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"Sure, their army might be reluctant to fight," DicingDevil said, "but I'm sure many DeathGang members are as well. Our guys might also want to flee, once the battle starts."

Cael shrugged. "Well, they'll have no choice, since the hills are blocking their retreat."

"Shameless plan. Good. They will fight like cornered beasts."

"The enemy, however, will have more open space behind them. We can ambush them as they retreat, but they will still be tempted to do that once they meet the larger force in the North. Retreating will disorganise them. This is the first war around here, so a lot of them will be on edge once they realise what they've gotten into."

"You're right. A lot of our guys will also be reluctant, but they'll have no choice but to fight."

"Exactly, and we can rout the enemy once they turn to flee. Anyway, here's Kruxol. I only see one guy patrolling the North. I guess they're not that concerned about patrolling around the town by this point. No DeathGang showing up."

"Yes, and the game doesn't allow many players to guard the town boundaries. They probably won't recognise you, since you're a Mage and not in DeathGang. You walk towards the town first, then I'll run in."

"Sure."

Before going, Cael painstakingly wrote a rune on a piece of paper next to him, using [Illusory Quill Pen]. Re-tracing the lines several times, he seemed to almost etch the rune into the paper, using a lot of his MP. He walked towards town with a poker face, wearing a blue coat over his usual Mage robes. He tried not to appear rushed, and noticed that the patrolling player didn't seem to pay much attention to him. As he neared the town, he heard the player call out to him, saying, "Hey there! Any sign of DeathGang up North?"

Cael made sure to take a step past this player, towards the town, before turning backwards to answer. He was now facing towards the trees North of Kruxol, and the level 57 player duly turned around to face Cael. Cael saw that DicingDevil was now making a few preliminary movements towards the town, preparing to sprint into Kruxol. This was possible because the player patrolling Kruxol was no longer looking North.

"I did not see many DeathGang, but I did see one named Darys," Cael said, trying to put on an accent that would suggest he was not familiar with the English language.

The level 57 player's eyes raised. "Oh? I know that name. Tell me, where did you see him?"

Cael waited for DicingDevil to find a safe hiding-spot, behind a thick bush near the edge of the trees, then said, "I think I remember. I do not know what place is called, but I can tell you direction."

He held up his arm past the level 57 player, pointing straight towards the North-East.

"It is there!" Cael said.

The level 57 player turned back towards the North, to see where Cael was pointing. Cael waited until the player was looking towards the tree-line, then cast [Conjure Light], using the option to spend extra MP for an especially bright light. However, no light appeared in his palm. Instead, he smiled and ran quickly into the safe zone of Kruxol, as a level 85 [Apparition of Light] materialised right in front of the level 57 player.

Cael saw DicingDevil set off quickly and run in a wide curve around the Apparition and player, soon also reaching the safe zone of Kruxol. He kept some distance from Cael, but was close enough to keep an eye on the Mage. The level 57 player was quickly killed by the Apparition, through a combination of hard strikes and crippling paralysis.

As Cael and DicingDevil were walking towards the Storage building, Cael saw a familiar face: Byron from GildedKnights. Byron was sitting on the side of the street with a few other GildedKnight companions, discussing war plans in hushed tones. Cael smiled at him, and after a brief hesitation Byron remembered him and smiled back.

As Cael and DicingDevil turned a corner away from Byron's group, Cael used [Minor Illusion] to conjure a piece of paper in Byron's hands. It read:

"Got some intel. DeathGang have an important General, named Brulan, who is a coward. He will be hiding behind his lines. Since he is one of their leaders and strategists, make sure to focus ranged attacks on killing him. Your spies will confirm some of this."

Since DicingDevil had turned the corner away from the street with Byron, he had no way of seeing this piece of paper, as Byron read it and nodded.

After DicingDevil had finished depositing his newly-won goods, Cael switched characters back to Crucis. It was nearing 5:30 am. A couple of players who were heading East had accidentally aggroed the [Apparition of Light], and died. Some stronger players from [The Fountain] had gathered to combat it.

Crucis and DicingDevil both used [Stealth Cloak], and ran North since it was still mostly unwatched after the patrolling player died. Once they had reached the trees, they headed carefully North-East towards the thick mist where they had been told to gather for the war. Since Kruxol was still slowly preparing for war, players there were gathering in the East and barely paying attention to the North.

As he arrived in the mist, Crucis saw a few other DeathGang members gathering, with a slightly nervous atmosphere. The mist this morning was not as thick as usual, and, while still difficult to see through, it would not hide the players as well as was hoped. Crucis grimaced slightly. He saw that the DeathGang players gathered here were talking intermittently, while shivering in the cold morning mist.

"Greetings," began DicingDevil, addressing the gathered players, "Our task here is simple. We are to keep an eye out for important players - especially the big Guild Leaders - hovering around towards the North. If we see them, then you are to kill them if they are within reach, even if you die. We can also fight small, weak groups coming in this direction, if I give the order. Remember, we are here to assassinate big targets, not to survive. This is war: you must prepare to die, and make the best of this. Any questions?"

