Chapter : The Forcefield
If Tucker’s hands hadn’t been full, he would have brought them up to try and cover his ears against the excruciating sound of the girl’s cries. If that wasn’t bad enough, the screams were now mixed with a rumbling as the stone chamber trembled with the massive magical energy that the floating girl drew upon.
Her eyes continued to glow brighter and brighter until a wave of light billowed out like a shockwave from her face, accompanied by a zing sound.
New Objective, said the text that popped up in front of Tucker.
Stop the mysterious girl’s incantation before the procedure is complete.
“The procedure…” said Tucker. That wording made the whole affair sound perfunctory instead of the horrific image that was in front of him right now. This young girl was at the mercy of Colton, though most players would no doubt scoff at the notion.
Couldn’t she just use her powers against Colton and escape?
Tucker shook his head. If that were the case, he was positive that the girl would have freed herself long before now. Judging by Shenna’s account, the crops being tampered with had been taking place for at least six months to a year. If this girl hadn’t helped herself by now it was probably because she couldn’t help herself. If her Mage abilities were only good for a certain set of skills, as Tucker’s were, then she might be at the mercy of the shackles that anchored her to the ground.
That meant that it was up to an outside party to free her, which was what Tucker intended to do.
It was just a question of how to do it…
As he observed the scene playing out in front of him, a startling event happened, which put a kink in Tucker’s initial reaction of just charging and taking down Colton. The man stood not even five feet from the floating girl, and as before, a blast of light rang out in a circle from the girl’s glowing eyes. This time instead of disappearing after a few seconds, the light struck the ground and grew into a force field about as tall as Tucker was, shooting away from the platform about twenty feet before it finally sank completely into the stone. Then the entire chain of events ran through again.
Tucker assumed that this would continue until the girl’s tampering with the Meadows’ crops in Sorrell was complete.
A defense mechanism…
“I need to take Colton down…” he muttered, studying the situation. The man was the cornerstone of this entire debacle.
There didn’t seem to be any easy way to start things, so instead of dragging everything out, Tucker shot out his hand and sent a ball of Frostbite hurtling at Colton’s head.
The man must have heard the attack coming because he stepped away just in time and the blast missed his face by a fraction of an inch. It smashed into the stone wall behind Colton, causing the man’s eyes to widen in shock. Then they narrowed as he homed in on Tucker.
“You,” he said, turning to face Tucker completely now.
“I’m surprised, Colton. You honestly think I wouldn’t have followed you?” he shot back, struggling to be heard over the noise from the chained girl’s magical force blasts.
Colton gritted his teeth.
“I knew there was something off about you when you walked in. You wouldn’t show me your face. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but you’ve repaid my generosity with treachery.”
It took all of Tucker’s willpower not to just charge up the stone steps to battle Colton head-on, but he knew that would be a dangerous risk to take. Instead he settled for a threatening stance with his hand at the ready to blast another dose of frozen moisture at Colton.
“I wouldn’t call manipulating people’s livelihood for your own profit a generosity,” Tucker replied. “What do you think the Digbys and the Meadows would say if they could see you right now?”
Colton held out his hands in an ignorant gesture.
“Let them check my books,” he said. “You won’t find any inconsistencies there.”
Tucker gritted his teeth.
“Your scheme is up,” Tucker assured the man. “I’m going to put an end to this and then you’ll be locked up, or worse - dead, depending on how cooperative you are.”
Colton laughed, which took Tucker aback.
“Naive little fool,” he said with a smile. “You honestly think you’re going to get out of here alive?”
“I’ve survived this far,” Tucker answered with a shrug.
Colton grunted and, without missing a beat, stepped inside the latest ring of energy emanating from the floating girl. It seemed he was somehow immune to it.
“Come at me,” he said in a menacing voice. “Something tells me you won’t get very far!”
