Chapter One Hundred and Forty Five – 145
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With a second, terrible howl, the Larval Ravager let loose its minions. The Spawn went wild, and Felix could hear them scrabbling up the battlement steps, while the Revenants burst from their torpor and loped directly at them. In seconds, the monstrous humanoids were ascending the wall.
Closer now, Felix saw that their bodies were all bipedal and vaguely humanoid. Yet they appeared to vary depending on whatever Race they once were; stocky, small, thin, tall, otherwise, there were all kinds. But each of their heads were different, wild variations on some dire creator's monstrous vision. Fleshless skulls, lizard-like features, canine, and others he had no name for; all of them, however, were cursed with overlarge jaws and outsized fangs.
Felix felt his chest constrict as the beasts came at them, his instincts screaming at him to run. Yet his feet felt rooted to the floor, struck immobile by the horror that coursed through his veins. Some part of his mind knew something was wrong, aware of the Frightened Status Condition, but he couldn't do anything about it. Fear literally paralyzed him.
"Iron Rank!" Okar shouted, and Felix could see him grinding his teeth, forcing himself to speak. "Condition Ward! Lilian!"
Lilian was shaking, but she jerked at the shout as if woken from a nap. With unsteady hands, she traced out a curving shape in the air. Felix's Manasight showed him a dark purple Mana flood its confines, filling the shape with an ultraviolet light that speared outward and into all of them.
Status Condition: Frightened Has Been Dispelled!
The fear dropped away, cracking like a porcelain shell. Felix felt his mind immediately shift back into gear. He took a step back from the edge of the wall, shaken. The Larval Ravager was strong enough to put a whammy even on his own powerful Mind and Willpower. That wasn't encouraging at all.
Someone hurled a stone projectile through the air, and it shattered harmlessly against the Larval Ravager's hide. The thing didn't even seem to notice as it pulled itself slowly, inexorably closer. Felix turned and saw Okar pale and frowning at the at the creature, his breath like a bellows from his chest. "It's a Tier II."
"Everythin' can die. We'll just have ta do it up close," Harn grunted before turning to the rest of them. "Battle comes ta us! We have ta move, and we have ta fight. If I die, I'll do it with blood on my axes. Who're yer defensive specialists?"
"You said we wouldn't survive down there!" Dabney shouted.
"And now they're crawlin' up at us," Harn spat. "Ain't got much choice, anymore. Tell me quick: who's got walls?"
Lilian finished casting her Condition Ward for the second time, and the other Apprentice Tiers looked to finally shake the effects. Yvette nodded and Dabney raised a trembling hand.
"Good. Can ya make em portable yet?" Harn asked.
"The Iron Rank cannot, but I can," Yvette said, obviously still shaken by the Larval Ravager's fear effect. "I can summon and carry the wall with Steel Fortification, but I'll be unable to do much else. It takes too much focus and Mana."
"That's fine, we'll handle the offense," Harn gestured to himself and Okar. "We'll handle close and mid-range, while you four focus on ranged and crowd control."
Alister, Atar, Evie, and Vess all nodded and readied their weapons. In Alister's hands a thin rapier crackled with a familiar blue energy, while Atar unfolded his collapsible metal staff.
"Felix, you play go between, yeah? Shore up where needed." Harn gave him a look, and Felix nodded. He had more variety to his Skills than perhaps anyone else present, and a prodigious amount of Mana. Though Felix feared he'd wish for more before the end of the fight.
"Can we do anything about that?" Harn pointed to the Revenants climbing up the walls. They weren't very fast, but they'd be up soon enough.
"I got it," Felix said at the same time as Dabney.
"How about together?" Felix suggested.
"You think I'd need your help?" Dabney said with a sneer, having regained his bravado. He raised his hands and a dusty brown Mana coalesced in Felix's vision. He gripped his hands into fists and thrust them outward. "Fist of Stone!"
Literal fists of stone blasted from the wall, sized up about twenty times, bashing into some of climbing Revenants and hurling them off. The percussive sound of it dominated the air, rising above the howls below. Dabney grinned as sweat formed on his brow and cut off the Skill. His broad chest heaved for breath and the teen looked snidely at Felix.
