Broken Horizons – Vol 9, Ch 11

A body’s worth of blood drenched Pillowcase and Tessa smiled.

None of it was her own, and her new shield was strong enough to turn hold the stone shattering impacts the frenzied [Bone Spider] was dishing out. The thrill of a battle that was going well pushed away her fears and doubts and let her focus beyond the microcosm of the giant undead arachnid in front of her.

With their nanowire traps burned away by the [Moon Dust] spell, the [Bone Spiders] had burst from their subterranean traps and attempted to seize the element of surprise.

Both Tessa and Pillowcase had anticipated their attack, as had Lisa, Obby, and Starchild. Rip and Matt had been caught off guard and Lady Midnight had given a strangled scream before shouting out her spells in the loudest, most commanding voice Tess had heard her use so far. Apparently she was a fan of neither spiders nor jump scares.

That made their present circumstances unenviable for her since it hadn’t been only one [Bone Spider] that had surged to the surface.

Five had burst free from the ground in front of them while two others broke from the wall and ceiling to dive into the group.

Obby had handled the diving spider, invoking a skill called [Repelling Smite] to blast the spider backward in a parabolic into the room. It crashed into the rearmost of the spiders that erupted from the floor, the two of them going down in a clatter of bones and flailing limbs.

Tessa wondered if it was really proper to call the creatures ‘spiders’ at all. They had eight limbs, and poison drenched fangs but that was where the similarity to other arachnids ended.

The [Bone Spiders] were constructed of segments shards of bone, woven together through some mid-tier necromantic magic. The bones, which normal spiders notably did not possess, dripped with acidic blood with every movement the [Bone Spiders] made.

Given how it was melting steaming divots into the dirt it fell on, the acid blood would have been a serious problem, likely placing a damage over time effect on Pillowcase that her own healing skills would be pressed to keep up with. Among her other new skills and powers though, Pillowcase had received [Armor Infusion: Golden Soul] which gave her enough damage resistance to “environmental damage” that she could have gone for a bath in the Spider’s stone melting blood and felt nothing more than a pleasant tingle.

Obby had received a similar ability from her [Guardian] class and the two of them had formed an, as yet, unbroken wall in front of their comrades.

Tessa had been concerned that she’d need to hold off the [Bone Spiders] on her own after Obby’s sword was destroyed, but, like any good [Adventurer], Obby had plenty of other weapons available to work with. In fact, from the arc of green fire that trailed Obby’s sword, Tessa say Obby hadn’t even lost her best sword to the nanowire trap the [Bone Spiders] had laid.

“My spells aren’t hurting these things,” Matt said.

“My arrows aren’t either,” Rip said. “No damage at all.”

That wasn’t a good sign, but it also wasn’t entirely unexpected either.

“There’s a mechanic we’re missing,” she said.

“What kind of mechanic?” Rip asked, firing off two more arrows and growling when they accomplished nothing at all.

“Don’t know,” Tessa said. “Hitting for no damage means there’s either a trick to this fight or these things are so high level that they can shrug off your attacks with just their basic defenses.”

“And if they were that tough, they’d be splattering Pillowcase and me with one hit,” Obby said.

“Shoot for the joints,” Lisa said. “If we’re lucky it’s just a targeting mechanic.”

“My spells don’t hit specific body parts,” Matt said. “They blast the whole creature. Or it’s mind I guess?”

“Using the basic attack from your staff,” Lady Midnight said. “Lost Alice and I can do the same. These things don’t seem to be dealing much damage yet.”

Tessa watched as three beams of magic power lashed forward, striking the [Bone Spiders] where bone armored legs connected to plate reinforced bodies, or at the fluid bends between the leg segments.

“[Casting spell: Devouring Spores],” Starchild said, and Tessa saw a ripple of tiny mushrooms and fungi spread across the [Bone Spider] that was nearest to her. The spores eat into the body they landed on and fractured its armor (or skin), leaving their target far more vulnerable to attack.

Or they would have if scalding acid blood didn’t shoot from each crack, transforming into a pristine bone plug for each of the cracks the spores made.

“Why do they have blood?” Rip’s unhappiness at what was clearly a skeleton construct still possessing a seemingly inexhaustible supply of blood was a feeling many other players shared with her. Tessa herself had complained about the devs failing to consider even basic realism in their designs, and had been less than delighted with the answer “it’s magic, don’t think too much about it.”

In [Broken Horizons] the game, the devs had wanted a frightening and somewhat gross monster (limited by the game’s teen friendly rating) to throw against the players so that the encounter would seem ‘hardcore’. The blood splatters in the game had been purple, and not even vaguely convincing, again for rating reasons, but even so Tessa had found it to be on the sillier side rather than threatening. 

Standing in front of one, she revised her opinion a bit. The design of the [Bone Spiders] was still stupid. Someone had heard that spiders use pneumatic pressure to move their muscles and thought “why no make their squirt blood out of their pneumatic systems”. Tessa could think of dozens of reasons “why not”, but seeing the creatures in action, and without a weird purple color correction on their blood, she had to admit that they were reasonably intimidating.

Each one being about the volume of a mid-sized sedan, without considering the serrated razor claws their legs ended in, helped establish them as a believable threat. As did the absolute lack of effect any attacks on them seemed to have.

