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A note from naosu

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Dreamweaver Chapter 160

 

 

 

 

I’d pulled Rina from our morning routine and we’d only been feeding for an hour when there’s a hurried smashing knock on our door. I can tell it’s urgent.

“What? Another interruption?! I’ve been keeping the noise down I swear!” Rina said in between biting a pillow.

“Yeah, maybe its…wait, I’ve already taken care of the room fees. Hmm,” I thought aloud.

Dang it. This was the best part. We’re forced to stop our current activity reluctantly. Rina is probably more disappointed than I am.

“I really should answer that,” I said between pistoning.

“Please …don’t…just another half hour!” Rina gasped while on all fours.

I have to pull out but don’t want to. Rina doesn’t like us to stop halfway through sex either with her skirt around the middle of her stomach. Well, at least that’s how it’d started out when we were going to bed but now she’d lost her skirt somewhere entirely. But it’s also a reminder that there’s more to life than sex and feeding. We have a real life to protect.

In the end we got up.

“I need to answer it,” I put on a quick tie around robe while Rina hid under the covers since she’s not dressed. Then I opened the door just a crack.

“Are you going to let me in?” he asked.

“No. We do our business at the breakfast table. That’s our routine,” I said.

He scratched his nose. “Ahh that’s true.”

“Is this urgent?” I asked with my foot bracing the door to mostly closed and peeking through at him.

“This can’t wait. Shun! Hurry get up! We have another emergency!” It’s Gyle again.

“What? Again??” Rina exclaimed in the background while she’s started to get dressed. I guess she can hear him.

I sighed.

“So I’ll meet you down in the lobby in five minutes,” I said.

He frowned but then I was able to close the door.

“What could it be…” I wondered.

“I know right? What could he want? I thought we beat the goblins…didn’t we? Aren’t things supposed to be peaceful now?” Rina asked while she’s topless and putting her skirt, shoes, and socks on. This is a wonderful life hanging out every day with Rina, Asakura, Sunghee, and Fox.

Just the concept of living in a luxurious inn like this is amazing. We’ve been learning to deal with the adversity of this world step by step while enjoying wine, ice, and fresh tropical fruits that the dwarves had delivered to our room. They’d even given us the preferred high class suite for the normal inn room price because of helping out the government.

But we can hear the booted feet of others on the floor above us and in the hall outside us.

Um, that’s odd. Other adventurers are being mobilized too I think.

“I bet its goblins. Hell, everything on this world is hell. And it always happens to us. How come there’s no end of the goblins Shun?” she asked.

I decided to risk not summoning Sunghee…but it’s a risk that I worry over. I might need her tonight if I get attacked in the dream state again. Then we run down the stairs of the inn where already dwarven military officers are explaining something to like half the adventurers. Some of them look annoyed and are giving me dirty looks. But they don’t dare say anything because I’ve built a name in personally holding back the last set of sieges.  

But in the end I changed my mind. I will bring Sunghee, if there are really a bunch of orcs nearby I will need her. But I will summon her at the last second before we leave, in order to try to let her rest up as much as possible.

Then we hit the inn dining area that has been commandeered by the dwarves as an emergency meeting hall. Adventurers of all shapes and sizes are looking seriously ahead while being talked to by dwarven authorities, in what looks like a well armed lynch mob.

Gyle is in the back, and waved me over to him while trying to look subtle to the others.

“What’s going on?” we asked him while whispering.

“Quiet,” she shot back.

It’s as quiet as a pin drop.

“So gentlemen that concludes your posts...get to it. Everyone get to work and work quickly. If you fail you die or get enslaved,” a military officer with chain rings in his hair and beard said. He also has a weird three bearded look in the way his beard is styled with gold necklaces all over his mail bearing chest. Of course since he’s part of the real military he has access to armor.

Then we get chewed out by the dwarves for not coming down stairs for roll call quick enough. And they are already stressed out like mad and look like they are ready to get in fights with each other, but I’ve learned that’s just how they steel up their will power in times of trouble anyway.

I don’t get why we’re getting chewed out but we do, by two dwarven guys at once after everyone else is already leaving to posts they were assigned to.

What is this?

Gyle did intervene for me however and asked them to back off. “He’s new to this city and doesn’t know the system. Be easy on him,” Gyle said.

All of us are afraid to talk.

“I don’t get it. What’s going on,” I said.

Conveniently Rina and Sunghee are behind me also letting me take the heat.      

