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“What do you think?” Estelle held the half-eaten remnants of a peach tart on the end of her fork. She smiled, a strand of her wavy hair dislodging from her ear to dangle in front of her eye. She tucked it back into place with a soft giggle, then popped the last half of the tart into her mouth, savoring the flavor for a few moments.
“It isn’t bad,” Kadorax replied honestly. He snatched another tart, a cherry one, from Estelle’s plate. “I used to eat sweets like these all the time at the office, back on Earth. We’d have donuts almost every single day in the break room.”
Estelle reached across the small table to squeeze his upper arm. “Not here,” she said.
Kadorax flexed under her grip. He toyed with the idea of activating a talent, perhaps something to enhance his reflexes or his Strength, but he knew he didn’t need to. The cords of iron-like muscle beneath his skin were impressive enough as they were. As a level thirty-eight assassin, he’d trained for years to turn his body into the toned machine of war that it was.
“What was your favorite food back home?” he asked.
Estelle thought for a moment as she pushed an errant wisp of pale yellow cream from the side of her lips into her mouth. “I traveled to New York City once when I was a girl. There were so many new foods, things I’d never had before, but the one I remember most—”
“Cheesecake?” Kadorax interrupted, vividly remembering the taste of New York cheesecake filling his mouth.
“Hot dogs,” Estelle corrected with a laugh. “I know it’s stupid, but I loved the street hot dogs from the vendors. The smells, the sounds of the city, they all combined into those hotdogs. I know I was just a little girl, but that’s what I remember the best.”
“Of all the foods in New York, you liked the hot dogs the best?” Finishing the last cherry tart, Kadorax waved his empty ale mug toward the waiter.
“What was your favorite food?” she asked him, her eyes narrowing with a devilish grin.
Kadorax had to think a moment before answering. “Maybe ice cream, but mostly because no one in Agglor has come up with it yet.”
“Oh, come on,” Estelle playfully scoffed. “You sound like a child. Ice cream?”
The waiter stopped by and refilled Kadorax mug from a large pitcher wrapped in a scarlet cloth. They weren’t in one of Agglor’s better restaurants, nothing like one of the fine establishments on the upper tiers of Kingsgate where the nobility were served by hordes of attendants and paid their bills in gold, but it wasn’t a lowly sort of place either. Kadorax nodded to the waiter and took a long drink, enjoying the thick, warm ale as it coursed down his throat.
“Well, if I have to pick something else, perhaps my favorite would be cold beer. Really cold. I don’t mind the warm stuff here, but I’ll buy a thousand kegs for the first man in Agglor to invent refrigeration.” He took another long swig before setting the now half-full mug on the table. Across from his drink, Estelle had a dainty glass—real, clear glass—with a few ounces of sweet white wine left in the bottom.
“Now you sound like a drunken college boy,” she countered.
Kadorax sighed. He had a few pieces of seared fish still left on his plate, though they had gone cold as the conversation had progressed, and he no longer had any temptation to finish his meal. “Well, if I have to pick something more to your liking, Estelle, then a warm, juicy steak it is.”
She smiled, nodding her head. “That’s more like it,” she said. “Though you can get steaks here at almost any inn or tavern, so it doesn’t really count.”
“Not like back home,” Kadorax went on. “Sure, there are a few places in Kingsgate where you can get beef that isn’t cooked beyond recognition, but it still doesn’t compare. And for the record, I think I’d still take a pitcher of ice cold beer over a steak, if I could.”
Estelle finished the last of her wine and leaned back in her chair. “You boys are all the same,” she purred over the rim of her glass.
“How many have you dated?” Kadorax chanced to ask. The beautiful woman’s facial expression hid everything. She was inscrutable, her emotions as masked as any of Kadorax’s Blackened Blades out on a job.
Waving her index finger back and forth in front of her eyes, Estelle looked away toward the corners of the room. “I’ve told you before, my love, that I’m not interested in talking about those things.” She stood from her chair, rubbing a sore spot on her back. “Come, let us talk… more privately… upstairs, shall we?”
