Digitally Courting Boredom

There’s not been too many updates lately. I’m afraid that being simultaneously subscribed to City of Heroes and EverQuest 2 has resulted in a deadlock where I realize that I’m done with either. I could say I’m simply bored with them, but when you’re a dedicated computer gamer, you begin to realize the fundamental reasons behind the boredom. Oh well, I can least spin a few yarns while I’m complaining about it.

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With EverQuest 2, I’ve simply exhausted the activities the game has to offer… which is remarkable because it is a truly massive amount. Yet, I have spent most of my time by myself, and there’s no quicker way to exhaust the activities in a massively multiplayer game than playing solo. Most recently, I shifted my focus to finding groups, and discovered that they can be found with a little effort. I had hoped to find salvation from the monotony there. Unfortunately, what I discovered was worse.

Had Bruxx blinked, he might have missed it. A moment ago, this room was lined with dozens of animated skeletons and earthern golems, battle hardened creations of the undead magic user, Varsoon. Any one of those creatures would have been a challenge for Bruxx to fight alone.

However, the Shadow Knight leading Bruxx’s party had simply dove in and ran around the room, getting all of the foes’ attention, and pulled them all in one gigantic mess of gnashing appendages. Thus occupied, they were quickly eliminated by the Necromancer’s dark magic, the Fury’s supporting nature spells, and the combined close-quarters fighting finesse of the Monk and Bruxx.

Now the other members of party were laughing and boasting about who had done the most damage. All except Bruxx, who furrowed his whiskers in disapproval. “If this is adventure,” Bruxx thought, “then the custodians that sweep the streets of Qeynos must be famed heroes indeed.”

That’s pretty much how it went. A couple of skilled players mentoring down to the level of the rest of the party trivialized all the content of the Ruins of Varsoon. The party was about level 32, and the foes we fought were often equal or slightly higher. We scooped up entire rooms of maybe 3 to 5 encounters at a time. Yet, we didn’t seem to have any trouble, only one death when the Shadow Knight was chain-stunned and unable to heal himself.

Thankfully, my connection failed as we were zoning to confront Varsoon himself, as I think it’d have broken my heart to see a major villain treated like common trash. I feel sorry for the content designers in EverQuest 2. They put a lot of work into creating this incredibly detailed world, only for it to be balanced like this: trivial; meaningless. There is no artistic justice in the world.

In City of Heroes, I go from the role of being the player who is disgruntled about how trivialized the content has become to being the Veteran who has the skills to make it happen. However, the balance is a little better, and the damage is minimized somewhat. After all, City of Heroes was a game balanced around the idea of being a comic book superhero.

“Babbage,” they called it, a great mechanical creation of the Clockwork King. A monstrosity of spinning gears, shaped into humanoid form, unstoppable. It rumbled towards the heroes, three stories tall, and the last line of defense between them and its creator. Shifter Prime, a man in a sharp-looking black business suit and fedora, watched the monster come as his costumed and super-powered teammates surged forward to meet it.

The mutant with her control over rock struck Babbage with a giant stone hammer and warded off its blows with her molten lava skin. The technology-enabled twins arrayed their protective force fields, threw clouds of nanites to heal wounds, and projected blue bolts of force at the mighty robot. The swordsman with the regenerating body was executing a series of fluid movements with his katana, its blade sharp enough to scar the metal surface of the behemoth.

It was not enough. Shifter Prime was a Kheldian, a symbiotic fusion of alien and man, and knew that it would take all the power of both his halves to have a chance at winning this fight. He spotted a nearby group of hostile gang members and, expelling a purply ring of nictus energy around them, siphoned strength from them. His firepower now more than doubled, Shifter Prime vanished into a purple cloud, and emerged transformed into one of the stored host memories of the Kheldian symbiote within. Having assumed the shimmering dark shape of floating, many tentacled alien, he was now a master of negative energy projection. With an idle flick of his tail, the weakened gang members fell to a fan of nictus energy bolts, ready for teleport to the Ziggurat prison. Shifter Prime was now ready.

Shifter Prime turned and started assisting his team members, assaulting Babbage with great gouts of energy from his mouth and tail. The behemoth staggered, but regained its gigantic footing. It was still not enough. The call went out to all available heroes of Paragon City, and over a dozen arrived, one by one, as quickly as they could. Even more strange energies flashed, weapons twirled, super powered fists crushed, and powerful barriers were erected. The air surrounding Babbage became a maelstrom of super powered euphoria.

