The DeathGang group, which Crucis estimated as approximately 15 players of relatively high level, moved towards the uneven, stony ground to their West. The black mist had grown to cover this area as well, so they were all well-hidden. Crucis crouched to the ground, ready for action. A few DeathGang members spread out slightly Southwards and hid near trees or bushes, to keep watch for any intruders. DicingDevil invited Crucis to join a party of DeathGang players, and Crucis accepted the invitation. He saw that the party chat was hushed in anticipation.

Soon, the sound of light hooves echoed from the South, as a small group of [Communion] players emerged from the trees. Squinting, Crucis saw that one of the players was riding a [Lightly-Trained Donkey] Mount. Mounts were rare at this stage of the game, so even this basic Mount was being used. Crucis noticed that the Mount moved with short, unsteady steps, and did not seem suited to the mist. Using [Quickstep], Crucis circled quietly towards the flank of the approaching group, and saw that they were accompanied by a few archers, including Audet from GildedKnights. She was only level 51, and Crucis guessed that taking care of Justiciar had left her little time to level up.

"They have archers, take those out quickly before they can aim," he typed in the party chat.

"We have some low-level bombs planted, attack the archers after the explosions. I'll kill their Mage," came a message in response by DicingDevil.

Crucis crouched down and waited. He knew that the [Nightmare] effect would make it difficult for others to hit him in this mist, so long as their HP was low. If he was able to strike hard early on, then it would be difficult for an opponent to recover, especially if their HP had already been lowered.

After a few seconds, a series of small explosions lit up around the player riding a donkey, and their group were thrown into disarray. The donkey tried rashly to run forwards, only for a couple of DeathGang warriors with spears to attack the riding player. To avoid impaling himself on the spears, the player tried haphazardly to get the donkey to turn sharply to the left or right, but the donkey lost its footing and seemed to sprain its ankle. Since it was stuck in place, its rider was easily impaled on the spears and fell dead to the ground. The donkey disappeared.

The group of players had seemingly not been expecting DeathGang to be prepared for them, and were slow to recover. Of the players left standing after the explosion, only two defiantly drew swords and stood their ground. The rest began to run Southwards, back towards the trees. They were set upon by DeathGang members, including two scouts that had emerged from the trees to the South and cut off the retreat.

A few other players had been thrown aside by the impact of the explosion, including Audet. She fell with her face on the ground. As she tried to get up, Crucis pounced on her with a [Stunning Dagger] to the top of the shoulder. As she froze in paralysis, he locked her in a [Chokehold]. She seemed demotivated, but he saw her reaching for a knife to fight him off.

He decided to continue his assault, and kicked her hand away from the knife. The less HP she had, the harder it would be for her to hit him by flailing with her knife in this mist. As such, he used a quick [The Ripper] to make a slight cut just below the front of her neck, followed by a rough [Silent Stab] into the side of her neck. She flailed her body across the ground in pain, and nearly threw him off as he prepared to stab again. He tightened his chokehold to pacify her, and shifted his dagger to his left hand. She had 65% HP remaining.

His brief instability was enough time for Audet to reach for her knife. As Audet grabbed the knife on her right side, Crucis shifted his body away from it to the left. She flailed the knife behind her back uncomfortably, but missed Crucis easily. While she flailed, Crucis was aiming his dagger. He stabbed her with a [Panoramic Strike] near the top of the back of her neck. Audet fell limp to the ground, and Crucis tightened his chokehold while impatiently moving a foot to step on Audet's knife hand and loosen her grip on it. He saw that Audet now had only 45% HP remaining.

He used [Black Spot] to slit her throat, then slowly deepened the wound with a slicing [The Ripper]. However, this was interrupted by a Mage from the [Communion] Guild, who cast [Mana Strike] on Crucis and propelled him away along the rough ground. Crucis grimaced as he rolled to his feet, covered in dust and light scratches. He noticed that Audet had weakly prepared her bow, but couldn't see him through the mist. This mist wasn't a good situation for archers to fight in. The Mage had also been assaulted by DicingDevil, who was cutting large gashes along the Mage's back.