Kadorax fetched a small handful of silver from his pocket and set the stack down neatly at the edge of the table. It was more than the meal had been worth by far, but he didn’t particularly care. Estelle brought out his magnanimous side, assuming he actually had one—or maybe that was just what he liked to tell himself. The enchanted dagger at his side served as a constant reminder of his grim business on Agglor.
Estelle led him to the staircase, then reached behind her to take Kadorax’s hand.
“Not yet,” the assassin said, tugging her back. “I can’t go up yet.”
When she frowned, Kadorax shifted his eyes to the man in the lobby of the inn he’d been hired to escort. Estelle didn’t know the nature of Kadorax’s contract, but she understood the less-than-subtle gesture for what it meant. She turned to continue up the stairs, offering him a sly wink and pulling ever so slightly at the edge of her dress to give Kadorax a tantalizing hint of a view as she ascended. “Don’t be too long.”
Trying hard not to blush, Kadorax clenched a fist at his side to take his mind from the dark places Estelle had so effortless lured it. He made his way through the grid of tables to the bar situated across the room and took the stool all the way at the left end so he could casually turn, keeping his eye on his mark as long as he needed to.
The man under Kadorax’s protection was seated at a large circular table toward the center of the room, dining and conversing with two other diplomats whose names Kadorax did not know, nor would he have given them much thought had he ever learned them.
Not wanting to give himself away too blatantly—though it would not matter; all the traveling nobility of Agglor hired protection in some form or another—Kadorax ordered another mug of ale and began to sip at it casually.
The other diplomats’ guards were similarly posted for the evening not too far away across the restaurant. There were three of them, all well trained and older than Kadorax, veterans by the looks of their scars, though not a single one was higher level than the assassin. As the evening droned onward, Kadorax’s armed counterparts behaved in much the same way as he did. They languidly sipped ale, kept their eyes firmly locked on their mark and the door, and no more than one of them at a time ever went out to piss.
The diplomat was agonizingly slow in concluding his business. Hours passed, and Kadorax’s ale remained roughly half full until deep into the night. Finally, gracelessly, the diplomat moved his considerable bulk from his chair. The wood beneath his mass creaked in protest, and then the diplomat was standing and shaking hands, exchanging the final pleasantries of the night with his equally distinguished and rotund guests.
Kadorax waited only a few moments before tossing a copper piece to the bartender and following his mark up the stairs to a long hallway containing a dozen doors all leading to secure rooms. The diplomat was in the seventh room, and he had left the door slightly ajar.
Silently, Kadorax stepped inside and offered a gracious bow. The diplomat was already busy at work unfastening the buttons of his waistcoat, and the garment appeared thankful for the relief. In truth, Kadorax wasn’t sure how the thread had been strong enough to survive the night’s meal without bursting apart. “You are well, my lord?” the assassin asked.
“Bah, my damned feet hurt, my head’s awash with wine, and there’s a fucking piece of gristle stuck between two of my teeth,” the older man announced as he continued to wrestle with his finery, casting the expensive articles to the ground without a hint of care for their value. The entire ensemble, intricately embroidered with gold thread at the sleeves and collar, with still more gold patterned into the back of both the shirt and coat as well, probably cost just as much gold as the entire inn where the man was staying.
Kadorax bit one of the knuckles of his right hand to keep from laughing as the diplomat. “Well, I’m not sure I can help with any of that,” he said, turning back for the hallway. “I’ll be sleeping outside your door, my lord. Any noise before dawn, and I’ll be at your side without hesitation.”
The diplomat returned a meek smile as he collapsed down on the room’s large mattress. “I’ll trudge lightly if I happen to wake before sunrise,” he muttered.
Kadorax was almost out of the room when he remembered to check the window. The single square of glass to the right of the bed wasn’t large enough for a man to sneak through, but it would offer a view of the bed, albeit at a rather extreme angle, for a deft crossbowman to take a shot should the glass be broken. Kadorax inspected it carefully, activating Detect Trap: Rank 5 just to be sure.
