Garth felt a cold steel circle snap shut around his neck, and his Mana Sight popped off like a defective lightbulb, leaving him with the mundane view of the world he’d almost forgotten.
Garth was hauled to his feet, feeling slowly returning to his limbs a moment before manacles were placed on his feet and hand. The Orc gave Garth’s regrowing arm nub a confused stare for a moment before he shrugged and left the last one hooked onto itself.
Good. In a few minutes, he’d have a functioning arm. In the meantime, though, the immediate problem was-
“Divisions one and two, through the gate!” an orc wearing a bright red sash shouted, pointing forward as the front two fifths of the army rushed the closed gate, somehow sprinting in lockstep.
A handful of bolts flashed from the walls and bounced off the soldiers heavy armor, while most of the people on the wall paled and ran. A moment later, the last few brave men and women on the wall were scooped up and carried kicking and away by their companions.
Garth didn’t hold it against them. They had just seen their nuclear deterrent get his ass kicked. Now he was chained up and it was looking pretty bad.
There was still a little bit he could do to maybe help his family.
“There’s no reason to attack them! You already have the guy you were looking for! Let these people go free and I’ll help you. I can remove all the tech from the city!” Garth shouted, trying to get Argus’s attention.
The elf dabbed his bleeding nose with a gold-embroidered handkerchief, and glared up at Garth.
“I think we both know that the concept behind many of these technologies is already common knowledge among your people. If I don’t rip the ideas out from the root, they’ll spread and grow. Besides, what could I possibly need your help with?”
The land behind Argus brightened to near blinding levels for a brief instant, casting him in silouhette for an instant as the wall surrounding the city exploded outward, filling the entire battlefield with shrapnel.
The wood pelted off an invisible dome around the two of them, but the rest of the vanguard wasn’t so lucky.
Everywhere, veteran soldiers were dead, rolling in pain, limping away, or cinching off exposed arteries where their limbs had been torn asunder by wood that made steel look like play-do.
A few seconds later, the veterans began to froth at the mouth and scream wildly, setting upon each other with their swords and their teeth, mad with rage. The green grass outside the walls soaked up orc blood.
Grass was really earning his keep.
“Could’a helped you with that.” Garth said with a shrug as the next two divisions were ordered to restrain their brethren while the toxins ran their course.
“What in the world?” The Elf said, his jaw hanging open. “There was no spell there! No magic at all!”
“What can I say, we humans are really good at killing without magic.”
“That wasn’t good! you just… Flung sharp, poisoned wood at them really hard!”
Garth tested the chains, and received a tiny flash of pain when he tried to reach out for the mana in the environment, accompanied by a small glow. He stopped and glanced up, surveying the total chaos on the battlefield in front of them.
“Worked, didn’t it?”
“Now you have no wall.” Argus scoffed, pointing at the splintered, carbonized remains of their city wall.
There was a strange squeaking, like Styrofoam against plastic, as green shoots of new Claymore Wood began to grow through the hollowed remains of the previous generation, regrowing from the roots. The wall was a tuber.
“Huh, weird.” Garth said. Clark must have emergency rerouted the mana from the non-essential city infrastructure to the wall and then told Grass to blow it.
“No. NO!” Argus shouted, spreading his hands wide in front of him.
The light of the sun dimmed an instant before a beam of light twenty feet wide caught the regrowing gate and turned it to ash, scouring a glass valley straight into the heart of the city.
Garth closed his eyes against the light, and when he blinked the dots out of them, he saw a long glass trough, crackling and fracturing as the heat left it. The Gatehouse and fifty feet of buildings behind it had simply ceased to exist.
“There,” Argus said, hauling Garth to his feet and pointing. “Brute force. Something your shit-flinging monkey brain can understand.”
“You don’t have to kill these people.” Garth said, meeting the elf’s eyes.
“They killed hundreds of Inner Sphere Soldiers,” Argus said with a sneer. “Their lives are forfeit.”
Garth glanced at a maddened soldier who stabbed one of his comrades before being decapitated by another.
“Technically, I think your Inner Sphere Soldiers have done more damage to themselves.”
