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“Baroke, you’re on patrol. Keep your eyes open for Gub, he probably snuck off to drink. If you see him, give him a good thrashing.”

“Not gonna do that, sir, but I’ll bring him back.”

Sergeant Urth grunted, his fat cheeks jiggling as he studied Baroke with his recessed eyes. “You’d think a boy of your size wouldn’t be a pussy.”

“Whatever you say, sir,” Baroke said, rolling his eyes before tuning the sergeant’s yelling out. The man was at the bottom of the barrel. How he managed to get the job of managing the scout detail was anyone’s guess, but it probably involved underhanded dealings.

Urth didn’t look like he could fit between two generously spaced trees, let alone creep stealthily through the woods.

Supposedly the man was a hell of a ranger back in the day, but the sources were suspect, as the rumor could be traced back to Urth himself.

A relentless braggart and stone-thrower, the only way to deal with the man was to not engage with him, which Baroke was demonstrating as the stream of profanity washed over him.

I’ll bet Calvin doesn’t have to put up with this shit, Baroke thought, retreating to his own inner world, eyes going glassy as the sergeant began shouting at him. All things considered it was nowhere near as bad as being a Ilethan sorceror’s playtoy.

A shudder rocked Baroke’s body as the invasive thought that maybe, just maybe, the Ilethans had broken his mind and he was actually hunting his own countrymen returned for the two hundred and eighteenth time.

Gods, no. Anything but that.

Urth seemed to think that Baroke’s sudden shiver was some kind of aquiescence, bringing his tirade to a halt.

“That’s right,” Urth said, nodding with his hands on his hips, visibly delighted by Baroke’s discomfort. “Now get out there and do your job, scout.”

Baroke nodded and left the tent, coming face to face with the second-best archer in the company.

Well, face-to face was a bit of a mislead, as she came up to Baroke’s belly.

The girl was under five feet tall, standing there with her scarred arms crossed and flexing, glaring up at him. She had dark skin and close-cropped hair. The only sign that she was a woman was her lovely face and plump lips. Everything else was a walking knot of muscle.

“So,” Maya said as Baroke left the tent. “Something tells me you’re going to need the help of the best archer in the Wasps.”

“The Wasps? Is that what we’re calling ourselves now?” Baroke asked, picking up his heavy spring-steel recurve bow and checking it for sabotage. He wouldn’t put it past her. A second later the rest of her statement sank in.

“The best archer? Excuse me?”

“We both know that first shot was bullshit.”

“Not my fault you didn’t study your trick shots well enough,” Baroke said, grinning as they walked. After identifying her as his rival during the qualifier, he may have sacrificed a shot to cause a tree to crush her target during the finals.

The Wasps had a Play-It-as-it-Lies policy.

She sported a similar – albeit tiny – steel bow slung over her shoulder, similarly painted brown. Their arrows rustled at their sides as they walked.

Baroke never expected to be a scout or go on patrols, so he was woefully unprepared, crashing through the underbrush while Maya seemed to ooze through it for all the noise she was making.

The Ilethans forced skills on him that boosted the lethality of his arrows, like Sense Weakness, Force Amplification, and Trajectory.

Maya, on the other hand, had followed the well-balanced route of a Scout, having learned from her grandfather, a retiree three towns away from Deinos. She had things like Woodcraft and Stealth in addition to Archery, and she treated him like a bumbling child in the woods.

“Watch your head,” She whispered as they entered the jungle and Baroke had to duck low to keep under the low hanging branches. Being six foot seven was less of an advantage in the woods.

“Watch your ass.” Baroke shot back as she sailed ahead of him, gliding through the dark jungle with ease.

They spent the next couple hours patrolling in a wide arc around the camp in relative silence, focusing on the forested half, because patrolling thin air was unproductive. The whole time, they didn’t spot any sign of Gub.

After a quick lunch, the two of them got back to trekking through the wilds.

“Lindersalv.” Maya called, pointing at a tree over a hundred yards distant. “Good eating.”

“On that branch?” Baroke asked.

“It is that branch.” She replied with a scowl. “How do you not know these things?”

“It’s a long story.” Baroke said, raising his bow and sending a casual shot through the predator pretending to be wood, pinning it to the tree for them to grab on their way back. “That’s twelve shots for twelve. We’re never gonna settle this with such easy targets.”

“Did you want me to make you do a handstand as well?” she asked, her brows raised.

“I could do that. I practiced shooting with my feet for a while.” Baroke said.

“You’re ridiculous.”

“Thank you.”

“My grandfather said showboats like you tend to flame out early in their careers.”

