was glaring at him. Sheepishly, he took his hand back and walked as quietly as he could up the stairs. The top of the stairs led directly into a massive room, and it didn't take the party long to realize that something was off.
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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.