Chapter 349 Angel of Death
A storm was brewing, dark clouds rising in the distance. Groups of mounted imperials rushed out of the city, scouts and soldiers to join the war efforts, to get information and deliver their own.
“Sure you want to leave now?” Maro asked, sitting next to her on the roof.
The building had a good view, near the outermost wall. “They have to be able to deal with it themselves. I can’t be here all the time.”
The man stood up and stretched. “You could be. I was.”
“I can’t do much good here.”
“You could defend the city, be a reason for people not to attack.” Maro said.
She knew he was just fucking with her but replied seriously nonetheless. “Sulivhaan is at level two sixty eight. Dagon at two sixty one. They have the Hand and the Shadowguard behind them. I trust them not to fuck this up.”
“Maybe…,” She added, “Maybe it’s the wrong decision. But if I stay now, I will stay the next time. I care about them, even a little about the city itself, the people living in it. Still, I won’t let it hold me back.”
He shrugged, “Your decision. I hope you’re ready to live with the consequences.”
“Like you did?” She shot back and watched in amusement as he grasped his heart, acting as if a powerful spell had hit him.
“I was there. And I still failed. Perhaps it would have been smarter to focus on what I was good at.” He said and stood up.
“Killing monsters?” Ilea asked.
“No.” He winked at her, “Gambling.”
Ilea pushed some air out of her nose, “I’m sure the leaders of Ravenhall will rise to the challenge. If anything, the city would hold under siege. One level three hundred human won’t change the tide of war. A level three fifty or four hundred though? Maybe.”
Maro snorted, “One level two hundred assassin can change the tide of war. Let’s not get into details though. Come on then. Or do you want to brood on the rooftops some time longer? Maybe until the storm hits, might make a good painting. Lightning flashing in the background. Ilea, the defender of Ravenhall! Lady Lilith, the destroyer, the avenger!” He gestured wildly, nearly slipping on the slightly wet roof.
She silently spread her wings, his words like static in her ears. Did I finally get my Resistance? Ilea wondered, the winds pressing against her bone armor, soon covered by ash.
Maro caught up with her, the two rushing over the mountains with incredible speed, their target, Riverwatch.
It was hopeless really. The monsters. Hidden near the riverbank.
I was all Linus could do not to scream, to stay composed and to focus. He had faced monsters before, of course he had. Both men and beasts deserving of the name. Both with the guard and with his brother.
His glaive swung wide, twirling in the air and coming down on the neck of a Nazark. He trusted his skill, trusted the blade. The ground was wet, the air cold. His boots moved smoothly on the gravel of the road, blood spraying out from the wound of his enemy.
The glaive continued through the air, his skill keeping the bladed pole moving. Behind his back and finally into his other hand. No monster was in range. None that he could see, sense.
“Retreat!” He heard his commander shout. The sound was lost in a sea of screams and snarls.
He was part of the team that was supposed to flank the beasts. Nazarks, easily provoked, easily led into a trap. Today it was the other way around. The scouts had failed it seemed or the creatures had learned, perhaps had a leader even.
[Nazark – lvl 62]
Weak, he thought. A single blow of his weapon would be enough to kill it. Still he felt his breath get stuck in his lungs, felt the shiver flowing unrelentingly down his spine as he looked at the blood dripping from the monster’s claws.
This was what it meant, to fight outside the walls. To be the hunters, the cleaners. Those that were meant to protect the people living happily within the distant city.
He had of course regretted his decisions many times already. His post on the city walls was secure, his level above one hundred. Many contenders had to become adventurers instead or had to join the troops to scout and kill the beasts nearby.
Riverwatch. The city he had come to call his home. He looked at the lanky beast, taller even than him and thinner, albeit not by much.
Hatred glowed in its eyes, coupled with apprehension. It had seen its kind cut down, its attention focused on the blade held out by the human warrior.
Linus waited, recovering his stamina and mana as he surveyed his surroundings, listening for anything that would try to sneak up. The formations were broken, many wounded or dead. On each side. What the beasts lacked in teamwork and planning, they made up in savagery and fearlessness. He knew the guard was losing. A numbers game. Individual skill might be the saving grace. Both for him or the beasts.
“Why couldn’t you just stay in the forest?” He asked, sincere. The man’s voice laden with anger and fear.
Yet his hand was steady, the heavy wood familiar, a pillar to lean on. To focus.
The beast moved.
Spindly legs propelled it forward, strong muscles tensed and released as they brought its claws toward the armored man.
Lightning cracked around him, his body tensing up before he shot forward. His glaive was aimed at the creature’s heart, a dull crash resounded and the blade had punched through. Too much. He felt it, knew it in his core.
The beast slid closer, the gashing wound on its chest spelling its death. Yet not fast enough. Claws moved in and slashed at the human, their coupled momentum making it impossible to avoid. Not for the monster and not for the man.
