Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Chapter 37 - Tradition

Fortunately, I hadn’t told anyone about my new power, so no one would know if I was… getting creative with the truth. As with my shapechanging, it was a simple matter of simply deciding what truths to tell, and letting them draw conclusions that happened to be what I wanted them to believe, while not actually telling a lie.

OK, so the ‘not lying to the crew’ thing was important for two reasons. First, because if it ever came out that I’d lied outright to them, then it could potentially rip the crew apart. And second, because I wasn’t convinced that there weren’t powers or abilities that could passively detect lies based on some kind of mental ability.

Either way, telling the truth (technically) in a vague and misleading way would be easier for the rest of the crew to accept than outright lies, especially when I let it drop that I was a streamer, and I wanted to keep some secrets, so they couldn’t be used against me, or against the group as a whole. ‘Need to know’ sucks, and no one likes hearing it, but I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t rather hear truth for the basics and need to know on the details, than to be lied to outright. That was why spooks were so disliked when I was in the Navy. They never told the truth, unless it was layered in a good two dozen lies first.

Still, I was definitely going to get something of an interrogation about my new ability. And, right on cue, Jaynie stepped forward and spoke up.

“So, boss. Mind telling us what the hell you did to the girl? Didn’t see you hit her with anything until you slapped the collar on her, and she was already calling you master before that.”

I chuckled. “Well, you could consider that a successful test. I call it Mindbreaker. Basically, I worm inside your shields, like I do with Mindread, and then do the equivalent of setting off a flashbang inside their skull. But this is the first time I’ve actually been able to use it, since I’m not about to go testing shit like this on you guys. Unless you’re volunteering, Jaynie?”

Jaynie quickly shook her head, and held up her hands in a rejection of the idea. “No, I’m good. Just wanted to be clear on what went down. You hadn’t really attacked at all, so her going down screaming just looked off. How’d you get the idea to do something like that, anyways?”

“Well, I had a couple inspirations, but you could say the only one I’ll talk about here is boot camp back when I joined the Navy in our world. They break you down so that you can be remade into something that suits their needs, same as with any branch of the armed forces.”

Jaynie shrugged. “All right. So it isn’t something you can do without working on it?”

I laughed. “No, it isn’t an instantly OP thing. If my new pet hadn’t been so distracted with the fight and let her shields slip because I angered her, I wouldn’t have been able to worm my way in, certainly not without alerting her.” I paused, and then got serious. “But if I can do it, then someone else can, too. So up your Special Defense when you can, and practice the tricks I taught you to keep people from using Mindread on you.”

As we were finishing that conversation, Cali came up from the path leading to cove where the Harvester was stashed. “The raiders are dealt with, Master. Shearah is overriding the security on the Harvester as we speak. We should be able to arrange for pickup before long.”

Shanni finally spoke up. “The remaining warriors of the sietch are due back soon. We have not been able to contact them since the raiders attacked. They would likely see you as a threat if they encountered you out of sietch, until you were far from this place. Especially if you called down flyers to pick up the Harvester here.”

I sighed. “All right. We’ll wait for daylight. If the Freemen haven’t shown up by then, we should have time enough to get away from the sietch before they show up. I’d rather not have any unfortunate accidents in the dark.” Looking back to Raven, I said, “Get in touch with the shuttle, and have them land by the Harvester. No sense hiding, and we don’t want to look too threatening. And it would probably be safer to have everyone in a single group, rather than getting spread out.”

Shanni nodded, and said, “By tradition, outsiders who enter a sietch unbidden are to be purged immediately. However, a service to the tribe has been done, without expecting reward. It would have been easy enough for you to attack the leader first, but you were worried about them taking hostages. As a Freemen warrior, I offer sanctuary of the sietch for this night, and provisions for your journey back to keen-Arra. I cannot do more without leave of the First.”

I nodded to her. That’s about what I expected. The warriors we had helped that allowed us to buy the Freemen-made stilsuits had said similar things about the Freeman ways. “Thank you. If there is a place we may rest the night, then in the morning we shall take the Harvester back to where the raiders stole it before activating the radio.”

One of the Freemen women came in at that point, and said, “Places have already been prepared for you, and those the raiders have captured.” Shanni looked like she was about to say something, but the woman shook her head. “It was the only honorable course open to you, Shanni. It did not take much wisdom to see what you would do.”

Other Freemen entered now, taking the bodies of the slain raiders away, most likely to deal with the aftermath of the battle however they normally did. Checking my HUD, I saw that we still had almost four hours until dawn.

Retiring to the rooms we’d been given, I took Sana and Nyna with me. The other girls didn’t look exactly happy, but they understood that I needed some time to thoroughly enjoy my new property. I also promised to properly reward them for their deeds when we got back to the ship.

The two slaves were in submissive poses, both collared and naked, kneeling by my bed, looking up at me with looks of adoration and, dare I say, worship. Even though I knew it was fake, I could see how people might get swayed by this kind of thing. Two beauties looking at me in such a way did wonders for my ego. Still, before I began enjoying them, there were a few things I needed to hear answers to.

“As your Master, you may both speak freely for the moment, with your true thoughts. If you do not keep a civil and respectful tone, however, I will simply remove your ability to speak altogether. Am I understood?”

“Yes, Master.” The two slaves spoke in unison, though while Nyna’s voice was resentful, and a bit despondent, Sana’s was clearly brimming with barely checked rage at what had happened to her.

“Good. Now, we’ll start with Nyna. I know you have some skill as a Mechanic and Pilot. That’s good, because I could use a backup to both those things on my ship. You got a raw deal, because you didn’t read that contract closely enough, but if you do good work, you’ll find that being my slave isn’t so bad. Your Stepford protocols will remain on until we get back to my ship. The desert is dangerous enough without having wild elements throwing a wrench in the works. Prove to me that you can be trusted, and that you’ll work hard, and those protocols will remain off. Right now, I only have the one ship and a shuttle. But some day I might find another ship, and on that day, I’ll have two ships with only the single captain.”

I trailed off, letting her imagination run wild on that idea for a bit. Then I said, “Of course, part of any decisions, whether on your protocols getting turned off or any future matters, will depend on both the skill and the enthusiasm with which you undertake the tasks I give you, whatever they might be, or whoever they might be with. Understand?”

Nyna gulped, but nodded her head, clearly getting what I was hinting at. “Yes, Master. I’ll do my best to make you happy with my skill and… and enthusiasm.” Well, she was trying, at least. That was something. She might actually turn into a decent crew member.

I turned to look at Sana. “As for you, you are not allowed to lie to me, ever. That is an order. Now, I want to hear how you became a raider. You’re clearly a better fighter than the rest of the idiots you had with you. You have actual training, unless I miss my guess. How did you become a raider?”

The knelfi warrior grit her teeth, and practically spat out, “I was a Sergeant in the Confederate Armed Forces, Special Operations Command. Fully trained on any weapon system in known space, and I used to be enhanced with augments to enhance speed, strength, and survival ability. Most of my augments were ripped out after my discharge, except for a few biological enhancements, like my toxin screen.”

“What were you discharged for?”

