Garth looked down at the unconscious governor and considered his options.
Use illusion and polymorph to pretend to be the Governor? That wouldn’t work. Despite the universal translator, they would be able to tell he was speaking English instead of whatever the local language was, giving him away immediately.
Fly away out the window? Garth glanced at the window, then back to the massive gold bars. He could snag them, but it would make the governor look like he’d been robbed rather than running away. Assuming they all didn’t die, the guy would probably be hailed as a tragic hero, assaulted by the evil invaders.
Goddamn it…wait. A hero! Garth twined mana around the shallow box in the corner of the room projecting the wavering portal. Garth deactivated the portal and the box flew across the room into his hand while the pounding on the door continued.
He didn’t have a lot of time.
“Wake up!” Garth said, charging his hand with the Heal spell and giving the governor a firm slap on the cheek.
The corio’s eyes flew open and he began squirming underneath Garth, mewling in terror.
“I had to, they were going to-‘
“Shut up, SHUT UP!” Garth shouted into his face. The crashing of massive jungle trees was audible through the windows now. They were getting closer.
“As much as I’d love for you to spill your guts, we don’t have time. You see this?” Garth asked, holding up the delicately filigreed box. “This was your only ticket out of here, I assume you disabled the Gate already?”
“Please, please, please, let me go,” The man said, his eyes tearing up, gaze locked on the portal creator. Garth was curious where the portal went, but it wasn’t important right now.
“Nope. You’re gonna die here.”
He started sobbing uncontrollably.
“Unless you organize the guards and get a real defense going. Can you do that?”
“No, no, no..” he sobbed shaking his head.
“Your choices are fight or die. You wanna die?”
The governor continued to cry and squirm.
Goddamnit, Garth thought, reaching into his bandolier and pulling out a leather bag of Garth’s prototype. He’d spent two weeks figuring out how to make this tiny amount and he was going to waste it on a mewling coward.
“You know what? We don’t have time for this,” Garth said, opening the leather bag. “Cocaine.”
Garth interrupted the governor with a small handful of white powder held to the man’s nose and mouth. The governor took a startled breath.
I guess this’ll be a good test.
“He’s in here!” Kenmet shouted. The clerk motioned for the guards to hurry. The chainmail wearing men jingled as they rushed down the hall, aiming for the Governor’s office. Someone had broken in and was tormenting the governor by the sound of it, and the crashing that was coming from outside the city walls…This couldn’t be good.
First thing’s first. Kenmet thought. Save the governor, then he could tell them what to do about the thing outside the walls. Kenmet naively assumed the fat man would have some magic influence that would make things okay again.
“Stack up,” the lead guard said. “This door is thick and it’s gonna take at least three of us to push the-“
“AAAA!” they paused at the full-throated bellow. It sounded like it came from…the governor? A second later the heavy oak door was thrown open to reveal the governor, shirt torn open and bloody, with white powder and blood covering his face. The man’s eyes were bloodshot and far wider than they should have been. He held a leather bag in his hand.
“Governor Hine, are you al-“
“ShutthefuckupKenmet!” Hine barked, marching past them. “You,GetEveryManAndWomanThat’sEverHeldABladeAndGetThemToTheArmory!” Hine said, pointing at Kenmet without looking.
“You,DraftEverybodyFromTheAdventurersGuild!” Kine said, snagging a bewildered guard as he marched past.
“Right fucking NOW, morons!” Kine shouted, his light blue face turning purple.
The governor’s subordinates scattered like a herd of deer to their tasks, too startled and too busy to spot the purple creature laughing from the Governor’s office.
Gotta ask Tyson if that’s a typical reaction, but that’s one problem taken care of, Garth thought, wiping a tear from his eye as he finished filling the governor’s bugout bag with gold bars. Waste not, want not.
“Hope his heart doesn’t explode.”
“No big loss,” Wilson said. “At least after he’s done his job.”
The governor continued his drug-fueled quest to save his own skin in the distance, barking out orders almost too fast to process. The walls are coming down, no matter what, huh? That little slip made Garth think the guy knew more about than a little bit about what was going on, it also meant he needed to get to Sandi and Itet and get them away from the walls.
Garth’s Status Band was completely full of spellbooks, so he kicked open the window and jumped out with the heavy bag of money in hand. Garth turned and threw the bag up on the roof where he could get to it later. Not the greatest hiding spot, but it was crunch time.
Turning back, Garth flew above the spreading panic in the streets and landed on the wall beside Sandi just in time to see the last jungle tree come down.
There were goblins swarming out of the forest by the thousands, but they weren’t the problem. With their meager height and sticks, they could never bring down a wall this big.
“Beladia, that’s not good,” Garth said, staring down at the fat, wriggling creature some ten stories tall, nearly on par with the city’s walls, pulsing forward on six stumpy legs like a caterpillar. An anguished face was stretched over the creature’s front, so thin as to be nearly invisible. The trail of trees behind it had been half-eaten as the massive creature approached. A single proboscis came out of its front, aimed at the walls.
Garth’s eyes were drawn to the figure riding on top of it, steering the creature like a sandworm from Dune. That didn’t look like a goblin.
“It’s a mutant feeder.” Sandi breathed.
