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After the fight, I focused on my meditation a bit more while I kept my augment active to heal up fully. It was easier to gather mana, now that my muscles also gathered a little passively. Revan played with the bones of the defeated skeleton while he waited. For some reason he couldn't sit still now that we had entered the cave. Perhaps the ambient dark mana invigorated him?

After a few minutes I had gathered myself again, both mentally and physically. I kept my sword at the ready as I advanced deeper into the cave. Revan had decided to do reconnaissance and ran ahead every few minutes to scout out the area. The cave had turned into a standard system of tunnels again, forcing me to head down its premeditated path, which left me feeling like I was walking right into a trap.

I activated my augment and used about 25% of my power output to keep it stable. As long as I was prepared for the inevitable confrontation, I would be able to avoid serious injuries and heal from the rest.

Eventually, Revan returned to me, looking just as agitated as earlier in the day, when he noticed this cave. He had found something. Or someone. I followed him, keeping my footsteps as quiet as I could. After a few steps, Revan stopped, blocking me from advancing as well. He looked down to the rough cave floor and stared at it intently.

I tried to figure out what was scaring him and succeeded after squinting slightly. On the floor was a nigh-invisible line, separating a piece of rock from the rest of the floor. It was a well camouflaged pressure plate, most likely hiding a trap of some kind.

The good news was that we had found it without triggering it, therefore the culprit was still unaware of our presence. The bad news was that there would probably be a number of traps scattered around. I slowly turned my head to stare at Revan. Wasn't he semi-immortal as long as his talisman remained intact?

 


 

If Revan could sweat, he probably would have. He was standing over the edge of a pit trap, looking down at a number of stalagmites ready to impale us if we slipped. We were walking along the edge of a wall, with this large pit on our right. There was just enough space for me to put down both feet, but Revan had to claw himself along by climbing the wall to our left, because his feet were planted a little too wide normally.

We had progressed at a slow pace ever since the traps started hindering us, for obvious reasons. So far, Revan had been incinerated by a flame trap, crushed by a boulder and skewered by a spear trap. I felt a little bad for him, but he seemed happy enough when I summoned him again each time, so maybe he didn't really care?

I doubted he was able to feel pain, being undead and all, so that was something at least.

When we reached the other side of the slippery room, I sighed in relief and sent Revan ahead as usual. A few moments later he returned, snapping at the air. I could feel a pulse that meant combat from our bond, and realised he had found some enemies. Well, I needed some levels anyway. They came at the perfect time.

After spending some time recovering mana, I headed forward while sneaking, sword ready. The cave opened up into a mid sized chamber, which was large enough to hold a skeleton or ten comfortably. I knew this, because it did hold ten skeletons. They were just standing there, hunched over slightly, staring at nothing. They didn't appear to be moving at all.

This time, they were armed and armoured with equipment of varying qualities. Most of their equipment looked tier-less, other than one larger skeleton that had a large two handed hammer in his hands. The hammer was shimmering with a light blue colour, signifying an enchantment of some kind. Enchanted weapons were a threat, no matter what the enchantment was, if only because I couldn't know what they would do. I decided to take the biggest threat out early.

I used my shadow apparation to appear behind the hammer-wielding skeleton and swung down, with the intent to destroy it in one blow.

My efforts were thwarted by a blue cover that shimmered into existence right as I was about to strike. It took my augmented blow well, only cracking slightly. Now that I had made that much noise, the element of surprise had been lost. Mentally, I cursed my luck that the enchantment had just so happened to be a shield of some kind. Not wanting to be left in the middle of a pack of skeletons, I spent some more mana to apparate back to the chamber's entrance. From a distance, I could see the skeletons all swinging their weapons at my previous position. Most had the same clumsy, simplistic form as the skeleton at the entrance of the cave, but the hammer wielder seemed to be a little different. He had immediately noticed my disappearance and had started looking for me in the chamber, keeping his guard up in the meantime.

Was this a higher level skeleton? Did it have a skill for hammer wielding? I didn't know much about necromancy, to be honest. It was possible that the necromancer had made this one more powerful, or perhaps this skeleton had been a warrior when he was alive, and that had somehow increased his combat capabilities as an undead.

The enemies soon noticed my new position. The 9 weaker skeletons didn't waste any time and charged at me. I commanded Revan to stay in the backlines and to prepare for the hammer wielder, who had similarly waited a little further away. The inexperienced skeletons continued their charge and swung at me wildly. I backed up a little and parried whatever strikes I could. I didn't dare apparate behind them, because that would allow the stronger skeleton to flank me. Had that been his goal? To limit my mobility? Well, he was in for a surprise, because mobility wasn't my party piece. I started spinning my core a little faster, adding some extra power to my augment. I was still limiting myself, so that I would be able to deal with the hammer wielder. That guy wouldn't expect me to have another trump card anyway.

With the extra power flowing through my veins, each blow I parried, I was now able to counter. Each sword slash I dodged, I was now able to respond to with my own. Each swing or thrust of mine destroyed one of my fragile opponents. After a few moments, there were only three weaklings left, four opponents total.

The hammer wielder seemed to realise that the other skeletons wouldn't be enough to overwhelm me, because he decided to join the fight himself. His shield repaired itself slowly as he advanced. I destroyed another skeleton and ordered Revan mentally to distract and destroy the last two while I dealt with the bigger skeleton.

