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205 The Great Red Dragon on the Field of Honor!

 "Ni hao, Red." Dave returned the pony-tailed warrior's greeting, slowly increasing the distance between them.

"I am grinding. I see your Kill Order. To allow 10,000 gold to walk away is impossible. No good. Will lose face with guild."

Dave shook his head, "Well, I'm not going to just give it up. You'll have to come and get it, big boy."

Dave turned and ran all out, hoping to lose the red-headed berserker in the forest. The Blood Rager smiled and gave chase.

The forest was a high-level area, if Dave ran into a mob, the berserker would catch up. But by the same token, if the berserker was attacked by a monster he would have to fight, giving Dave a chance to get away.

Dave was hoping for the second scenario of course, fighting the berserker was not an option. He losing t upon death. And without the legion to resupply him, losing a piece would be.

"You can not run from me!" The berserker shouted.

"But I am running away from you, dumbass!" Dave shouted back.

The berserker pulled the battle axe from his back and swung, a cleaving plane of force shot out of the axe at Dave, who ducked under attack.

A spreading arc of trees ahead of Dave toppled to the ground, their thick trunks sliced clean through.

"Daaaamn!"

That attack would have taken a huge chunk of his HP, not even considering the 100 plus level-difference.

Dave jumped over the fallen trees.

The berserker activated a charge skill and shattered through the tree trunks scattered in his way, turning them into a cloud of splinters. With the momentum of his charge still building, the berserker caught up and two handed his battle axe at Dave's back.

Dave turned with his arm up at a steep angle to deflect the attack away. The axe screeched and sparks sprayed from where it scraped down Dave's armored forearm. But it worked, the heavy blade slid away and thunked into the ground.

Dave took the opportunity to punch the berserker in the face.

[-1,200]

'Shit! That's pathetic.'

"That tickles," the berserker confirmed with a grin. He pulled the axe from the ground, sending dirt everywhere, and swung at Dave again.

Dave dodged the swing and activated [Death's Descent], successfully putting some distance between them. But he also learned the hard way why it was a bad idea to use [Death's Descent] in a forest when he slammed face first into a tree and dropped, sprawling, to the ground.

The berserker laughed uproariously, bending over and slapping his thighs, which only made Dave angrier.

Then the berserker turned serious. He stomped a foot down and a red avatar materialized, towering over them.

'Oh shit.'

But the avatar just reversed its sword and thrust it deep into the ground. The sword disappeared and a glowing red ring materialized around the area that Dave and the berserker stood in, creating an arena for the two players.

***

[Field of Honor]

You cannot leave the Field of Honor until one of you dies or forfeits by being idle for 10 seconds.

The loser of the duel will drop two pieces of equipped gear and be afflicted with the 'Loser' Status Effect for 72 hours:

-50% HP/MANA/STM regeneration

-20% to max HP/MANA/STM.

A symbol on the forehead of a hand making the "L" sign.

For 72 hours the winner of the duel will have the Status Effect: Victor

+20% Max HP/MANA/STM

+50% regen to HP/MANA/STM

A golden champion's wreath with the symbol V for victory on it.

The duelists will be unable to attack or damage each other for 72 hours after the completion of this duel.

***

The red avatar moved from the center to the edge of the circle took and up a position leaning down with one arm out to separate the players, an impassive referee.

Dave frowned, this Skill was broken. It was a ranged-character's worst nightmare. Casters and archers would be at a severe disadvantage in the dueling ring. Then there was the idle-time limitation, that would be hell for Assassin types, going into concealment and positioning to make a stealth attack takes time, an open confined area just makes it more difficult.

Then Dave's thoughts zeroed in on a small detail of the skill description.

'Idle for 10 seconds.'

Dave's lips stretched into a predatory smile that was reminiscent of a certain draugr's smirk.

Seeing the knight smile made the berserker wary, he was no fool, anything could happen in combat.

"If you hope for someone to come and save you, forget it. This is my legacy trait, a duel no one can interfere with."

A chorus of horns sounded. The avatar lifted its arm up and a familiar voice shouted, "FIGHT!"

Dave reached into his inventory and brought a bone-carved whistle to his lips. Taking a deep breath he blew into it and...nothing happened. No sound. Nothing.

The berserker shook his head and strolled toward Dave, swinging his axe like an executioner warming up.

'Goddamnit. Fucking trolls let me down, or maybe they were just punking me with this whistle crap.'

Dave watched the Blood Rager approach and his heart dropped into his boots at the thought of being sent for another respawn. Then he looked past the berserker and his frown turned upside down.

"Nothing can save you from a respawn, gweilo."

"Maybe, maybe not. Look behind you, oh Great Red Dragon."

"Children's games, they do not work on me."