“You need to get off the walls.” Garth said, reaching into his bandolier and pulling out a giant sequoia seed. He drew mana in from the surroundings and packed the seed with a delayed Plant Growth, not bothering with a stacked fertilize. He didn’t want to destroy the entire city himself, and Sequoia took plenty of power just to make one reach adulthood. He wasn’t sure he could have even pulled it off.
“Get to where the governor is marshalling everyone.” Garth said. Sandi and Itet joined the rest of the guards in the exodus from the walls. Now, to buy some time. Garth held the seed out in front of him with two fingers and let go. The seed zoomed forward under his guidance and buried itself in the earth in front of the repulsive creature.
The earth shook as the giant sequoia erupted from the ground, soaring far above the walls, reaching a height of three hundred feet in a matter of moments, dwarfing the ten story creature in comparison.
“Damn,” Garth said, marveling at the size of the tree while pulling a Dodder seed out of his bandolier. “I was hoping to break the record.”
“Shoulda put a little more juice into it.”
“Nah, need the juice.” Garth said, using the last of the mana he’d channeled to use Control Plant to convince the massive tree to lean…just so.
The screeching cry of tortured wood and the terrified wails of goblins was music to his ears.
“Maybe if we get lucky, it’ll squish that giant caterpillar.”
Garth didn’t bother to respond, but he knew it probably wouldn’t in a world where someone could get tougher just by eating heartstones, what were the odds that simple wood was any more effective than styrofoam? The enormous tree was so massive it seemed to fall like the whole thing was in slow motion. It gave Garth just enough time to reach out and draw every scrap of mana he could toward himself. The squiggling multicolor particles of reality drew around his hand and he plucked out what he needed to coach his specially bred Dodder.
“You like the taste of goblin flesh.” Garth said to the oversized Dodder seed. He’d bred the strain to be bigger, with wrist thick vines and blood-sucking hollow thorns. The seed would burst into a plant and shoot out toward any living creature it smelled. Normally sewn, it wouldn’t grow fast enough to catch anything and die out, but with Garth’s Plant Growth spell, It found living creatures and sucked them dry in a matter of seconds to help fuel its own growth. It was a nasty plant.
Garth just had to convince it to stick to goblins rather than people.
A rumbling crash echoed through the city when the massive tree impacted on the feeder, over a million pounds of force dropping on the grub-like creature. Garth hoped to see green slime shooting out either side of the enormous log’s thirty-foot diameter.
Instead, the tree was resting on top of the seemingly soft flesh, hardly dimpling its surface. Dozens of goblins that had been standing beside the creature had been crushed by the thick branches.
“Welp, that’s no good.” Wilson said as Garth looked back down at the seed in his hand. Create the trigger, weave the first layer, pull out the strings.
“Uh, Garth?” Wilson asked.
“Huh?” Garth grunted, beginning the second layer and carefully arranging the recursive mana pools in an efficient honeycomb shape.
“It’s eating through the log.”
Garth glanced up, and sure enough, the sequoia was being eating away like cotton candy by the creature beneath it. It was squirting a viscous green acid that melted the tree away from it. Along with that…
Black wormlike creatures were being jettisoned outward, much like the ones the first creature like this he had met had spit out, but these were the size of sharks, with barbed ridges along their blunt heads and razor sharp teeth. They burrowed through the wood with abandon.
“Guess we found out what made the holes,” Garth said, looking back down at the seed in his hand.
Third layer, recursive mana pools…. And done.
The log rolled off the feeder, crushing dozens more goblins beneath it, but the main threat simply began to squirm their direction again, eating the corpses of its handlers as it swept over them. Garth was disappointed to note that the guy steering the feeder wasn’t a bloody stain on the creature’s back.
Garth’s Mana sight made out a shimmering bubble of mana maintaining a dome of force around him. A wizard. Great. Garth preferred to pick on people who couldn’t fight back, if he had a choice about it.
Garth shot the dodder out into the field, the tiny marble sized seed invisible in the mayhem. It leapt out of the ground, its roots disconnecting from the ground behind it as it flew through the air.
The plant did nothing less than tackle a single nearby goblin. The little man-like green thing gave a piteous wail as it’s blood was drawn out of its body through the translucent glass-like thorns. The green creature paled and withered as it’s body dried out and mummified, all the precious nutrients drawn out of it.
Now the party really gets started, Garth thought as the Chain Dodder followed suit, turning grey and going to seed.
For a second, nothing happened. Many goblins didn’t even see the fate of their companion, as many of them as there were. Only the ones who were standing right beside it showed any reaction, but they were far too close to be helped.
The second passed, and several hundreds of dodder leaped out from the corpse of the first one and began to spread across the battlefield like a plague. Garth waited a tense moment with the fireball spell all ready to go in case the Dodder tried to climb the wall.
He almost missed it when the mage on the back of the feeder made a pulling motion with his hand. All the mana in a few dozen feet around him was disrupted, including the mana fueling Garth’s dodder, sparing a few hundred of the little green men tucked up close to the mage. Most of the rest of them were feeding the rippling mat of vegetation.
That’ll make things easier. Garth thought as he scanned the sea of dead goblins.
“Off the wall!” Wilson shouted into his ear with an urgency that circumvented his brain and went straight to his legs, making Garth involuntarily fling himself from the parapets.
The place he’d been standing erupted in flames, acid, and poisonous fumes. Several dozen black worms slammed into the stone and began chewing through the wall as Garth caught himself midair and flew deeper into the city.