49 Drahma the berserker!
His decision made, Dave carefully followed behind the sub-guild party through the dungeon. At every corner, he patiently waited for them to fight their way through the dungeon mobs.
With only four players, the members of the sub-guild 'Havana' were almost underpowered for this particular dungeon, and consequently, their advance was slow. Seeing that they would take a quite some time to reach the boss, he withdrew with his troops and left the dungeon.
"There's no point in following them right now," thought Dave. "If I follow too closely behind them, I might be discovered. Even worse, when the two respawned players enter the dungeon behind me, I could end up in a position with enemies in front and behind me and no retreat. Acting rashly won't do any good and might get me killed."
He moved away from the Dungeon entrance and the pathway leading to it.
The two respawned adventurers, Shark and Stinger, would be returning to enter the dungeon and rejoin their friends. So Dave left one archer stationed at the top of the sand dune as he withdrew into the desert hills.
That skeleton archer would serve as Dave's eyes, and would alert Dave when it saw the two players from its vantage point. Even though it was not in his line of sight and was farther away than usual, Dave still controlled the skeleton with his will.
Dave knew it was a despicable strategy, but this was just a game. Player Killers, PKs, used the same strategy on unaware adventurers, but normally a high-level player or a Guild-Hand would be near dungeons to prevent this.
The dungeons in Conquest were not instanced, so when a group enters a dungeon, other players can follow them and interact with them, even kill them. Guild-Hands often guarded important or high-level dungeons to prevent such abuses by predatory players.
However, with the two super guilds HD and BR at war, the Guild-Hands had been called to fight at the front, leaving the dungeon vulnerable to Dave's undead avarice.
The high-level player that Sublime Spirit called for help was actually one of those Guild-Hands, the ones that protected players from the very thing that Dave was going to attempt.
Dave was not a virtuous person, that was plainly evident, and he never claimed to be. Dave had no qualms at taking what others had, nor would he complain if others took what was his. What he believed was: If you cannot protect what is yours, do not expect to keep it for long.
Great fortune requires a powerful hand guarding it, and that was his reason. Dave knew his limits and would never presume to fight 'fair' when at a disadvantage if given a choice. Never would he shout about honor or the like if he was facing a stronger foe. That would be utter and complete idiocy, and he knew it.
As Dave moved further away from the dungeon, he noticed a disturbance in the sand ahead of him. As Dave's vanguard, a ghoul, advanced towards the disturbance something burst from the ground in an explosion of sand. The ghoul had tripped into a monsters aggro range.
It was a giant Scorpion. It had two tails, and its chitin was a deep emerald green that shaded to creamy jade at the tips of the appendages. Dave immediately remembered the scorpion he fought at the beginning of his inheritance quest.
Tail attacks have 20% chance to cause Poisoned status.
500 damage nullification
Even the stats on this monster were the same as the one from when he was first starting out so many levels ago. So he had no worries as he signaled his group to attack, and was not surprised when the Scorpion fell in only a few seconds. But the 2% increase in his EXP bar from killing the monster was a pleasant surprise indeed. His new EXP total sat at 28%, and Dave decided to be efficient while he waited, time-to-grind.
"I got a good amount of EXP, even though some of it goes to my undead, along with the percentage hogged by the ring of the death god I am wearing," he thought.
Looking around, Dave saw more disturbances in the sand that warned of the creatures underneath, and he went after the next one. this very scene repeated itself several times and Dave slowly gained more and more EXP.
Dave spent almost an hour farming the scorpions for EXP before the archer on sentinel duty howled at him after spotting the two adventurers running through the hills toward the dungeon.
Dave quickly finished off the scorpion they were fighting and moved toward the dungeon, taking a moment to look his undead over.
They were still relatively high on HP, none of them damaged badly. One of the three ghouls had the lowest HP of the group at 68%, which was acceptable.
Dave entered the dungeon once again and followed the two Havana guild members racing to join the rest of their party.
Skeletons can be stealthy, and they can move quickly, but they can't do both at the same time. So Dave ordered his undead to follow the two players at a slow pace, so they wouldn't be alerted to his presence. After all, he was not in a hurry, defeating the boss would take the guild party a good time. And Dave just needed to be in position for the very end of it.