“Officially, it was a bad conduct discharge for assaulting an officer. The assault happened because the officer in question thought his rank meant he could take me whenever he wanted, and I thought differently. He was connected, and I wasn’t, so I was out, with a black record. No one wants to hire a troublemaker, so work was short until I found myself on kisArra. Muldoon used to run my group, and he thought he could take what he wanted, too. But he tried to drug me, so he got dead, and I took over the group. Now the group is dead, and I’m a slave.”

“And I trust you’re fully aware that, as a slave, your duties are whatever I tell you they are, even if it means riding my cock like it was the best gift anyone could ever give you?”

She bristled, but nodded, reluctantly. “Yes, you bastard. I’m aware that I don’t have any choices any more, now that you did whatever it was that ripped through my head.”

I smiled at that. “Yes, you were a good test of a Psy power I’d just developed. You are going to be a submissive pet the rest of your life unless you are able to persuade me that you have some worth besides warming my bed and helping to defend my ship. You may even find yourself reduced to being a literal pet, forced on all fours, and being unable to speak without permission. Your task is different from Nyna’s. If you prove to me you are worth more as someone capable of making decisions, I will keep you as you now are. Prove to me you are REALLY worth something, and I may even see if there is a way to bring your former personality to the surface for longer periods. Fail, and you won’t even remember your name. You’ll be just a former knelfi who now lives their life pretending to be a cat.”

Sana bristled at that, and said, “I’m not a damn animal! You imperials are all the fucking same! Racist bastards! I ought to kill the lot of you and be done! You—“

With a command of my bracer, I activated Sana’s Stepford protocols, and set them to ‘sexy kitty’. “That’s enough of that.”

“MEOW! Mrow? MROW!! HISSSSS!” Sana, it seemed, was not too happy with me.

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Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Chapter 93 - Trial of the Gods: Necron

Arriving at the next floor, we were warmly welcomed by another blue screen.

Floor Law
All HP and MP regeneration set to 0. All magical healing has been blocked. All potions and other consumable use has been blocked.

Yeah, ‘warmly’ is probably the wrong word to use here. I struggled for a moment, and then looked at the other players in the group. They all nodded, slowly. The area in front of us was not like anything you would see in the world of Farenna, where AAO was set. We were on the streets of a modern city, though one that had clearly gone through hell. Fires were burning and windows were broken. We could hear sounds of combat in the distance, but in our area things were quiet. Too quiet.

Slowly, Severa and I led the way forward. We had a marker on our map telling us where we needed to go. Looking around, I saw that it was at the top of a skyscraper that hadn’t yet been touched by the flames. The building was proudly emblazoned with a red and white octagonal logo, with the name of the company going down the building beneath it: PARASOL.

Well, fuckity fuck. I looked, and found a newsstand that hadn’t been completely destroyed nearby. Moving as quietly as we could, I found the most recent newspaper. It was the Coati City Times. Even worse, the headline (which was unreadable to the NPCs, but I could see was written in English) told of the dead rising.

We were in a zombie movie.

Whispering softly, I told everyone that there were likely hordes of undead around. They were smart enough to realize that fighting without the use of healing magic or consumables would be a foolhardy exercise, so we began moving as quietly as we could, hoping to avoid drawing the attention of the zombies that were undoubtedly lurking about.

Our suspicions were soon confirmed, as we got to an intersection and saw several of the undead milling about. Fortunately, they hadn’t spotted us, yet. I had to stop Nithroel from flying in to smash them in her typical way. Sure, we could take them out in melee easily. But not without making a lot of noise that could bring more zombies. That was the thing in zombie games. It was never the individual zombie that was the problem. It was the horde that fighting inevitably attracted, which would eventually overwhelm you, like the tide.

Instead of a full melee that would only draw enemies to us, those of us with stealth abilities and ranged weapons found cover, and began shooting at the zombies. The zombies were all weak, merely level 15 or so, but even level 15s could be deadly, especially in the tens of thousands. But these five were quickly (and more importantly, QUIETLY) taken down, leaving us free to advance on the Parasol Corporation building.

Five times we encountered roving bands of enemies as we moved quietly through the streets, and five times we managed to kill them all, without attracting attention. The last group was touchy, however, as there were almost twenty of them, so taking them down without giving away our position was tricky. Finally, though, we broke through to the building.

Unnervingly, the doors and windows on this building were still whole, as though this was the one building in the city that hadn’t been looted. Given the signs of battle, however, it seemed likely that the undead had come from inside the building, meaning that this was where all the trouble started. It also meant that if there were any ‘boss’ type undead, then they would be here.

On the hopeful chance that most of the undead had left the building, as quietly as we could, we went to work blocking the doors, so that the undead would have a harder time getting in here. At the very least, it meant that any reinforcements from outdoors would be delayed just a bit more.

We made our way to an emergency stairwell, not daring to trust elevators at a time like this. So far, the first floor was blessedly empty. I doubted the whole building was empty, and honestly, I wasn’t too keen on sticking around and trying to find loot. We found clear signs that the horde had passed this way, as the railings of the stairs were a wreck. I counted it as a mixed blessing, since it left plentiful scrap metal that we could use to block the doors, slipping them through the door handles and the nearby stair railing so that the doors couldn’t be opened without breaking through. Was that being paranoid? Sure. But when you’re living a zombie movie, paranoia is life.

We continued on in that way until we reached the 30th floor. There, we found the stairs above us cut off by what had clearly been an explosion of some kind, causing the stairs to collapse and block the way. This stairway was blocked, but the one on the other side might still be open. Which meant we had to cross the floor.

This floor was cubicle hell, a winding maze of 6’ fabric walls. That was good for us in some ways, as we could avoid the gaze of the few zombies we saw walking around, but we quickly found that there were zombies hiding in the cubicles, or hidden around corners, just waiting for us to stumble into them. Severa shined at this point, as her stealth abilities were the best of all of us. Scouting the way ahead, she silently dispatched lone zombies and led us on a path away from the worst of them.

We made our way to the other emergency stairwell, and I had to bite back a curse. The stairs were out here, too, but not as bad as it was on the other end. The stairs on this level were out, and had crashed down, blocking access below us, but the way above was open, if we could get to the landing. That, however, was easy enough, with the number of us who could fly, or could simply jump the gap. Regardless, we continued up, making sure to block the doors to the different floors as we went.

This was long, tedious work, made moreso because our regeneration was at 0, which meant we couldn’t use our MP to make the process easier. This was, I supposed, a very fitting setting for a level devoted to a death god. Nothing like hardcore survival horror to make you appreciate death. Honestly, if the players in our group hadn’t seen zombie movies or played zombie games before, we would have died long before reaching the building, or at least been too badly injured to succeed at the boss battle we all knew was coming.

We were all tired, sore, and generally miserable by the time we reached the 69th floor. There was a roof access on this level, but it was, surprise surprise, in the other stairwell. We would have to cross another floor full of zombies. We didn’t talk above a whisper, and only then when we absolutely had to. The oppressive feeling of fear weighed down on all of us. Despite all we had done to try and limit the number of reinforcements that could get to us, we all knew that one wrong move could have the horde upon us.

