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The large room was divided into three rough sections, each marked out by iron pillars, as thick as Thorn’s wrist, sunk into the stone floor. Attached to each pillar were three sets of heavy-duty chains suspending skeletons in various states of decay. Along the walls of the room dangled the corpses of prisoners and various instruments of torture. Directly in the center of the room, a thick, rusty iron spike stood a full six feet tall with a skeleton impaled upon it.

Stepping into the room, Thorn focused his gaze across the floor at a hulking brute of a monster, squatting on two back legs while it gnawed its way through chainmail armor to get at the flesh of the corpse it was feasting on. When Thorn and the girls came into the room, the monstrosity looked up at them and then slowly stood, rising to a full eight feet of pure muscle and horror. Metallic-looking fur covered its body, and its razor-sharp claws were easily as long as Mina’s forearm. Saliva dripping from its maw, the greater werewolf grinned, its bloody muzzle creating a terrifying picture.

"Looks like we have a guest," slurred the creature, tossing the remains of the adventurer it had been chewing on to the side. Without warning, it threw back its head and howled, a long echoing sound ringing around the keep. In response, howls erupted from every corner of the second floor, and the hurried sound of werewolves rushing toward them became quite clear.

Within seconds, the room began to fill with werewolves, surrounding the group on three sides. As they pushed in, jostling for position, a large metal gate fell from the ceiling, cutting off the path back down the stairs and pushing them toward the center of the room. Their backs to a wall and with no escape, Thorn took a big breath.

Mina and Velin had started chanting as soon as the greater werewolf howled, and as the door behind them came down, Thorn sprang into action, decisively rushing forward, determined to keep the werewolves from gaining any momentum.

Surprised by Thorn's move, the greater werewolf roared out in anger, "Kill him!"

Jumping into the group, Thorn began to lash out with his tetsubo as fast as he could, each blow containing all the force he could muster. If he couldn't disable a large percentage of the werewolves in this first rush, he knew that they would be in a lot of trouble. As the werewolves reacted and started to pile on, it became increasingly difficult for him to swing, as he had no room.

Monsters flew through the air, skulls smashed and limbs bent, but as soon as Thorn managed to move one away, two would press into its place, their sharp claws reaching toward him. Thorn grimaced in pain as a claw caught his back, ripping through his leather armor and gouging his skin. Thankfully, Velin’s warm healing light landed on him at the same time. Squirming slightly at the strange feeling of being injured and healed at the same time, Thorn spun quickly. He threw out a sharp hook, blasting the werewolf that struck him into another, its mangled snout spraying blood and saliva through the air.

A snap kick drove another werewolf back, directly into an iron post but at the cost of another gash on Thorn's shoulder. The monsters were simply too numerous for him to avoid, especially if he wanted to attack, and as the brawl continued, more and more cuts appeared on his flesh.

Back near the door, Mina was sending out a storm of snow and ice, trying her best to bog down the werewolves at the edges of the fight while using barrages of ice spikes to drive back the werewolves that approached her and Velin. Seeing a werewolf jumping for Thorn’s neck, she pointed.

“[Sub Zero]!”

The pouncing werewolf froze solid and Thorn, feeling the cold air behind him, turned and backhanded it across the room, where it shattered against the wall. As the struggle continued, Thorn swung his tetsubo with abandon, smashing down everything that came into its range. Finally, unable to bare the strain of the chaotic fight, his weapon snapped off at the handle. Tossing away the broken handle, Thorn began to lash out with punches and kicks as fast as he could.

It was a deadly whirlwind of bone-crushing kicks and punches, razor-sharp claws and snapping jaws. Countless werewolves fell, but no matter how many Thorn crushed into the ground, more jumped forward to strike at him. Additionally, the longer he fought, the faster he seemed to lose his energy, despite Velin’s healing. Sparing a glance down, he could see blood soaking his armor, new wounds opening up even as others closed under the warm light. With the sight of the blood came the sure knowledge that, unless the fight ended soon, he would be experiencing his second death in Nova Terra.

“Thorn, I can’t keep up!” Velin shouted, desperately trying to heal Thorn through all the damage. The bloody streaks appeared on Thorn’s massive form faster than her light could heal him, causing his health to fall steadily. Every strike from the werewolves stacked a bleeding condition onto Thorn, and Velin’s condition clearing spell was on cooldown.