Whoever, or whatever had made the temple built down, going deep underground. There were many chambers, vast and small, long corridors with frequent crossings and turns, and dizzying spiral ramps leading into the lower levels. The end of every route was guarded by monsters, minotaurs, skeletons, giant scorpions and beetles to name just a few. Of course, Dave only saw the remains of these creatures in passing, as they had all been killed by the party of four, who were now waiting at the entrance to the boss's room.
Dave and his undead henchmen eventually entered an enormous circular room with a domed ceiling held up by fluted pillars. There was a broken altar at the center.
The two Havana guild players had just left the room through the opposite door, heading deeper into the temple. Dave ordered his group to pause and let the players get some distance ahead. While waiting Dave took a look around the room and was stunned by what he realized.
Everywhere he looked were hundreds, thousands, of skulls used as blocks to build the walls of the room. The pillars were 'fluted' because they were made from long straight leg bones.
"It's strange… the missions the undead legion sends me on always involve death and undead. Is this because it is part of some sort of quest-chain or super-quest?" Dave asked himself. He thought about his recent encounter with the Guardian, he ended up meeting a member of the undead legion and even established a sort of alliance or truce with him.
And now, this place was plastered all over with scenes of death and undead, and there were even mummified corpses walking around outside the dungeon. Undead who were, coincidentally, friendly as long as he didn't attack them.
Dave continued thinking about the puzzle as he walked deeper into the temple following behind the two Havana guild members.
Finally, they came to a high-ceilinged antechamber, facing Dave was an arched double doorway as wide as the antechamber and higher than all of his undead stacked on top of each other. Dave immediately pulled his undead back from the open doors, not wanting to reveal their presence.
Dave slowly moved closer to the entrance until he crouched behind one of the enormous black-metal doors. He looked into a true boss-room, one that dwarfed the skull-n-bones chamber many times over. It was big enough to fit a small town in. In the distance, the six guild members were fighting what was obviously the boss.
Even from where Dave watched he felt the aura of savagery radiating from the boss. He swallowed nervously and wondered if the guild party was overmatched.
The boss monster was scaled to fit the boss-room, and by comparison, the players looked like small dogs nipping at the behemoth creature's heels. The ogre-ish face was contorted in rage, glaring around at the attackers with blood-red eyes. Screeching snarls like the sound of heavy gauge steel tearing apart came from the boss's boar-like snout, and Dave could see that far too many sharp-edged tusks extended out and up from the jaw. Anyone who got too close to this boss was going to have A Very Bad Day.
The ground shook as the boss struck the stone floor with a weighted pole, just missing one of the players. The weapon looked like a massive temple column capped at the ends, but made of solid black-iron instead of stone and marble. Dave had no doubt that anyone who took a direct hit from this boss would be one-shotted.
Dave watched Sublime Spirit sprint toward the boss in an attack run, jinking around strikes from the massive weapon and then savaging the giant with Rage-fueled damage-skills. Despite the tree-trunk size and reach of his weapon, the boss was unable to land a solid hit on any of the players.
It was puzzling. Dave knew that contrary to what a certain alien master claimed, size actually does matter, even here in the game. So, he fully expected this boss's stature to be a severe challenge to the group. Instead, the boss staggered around like a drunken bull baited by pint-size matadors. Shaking his head dazedly, the twisting outspread horns that crowned it flailing, he stumbled one way then the other trying to defend himself.
The boss's clumsy movements finally drew Dave's attention to the links of heavy chain wrapped around the monster's limbs and torso. He had assumed the boss was wearing a strange sort of armor. But looking closely he saw the chains stretched away and attached to heavy anchoring bolts all around the boss. The chains weren't armor or any other kind of wearable item. Indeed, the only thing the boss seemed to have equipped were ragged looking pants cinched with a rope belt.
Those chains confined the boss's movements to a small area. Worse, the enormous weight and bulk of the chains virtually neutralized the boss's attacks.
Dave had never seen a boss scenario set-up like this. The monster was all but gift-wrapped as a sacrificial offering for the players. "This doesn't seem right. Just what the heck is going on here?"
