A horn blew, and the first goblins started to make their way over the crest, funneled into the pass.
Drums started to beat, pulsing waves of energy coming off of Sorok’s back as a Valkyrie began her beat. Iona felt energized and strong. She jumped a few times, just to get some of the jitters out of her system.
“Hold!” One of the Valkyries that Iona recognized as Hara, the Incandescent shouted, raising her hand in a fist.
Discipline was good. None of the squires made it as far as they had by having terrible nerves, or by ignoring orders – especially before a battle.
The first goblins made it, and were easily, almost carelessly, dispatched. Iona watched Alruna use an incredibly long, flexible sword, and just sweep through the goblin, meeting no resistance as she did so.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! Your party has slain a [Fleet-Foot Goblin] (Gale, 171)// [Quick Goblin Scout] (Wind, 165)]
Iona turned off notifications for goblin kills that she wasn’t personally involved with. She would need them for when she was fighting, to make sure a blow was lethal. She didn’t need to know about everyone else’s efforts.
Alruna’s classes were Void and Brilliance. Void gave her weapons unparalleled piercing strength, able to simply go through nearly anything, at the price of mana and skills. It was expensive to do, but that’s what her Brilliance class was for. Mana, mana, and more mana, along with boundless energy to fight for hours on end.
Days on end.
Hence her title, “The Perpetual.”
Alruna, when geared for what she called “a real fight”, used two swords, one in each hand. Both were incredibly thin, needing no mass or weight behind them – only Void skills – to simply carve through steel, flesh, and bone. The first was long, great for massive sweeps. It was slow though, and some small, nimble, goblin-like creature could dodge the blow, and come in close while Alruna was overextended.
Which is what her second, much shorter sword was designed to handle.
Iona’s musings were interrupted as more and more of the horde came over the hill, and Hara, the Incandescent dropped her hand.
Iona bent her bow, feeling it smoothly bend in a way she’d never experienced when training on bows before. Already, the effects of her new class were being felt. Iona loosed her arrows, along with the other squires.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Smooth Draw] has reached level 2!]
There wasn’t a need to aim.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Smooth-Shot Archer] has leveled up to level 9! +1 Free Stat, +3 Strength, +2 Dexterity, +1 Vitality, +1 Speed, +1 Mana Regen, +2 Magic power, +2 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Dexterity from your Element!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Archery] has reached level 2!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Water Affinity] has reached level 2!]
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Still Water] has reached level 2!]
“Fire at will!” The Incandescent shouted, before starting to fire off her own attacks.
Iona suppressed a moment of annoyance at the small sun’s worth of Radiance magic radiating off of Hara. She was the Valkyrie. Iona was the squire. The pecking order was clear.
Iona didn’t even need to look. Just fire arrows as fast as she could into the squirming, endless horde.
She’d need every stat once the arrows ran out.
The horde was streaming down the pass, being crushed and compressed into a small area. A writhing mass of green flesh, with glowing, crimson eyes. Weapons of all sort, magic staffs, crude bows, rusty knives, sharp claws, foul teeth. The goblin horde had arrived in strength, and were moving and roiling over one another, chittering and yelling, as they boiled towards the line the Valkyries had established.
With the fluttering of a banner, the Valkyries charged.
Hundreds of tons of expert flesh, glowing enchantments, plain steel, and a few weapons edged with magic metal moved with thunderous power towards the horde. Iona literally saw goblins go flying as the press of companions, squires, and Valkyries met the front lines of the horde.
Iona loosed the rest of the arrows she had with her, then sprinted back to get more, remembering to breathe around a nervous lump in her throat.
This was it.
This was life or death.
Not just for them, but for huge portions of the kingdom. Goblins got out here, they’d split and scatter, burning and looting their way through the kingdom.
There was a girl out there. Somewhere, in some village. Iona’s efforts here would keep her safe, would protect her from goblins bursting in the middle of the night.
Iona almost stumbled as she felt her [Vow] take hold, boosting her physical stats more than five times. She was protecting. She was defending.
This was her cause. This was her calling.
She made it to where the spare arrows were kept, and grab a handful of “real” arrows.
They had an expert in making arrows with them, although sadly she didn’t have access to the Arcanite reserves. The arrows being conjured up weren’t quite as good as “real” arrows, mostly because it was more valuable to have two smaller, lighter arrows instead of one big arrow. Still. The expert had solid mana regeneration, and had been constantly pumping out arrows ever since the call had gone out.
They were better than nothing.
Iona’s eyes wandered over the battlefield.
Shiva, the Destroyer. She stood on top of a sarcosuchus, whirling a massive glaive around her in a complicated pattern. All Iona could see was a bloody blur as goblin parts rained around her, unable to get past the shimmering metal cage formed around Shiva from her deadly dance.
