The key to breaking the instant regeneration effect Hell’s Chosen enjoyed when he hit zero health turned out not to be a special damage type, or a combination of blows, or even wildly unusual special ability possessed by only a few rare individuals.
It was healing. Healing was secret tool needed to slay Hell’s Chosen’s avatar.
“It kind of makes sense,” Lisa said as they watched the corpse steam away in motes of purple and night blue light.
“Does it though?” Rachel asked. “I mean who the heck would have thought of trying to heal something you’re doing your best to kill?”
“She has a point,” Lady Midnight said. “Usually we can’t even target heals on anything flagged as a foe.”
“Unless it’s a also flagged as taking damage from healing,” Pete said. “Remember the the old undead? Everything from [Rotting Skeletons] up to [Lich Lords] used to be coded to take damage from heals proportional to what the healing would have been.”
“Good memory!” Hailey said. “The actual mob that has healing as its death trigger condition is a [Xydros the Reborn Lich Lord].”
“Ugh, they brought Xydros back?” Pete said. It was still weird to hear his voice when it was so different from his avatar’s, but Tessa was fairly certain after the time they’d spent together that Pete and Starchild’s relationship was fundamentally different from the one she and Pillowcase enjoyed.
“Not yet,” Hailey said. “He was planned for the first major patch, once we opened up some more dungeons in the [High Beyond].”
“Oh, is that where he ran away to? Neat! That explains why we couldn’t find him when we ransacked the [Tomb of the Spiraling Ages],” Pete said, and Tessa felt a wave of nostalgia wash over her.
The [Tomb of Spiraling Ages] had been one of the dungeons she and Hailey had done when their guild was in its prime. They’d fought through battles just as hard as the one against HC had been, and, in the end, they’d crushed that place and milked for a pile of treasure that was probably still clogging Glimmerglass’s inventory.
Looking over, Tessa saw Glimmerglass was smiling at the memory too. They shared a quick nod of recognition before turning back to the conversation.
“But why did healing it work though?” Rip asked. “Tessa’s power made it really easy to see that it would work, but I couldn’t read too much from the diagrams and formulas that were underneath the instructions that popped up.”
“I caught a little bit of it,” Lisa said. “When we dropped healing spells on it – the heal over time ones specifically, those filled the slot the [Cosmic Recovery] power would have been placed into. It’s like the magics are set to check if HC has any heals already pending when it’s health hits zero and if there are, it lets them do the work of healing him rather than invoking the [Cosmic Recovery] effect.”
“Ah, and no [Cosmic Recovery] means all we needed to do was overcome the healing effects that you all threw on it, right?” Rip asked.
For safety sake, the combined teams had tasked Lost Alice, Lady Midnight, Rachel, and Glimmerglass with dropping heal over time effects on HC in the one second window when they could be cast and would displace the [Cosmic Recovery] buff. Rachel has mistimed her cast, but the other three had all landed theirs successfully.
Hell’s Chosen’s last sounds hadn’t even been words. He had only been capable of incoherent rage before a final combined shot from Rip, Matt, and Mellisandra had detonated the central core of his power and finally converted the [Raid Boss] into a [Lootable Corpse].
Tessa had taken a few moments to whisper a few words over the rapidly disintegrating corpse before taking part in the looting as well.
And the looting had been worth the wait.
While Hell’s Chosen had been level capped down to level 70, the loot that he dropped was literally top tier quality gear.
“How do you like your new shield?” Obby asked, taking a few practice swings with the new sword she’d acquired from the loot pile.
“I feel like I’m cheating,” Pillowcase said. “This thing puts my chance at blocking incoming damage at 210%. Even if I’m massively slowed and the attacker has [Dauntless Homing] weapons, I’ll still be over 100% on blocking. And did you see all the stat bonuses on this thing?”
“The stat bonuses are pretty common for high level gear,” Hailey said. “The added block effect is too, though that shield beats out the previous best by 10%. Did you notice the really amazing thing about it though?”
“The added damage from [Soul Knight] spell effects? I did,” Pillowcase said. “It doesn’t say how much though. Is it a meaningful boost?”
“In the alpha, we had complaints from the [Elementalist] lead dev that a [Soul Knight] with that shield equipped was out damaging even a maximally gear elementalist,” Hailey said. “Not just in total damage, but in burst damage too. The devs toned it down a bit before beta but even the beta testers said it was overpowered. I think the devs planned to nerf it again in the next patch, but you get the joy of the undiminished version until the day when that can ever happen.”
“We all made out like bandits on this one,” Lisa said. “I’ve never seen a [Raid Boss] drop this much loot at once.”
“He loaded too many abilities into his form,” Obby said. “For being that overpowered, he wound up being worth a too many points to balance out with anything other than this big of a loot pile.”
“It’s a shame we can only kill him the once,” Mellisandra said. “This gear is incredible. Imagine if we could stock up on it and complete a bunch of the sets?”
“Yeah, about that,” Tessa said, scratching the back of her head.
“What did you do?” Lisa asked. It wasn’t an accusation. There was too much amusement and wonder in her question for that.
“Well, this is the first time Hell’s Chosen has been defeated in the [Fallen Kingdoms],” Tessa said.
“Oh my god! We got a [World’s First] didn’t we?” Rip asked.
“We did,” Tessa said with nod in Rip’s direction. “There’s more to it than though.”
“Wait, no, what did you do?” Obby asked, a broad smile spreading across her face as she peered not just at Tessa but into her.
