Chapter Fifty-one: The Second Guardian
The Second Floor was much more challenging than the first in the same way that fighting a ten-year-old was more challenging to an adult than fighting a five-year-old. The Bloodsoaked Foxes continued to breeze through any challenge in their path with only the traps to slow down their advance.
“I think I am beginning to understand how this thing works”, Verrin revealed whiles their ranger tried to trigger a vacuum pit with a travel pack. It was their improvised way of getting past them. While Teca could detect them with her skills, she could not disarm or deactivate them. They were forced to trigger them and then cross their boundaries whiles they were on cooldown.
“You have?” Athart asked. He remained stumped as to their workings.
“Partly”, she admitted. “Don’t you feel the mana pulse they give off every time they activate?”
“I do but how does that help. It just shows the magic is activating. Unless you’ve got an anti-magic filed somewhere, you’re not going to be able to stop it”, he pointed out.
“Ath…” she said with a knowing smile. “Why are there two pulses each time?”
“A sensory charm!” He exclaimed, quickly coming to the same conclusion she had.
“If we can figure out the range and the target, we should be able to cloak against it and pass undetected”, he theorised. “Verrin, you cracked it.”
Gauwyn let his eyes pass over the two twittering arcanophiles. He could have told them as much himself. His own identification skill had told him everything he needed to know from the very first encounter. The suction was maintained and controlled by the glyphs around the lip of the pit. The triggers were the hidden glyphs a metre around the first. They sensed when something crossed their boundary and set the first into action. Disable these glyphs or the sensory mechanism and the suction spell would never activate and drag you up to be impaled on the spikes.
Of course, he was here in a strictly observatory role. While he could lend help in dire circumstances, they did not need it. Everything else they would have to read in his report. Assuming they ever got the clout to do so.
Again, the boss room was labelled making Geoffrey wonder if whoever designed the dungeon believed the adventurers too dumb to figure out what it held without aid. It was eerily similar to the first boss room only much better lit. Scattered rocks were the dominant feature as opposed to the gentle upward slope of the first and at the opposite end of the cavern was a raised alcove. Pelt after covered its floor and rising from this comfortable pad was a giant bear. Just seeing its heft had them pause and reading his description made them curse. This battle was going to be tough.
Name: Magni | Race: Armoured Ursine King
Age: Five years | Sex: Male | Rank: 4 | Class: Guardian
Occupation: Guardian of the Second Floor | Lord of the Second Trial
Affinities: Battle, Nature, Rule
Rank 4, same as all of them save Ogbad. This was an adept level magical beast and a variant at that. Before they could even ask the question of what such a powerful creature was doing on the second floor, it stood on two legs and beckoned them closer.
“Ogbad?” Geoffrey asked in shock. “Did that bipedal bear just taunt us with a ‘come at me’?”
“Yes”, the earth cleric said in a serious tone.
“Then what are we waiting for?” the warmonger yelled. With a loud battle cry, he charged towards the bear. It welcomed him in turn with a roar of its own. The battle was on.
Quick as a deer, Geoffrey slipped under a left swing that would have taken his head clean off had it landed. He did not stop there. With a loud grunt, he brought his sword against the boss’s flank only for it bounce off the thick fur without doing any damage. His eyes widened with shock, then bulged out as the bear caught him with an unexpected front kick during his momentary lapse.
Sirai ducked and watched Geoffrey sail over his head, kicked away like a bag of washing. Unfortunately, he had no time to catch him because the bear had not stopped with that kick. Only his D grade agility allowed him to avoid the massive claws that tried to eviscerate him and slip behind the monstrous beast. Thankfully, unlike his fearless leader, the assassin’s first blow fared better. That was because he remembered to use a skill.
His dagger dug deep into the bear’s thigh cutting through the sinews until it met bone. Amazingly, the bear did not even flinch. Instead of shaking him off, it fell towards him, intending to crush him with its bulk. A quick, well-timed barrier from Verrin was the only thing that bought him time to escape. Rolling out of the way, Sirai watched the five-metre tall beast fall on and then crush the barrier a split second later.
‘That thing must weigh at least four tonnes!’ he surmised. This was not going to be easy.
Thankfully, he knew his team was up to the challenge. Case in point, Teca had not stopped raining arrows at the bear all this time. Somewhere behind him, Athart was chanting. Sirai’s sharp eyes picked out the sparks the arrows made against the boss’ armoured skull. That was a cheat if he ever saw one. Armoured head, neck, torso, spine and joints. Was the groin armoured too? Of course! Grumbling at the unfairness of life, the assassin leapt back into battle. He was not the only one.
Thanks to a quick heal from the cleric, Geoffrey was back in action. He broke three ribs earlier and now that he was healed, he aimed to pay them back. Raising his war horn to his lips, he let out a [Menacing Blast] intending to both taunt and intimidate the boss. The Ursine King completely ignored him and continued to go after Sirai, an event so surprising that he and Ogbad turned to each other in shock.
Geoffrey raised his horn again, this time releasing a [Call to Arms]. The entire party was instantly invigorated. Attack power and speed were increased across the board. Additionally, the beast gave a start at the skill. It recognised it as a threat. Finally abandoning their relieved assassin, it charged at the person responsible, Geoffrey.
The warmonger stood ready even yelling, “[COME AT ME], BEAST!”
It had to be the most obvious feint ever. Too bad they all fell for it. Perhaps it was because they viewed the bear as a simple beast. Maybe they were just too overconfident. Whatever the case, they were certainly surprised when the bear made a hard left and attacked their spellcasters instead. It rammed their barrier, causing Verrin to scream in fright. Ogbad barely had time to complete his [Protection of the Earth] spell before theirs fell. It was not enough. The big spell Athart had been preparing was near its end. He could not cancel it now, not without serious consequences. That left him helpless.
Geoffrey and the others rushed to their aid, with Teca firing [Penetrating Bolts] until she was drained. In response, a massive overlay of glowing armour appeared around her quarry, turning them aside. Rising on its haunches, the boss raised its right paw and slashed a set of shining claws down. Teca screamed. Geoffrey and Sirai, slamming useless skills into the magic armour screamed. Ogbad prayed. The bear fell.
Warden Gauwyn stared at The Bloodsoaked Foxes from atop a now headless bear. He had only one word for them.
Raise your hand if you’re rooting for the monsters to win and the adventurers to die! Also, I’m sure you patrons are glad to that Magni is back. The armoured bear is still kicking it.