Dave pondered the strange situation, wondering what he was missing, the boss swung an attack at a player, turning his torso toward Dave's hiding place for the first time, and revealing the missing piece. Literally.
Something had punched through the chest muscles and ribs, all the way through the chest cavity, and out the back. Anyone looking through the cratered hole could see the boss was missing a heart. An undead! The boss was one of the Undead Legion!
The players had the clear advantage in the fight. The guild members were using the boss's confinement to devastating effect. They taunted him and dodged his clumsy attacks, kiting him until he was yanked short by the chains, leaving him vulnerable to their attacks.
The boss howled and stamped down with a house-sized foot in a special attack. A wave rippled out through the earth, turning dirt to mud, slowing the players movements.
"Move back but keep kiting the bastard!" cried out Sublime Spirit.
The players kept up the flow of continuous attacks and dodges, and the priest healed any damage the party members took from the attacks that did connect. It was the usual boss raid strategy, a game of attrition, and it was working as expected. The boss's HP gradually decreased until it reached 50%.
"Alright everyone, be ready, it's entering the second phase! Get ready for him to Rampage" shouted Sublime Spirit as the boss's body turned bright red and his attacks became wilder and more vicious.
Dave began to worry that this group of players might actually be stronger than he first estimated. Especially the berserker, who repeatedly absorbed powerful attacks from the juggernaut and returned attacks of his own with enormous damage in return.
As Dave considered retreating the boss howled again, despairing, his rage exhausted for a moment.
The boss bellowed in guttural tones at his attackers "IF I WERE FREE I WOULD SMASH ALL OF YOU!"
A Call For Help
Drahma the Berserker was captured, chained and tortured by order of the Black Skull long ago.
As a member of the Undead Legion, he is your brother-in-arms. Should you choose to help him in his current situation, it will be considered a meritorious deed. Will you give succor to your undead kith and kin?
Dave was surprised by the quest offer, but this final piece of evidence banished his doubt that the missions he was sent on had a greater purpose.
"The missions take me to places that have something to do with the undead. Doing these quests and helping them will also help the Undead Legion grow stronger… I wonder what level this Drahma character will turn out to be when he is freed. Those chains look like they are limiting his power too, not just his movement."
Dave didn't see any way to break the chains, even using his undead minions. Dave accepted the mission anyway, and as soon as he did things started changing.
All the chains began to glow brightly, and a tag appeared over each chain."Oh ho, so accepting the quest made the chains attackable."
Dave tried to target-locked one of the chains and succeeded, which indicated it was almost a certainty that he would be able to attack them with his skills too. However, when he looked at the information in the tag…
Unholy Chain of Torment.
10,000 Damage nullification
"Damn, that's a lot of damage nullification; physical attacks won't do anything to these chains…but they don't have any magical damage reduction!"
Dave grinned suddenly, understanding what he needed to do. The skill he learned from the Lich Du'Rhaza was given to him for this quest.
"Everything is related, not having helped Du'Rhaza would not have awarded me with this skill, thus making it impossible to destroy these chains..." Dave muttered to himself as he waved his right hand and activated Spectral Bomb with a thought. A glowing red skull manifested between his hands, hovered momentarily then drifted off toward the chains holding Drahma.
It was a controlled detonation spell. He could set off the damage effect whenever he wanted to within the spell's time limit.
After a thirty second cooldown period, he used the spell again, summoning and sending another skull to join the first one hovering near the chains.
Unfortunately, this time the tank glimpsed the skull hovering over one of the chains.
"Hey, Spirit! What is that thing?" he asked as he looked at the skull patiently hovering over one of the chains.
"I don't know, I've never seen anything like that. Maybe a skill the boss is using?"
"I watched videos from groups that pwnd this guy, none of them had anything like that."
"Just stay away from it, I don't know what it is. It's a bug, or something that no one bothered mentioning because it's irrelevant," he said as he approached for his next attack run.
The boss's HP was approaching 30% as Sublime Spirit started his next attack, strafed in closer to unleash more hurt on the fugly boss. Just as the Berserker started his attack move Dave snapped his fingers triggering the Spectral Bombs, and all hell broke loose!