Classes like archers and Mages, who were vulnerable in close combat, were not currently effective combatants in the mist. It was easy for other classes, especially Assassins, to sneak up and start melee combat. While Mages could eventually gain enough power to make up for this setting, it would still be difficult to cast high-level spells in an ambush, because the casting generally required some time undisturbed. At present, however, Mages didn't generally have enough firepower to resist an attack like this.

As Crucis snuck behind Audet, and approached to attack, he was surprised to see her whip out her knife in reverse grip and swing it in his direction. He halted, but still took a sharp cut to the chest, just below his shoulders. Wary of her reflexes, he used [Stealth Cloak] to circle around and prepare an attack from another angle.

"Stay away, monster!" she cried.

Crucis saw her wielding her knife aggressively, preparing to fend off an attack from behind. He instead used [Agile Step] to approach her flank, and stabbed the side of her neck with [Panoramic Strike]. He saw that her eyes were wide with fear, and realised that his appearance had once more taken on the [Nightmare] form with black scales. This time, however, he noticed that his skin glowed a faint orange like fresh ashes. It resembled the colour of exploding bombs that he recalled from when Audet was killed by the lone Hashin.

He grabbed her in a [Chokehold], and noticed that she went to ground easily. She seemed to be half-faint, and only looked awake due to bravery. He slammed her head into the ground as she helplessly fell. Her HP was only 15%, so after a [The Ripper] high on the wounded back of her neck she was nearly dead. She tried weakly to swing at him, but missed easily due to the [Nightmare] effect. After a [Silent Stab], she was dead.

Crucis got to his feet, and saw that a large warrior was advancing on him. He quickly backstepped into the mist, and he could tell from the warrior's lost gaze that this foe had lost track of Crucis.

As the warrior tried to regain their bearings, DicingDevil pounced on them from behind, and quickly carved a few gashes along the warrior's neck with a sword. Crucis saw DicingDevil try in vain to remove the warrior's helmet, and then finally strike the warrior with a dizzying [Mordhau], a hard, blunt blow with the hilt of DicingDevil's sword. This dizzied the warrior, and Crucis ran forwards and kicked out the warrior's legs until the warrior fell heavily to the ground.

As DicingDevil crouched down to kill the warrior, Crucis saw a DeathGang member die towards his right side. He equipped his [Silver Wasp Sword], and rushed in to investigate. He saw a level 60 warrior named [Bahaus] standing over the corpse. The warrior stepped back slightly in fright when they saw Crucis' scales and void-like face, and Crucis saw that the warrior had killed two DeathGang members but was down to 45% HP.

Bahaus swung his sword heavily in Crucis' direction, leaning forwards, but Crucis was out of range of the attack, which only hit air. Crucis responded with a sharp [Slash] towards Bahaus' hands, weakening the warrior's grip on the sword.

Bahaus struggled to grip his sword, and Crucis stepped quickly forwards, sensing an opportunity. However, he was surprised by the warrior's dexterity, as Bahaus quickly swung at Crucis again. However, this strike was done with a loose grip, and the accuracy debuff of the [Nightmare] effect, so it swung comfortably wide to Crucis' left. Holding his sword horizontally to his left, to block off any strikes from Bahaus' sword, Crucis used the [Half-swording] skill to place one hand on the middle of his sword's blade.

He used [Agile Step] to near Bahaus, then wielded his sword like a dagger and stabbed harshly at Bahaus' neck with [Lunge]. Although the warrior was wearing slightly-damaged armour, Crucis' half-swording allowed him to strike with precision in vulnerable areas.

As Bahaus reared his sword from Crucis' left, Crucis lowered his blade slightly to intercept the strike. He used this opportunity to strike with [Slice] and deepen the throat wound, before he was forcefully but clumsily grappled aside by Bahaus' off-hand. This warrior had decent dexterity, and higher Strength than Crucis. It would have been a difficult battle, but Crucis felt confident with the warrior now at only 25% HP and bleeding.

