Broken Horizons – Vol 12, Ch 6

Hell’s Chosen, it turned out, did not have multiple health bars.

He had infinite health bars.

Each time Tessa and Hailey’s combined teams smashed him down to zero health, Hell’s Chosen reformed in perfect working order despite whatever damage they inflicted on him, his old empty health bar falling away to reveal a brand new full one beneath it.

After the sixth time he shrugged off obviously fatal damage like it was nothing, the question arose as to whether or not the fight was a hopeless one.

“I mean no other [Raid Boss] has more than five health bars, right?” Rachel asked, continuing to throw healing spells despite the dispirited tone in her voice.

“It doesn’t matter if he has five hundred bars to go through, at this point he is going down, no matter what!” Rip said.

Wrath Raven chuckled. “I like this one.”

“I know, right?” Obby said.

“We’re not going to have to go through five hundred health bars,” Hailey said. “I mean, unless you want to. Sounds like you folks have some quality rage to work out still.”

“I’d appreciate a slightly quicker conclusion to the fight than that,” Pillowcase said. “Not that standing in lava isn’t delightful, but it’s up to my knees now and the ceiling is not looking so good anymore.

“I don’t think he’ll be able to escape with the immobs we have on him, but I’d have to agree, we’ve all got better things to do with our days then waste anymore time on this jerk,” Lisa said.

“There’s a trick to stopping his regen, isn’t there?” Cambrell asked. The goblin had proven to be a tremendous help to Pillowcase thanks to the disabling effects of his various [Assassin Strikes]. With Cambrell reducing the incoming damage by a sizeable amount Pillowcase and Obby had been able to shift to their offensive stances and the healers had been able to work their various damaging spells into their casting rotations.

“That’s what I’m guessing,” Hailey said. “It’s a mechanic some of the [World Shift] bosses had. I’m guessing this guy stole it from one of them. There’s just one catch.”

“Let me guess,” Tessa said. “The different bosses have different mechanics for disabling their extra health bars?”

Hailey laughed.

“You really haven’t forgotten how the game worked have you?” she teased.

“You thought the scars from the [Vasting Deeps] would EVER fade?” Tessa’s voice held entirely too much fondness given how miserable their experiences in that particular dungeon had been. 

“Ah, good times,” Hailey agreed. “You’re right though. There were half a dozen different mechanics and of course they’re each time gated and death count gated.”

“What does that mean?” Rip asked.

“Time gated mechanics mean we can only try them at specific moments, and usually the window for executing them is fairly small,” Lisa said. “Most of them have to be done within five or ten seconds of a specific event. Unless the boss is really special. Then it’s worse.”

“Any surprise that they new ones were all on the worse end?” Hailey asked.

“How much worse are we talking?” Lady Midnight asked.

“One second response time,” Hailey said.

“Are you serious?” Lady Midnight asked. “What about lag?”

“The world’s first crowd has that covered, usually,” Hailey said. “I think the plan was to widen the window in a couple of months, but, well, here we are without an upgrade patch in sight.”

“What about the death count gate?” Tessa asked. “I’m guessing that’s a case where the mechanics only work when the health bar has been emptied out a specific number of times?”

“Yeah, how did you know that?” Hailey asked.

“I didn’t. It’s just the obvious option for making things even harder on the players,” Tessa said.

“The devs don’t actually hate us you know,” Hailey said. “I mean, they know everybody except the lead guilds are going to read about the mechanics on a wiki, so they think making them brutal to figure out is a sign they respect what the ‘World’s First’ crowd is capable of.”

“Is it wrong that I kind of want some of them to be stuck in here too?” Pete asked.

“Consider your wish granted. We lost a couple people into the game, aside from me,” Hailey said.

“Oh yeah! Did I ever tell you we met Ashad?” Tessa asked.

“You what?” Hailey completed dropped her attack rotation.

“He was one of your fellow support reps right?” Tessa asked.

“Yes! You found him? He’s alive? And okay?”

“Yep! He should still be back in [Dragonshire],” Tessa said.

“Why didn’t he contact us! We were all worried sick about him!” Hailey said.

“Well, he didn’t exactly end up as a player. He was stuck being a slime for a while,” Tessa said. “After that I think he was just as cutoff as the rest of us.”

“If he’s okay…wow, that’s amazing! We might have a chance at this after all!” Hailey sounded far more relieved than Tessa would have guessed.

“Not to cut you off, but HC’s down to 20% again,” Lisa said. “If we want to start trying some of the strategies, we should probably pick one now.”

“Between the death count and the variations in the mechanics this could take a while,” Hailey said. “I don’t know if we’ve got a better option than trying them all and going for a brute force process of elimination. Normally the bosses have some hints built into there designs but this guy could have stolen anything he felt like, and probably mix-and-matched them too.”

Tessa pictured the effort that was ahead of them. Even executing one of the strategies properly would be difficult. If it was only available every second or third time them emptied HC’s health bar, it could take them an unbelievably long time to work through them all.

There had to be a better way.

“I think there is,” Pillowcase said, taking the role of Tessa’s inspiration for a change.

“My abilities,” Tessa said to herself. “I still have a ton of them that aren’t defined yet.”

“Just one problem with that approach,” Pillowcase said as HC blasted her arm to dust with one of his breath attacks.

Lost Alice had it fully regenerated a second later and Pillowcase’s mace flew back to her new hand if its own accord.

“We’ve got a lot of its aggro, don’t I?” Tessa said.

