The Broken Blade
In a confusing surge of pain and adrenaline, I dropped the Pristine Snowthistle and retrieved my sword. The action had come from pure dumb instinct, and I silently cursed myself for not placing the herb in my inventory while I’d had the chance.
It was too late to retrieve it now. If I didn’t fight, I was certain I would die.
Beware the cost of death.
When I turned to face the Lost Prospector, I saw the emaciated remains of a single, long-dead miner. Something about the man’s pained expression told a horrible, agonizing story of his passing. I could almost visualize his slow, tortured death; a death so gruesome that it had left him with nothing but an insatiable desire. A need to extinguish the life of any living thing that crossed his path.
And I had crossed his path.
The creep prepared another strike, lifting his rusty pickaxe upward as he glared at me with unseeing eyes. Ragged strips of clothing that were worn and frayed hung from his boney frame. Small icicles dangled from the remains of his unkempt beard.
His teeth chattered uncontrollably.
The sound of his clattering jaw betrayed the sluggish lead up to his attack. It seemed the remnants of his other muscles had grown rigid in the freezing air. Every other movement was slow and exaggerated.
One thing was immediately clear.
This wasn’t the claw-footed creature whose tracks I’d been following. It was just a man. An EndWorlder who had lost his way and succumbed to a bitter undeath. An undeath fueled by blind vengeance. The mere sight of him in this state somehow filled my heart with sadness and sympathy.
This wasn’t just about preserving my Pristine Snowthistle. By vanquishing this undead miner, I was giving the soul trapped within the remains of an anguished man a chance to rest.
Whatever that other creature was, the one that had left the tracks in the ice, it was still out there. The battle would likely draw unwanted attention, and fighting in the open like this would leave me vulnerable to another surprise attack.
There was no getting around it. I would need to end the encounter as quickly as possible, or risk a far more dangerous threat.
The Snowthistle would have to wait.
The Lost Prospector’s pickaxe arched downward, cutting through the snowpack with ease. The attack itself was slow and easily avoided, but my footing became unbalanced as large cracks emerged in the ice and snow.
Steadying myself, I took advantage of the Lost Prospector’s slower attack speed. With the time it would take him to recover, I decided to better prepare and apply buffs before engaging. After all, a bit of preparation would give me all the more advantage in case there were a few unexpected tricks up what was left of the creep’s tattered sleeves.
You Inspect the Lost Prospector.
Level 6. Hit Points: 295 / 295.
The Lost Prospector is affected by Bitter Resolve.
You cast Mana Surge on yourself.
You are now refreshed.
You cast Tempest on yourself.
You are now infused with the power of wind.
The undead prospector’s hit points were much lower than the mobs we’d faced in the sewers of Fort Morrow, but that wasn’t surprising. This was just a random mob, like the bees and wasps I’d cut my teeth on in the Meadows, and I wasn’t running a solo or group dungeon.
The random encounter wasn’t without dangers, however. I was still in an open zone; I had no way to heal myself, and I was all alone. There was no party scaling for difficulty, but there would be no aid if found that I’d gotten myself in over my head.
Seeker thrummed with the soft, green glow of Tempest, and I felt the magical rush of wind flowing through my body. The buff hastened my movements and cleared my mind.
The blade seemed to twitch in my right hand. It, too, was ready to strike.
I resisted the urge and raised my left hand instead.
This wasn’t my first encounter with the undead, so I knew there was a good chance my Earthblast wouldn’t be very effective. But, after just over a week of convalescence, the magic surged within me, begging to be set free.
It was worth a shot.I was still learning how things worked in EndWorld Everlasting. And what better way to learn than by doing? I opened my palm and prepared to unleash the attack.
You cast Earthblast.
Critical Strike! The Lost Prospector takes 85 HP Earth damage.
The Prospector stumbled backwards, halting his attack. The results of the strike were satisfying.
I couldn’t help but smile.
Rank 2 of Earthblast did a lot more damage than I expected. The higher rank spell seemed to overcome the built-in resistances of less powerful mobs, even if it did cost a lot more mana to use. Using the newly ranked up spell felt good, but I decided to save what was left of my diminished MP.
Instead, I gave in to the blade’s growing hunger for battle, readying Seeker to engage in close-quarters melee. The shortened sword felt overly light in my hand, eager to strike at my foe of its own accord.
