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A note from kosnik4

Can’t wait for another release? Read ahead almost 2 months’ worth of chapters on Patron. Always at least two chapters released a week on patron.

Through the trees we march, trying to maintain a tight formation in the dark forest.

 

In our silence, the wind conducts a foreboding tune with the trees acting as the grandest of symphonies.

 

My hands are too clammy. Wiping my sweaty palms against my shirt proves a fruitless effort. The tight grip I have on my axe insures they’ll just become sweaty again in a few moments.

 

For a fleeting instant, I miss our time marching here.

 

Today is the day we attack the goblin camp. We adjusted the formation yesterday and reached our final campsite without running into a single goblin patrol. The lack of goblins in the area is unnerving. The size of the horde was reported to be massive, it’s unlikely that we just happened to avoid every one of their patrols.

 

We divided the watch into two shifts last night thinking we might have been spotted during our approach but nothing ever came in the night.

 

We left our camp three hours before dawn, after we stashed our supplies in the trees. We would regroup here after the fight was over whether we won or had to retreat.

 

Ronald, followed by master and Camden, lead our group towards the goblins’ clearing. The headman’s jelen was left back in our camp, he sadly has had no practice fighting while riding an animal. Our pace is slow but steady. We want to reach the camp as soon as the sun rises. We want to catch them together so we aren’t attacked from our rear.

 

Looking forward, I refuse to glance at the people marching beside me. If I look at the terrified faces of my companions again my will to advance might shatter. I thought I no longer feared goblins.

 

I’ve come across goblins plenty of times when I was working with dad. I’ve killed many goblins when they attack us during our work in the woods. My victories seem shallow now that I know I basically killed the goblin equivalent of children. This time we’re attacking them and this time they might have the strength to win.

 

We approach a tree at least eight feet in diameter. I hold up my left hand and the man to my right raises his right hand. Silently, our group splits between the two of us as we circle the tree and reform on the other side.

 

For a split second I run my hands across the bark on the base of the tree. Cut marks line the entire base of the tree and it’s not only this one. The night is slowly receding allowing me to see the other trees surrounding us. It doesn’t matter the size of the tree; every trunk is scarred at the base with deep cuts.

 

Were they testing the wood for something?

 

As we advance, we see more and more stumps of trees. We’re almost there, I can see the first rays of the morning sun through the tree line.

 

Ronald is peering around a tree, observing the goblin camp. This is the last chance for the headman to call off the attack.

 

We have no time for a passionate speech and we would be just giving our position away. Camden simply walks to the front of our formation and takes his place amongst us. Del follows him, breaking off towards me at the last minute. We share a long hug that disguises my attempt to fill his pickaxe with my mana.

 

With glowing pickaxe in hand, Del takes his spot to my left among the frontline. We all watch Ronald with bated breath. The man steps out of the trees’ shadow and raises his bow. In a beautiful motion, Ronald pulls an arrow from his quiver and draws the string on his bow. The sound his bow makes as he releases his first arrow pierces our hearts.

 

We advance once we hear the screams. Not the screams of people but the animalistic sounds of a dying creature and its raging brethren.

 

Ronald releases another two arrows before we exit the tree line.

 

My heart is about to explode. The adrenalin is charging through every part of my body. No good, I can’t think straight. Taking the biggest breath I can, I slowly exhale and use Meditation. I can’t fully utilize the skill with everything going on but it clears my head enough to analyze the situation.

 

The goblin clearing is huge, it’s at least a mile in diameter maybe two. The floor of the clearing has tree stumps scattered everywhere. They must have felled tens of thousands of trees to create this clearing.

 

The morning sun shines upon the goblin camp. Maybe a dozen structures are grouped together in the center of the clearing. The goblins built their large huts from the tree limbs they harvested and an abundance of mud to scrape together their primitive dwellings.

 

I can only spare a few seconds to map out the terrain in my head. Ronald warned everyone about the village and the stumps before we started marching this morning.

