If this were Sylver’s old world, he wouldn’t have attempted this. It was too obvious. Too easy. The kind of mistake an apprentice wouldn’t make. He was even fairly certain there was an anecdote about leaving your backdoor open like this.
Nevertheless, Sylver kept his guard up, and made sure the goblin zombies going ahead of him jumped and moved around as much as possible, so as to trigger any traps that could be triggered.
This would obviously also trigger every single alarm spell they had in place, but at this point, it was too late to do anything. Barriers needed time to solidify and stabilize, like the one around the tower had. And Sylver’s shades had already been inside the tower, so he knew for a fact there were no barriers down here. And anything the mages up above could set up in the time between Sylver entering the tunnel, and getting to their hidden door, Sylver was more than confident that he could break apart with minimal effort.
The entire tower was built out of the same rock as the one making up the tunnel, and stretched down below the ground for an impressive distance. Sylver wondered how or why the goblins had dug deep enough to find their tunnel, but guessed it was probably due to hearing people moving around, or feeling the ambient mana being slightly more concentrated down here.
Sylver continued to walk through the eerily silent tunnel, constantly on the lookout for traps or a spell or an alarm or a tripwire or something. It was bad enough these mages were stupid enough to leave the bottom part of their barrier open. Even worse that they had a secret exit tunnel that goblins found. But if on top of all that they didn’t think to add any alarms or traps to the secret exit, then Sylver would have to stop thinking of them as mages.
Granted not every mage Sylver met in his time was a certified genius. But usually, all the stupid ones were killed by the smart ones, or died from messing up a spell. Now that people didn’t seem to need to understand how exactly their magic worked, Sylver could only guess the kind of people that had risen to power on pure luck or aggression.
Nautis for example, even under the threat of torture, couldn’t explain to Sylver why exactly he needed to teleport two people inside, to teleport one outside.
‘It’s the perk requirement!’ he said. Or mumbled, broken jaw and all.
After a few minutes of walking, Sylver figured out why no one cared enough to fill the exit up with traps. The door was made entirely from lead. And reinforced with extremely thick iron. And as he touched the wall around the door and doorframe, he found that the inside of the stone was filled with lead too.
Which explained why the shades went through with no issue, as there was enough of a gap between the floor and the door that they never once touched it. The walls were similarly lined with lead and iron, and breaking through would take hours at Sylver’s current level of power, even if it wasn’t made of lead. The floor and ceiling were both made of wood, and only the very bottom part of the tower had stone mixed with lead in its foundation.
“You know, I take back what I said. This is actually brilliant. They make the barrier extra strong by decreasing its surface area, and at the very bottom have a lead wall and door. Expensive, granted, but very clever. There must be what? Almost 500 kilograms of lead used for the door alone? I don’t know what the gold equivalent here would be, but this is an insane amount. You could outfit an entire paladin army with this much...” Sylver said, speaking mostly to himself as he stared at the large grey door and peered down the small lock.
If this was pure iron, it would have been open before he even touched it. But a lead-lined lock was impossible to pick unless you were a master lockpick.
Which Sylver was not.
He knew enough to know how to shake the pins to pop the lock open, but that was where his expertise ended. Any time anything like this showed up, he would come back with a person to pick it for him. Or more often just force his way through. But if someone bothered to make a lead-lined lock, they bothered enough to make it extremely difficult and time-consuming, even for a master lockpick.
Explosions? It would have to be massive to break through a door this thick. But it could break the foundation too, potentially killing everyone inside, including the hostages. And bringing the whole tunnel down on itself, trapping him and burying the door.
Dig around it? Pointless, the tower is round, the walls are just as hard to break a few meters to the left as they are here. Same with the floor, so no digging under it either.
Melting? Freezing? It was possible, but it would take hours upon hours, with Sylver’s measly 100MP per minute regeneration. Then there's the issue of the lead fumes rendering him powerless. And any spell concentrated enough to do anything, would fry all the channels in his arms in a couple of seconds. If this was pure lead, sure he could probably use the water in the air to melt it without giving it a chance to turn into a gas. But the coloring meant it was some sort of copper alloy, which raised the melting point way past what Sylver was capable of keeping under control.
Not to mention the smoke could travel upwards and kill the people he was trying to save. Or he could fuck it up and start a fire and burn everyone inside alive. With all the floors being separated by wood, a fire would spread in minutes and go all the way up.
