Now Entering [Lair: Haunt of the Wights ].
I grabbed my companions, leaping back away from the pool of water ahead. The words resounded in my head once again, this time telling me that I was leaving the Lair as I felt the curse’s effect dissipate. Daniel and Edithe drew their weapons as I placed them back on the ground, although the confusion was evident on their faces.
“Uh, what’s going on, Salvos?”
“There was a curse, Daniel. But I’m not sure what it was from.”
The pair looked at me, waiting for what I had to say. I fixed my gaze on the lake— there were figures moving in the water, slowly rising up and forming ripples on its surface. I created a Sickle Grenade and pointed at them.
“[Wights]. Look. I’m not sure how many of them are there, but…”
I glanced back at my companions. They were Level 90 and Level 85. We were certainly higher leveled than when we last ran into a group of [Wights], however if memory served, these undead were around Level 110. And it was an entire Lair.
“We need to get ready. They’re coming!”
I hurled the Sickle Grenade forward as the first of the blue creatures dragged itself out of the lake. It had a twisted neck— a disfigured Kobold’s face that hung loosely off its body. It was smaller than even Edithe, and its clawed hands almost dragged on the floor as water dripped from a twitching finger.
The explosion didn’t knock it back, although it sent a pillar of water bursting out of the lake. I could see more of the [Wights] now. None of them looked like the corpse of a Human, each of them bumbling forward almost meticulously towards us.
These were not the first undead Kobold I had seen. However, their size and their original Species mattered not. They were [Wights]. And they had their sights set on us.
[Wight - Lvl 107]
[Wight - Lvl. 110]
[Wight - Lvl. 113]
The Human man’s [Aura of the Sentinel] flared up, and Edithe blasted the approaching [Wights] with her [Storm of Ice and Fire]. I stepped forward, engulfing the forefront undead with a [Flaming Breath]. However, it walked through the fire like it wasn’t even there and brought a hand out to touch me.
I felt its curse pressing on my shoulders, trying to ground me to the earth. It slowed my movement, a different one form before, not draining my mana. So, they can use different types of curses then? Before it could touch me, I managed to stumble out of the way with [Self Haste] and a proceeding [Flame Burst].
Just as I hit the ground with a thud, the [Wight] swiped its hand at where I stood. The oppressive feeling bogging down my movements vanished. I felt like I could move at full speed again. And suddenly I felt a clawing at my chest. The light from the Ring of Lesser Curse Protection turned into a glare— shining even more so than before— as deep scars formed across my flesh. Black blood trickled down my leg as I grimaced, clutching at the wound.
I fumbled for a healing potion from my sack and downed it as Daniel stepped forward, engaging that same [Wight]. His blade curved around the undead, avoiding the slashing claws and striking straight at its blue flash. His [Aura of the Sentinel] dissipated for a moment as the weapon blurred, slicing off the undead’s head.
Defeated [Wight - Lvl. 110]!
More experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 10 levels above you!
Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!
“One down— and that’s one of my better Skills used!”
The Human man called out as he leapt back, only managing to land a single cut on one of the other approaching [Wights]. I growled, creating a fire bow and a Refined Blazing Bolt from the back.
“There’s over a dozen of them!”
It was a Lair. What else did I expect? I loosed the arrow at one of the lumbering [Wights]. The flames splashed over the undead’s head. Its movements were not slowed, although I could see its neck snap back from the impact.
A second arrow shot out, cutting through the thin layer of mist, setting the ground alight as it sped to the [Wight]. It didn’t come from me. Edithe lowered her staff as her Skill struck the undead, glancing over at me and calling out.
“Salvos— they’re too powerful for our individual Skills!”
“I can see that!”
I yelled as I fired another Refined Blazing Bolt out. The [Wight] actually moved out of the way in time, and the attack blasted another undead behind it. I clicked my tongue, creating another Sickle Grenade instead. That would have hit its mark, even if it did less damage total.
The weapon— my grasp over its magic— vanished. It flickered out of existence as multiple curses struck me at once. It wasn’t the same painful, clawing sensation of before. This one simply messed with my control over magic. It undid the threads of mana weaving together, untying the ribbons that made up the Sickle Grenade.
A [Lightning Orb] blasted the foremost [Wight], followed by Daniel running it through with his sword. The undead crumpled over, dead for good. But its companions pressed on. Edithe ran up to me, grabbing me by the arm as Daniel once again drew away from the [Wights].
“Back up! We’re faster than them— we have to take advantage of what we got!”
“And what is that?”
I narrowed my eyes, facing the red-haired woman. I felt a surge of energy run through me— my mana was not just replenished, but it felt invigorated. As if I could cast spells even beyond my level. Edithe drew her hand back as she spoke.
The three of us continued to back away from the [Wights], keeping a good distance away from them as Edithe and I hurled spells their way. Every time they got close enough to inflict their curses upon us, we relocated much further back. It was almost simple; the [Wights] couldn’t move fast. It was like they were Infant Demons, slowly crawling towards us.
The problem was that they were relentless. Only one fell each time they caught up to us. It was like the darkness of night, it encroached on the day, no matter what we did to try and stop it. The [Wights] came, even as we fled back down the tunnel.
