Tarik Claw tightly held his spear as he crouched with his partner next to the tall stone. They had been told to wait here, and it had been almost ten minutes. Tarik was fresh to this group, which they were beginning to Platton’s Pounders. In the crazy few weeks after the wave of Wights landed upon the shores of the Central Domain, this was the group that was being brought to the heaviest area of fighting. They were the ones cutting the Wights up every way possible.
Some rumors put the total number of kills racked up by those under Captain Platton as fully half of the number of Wights killed since the assault had begun.
Now, Tarik didn’t believe they were that effective, but he couldn’t deny that he had felt a thread of excitement and pride when he had been told he would be transferring to underneath Captain Platton’s command. He was nearing up to a full year on the frontlines, and this was the promotion that Tarik had been waiting for. This would finally be his chance to prove his strength.
Tarik’s partner yawned and leaned back against the stone. Frowning, Tarik tried to figure out what he was supposed to say to get the answer he wanted. There four teams underneath Sergeant Platton, and the Ghost team, which he was currently on, was the smallest. There were only three members. Tarik’s partner had been assigned to this team for quite some time. The leader of the team was a sharp-eyed young man named Randidly. From their brief interaction, Tarik liked Randidly.
But Randidly had brought them here and just left them to rot.
That didn’t sit well with Tarik.
“Should we just let him out there? What if he was ambushed?” Tarik said, trying and failing to remember the name of his partner.
The man snorted and leaned further back against the stone. As cool as a fish, he yawned widely. Time inched past. Tarik fidgeted with his spear, casting more glances down the slow of the valley, where Randidly had walked to.
“Relax, kid. Get your rest while you can. It won’t be easy later.” The man said with a yawn. He waved his hand at Tarik. “You’ll get your chance to be some sort of hero… I bet you’ll be able to tell some pretty girl how you killed a thousand Wights this week.”
“A THOUSAND!?” Tarik said, slightly embarrassed how his voice cracked as he spoke. But it was a mind-boggling number. A thousand Wights? Were there really that many-
“It’s time.” Suddenly, Randidly was there, standing between the two of them. With a long stretch, Tarik’s partner stood. But Randidly’s eyes focused on Tarik. They slid up and down over him, and Tarik felt profoundly uncomfortable. While Randidly wasn’t here, Tarik felt simmering displeasure at being left behind, but now that he was here…
Tarik wasn’t embarrassed to admit that this man was far more powerful than him. Idly, Tarik wondered what powerful Style from the Central Domain that Randidly hailed from.
Whatever he saw was enough, because Randidly turned away from Tarik and began to lope down the valley. Instantly, the partner, how Tarik still didn't’ remember the name of, followed closely behind. With a short curse, Tarik dashed to catch up to the two of them and discovered to his shock that they were losing him as Tarik did his best to sprint and catch up with them.
It was clear that Tarik’s partner was just as desperate as he was, only with better timing. But Randidly moved at a speed that seemed impossible considering his even gait. Inwardly, Tarik swore to himself that he would follow the other man much more closely from now on.
Did this mean that he might really kill a thousand Wights…?
Randidly brought them down to the base of the valley, which led into a sharp crack in the rock. Randidly continued further, and as Tarik followed he realized that there was a rather sizable path here, one that would allow almost five men to walk side by side.
“The Wights are coming through here,” Randidly announced. “I’ll go ahead and thin their numbers out. Any that make it through to you are your job to clean up. There will be some tremors in the ground… ignore it. You should be safe as long as you to stay in the area with the vines. Herro, you are in charge.”
A finger at the rock wall on either side of them indicated where the ‘vine area’ was. Tarik looked around confused, then opened his mouth to ask how many Wights they should expect.
But Randidly was already gone. Tarik scratched his cheek and readjusted his grip on his spear. At least he now knew that his partner’s name is Herro. And after the sprint down here, Tarik’s Stamina was almost bottomed out. He could use the rest.
