Shal was frustrated. Lying beside him was Razland, who was already asleep. His snores were so noisy that Shal almost believed that the Wights would leave their fortifications and launch an attack in the middle of the night in order to get Razland to cease with his incessant noise.
After Shal had drawn the two Witch Kings into a fight and killed them both with Razland and Verynica’s help. That had largely broken the force of Wights ravaging the Death School. They had pursued the final general in the area to the first location that they had taken, here at Deepmysh.
Stubbornly, the Wights had deployed to Hell Maw’s and repelled all assaults on the base. Shal could have ripped through it easily, but he was held back by Ophelia Vade’s warning to hide his main strength. At the time that he had received that encouragement from his superior, Shal had agreed it was smart. But now…
What was the point?
There was definitely something amiss in the whole battle on Tellus. The Wights were launching assaults and winning everywhere that Shal could see, and yet no one was doing anything about it. Everyone was guarding their cards too closely to play any hands before they had enough chips to force someone else out.
The problem was that Shal had no fucking idea who the players were. And also, he didn’t understand WHY he had to hide his true strength.
On Tellus, the four distinctions were Artisan, Adept, Pontiff, and Master. An Artisan had enough strength of image to cause a vision or auditory change to the world simply by using a Skill. An Adept could physically move something, only with a Skill’s image. These were the base two types of strength and could be reached with sufficient training and Willpower. That was especially true when an individual spent some time on the front lines.
That sharpened an image like nothing else. Standing near death paid dividends in this brutal world.
Between the lower two and upper two distinctions, there was a firm line. That was why it was so important that Randidly had been judged to have the potential to reach the Pontiff level all that time ago. His potential was to become a true mover and shaker on Tellus.
A Pontiff could do many things, but what truly set Pontiffs apart was that their Skills and images touched on something bigger than themselves. They possessed a hint of a greater image. When seeing those images, they fit into easy to understand, larger narratives. To say it simplest of all… these images seemed ‘true’.
Now, this was essentially useless without the Spearsource in their possession. The Spearsource had served as a bridge to becoming a Pontiff to many. Many of the images relating to the spear lost their power without the Spearsource installed.
But to others, it gave them a chance to reach the pinnacle of Tellus: the Masters. Those that could create their own images with such strength that they could become their avatars. They didn’t need to resemble the power of certain larger narratives or images; they could create those powerful images all on their own.
These individuals also could forcefully raise the strength of the people beneath them with their images serving as a boost. And Shal knew he wasn’t near the level of the old monsters, but he had fought and struggled until he had created his own Master-Class image. Yet Ophelia Vade insisted he hide it.
So Shal simply sat in the darkness, looking towards Deepmysh. His eyes glowed in the low light, and some part of him ripped apart the distance and the walls to see within. Even from here, he could feel the rapid heartbeat of the Witch King within. Shal’s mouth curled up in a small smile. Then he closed his eyes and began to meditate.
As long as his enemy knew he was coming… Shal supposed there was no harm in letting the rabbit tire itself out.
Randidly felt the deep scratching at the back of his head that indicated Mana deprivation and grimaced; he simply couldn’t get away from the ridiculous Mana expenditures right now. It was simply too easy to gain experience that way.
Several of the Wights that he had knocked to the ground with Incendiary Eruption staggered to their feet, but Randidly was on them in that short moment. Acri scythed back and forth, ripping their frail bodies to shreds. One hissed in displeasure and condensed a large claw that loomed over Randidly.
As the attack came down, but Randidly was suddenly a breath of wind and the force of the attack blew up sideways. Within a split second, Randidly cut back and cut the offending Wright in half.
Their bodily liquids dribbled out of the spear, and Acri waved its head back and forth in glee. Sighing, Randidly squeezed Acri to indicate the battle was over. For all that Acri dined on Experience to grow, it sometimes unnerved Randidly how little care it gave towards other lives. To Acri, only he mattered. The rest were simply walking bags of experience.
Which meant they couldn’t be that for Randidly, of course, But that didn’t mean he hadn’t benefitted. After two weeks of ambushing the Wight raiding parties that were running through the South of the Central Domain, Randidly had reached Level 32. A part of him still worried that people would begin to notice that his Level was beginning to rise above 25, but it soon became clear that it was anywhere but close to the front of these people’s minds.
Randidly had perhaps been fighting for so long that he didn’t notice, but these people were at risk of being wiped out. Or at least that seemed to be the air affecting the foot soldiers that Randidly met among Platton’s squad, and other groups operating nearby.
Villages were burned. All the regular people that Wights managed to catch were killed and their bodies dragged back to the boats to be shipped to the Propagator. That was the part that chilled Randidly the most. It made him have a bad feeling where this sea of Wight foot soldier came from.
After confirming that all the Wights in the surrounding area were dead, Randidly climbed up a nearby tree and surveyed the area. The defensive effort of the Central Domain was split into two parts: the first evacuated the civilians ahead of the Wights, while the second part actively moved to cut down the Wights before they could strike. Of course, Randidly was part of the latter group. To cover larger ground, Sergeant Platton had begrudgingly given Randidly, Skarch, and Azriel permission to act independently, as long as they returned each night.
It had taken a few days, but it soon became clear that against the common Wight soldiers, to have more than one of them was simply overkill. The enemies were dead faster than they could charge forward to be killed.
Plus… there was so much ground to cover.
Shaking his head, Randidly dropped off the tree and started heading back towards the rendezvous point. When the Wights came this time, their attack wasn’t just at Southpoint Beach. There were fully 7 points of attack on the Central Domain of the Spearman School, one of which was Niergem. Randidly wasn’t sure how he should feel when the news came that with its new iconic tower shield, Niergem had crushed the invasion in its area.
It had saved a lot of lives. But Randidly felt bitter at whose feet that victory was laid.
What the Wight invasion indicated was that numbers didn’t matter to the Wights; Randidly wasn’t keeping a count, but the number of Wights he had killed was up in the thousands. Days blended together as he swept across the area, cutting down the columns of Wights that moved forward. With the array of spells at his disposal, it was easy to burn them from afar and then move close to mop the remainder up.
Not that it seemed to matter. More Wights constantly poured forth. It was intimidating, in a way.
Exactly how many bodies had the Propagators gathered…? How long had they prepared for this…?
When he arrived at the agreed upon point, Azriel and Skarch were already there, talking quietly with Platton.
Grunting, Sergeant Platton stood as Randidly arrived. “I have news.”
“Good news?” Randidly asked, tilting his head. Without standing on ceremony he removed a rag and a bowl of water from his interspatial ring and began cleaning himself of blood. Face, hands, and of course feet were his primary targets.
“...Perhaps. Word filtered up that I brought four hours worth of warning about the attack and the presence of the Propagators, which was ultimately ignored. I have been promoted to Captain. The area of land for you sweepers to act in has just grown immensely. It probably won’t matter much, but I have no doubt that your Soulstones will be very full next month.”
Azriel’s mouth twisted. “At this rate, what will it matter? The Spear Forest will be a roost for the Wights at this rate. They are pushing as if lives don’t matter-”
“Then let’s make them matter.” Captain Platton with a show of teeth. He gestured, and a wooden crate appeared in front of him. Randidly’s eyes widened as he recognized what it was. “Randidly… what can you do with this many Mana Potions?”