“Hah! Shows what your grandfather knows!” Baroke said. “I was drafted. No career here! Once this war is over, I’m going to go back to my village and make a career of making pottery and knocking up my wife.”

“That’s…but you’re so…” Maya choked back whatever she had been about to say, casting furtive glances up at him.

“Archery was always a hobby. I love shooting, but I hate killing. Thanks to my time with the Ilethans, I’ve lost my taste for it, completely.”

“I see.” She fell silent and stared at the ground for a moment. “Wait, there’s something here.” She knelt down and brushed aside a bit of moss covering a bit of wineskin.

“Gub’s?” she asked, glancing up at him.

That wasn’t right. Gub was a drinker, yes, but he’d been found clinging to the top of a tree with nothing but his wineskin more than once. He’d never dropped it, as a point of personal pride.

Baroke hefted his bow as a horrible suspicion settled in his stomach.

“I think we shou –“ His words were cut off by a hiss that made his legs reflexively buckle, saving his life.

The arrow caught Baroke in the upper shoulder rather than his heart or lung. Baroke fell to the ground and snapped off a return shot, instinctively following the trajectory of the arrow in his shoulder.

The length of wood in the meat of his arm snapped like a dry twig as he flexed, and Baroke’s mind idly added that to the list of things to brag about to Calvin as his survival instinct took over every other part of his body.

There was a cry of pain in the distance as Baroke’s arrow found its mark, and the peaceful forest suddenly became a flurry of arrows.

Baroke sprinted for a tree, huddling behind it.

He waited a half second, then threw his feet out from under himself and slammed to the ground.

A Penetrating Shot tore through the thick trunk of his jungle cover, flying over his head. Predictable.

“Why are they only shooting at you?” Maya said indignantly from her own cover. The tiny woman easily hiding behind a stump that wouldn’t conceal Baroke’s manhood.

“Why don’t you ask them?” Baroke hissed, holding a hand over the blood pumping out of his shoulder.

“Maybe I will.” She grabbed three arrows in a quick-shooter draw and leaned around the corner of her stump, sending three arrows arcing up the hill, one after the other in the space of a breath.

They’ve got the high ground, Baroke thought, peering out to witness her three arrows strike home, nailing two Ilethans to the ground.

There’s a miss, Baroke thought as the third scout threw himself to the ground, dodging her arrow before he started sprinting up the hill, weaving between the trees.

Can’t let him get away.

Baroke drew himself to his feet and reached for his quiver, to discover that the arrows had been spilled on the ground.

By the time he’d knelt and grabbed an arrow, Baroke was only able to catch a glimpse of the man’s head disappearing as he ran down the other side of the hill.

“What?” Maya hissed as she spotted his expression, laying flat behind her cover, ready to bounce away like a bunny if she needed to.

The thought of Maya as an armed hare appealed to Baroke somewhat.

“Missed one,” Baroke said, standing at his full height, ignoring the stabbing pain in his shoulder, and the branches waving about near his eyes.

He pictured the trajectory of the fleeing man, overlaying his image on the hill in front of him, stumbling along down the other side as fast as he could.

Everything else faded out of existence.

Force Amplification.

Penetrating shot.

Called Shot.

Assassinate.

 

8/12 Bent Remaining.

The arrow leapt away like it had been whipped into action by the gods themselves, melting a hole straight through the hill without slowing. Earth and stone became meaningless, and the bit of metal sailed through until it found its home on the other side of the hill.

Baroke got a brief glimpse of a bit of muted cloth with white feathers sticking out of it through the glowing hole in the earth before it fell out of view.

I hope that was an Ilethan and not another illusion, Baroke thought for the two hundred and nineteenth time, his stomach twisting as he grinned at Maya to cover his discomfort.

“Who’s the best archer?” He asked.

She peeked out from behind her cover, eyes widening momentarily at the glassed hole in the ground.

“We need to get out of here.”

They heard a cry for assistance in Ilethan, picked up by more voices around them in nearly every direction, including in the direction of the camp. They were grossly outnumbered.

“Shit, follow me,” She said, hopping up with all the bounce of a small creature and sprinting toward the mountainside to the northeast, the only direction the voices hadn’t come from. Toward the deep jungle.

Maya might be able to handle the predators that dwelled in the deep, but Baroke was as good as dead at this point. On the other hand, he’d rather die than get another control crown placed on his head, and this seemed like an excellent way to accomplish that.

“Aye aye dangerbunny,” Baroke said, his shoulder rapidly growing numb as the adrenaline faded. He fell in behind her, running as fast as he could.