“Their stupid joints are just as tough as their body!” Rip said, loosing more arrows despite knowing they weren’t any good.

“That sucks,” Lisa said. “That means it’s either a specific weak spot on their body or it’s something in this room.”

“I hope it wasn’t the nanowires,” Pete said, speaking up as Starchild focused on finding a weak point anywhere in the [Bone Spiders] carapace.

“They put those wires out,” Lisa said. “They’ve got to be able to deal with them.”

“And they didn’t pop up until the wires were destroyed,” Matt said. “We couldn’t have used the wires against the spider even if we wanted to right?”

“Should we fight them somewhere else?” Rip asked. “Maybe it’s being in here that’s making them unbeatable and they’ll shrivel and die in the sunshine.”

“Dungeon mobs can’t follow outside the dungeon,” Lisa said.

“Except we know some who did,” Tessa said. “The [Shadowed Starstalkers]. And the [Spacers]. Maybe that’s something that can happen here? I mean what’s to stop them.”

A scythe arm tried to flash past her and then pull back but Pillowcase dodged the blow that would have at least knocked her prone and more likely cut her legs off at the knee.

She tried to stomp on the retreating scythe arm and pin it in place but the [Bone Spider] was too fast and too strong to allow that to happen.

“How do we beat this thing!” Rip hadn’t stopped firing and it didn’t look like she planned to any time soon. Or possible ever. She hadn’t quite hit a [Barbarian Rage] level of anger yet, but tunnel vision was clearly setting in.

“Look around,” Tessa said. “See if there’s anything in the room that could be giving them enhanced toughness.”

“Or anything that could damage them,” Lisa said.

“I can’t see anything,” Rip said. “It’s a big spider webby room.”

“Something in the webs?” Lisa asked. The question was to Tessa but she didn’t bother using their private channel.

“Yeah. That’s probably why they bothered obscuring the walls when the webs aren’t going to catch anything,” Tessa said.

“Don’t think we can search for what’s behind those webs unless we get close to them,” Lady Midnight said. “Were we supposed to have a [Rogue] scout this room ahead of us?”

“Nah,” Tessa said. “We just need to move these things over a bit so…”

So that their scout, aka Rip, could get by.

Tessa hated the idea and caught herself before she suggested it.

Pillowcase was basically immune to the spider’s acid blood, but Rip most definitely was not. Also, if any of the spider’s decided that an [Archer] looked like a more appetizing meal than one of the two tanks, Rip would be impaled are torn apart in seconds.

Which wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Rip could survive dying.


Tessa didn’t care.

She was not letting her Rip become spider food.

“So that we can move around the perimeter as a unit,” Lisa said, finishing Tessa thought so much better than Tessa had been fumbling to. “Lady Midnight and I can take turns being stationary to use [Quickened Pulse]. If we leap frog each other, we’ll be fine for healing and get a movement buff.”

God I love you, Tessa sent her on their private line.

Lisa sent back a kissy smile emote, which appeared in the chat log as one of the game’s icons and in Tessa’s telepathic hearing as an actual kiss.

The trick to the maneuver wasn’t coordinating the two healers though it turned out. Lost Alice and Lady Midnight had both performed similar maneuvers countless times in higher tier content. Obby and Tessa, on the other hand, had only limited tools to manipulate the [Bone Spiders] with.

Both of them were forced to lag behind and slow the group’s progress in curving around the walls of the room because the [Bone Spiders] were on a thread thin tether in terms of focusing on the tanks and not leaping over them to devour the backline fighters.

“This is going to be so much easier at 40 when I’ve got [Champion’s Challenge],” Obby said, twisting under one of the [Bone Spider’s] attacks so that she could land hits along its arm and into it’s gem-like eyes.

Tessa was familiar with the skill Obby was looking forward to. It was a much stronger [Taunt] with a better radius of effect than anything either one of them had access to at the moment. [Soul Knight’s] got a similar skill, though theirs was delayed till 45.

“It’s be easy at 40 because we’ll probably be one shotting these things, mechanics or no,” Tessa said with a laugh.

Technically it was a dire situation, but she wasn’t concerned. She was with good people, and one of the smartest women she’d ever met. They were faced with a challenge but it wasn’t flat out broken (like the [Wraithwings]) or not at all supposed to exist in the environments (like the Consortium). This was exactly what the [Fallen Kingdoms] threw at you. Fights that were as much puzzles as contests of might or reaction speed.

“I found a lever!” Matt called out after they made it halfway around the room to the far side. “Should I pull it?”

Tess risked a glance backward. Hidden behind the webbing which covered the walls, was a simple iron lever in the ‘up’ position.

Manipulating strange devices in deadly dungeons was generally a terrible idea. All sorts of mayhem tended to be unleashed with the flick of a simple switch (or the depression of an unnoticed pressure plate, and so on). 

But that was what [Adventurers] did.

They poked things and made other things happen.

Just not to Matt.

“Let me!” Tessa said and began backing towards the wall, forcing the rest of the party to move away, lest they be splattered with acid blood.

“Should we reposition the spiders?” Obby asked.

“If you’ve got any idea where they’d need to be?” Tessa said.

“Uh, yeah, nope, pull away!” Obby said.

And so Tessa did.

And so the cave collapsed on them.

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