Walls of four-inch thick, solid wood don’t break easily. But they can break. Pillowcase watched her health plummet to a tiny sliver as she picked herself up and marveled at the hit she’d taken. She was outside the farmhouse. A moment prior, she’d been inside the farmhouse and now there was a new hole in the wall just a few feet to the right of where the door was.
“Destructible environments? Huh, that’s new,” she said, rising back to her feet and readying the half of her shield which remained on her arm.
“Destructible gear too it looks like,” Alice said as she renewed the [Minor Blood Channel] spell.
She’d broken the link when she fled from the farmhouse’s doorway. Pillowcase had been concerned about that, given that she’d charged inwards to hold back the [Chain Lasher] while the others retreated to stay way from the razor scythes on the end of the cables which made up the greater portion of the creature’s body. Tactically it hadn’t been the worst maneuver, but it did put Pillowcase out of line of sight from Alice, who therefor couldn’t provide any of the healing support Pillowcase so desperately needed.
The [Chain Lasher] had solved that problem by slamming Pillowcase through the farmhouse’s wall, and in the process confirmed itself a much deadlier threat than the [Chaos Centipedes] had been.
“What do we do? Run?” Matt asked. His attention was locked on the unearthly mass of chains and sinew which rolled out of the farmhouse.
“No!” Pillowcase rolled away from the Lasher’s next trio of attacks, vectoring away from her group. The Lasher remained focused on her, despite the distance she put between them, but Pillowcase knew that was as much the result of no one else attacking it as any enmity she’d managed to accumulate. “We can take this thing.”
She wasn’t certain of that. Creatures frequently grew more deadly the more wounded they became, which meant they hadn’t seen any of the [Chain Lasher]’s more frightening abilities yet. Given that its attacks hadn’t invoked the “One Shot” code which prevented higher level monsters from killing a player with a single blow though, Pillowcase was reasonably sure the Lasher was somewhere near their level, which meant as a team they should be able to take it down.
“Eyes all around,” Alice said, speaking as much to Rip Shot as anyone else.
“Yeah, keep the area clear of the centipedes,” Pillowcase said as she struck the Lasher to force its attention to remain on her.
“There’s a lot of them around us,” Rip said. “Where do I start?”
“Wait for them to approach,” Alice said. “They may stay out of the fight until the Lasher summons them.”
“Hold your abilities till then, but free fire regular shots at this guy,” Pillowcase said.
A scythe tip caught Pillowcase on the arm and nearly severed it at the shoulder. The loss of control over her sword left her open to two more attacks, both of which struck solidly.
“Turtle up if you can, I can’t keep you over half health,” Alice said.
With half a shield left and even that showing cracks running through it Pillowcase had no idea how well she could “turtle up” by switching to pure defense, but she tried anyways.
“Matt, you are free to cast as fast as you can. Burn this thing down,” she said, taking advantage of the open space outside the farmhouse to incorporate more movement into her defensive strategy.
The arm she’d nearly lost was good as new a few seconds later as Alice’s spell knit her tore clothy flesh back together. The moment she regained feeling in it, Pillowcase tumbled forward, snatched her dented sword up from the ground where it had fallen and rained a pair of blows in on the Lasher.
The dented sword achieved little with each hit. Metal on metal was never a good contest to engage in, but Pillowcase wasn’t looking to do much damage. All she needed were tiny knicks which her skill could amplify into a compulsion to keep the Lasher attacking her.
Bolts of magic began to pepper the monster as Pillowcase blocked, dodged, and occasionally received grievous wounds from the Lasher’s attacks. Matt was making an effort to kill their foes before it took Pillowcase down, but Pillowcase saw a problem forming right away.
As a ball of metal, muscle, and rage, the Lasher didn’t have much of a mind directing its rampage. There was some minor level of awareness within it, but the psychic damage Matt’s spells were designed to inflict found very little in terms of weak spots to disrupt. He could damage the Lasher but each spell had only a small fraction of its usual impact.
“I’m running out of magic,” he said, nerves plain in his voice.
“Switch to attacks from your staff while your magic recovers,” Alice said. She was rooted to the spot again in order to keep her spell going but was otherwise able to keep an eye on things.
“How’s your magic doing?” Pillowcase asked. She trusted Alice to warn her when things were getting critical, any decent healer would do that, but in the long run it would be better if Pillowcase could keep intuitive track of that sort of thing without Alice having to waste time or brainpower on reporting it.
“Holding up so far,” Alice said. “Might need to have you kite without a heal if this fight goes on as long as it looks like it will.”
“I can manage that,” Pillowcase said. Better, she hoped, than she had with the [Wraithwings]. “I’ll try to take some of the load off you now too.”
The key was to buy herself some space, as space in turn provided time, and time could be spent for all sorts of things.
What about this? Tessa thought, and stepped forward allowing Pillowcase to complete a front snap kick which knocked the Lasher back by a good ten feet. Pillowcase followed the attack with a backwards flip which put her even farther from the Lasher and gave her plenty of time to cast without being interrupted.
