The last of the skeletal butlers collapsed under Gunnar's final swing, crushed beneath the flat of his hammer in a tumble of broken bones and fine china. The buffalo leaned down, shuffling his paw through the wreckage. "Four gold pieces and a silver soup spoon" he said, holding up his loot.
Aria shook her head, "Weak."
Hopping up and down, Exra said "I can't believe we got past those skeleton!"
"I can't believe how close it was" replied Aria, "kudos to Roka for the heals."
The canine shrugged. "I'm almost max level now" he said, "I guess I can't have much more to go."
Sycorax nodded. "Yes, indeed only the dog and the bag of flesh known as Exra have any levels left to go."
The fire witch continued to hop. "I thought you'd stopped speaking about us as bags of flesh and puny mortals and all that?" she asked the warlock.
Cackling maniacally, the undead replied "Yes, and I was getting out of habit so I need to correct that, walking sack of emergency food rations."
Biggie rubbed his shoulder. He had taken a particularly strong hit during the last fight, losing several chips from his upper arm as the result of a well-thrown multi-purpose dishwasher. "WE NOT SNACK FOOD" he replied, "BUT MY BEAR IS HUNGRY."
Roka nodded for a moment, pretending to understand what Biggie meant. The canine assumed it to be a joke, another of the golem's strange sense of humour. "Let's continue" he said.
The group moved onwards, working their way through the grand hallway of Abbadon's hidden fortress. They travelled quickly, moving from small group of wandering monsters to the next. Each one they dispatched with ruthless efficiency. Aria would rush in quickly, sliding undetected behind the enemy to strike one unconscious, while Gunnar would draw the attention of the others. While Roka plied the warrior with flashing bursts of healing magic, the rest of the group would despatch the ravenous hordes one by one, Exra and Sycorax raining enchanted bolts of death upon them while Biggie blasted them apart with a hail of arrows.
As the group emerged into a central chamber, they were struck with the sight of a vast stairway. It lead upwards, spiralling into the rafters, its upper reaches lost in a haze of mist. Gunnar stepped closer, tilting his head up and whistling. "We go up?"
Excitably, Exra nodded. "We can't access Abbadon's sacrificing pit from here. We need to head up through the art gallery full of ghosts, past the library full of giant spiders, and onto the balcony."
"Sounds lovely" said Roka.
"We then have to jump from balcony to balcony while we are attacked by gargoyles, and gain entry to the belfry." explained the fire witch.
Biggie looked down. Below him, the balcony seemed to hover above an almost infinite void. The brickwork of the castle descended downwards, punctuated only by the occasional window, until the view was eventually lost in the misty darkness of the night below. The golem clutched his large fist around the balcony's slender handrail. "THIS IS STUPID AND I DNOT LIKES" he said, sternly.
Roka glanced at him. "It's just a jumping puzzle" he said. "Like in Super Mario."
"DONT LIKE DAT GAME" replied Biggie, stepping back away from the edge.
Glancing from their current position and across the gap to their destination, Aria canted her head. "We should be able to make this. It's within the jumping range for everyone."
Biggie shook his head, "ANOTHA WAY ROUND?" he asked, hopefully.
With an almost mournful sound, Exra replied "No, this is the only way."
Biggie sighed. With an almost sinister tone, Sycorax said "You're not... afraid?" He rolled the word, toying with it. "Are you?"
"YOU WANT FIST IN MOUTH?" asked Biggie in reply.
"Enough" said Gunnar, warily. "We need to get across this thing. Exra, you mentioned gargoyles as well?"
The fire witch glanced around, scanning the horizon. "They should swoop in once one of us makes the jump, and try to bother those who are still leaping across. So it's best if the ranged fighters among us go first, so that we can take them out at a distance."
"Right" said Gunnar, "So it's you, then Sycorax, Biggie, and then me and Aria?"
"I should jump after Biggie" added Roka, "before you and Aria, so that I'll be in range to heal as needed."
"Sounds good" replied the Buffalo. "Everyone ready?"
"Yes" said Exra.
"Yes" said Sycorax.
"NO" said Biggie. "WE FIND ANOTHA WAY OVER?"
Roka sighed, almost sadly. He seemed almost to feel sorry for the golem. "You can do it, big guy" he said, reassuringly. "But what about the bear?"
Upon hearing its name, Biggie's bear seemed to sit up, glancing around eagerly.
Gunnar nodded, "Put your bear away, Biggie" said Gunnar, "the lass - erm, lad - ah, whichever - cannae make a jump like that."