The loss of feeling spread from his shoulder to his left arm, and Baroke realized he’d been poisoned.

“Hey, Maba,” he called, his tongue rapidly losing the ability to form words. “Maba!”

“Shhhh,” she whispered, glaring back at him. “They don’t know exactly where we are, so keep your mouth…shut?”

Baroke toppled to the ground, the strength leaving his body along with all sensations.

He felt like he was floating on a cloud.

“Kii Maa.” He said, trying to tell her to put him out of his misery.

“Gods damnit, you’re a fucking burden if I’ve ever seen one.”

Rather than do as he asked, she grabbed his wrist and yanked him up onto her shoulders with one good pull, folding his body over hers. She twisted and began sprinting toward the deep jungle, away from their pursuers.

Baroke’s eyes slid shut and he dreamt of flying.

***

Arrows arced down from the distant treeline, where at least twenty archers in browns and greens rained volley after volley at them.

The fortifications were a series of crude wooden palisades with eight foot walls and trenches bisecting the road, forming a solid line of defense. Unfortunately, the barracks had been low priority, and steel-tipped arrows tore through the camp’s tents, providing a rude wake-up call for more than one napping soldier.

Calvin felt like he’d been doused in ice.

What do I need to do? Send men up to meet the archers? No, they’ll get torn to shreds, and there’s another five thousand on the way, ready to crush us.

Fortifications were made with the express purpose of allowing a smaller force to repel a larger one with minimal casualties, but two hundred fending off five thousand after being ambushed wasn’t good odds.

The only upside was that the treeline had been pushed so far back that the arrows were highly inaccurate. People were still getting hit, though, as a pained cry rudely cut through his thoughts.

Calvin couldn’t leave the fortifications himself, and he couldn’t send anybody up there without them dying.

His gaze darted down to the Knick knack mowing the arrow-strewn lawn in front of him, heedless of the danger and singleminded in its purpose.

Arrow would bounce right off of that. might even draw their Bent out trying to kill them.

Calvin sent a mental order to all the Knick-knacks to charge up into the jungle and use their little arm-circular-saws to tear the enemy archers limb from limb.

A red light buzzed in the back of Calvin’s head, making his eyes shake.

Fields industries Micro Construction Bots are hardcoded with up to date OSHA Safety protocols. Please assign another course of events.

They’re pacifists?? Calvin thought. That would have been good to know. The thought occurred to wonder whether they were able to create traps or not.

Calvin immediately changed tactics.

Charge up into the jungle with your saws out and buzzing, run around really fast.

It would take minutes for the enemy to realize they were harmless. Minutes!

“Everyone!” Calvin shouted at the top of his lungs, facing the maelstrom of the camp. “Grab your gear and get behind the palisades!”

The arrows were coming from the north-east, and the temporary wooden wall faced north, it would provide enough cover for them to figure out something to do.

Calvin briefly considered waiting behind the wall and waving to his troops to join him.

That doesn’t seem very leaderlike.

Calvin gritted his teeth and ran out into the camp, his body buzzing with adrenaline while some two hundred Knick-knacks charged the jungle.

Out of the corner of his eye, Calvin breathed a sigh of relief as he spotted the arrows arc low, glancing off the distractions, their saws making terrifying high pitched whines.

He charged up to the nearest tent, where Balud was tugging a shirt on, the snaggle-toothed engineer pale with worry.

“Put your clothes on behind the wall,” Calvin pointed at the palisade before leaning down and scooped up the man’s clothes and weapons before shoving them into his arms.

Balud nodded and ran for the wall, dropping a sock from his elbow as he went.

“What are we doing sir?” A young man Calvin didn’t recognize asked.

“Gather behind the wall!”

“Are we taking the fight to them?” Another asked.

“To the wall!” Calvin pointed.

They nodded and ran two different directions. One toward the wall, and one toward the south.

This is chaos.

Calvin spotted sergeant Fleck ducked behind a wagon in the center of the camp, stuffing his pipe with a bit of weed. The wispy haired man was an island of drug-addled calm in the midst of a sea of screaming and running young men.

Calvin began running, keeping his eyes on the old man, dodging around men half a foot taller than him running at full speed in every direction, shouting at each other, getting dressed, looking around for something to fight, and all manner of havoc.

A shoulder check from someone near a hundred pounds heavier than Calvin sent him sprawling to the ground for a half-second, his arms bouncing him off the ground and back on his feet before he’d fully processed what had knocked him down.

“Fleck!” Calvin shouted over the din as he approached, getting the man’s attention, along with his withering scowl.