Parasol Elite
Human Zombie Male
Level 30
Titles: Human Bane

This was the top floor, and was given over to executives and their expansive offices. All the important people had, it seemed, fled when the zombies began attacking, but in their places were a number of zombies dressed in Parasol Security uniforms. Probably used them as fodder while the executives scampered off in helicopters. Regardless, now we had to fight, as there were twenty in the hallway right outside the door.

Now I had Della lead off with one of her wide-area healing spells. As expected, it did nothing for us, but all the undead caught in the radius of her attack were devastated, leaving them as easy prey for the rest of us. We moved quickly as we can, cutting down any of the undead that got in our way. Finally, we won our way through to the other side of the building, having cut our way through sixty of the damn zombies.

Fortune was with us, however, as the executives liked their soundproofing, which allowed us to keep the noise from drawing attention from the lower floors, so long as we didn’t use any explosive attacks. While the rest took a bit of a breather and rested, to recover their stamina, even if their MP wouldn’t return, Severa and I moved quietly and blocked off the doors in the couple floors below us. That would, at least, keep the most immediate reinforcements at bay for a time.

T-103 Tyrant
Human Mutant Zombie Male
Level 100
Titles: Human Bane, Calamity

The roof was guarded, as I expected it would be. I had just hoped that I wouldn’t have been so right about WHAT was guarding it. Seven feet tall, impossibly bulky, with weird bulging tentacle-like veins in its neck, a mouth permanently pulled back revealing its teeth, and a face that had skin stapled over itself, hiding one eye, this thing was a nightmare to look at.

And then it charged at us.

“SCATTER! DON’T GROUP UP!” I barely managed to duck as claws that looked like the meat cleavers from hell came slashing over my head. “SEVERA BLOCK THE DOOR FIRST!” I didn’t want adds in this fight. I really, really didn’t want adds in this fight.

I rolled right, just ahead of the scythe-like blades of doom, and smiled as I saw Kylana blast the bastard with hellfire, and then Yukiko darted in, her katana slashing at the massive undead before she nimbly rolled back, her fox spirit heritage proving useful with its extra Dexterity. “Della, Nithroel! Prepare your best heals! Hrozne, if you have anything that’ll debuff this bastard, lay it out! Anyone who can’t take a hit, keep away from this bastard’s claws!”

The fight was brutal. If we hadn’t saved MP for this fight, and avoided combat as much as possible on the way here, we would have been like lambs to the slaughter. As it was, we were still in a godawful bind. The Tyrant was strong, yes, but it was faster than bulk like that should be. Without Hrozne using his necromantic powers to the fullest to weaken the thing, Jastra, Kamla, Yukiko, and I would not have been able to keep up, even with the buffs Kylana gave us.

Severa would dart in now and then with her blades, making swift cuts and then dancing back out of range, while the rest of us laid on the pain. Thankfully, the creature was about as intelligent as a sack of hammers, and tended to lash out at the last living thing that hit it with singleminded aggression. Which was extremely good for Kamla, as the vampire got to simply whale on the thing, but it wasn’t a bad turn for the rest of us, either, since we had enough people that we could keep it distracted, not able to fully target any one of us. All while Della and Nithroel emptied their MP on healing spell after healing spell, dealing horrific damage to the Tyrant.

Finally, we managed to bring the damn thing down in a blaze of healing magic and hellfire, causing us to breathe a collective sigh of relief. That relief was quickly shattered by the banging noise on the doorway leading down into the building. The fight had attracted attention. We had to find a way out of here before…

Trial of Necron passed. You have shown that you know there are some battles that cannot be won through strength of arms alone. Though many would call such actions cowardly, you live while they would have joined the legions of the dead. By rationing your resources to use all at once, you have defeated a foe well above your level.
HP and MP restored to full. All cooldowns reset.
All rewards delayed until completion of the Trial of the Gods.

As if in answer to our prayers, a portal appeared at the edge of the roof. We rushed through it, just as the rooftop door shattered under the assault of the undead.

We had survived Coati City.

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Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T

LitRPG facebook group:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chapter 36 - Honor(less) Fight

(Sana POV)

Damn it all! The flyer would have been here in the morning, and they could have left this Freemen outpost for their real base. With a flyer and harvester, they would have been able to step down dangerous jobs like raiding, and make the easy money grabbing the spice. And now everything was falling apart!

Blackstone was late checking in on the sentries outside, so she sent five men to find out what was going on. Four never made it back. What was left of the fifth was so badly mangled she could tell it was only the combat stims that were keeping him on his feet. One arm hung limply by his side, and blood flowed from a plethora of wounds, including one nasty one on his forhead.

“It was a shuttle, boss! Couldn’t see it, but I heard it. We just got outside the curtain, and saw Blackie lying there with ‘is throat cut. Then, next thing we know, shuttle opens up and launches a missile at us! Marko took it to the chest, there wasn’t anything left of the bastard from the waist up. We were all hurt, but the others, they tried to fire at the shuttle, and the blasters cut them down like dogs. I ran to the tunnel. Had to… let… you… know…” Towards the end, the raider’s voice cut off as the sims either stopped working, or were no longer able to counter the blood loss, and he slumped to the ground.

Sana was about to give orders when there was a loud bang echoing from the tunnels headed towards where the captives were being held, followed by gunfire. Damnit, they were under attack, and whoever it was had an assault shuttle in support. That was not good.

“What the hell are you waiting on? Get your asses in gear! Everyone suit up, and weapons hot, we’re under attack!”

The former Confederate commando grimaced as she watched the raiders attempt to come to some kind of order. It was taking them entirely too long to get into their armor and get the weapons ready. A couple had still been sleeping! Damned slobs. She missed the professionalism of her old team. Too bad that captain seemed to think letting him tap her ass was part of her duties as a commando. She only broke his jaw, but he was connected, so she was out with a dishonorable discharge.

Since then, work had been hard to find, so she had eventually ended up a raider, and this time, when someone got handsy with her, she just killed the bastard and took his stuff. That was how she’d come to be the boss of this band of misfits. The old boss didn’t take no for an answer, and tried to drug her. Too bad (for him) she had full toxin screens implanted, and the military hadn’t ripped them out when they let her go. She made the bastard choke on his own cock before she killed him.

FINALLY, the men were armed and ready to fight. Of course, Sana hadn’t been idle this whole time. She’d had the first three guys who were ready for combat guarding the main door into the sleeping area they’d taken over as a barracks. Now that the whole crew was ready to fight, she six of them towards the prison area to check on the guys who still hadn’t responded to the radio, and sent the other four to guard the harvester and make sure no one took off with their payday.

They had almost made it to the prison chamber when gunshots were heard over the radio, and the bastards started screaming about being attacked. Then, everything went silent once again. That, of course, had everyone on edge. Who the hell was attacking them?

She was about to give the order to push forward when she saw a glint in the air. “COVER!” And with that, she dove behind an outcropping, hoping to hide from the worst of the grenade’s blast. She was surprised when it turned out to be a flash-bang, but her combat augments filtered out most of the light and sound as they were supposed to, leaving her unsteady from the blast, but uninjured and still able to fight. Her men, however, were cut down in a hail of gunfire. Poor bastards never had a chance.

