Viridian gate online the.., p.1

Viridian Gate Online_The Lich Priest_A litRPG Adventure, page 1

 part  #5 of  Viridian Gate Archives Series

 

Viridian Gate Online_The Lich Priest_A litRPG Adventure
 



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Viridian Gate Online_The Lich Priest_A litRPG Adventure


  Contents

  Summary

  James Hunter's Mailing List

  ONE_ New Viridia

  TWO_ Rivals

  THREE_ Champions

  FOUR_ Misunderstandings

  FIVE_ Nightmare Bunny

  SIX_ Pursuit

  SEVEN_ Escape

  EIGHT_ The Vale

  NINE_ Repairs

  TEN_ Elemental

  ELEVEN_ Mer-Queen’s Tale

  TWELVE_ Dark Passage

  THIRTEEN_ Shadow Master

  FOURTEEN_ The Drowned Temple

  FIFTEEN_ Necrotic Pillar

  SIXTEEN_ Monster Mash

  SEVENTEEN_ Rewards

  EIGHTEEN_ Raiding Party

  NINETEEN_ Getaway

  TWENTY_ Anemoi Overwatch

  TWENTY-ONE_ Hit the Deck

  TWENTY-TWO_ Shared Trauma

  TWENTY-THREE_ Kamikaze

  TWENTY-FOUR_ Victory Feast

  TWENTY-FIVE_ Legion of the Vale

  TWENTY-SIX_ Battle Lines

  TWENTY-SEVEN_ Retreat

  TWENTY-EIGHT_ Downfall

  TWENTY-NINE_ Debuff, Death

  THIRTY_ Light Bulb

  THIRTY-ONE_ Showdown

  THIRTY-TWO_ End Game

  THIRTY-THREE_ Goodbyes

  Books, Mailing List, and Reviews

  VGO Reading Order

  Other Works by James A. Hunter

  Books from Shadow Alley Press

  About the Author

  litRPG on Facebook

  GameLit on Facebook

  Dedication

  Special Thanks

  Copyright

  Summary

  January, 2043

  The Vogthar Horde has come, and they bring real death with them. Not even players are safe from the power of Malware Blades …

  Worse, the Realm of Order, dominion of the Overmind Sophia, is in danger—slowly being corrupted by an ancient evil, the Lich Priest. And if he is successful, it could mean the end of Sophia and the downfall of the Crimson Alliance. Grim Jack never thought he’d find himself siding with the Empire, but now that this terrible new threat has arrived, making friends of old enemies may be the only way to survive.

  James Hunter's Mailing List

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  ONE_

  New Viridia

  “Incoming!” The scream carried along the wall like a bomb blast. I jerked my head left just in time to see a bolt longer than my arm streak past my face, missing it by mere inches. Displaced air slapped at me, and the bolt—black as midnight—speared an Alliance soldier in the chest. The metal tip punched through segmented armor, hurling the fighter backward and off the wall, arms and legs flapping lifelessly. His glassy eyes told me he was already dead, so I didn’t even bother to watch him hit the ground, fifty feet below.

  Instead, I wheeled and sprinted over to one of the Arcane Shadow Engineers manning the wall. She was a broad-shouldered Risi warrior with heavy leather armor and flowing brown hair.

  I didn’t know her by name—the Alliance had grown too much for that—but I saw recognition in her eyes. Reverence lingered there. Awe. I immediately noticed a crude, bloody warhammer painted onto her armor, bright, stark, and grim. A member of the Malleus Libertas, the Hammer of Freedom. One of Forge’s crew. The great big meathead of a Marine had founded a special forces unit dedicated to serving me—Alliance Shock Troops, he called them. The whole lot of them bordered on the fanatic, though admittedly, there wasn’t a tougher, more loyal group around.

  “Enemy ballista,” I shouted, jabbing a finger at a bulky incoming contraption of creaking black wood, pulleys, and brass rivets. “I want that thing down now.”

  “Of course, sir,” came her husky reply, but I was already moving on to the next fighting position.

  Somehow, one of the Vogthar siege towers had managed to make it to the wall, and enemy troops were pouring over the battlements. The Vogthar were intimidating figures, each one vaguely humanoid and giant, all standing at least seven feet tall. Most had dusky gray skin similar to Murk Elves, though their skin was heavily tattooed with sharp, angular black script that hurt to look at. They had pinched, gaunt faces that lacked noses, and lipless, fishlike mouths bursting with jagged black teeth like bits of broken glass. Matte-black horns protruded above pointed ears, curling up toward the sky.