Even its haphazard tactical withdraw over city streets and building rooftops was not enough to prevent Babbage from finally being overwhelmed. It shook the ground as it fell, returning to the scrap metal it once was. Thanks for assistance were issued, but many of the heroes were already on their way to other adventures: heroism in Paragon City was never done. As for Shifter Prime and his team, they gathered their strength and looked onward. They were reaching the end of a long road and, soon, the Clockwork King would be brought to justice.

There was once a point where you could grab entire maps and mow them down in City of Heroes. A simple adjustment limiting the number of foes that could be affected by powers, and those days are over. Even a single Giant Monster, such as Babbage, is designed to require a concert effort between several players to bring down thanks (in part) to an obscene hitpoint regeneration rate. City of Heroes has always been a king of gameplay balance and unique mechanics amongst games in its class.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. It seems my trouble with City of Heroes is that I’ve played it out, having sampled every type of hero or villain and witnessed every kind of power firsthand. Sure, I could stick around and get level 50 in every archetype, but would that really be time well spent? Even though I haven’t done everything within the game, I’ve pretty much consumed all the novelty there was to offer.

Lately, I’ve spent more time browsing their forums than I have playing either Everquest 2 or City of Heroes. If there existed a way I could enjoy either game, I’d have found it by now. Currently, both of my subscriptions are set to expire. Soon, I’ll be out of this deadlock altogether, and perhaps that’s for the best.

Frankly, spending my time dwelling on games I’ve already sunk hundreds of hours into might be downright unhealthy. Variety is the spice of life. So, when I can, I’ve been looking for other things to play. It’s difficult to find something better when coming from a couple of real gems like EverQuest 2 and City of Heroes. However, my search has not been entirely fruitless…

The hulking demon looked down at the well-armed man standing on the ruined streets of London and snorted. “Halt, mortal. Have you forgotten our pact? You shall not break the non-disclosure agreement.”

The Heroic Conspiracy of Paragon City

The Hellion, a gang member empowered with magical tattoos that imbued him with infernal demon fire, had been apparently attempting to wrest a purse from the somewhat feeble-looking grandmother all day. They stood in broad daylight on city streets as they engaged in their impromptu tug-o-war over this piece of aged leather with some replaceable knickknacks inside of it. In any other city, this would seem to be a woman bravely (if foolishly) opposing an evil-doer much bigger and nastier than she was. In Paragon City, the City of Heroes, this was something else entirely.

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It is a simple, unspoken arrangement between the villains of Paragon City and the citizens. If a member of a villainous group wishes to get into a fight with one of the thousands of costumed superheroes heroes of this city, they need to be caught committing a crime. For this, it would often necessitate inconveniencing a citizen of Paragon City, whose cooperation would be rewarded with not being harmed and possibly being allowed to meet the hero afterwards.

The purse snatching is a common crime for low-level hoods to commit. The villain gathers as many friends as they feel is neccessary and then proceeds to find a woman carrying a purse. After appearing to ambush the victim in an opportune (highly-visible) location, they start pretending as though they were taking the purse. Back and forth they would tug, for hours if neccessary, until a costumed hero arrives. Thug and victim would shout a few lines to get the attention of the hero and, with any luck, battle is joined. It was not uncommon for there to be dozens of purses being stolen, simultaneously, on the same street.

The rules of battle are simple: The hero and villains are free to use whatever powers they have at their disposal in an attempt to defeat each other. Currently, it is considered bad form to uproot street lights or throw cars, but rules of engagement may change over time. At the start of the battle, the victim is free to flee to a safe distance, perhaps in order to thank the hero later. It’s considered good form for the victim to pretend they are reporting the crime. It’s also considered good form for the hero to pretend they’re interested in recovering the purse. Some villains attempt to take advantage of this and pretend to flee with the purse but, upon noticing they are not being chased, will usually return to the scene of the crime to try again. After all, the point was not to get the purse, the point was to start a battle.