As these words left the man’s lips, the girl’s force ability intensified, turning so white-hot that it blinded Tucker and shook the room. Tucker ground his teeth together and fell to a crouch at the bottom of the stone stairs. It figured that something as wide-spread as tampering with massive fields of crops would require a large amount of energy - but Tucker didn’t expect it to be so powerful that it might bring down the very room that the three of them stood in.
Looking back, he probably should have brought Shenna with him. He could definitely use the backup. It was two against one, after all. He needed to be careful.
The ring of energy fanned out, expanding until it encompassed the entire set of stairs. The glowing yellow force field continued its expanse until it reached the spot where Tucker was crouched, and to see what would happen, he remained in place as the light came into contact with him. It wasn’t moving incredibly fast, so how much harm could it do?
This was a major oversight.
As the light came into contact with Tucker’s legs and chest, it was as if he had stepped into a giant oven. The heat was immediate and intense, stinging his flesh even beneath his armor.
“YARGGGHHH!!!” he yelled, and as the pain registered in his nerves completely, the force of the light touching him intensified and he was flung backwards, tumbling through the air.
He landed on his back with a thud that completely took his breath away.
His HP meter dipped from the measly 9 points all the way to 7 points.
This is not good… Tucker thought as he struggled back to his feet.
He needed to get up to the top of those stairs in order to face Colton man-to-orc, but the force field was stopping him.
There had to be a trick or strategy that Tucker could use to get to the top of that platform…
Standing back, he studied the pattern of the forcefield as it started around the floating girl, then spread out in quick succession, before disappearing at the base of the stairs. Once the ring disappeared, there was a ten second or so delay until the next ring was generated and the process repeated itself once more.
“If I can get to the top of the platform within those ten seconds…” muttered Tucker.
That was his timeframe for scaling the stone stairs. Even if he made it up there, he would still be at the mercy of the ring’s repelling power. There had to be something he could do about that.
Opening his Codex, Tucker decided that now was the perfect time to spend his Experience Point.
“Let’s see…” said Tucker as he flipped through the two upgrades available to him. “One of these could counter-act the girl’s forcefield if I used it correctly.”
Aha! he thought as he read through Hellfire’s description
“…A defensive measure in a sticky situation. Generate a ring of fire around yourself until it reaches two-to-three feet in height. This circle of flames starts off only two feet around the player and will cause damage to all enemies that it touches, and has a lasting hold of twenty seconds, with a ten second recharge. While enabled, the ring of fire acts as a barrier to projectiles and other smaller enemies. Perfect.”
He was imagining his attack pattern, being able to use the ten second window to allow his own ring of fire to recharge and enable him to move around, both up the stairs and also along the platform as he fought Colton. It would require fast action, but he thought it was a good challenge and activated Hellfire with a tap of his finger.
Hellfire Activated, said the floating white text in front of him. His single point of XP was spent, and now he was back at zero.
“One more thing to do,” said Tucker as he reached into his pack and pulled out the vial of Recovery. There was no sense in going up against an intelligent boss like Colton and this girl-mage when a few hits would eliminate his life. No thanks to that, he thought as he downed the vial. It was tangy and left a fruity aftertaste on his tongue as he swallowed the last drop.
Encouragingly, and as expected, Tucker’s HP meter refilled completely so that he had a solid 18 HP points.
“Time for action!”
He waited for the latest ring of energy to disappear, then started up the stairs.
What he thought would only take a few moments ended up being an overestimation because as he reached his fourth step, his balance was shaken by a rumbling that started at the floating girl and fanned out until it caused the entire chamber to rumble.
He fell back one step and groaned. Six more seconds had gone by, and there went his window of opportunity. Another ring of painful glowing energy appeared and raced down the steps towards him.
It was time to throw up his defenses.
Tucker flexed his hands and summoned Hellfire for the first time. As with his other abilities, this time was shaky at best.