Damnit! At this rate, she’ll lose everything, all because some damn raider scum couldn’t put down a handful of fighters. Peeking out from behind the rock that covered her, she saw five people, all dressed as Freemen. One of them was one of the prisoners they had kept tied up! Fuck, that was why none of them had resisted too much once the killing was done. They knew others were due back soon!

She ducked back as a bullet ricocheted off the stone in front of her. Fuck, if there were Freemen here, then she couldn’t take on however many warriors they had. Especially since some had gone to the Harvester, and were likely making their way back now to flank her. There was only one way she got out of this alive. Calling out at the top of her lungs, she said, “I demand an honor fight!”

(Mirikon POV)

“I demand an honor fight!” Looks like the last surviving raider was trying to do something desperate in order to get out of this with her skin intact.

I looked over to Shanni, and said, softly, “Honor fight?”

She whispered back, a look of disgust on her face, “If one commits an offense in sietch, then one can demand a trial by combat. By tradition, so long as a Freemen warrior hears the claim, the fight must be honored. Damn it!”

I sighed, and said, “What are the rules for an honor fight?”

“It is a duel, one on one, skyclad, without armor or shields. You may use no weapon other than a single blade. The duel can be to first blood, until one yields, or to the death.”

“I see. So she’s hoping she can beat one of us in a knife fight to at least get out of this alive and free. Well, that’ll make things easy.” Shanni did not look happy with this, so I said, “If she wins, we let her walk home alone in the desert. That’s pretty much a death sentence, anyways, but it is so much easier to arrange an ‘accident’ far from prying eyes, if that’s what you like.”

That calmed her down somewhat, so I began pulling off my armor. ‘Skyclad’ meant butt naked, so that’s how I was going to do it. Also, it was nice to get out of the suit for a while. I kept Widowmaker in my hand when I stepped into the hallway, watching as the knelfi woman, also naked, stepped out as well. I took a moment to look her over, and smiled lecherously. “Oh, I’m going to enjoy taking you down.” Let her underestimate me, thinking I’m just a guy who can’t think because of the blood leaving his brain for other places. I saw her look of disgust, and just smiled. She had experience with that kind of guy, it seemed. Good. Anger made people careless.

Sana Olona
Knelfi Female
Level 50
Titles: Guardian, Silent Death, Sharpshooter, Scout, Raider

We moved closer, and started circling each other in the hall, sizing up the other’s defenses. She was higher level than I was, and clearly got there by combat. Lots and lots of combat. She moved like a jungle cat, and was clearly not a pushover when it came to a knife fight.

I also saw that she had one hand clutched behind her, while the other held her combat knife. Probably had some dirt or sand that she could use to throw into my eyes. She knew how to fight dirty, too! That was definitely a bonus. I liked it when my property would do anything it took in order to win. Oh yes, I was already counting the woman amongst my property.

I broke the silence, and said, “You challenged, so I set the conditions, yes? We fight until one side yields, or dies. Is that acceptable to you?”

A feral grin crept across the woman’s face, and she said, “I’m going to look down on your corpse and smile, bastard. I’m going to have to rebuild my crew from scratch now, with you killing everyone.”

I smiled easily at her. “Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head about that, dear. Once you yield to me, I’ll keep you too busy bouncing on my cock to worry yourself about those silly ideas of being a warrior. You’ll be a nice, docile fuckpuppet, just like you always knew you’d end up.”

The grin on her face became a scream of rage, as she abandoned the circling movement, and charged at me, her blade flying wildly as she attempted to slash me anywhere she could reach. She was far better trained than I was, and while I was able to avoid any serious blows (and managed to get a couple shots of my own in), the wounds were starting to stack up, despite the regeneration I had going.

Finally, I got the response I was waiting for. All this time, from the moment I had started pulling off my armor, I’d been seeking contact with her mind. It took me a while to slip through her defenses, but her anger at me distracted her, keeping her from tightening the defenses. Was it cheating? Absolutely. But we were both cheaters. Just as she threw the handful of sand she’d been hiding all this time, I hit her with the new power I’d been working on in secret.

I called it Mindbreaker. Which honestly was what it did. Well, part of it, anyways.

Psy Powers
Mindbreaker – Developed based on the Stepford protocol slave collars, this power locks the target’s mind inside a mental prison, forcing them to experience everything while a predetermined mental pattern takes hold. Target must be either unconscious, or you must spend time navigating their mental defenses with Mindread to get to their core thought processes. Acts like a Stepford collar, but only has one setting, and cannot be reactivated when it is turned off. Characters whose Mental Psy Resistance exceeds 50% may attempt to break free from this power after it has been implemented. Costs 1000 PP. Rank 1/10 (0%)

There was a reason why I kept it secret. Part of that reason was because I hadn’t had anyone to test the thing on. Sure, I knew it would work, in theory, but actual practice is different. I did notice there was a bit of an extreme reaction to the power’s use.

Sana screamed in pain, gripping her head as she fell to her knees. She did a decent job trying to resist it. She must have a fairly good Mental Psy Resistance. Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t good enough, as she was now trapped inside her own body. I watched with Mindread as she struggled against the cage, and felt the horror of what the pattern would make her witness. I decided to leave her mind after she sobbed when her body began moving on hands and knees towards me, her voice saying, “How may I serve, Master?”

Looking down at the girl, I slapped a Stepford collar on her, to cover what I’d just done. The Stepford protocols were offline, but no one knew that except me, and Sana. And her new pattern wouldn’t let her tell anyone. It wasn’t something I intended to do regularly, especially since it would show up if anyone decided to do mental scans, but the ability to make someone a Stepford without the collar, or the visible titles, was something that could prove VERY useful in a pinch.

I might never use it again, but one of the other engineers on my last ship was fond of the saying, “Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” Sure, you could scratch build a lot on board a carrier, but there was no substitute for having a proper replacement part and the right tools to do the job. It was a dangerous universe out there, full of people who would want to kill me if they knew what I was. I wanted as many options as possible when the excrement hit the rotary air circulator.

Nukes were nasty things, too, but having one around was always a benefit when you really, positively, absolutely needed a whole lot of people dead. You might never go for the nuclear option, but if you needed to, it was best to have a nuke ready to go. And if I kept talking, I just might convince myself.

Previous Chapter                                     Table of Contents                                        Next Chapter

Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T

LitRPG facebook group:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Chapter 92 - Trial of the Gods: Tempus

“So are we just not going to comment on how Lolth basically put us all on a suicide mission?”

“Ah, c’mon, Severa. It could have been a lot worse, you know. We’re still alive, and there’s definitely a chance we’ll survive, especially if we can find a few more dungeons before we go and try our hand at the quest.”

“Della, how can you say that? She’s literally sending us after the heavy hitters of the entire drow race!”

I decided to cut off that line of conversation as we emerged onto the next floor. “Because it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining for her if we didn’t have some chance of succeeding. Della is right. This is a dangerous quest, probably the most dangerous we’ve ever gotten, but we will prepare properly before making our move, especially when it comes to the Archmage. If we are lucky, we will be able to find conspirators who are more than happy to help our quest in order to improve their own positions.”