The keyhole looked interesting. 8 intersecting lines, each a different length and width. Sylver could imagine the key looking like a small mace. But knew that making a rough copy out of ice would do nothing. The brittleness of the ice aside, it needed to be a perfect fit to turn. And the door had the exact same lock on the other side, so there was no opening it without a key. Which would most likely be very well hidden. So that was a no on that too.
The door had a small panel near the top, presumably for the person inside to open to look at what was outside of it. The panel was barely a hands width in height, and was about 2 times that in length. Sylver had a shade use a broom handle to open the panel without directly touching it.
Sylver looked down at one of the small goblins standing at the ready, and back at the small hole.
“The difference between a stupid idea and a brilliant one, is if it works,” Sylver explained to the goblin, as he used his scalpel to cut around the crown of its heads and remove the skin covering the skull.
“Worst case scenario I get to go with my original plan,” Sylver said, as he used one of his own daggers like a chisel, and a shade’s hammer, to break through the slightly thinner bone in the middle and the sides of the skull.
“Just going to have to hope that these guys are in enough of a panic to fall for it. What was that guy’s name again? Otto Luder? Right? I think that’s right.” Sylver spoke as the dagger was jimmied inside the skull and very carefully twisted until it broke down the lines.
He repeated this 3 more times, until the small goblin’s previously solid skull, made up of 1 solid bone, was now split down the middle and was segmented at the very top. Using a piece of leather string Sylver got from one of the shades. He wrapped it around the small goblin’s skull and very gently pulled it tight.
A lot of blood oozed out of its skull, along with some other fluids, but very slowly the skull started to compress and become thinner and thinner.
When Sylver felt it was small enough, he tied the leather piece into a knot and put the flap of removed skin back where he got it, weaving the flesh back together. It looked like a deflated balloon, now that the skull had almost halved in width, but zombies weren’t meant to be pretty.
[Flesh Weaving (I) Proficiency increased to 2%!]
Although Nyx had quite a few zombies that you would be hard-pressed to recognize as such. A certain noble had even once offered her a very generous price to give the same treatment to his dead wife’s body. She refused, of course, necromancers already had a really bad reputation regarding using the undead for sexual gratification.
As with all negative rumors regarding necromancers, the source was from a very very very very small minority, that any decent necromancer would kill on the spot with great prejudice. But people seem to think that the line between using dead bodies for experiments and for combat, was only a single step away from wanting to fuck corpses.
Seeing how the same logic couldn’t be applied to pyromancers and fucking pieces of coal, or glaciomancers trying their luck with a shapely piece of ice, most necromancers wrote the whole thing off as the general public listening to the popular religions that considered the practice the highest heresy among all possible heresy. People still called for necromancers when their skills were required, but they were very rarely friendly or thankful about it.
Sylver lifted the goblin off the ground and made it straighten itself out as much as possible.
The moment Sylver pushed it and it touched the lead, it went completely limp, the way a normal dead body would. Its skin got caught on the edges of the rectangular slit, but Sylver just kept pushing and pushing, tearing the creature's skin off as its body finally passed through the hole and it flopped down onto the floor. Its shoulders had both dislocated and its neck had snapped from landing head first onto the ground.
Sylver lifted the mask off his face for a moment and very gently blew a stream of black and yellow smoke through the slit in the door, being extra careful so as not to touch it.
It fell downwards like water and Sylver couldn’t see it but he could feel the goblin taking it inside itself.
After a few tense seconds later, the small creature walked back a little and Sylver grinned underneath the mask as he saw it walking around.
“One down. Let’s say... 70 more to go.” Sylver said, as Fen handed him the scalpel.
“My name is Otto Luder!” Sylver said, going holding his throat and going an octave higher.
“My name is Otto Luder!” still a little too low.
“My name is Otto Luder! You killed my wife! Prepare to die!” Almost.
“My name is Otto Luder! You killed my wife! Prepare to die!” Perfect.
“My name is Otto Luder!” Sylver continued to repeat the words as he walked through the forest and stopped a short distance away from the clearing.
The tower was surrounded by a faintly glowing dome, going all the way around it, but not all the way down as it turned out, and had a small area right down the middle where something akin to an entrance was.