The rock golem looked sadly at the bear, a hint of sorrow in his eye. "OK" he muttered. "SEE U ON OTHA SIDE” he replied, and waved his paw. The bear faded out of existence, a confused look on its face as it went.
Roka looked at the space previously occupied by the bear. "Where did it go?" he asked.
"The stable" explained Exra. "Same place Sycorax's pets go when they're not out."
The cleric nodded, and then turned to glance at the undead. "Where is your, uhh, pet? We could have used it in the fight with the butlers."
The warlock gave a sinister, malevolent grin. "You puny sacks of spare donor organs are not ready to witness the true power of demonology, so I have spared your weak-willed eyes from the horrors that lurk beyond the curtains of time and space" he replied. "That," he added, "and I kinda forgot that I could summon it."
Aria nodded, slowly. "Right. Good to know."
"Let's do this" said Exra.
The fire witch took a few steps back, and then rushed toward the edge of the balcony. As she reached it, she lowered her body and sprang up, shifting into a great leap. Exra soared through the dark night sky for a moment before landing on the balcony opposite. She turned, "Syc, you now. Quickly."
As the undead readied for his leap, Roka turned to Gunnar and said "She really looked like a rabbit for a moment there."
"Aye" responded Gunnar, "but remember laddie, here in Valeron, rabbits are called 'shmooples', though."
The canine shook his head, "I am not calling them that."
"All animals have a different fantasy name in the game" said Exra, just as the warlock landed down beside her with an uncertain clatter of bones.
"I know" replied Roka, "and they're all dumb."
Turning back to face the others, Sycorax started to speak. "C'mon Biggie, we..." He paused. He looked upwards, an expression of bewildered shock passing his face. "Ah crap" he said, "gargoyles incoming."
The canine looked up, and groaned. The sky started to darken. From the depths on the night, great dim forms descended. The air seemed to roar around them, much like the rumbling of cascading stones. Lit by the paleness of the moon, Roka could see vast forms bearing down upon them with large, clapping wings.
Without a moment's hesitation, Exra started up a fireball, the shimmer of her flames illuminating the dark shapes above them. The sight of the creature's hideous features was enough to make the priest wince. With a resonating blast of dark balefire, Sycorax shouted "Biggie, come on!"
The golem looked across the vast gorge, the span between balconies seeming to be an infinity.
Exra hurled her ball of flame. It struck one of the gargoyles full in the chest, sending it plummeting into the emptiness below, the clawing monstrosity flailing like as it fell like a falling star. "Biggie!" she shouted. "Fly, you fool!"
Sycorax gave her a sidelong glance, barely dodging out of the way of one of the gargoyle's lashing claws. "I can't believe you just said that" he muttered.
The golem stepped back. He closed his eyes, a look of fear passing his features. He breathed in, held it, exhaled. He clenched his fists. Then he ran. Large booted feet hammering against the ground, he charged towards the edge of the balcony, and leapt.
Exra let out a cry. He had jumped too early.
The large rock golem arced up into the air, his thick arms rolling. Mid-jump, he opened his eyes, glancing downward, his face becoming an illustration of panic. He realised, as starkly and bleakly as everyone else, that he wasn't going to make it.
Without a moment's hesitation, Exra abandoned her fireball mid-charge, the blast of flame blinking out of existence with a whimper. She ran frantically towards the edge of her balcony, arms outstretched. Two gargoyles descended toward her, claws eager, sharp and brutal. She drove past them, throwing herself at the edge. She reached out, her thin paws clasping tightly around the golem's thick wrists. She let herself fall to the floor, the golem hanging tightly from her grip, suspended above the infinite fall below.
A ripple of pain crossed the fire witch's face as the strain of her companion's grasp tensed her arm to its limits. She glanced around, turning to look towards Sycorax, desperate for aid. The gargoyles had descended upon the warlock en masse, drawn by the dark energies of the undead's assault, leaving Sycorax desperately trying to pull his billowing robe over his head to fend away their crag-like talons. Exra looked down to Biggie, straining to keep her grip. She yelled out at those on the other balcony, "You guys! Get over here, fast!"
Aria was in the air in a moment, whistling nimbly through the air with an elegant backflip. The moment she landed, the rock creatures lunged for her as well. The assassin drew her blades, spinning them elegantly through the air, deftly holding them at bay. Meanwhile Biggie was trying frantically to pull himself up, his heavy boots scrapping along the fortress' limestone brickwork and scrapping loose chips as he went. He clutched Ezra's paw, holding on for dear life.