“The goblins are emboldened and came back with orcs to help them.  So there’s an orc army out there within a day’s march of the stronghold. Somehow word got out that the goblins had gotten inside or were going to get inside, we’re not sure which at this point. They had counted on taking the stronghold from either us after we were already weakened from fighting goblins, or from the goblins themselves it looks like. They’ll be here tomorrow. Our outriders have picked up their second army, plus they’ve got what looks like two or three orc tribal armies acting as one,” the tri-beard officer said.

“Wow,” Sunghee’s eyes are large.

“But they lost. They tried to take the city and lost,” I protested.        

“They think we sustained losses and that they can mop up the mess I think. But we haven’t actually had too much in form of losses yet. We had some but our in-city shelters were so good that much of the population is still intact,” another officer said.

“Yeah but getting inside the city emboldens them so much. That’s all they needed to spark their morale up again. That’s how goblins and orcs think,” The tri-beard guy said.

“I agree that it’s not good. But considering they got here so fast they must have known the goblins had some sneaky plan to get in before it was even executed,” I noted.

“That’s possible,” said tri-beard.

“Just like that they are coming back? That sucks,” Rina is also shocked.

“That’s how it is. Their grunts don’t hear that they only got in from some sneaky assassin bullshit bribed the wrong gate guards to get in. They instead hear they’ve already penetrated the gate and wall and if they just bring back enough people they’ll do it again,” a third white Mohawk hair and Mohawk beard styled dwarf said. He’s also got war tattoos on him that a lot of other dwarves have on his skin, except he’s covered with them. Two tattoos in particular stand out, that are drawn so perfectly it almost looks like someone copied a printer laser on his shoulders of what look like two dwarven kings, one on each shoulder.

The others give him a wide berth.              

I went around the corner to summon Sunghee and together with her and Rina we approached the others for instructions.

Sunghee looks a bit sleepy and yawned but other than that is very quiet. I hope I haven’t thrown her sleep schedule off. But when she sees I’m worried about her she gives me a sleepy looking ‘thumbs up’.   

“So we have an assignment? Wait how does this work?” I asked.  

The dwarves are checking their notes again, which can’t be helped because there’s dozens and dozens of adventurers each assigned to different areas.

“Oh, and don’t forget we don’t do suicide missions,” Rina said pleasantly while curtseying to both sets of dwarves. She gave a nice smile at the end and acted polite.

They didn’t know what to say to that. If I’d said it, I probably couldn’t have gotten away with it, but Rina is very pretty.

“Well the good news is that you are getting paid but there’s a clause in the adventurer’s licenses that you can be temporarily drafted for a month out of each year for civic defense duty,” Gyle said.

Shit. I don’t like that idea. “I don’t think I like that,” I hinted aloud.

“Well you can turn it down and no one will stop you. But if you do, your immigration status will change to that of being an illegal,” the tri-bearded dwarf said again.

Sunghee and Rina are giving them dirty looks but I stay calm and void of facial expressions. I resisted the urge to tell him off.               

“That’s….bad. We need a place to live Shun,” Rina said urgently while tugging my arm.

Looks like they have us in a tight spot…and I didn’t like that they heard what Rina just said either. That might make them think they have us where they want us.                         

“Crap,” I said.

Rina looks down and so does Sunghee.

“He’s right. I hated that clause. There has to be an active engagement and siege within ten miles of a city or town for it to be activated. But sometimes they skirt the lines of what’s accept for ten miles,” Sunghee added. She looks a bit annoyed at the dwarves right now even though she’s trying not to say anything.

And Rina notices that too.

“In this case it’s real and legit. Also dwarves don’t fuck around with that clause. We’ve also studied the abuse a lot of human city lords use on that clause and found it hurts civic defense to push people into press gangs for service. But we also have to have a city where it’s safe to live,” the tattoo dwarf said. Wow that guy has a lot of tattoos.

Sunghee breathed deeply and exhaled. “Ok so what’s the bottom line? What is it you guys want? You are giving us a job and I don’t want it to be some dangerous suicidal crap. It needs to at least be doable, and we’ve done a lot for you guys already recently. ”

“Hey we’re in charge here,” the dwarf with the king’s emblems said.

Then suddenly the tattooed dwarf leaned over and whispered something in his ears.

“Oh well, I guess we can work something out,” the king emblem shouldered guy said again. I don’t think he has the dwarf king emblems for his own house, but rather as some sort of official and secretary post.