Floor Law
Glorious Combat
All combat must be done with strength of arms alone. Spells designed to damage or attack an enemy are disabled. Spells designed to heal or enhance martial combatants remain unchanged.

“Oh good. This has to be the floor devoted to Tempus. Looks like it is time for a brawl. Yukiko, you lead. Hrozne and I will flank you. Severa and Kamla take the rear. Nithroel on overwatch. Jastra support where you can, either with your singing or by taking out enemies that slip through. Same with you Kylana, support or take out enemies. Della, heals.”

That was all the time we had for planning, because as the floor law was displayed, the shadows cleared, and it became obvious that we were in an arena. In fact, it looked like the same arena that I’d fought my Demon’s Duels in, or a larger version of it. And we were positioned directly in the center of the arena.

Our opponents were all around us. A variety of races, but all were melee fighters of some kind. Knights in armor, rogues with deadly daggers, monks with fists of steel, barbarians wielding mighty two-handed weapons, and more. They varied in level, from 20 to 70. That wasn’t the bad thing. The bad thing was the numbers. According to Nithroel, we were facing almost four hundred enemies.

Damn, Tempus wasn’t going to give us a break on this floor, that was for sure. Well, maybe he did. As the first enemies crashed into us, I saw that while they were numerous, they weren’t coordinating their attacks. This was a mob, not an army. We just needed to get to a defensible position, somewhere that we could face them without being surrounded…

THERE! With a yell, I rallied my team, and we charged through a section that had weaker enemies, forcing our way through to a section of broken wall nearby. It was only eight feet high, but it was solid, and had formerly been the corner of whatever building it had once been part of, giving us cover frokm two directions. That was what we needed, something solid to put our backs to so we could focus all our power outward.

We won our way to the wall, thanks to the power of our attacks, and the fact that this section of the encirclement had mostly level 20s in it, which Yukiko, Hrozne, and I could cut down like a scythe through wheat. Oh, they were still dangerous if we got cocky, or were distracted by other threats and they were able to get through our guard, but they weren’t as big an issue as you might think. Weight of numbers only matters when those numbers can be brought to bear.

Now, with our backs to the walls, we could implement a defense that wasn’t certain to get us all killed. Della and Nithroel stayed in the back, dispensing healing as judiciously as possible, trying to stretch their MP as far as it would go. Kylana stayed with them, dispersing buffs on the rest of us, favoring the lower-powered, longer lasting ones rather than the big hitting ones that would be gone in a minute or less.

The other six of us broke into three pairs: myself and Severa, Yukiko and Jastra, Hrozne and Kamla. We fought close enough that we could support another pair if needed, but far enough that we weren’t getting in eachother’s way. The forward person in each pair took the brunt of the attack, while the support made sure no one got around the sides to attack the rear, or ganged up on the forward person. When the forward person tired, or got low on HP or MP, they switched, allowing them to catch their breath, and heal. Would never work in real life, but this was one time where the game mechanics helped us somewhat.

The game physics didn’t help us with the fact that blood was staining the sand, or that we soon had piles of bodies in front of our position. It only takes stepping on one limb of a fallen warrior to screw up your balance, and leave you open for all kinds of counters. There’s a reason why no one likes fighting on top of a pile of bodies, besides the ghoulish aspects of it.

In frustration, Hrozne unleashed one of hir spells that caused a corpse to rise as a temporary minion, and to all of our surprise, it worked! The spell did not damage an enemy, nor was it an attack. Sure, the minion was just a low-tier skeleton or zombie, losing several levels from what it had in life, but extra bodies attacking our enemy took pressure off the rest of us. Hrozne’s eyes met mine, and we shared a quick nod, before I began issuing orders again.

“Nithroel to the front! Hrozne to support. Send your minions out to raise hell. Della, watch your heals. We don’t want to take out any of our new friends by mistake! Everyone else, the plan remains the same. Hold the line, and let Hrozne do hir job, clearing the corpses from in front of us!”

With a war cry, Nithroel slammed into the front of the fighting, eager to get into the thick of things, her hammer crashing down upon one unfortunate elf warrior’s head and crushing it like a grape. Hrozne raised the fallen dwarf to the elf’s side as a skeleton, flesh melting off the bones as the dwarf rose, still wearing its armor and carrying a two-handed hammer in its hands. The skeleton turned, and began swinging that great hammer, advancing into the throng, mindlessly following its task to cause as much damage ot the enemy as possible.

Another skeleton soon followed that one, and then another. All the while, those of us on the front lines kept slaying the forces arrayed against us. When Nithroel had made her first count, it looked like we were facing odds of forty to one. Of course, we were cheating, using the piece of wall to limit the number of enemies who could attack us at once, and keeping them from being able to divide us. The fact that we could have dedicated healing and buff support, along with being able to switch to rest and recover helped greatly extend our HP and MP. In real life, we would have been dead long before now.

Even so, it was the skeletons that began to turn the fight for us. The enemy forces were a mob, not an army, so they had no dedicated healers keeping track of how much damage the front lines were taking. This meant that the skeletons helped soften up the enemy, sometimes even distracting them enough that we could get in a backstabbing sneak attack.

Slowly, the numbers began moving in our direction. 40 to 1 had become closer to 35 to 1 by the time we discovered the trick with the skeletons. Not much change in the odds, yet fifty men lay dead upon the field. Fifty men that began rising one by one as skeletons to join us. 35 to 1 became 20 to 1 before we knew it. I don’t know what caused us to start, but we began singing as we fought, punctuating the score with the screams of our enemies and sound of steel against steel.

And then there were only ninety enemies left upon the field. Mere 10 to 1 odds, not counting the skeletons? After what we had been through so far, this looked like the light at the end of the tunnel. Abandoning the defensive, we now launched a counter attack on the thoroughly demoralized enemy, springing upon them like ravenous man-eating tigers. The enemy faltered, and then broke, running for their lives as they attempted to flee the arena. The skeletons gave chase, slaughtering several as they ran.

Tedus Doomhammer
Stormborn Half-Giant Male
Level 70 Battle Raper (Barbarian) / Giant Basher (Fighter)
Titles: Tough One, Hammerer, Human Bane, Ork Bane, Sexecutioner, Dragon Slayer, Dragon Layer

Zinar Wrathspeak
Wildkin Half-Giant Female
Level 70 Skald (Priestess) / Snu-Snu Warrior (Fighter)
Titles: Tough One, Sexecutioner, Human Bane, Manslayer, Ork Bane, Dwarf Bane, Pixie Bane

But not all the enemy warriors broke. Two in particular stood tall over the rest. That was easy since they were both about ten feet tall, being half-giants. Looking over the information I got from analyzing them, I didn’t really want to know what went into making these two, or how they came to be here. I have ventured the wicked depths of 4chan, and have enough nightmares for one lifetime, thanks very much.

By this point, only about ten fighters rallied around the two pillars. Well, ‘rallied’ might be a bit kind. Say rather that they cowered behind them using these two half-giants as giant meat shields, hoping to get in some lucky hits while we were distracted. But then, those who were left were all in the 30-40 range. The lowest leveled and the highest leveled fighters (other than the two pillars) had met their fate by now.