More goblins went into the sarcosuchus’s mouth than there was possible room inside the dinosaur for.
Tavi, the Voracious. Darkness and Decay, she used a spear – along with having a devastating “deathtouch” ability, where with a simply touch she could carve out and remove important parts of a goblin, set their flesh rotting from the inside out. A success story – an orphan from the streets, raised up to become a Valkyrie, one of the best, one of the elites. She never got over starving as a kid, and somehow had the standard Valkyrie figure, in spite of constantly eating. Even as flesh rotted around her, even as blood sizzled near her.
Quinta was, of all things, a slime companion. Deadly Acid and Ooze, the slime simply engulfed bodies, and you could see the faces contort in silent screams as they were dissolved. Eaten alive by the slime.
The Inviolate. She wielded a mace and a massive tower shield, and was a combined healer-warrior. Sadly, her healing was focused entirely on herself, and her class was focused on taking and holding ground. Nothing short of death could get her to move from her position, and her insane self-regeneration on top of thick armor and thicker shield made that a nearly impossible proposition.
Speaking of healers. The only healer the Order had was an old man, entirely unsuited to a battlefield, perpetually stuck at level 256. Healers weren’t allowed to go any higher. Nobody – nobody – would give them permission. He’d only be a liability. He’d demand a squire attend to his every need, regale them with how “genius” it was that the author of the Medical Manuscripts had signed his name only “Healer”, and be entirely unable to get to a Valkyrie in battle. He’d been left behind. Any survivors would be able to get to him, to fix any wounds, any injuries.
Ha. Like there’d be any survivors.
The Unstoppable. A bear-kin, Storm and Lava. She towered over most of the other Valkyries, armed to the teeth. Quite literally. She had sharp metal caps over her teeth. She was slow to get moving, but once she had a bit of momentum, well – The Unstoppable.
The Unbreakable. Gravity nonsense. Blows that came to her were lightened, doing almost nothing to her. She’d lash back out with a thin rapier that hit like her Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The Untouchable. Mist and Mirage. She was somewhere inside the thick mists, and flowing blood from the region attested to the deadly butchery she was performing. Can’t hit what you can’t see, and the tiny amount of visibility every illusionist needed to see was offset by the confusing, shifting mists hiding even that tiny weakness.
The Shiny. Sigrun had been exhausted when naming her after a particularly harsh battle. Mirror on Mirror, every blow returned, every skill mimicked back at the caster.
The Creator stood on her golems, pseudo-creatures of metal and stone pummeling down on goblins, impervious to their blows. She’d always said the golems were her companions, that they could do anything a companion could do.
Iona doubted they could give affection back, although she had to admit it – The Creator looked at her golems the same way Alruna looked at Trikey.
The Swift, screaming down with her griffin from the skies above, impaling a high-level goblin casting powerful spells in the backline, then back to the skies in a flash, too fast for a counter-attack from endless goblin horde.
Valkyries weren’t like the crazy Sects, who somehow had it in their head that might made right, and the highest-level person should be the boss. That was, quite frankly, crazy talk, and more than one Sect had fallen to pieces when a powerful individual, with no leadership qualities to speak of, ended up the boss. No. The Valkyries selected their leader on administrative and leadership qualities, a Valkyrie with a vision, one who could weave a path through the complicated world. Sigrun was the leader on those qualities, and those qualities alone. If she was level 260, she would’ve still been selected to be the Grandmaster of the Order.
Her monstrous level and abilities were simply Sigrun being Sigrun, a peerless Knight in addition to her leadership and administrative abilities.
Three classes. Iona had gotten a look at them, and could now see and recognize them in action.
Mantle. Sigrun’s blade was impossibly sharp, and when it inevitably chipped, simply reformed anew. Any blow that dented her armor was fixed and restored the moment later. Offense paired with defense.
Verdant. Not a choice most warriors went for, but one Sigrun clearly had seen potential in. The ability to make small changes to herself – effectively self-doping, along with granting the boundless energy of plants and sunlight.
Lightning. Sheer, raw speed. [Lightning Step] moving Sigrun from one place to the next in a flash, blade cleaving all along her path.
Attack. Defense. Sustainability. Speed. Resilience. Sigrun had everything but weight, which was entirely irrelevant when it came to dealing with a goblin horde. She was everywhere at once, shining shield on one hand, gleaming sword in the other, goblins falling to pieces all around. A Valkyrie on one side of the battlefield could have a problem, and Sigrun would be there, covering her back silently, without a word, then in a flash be on the other side of the battlefield, running some powerful spellcaster through.
150 Valkyries. Each one trained for years, each one specialized, each one a lethal killing machine.
150 Squires. Trained… for a few less years. More generalized, eyeing up a specialty to branch into in the future. A future that would never come.
It wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t close to enough.