It probably didn’t count as bloodlust when the things you were fighting didn’t possess any blood in their withered undead bodies. Right? The funny thing was that it wasn’t Tessa who asked that question of herself.
“I mean, its good that we’re enjoying ourself,” Pillowcase said. “I’m just wondering if the chuckling is entirely healthy?”
“Oh, this isn’t healthy in the slightest,” Tessa said. “Damn fun though.”
“Should we be more worried about that?” Pillowcase asked as she pinned one of the [Cursed Walkers] that Rip had blasted full of holes against two others that Matt was in the process of tearing apart on a spiritual level.
She didn’t need to parry anyone for a moment so she took the opportunity to draw more attention to herself by bashing the first Walkers shoulder into pulp.
Several of the Walkers who were struggling to tear Obby apart, pivoted and joined the crowd that was seeking to devour Pillowcase’s juicy stuffing? Their motives were sort of questionable, but puddings had more brainpower than the Walkers – literally.
The one she’d de-shouldered, by virtue of being at the front of the horde continued its attack with the maw of teeth edged with necrotic energy its undeath had gifted it with.
“I think that’s why this is so fun,” Tessa said, watching as Pillowcase hit the Walker with enough force to spin its head around backward. “Can’t worry. No time. Zombies will eat us if do.”
“Can’t run either I guess,” Pillowcase said. “Just have to give into the mayhem.”
“It’s not how the Consortium fights is it?”
“Not even close. It’s odd too. I don’t have viscera but there’s a visceral thrill to this anyways?”
“I think it’s cause we feel safe,” Tessa said.”And we’re getting to cut loose. It’s like primal scream therapy but with more xps and loot.”
“Leveled again!” Rip shouted on the party channel, the sheer glee in her voice making the quasi-zombie apocalypse they were fighting the most joyful thing in the world.
“Me too!” Matt said, his usual quiet restraint cast aside to join Rip in her delight.
“Amp it up then!” Obby said. “If you’re resources are full, run ‘em down. You’re not going to pull hate off Pillow and me.”
“Sounds like a challenge!” Illuthiz said.
“If they attack you, I am not saving you,” Hermeziz said, as though anyone present believed that was even vaguely true.
The farming run had seemed like a potential disaster at the start. The first pull from the [Barrows] had drawn a force twice as large as the one Rip and the damage dealers had blundered into. Tessa and Obby had been ready to pick up the incoming horde but it was quickly apparent that even using every ability they had there was no chance they were going to be able to hold the attention of more than half the enemies against them.
And the rest of the team surviving over a dozen even leveled foes was laughably unlikely.
So Glimmerglass stepped in and erased half the enemies.
It didn’t take long, and it didn’t take a particularly high level spell.
“[Casting spell: Solar Rays],” she’d said and a dozen bolts of light had sprung from her hand and reduced the [Cursed Walkers] she’d targeted to dust.
Then the fight had continued.
The remaining Walkers made no changes to the absolute lack of strategy and were entirely undeterred by the instantaneous obliteration of their compatriots. There were living people. Living people were to be killed. Try to kill them. Processing complete, no other inputs requested or needed.
A wave of a dozen Walkers became a rolling sea of them as others Walkers shambled or raced in, ambulating however they could, to fill the spots as the previous ones fell and discorporated.
Pillowcase wasn’t afraid during the melee. Combat was the environment she’d been made for after all. Either as a result of integrating those memories better, or because of Glimmerglass’s presence, Tessa hadn’t been afraid either and hadn’t pulled back as she had in previous fights.
Pillowcase executed a beautiful shield block and swept a Walkers feet from it to send it stumbling back onto Obby’s waiting blade, and Tessa cheered. She could feel how light and easy Pillowcase’s body was to maneuver and knew that was far more a reflection of Pillowcase’s growing strength than of any lack of mass in their [Clothwork] body.
If Pillowcase had been as light as she felt, the Walkers would be overrunning her with sheer numbers, but no matter how many piled up on her shield, the [Soul Knight] didn’t give an inch of ground.
“You seem to be having fun,” Lisa said on their private channel.
“Kind of hard not to,” Tessa said. “This is a really good party.”
“Having Glimmerglass around is making a big difference,” Lisa said. “But I think you’re right. We brought these folks in here with no prior experience at working together and they’re doing a shockingly good job. Like, I’ve seen guild teams that are more disorganized than this.”
“It’s because we’ve got a good leader,” Tessa said.
“Yes, you are,” Lisa said.
“I’d just in front, you’re the one they’re listening too,” Tessa said.
“It’s because Glimmerglass and Yawlorna are telling them too,” Lisa said.
“Sure, that helps, but you’re working with them,” Tessa said.
“Have to, screaming at people just makes them rage quit,” Lisa said.
“That’s something I seem to recall only the really good leaders seem to understand,” Tessa said. “And wow do I remember a lot of bad ones who didn’t.”
“Yeah, those ones tend to stick with you,” Lisa said. “To be fair too, this really isn’t all on me. The dps seem to be following Rip’s lead well and she’s watching the two of us to coordinate who they go hard on.”
“Starchild’s doing some solid work too,” Tessa said. “Obby and I have solid hate on maybe half these things at any given time. The rest are a bit shaky and she’s doing a stellar job of picking them up with they get interested in someone else and buying Obby and me time to grab their attention back.”
