Abandoning any pretense of defense, Ouroboros threw himself backwards as the head of the mace grew larger in his sight. It did not take a genius to know it was pure suicide to try and block one of Thorn’s full-powered strikes, so his only option was to dodge. Tumbling, Ouroboros did a backwards roll, coming to rest in a crouch, his sword held in front of him.
Thorn, unperturbed by his missed attack, shortened his grip and swung his mace around his head, maintaining the momentum of his strike. Bringing it down with increased force, he smashed it into the ground where Ouroboros had rested a moment before, blasting a crater in the already mangled battlefield. With a roar, he launched his mace sideways, hoping to catch Ouroboros before he could regain his balance.
Feeling the mace slide over his head with millimeters to spare, Ouroboros broke out in a cold sweat. If any of the whistling swings were to connect, he knew with certainty that he would not survive. Gritting his teeth under his helmet, grateful that his armor hid how difficult he was finding the fight already, Ouroboros activated one of his skills. In a flash of dark power, his armor blurred and he appeared twenty feet away.
“What was that?”Mina asked Velin, who stood at her side, their eyes locked on the fight taking place in front of the gate.
“Looks like Power Charge, or something similar. Probably a corrupted version of it. Possibly with an evasion effect? The Holy Guardian Power Charge skill had a micro-invulnerability effect, but evasion would make more sense considering the devil aspect of his new class.”
“With a quad category class, how many skills does he have? I don’t think this is going to go well.”
“Don’t give up hope yet.” Velin put her arm around Mina’s shoulders, pulling her in close. “Remember the greater werewolf in Greymane Keep? Thorn is just getting started.”
Down below, Thorn had stopped his attacks and turned to face Ouroboros.
“Running away? Not what I expected from a berserker.” His tone faintly mocking, Thorn pointed his weapon at Ouroboros. “Why don’t you show me that power that was worth betraying me for. Or is this all you have?”
“You want to see my power? Alright, I’ll show it to you. [Blood Rage].”
With a sharp sound, the plates on Ouroboros’ smooth black armor shattered, revealing crimson cracks that oozed blood. Like veins pumping blood, the red lines pulsed with a demonic glow, as if Ouroboros had stepped straight out of the underworld. A disgusting, bloody stench drifted from him, spreading out over the battlefield, causing those caught in its carrion embrace to feel nauseous.
Feeling the familiar disgust welling up in him, Thorn’s eyes narrowed. He had fought the Wolfkin Disciple corrupted by Karrandras in the Wolfkin village, but this feeling was on another level. Ouroboros’ corruption was so complete that, for a moment, Thorn felt like he was in the presence of the Arch Devil himself.
“You wanted to see how powerful I have become, right?” Ouroboros’ voice dripped with the promise of power, his calming words at odds with the murderous vibes radiating from his bloody figure. “[Blood Strike!]”
His armor pulsing with blood red light, Ouroboros dashed forward. The red light from his body streamed across the edge of his sword, granting it a barbaric aura. Rather than try and dodge the attack, Thorn stepped forward, smashing out with an attack of his own, determined to beat Ouroboros in a contest of strength.
With a thunderous sound, the weapons met, sending sparks flying. Without pausing for even a moment, the two warriors threw out another strike, their weapons smashing into each other again. With each earthshaking swing, they clashed, sending out shockwaves that sent ash and dust into the air, blurring their figures. Just as they were completely hidden by the cloud of debris, Ouroboros roared out.
“[Blood Splits the Earth!]”
Under the horrified gaze of the defenders, Thorn’s massive body flew backwards out of the cloud of ash and dust, the force of Ouroboros’ strike blasting away the flying dust. Tucking his body, Thorn rolled over on the ground, coming to a stop on one knee. A bloody mark crossed his chest where the attack had connected, the crimson red blood showing in stark contrast to his dark armor.
In front of the gate, Athena took a step forward, the murderous aura that had been growing around her suddenly spiking out of control. Just as she was about to act, Bluefire grabbed her arm, stopping her in place.
“Don’t. You can’t interfere. Besides, even if you could, he doesn’t need help yet.” The Society of Roses officer pointed her tonfa at Thorn, who had already started to move.