“We need you to hit that ranch you guys did a few days ago. We need them to pull the cattle and their ranch hands inside the wall before the town gets surrounded. You’ll need every minute of time. I suggest you bring a few other grunts that have ranch experience,” the Tri-beard said.

“That sounds like a good idea. We don’t actually have any ranch experience ourselves,” Sunghee said.

“As long as you can guard them it’ll be fine. Just do the job, and get in and out fast with hopefully no problems,” Tri-beard responded.

“Crap. Crap, crap I bet it’s something dangerous again isn’t it,” Rina is sweating it.

“We’ll deal with it. We just dish out ass kickings and it’ll be fine,” Sunghee slapped her palm over her fist and seemed really extra determined today.                                                     

“So let me get this straight. We have to get those cows and that entire ranch 10 miles out from town into this place before a blended army over a day’s march away can reach us all while herding a ton of smelly shit spitting cattle?!” Rina is really stressed out.

“Yeah…that’s pretty much it,” one of the dwarves said.

“You get used to the smell after awhile,” the tattooed guy said trying to be helpful.

The other two dwarves gave him dirty looks.

“What? It-it’s true,” tattooed dwarf said again in his own defense.                    

“Those shit spitting cattle are really important. Remember the math we did? There’s over a hundred head of cattle there. The amount of strays you guys pulled wasn’t the full herd but just those that were lost. This is also technically more than one ranch, but like two or three ranch families in an area. We need you to go after just one of the ranches, but watch for a signal if some of the other ranch groups need assistance or are coming back late,” Tri-beard explained again.

“Yeah, we need to get those people in fast,” the tattooed dwarf next to him looked nervous.

Rina sighed. I don’t think she likes the smell of farms.

But Sunghee sounds excited. “Do you realize this is one of the few times we’ve ever had together above the surface? We’ve been underground like most of our time together,” Sunghee said.

“Huh…that’s true,” I straightened up.                            

“But there’s some things to worry about isn’t there? Even if the main force is a day away what are the chances of outriders and scouts already being close by?” I asked them.

The dwarves didn’t bat an eyelash and even looked more determined. “That’s our worry as well. We’re concerned that they would have to have some scouts active ahead of the main army. Because of that, you can’t dawdle or waste time. You need to stay moving the whole time. Don’t stop for anything, even if they come up with a good excuse. And don’t let them try to persuade you to stay and save their little ranch. They’ve tried that in the past with people,” the tattooed dwarf explained.

“He’s right. I would count on some enemy scouts. I don’t want to lure you into any false sense of security. We also want you to come back alive. But as you know even one cow can mean the difference between making and breaking our food budget. And a farm ranch hand or master gardener in this situation is worth its weight in dozens of adventurer’s head,” the dwarf with the emblems on his shoulder said.

“Eh? Is that true?” Sunghee asked.

“Pretty much, food producing dwarves are a minority compared to the ones doing metalwork or trades. We can’t afford to lose even one of them. Please do your best. I’d leave asap,” he added at the end.

We didn’t have much time to prepare. Every minute counts. And the dwarves are providing some muscle to go with us. The problem is more than half of them are new recruits with no military expertise. What few they did sent us had ranch handling experience but not a lot of combat experience.

When we heard it Sunghee gives me the look. She knows it’s going to be me and her providing most of the support.

Everyone knows how bad it will be if we don’t get those cows in too.

Over 100 cattle to bring in are the job between us and two other adventurer teams. And thinking about the value of one cow can provide a day’s meat rations of one half pound a day for one person for enough meat for a day for between a year and two years of food depending on how you stretch it. And each of the ranches has over a hundred head.

This is a serious job. That is super important. And we have a city of dwarves with a low food supply already even before this started.

This is complicated. The only thing that isn’t complicated is that the dwarven fortress has huge storm barns built for just such things under the city where they can put the cattle clean and safe…if we can get them there in time.

And even more dwarves have come into the city since the food shortage had even started.

We fan out with Sunghee riding point as usual while looking pretty determined, Rina next to me after that, and me in the middle as well. Gyle is taking up second position left from point while other dwarves we don’t even know are riding horses. He wants to be able to see what’s going on as well as be able to target anything that’s spotted as fast as possible.

In spite of the urban legend, dwarves do and can ride horses just fine. They also think it’s a joke that there are stories among humans of them having to ride burros or ponies; that particular kind of story never made sense to me anyway when human children smaller than dwarves can ride horses just fine without any problems. We also have to stay on horses because once we start moving the herd the danger of getting trampled would be severe if we aren’t on horseback of some kind. And the mechanical golems that the dwarves ride or use to pull stuff …aren’t usable either. Mechanical golems can fight and therefore are being hoarded zealously to be kept near the city, which shows the dwarves are expecting some engagements soon.