"Oh, that's a cool Skill," Felix said, a bit of excitement at the idea of it. He figured he could make Stone Shaping mimic that, but had a better idea. "Let's try this though."
He cast Stone Shaping, and as usual, he pushed the looping patterns of the spell outward, but his long familiarity let him do it near instantly. A wide section of the wall loosened as he gained control over it, and several Revenants fell when their grip disappeared. But many more simply kept moving, pushing through the softening stone with frantic movements. With a grunt and a chunk of his Mana, Felix pushed the section further down, claiming a swath nearly twenty feet wide by thirty feet high. Then he reached out.
And swallowed them whole.
The Revenants howled, but their cries became burbles and faded to nothing as the stone enveloped them. With another effort, he smoothed the section of wall until it was, he hoped, impossible to climb. His effort proved a success as one after another Revenant reached the expanse and slipped off. Felix stepped back and took a deep, steadying breath. His Mana had dwindled by nearly four hundred points during that effort, and he needed a few seconds to recover.
"What--How'd you do that?" Dabney asked, his face slack.
Felix shrugged and didn't answer, instead turning back to Harn. "That'll delay them for a bit."
"Good. Let's take the fight ta them. Okar, with me." Harn cracked his neck and started down the walkway, back toward the stairs. Felix could sense a wave of Spawn already heading their way, just beyond a drifting patch of black smoke. Harn, Yvette, and Okar rushed ahead, while Yvette summoned a glistening steel rampart nearly thirty feet long and six feet high. The conjuration hovered barely an inch off the ground, and though she wasn't touching it, the woman held her arms out as if bracing the wall.
"Time to fight," Evie said with some eagerness. "These Spawn ain't so bad, but I'm curious how the Revenants stand up."
"They seem strong, most aren't above level 40, but there is a strange potency to them that I cannot place," Vess said as they hustled forward. "Like a toothache..."
Felix nodded, but didn't add his thoughts to the mix. He knew what she was feeling: the Maw's presence, twisting the essence of the Revenants into whatever they had become. Moreover, they exuded a sense of wrongness that the Spawn or even the Knights had only briefly exhibited. The Maw's influence, felt so strongly throughout the Domain, was especially potent in them.
They gathered speed, and soon everyone was sprinting down the walkway. Felix checked his notifications while had the chance, letting the changes wash over him. A mental flex set them to appear during battle, hoping to take advantage of whatever power bump he could get.
Make An Entrance is level 19!
Blind Fighting is level 24!
Unarmed Mastery is level 31!
Corrosive Strike is level 31!
Shadow Whip is level 29!
Dodge is level 27!
Deep Mind is level 39!
Bastion of Will is level 46!
Energy flooded his core, sending ripples of power through his Body as his Skills leveled up. Felix felt a heady rush, but not from the System energy. No, it was the thrill of the fight, of proving himself against another. He didn't know how much he could improve against a sea of monsters, but he realized he was impatient to find out.
Soon individual Spawn began reaching them, and Yvette's wall smashed into them like a speeding truck. Felix could practically feel the impact as the quadrupeds were battered into piles of meat and bones, the jagged edge of the Bronze Rank's steel wall bursting them like bloody water balloons.
Harn pointed off to the side, toward the Larval Ravager. They circled it's bulk as they ran, and Felix could tell they'd come down on it's left flank by the time they climbed off the battlements. "It's gotta be a Sub-Core! Ain't nothing gonna get this big in a Domain otherwise, less we're lucky and it's the primary Domain Core."
He laughed, a short dry thing. "Lucky since defeating the Domain Core means shuttin' down the Domain, at least for a bit. But if this Domain Core is a level 62, Tier II beast, I'll eat my damn armor!"
They hit another patch of Spawns, and this time Harn and Okar had to lean against the wall. They added their own significant force to its acceleration, and another eight Spawn were smeared against the walkway. Harn kept talking.
"We kill the Sub-Core, we end the monster waves and weaken the rest," he grinned. "We get close, shore up, and put everythin' we got into that bastard. