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A note from Selkie

Trying something a bit new - this chapter's a little long, so I'm experimenting with splitting it in half and posting both halves at the same time. It gives a nice, natural break point in the middle, for those who don't/can't read the whole thing in a single sitting, and it quite frankly helps my views. 

The frontlines were vast. Even from our vantage point so high in the sky, the walls and encampments stretched to the horizon, beyond my view. The feature that immediately caught my attention were three massive walls. I couldn’t see how tall or thick they were, but the fact that the people walking on them looked like ants spoke to an enormous size.

Large slabs of stone jutted out from the walls at regular intervals, a perpendicular slice pushing deep into hostile territory. It reminded me of a cross between Pride Rock from The Lion King, and Minas Tirith from The Lord of the Rings. There seemed to be people hauling sleds full of rocks up the slope of the juts. Empty sleds were brought down, and I kinda wanted to try sledding down the hill.

Between the three walls were two sections, full of neatly organized and regimented tents, dozens of tents making up the short section between the walls. I mentally dubbed it the “Military” section. Outside of the third wall, on the “safe” side, was a wild riot of tents, wooden shacks, the occasional stone building, and it was safe to say that the words “planning” and “organization” weren’t to be found in any of the documents governing that area. I mentally dubbed it the “camp-follower” section. It was the perfect offering to Xaoc, God of Chaos, and the place could practically be a temple to him, if Xaoc went for that sort of thing.

As we started to come in for landing, more details became clear. Soldiers patrolled both the “military” and the “camp-follower” section. Wooden walls, of a more normal size, were in layers in the “dangerous” section outside the walls.

I got my first good look at the Formorians. They were huge, jet-black ant-like creatures, slightly larger than the average man, with massive, crushing mandibles, an endless black tide that covered the earth.

They charged in endless waves, into a solid phalanx formed by the soldiers, two deep. The rocks being hauled up the stone juts made it to the top, where mages magically grabbed them, throwing them without any apparent aim into the vast, endless horde of Formorians.

There was no need to aim. Any shot would land.

Screams and cries came from the battlefield, stretching endlessly from horizon to horizon. There must’ve been literal millions of the Formorians, and less than a tenth of that in human manpower.

A massive gout of flames came from one section.

A billow of yellow gas from another.

Ice shards, tripping vines, blurring spears, red blades, ballista arrows, metal buckshot, lightning bolts, crashing water, searing light, toxic spores, ashen spikes, brilliant shields, lava shots and so many, many more skills were constantly unleashed upon the endless, never-ending, never-ceasing horde.

We clearly passed some type of boundary, as my System went nuts.

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

[*Ding!* Your Army has slain a [Formorian] (Wood, lv 120)]

Hundreds – no thousands – no, more – notifications were steaming past me in a dizzying array, *Ding!*’s going off like a battalion of machine guns.

I disabled all notifications dealing with Formorians. Holy.

“Heh. Pay up.” Arthur said to Sky, holding his hand out.

“Oh, come on! You warned her! No fair!” Sky whined.

Arthur shook his head.

“I did no such thing. Pay up. You lost fair and square.”

Sky grumbled, but paid up, a money pouch changing hands.

“What was the bet?” I asked.

“How fast you’d turn notifications off and return back to us. Happens to everyone.”

I tilted my head.

“Everyone – every single person – on the frontlines is considered to be part of the Army, according to the System, from the soldiers doing the fighting, to the washer-women cleaning clothes. Everyone gets a tiny portion of the experience, and the more you’re participating in your class to assist with the war effort, the more experience you get.” Arthur explained.

“Yeah, it’s real shit though.” Sky said. “A solo kill’s worth more than twice as much experience as killing a monster with a partner. The more people you have, not only is the experience spread out among more people, there’s less of it to go around. There’s several hundred thousand people here, making the experience shitty.”

“Unless you directly participate in the combat.” Night said, the first words he’d said since the sun came up, sounding particularly grumpy.

“Yeah, but even then, it’s almost impossible to get over 180.” Sky grumbled.

“Which is exactly why we request new Trainees to be level 180. It demonstrates a strong commitment to the frontlines, and only the smart, the strong, make it that far.”

“Do people die that much?” I asked, horrified by the prospect.

Nature scuffed at me, the first sound I’d heard from him all trip. I jumped, having forgotten about him.

“No. But it’s easy to be a coward, to simply hold the line.”

“We have arrived.” Night said, as we landed close to the biggest tent I’d seen so far, the fabric of the tent red, with purple trimming.

“Nature. You are free to do as you please. Report to this section’s Centurion once a week such that you can be located, if the need arises.”

“Sky. Report back here in three days’ time.” Night gave out his orders.

With a whoop, Sky was off, flying towards the danger zone. I felt a minor surge of admiration, as his first thought was to help with the grand war humanity was engaged in.

Three seconds later that admiration crashed to the ground, and I facepalmed as I saw him flying back from the danger zone, to the safe zone, circling for a moment before going in for a landing.

Night pulled his cloak around him more tightly as a number of guards tensed up, obviously unhappy at a bunch of Classers suddenly landing right next to what was one of the head honcho’s tent.