Besides, I wonder how cattle and golems would react to each other? Would the strange big mechanical golems accidentally cause stampedes easily?

After asking about it with the other dwarves coming with us as ranch hand helpers that had few combat skills I found out that the bright lights of the golems and shiny metallic features and weird energy or synergy or whatever the hell you call it can spook the cows easy. And if that happens you can get them to trample each other or the riders and then you’re screwed literally.

But we also have another problem I found out as we’re trudging away.

If the goblin and orc armies are a day away the grunts are scared to even move fast because of the possibility of orc scouts. They want to make sure everything is safe and not run into an ambush, but doing that might actually cause an ambush later because they are trying to go too slow.

And some of them don’t want to take orders from a human, even if Sunghee is listed as the leader.

We don’t know if it’s a sure thing yet of enemy scouts, but Sunghee shows us how to move properly and how to use a formation that is supposedly effective at spotting enemy scouts quicker but not infallible.

We have to avoid spots that can be under archer fire and even though I have my runic shielding up on all of us including the grunts; and even the protection from missiles spell up with it, we are still scared shitless as we are moving.

Anything could be out there.                                                                                                                

Sunghee made a bet with me there will be an engagement soon. And she has a good head on her shoulders. So it’s making me over think things in a way. And so we’re having our hearts beat like mad while we sweat bullets every time we see a spot that something could be hiding behind. And this whole area is timber filled forest canyons with tons of hidey-hole places to ambush folk.

Oops…

About a couple minutes after Sunghee made that bet with me I realized it’s made the dwarves even more nervous. Being non-warrior crafters these guys are good at being courageous but you can tell they aren’t real warriors. Their duty has forced them to learn combat but they’d rather be in a cozy shop or working a trade.

Sunghee is really skittish I can tell because the whole time she doesn’t even have her hand leave her sword. But she confronts her fair with almost like hidden rage so thick it looks like it could seep out of her skin at any minute and I can see her jaw clenching and unclenching.

I find horses…hard to use. I don’t know how it will mess with spell casting or not. But you can’t also just automatically be a pro and fight from horseback either with no experience. It doesn’t work that way. Plus the horses aren’t warhorses. These are just normal everyday horses with no combat experience. The plan was that we won’t be in combat and will just pull everyone in asap.

But no one told us that, but Sunghee can tell. She’d discovered it when she pulled her new badass sword from her belt and the sound of the metal grating on her other weapon almost spooked her horse. This was the massively beautiful long shiny black bastard sword I’d taken from the leader of that one recent enemy raid. The same guy was the one who was a human in charge of a mercenary group that lead a group against us for some goblin shamans or something recently.

“Dwarves should have told us that…” she muttered while biting her lip as she explained what that meant.

Rina and I both are scared too. Plus horses yeah…they smell a bit. It’s not the worst smell and they are fun to ride. But they aren’t fun to ride when orcs could show up any time.

The dwarven grunts almost shot us on accident already a couple of times from being scared of every shadow already. Even though they are courageous they get jumpy when their life is on the line. The crossbow bolts had come really close to my head when one of them had panicked and his crossbow went off. Then we had to help him keep control of the panicking horse.

We are getting close to the east side ranch.                                         

“I smell smoke,” Gyle said suddenly.

“Crap, we need to step on it,” Sunghee said.

We try to increase the pace a bit, but Sunghee has to give the go ahead every time we get close to a change in terrain or bend.

After another mile we finally get to an overlook. The massive valley is below us. It looks wonderful…if not for the fact that we’re here for danger and not work I would have enjoyed horseback riding too. Oh and the smell of horses isn’t that great, in spite of what people tell you about how wonderful they are. Anything bigger than a human is going to have a strong smell.

Wow, the big valley is enormous. It’s also beautiful and you can see why the dwarves picked this place to live. It has sheer cliffs lining the whole valley but at some point they felt that they had to pull underground for some reason rather than use the whole defendable valley.

Then I realized something else while we’re travelling…

The defensible valley was only good for keeping you out so long. Once you were already in the valley there was a con in that, there were just so many places you could hide in. And there must be literally a dozen different box canyons connecting with this one, while we’re skirting the rim of one of the higher up places reachable.

“I didn’t know it looked like this. I thought we already were in the valley,” Rina said.

