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234 Burning Brigh

 Dave walked out of the cave grumbling under his breath

Seeing Dave's sour mood Ralph approached,"Hey Dave, that was quick, you get anything in the cave?"

"Just more pain-in-my-ass quest shit," Dave said, there was a notification blinking in front of him.

***

Your relationship with the Holy Church is now: Hostile.

NPCs affiliated with the Holy Church will not speak to you. Church paladins will hunt you if they detect you.

***

***

New Hidden Quest: Sacrilegious

Kill three (3) Holy Church Cardinals to obtain the title: 'Blasphemer'

Blasphemer title effects:

Holy attacks do 20% less Damage to the user when the title is equipped.

User does 20% more Damage to Holy Church affiliated entities when the title is equipped.

***

'Frack! Killing the archangel would have been so much better than this shit. Now I've got demons AND the Holy Church after me. That's just great'

"Let's just head for the tomb," Dave said.

The party oriented themselves and set off through the forest for their destination.

The rest of the party followed after Dave. Lone, on the other hand, was walking to the side, awfully quiet. Everyone's mood was soured, for some reason, no one was talking, they just kept moving forward..

Dave almost wanted something to attack them just to alleviate the awkwardness.

As if his prayers were answered, he received a notification.

***

You have spent a total of 24 hours in the Deep Wilds.

The ecosystem of the Wilds is hostile to all foreign life, the prolonged presence of Players is intolerable to the status quo.

You have acquired the debuff: Stench of the Weak, level 1/5

Your body emits an odor that attracts and antagonizes the powerful creatures of the Wilds.

Monsters have a 100% increase in aggro range and their attacks do 5% more Damage to you.

If you die while under the effects of Stench of the Weak (level 1/5), you will lose one (1) level.

You gain 10% more EXP under the debuff Stench of the Weak.

***

Stench of the Weak was the primary reason Players avoided the Wilds. It was stackable and permanent, with no known way to remove it. Every additional level attracted stronger monsters, until finally at level five it attracted the most powerful and feared monster in the Wilds, the Abyssal dragon.

"Unbelievable. That sucks big balls," Dave said.

"What's wrong?" Ralph asked.

"I guess you didn't get a notification because you haven't been in the Wilds for as long as we have."

Dave showed Ralph the notification.

"So Flanker Perfect and Fortress have the same debuff."

"Apparently yes," Dave said. There was a small green icon over the TNT's heads as well as his own.

"Let's hurry, this debuff has five levels, I wouldn't be surprised if the final level lures the black dragon to us. Or god forbid, something worse," Dave said in annoyance.

"Do you hear that?" Perfect said.

Everyone stopped, they listened carefully, low growls came from all around them.

Spike became agitated, there were enemies around him, powerful enemies

"Stick together everyone," Dave said.

First one, then two pairs of red eyes appeared, gazing at them from the darkness. Everyone froze.

Two towering upright figures stalked into view. Their black-striped orange fur served as natural camouflage in the forest, rumbling snarls issued from feline muzzles with long, downward-curving sabertooth fangs.

***

Weretiger

Level: 450

Base damage: 45,000-50,000

Tier: Epic

Danger level: ☠ ☠

HP: 600,000

DN: 60,000

MA: 50,000

Skills:

[Smoke Screen] a breath of smoke that blinds enemies is released. The first attack on a blinded enemy deals double damage.

[Shadow Bind] Binds an enemy with the weretiger's shadow, rooting the target in place for 5 seconds.

[Hunter's Mark] Once applied on a target, the weretiger will chase the target until either the hunter or the prey dies.

[Vicious Retaliation] at the loss of every 10% of maximum HP, the weretiger's next attack will do 500% base damage and will inflict [Laceration], bleeding the target for 20% of their current HP.

***

"Crap! As if werewolves weren't shitty enough!" Dave cursed out loud, his werewolf phobia kicking in. Though from his reaction it might be more accurate to call it his shape-shifter phobia.

The weretigers were higher level than Spike, fighting them was going to be difficult.

"I think I can tank one, Mercy and Ralph you guys take care of the other one," Dave said even as he shivered, barely holding it together.

"Me and Mercy will take care of the second one then. Everyone else support roles from a distance."