Dave shrugged, "Don't say I didn't warn you."

Something splattered on the berserker's pauldron. He stopped and turned, a red-maned troll loomed over him, mouth opened wide, drooling saliva. Behind the drooling troll were other trolls, a whole tinkle of them. They were armed with ice clubs, one was even smacking a club into his hand in a dramatic threatening display. All the trolls were grinning at the berserker like he was their next meal.

Dave had hoped that the trolls were still alive. Even though they had been marked by the Death Heart, they weren't technically undead. It was sound reasoning, but it was all conjecture. Until now.

The berserker tried to jump away but an ice club slammed down onto his head. The berserker dropped bonelessly to the ground.

***

Player Long Zhao has been rendered Unconscious for 10 seconds by the troll Skill:

Join the CLUB

WARNING: The 'Unconscious' status effect will be removed if the player takes any additional damage.

***

Grinning, Red-Mane stood and waved goodbye to Dave. Then the tinkle disappeared.

Since Dave had summoned the trolls, their actions were considered his own. The duel's limit for inactivity was ten seconds. Which meant-

A notification popped up and sweet-toned horns sounded through the dueling ring.

***

Your opponent has not attacked for more than ten seconds. You have been declared the victor of this duel by forfeit!

For 72 hours you will have:

The title 'Victor!' (temporary, display optional)

+20% Max HP/MANA/STM

+50% regen to HP/MANA/STM

***

Dave smiled. Long had been 'idle' for too long.

The berserker woke up and looked around wildly, confused, not understanding what had happened. Then he saw Dave with the Victor's wreath on his head.

The berserker shouted "NO!"

Behind the berserker the red avatar reformed its sword and swung down at its summoner in an execution stroke. The berserker's avatar turned into a cloud of glowing particles and the red avatar disappeared.

Dave's brows lifted in surprise.

"Whoa! That's harsh, talk about a double-edged sword! I wondered how the loot would drop in this situation. Guess that's my answer."

The berserker's chest armor and battle axe had dropped on his death.

"Bad luck to drop both his main weapon and chest piece, not that losing anything is good luck at high levels."

Dave inventoried the two items, he would inspect them later. There were sounds of movement in the forest. Maybe Long had friends with him, maybe it was other high level players attracted by the commotion. Dave turned and ran, there was no need for him to stay where more players might show up and try for the 10k on his head.

***

The planar-reality stretched out of sight in every direction, covered in endless graveyards. Every shape, size and kind of tomb, headstone, crypt, mausoleum, and grave-marker were visible. But there were no colors, the entire reality was a grayscale monochrome.

Nothing stirred, not a breath of wind, not an insect. The only plants visible were the bouquets at some gravesites and the remnants of a few petrified-stone trees. The ground was gray also, like a mix of ash and dry white sand. Even the gray illumination of the realm was frozen. There were no clouds, no stars, no sun or moon. Just the still grayness.

Then among the graveyards a black shadow whirled into existence, disturbing the motionless tableau of the realm.

"Whoa. How depressing."

The shadow searched, moving in god-strides across the realm. Finally a hint of color came into sight and the shadow headed directly for it.

The splash of color in the otherwise dreary landscape appeared to be a lake. When disturbed the shimmering reflective surface revealed images of a white, blue and green world, Conquest.

There was a figure, a woman, sitting on the edge of the lake, sending ripples out across the reflective void.

The woman stiffened and looked over her shoulder.

She gasped, "You!"

"Yes, me!" the shadow said with a snicker.

The shadow moved to the edge and sat down next to her.

"Still spying on the mortals? You really do enjoy watching them."

"There's nothing better to do here, it's a lonely job," she shook her head, "I'm the goddess of death, but I'm captivated by them, they are so...ALIVE."

"You should get out more, go have a good time every once in a while. You gotta learn to let loose sometimes, shake away the rust, blow off some steam," the shadow cajoled her.

"I'm Death, that's not a very deathly thing to do."

The shadows had started evaporating when the figure sat down next to Death. Visible now, the slight figure just shrugged.

They sat silently for a time.

"You watched those petty idiots conspire together and do their dirty deed."

"I am the patron of death. It was not my place to-"

"Yet you appointed one of mine to be your champion. You involved yourself in the affairs of both mortals and non-mortals."

Death gulped, "They took my Book. But I renounced any revenge when I got it back."

"That does not excuse your actions. To outsiders you and I are the same, they don't recognize the difference. But that is far from the truth. You overstepped and went beyond your mandates. You and those other idiots made a mess of things, I am still putting things to right."

The goddess of death remained silent. She could not deny it. She had succumbed to the weaknesses of the mortal body she had been confined to.

"You have to make reparations, of course. I have an idea for that."