Darwin smiled as he pulled his Burriza’s Blade out of the insectoid’s skull and saw what was behind the creature. Magnificent, he thought.
“It seems we’re here,” Kitchens announced from behind Darwin as his blade whittled away at the many mantis-like arms that kept trying to stab him. Bit by bit, the arms grew shorter, but the fiendish bug continued to press and stab until Kitchens finally put it out of its misery with a swipe that neatly divided it down the middle. “Do you think we’re the first ones?”
“I hope so. In the last dungeon the boss took forever to respawn,” Kass huffed as she caught up to her melee counterparts.
Maybe I should get her a mount too, Darwin thought, noticing that she was always lagging behind whenever they were farming. She was able to cast just fine from atop the Hydra. If I get her a good, low-riding mount, she’ll be able to keep up much better in and out of dungeons. I just need to find something durable enough to support her weight and in a rider-friendly shape.
“If you fixate too hard on your target, the enemy will know your move before you make it,” Kitchens said from beside Darwin, putting a hand on his shoulder like he normally did with Minx’s head.
“What?” Darwin blinked, not sure what the old man was talking about. He had gotten used to Kitchens’ odd way of speaking about things, but this time he couldn’t tell what he was talking about.
Kitchens didn’t say anything. He just gave Darwin a slanted look then looked at Kass and then looked back at Darwin.
“Oh, no, I was just thinking about giving her a mount to help her out,” Darwin tried his best to explain.
“Of course you were,” Kitchens laughed softly and walked ahead of Darwin towards the entrance of the dungeon before Darwin could do anything but chuckle at the misunderstanding himself. “Of course you were,” he mumbled to himself as he kept walking.
“BEST DUNGEON ENTRANCE EVER!” Minx shouted as she came barreling out of nowhere towards Darwin, riding atop Fuzzy Wuzzy’s back and waving one of her daggers around as if she were riding a mechanical bull in a bar and the dagger was her cowboy hat.
Well, it certainly is close, Darwin noted, admiring the way the black obsidian shot out of the mountain like jagged crystals, infinitely branching in some areas to what could be mistaken as fuzzy tips and curving and winding in other parts as if they were water bending in an eddy. In the middle of the obsidian formations was an entrance into the mountain, easily big enough for two Fuzzy Wuzzys.
“What type of mobs do you think we’ll fight inside?” Kass asked Darwin, the two now walking side by side towards the hole in the mountain. “Maybe instead of a bear playing poker, it’ll be accountant dogs?”
“Hmm, or it could be a dungeon filled with nothing but cats, and the final boss that they all follow devoutly is a giant laser pointer?” Darwin grinned.
“Ooo! I can play too! I bet the whole dungeon isn’t filled with grumpus grown up cats, but instead it’s filled with cute, cute baby kitten balls, and the final boss boss is a giant, big, big wubby puppy,” Minx made two fake dog paws with her hands and clawed at the air slowly. “Ooo! Ooo! The only way to defeat the puppy is to scratch its stomach three times until it rolls on its back and wags its little tail tail.”
“It’s likely bugs again or maybe plants.” Kitchens killed the game with the same apathetic look and dry tone he used as he chopped up his victims. “They haven’t put us against a creature where there is a playable counterpart yet. I don’t think they’ll start now.”
“So that leaves, what? Humans, plants and bugs? But, I don’t see them making a Human into a frightening boss . . .” Darwin trailed off for a moment as he scratched one of his horns. “So that’s just plants and bugs?”
“Or dragons,” Kass actually squeed as she stepped into the dungeon, her excitement rivalling Minx’s usual demeanor. “Beautiful, beautiful dragons!”
Even Darwin found himself elated to the point where his cheeks were pulling up happily on their own. If there were one hallmark to all fantasy games, it would be dragons. Most fantasy RPG players were overwhelmed with a desire to fight, conquer and square off against the massive foes that dominated the ground, skies and sometimes even waters of multiple fictional worlds.
Kass, after regaining herself from the excitement, turned to Darwin and put one hand on each of his shoulders. “Darwin, I want one. No, I must have one. I’ll call you Great Lord Darwin or whatever you want, just please get me a dragon!”
