50 Return of the Characters from like Ten Chapters Ago
Thirty meters from the Lough Gur Dolmen, 113 large stone pillars form the mysterious Grange Stone Circle. One pillar is split in two by a determined flowering hawthorn tree growing up right through the middle of the stone, and a mystical aura surrounds it.
The air shimmers above the grass in the center of the stone circle, and five demihuman Players materialize. A party wipe has just taken them all out in one go, sending them here, to the exit point for the Dolmen Dungeon.
Oblivious to their arrival, a bat-faced Camazotz sits under the hawthorn, holding a delicate blossom in his clawed hands. His extra large ears twitch as he sniffles, his glowing green eyes at once fearsome and also somehow sad as he stares down at the white petals littering the ground around him.
"They die without me..." he murmurs and plucks a single petal. It slowly flutters to the grass in front of the hulking brown bat-man. "They survive on their own..." pluck. "Die," pluck. "Survive," pluck. "Die," pluck.
"Is he...okay?" Taliesin, a Pu'ca in the recently-killed party, asks, concern clear in his young voice. Currently in his horned shadow cat shift, his tail whips back and forth as he stares at the bizarre sight.
Another party member, Jade Thorn, fiddles with one of her powder blue Draegkyn horns, looking more confused than concerned. "Doesn't he realize all hawthorn flowers have exactly five petals? So like...whatever he starts with is always what it ends with?"
Her loud voice carries across the grassy meadow, and the Camazotz freezes, stricken.
"Looks like he didn't know," her friend Kara Geir responds, absently twirling her Valkyrie spear.
Rahotep the Anubis Warrior snickers, and the Camazotz slumps, embarrassed. The game animation makes a faint pink blush appear on the dark red-brown cheeks of his otherwise terrifying bat face.
It's disconcerting, to the say the least.
"You're a dick, Rah," Jade says flatly.
Rahotep's snide laughter cuts off immediately. "Aw, don't be that way," he whines, then turns to the Camazotz. "I didn't mean nothing by it, all right, bruh?"
"It's fine," the bat-man says quickly, waving his hands to say it's nothing.
"Who are you worried died?" Taliesin asks him.
"Oh, um...my Party's still inside the Dolmen," the Camazotz replies. "Pretty pathetic when the Party Leader's the first one taken down, huh?"
Jade looks sympathetic. "Ouch."
"Bummer, bruh," Rahotep agrees. "Lemme guess; you're more worried they might be fine without you, right? Kinda awk if they don't need the PL to survive."
The Camazotz starts choking, looking even more miserable and flustered.
Nanuk the shaman Party Leader smacks Rahotep upside the head and pierces him with a stony glare. The stern expression clearly says, "Shut up, dumbass," but since Nanuk's kid brother Taliesin is around, he settles for the silent communication.
Honestly, his steely stare is so unnerving, Rahotep would greatly prefer the verbal abuse.
"Are they running Nightmare?" Taliesin asks, oblivious to the awkward tension. The Camazotz nods.
"Then they'll be joining you in death any second. That run is freaking impossible," Jade complains, flipping her short bubblegum pink hair.
Kara frowns in agreement, frustrated at their inability to beat the dungeon.
The Camazotz looks comforted by the thought, then immediately looks guilty.
A shimmer in the stone circle interrupts them, and a blue-winged D'Raven materializes.
"Shadeslayer!" the Camazotz calls out, jumping to his feet.
"Damn damn, double damn!" Shadeslayer curses. "Whyyy am I such a friggin idiot?"
"What happened? Did you guys beat the Hidden Boss?"
Nanuk's party all perk up at that.
Shadeslayer huffs. "Old news, Kane. We were on our third Hidden Boss, but then I panicked." He sighs, crestfallen. "And now I've probably been demoted back to dead weight."
"Huh?" Kane tilts his head, confused.
"Three Hidden Bosses!?" Taliesin repeats, astonished. There's a small 'Pop!' as he reverts back to his human form in his shock.
The Camazotz, Kane, ushers Shadeslayer off to the side, presumably asking him to explain what happened after he got ganked.
Nanuk's party crowd together as well, curiosity lighting their faces.
"You don't think he meant three Hidden Bosses in a single run, do you?" Jade asks Nanuk.
The shaman crosses his arms. "I suppose it's possible," he answers finally. He and Kara had both seen some crazy aspects of the game during the beta, so he knows better than to assume anything.
A few minutes later, there's another shimmer, and this time, a Meliae dryad appears in the circle.
Grimacing, Shadeslayer runs over to him. "Lialas, not you, too! How many heads does the dragon still have?"
"Were they really doing the same dungeon we did?!"
Lialas shrugs, helpless. "Dunno. Mr. Bardy put his evil tunage whammy on me, and I never woke up, not even when Mr. Burny must have smoked me."
Nanuk's party members turn to each other in confusion, each assuming they'd heard wrong.
Not for the first time, twenty-seven-year-old Nanuk worries he's getting old. 'I have no fucking clue what any of those words meant,' he thinks, despairing.
Shadeslayer kicks the ground. "Damn. We were so close!"
"We might still beat the run," Lialas argues.
Kane shakes his head. "No way they can defeat the Boss Shadeslayer described with just the two of them!"
Lialas raises a leafy eyebrow. "Uh, is there really much difference between the two of them fighting versus all five of us fighting?"
Every member of Nanuk's party winces.
That stung so deep, even random eavesdropping bystanders felt it.
"Good point!" Shadeslayer exclaims, eyes bright with renewed hope.
"Dayumnnnnn," Rahotep hisses under his breath.
'Die, die, die, die, die,' Kane prays feverishly.
[World Notification: Congratulations to Erebus and Nightfury for being the first Players to successfully survive a Nightmare Mode Dungeon! Rewarded +50 World Reputation Points, +100 Silver, +50,000 EXP]
[Realm Notification (Gael): FIRST CLEAR Dolmen Dungeon Nightmare Mode - Erebus, Nightfury, Lialas, Shadeslayer, Kane ; Party Members Rewarded +100 Gael Reputation Points, +50 Silver +25,000 EXP, Mythic Hero Bonus]
"No fucking way," Kane says.
"No fucking way!" Shadeslayer, Lialas, and Nanuk's bystander party say.
"Yes fucking way," Erebus disagrees as he materializes in the stone circle with Nightfury.
"What fucking way?" Nightfury asks, confused.
"No fucking idea," Erebus replies, unconcerned.