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, battles go largely without consequence. Given the astounding efforts of Paragon Public Works it’s very difficult to cause lasting damage to small parts of the city. Given time and effort, entire blocks of the city may be restored, such as was the case of the Overbrook district. If the hero is defeated, they are teleported to the nearest medical facility and nursed back to health in seconds. If a (human or derivative human-like creature) villain is defeated, they are teleported to the Ziggurat, a maximum security prison, where they are similarly nursed back to health. This is often considered a boon, as incarceration in the Ziggurat puts them in contact with a vast crime network of criminals who were similarly “arrested”. Given that the Ziggurat is perpetually under siege by villainous forces, it was quite poor at actually keeping villains behind bars. Average turnaround time for an incarcerated villain is 2 to 3 days (or in the case of the Outcast leader, Frostfire, 2 to 3 seconds).

Attempting to break this cycle is difficult. Some particularly overzealous participants like to think they’re permanently killing their foes. However, short of complete atomization or failure of the city-wide teleportation grid, it’s difficult to cause lasting damage thanks to modern Paragon City medical technology. Some villains have taken to attempting to capture heroes, but have yet to come up with a solution to actually contain them. Villains are loathe to resort to killing heroes in captivity for fear that authorities in the Ziggurat may institute a similar policy. Permanent defeat or transformation of heroes or villains is quite rare, even noteworthy. Even mere disappearances of little-known participants usually lead to permanent public landmarks being established.

For the villains, there is often (but not always) ulterior motives to commit a highly visible crimes besides simply to fight. For example, the Vahzilok, a sect of rogue surgeons who seek immortality through stealing the body parts of others, often pretend to be about their grisly business in order to attract heroes. However, given the effectiveness of the Paragon City teleport system, defeated heroes instantly escape the vast majority of the time. The actual goal of the Vahzilok is steal heroic cells of heroic DNA extracted during the battle proceedings. This DNA, once cloned, can be used to forward their agenda or create the necessary parts to stitch together a nearly limitless army of abominations. For other villainous groups, reasons to goad heroes into a fight can extend to testing new battle technology or simply increasing their reputation amongst villains.

Heroes, on the other hand, are mostly interested in fame. It’s all very well to be able to fly about and shoot laser beams from your armpits but, unless you actually do something productive with that, nobody cares. The ideal position of a hero is to be a member of a prestigious super group that has amassed enough influence to gain access to even greater power. Then, in the event that such a major catastrophe (as an invasion from an alternate dimension of aliens) they might just have sufficient power at their disposal to survive.

Such was how the heroism business is conducted daily on the streets of Paragon City.

Writer’s Note: This is primarily a piece that plugs a lot of the logical gaps in City of Heroes’ plot. Of course, it’s secondarily a humor piece. 😉

The Rat Trap

Despite herself, the serving maid at the Servant’s Lure tavern was flustered, and stood fanning her beet-red face in pleased surprise. True, she had heard that Swashbucklers were debonair scoundrels who had a knack to dazzle unsuspecting ladies with a sly grin and unexpected comment. However, in her fantasies, she had always pictured some rugged human privateer or maybe even a dashing half-elf fencer. Never did she expect to be expertly flattered when delivering ale to the table of a mangy ratonga thief. She was so surprised that she forgot to slap him before retreating.

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Grinning to himself, Bruxx ground his teeth in the traditional laughter of his people. Ratonga were often maligned as filthy, honorless creatures, little better than the common vermin these rat-man bore a resemblance towards. However, these sons and daughters of Bristlebane, the god of mischief, enjoyed a good joke when given the opportunity. The prejudices of some of the citizens of Qeynos offered many such opportunities, and it was one of the reasons he settled here after betraying the malevolent Overlord of Freeport.

Bruxx’s grin slipped off his muzzle and he took a mournful dreg from his tankard. The memory of Freeport soured his humor somewhat, as he would always remember Freeport as a place where his fellow Ratonga were forced to stab eachother in the back for a few crumbs of filth. “If you looks like a rat, you should bes a rat,” he had been told by his mother, “Otherwisez, yous are givens to Kerrans as toyzes.” It was a prophetic warning as, upon failing a mission as a scout for the Overlord, his mother was indeed given to one of those cat-like citizens as a plaything – an inevitably fatal assignment. The oppression of his people was the real reason he was here, in the free city of Qeynos, despite the great personal risk involved.

It was a risk he was still living today. A shadow appeared, looming over his table. Bruxx had just enough time to reason that a barbarian had slipped up behind him when his suspicions were confirmed. His shoulders were suddenly in the vice of a pair of large and hairy hands, pinning him to his chair.

