Realms of Valeron - 32 by CyberaWolf

Realms of Valeron - 32

Chapter Thirty-Two

"Okay" said Roka, hefting his oak healing stave into a strong battle stance, "are we ready?"

With a resounding cry, Biggie chanted "READY!" Beside the golem, his bear bellowed, a cry that echoed throughout the vast chamber buried deep beneath the cathedral of bones.

With a causally easy shrug of her hands, Aria flicked her pristine twin blades into her palms. She whirled each one in a spiralling, dancing pattern, the dark metal of the knives reflecting the shimmering green hue from the vast pit before them. "Born ready" she answered. "What about you, little brother?"

With a sinister chuckle, the dark figure of Sycorax cracked his skeletal knuckles. Dark energies snapped and cracked between his fingers. "Totally ready, flesh bags" he rasped, "although in sure we could be more ready if Exra wanted to use some of her swanky overpowered Games Master weapons."

"Don't even joke about that" said Exra, hopping back and forth lightly. As she moved, a thin trail of surging, eager flame shimmered energetically in her wake. "Yes, I think we're all ready."

"Omfg!!" declared the lizard, "let's just go!! Hurry up!"

Sycorax glanced over towards Orkkus. "Are you sure this guy's up for this?" he asked, aiming the question at Roka.

The dog gave the lizard an uncertain look. "We need six people" he explained, calmly, "Otherwise the boss won't even load."

In agitation, Orkkus began to pace back and forward. "Let's go already!" he declared. "Cone on. Go. Go. Go. Go." he began to chant.

Roka rubbed his forehead. He had found the lizard less than fifteen minutes ago, stumbling his way around the canine home town asking people for directions, having become lost and stranded in the great house-sized branches of the ancient tree city. After directing him to the fairly obvious elevator system which ran from the edge of the city to the base of the tree, Roka had thought to ask the lizard if he was happy to join them to help clear the game's final boss. He had intended for the lizard to do little more than make up the numbers, but as he stood here now, chanting "Go", Roka was feeling more and more uncertain about the entire idea.

The dog waved his hands to the lizard. '" Hang on there" he said, cautiously, "let's go over the tactics for the fight."

"Doesn't matter" replied Orkkus, "we just hit him until he dies. Let's go! Go. Go."

Signing, Sycorax muttered "We're doomed."

Silently, Roka motioned to Aria with a swift nod. Seeing this, the assassin took a few steps into the middle of the chamber, approaching the large pit that seemed to dominate the full width of the room. As she drew near, the sickly green light cast its hue across her, shimmering with a haunting incandescence. Then, abruptly, the light faded, as though a shadow crossed before it, its shadow long and terrible. The darkness seemed to grow, swelling like a powerful musical note reaching its crescendo. From the very depth of the rising dark, slowly and very deliberately, rose the skull-clad helmet of the great fiend, Abbadon the Scourge. Moving through the air with a sense of utter, infinite finality, the powerful form slid free from the portal and hung, suspended above the ground, before the party, looking down on them with an ashen gaze.

Not for the first time, Roka gulped. Simply being in the presence of this being felt intimidating. "Okay" he said quietly. "Right, um, Orkkus. Just do exactly as we say and this should go perfectly."

The lizard shrugged. "This group sucks. I better get some good loot for this."

Sycorax looked over to Roka. "Are you sure I can't kill him? Just a little bit?"

The dog shook his head, and motioned to Biggie.

With a roar, Biggie released the bear. Charging across the echoing chamber, the bear's padded feet thundered against the skull-emblazed stones. Biggie let out a bellow, "CRY HAVOC AND LET SLIP BEARS OF WAR!!"

"Bears of war?" asked Exra.

The golem nodded, notching his bow. "BETTER THAN DOGS" he replied.

Exra shook her head. The great bear thundered past her, lunging at the dark figure who dominated the far end of the room. As the bear drew close, Abbadon moved, rushing with a speed that his considerable armoured size seemed impossible to convey. He drew his massive staff upward, striking against the bear's underside, but the creature was undaunted and locked her jaws fiercely around his arm.