“It’s like a valley within a valley,” one of the dwarves said.

“I kind of agree with him. You could make a whole fort if you put a wall in front of this smaller box canyon joining the rest,” Sunghee noted.

“True, but there’s also the problem of hidden caves and stuff from things that lived here before the dwarves came,” one of them said.

“Oh? Something before dwarves lived here?” Sunghee asked.

“Huh? What’s that mean?” I said.

“Dwarves are one of the oldest species on this world. They were here before anything and everything according to the lore,” Sunghee said.

“Wow, you know your history,” one of the dwarves is impressed with her.

So …something before the dwarves? What could that be?” I wondered.

“We don’t know. We’ve speculated on it often. We must have reached and claimed this valley only a short time after they’d been extinct. And the acidic nature of the soil here made it impossible to find very many skeletons intact,” one of them frowned.

“There is the ruins…of a few cities. But we don’t like to admit there was something here before us,” another dwarf said.

“Stay quiet, we could be hunted soon,” another dwarf hand said.

He’s right and it reminds people of their fears. As a result it got quiet fast, even though I wanted to hear about the extinct people that were here before the dwarves were here.

But then we hit another bend in the trail that looped around and skirted the edge of the face of the mountain. And just like that we can see fires below in the valley. Tons of little pock marked little smoke stacks over the edges of watery pine that has way too much dew and water in the air to be an accident. There’s a lush valley below that shouldn’t even have any kind of natural fire possible. It was so far away that we could barely see anything since we were looking at something in the distance and maybe twenty or thirty miles away.  

“It’s kind of hard to see that far. What’s that?” Rina asked.

“It’s obviously dozens of orc fires,” Sunghee said.

“But those look too big to be orc fires. And there’s so much smoke,” Rina said while their horses are marching along lazily.

“Orc and goblin pillaging, it’s already started. The valley is filled with human ranchers that are going to be the first to die. We warned them not to settle in our territory and that outside our walls was bad but the pressure of their own kings living hardly on their own kind forces them to do it,” one of the dwarves said. He appears to be one of the few with ranching experience. Rather than sounding racist, he actually sounded like he pitied them and had some dealings with them.

I guess there are also differences between dwarves that have contact with the surface compared to those that only live underground too.

“How far away is that?” I asked Sunghee. She’s a pro at this kind of stuff.

“Well. That’s a good…hm…maybe twenty miles out. We only can see it now because of the elevation. So we have to count on the fact that they are closer than we thought they were,” Sunghee said after looking down into the valley.

“I like being high up like this. We can see everything around us. The air feels good out here too,” Rina said.

“That my friend is why dwarves love mountains,” one of the rookie dwarves said. He’s also eyeing Rina.

Crap. If I don’t herd him off, I may regret it. I don’t like my women being eyed by others.

Even though we’re dressed in full head to toe dwarven clothing, that kind of resembles cowboy like clothes, the girls still attract attention. It gets tiring to always have to watch out for them. This always happens. Even with dwarves they notice and get real happy riding with a bunch of hot looking supermodel quality girls.

Actually we’ve been inside or underground or in dungeons mostly. So this is the first day we’ve had outside all day. It took getting used to. And naturally we had to wear eye protection that the dwarves provided because after several weeks of living underground it hurt like a bitch, trying to see in sunlight for the first time.

I need to get the girls hats to help protect their skin. I can heal it too but it could help I think.  I put that on my to do list.

I shake off my current thought.

“Shun, keep your guard up. Sometimes orcs aren’t the only things in these woods,” Sunghee said.

I can feel she has enough worry for all of us.

“Oh, like what?” Rina asked.

“Panthers, mountain lions, and sometimes bears to start with…all those love these little mountain dales; the ranchers try to get them out but …you know how hard that is,” one of the dwarves said.

“You are going to give us nightmares before we even start the damn job,” I said shaking my head.

We snapped to attention when right away I heard Sunghee yelling. She’s thrown several daggers and there’s a flash of metal whipping through the air one after another.

“The orcs are already here!” she cried.

Wow, we aren’t even at the ranchers domicile yet. This is bad.

Everyone is exploding into action before I can even react. But most of us struggling to keep up with what just happened.

Real combat is fucking scary. And orcs are crazily huge even among the average sized ones. The orcs have already tried to shoot Sunghee full of holes before I even knew they were there. And they aren’t  rookies but veteran scouts who have had plenty of murder experience. Her runic shielding buff that I have up already has like twelve orc arrows in it. If it didn’t have the protection from missiles enchant overlaying it, she’d probably have already died.