 

I freeze in the face of the coming horde. The goblins are charging us en mass. Most are the normal goblins I’ve seen before, of course never in this number. I can see the towering figures of the hobs amongst the approaching swarm.

 

With each second that passes more goblins crawl from the holes littering their huts. Like bees, the goblins swarm around their homes until they spot us on the horizon.

 

Soon a wave of goblins is charging our location.

 

“Move out of the trees!” Camden’s voice almost goes unnoticed.

 

“Forward!” He shouts again. We aren’t close enough?

 

A quick side glance allows me to see that half of our formation is still stuck amongst the trees. Oh, we still need to march forward.

 

My legs don’t want to move.

 

“Don’t falter! Together we will be victorious! Forward!!!!!” Thanks to the headman my paralysis fades enough for me to take a few steps forward. Each step I take with the other high leveled people gives hope to those still cowering in fear behind us.

 

The formation finally fully exits the forest proper. The closest goblins are only 500 feet away from us and closing fast. Those in front ready their weapons. Thanks to my suggestions we spread out the few of us who wielded spears in the frontline. It’s too bad the headman only had seven spears to distribute amongst the men. If only this threat was spotted sooner. I wouldn’t have sold my last batch of weapons. Fate can be cruel sometimes.

 

In between the spear wielders, the strongest people are positioned to attack the ones who survive the first spear strikes. We leave gaps in between us, so that we can intentionally let the weaker goblins through to the mid guard. The frontline is supposed to take a few steps forward after the first wave. We are the ones most likely to survive against a hob so it’s our job to stall or injure them best we can.

 

200 feet and closing. I expel the most magical energy I’ve ever used at once. I use 500 mana to activate my Mana Skin skill. The large amount of mana covers my body and I shrink it down to the size it naturally manifests at. Hopefully my skill will be strong enough to withstand a goblin’s attack.

 

100 feet left. I don’t know if there are truly any gods. I never experienced any divine revelations in either of my worlds. Not through death or rebirth has a higher power made its presence known to me. I know I’m not that spiritual. I doubt the short prayer at dinner time counts towards anything.

 

50 feet, I can see their crazed faces approaching. I offer this humble prayer to anything listening. Please spare the lives of my father and master. Please protect Camden and Braddon, so Sandra doesn’t come back home to a broken family. Please protect these brave souls as they defend their homes and families. I don’t know how to finish a prayer in this world so forgive me if I use something from another. Amen.

 

Barrier raised, weapon ready, prayer sent…

 

…Here they come!

 

The sea of goblins throws its first wave at us. 30 odd goblins of different sizes rush us with reckless abandon armed with stone, bone, and wood weapons.

 

Seven spears thrust in front of us, five strike true, ripping large gashes into the charging masses. A large goblin, not yet a hob, heads straight towards me. One swing of my axe and the goblin’s head lies at my feet. Before the goblin’s body falls to the ground three more run at me screaming.

 

I shuffle my feet and activate Double Strike. My first strike rips a goblin’s chest apart while my second opens another’s stomach, spilling its insides at my feet. The third goblin runs past me only to be slashed by two villagers wielding their sickles.

 

I can’t look behind right now. A hobgoblin six inches shorter than me, wielding a stone-tipped spear, kicks the ground with his feet and launches himself at me. “Crap!” I bring my axe above my head and move closer to him. I barely make it in time for the wooden parts of our weapons to clash. Blocking his overhead strike, I can feel the force behind his spear, the hob’s strength must be close to 100.

 

 A savage grin crosses the hob’s face as he takes a step back, drawing his spear shaft against my hands. He’s trying to cut my fingers off!

 

Before he can take another step back, I activate Double Step, closing the distance between us more. I swing my axe in an over-head manner just like he tried to do but I use Precise Strike, my axe splits his spear in two and lands on his collarbone. I can feel my axe shear against his bones. The toughness of the hob was leagues above the others.

 

Another step forward and another dead goblin falls in my path, that’s five kills.

 

The air whistles as arrows sail through the sky.

 

300 feet away from our position the hunters appear out of the trees guarded by my father and a dozen other villagers. They took a section of high ground that was better suited for their archery skills.

 

The headman was skeptical when I told him we should split our forces yesterday. Our archers are used to taking precise shots at wild game, they probably would have found little success in having to shoot from behind a wall of villagers.

 

My plan seems to be a success. Most of the horde is still focused on us and the archers are picking off the goblins one by one. The few goblins moving towards the archers are ripped in half by father’s axe.

 

“! Horned Hob!” Someone shouts in the chaos.

 

Many of us stop and desperately look around for the approaching calamity.

 

It’s not hard for us to spot. Taller than me, the shape of the horned hob sends a shiver down my spine. The creature must be 6’ 5’’ at least and its three pointy horns stand straight up giving it the appearance of being taller. Its body is thin and gangly in opposition to the sense of danger that is radiating off of the hob. Worst of all this goblin has armor, it’s wearing what looks like pieces of grey crab shell around its chest, legs, and forearms, with a helmet that accents its horns. The skin of the hob is covered in scars, giving a scary look into how many fights it must have survived.

 

Unlike the other goblins it scans our ranks. Its eyes immediately fall on Master Del whose magic pickaxe mows through four goblins without any resistance. Their eyes meet across the field and both radiate a strength that causes the other goblins around them to scatter.

 

I twist around and slash another goblin almost completely through horizontally. Making sure the goblin falls lifelessly to the ground, I turn back to where my master was standing.

 

Where did he go?

 

“Eeeerrrrrrr!”

 

The screech of metal scrapes my ears and muffles the surrounding conflict. Tracing the sound, I see Del clashing with the horned hob. His pickaxe that can cut through stone like butter is stopped by two fangs. The horned hob is wielding a pair of black fangs that resemble a snake’s fangs only they’re three feet long.

 

The hob managed to stop master’s strike by holding his daggers in an x formation. Of course, the goblin can’t compare with master’s strength and is pushed back by the force of his strike. Master rushes the goblin again and this time his arms blur forming three simultaneous strikes. I’ve seen master use Multi-Strike before and he can usually swing his hammer five or six times with his skill. Using the pickaxe must be throwing him off.

 

Whatever the fangs are, they allow the goblin to parry master’s first two strikes. The goblins footwork make it look like it’s dancing. The goblin already learned it can’t match master’s speed and strength, so each parry only glances master’s weapon enough to redirect the blow. Luckily, master’s third strike isn’t redirected enough for the goblin to dodge.

 

The spike of master’s pickaxe lands against the goblin’s armored chest. Master won; the creature will be skewered.

 

“Oh no!” My breath catches in my throat. Instead of the pickaxe piercing the goblins armor, the monster leapt back at the last second, reducing the force from master’s attack. The goblin is still blasted back but this time it curls into itself and rolls until its momentum is gone. The creature springs to its feet and I can see its armor.

 

A spot on the goblins right chest area is deeply cracked with smaller fractures spreading throughout the rest of the chest guard. What the hell is that armor made of!? It might not have been a full strike from master but his pickaxe is still enchanted right now, he should have ripped that hob in half!

 

Did we underestimate the horned hobs!? I try and not to panic, only to see the copper lines covering master’s pickaxe fade away. The goblin eyes master as he moves the drained pickaxe to his back and draws his hammer from his side. I thought my magic would last longer.

 

They both look ready to clash again. Master takes his stance as the goblin steadily approaches him, knowing not to recklessly charge anymore.

 

I expect them to start exchanging blows once the goblin reaches four feet in front of master. Their bodies tense, preparing for the coming clash.

 

But another person dares to interfere with the fight.

 

Before the goblin moves to attack Del an arrow strikes the weakened part of its armor. The arrow digs into the already weakened armor and lightly pierces the hob’s flesh. The goblin is only caught off guard once, even when wounded, it twists its body avoiding another shot to the chest.

 

I spot Ronald a distance away surrounded by dead goblins aiming his bow at the hob. The two of them can surely bring the beast down together!

 

I can feel a chunk of my mana surrounding me be ripped away from my back. I jump forward and twist my body around when I touch the ground. A goblin with a stone knife is chasing after me. A quick flick of my axe sends it off to the afterlife. Why did a goblin attack me from behind?

 

Scanning my surroundings reveals that our formation is almost completely shattered. The number of goblins pressing the charge has overwhelmed everyone and spread our formation out to the point people aren’t close enough to help each other.

 

First Del and now us. Is father ok still!?

 

I’m relieved to see that a smaller group of goblins is assailing our archers which they have no problem handling. In fact, they’re trying to reduce the numbers charging towards us with their arrows but the flood of goblins is already mostly upon us.

 

Focus.

 

I stabilize my Mana Skin skill and charge a hob attacking a villager wielding a sharpened hoe.

 

My axe rips through the goblins exposed back. I feel the resistance as my axe bisects the creature’s spine. The creature’s body collapses to the ground followed soon by the villager’s still form. A bone spear is lodged up through the villager’s jaw and into his skull.

 

The adrenalin pumping through my veins is the only thing that keeps me from retching at the sight. I need to keep going.

 

A swing of my axe and another goblin dies.

Another goblin.

 

Another goblin.

 

Another goblin body falls on a still villager. I remember him, he asked me to make his wife a new pan as a spring gift for her last year.

 

So much blood.

 

“Horned, AAAAGGGG!” I quickly face a screaming villager to my left. His screaming stops as two familiar black fangs pierce his chest and side. The villager’s body falls and I’m faced with another horned hob. I don’t take my eyes off of it, as I check the side of my vision.

 

Master appears to be winning but he’s still facing the first horned hob. This isn’t how we planned it!

 

The smile the new horned hob gives me is revolting. It’s a few inches shorter than me and still has a willowy frame, same as the other one. This horned hob however has much smaller horns. You might be correct in calling them more lumps than horns. I was told that the horns differ between goblins, is this his style of horns or is it a newly grown horned hob? Even worse he’s wearing the same type of armor as the other horned hob only without a helmet.

 

I haven’t been this scared since the Karhu attack.

 

Run! Run, you fool! This is too much! The goblins weren’t supposed to be this strong! No one would blame me for running away.

 

But what then? This goblin starts tearing through the rest of the villagers. Maybe he attacks father, or helps the other hob fight Del.

 

I can’t run away.

 

I won’t!

 

Straightening my back, I take my stance. The goblin must think my resistance is amusing, his dry cackle almost breaks my resolve.

 

Is this monster looking down on me! I’ll show him I’ll…!

 

I pause after I take a step closer to the goblin. Was I about to charge? My sudden urge to attack the goblin fades the more I ponder my spontaneous rage.

 

Did this goblin use a skill on me?!

 

The goblin’s smile slightly falters when I don’t continue my charge. That’s it! The weaker goblins probably only have tier 1 and 2 skills but anything that can survive as long as my opponent must have at least a single tier 3 skill.

 

That must have been a taunt skill and my Mental Resistance must have saved me. If I blindly charged the hob I probably would’ve been cut down in seconds.

 

My time to ponder dwindles as the confident goblin takes a few measured steps in my direction.

 

He’s too close now…

 

If I turned to run, he would stab me in the back.

 

I take a deep steadying breath, and discard any ideas of fleeing and try to bury my fear as deep as I can in my head. This is happening, Aaliyah.

 

Are you going to roll over and die again!?

 

“No!!” I take another step forward. We’re six feet apart now. Either of us could close the distance in a second. My axe versus his fangs. We both wait for the other to start.

 

The stare down lasts for an eternity. I can feel my skills’ cooldown times finishing. If he wants to give me the first move, then fine, I’ll make the first move.

 

I activate Double Step and Double Strike while screaming with Intimidating Shout. I ignore the toll of using three skills simultaneously. I close the distance and send my first strike to his armored chest and aim my second strike at his face. Let’s see if you can smile after this!

 

Crap, he’s still smiling!

 

With ease, the hob stops my first strike with his fang in his left hand. My Intimidating Shout failed to make him pause. I can’t stop now. My skill is already helping me send another strike to the creature’s face. The goblin raises his right fang and guards his face from my strike. If he can easily stop my swings with one arm he has to be as strong as father, with a strength closer to 200.

 

Oh no! The goblin capitalizes on my failed strikes. His left fang is horizontally swung at my midsection. I try to leap back but he takes a step forward keeping me within his range. The black fang halts against my strengthened Mana Skin for a split second before it cleaves a right through my skill.

 

I leap back again and thankfully the hob doesn’t follow me this time. I can’t afford to look down. The sting across my abs is all I need to feel to know that he got me. Luckily it only stings, I would know if it was more than a deep scratch.

 

Those black fangs he’s using as daggers are stronger than they look. They’re able to take a blow from my axe, pierced my Mana Skin, went through my weighted vest, and cut my skin which boasts a fair 80 in Endurance.

 

The hob brings his left fang up to his face and observes the tip. He’s probably wondering why it was so hard to cut me. while he’s checking his weapon, I loosen my stance. I can’t match his strength or weapons, so my only chance at victory is if I can find an opening while avoiding his strikes. I make sure to patch up my Mana Skin skill before he tries for another attack.

 

Finished inspecting his weapon, the goblin rushes me with his fangs raised in both hands. Damn, he’s fast. I try to continue backing up but the many stumps are making it difficult.

 

He’s too close again. A lightning fast strike comes at my right shoulder from his left fang. I immediately raise my axe and try to stop his swift attack. I can feel the strength behind his blow, my arms almost buckle under the force. I need to move, so I use the force behind his strike to twist my body backwards. I feel my Mana Skin rip again, only this time he didn’t reach my clothes.

 

All I can do is dodge as the hob advances on me relentlessly.

 

I block one strike only to have him clip me with his other fang. With every other combo he cuts me a little bit more.

 

He’ll bleed me to death if I don’t figure something out! I need to strike back!

 

I block right and dodge the strike coming from my left. That’s the eighth time he’s led with his left hand. This could be my chance.

 

As he moves in for another volley of strikes, I step to my left. I narrowly miss his left-handed strike and now I have an opening. Raising my axe overhead, I bring it down with everything I have.

 

The hob blocks my blow by raising his fangs in the same x formation the other goblin used against master. I need more force!

 

Gritting my teeth, I try and push against the hob’s iron defense, until I feel it!

 

A new skill activates!

 

My axe feels heavier in my hands and helps me push the goblin back. The sudden shift in weight caught the goblin off guard and my axe moves across his armored chest. The weird grey crab armor now has a line running across it.

 

I’ll take whatever I can get.

 

Pausing a few feet away, the goblin looks pissed now. He obviously thought I would never hit him. Take that, you smug bastard.

 

His charge signals the continuation of our fight but now we settle into a new rhythm. I’m no longer unable to touch him. The skill has a horrible 64 second cooldown, so I’m still stuck dodging most of the time unfortunately. I’m still getting cut but now his armor is scarred with my successful counter attacks.

 

We both separate and take some deep breaths after a particularly hard fray. I’m happy to see the goblin no longer looking down on me but that doesn’t change my situation. Cuts litter my body and I’ve yet to make him bleed. Even with my new weighted strikes his ability to block me drastically reduces any damage I can inflict.

 

I need to try something new.

 

 I need to attack him from his side.

 

This time I’m the one signaling the continuation of our fight with my advance. The hob quickly takes his stance and readies to receive my new skill. He’s gotten used to my cooldown times.