"Now!" cried Roka, "Close in!"

The group barely had a moment to react. Almost as if he were swatting away a few minor insects, Abbadon there a quick flick of his gauntleted hand towards the crew. A searing bolt of lightning formed in the air between his fingers and cracked its way through the chamber. It struck Sycorax, who happened to be standing the closest, causing the warlock to give a guttural cry as the snapping electric force charged through him. It spread, arching out from him, ripping its way into each of the assailants.

Roka winced, expecting the blow to hit all the harder. He held his breath, but when the bolt collided with him he barely flinched. He looked around, a sense of relief washing over him. They had survived, and he immediately began to hum a healing incantation for his colleagues.

As he launched his spell, the others closed in. Aria dove into position behind the figure, driving her daggers into quick, frantic cutting motions. While the bear gnawed and snarled at the armoured monstrosity's arm, her owner levelled a volley of arrows, releasing them with a speed that seemed a blur to the eye. As Roka turned to throw a glowing ball of healing light to Exra, he paused. "Orkkus!" he called, "You're down to half your health already?"

The lizard grunted back, rushing his way across the floor and driving into the dark figure. Clasping two hefty axes in his meaty fists, the lizard began to hammer on the Scourge's emblazed chestplate like there was no tomorrow. Inhaling, Roka fired a series of healing spells at the lizard. Several steps away, Exra finished drawing a bolt of searing fire from the air and hurled it. "Orkkus," she said, "what's your item level?"

The squat green fighter deflected a blow from the warlord's staff, and struck back recklessly. He glanced back, "I have good gear" he said.

Giving a momentary pause, Exra looked at the lizard. "Do you know your item level?" she asked. "Your gear has levels too, to show how strong it is."

Looking over from her place behind the boss, Aria shouted "Oh man. His item level is only thirty."

Roka winced. "No wonder you took so much damage from the lightning" he said. "Oh man!"

As he swung his pair of axes wildly, the lizard pressed his attack. For each swing, Abbadon met him readily, striking back fiercely with the staff. Then, with a derisive sneer, the warlord looked at the bear. She still held his arm clasped, determinably, in her salivating maw. With a resounding grunt that echoed through his skull-like helmet as if through the halls of the cathedral itself, the Scourge hefted his arm upwards, the bear frantically dangling beneath it. Then, with a resounding thud, he swung his body to one side, smashing the bear into the lizard and sending them both tumbling to the floor.

Sycorax paused, mid-spell. "What a git!" he cried. "What kind of a man hits someone with a bear?"

Letting his notched arrow fly, Biggie rushed across the ground, hurrying to his bear's side. "Wait!" called Exra, stumbling back a few steps. "Biggie, the floor! Look!"

Glancing down, the golem ground to a halt. Below him, vibrantly crimson as though they had been burned into place, sat the fiery arcane marks that forewarned of the warlord's next spell.

With a burst of energy, Biggie sprinted back, rushing away from the sinister etchings. The others scrambled as well, hurrying to get clear. Roka quickly assessed how much mana he had left within him, how ready he would be to heal his colleagues from the searing blood fountain. As he did, he noticed, with a dawning horror, that Orkkus was stood right in the centre of one of the circles. Gasping, he shouted out "Lizard, move!"

Without giving any attention, the lizard continued his onslaught against the dark figure of Abbadon. He stayed there, standing his ground stubbornly, and held his place even when the runic pattern on the ground around him exploded with red fluid.

Ducking out of the way, the dog cried out to him. "Get out of the bad stuff!" he shouted, watching with a sense of growing despair as the lizard's health started to plummet. In the back of his mind, Roka felt himself thinking back to the ogre's cave, so many months before. "Out of the damn fire!" he yelled, readying a frantic healing surge directly towards the lizard.

With a guttural snort, Orkkus replied "Just heal through it. You suck as healer."

