Just because she’d survived the [Mind Crusher’s] pulsed [Death Spasm] move didn’t mean Pillowcase was going to live to see the end of the fight.
“If I drop, fall back out of this room,” Tessa said. “We’re doing well enough on this run that we can regroup for a second without you all risking another death.”
“You’re not going to die,” Alice said through gritted teeth.
They’d been fighting the [Mind Crusher] for twenty minutes. Sitting at a keyboard for that long wasn’t an unreasonable commitment while battling a single tough foe. Big boss monsters could easily take that long, though typically the fights were concluded in half that time or less. Enduring all-out combat for that duration in person though was a very different story from guiding a character on a screen.
Pillowcase’s body was designed for battle. The magics which supported her existence were highly efficient – beyond capabilities of even the best [Artificers] in the [Fallen Kingdoms] – but everything had limits and the weariness Pillowcase felt was no different from the exhaustion Tessa was familiar with from the few foolish times she’d tried to start an intense workout routine.
For all that Alice had replenished Pillowcase’s health to full, Tessa was still struggling to retain the sharpness of her reflexes and the vigor of her sword arm. To let either falter would be the same as handing victory to the [Mind Crusher].
“[Heart Killer’s Curse]”, she said, renewing the invocation on her most important personal buff.
Glancing over at Alice, Tessa saw her healer’s magic points were almost entirely drained.
“You need to keep some magic in case this thing comes after you,” Tessa said, trying to ignore the fact that Alice was probably already below the level where she could throw heals on Rip, Matt, and herself if they had to flee.
“I don’t if it never comes us,” Alice said. She was out of breath purely from the drain of casting almost all her energy into healing effects.
“Let me go lower then,” Tessa offered, knowing that spacing out the healing they provided was one of the few option low level healers had for conserving magic in long fights.
“I can’t, it’s got too many hard hitting moves,” Alice said.
She was right, and they both knew it.
The team had dropped the [Mind Crusher] to less than twenty percent of its total hit points and in the process weathered a trio of special abilities it possessed. [Death Spasm] had been the first, where its body bent and twisted into a writhing mass before compressing into a ball and then exploding outwards in an array of spikes in every direction.
It had done that for the first time at seventy five percent health and the damage had driven Pillowcase’s health so long that her entire bar had looked empty. Below twenty percent health the [Mind Crusher] seemed to be able to execute that ability as often and as quickly as it wanted.
The only time it didn’t do that was when it was levitating Pillowcase off the ground in rings of mental force using its [Psychic Crush] ability, or when it was lighting her on fire with [Lesser Pyrokinesis].
Overall it wasn’t the most enjoyable battle Pillowcase had ever fought, though she could remember ones which had been far worse.
“You could let it come for me,” Matt said, as he fired another [Lesser Spectral Wounds] into the creature. It was perhaps the one hundredth time he’d shredded the [Mind Crusher] with his magic and while it was his best spell, in a sense, twenty minutes had made it clear that neither he nor Rip were capable of ending the fight in an instant, no matter how well their attacks landed.
“No! I’m a better target,” Rip said. “We talked about kiting. Let me try that. I can use my [Rapid Step] to stay away from it.”
It wasn’t a bad idea. Pillowcase started working out how they might handle switching the monster’s attention cleanly between them, but Tessa cast that thought aside.
“We can’t risk it,” she said. “This thing can teleport. You won’t be able to outpace it, and if we lose you it’ll take twice as long to finish it off.”
“If you fall then,” Rip said. Even knowing she’s probably being able to rez after the battle if she got clipped, it was still brave offer on Rip’s part. Being torn to pieces by a winged nightmare might be something she could recover from but the experience was far from a pleasant one, and the hounds were always a possibility.
The [Mind Crusher] released another [Death Spasm] which Pillowcase caught entirely on her shield. She’d been expecting the move since the [Mind Crusher] could use it freely in its current state and seemed to be cycling back to it at regular intervals.
“[Casting spell: Counter Death],” Alice said, reapplying a fairly costly buff to Pillowcase and glaring at the rest of the party as if daring any of them to object.
Tactically Pillowcase knew that the move wasn’t optimal from a total party survival perspective, but had to concede that it was the best method of keeping one person on their feet. For a fairly limited duration, any single hit which was strong enough to knock Pillowcase to zero health would be prevented, but only the portion which would have killed her.
Against normal hits, the spell was laughably underpowered since it’s cost compared to a small hit was a bad trade, especially compared to a [Grave Mender’s] other healing spells. As the hits scaled up in damage though, [Counter Death] began to shine as it was capable of eliminating far more damage than any cure of a comparable level could heal. Also, and most critically, it bought the healer time. Even if Alice had a healing spell large enough to undo the damage a large hit carried, it wouldn’t matter if it landed after the blow killed Pillowcase since heals generally had no effect on corpses. Even the extra second or two [Counter Death] could buy where Pillowcase would be lingering at a single hit point might be all the opportunity Alice needed to turn the fight around.
“Fine,” Tessa said, suppressing a smile, “No dying then.”
She bashed the [Mind Crusher] as it tried to focus on a [Lesser Pyrokinesis] effect to light her on fire, breaking its concentration and sending it back into the air for what felt like the ten billionth time.
“Except for him,” she added. “I freaking hate flying things.”
“[Flame Shot],” Rip called out, blasting off one of the [Mind Crusher’s] wings for the ten billionth and first time. “I don’t know, that’s not getting old any time soon,” she added as the monster crashed to the ground again in front of Pillowcase.
