Mark concluded his jumping escapade unscathed, as his new ability apparently allowed him to absorb falling damage really easily. He even managed to pull of a hero landing and was feeling pretty smug about it until his dad dressed him down for being reckless. Still, it was pretty hard to feel too down about the entire thing. He had about as cool a method as he could imagine for moving around now. He figured it’d help a ton moving forward. Or backwards.
However, time also kept on moving forward and the time for the mana storm was fast approaching. Liz had been working on something new up to the last minute but Mark couldn’t tell if she actually succeeded or not.
“Whatcha trying to do?”
She looked a little annoyed at him, and he figured it was probably because he had the last win. She really hated losing. Mark knew if she actually had something cool she wouldn’t hesitate to share. That meant he had some time to figure out something else and try to stay ahead. That was a thought for another time as the current situation would require his full attention.
Not much was said as the groups of people concluded their business outside and started gathering in the garage. Taking a few candles, Sam led a group downstairs into the bunker. Fortunately, it was designed to have reasonable airflow specifically for cases where all power as out. It would hold up against just about anything, but his dad wanted to keep the house as safe as he could. If they could keep monsters from trashing the house they would have better living spaces, more supplies, and just feel better about things. After all, if something broke into the house, Biscuit and the horses would be done for.
Silent farewells were given as most of the group got ready to descend. Matt had decided help out with his recent addition of slingshot skills and gave Elly and Sam a big hug.
“Are you sure about this Elly.” Matt asked before he let her go.
“Yeah, I’ll stay with the horses and Biscuit, and if something makes it in, I’ll try to get them into the safe room.”
Mark appreciated her concern. Horses tended to spook with loud noises and they had no idea what to expect here. Having the larger space of the garage meant they were more likely to get through the night uninjured. He waved at Elly and made his own way upstairs. At the top of the stairs he saw his mom as she set patrolled around the second floor scanning the windows for signs of danger. He knew she had been preparing a few surprises but wasn’t sure exactly what she managed to set up. Whatever it was he was sure it would be epic.
With the bunker folks secured Mark took another glance over to the timer. T-minus one minute and counting. He looked out at the quickly darkening sky wondering what might be coming their way. It was pretty amazing how many stars he could see. It never occurred to him but even out here in the suburbs the light pollution of a modern city was pretty intense. Lacking that, the sky opened up into a vast brilliant starscape that he had never really seen from home. Even up in the mountains the stars never seemed this bright. Mark wondered if it had something to do with the latest happenings.
As the timer ticked off the final seconds something amazing started to happen. Every square inch of the sky filled with a dance of brilliant auroras and eerie slow creeping lightning in every shade of blue he could imagine. It was surreal and unlike anything he had ever seen in his life. Caught up in the amazing sight, the entire group was speechless. Only the sound of breathing could be heard as they waited for whatever was going to happen next.
It turns out they didn't have to wait long. A meteor shower suddenly light up the sky shortly after the timer ended. Meteor shower was probably not the right word. Was meteor torrential downpour a thing? Meteor deluge? He’d have to ask about it later but everyone was caught up in the truly awesome display in the heavens. This is what the word awesome was meant for. There was a peaceful quiet for awhile as they just took in the sight. The peace lasted until he noticed that some of the shooting stars were actually fall towards them.
“Uh, guys? I think those are falling towards us now.”
Everyone just nodded grimly and followed the downward trajectory of the glowing blobs. As the brilliant flashes got close he noticed that they hit the group and made strange metallic pinging noises. They didn’t dent the ground at all, which seemed really weird to him, but they still acted like they had mass. After the glowing spheres hit the ground they bounced up and vibrated for a moment. Mark got to see, for the first time, what a monster spawning looked like. As the glowy sphere lost it’s light he could make out a mana core. Mark could see the air vibrate around the shard and in a somewhat gross explosion of meat a monster formed into existence.
"Uh, that's kinda creep and new," a loud bang followed and the Fuuzer that just materialized in their yard was no more.
"Pay attention Mark, try to knock em out before they get a chance to build up. Looks like there's going to be a lot of them." Jason aimed his rifle at another recently spawned monster, this time a bear thing. A few shots and the disoriented creature fell. Mark looked over at his father with a bit of surprise. He needed to step up to keep in the running.