“I didn’t do anything,” Tess said. “I mean, not really. All I did was make a few simple suggestions.”
“To who?” Lisa asked.
“The, uh, the [Fallen Kingdoms],” Tessa said.
Obby burst out laughing.
“You talked to what?” Lisa asked.
“[The Fallen Kingdoms], like as a whole,” Tessa said. “Don’t worry, they didn’t talk back or anything. I’m not hearing voices in my head. Well, apart from my own. And I guess all of you when you speak telepathically.”
“What did you ask the [Fallen Kingdoms] for?” Starchild asked. Given that she was a [Druid], the idea of talking to the land probably wasn’t particularly unusual to Starchild, Tessa guessed.
“I didn’t ask for a gift or anything. The loot we got was all from HC, like Obby said. I just suggested that as a [Raid Boss] he would need a place to respawn and that since [Hell’s Breach] was currently without its proper bosses, he could be installed as the dungeon’s final enemy.”
“So, he’s going to come back?” Rip asked, her voice unsteady at the idea.
“Yep! Over and over and over again,” Tessa said, not hiding the malicious glee she felt at the idea.
“Are we going to have to keep killing him then?” Matt asked.
“Nope,” Tessa said.
“But won’t he…” Rip started to asked, but it was Hailey’s turn to burst out laughing which cut her off.
“Oh no. Did you seriously…? Oh you are so cruel!” Hailey said delight radiating from her.
“Why?” Matt asked.
“Because she’s very clever,” Glimmerglass said, catching on to what Tess had done as well. “Think of the loot we got from him. Now ask yourself how many other [Adventurers] will be interested in fighting a battle where the victory conditions have been discovered and the pay out is as large as the one we just got?”
“Uh, oh. Oh!” Rip said, her eyes going wide. “That would be ‘all of them’, right?”
“All of them, everyday and seven times on Sunday,” Tessa said. “HC’s entire existence is going to be reduced to ‘perpetual loot pinata’.”
“Isn’t there a danger that he’ll get free though?” Cambrell asked.
“Not anymore,” Tessa said. “Before he was a free entity. All the cosmic might he possessed was his without any connection to anything else. Now he’s bound to the dungeon. It’s his home and the source of his power. He’s still absurdly overpowered because the dungeon is feeding him more magic than we all could generate in a year, but the key is, it’s the dungeon’s power. He can leave if he wants. He can walk out the door at any time. Just so long as he’s willing to leave every bit of magic behind and walk the world as a weak and frail human even by the standards of the low level npcs.”
“He won’t do that though will he?” Lisa said, phrasing it as a question even though it wasn’t.
“No. He will not. Not until power becomes something he no longer craves,” Tessa said.
“Should we hang around for his next respawn?” Matt asked. “This places seems to be recovering well enough that it wouldn’t be that bad to stay here.”
The knee deep pools of lava and the melted walls of the arena had returned back to their original state as the dungeon’s natural magic restored the damage that had been done.
“I’d love to,” Tessa said. “I think even for you folks,” she nodded towards Hailey’s crew, “the loot here counts as an upgrade right?”
“That it does!” Damnazon said. “I am so glad I didn’t bother grinding for the old top end stuff.”
“Technically this is an exploit,” Hailey said. “The actual fights for the gear are supposed to be much harder than this one was.”
“Harder?” Rip asked, disbelief and outrage fighting for ascendancy in her voice.
“Oh yeah,” Hailey said. “The devs basically coded the top end fights to be unbeatable.”
“What’s the point in that?” Rip asked.
“Because the [World’s First] guild will beat them anyways,” Lisa said.
“Yeah. If the fights are unbeatable it’ll take them a week or two to go through them,” Hailey said. “If the devs make the fights beatable at all, someone will get a [World’s First] on them within the first hour of the servers coming up.”
“And we managed a [World’s First] in what, an hour? Two at the outside?” Tessa said, allowing herself to feel a measure of smug satisfaction at their victory.
“They won’t count it,” Hailey said. “Exploits always disqualify the guild that uses them. But, hell with that, no one here is actually keeping score, so we did it!”
“And we’ll do it again?” Cambrell asked. He seemed entranced by the night black jerkin he’d looted. Tess wasn’t sure why until Glimmerglass messaged her.
“It’s the first piece of dungeon treasure he’s ever received,” Glimmerglass said. “We’re his first real [Adventuring Party].”
Tessa choked up a little at the thought, but had to put it aside.
“Like I said, I’d love to run it again,” Tessa said. “Hailey mentioned some quality rage issues, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have a few of those to work out, but I think our problems are bigger than this dungeon. Remember where this guy came from?”
There was a short pause while people thought back to the beginning of the fight. Lisa was the first one to call the appropriate recollection to mind.
“Penswell! We tried to contact her and we got this guy instead!” she said. “We’ve got to check on her!”
“Or rescue her,” Tessa said.
“The offer is appreciated, but no rescue is required,” Penswell said, stepping through a portal flanked by Niminay and a small army of [Adventurers].
It wasn’t one of Penny’s projections appearing before them.
It was the real, original woman herself. Battered, bruised, and bloody, but still recognizably the [Commander] they would all take orders from without question.
It wasn’t Penny who captured Tessa’s attention however.
Or Niminay, even though the fourteen year old in Tessa was losing her mind at meeting one of her fantasy crushes.
Tessa barely noticed they were there at all.
Instead she looked into the Unknown and prepared for the fight of her life.