A second later, Gunnar landed, the buffalo warrior tucking himself mid-leap into a ball that resembled nothing less than an iron cannonball. The warrior turned, rushing towards the edge, thrusting out his paw. Biggie tried to grasp it, when a grating squawk filled the air, a sound much like two pieces of stone trying to caw. A single gargoyle descended, spiralling out of the night sky, directly toward the dangling hunter. Biggie threw his arm back, frantically swinging at the clawing assailant. The gargoyle wove effortlessly through the air, dodging the golem's blows.
A blaze of light filled the air. It struck the gargoyle, sending hot splashes of pebbles through the air. Gunnar covered his eyes, shielding them with his paw. On the other balcony, Roka readied another divine blast, his fingers etching a second series of glowing lines through the air. The monster let out a roar, turning toward the canine, only to feel the searing light crack against its rocky features and send it hurling into the abyss below.
Eagerly, the buffalo pushed forward. He grabbed the rock golem's free paw, and together he and Exra began to pull Biggie up onto the balcony. The golem lay there, catching his breath for a moment.
Aria glanced over. "A little help here?" she asked, her daggers trying desperately to chip away at the onslaught from the spiralling swarm of gargoyles. "Not that I'm not glad you're okay" she added. In an almost immediate reaction, Gunnar hefted his hammer and rushed into the fray. By the time that Roka landed, entire chunks of the gargoyle flock were quickly in the process of being rendered into debris.
Stepping over to help the golem to his feet, Roka said "See? Told you it was nothing to worry about. You flew like an eagle."
Driving his hammer down onto one of the remaining gargoyles, Gunnar added "I think, laddie, you mean 'an eaglhawk'?"
Roka snorted, "Oh stop that." He helped Biggie as the golem heaved himself up onto his feet, swaying a little.
The golem looked around, gradually turning his head back towards the balcony. "I REALLY HATE JUMP PUZZLES" he stated, matter-of-factly.
Exra sighed, resting her arm against the giant golem's thigh. "I'm just glad you're okay." she said.
The golem reached down, gently running his fingers over the fire witch's rabbit-like ears. For just a moment, Roka was sure that he saw something, a look perhaps, pass between the two. Then Biggie said "WHERE WE GO NOW?"
Exra pointed at the nearby doorway. "That way. We head into the master bedroom, which is full of killer sheets. We have to kill the sheets, and then move through the armoury that is guarded by ogre swordsmen. Then we head into the haunted fireplace, kill the flame demons that live inside it, and take the secret passageway behind the fireplace into the belfry. Once there we fight past the doom-bats that live in the belfry, and work our way down to the first floor again and get through the dining room which a tribe of cannibals live in. Once we kill their chief, we have to get through the kitchens..."
"Which are full of zombies?" offered Roka.
Exra looked at him, a little confused. "No, no. Why would it be full of zombies?"
The canine shrugged, "Seemed like the logical decision."
The fire witch shook her head. "No. It's just a normal kitchen."
"Oh" said Roka. "No killer apples or anything?"
Gunnar looked over, "Appoberries" he corrected.
"Shut up" replied Roka.
"Right" said Exra, "Well, from the kitchens we head into the back garden full of killer plants, and we make our way through the hedge maze occupied by minotaurs. Then we dive into the shark-infested swimming pool until we find the hole at the bottom of the pool. Swim through that, and it will take us to..."
Welcome to the next chapter of "Realms of Valeron". A new chapter twice each week!
It was the biggest MMORPG ever created, and took the world by storm. With billions of players from every corner of the planet, 'Realms of Valeron' allowed anybody to interact with one another within the gloriously realized online world.
But for Roka, a young healer, it was more than that. It was a gateway to make friends. Friends like Exra, the hyperactive rabbit rogue; Gunnar the loyal buffalo, Sycorax the maniacal warlock, and many more.
What adventures lurk within the game? In a world full of quests and dangers, the truest and greatest loot is yet to be discovered. Bound together by the oaths of their guild, they would face brutal trials, savage enemies, and more than a few bugs that the game's play-testers really should have caught before release... But this is no trite story of players trapped inside a video game! Our heroes can turn off the game and leave at any time. But why would they, or any of us, ever want to leave when you have friends like these?
Realms of Valeron is a comedy fantasy, part sit-com and part epic adventure, which explores the bonds of friendships in a digital age.
Look here if you would like a story commission of your very own! - https://www.furaffinity.net/view/30458500/