While Thorn was struggling in the middle of the brawl, Akira was hiding behind Mina, trying to stay out of sight of the werewolves. As a support battle pet, she was no match for the monsters in a direct fight and thought it much safer to keep a distance. As she watched Thorn smash through the werewolves, worry began to grow. She watched as, slowly but surely, Thorn became sluggish and began to take more hits as his fatigue built up.

Wanting to help, Akira rushed out and darted up an unsuspecting werewolf's back, launching herself through the air while calling up her most powerful support spell, [Majesty]. A spell unique to Royal Ailuridae, [Majesty] imbued a target with a majestic glow, drawing those around them in and providing various buffs to their stats. However, most important was the fact that, when cast, it removed all negative status effects on the target while restoring them to perfect health. In this case, it cleared Thorn's bleeding condition and put his health back to full.

Akira was so focused on casting her spell that she failed to notice the large black claw coming toward her side until it cut through her fur. With a shriek, she fell to the ground, barely rolling out of the way as another strike came down at her head.

Thorn felt his fatigue suddenly vanish when Akira jumped, but it wasn't until he heard her shriek that he understood what had happened. Seeing her disappear under the roiling sea of monsters, his stomach jumped straight into his throat and a frenzy filled him.

[Wolf's Rage] triggered on its own, filling Thorn with a savage power. Throwing his head back, Thorn instinctively activated [Wolf Lord’s Howl], the shockwave of sound stunning all of the werewolves. Still howling, he sprang into the dense pile of monsters, blasting them away with a swift flurry of punches and kicks. Failing to move them fast enough, he saw Akira surface again, bleeding from where she had been struck, desperate to get away from the werewolves, only to be struck again by a heavy claw, her battered body flying back toward the wall.

Just as she was about to hit the wall, a bright light fell on her, its warm glow healing her wounds and waking her from her stunned state. Scrambling, Akira quickly hid behind Mina, who furiously blasted the werewolf that had been chasing the ailuridae into a popsicle. Squeaking furiously, Akira shivered, frightened by her close brush with death.

Never more thankful for teammates, seeing Akira nearly get cut down pierced Thorn’s heart, poking a hole in the thick wall that he used to shield his emotions from others. Like a dam bursting, those feelings spewed forth, unleashing a wrath he had not known he possessed. A feral growl escaped his clenched teeth, and a bloody glow shone in his eyes.

Grabbing a werewolf by the throat, he began to swing it like a club, smashing into the other werewolves without any regard for defense. Large gashes began to reappear in his skin as the monsters slashed and snapped at him, but Thorn paid them no mind, simply grinding any werewolves who got close into paste.

His eyes saw only the outlines of his enemies within a red mist, and his hands sought them out without rest, gouging, crushing, striking and maiming. No matter how many werewolves came forward, Thorn pressed on mindlessly, slaughtering them however he could.

Within minutes, a somber silence descended on the room, broken only by Thorn’s hoarse breathing and the rasping breath of the greater werewolf, who was staring at him in bemused astonishment. When Thorn had entered the room, the greater werewolf had summoned the remainder of its kin from around the castle to deal with him, only to be surprised by the ferocity with which Thorn slaughtered them.

Behind Thorn, Mina stared in shock, her mouth open. Catching sight of Thorn’s bloodshot eyes as he looked around for more enemies to shred, the Ice Witch could not suppress a shudder. Thorn had just gone through almost thirty werewolves like a meat grinder, and the raw savagery of it caused her to shake.

Velin stood behind Mina, her brow furrowed. Despite the worry that was evident on her face, she did not forget to heal Thorn, doing her best to bring him back up to full health. Sensing that Mina was about to call out, Velin grabbed her, placing a hand over the shorter girl’s mouth.

“Shh. Don’t draw his attention. Something is wrong.” Velin whispered, her eyes fixed on Thorn’s broad back.

The greater werewolf wasn't concerned with the deaths of its kin; they would reappear as long as the curse continued. Rather, the greater werewolf was just surprised that Thorn had managed to make it through all 33 of the werewolves it had called and still remain standing. Bleeding from a dozen serious gashes, it was a miracle that Thorn hadn't collapsed long ago.

Thorn, for his part, still wasn't thinking properly. Having given into his anger, all of the sorrow, loneliness, fear, and worry that he had stored up in his heart throughout his life began to burn, serving as fuel for his rage. The 16 years of suppressed emotion was pouring out, feeding the flames of his anger until it was an all-consuming blaze.

