Broken Horizons – Vol 12, Ch 5

Pillowcase was bathed in flames and knee deep in steel melting acid, the walls around her had turned to lava, and the air was more razor sharp projectile than gas if measured by volume.

“Oh, come on, you’re not even trying yet!” she taunted the god-monster in front of her.

Hell’s Chosen, formerly one of the Gulini shards, slammed a taloned foot onto her that hit with enough force to ignite the atmosphere around her shield. In theory that should have driven her into the relatively flimsy granite floor like a tent peg, but among the many, many new abilities Pillowcase had developed, [Greater Structural Stability] meant that the spot she chose to fight on would only give way if she did.

And she was just getting started.

“Can you hold on for about six seconds? I want to try out one of my new spells,” Lisa asked privately.

“Go for it! He’s knocking off about fifty five percent of my health with each swing but I’ve got [Restoring Blood Fires] going so he doesn’t have a chance of dropping me till that runs out,” Pillowcase said.

“Shout when it’s five seconds from expiring,” Lisa said.

“Five second on the dot, no worries,” Pillowcase said, almost disappointed when an [Invocations of Planar Torment] from Matt compressed their foe into a singularity of agony and spit him back out three seconds later. 

Her disappointment didn’t stem from the spell failing to kill Hell’s Chosen – max level [Raid Bosses] never dropped to a single hit, not even when they were level capped down to something in the range level 70 characters could deal with.

She wasn’t disappointed by the short duration of the control effect either. That Matt had timed the spell in the short window when HC’s [Raid Boss Immunity Trait] was suppressed was a sign of how proficient he’d become, especially given the lengthy casting time of the spell.

Her disappointment, mild as it was, stemmed from having a few moments of peace and quiet, when her soul was screaming for the rush of battle.

“We definitely need to talk to a therapist when all this is done,” Tessa said, speaking to no one except herself.

“Probably a good idea to make it a group therapy session and drag Glimmerglass along too,” Pillowcase.

Beside them, a pace or two back in order to stay within Pillowcase’s shield range, Glimmerglass and Wrath Raven were busy hacking one of HC’s tentacles off. The tentacles grew back but doing so cost HC some of his health, which was always a good sign that an [Adventurer] was engaging with a mob properly.

That Glimmerglass, a healer, wasn’t simply buffing Wrath Raven but was in there with her surprisingly pointy staff, hacking away at the tentacles like a lumberjack, was a sign of the kind of day they were having.

“Relieving some aggravations?” Tessa sent privately to Glimmerglass.

“Letting my mana regen,” Glimmerglass sent back. “And relieving aggravations. This is shockingly therapeutic.”

“Oh yeah, we all need serious therapy,” Tessa said to Pillowcase.

“[Mjolnir Strike!] [Supercell Burst!] [Twelvefold Storm of Arrows!]” Rip wasn’t holding back at all, either with her attacks or with the mad cackle of glee that had consumed her.

Tessa guessed that after spending such a long time losing fight after fight after fight to the [Demons] the chance to cut loose on a fight they had to win felt more than a little liberating.

Which wasn’t to say HC had been reduced to a mere punching bag. They’d been fighting the monstrous form which the Gulini had chosen as his “true being” for over twenty minutes and each time they came close to knocking its health bar below half, HC entered a temporary [Rage Phase] and regenerated back to full, gaining a new and unpleasant collection of attack options in the process.

A part of Tessa was enjoying getting to cut loose at last too, but that was intermixed with the worry that one of HC’s transformations might give it the key to tear through their defenses.

Dying wouldn’t be a problem. She’d made the [Heart Fire] run so many times she was sure she could do it  while drunk, asleep, and headless if she needed to.

If they all wiped though, they would be leaving [Hell’s Breach] undefended, and that wasn’t going to turn out well.

When her party arrived at [Hell’s Breach] it had been under the control of the various [Demons] they’d fought until Tessa finally managed to liberate them from the chains that bound them. While the [Angels] were in residence, they’d nominally had control over the dungeon, though the portals and traps and mana lines had only been keyed to respond to their demonic forms.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a dungeon of good size and sufficient magic must be in want of something to control it. Typically various powerful entities would contest over the location, but with a team of [Adventurers] in residence and a god-monster [Raid Boss] to oppose them, the dungeon was still in equilibrium, just not a terribly stable version of equilibrium.

Sooner or later, one or the other would win, and the winner would determine the disposition of the dungeon’s resources. If HC won, Tessa was sure the would tear all of the magic from the dungeon as a power source as he went roaming the continent as a near unstoppable force, looking for other powerful areas it could consume. Personally she didn’t see the appeal and if she was on the winning side, she had some very different ideas for how things would turn out. Watching HC’s health bar crawling back upwards after Rip’s barrage left Tessa wondering about the likelihood of their coming out on top though. It seemed like they could fight this one boss up until the literal end of the world, which was promising to be a lot sooner than anyone would prefer. 

What they needed was some trick to kill the damn thing.

“[Lesser Avatar of Death],” Lost Alice said and from Tessa’s left side a [Grim Reaper] sailed past, a scythe of serrated bone in her hands.

Pillowcase watched in amazement as Lost Alice, the backline healer, dove into melee with HC. As a [Lesser Avatar of Death] she didn’t need to make any effort to defend herself. Attacks against her either passed right through here, or rotted away HC’s body part if they were melee attacks. The scythe she wielded had a similar effect, turning tissue that was even vaguely close to it necrotic and withering anything it hit into dust with each swing.