“You just can’t-“ Argus struck Garth across the face, knocking him back to the ground. The chains on his legs prevented him from catching himself. “Help yourself, can you?”
“I think I left my ability to feel fear with my familiar.” Garth said, chuckling into the dirt.
“Hurry, get them to the China portal!” Wilson said, nearly hyperventilating as he zoomed through the air, herding Sandi and the girls through the city, toward their first intercontinental trade portal. The purple toddlers were far too small and ungainly to run, so they were squealing with delight, riding on their mother’s back as she navigated the crowd of people heading for the safety of China. Never thought I’d think that phrase.
Once the girls were on the other side, Wilson could give Garth the signal, and Garth could teleport to the gate.
Then they would cut the connection between the two gates. Maybe everyone wouldn’t have evacuated yet, but the important people would be where they needed to be.
Live to fight another day.
Sandi was making good time, able to walk over most people while her Lure slipped through them.
“What about my parents?” Sandi shouted up at Wilson, who was busy experiencing how the fight was going through Garth’s emotions. Not well, from what he could feel.
“They’re miles to the north, and they’re not human. We’ll send them mail to act like they don’t know us. Should be good enough! Now hurry up, you can’t send a letter if you’re dead!” Wilson shouted over the clamor of the crowd that was slowly beginning to choke the streets.
It shouldn’t be this crowded, Wilson thought. After all, the portal to China was maybe forty feet wide, plenty big enough for people to evacuate the city. Fifty thousand in five minutes? Doable. So why?
Wilson had a sinking sensation in his gut.
“Keep moving, I’m gonna go ahead and check something!” Wilson floated up and sped toward the massive tree that hosted the portal.
What he saw there made him come to a dead stop in midair, heart wrenching with despair.
Rather than the view of a Chinese pavilion through the portal, there was only a view of the beach and the pacific ocean beyond between the two massive branches that came together to make the gate.
“Shit,” Wilson said, at a loss. What had happened to-
The robbers must have meant to use the China gate to escape, and then cut it off. Their friends had written them off and bailed, destroying the gate in the process.
“Son of a bitch!”
What the hell where they supposed to do now?
A burly man, nearly seven feet tall and wearing official attire stood up on the defunct portal shouted and waved his hands, gathering everyone’s attention.
“Everyone, go to the Dungeon Street Dungeons! The military is going to protect you there!”
Dungeon Street had been renamed such because it had managed to connect three nearby dungeons together, creating the major artery for the city’s crab-monster based food trade, along with sundries like pearls, and the occasional treasure.
The three dungeons might be big enough to fit all fifty thousand people, standing room only. But when the enemy army came knocking, how long could they last?
With magic that summoned water, cooked food, and giant crab-monsters spawning constantly…Maybe quite a while.
Wilson glanced out to the beach, where the last of the sailing ships had left the docks, fleeing the city in droves. Nothing was left that was big enough to accommodate more than a single person.
He flew back to Sandi as the crowd began to shift, beginning to flow toward Dungeon Street.
“Change of plans! These people are going to Dungeon Street!” Wilson said. “I want you to head to the beach and follow it north. There’s a thin band of sand you can follow to get around the mountains. That should get you out of their range after a day or two. It should take them a long time to crack those dungeons open and kill the idiots hiding inside, plenty of time to hook up with your parents and take the kids to the nearest outpost!”
Sandi stared at him, horrified, and Wilson knew he’d phrased it wrong.
“I’m not abandoning these people! I’m gonna help defend the city!”
Shit. Why did I have to marry such a stupid, good-natured person?
“Please!” Wilson shouted.
“I’m not abandoning the city, and I’m not abandoning you, Garth!”
An explosion rumbled in the distance as the city wall exploded
“Goddamnit,” Wilson snarled, following after her as she put her foot down and started helping people who had fallen, trying to save as many people as possible, stopping to help a woman with a stroller, facing the wrong direction.
What about my kids? Wilson thought desperately as Sandi fucked around helping others when she could be getting out of dodge.
“Ma’am, you’re facing the wrong way, we’ve got to get to Dungeon street,” Sandi said, approaching them.
“Not to worry, dear, We’ll be fine.” The woman, who looked like she’d been torn out of a nineteen thirties magazine, smiled at them, the very picture of calm.
Did that baby just wink at me? Wilson thought.
With a dismissive gesture, Argus caused Garth to float into the air, still bound by the mana-suppressing chains.
It didn’t seem to block his implants from functioning, Garth thought as he experimentally wiggled his free stub, just a bit bigger than it had been a minute before. Maybe he could trigger an Illusion Escape or a Teleport given the right opportunity.
The question was, how would he make sure the collar around his neck wouldn’t come with him?
“Come, criminal. You’ll get to witness what happens to people who do not know their place.”
“Oh joy,” Garth said, his mind running through every possibility he could think of to escape the collar. Nothing seemed like it would be sure to stick save decapitation. Garth could probably survive that. Maybe.
Now he just needed to find someone to cut off his head.
“Division four, advance!” the leader shouted, leading the charge through the gap in the walls. They stormed into the streets, moving at superhuman speeds.
The army plowed into a knot of civilians in the street struggling to get away.
God I hope Sandi isn’t in there, Garth thought uncharitably as the screaming citizens were cut down trying to escape. The orc soldiers roughly thrust the bodies to the side of the street
Garth didn’t see any Succubus body among the dead, and he prayed his baby momma had gotten away. Maybe if he could break his feet, he could slide the shackles off…
Garth, we got problems, Sandi’s trying to be a hero. Wilson got in touch with him through their shared thoughts.
What? Make her get away! Garth shot back.
Can’t. We’re entering the second dungeon on dungeon street with the kids. Do what you can, bro.
“You know what kind of situation I’m in!” Garth shouted, earning an odd look from his captors.
“Damnit!” Garth dropped to the ground and aimed to gnaw off his hand and feet.
A solid blow to his head made his vision fill with stars as time seemed to start skipping around. Garth blinked a couple times as the scenes of carnage continued one after another.
“Lieutenant Dan! A man in a buzzcut with a pair of dogtags and army fatigues shouted, crouched over another man with short black hair with an open vest, missing his legs.
He had an Alabama accent.
A few seconds later, he was cut down beside his friend, spurting blood from his neck.
Did I just see that?
Garth blinked a couple times as a woman walking her baby in nineteen-thirties clothes was set upon, cleaved in two, her baby dashed on the ground.
“Where shall I go? What shall I do?” A tearful woman clung to a rather dapper looking gentleman, merely a hundred feet ahead of the advancing army.
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” He shook her off him and turned to run shortly before they were murdered.
Okay, something weird is going on, Garth thought as Argus cackled, setting fire to the surrounding buildings as his army marched through them.
They reached the center of the city when a bizarre sight brought their rapid advance to a halt.
A wall of pulsing flesh dominated the center of the street, dozens of beating hearts the size of refrigerators pulsed in the near-transparent flesh, while monstrous fetuses with bulging foreheads and strange jaw-like formations on their chests writhed.
They kicked and squirmed against the clear placentas, ready to be born.
“What in the nine hells is that?” Argus said, staring at the disgusting side, all pretense of composure dropped.
“My lord.” The orc commander said, grabbing Argus’s shoulder and pointing.
Silently surrounding them was every victim of their slaughter, pale and dripping blood. Along with thousands of dogs, cats, cows, rats, birds…All watching them, motionless.
The closest victim of their murderous invasion raised her hand and pointed at them, her nearly severed head opening it’s mouth.
As one, their mouths opened wide, unhinging like a snake, and a deafening shriek assaulted their ears. Every single animal made the same teakettle whistling sound as the thousands of bodies began to charge Argus’s formation with brutal speed.
That was a hell of an ambush.
“Kolath protect us!” Argus shrieked, diving into the deepest point of the formation. To their credit, the veteran soldiers didn’t panic and made a hasty box formation, setting their shields and weapons in front of them.
It didn’t help.
The creatures, who Garth suspected of being Dr. Daniels, morphed around their weapons and blasts of fire, forcing themselves into every orifice and eating the soldiers out from the inside in explosions of blood and viscera.
“Can one of you guys cut my head off?” Garth asked, pointing at his collar.