Having found nothing out of the ordinary, Kadorax pulled open the door. “Sleep well, my lord. Just call out, and I’ll come rushing.”
“Yes, yes,” the portly man said as he waved him off. His eyes were already closed, and Kadorax suspected the wine was getting to his head a little more than the diplomat had let on.
Once more in the hallway, Kadorax paced to the end of the rooms, stopping at each door to listen for any unusual activity. He liked the way the floorboards creaked under the blue carpet at his feet. Loud floors meant tougher jobs for his ilk, though he didn’t expect any trouble in the first place. The job was a routine one: escort an aging, miserable, overweight diplomat from one city to the next while ensuring no one with a blade came within a dozen feet of him. Kadorax had, as a matter more of principal than anything else, stopped accepting such contracts back when he was only level twenty. Unless a fair amount of combat was expected, the experience yield would simply be too low to excite his interest.
But Estelle had insisted. She had tired of living her life in the bleak halls of Darkarrow, and the escort quest was the only contract with a bit of travel on the board when she had made her plea to Kadorax for a bit of a journey.
When he was confident there were no overt threats lingering behind the other doors of the inn, Kadorax let himself relax a little as he sat down outside the diplomat’s door, his back against cool wood. He scrolled through his list of abilities until he found the several talents he had taken relating to guarding and vigilance, then activated Peerless Resolve: Rank 3. The ability would last twelve hours, allowing him to stay alert—albeit not entirely awake until he earned more ranks—ready to spring into action at the briefest indication of trouble.
Estelle was behind the fourth door to Kadorax’s right, and he positioned himself, dagger in hand behind his back, with his head facing in her direction. He wasn’t worried for her safety since she had no enemies, but he longed to be in her bed. The wooden wall and thin carpet would wreak havoc on his back. He knew he’d awake sore and still tired, not to mention more than a little lonely. Having Estelle so close and yet so far out of reach tugged painfully on his heartstrings. Though he sometimes hated to admit it, Kadorax had fallen in love with her.
With thoughts of Estelle, her body framed in an enticing silk gown—a deep teal, sleeveless dress Kadorax had spent a month’s worth of contracts to purchase—fluttering through his head, the assassin closed his eyes.
Hours after midnight, in the deep, black of pre-dawn, Estelle eased open her door. The hinges had been recently oiled, and they only made small, insignificant sounds as they moved. Walking on her toes, she crept quietly down the hall toward Kadorax’s sleeping form. The man was hunched over, his chin resting against his chest, his dark hair hanging down in unkempt strands on his forehead.
She was lightly clothed, wearing a light nightgown woven from simple cotton that barely fell down far enough to cover even an inch of her upper thighs. Stealing a glance down the other direction of the hallway to ensure no embarrassing encounters with other patrons, she padded along the edge of the carpet where it met the wall. A devious, lusty smile crossed her face when she reached Kadorax without him waking. Mercifully, the floorboards at the edge of the hallway hadn’t made a single noise under her diminutive weight, and her own breathing had been easily lost under the loud snoring coming from the room directly across from Kadorax.
Estelle held her breath as she reached a hand out to Kadorax’s shoulder. She pulled back her touch less than an inch from his shirt. Her loose gown had drifted forward as she’d leaned down, and part of her plan involved Kadorax’s gaze being filled with the most pleasant view she could offer when he awoke. She straightened her back and pulled the gown down, fitting it tight to her breasts. She leaned in once more, confident that her appearance offered no doubt as to her carnal desire, and gently shook the man awake.”
Kadorax’s dagger was buried to the hilt in her chest.
Killstreak Book One: Respawn
“What do you think?” Lord Kadorax Darkarrow whispered to his sole companion, a thin half-serpent with a scaly head and flat ears.
The bipedal snake-man’s gaze darted around nervously as his tongue licked the air. There were torches on the walls, but most of them had already sputtered out. Ahead, down a stone ledge slick with old moss, a ring of robed humanoid figures stood around an altar. “Five against two,” Syzak hissed. “And none of them are above your level, my lord, not even close.”
