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Rated: GC · Short Story · Computers · #2172264
Nothing is more toxic than an online game community.
"C'mon people. We're almost at the end!"

"Yes, we're. Let's not fuck it up, this time."

Zyron tried to persuade his lungs to a longer breath, hoping that a fresh rush of oxygen could prevent his brain from shutdown.

Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake. You can do it, Zyr! You can do it!

"Priest! C'mon! What the fuck're you doin'? We've been here hours!"

Zyron pried open his lips in a smile. "Coming guys! Comin'!" The priest's eyes crossed from side to side, stinging him with pain as the eyeballs touched the corners of his field of view. Zyron rubbed his eyelids, hoping to milk some teardrops able to tame the firestorm consuming his sockets.

"Hey! Let's move our butts, shall we? It's almost dinner time for me!"

"I'm coming! I'm coming!" panted Zyron, strutting in the direction of his comrades' shadows silhoutted by the light of the torches on the walls of the tunnel. He knew his friends to be right: they'd already spent too much time in the dark web of passages known as the Extinguished Mines. Goosebumps passed over his skin like a cold blade, as he remembered how the simple mention of that cursed place to the patrons of the - Bloody Elf Inn - had been enough to turn their coarse laughter into a chorus of yelps. Murderers, thieves, rogue sorcerers, necromancers; the filth of the land was now calling home what had formerly been the main source of gold and wealth of the kingdom. But now, a trail of the corpses of those degenerates littered the way Zyron and his companions had cut through their ranks.

Zyron caught glimpse of a body of a man as he passed him by. His jaws looked as if they'd been sewn shut by death into an eternal murmur of torment. Zyron whispered a brief prayer. Even if that man had been his enemy, as a priest of the Church of Light he was bound to mourn the passing of a soul from the darkness of that life to the pitch black recesses of death.

"Oh! I see you're finally here, you Dwarf cunt!"

"I--I'm sorry, I was just--"

"I don't give a fuck about your excuses! Move your ass! We've already wiped three fucking times at this boss, thanks to you. And we've got the mage who's gonna disconnect soon." growled Jalis, the paladin leader of the group.

"Yessir! Yessir!" Zyron felt his gaze becoming enraptured by the play of light and shadow on the warrior's armour: a holy cuirass made to measure for him as a reward for freeing the Ra'sha catacombs from the corruption of the nefarious lich Kel'Zathor. Not a soul of the - Stormy Warriors - guild didn't admire Jalis for his heroic deeds, and even those who coveted the mighty artifacts in his possession wouldn't have wasted a second in following his guidance in the eternal war against evil.

"C'mon, Jalis. You know he's new. Cut him a break."

Zyron felt his heart swell with gratitude for the elf who had jumped to his defense. Despite her reputation as a thief, Daraku was always ready to lend a hand to someone in need, surrpisingly without asking for their belongings in exchange.

"Always the carebear, Dara. But he's got to learn how to heal, or I'll kick his sorry ass out of the guild pronto!"

"Guys! Guys! Let's not waste time. Almost dinner time for me. Haven't got much time left, you know?"

Zyron shook his head. Although Jortikka, the mage, loved to boast about having spent the last two hundred years learning the arcane arts, his patience always seemed to run short whenever the time of meals neared.

Daraku teased the mage. "Why don't you just grab something to eat while at the keyboard?"

"Excuuuuse me, princess. For minding my health!"

"All right, shut up! I want you in full focus. This time we've got to take down that sonofabitch."

Jalis pointed at the end of the tunnel. Zyron followed the paladin's finger until his eyes met a steely gaze. The priest's temples began to thunder like drums as he felt the gaze of Dagoth Nhur, the infamous supreme ruler of the Extinguished Mines, pierce him with the force of a crossbow bolt. As if his presence wasn't enough of a threath, Zyron knew that the two orcish guards who had pledged to defend him with his life could prove deadlier than Dagoth's own blades.

"All right, people. You know the drill. We pull the boss and make short work of the adds. Once he reaches 50%, he goes berserk and his damage increases twofolds by the minute. I want the DPS to focus on him and take him down asap. Got it?"

"Yeah, yeah. Let's make this fast."

Zyron felt the paladin's eyes drilling their way in his self-esteem. "And you, keep those heals up, if you know what's good for you."

Zyron downed a gulp of water, savouring the moment as the liquid refreshed his physical and magical energies. He then hurried to take his position behind the rest of the group, ready to fight shoulder to shoulder with Jortikka who never stopped whining about his stomach being emptier than his head. Out of the corner of his eye, the priest saw Daraku vanishing into the shadows, while the steely mass of Jalis' body filled the rest of his cone of view.

"Ready?" asked the leader.

"Ready!" shouted Zyron, putting all the heat of his enthusiasm in an attempt to melt the wall of ice between him and the group leader.

"Yeah, yeah. Ready. Got five minutes left. Go! Go!"

A steely flash rushed Dagoth Nhur. The clash of swords and the villain's taunts assaulted Zyron's ears.

"You've fought hard to invade my realm! Now there is only one way out. Death!"

Jalis had engaged the enemy. Now it was his duty to keep him alive. The priest raised his hands to the sky, hoping the gods could hear his plea even across the layers of rocks above his head. The Dwarf priest's lips pursed in a smile at the sight of a golden glow embracing his fingers. He gestured in the air, directing the slivers of light towards the paladin whose armour shone as a lighthouse in the dimness of the mine. Zyron knew that, no matter how strong the warrior's cuirass could be, it was his healing powers that provided the staunchest of defenses against the boss' assault.

"Keep up the dps!" yelled Jalis.