Before he could look up and see the face of his captor, a high elf smoothly took the seat across from him. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t Bruxx. Fugitive of Freeport. Found a new little hole to hide in, little rat?” The elf wore a kind of sadistic grin that Bruxx had seen somewhere else before, when one of their ilk was about to witness some long-planned torture or humiliation finally to come to fruition.

Bruxx’s eyes darted around the room. As he had guessed, other than himself and his two aggressors, the room was empty of life. The patrons must have went home and the serving maid was likely off recovering her composure. It was uncommonly sloppy of him to sit with his back to the entrance to the room. He knew that even the Qeynos Harbor was not safe from the Overlord’s hand and letting his guard down like that was almost asking for trouble.

Bruxx thought fast. He spoke evenly with unusual elegance for a ratonga, “Gentlemen! I’m sure this is some kind of misunderstanding.”

A commanding glance from the elf, and the barbarian’s crushing grip bore down on Bruxx’s shoulders like boulders. Bruxx clenched his teeth in pain. Had his deft hands not forged this armor himself, he was sure he would have suffered broken bones.

The elf’s sadistic grin twisted with pleasure. “Oh no, there’s no misunderstanding, little rat. In your bid to convince the people of this city you were worthy of their pathetic ideals, you have sabotaged countless works of the people of Freeport. Your antics have even gained the notice of the Overlord himself. Congratulations, vermin: You’re now worth your weight in platinum. As light your kind might be, that’s a weight I plan to collect: Bone… by… bone…”

The elf closed his eyes and silently moved his lips. In a moment, Bruxx knew, a spell would be cast from which he would only recover from when he was about to step into the execution pit back at Freeport. Negotiations had clearly come to an end. It was just as well, as he was only buying the time he needed slip a paw down to activate the spring-loaded dagger in his right boot.

In a flash, Bruxx’s boot dagger had cut through a front leg of his chair. The Barbarian’s steady downward pressure on his shoulder broke the chair under Bruxx and allowed him the neccessary slack to throw the huge man off balance and pivot him forward, over the table, and into the elf. The table, barbarian, and elf all collapsed in a splintery heap. A blue glow flashed, the spell gone awry, and the Barbarian went limp.

The elf roared in anger as he clawed his way out from underneath the Barbarian’s inert body. As Bruxx had surmised, he was really a dark elf, his broken concentration had dispelled the illusion and revealed his dark blue skin. His red eyes searched for Bruxx, hungry for revenge. Bruxx, however, was not to be found.

“You worthless vermin! Come out and face your better! I will rend the sinews from your flesh! Your animated corpse will serve my ancestors for eternity!” The dark elf was overturning tables in his mad zeal to find the ratonga and make him pay for his inconvenience. However, he had forgotten one important thing that should be known about a Swashbuckler: Never let them out of your sight.

With a howl of pain, the dark elf located Bruxx: he was affixed to his back with dual poisoned stilettos. The ratonga was in his element now, staying just out of reach of grabbing hands, stabbing with practiced precision, and neatly hamstringing his opponent. It was over in a blink, an angry Dark Elf reduced to a lump – alive, but his arm and leg muscles cut and numb from toxins, helpless.

A contingent of the Qeynos guard came clattering up the stairs to find Bruxx ruefully lamenting his overturned ale tankard. “What took you so long?” he asked dryly. The Corporal in charge of the watch surveyed the ruin quickly, his eyes widening as they fell upon the dark elf. He gestured to the guards in his command, “Take these Freeport bounty hunters to the dungeon. It seems that Bruxx has trapped some more.”

Trotmobile Blues

When I woke up on the beach a few days ago, even though I’m in my late teens, it was as though I had just been born. I guess Amnesia has that effect on people. I had somehow washed up on the beach after the shipwreck. What was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes? A beautiful girl… collecting herbs for her sick mother… she just happened to be a singer, and single. The whole thing has been just a bit too perfect – I wonder if I’m still unconscious on the beach, dreaming?

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Not too long after that I found an abandoned Trotmobile, one of those walking cars that are popular these days. The people of this land have a real artistic flair for invention. I’ve seen all sorts of incredible arm attachments for trot mobiles – swords, shields, claws, clubs, buzz-saws, cannons, flame throwers – completely modular and attachable to either side of the torso. The legs, back, windshield, and grill were also replaceable. It was a real thing of a beauty, the way one can have radically different looking Trotmobiles.