Herro seemed to have the same idea, and the two men crouched in the ground at the edge of the small stone passageway in silence for several minutes. Then Tarik asked. “About how many enemies are we ambushing?”
“It’s one of the main forces in the area… so maybe like 20,000? Randidly has been waiting a long time to get them in a tight spot, could you tell how excited he was?” Herro said, stretching his hamstrings.
Tarik smiled sourly, trying his best not to take the other man’s joke personally. This group of three, stalking an army of 20,000? As if.
But Herro continued to speak. “Although it means that we have been pushed back almost halfway towards the core of the Central Domain, these small mountains make it much easier to do our job. Hehe, I can see in your expression that you don’t really understand, but that’s fine. Randidly is a Spellspear, the most powerful in history. Rumor has it that Captain Platton found him working as a high-end gardener and realized what his plant magic could do if refined properly. And now… Well, you will see.”
With that Herro fell silent, and Tarik didn’t know what to say. Luckily, he was saved from the need to talk as the rumbling started.
It began as a distant thing, but very soon the rock walls around them were trembling and cracking. With fear in his eyes, Tarik backed slowly away from the walls and towards the entrance back into the valley, but Herro’s hand shot out and locked around his arm like a vice grip. “You have your orders, soldier. We stay here. Remain in the root area.”
“But-!” Tarik said, wide-eyed. His gaze was seized by a large stone, about the size of a large dog, that was falling down the sheer cliffs above them on course to crush them to mush. Tarik didn’t care about orders, not when-
But to his surprise, one of the vines on the walls detached itself and caught the stone gingerly. The substance of the vine strained and stretched, but the stone was knocked sideways to land harmlessly further up the passage. More and more rocks rained downwards, but each time the vines moved to turn the debris aside.
“This is why I like the gardener story,” Herro said, almost proudly. “Otherwise, why would he have magic relating to plants?”
“Maybe he was a farmer,” Tarik croaked out. Although the shaking was abating, there were more and more concussive sounds from farther down the passage where Randidly had gone. It seemed that unlike them, the Wights weren’t as lucky, and the passage was collapsing down on top of them. Perhaps it really was possible to kill 20,000 Wights this way.
Herro gave Tarik a long look, then sighed. “Kid, you aren’t as dumb as you look. Alright, up and at ‘em. The dregs will be wandering through soon.”
This time, Tarik didn’t bother to ask. Everything was happening too quickly, and it was too strange. But true to Herro’s word, five minutes later a few bedraggled Wights stumbled forward towards their position. But what Tarik didn’t understand was what happened to them.
Their iconic cloaks were burnt away, revealing broken and weak bodies. The Wights seemed charred and scuffed, as though they had stumbled through a fire on the way here. What exactly…?
Without giving them a chance to really notice them, Herro lashed out and knocked two of them to the ground. Belatedly, Tarik joined him and dispatched the other couple that had appeared.
It was like sorting through trash, Tarik realized halfway through the task. It ended up taking fully six hours. More and more began streaming towards them, but never more than twenty at a time, and putting those numbers would overstate the threat they faced. All those that came seemed to be missing a limb, or unable to move part of their body, or were more fearful than capable at this point.
It seemed that Randidly moved like a walking disaster in such a small space, turning the once-proud army into nothing but dregs. Tarik knew how powerful Wights could be when gathered together and yet this…
One Wight actually flinched when Tarik raised his spear to strike the enemy down. It was like whatever it had just gone through had left it deeply scarred.
All in all, Tarik had killed 238 Wights in that six hours before Randidly appeared. “Time to move; they didn’t send the whole army in. But still a good haul. Do you both have Stamina to spare?”
Instantly, Tarik understood why Herro had taken care of most of the kills early, and then let him take over later. With an easy smile, Herro smiled at Randidly’s question. Not willing to be outdone, Tarik gritted his teeth and nodded as well.
“Good, because I want to flank them. It will take some doing, but it will make the rest of the week’s work go quickly.”