I looked out across the clearing to a sight that was familiar to me by now. Sure I’d only ever seen it once before in person, but it was familiar enough since I’d been going over screenshots and videos of the area.
Mostly posted by players who were irate that the whole area was on lockdown and they couldn’t get into the raid instance or the mines around the raid instance.
A lone Horizon Dawn guard stood in front of the mine entrance wearing their tabard with the big H. The guy looked bored. I could imagine the dude was seriously considering some of the choices he’d made that put him on boring guard duty when he was supposed to be playing a game and enjoying himself.
I looked up at the night sky above. It was late. Like seriously late. I knew most gamers tended to play their games late at night local time, but this was so late in the night, or so early in the morning depending on how you looked at it, that even people out on the west coast had probably decided to call it a night for now.
Not that a normal sleep schedule made much sense these days since most people didn't have jobs to go to in the first place, but whatever. Most people still maintained their diurnal sleep cycle, and so most everybody in Horizon Dawn who could respond to what we were about to do would be good and asleep right about now.
At least I hoped so. Otherwise things were going to start going really bad really fast with this plan.
"Ready," the goblin mage standing next to me said.
He held his hand up causing flames to dance over his fingers. It was nice to see something like that happening with someone other than that Kravos asshole. I was sick and tired of only seeing magic from that Horizon Dawn asshole trying to use his magical abilities to threaten us.
I waited just a moment. I wanted nothing more than to turn that guard into a barbecue, but I had to make sure everything was done just so. Any mistake at this point could have Horizon Dawn coming down on us like a ton of bricks, and I wasn’t sure if my raiding crew could stand up to that on their first time out.
It wasn’t a question of numbers so much as it was a question of resolve. I turned to look at the goblins gathered behind me, nervously fingering the weapons we’d crafted for this raid. Yeah, they’d spent so much time being subjugated by Horizon Dawn that I figured it was going to take a few victories before they turned into the ruthless hardened troops I was going to need to really pull this off.
"Are you getting anything from the front entrance?" I asked.
"It's dead here," Kristoph said. "And would you believe I've gotten a few skill level ups in sneaking and moving silently? Who would a thunk it. Me a stealth character. This is pretty fun!"
"Well don't get used to it," I said. "We're going to need you to tank stuff soon, I'm sure."
"Yeah right," Kristoph said. "If you keep coming up with crazy schemes like this then you're not going to need a tank at all, but whatever. I can’t wait to try out the surprise you made for Horizon Dawn.”
“Ixnay on the urprisesay,” I hissed.
“What?” Kristoph said.
“He means shut up about the surprise,” Keia said into party chat. “We don’t want to give anything up yet.”
“But it’s not like they can listen in on…”
“Loose lips sink ships,” I said. “Now shut up before I have the goblins around you shut you up.”
“Aye aye sir,” Kristoph said, the sarcasm dripping from his voice.
I didn’t care as lon as he shut the fuck up.
"Stay safe and let us know if anything comes up where you are,” I said. “I imagine the hornet’s nest is gonna start stirring after we give it a good kick.”
"Will do," Kristoph said.
I turned to Keia. She was still in her healer garb. The miniskirt and top that showed a bit of her stomach. It looked for all the world like a cheerleader’s uniform, which seemed a touch ridiculous for a healer, but clearly the art department who'd designed that outfit decided to have a little fun with the female version.
"What are you looking at?" Keia asked with a twinkle in her eye and a big grin when she saw me looking.
"What?" I asked.
"I told you. I'm not doing the stealth archer thing again. I don't care if it would help."
"And I never said you had to do the stealth archer thing," I said. “It’s just a good look for you. I like it.”
She stuck her tongue out, then leaned in to kiss me on the cheek.
“I bet you like it! And thank you for not forcing me to do the stealth archer thing,” she said. "Seriously."
"It's not a problem," I said.
Honestly it was a problem. It would make a hell of a lot more sense to have Keia doing all the scouting rather than Kristoph considering she already had a lot of skill points in stealth, but it wasn't an issue I was going to push. The thanks she just gave me was enough to convince me I’d made the right choice on that score.