Yukiko and I led the charge against the two massive warriors, while the others either supported us or went about eliminating the hangers on. Yukiko broke left, taking the giant with the large hammer, while I turned to the right, and moved in on the Skald with her mace and shield. Now that we were in the home stretch, Kylana stopped saving her MP, and gave both of us the size-increasing buff, causing us to grow to match the giants’ size.

I lost track of Yukiko’s fight as I crashed into the Skald. I hadn’t had much chance to get into a prolonged battle against a single foe with my blades since hitting level 50. Entirely my fault, of course, since we used blitzkrieg tactics, but now I was getting a chance to try out the abilities I’d gained on my two soulforged weapons when I hit 50. Munsuraisa had gained the Sundering Blade ability, which had a 10% chance of reducing the enemy’s Defense by 20 until their armor could be repaired, making them vulnerable to further attacks. Taiyo no Tsubasa gained the Spellbane ability, which meant that 1/4 of the damage my Sun Blade did was also dealt to their MP.

The skald roared in frustration as she saw me chipping away at her defenses and MP, all the while steadily reducing her HP. The frustration came from my blades healing me as I did damage, along with Della’s spells as needed. I would outlast her in a battle of attrition, and she knew it. So she tried to overwhelm me with power, pushing her MP into strengthening her attacks. I respected that kind of tactic. Knowing your opponent can outlast you, you instead attempt to defeat them quickly, before their endurance can come into play.

Unfortunately for her, I was ready for such a tactic. As she charged at me, I stepped to the side, and then caught her mace hand in mine, using her momentum to execute a shoulder throw. When she was on the ground, I shifted into my drake form, and stradled her. Clawed hands kept her mace and shield at bay, while my fangs dropped down, ripping out chunks of her flesh as she screamed in pain and terror. The sight of a dragon eating one of their pillars of defense caused the rest of the warriors to break completely, and when the hammer-wielding barbarian fell to Yukiko and the others, all those that remained could do was beg for a swift death, instead of being eaten alive like the skald was.

Trial of Tempus passed. The Lord of Battles has tested your mettle by throwing you into combat against incredible odds. You did not falter. You did not break. Instead, you fought with valor, and used what advantages you could find to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women.
HP and MP restored to full. All cooldowns reset.
All rewards delayed until completion of the Trial of the Gods.

Previous Chapter                                       Table of Contents                                         Next Chapter

Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T

LitRPG facebook group:

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Chapter 35 - The Sietch

(Freemen POV)

The invaders had come while the warriors were away on a hunt in the southern wastes. The sietch was lightly defended, with only a few warriors and the older women and young children to guard it. Even so, they might have ended these invaders had they not come during a sandstorm to hide their stolen harvester. Unaware of the danger, the guards had no warning before the heavily armed invaders burst into the side entrance of the sietch.

The invaders had used lethal rounds on the men, and stun shots on the women and children. Their intentions were clear. These were slavers, as well as raiders, and they wanted to sell the tribe off as laborers and worse. Fortunately, they only had a limited number of the slave collars, and those had already been used bringing the crew of the Harvester and its flyer in line.

Which left Shanni as the only warrior still living in the sietch, bound and gagged with the rest. She was not idle, though. She had managed to conceal a weapon before they had taken her and their boss, a woman, had given orders not to ‘damage’ the ‘merchandise’ so they did not check her too closely. Even these people knew that getting their ‘merchandise’ out of the desert would require either a shuttle, or for them to have working, and intact, stilsuits. And despite the looks the men gave her, they didn’t touch her, not that way, because they knew that leaving her ‘unspoiled’ would increase her value.

That mistake would be their doom, if she could get half a chance. But while these slavers were sloppy, they weren’t complete idiots. They kept careful watch over the captives, both those from the sietch and the ones taken from the Harvester. It had taken her two days to extract the crysknife from where she had hidden it in her boot, and begin cutting her bonds without attracting attention.

Now the cords binding and gagging her were only for show. Now she waited for an opportunity. She would not spill her body’s water wastefully. There were always five guards, armed and armored, watching the prisoners. She could take one, maybe two in a surprise attack, but then it would be a knife against guns, with the other prisoners to use as hostages. And any noise would bring the others. So she waited, hoping to get one of them alone so that they could escape.

The warriors would return, but she had no idea of when they would get here. Traveling the wastes was not something one could do on any but the loosest of timelines, after all, unless you were using flyers like the outworlders. And if they were taken from the sietch before the warriors returned, then their chances to escape dropped dramatically. But if they could arrange an escape, they could hide in the desert for a few days, until they were rescued.

She just needed an opening.

So for now, Shanni sat, and watched, and waited, ready to act when the time came. And then finally, the time came, but in a way she never would have expected. It started with a pressure on her mind. She knew from her training that this was someone trying to reach out and enter her mind, reading her thoughts! But she was strong, and resisted the presence. Not wanting to give away my knowledge, I slowly looked, trying to see which of the guards was responsible for this.

And then I saw him, in the shadow of a tunnel leading out of the cavern where they kept us. He was dressed in Freemen clothes, including a Freemen stilsuit and cloak, but his attempt at stealth was clearly not on the level of a Freeman warrior. Plus, few Freemen cared for ‘dishonorable’ powers like mind reading. Another invader, then?

The Invader was looking at her, and placed one finger over where his mouth would be if it were not masked to deal with the sand and reducing lost moisture. I could make out others joining him in the tunnel, and one of them handed him a small device. He pulled a pin, waited for a moment, and then threw the device into the room, aiming for where three of the guards were playing a card game while the other two, closer to Shanni, kept watch on the group. Shanni’s eyes widened. A GRENADE? Without worrying about the guards’ response, she curled up on the ground, covering her ears and keeping her eyes tightly shut.

Then there was a bright light and a roar magnified in the stone cavern. A flash-bang. Nonlethal, good for stunning enemies before the fight begins. Whoever these people were, they were against the first invaders, which meant that this would be her chance to save the captives!

Springing up, Shanni saw that the two guards closest to her were reeling from the grenade, even though they were out of the most effective radius. The guards who had been playing cards were stunned, easy prey for the group moving into the room, weapons drawn and ready. Five against three was hardly fair, especially since the three were almost incapacitated, but this crew clearly cared more about victory than honorable combat. The sixth outsider, the one she had seen before, charged at the two guards nearest her, with a wicked looking blade in his hand.

This was her chance, and Shanni didn’t waste it. Crysknife in hand, her false bindings lying scattered on the ground where she had fallen to protect herself from the grenade, she sprang forward, her blade passing through the armor the man wore, and into his unprotected back. She must have reached his vitals, as she planned, for the man stiffened, and then clearly had lost the majority of his HP in that single attack. The Bleed condition would likely kill him in a few seconds, but to be sure, Shanni stabbed him a second time. Her blade slipped between her target’s ribs, and punctured his heart, killing him.

Now, she was free, and the five guards had all been killed, as these newcomers made short work of their targets (the man who she’d first seen had apparently used an energy sword she hadn’t seen active before to remove the last guard’s head from his shoulders.