Revan was grappling with his targets a moment later, allowing me to meet my other opponent in the middle of the chamber. We sized each other up for a moment stepping into a small circle. The hammer wielder was the one to take the initiative. He swung his two handed, absurdly sized hammer wildly, nearly taking my head off with his surprisingly fast swing.

I luckily dodged in time and responded with a thrust, aiming to test his shield's durability. My thrust connected, but didn't penetrate. The opponent responded with a flurry of attacks, none of which quite landed. Some I had to block personally, but they didn't cause any wounds. Noticing the stalemate, my opponent became slightly sloppy in frustration. Apparently these skeletons had some form of emotion still, or did bad habits also get inherited by the undead form of a dead warrior? I took advantage of these unsettled emotions of his and responded with a horizontal slash, aiming to break the shield. It wasn't enough to do so, but it did leave a crack like before. I changed strategies and decided to focus on one spot of the shield, to break it down before it regenerated.

Like that I took advantage of my opponent's mistakes by repeatedly landing similar swings into the same spot of the shield. Each time the cracks would get bigger and bigger. It was starting to look like I would break it soon, when my opponent raised his hammer to the sky.
I had seen this move before. Doran had used it.

The hammer started shining in an azure blue colour. My opponent brought his hammer down, intending to destroy me entirely. I didn't see the point in trying to block again and simply apparated away, dodging his strike. From my renewed distance, I could see the explosion my opponent's swing brought forth. When the hammer impacted the ground, a blue wave of mana erupted, tearing up the stone around the blast like a wave. If I had been in the epicentre of that...I might've been forced to escape and heal.

The good news was that despite the crater that attack had left, it had also drained whatever power the enchantment had left. The shield disappeared, allowing me to apparate next to my opponent and lop his head off in one strike. It felt a little anticlimactic, but I wouldn't complain.

Ding! Combat finished. Congratulations on reaching [Death Knight] level 24!

Reach level 25 to advance to tier 2.

Stat points allocated. 3 free stat points per level up awarded.

The skull flew through the air and landed near Revan, right as he killed his own opponent. I picked up the hammer to inspect it, but it seemed like it had lost its power. It would probably still sell for a pretty penny though, since enchanted objects could be recharged. It was too heavy to carry in battle, so I decided to take it with me on the return journey.

If there was one thing this battle had made me aware of, it was that my enemy this time wasn't simple. A necromancer powerful enough to kill a warrior like that and turn it into his servant would not be an easy opponent. If he had left a skeleton of that calibre right here, then what type of skeletons was he keeping as his bodyguards?

I could still overload if things went tits-up and it wasn't like I had needed to go all out in this battle, but would all of that be enough?

With those grim thoughts on my mind, I deliberated returning to town and asking for help. It was the smart thing to do... but not necessarily the right thing. My affinity made me practically immune to all of a necromancer's spells, but if I was forced to protect some lacklustre guards the mayor had saddled me with, my chances of victory would go down drastically. Giving up entirely also wasn't an option.

I refused to be a coward.

 


 

Some tunnels and a lot of traps later, we arrived near a larger chamber. I could hear people talking in there. The voice of a man was speaking with a child's voice, that was for some reason singing all of its words...

"Rickardo! Where's the tome? Did you steal it again? I need it!"

"One moment master, I believe I have it around here somewhere..."

"Now, Rickardo! Do I look like I want to hear you monologuing?"

"For a man who claims to hate monologues, you sure seem to enjoy your own..."

"Quiet, feathered fool. I was simply practicing my own monologues for when the witch hunters arrive. You can never be too prepared."

 

I almost couldn't believe it. A necromancer joking around with his compatriot. He had killed and tortured an innumerable amount of people to make skeletons, and he was joking around about monologues? Did he have no conscience at all? Not even an idea of what empathy is supposed to be?

 

I approached the entrance of the chamber, intending to kill the necromancer with an apparation, but I was out of luck. The moment I stepped through the door to get in range of my target, the room turned red and an alarm blared. There had been no sign of a trigger mechanism. I cursed my luck. This necromancer had been careful and placed runes all over the room.

I could hear his shrill voice as he turned around to face me. On his shoulder sat a small, fat, angelic looking baby with bat wings on its back. A demon.

I summoned Revan again, keeping him hidden behind a boulder, and ordered him to deal with the summoned demon while I dealt with the necromancer. Before we could spring into action, the necromancer spoke.

"Ah, visitors! Finally! I was wondering when you would arrive... Only one person though? Your guild must have underestimated me...Then again, you seem to be dealing with the high concentration of death mana rather well... Most tier 2 warriors would have collapsed by now."

Death mana? Was there a distinction between normal dark mana and death mana? Questions for later. I wanted to get straight into the fight, but stopped myself. This necromancer might have had backing of some kind. I had to find out. Not finding any clever ploy to make him spill his secrets, I decided to just be straightforward.

"Are you here on your own, foul necromancer?"

"Trying to interrogate me, hunter? Hah, I shall indulge you this once. I have come here to create a concoction on behalf of a colleague of mine. Beyond that, there is no further involvement of undesirables. Other than me, of course."

The man followed up his sentence with an annoying cackle, laughing at his own subpar joke. I was about to ask another question when he pulled out a tome and started casting a spell. I saw the dark mana in the air congregate on the tome. Judging from the amount of used mana, this spell would be dangerous.

Making a split second decision, Revan and I charged forward.

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Belgianfri

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