“Psh, dragons have nothing on Fuzzy Wuzzys!” Minx said, ducking her head as she entered the cave. “Isn’t that right, hairy beary?” She smiled and reached down to pat him; he growled back in seeming agreement.
“Do you think dragons would be more like dogs or cats if they were domesticated? Or are they a mix?” Darwin said, looking at the first group of them.
“It doesn’t matter. Just get me one! I’ve studied up on all the material for raising them: I’ve watched the guides on how to train them,” Kass beamed as she hungrily eyed the first batch of Drakes.
Darwin would have probably already dashed at them and started the fight, but just looking at the six, blue, European-styled drakes with outstretched wings made him nervous. They have too much of an advantage here, he thought as he looked around. If we fight in this environment, we’ll have to rely completely on Kass to kill them. His worry stemmed from the fact that while the ground inside the cave was the same sturdy obsidian the entrance was made out of, there weren’t any walls or roofs. Rather than the dungeon being laid out like a maze and the route forced upon the player by narrow, walled passages and low ceilings, the dungeon was instead a rather open arena with the player’s movement being limited by the rather patchy and inconsistent presence of ground to stand on. There was nothingness for a hundred feet or so on either side of the pathway. There didn’t even seem to be much of anything supporting the pathway for that matter. It was as if the strip of ground they were standing on was being held up by some invisible force, and then, at the bottom, there was a bright pit of lava and fire that lit the entire dungeon up.
If the dragons have even half a brain, they’ll take to the skies and kill us with fire, he thought, frowning. His best bet was likely going to be trying to kill them before they could take off, but the size of their massive wings gave him the sinking feeling they would be airborne before he could say ‘pogostick lizards.’
“Well, we could wait for Daniel, Valerie and Mclean to finish up their task and get here,” Darwin said.
“What? No! We can do this!” Kass insisted.
“Right right, big sis! Let’s do it do it!” Minx said, ignoring the fact that neither Kitchens nor Darwin were making any sign of starting a fight. She spurred Fuzzy Wuzzy into a charge at the Drakes and raised one of her daggers as if she were a commander leading an infantry charge. “For Glory! For Greatness! For the cute, baby kitten balls and wubby puppy of MyaMya Myaton Abbey!”
Darwin, seeing the poor girl charging into an outnumbered and outgunned fight by herself, panicked and ran after her with Kitchens and Kass hot on his trail. “Minx! Wait a second!” he shouted after her as he ran, his legs doing the best they could in a desperate attempt to gain ground on her four-legged mount.
When Minx reached the six drakes, Fuzzy Wuzzy leaped up and pounced at the first one as if he were just a big fluffy dog greeting an absent master. The second impact was made though, the other five dragons spread their wings, taking to the air as they spit streams of fire at the bear. Minx, dodging the fire and going for the kill at the same time, jumped off the bear and landed daggers first into the pinned drake’s skull as her trusty transportation device roared in pain under the scorching blaze of the flying snakes’ attacks.
Yep, called it, Darwin grumbled as he got closer to the dead Drake. “Can you get them with the ice chains? Or one of your snowballs?” He shouted at Kass, whom he knew wouldn’t be too far behind him.
“Of course I’m trying that!” She snapped back. “Just go do your Darwin thingy!”
When he finally reached Fuzzy Wuzzy, who hadn’t moved as the drake’s breath attacks ignited him, he tried to push the bear out of the way of the next attack. The only problem was, the bear was too heavy, and the first fiery assault had left him not only losing health rapidly but also stunned stiff. “Minx? Where are you?” He looked around frantically until he noticed her hugging Fuzzy Wuzzy’s head. “Oh, there you are. Don’t worry. He’s not dead yet,” he said, half for her and half for himself.
What do I . . . Oh! Darwin was about to panic, unsure of how to save his bear, when he remembered that in most video games the best way to kill a dragon was to wear dragon armor. One look at the drake Fuzzy Wuzzy had managed to pin confirmed his theory: not a single one of its scales had been burnt even though the fire had surely hit them. “The wings! Minx, help me with the wings!” he said, yanking one of the dead Drake’s giant wings over Fuzzy Wuzzy like he was spreading a tarp over his stuff to stop the rain from soaking his it–except he was trying to stop the fire from barbecuing his bear.
