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241 Miles to go and promises to keep

 Dave sprinted through the forest of blood hued trees slowly increasing his lead over the horde of tiny monsters after him. When he'd built a comfortable distance between himself and the pursuing smollzy tribe he stopped and whistled. From the trees right next to him, Spike emerged like a ghost.

"Hey buddy, glad you're here," Dave said as he mounted up, "Let's lose these Chuckie wannabes and then catch up to the others."

The fiend snorted in agreement and galloped away through the forest leaving the smollzies far behind. Dave guided Spike on a round-about route back toward the tomb. Even though they were taking the longer way around, with Spikes speed they would likely make it to the tomb at about the same time as the rest of the party.

"What's the situation?" Dave asked over the party chat.

Ralph answered with a short report, "No smollzies or other monsters following us so far. We have the tomb in sight, and it's a big castle-looking thing."

"Great. I'm heading back around to the tomb, be there soon," Dave said.

A short time later Spike burst out of the forest into a clearing with what the map showed as the tomb in the middle. The building did indeed look like an old castle as Ralph had noted. Dave was a little surprised they hadn't encountered any dangerous wildlife during the ride to the tomb, but then he figured that the smollzies probably culled the wildlife.

'Gotta be thankful for small blessings. HA!'

His friends were waiting for him near the tomb.

Four stone walls protected what was probably a keep of some sort. The structure once boasted four towers, one at each corner. Of course the entire edifice was tumbled down and in severe disrepair now. Through one of the crumbled walls Dave could see a keep with half of a golden dome on top of it. A moat of green-scummed stagnant water surrounded the structure. Dave didn't see a way to get to the structure beyond the moat.

"Good morning, nice of you guys to drop by," Ralph yelled to Dave.

Dave chuckled as he guided the fiend over to the group, Ralphie and his movie quotes.

"Let's go-" Dave was cut off when loud screeches echoed from the Wilds.

Turning, Dave saw a horde of smollzies emerge from the forest and advance like a screaming avalanche of wild hair, teeth and bone spears.

"Get inside the tomb!" Dave said.

"Wait!" Perfect said, pausing at the back of the group.

Dave looked back, "What?"

The ranger pointed, "Look, the smollzies stopped."

He was right, the smollzies had stopped just inside the clearing, a good distance away from the Players, like something was preventing them from coming any closer.

"Maybe they're scared of the tomb," Flanker said.

"Maybe so. But let's not hang out here and find out. We have a tomb to dive and a quest to finish," Fortress said.

"Let's go then," Dave said. The other Players followed after him.

Perfect kept his eyes on the smollzies. One of the creatures was waving around a carved wooden totem staff. The smallzy shrieked something and struck the ground with its totem staff causing the entire tribe to begin leaping and howling like lunatics, many of them fell to the ground, their bodies jerking and spasming as if demon-possessed.

"Ah man, the little fuckers are up to something," Perfect said.


The smollzy witch doctor has performed a ritual to call a Tribulation down on you. Beware, an evil spirit of the Wilds will be your Bane.

Stench of the Weak increased by two (2) levels!

Your presence and the odor you exude has become more than just a mild annoyance, you are now a threat to the Wilds and all its inhabitants.

If you die in the Wilds, you will lose four (4) character levels.

You now benefit from a 20% increase in EXP from killing monsters in the Wilds.


Dave shouted, "What the fuck?!"

"Awww c'mon, man! My Stench level just jumped to level four!" Flanker exclaimed.

Dave nudged Spike forward, "It doesn't matter, we just need to dive this tomb and finish my quest. Hopefully after that, we won't ever have to come back to the Wilds again."

"Umm. We may have a teensy little problem..." Tess said, avoiding everyone's eyes.

"What problem?" Dave asked. .

"Welllll, I was already at Stench level three, so the curse from those meanie little fuckers-" Tess was interrupted by a tremendous roar that echoed across the clearing and through the forests of the Wild.

"-yeah, that," Tess finished apologetically.

It was the abyssal dragon and judging by how load the roar was it was very close. At the first sound of the dragon's roar the horde of smollzies screeched in terror and scattered in every direction.

Dave searched the skies for the source of the roar, "Oh, you've got to be pulling on my leg. Everyone into the water. we have to cross the moat now!"

Spike jumped into the scummy moat water. Demeri wrinkled her nose at the rancid odor coming from the water.

"Eww, it's stinks. First giant bugs, now this."

"Hurry up we don't have much time," Dave cajoled.

The Players jumped into the moat one after another and swam to the other side.

The dragon roared again, making sure every creature in its way knew that certain doom was coming. Dave's hands tightened in Spike's fur as the fiend swam through the mucky stinking water. At the other side of the moat Spike clumsily clambered out of the water and soon the whole party stood in front of the main building of the tomb.

"Fuck, how do we get in? Flanker cursed looking up fearfully. The dragon was a small dot in the sky and was growing larger by the second.

"Here!" Perfect said. There was a golden gate in one of the walls.

"Hurry, help me get it open," Perfect pushed at the gate.