A brilliant red ring of flames rose up from the ground around him and within seconds it was struck by the girl’s blast of energy. A blinding white flash lit up the room as the two magical energies clashed with each other, and Tucker noticed in the back of his mind that it was suddenly becoming more difficult to hold his Hellfire at full force.
A few seconds later, the girl’s energy overpowered him and his ring of flames flickered out, giving the enemy’s energy an opening to strike Tucker. It hit him like a wall of electricity, though this time at least he didn’t go flying across the chamber. He managed to hold his ground, but the pain still stung.
He watched as three points were stolen from his HP meter, bringing his total down to 15. He lost his balance at the pain and stumbled back down the three steps where he caught himself on the stone floor.
Up above, Colton let out a laugh.
“Not as experienced as you thought, eh?” he said with a haughty look in his eyes.
Tucker straightened up and shook the buzzy feeling of the girl’s energy from himself as he prepared for another try.
Don’t let him get to you, he mentally told himself. You can do this.
He stood back, allowing the girl’s energy ring to stretch as far as it would go, then once it disappeared again, Tucker made his move.
Sprinting as quickly as he could, he made a mad-dash up the stone steps. Ten seconds wasn’t a long time to begin with, and under the gun like this it felt even shorter.
He made it to the top of the staircase just as his time was up, and he threw Hellfire around himself, focusing everything he had on holding the energy attack at bay.
This time he managed to keep the ring of flames around himself at full blast, and when the enemy energy struck it, instead of overpowering him, the yellow ring of light warped around Tucker’s tiny bubble of safety until he was standing inside the girl’s magical ring completely.
With the danger gone, Tucker stepped up onto the platform.
At the top, he turned quickly to spot Colton advancing on him. The man had grabbed a club-like weapon and, with a war cry, Colton swung it at his head. Tucker ducked and missed the club’s strike by mere inches, but as he focused on avoiding being bashed in the head, he forgot to keep track of the timing of the girl’s force blasts.
Each blast seemed to be getting stronger and stronger, also speeding up in rhythm. Another one charged up and raced towards Tucker.
He ducked another swing from Colton just as the blast reached him, and at the last second he threw up Hellfire. It wasn’t fast enough to avoid any damage, however, though he was relieved that he only lost 2HP, dropping his total down to 13.
The magical ring of light advanced beyond him and Tucker now had a few seconds to deal with Colton. The man needed to be detained immediately.
Colton, not giving up in the slightest, swung the club at Tucker once more, but Tucker wasn’t playing games. He shot out a hand and sent a blast of Flamethrower at the rough wooden weapon. The flames ignited the dry material and raced down from the blunt end until they reached the handle.
Colton tried to keep his grip on the weapon, but the heat became too much and he dropped it with an angry cry. The weapon clattered to the floor as the floating girl’s force blast started up again.
Tucker protected himself completely this time, but the blast sent Colton’s smouldering weapon flying across the platform until it struck the nearby stone wall.
Tucker was reminded of Vinny as he observed Colton’s rage. The man just didn’t seem to have an off switch.
The man charged at Tucker with an enraged yell.
“Come at me,” said Tucker under his breath. You don’t have any weapons, and I do.
Colton tried to attack him with his fists, but this barely did anything other than be annoying. Colton’s HP meter flickered into view above him as he stepped into close range with Tucker, and Tucker was amused to see that the man’s HP meter was only 12.
That wasn’t very much to contend with.
Tucker grabbed Colton by the shoulders and threw the man off him after Colton landed a punch against him. The man’s fist dinged off Tucker’s helmet, doing a paltry 1HP of damage to Tucker. He was down to 12HP now.
It was time to put Colton in his place.
Without skipping a beat, Tucker shot a blast of Frostbite at Colton’s ankle, freezing the man in place. Colton stumbled and grabbed at his leg with a groan.
“That should hold you for now,” muttered Tucker, then he turned to see another wave of yellow energy racing towards him.