Kadorax nodded. “Good. Which one is the strongest?”
Syzak scrutinized the ring of priests once more, using his Detect Strength ability to read their stat sheets. “There,” he pointed with one of his three green fingers, “the one on the left is two levels higher than the others. That one is their leader.”
Again, Kadorax nodded. He was characteristically silent, taking every precaution to hide his presence as thoroughly as he could. As the head of the Blackened Blades, he valued stealth and secrecy above all else.
“Shall I take the leader first, my lord?” Syzak asked. He held a small crystal wand between the three fingers of his left hand, clearly eager to cast a spell and begin the fight.
For a moment, Kadorax called his own stat sheet to his vision, flicking his eyes downward to scroll through the myriad of spells and abilities he had mastered over the last decade. He had spent years training both his mind and body, and now he was the highest-level assassin-mystic hybrid in the entire realm of Agglor. Ever weary of traps, he focused his vision on the Discover Magic spell and viewed the proper casting procedure from his ability sheet. It had been years since he had needed the spell, and it wasn’t one he kept lodged in his brain for quick use.
Kadorax silently mouthed the words to the mundane incantation, having long ago earned the Silent Casting talent, and two areas of his vision lit up with brilliant, translucent color. The first had been expected. The humanoid leader—he still wasn’t positive what the priests actually were—showed a heavy aura of red magic encasing his form, likely a protective ward of some sort. The second area of magic came from a large circular rune inscribed on the wall behind the altar, and Kadorax didn’t know what it meant.
“Can you disable the leader?” the assassin whispered so faintly he could barely be heard.
“Of course,” Syzak answered with a smile.
Kadorax held up a hand. “He has a red aura around him, probably Stone Skin or Magic Armor, perhaps of a rank we have not seen before. Can you break it?”
Syzak’s serpentine eyes inspected the humanoid once more, but only for a few seconds. “I have Strip Enchantment, though it is a costly spell,” he said.
Handing the snake-man a silver shard of reflective metal, Kadorax nodded. “No chances,” he breathed. While most of the spells in Agglor could be cast by having them unlocked and either reading or knowing their incantational phrases, certain extremely powerful abilities required specific components which were sometimes incredibly difficult to obtain.
Kadorax’s Discover Magic casting was about to expire, so he flashed a quick successions of rudimentary hand signals to his companion, and then shimmied over the edge to begin his descent down the nearly sheer rock surface of the temple’s interior wall. His gloves, black silk constructions known as Cat Paws, silently gripped the flat surface beneath his fingers with all the strength of a well-muscled panther. On the temple’s floor, Kadorax melted into the shadows. The place smelled musty and damp, and the flagstones making up the ground were wet with stale rainwater.
Above the assassin’s head, a partially concealed flicker of purple light emanated from Syzak’s wand, shooting across the temple with blinding speed. The magical glob struck the leader in the chest, and Kadorax saw the humanoid’s red aura fade just seconds before his Discover Magic spell wore off, unable to be cast again for several hours.
Kadorax sprinted forward on leather boots as silent as the grave. He reached behind his back and grasped the bone handle of a dagger hidden in a sheath under his cloak. The bone was frigid in his grasp, ice cold even through his gloves, and the blade was so dark it actually dripped a steady stream of viscous shadows onto the stone ground between his strides.
He took the first robed priest in the back before any of them even noticed Kadorax among their ranks. The priest let out a muffled shriek as he crumpled to the ground. When his robe fluttered to the side Kadorax finally saw the head of a jackal underneath, its teeth bared.
Dogheads, Kadorax mused, using the derogatory term for the race. He had killed scores of the jackal-headed beasts throughout the years, and he’d never regret a single strike of his blade.
Another bolt of purple magic sailed over Kadorax toward the doghead leader, catching the jackal fully in the chest. At once, a rigid shell of stone grew up from the temple floor to encase the beast, locking it in place in a dark, constricting prison that was as terrifying as it was effective.
Kadorax didn’t waste any time. He spun from target to target, whirling his black blade between the two nearest living enemies and rending them to bloodied bits.