“Oh cool, I didn’t even notice that,” Lisa said. “She’s got enough self buffs and self healing that I’m not needing to tend to her much. I think Lady Midnight is helping her out here and there, but, honestly, this is pretty easy on us.”
“Should we be pulling more in then?” Tessa asked.
“I don’t think so,” Lisa said. “We’re not target starved at the moment. If we roam around any faster we’re just going to increased the crowd you and Obby are facing without adding to the number of them that we can take down.”
“Matt has a bunch of crowd control abilities he can bust out still though,” Tessa said. “Should we push more so he needs to use them?”
“That’s be good training,” Lisa said. “We know we’re going to get hit with hordes that are bigger than this in some of the dungeons, and we’re not going to have Glimmerglass there to thin them out if we need.”
“Or she’ll be there but sunk down to our level,” Tessa said.
“Probably not good to risk her like that right?” Lisa said.
“Probably not, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess she’s going to want to see the new dungeon at some point,” Tessa said.
“Yeah, I’d be the same,” Lisa said. “Maybe after we’ve cleared it the first time and we know what to expect?”
“I’m sure she’d be ok with waiting for that,” Tessa said. “Or we could pull her in if the dungeon divides into sections for teams of four. Matt will need to know how to handle crowd control even more if we run into things like that.”
“I’m still iffy on putting that kind of pressure on him though,” Lisa said. “Grabbing up another twenty Walkers is going to mean if he messes up it’s going to be real obvious.”
“We could ask him, but he’s having so much fun now, I’m afraid he’d either just say yes to keep the fun going or say yes because he was afraid of disappointing us.” Tessa said.
“What if we don’t add more Walkers, we just have him focus on controlling the one’s we already have?” Lisa said. “That’ll help you and Obby keep them locked down right?”
“That and we could switch to an offensive stance. Starchild probably can too,” Tessa said. “It won’t be much extra dps, but every bit helps right?”
“We’ll have to see if you three can match the loss from Matt switching to less damage dealing spells, but even if you can’t, I still think it’s worth it,” Lisa said.
“Agreed, want me to talk to him or do you want to handle it?” Tessa asked.
“Will it be too distracting for you?” Lisa asked.
“I don’t think so,” Lisa said. “Pillowcase has got this handled.”
“Not a lot of surprise tactics to worry about here,” Pillowcase said.
“Okay, go ahead then,” Lisa said. “From you it can be a question. From me it’ll probably sound like an order.”
Tessa did the mental gymnastics needed to set up a private channel to Matt and send him a quick, “Congrats on the level, got a sec?”
“Sure,” Matt shot back, a trace of panic in his mental voice.
“I’ve got an idea we could try out,” Tessa said. “But I wanted to see what your thoughts were on it first.”
“Oh, okay. What is it?” Matt asked, panic ebbing into a mix of curiosity and confusion.
“[Soul Knights] have an offensive stance,” Tessa said. “I can add a bit more damage with it, but I’ll lose control of some of the Walkers I’m holding if I use it.”
“You need me to kill those too?” Matt asked.
“Not kill them, control them,” Tessa said. “You’ve got a couple of spells that shut down enemies now right?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a [Sleep] and a [Disorient], but the [Sleep] stops working if they get hit, so I didn’t think I could use it here. And the [Disorient] is just for like ten seconds or so,” Matt said.
“The trick with those is coordination,” Tessa said. “In any other party I wouldn’t be suggesting pulling them out, but we are doing so well here, I think it’s worth a shot.”
“Cool! Okay, so tell me how I should use them,” Matt said, confusion falling away to reveal a renewed excitement.
“The [Sleep] is pretty simple; just target one of the ones at the far back of the pack and let the effect spread inward from there,” Tessa said. “Some of them will probably get hit and wake up but as long as some other stay asleep that frees up some room for me and Obby to cut back on our defenses a bit.”
“That sounds easy.”
“It is. It can also be super frustrating when the tanks ignore it, or when the other dps blast the enemies at random and wreck the spell before it does any good.”
“I can tell Ro…Rip. We’ll be able to focus on the one’s she’s targeting so the others stay asleep,” Matt said.
“Having a good relationship with the other dps can be a huge help,” Tessa said. “Don’t worry though if people mess things up. You can always recast, and we can handle it if they wake up.”
“How about the [Disorient]?” Matt asked. “That one doesn’t break but it’s really short.”
“That one’s the opposite in a sense. Target the nearest enemies with that one and let us know when you’re casting it,” Tessa said. “Obby and I can save up our heavy hitting abilities for the windowa you provide. If everything near us is staggering around useless for even ten seconds? We can totally unload and then turtle back up. Sound good?”
“The sounds amazing. Thank you,” Matt said.
“Thank you, I’m so glad you and Rip chose to join us, you two make this team so much better,” Tessa said.
Matt didn’t have an answer for that, but the silence glowed with the happiness of an honest affirmation received by someone who definitely needed it.
As Tessa pulped another [Cursed Walker], she smiled. This was how the [Fallen Kingdoms] was supposed to be.
No horror of lives disrupted and real death chasing their heels. No trauma of violence shattering their lives. No interpersonal feuding. No misery heaped on to of misery.
The [Fallen Kingdoms] were supposed to be fun, and while there were problems out there, terrible, horrible problems, she didn’t have to face them alone.