Nox regulated his breathing and kept his eyes closed, so he didn't draw attention to the masked men who were still in the area beneath. He was ready for their next steps, but it looked like they would do nothing with the captives at the moment.
He and the others still attached to the wall were still losing their life force as it was drained away by the orb, and they were physically weakening.
Although Nox had it a little better, as he had spent time in the dungeon fighting countless players and his strength was greater than most. He could wake up faster than the others, but it still wasn't enough to fight a group of people by himself. Breaking the chains binding him to the wall would have been simple, but he had to consider his companions and the Life Orb had weakened him somewhat.
Waiting for Ashlyn to regain consciousness was taking a long time, and all of their lives would be lost before they could wake up. He had to come up with a plan quickly that would save himself and his companions from the draining effects of the Life Orb and get rid of the masked men once and for all. If he didn't, the remaining villagers would be in danger and the village would end up like the one that had disappeared from the game map.
He cracked his eyes open slightly and peered down below, so he could observe his surroundings and the people below. There had to be some weakness that he could exploit or some vulnerability that would allow him to break through their defenses and take them down.
The masked men were focused on the orb and seemed disinterested in their companions. Perhaps it was because they didn't see any point in dealing with the captives, when it was a guarantee that they were going to die, anyway. Or maybe they were waiting for something else, maybe for further instructions from a higher-up? There was no way to know if there was a person beyond the leader of the masked men.
Taking into consideration his companions' weakened states, Nox knew that directly confronting them would be too dangerous, and he needed to wake them somehow and free them from the effects of the Life Orb.
As he thought of what to do, he felt a disturbance in his consciousness and Eriladar's voice sounded out in his mind. Sound transmission was a rare magic that was hard to master, so it showed how powerful Eriladar was, and how good he was at hiding his magical prowess.
"Can anyone move?" His voice came out hurriedly. "We need to remove these shackles and get rid of the orb."
"I have an idea." Ashlyn's voice transmitted into the mind of the ones awake and recited what they had in mind.
Ashlyn knew about Nox's time in the dungeon and how strong he was compared to the others, so they trusted him with the first part of the plan. Nox steadied his mind and gathered the strength in his arms and snapped the chains binding his wrists. He landed heavily on the ground, his long hair swaying behind him, and his crimson eyes shot daggers at the masked men.
He drew the attention of the masked men, who were not expecting one of the captives to still be able to move, and while they were distracted, Eriladar recited a spell to release his own binds and the other captives.
After they were all on the ground, he picked up the still-unconscious Taegen and moved him safely into an empty cavern that was close by and placed a cloak over him. Then he went back to where the Life Orb was just in time to see Nox fighting with the masked men, and Ashlyn sneaking up on the raised platform.
The situation was unexpected, and the masked men were weaker than the man who had been a Final Boss for years, so the fight was one-sided, and soon Nox had the upper hand. When one masked man fell down, another would rush up and attack, only to be flung away like the one before them. And with their backs turned to the orb, it was enough for Ashlyn to get near to it without being noticed.
Eriladar snuck around the back and went over to their side. He too studied the Life Orb and looked for any weaknesses that would make it easier to break it. The orb floated above the platform and appeared flawless, with nothing to exploit, and seemed untouchable. However, it was a magical item, and all magical items had a way to be broken.
Still using the sound transmission, Ashlyn said, "perhaps we need to break the connection between the corpses and the orb? If we do that, maybe it will be easier to destroy it."
Eriladar agreed, and he looked towards the strings of light that were slowly being absorbed by the orb. He thought of something and transmitted to Nox, "lead them outside and far away from the entrance."
Nox didn't reply and still fighting he moved back to the entrance, and led the masked men away from the cave. When the only people in the cave were Ashlyn and Eriladar, he closed his eyes and then opened them again. The strings of light became clearer and crosses appeared at the ends that connected to the orb.
Eriladar smiled in triumph and muttered something under his breath before he lifted a slender hand and made a snipping motion. One after the other the strings of light fell away from the orb like they had been cut with something, and they vanished into thin air. And as each one disappeared the orb visibly dimmed, until the last one disappeared and the orb shattered into tiny pieces.
Ashlyn and Nox watched in astonishment as the dried corpses turned into specks of light and floated up through the hole in the ceiling and became one with the stars above.