(Mirikon POV)

Infiltrating the rocky lair was easy enough, once we were inside. Either this raider was extraordinarily stupid, or this was a temporary lair for her. Few guards, no sensors or defenses put up… no signs of life at all, unless they already knew what to look for… OK, so this was probably a Freemen sietch or outpost, designed to be invisible. How had the raiders discovered it?

As we moved along, I decided to chalk it up to blind luck. The raiders had probably looked for a rocky outcropping that they could use to hide their Harvester, but hadn’t known about the outpost until they had gotten there. So perhaps this was a rarely used Freemen outpost? That would explain why mere raiders would be able to move in like this.

Anyways, we still had enemies to kill. Moving as quietly as we could through the tunnels (our ‘hunting’ expeditions had caused us all to gain some proficiency with Stealth, if nothing else), we quietly moved until I found a chamber with a goodly-sized group of people inside it. Nineteen people, but fourteen of them were clearly captives. Three over on one side, playing cards. Two closer to the captives, with assault rifles, clearly on guard. I cast a Mind Read over the two guards and one of the prisoners who was near their feet.

Huh, the prisoner, clearly a Freemen woman, seemed to feel my presence, because after she resisted my mind read attempt, she carefully looked around, and spotted me. Guess I wasn’t up to Freemen standards in sneaking around. I put one finger up over where my mouth would be if I wasn’t wearing the mask of the stilsuit to get her to be quiet for a bit.

<Move up. Quietly. We’ve found the prisoners. If we can free them, we’ll be able to avoid messy hostage situations.>

Jaynie was the first to reach me, and took a look at the cavern over my shoulder. In a low whisper, she said, “Five enemies in two groups. Three unprepared, but further back. These stilsuits are great for not dying in the desert, but I’d rather avoid a pitched gun battle in close quarters with no cover, boss.”

I grinned up at her, and said, “Tell me you brought them this time.”

With an answering grin, Jaynie produced a flashbang grenade. With a nod, I said, “You girls take out those card players. I’ll take on the two next to the prisoners.” Then, I pulled the pin, counted to three, and lobbed the thing into the cavern, aiming at the three card sharps.

If you’ve never had the… pleasure of being in an enclosed space with flash-bangs, picture the brightest light you can get, short of setting off a nuke, and a sound that will knock you on your feet and make your ears bleed just from the volume alone. OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it is almost as bad, and it happens all at once, at the same time. Humans just aren’t designed to deal with an assault like that, so it shakes us up, gives whoever set the thing off time to get the drop on the poor bastards who got caught in it.

Given that, the results on the three card players was emphatic. They were staggered, reeling, and not likely to be worth a damn for another couple minutes, at the very least. The two by the prisoners were also a bit rattled, since bright lights and loud sounds made anyone look around for answers. I was impressed to see that the Freemen prisoner had attempted to take cover, and was already moving.

“Go.” With one word, my girls moved towards the three losers, and quickly eliminated them. I charged at the two guards, Widowmaker in one hand, and the energy blade in the other (though still not lit) I intended to take them quickly, before they could send a message out. Probably useless, since the grenade and the weapons fire from Jaynie and company should have clued them in.

I didn’t bother with finesse or trying to find the ultimate way to slay the two targets with a single blow, or any anime effects. The Freemen girl was moving, having produced a knife from somewhere, and looked like she was going to start getting some quality revenge time. So I shifted to fight the one she wasn’t going for. Widowmaker in the gut, and a snap hum of the energy blade activating moments before I cut through his chest, and the guard was well and truly dead.

Human Female
Level 30
Titles: Scout, Guardian, Assassin, Silent Death

By that point, the other four were all dead, as well. I took a moment, and looked over at the Freemen girl, and at the bindings that had clearly been pre-cut lying on the floor. So she’d been planning a breakout, and had been waiting for the right time? I was liking this girl already. I liked the knife she was pointing at me even less. But then, if I was in her position, I’d have trust issues, too.

“Relax. We’re not here for you, or yours. We’re here for the Harvester, and the leader of these idiots. Can you lead these people someplace safe, or do you want to help with the killing?”

Shanni responded by giving me the loveliest smile I’ve ever seen on a face considering the imminent murders of upwards of a dozen people.

Previous Chapter                                        Table of Contents                                        Next Chapter

Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T

LitRPG facebook group:

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chapter 91 - Trial of the Gods: Lolth

An inky darkness enveloped us as we entered the second floor of the dungeon. Thankfully, between our abilities and Kylana’s spells, we did not need to carry lights to give away our position, as magic let us see in the darkness. But even then, that meant that we could only see the rough walls around us. Gone were the worked stone walls of the last floor. This felt like something more natural.

When I heard the skittering in the dark, I knew which deity was testing us now.

As calmly as I could manage, I said, “Everyone stay together. Watch for traps, and watch for enemies above. This is the Spider Queen’s gift to us. Expect spiders and drow.” With that, we moved out, staying as quiet as we could (which wasn’t very, considering that some of us were in heavy armor), slowly trying to find our way in the branching tunnels of this maze.

And a maze it was, like the labrynths of myth. Even without the threat of enemies to fight, and loot to discover, there was the ever present danger of getting well and truly lost. Without the ‘Traveler Magic’ that allowed us to keep maps of the area we passed through, we almost surely would have gotten lost by now.

We fought spiders as they appeared. Lots of spiders. Really, like LOTS of spiders, from swarms of little ones to spiders the size of a large wolf. There was some decent loot, especially if you were into poisons and arachnid-themed crafting supplies, and once Kamla found a chest containing several potions, which was always nice.

Of course, the easy times had to come to an end. That end came when we found a wide cavern with webs strung across the area tightly enough to form a floor over the space inside. Below the webs was an inky darkness that went down who knew how far. In the center of the web was a giant spider, perhaps the size of a small van, guarding an ornate black chest shaped to look like a spider.

Abyssal Web Queen
Monstrous Spider
Level 70
Titles: Incubus Bane, Manslayer, Lolth’s Pet

I was fairly certain that this thing had been placed here especially to try and kill me, or at least weaken me. And I couldn’t go with the time-honored ‘kill it with hellfire’ approach, because the flames had a good chance of burning the web, and sending us all into an unknown abyss. Falling forever just to go splat wasn’t on my list of ways to experience death in this game.

Thankfully, the webbing was thick enough that we could walk and move almost normally, but it was sticky, slowing us down. This made what should have been a fairly easy fight into a longer, more drawn-out affair. Still, beating things until they stop moving is kindof our schtick, so it wasn’t too long before we managed to kill the thing.

Left Eye of the Queen
This purple gem is about the size of a man’s fist. Outside the Trial of the Gods, it would have significant value, but removing it from the trial means giving up on the rest of the dungeon, for the Left Eye of the Queen is one of two keys needed to pass this level of the Trial.

All spiders will be drawn to you.

I sighed as I looked at the gem. Turning to the others, I said, “Guess we’re hunting through the rest of this maze for the other one.”

This level was as sadistic as one might expect from the Spider Queen. Oh sure, none of the challenges were impossible to overcome. But they just kept coming, rarely giving us time to rest and recover. Or there would be things that limited our options, making us work harder for our wins. In some ways, it was a scale version of what she had done to the drow for all this time, throwing them into a crucible to make them stronger. Well, the ones that lived, at least.