Letting out a snarl of agitation, the dog stopped his spell. The golden light surrounding his fingers snapped out of existence. Instantly, Roka recalled the sense of agitation that he had felt. Thinking to himself, he wondered if it were even possible if this was the same player who had stirred such feelings of hurt in him back then. Yes, he thought, hurt, that was how he had felt. He had felt useless, small, and ultimately worthless. He realised how close he had come to quitting the game right there and then, simply dissolving his interest in it and walking away.

But then, he thought, he had met his friends. No, he realised, he wasn't small or weak any more. He wasn't about to let himself be pushed around, not now and not ever again. "Move," he said, "or no heals for you for the rest of the fight."

With the gushing fountain of crimson blood splashing in a thick river around him, the lizard seemed to pause for a moment in thought. Then, grudgingly, he ran out of the searing mess. "Fine" he snorted. He scurried over, hanging his head sheepishly. As Roka glanced over the lizard, the dog found himself amazed that the fighter had not taken heavier damage. The dog began to charge up a healing spell, while the lizard hung his head sheepishly. "Sorry" mumble Orkkus.

The dog shrugged. The last rocketing cascades of the blood spell eased, quickly descending from a cacophonous roar and slipping back into the throng of battle. The lizard rushed his way once more again towards the deathly shape of Abbadon, while Biggie finished his sprint to the side of his bear. Kneeling down beside her, he shook his head. "BEAR IS OUT" he called, "SYC CAN YOU LOAD YOURS?"

It took almost a moment for the warlock to understand the request, but the moment that he did Sycorax began to weave his clawed fingertips through the air, his arcane mutterings drawing forth a deep, reverberating rend in the very fabric of reality itself. As though bleeding from the frayed edges of the gnarled, shredded tear that the undead enchanter left, the vile bubbling form of his minion burbled forth. Sycorax grinned. "Keep forgetting I've got this spell."

"How can you forget?" replied Roka. "It's hideous."

With a bemused cackle, Sycorax waved his hand open, beckoning forward. With a gurgling shriek, the globular pet scrambled forward, wetly. Clasping its way over the floor I towards Abbadon, it hissed its annoyance and lunged. The warlord, glancing from the lizard for a moment, tried to take a vicious stabbing motion with it at the creature. The blow struck, made a sickening squelching sound, and the creature snapped one of its sets of jaws angrily.

"Right, good" said Exra, releasing another burst of flame. "Now listen guys, we don't know what the next special attack he's going to use will be, but Gunnar thought it would involve plague. Roka, any ideas?"

"Not really" he said. "Stay on your toes, all."

Exra nodded, and charged up another spell. The boss was weakening, she could see that much, but they still had a long way to go. She looked around, and sent the blast of flame hurling through the air. It struck the warlord with a resounding crack, but the dark form barely even glanced up at her. It was then that she noticed the helmet that he wore, the grin and terrible visage of a pale skull, seemed all the more stern, almost as though it was showing the annoyance in the man's hidden features. "Keep it up!" she called.

"Doing my best" replied Aria. She was doing just that, even Exra could see that much. The assassin's arms were jarring blurs, stabbing and cutting and carving against the heavy obsidian-hued armour of Abbadon's chestplate. For each thrust that she landed between the chinks in the plate mail, her blades pulled forth a thin lick of what once may have been blood, but had long since coalesced into a murky black viscous slime.

Then, with a reverberating echo, a bellowing voice ripped through the chamber, denoting one single word with a heavy tone, "Enough!" The assassin found herself thrown back against the sturdy wall, and Roka looked in shock as the lizard was propelled straight past him and into the wall behind the dog. For just a moment, the fighting ceased, and the group stared at the Scourge, floating almost three feet in the air above where he had stood only a moment ago. Turning his staff in both hands, he pointed the sculpted tip towards the group.

Roka cried, "Get down!" He barely had time to move before a bolt of energy slammed into the ground before him, ripping a massive chunk of masonry upward. The dog winced as he heard another blast, quickly followed by another, each one littering the chamber with scattered slabs of marble and charred, ashen bone from those interred within the cathedral itself. When the cacophony was broken by a moment's silence, the dog looked up to see the ruined mass of the chamber scattered with obstacles. Biting his lip, he looked around, nervously. Where was everyone, he wondered, and where was Abbadon?