Plus the orcs have surprising bursts of speed and strength from bodies that are bred for warfare and they’d had the upper hand this time. They have come from the underbrush and cover with murderous zeal and full of bloodlust from an ambush spot that they’d picked out. I can’t imagine who trained them but their unit is also surprisingly organized and working well together as they surge forward.

“Shun! Help!” Sunghee cried out the warning and I’m already refreshing her shielding and missile protection buffs while the dwarves are screaming in rage and for revenge.

I’m working on that but I hadn’t expected how the horses would react. They didn’t expect to be attacked and these weren’t trained warhorses but instead were something that had been recently broke in.The dwarves are shooting and my horse just bucked me off while I’m rolling on the ground trying to get the wind back into me while my chest hurts like crazy. I couldn’t breathe for so long that I was worried a lung had popped because the runic shielding buff wasn’t tuned to registering the fall from the horse as combat damage to absorb and my spell had been disrupted. Some of the dwarves manage to get their crossbows up in time while I’m trying to not get trampled as my horse is going nuts.

My ass stings from hitting the ground hard from the horse failure and I’m also trying to not feel like the wind is knocked out of me and get up at the same time.

Then I drew the runic sigils to renew Sunghee’s buffs while trying to concentrate over intense pain and my chest pressure.

She’s saved! Disaster averted! But still she almost got tore up for real.

Rina missed with her shots and is hiding behind me but that’s what I’d told her to do until we could get her combat abilities up.

Then the orcs shot two more horses and the dwarves are rolling to get out of the way of the falling bodies, a bit better than I did. I hadn’t realized that the horses could be shot out from under us. But even if I’d predicted it, I still can’t waste mana on animals even if they are sturdy mounts.

Another dwarf just lost his horse right after that and all kinds of missiles are being exchanged both to and from our ferocious opponents. It wasn’t even shot but the dumb animal panicked, bucked him off and he fell to the ground. I missed what happened but I think he took an arrow in the shield and then another horse was just killed by an orc throwing its axe at a dwarf and hitting it instead.

The thing …horse’s have this weird death scream thing that’s eerie to listen to. It fell and died over about ten seconds of agony that I pitied. Then it lay still not getting back up.

I’m still trying to duck and weave out of the range of the horse hooves and position myself to cover Rina and Sunghee.

“Shun!” Rina cried out. She dodged several orc arrow shots at her and the runic shielding helped. Now she’s behind a small boulder cowering down.

“Maintain the line!” one of the dwarves cried out.

“Ahhh, my leg!” a dwarf cried out. He’s screaming like mad.

Another one screamed when orc arrows are burying themselves into the runic shielding enchant I’d put up on him, but he’s more terrified than wounded. Weird…I’d put a runic buff on him. The buff didn’t cover friendly fire? Or was it just a ton of damage that happened that fast. He’s still alive but panicked like crazy.

We shout for him to get down but he’s in shock.

The dwarves lose their horses more quickly than we’d realized. Some of them made it to a small crevasse and are trying to calm the few horses that have survived the encounter.

Crap this makes it slower for us to travel too, I think as we return fire.

But it’s still a touchy firefight.

Sunghee is ducking and weaving. She got her buckler up and blocked a few orcs that are trying to rush her like running backs. Then she gouged one’s knee with a sick crunch and I hit the other with a stun ray to create an opening for her after I’d renewed a few of the ranch hand hiree runic shielding buffs. Then I blocked two more crossbow bolts.

Sunghee cuts the ones sword hand to hang loseless and then finishes both of them off.

I’d also had to do the stun ray instead of a wall of force because one of them had rushed her and gotten too close and I’d needed fast cast speed.  If I hadn’t done it that way he’d have grappled her.  

I think that just gave me gray hair worrying about saving her.

“Sunghee pull back!” I panicked.

I can’t risk her being taken. It was stupid to expose her at the front. It’s true she’s the most qualified and an expert at combat but there are like twenty orcs and they see how good looking she is. I can already read their motives on their icky little shit faced lusty grins.

She ended up holding off like three other orcs that are afraid to engage her directly but looking to try to sneak around from behind. But her alertness is up so high that she catches it and deflects the first ambushers strike with a counter kick, and then slammed her longsword through the sternum of another, while dodging under the third.

“Damn it.”

