“We should have attacked them when we first spotted them. Crushed them to paste,” Annie grumbled.
Dozer shook his head. “Not our call. Better to let them feel comfortable over there.”
“If we end up having to storm this fortress, you’ll admit that I was right,” Annie said pointedly. The two sat on a low hill outside of what had once been the Ogre Gorge. About two months ago, the ogre leadership discovered the portal to Earth and began to move forces here. Now, they had erected a series of low earthen walls before the entrance to the gorge.
And from the sounds that had been echoing out of that crack in the earth for the last few weeks, that wasn’t the only surprise that the ogres had cooked up within those twisting hills.
Dozer eyed the opening. He had never had a chance to proceed into the inner portion of the Ogre Gorge; Randidly had cleared it before they had even arrived. And after that, they didn’t really feel any need to explore the inside. They were just watching, aware that at some point the ogres would find a way back through.
But now, for all his belief that it was better to not have immediately hammered their expeditionary force, Dozer couldn’t help but wonder how many ogres could be hiding within.
Ogres were about twice the size of humans and the ogres that the scouts reported seeing were over Level 50. The Ogre that Alana had smashed backward into the gorge had been Level 62, but he appeared to have been rather high up in the organization. So high up that her prompt answer to a call for a duel had seen no further requests.
That had been a month ago. At this point, Dozer and Annie were on here full time, watching for movement. Each only had their twenty-four personal squad members so they wouldn’t be able to resist a concerted push from the ogres, they would give ground. But that was the reason that Dozer hadn’t bother to order his engineers to erect any defensive fortifications. Anything they put up would likely end up being taken by the ogres at some point.
“Fuck this!” Annie said as she stomped over to the fire. “I’m tired of babysitting. If I wanted more of this, I would have just let you knock me up again.”
Sensing that the topic was shifting to something less related to fighting, Dozer turned toward his wife with calm resignation. “So what do you want to do?”
“Alana’s heading back now, so mopping up her leftovers on the Western front? Let’s head there. Actually get in the thick of the fighting. Feel alive.”
Dozer thought about it. Their entrance was the largest and main entrance to the ogre ravine, but too late a second entrance was discovered. It seemed that after their failed attempt to duel Alana, the ogres believed that she was the only individual worth fearing in this world. So they had extracted slowly, a few at a time until they had a fighting force of two hundred armored ogres outside. With Alana safely posted in front of the main entrance, they prepared to rampage across the countryside.
It was suspected that they planned to bring that force around and crush Dozer and Annie’s defensive force, but they were discovered before that could happen. By a teenager who wore a Randidly Ghosthound mask and was best friends with a tree.
With his warning, some of the strange monster populace that inhabited the area to the Southwest of here were able to move up and harass the two hundred strong army until Alana arrived.
At that point, the ogres fled back into the wilderness around the ravine. Deciding that chasing them deeper was a waste of time, Alana turned around. At the moment, she was trooping back with her fifty person squad.
“...what is this about,” Dozer said slowly. They would get to this eventually, he had learned that it was better to do it on his own terms.
Annie spun around and glared at him. Her jaw locked. “Do I really have to say it?”
Dozer considered this question. Then he nodded because he could see no reasonable alternative. How would they communicate, if not through speech?
“We haven't’ had sex in weeks.” Annie hissed. “What I’m wondering is if I’m going to have to slit some bitches throat or not. Have you been cheating on me?”
Both looked up sharply. Alana, with Ptolemy standing nervously at her side, was at the edge of the fire. She looked from Dozer to Annie, and then back again.
“Not that this isn’t something worth talking about,” Alana said shortly, rolling her shoulders. “But someone is walking out of the ravine. Simon told me I should hurry back; I’m glad to see it wasn’t just to walk in on the last few seconds of a soap opera.”
Annie’s eyebrows twitched the way they did when she was royally pissed, but she held her tongue. She probably noticed, as Dozer did, how harried and worn Alana looked. Her armor was covered in scuffs and her leather pants were clearly splattered with blood. Although they had won their few skirmishes with the ogres and suffered no fatalities, three individuals were put out of commission until a Classer healer could mend their bodies.
And Dozer had heard that the only reason that so few were injured was that Alana was the spearhead that broke the spine of the ogre resistance.
After casting and holding Annie’s gaze for several seconds, to assure her that he would revisit this topic, Dozer walked away from the fire and peered toward the rocky opening to the ravine. As Alana indicated, there was movement there.
Dozer was one of the few people that didn’t have a real Skill that boosted his Perception. Instead, he relied on something a bit more… intuitive. Dozer believed it was part of his Soulskill, but he took a deep breath in, tasting the air. Nothing.
“They aren’t coming to fight,” Dozer said shortly. There wasn’t even the faintest tang of violence in the air.
Alana gave him a sidelong glance. “How can you tell?”
“Dozer’s always been good at sniffing out fights,” Annie said sarcastically. Or perhaps not. Maybe she meant it genuinely, but her foul mood demanded the attitude in her tone.
Not that it really mattered. Alana gave Dozer a speculative glance and then turned to look back toward the low earthen walls that obscured their gaze. The night was dark, but there was enough starlight and moonlight to make out the shapes. Slowly, back and forth, several figures were moving.
“Ma’am? Should I rouse the force?” Ptolemy asked.
Alana thought it over, then shook her head. “They need a break. Besides… let’s trust Dozer’s nose. He isn’t the hammer of Donnyton for nothing.”
“Someone’s… coming out. Toward us.” Dozer said.
Alana rolled her shoulders and produced her spear. “Well, well. Hands raised, no visible weapons; it looks like they want to parley. But what the hell do they want to say to us?”
“They want to immigrate, don’t they? To come to Earth and live on the life energy here, right?” Annie said. She gestured to the abandoned surrounding area. “They probably want to arrange for an area that they can call their own.”
“...people won’t like it, if we really do let them settle around here,” Dozer said.
“Better ogres than the frog people that will apparently connect to the Danger Zone finished in the South,” Annie pointed out. “Their bodies are covered in slime. Imagine. Me. Cover in gooey slime”
Dozer stiffened and shook his head shortly. He then took another sniff to focus on the task at hand. There still wasn’t any violence, but… something warned him that this talk would not be what they expected. In addition, as the figure walked slowly forward through the lines of fortifications, their footsteps grew louder and louder; even for an ogre, they were huge.
Finally, Alana took a step forward and held up a hand. “That’s quite close enough, I think. Well met, ogre. I am Alana. I assume you have come to speak?”
Alana’s voice was even, but Dozer knew that she was staring at the same thing that he was: Obyrn Myys, Level 79.
The towering ogre surveyed the four of them. Then, slowly, it grinned.
“Of course. I am here to discuss the terms of your surrender to me.”