As immeasurable stars cascaded from the heavens, Mark actually felt a huge weight descending on him. It felt like something was squishing his bones. It was incredibly uncomfortable and made him think he was going to be sick. Calming his breathing he entered a trance like state and got to work. As he charged his shots the nausea went away, but the pressure remained. On the plus side, it seemed like whatever force he was using to power his knives was getting replenished at a much faster rate now.
Minutes turned to hours and the rate of the falling stars seemed to increase during the entire time. Soon Mark was sweating with the effort of constantly reloading his crossbow and aiming it was taking its toll. He had long ago given up on knives as he would have run out of them almost immediately. He alliviated the pressure by zipping around, shoring up the defenses whenever someone called for help. He didn’t even crash into things that much. He looked around to check people’s conditions. Everyone had weary looks on their faces, but all in all it didn't seem so bad.
"Okay. I think this is okay. we can handle this. I think we're going to be fine."
Just then, as if to mock him, the sky flashed. It was as if the trickle before was just the spillage over the rim of a great container and now a giant wave of flashing stars and light was pouring into the world as the thing emptied itself completely.
"Dammit Mark! Why did you have to go and say that" an annoyed Liz chided him.
As the wave collapsed into the world the nearby crystal flashed in a brilliant blue. The waves all consolidated on that singular point and a daylight brilliance erupted from the lake. After the last of the waves finished, all was silent for the briefest of moments. Before anyone could breath a sigh of relief there was a thunderous roar and a iceberg started to grow and they saw the crystal that had previously fallen from the sky get carried upwards on a mountain of ice. The crystal continued to pulse as the ice underneath it pushed it higher and higher. A high pitch whining noise started to emit from the structure and everyone held their breath. Something was obviously going to happen soon and it didn't look like it would be a good thing.
From the direction of the lake a sudden cold wind hit the group. The crystal continued to shine as it continued to pulse brightly. Everyone turned their heads away as the light was too bright to stare into. Abruptly, the light show stopped and Mark dared to peek at the crystal again. The lake was now frozen solid and a jagged terrain could be seen leading up to the crystal. A thunderous clap of sound erupted shaking the entire room and as people steadied themselves they were confronted with yet another unbelievable situation. A wave of wolves exploded from the crystal.
Thousands upon thousands of Ice Wolves in every shape size and variation that could be imagined spawned from the crystal. Like a living wave of fur and teeth, they pushed out from the center of the gem and the entire icy surface around it was filled with wolves. After a brief moment of disorientation, they all let out a collective howl.
"Well, ok, that can't be good." Mark got his knives ready and also readied some explosive charms. He threw them out into the field in the direction of the lake in anticipation of what was to come. He could hear the sound of hundreds of paws hitting the ground as the monsters started to move out. Bracing for the worst, the group all turned towards the lake. No more light poured from the heavens and their entire focus was towards the wolves at their doorstep.
The weight Mark had felt before nearly doubled in strength. Mark had to focus just not to throw up as the effect was incredibly disorienting. A quick glance around showed everyone else looking ill.
“Hey, I think this is Mana. This feeling, it must be supercharged from the storm. Maybe try using abilities? That might relieve some of this stress”
He drew out some knives and charged them and instantly felt better. As people flexed their magical muscles looks of formed around the room. Sooner than he expected, however, the nauseating feeling returned. At least they would have plenty of mana to deal with whatever was coming next. He turned to look to the treeline that faced the lake. He wondered how long it would take the wolves to arrive.
It turned out they didn't have long to wait. Bounding in with a frenzied look in their eyes the first wave of wolves charged towards the house. Whatever protections Biscuit had put on the house were overwhelmed by the sheer number of wolves going out to range. There simply wasn’t a square inch of space that they were not covering. As they entered the lot his house was on they instantly snapped to attention. Maybe they scented the humans inside, or just saw a new structure in their way, but they all started charging the house directly as it came into view.
A loud twanging noise was all Mark heard before he saw six of the ten wolves charging them fall over dead. The arrow Liz had fired had weaved its way through the line and Mark was really impressed. He didn't realize quite how strong an attack that was. Not wanting to be outdone, he readied the trigger on his explosive charms, but before the wolves got close a few rapid reports of a rifle from his dad sounded and the rest of the wolves went down.
"Well, that wasn't half as..."
"No, just don't. Just don't say it!"
"But it was pretty easy!"
Another line of wolves emerged from the tree line, this time, it was over twenty of them.