He had to keep from using up all of his own energy prematurely. Glancing around him, he spotted the carved statue to his left, up against the chamber wall. Maybe he could get behind that and avoid using more of his Hellfire. It was worth a shot.
He ducked behind the protruding statue as the wave of yellow light raced for him, but this time he managed to stay out of its painful path and the energy passed by him without really hurting him. Instead, it felt as if he’d just been shocked by static electricity, and his health dropped by a single point. He was down to 11HP now.
Colton, on the other hand, was suffering the full effects of Frostbite. Not only was he cemented in place, but his own HP meter dipped down until it stopped at 8.
Tucker couldn’t help but grin. Only one more blow to Colton, then he could knock the man unconscious. Whatever the outcome, he wanted to take the man alive so that he could answer for his crimes against the farmers.
With Colton out of the way, it was time to deal with the young female mage. Tucker needed to get her to stop attacking him, but he had to do it in a way that didn’t harm her. He hoped there was something he could do.
Doing damage might not be avoidable, but at least he could soften the blow as much as possible. As it was, she continued to float in the air, tethered to the platform by that clanking chain, appearing to be in some sort of automated trance.
Tucker knew that he needed to get her out of the air so that she could be stopped from creating her force field. Once that happened, perhaps some reason could be talked into her.
Stepping out so that he was unmissable, Tucker summoned Hellfire again, trying to get the girl’s attention.
“Please!” he called out over the crackling of the yellow energy floating around the girl’s face and eyes. “Stop! I’m not going to harm you!”
“She won’t listen to you!” shot Colton from his place farther back. “I already told you, she only obeys me.”
Tucker looked the girl up and down, realizing for the first time that the mage’s messy appearance and physical restraints were most likely not the only form of bondage placed upon her. She must have been coerced into mental enslavement as well.
It didn’t take magic to accomplish such a feat, and it could happen back in the real world as well.
This girl, whoever she was, must have become devoted to Colton. The idea made Tucker sick to his stomach.
“Please, believe me!” Tucker called out once more, but again it fell on deaf ears. Either the girl couldn’t hear him, or what Colton said was true - that she simply refused to hear him.
There was no other choice but to take her down with his magic.
Perhaps she could be weighted down…
He wasted no time and shot a blast of Frostbite at her feet, encasing them in ice.
The girl cried out and wavered in the air, her attack flickering like a shoddy fuse, then going dark completely. With the force blast stopped for now, the girl’s arms were drawn in towards her body where they frantically reached down to deal with the ice on her feet.
As Tucker had hoped, the covering of ice started to bring her down.
With a new bit of spell-craft that Tucker hadn’t seen before, the girl started to melt the ice with her hands by means of shimmering streams of air. Her height in the air lessened and lessened until she touched down on the stone platform.
It seemed she couldn’t levitate and melt the ice at the same time, which was a blessing as far as Tucker was concerned. Her HP meter, which had started at 13HP, was gradually lowering, though it didn’t appear that the pain was particularly sharp.
Her meter reached 9HP after a few moments, then came to a stop. Her glowing eyes lost their bright yellow light and softened to a pale, frosty blue which gave her a normal appearance.
Colton began yelling at the girl to get back in the air and complete what he had ordered her to do.
“I want those crops destroyed!” he screamed from behind Tucker. This was followed by frantic scraping and scrambling sounds.
Tucker felt his brows screw together, and with clenched fists he turned and saw that Colton was starting to free himself from the Frostbite anchor.
“We can’t have any of that,” said Tucker, and he sent another blast of ice at Colton - this time feeling his energy drain almost completely. It was sudden, as if he had been running a marathon and collapsed on the running path. His throat became dry and his muscles tensed.
His magical abilities were lessening in their effect, barely causing a thin coating against Colton’s foot. It was so weak that it didn’t even take away any health points.
He still needed to bring Colton down to 5HP in order to knock him out.
