“So what are we going to do when the fight starts?” Daniel whispered to Mclean.
“Grab the first boat we can, pop on some flip flops and sail to the mainland,” Mclean answered.
No, they’re not getting away with what they did to Tim Valerie wanted to scream at them for even considering running away and avoiding the fight, but was doing her best not to let them know exactly how personal this had become. They killed Tim and threw me in jail for trying to do the right thing. “This cult of madness can’t spread.”
“Valerie?” Daniel asked, his eyebrow raised.
“We can’t just walk away from this war,” she said, looking at Daniel and Mclean. “Would you be happy with yourself if you knew these jerks took over another starter island? That they put someone else through the same ordeal they put us through? Just for doing the right thing? Regardless of what race they may be, we have to make sure others don’t go through what we did.”
We have to make sure another Tim doesn’t die needlessly. She gripped her dagger.
“Damn straight,” Daniel agreed, Mclean nodding. “You had me at ‘cult of madness.’”
“So what’s the plan?” Mclean asked, still chuckling at Daniel’s response.
“I’d say we murder them all until there is only a small enough number left for the natives of the island to finish off, but I think there may be too many for the three of us to kill by ourselves,” she admitted. There were other players close to Level 40 that she would have trouble fighting one at a time, much less in a group with everyone else around as well.
“So we’re just going to give up? Just like that?” Daniel asked, confused. He seemed pretty happy when Valerie had told them they needed to stop the Sun God’s spread.
“Not on your life,” Valerie reaffirmed. “I’m just saying we need to get in the air when the fight starts and look for an opportunity. This is going to be like playing chess. We might be pawns, but if we wait for the right moment, we can take the queen and corner the king.”
“Chess . . . Really? You are such a dork,” Mclean said. “But if we have to talk strategy, a dork is exactly what we need.”
“So do we fly up now?” Daniel asked. “Get a good bird’s eye view?”
Valerie liked how it felt when the two of them looked to her for directions. Even before, when she was leading the group, she had just been part of the planning, not really in charge of it. Now it was different: she was the one in control.
“No, not yet,” Valerie answered. “We need to wait for that clash to hit. Once it does, we can go airborne without any issues.”
“Issues?” Mclean asked.
“Yeah, we need to make sure that when we take to the air for a good vantage point we’re not stopped along the way. If we start the fight too soon, we’ll show our hand before we’re ready, and it’ll be an uphill fight from there,” Valerie explained. There were some cases where a quick trigger finger could really cause issues, and this was definitely one of them.
“Well, Boss,” Daniel poked fun at Valerie’s new attitude, “the good news is that I think the fight’s about to start. The wait won’t be long if that’s when we’re going.”
“Alright, wait for the sounds of battle, then we’ll get into the air.” Valerie realized that she was holding onto her daggers tight enough that it was hurting her knuckles. Tim, I won’t let them get away with this. Just you wait. One knife in the back deserves another.
They waited in silence that dragged on forever. Eventually, Valerie began to wonder if they would even be able to hear the initial clash. She was worried that the shouting of the men would deafen it out. Then it happened. A sound like a gushing torrent of thumbtacks and paperclips striking a metal surface started off in the distance.
They looked at each other one last time, planted their feet into the ground and shot into the air just like everyone else on the boat. The only difference was that when they took off into the sky, they just went up, not west towards the enemy. They went higher and higher until they could see almost the entire battle in a single glance. At that point, Valerie signaled to the others to hold the position.
“We may be about to try and stop them, but by the looks of it, it’s going to be really hard to get the other side to win.” Daniel frowned as he looked at the scene below. “If the opposing side doesn’t put up a fight like it’s the Alamo or they’re Spartans at Thermopylae, this is going to quickly turn into a fight more one sided than a chocolate chip double-doozie going up against the Cookie Monster.”
“We’re lucky then,” Valerie declared without hesitation. “The Cookie Monster is a vegetarian now.”
“Really?” Mclean said surprised. “How can anyone give up chocolate chip cookies?”
“Probably the same way I did,” Daniel responded as he patted his stomach. “Gotta make sure I don’t gain any weight.”
Valerie ignored the rest of the banter between the two: chocolate chip cookies weren’t important right now. There would be plenty of time to discuss them in the future, but right now the battle unfolding below didn’t look to be in their favor, and the right opportunity to strike likely wouldn’t last more than a moment.
She watched to the west of her as White-Wings were running into and clashing with Black-Wings. They hit each other hard, using knives and daggers to cut off wings and arrows to shoot each other in the chest. They were dying as fast as they clashed into one another, blades and arrowheads piercing through their flimsy armor. Below them, White-Wings were diving by the scores in a near suicidal effort to land on and crush the opposition. Some were successful, instantly killing their targets, while others were unlucky, finding that the axes, shields and swords of the Humans and Minotaurs proved far sturdier than the glass blades of the Fire-Walker heretics.
“Ummm . . .” Daniel said pointing to something Valerie had failed to notice. “What’s that?”
Mclean and Valerie looked to where Daniel was pointing. Below the glass ships on the north-most flank of the army, there was something definitely out of the ordinary.
“Is that a wave?” Valerie asked, not being able to make out what it was. It definitely looked like a wave, but waves were supposed to move to and from the shore, not to and from the players.
“No, I think that’s what we were hoping for. I think it’s our ‘surprise,’” Mclean said. “It’s not a wave–it’s a small army!”
“That’s . . . That’s not a player army . . . That’s a monster army! Look!” Daniel’s exclamation enough to make other White-Wings passing them from below take notice too.