While his compatriots were dying, the final jackal had run a few steps backward and drawn a small crossbow from underneath his dark robe. The weapon clicked and thrummed, and the steel bolt held in its track sprang forward.
Kadorax quickly whispered the words to Shield Maw, and a fiery dragon’s head sprang to life in front of his body to consume the incoming missile. He didn’t need to use such flashy magic—his Expert Reflexes would have easily moved him out of the way quickly enough to dodge the bolt—but he hated doghead scum. He wanted the remaining jackal to fear him, to contemplate its own death before he gutted it, and the dramatic spell certainly did the trick.
The jackal only spent a few heartbeats trying to reload its crossbow before it gave up and turned to run. Kadorax chased after it, clearing the distance almost instantly and sinking his dagger into the fur-covered doghead. The creature shuddered, but it did not die. It slumped to the ground and mewled, its bounty of experience points flashing in yellow just above its head. Kadorax stepped over, letting the congealed shadows surrounding his blade drip onto the doghead’s chest. The shadows themselves were harmless, but the psychological impact they had on a dying foe was certainly palpable.
Kadorax stomped down on the creature’s throat, silencing it before it could speak a single intelligible syllable.
With a faint rumble, the experience Kadorax gained from the swift battle sifted into his body, adding to his already staggering total. He brought up his sheet again to check his progress toward the next level, but he knew more or less what it would be. The jackals hadn’t been worth much. He was still more than fifty percent away from level seventy-three. His next talent, Exceptional Void Strike – Execution: Rank 7, was still frustratingly far away. He would have to kill hundreds of dogheads to even make a dent in the total.
Then a rumbling from behind snapped Kadorax’s thoughts back to the present, and he dismissed his stat sheet with a thought. The leader was still alive, and he was finally breaking free of Syzak’s stone prison.
Seeing his eviscerated companions, the jackal’s eyes went wide, but he was still quick on his hairy feet. The jackal rolled left behind the stone altar, drawing a slender sword from his robe and rolling his wrist with practiced ease. Kadorax had never learned the Detect Strength ability, but he could tell the jackal leader was far beyond the mere underlings lying dead around the altar. Repeating the words to his most frequently used spell, Kadorax felt the familiar rush of adrenaline brought on by Slaughtering Surge filling his veins. He sprang forward with lightning speed, twirling his lightless dagger downward for a quick killing blow, and met the jackal’s adept parry with a ring of steel.
Flurry of Strikes pumped through Kadorax body, moving his right arm as quickly as it could physically go, putting on a dazzling display of violence made possible only by the assassin’s maxed out Agility stat. Shockingly, the jackal matched his relentless pace.
The jackal leader ducked his shoulder and used a talent, Armor Break by the look of the yellow sheen on his weapon, charging forward with power akin to a stone giant fueling his legs.
Kadorax staggered backward. It was the first time in over two years his Strength had been matched, and the sheer surprise of it broke his concentration for a split second. The jackal was relentless. The creature’s slender blade came in from every angle, slashing at Kadorax’s face over and over again.
Growling with sadistic pleasure born from a true challenge, Kadorax summoned his character sheet to the corner of his vision and searched for Pull from the Void, repeating the order of the required words several times in his mind before attempting to cast the spell. When he finally let it loose, a shadowy hand of pure magic erupted from his chest and sailed toward the hidden ledge where Syzak waited. The small snake-man latched onto the hand and rode it back down, flinging a rapid barrage of lightning and fire from his wand all the while.
Some of Syzak’s magical bolts managed to hit their target, but the jackal leader wasn’t particularly fazed. His red aura returned, now visible without magically enhanced vision, and it absorbed the energy of the magical assault almost fully. Kadorax had never seen the defensive enchantment before, and he had seen almost everything, or so he had thought.
Working quickly as he cast, Syzak brought forth a Wall of Frost in the narrow gap between Kadorax’s boots and the jackal’s furry paws. The shaman augmented the spell with another talent activation, one Kadorax had only seen him use a few times, and the wall that erupted from the ground reached far over either combatant’s head. Kadorax scampered backward to catch his breath and scour his character sheet for an answer.
