A note from Andrew B. Salmon

Okay, I lied. The finale ended up twice as long as I intended, so here's today's entry while I polish up the rest. Tomorrow will be the last post. For real this time.

The Huntsman pushed both fists into his lower back and stretched, savoring the little pops along his spine. One more varmint trap to check before quitting time and a hot meal at the Peaceful Glen mess hall. Cushy side job so far, exterminating rats for the old folks.

A shriek split the tranquil air.

The Huntsman groaned. So much for a quiet evening. He grabbed his Endless Edge Axe and sprinted toward the commotion.

Endless Edge Axe (always sharp, never grows dull; 20 slashing damage).

As he burst into a clearing by one of the cottages, a miasma of terror almost made him lose his footing. Fighting through the fear, he called on his Resolve to steady himself. He sniffed and his keen sense immediately identified the cloud as Terror of the Night.

A child curled up in a ball on the ground ahead of him, hands over her head.

Terror of the Night: Overwhelms target with Dread, immobilizing and reducing target’s resistances and Resolve.

A massive Wolfman lunged at the girl.

The Huntsman held out his hand and summoned Protection of the Forest. Brown saplings and green shoots pushed up from the ground in front of the vulnerable child, twisting and twining together. He urged the trees to grow as fast as they could, hoping it would be enough to save her life.

What was that Wolfman thinking, attacking in a non-PVP zone? He pushed the question from his mind, trying to formulate a plan. The Guild would authorize lethal force in response, but he had to protect the child first.

Protection of the Forest: Saplings spring up and grow rapidly to form a tree barrier; absorbs 80 damage (cost: 10 Mana. cooldown: 1 hour).

The Wolfman slammed into the trees, snapping branches and bending the slender trunks. They swayed but didn’t break. His eyes lit up red, matching the eerie glow in his claws. He slashed at the barrier in a triple-strike, shredding a poplar.

The dark mist fell away as the Wolfman focused his rage on a new target, biting and hacking at the newly-formed trees. A few seconds later, his paws blurred red as he repeated the three quick swipes with huge, sharp claws, tearing away half the barrier between him and his prey.

The Huntsman switched up his grip on his favorite axe and charged.

The Wolfman ignored him, caught in the grips of primal bloodlust, and broke through the final tree, ripping apart a sturdy little oak in half with snapping, crushing jaws.

The little girl staggered to her feet and jumped back from the wolf. No longer under the immobilizing compulsion of Terror of the Night, he expected her to run, but instead she balled up her fists and she glared at the monster.

“What have you done with Granny?” she demanded.

Roaring in rage, the Wolfman lunged at her, teeth gnashing.

Lashing Vines! the Huntsman commanded silently, directing a swarm of creeping plants to wrap up the creature. They jerked the wolf backward, dragging him away from the girl.

Lashing Vines: Snare target for 10 seconds (cost: 5 Mana. cooldown: 1 minute).

A soft chime reminded him that he’d already used up half his mana. He ran closer while the beast was still snared and swung his axe, catching the Wolfman across the chest. The blade split the skin but wedged in a rib.

The Wolfman whirled away, almost tugging the axe from his hands, and cut him across the face with the triple-strike.

The Huntsman jumped back, ripping the axe free. He grabbed a salve from his pouch and smeared it on his face, hoping the Wolfman hadn’t caught the scent of blood. That frenzy would be too much to handle.

The Wolfman drew back on his haunches, then hurled himself forward faster than the Huntsman could follow. Before he could dodge, the Wolfman slammed into him, knocking him to the ground with a murderous snarl.

He shoved the Wolfman to the side and rolled to his feet, swinging his axe overhead in a two-handed attack that hacked off the Wolfman’s left arm just below the elbow.

As the Huntsman brandished the axe for another swing, the Wolfman leaped at his face, trying to strike with his slashing triple-claw attack, but the glow around his claws faltered, and he only managed two hits, but one of them tore open the Huntsman’s shoulder, spraying blood on the ground.

The Wolfman’s eyes lit up, frenzy triggered by the smell. He head-butted the Huntsman, knocking him down, and followed up with a savage kick that sent the axe tumbling end over end out of his grasp.

A wicker basket bounced off his snout.

“Leave him alone!” the girl shouted.

The Wolfman howled and spun to face his original victim. He bared his fangs and leaped forward, but a sudden flurry of vines snatched him from the air and hammered him back into the dirt before he could reach her.

The Huntsman panted with the exertion. He was down to a third of his mana left, and the Wolfman showed no signs of stopping.

The girl sprinted for his axe, picking it up and heaving it back to him before the Wolfman fought free.

In a few seconds the vines would run out, unless he could pour more mana into them to hold the beast twice as long. He gritted his teeth and willed the ability to last longer, to hold on just enough—to his shock, the mana flowed out of him even though the cooldown wasn’t up yet, but it cost twice as much as usual. Drained! a warning flashed. Out of mana.

But the thick vines lashed the monster in place. It would have to be enough.

He chopped at the Wolfman, striking the creature on the leg. The knee popped, crippling the Wolfman, but the vines withered and died, decaying rapidly and dusting away on the breeze.

His adversary spun around and clawed him with his remaining paw, hobbling toward him with a look of triumph in his scarred face. His jaws hinged open wider than should be physically possible. The telltale crimson light of his class surrounded the Wolfman as he prepared to finish the fight.

The girl rode between them on a bicycle, bumping into the Wolfman and knocking him off balance, interrupting his channel.

“Eat this,” she yelled, circling away from a claw-strike and throwing two pastries at the Huntsman, who recognized the magic pastries. She must be the baker’s daughter.

He followed her, running out of the Wolfman’s range. Shaking with exhaustion and pain, the Huntsman devoured the Blueberry Spirit Pastries and felt a rush of mana restoration as he finished each one.

The beast followed more slowly than before, his wounded knee hampering his predatory pursuit, attention split between the two as the girl taunted the Wolfman: “You can’t catch me, you can’t catch me!”

She called out her mocking singsong over her shoulder, not watching where she was going. Her bicycle hit a root and she sprawled to the ground, screaming.

The Wolfman loped forward, his blood rage overcoming the pain. Again the blood red light enveloped him, and he reared back, Jaws of Death ready to devour the girl.

The Huntsman snared him with Lashing Vines, stopping him in his tracks. He gripped his axe and called forth his most powerful class ability, Defender of the Weak, once again Draining himself of mana.

He launched into the air and soared toward the Wolfman, his axe alight with holy flame. The buff text Blessings of the Forest flashed in front of his eyes. With a mighty shout, he cleaved the Wolfman in two, splitting him from crown to foot.

Defender of the Weak: Imbues next physical attack with the buff Blessings of the Forest, dealing double damage against evil; additional execute damage if target is debuffed by Lashing Vines (cost: 15 Mana. cooldown: 1 day).

He sagged to the ground, wiped the blood, sweat, and tears from his eyes, and checked on the girl. “I’m sorry you had to see that. You okay?”

“Are you kidding?” she shrieked. “That was awesome!

He shook his head and laughed. Kids these days.

A note from Andrew B. Salmon

I'm not happy with the rest of the ending, so I'm reworking what I wrote last night and I'll post it tomorrow. Promise. But, hey, more content in the meantime!

About the author

Andrew B. Salmon

  • United States

Bio: Husband, father, acrobat, servant, storyteller.

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