It only took a few seconds for him to confirm that his idea worked, and judging from the condition of Fuzzy Wuzzy, it would have only taken a few blasts for the Drakes to have finished the job. In several large patches, the animal’s fur had been singed off and the flesh underneath had been roasted until it was almost crispy. Is it wrong that you smell delicious, Fuzzy Wuzzy? Darwin cursed as the aroma of cooked bear meat reached his nose. Dangit, bear, I’m trying to fight, and you smell like a well-seasoned steak.
“Its okay, Fuzzy Wuzzy Wuzzy! I’m not leaving! I’m here here!” Minx hadn’t stopped hugging the bear’s head since she finished covering herself and the bear with the other wing.
Welp, that’s two of us down, and only one enemy to show for it. He looked back at Kass, standing behind Kitchens, who had drawn his sword in front of him as if he were going to attack any incoming fire with his blade. He was concentrating on something intently. “How much longer till you get these beasts grounded?” he asked, looking at the flying circle of Drakes that were still fruitlessly trying to kill Darwin, Fuzzy Wuzzy and Minx with fire as the three of them sat under the giant corpse’s wings.
“Well, ummm . . . We got a problem,” Kass started slowly. “You know how in a lot of games dragons have a magic-resistant quality?”
Darwin’s eyes opened slowly in horror as he realized what she was saying. “No, no you’re kidding me. They wouldn’t do that. Too many people play mage characters. They wouldn’t do that,” Darwin tried to reason, but the lack of falling Drakes regardless of Kass’s efforts was evidence enough.
“Hmmm,” Darwin thought for a minute, looking at the Drakes then looking at Kass and Kitchens . . . and the entrance behind them. What am I doing, assuming this is the end? This isn’t the end. This is a video game. GM’s might frown upon playing like this, but this type of strategy has never been a bannable offense, he smiled, hope returning as he eyed the key to his battle plan. “Kass, Kitchens, when you get a chance, come under the wing with Minx and me,” he started relaying orders. Then, turning to Minx, he looked at the shell-shocked bear hugger. “Minx, Fuzzy Wuzzy is going to be fine, but I need you to pull yourself together so we can keep him alive. Can you do that? Can I count on you?”
“Yes,” she said, hesitantly releasing her hold on the bear’s neck.
“Good. I need you to do your best to hold those wings shut together over Kitchens and I while we drag the corpse back through that entrance,” Darwin patted her on the back. “I’m counting on you to keep us safe.”
When Kass and Kitchens reached him, he nudged Fuzzy Wuzzy, “Come on, Fuzzy Wuzzy. Enough down time. Let’s get out of here.”
Then the four of them, Fuzzy Wuzzy, Kass, Kitchens and Darwin, did their best to slowly drag the corpse across the dungeon floor with Minx doing her best to make sure everyone didn’t end up charred. They couldn’t move as quickly as Darwin would have hoped, and the entire time they were dragging the corpse, the flames never stopped, but little by little they made it to the entrance of the cave. “Hold up!” Darwin said, his hands still holding up the Drake as they reached the finish line. “When we go through this door, pull the body to the right. This is going to break LOS and force two options on the Drakes. Either we’re super unlucky, and they’re going to drop aggro and return to their spots, or we’re lucky and they’re going to come darting through that giant entrance, giving us a short window of time in which they’re guaranteed to be on the ground.”
“LOS? Aggro?” Kitchens asked, likely never having heard the words before. They weren’t common terms outside of video games, so it was entirely understandable for him not to understand them.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. LOS is line of sight. Most enemies have to be able to see you to cast their spells on you or attack you,” Darwin explained. “Aggro is like aggression? Aggressiveness? It’s basically how mad a mob or monster is at you. If an enemy NPC is aggroed, he’ll be trying to attack you. In some games you can break aggro, or get an enemy to stop trying to kill you, by going too far or switching zones. I’m not sure how Tiqpa works, but we’re basically betting on that not being the case here.”
“Ah, I see. Thank you,” Kitchens nodded thoughtfully.
“So, we go around the corner, and you hit them with your blade one at a time as they try to get through?” Kass spelled out the plan with a smile on her face, “Like whack-a-mole?”
“Yep, ready?” Darwin asked, getting nods from everyone, even the bear.
“Alright, we got this!” he exclaimed, helping his three friends pull the dragon out of the cave.