And Rina somehow managed to grap and calm down one of the horses that had panicked. That wasn’t a good idea, when scared horses can be unpredictable but somehow she calmed it down while Sunghee and I were fighting off orc stragglers. She barely managed staying on her horse, not to mention she somehow is keeping from having it buck her off. She doesn’t realize how well she’s being targeted and trusting in my shielding too much.

“Protect her damn it!” I screamed at the dwarves.

They aren’t putting up enough defense; and are relying too much on us so I have to chew them out for a good ten seconds. Two of them got crossbow bolts off and two orcs are dead right after that. But the dwarves aren’t moving fast enough, because these guys are too new. They should have sent a couple veterans with us, I think inwardly. But all of these are new people that probably haven’t even had a first battle.

But the remaining orcs didn’t even care about the rest of us. They are like split in two groups, one group running at Sunghee, and the other towards Rina.

Shit. I hate this world. This all happened so fast.

Was this orc team specialized in ambush tactics?

And those damn orcs are still trying to swarm Sunghee, while another swarm is headed straight for Rina.

I hope I can get the wall of force up in time… but it’s going to be close.

And why are we running into orcs BEFORE we even hit the ranch house?

Finally I managed to recover my position and put up a barrier cage around half the orcs. I drew the runes quickly in the air as fast as I could but the dwarves are struggling to hold their line together. The spell finished off nicely but I was worried because I’d tried to rush through it.

“Protect Sunghee!” Rina shouted to them angrily.  

She somehow has hit a few with her sling stones but she’s still not that great an aim and she just doesn’t have that much damage potential, so mostly it’s just making them madder.

The dwarves are trying to cover Sunghee now, moving forward with spears. It helped that I killed one with my magic missiles. I’d have killed more if I weren’t saving people this whole time.

The dwarven helpers aren’t moving fast enough. I bark more orders at them to cover our people better.

In the lead point position, Sunghee chops another orc’s sword arm hard fearlessly and fighting dirty. Just like that he’s disarmed and screaming in pain while staring at where his mutilated arm is hanging there. Then she kicks another while somehow ducking underneath two orc attacks that whistle over her head. Jeez this is dangerous. Any second, I’m afraid she’ll let one through under her guard and it will grapple her.

On my next chance I renewed Sunghee’s runic shielding which has nearly collapsed. The dwarves are now pulling back together into a unit now that there is only half the orcs to worry about openly.

Several more flurries of crossbow bolts and arrows exchange from both lines.

Another orc dies, two more are wounded. At the same time it was a war of attrition and now three dwarves have shields that are near collapse.

Rina missed with her next two shots.

More orcs tried to grab Sunghee again, and it’s scaring the hell out of me seeing it. She managed to stick her sword in one of their necks and then block attacks from two others. Because of her valor and might, the dwarves form a position with her in center position as they quickly finish off the other orcs. Finally they are getting the idea that ‘everyone’ has to pitch in and that life isn’t free cake.

Now we just have the ten or so orcs that are trapped in my wall of force to deal with.

Before releasing the transparent cage I have them all back up and form a semi-circle position with all weapons drawn. I cast several heal spells on the dwarves that were wounded, and even recasted shielding spells on whoever’s shield had significant damage.

And then we finished off the other ten orcs, once juggling the crowd control mess was taken care off.

“Damn. These are way tougher than goblins,” Rina exclaimed with her face full of anguish.

“I don’t like fighting orcs. They always try for grappling and dog piles with tricky stuff,” Sunghee spat. She doesn’t even look at us but is using her sword to check to make sure no orcs are playing dead.

Two dwarves start helping her, and sure enough one of the orcs was playing dead and was killed while trying to hide by a coup de grace execution move from a dwarven spear.

“Good job,” I said to the fellow, for catching the enemy’s tactic.

“Thanks,” he replied back.

“The bad news is we’ve lost quite a few horses. We have twelve people and seven horses,” one of the dwarves said frowning.

“But we didn’t lose any people. That part is good,” Rina noted.

“If we march slower that’s not good. It will be more ambushes later,” I said.

Some of the dwarves groaned.

“Not to mention you guys didn’t see one of them got a signal flare off,” Sunghee said chewing out the newbie dwarves.

Hum….I missed that too. I tried to not let it show though not from pride but because the dwarves morale depends on being able to have faith in me.

“Eh? Is that so?” one of them growled.

“I didn’t see it…” another said.

“If Sunghee said it, it must be true. That means we should get out of here,” Rina said.

“And if other orcs see the flare then this area will soon become a hot spot,” Sunghee said to explain.