Leaning heavily on the iron spike in the center of the room, the only things keeping him from sprinting forward were his iron self-control and his fearsome grip on top of the metal spike. Looking around at the corpses surrounding him, Thorn could feel the murderous drive to rip into the greater werewolf trying to control him.

His gaze eventually settled on the greater werewolf, who was beginning to slowly make his way toward him from the throne. As the boss monster broke into a charge, one of the few remaining parts of Thorn's mind that possessed restraint recognized the danger and let go, sending him hurtling to meet the greater werewolf.

Issuing a roar of superhuman force, Thorn met the boss' charge. With an ear-shattering boom, they collided, sending dust and blood flying. Smashing a fist into the greater werewolf’s chest, Thorn felt a razor-sharp claw pierce his chest in return, and only a desperate twist of his body prevented it from cutting into his heart. Still, the fury gripping him did not let him back down as he threw blow after blow at the greater werewolf, forcing it back.

Snarling, the greater werewolf slipped to the side, striking again. Its razor-sharp claws cut into him. Fiery pain erupted in his chest as blood spurted out, soaking the front of his body in gore. Darkness began to creep into his vision, and Thorn could feel his strength draining quickly in spite of Velin’s attempts to heal him. Yet, in the haze of his fading consciousness, a stubborn ember glowed, refusing to be extinguished.

Scenes from his childhood flashed across his eyes as the world grew dark. At three, already tall enough to look out over the window sill at the kids playing outside, unable to leave the house due to his condition. Age six, blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, only his aunt and nurse there to celebrate. The stark white walls of the hospital where the doctors finally put a name and description to his condition the day after his ninth birthday. The lonely hours that stretched into days, weeks, and months when his aunt was away on business.

All his life he had been alone, isolated and protected from the world and anything that could harm him, protected from himself most of all. And now that he had the chance to experience true freedom, the monster in front of him was trying to take it all away. Intellectually, Thorn knew that giving in to his unbelievable fatigue would simply send him back to the spawn room, a simple rebirth of his avatar.

Yet, for whatever reason, Thorn could not tolerate the thought of it. The ember of resistance that burned in his soul ignited, and his slipping hands tightened on the massive spike he was leaning on. Peering through the haze at the wavering figure of the leering werewolf, who had just stabbed him, Thorn grimaced in pain, and his hand closed over the massive claw that impaled him, holding it fast as if letting go meant the end of everything. The ember burst into flame, a flame that raged through him, forcing a low rumble out of his chest as he straightened up from his slumped position.

The greater werewolf simply couldn’t believe his eyes as before him the gore-slicked figure held on with a desperation that was out of this world. The fearsome grip crushed the bones in the werewolf’s wrist, yet no matter how it struggled, it could not break free. It watched in growing horror as the monster who had walked into its lair began to straighten up.

Looking into Thorn’s eyes, it saw nothing but the mad promise of death, and its instincts kicked in, forcing it into a mad scramble backward. The greater werewolf was used to firmly occupying the highest spot on the food chain, but right now it felt like nothing more than a rabbit being hunted. Or rather, the greater werewolf would have scrambled backward if his claw was not caught firmly by Thorn’s hand.

Thorn, barely aware of his actions, continued to hold onto the struggling werewolf, his right arm straining at the firmly planted metal spike in the center of the stone floor. Heaving upwards with a herculean effort, the veins on his arm bulging, Thorn’s strength overcame the spike, and he ripped it from the floor. Thorn hoisted it like a giant club, bringing it down on the now whimpering werewolf with tremendous force that crushed its skull like an egg, blood and brain matter coating the impromptu weapon.

*Ding*

Greater Werewolf defeated: You have gained the favor of Hati. [Wolf Hide] Unlocked

 

Ability: Avatar of the Wolf

Because you carry the essence of the Moon Wolf, you have gained the form of the wolf. As you grow, you can adopt features of the Moon Wolf Form.


Wolf Claws: You gain the Claws of the Moon Wolf

Wolf Hide: You gain the Armor of the Moon Wolf

Wolf's Rage: You gain the Strength and Speed of the Moon Wolf

Wolf Helm [locked]

Wolf Form [locked]

 

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A note from WildCard

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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About the author

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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