“Well, captain, what’ll it be?”

“Big fuckin’ flag!” Calvin shouted.

The old man swung around the edge of the wagon and tugged a pole out of the back before placing a possessive hand on it. “I think this is what you’re looking for.”

Calvin yanked the pole the rest of the way out of the wagon, unveiling a fifteen foot tall pole with a massive silk banner stretched tight at the end of it.

This’ll do.

“Carl!” Calvin shouted, his gaze landing on the quartermaster’s current helper, who looked up at him from beneath the wagon.

“Take this to that wall – look at it!” Calvin grabbed Carl’s face and directed it toward the wall he wanted everyone behind.

“Take the flag there and wave the shit out of it, alright?”

Carl nodded.

“Good, move!”

Carl grabbed the pole, grunted as he lifted it up, capitalizing on the temporary lull in the assault to sprint toward the wall, the banner flapping in the wind behind him.

Calvin could see the difference. The men’s gaze followed the flag. It was visible from every angle, and they followed it, charging along with Carl, who was screaming in equal parts bravery and terror as arrows fell from the sky around him. The man with the flag is always a juicy target.

The chaotic mess began slowly shifting toward the wall as they congealed around the flag like some kind of slow-moving sap or ooze. Like a living thing, they began to self-regulate as sergeants took command of different sections of the wall, laying out orders. It moved and lived on its own, but it was incredibly difficult to change an army’s momentum, and Calvin was the one who’d made it happen.

Those minutes of distraction saved a lot of lives.

Calvin felt like he was on the very edge of understanding something deeper about leadership, when a hand clapped down on his shoulder.

He glanced over and saw Ella and Grant, looking at him expectantly.

“Ella, how would you like to break some spines?”

“I would love to,” She said with a shark-toothed grin.

“Get your armor on. When you’re ready, I’ll send you into the woods with a wasp escort, and you’ll take out some of those archers.”

“Sure.” She ducked away, running toward their tent.

“Grant, any ideas?”

“Best bet?” Grant asked. “Bloody their nose a little bit, then brief your sergeants and organize a controlled retreat.”

“That’s it?” Calvin demanded.

“Eight-foot wooden walls ain’t gonna stop five grand, especially with people out of commission already.” He glanced over at the wall, then back to Calvin.

“It’s a well-known fact that the more complicated the plan or unexpected the situation, the more likely things are to devolve into a total rout.”

He held up a thumb and forefinger.

“You were this close to a complete clusterfuck. If you hadn’t used that flag, a third would be huddled behind our rear wall, a third out front, and the rest would be running away. You have to keep your plans simple, or well-rehearsed.”

Ah yes, Sun Tzu.

What?

Ancient general from a long time ago. forgive me if I paraphrase. ‘if you wish to feign chaos, you must be highly organized, if you wish to feign weakness, you must be very strong.’

The Abyss does that mean?

At its core it suggests that armies have a tendency to be chaotic messes that could break and run at the drop of a hat. If you want to pull off a cunning ploy, you have to be highly organized, or else it will fizzle out and result in a rout as the idiots get confused about the slightest hitch in the plan.

Since we don’t have the luxury of spending months drilling special maneuvers into your men’s heads, we should instead turn to the simplicity of Alexander the Great for inspiration. Hammer and Anvil.

“Explain.”

“You see, people are stupid, and in big groups, they – “

“Wasn’t talking to you.” Calvin said, staring at the distant jungle birthing arrows. Soon they would figure out that the Knick-knacks were harmless, and then the lull in the attack would be gone.

Hammer and Anvil is the simple concept of taking a slow-moving unit like infantry, in this case them, to lock the enemy in combat. The anvil. Meanwhile a fast-moving unit comes up behind the enemy and smashes them. The hammer. Us. Super simple, undeniably effective.

Sounds fun. Calvin felt his face crack into a smile.

“Captain, what do you want us to do?” Lieutenant Vukya asked, having spotted Calvin by the Quartermaster’s wagon. The slender Gadveran was limping as he approached, a wooden shaft broken off in his leg.

“Hold the palisade,” Calvin said, glancing at Grant. “I’m going to smash them from behind. Grant, grab yourself some swords and follow me.”

Grant gave him a calculating look, then broke into a sly smile, arming himself from the spare swords in the wagon. “Sir.”

“Let’s go pick up some Bent.” Calvin broke into a sprint, aiming for the back of the camp, where his hired Bent Suppliers were.

***

“Good morning,” Calvin said, smiling at the eight women marching down the road. He didn’t really blame them, all things considered.