It took two hours of near-constant fighting to find the next ‘boss’. Sure, the level of the opponents was only in the 40s, but without any time to rest, we were starting to make mistakes. This level was wearing us down, slowly but surely.

Abyssal Poison Queen
Monstrous Spider
Level 70
Titles: Incubus Bane, Manslayer, Lolth’s Pet

This fight was somewhat different. The spider was just as large as before, but instead of forcing us out onto a web, it preferred to stay up the walls, out of reach, spitting poison and acid attacks at us. It also had a bunch of little spiders that it called on to keep harassing us, and make sure we couldn’t just burn it with long-range attacks. Worse, the poison and acid actually HEALED the little spiders.

Right Eye of the Queen
This purple gem is about the size of a man’s fist. Outside the Trial of the Gods, it would have significant value, but removing it from the trial means giving up on the rest of the dungeon, for the Right Eye of the Queen is one of two keys needed to pass this level of the Trial.

All spiders will be drawn to you.

We collapsed around the chest that appeared when we had finally finished the battle. Needing to take a while to rest and recover, Kylana and I blocked the entrances to the wide cavern we were in with walls of hellfire, giving us some time to catch our breath without having to deal with attacks from spiders, at least for a little while.

Once we had rested, we began trekking towards where the center of the labrynth seemed to be. From what I had seen on my map, this level was laid out like a spiderweb, so the final goal (and the way to the next level) would almost certainly be in the center. The attacks from before had not let up. Indeed, it seemed that now that I had both keys, the attacks were coming even faster than before.

No longer able to take things slow and cautious with all the denizens of this massive web being pulled toward us, we went as quickly as we could and not set off every trap that littered the large hallway we were now passing through. It was a brutal, blitzkrieg-style battle as we attacked with full power anything that stood in our way, forcing a hole large enough that we could pass through.

Finally, we fought our way through to the center. And just like that, the attacks had stopped, the spiders kept back by wards placed upon this massive room. Upon a large stone dais, there was a great statue made of obsidian. It looked like a female drider, but far more impressive, even with it being only stone. Standing twenty feet tall, I noticed two gaps in the statue, where the eyes would be.

Taking the extremely subtle hint (ok, about as subtle as a Wiley Coyote plan), Nithroel and I flew up, and placed the two Eyes in their proper places. There was a pulse, a wave of power emitted from the statue, and we quickly rejoined the others on the ground. I motioned Jastra to stand next to me. Her insight would be helpful for whatever came next.

Avatar of Lolth
Divine Avatar Female
Level 900 <Hidden> / <Hidden>
Titles: <Hidden>

“Well, shit.”

I took a deep breath as the statue began moving, and somehow morphed into a living being. I’m not saying it was Dieties, but Dieties. Heh. I crack myself up sometimes. When the statue’s metamorphosis into an avatar of one of the nastiest goddesses in the game was complete, I looked over to Jastra, to see her already prostrating herself. Well, that was to be expected, I guess.

Still, the Avatar’s attention wasn’t on her. Jastra might be pleased by that, but the fact that the Avatar was looking directly at me was not something I was too pleased about, honestly. This feeling got worse once she started speaking.

“So, this is the impudent male who dared make a vow in my name? And so soon after, he dares to intrude upon my Trial?”

I took a breath, and offered a sweeping bow. “Lady Lolth, Queen of the Spiders and the one from which the Drow learned all their best qualities, this humble mortal is pleased to make your acquaintance, though I had not dreamed it was a possibility, that one as lofty as yourself would take notice of one such as me.”

The Avatar chuckled darkly as it advanced, but I made no move to draw a weapon or take a defensive position. I was good, but a level difference of over 800 was more than even I could overcome. If this turned to combat, I would be dead, pure and simple. With that in mind, the choice became equally simple: don’t let it turn to combat.

“I take notice of all those who make vows in my name, mortal. Especially when that one takes a vow naming three other dieties at the same time. What do you seek to gain from this, I wonder?”

“That much is simple, your Worship. I am a Traveler, as you know. In coming to this world, I’m seeking new experiences and entertainments, not looking to be tied down with cumbersome duties like a Paladin might. But circumstances forced me to venture into the lands of the Drow, which is a somewhat hazardous proposition for one like myself, who is both male and not a Drow. I could use magic to disguise myself, but such things are imperfect, and draw the wrong kind of attention when noticed.”

“I had no idea what effect the Vow might have before uttering it, but at the very least, I figured that convincing Emissary Creirda of my intent may earn me some leeway in being allowed to enter those lands without fighting a battle of attrition that I would surely lose. The fact that it puts me as being anything better than hostile to your followers is already better than I had hoped for.”

“Hmph. And what are your plans when you go and fulfill your slave’s wish to get revenge on her family? And why should I allow you to go and destabilize things in my realm?”

I shrugged, and said, “Well, if they are so weak as to be taken down by the likes of me and mine, are Jastra’s family really worth your protection? From all I know of the Drow, you have set upon them trial after trial, that removes the weak from their society, keeping them strong. I could be just another trial to face some individuals with. Sure, I may not be as grave a trial as the machinations of another Drow house, but surely it can compare to some of the dangers of the Underdark?”

The Avatar narrowed her eyes at me. “Clever, Incubus. Clever. Well, if you wish to be a trial to the faithful, then I will give you a challenge. A quest, befitting your nature.”

New Divine Quest!

Chaos in Amyaththalas

 In your eagerness to avoid giving Lolth reason to smite you for your impertinence, you have instead given her an idea on a way to properly ‘test’ you, and some of her followers, as well. You must head to the citadel of the Drow, their great capitol of Amyaththalas, and complete three tasks. First, you must impregnate the Matron of the ruling House of Amyaththalas. Second, you must enslave the High Priestess of Lolth. Third, you must kill the Grand Archmage, the most powerful arcane spellcaster in the city. This quest cannot be declined, and the consequences for failure are… harsh.
S - Divine
Impregnate Matron Fosanri Kalreban,
Enslave High Priestess Tamzrin Drorval,
Kill Grand Archmage Vimoss Yilrat.
Fail to do any of the three tasks.
Increased Reputation with Lolth
Increased Reputation with Drow
A scaling item for each member of your party.
Death, with the souls of all your party being bound and enslaved to Lolth for eternal torment.

“Now go. I await news of your deeds.” And with a cruel laugh, the Avatar disappeared, leaving only a long spiral staircase made of obsidian behind.

Trial of Lolth passed. The Queen of Spiders has tested your strength and resilience against her children, and you have triumphed in this crucible. Having faced an avatar of the Goddess herself, you have earned a chance to gain favor with her, or face a fate worse than death.
HP and MP restored to full. All cooldowns reset.
All rewards delayed until completion of the Trial of the Gods.

I sighed, and said, “Well, that went well.”

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Be sure to read my published works!

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 2 - Beginning the Journey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VR7M41/
Volume 4 - To the Deeps https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QSD9S4

Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book III - Alpha Centauri https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8J9GF

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T

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