The sound of scuttling nipped at his senses. Looking around, the dog glanced this way and that. The noise continued, a shrill chitter, clattering along, scratching on stone. He turned, looking frantically around himself. That was when he saw the source of the sound. A few small insects, looking to be no bigger than roaches, scurrying free from between the broken slabs of rock. He winced, wanting to pull back. A few of them surged forward, scrambling over the broken flooring. As the dog stepped back, he heard the sound again, this time swelling from behind him. He looked around, just in time to see the insects squeezing, almost bleeding their way from the marble behind him. He inhaled, and turned back. There were more of them now, he realised. Hundreds of them, their black bodies shining with thick carapaces. They swarmed the priest, their noise growing deafening. Clawing their way along the hem of his robe, they began to surround him, pulling at him. Roka felt a muffled cry break his lips as he felt their tee
th bite at him, their pincers rasping. He tried wildly to beat them away, but without any success, each one that was dislodged was quickly replaced by another member of the swarm, another eager mouth biting at the dog. He felt himself stumble back, striking himself abruptly against a large outcrop of ruined marble, panic rising in his veins. Looking down, he seen them clambering their way over his legs, up along his arms, crossing up over his chest.

A light flashed before him. A blazing rush of flame erupted across the dog field of vision, crackling its way across the floor in front of him. The fire caught, leaping over the scuttling insects as they scrambled away from it. Another heavy rush of flame issued down, searing the ground before him free. Roka stumbled back to his feet, clawing at the bugs as they squealed and chittered in terror. Looking up, he caught sight of a familiar form silhouetted against the firelight, casting gouts of ember-trailing destruction in her wake. The insects ran, hurling themselves over each other as they fled from the flames. Brushing the last of them from his robe, Roka caught his breath. "Exra?" he exhaled.

She nodded, "The one and only."

Pulling himself up to his feet again, Roka began to climb his way up and over the rubble to join her. "Well, that is without a doubt the most horrible spell that any boss could ever use."

She scanned the area. "Not a fan of insects?" she asked.

The dog shook his head. "One of my worst fears, actually."

"Really?" chimed Exra. "You handled them well."

He grunted. "They don't like fire?"

She shook her head, and began to hop her way across the top of the rubble. "Sycorax is handling some" she shot back to him as she ran, "but I can't find Biggie or the lizard."

"Biggie is in that crater" came a voice. The two turned, glancing in its direction. From among the smoke and ruin of the chamber, the skeletal form of Sycorax emerged, carrying Aria limply from his shoulder. "He's fine," explained the warlock, "but stuck."

Roka rushed forward, "Aria?" he asked, his voice edged with concern.

Glancing up at him, the assassin winced. A deep cut ran across her forehead, obscuring her face with smeared blood. "I'll be fine" she said, "but I could use some healing."

The dog moved over to her, skipping over the cragged mess of flooring, and began to murmur his healing incantations. As he did so, Exra scurried along the upturned blocks until she found Biggie, wedged at the bottom of an especially deep crater, Orkkus huddling beside him. She gave a sigh of relief.

The momentary rest was shattered with an ear-splitting cry. Struggling to pull the large stone form of Biggie out of the crater, Exra turned to look upwards. Far above, a resounding thunderous roar echoed through the chamber. From within the darkness boomed a voice. "Irritants" it said, "weak and feeble irritants." Nobody had to tell Exra who was speaking; the tone was that of the grave, its timbre of death itself. "I grow weary of toying with you" spoke Abbadon. "Now, suffer!"

A single shaft of deep emerald light descended, burning like a comet. It trailed it's descend with an almost incandescent glow, and as it struck the ground it seemed to swell into a blinding flare. Shielding his eyes, Roka struggled to pull away from the light. With a wild, desperate pull, Exra tugged at Biggie's arm, yanking with all of the might that she could muster. With an almost horrible groan, the golem pulled his way out of the crater. Stumbling, he turned to watch as Exra thrust her paw out for the lizard, "Come on!"