While the party was preparing for the fight, the weretigers roared out loud. In response, six pairs of red eyes looked at them from the darkness of the forest.

"Fuck!" Flanker cursed, "We're gonna die man!"

Dave looked at the monsters, they were surrounded on all sides.

'There's no way we're getting out of this alive.'

"Damn, and here I thought the wilds were the best place to grind for EXP," Ralph said as he backed towards the rest of the party.

Everyone huddled together as the weretigers paced slow circles around the group.

"Game over, man! We're all gonna die! And we're gonna lose levels. This is exactly why I didn't want to come here in the first place," Flanker whined unhelpfully.

Dave waved his hand and four glowing orbs appeared.

Then he stroked Spike's fur and spoke in a whisper, "Buddy, I think this is it for us, but you can escape. So go, run."

Agitated and afraid, the fiend still don't move, not out of fear, but out of loyalty. He wanted to remain by Dave's side.

Dave gestured and the orbs moved toward the weretigers. He snapped his fingers and the orbs detonated, staggering the weretigers.

"I SAID GO!" Dave shouted. He slapped Spike on the rump, startling the fiend into motion. The stag bounded through the encirclement and disappeared into the forest.

The weretigers didn't chase after the fiend. They focused on the human who'd attacked them with the glowing orbs.

Dave received two notifications.

***

You have been Marked!

A weretiger has marked you as its prey.

The weretiger will not stop hunting you until one of you dies.

***

***

The Forest Pronged Fiend (Spike) has acknowledged your worry for his well being.

Spike is a permanent ally to you from now on.

Affinity increased by two(2) levels

Current Affinity level: 9/10

You can summon (Spike) anywhere in the Wilds by whistling.

Spike will fight for you until his HP reaches 25% of maximum.

If Spike's HP reaches 25% and he escapes from battle he will try to find his way back to you.

***

Dave grinned, "Alright guys, let's see how tough these fuckers are!" Dave equipped his sword.

Minutes later, Dave was in a familiar location. A dark clearing in a forest filled with tombstones. Brilliant beams of light penetrated the dark forest.

"Ah fuck," Dave groaned.

***

Your Death Knight Armor is damaged.

Your Death Knight Gloves are damaged.

You have lost one (1) character level

The Hunted mark has been removed.

***

"That was shit."

"That was a nasty way to go man," Fortress said over the party chat.

"Yeah, one of the weretigers literally ripped my avatar apart. That shit was too graphic."

"That was scary," Demeri said, joining in.

"Even Mercy died," Flanker said.

"They marked me before I used Stealth," Mercy grumbled.

"At least you didn't lose a level," Flanker retorted.

"I didn't stack enough hours in the Wilds to get the stinky debuff, but I lost 5% EXP toward my next level. By the way Dave, my armor was damaged..."

"Don't worry. All the repairs are on me since I asked you to help me in the Wilds." Dave said.

"Let's get our our equipment repaired and meet up in Urburg," Ralph said.

"Uh, Skelly, can I invite someone to the raid?" Fortress said.

"I really don't want anyone else to know that I am Mr. Skeletal," Dave answered.

"We can ask everyone to keep quiet about that until she signs an NDA. She's a good player," Fortress said.

"Aww man, are you talking about your imaginary girlfriend? C'mon bro, get real."

"Shut up Flanker, this is serious," Fortress snapped, then turned back to Dave, "What do you think, Skelly?"

Dave scratched his head, trying to think of a nice way to refuse Fortress's request.

"She's a level 420 magician,"

Everyone was dumbstruck for a moment

"You know a level 420 magician?" Perfect said.

"Yeah, I told you before, Tess is a high-level player, but you guys didn't believe me."

"Any other time I'd love to have a high level magician, I'm just not sure adding even a level 420 Player will change anything for us in this situation. We just need to travel fast, it's four days to the tomb on foot," Dave said. He didn't think that in the long run adding a Player, no matter how high level, was worth risking another person knowing he was Mr. Skeletal.

"She's also friends with a tribe of centaurs," Fortress said.

"So?"

"We could ride them to the tomb. They're as fast as Spike if not faster."

The chat was suddenly silent...