Chapter 136 Vihal – Town Defense Simulator
'Good thing I fought against Ilea so much...' Eve thought as she blocked another blade aimed at her back, dodging slightly to the side as soon as the man had appeared behind her, her dagger turning in her hand to deflect his attack before he vanished again.
The shadowy tendrils attacking her were dodged as well, much slower than Trian's or Kyrian's attacks. Comparatively they stayed behind, ready to catch her whenever she touched too closely to the shadows still lingering. The pain wouldn't finish her but a lapse in concentration was just as much of a problem.
Eve had yet to use her mind magic, the man moving too quickly for her to find a good way to surprise him. She was absolutely sure that her magic alone wouldn't be enough to take care of him so she waited, strike upon strike she defended and was slowly driven to the stone wall behind her.
He didn't leave her a choice as she started to hum at a high tone, the man appearing a couple meters away, hands clutching his head as shadowy tendrils shot towards her, the woman dodging and moving in on him quickly. Her dagger moved but was stopped in the last moment by his hand, the curse entering him through the wound.
Her adversary hissed at the pain and feeling that slowly crept up his arm before he vanished. Eve stood there, bloody dagger in hand as the manifestations of shadow around her started to cruble and disappear, a good source for further information lost with it all. Eve frowned as she walked back the way they came, her daggers and magic at the ready should the man chose to ambush her again, though she doubted it. Other than Ilea and maybe Trian there were few people she knew that could resist a curse once it's entered the body.
Her hood up again, Eve entered the city from the tunnel entrance below a big bridge, water rushing past below and towards the lake as she breathed in deeply. Spring sent its first emissaries as Eve spotted the growing leaves on the trees above, to the side of the bridge. Soon the city would be covered in color again, the way she liked it most.
'Golden Lily...' she thought, remembering the name the man had mentioned. He had seemed keen on finishing her off and in the end it was more a warning than a confession. He had been capable, very much so. Had it not been for her surprise and effect on him with mind magic, she would've been dead. The man was very dangerous in close quarters, that was for sure.
Maybe too dangerous for her at the moment. Then again if she thought like that, his warning would seem like something to take seriously. She sighed and left. The first step would be information gathering. Perhaps finding this Edwin and working together with him would be the best bet, hunting down the guy she'd fought was a possibility as well. Or simply asking around for the Golden Lily but that one seemed like the worst option.
As much as she liked the approach of having the enemy try and find you, if a man who nearly killed her warns of their danger, then maybe she should find out more things about them before she painted a target on her back. First things first, she needed a drink. A strong one at that.
“They're breaking through!” the lone shout of a town guard was lost in the screams and shouts of both monster and man, the moon lightly illuminating the massacre below in this cloudless night. Explosions rung through the area as a cluster of demons was shredded through, their lifeless bodies flung into their brethren, breaking bones and tearing muscles. Some of them howled in pain before well placed arrows silenced their screams.
“Stand your ground!” a woman shouted, looking to her right and extending her arm. An explosion sent the demon flying, spraying blood over her long armor skirt. Claire's mana was running somewhat low, her meditation skill running at full capacity as she sent destructive waves of explosions into the demon horde below. Their approach had been tactical, coming in the night right when their guard was at its lowest.
The two smaller attacks in the day must've been planned as well, to drain them and scout out abilities and key personnel. This time the demons didn't just mindlessly charge the walls but headed straight for the gate, slowly breaking through the thick wood with sheer ferocity. Claire's explosive runes had been placed a little further out, especially near the gate to not accidentally damage it.
The enemy must have known as much or simply assumed the gate to be the best way to approach Vihal. Claire looked around as more and more of their soldiers ran to the gates, woken by the ringing bell or comrades running through the barracks. The gate wouldn't hold for long, even with the earth mages below reinforcing it constantly.
'Thin the numbers...' she thought as she threw another runed stone down into the screaming crowd, their numbers impossible to determine in the dark of night. The following flash tearing into the enemy wasn't very reassuring. A projectile glanced her helmet, an addition the guard captain had insisted on. “Ranged enemies at forty degrees!” she shouted as some of the archers took aim, their arrows sent off loosely into the stated direction.
It wouldn't matter much, the enemy seemed too numerous for lacking accuracy to become a problem. Some of the archers were pretty good actually, hunters or rangers but fighting against demons in a life and death situation wasn't exactly on their daily menu before a couple weeks ago. Not something one gets used to quickly.