Whatever was moving under the waters to make the effect of a wave broke the surface to reveal a small forty- or fifty-man force of wolves with red eyes, turtle shells and spears popping out of the water. Each one was equipped with a small helmet made of ice that they shattered themselves as they broke the surface. Were those air bubbles to keep them breathing under water? Valerie stared in wonder at the spectacle. The legion shell-wearing werewolves seemed to be commanded by a very small group of Humans directly behind them, all of whom wore grim masks as they rose up out of the water.
That wasn’t the scariest part though: that was the creature in the middle. As it rose up out the water, and its top broke the surface, it sent a wave strong enough to cause the shell-armored wolves around it to scramble to keep their footing. Many of them seemed close to losing their balance all together in the surging water. It was a giant, seven-headed Hydra with black armor and red eyes, and on its back was a beautiful, brown-haired woman in a white dress holding a blue staff.
Valerie was awestruck. She couldn’t take her eyes off the scene. As soon as the lady was fully emerged from the water, she broke her own ice bubble and immediately used both hands to slam her staff into the back of the black-scaled Hydra. White snowball-looking-things began to shoot out in a stream at nearby White-Wings. It was a fatal spray of ice that made it look like Olaf finally got his summer holiday on the beach. Each snowball was fast and precise, ripping a White-Wing out of the sky, as they instantly froze the wings of their victims. The Hydra wasn’t for play either. It was ripping apart every White-Wing that tried to dive at the girl using its seven massive jaws.
Is that a player? Is that a dungeon boss? Is this an event that no one knew about that the game masters planned to stop a noob island from being conquered? Valerie was desperately trying to figure out what was going on. She couldn’t take her eyes off the Turtle-Wolves that lunged forward and cleared the way for the Hydra. They were pressing the White-Wings on the ground into a slanted line with the north-most part the furthest east. They are breaking the push. There aren’t more than forty of them, and they are breaking the push! If we help them out, then we can definitely win!
“What the -” Daniel was interrupted by Mclean before he could finish his thought.
“Is that guy wearing a bathrobe?!” she yelled, pointing to a man that Valerie had somehow failed to notice.
Valerie rubbed her eyes. Sure enough, at the furthest part penetrating the White-Wing line was a man in a bathrobe wielding two swords. He was moving like a miniature tornado as he ripped his swords in and out of everything in arm’s reach.
“Umm, guys, I don’t think the bathrobe he is wearing is our problem. I think we have much bigger issues,” Daniel said, managing to finish his sentence. “Do you see what I am seeing?”
“No. What are . . . Oh.” Valerie was about to ask what he saw, but she noticed it as soon as she knew to look for something.
Everything he stabbed either vanished like a player normally does or got up, howled and took off in the air to kill other White-Wings. It was a White-Wing on White-Wing fight going on just above his head as the number of converted White-Wings kept growing. First there were ten, then twenty, then thirty and forty. At this rate, the small group of forty or fifty turtle-armored wolf-men would be the least of the White-Wings’ problems–it would be the rapidly growing army of undead traitors, White-Wing zombies that seemed to be far better at fighting in their second life than they were in their first.
“That’s just not fair,” Daniel muttered, watching the carnage. “Forget that cool bathrobe, how the Hell did she get a hydra to ride? Hell, I’d even settle for a pink version of the mount if it was that cool.”
“Guys, that force . . . That force is our key to victory,” Valerie announced. “That force is how we’re going to stop these lunatics.”
“You’re right, but how do we make sure they don’t kill us in the process though? How do the reanimated ones tell the difference between friend and foe?” Daniel asked.
“It’s the eyes. The risen ones all have glowing red eyes!” Valerie said, her face turning as red from the excitement as the eyes she was talking about. “If we can just start taking out the ones without red eyes, the others might see us as friendly; or, at the very least, not attack us while we help them.”
“That’s an awfully big maybe,” Mclean said, pulling out her daggers again. She might have said differently, but her actions let Valerie know she was already onboard.
“Yeah, we might not make it out of this one alive,” Daniel said, also pulling out his blades. “Shall we play this just like the Fire-Walker dungeon?”
“No one ever won a war without taking chances,” Valerie said. “It may be mostly like the Fire-Walker dungeon, but the big difference is that this time we’re going to win the war, save the people and come out alive.” She closed her wings and leaned in to dive ahead and join the fray where the bathrobe-guy was fighting. She didn’t care if he took her on his team. Tim was going to be avenged and no one else was going to be forced to suffer through what they did. That would be enough.
It’s all or nothing again, and I’ll be damned if I die twice! she thought, cutting the wings off the first White-Wing she came across in her dive.
“What are you do–” the White-Wing next to her victim started to ask before Valerie’s dagger found its way right into his throat. She flapped her wings as hard as she could, ripping out the weapon and quickly landing on another unsuspecting victim’s back. Both her dagger’s firmly drove into the base of his wings.
“Don’t die too quickly,” she whispered into his ear before dragging the blades downward and pulling his wings off. Valerie propelled herself up off of his back, leaving him screaming in both terror and pain as he plummeted through the sky towards his inevitable death.
Two White-Wings who saw her attack started to dive at Valerie, but she was ready. She flew upwards to meet them, and right before the impact she used her wings to force herself to the side. As they shot past her, Valerie thrust out her daggers and used her enemies’ momentum to split open their ribs. Her next victim, just like the last one whose back she landed on, didn’t even see her coming as she put her dagger right into his spine. Don’t be upset. This is what you blind zealots did to Tim. A dagger in the back from the people he trusted . . . It should be old hat for you by now.