Linus’ eyes opened wide right before they crashed together, a bling resounding in his mind just when the long vicious claws buried themselves in his left arm and right shoulder.
The force went through him and the two tumbled down in a ball of long legs and arms. Still, he gripped his weapon, the wood holding against the weight. Linus moved the corpse away from him and stumbled to his feet, blood dripping from his arm and shoulder. Neither wound was life threatening but it would be an issue if not treated soon.
The pain was familiar, not worse than what he had felt before but not much better either. It would impact his skill. The blade slid out of the corpse, the man distancing himself from the body as he once again looked around.
Corpses littered the riverbank but the sounds of battle had moved, towards the treeline to his right. Coughing and moans of pain resounded around him, the iron stench of blood laid heavy in the air. Death. The thought flashed through his mind. Run. He heard himself think. A pounding in his body, his own heart beating faster yet again.
The man activated Meditation, its second tier allowing him to move slowly towards the battle, the side effects of the skill calming him down, unraveling the knot of fear in his mind.
He sped up again once he was focused again, lightning flowing through him to quicken his movements, to enhance his reaction speed. The Nazarks had been quick, had killed five of them before most even knew what was happening.
Any lower ranked adventurer team or even the guards from Stormbreach would have fallen into chaos. Quickly overwhelmed. Yet they were the hunters, trained and prepared to take care of monster infestations. Nazarks hadn’t been planned for today but it didn’t matter.
Fire flashed in the underbrush. The light of dawn slowly pressing through the dark.
The trees wouldn’t favor his weapon, an open space required to fully use the range. Linus moved his grip farther up the wooden pole, his breath heaving for air as he steeled himself. Lightning flashed once more when he broke through the bushes.
Heavy steps pushed against the earthy ground, his blade slashing into the neck of a beast, killing it instantly. A slide allowed him to dodge a flying clawed hand, his weapon cutting through a leg before her rolled and shot up again.
The mage looked injured, stumbling away from two more beasts as a small ball of fire burnt into one of them, released by her hand.
Blood was dripping from her chest, her left arm hanging to her side. The white of bone visible.
Linus moved towards her, the power of lightning flowing through his veins. He jumped to her side and shouted, “Healer!” To deter the beasts and just as muchin hope to find the only healer in their troop to stumble out of the darkness.
Three more monsters answered his call, rushing out from the thicket as he readied his blade.
Everything stopped instantly, writhing lines of moving darkness exploded through the Nazarks’ heads and chests. A figure clad in black, wisps moving silently around their armor landed softly in their midst.
Linus breathed out, his weapon ready as he prepared, hands sweaty and eyes focused on the blue piercing glare of the monster. The taste of blood was in his mouth, his body moving to protect the mage behind himself.
[Healer - ??]
He read the tag and watched as the person moved past, with graceful and quick movements. Past his blade and his body. The man turned, only to find a steady hand on his shoulder. He activated a short term boost to his mind but all he saw was the wound on his arm closing rapidly. A feeling of warmth flowed through him, his eyes going wide as he watched the tissue on the mage’s arm reform. Monster…
He had seen healers before, had trained with them and fought to protect them. This wasn’t a healer, this was a wraith of death. He dared not breath, dared not move.
“Relax and move to the road.” The voice said, human. Young. With a confidence and calm that made the hairs on his arms stand up.
He forced his eyes to hers but found only the trees staring back at him.
“Shadow…,” The mage said with a breath. Her hand grasped at her arm before her gaze focused on him.
“Are you alright?” He asked, looking around to find the stranger. All he found was corpses. Distant sounds of battle still resounded, spells and rare flashes of light.
The mage stumbled away from the tree, looking around frantically, “I… am. Come, we have to go to the road.”
Why do we have to do anything? She is a stranger and definitely dangerous. He thought but followed nonetheless, their breathing the only sound next to their legs brushing against the bushes and plants.
They broke out of the trees, his gaze immediately finding others stepping out, bewildered, looking around as if to find the monster right behind them.
“We’re not the only ones.” The woman said, a smile on her face as she wiped at the blood she had coughed up just minutes ago.
Linus too grasped at his shoulder. It was a weird feeling, to be healed. This had felt different still, forceful as if someone intruded his very core. Still warm and true. Power he could not imagine. He steadied his shaking hands, focusing on the forest, looking over the bodies. “Look for survivors.” He said, “Regroup, form up!” He was no commander but neither were those coming out of the forest.
They listened, mages and rangers lining up behind, their backs towards the river. Weapons and spells at the ready.
Linus trusted his speed, knew he could escape should a group of Nazarks come out to ambush him yet again. He saw more people move out of the forest. Here’s one. He checked the man, finding several wounds but nothing that explained all the blood near his belly. All the guts.