He walked past the large stone structures that were just a small signal away from turning into giant mobile stone golems that would pummel everything around them to death, Sylver included. He walked confidently and didn’t look around too much, and did his very best to have a quick, yet careful, gait.
By the time Sylver made it all the way to the entrance, there were already 2 people standing at the ready. Sylver’s attempt to appraise them was fruitless due to the barrier between them. So was feeling their souls or how much mana they had, the barrier had completely severed the space between them. He was somewhat relieved to see they both were young.
Or at least, young enough that this just got a whole lot more possible. And by the small splotches of blood on their robes, and the hidden panic on their face the first part of the plan had worked quite well. They both wore identical brown robes that glowed ever so faintly near the sleeves and both had clean-shaven faces and a small tattoo near the bottom of their necks.
“My name is Otto Luder,” Sylver said calmly, but with authority and a hint of arrogance in his tone. “I need to speak to O’Brian.” Sylver finished, keeping everything to the point.
“Otto… Otto… From the western base?” The mage on the left asked.
“That very same. Now could you please call O’Brian over? I need to discuss something urgent with him.” Sylver repeated, now adding a tiny note of panic. The information that Wuss had given him about this area was very sparse, but he’d worked with less before. And he’d already gotten lucky once with Otto, who's to say these guys aren’t just as gullible?
“He’s preoccupied at the moment. I’ll pass along whatever you want him to know.” The mage on the left answered, placing his hands behind his back, still acting calm and relaxed.
“Fine. There’s a very high possibility a figure by the name of Pestilence is going to be coming here to attack you. He uses some sort of magic item to render people unconscious, then either tortures them using poisons, or just cuts their head off. We suspect he may be a necromancer but-”
“Necromancer?” The mage on the right interrupted. Otto’s face twisted into a scowl, ignoring the question and carrying on.
“There were traces of dark magic in the areas he attacked, and we’ve seen evidence of him using zombies to subdue people, on whom the magic item was ineffective. Please tell O’Brian to double up defenses and immediately lock everything down. I’ve also got a potion here everyone will need to drink, to increase their resistance in case he uses the item again.” Sylver finished quickly, holding out a vial of mercury that he had mixed with some mana to cause it to glow.
“Time is of the essence. In all the bases he’s previously hit there was always some sort of distraction before everyone wound up dead. A fire or a landslide or-”
“The fucking goblins!” The mage on the left shouted, as he disappeared.
Sylver and the blank-faced mage remained as they were, staring at each other.
“Well, what the fuck are you waiting for! Open the fucking barrier I can help!” Sylver said changing Otto’s expression into intense panic and fear, his eyes going so wide a few pieces of red could be seen.
“I-I can’t, the protocol is-” The mage stuttered, before being interrupted.
“PROTOCOL! WE HAVEN’T GOT TIME FOR FUCKING PROTOCOL! OPEN THE FUCKING BARRIER, RIGHT FUCKING NOW,” Sylver screamed, with all the dominance a man of Otto’s size and authority carried, slamming his fist onto the thin barrier separating them, sending ripples out through it.
The mage jumped back in fright and Sylver was glad he was using a fake face, because he would have struggled to hide his smile otherwise.
“I can’t just-”
“He’s already inside you fucking moron! If you don’t let me in right now, I’m getting the fuck out of here. And if you somehow manage to survive I will make sure Faun knows it was you who didn’t let me in to help! I’ve dealt with this cunt! I know how he thinks, I’ve nearly killed him once before! THE FUCKER KILLED MY WIFE!” Sylver screamed, changing the illusion’s face into the same expression Otto had as he was dying.
Getting the quivering lip right was the hardest part of this, but mixed in with the quality of the grief and rage in Otto’s voice it seemed to have worked.
The mage stood in shocked silence, before he nodded once and started to wave his hands in the air and chanted under his breath. The barrier creaked silently as a small tear formed in it, just wide enough for Sylver to walk in through.
“If there’s anything I can do to help just-” The mage started to say, before Sylver’s robe wrapped around his face and twisted his head to the side.
[Human (Mage) Defeated!]
Sylver hugged the corpse with the broken neck close to his body as he breathed dark smoke almost directly into its mouth, the illusion of the dead man appearing immediately to replace him.
[Zombie (Petty) Raised!]
