Red clashes with Giant, her small knives glowing bright as she slashes at his arm, slipping by his counterstrike. The wounds are deep enough to draw blood, but for one reason or another only a small splatter of it ever reaches the ground.
Giant runs his hand along the length of the wound and the bleeding stops in an instant. The cuts aren’t gone, but they might as well be, it reminds me a little too well of how our own vampire-lizard warriors heal themselves.
Slowly the two soldiers circle one another, their battle more one of feints and quick strikes, than anything as vicious as I’m used to. Neither pushes too far, or risks making themselves vulnerable.
Red isn’t fighting for the kill, but I’m willing to bet that Giant is holding back also. Neither is fighting to see the other dead, each is delaying for their strategic goal, the way good soldiers do.
Giant is waiting for Loekan to deal with me, and Red is keeping Giant busy while we hunt for Loekan. I’m sure if the battle changes enough, either one will willingly fight with their all for victory, but for now that means keeping one another busy.
I can practically see them sitting down and sharing a cup of tea while they wait. Already their fight seems more a patient discussion than a bloody conflict.
I imagine we could pressure our enemy better by slaughtering Giant, but I’ll trust Red’s opinion on this better than my own. She’s the experienced warrior, not me. I’ve asked her to keep alive those she thinks are worth recruiting, so she too must see something in him.
My attention drifts away from them, leaving them to their brutal discussion. There’re far, far too many other things drawing my attention away.
The first of the many is the flaming magical tree that’s risen in the midst of Lakesh’s formation.
His response is fast, and everyone around it is already retreating. Lakesh watches in particular as a few more powerful warriors move through the thick formations towards the threat instead.
The soldiers near to the white flaming tree are quick to act. Blood magic rises in a matter of instants, walling the tree in and keeping the flames at bay. An unfortunate pair of soldiers are too slow in their steps, and too unlucky in their position.
One catches a flaming branch across the arm, while the second takes a hit right to the face. The flames don’t spread instantly, but they’re hardly crawling as they flow outwards from the point of impact.
The fires burn the soldiers, charring their scales and frying their flesh underneath.
My fire burns my soldiers, causing enough pain that one tries to amputate his own arm screaming in agony, while the other faints from the suffering. His face already lost to the pale white fire.
My head feels light and dizzy, my heart pounds away, the magic inside growing stronger still.
Screams for help and healers are heard, and the injured are tended to as fast as they can be.
Allies nearby rush over, popping open bottles of potion, which quickly expand into a thick white foam that smothers the flames. I can’t see the magic behind the effect, but it does manage to kill the fire.
While the warrior hit in the arm recovers well enough, the other is still and unmoving. I can’t tell yet, if he’s dead or not. The relentless beating of my heart tells me that I’ve killed him, and my magic cries to be let loose, to make ash everything before more of what is mine is destroyed.
I’ve lost people before, but this time it’s my fault in every way. I made him fight for me, I brought him into this battle, I spread the fires that killed him, I ordered their use on the enchanted forest, and I failed to save him.
Normally I can set aside such invasive, distracting thoughts, but the silence up here, the terrible violence down there, and the annihilation magic within me is all combined into something that’s twisting my mind. It’s becoming more and more difficult to look away from the damage my actions cause.
Yet, I’m the only one who’s brought to a pause by the sight. The other soldiers stand tall, and fight on bravely. I force myself back into my right mind, as their leader, I cannot be the one to break. I have to hold myself together so long as they still live.
It’s the responsibility that I’ve taken by accepting their allegiance.
As the burning tree lashes itself violently against the blood barriers, a large axe wielding warrior charges through at the tree, covering himself in layers of blood as he passes through.
With a tremendous roar, he swings at the base of the tree, his axe glowing bright as it impacts, sending a massive shudder through the writhing thing.
It isn’t enough, but he’s not finished.
The second swing follows, then a third and fourth, his speed increasing with every strike. The tree smashes into him with a dozen burning limbs but he ignores its desperate struggle, not even moving to block as he cuts away at it.
They both attack with their all, it can only end with one of the two breaking.
The tree folds on itself, nearly snapping as it slams into the axeman. The blood armour ripples back from the impact which sends the man back a few steps, the fires spreading to his chest, and though the blood flows over it, the fires refuse to die.
The axeman roars, ignoring the flames spreading over his chest and returning to his position to finish his job. With one final, heavy swing he ends the fight.
White flames flutter about as the tree falls. Those around it cover the burning tree in a cage of blood, protecting others from the fires.
Others quickly rush to aid the axeman with the white flames, but even with the treatment he collapses from his injuries. I don’t know, and I can’t tell, how desperate his condition might be, but I can’t stay watching him for long.
The war has many faces, and another calls to me.
"Hold the line!" The shout is not something that I was expecting to hear through Nel’s ears. We were prepared for this, at least to a degree, but my heart pounds painfully, the annihilation responding to my fear as I see the gremlins rush into the Lord’s colony.
The warriors stationed at the entrances in the forest are standing around in confusion while the gremlins crawl in through the entrances up in the ceiling. A glimpse through their eyes, shows me the gremlins flowing up through the tree from somewhere lower, somewhere beneath the surface.
Mages below the surface have to be creating a tunnel into the upwards flowing water, forcing their minions in through it.
The underprepared warriors at the top of the flowing water, line up in formation. The spears, swords, and magics flash out from behind their shields, cutting them down, but not fast enough.
Nel stands behind the formation of warriors, a few knives out and ready. She hasn’t given up on her training, even though she’s avoided battle itself. She’s not defenceless but she’s not a soldier like them.
