CAPS – Prologue: The Capricorns

Fester’s party had fallen trying to protect him. In total, two hundred had come to this dungeon. Half were killed, and those still alive were on their arms and knees, minutes, if not seconds, from joining their friends.

Without a miracle, this would be the end of the guild.

Fester ran his eyes across the surrounding dark crevices that hid the monsters. At any moment they would attack again with long lanky limbs and sharp yellow claws. They were Shadow Imps, known for taking their time to torment their prey before the kill. Under different circumstances, the monsters’ delay tactic could be used to Fester’s advantage. As a cleric, he’d have more time to heal his friends before killing blows were dealt. But the Shadow Imps were too strong and too many. Fester had come unprepared. They all had. The Red Phoenix Guild underestimated the creatures, and now they were ruined.

Something dark darted at Fester in the corner of his eye. He saw the claw coming down hard and fast as he turned. He raised his staff to block the attack. He was a healer and had little defensive power. Therefore it was more an instinctive move than anything else. The staff was cleaved in half, but it took the brunt of the blow, doing only partial damage to Fester’s torso and arms.

He dropped to a knee, his body feeling heavy with the damage. He looked dumbly at his broken staff. The milky orb was cracked. He’d spent hours upon hours grinding for one with decent clarity in the Great Grasslands until it had dropped. Now it was no more. Completely useless.

There was more movement in the shadows. He tried to think of a plan. He couldn’t just give up now. He had enough mana to heal himself again, but without any protection, he’d die in a single hit. He thout about reviving one of his party members, but the incantation would take half a minute and he’d be lucky to have ten seconds before the next attack.

What else could he do?

He heard their footsteps before he saw them. Three imps this time. Sweeping toward him across the dungeon floor. Claws raised like gleaming scythes. The breath caught in his throat. A second—that’s all the time he had to think. To make a decision. And it was already gone. He raised his arms, turning his head, his eyes closing reflexively.

The blows never came.

A moment passed. Then another. When he opened his eyes again, he saw a tall, dark figure in heavy obsidian armor standing before him. Drawn in the brute’s hand was an impressive broadsword, the color of pitch blackness and nothing else, not even light’s reflection.

Fester searched for the imps that had been there moments earlier, but there were none. Instead, lying in front of the man, were six lumps, dyeing the floor with purple blood.

Even as unbelievable as the sight was, it was apparent to Fester what had happened. The swordsman—no,the berserkerhad cleaved the imps in two with a single wing.

The berserker turned to look at him with a simple, friendly smile on his lips.

“Y-you,” Fester said, wobbling to his feet. “I know you! You’re Chry-“

“Light of Athena!” called a voice from behind, and suddenly every avatar in the vicinity glowed with dazzling blue light. Fester felt himself growing lighter, his health and mana filling up, and slowly the fallen bodies of his guild began to stand, looking around, dazed and confused, making cries of surprise and relief.

Fester turned to see who could call down a god-level spell and was wide-eyed to find a fellow cleric. She was dressed in finely-laced robes. Her staff, a stark contrast to his, was made of polished sacred oak with an orb as clear as spring water. It was another avatar he recognized only by reputation.

“Don’t worry,” the berserker said, smiling his friendly smile and clasping a dumbfounded Fester on the shoulder. “Capricorn is here.”

Then the berserker turned away and marched toward the depths of the dungeon. The cleric followed after him, and so did four more figures. Fester watched the newly arrived avatars with his mouth hung open as they stepped past him. Each radiated enormous power in their own right. Each was as legendary as the next.

Ten minutes later, the dungeon was cleared.

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