"Okay," I said. "I think we're ready. Do it."
The goblin mage grinned. It was an unpleasant grin that was made all the more unpleasant by the fact that his face was lit by a fireball dancing in his hand.
Honestly it was a wonder that the idiot guarding the mine entrance hadn't realized there was a massive raiding party gathering in the woods with the way that fireball was advertising our presence. It was literally a fiery beacon that anyone paying attention should’ve noticed.
Whatever. If that jerk wasn't going to pay attention to us lighting up the forest as we got ready to kick his ass then that was his problem. I got the feeling Horizon Dawn wasn’t exactly sending their best and brightest to do guard duty in the middle of the night. The dude looked like he was distracted watching something in his HUD.
His funeral. Literally.
The fireball streaked through the air. The guard turned, finally hearing the sound of the fireball moving through the air even if he'd missed the sight of the fireball dancing on the goblin’s hand. His eyes went wide, I could see that clearly in the firelight, and then the fireball struck.
The guard was immolated. He stumbled around, flames surrounding him, and it looked exactly like something out of the movies.
"Nice shooting," I said.
"I try," the goblin said.
The Horizon Dawn guy finally came to his senses and dropped to the ground. I winced. That couldn’t feel good rolling around in the dirt with burns all over his body like that. Then again I figured the pain had probably already been turned down. Either way stop, drop, and roll wasn't going to do the bastard a bit of good. He’d stopped rolling and now he was dragging himself along, looking for help that wasn’t going to come.
At least it wasn’t going to come in time to save his ass in the immediate future, for all that I’m sure he was lighting up Horizon Dawn guild chat right now with a warning that they were under attack.
"Are you sure I can't heal him?" Keia asked. "It would help me gain some more skill, and I need everything I can get!"
I looked at the guy and grinned. Maybe the dude would be useful to us after all, even knocking on death’s door. If anything he was more useful to Keia when he was on death’s door.
"Fine," I said. "Go ahead and do your thing."
Ultimately the decision wasn't all that difficult. After all, the guy would be able to send a message to his buddies in Horizon Dawn whether or not he was alive and charred here or alive at the resurrection point. Private messaging after “death” was one aspect of warfare in this game that was nothing like warfare in the real world.
That was a big part of the reason why we were running this raid in the very late hours of the very early morning while hopefully everyone who could respond to the warning was good and asleep.
At least I seriously hoped they were asleep. The time it would take for them to wake everyone up and organize a response to this raid was a big part of the plan.
"Thanks!” Keia said, looking entirely too cheerful for someone who was about to torture a dude in the name of getting a few skill points. Still, the jerk had made the choice to work for Horizon Dawn.
“Keep relieving him of his hit points for as long as Keia needs it," I said to the goblin mage, surprised at how ruthless I sounded but not caring. After all, these assholes would do everything in their power to torture and kill me in as many ways as possible should they be given the opportunity, so I decided I wasn't going to feel bad about doing the same to them.
I still had the memory of that back alley where they’d tried their best to fuck with me to keep my desire for vengeance burning nice and hot.
"Let's go," I said, motioning for the rest of the goblins behind me to follow. They all held up their goblinsteel swords that crackled with the various spell infusions I’d taught my production line back in the Kthonopolis and shook them in a silent yell that acknowledged my order.
I couldn't help but smile just a little. It was heartwarming in a fucked up sort of wya to see my tiny little army of bloodthirsty goblins ready to join the fight. Not that I could be sure they’d actually be any good against an actual army of players if it came down to fighting.
I’d just have to hope that it didn’t come to that. Or that if it did come to that then a good old fashioned zerg rush featuring pointy-eared murder machines would be enough to overwhelm Horizon.
The goblins streamed out of the trees and flooded into the mine. It’d been cleared out, but it's not like it would be a problem even if it had been inhabited.
After all, the mine had been populated exclusively by goblins, and if anything they’d greet their brethren as liberators rather than turning on them. Though if I had anything to do with it there would be no more goblins coming up to these mines to be slaughtered. Already my takeover of the Kthonopolis faction seemed to have done something, and they were whispering about how I’d saved them from the compulsion to go up to the surface to die.