Crucis held out his sword in front of him, and calmly approached Bahaus. As he approached, Bahaus used a shaky [Flank Cut] to reach speculatively for Crucis' side. Crucis comfortably parried this strike, but Bahaus quickly backstepped to avoid retaliation. Crucis approached again, and saw that Bahaus was now down to 20% from the [Bleeding]. While Crucis could have attempted to strike back after the [Flank Cut], he was still at some distance and lunging forwards may be risky since the ground here was slightly uneven. He decided to try and bait Bahaus into a series of traded strikes and parries. Since the warrior's HP was low, the [Nightmare] effect made it likely that Bahaus would soon make a wayward strike which Crycis could capitalise on.

Bahaus raised his sword above his own head, and swung downwards as Crucis approached. Crucis readily parried this strike, then followed up with a steady [Slash] towards the right side of Bahaus' face, where some of Bahaus' helmet had been damaged in earlier fights. Bahaus comfortably responded with a parry of his own, then responded with a sharp, central downwards [Slash] aimed below Crucis' ribs. Crucis dangled his sword's blade downwards, then slid it to the left in order to make Bahaus' strike veer off course.

Crucis used a [Rising thrust] to aim threateningly towards Bahaus' wounded neck, but Bahaus elegantly blocked this by raising his blade and holding it horizontally in the path of Crucis' strike. As Bahaus tried to shift his blade slightly to swing it at Crucis, Crucis used [Uncrossing of Blades], and the cooldown on [Rising thrust] disappeared. He immediately used another [Rising thrust], almost sneaking under Bahaus' blade. However, Bahaus moved with surprising dexterity, and caught Crucis' blade before it could strike through.

Bahaus responded angrily with a wild [Slash] that missed Crucis completely, and Crucis took advantage of this opportunity to use the [Half-swording] ability, then step in and strike with a [Lunge] to Bahaus' wounded throat. As Bahaus tried to use [Counter], and strike back with his own sword, Crucis reared his blade and easily deflected the strike off-target with the base of his blade. Crucis then swung his blade from the centre like a lever, and easily used [Slice] to strike Bahaus' sword hand with the tip of the blade.

Bahaus attempted another wild strike, but this time he miscued and his sword went flying. Crucis laughed, and Bahaus shivered in fear.

Crucis used another [Lunge] to Bahaus' neck, and pressed forwards slightly to make the warrior lean backwards. As Bahaus tried to recover from the shock of losibg his sword, and grapple Crucis away, Crucis instead sent Bahaus swiftly to the ground with a [Forceful Kick] to the legs. The warrior fell heavily, now on only 6% HP.

Crucis knelt down, and withdrew his [Vile Toxin Gas]. He sprayed it across the warrior's bleedijg throat. Bahaus tried weakly to kick out, but his legs fell back in place as soon as he raised them.

Crucis noticed that Bahaus seemed very scared of his lizard-like form, so he stared triumphantly at Bahaus' eyes and hissed, "And you die!" The warrior was writhing weakly on the ground, due to the pain, but froze when Crucis said this.

Bahaus choked on a scream as he died.

As Crucis circled the area to check for survivors, he saw that the ambush had been quite successful. While there were three DeathGang casualties, all of their opponents had been killed. This was largely due to the element of surprise: DeathGang had not been expected to take a well-prepared, hit-and-run response to the war, and the thick, black mist had been a sudden change from the thin mist of this morning. Further, most of the victims had been cut down attempting to flee, and only the few who stood their ground to fight, like Bahaus, had been able to mount a notable resistance. Crucis reflected that they were lucky to run into enemies with cold feet, as there could have been more DeathGang casualties if the opposition had stood their ground.

Crucis lay down breathing heavily, to recover from a few cuts on his chest. A DeathGang Mage cast healing on him, which somewhat reduced the wounds. After a couple of minutes, Crucis was back on his feet.


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