Behind him, arrows buried themselves in the thick wood of the palisades, and the Ilethan army marched ever closer, in a line two hundred and fifty men wide and twenty feet deep, aiming to overwhelm the temporary wall with sheer numbers.

“Morning captain.” Perthea said, the other women in a chevron behind her as Calvin approached.

“Before you’re off,” Calvin said, holding out a hand. “Bent please. I’ll have nothing more to say to you. You can come back with the next shipment of supplies if we’re still here.”

“We ain’t got much,” Perthea said with a scowl. Calvin estimated only about one or two per woman.

“It’s kind of an emergency.”

“Fair enough, let’s not spend all day talking about it, we’ve got places to be.”

15/15 Bent remaining.

Calvinian summoning

14/15 Bent remaining.

15/15 Bent remaining.

….

Calvin took a point or two from each of them and turned them into a massive swarm of five pound wasps to harry the enemy at the front, reinforcing the strength of the palisade just as the line of Ilethans reached the front.

Calvin sent one swarm to accompany Ella into the jungle where she began destroying the archers, one at a time, then he ran toward the cliff to the west, trailing Grant behind him.

“You can still fly on your swords, right?” Calvin asked.

“Of course.” Grant said, as if he was insulted Calvin even needed to ask.

“Let’s hit these fuckers in their blind spot.” Calvin shot him a grin before leaping off the edge of the cliff south of the palisade.

Calvinian Summoning.

Heart of the Swarm.

14/15 Bent Remaining.

The wind whipped through Calvin’s hair as he fell through the air, his stomach rising into his chest as the pull of gravity began drawing him toward the rocks below. A moment later he evaporated in a cloud of green smoke, replaced by fifteen hundred pounds of massive man-killing wasps

Calvin’s new instincts kicked in and his flight stabilized as he controlled his swarm of one.

With his nearly three-hundred and sixty degree vision, he saw Grant leap off the cliff face after him, swords under his feet. The two of them swung low, dropping out of sight of everyone: The camp followers, the First Volunteer Company of Mujenan, and most importantly, the five thousand Ilethans and their scouts.

There would be no warning.

Wizard King for life.

Wizard King for life.

 

Calvin Gadsint

 

Body:

16

Strength:

8

Kinesthetics:

8

Endurance:

8

Mind:

24

Intuition:

11

Stability:

15

Will:

22

   

Bent:

14/15

   
   
   
   

Skills:

 

Stealth

7

Talking to Girls

9

Acting

9

Read Expressions

8

Sense-Grafting

13

Knife-Work

7

Dupdomancy

13

Hunting

5

Meditation

13

Chained Spirit

13

Calvinian Summoning

13

Your Princess is in Another Castle

5

Fishing

5

Genosian Language

5

Beli Ma

6

 

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About the author

Macronomicon

  • Alaska

Bio: Born in Alaska, raised in Alaska, where the nearest job is 60 miles away. approaching 30 years old, happily married homebody diving head first into writing professionally . Looking to make friends and fans, meet artists and get feedback.

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Worlds @Worlds ago

19secs from upload cool

starburst98 @starburst98 ago

I hope cal can punish the sarge in a way that is seen as just. A missing scout must always be treated as a full scale emergency. Then if the scout was missing for a bullshit reason, like sneaking off to drink, then the other soldiers will punish him for you because they had to go through emergency drills for his bullshit. Soon scouts will either learn to stop sneaking off for bullshit, or they end up dead.

DrMonotone @DrMonotone ago

Thanks for the chap Macro!

~Thats not alot of spare bent but imagine if he uses literally any of his spells in the midst of their army... God theyre all gonna die horrible deaths and I love it!

Unmaker @Unmaker ago

No cowardice in him - it's all 'how do I kill that... OK'.

Aosika @Aosika ago

And I was hoping the high release rate would save us from cliffs, but it looks like the cliff they just dove from was a metaphor for the one we have to endure now

Washishuku @Washishuku ago

Didn't he just end on 14/15 bent? It says 2/15 on the table.

BO0KW0RM @BO0KW0RM ago

Either he somehow spent 12 bent after doing heart of the swarm out his spreadsheet is wrong on how much bent he's used because it says when her uses Heart of the Swarm 14/15 while the spreadsheet says 2/15. Aaannyways Thanks for the cliff.

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Tkirkp1 @Tkirkp1 ago

Is shadow boxing considered sleep? Cause then he and kala could have some synchronized meditation training type thing with YPiiAC, shadowboxing, and kalas trippy mushroom stuff.

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