Oblivion’s Daughter, or Obby, was never going to get tired from what Claire could see.
“Ha! Three more incoming!” Obby cheered, waving her sword like a pennant flag.
Around them, the bodies of [Chaos Centipedes] were piled into a continuously de-rezzing wall. As fast as one body vanished in a sparkle of light, another two were added to the pile.
“Are they ever going to stop?” Pete asked.
“Doesn’t really look like it,” Obby said. “What a great spot! Why did Pillowcase’s crew ever leave?”
“Maybe they had to rest to recover their magic?” Claire asked, steading herself with her hands on her knees before beginning her next spell.
“Are you holding up ok?” Obby asked. “You look a little tapped out there.”
“I could use a minute if we can catch a break from these things,” Claire said.
“Don’t worry about these three,” Starchild said. “I can support Obby, while you recover.”
The good news was that the slaughterfest outside the abandoned farm house had boosted them both up to 7th level. The downside was that the combat had been so constant, Clair hadn’t been select any new spells since 5th level, and there were a bunch of items in the group treasure pool that would have helped her but they hadn’t had a chance to divvy them up with the constant press of giant bugs attacking them.
You probably think the only thing you have to be afraid of is some bugs.
The words bounced around her head sending chills down her spine.
The fighting with the [Chaos Centipedes] was normal. They were monsters, clearly not human. Violence against them didn’t strike Claire as fundamentally wrong in any sense. They were gross, they were dangerous, and they weren’t people.
The Player Killers though?
They were like broken dolls. Things cast in the image of people, but warped into something else. Something horrifying and wrong.
The worst part though was the suspicion crawling under Claire’s skin that something in them had once been a person. She couldn’t allow that to be true. That sort of violation wasn’t something she could process and thinking about it was going to get her and her new friends killed.
So she pushed it down.
Into the dark.
Deep under her skin.
You probably think.
The words wouldn’t leave her.
But she could ignore them.
For a while at least.
“I’ll take the two on the left, just hold off the one on the right okay?” Obby asked as she stepped forward to lure both her targets to attack her.
Claire appreciated the gesture on both Obby and Starchild’s parts. Fighting without a healer was dangerous and painful, but, based on how they’d been managing the centipedes, something both of them were capable of handling.
Unless more centipedes showed up.
Which of course they did.
“Do you need help?”
“Nah, we’ve still got this,” Obby said. “Rest up to full. I’ll be a little battered once you’re ready but you can patch me up then. None of these things hit hard enough to drop me before you’re done.”
“I won’t last that as long as Obby, but neither will our enemies,” Starchild said and smote the centipede nearest her with green fire that reduced it to a cloud of ash.
“Nice Shot!” Obby’s glee was infectious and left Claire wishing she’d taken a class with some damage dealing potential so she could join in the fun.
“I killed one in the time you killed four,” Starchild said. “I believe the credit is all yours.”
“Bah!” Obby said. “It doesn’t matter how good we are in comparison to anyone except who we were, and what the situation we’re in calls for.”
“Says the tank who’s out damaging all of the dps in our previous party put together,” Claire said.
“Well, that doesn’t sound all that hard,” Obby said. “I mean, dead people don’t do a lot of damage normally. Uh, undead excluded there obviously. Seriously though, I think if you folks had come here first, you probably would have had a lot better time of it. I started off in [Starwatch Fort] and there were some really great areas around there for low leveling soloing.”
“Any of them viable for a party of three?” Pete asked.
“Yeah, probably, though a dungeon would probably be better,” Obby said. “I didn’t have to practice any tactics or mechanics at all.”
“It doesn’t look like you needed the practice,” Claire said.
“Eh, this stuff is still pretty easy so far,” Obby said. “And I’ve fought in a lot of other places beside this.” She punctuated her last statement by beheading the last centipede that was assaulting them.
Claire glanced around and saw they’d somehow earned a brief respite from the constant attacks.
From Obby’s hand a pulse of pink light caught her attention.
“Oh! Sorry, that’s my wife, I should take this,” Obby said and placed her hand to ear, apparently beginning a private call.
“We should divide up the treasure and equip the good pieces,” Starchild said.
“Will Obby need any?” Claire asked.
“Nope, I had a holiday starter pack,” Obby said, taking her hand from her ear. “It had a nice set of level 15 gear in it, so I’m good for a while.”
“Nice!” Pete said. “The rest should be easy to split up then. Would you like to take all the magical stuff and I’ll take the physical pieces?”
“No, you should grab some of the magical pieces too,” Claire said. “You’re still using a lot of spells when you fight.”
“True, I just wanted to make sure you had what you need,” Pete said.
“It looks like it won’t be a problem. There’s a lot more in the pool than I remember seeing drop but we went through so many of those things I’m not surprised. I think there’s plenty here for both of us.”
“That should give us a big boost,” Pete said. “We’re still wearing some level 1 pieces.”
“Same here,” Claire said. “And I’m feeling a bit better about our chances as a team too. Maybe even enough to head back to the dungeon if you two are up for it.”
That fighting also kept her from being able to think about whatever the hell the Player Killers were was something she wasn’t sure she was ready to share with anyone. She’d had traumatic shocks before. Distractions and waiting a bit weren’t a perfect answer but it was how she’d muddled through before.
Certainly it couldn’t cause any problems this time.