  They looked like demons conjured from the darkest reaches of Hell.

  The ring of steel on steel filled the air as Alliance troops pressed into the attackers, swords lashing out, shields raised to deflect brutal counterattacks.

  My warriors were deadly, well equipped, and highly disciplined, but they still looked like children beside the invading Vogthar. And the melee fighters weren’t even close to prepared for the robe-clad Warlock who stepped from the siege tower, his claw-tipped hands upraised, sickly green magic shimmering in his palms. The spellcaster slapped his hands together, uttering a skin-crawling word of power. Jade tendrils of cancerous power erupted from the stone rampart, clutching at hands and feet, miring soldiers in place. A spell not so different from my own Umbra Bog.

  Anger burned inside my chest. Anger at the Vogthar for invading, but also at Osmark. This was his city, his territory, and his damn Legionaries were nowhere to be seen. It should’ve been them dying, but instead it was my men. My friends.

  Devil, I sent through the mental link to my Shadow Drake, who was circling out of sight, patrolling against any Vogthar aerial troops trying to breach the defenses that way. There’s a siege tower by the wall. Burn it down, then take out the Vogthar on the rampart.

  With pleasure, came his terse reply.

  A heartbeat later, a huge black-scaled shape cannonballed into view, unleashing a flood of flickering purple flame, which washed over the wooden siege tower. Devil shot his wings out, catching an updraft, then lightly touched down on the ten-foot-wide rampart. He looked like death incarnate. The Drake whirled, jaws flashing out and snapping shut around the Warlock’s head. Critical Hit. When he pulled away, only a bloody stump remained between the spellcaster’s shoulders. The Drake waded in, claws slashing, teeth biting, but I didn’t have time to watch the carnage unfold.

  Down on the field below, a new threat lumbered toward the walls—a [Vogthar Dread Cyclops], looming twenty-five feet tall. The creature was a solid cube of muscle and fat, all covered in brown, leathery skin—tough as plate mail—and carried a gnarled, spike-studded club as big as a tree. The creature seemed to move ponderously slow, but each stride covered thirty feet, and there was no one moving into position to stop it. Understandable, since the Dread Cyclopes were as tough as any dungeon boss and could one-shot most players with ease.

  Worse, a thing like that could punch a hole in the wall big enough for the Vogthar forces to spill through. If they got into the city, the fight would be uglier. Far bloodier. I couldn’t allow that to happen.

  Dammit.

  I sighed and leapt from the wall, plummeting toward the earth some forty feet below. Wind rushed past me, my cloak fluttered madly, and butterflies swooped and soared in the pit of my gut. Even after months in the game, I still wasn’t entirely used to the thrill and fear of falling like a stone cast from a mountaintop. Ten feet before touching down, I triggered Shadow Stride. Color faded, replaced by a wash of grays, blacks, and whites as the world lurched to a halt around me. Swords froze mid-swing, blood splatter loitered unmoving in the
air, and an arrow halted a foot from my face.

  I kept moving, though, my feet hitting the ground with a thud that sent a shock wave up through my heels and into my knees. But instead of merely absorbing the impact, I angled my body forward and into a lightning fast roll that quickly brought me upright. I pulled my warhammer free from my belt with the rasp of steel on leather, then sprinted toward the nasty Vogthar weapon of mass destruction strutting toward the walls. The Cyclops had his club up and ready to swing, while one giant foot—the size of a twin mattress—hung five feet from the earth.

  While in the Shadowverse, I couldn’t do any damage to the creature, and unfortunately, the Cyclopes were near-invulnerable—except, of course, for their single eye.

  But this wasn’t the first time I’d danced with one of these ugly cretins, so I had a plan.

  I positioned myself right in front of him, ready to move. To act. I took a few deep breaths to clear my head as my countdown timer spun toward zero. Finally ready, I slipped free from the Shadowverse, time resuming its usual ebb and flow as color and life exploded around me. With my free hand, I unleashed an Umbra Bolt. Shadowy energy streaked away from my palm, blasting the boss right in the face like a hammer blow. The Cyclops let out a thunderous bellow, equal parts confusion and rage, as it tottered uncertainly on one foot.