Edithe supported me as I loosed Refined Blazing Bolts down at the [Wights]. These ones didn’t just shine brilliantly, lighting up the cavern as they soared at their targets. They cut through the air, their white light bouncing off the walls, revealing their almost jagged edges. And unlike previous iterations of the spell, this one didn’t just pierce my enemies. They combusted— setting them ablaze with white flames.
Another [Wight] fell. I downed mana potion after mana potion— and so did the woman. We were careful not to push ourselves too hard. Neither of us wanted to get mana potion poisoning. Especially Edithe. Not again.
“Dead end, coming up!”
I called out as I glanced back. The [Wights] had pushed us all the way back to where we started. Right at the bottom of the pit, where I had landed. Enough time had passed that I was able to send another [Flaming Breath] down the tunnel. With all the undead clumped up together, I could catch them all with one single attack.
They were starting to falter. Their numbers were down to the single digits. But we were exhausted. I couldn’t even escape the blunt strike from one of the [Wights] after I used my Skill.
It knocked me back, tearing straight through my Ring of Lesser Protection. Then I felt the after effects crush my body— another kind of curse that broke one of my arms. My Ring of Lesser Curse Protection was no longer active. All my protections, apart from [Ember Core], were gone.
And even then, I was struggling to keep up that Skill. Once it broke, I would have nothing left. I staggered over to my companions, popping a healing potion open and pouring it over my wounds. Daniel covered me as I did, swinging wildly at the trudging [Wights].
Edithe ran over to my side, helping me back and raising her staff.
She called out to the Human man. He was quick to follow her orders. Hurrying after us, he exited the stone passageway to the cave opening. What awaited us was a cliff’s face— a long way up through a vertical incline. We’d have to climb to even get out of here.
Edithe let go of me, keeping her staff aimed at the tunnel. She closed her eyes as icy wisps gathered around its tip. The entire room grew cold. A chill crept down her arm, covering it with a thin layer of sleet. The spell finally coalesced as she shouted its name.
“[Shield of the Misty Lord]!”
The [Wights] progress was halted. The tunnel was blocked by a thick wall of ice. It took the shape of a badge, the same kind the Adventurers Guild would give out for each rank. A glow left its center, red light branching out to the edges like a spider web crack.
Edithe glanced over at Daniel and I, panting heavily.
“That won’t hold them off for long. We have to flee, climb out of here before they break through.”
“But the Herald’s Brush—”
I started, but was cut off as Edithe shook her head.
“We’ll just have to return later. When we’re more prepared— fuck, how many [Wights] were there?”
“Too many for us to handle. It’s a Lair. Salvos, Edithe is right. There’s no point in taking unnecessary risks now.”
I hesitated, looking over at where the [Wights] were. Edithe’s Skill was still up. It would hold for a moment longer. However—
“They won’t stop coming. They’ll give chase. We’ll keep fleeing. And we might run into more undead.”
“We have no other choice, Salvos.”
Edithe placed a hand on my shoulder. But I was adamant. I placed a hand on my sack, pulling out a thin object.
“There is still a way.”
She blinked as she saw the rolled-up piece of parchment.
“You’re going to use the Runic Scroll of Starfall… here?”
“That’s right. There’s no point in keeping this scroll if I’m never going to use it when it’s needed. And right now—”
A crack— a proper crack formed on the surface of the ice. The red glow flickered, wavering from the banging by the [Wights].
I looked up at the far climb, then back ahead of us. I unfurled the scroll as the glyphs and sigils in it lit up.
“Now’s the time to use it.”
Edithe wanted to protest. I wasn’t sure why she was so against using the High Grade artifact.
“Even if you use it now, there may still be more [Wights] in the Lair!”
“And there may be more [Wights] waiting for us aboveground. Everything has its risks. I’m taking mine.”
The [Shield of the Misty Lord] shook. The flailing of the [Wights] did more than just chip away at its exterior. Their powerful blows sent a trembling through the earth, chipping off pieces of the rock wall along with the ice.
My Runic Scroll of Starfall shone with a scintillating light. The sketchings on its paper began to overlay themselves into reality, forming a complex, almost lattice-like pattern in front of me. The ice wall broke, its glow vanishing as tendrils of mist poured in with the [Wights]. I opened my mouth—
And Daniel sighed. He stepped past me before I could cast the spell. His sword was drawn, held out at his side. I quickly stopped the scroll from doing anything as he rested his palm on his forehead.
“You know, Salvos, you really like to embarrass me, don’t you?”
“What are you doing? Are you crazy—”
I paused as he held my gaze. The [Wights] came slowly at him from behind, but I said nothing. I realized what he was doing— why he stood before me.
Edithe didn’t get it. She tried to rush forward. I stopped her as Daniel spun around, taking a deep breath and raising his blade.
“Salvos, let go of me— what is he…?”
“Edithe. There is something I must admit: I haven’t been completely honest with you. It’s a lie— a white lie, perhaps. But one that has nearly cost our lives many times. I lied because I was scared. Because I was afraid of what could happen. However, I will not run any longer. Because—”
His sword was wrapped in an incandescent sheen that could be seen from even the top of the mountain. It wasn’t just some fancy aura. It exuded power. One that even my greatest Skills couldn’t match. Closing his eyes as the first [Wight] reached for him, Daniel let out a deep breath.
“Because I am a [Hero].”
He blurred forward as Edithe’s eyes grew wide. A grin spread across my face as he swung his glowing blade, striking three of the mighty undead at once.