The gathered players were silent.

"Alright," continued DicingDevil, "Is there any other issue that you would like to discuss?"

A few players murmured about the thin mist, worried that it would compromise their mission.

"The mist is a pity, but we have no choice but to persevere. If we stay close to the ground, where it is thickest, then we can still hide effectively," offered DicingDevil in response. "Anything else?"

"Yes!" shouted out one DeathGang member, whose face was hidden from Crucis by the mist, "There was a party of two players seen to the West, they did not notice us. They were heading towards the dungeon near the hills, but seemed slightly lost. We took them prisoner and interrogated them, but they clearly know nothing about the war. They have taken the long journey from Kaxil. Should we execute them?"

"Yes, does anyone wish to do the honour?" replied DicingDevil.

Two male players, levels 35 and 32, were dragged roughly from the ground, where they had been hidden by the mist. Their arms and legs were bound with rope, and their mouth was gagged.

"While we're waiting for the war, could I borrow the level 32 player to sharpen my blade?" Crucis offered. A few DeathGang players gave muffled, amused grunts at the tone of this offer.

"Yes, that is fine," said DicingDevil, "I have observed your skill at these things. Shall we put the level 35 to death immediately, or does anyone have any plans for them?"

"We can leave him to bleed out," said a level 45 DeathGang player named [Akshel].

"Alright, go ahead."

Akshel grabbed the level 35 player by the throat, and used a fierce [Silent Stab] to cut cleanly through the front of the player's throat, followed by [Dagger Twist] to deepen the bleeding wound. Finally, he used [Black Spot] to cut a slit across the wound, causing heavy bleeding to soak the player's throat.

The level 35 player was kicked to the cold ground, and left to die.

The weaker, level 32 player was kicked to the ground in front of Crucis, and Crucis kneeled down to apply a loose [Chokehold]. Crucis calmly drew out his [Skeleton Dagger, level 0]. Imitating Akshel slightly, he used [Silent Stab] to pierce through the front of the player's throat. However, Crucis deliberately stabbed in a less professional manner, hacking a messy, bleeding wound in the front of the player's throat. The player tried to scream, but could not.

As Crucis' dagger struck, he saw a faint, dark mist rise from the wound. The [Nightmare] effect. He had been hoping for this. He continued with a [Black Spot] to deepen the wounds on the player's throat. The player had still not lost any HP from these attacks, due to Crucis' choice of weapon.

He then moved on to striking at the spine with a [Panoramic Strike], while pressing the level 32 player's neck wounds into the slightly muddy ground. Some mud was smeared into the throat wounds. After a [Ripper] towards the spine, the wounded player seemed to be trying to writhe, but failing to move his limbs. Crucis saw with satisfaction that a thicker black mist was arising around him, and spreading through the area around him. His hand now appeared covered in an array of lizard-like oil-black scales instead of skin. He could sense a slight red-black glow from his eyes.

Crucis met a smidgeon of resistance from the player, but quelled this with a few harsh strikes below the ribcage. Blood was by now pouring from the level 32 player's mouth. Crucis returned to a focus on the player's mangled neck, using [Ripper] to carve up what remained of it. He continued persistently striking the player for 10 minutes, watching as the air of the surrounding area became thick with an almost-suffocating black mist. Once he was satisfied that the mist wasn't getting any thicker, he drew out his [Vile Toxin Gas] and sprayed it over the wounded player, then used a [Silver Crucifix Dagger] to slash the player's throat with [Black Spot]. He left the player, frozen in an agonised expression, to die from the [Bleeding] status.

"Here's your mist," quipped Crucis, as he saw DicingDevil walk by to check on the blaçk mist.

"When did you become a faceless lizard?" DicingDevil replied. He had noticed the gradual, intimidating transformation in Crucis' appearance as the mist spread. However, he was mostly pleased that there was now a clear mist covering the area, making his task much easier.

"Took some adrenochrome. Kidding, that's an effect of the mist."

"I see, Mr. Icke. Actually, I have heard of something like that."

Crucis noticed that - in appearance at least - his face had mostly been replaced by a black, gaping void, with round eyes - like a komodo dragon's - suspended in the centre. The eyes were black, with a slight red tint, and emitted a faint red glow. He noticed that his black scales were often interspersed with blood-red scales in swirling patterns, something which hadn't happened in Athur's throne room. After 30 seconds outside of battle, he began to revert automatically to his usual appearance, and he joined the rest of the group.

"Alright, guys," DicingDevil said, "Word is in from our scouts, a small group from the [Communion] Guild are heading just to our East. They are searching the area around the [Arts Building], because Darys is generally seen around there and they want to take him by surprise at the beginning of the war. They are trying not to raise attention, so they are moving in a group with only 8 [Communion] members and 3 elites from other Guilds. Most of their other forces are following the path, because they aren't familiar with the area, so those won't be running into us. We should go East, and wait in ambush."

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MOROSE

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