An orange shield was conjured right after Claire saw the light of the moon reflect on a mass of projectiles, the bone smashing into the barrier while the demons below continued their assault on the door. Claire had previously instructed the earth mages to construct further barricades behind the gate and the close combat soldiers to take cover behind them should the time of a breach come. Now was that time and she nodded after checking the defenses with a glance, many people already standing at the ready with their weapons drawn, support spells being applied from behind.
Vihal had been mostly self sustaining, which meant they had priests and healers, mages of all kind and an assortment of warriors and hunters at least capable of defending the city against your average monster in the surrounding forest. Not something most smaller towns in the empire could boast, having the opportunity to get imperial guards and healers instead and work with adventurers for the rest. It had given the city some leeway when it came to laws and taxes, perks all of them enjoyed. The lord had apparently realized that such a constellation was only possible with everyone at least somewhat benefiting.
Claire jumped down and placed the last of her runed plates around the barricade, looking into the fearful faces of her companions. The swords were held loosely, the defender's body language not showing confidence. Claire frowned under her helmet. She wasn't confident either, the enemy numbers being unknown. Should there be more than a single mind weaver, she didn't think they even had a remote chance.
“Stand now, this is where we stop them. Otherwise all you hold dear will be slaughtered and turned into one of them. Turn your fear into fury.” she spoke, walking to the front line, the people moving away to let her pass. The earth mages ran back as the first claws cut through their improvised defenses, the demons chipping through more and more of the quickly moved rock. Arrows shot into and around the holes, injuring or killing the demons beyond but more of the monsters replaced the dead as more and more of the barricade was eaten up.
“Prepare, as discussed. Wait until the barrier is down to strike!” Claire shouted, right before the gate fell. Instead of squeezing through the small holes they had already created, the demons waited for a sizable entrance to form so they could enter in greater numbers. Not something they would do without a mind weaver to coordinate them. Ten of the monsters ran towards them at once, another wave following right behind.
Claire extended her hands and waited as mana built up inside of her, a big chunk having regenerated in the down time they just had. The captain of the guard was standing next to her with battle ax in hand as the demons reached them. An orange barrier shot up from the plates below, the demons crashing into the physical barrier, three rows of them clashing together, the monsters unable to stop their momentum in time.
“Attack!” Claire shouted as the barrier came down, with it the slashes and strikes of swords and maces, helped by the ranged attacks of arrows and magic. The confused demons still in the process of standing up were slain by the attacks, as more of the monsters tried to get through from behind, pushing at the demons in front, opening them up even further for attack. This went on for two minutes straight, the towns people gaining confidence and ferocity in their own attacks.
Claire carefully watched the battle before she held up one arm. “Move back, four meters, move now!” she shouted, the people around her reacting slowly but within her calculations. The initial waves of demons had been slain, Claire activating the prepared explosion runes now sitting under the enemies in front as she activated the next line's barricade. The explosions ripped through the town's streets and a part of its gate, making it harder for more of the monsters to join the fray.
The barrier came down again as they formed the next line of defense. This one was physically strengthened by spikes and a small wall that would stop the initial speed of the demons, Claire expecting the same barricade trick not to work again, at least not against controlled demons.
“Ring the bells.” she said to the captain next to her who nodded and shouted her command. A moment later the screams of their enemies and sounds of magic were interrupted by the ringing of bells, the noise soon spreading across all of the town.
A sudden pressure hit Claire's mind, her last effort put into the prepared runes before her, a white barrier coming up immediately. Her mind cleared as she checked around herself, glad to find nobody else affected. The mind weaver had targeted her, as expected. Though the sheer force of its attack was quite different to Eve's use of the magic. It would be dangerous to let her guard down for more than two seconds.
“It's here, all ranged attackers take down the mind weaver!” she shouted, spotting the demon mage floating a little above the destroyed gate, demons rushing past him and towards their group. Its face wasn't visible from the distance as arrows and magic were thrown its way. Demons jumped in front of the mage to take the brunt of the force as it slowly retreated.
“No you're not... captain hold the line, I'm going after it. Follow the plans!” Claire shouted as she ran and jumped to the wall on their left, continuing to run towards the gate where the mind weaver wasn't visible anymore. She knew he was there as she blindly ran close to the gate and jumped off.
The pale moon illuminated the flying woman and the horde below, her black armor reflecting the light as she tried to make out her target. She couldn't but it didn't quite change her approach as she channeled mana into her arms and hands, landing on a spot of grass between the monsters as a big wave of fire and kinetic force spread outwards around her, burning and shredding most of the close by beasts.