Which was just fine with me. I didn’t want the goblins dying unnecessarily, and breaking that in-game compulsion had added to my mystique with the little dudes and dudettes, for all that it was probably a simple matter of that bit of programming being overridden the moment they fell under player control.
They worked fast. The goblins seemed to know exactly where the nodes of goblinsteel ore were. Maybe it was that they had more skill in mining than I did. Maybe it was simply that this was their home territory and so they were well aware of how it worked. Whatever the reason, I’d take it if it meant they were moving fast.
Speed was going to be our friend tonight. At least I hoped it would be our friend tonight. I was well aware that it was only a matter of time before Horizon Dawn started showing up ready to ruin their fun.
I didn't even bother yelling at them or telling them to hurry. They knew what the stakes were here. They knew they had to move fast if they were going to get anything done. At least if they were going to get anything done and get out of here alive.
"What do things look like at the entrance?" I asked.
"Nothing yet," Kristoph said. "What are they doing to the guard? Maybe he hasn't thought to send them a private message if he’s distracted or something?”
I grimaced. They were doing something pretty nasty to the guard. Maybe nasty enough that he hadn't thought to send a private message because he was so busy getting tortured by repeatedly getting immolated by my friend the mage and then healed up by my best girl so she could get some skill increases.
Ruthless, but effective.
"Do you really think this is going to work?" Keia asked over group chat.
"No way to tell," I said. "But we have to try. Someone has to hit those bastards where it hurts.”
"You’ve got that right," she said, a bloodthirsty note coming to her voice.
“Not to mention we need more materials if we’re going to start building some of the mechanized stuff the goblins have buried in their city,” I said. “That stuff is going to really turn the tide of this battle.”
"We’ve gone through most of the mine," Rezzik said, stepping up to me and sketching a salute that looked sort of like a human salute, but not quite. "It won't be long before we have to this one mined out, but I think it’s been long enough since most of these mines have been worked that we’re going to get quite a bit of goblinsteel.”
I looked at all of the goblins who were working as hard and as fast as they could. They were going through the full animation of slamming their pickaxes against the various ore veins. Clearly they couldn’t do my little trick of tapping an ore vein to get the loot hidden inside.
Still, the amount of time it had taken them to do all of this was nothing short of amazing thanks to us zerging the mine. Though I’d never heard of someone doing a zerg rush for crafting before. It was a little weird to think this might be the first time something like this had ever been done in the history of gaming. I’d taken at least an hour to clear this place out on my own, and it looked like they were going to do it in maybe ten minutes.
Things were starting to look up for our little raid on Horizon territory. Though if this worked out as well as I hoped it wouldn’t be Horizon territory for much longer.
"You okay in there?" Keia asked.
"Yeah," I said. "Just seeing dollar signs dancing in front of my eyes right now."
"You're horrible," she said. “And you’re totally wrong too.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, panic seizing me. Keia was still outside the mine, after all, which meant she could see anything that might be coming along to ruin our day.
“You’re seeing gold pieces dance in front of your eyes. Virtual currency is worth a heck of a lot more than the dollar if the current exchange rate is anything to go on,” she said.
I sighed and bit back a few choice words. “You’re very funny.”
“Gotcha,” she said, and I could almost see the smile playing across her face. “But you’re right. This is gonna be quite the haul!”
"We’re done," Rezzik said as goblins started streaming up to the mine entrance, each and every one of them loaded down with a maxed out inventory of goblinsteel.
Oh yes, this was going to be quite the haul indeed, and we were only getting started!
Hi! I'm a working writer who's been doing this full time since early 2015. I got my start in the Kindle romance boom, and I'm finally getting around to publishing stories under my own name!
I live in the Midwest with my wife, kids, and cats. Most days find me sitting in front of my computer typing out stories for your enjoyment!
I'm currently releasing Spellcraft. The tale of Conlan, a gamer who loves finding ways to exploit game systems, and how he uses those unique skills to battle a soulless multinational entertainment conglomerate who killed his sister and is trying to take over the gaming world!
Spellcraft is currently released on a chapter a day schedule.
I hope you enjoy my work. Thanks for reading!