31st August 20XX, SSO, Server: Sirius
Several layers of intricately sculpted tree canopies protected the twilight inside the Rainforest from the sun. Unnaturally bright parasitic flowers wound their fine roots around the spine-covered trunks. Fireflies swarmed about them, piercing the thick, dark blue dusk with red, green and violet sparks. Overhead hung the strands of a gigantic spider’s web. The air was filled with chirping, twittering, the rustling of drops falling through leaves, and guttural cries in the distance, but, apart from insects, not a single living creature made itself known to the newcomers.
“There are surprisingly few monsters.”
Beowulf’s two-handed sword sliced through another vine which was blocking the way.
“Don’t relax. In this place, any flower could turn out to be a monster.”
Cinnamon froze, listening carefully, her long ears turned towards the source of the sound.
She lifted up her rifle and pointed it at a fern thicket.
“Hey, hey, it’s me!”
The green feather-like fronds moved, and a tall figure emerged onto the footpath.
“You almost shot me. Take a look at the map.”
“The map is no good when there could be a mob hiding under any of these bushes.”
“Are you nervous? Or can’t you calm down after those giant ants?”
“I hate insects,” the sniper said, lowering her weapon.
“Katze, stop fussing. Talk.”
“Everything is just the way it is written in the book: there are ruins in the middle of the lake, and they fit the description of the temple perfectly. It is definitely the Heritage of the Ancients, as that bears a striking resemblance to the ruins on the island. There is no bridge, but the water’s not deep – it’s possible to wade across.”
“That’s too easy.”
“Who said that was all?” Katze retorted, slightly closing her blue eyes with their vertical pupils. “The Serpent of the Lake himself is sleeping by the entrance, after all. It’s impossible to get round him to reach the temple.”
“Does he have an Entourage?”
The girl shrugged her shoulders, her feline tail slicing through the air several times.
“On the surface it’s clear. They could be hiding in the water.”
“The serpent could summon them,” Nemesis piped up. “But we don’t know for sure whether there’s a single boss in this location or not.”
“Yoma, what’s the point of all this prattle?” Beowulf asked the leader of the group, throwing his two-handed sword on his shoulder. The paladin’s wolf-ears stood militantly erect. “What will we actually lose if we fail?”
“You’re right,” Yoma replied. His tail rustled beneath his wide kimono. “We would be better off than we are now, even though we won’t be prepared.”
The group, which was now complete, turned off the footpath and into the undergrowth, from where Katze had appeared a few minutes ago. They were immediately enveloped by a swarm of midges.
“Be careful, there might be snakes here. They’re small, but their venom is very strong,” said the cat-girl as she walked on ahead, skilfully slipping between the branches and the vines. The rest of the party followed behind her, snapping the ferns noisily.
A few minutes later, they came out near a small precipice. After the semi-darkness of the jungle, they found the blueness of the sky painfully blinding. When his eyes had grown accustomed to the bright light, Yoma saw a small lake with clear, turquoise water, bordered by a crescent-shaped beach. On the other side of the jungle they came right up against the water. In the centre of the lake, in shallow water, stood a ring of large arches, on which rested the remains of a temple – a chaotic jumble of towers, turrets, courtyards, balconies, terraces and pathways. The ruins resembled a gigantic porous mushroom or a termite mound.
In the shade of the temple, a monster was enjoying a midday nap – it was Naitaka, the Serpent of the Lake. The coils of his blue-green, scaly body filled the entire space beneath the arches. His silver-clawed feet were too short and the monster could barely use them for attacking. His narrow, crocodile-like head was resting on a golden limestone slab.
“He’s huge,” gasped Zen who was standing beside Yoma. “Definitely a boss.”
“We haven’t encountered a worthy opponent for a long time,” smiled Beowulf, estimating Naitaka’s level. “It was worth wandering around in the jungle for a couple of hours.”
“And you, I see, are happier than ever,” Cinnamon said. She took aim at the serpent and then hissed, “Too far away.”
The paladin thrust his large two-handed sword into the ground in front of him, and leaned on the pommel.
“The fight itself may stir the blood, but the anticipation of that fight excites the heart, too.”
“You should have been a bard, not a paladin,” Yoma laughed and then folded his arms across his chest.
Before a battle, he preferred to focus on thinking through his tactics. If they hadn’t been location scouts, this task would not have been so complex right now. No-one had yet fought Naitaka, and information on the temple in the jungle and a boss with this name were not even available in the Black Auctions. In this situation, all they could do was rely on teamwork, quick reactions... and success.
Nemesis and Zen set about the routine preparations for battle – spell buffs. Cinnamon took a packet of food out of her bag and handed everyone a portion.
Katze swallowed her pie faster than ever.
“Yoma, I’ll try to reach him from the opposite side. I will deal the first Backstab – that’s the most useful thing I can do in this battle.”
“I need three minutes to run into position. Give me the signal as soon as you’re ready.”
With that, the thief disappeared into the undergrowth along the shore.
Trying to make as little noise as possible, the remaining five slid down from the clay precipice and onto the beach. They approached to within a suitable attacking distance, and then stopped.
“It would seem that enough time has passed. Is everyone ready?” Cinnamon asked, raising her hand which held a pistol. When Yoma gave a nod of approval, she pulled the trigger.
The flare etched a red smoke trail in the sky. Five pairs of eyes watched the monster in suspense, as it slept beneath the temple. They were waiting for the violet flash which would accompany the Backstab, but Naitaka’s eye suddenly opened, and his long neck shot out of the water, lifting the serpent’s head to a height of ten metres.