“He’s fast,” Syzak hissed, keeping his wand ready and a spell at the front of his mind.
Kadorax didn’t waste his breath on a response. The jackal was quicker than any opponent he had fought before, and he needed something unexpected, something obscure, to turn the tide.
“The wall will not hold much longer,” Syzak said. “Should we flee?”
“Eldritch Fire!” Kadorax yelled as he completed the spell. A burst of blueish-black flame licked out from the end of his dagger toward the ice wall. A quick activation of Perfect Timing let him flawlessly judge the expiration of Syzak’s conjuring. Snapping his wrist forward, a burst of black fire cascaded through the falling, dissipating ice, and fully engulfed the howling jackal.
Kadorax lunged forward with his blade, shielding his eyes from the painful mixture of fire and ice raining down on his shoulders. At rank ten, the highest available to any spell, Kadorax’s Eldritch Fire was nothing short of a cataclysmic conflagration—and it worked. The jackal only avoided part of the blast with his Improved Reflexes. His mangy hair danced with flames, and the jackal howled as he spun through the temple, slapping at the licking flames in vain.
“Coup de Grâce!” Kadorax yelled, activating his Assassin’s Superior Talent with a brilliant flourish. His blade danced in his hands, flinging thick globs of shadow to every corner of the room, and the burning jackal could only offer a meager attempt at a parry. In a blur of speed, Kadorax appeared to the jackal’s left, then his right, and finally he was behind the beast with his black dagger held high above the creature’s spine. He drove it downward with all his strength.
The jackal leader’s experience flashed in yellow above his head as he died. The formidable foe had been worth just over three thousand experience, and that brought Kadorax noticeably closer to level seventy-three, though he was still roughly thirty-five percent from leveling again.
Sweat poured down Kadorax’s head. Next to him, Syzak tucked his wand back into his belt. “Where’s the loot?” the snake-man asked. He nudged the jackal leader’s corpse with his boot, pushing aside the front of the robe to inspect the body for treasure. He found nothing.
“Use Detect Hidden, Syzak,” Kadorax panted, thoroughly exhausted. Part of why he had risen to be Agglor’s highest-level assassin had been his choice of battles. He never fought more than one heavy encounter in a day, and he preferred to only test himself once a week if he could, being as frugal as possible with his rewards specifically to allow himself the most meaningful respites. Due to his style, he hadn’t taken many of the endurance-related talents, so he had no way of reducing his recovery time with magic.
Syzak uttered the words to the simple spell. “Oh, shit,” he said almost at once.
Kadorax skipped backward on the balls of his feet, dagger at the ready and chest heaving from exertion, scanning the temple for some new threat he had not seen.
“The inscription,” Syzak explained, pointing to the magical symbols behind the altar. “There’s a door. The jackals were summoning something, not imprisoning it…”
As if on cue, the wall behind the altar shook forcefully. Something was breaking through it with heavy fists. Something massive and beyond powerful. Something unknown. Something.
“Lord Kadorax, I feel it unwise to remain here,” Syzak implored, his serpentine eyes full of terror.
“We haven’t gotten any loot yet,” Kadorax growled. He scanned through his list of abilities, quickly reorganizing them so that his unused spells and talents appeared at the top of his character sheet. “Whatever it is, it’s guarding the treasure. We stay.”
A few bricks fell out of the wall, and Syzak glimpsed something dark—and enormous—pounding away at the stone on the other side. “Kad! We can come back later!” he screamed. The snake-man turned to run, but Kadorax caught him by the arm.
“We’ve defeated worse,” Kadorax reminded him.
The wall crumbled inward.
A giant, horned head emerged from the rubble, quickly followed by four muscled arms, each the size of tree trunks. The thing roared, and then it wrenched the rest of its body free, coming to its full height in the high-ceilinged temple.