Turning around, she saw the mind weaver, floating a little higher than its peers as it locked eyes with her, the black abyss like forms staring deep into her as she lifted her left arm, a rune on her bracelet starting to shine and a small white shield forming in front of her. The money gained on the missions wasn't wasted, instead invested in a long term plan to make even more at a later time. Of course all her plans were on ice for the moment but depending on how this situation turned out, maybe it would all be for the better.
The enemy's magic tugged on her mind but it was dull and weak compared to the near shock like state she had been before. Her shield was raised before her as she quickened her step, running past the horde around her. A big number of them blocked her way, Claire using her other bracelet as she channeled mana into her arm and extended her hand, an explosion extending outwards and into the group, shearing a path through them.
She jumped through and threw out four runed stones as she watched the mind weaver slowly retreat, more demons approaching from all around. Suddenly their voices were cut off, Claire standing up as she confidently held up her right arm, the white shield shimmering with power. The runed stones wouldn't last long as they suppied the dome like orange shield around the two of them. Claire wouldn't need a lot of time.
Three quick and powerful steps brought her in front of the enemy who tried desperately to claw at her. A futile atempt as she simply dodged the attack, her right hand grabbing the demon's face before a small localized explosion tore into it. Another set of explosions followed as she slowly pushed the less and less struggling monster downwards and into the dirt. She didn't stop her attacks until the notification of her enemy's death came to her mind.
Claire allowed herself a small smile as the attacks to her dome first stopped and then continued. She waited for the last second where the barrier would collapse and ran off towards the town, jumping past the monsters around her, using explosions to get around bigger groups. Jumping back onto the wall, she was quite happy to find the demons inside breaking into doors and spreading out in complete chaos.
Wincing, she held her side as she looked down. Blood was pooling on her hand, something to be taken care of immediately. Only she didn't have either the time nor resources to do so. So she continued to run, this time trying to avoid the demons that were focused on their imminent surroundings, their controlled destructive power turning into a fizzle of its former glory. Now only wild beasts, trying to find their next meal.
Claire crashed into a wall, the wound on her side worse than she had previously realized. It wasn't far and she made herself move, her legs taking one step at a time as she closed in on the armory in the center of the town. The gates were open, a large group of demons trying to get to the people inside as swords and magic slowly worked through the enemy, the beasts too feral to realize their tactical disadvantage as they slowly funneled into the gates in single or double file, easily taken care of by the people inside who rotated to ensure prepared and fresh warriors were at the front while mages continued to rain fire and ice from the flat top of the building.
Claire smiled as she watched the scene unfold, quite happy everything was going according to plan, one of six plans in place at least. Slowly she sunk to one knee, her eyesight growing more hazy by the second. A chuckle left her, she had taken down the enemy commander and ensured the town's survival and yet she would die, alone and from an attack she hadn't even noticed.
'How unnoble of me...' she thought, chuckling again, this time she coughed, blood coloring the wall before her. Then her vision went black.
Waking with a start, Claire held her hand in front of her face, blinded by the light around her as she winced at the pain in her side.
“Lay down again! The wound has reopened, come help me Anne!” a woman spoke loudly right next to her as she listened and lay down, the warm feeling of healing magic entering her as the pain lessened.
It took a while but a couple minutes later, she was stable.
“How's the situation?” she asked “Where am I?”
“The demons have surrounded this place but it seems they can't get through.” the woman replied with a shaky voice. “Come, let's get you well again so you can help out. And don't go collapsing in a side street again.” the woman said but it was quite obvious she was glad to see Claire alive. Another wave of healing magic flowed through her. In most other situations she would be fine with this already but considering the defenders had the situation at least somewhat under control, it didn't hurt to get more than just an acceptable level of health.
The room had been hastily remodeled to allow a higher amount of people and beds to be placed inside, the usual weapons and armor given to the townspeople to help them defend the city. It was an emergency situation after all. Claire lay down again and closed her eyes as the young healer next to her, a girl of barely eighteen used her magic, beads of sweat forming on her forehead and arms.
She hoped the casualties of this night weren't as high as she feared. Then again she was generally not an optimist and her expectations had already been surpassed with only one enemy mind weaver and the townspeople actually making it into the impromptu shelter.
“I... need. I need to meditate.” the girl next to her said, breathing hard at the mana exhaustion that had already started to set in.
Claire opened her eyes and checked her status. “That's enough. Recover and care for the others. Thank you.” she said, touching the girl's shoulder and getting up a moment later. Her vision went black for a second after getting up but she simply waited it out.
“Alright, let's go finish this one.” she said and walked to the door.