Orkkus reached up, his fingers seeking her paw. The light crawled its way into the crater, and Exra flexed her fingers, trying desperately to make contact. In an almost futile sense of frantic determination, Orkkus started to jump, trying to clasp a hold of the fire mage's arm.

The first touch of the light licked its way across the lizard's back, and as it did so, his health started to plummet.

Urgently, Roka started to channel a healing surge, but as he did so he found nothing. He tried again, and once more the golden magic eluded the priest. He glanced around. "I can't heal!" he cried.

Sycorax looked over to him. "Are you out of mana?" The dog shook his head. He had ample mystical energy, more than enough to cast a simple healing incantation. "It's him!" he said, "Abbadon has blocked out our healing magic!"

The grim realisation of the warlord's final magical spell struck the dog with a heavy impact. The spirit of death, he thought, ripped the ability to heal wounds from the party. It seemed so unfair, so impossibly malevolent. The dog looked down at the lizard, trapped in the crater. He swallowed. "Everyone, run" he said, "get back from the light."

The lizard looked up at the dog, almost imploringly. Inhaling, he seemed to accept his fate. "I'm sorry" he said. "Guess I wasn't such a good last minute replacement for your party, eh?"

Roka shook his head, "No, you did great."

With a slight tremble visible on his lower lip, Orkkus planted his feet firmly on the ground. He turned, facing the light that enveloped him. "I was wrong. You're a great healer" he said, the shining luminescence sliding its way across his features. "Do me a favour and finish off the boss, eh?"

Swallowing, Roka nodded. Deep inside, welling up within his chest, he wished Gunnar was there, standing by his side, ready to help him through this.

Hesitantly, the dog stepped back as the light filled the crater and Orkkus vanished from sight.

The party fled, hurrying their way across upturned masonry, leaping from one crumbling block to the next. With each step, the priest glanced back, certain that the pillar of light behind them was dimming.

"Worthless mortals" rattled a voice. Roka turned his head this way and that, searching for the source. "Don't you understand what you are dealing with?"

Then the form appeared, blazing out of the pillar of light, shooting forth like a meteor of raw, seething darkness. Roka ground to a halt. Abbadon charged towards the party, leaving them no time to prepare. All that the dog could see, he was certain, was the warlord's horrific skeletal features, shifted and converted into a visage of pure and unrestrained rage. The dawning realisation hit Roka that the bone-white skull was not, in fact, a helmet at all.

Abbadon collided with the group with an impact that sent the five reeling. Aria hit the ground furthest from the others, sliding to a halt by a cracked wall. Exra rolled as she landed, coming to a stop not far from Roka. Gradually, she picked herself up. "He's weak" she called, "we can do this."

Rubbing a handful of broken, scattered gravel from his face, Biggie said "WHO WILL TANK THO?"

Pursuing his lips, Roka sat up. The golem was right, none of them were equipped with either the physical strength nor the heavy plate armour required for such a task. He shook his head, standing once again. "We all will" he said. "Remember? We kite him. We did it before."

Pushing herself up from the ground, Aria replied "It's worth a shot."

Exra nodded, "Let's do it." Without a further word, she unleashed a ball of crackling flame.

The fireball snapped against the Scourge's armour, and he turned towards Exra, a look of raw hated in his empty sockets. He brought his heavy stave upwards, raising it above his head. A crackling bolt of dark, trembling lightning seemed to envelope the weapon. Exra stepped back, ready for another of the Scourge's spells. What she did not expect, though, was for the weapon itself to transform. It shifted, its engraved head twisting and folding, as though reforging itself. In an instant, the staff had become a vicious halberd, its blades edge resplendent with spikes.

The dark warlord flew through the air towards Exra, hurtling at a shocking speed. Roka could barely blink. Aria rushed forward, sprinting at her fastest pace, but even she was too slow to pause the assault. With a single blow, Abbadon knocked Exra from her feet. She landed hard, a thick trail of blood in her wake.