It was no surprise that I missed the heavier weight of Truthseeker in combat. After spending my first five levels wielding a hand-and-a-half bastard sword, there would be a lot to get used to with a shorter blade: the decreased range of my modified weapon being the most obvious. Yet, Seeker appeared to crave combat in a way that Truthseeker had not.
While I pondered the differences of my new blade, my foe recovered from the magic attack and once again raised his pickaxe above his head.
This was my chance to dart in close.
Despite the now-uneven terrain, I covered the short distance with relative ease.
You hit the Lost Prospector for 15 HP + 21 Wind damage.
My foe’s pickaxe began to plummet downward.
With the added speed from Tempest, I pivoted around the prospector’s left thigh and struck at the exposed bones of his back.
Critical Strike! You hit the Lost Prospector for 35 HP + 23 Wind damage.
A resounding crack reverberated off the nearby trees as ribs splintered from the force of my blow. The prospector’s pickaxe buried itself deep into the snow. He let out a loud groan and toiled to free his weapon from the frozen ground.
Cracks formed between our feet as he struggled and I moved in for the kill.
You hit the Lost Prospector for 16 HP + 22 Wind damage.
With a creak and a groan, the snowpack gave way like a broken shelf, sending us both flailing into the open maw of the newly formed crevice.
I continued my onslaught despite the disorientation of my fall, lunging forward to pummel my now unarmed foe. Three more non-critical strikes and the prospector crumpled into a mangled heap of bones.
You have defeated the Lost Prospector.
You have gained 300 Experience Points.
You have received 2 Silver Coins.
You have found 2 Linen Scraps.
You have found a Worthless Pickaxe.
I read my log and laughed aloud. It wasn’t a bad haul. Not bad at all. Then, after collecting and sorting through the loot, I scanned the ground for my Pristine Snowthistle.
Where had it gone?
Careful to watch every step lest I crush the delicate herb under the weight of my boot, I rummaged through the crusty, ice-covered snow.
Then I saw it.
Underneath a thin layer of powder, the familiar glint of the thistle caught my eye. I bent to pick it up and felt an enormous weight grow in the pit of my stomach.
My hands trembled as I leaned forward, pausing only to reflect on my vulnerability and the importance of recovering the fragile thistle intact and unmarred.
It was apparent that I might have made a very costly mistake, and I felt horrible for my lack of forethought. By not putting the item directly into my inventory when the unexpected encounter began, I had unwittingly risked losing hours of progress toward my quest.
It was a simple mistake, but I knew then just how much I’d been shaken by the events in the swamp. As much as I hated to admit it, I’d been more afraid of dying than losing the thistle when I realized I’d been ambushed. But it wasn’t because of the pain or the threat of having to death-warp back to the waypoint of Fort Morrow.
When Raven and I had faced the Necromancer, I had almost died. For real. Permanently. But this was different. This mob wasn’t the Necromancer. It was just an ordinary, random creep. How was I supposed to separate the two in my mind when I had no idea what the cost of death might be in my current weakened state?
I’d somehow managed to be both overly cautious and incredibly careless at the same time. The result was that I’d nearly lost the one thing I was out here to find: a chance to heal the dark wound that had afflicted my soul. Losing the thistle now was a mistake I wasn’t yet ready to accept.
Not if there was still a chance to salvage the situation.
Worst case, yes, I could keep trudging along the mountain range in search of more thistles, but I needed a win. The past few weeks had been difficult. I was weak and lacked the strength I once had. So much about this world no longer made sense, but I was supposed to soldier on. I was supposed to be some kind of hero: the man who had felled the Necromancer and saved the city of Fort Morrow.
It wasn’t that simple. I was no hero, I’d just gotten lucky. Now I was just a pathetic man who couldn’t bear the thought of meeting his friends at the inn empty-handed. Not after countless disappointments. Not after finally managing to harvest a single Pristine Snowthistle. A single rare and perfect specimen out of the twenty I was somehow supposed to find out here in this frigid wasteland.
I cupped my gloved fingers together and leaned forward, letting out a strong exhale. The billowing cloud of my breath melted the surrounding snow with a soft whisper of heat. I watched the results and leaned forward once again, allowing the warmth of my breath to dissolve layer after layer while carefully leaving the thistle untouched.
After only a few moments, the Pristine Snowthistle was exposed, once again bare and glistening in the cold mountain air.
Despite the turmoil of our struggle, it was beginning to look like there might still be hope to recover the pristine sample. However, it would require an abundance of patience and a gentle touch.
One wrong move, and I was certain the herb would shatter.