The other Players joined him pushing on the gate together. After long seconds of effort the door finally moved, painstakingly, the hinges screeching. They redoubled their efforts, opening the portal a handbreadth, still far from wide enough for any of them to get through.


You have been afflicted with [Aura of Terror].

Your avatar is now unresponsive to your commands!


"Not today Smaug. Blessing [Immune to Fear]," Flanker waved his staff, a pearly nimbus shone around the party bestowing on them a temporary immunity to fear effects.

"There you go calling a black dragon 'Smaug' again. I'd give you the 'L' sign if I wasn't busy."

"Harsh, man. Now shut up and push, the fear immunity only lasts ten seconds," Flanker said and suited action to words.

The dragon was now hovering above the party's head.The prideful dragon wasn't too happy with the players resisting its [Aura of Terror]. The dragon dropped to the ground roaring, then lunged in to bite at the players pushing the gate. The door suddenly swung open a with rusty squeal, tumbling the players into the tomb. The dragon's maw snapped close just shy of the gate, but no prey was between the fangs.

The dragon screeched again, it tried to reach for the players with its front claw but the gate was too small for it. The great drake roared and rammed its head into the building shaking the whole structure and raining down bricks and clouds of dust.

The dragon soon gave up and turned his attention on the only creature outside the tomb. A forest prong fiend, paralyzed by the dragon's [Aura of terror]. The dragon slammed its taloned forefoot down on the fiend, shaking the ground.


The forest prong fiend (Spike) has died!


Dave read the notification and froze for a moment, stunned. Mechanically he waved away the notification. The fiend that had carried him through the Wilds was dead, just like that, in an instant. His eyes dull, Dave slowly walked toward the gate.

"Dave, what are you doing? No!" Ralph shouted, running toward his buddy.

But like a walking dead, Dave didn't respond he walked right through the gate, leaving the tomb to get some payback for the death of his friend.

"No! The blessing just ended," Flanker called out to Ralph.

Ralph stopped at the very edge of the gate staring fixedly out of it at Dave and the dragon.

The [Aura of Terror] didn't affect the players inside the building. But he would be paralyzed by the effect as soon as he walked through the door.

"We have to help him!" Lone said joining Ralph at the door.

Mercy shook her head, "Just because someone does something stupid doesn't mean we should do it too. Walking out there is a one way ticket to the nearest cemetery."

"But what about Dave? It's his quest, he's gonna die here!" Lone shouted.

"I'd have stopped him if I realized what he was going to do, but it's too late now. Dave will have to deal with the consequences of his actions, just like everyone else," Mercy said coldly.

Demeri took out her harp and plucked the strings. A soul soothing music rose from her instrument and reached out to the winged lizard.

"The damn dragon has [Charm Immunity]," Demeri said, frustrated.

When Flanker's blessing ended, Dave faced the full effect of [Aura of Terror].

His avatar was unresponsive, but Dave didn't want to move, he faced the dragon and looked it in the eyes.

The proud dragon found it offensive for a mere human to challenging it so. It opened its maw wide and bit at the Player, and Dave let the dragon engulf him whole.

Everyone gasped as they saw Dave disappear into the dragon's mouth.

A damage number floated up from where he'd been standing.




Then a notification appeared:


You are in critical condition!

Passive [Unyielding] activated. You have 5 seconds of immunity to dying!

You have 1% HP remaining!


Dave activated [Undying Will], which removed the effects of [Aura of Terror] and gave him three seconds of crowd control immunity. He also ignited his [Aura]. His avatar lit up in flames and they gushed out from between the gaps of the dragon's mouth.

"Enjoy the burn, bitch!" Dave balanced himself inside the dragon's mouth and opened his mouth to spew out [Ray of Flames]. The dragon roared in pain when the flames seared its throat down to its stomach.

Dragon hide is stronger than the toughest armor known, but the insides were a different story. Although a dragon's insides were much stronger than the flesh of any other beast, they were still just squishy insides. [Ray of Flames] could melt terrain, so it was obvious how much damage it should do to the meat. Soon a smell of burnt flesh rose from the depth of the dragon's stomach and a huge damage value floated up from the dragon's head in red numerals.


Still, compared to the dragon's base HP, the number was just a drop in the bucket.

The dragon spat Dave out, sending him tumbling until he slammed into the tomb wall. Dave should have died right there and then, but he still had one last tick on the timer of his [Unyielding] skill.

The dragon continued to suffer damage over time from Dave's [Ray of Flames]. Wheezing the winged monster roared through a fit of hacking and coughing.

The [Aura of Terror] had been temporarily neutralized, perhaps because the dragon was in enormous pain. Dave didn't really care why, he looked up at the agonized spasming dragon, feeling some small amount of satisfaction. But it wasn't nearly enough.

Then he made a promise, no a vow. One day he would come back to the Wilds when he was more powerful. He would repay the dragon in kind for what it had done to Spike.

"I hope that gives you heartburn you overgrown reptile! Kill ya later, snake," Then he turned and ran back through the gate into the tomb to the sounds of even more enraged shrieks.