But the real elegance of the situation was to be found in the environment I found myself in. The land, wide open and spacious, consisted of plains, deserts, farmlands, forests, and more. There I was really free to push the limits of my Trotmobile, and there were always some bandits driving some zany contraption that were ready to test me. In the cities, all I could do was choose a destination parking lot and I would obey the traffic laws to get there. Although the cities were fascinating to explore on foot, with many nooks and crannies, different phases of day determining who and how many cars and Trotmobiles are on the streets or people on the side walks. The level of freedom I was given was incredible – never was I forced to do a thing.

So great was the freedom granted by my amnesia that I could have been anything. A good guy, a villain. A band member, or somebody who wants nothing to do with them. Was I the son of a baker, skilled, and conscientious? Not neccessarily – considering I had been given a new start on that beach a few days ago, I could have been anything. I really can’t tell my story, not only because it would ruin the surprise, but because the interpretation is bound to vary for others.

Well, enough introspection. Things to do, people to see. Rival Trotmobiles to explode. It’s a good age to be a part of.

The Education of the Beast

The kobold, a primordial dog-like humanoid beast of fur and anger, sat patiently at its desk listening to the droning of the lecturer. The walls of the expansive lecture hall were lined with books. The desks on the raised floor in front of the lecturer’s podium were completely filled with fellow magic users in training. The kobold sat near the back, briefly wondering why it was wasting its time here before being mentally reminded that this was the only way it was going to pass remedial magic studies.

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“…central to the point of magical exploration is the concept of alteration of mental state on behalf of the practitioner and, as appropriate, the subject of manipulation. Central to Rimfizron’s Theory of perspective…”

The lecturer was an erudite, a member of a race of dark-grey-skinned but physically frail high men known both for their towering intellect and the resulting arrogance. He was wearing a fine grey adventurer’s robe and gesturing with his wand as he spoke. The kobold always hated erudites… at least, when they were alive. It rather enjoyed eating severed erudite heads which had been slow roasted over the tribal fires for a day. The lecturer had noticed the kobold had stopped paying attention to the lecture and fixed it a condescending stare. The kobold snickered to itself, it would have to remember to gather a band to raid for erudite heads later, but now it had been reminded of the importance of study.

“…in the four schools of approved magical discourse at the university, first the practitioner convinces themselves of this new reality, and this is initially insanity. However, through the application of arcane power focused through the appropriate mantras, reality can be subtly altered…”

The kobold was bored again. It picked up the scroll laying on its desk and started to eat the vellum off of the wooden handles. The vellum was aged griffin skin, much better than the week-dead small animals corpses that the kobold sometimes sufficed with, and the ink of the strange arcane symbols added a cloying taste that it rather enjoyed. Why did these foolish mages not eat their scrolls? The kobold noticed that the lecturer had stopped and was waiting for its attention again. It obeyed, suddenly grateful that none of its fellow classmates minded the interruption.

“… with Wizardry, the mental framing serves as a conduit to raw power which is exerted most commonly in the form of elemental destruction. Warlocks have a similar focus but exert more biological agents of destruction such as unfettered disease. Conjurers seek to manifest new matter into reality, be it edible sustenance, a tool, or even a living familiar…”

The kobold began to grow agitated, chewing on the wooden scroll handles viciously with a guttural growl, like a puppy tearing into a hard bone. It realized it did not understand a thing this erudite was saying. It worried it going to fail the exam but, now that it thought of it, it did not even what an exam was. For that matter, it did not remember how it come to be here in this lecture hall, surrounded by these revolting humans, erudites, and gnomes. Why did it care about any of this?

The kobold suddenly realized that it knew this lecturer. It had seen him somewhere before, though it knew not where. All it knew was that it hated him, for reasons beyond being an erudite, and that hatred was deep. The reaction was instinctive for the kobold. It gathered its energy and waited for an opportune moment to pounce and rip out his throat…

“…however, the last school of magic, that of Illusions, decided that simply to stay within the realm of the mind was enough. Rather than exerting arcane power to manipulate reality, this school exerts arcane power to manipulate the mind. This can be harnessed for beneficial aspects such as curing mental afflictions or overriding natural safeguards for greater performance. However, it can also be harnessed against foes…”

With a yipping warcry, the kobold charged, launching itself over its desk and over the backs of its classmates. They ignored it, still rapt with the lecturer’s incredibly boring lecture, even as it savagely clawed their shoulders for traction. The lecturer had noticed, however, and had stopped speaking. The erudite simply stood there and looked directly at the kobold as it approached, staring. Even through its bloodlust, the kobold found itself fascinated with his eyes, incredibly deep pools of black, perhaps with an invisible sparkle of magic within. By the time it had reached the lecturer, its inertia had slowed to walk, its bloodlust mostly subsided. It simply stood there and stared back.