Before he had come to rest, Thorn was already changing directions. Sliding backwards on one knee, Thorn planted his right foot and launched himself back into the fight. Strength surged through his leg, propelling him through the air toward Ouroboros, who had given chase. With a low roar, Thorn unleashed his massive strength in a full powered strike, his massive metal mace ripping through the air with a piercing whine.
“[Blood Strike!]” Meeting the attack with a full powered strike of his own, Ouroboros tried to match Thorn with force. As their weapons collided, it was Ouroboros’ turn to go flying. The power behind Thorn’s attack was simply too much to overcome, and Ouroboros could only deal with the remaining force by throwing himself backwards. Despite his attempt to neutralize the power of the strike, Ouroboros struggled to maintain his balance as he flew through the air, staggering as he landed.
Charging forward, Thorn roared, his eyes turning red as his [Wolf's Rage] activated, granting Thorn a boost in his speed and strength. The increase in Thorn’s speed was abrupt and terrifying, carrying him right up to Ouroboros.
Still off balance, Ouroboros barely had time to get his weapon up when another brutal strike from Thorn landed on his side, sending him tumbling head over heels. Relentless, Thorn chased after him, forcing Ouroboros to use another of his skills.
Still in mid air, Ouroboros forcefully righted himself, a blood red ring bursting from him. The ring expanded, bouncing Thorn backwards, allowing Ouroboros a precious second to land on the ground and stabilize himself. But a second was all he got before Thorn was back on top of him, his mace swinging.
Watching Thorn rampage like an unstoppable beast, murmurs arose among the Blood Guard. They had never seen their leader so hard pressed before. His quad category class put him in an elite tier matched by only a few players, and his skill in combat was among the best in the game. Yet Thorn seemed to bat him around like a rag-doll.
“What is going on? Is the commander going to lose?” one of the Blood Guard asked the player next to him, clenching his fists. Unable to muster up a response, his companion just shook his head mutely as again and again Ouroboros was driven back by Thorn’s powerful strikes. Cheering broke out along the wall as the defenders watched their lord battling the enemy commander. Only Velin was silent, her face grave.
Noticing that the elven War Priestess was not cheering with the rest of them, Mina frowned, her enthusiasm dampening. It only took her a moment to see what was causing Velin such concern, and when she spotted it, her mood fell even further.
Ouroboros was being tossed around the battlefield, looking for all the world like he was seriously struggling against Thorn’s massive strength, but both Mina and Velin could tell that appearances were deceiving. Having spent countless hours fighting alongside him, they understood how accomplished Ouroboros was at tanking, and they could see him putting those skills into practice against Thorn. The angle of his blade, they way he moved around Thorn, the timing of his dodges, and his counter-attacks all worked in concert to create a rhythm that ensured he took the minimum amount of damage while expending as much of Thorn’s strength as possible.
Already, Thorn’s boosting ability, [Wolf's Rage] was starting to wane, and his attacks were starting to slow down. It was here that Ouroboros’ experience began to shine. Slowly, despite the fact that he was being knocked around, Ouroboros was taking control of the fight’s rhythm. As Ouroboros dodged a strike for the fourth time, Thorn realized that he was slowly being drawn into repeating patterns.
Exhaling, Thorn jumped backwards suddenly, causing Ouroboros to start to charge forward after him. As if he sensed the impromptu trap, the black-armored warrior suddenly stopped and stepped backwards.
“You are really good.” Thorn shook his head, resting his mace on the ground as he caught his breath. “Most enemies would have been crushed into pulp by now. I’ll admit that you gained a lot from your choice to stab me in the back and steal my destiny points for a quad class. But I feel like the weakest part of you is these crappy blood abilities. When we go head to head, you lose every time. If you were not such a good tank, you would have died already. That means that you don’t need Karrandras or this quad class to be strong, Ouroboros.”
“Shut up.” Ouroboros’ voice had taken on a raspy quality ever since he activated his [Blood Rage] ability. The grating sound did nothing to remove the hypnotic element in his voice and even served to enhance it. Thorn was quite thankful that his [Oration Proficiency] ability helped him resist his enemy’s verbal bewitchment. Without it, he was not sure that he could have resisted falling prey to Ouroboros’ lulling words.