“[Casting spell: Lesser Spirit Drain].” Lines of magic shot from her and began siphoning away energy from the Lasher, and restoring a little of Pillowcase’s health. It wouldn’t have been enough to save her from the Lasher if she’d been alone when she encountered it but added to Alice’s healing it meant her health was able to rise to a much higher and more comfortable level.
“We’ve got centipedes incoming.” Rip’s yell didn’t surprise Pillowcase. The centipedes and the Lasher had to have some kind of symbiotic relationship given the close proximity of their lairs in the farm house.
“Take them down,” Pillowcase said, closing with the Lasher again to make sure her control over its attention went unbroken.
Apart from her failing equipment, Pillowcase felt reasonably good about the battle. Matt’s hits were being resisted but he was making slow yet steady progress, and the secondary effect of his attacks, the slow, seemed to work just fine on the Lasher. Alice seemed to be doing fine on magic and giving her time to refill looked like it would be doable. Even Rip seemed to be doing her job well.
“They’re not dropping fast enough,” Rip said. “Four incoming. Might drop two before the others eat me.”
Ok, maybe Rip’s not quite up to this yet, Tessa thought. She saw the young girl firing wildly as the centipedes charged at her. None of the shots spent enough time to be properly empowered by her skills and so none of them did fatal damage to the centipedes. To her credit though, Rip kept firing. In the face of impending doom, she did what she could to keep helpping her team and Tessa was proud of her.
“Come to me,” Pillowcase said. “Drag them close and I’ll tank them too.”
“Can you hold that many?” Alice asked, no doubt thinking of hundreds or thousands of Tanks she’d met who bit off more than they could chew because they were convinced they could take on everything the world had offer.
“Holding them won’t be the problem,” Pillowcase said. Alice’s spell was phenomenal, but it did have limits and several centipedes piled on top of the Lasher was on the borderline of exceeding those limits.
Rip raced by, firing arrows behind herself as she ran. Her expression was more than a little panicked but she handled the move well, brushing past Tessa by less than a finger length and continuing to run until she was at roughly half her max range. Far enough to be safe from melee attacks and have a headstart if Pillowcase lost the monster’s interest, but close enough that the rest of the group could still help her if new trouble arose.
Pillowcase didn’t try for another spell, despite how useful it would be. With five attackers to contend with the chance of her casting being uninterrupted was essentially zero. Later on she would gain various methods of dealing with that, assuming she survived that long. For the present though she needed to focus on what was reliable. Laying out a quick barrage of hits which switched rapidly from one to the other left her open to more attacks but she was fine with losing the endurance portion of the battle faster if it meant her team was safe.
Rip and Matt teamed up without prompting to capitalize on the effort Pillowcase was making. With spells and arrows they reduced the first of the centipedes to a quivering pile of good which was quickly left behind in the battle.
In the side of her vision, on one of the transparent screens which resembled the game’s interface, Pillowcase saw a small icon appear for a shared item dropping into the group’s treasure pool. Pillowcase ignored it, knowing they were better off dividing up the loot later, after they had dealt with all the threats around them.
The [Chain Lasher] noticed the death of the centipede too which triggered an instant alarm in Pillowcase’s mind. She tried to keep it from rolling over the fallen corpse but to no avail.
That’s when things started to go bad.
As the Lasher rolled over the centipede’s corpse, it screamed. Then it began to belch an ugly green smoke from vents in its chain tentacles.
“Stay away from that,” Alice said, although Pillowcase didn’t need the warning. Obviously poison gas was nothing she had any interest in messing around with even if her body was mostly cloth and shouldn’t, in theory, have been vulnerable to poisons of any variety.
The problem with that theory was that in a world steeped in magic, things had a tendency to take on magical properties in direct proportion to how much you’d prefer they didn’t. Something like chlorine gas shouldn’t have had any affect on someone who didn’t need to breathe, but from the sparkles of light and the skulls which forming in the swirling green mists, Pillowcase was quite sure that whatever poison this was it could hurt her all too readily.
“Change targets,” Alice said. “Kill that metal thing before it powers up anymore.”
Pillowcase wasn’t sure that was the right call but she bowed to Alice’s greater experience as a battlefield commander.
It would have been better if she hadn’t.
The combined assault on the [Chain Lasher] was effective in dropping its health faster. From about seventy-five percent the Lasher’s health plummeted to around fifty percent over the course of a minute of solid fighting.
Pillowcase’s own health was hovering around a third of her maximum both from the extra damage from the three remaining centipedes and from the necessity of venturing into the poisonous mist around the Lasher to maintain her control over its attention.
As the Lasher’s health reached an even fifty percent though, the buzzsaws came out.
The motion shook the Lasher like it was vomiting the blades out of its skin but they deployed to deadly effect nonetheless.
Pillowcase dove away from their reach, losing the use of one leg in the process, but her troubles were only beginning there.
The [Chaos Centipedes] weren’t able to dodge the buzzsaws with anywhere near the dexterity Pillowcase possessed. They were sliced to ribbons in less than a second and scooped up by a hundred smaller cables.
Gases of all sorts began to spew from the Lasher, mixing, reacting, and, in a searing flash, exploding.
Being one legged didn’t slow Pillowcase down much, but even at her fastest she couldn’t have outrun the blastwave that blew her into a dozen pieces.