The walls of the lecture hall melted away and the kobold was standing in the Butcherblock Mountains. Reality was thicker here, it knew it had been daydreaming, but not how long. It was then that it noticed two corpses of its comrades nearby. There was not a mark upon them, but there was the sharp smell of magical discharge in the air. The kobold turned and looked, there he was, the erudite who was just lecturing him back at the academy. Mind-bogglingly, there were two of them, twins that were not twins but rather the same.

Shock set in as the events folded together in its mind. The kobold had never been to a magical academy, much less one belonging to those weak Qeynosians! It was a brave warrior of the Yapsnarl tribe, marauders of the Butcherback Mountains, and it had been for its entire life! Moments ago, this erudite and its twin had attacked its tribe with strange magics, causing many of them to claw about their ears and throats before suddenly dying. The kobold had finally managed to overcome the mental chains preventing it from reaching him with its claws. However, then the erudite had then faced him, wove his hands in the air, and…

The ever-calculating mind of Egarim, erudite Illusionist adventurer of Qeynos, surmised that the larger kobold was almost entirely recovered from his mesmerization spell. It was a formidable opponent, the only one strong enough to consistently break his immobilization enchantment, and thus he determined his odds to be best when engaging it alone. He mentally commanded his illusionary doppleganger to distract a trio of lesser kobolds. He would deal with them promptly, but first he needed to keep the larger kobold occupied awhile longer. With well-practiced focus, he prepared his mind, mentally returning to his last lecture at the academy. Egarim began to trace the arcane symbols in the air…

“However, it can also be harnessed against foes…”

The kobold, a primordial dog-like humanoid beast of fur and anger, sat patiently at its desk listening to the droning of the lecturer. The walls of the expansive lecture hall were lined with books. The desks on the raised floor in front of the lecturer’s podium were completely filled with fellow magic users in training. The kobold sat near the back, briefly wondering why it was wasting its time here before being mentally reminded that this was the only way it was going to pass remedial magic studies.

Heart of the Inferno

The bounty hunter sniffed the air. The smell of fine sifted rock was hardly surprising considering that, not long ago, the access into the depths of the mine had been deliberately collapsed. However, there was something off… the smell of the restless dead. He tightened the straps on his armor and drew a club suitable for smashing bone. It was time to put the dead to rest.

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He did not have to advance far from the wooden entrance to the mine before he spotted his quarry. Skeletons, moving in obscene defiance to the lack of flesh on their bones, their bows at the ready, empty eye sockets searching for the living. Had some Necromancer decided to claim the abandoned mine for his own, or were these manifestations of restless spirits? Such a difference mattered not for a seeker of gold.

Freshly recasting his protective wards, he launched into battle. No sooner did his club fracture the hollow skull of the first skeleton did his presence become known. More appeared, including dead knights still clad in their heavy armor, bringing the clanking of metal to the cracking of bone. He fought on, spraying bone dust everywhere, uttering quick mantras of healing to seal his fresh wounds. The dead fell, the reanimation magic confounded by battle damage, but more walking dead took their place. Finally, the entire haunted force had crept from their hiding places and the survivors were fighting against him, over twenty perverted corpses operating their weapons with mechanical determination.

The bounty hunter smiled, he had been waiting for this. With a wave of his hand, a great line of flame appeared through the skeletal ranks. Another wave of his hand, another line of flame, and yet another. Soon, half the mine was awash with crimson flame. Bone and tendon began to melt with a sickening hiss. The weaker skeletons fell quickly, with the dead knights needing a little more encouragement from the bounty hunter’s club. Whatever forces had placed these creatures in this cave, they were not expecting an armor-clad Archmage of Fire to pay a visit.

Later, the merchant guild trader sniffed the the armor and weapons he was given suspiciously. They smelled like they had been through a fire, but he knew better than to accuse this bounty hunter of trying to sell him inferior goods. Top value in gold was handed over willingly, but the merchant could not help but wonder who the previous owners of this equipment were. The answer he received, “tis’ better you do not know,” did not bother him nearly as much as the concealing smirk that delivered it.