A wave of dizziness overcame him, and he struggled to remain upright.
The rest of this situation couldn’t be solved with magic alone. Any more magic and Tucker feared he would be down for the count, gasping for breath.
Luckily he had more than magic at his disposal.
Drawing his sword, Tucker prepared to defend himself against whoever came at him. Colton still had a ways to go before he was completely free, so instead Tucker turned to the girl.
His eyes softened as he watched the girl struggling with de-icing her legs and feet.
“You don’t have to fight me,” he said, doing his best to speak in a comforting voice. “I can get you out of here. Bring you to freedom up above.”
Colton scoffed loudly.
“Freedom?” he said. “This girl will never be free. She belongs to me! She will only do what I tell her to do, if she wants to eat. Your words mean nothing!”
Tucker ignored the man and tried once more.
“What’s your name? Can you tell me that?”
The girl continued to struggle with freeing herself. She had only managed to melt about half the length of ice on her legs.
As Tucker approached her, he came down to a crouch. The edge of his sword clinked against the stone platform.
At the sound of this, the girl’s face snapped in Tucker’s direction. She let out a gasp, her eyes widening, though they did not lock onto Tucker’s.
“I promise,” said Tucker. “I won’t harm you any further if you stop attacking me. You have my word.”
The girl glanced downwards, her eyes shifting focus like she was looking within herself, contemplating. Then she spoke for the first time in a language that Tucker didn’t recognize.
It almost sounded like gibberish, but the words were there. They just weren’t something that Tucker had ever heard before.
“What are you saying?” asked Tucker. When she didn’t continue, he reached out a hand towards her. “I can’t understand you, but you must know that you can trust me -”
As his fingers brushed against the girl’s arm she lashed out at him, slashing with her fingernails, which were long and dirty.
Tucker pulled back with grimace.
She had just taken 2HP from him at close proximity. Now he was down to 9HP.
“How did that feel?” mocked Colton. “I told you, she can’t be reasoned with. Give up, now!”
Tucker was at a loss.
Maybe Colton was right. Maybe there was nothing he could do to save this poor girl’s life without ending it. Some would say that the kill was a mercy, but Tucker didn’t know if he could bring himself to do it. That was never how he played a game.
He refused to entertain such thoughts.
Again he reached out to reassure the girl, and again she slashed him with her nails.
Another 2HP gone.
He was down to 7HP, and no healing elixirs left.
Tucker glanced at his sword and realized with it in his hand might make him appear sinister. He slid it into its scabbard. It was no help here.
The girl continued to frantically attack the coating of ice, her voice like that of a cornered animal. More of the exotic language spilled from her lips as she worked.
Tucker wished that he could understand what the girl was muttering as she worked on her feet.
He looked to his side, back down at the lower level of the chamber, searching for something that could help him. Maybe there were some potions hidden around?
His eyes roamed the corners of the room, but it was no use. The room had no barrels or crates that he could see. He was about to give that thought up when suddenly he focused on the staff that he had confiscated from the Speaker. It was still lying where he left it, down against the wall. The jewel within it was giving off a soft glow…the same yellow that the girl’s eyes had been!
Something clicked in Tucker’s brain.
Of course! It was a crazy idea, but it just might work.
Hurrying as quickly as he could, and feeling his energy returning, Tucker made it to the lower level and took up the staff. A charge ran from the staff, through his hands and up his arms. He knew that there was still a chance.
With the staff, he returned to the top of the platform. When he approached the girl, he made sure to hold the staff up where it could be easily seen. Armed with the artifact, Tucker channeled some of his returning energy into the staff.
The jewel started to glow even more brilliantly now.
This caused the girl’s eyes light up, as if some invisible link had been enabled. Suddenly the girl began to pay attention to Tucker without being violent for the first time, not moving her stare from the staff.
Colton let out a furious growl.
“What are you doing?” he demanded. “Get away from her!”