He moved his hand through the gore and pushed it aside carefully, finding the man uninjured. Small cuts and bruises. Did she get here first? Noises came from the other side of the small grass field, a group of Nazarks rushing out.
He readied his glaive, ready to retreat to the group a dozen meters behind and to his right. Yet he saw the beasts’ gazes weren’t focused on him.
A man in red robes, lined with silver plating appeared in the field. Silver antlers grew from his helmet, no eyes visible through the metal. A hand was extended and a beam of black seared through the fleeing monsters, their bodies dropping dead as if their very strings of life were cut.
Linus held his ground, the bladed pole ready to strike. They’re not shadows. He thought, the man too far away to identify. His armored robe looked powerful, ancient. As he stared at him, the mage suddenly appeared a meter away. His teeth clenched, lightning flaring up as he forced himself not to strike, his instinct nearly costing him his life.
“Bow before me, human.” The man spoke, his hands casually to his side.
[Necromancer – lvl ??]
Linus kept his hands on the weapons, his spells extended and his senses heightened. I can give them time. Until the healer comes back. He jumped back, focused on the necromancer before him. “Healer!” He shouted again, his only hope to survive this the mysterious stranger that intervened before.
Something pushed out of the trees, flying high and illuminated by the sunlight pushing through the mist. Black wings, ethereal and powerful. The armored healer, clad in black looked his way. Ash?
She appeared closer and looked around.
Linus forced himself to focus on the necromancer, confused why the man hadn’t moved.
“You fucking dunce. Stop scaring the soldiers.” The healer said, shaking her head. She chuckled and vanished once more.
Scaring… the soldiers? The words repeated in his mind, his eyes darting right to find the woman but she was gone.
“Taking the fun out of it.” The necromancer said. “Alright glaive master, join the others. Would be best for your already atrocious casualty numbers.” He added and flew up and away.
“What the fuck is happening.” Linus said, unsure what kind of feelings flowed through him. At least I didn’t pee myself this time. “What a day.” He sighed and moved to the growing group of hunters.
“Stay vigilant. We don’t know who they are.” He said, prepared to fight. Even if they had saved him twice.
One of the other warriors sheathed his weapon, “Are you kidding me? You haven’t heard of Lilith? She’s the mad healer Dale found around here years ago. We’re blessed, I tell you.” The man laughed, completely relaxed.
Captain Dale? So those stories weren’t made up? He had his doubts. Until now it had simply been weird for the respected guard captain to make up people. Linus had assumed the man wanted to encourage recruits to take up a healer class. The wings and armor, maybe that drunken story wasn’t actually made up.
Ilea rushed through the forest, far faster than the monsters she was hunting. It was a slaughter. Dozens of them still ran, some trying to find the humans they were fighting and others fleeing from the newcomers. It didn’t matter.
They were slow, sluggish even. Their hide proved utterly useless against her ashen limbs, the bladed ends piercing through their bodies like bullets through skin.
She ignored the notifications, the low leveled monsters irrelevant to her progress. Ten more she killed before the forest returned to silence. Birds and other animals were holding their breaths, hiding in whatever hole they could find.
“I think that’s all of them.” Maro appeared a couple meters away, brushing at the blood on his armor.
Ash formed and moved over his armor, Ilea wordlessly helping him out. “Don’t get used to it.”
The man chuckled, “Already have. Want to join my kingsguard? We could use a woman of such power.”
“Power to clean? Might want to check on your outdated views on women. Things have changed in the last thousand years.” Ilea joked, flying up to look over the forest. Her ears strained as she rushed over the surroundings, her sphere and senses not picking up anymore of the beasts.
Maro followed, “Hey, some of my best friends are women.”
“We can even vote now.” Ilea said, glancing his way with an apathetic look.
“You vote kings nowadays? Things really did change.” The necromancer said with fake shock.
Not like you would have an issue charming a crowd. Ilea thought and rushed towards the riverbank.
A thin gravel road led alongside it. To Riverwatch, a couple kilometers away if her estimate was correct. The adventurers were lucky that some of them had screamed so loudly. Otherwise they would have never knownanyone was there.
She landed in the field where the initial battle must have happened. Dozens of corpses littered the grass, most of them beasts. She closed her eyes and breathed in, focusing on the blood, guts, shit and piss.
“Not puking this time?” Maro asked with a teasing voice as he landed next to her, “Should I raise them? Would give them quite a spook.” He suggested.
Ilea opened her eyes and glanced at him, “Do that and I’ll spook them with your ripped off head on a stick.”
“That would work too.” He said, his helmet vanishing to reveal his grin. “I was talking about the Nazarks of course.” The man said and kicked one of the bodies.
A groan resounded, the adventurer slowly getting up before he stumbled back, glaring at the necromancer standing above him.
Like a child sometimes. She thought and smiled. Guess there’s a reason I’ve kept him around.