  Before it could get its balance or figure out what in the hell had happened, I leapt straight up, latching onto the leather straps of his sandal, then hoisted myself up. The Dread Cyclopes were big hitters and stronger than a herd of oxen, so he probably didn’t even notice my weight until I was already scampering up onto his knobby, bent knee. And just as his upraised leg started to descend I jumped straight up again, sinking the deadly pick on my warhammer into the meat of his neck, anchoring myself in place.

  The creature roared again, raising one hand to bat me away, but I was already scrambling away—using the warhammer to pull myself up and onto a shoulder as broad as a horse cart. I ripped the spike free, a gout of crimson gore spurting from the wound, and aimed again, this time at the creature’s face. I swung for the fences, putting my weight into the attack, twisting at the hips as I drove the blunt face of my weapon into the creature’s eye, triggering Savage Blow, Crush Armor, and Black Caress all at once. The deadly cocktail of effects would amp up the weapon’s natural damage, which was already steep.

  The blow landed like a cruise missile, punching into the eye with a meaty thump. Critical Hit flashed as fluid spurted and the creature’s HP dropped by three-quarters, putting him into the danger zone. For a moment the beast tottered and swayed on uncertain feet, arms pinwheeling to regain his balance. I struck again, one more solid blow to the eye. Suddenly he was falling back; I crouched and rode the monster to the ground. The boss slammed into the earth like an asteroid, the ground vibrating, dust and dirt kicking up around us in a cloud from the impact.

  I dove free at the last instant, shoulders thumping against rocks and dirt as I rolled back to my feet and turned.

  Somehow, miraculously, the monster was still alive—though his HP bar strobed a manic red, warning, warning, warning. Even severely injured it could be dangerous. Time to put it down like the rabid dog it was. I brushed myself off, then stuck out my free hand, palm up, and summoned a javelin of brilliant Umbra Flame, charbroiling the creature’s head in an instant. A curl of inky smoke drifted up, carrying the acrid stink of burnt hair and the sickly sweet scent of cooking pork.

  My stomach roiled at the thought, and I looked away until the work was done.

  I cut off the flow of Umbra Magic. The flames died as I moved away from the body, too disgusted to even think about looting the corpse. I didn’t have time to do it anyway—a cluster of my men were pinned down at the base of the wall with a group of heavy-hitting Vogthar tanks closing in. My troops were badly outnumbered, and even at range, I could see they were wounded—many of them gravely. They had a female cleric at the back of their ringed formation, chanting solemnly, golden light emanating from her body as she held a staff above her head. But whatever incantation she was using wasn’t powerful enough.

  A clump of Imperial Legionaries stood fifty feet away, hunkered down behind a line of shields, while a pair of support casters loitered in the background.

  “Hey,” I shouted, jabbing a finger at their commander—a whip-thin Imperial with blond hair and a square chin, wearing gleaming silvered lorica armor and a crested helm, marking him as an officer. “Get off your asses and go help them!”

  “Can’t,” the officer yelled at me with a smirk and a smug shrug. “Orders from Lord Osmark!”

  I ground my teeth in frustration, fist curling tight around the haft of my hammer. This wasn’t the first time the Legionaries had pulled this kind of crap—standing by while my guys ended up in the hottest part of the battle where casualties were most likely. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but the Vogthar were no ordinary mobs. Nope, about one in twenty carried weapons blighted with the deadly Thanatos virus, capable not just of killing, but of deleting players. Wiping them so they’d never respawn.

  A death sentence in a world designed to be devoid of mortality.

  I wanted to punch that self-satisfied Legionary in the face, and maybe I would—but not until I handled the mess in front of me.

  Turning my back on the Imperials, I sprinted toward the Vogthar just as they crashed into the ring of Alliance fighters. Immediately, one of my troops—a bearded dwarf wielding a hefty double-headed battle-axe—went down like a sack of rocks, buried beneath the press of bodies and a swarm of ebony steel. I thrust one hand forward, calling on the icy-cold power of shadow flowing through my veins, conjuring an Umbra Bog beneath the encroaching invaders. The grass, already slick with blood, shifted and morphed, green blades giving way to inky black.

