They were surrounded. At least half a dozen demons, maybe even more, were approaching them from all sides.
Dawn swallowed, thought furiously, then took a few steps to the side into the shadow of a large boulder. The spiders had taken advantage of the rocks to take cover. Well, two could play that game. She activated Shadow Play and moved slowly around the rock.
Grinna and Teren were in full fight, Teren with his back to a rock wall and shooting at the approaching demons with awe-inducing speed and Grinna dancing between several spiders and landing strokes with her blade on one after the other. They were holding the attention of the demons in front of them. But those from the rear were scrambling to meet them.
Dawn felt her rage rising, as she stared at the mass of spiders. She summoned bow and quiver from her storage ring. She still had a few of the fire arrows from the fight in the caves. ‘Let’s see if they burn,’ she thought, lit the first arrow up, and took aim at the spiders in the rear. She managed to hit the hindmost full force on its fat behind. Flames licked at the big beast, and a second later a flaming spider was screeching and dancing among the rocks, frantically trying to put the flames out. Dawn took a few steps backwards sliding along the rock face, and made ready to shoot another one of the demons.
This one had already approached to a few paces behind Grinna, who was still trying to keep three of the beasts away from Teren. One was already out of the fight, its eyes peppered with arrows. Dawn aimed for a long moment, wanting to ascertain she could hit the demon, then let the arrow fly. This time she accomplished more of a grazing hit to the right side. But the flames did their job and shortly after, this demon too was in full flaming mode.
Dawn was just congratulating herself on taking two demons out of the fight when she was hit by a devastating blow from the side. She was thrown away from the rock out into the open. The pain arrived a moment later. She was dazed, lying on the ground, bleeding and struggling for breath. In her zeal for shooting the demons she had forgotten to look around her. A spider had approached from the other side. It couldn’t see her clearly because she had been in stealth, but flaming arrows weren’t hard to trace. Still wheezing, Dawn cast Nurture and desperately scrabbled away from the place where she had landed. She managed to get back on her feet and backed away, trying to move silently. Belatedly, she took the time to look around.
The burning demons had turned away, shrieking and were distancing themselves from the fight, maybe looking for a way to quench the flames. The demon that had hit her was using his legs to punch down on different places on the ground, obviously trying to find her. Dawn backed away further, this time taking care to keep out of the way of other spiders.
Teren was hard pressed, she saw. He was bleeding from several wounds, fighting with the sword, now that two spiders had closed the distance to him. Grinna was still dancing through her enemies, meting out strokes to several demons in a row. If she had been wounded in any way during the fight, Dawn couldn’t discern it.
Ankou was slinking around on the outskirts of the fight. Now and then, he leapt on a spider from behind, but didn’t achieve more than a short distraction, his sharp claws and teeth no real match for the spider’s hard armor. Nevertheless, it was a bit of breathing room for Grinna.
Two demons were lying on the ground, arrows sticking out of their many eyes. Dawn held still for a moment to cast Nurture on Teren, keeping tabs on the spider behind her out of the corner of her eye.
Then she carefully crossed the open space to the next rock wall. She had one last fire arrow left and would have preferred to use it on one of the demons Teren was fighting. But she didn’t dare. She might hit Teren by accident, or she might even hit the demon and the flames would burn Teren too. She took her time to zero in on the spider that had hit her, and landed a perfect hit for once on the broad rump. The demon shrieked as the flames raced over its body. Desperately, it ran against the rocks, trying to quench the flames, but it was no use. It was burning fiercely, its movements slowed more and more, until finally it fell down and quieted.
Dawn shuddered and let out her breath. She was out of the fight. No fire arrows left and she wasn’t quite mad enough to try and hit those monsters with a sword. The best she could do now, was keep out of the way of enemies and friends alike. She crouched down and kept an eye on Teren and Grinna. They had whittled away another enemy and two more were moving slowly, missing several legs. Grinna leapt away from her position and struck down hard on one of Teren’s enemies just now. In a fight against several of the huge spiders, Grinna with her dancing style obviously was the stronger fighter, once it came to close contact fighting. Teren was mobile too, and his sword blows showed great strength, but the spiders had the reach on him with their sharp legs and he could not evade them all. He was once again bleeding fiercely.
Dawn kept an eye on her surroundings, afraid still more demons were approaching. Once she had assured herself that there were no more new enemies, she healed Teren once more. Then, the only thing she could do was wait with bated breath and pray to all the deities that Grinna and Teren would pull through.
It seemed an eternity until the fight was finally over, but in truth she had had only to wait a few more minutes. Grinna had engaged the two demons Teren had been fighting and he had put distance between himself and the spiders and had started to shoot the demons once again. Grinna’s erstwhile enemies had not been able to catch up to him with several missing legs. At last, the last spider fell and once again silence ruled between the rock formations.
Even Grinna was breathing hard now, she looked sweaty and dishevelled and was bleeding from a deep cut in her left arm. She fell down on her knees, completely exhausted. Dawn deactivated stealth and ran to her.
“Are you alright?” she asked anxiously.
“I will be in a moment,” Grinna wheezed. “Can’t remember the last time I ran out of stamina in a fight.”
Teren approached slowly, checking every demon on the ground to see if they were really dead.
“That was a lot closer than I liked.” Turning to Dawn, he said: “And I got through only because you healed me in between. Thank you for that.”
Dawn smiled at him shyly and said: “Well I would certainly have been spider food if you and Grinna hadn’t killed them all. So, thank you both.”
Grinna stood up slowly: “Well, at least now we’re absolutely sure that we need reinforcements for the next fight. One measly demon more and the outcome would have been a different one.”
Dawn looked around uneasily. “Not that I’m unhappy that there weren’t more demons, but I wonder why the queen sent only a part of them to fight us. Let’s get out of here as fast as we can.” She had enough mana now for another heal and spent it on Grinna. The deep cut on her arm started to close slowly and the bleeding stopped. It wasn’t completely healed but it was well on the way.
Teren nodded, took out his water skin and drank deeply. “Yes, let’s go.” Both rangers collected their packs, which they had dropped as soon as the fight had started. Slowly, they once more started on their way to the city.
“How long will it take us to reach Atelang?” Dawn asked.
“We should reach it in five days,” Grinna answered. “If we were alone, Teren and I could manage it in three days easily, but with you we need a bit more time.”
They threaded their way through the rock formations until the reached the first trees and soon after the hunter’s former camp. To their surprise, they had left all their equipment in the camp and their fire was still burning, but of the hunters themselves there was no trace. Grinna frowned. “That’s a bit unusual, leaving everything here when they are not around.” She approached the camp slowly and stared at the ground. Then she said grimly: “I believe I know what the other demons were doing, Dawn. They had more prey to take care of here.”
This is my first time writing a story. I'm still learning as I go along, so there may be some hiccups down the road. I am a voracious reader myself and especially adore science fiction and fantasy. Recently I have discovered the genre of LITRPG for myself and it fascinates me.
Please feel free to comment. I'd love to hear from you.