 

I charge forward but activate Double Step to try rushing diagonally to his right side. If I can attack from his weaker side than maybe I can get a clean hit.

 

But I can’t catch him off guard. He only needs to shift his stance to face me when I move too far to his right. I need to move faster!

 

Double Step!

 

Double Step!

 

Can’t he at least get dizzy tracking me as I run circles around him!

 

Double Step has the lowest cooldown of any of my skills. I only need to wait three seconds before… wait is it two seconds? I’ve always practiced with Double Step while I ran every morning but I’ve never pushed it this hard before. With the added pressure I can feel the skill becoming stronger.

 

A little bit more!

 

I can feel it! The cooldown is recharging as soon as the skill activates! Continuous Double Step!

 

I feel my stamina draining away but I’m circling so fast the goblin can barely keep up. For the first time it looks nervous.

 

This is my one and only chance. I can feel my Stamina and Mana reaching their limits and my body is warning me my Health is suffering as well.

 

I still need a little more speed.

 

If I can use Double Step continuously then what happens if I activate it multiple times at once? I ready my axe. If this works, I’ll only have one chance to win. I won’t have the strength to continue afterwards, so even if I break myself, I’ll take this goblin down!

 

Double Step, Double Step, Double Step!

 

The world becomes stagnant around me as I essentially take six empowered steps in less than a second. I can barely control myself as I appear behind the goblin. Not off to his side but directly behind him!

 

Precise Strike, Double Strike, and my new skill all combine as I swing my axe at the back of his exposed head.

 

I’m waiting for him to dodge at the last second. Doubt plagues my mind even as my axe sinks into his skull. My second strike is overkill as the hobs head explodes with the first strike.

 

I tumble with my enemies’ body to the ground. Green blood washes over me. I try to roll off of the headless corpse but my body isn’t responding.

 

I can hardly turn my head when I hear the shrieks surrounding me. The surrounding goblins stayed out of our way during the fight either out of respect or possibly fear but seeing their dead leader has forced them into a frenzy.

 

It’s almost funny. I manage to kill the demon lord only to die at the hands of the first mobs you meet.

 

The screaming intensifies but the smaller goblins never reach me. Finally, a goblin enters my view but it’s too busy fighting a villager.

 

“We got you!” The villager stabs the goblin in its chest with a long dagger. His eyes meet mine as the goblin collapses. “We’ll protect you!”

 

The man’s words strike a chord in my heart.

 

I’m saved!

 

My vision becomes blurry, I can’t help but release all my feelings I’ve been suppressing during my fight.

 

My worries, my doubt, sadness, and fears, all cascade out of my eyes upon hearing the villagers protecting my weakened state.

 

In between my tears the outer edges of my vision slowly fade away. No matter how hard I try to stay awake I slip into oblivion.

 

The last thing I think I hear is master calling my name.

 


 

Opening my eyes, I’m in a familiar place.

 

My soul.

 

I stumble to my feet. Going from, so tired you can’t move, to feeling your best is disorienting.

 

I look up at the stars and I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. This world is mine. Nothing will harm me here, though it is a little disconcerting I entered here without using my skill or looking at my soul.

 

Should I try to return as quickly as possible?

 

 

A silent minute passes before I take a seat in the center of the clearing. Even if I return, my body has already reached its limits. Anyways, if I’m going to die again this seems like the best place to do it.

 

It’s not just my body that’s physically tired. Even in this place my mind still hurts thinking about the last few days.

 

I’ll clear my head and try to rejoin the outside world later. Hopefully I wasn’t hallucinating about master’s voice. If he won his fight, he and Ronald should be able to clean up the rest of the goblins, easily.

 

The bigger question is what happens next? Can this be considered a win for us?

 

I’d like to think we simply broke even.

 

Slipping into a deep meditative state, I prepare mentally for the challenges ahead.

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A note from kosnik4

5,000 words this time.

 

Hope everyone had a happy fourth of July.

 

As always, be safe.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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