“Toxic.” Night said, and Arthur flashed his Sentinel’s badge, Eagle within sunburst.

The guards stood down and saluted, but kept a wary eye on us.

“We wish to meet with General Augustus.” Night said. “Could you please inquire as to his availability?”

One of the soldiers stepped forward and saluted.

“Sir! Who should we say is here?”

“Night. Toxic.” Night said.

Three of the guards went pale at Night’s name, and scurried off. The squad commander looked around.

“Can – oh.” He said, realizing that some of his minions had already left to do Night’s bidding. Given the extreme loyalty required to be the guard of the head honcho – I recognized Augustus’s name from the strange pink-haired girl back in the capital – Night had some serious pull.

In a moment, the guards came back, and we were swiftly escorted into the tent.

With all these hotshots around, I resolved to shut up and not embarrass anyone.

General Augustus was one of those short, intense people. The tent was large, but spartan, only the necessities in place. A massive table, dominated by a map. A cot in a corner, a few trappings of living. Some chairs, a number of aides milling around.

[Identify] Away!

[Leader].

Holy – that was what, level 370? Hard to tell, I didn’t have a lot of practice IDing high-level people. And when I did, they weren’t forthcoming as to what their level actually was.

“Night. Pleasure to meet you again.” Augustus said, saluting. Night saluted back, just as deep, deferentially.

“General Augustus. A pleasure, as always. I’d like to introduce Toxic, the newest Sentinel. We are here to attempt a new method of attacking the Formorians.”

General Augustus frowned at that.

“Given Toxic’s title, I assume it’s not a large-scale casting.”

Night shook his head.

“I am always the one counseling against them. I remember what happened in 4466. 4179. No. Large-scale magic like what Destruction can do has no place here.”

General Augustus relaxed.

“Good! What do you need?”

“Two mage outcrops. One Advanced, one Standard. Five extra-large, charged Arcanite crystals for my transportation. – we shall provide you three uncharged ones. Twenty-four extra-small mage packs, twenty-four extra-large mage packs. Accommodations. A single small shift of guards. Two would be plenty. A single Wind mage, or other Classer capable of preventing backblow.”

General Augustus had thunderclouds on his face.

“That’s a massive allocation.” He grumbled. “How long do you need the outcrops for? Also, the packs are strategic – they’re not for casual casting like you seem to be asking. And two sets? Toxic’s one, who’s the other for?”

“Ranger Elaine here.” Night said. “She is providing support for Toxic. I give no timeframe in which he shall be finished. Ranger Elaine’s requirements and support are of a shorter timeframe. I do believe we have a significant chance at causing massive damage, however. Else I would not be here, making requests.”

Night paused a moment.

“I shall also directly participate for a week.”

“Two weeks!” General Augustus attempted to negotiate.

Night shook his head.

“You know I can not be away that length of time. Attempting to negotiate is in poor taste. A week, along with the travel on either end, is the longest I can be away. Additionally, Nature has seen fit to bring his presence here, and will be doing… whatever he wants. Killing Formorians is probably part of that, but I shall not commit to what actions he shall take.”

“Fine, fine.” General Augustus raised his hands in surrender. “Just be open to a chat with me in the future, when the time comes.”

Night gave a self-deprecating smile.

“For the Warden of the Wall? Anytime.”

I noticed he didn’t say ‘for you’, he said ‘for the Warden of the Wall.’ My politics lessons coming in handy!

“Right. Aide Paraceltus! Get what Night needs together.”

One of the aides snapped to attention.

“Sir! On it.” He said.

“Follow me.”

We followed Paraceltus, who grabbed more aides, issuing more orders. A brisk, efficient whirlwind of activity occurred, and before I knew it, the three of us were in a tent, with forty-eight backpacks along the four walls.

Arthur poked his head out of the tent, and requested dinner from one of the guards, who hurried off to do his bidding. He came back into the tent, grinning.

“Gods, I love being a Sentinel at times.”

“Remember the responsibilities of your station.” Night gently reprimanded him.

Arthur saluted.

“Yes Night.”

“Good. Tonight, we shall begin.”

Night proceeded to detail the plan over dinner, simple soldier’s fare.

Night fell, and Night’s mood noticeably improved. I grabbed my backpack, and Arthur grabbed his. The moons were out, full and large, staring at us with those creepy eyes. Hey, at least [Moonlight] would work.

To my surprise, I was using the extra-large one, while Arthur was using the small.

“For you use significant amounts of mana rapidly, while Arthur only needs the occasional top-up.” Night explained to me. Arthur had his mysterious jug, leaving his dresser of poisons behind.

“Toxic. Mage Outcropping J-31.” Night informed him. “Ranger Elaine. With me, Mage Outcropping J-16.”

Toxic saluted, then climbed the stairs up the second wall, where he could access the start of his Outcropping, a tunnel through the stone allowing free movement along the wall, while stairs cut into the side let him climb up.

Night and I made our way through the camp, out of the walls, into the “dangerous” side of the wall.

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Selkie

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