Liz hit her forehead with her hand. "You just had to, didn't you?"
Mark shrugged and got ready for round two. It was hard for him to admit, but the Powershot and Pathing Shot combined was totally awesome and devastating to the tightly packed wolves. If he placed a charm just right he could take out two or three of the creatures, but he couldn’t help be horrified at how effective a fully charged pathing arrow was at mowing the monsters down. She probably had taken out fifty of the things in a few minutes as the wolves collapsed under her glowing arrows.
Well, it’s not like she could do that all the time. The pained look on Liz’s face indicated she must be burning through her mana pretty quickly. Mark knew from experience how painful getting to the bottom of your mana well was, and Liz didn’t seem to be holding back at all. Mark could feel the strain of constantly using his mana as well. It had been almost four hours, and they were all slowing down. Unfortunately for them, the waves of wolves continued to come and the bodies began to creep closer and closer to the house.
Soon the wolves made it in close enough for him to explode his charms that he set up previously, and between the focused fire of the slingshot, rifle, and arrows, the latest line was mowed down. Exhaustion was setting in though and the rate of fire from everyone was noticeably decreased. Mark was starting to worry. Maybe this wouldn’t be as easy as he hoped.
Just before the latest wave was cleared, another suddenly appeared. They had been using the bodies of their fallen comrades to make an approach under cover. Mark used a crossbow bolt to get a near one and readied some explosive charms for the wave that was getting close. Now they had close to twenty wolves nearby and things were looking dicey as the waves behind them kept on coming. Before Mark could explode his nearby charms, his mom jumped up and tossed a burning bottle towards the wave. With a massive blast of heat that actually caused everyone to cover their faces from the sudden flash the line of wolves in front of them erupted into flames.
"Sorry, should have given you some more warning on that one, but I rigged a burn line around the house. I thought it might be a good defense against anything that came our way."
It certainly seemed that way, as the advancing waves had all stopped in front of the blaze. The wolves circled the flames, their eyes flashing as they reflected back the light of the fire, but it gave the defenders several moments of much needed respite. Everyone took a moment to take a drink and eat some of the energy bars that they had handy.
The wall of fire had killed a large number of the nearby beasts but yet another wave creeped out of the woods to the south. As the massive wave of beasts approached they felt a sudden chill as the fur on their backs started to glow an eerie icy blue. The largest wolf howled as on cue an icy wind blew towards the flames and extinguished the formerly impressive blaze. The large pack of of wolves looked up at the defenders in the window and growled.
"Ok, so not looking so good anymore," Mark got two charged Chi blades ready for the next wave.
The next moments were pure chaos. Mark had lost count of how many wolves were now at the base of the house. Even though the windows were over twelve feet up a vicious maw breathing frosty air suddenly appeared in his window. He struck with a charged blade which pushed the large wolf away and he turned to see Liz clearing the window next to him with her machete. His dad shot a few more, leaning out dangerous exposed to get good angles before giving a signal.
Mark pulled the window closed and heard snapping sounds of locks being thrown around him.
“Ok, we’re to phase two then. Those things are way too agile,” Dad paced around the perimeter glancing down at the wolves. Periodically a toothy muzzle would appear and pound against the windows but the thick glass stood solid. “On the plus side, I don’t see any more waves of those things coming, but we got about thirty more out there.” His statement was accentuated by a sudden pounding noise and some hysterical horse whinnies from downstairs.
“The horses!” “Elly!”
Mark and Liz looked at each other after their outburst and rushed downstairs. Liz glared at Mark, probably because she disagreed with his priorities, but said nothing as they made their way towards the reinforced garage doors. Candlelight illuminated the makeshift garage barn and Elly was doing her best to keep the horses calm. The large animals’ eyes were wide with fear but Elly seemed to have things under control. She had her hands up and they could see a faint glow coming from her.
“I think I got this, they’re listening to me more now, and Biscuit is helping. I don’t know about the garage doors though. I can see them buckling some, I don’t think they’ll last all night.”
Jason took a quick look around and jumped back as a loud crash sounded. “I agree, we got a few hours at best, each of those hits is really heavy. The damned things must be running full bore at the doors. We’re going to have to take em out. We have a fixed point of entry now though, so we can prepare an appropriate welcome for our furry friends. Mark, Liz, come help me set up the kill way.”
The look on his dad’s face didn’t bode well for the wolves remaining outside.