For several grains of sand through the hourglass, nothing happened. The fire had stopped, sure enough, but nothing happened. All four of them waited, staring at the entrance, breath held silently, but nothing happened. Then, loud enough to startle a deaf man, one of the Drakes crashed right through the obsidian hole head first. Darwin almost missed it, but he and Kitchens both managed to sink their blades right into the Drake’s skull as it squirmed to push through.
“Let me finish it off,” Darwin said to Kitchens who was readying the final blow. “I need to make sure he doesn’t stiffen up so the entrance stays clear.”
“Understood,” Kitchens sheathed his sword and backed up.
As soon as Darwin’s blade sank in and finished off the Drake, he used his ability to create undead followers. He watched as the Drake’s once black eyes shone red, and the momentarily dead monster healed instantly, finished clawing his way through the entrance, turned, and waited for Darwin’s command.
“That one is mine! I called shotgun on the dragon stuff! You all heard me!” Kass shouted gleefully as the big Drake stood poised with closed wings in front of Darwin.
“Fine, fine,” Darwin said, waving her over quickly. “Go take it for a spin. Just be ready to catch any of them if we don’t get the kill blow here.”
And, within seconds of saying that, another Drake rammed into the wall. “It’s working! Maim it! I got the death blow!” Darwin shouted out his commands as the dragon struggled to get through the hole.
“Stabby stabby for Fuzzy Wuzzy!” Minx shouted as she sank her daggers into its thick, scaly hide. “No more burny burny for you!”
Darwin finished off that one too–and then the next and the next and the next, all in the exact same fashion. When he finished off the last one, and all five had made it through the hole with red eyes, he felt a huge load off his chest.
“We did it,” he said, slumping into the wall. “We did it, and no one died.”
Minx resumed her bear head hug. “We got the bad bad guys for you. No one will ever hurt you again big beary weary, or I’ll stabby stab stab them!” Fuzzy Wuzzy nuzzled his head into the hug and let out a low growl. “That’s right, Fuzzy Wuzzy. They were meanies.”
“I didn’t doubt you for a moment,” Kitchens said, his eyes moving from one Drake to another.
“That makes one of us,” Darwin admitted, remembering the panic when he thought he was about to lose Fuzzy Wuzzy and likely Minx right after. “I actually wasn’t even sure we’d be able to pull it off.”
“The path to victory in an uneven battle lies in leveraging every tiny detail until the force yielded from those seemingly insignificant facts is great enough to subdue your foe. You already understood this, that is why I didn’t doubt you would win. But it is important that you not only understand it, but know it.” Kitchens stopped studying the Drakes and turned to Darwin. “The one on the right end–if you let me have that one, I won’t tell Kass about the dirty thoughts you had earlier.”
Darwin frowned. “They weren’t dirty thoughts, I was just . . . Nevermind. Forget it, you can have that one.” He knew there was no point in arguing because if the discussion lasted long enough Kass would eventually overhear.
“So what are we going to do about the rest of the dungeon?” Kass said, swooping down beside Darwin as Kitchens went over to acquaint himself with the rewards of his blackmail.
“You mean how are we going to clear it?” Darwin glanced inside the cave and then back at the set of five mounts.
“Yeah, got any ideas? I mean, that last fight was pretty easy once we got them through the door, but the next skirmishes are going to probably be pretty tough.” Kass’s words were of the warning kind, but it was hard to take them seriously when her face was still stuck in a permanent smile from getting a dragon.
Who would have thought she would be this happy with getting a dragon. She never mentioned this before at all. One minute she’s barely keeping up at all, the next minute she’s tearing through the skies like a bat out of hell, he thought still processing the near death combat experience when an idea hit him for how to clear out the rest of the dungeon. A wicked twisted smile, the kind that showed up on every cartoon villain, found its way creeping across Darwin’s face as he thought for a moment. “Actually, I have an idea on how to finish off our dungeon problem.”
“What’s the idea?” Kass asked then shuddered. “Darwin, what’s with that smile? I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I don’t like that look,” Kass said, backing up on her mount. “You know that creepy smile really doesn’t go well with the horns . . .”
“Kass, how fast do you think you can go on that thing?” Darwin asked, a chuckle escaping his grin.