Tucker ignored this and persisted, telling the girl to stand down and turn her allegiance away from Colton and over to him.
“I can help you,” he said, holding the staff up high. “If you will let me.”
The girl was silent and appeared to consider this offer. Then, again in the gibberish language, she replied with a small phrase and held out her hands in surrender.
A ripple of light energy pulsed out in a single blast, feeling like a warm desert wind against Tucker’s skin instead of the painful attack that it had been before. Then, once this blast had passed, the girl collapsed onto the stone floor, completely unconscious.
Tucker blinked a few times, then the realization that he had just succeeded descended upon him. A grin made its way onto his lips.
Objective Complete, said the white text that filtered in front of him.
You have successfully disarmed the young mage before her incantation could be completed. Congratulations!
Another alert appeared right after this first one, announcing that Tucker had completed the overarching quest from before.
Quest Completed: Investigate Crop Tampering in Castlederg Farmland.
Tucker had finally done it! His first big quest! He wanted to jump for joy at making such headway, but he decided that there were more important things to worry about.
He closed the gap between himself and the young mage girl so that he could check on her more closely. As he expected, she was just unconscious, which meant that she was no longer a threat to him or anyone else. Hopefully she would stay that way for a bit until Tucker could figure out who she is and where she came from. It would also be nice if she wasn’t heavy, since Tucker had to carry her back through the crypt to where Shenna was waiting for him.
In the corner of his vision, Tucker noticed that his XP meter had risen considerably. It was just on the cusp of reaching Level 4. Only a bit more experince to go!
“I’ll be there in no time,” he said with pride. Then he let out a chuckle. “See? You said I couldn’t do it, but here we are. What do you think about that, Colton?”
He had just started turning to deal with the man when suddenly he was struck across the head with something hard. Even with his helmet, the sound alone caused Tucker to stumble back and let out a cry of shock.
Colton laughed. To Tucker’s horror, the man had managed to free himself from the ice anchor.
“No!” cried Tucker as he lost his grip on the staff and it clattered to the platform. His eyes were watering and his vision blurred.
Three of his health points disappeared. He was now down to a terrifying 4HP.
Colton stood only a few feet away with a triumphant grin.
“Nice try, kid,” he said. “But, you won’t take me down that easily. You’re just a boy wrapped up in a tin can.”
Tucker brought his hands up to attack, but Colton was too fast for him.
The man struck him across the helmet once more, using even more force. This caused Tucker’s vision to go red and hazy.
His voice sounded distant, as if it didn’t belong to him.
The few remaining health points on his meter were depleted in one stroke, and all at once a giant exclamation point filled Tucker’s vision, flashing on and off like an alarm system. His ears were ringing continuously.
He was falling backwards, but before he could even feel the platform beneath him, the fall reversed itself and he found that instead of falling, he was being lifted through the air. It was a very fast, very stomach-turning sensation, as if he were riding one of those dropping amusement park rides that pulls you downwards, then yanks you back up. Except once he started going upwards, he didn’t stop.
All the air was sucked from his lungs and a bizarre sensation crawled over his skin, creeping beneath his clothing and armor. It felt like he was covered completely from head to foot in gelatin. Very thick gelatin.
His lungs cried out for air. If he didn’t take a breath soon he would surely suffocate! What was going on?
Before he could wonder or worry about this any further, however, he struck something solid and painful up above him, going completely flat like a belly flop onto concrete.
The world spun around him. Down became up, and up became down. If he had anything in his stomach, he was sure that it would have been retched all over the surface that he had just slammed into.
Then it all stopped and he took a shuddering breath.
Bio: I have been a writer pretty much from the time I could hold a pencil and scribble letters. I am looking to develop my craft and better my storytelling. I am a huge fan of fantasy and horror in all their incarnations. When I'm not reading, I'm usually hunting for Legos. You can find me trying to decipher the mini-figure blind bags at the local big-box store.