Lord Kadorax Darkarrow felt his heart catch in his chest. He had fought dragons on several occasions and lived to tell the tales, but those encounters had always been with dozens of other high-level adventurers. With only a single shaman at his side, powerful as they were together, he knew he was outclassed.
The beast, whatever it truly was, stood over twenty feet tall. Its skin looked like rock, but it flowed and moved with such ease that Kadorax knew it was organic—some sort of hardened carapace—and its head was covered in a circular pattern of bulging black eyes that reminded the assassin of a scorpion. It had four arms, each vaguely humanoid and rippling with muscle beneath its thick armor, though it did not wield any weapons in the traditional sense.
“W-what is it?” Kadorax stammered. He tried to access the dungeon boss’ character sheet, but all he saw was a series of question marks highlighted in deep crimson floating near the top of his vision.
Before either hero could speak, the boss reared its hideous head. “I am your undoing!” it announced with all the strength of a world-ending earthquake.
Kadorax flew through his list of abilities to find the one that would take him and Syzak farthest from the temple in the least amount of time. “Teleport!” he yelled, grabbing his companion with both arms to ensure they traveled together.
The four-armed beast laughed, its voice so loud the Kadorax had to cover his ears to keep the pain at bay.
“Teleport!” the assassin tried again. Still, his feet remained firmly planted on the temple’s stone floor.
Kadorax flew through his list of mystic abilities, searching for something that might work in the boss encounter. He settled on Smoke Leap, a low-level ability designed to vault him upward and forward by about thirty feet while leaving behind a decoy made of smoke, but the ability did not function properly. Something blocked it.
“You cannot run, puny human,” the massive boss taunted. “No one can escape their own grave.”
Kadorax had encountered enemies in the past with similar magic-preventing abilities. Typically, the dampening field was generated by an enchanted ring or amulet worn by the user, but the towering beast featured nothing of the sort.
“Slaughtering Surge!” Kadorax finally yelled, bringing a fresh wave of adrenaline to his arms and legs.
Syzak summoned forth a shell of protective energy around the assassin, and then a burst of brilliant light shot from the snake-man’s wand. The spell landed on the boss’ head, but it did not have the intended effect of blinding the creature. In fact, it didn’t appear to have any effect whatsoever.
When Kadorax reached the horned beast, it was ready for him. Arm after heavy arm came hammering down into the temple floor like boulders dislodged in a landslide. Each strike was enough to turn Kadorax into dust, and his Expert Reflexes were all that kept him alive. Swerving between the arms, the assassin brought his dripping blade of shadows in with all the strength he had left in his body, slashing furiously at the creature’s exoskeleton covering its segmented right leg.
Kadorax’s blade clicked loudly off the boss’ armor. From his position between the beast’s legs, he could just barely see into the room from where the horned thing had emerged, and it was full to the ceiling with treasure—more than the assassin had ever seen before. Piles of glittering gold shone in the torchlight, and iron-banded chests were stacked in neat rows as far in as he could see.
Breaking his greed-fueled reverie, a huge hand swept Kadorax up from the ground, crushing all the air from his lungs. On the ground, Syzak used every ounce of obscure arcane knowledge he had to rain blow after blow on the creature, though none of them had any visible effect. Even spells like Void Prison, an incredibly high-level magical assault designed to immobilize even the most magic-immune foes, simply did not succeed.
The boss brought Kadorax up to its huge maw. “I am your undoing, human!” it yelled. Its breath smelled rotten and old, like the beast had been chained in its prison for hundreds of years with nothing but dead adventurers to fill its belly.
Kadorax saw a hint of yellow coming down from the top of his vision. It was his experience total—the amount the boss was about to claim for itself. “I’ll see you at the spawn, my friend,” the assassin called to Syzak, his voice shaking.
The snake-man nodded. “In the next life,” he answered. “In the next life…”
Laughing all the while, the dungeon boss squeezed. It didn’t need to activate any ability, and it didn’t even bother to watch. In an instant, Kadorax’s chest caved in on his organs, squishing the life from his body like a bug caught beneath the hoof of a horse.