“How much further to the ranch house?” I asked directly with a sharp tone. I have to keep these people on their toes and double their pace now.

“I’m guessing only a half a mile. We should see it any minute,” one of the dwarves said.

“So you’ve been here?” Sunghee asked to confirm.

“Yeah, we’re close. I sometimes do summer work here. I’ve done that for a few years now. They’re a nice family. But this ambush being so close to their main holdings bothers me greatly. We can’t waste any time,” he replied.

“Um, where’s Gyle?” Rina asked suddenly.

“Oh shit!” one of the dwarves said.

It takes us a few minutes to find him. He’d hit his head and crawled under some brush after falling off his horse during the first part of the fight. Then he’d been separated from us.

 

 

 

Gyle POV

 

 

 

The hair stands up on my neck again.

Shit.

Why does it do that every time Shun casts a spell? Usually mana isn’t so overpowering in effect that non-mages feel it, but when heavy hitters like the War Twins, Cassius, or Shun cast even those dead to magic feel it.

How the hell did the magic shielding hold up on so many blows? It hurts as I crawl out of some hole from where I’d fallen.

I swear each of us got hit by like a dozen arrows a piece but they were all embedded in the shielding? That’s some powerful shit. Not even Cassius has that kind of stupid crazy power.

But is it worth doing this? The government gave us a bunch of greenhorns to bleed through into experience and it’s obvious that they’ve done it. But it was reckless even if it was Shun they were with.

The government approached me two days ago with some money underneath the table. Turns out the dwarven high council are worried about if Shun will pose a threat to their other heavy hitter mages. He’s a young and tough buck that’s way over powered for his size.

So the idea is to keep him busy with trying to influence getting missions that are a bit over his head, not enough to kill him but to keep him out of the way, was their reasoning but I noticed they seemed to have too many perks for if he was injured. And then they gave us all newbies. And if I’m right some of these kids come from families that are known to be allied with people against the government. That can’t be a coincidence.

For all intents and purposes I’m supposed to watch him and get close to him. Find out if he’s a threat. If he is I’m lucky I don’t have to take care of it, someone else will. But this shit is scary. They didn’t think that if Shun is hurt, everyone else would be hurt more. Their reasoning is stupid and I’m supposed to do it just because some dwarven higher up guy says so.

Hell he can almost hold a whole squad of orcs on his own.

May the spirits forbid if he should ever turn on us…we’d be in serious trouble. There are a lot of inconsistencies that I’m worried about. Why does he have two women? It’s common that barbarian tribes among humans practice polygamy. And a few humans do, even a few dwarves do actually but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Mostly it’s tribal groups that do such things.

But for city folk?

They definitely seem like city folk. And why is it that none of the women ever clash with each other?

I stumbled as I heard a voice beside me break my concentration.

“Gyle, you’re falling behind. What’s up with that spacey look?” Sunghee barks.

“Oh sorry. I must have hit my head harder than I thought on that fall,” I said.

She frowned and I avoided looking her in the eye. Well I do have blood all over me so that helped with the excuse.

Better not to mess with her.

Dang.

I’m so freaking jealous.

Rina is like a man’s wet dream. And Sunghee is too wild to even think about taming or I’d fantasize about her too. But Sunghee is even on another level beyond that. I’ve never seen legs that long on a girl, even among a lot of beastkin.

I shake my head out of staring at her. Yeah, if I were to get caught that’d be bad. I don’t have any intention on interfering…I’ll find my own women. But if you don’t look at least once you aren’t a man right?

I take a swig from my secret little whiskey canteen that hangs from a necklace that’s around my neck and under my shirt. It’s one of those hidden little pocket canteens not designed for a real meal but for only small amounts to relieve stress, which I’m trying to do now.

“Is this for real?” I said aloud.

One of the other dwarves grunts. “Can you help me round up the last horse? He’s kind of skittish. It’ll be hard to calm them down, once they are stirred up this badly.”

“Yeah, I get it,” I said.

“You better get it in high gear and move it. We don’t have time to dawdle,” Sunghee said with a mask on her emotions.

Sunghee and Shun are ahead of us. So is Rina, but she’s giving me an odd look.

“You OK Gyle? You look sick,” Rina said with her nose scrunched up.

“I’ll be fine.”

I thought healing magic was extinct or so low powered it was gimped as hell? But Shun’s way overpowered. It’s like he has more power after the fight than before it, in some cases.

Well no one died. But that means whoever I report this too is going to be even more unhappy huh?

 

 

 

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