No sooner was the fire witch down than Biggie was unleashing shot after shot from his blow. Each arrow landed deep in the warlord's back armour, thudding deeply. The Scourge paid them no heed, ignoring them as easily as he did the violent, eager stabbing that Aria rained down on him. Instead, the bulky form leaned down and scored up Exra in one paw clutching her by the ears and letting her dangle from his grasp. Roka pulled a fast healing spell, throwing it out to Exra, but it was too little to make any difference against such a powerful blow. Slowly, as though enjoying every moment, Abbadon raised the pointed end of his halberd, ready to rip the fire witch in two.

The blow that struck him seemed to come from nowhere. It was a blow that resounded through the ruined chamber, a pounding cry of metal upon metal that rang like a heavy bell. The Scourge stumbled back a step, releasing his grip on Exra, who crumbled to the floor. Roka released his glowing light, washing it over his injured comrade. It was only as the light faded that he could see closely who had landed the blow that had stumbled the great dark form of Abbadon. He winced for a second as he let his eyes adjust to the assailant.

"Well" said Gunnar, "glad I came back when I did."

Weakly lifting her head from the rubble, Exra gave a cough. "Gunnar? You came back."

"Aye lass" he said, grinning through his thick beard, "that I did. Now let's finish this ancient, evil son of a bitch."

Taking a shaky step, Roka channelled a surge of golden light around Exra. The fire mage's wounds started to heal, but Roka found his mind raging. As he watched, the buffalo warrior charged against the warlord, the force of his mighty hammer powerful enough to force the Scourge back a step. Looking down to Exra, Roka said "Quick, flame spell on the ground."

Supporting herself against the dog's shoulder, Exra blinked a few times. "On the floor?" she asked. "What good will that do?"

"Trust me" answered the priest. Swallowing, he hoped with every fibre of his being that this would work.

The chamber reverberated with the sharp thunder of weapon striking against weapon. For each blow that the buffalo threw, Abbadon caught in a brutal swing with his halberd. Around the ruins, the others hurried to push the battle. With arrows and dagger and searing bolts of darkness, Biggie and Aria and Sycorax fought on, their weapons little more than pebbles against the raging darkness of the Scourge. But still they fought, refusing for even a moment to surrender.

As Exra finished her spell, the ground behind the Scourge erupted in a blaze of flame. The fire cracked wildly, leaping and dancing like a madman. With a loud, certain cry, Roka shouted "Gunnar, now, stagger him again."

Instantly the buffalo understood the command. Bringing his hammer up in a mighty swing, he brought it against the warlord's defence. Abbadon blocked, as he had done before, but the attack caused him to almost lose his footing, pushing back a step. Without need to be told to do so, Gunnar pushed in again, and again, each mighty swing like that of a titan, smashing into the ancient evil.

With a final exultant rush, Gunnar swung one final time. The force of the blow brought the buffalo into a leap, swinging his hammer in a powerful underhand swing with enough force to send the dark form of Abbadon the Scourge rolling through the air and down into the searing grip of the flames below. For a moment, the armoured warlord seemed to pull himself up, pushing himself to his knees, as though ready to stand. Roka inhaled, and held his breath, and watched.

With a breath of relief, the last of the boss's health slipped down, and landed comfortably at zero. For a second, everyone turned to look at one another, almost in utter disbelief. As they watched, Abbadon collapsed into the flames.

Roka grinned. "First lesson of the game" he said, "don't stand in the fire."

Aria stepped closer, looking at the fire. "Is that it?" she said. "Is he..."

Her words were cut off by a blinding flash.

Blinking it back, Gunnar held his paws up to shade his eyes, the rest of the crew quickly following suit. The light shimmered from within the fire, and as they peered into it they could see its source. From within the flames, the body of Abbadon began to lift, drifting steadily up into the air. As the light dimmed, Roka came to realised that the shape's ebony armour was now bleached a bright, shining white.