Placing the zombie outside the barrier, Sylver very quickly altered the illusion over him to snap onto the zombie outside and changed his into the one belonging to the dead mage. Sealing the barrier closed was both quick and easy, especially from the inside, and Sylver ran as fast as he possibly could towards the tower, his body hidden by the illusion of the mage who had let him inside. Otto remained outside the barrier, looking terrified and confused.
To his own surprise, he made it to the tower with no issue, and even managed to place his hand on the handle. When it not only didn’t budge, but also didn’t feel like it had ever been opened he realized something.
They’re all fucking teleporters. That’s where the fucking goblins got their fucking teleporting skill.
Sylver pressed himself flat against the never used door and used his recently acquired translucence to make himself as invisible as possible. Between the 300MP he needed to raise that guy as a zombie, and how fast this skill was burning through his mana he barely had a full minute left.
Sylver knew the hostages were at the very top of the tower, along with the main source of the barrier, and considered how he should approach this. He wasn’t expecting it to be this easy or go so smoothly.
First, those bandits fell for his ‘I challenge you to a duel’ gambit, and even went as far as to respectfully wait for him to kill 2 of their members. Granted, they didn’t see him as too big of a threat given how he was quite low level-wise compared to them, and this was probably a way for them to go up the ranks without any effort on their parts.
Or it could have been that they were afraid Otto would kill them if they interfered. Or that they just plainly were genuinely honorable people. Just because they were bandits didn’t mean they didn’t have any redeeming features. In fact, the more wretched a person was, the more likely he was to stick to something positive, as if that would redeem them for their actions.
Either way, it worked, and now so had this. Sylver didn’t even get to use the hobgoblins he had hiding in the treeline. He was planning to have them attack him while he was pretending to be Otto to demonstrate he could defeat them, or possibly pretend to be heavily injured to get one of the mages to come out and heal him.
And yet for the second time in as many days, plan A worked so well, plan B, C, and D had to be discarded. Sylver sent a shade down through the tower and out through the goblin’s nest to tell the hobgoblin zombies to start attacking the golems. They had no chance of killing them of course, but the more distractions and chaos the better.
Sylver crawled up the side of the tower, angling himself to be hidden from view as much as possible and hiding his presence entirely. He saw the mage that had teleported away, reappear and start shouting something to the fake Otto zombie, before opening the barrier once again.
Sylver was genuinely starting to worry he was building up too much of a luck debt and would soon have to pay it, but just commanded the Otto zombie go through the barrier and wring the mage’s neck the second he was close enough. He told the zombie hobgoblins to follow after him if they could, as the illusions around the dead mage fell apart as he reached the front door and started to break it down.
[Human (Mage) Defeated!]
Sylver continued to climb and peered inside through a glass window with iron bars over it and saw that it was empty. The bars turned into rust in his hands, and he very carefully dropped them down to the green grass below, slapping the glass with his open palm and breaking it open. Crawling inside Sylver’s robe protected him from all the broken glass and he looked around the empty room. He froze for a moment.
Sylver almost audibly groaned as he realized where the issue lay.
There was no door, or stairs, or ladders. The room was completely closed in, save for the 4 windows, one of which Sylver had just entered through. He had misinterpreted the information the shades had brought him. And now understood why it took so long for the zombie goblins to break through to the next floor.
Sylver took in all the information the shades had gathered and gave himself a few seconds to put a new plan together. The floor and ceiling weren’t too thick. But breaking through would take a while, and he could feel some kind of magic embedded into the wood. It would be easier to just climb up the side of the tower, than break his way upwards through the ceiling. Although if he could break the edges at the same time, he could probably make the whole floor fall down….
He made sure all the daggers and darts were in place and took a deep breath as he stepped outside of the tower again. Holding his entire weight using just his feet wasn’t any more costly than spreading it out between his hands and feet, but was a lot more difficult to get right.
His first step was shaky and he almost slipped down before catching himself. The second step he misjudged the timing and nearly pulled out a brick as he pulled his foot off it.
By the fifth step, Sylver was already putting the whole process into the background of his mind. And by the ninth step, he was already sprinting up the tower, running fast enough that the people that saw him through the windows weren’t even sure what they saw. Sylver didn’t look back as he felt the souls appearing behind him and disappearing again, and didn’t even flinch as the incredibly loud alarm started to sound off.
People immediately appeared near the zombie mage and its head exploded with a single spell. They wiped out the hobgoblin zombies in much the same way, save for a few getting caught, and one even getting his knee bitten into pieces by the larger and faster hobgoblin zombies.