A globe of fire pierced the air, exploding in a crown of sparks on one of the orcish guards. The monster suddenly interrupted his assault against the holy warrior and turned. Zyron's heart skipped a beat.

"Fuck, tank! Keep the aggro!" shrieked the mage.

Zyron's muscles hardened at the sight of the orc charging in his direction. His brain screamed for a reatreat, but his will stood fast. He knew he couldn't move. Just a finger out of place could put the entire endeavour in jeopardy. His lungs ejected the air in a desperate call. "Add on me! Help!"

A blade bursted from the belly of the orc. The beast staggered and fell on the ground. Zyron sighed in relief.

"Thanks Dara. That was close."

"Don't mention it Zyr."

"Hey! Almost 50% here! Heals! Now!"

Zyron turned to see the mage get back to his elemental barrage, making short work of the remaining guard. Daraku's silhouette melted again in the shadows, reappearing at the back of Dagoth Nhur.

We can do it!

The boss' voice echoed with rage. "Fools! Our case is righteous!"

"He's going berserk! Focus him now!" shouted the paladin.

Sweat drops trickled in the priest's eyes, rekindling the burn. Zyron resisted the urge to blink. He had to focus. Focus on the paladin's health bar hopping up and down in his fight against evil. He had to ignore everything else: the aching fingers, the burning eyes, the throath clutched in an invisible grip.

"He's going down! He's going down! Keep it up!"

We're doing it! We're doing it! A rush of dopamine flooded the priest's vessels as his mind began to picture the possibility of victory. The boss was going down, and it was all thanks to their efforts as a team. They could really be a team. And he could be part of it.

"Wops, sorry guys. Gtg. Dinner time's here. Sorry!"

Zyron threw a glance at the mage and saw his form becoming transparent.

What the fuck...
"Hey! DPS's dropping! WTF are you doing?"

The mage was gone. Disconnected. He had left them alone when they needed him the most. Zyron's heart jumped in his throath as the health bar of Jalis started plummeting to the bottom like a tower under the fire of a catapult.

"What the fuck're you doing? The DPS's too low! I'm fucking dying here!"

Zyron's temples throbbled with pain. His magical energies were going down fast. Too fast. They would not last enough to keep Jalis alive under the whirlwind of blows.

"Oom! I'm out of mana!" shouted Zyron, clutching his teeth at the feeling of his lungs melting in pain. The warm glow around his body went out like a candle. The awareness struck his conscience with the power of a mallet.

Zyron froze at the sight of the boss's axe violating the paladin's last defenses. The great bandit then turned his attention to Daraku, mowing her with a single swing.


He didn't try to resist when the boss came to reclaim his last spoils. Zyron fell to the ground, as the weapon delivered him to death's icy grip. But he knew his conscience would not be allowed to leave his remains. The priest trembled at the thought that no divine intervention could save him from the punishment that awaited beyond the gates of oblivion.

"You fucking pieces of shit! Cunts! Idiots!"

"Calm down, Jal. The mage disconnected right in the middle of it."

"Shut up Dara! I know it! And I'm gonna kick him and this sorry excuse for a healer!"

Zyron stiffened. "Hey! It's not my fault! The mage was gone!"

"It's your fault being a fucking noob with a shitty gear! If you got better stuff you would've kept me going enough to kill the boss!"

"But, It's not my fault!"

"Yes, it is! You take me for a fool? You're always online twenty four a day and you don't find time to gear up better or learn how to play? You're out of the guild! Get a life, loser!"

A surge of tears smashed the dykes of his pride, and Zyron felt his breath heavier and heavier, as his pleas died down in a wheezing gurgle.

"Fred? Oh my god! Honey are you all right?"

A face popped up above Zyron, as burst of light assaulted his eyes. The priest's fingers ran across his neck, skidding on a cold, slimy surface.

"No Fred! Don't touch the tube! I'm gonna suction you now. Hang on there, hon'!"

Zyron gasped. C--an't breathe! He--lp!

"It's ok. It's ok. I'm suctioning you. It's ok--"

A gush of hair suddenly flowed his pipe, and Zyron felt as if someone had pulled concrete bars out of his chest.

"Fred? Are you okay, honey?"

Zyron saw the face above him slowly acquire his mother's features.

"I'm--ok, mom."

Zyron raised his head and winced. It felt lighter. Just like his knees.

Where's my headset? And my notebook?

"This game again? I've told you a billion times it's dangerous for you! Every time you play it, you get all worked up. Then your tracheo gets clugged and you risk to die!"

Zyron caught glance of the computer stuck under his mother's arm.

"But--mom. I get bored. And daddy told--"

"Your dad shouldn't have bought you this junk. He never understands the danger he's putting you in! Always the irresponsible idiot--"

"But mom--"

"It's late, honey. You've got to sleep. And from now on this computer's off limits. No, don't look at me like that! It's for your own good. I'm protecting your life!"

A veil of shadow fell upon him. So it's really over for Zyron, priest of the Church of Light. Fred turned to his right, grimacing at the feeling of the plastic tube stuck in his trachea. The mechanical ventilator caressed his ear with the faint sound of its mechanical breath, as the bellow went up and down; up and down.

Just like a health bar. But I can't escape this dungeon. Never could. Never will.

As his eyes adjusted to the dimness, four figures emerged from the shadows. A paladin. A Thief. A Mage. And a priest. A band of warriors staring at him from the wall, like a jury eager to emit their sentence. Zyron sighed. His old Neverquest poster. The one that had driven him to plunge into a world of sword and sorcery; of heroic deeds and great rewards; a world where magic could conquer all ailments, ilnesses and curses. That was his dream, since the first doctor came to his bed just to admit defeat.

"Get a life," murmured Zyron, "What life?"

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