Beside her stands a few others, wounded warriors, and others who, like Nel, wished to avoid engaging in the violence themselves. I’m surprised to see Tera, our kidnapped dissection teacher among them. Her eyes are wide at the sight of the slaughter, and her hands tremble as much as Nel’s do.
The first gremlins manage to crawl over the shields of the shieldmen. Nel throws a knife, catching one in the shoulder before he can stab down at the warrior.
"Retreat!" The shout goes out, as they pull back to the corridor where they can hopefully hold out better. The gremlins redouble their efforts in that moment.
Nel moves with the others at the back, retreating from the halls, but the soldiers struggle to follow as roots rise from the earth at their feet tripping them up. Nel tries to help them but her attempts are sadly pitiful in the face of the horrors coming.
Someone pulls her back as a tremendous roar shakes the cave where they fight. The shield wielding soldiers throw aside the gremlins, acting as one as they throw back the tide and step back to file into the tunnel, wounded and bleeding, but not beaten.
Some still walk with smashed roots tied around their feet like oversized anklets.
Even for the small victory, the mages stir more roots from the stone forcing everyone to retreat. Nel runs fast with the others who tried to help, rushing deeper into the safety of the small town while the soldiers fight at their backs losing more ground every second.
Fear pounds away in my heart, ringing true with the annihilation and drawing more of the numbing nothingness into being.
A trembling, consuming terror hidden within the cold rage. A deep core of fuel that can’t burn quickly enough, to be hidden away by the flickering flames.
Imaginings of all my worst nightmares rise into my mind as the fear grips me, and refuses to let go. I could release the spell now, annihilate the intruders and… and be killed by Loekan before my lovers, and my people, suffer the same.
I shove the fear aside, and lock into a dark corner of my soul where I can ignore it while I turn my eyes back to the battle.
The soldiers are fighting fiercely and aren’t losing as much ground as I’d first feared. While the grey-skinned tribe of warriors is insistent, it’s their mages who cause the most trouble, and the warriors are getting better at fighting off the roots that tangle them up, supporting one another through the fight.
The battle isn’t ended, but as it stalls into an impasse another battle starts raging brighter in its place.
The gremlin army has made it’s move, entire buildings surrounding the blood wall shatter and collapse as a select few gremlins stand screeching out the front. They carry no weapons, and they seem… not quite in their right minds.
They scream and wave their limbs about, throwing stones and anything else at hand into the collapsed buildings. The beasts that were trapped within would have to be dead not to notice.
It’s not simply one species, each building contains something different.
A swarm of flowering snakes, slithering about as the flowers spread out a thick poisonous haze.
A hulking, rotting mass muscle with six limbs ending in long, sharp claws.
Swarms of leathery beasts that slide along the ground almost completely flat before diving up and swallowing a gremlin whole.
Many, many different sorts of creatures run the streets of the city, the only defining characteristic between them as I can see so far, is how dangerous they are.
The sacrificial gremlins lead the beasts out towards the blood walls, dying to the teeth and claws of the beasts that they lead out. In moments the battle rages.
Lakesh, not waiting patiently orders lines of riflemen to stand at the walls and fire. With a clattering, the rifles fire their pellets filled with annihilation enchantments, dicing away entire chunks of flesh, but that is where I see the second similarity between all the beasts chosen.
None of them bleed.
The flowering snakes are filled with a sap that’s not affected by the magic that our warriors wield, the hulking figure seems entirely bloodless, and the others are all of similar nature.
They’re cut down and injured by the barrage of bullets, and while it’s not enough to stop them all, more than a few of them turn back. The gremlin horde seems like an easier prospect of escape, than the bloody fortifications that Lakesh has reinforced.
That is, until the gremlins bring out the fire. The gremlins carry the still burning limbs of some that have fallen to the flames that are still spreading through the city. They ignite more of their own vanguard ranks and send them running towards the beasts and the battle line.
While ordinary fire alone is enough to startle, the white flames inspire a terror in the beasts that I can well understand. They charge at Lakesh’s defences, and the riflemen are forced to share the wall as the melee warriors take up the defence.
Weapons form from the blood of the wall, striking out towards the beasts and gremlins that come for them. Spears, swords, and spikes thrust out from the wall, impaling those that get close, while the riflemen take up position to deal with the flaming gremlins that approach.
Still some beasts manage to push through, the wall itself turning to blades and spears is only enough to slow them. The prepared warriors dive into the fight to try and regain our lost walls.
The battle turns vicious as each side tries to eliminate the other as quickly as possible. The beasts themselves not as much of a threat as the white flames that chase them.
Was I wrong to employ it as a weapon?
No, the enchanted forest would have done much more damage to my people. I just have to hope they can handle this.
As nearly everyone is distracted by the battle, the rooftop gremlins make their move. While Lakesh’s army has secured the buildings within his domain, the gremlins have free reign over the buildings outside the walls, and it’s from there that they strike.
Using slings, they gather the burning body parts of their kin and send them tumbling into my armies ranks.
As my soldiers are distracted by the surging currents of beasts, white fire rains down upon them. Infecting them with the fire that I brought to this place.
My weapon burns my people.
I reach out a hand, feeling the destructive spell inside my heart as it wants to be unleashed on the evil that would strike at me.
I hold back.
Breathing deep, I put my faith in Lakesh and contain my burning rage, and the deep dark fears that fuel it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Skills & Stats
Current mana density: 52,798 units
Mana sense: 0/100%
-Tag and Film
-Mana surge movement
-Annihilation flame burst
-Eyes of an Empire
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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