  A sea of semi-sentient strands of shadow erupted from the earth, reaching up with mindless hunger, cinching tight around enemy limbs, securing them in place. The Vogthar thrashed against the tendrils, bucking wildly, trying to pull free, but the nooses of power only pulled tighter. My warriors exploited the momentary distraction, surging into the gap with a feral battle cry, equal parts hate and victory. But they were still badly outnumbered, and the Vogthar were far more powerful than most standard players.

  Hand still raised, I launched a steady stream of Umbra Bolts at a beefy Vogthar tank on the left side of the formation. My attacks hit with meticulous precision, gnawing away at the creature’s life like a hungry pit bull. But I wasn’t trying to kill the Vogthar. Nope. My Umbra Bolt was at level 5, which meant the attack had a 25% chance of confusing my target, causing them to randomly attack other hostile forces for a short time.

  The secondary effect took hold on the third hit, the Vogthar’s eyes going slightly hazy as its arms went slack. The grasping Umbra Bog seemed to recognize the change, and the tendrils immediately retreated, freeing the tank. Without a pause, the creature spun right and launched himself at his nearest comrade—a stocky Vogthar wearing chainmail and carrying a black steel halberd. Down they went in a tangle of limbs. The confused creature straddled his companion, then grabbed a nearby rock and immediately smashed in his friend’s face.

  Bone gave way with a sharp crack, a nauseating sound I would never get used to, and the creature just kept going, bringing the rock down over and over again until there was nothing left. I smashed into the rear of the formation a moment later, dancing among the Vogthar, twisting and spinning. One of my razor-edged vambraces flashed out, slitting a throat. My hammer twirled in a vicious arc, caving in a helmet, then batting away a blade thrust. I lunged, planting a front kick into a Vogthar stomach, doubling the creature over before sandblasting it in the face with an Umbra Bolt at close range.

  For a minute, I lost myself to the battle. To the press of flesh. To the hot blood.

  The Vogthar were tough, strong, but these standard troops were no match for me. Aside from Osmark, I was the most powerful player in the game, and I was even ga
ining ground on him. These things could hurt the Alliance members before them, but against me? They were noobs fighting a world boss. An incoming spear jabbed toward my center, but I sidestepped it with ease and smashed the throat of a black-eyed monster. Critical Hit. Dead before it hit the ground. I crushed the skull of my newly minted minion before it could turn on me—the last of the Vogthar.

  Panting, I paused.

  I stood in a ring of bodies, covered in fetid black blood and a sheen of sweat from the exertion. I wheeled, offering my back to the Alliance troops as I scanned the battlefield, searching for more victims. Bodies lay everywhere. Butchered Vogthar. Dead soldiers, both Imperial and Alliance—though mostly Alliance, I noted, anger blooming inside my gut. There was also a spattering of monstrous dungeon bosses: I counted two Dread Cyclopes, a mangy Ragna-Wolf the size of an elephant, and a Vogthar Drake, which had been disemboweled and burned almost beyond recognition.

  That last was obviously Devil’s handiwork. My pet was a cold-blooded killer, and he had an especially vicious hatred for other Drakes. Apparently, they were territorial.

  Destroyed siege equipment littered the ground, most of it burned, smoking, and shattered.

  We’d broken the enemy like crashing waves against implacable rock. The few remaining Vogthar troops were already beating a hasty retreat toward the Timberland Grove just south of New Viridia. They’d never meant to take the city, of course. This was a skirmish meant to wear down our resolve slowly and surely. A constant reminder that their forces could respawn endlessly, while ours were whittled away day in, day out.

  Anything else I’m missing? I sent to Devil.

  All clear. The enemy flees toward the trees—should I pursue? Their flesh is rank and rotten, but the killing is satisfactory.

  No, I sent with a sigh, sliding my warhammer back into the leather frog at my belt. Just keep watch. I’ll need a ride in a second.

  I turned back to the Alliance fighters. There was no celebration for them. They lingered around in a loose circle while the cleric—a willowy Dawn Elf with golden skin in brilliant white robes edged in silver—knelt beside the fallen Dwarf. Her hands roved over his body, a wash of golden light bleeding from her palms. But whatever she was doing seemed fruitless. The Dwarf didn’t move. Didn’t twitch. Didn’t bat an eye.

 
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