No wonder he let me in so easily. Those zombie goblins must have fucked up their whole group. If this is them ready and on guard, I can’t imagine what happened when they were caught off guard.
Sylver’s robe hardened and tightened around his body as a bolt of lightning narrowly passed by him, the next one hitting him square in the back and fizzling out into nothing as the robe rubbed the embers away and Sylver lowered himself to the wall and broken through the guardless window.
Inside he was greeted by confused stares of 4 half-dressed men and women, each frozen for the moment. Sylver’s robe stretched out towards the closest one and wrapped up his head and smashed it on the solid bed frame knocking him unconscious. At the exact same time, Sylver reached an almost completely nude woman and crushed her throat with a single hand, as he quickly launched himself towards the next mage, who had teleported away before he could reach him, along with the one the robe was stretching towards, leaving only their clothes behind.
Sylver drained the woman of all of her mana and did the exact same to the stunned man the robe had handled.
[??? (Mage) Defeated!]
[Human (Mage) Defeated!]
[Draining Touch (II) Proficiency increased to 10%!]
Sylver found the woman’s body too small for his purposes, and dropped her to the floor as he started to carve the framework into the dead man's chest. The man’s body shook and shuddered as the framework was complete in just a few seconds, and Sylver activated it just in time as a whole group of people appeared out of nowhere.
No one said a single word as the bolts of lightning, fire, and air exploded out of their hands towards Sylver. They completely ignored the illusion he attempted to send opposite to the direction he was running, and Sylver lost another several piece of his robe as it took the brunt of the damage for him.
He kicked himself off the wall and flew towards the nearest mage, a man with a short goatee and a large scar running down the side of his nose, and watched the man panic and back away.
Similarly, the mages all around him did the exact same thing, as they found themselves close enough to the body to get caught in its spell. The marked man's body shook and repeatedly smashed itself against the floor as it blocked teleportation attempt after teleportation attempt, and Sylver grabbed the goatee mage by the shoulder, and turned him around.
Hiding behind the man's back Sylver simultaneously used him to shield himself from the other mage’s attacks and drained mana out of him. Sylver had to back away and even caught one of the mages near the edge starting to smile ever so slightly.
The mage he was hiding behind took only 3 hits with blades of air, as the others seemed to be busy either trying to figure out why they couldn’t teleport, or didn’t have the stones to attack Sylver while he was using their still alive friend as a meatshield.
Sylver placed his palm flat against the spine of the man in front of him, and a cloud of superheated blood exploded out of his front, spraying every single person in the face, blinding a few of them. Shades appeared right behind them, and despite the fact that every single mage reacted to them, and even turned around with unmatchable speed, they couldn’t do anything about the darts flying towards their heads.
A few managed to block the shade’s attacks, a few turned around and dodged out of the way of the mana enhanced darts, but no one managed to avoid both.
[??? (Mage) Defeated!]
[Human (Mage) Defeated!]
[Human (Mage) Defeated!]
[Human (Mage) Defeated!]
Sylver let go of the breath he was holding, as all the bodies lifelessly fell down to the floor. Between the steaming blood, the weird angles some of the shades’ daggers made, and how explosively the darts had entered people’s heads, the entire room was completely coated and dripping with blood. Sylver’s aim using the robe was a little off, and several people had additional darts in their chests and shoulders, and a small number were embedded into the walls, having missed completely.
Sylver looked down at the smoking remains of the carved up anti teleportation body, and moved it towards the middle of the room, just to be safe. The shades very quickly removed the darts that were deeply embedded in several people’s heads, and Sylver briefly touched the bodies to see if any were worth saving. As before not a single one was worth the effort of raising as a shade or zombie.
The shades handed Sylver his darts back, as he healed up the few shades that were too slow and got hit with a spell before killing their target. Or more honestly, were hit by Sylver’s misplaced darts, and couldn’t move out of the way.
He saw a man appear for a split second, right at the other end of the room, just past the anti teleportation spells range, but disappeared before Sylver could so much as move a muscle.
Sylver stood perfectly still and waited for the man to appear again, but after a full minute, he remained alone, the sound of blood dripping down from the ceiling being the only source of sound or movement.
Sylver carved up a fresh corpse with an anti teleportation framework, tied it to his back using the robe, and left through the window to climb even higher.