The figure came to a rest several feet above the flames. Then, slowly, he said "Mortals." The voice seemed not just to fill the chamber, but to tremble through the entire group assembled there. "For many thousands of years, I have been the darkness that festered at the heart of Valeron."

Looking on in panic, Sycorax said "Isn't he dead? Do we have to fight Abbadon again?"

Quietly, without taking his eyes from the figure before then, Gunnar replied "I don't think that's Abbadon."

The booming voice continued, unabated. "For all that time, I have hoped only for the gift that you have bestowed upon me. The gift of absolution. You, and you alone, have become the healers of this world. And for that great accomplishment, I grant you the honour of my death."

With that, the light that shone within the pale figure grew to a luminescent crescendo, searing through the chamber like a new-born star. When it faded, all that was left of of the figure was the dying embers of a thousand tiny fireflies, scattering like leaves in the breeze.

For a moment, all was silent.

"Did we do it?" asked Aria, uncertainly.

As if to answer her question, several great, bold blue words shimmered into view above them. "Abbadon Defeated" they said, and then, "Game First."

As the cheers started to erupt, Roka felt himself collapse. He let out the biggest exhalation of his life, and smiled. "We did it" he said to himself. Beside him, Exra ran into Biggie's arms, cheering and laughing. Sycorax leapt into the air in celebration, screaming 'we did it' again and again. The dog, though, just looked at Gunnar, and smiled. "We really did it."

"Did you ever doubt it?" asked the buffalo. "I knew you could."

The dog started to feel the energy burning through him, and he began to join in the celebrations as well.

"Hey!" chimed Exra, "look at all the loot he dropped!"

Laughing in relief, Gunnar ran over beside her. "We have gold keys!" he said, looking down into the treasure chest that had mysteriously appeared in the middle of the chamber following the boss's defeat, "and there's a mount here too!"

"Orkkus should get some too" said Sycorax, "I mean, he did help us as well."

The words brought a sudden realisation back to Roka. He had completely forgotten about the lizard. Turning, he said to Exra "Can you arrange the loot for everyone? I'll resurrect Orkkus."

As the fire witch nodded in approval, the priest began to chant his spell. Strands of golden light shifted between his fingers, shining and dancing at his command. As he finished, a great pale image faded before him, gradually solidifying into the squat, muscular form of the lizard.

Stumbling forward, Orkkus said "Did you get him for me?"

"Yeah" said Roka. "Yeah, we got him good."

"Cool" replied Orkkus. "You guys are pretty cool. Can I join your guild?"

For a moment, Roka blinked. It seemed an odd request to him, if for little more than the thought that someone would actually even want to join them. Uncertainly, he turned to Gunnar.

Smiling, the buffalo said "You're the guild master. You decide."

Shaking his head, Roka said "No, you're..."

"I'm not staying" said Gunnar.

The words seemed strong to Roka. He could have guessed them, could have known that the buffalo had meant to say then since he had arrived. "I know" said Roka. "You came online to kill the boss, and that was all?"

Gunnar nodded. "I have exams to study for. A degree I'm finishing. I can't do that and lead a guild at the same time."

Roka nodded, feeling a little sad. "You want me to lead the guild? What about Exra?"

"She'll be great" he said, "and you should listen to her. I know that she will help you and advise you. But she's a Games Master, too. And you, Roka, I've known that you had it in you from the beginning. Will you do it?"

For a moment, the dog thought to himself. Could he? Could he lead the guild? He looked at the lizard. The first thing, he thought, would be to decide if he should accept this new applicant. The lizard was new, he thought, and had a lot to learn about the game and the world that it inhabited. He would take a while to teach all there was to know. He didn't know how to play his class, he didn't know even basic good manners. He was, thought Roka, a total loser.

In short, he thought, the perfect fit.

"Welcome aboard" he said. "I'm Roka, the guild master. Welcome to the Loser's Legion"

Realms of Valeron - 32


13 May 2019 at 14:55:43 MDT

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! -