The bloody smell had faded from the battlefield, a sure sign that Ouroboros’ rage ability had run out of time. Unlike [Wolf's Rage], the [Blood Rage] ability had an infinite duration so long as the player who used it killed other players or natives, making it ideal for a messy group fight. Unable to show off its strengths against a hard to kill enemy like Thorn, Ouroboros found himself running out of juice with nothing to show for it. The blood veins in his armor continued to pulse, but each second the glow faded.
“You do not get to judge me,” Ouroboros said, his voice carrying despite how quiet he was. “You have no idea what sort of power I’ve gained. You think that you understand? You understand nothing. Blood Guard, sacrifice!” Ouroboros’ voice grew in volume until his last words thundered across the battlefield, echoing from the citadel’s walls.
Without hesitating, the Blood Guards each pulled out a long, wickedly curved, forked dagger. Turning, they stabbed them into their companion’s bodies under the shocked gazes of all of the defenders. Too late Athena realized what was happening and, unable to stop it, she could only watch as gouts of blood streamed from the grimacing Blood Guard players.
Each wicked blade, enchanted with a bleeding effect, caused blood to splash to the ash covered ground, pooling under the feet of the Blood Guard. One by one, the player’s lives drained and they disappeared into sparks of light. Within moments, all two hundred players had been sent out of the game, leaving a massive pool of blood running in rivulets across the battle-scarred ground.
“You wanted to see my power? The power of Karrandras? Let me show you what real power looks like, Thorn.”
As if drawn by a magnet, the blood began to ripple, moving toward Ouroboros’ feet. Defying gravity, it poured toward him at increasing speed, bringing with it the ash and dirt of the battlefield. Swirling around underneath his feet, the blood seeped into his armor’s cracks, climbing the blood veins and bringing with it a fresh crimson glow. The bloody scent that had faded returned suddenly and in full force, cloying the air with a disgusting stench.
More and more blood rushed over, getting so high that the swirling maelstrom at his feet soon reached his knees. Faster and faster the blood was sucked up by his broken armor, as if it was drinking from the life essence of the sacrificed. At first Thorn was not sure if it was a trick of his eyes, but he imagined that the blood pumping into Ouroboros was causing him to swell. Soon, however, he knew it was not a trick of the fading daylight as Ouroboros suddenly grew three inches all at once.
The bloody glow running in veins around Ouroboros’ armor had been growing and expanding, and with an abrupt cracking noise, the veins expanded, causing Ouroboros to grow larger and larger. The more blood he absorbed, the bigger he got, until he was standing a full foot taller than Thorn’s 8 feet 9 inches. Ouroboros presented a truly frightening picture, his hulking form dripping with the glowing blood that he had absorbed.
His armor, once smooth and sleek, was now comprised of cracked and broken plates floating in a sea of blood, causing him to appear to be a giant elemental made of blood. Gone were any human features, and instead long, jagged blood blades grew from his arms. A bloody tail tipped with a wicked looking barb formed from a piece of broken armor swiped from side to side behind him, seeking an opportunity to draw Thorn’s blood. As the last vestiges of the pool of blood were drawn into Ouroboros’ armor, it revealed his legs, reformed into the legs of a goat, only adding to his new, devilish look.
“Well? What do you think?” Obvious pride could be heard in Ouroboros’ voice as he stepped forward, showing off his devil form fully. “The power granted to me by Karrandras is the greatest this game has ever seen. With this [Blood Devil] form, there is nothing, player or native, that can stand against me. With it I will crush everything and everyone in my way, starting with you. Thorn, you are powerful, but against a true devil, you can do nothing. Give up. This fight is hopeless. Give up and you can join me. You can gain power like this. Power to stand alone atop the world.”
For the briefest of moments, Thorn’s eyes wavered, dropping to the ground at the giant devil’s feet. The words of Ouroboros ate away at his mental defenses, urging him to give up, to lay down his weapon. Then Thorn’s eyes snapped back up, cutting through the bewitching air that Ouroboros’ words had woven.
“I don’t need your power.” Thorn mumbled, his burning eyes fixed on Ouroboros’ bloody figure. “I have plenty.”
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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. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.