Chapter Fifty-two: Hunting Fields
The sprites monitoring the progress of the invaders rushed to their master with news. Brandr sent them back to their posts. He had felt it, the incredible power that killed Magni in a single stroke. That was an error on his part. He had believed it would be best to focus on other matters as it would be a while longer until the real threats started to appear. He was wrong.
He watched the battle play out. Reviewing it with a divination technique that bordered on temporal reversion, a perk that came with controlling a chaos world. When Brandr saw the strike that felled his guardian, he was forced to admit that Magni had stood no chance. That middle-aged adventurer was the most powerful being he had encountered since coming to this world. In fact, that axe blow was comparable to the strike of a Mid Nascent Soul cultivator.
He hid himself well, blending in with the party and the surroundings. Magni did not even notice him until it was too late. Truthfully, even the dungeon senses that Brandr had come to rely on were fooled until that momentary spike in power during the split-second attack on the guardian. Then, all the dungeon’s alarm bells and protective instincts began screaming at him. It was interesting, Brandr had not known he had a siege mode before this incident.
Seeing the man’s power made him curious about the rest of the invaders. They were relatively young. The oldest was only twenty-seven. They were also comparatively better trained and equipped than the ones who came before them. If Thorn was placed among them, he would be lucky to place second from the bottom. Considering the sprite lord was four hundred years old and an adventurer whose service stretched several decades that said a lot. A stray thought struck him then. Could this be a tempering exercise of some sort? A test for some elite students with an Elder observing and guarding against mishaps? It would explain a lot.
Pacifying Magni’s begrudged soul, he sent it back to its chamber where a new body would be created for it. The bear king had performed excellently. He fought with the full force of his cunning, attributes and training and was only bested because an accompanying elder had interfered. He could only hope that whichever organisation sent them planned on making field trips to his dungeon a regular feature. The essence they expended in his halls was a welcome contribution. However, if the success of their test required his death then, he would ensure that neither they nor their teacher left his dungeon alive.
The Bloodsoaked Foxes were silent, the Warden’s words still ringing in their ears. Verrin and Athart were the ones most shaken up by the ordeal. They had almost died. However, Gauwyn had not seen that as reason enough to spare them a tongue lashing. Rather, it was just another point to hammer home. He was disgusted. This was not an adept team. It was a disgrace. Being an adept meant more than having high-grade parameters. It was a mark of distinction and experience. They were expected to act like experts not brats on a lark.
The fact that this party had come highly recommended rankled him. It was just more proof that the guild needed to return to grading its members based on feats instead of parameters or backgrounds.
“What does the guild handbook say about addressing monsters with the tags Elite, Lord or King?” he asked.
“We are to treat them as if they are at least one rank higher than they appear, sir!” Geoffrey groundout.
Of all of them, he had had it the worst so far. The warden had torn into him the most and even threatened to have his rank as leader taken away. His actions were offensive in the man’s eyes and in fact, much of the blame was laid on him. The warmonger’s callous disregard for protocol and his own safety was what led to their close brush with disaster. He ran ahead without support, promptly got himself injured and left his teammates scattered and unled. There was no chain of command, no order or direction.
“There were six of you”, Gauwyn pointed out. “You should have been able to defeat the beast with three. One to hold its attention, another to defend and the last to deliver the big strikes. You have failed at the very basics of party structure, deployment and coordination. Expect an inquiry when this dive is over.”
From then on, it was solemn going. They worked mechanically, with Geoffrey returning to his traditional role of commander and off-tank, leaving the actual damage dealing to Teca, Sirai and Athart. Ogbad and Verrin also did their part in maintaining the party’s health and defences.
As they marched through one of the large fields of grass that had become characteristic of the dungeon. A pack of wolves surrounded them.
[COME AT ME!]” Geoffrey yelled.
Every monster within ten meters including a large rat and a pair of pheasants who had been minding their own business saw red and attacked him. His defence, boosted by Ogbad’s [Protection of the Earth] held. Verrin took this opportunity to cast [Paralysing Blast], a spell that paralysed all weak-willed or magically vulnerable creatures in a five-metre cone in front of the caster. Athart, standing at the ready, followed with a [Pillar of Fire] as soon as Geoffrey was clear. The ensuing blast ensured that none of the monsters lived.
Gauwyn was forced to admit; when not running about recklessly, Geoffrey was a good commander. With his war horn, he could cast offensive buffs for his party, debuff opponents or simply send weaker foes into a panic with [Menacing Blast]. It let him hold the attention of the monsters they encountered providing opportunities for Sirai and Teca to pick them off one by one or Athart to blast them away with his spells. Still, their true test was yet to come. He could already see the next boss chamber coming up ahead.