“Yep, and if we shift over to your form, you’ll lose a while bunch of damage resistance,” Pillowcase said.

“Huh. If only we had an answer for that, standing within ten feet of us,” Tessa said. “It’s a shame we’re all alone and doomed here right?”

“Definitely,” Pillowcase agreed.

“Uh, Obby, Damnazon? Could I make a request?” Tessa asked, breaking free from her internal reverie.

“Sure,” Damnazon said. “I’ve got very reasonable rates. And it’s half off everything you have for friends and family.”

“Would you take a voucher for one dead [Raid Boss] instead?” Tessa asked, playing along being far more fun than taking her seriously.

“Oh, yes. I would happily take one of those,” Damnazon said. “What did you have in mind?”

“I need to switch forms, but if I do that while I’ve still go aggro HC’s going to turn me into a grease stain on top of the lava here,” Tessa said.

“Aggro will be a little wobbly if we shift it,” Obby said. “Matt, Rip, and Mellisandra. You’ll all need to back off your rotations a bit. Maybe about 20%?”

“Can do!” Mellisandra said and throttled back her spell casting.

Pillowcase stayed were she was, but lessened her own damage output and phased out her taunting skills over about thirty seconds as Damnazon stepped up beside her and switched to using the skills that would let her backup tank more effectively.

“Okay, I’ve got every aggro skill I’ve got going on it,” Damnazon said, “you should be good to go.”

Tessa reached inwards and shifted from Pillowcase’s [Soul Knight] form to her [Void Speaker] body.

Just in time for one of Hell’s Chosen’s [Hundred Eyes] to launch a trio of [Apocalypse Blasts] at her.

Pillowcase could have survived them. Pillowcase wouldn’t even have noticed the myriad debuffs that were part of the beam that rent that atoms of her body into free quarks before hoovering them back up as a power boost for Hell’s Chosen.

Tessa, on the other hand, did not survive them, though she did notice the crushing agony of the status effects when they all hit her at once.

“Oh,” Damnazon said. “Or maybe I don’t have hate on it.”

In ghost form, Tesssa suppressed a grumble.

“I’ve got you! Got a Soul Calling rez coming right up,” Lisa said. “Just need a sec to get some heals in place.”

“Hold off on that,” Tessa said. “I’ll run back from the [Heart Fire]. That’ll give me a moment out of battle to get my ability made up.”

“Uh, to do what?” Mellisandra asked.

“My class is sort of a new one,” Tessa said, racing for the [Heart Fire]. “It doesn’t seem to have predefined abilities at specific levels. At least not yet.”

“So what do you get then?” Hailey asked.

“Not exactly whatever I want,” Tessa said. “But if the ability would…I guess ‘fit’ in a specific level’s slot, I can kind of make it up on the fly? The thing is, we went up a lot of levels in the last day or two and there are a lot levels I haven’t picked something for yet.”

“What are you going to pick for now? An [Assassination] ability?” Cambrell asked.

“No. I don’t think I can poach skills from other classes. They seem to come in as something that would make sense for a [Void Speaker]. And I can’t make ‘I Win’ buttons, since that wouldn’t work as an ability at any level.”

“What are you going to get then?” Mellisandra asked.

“I’ll let you know when I see what what works,” Tessa said as she tapped the [Heart Fire] and flashed back across the veil of death into her newly reformed body.

“If you could get back sooner than later, that’d be great,” Damnazon said. “Pillowcase was making this look a lot easier than it is.”

“Be there in a thirty six seconds,” Tessa said, absolutely certain of the time with how many trips she’d already made between the [Heart Fire] and the [Arena].

“Cool. Then, quick question, what the hell did you just do there? I thought you were switching stances.” Hailey asked.

“Messed up and forgot that HC’s got off-aggro targeted attacks?” Tessa said.

Hailey groaned in frustration.

“I’m more interesting in why that was a problem at all!”

“Because I was in [Void Speaker] form instead of [Soul Knight]?” Tessa said, confused by Hailey’s confusion.

“Yes. That,” Hailey said. “How the hell did you do that?”

“Ohhh! Uh, yeah, I’ve got some things to catch you up on,” Tessa said. “It’s nothing special though. I think any of us can do it.”

“What!?” Hailey wasn’t the only one on her team that was surprised but she was the loudest.

“It’s not particularly useful unless both of your personas have classes,” Tessa said. “Almost there – five second till I’m in the arena.”

She burst onto the sands before any could raise further questions. In front of her Hell’s Chosen towered at roughly the height and width of small building.

A small building with his back to her.

“[Presence of the Void],” Tessa said, invoking her stealth ability as she slowed to a calm walk. No reason to race in and attract HC’s attention. Much better if he never saw what was coming.

“He’s down to 1% health,” Lisa said., “You ready or should we try this on the next pass?”

“I’ve had about enough of this guy,” Tessa said. “Let’s end this.”

Stepping forward she placed her left palm against Hell’s Chosen nearest leg.

[Words of Revelation: Weakness Revealed to All],” she said, holding the effect she intended in her mind with every ounce of focus she could muster.

Skill Gained: [Words of Revelation: Weakness Revealed to All]!

There was no resistance. After struggling through death after death trying to craft anything that would let her break the level cap and failing, Tessa had expected to have to batter a path through to her new ability, but all it took was saying the words and holding the intent.

Hell’s Chosen spun his massive body to destroy her for the affront she’d given him, but by that point it was far, far too late.

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