Pillowcase was so amazed by the display that it took her a moment to switch to a more offensive footing herself and join in the mayhem.

Together, they and everyone else on the team exerted all the pressure they could and were rewarded by seeing HC’s health bar finally drop below the halfway point. 

Obby called down a [Guardian’s Retribution] that dropped it to 46%, followed by Rachel and Lady Midnight entering [Lesser Avatar of Death] form too and pushing HC’s health to 39%, and then Starchild, Rip, and Matt unleashed [Vengeance of the Green], [Thunder’s Answer], and [Echo of Eternal Agony] respectively, to drop HC to 26% health.

Pillowcase braced for the all too likely backlash which would be unleashed when HC hit one quarter of his health.

Sadly, they didn’t make it that far though.

As before, with HC’s health below half, he gained a phenomenal amount of regeneration and a new suite of powers.

[Consume Strength], [Invulnerable Crystal Shell], and [Death Spikes] all came online together. 

[Consume Strength] wasn’t a concern for Pillowcase. Her [Glorious Soul] passive ability shrugged off stat reducing effects like that with ease. Wrath Raven and the rest of the non-tanks who were in melee range were not so lucky though, with both Lisa and Rachel stumbling back behind Obby and Pillowcase as the loss of strength broke them out of their avatar states.

[Invulnerable Crystal Shell] was more of a problem because it meant that HC’s temporary regeneration was allowed to proceed completely unhindered. Tessa had been so hopeful that the extra damage they’d done would be enough to prevent HC from healing back to full, but as her mace blows hit for zero damage that hope evaporated more and more with each swing.

Of them all though, the [Death Spikes] were the worst. [Spike Defenses] were always annoying to deal with because they damaged you for hitting the target and frequently included unpleasant side effects like paralyzation, or blindness. [Death Spikes] were the worst of the lot since they did tremendous backlash damage with each hit the mob received and their status effect was, as the name implied, [Death].

No concern for your remaining health, no chance to partially resist the effect. If you were not warded against death magic (another perk of [Glorious Soul]) you simply died.

Wrath Raven’s reflexes were quick enough that she checked her swing before she got caught by the spikes, but Glimmerglass, not as practiced at melee, noticed the danger only as her corpse was toppling away from her ghost.

“[Soul Calling: High Reunion],” Lost Alice said, bringing Glimmerglass back to life without a trip to the [Heart Fire]. It was a big expenditure of magic, but under the circumstances Tessa had to agree that they couldn’t afford to have their resources down any longer than they absolutely had to be.

“[Magic Sapping Roots],” Starchild said, summoning grasping vines to leech the magic from the [Death Spikes], shattering the spell as they drained it dry.

“Thank you [Druid]!” Wrath Raven said and resumed hacking away at HC, looking as at home in mayhem as anyone could be.

For as happy as they all were though, the fight had to end. There was too much happening in too many other places, and they’d discovered something too important for it to die in a lonely and forgotten dungeon with them.

“We need a new plan,” Tessa said in party chat. “Anyone noticed anything yet that might seem like a mechanic we could exploit on this guy?”

“Will this thing have mechanics?” Lady Midnight asked. “It wasn’t made by a developer for us to beat right?”

“It wasn’t, but it might be trapped into them anyways,” Lisa said. “It hasn’t pulled out any unique abilities so far. Everything it’s hitting us with is the same as, or just a reskin of, abilities other bosses have.”

“Maybe it lacks creativity?” Rip said. “Could we take advantage of that?”

“This arena is giving us a lot of room to stay out of his reach, but the downside is we don’t have a lot of terrain to get clever with,” Obby said.

“That seems to be changing though,” Matt said. “The lava on the walls doesn’t seem to be a special effect, I think this place is actually melting.”

“Whatever we come up with, we need to keep him in here,” Tessa said. “If he gets outside this dungeon, he’ll scale up to a real max tier [Raid Boss]. Right now, he doesn’t have a whole bunch of the level 100+ abilities but that’ll change the moment he steps outside.”

“We’ll be level 99 out there too though, right?” Rip asked.

“We will be, but even the gear that we have that scales with our level will only scale up to 99,” Obby said.

“We’d need at least level 125 gear if we want to survive fighting for long,” Lisa said.

“Ideally level 135 or 140,” Rachel said. “The beta testers said the new high end raids were going to demand at least that once they were rolled out.”

“Not sure we can hit this thing harder,” Wrath Raven.

“Not sure we can hit it smarter either,” Lisa said. “[Lesser Avatar of Death] isn’t going to be up again for another ten minutes.”

“If we somehow squeeze out a big enough burst of damage, we might have an easy time once he’s on his second health bar,” Tessa suggested, knowing that was a fleeting hope at best.

“He has a second health bar?” Rip sounded sick at the idea but the more experienced [Adventurers] were uniformly unsurprised at the notion.

“We can’t win this one, can we?” Rachel asked, saying aloud what everyone else was thinking.

The portal that had started forming behind her pinged in Pillowcase’s awareness and she spared a fraction of a second to glance back and see what new terror was awaiting them.

And it was a terror.

Or rather she was.

But then Tessa has always been a fan of the terror and hijinks that BT had lured her into.

From behind Hailey, Mellisandra appeared, and then Damnazon, Cambrel and their whole party.

“Not alone you can’t,” Hailey said.

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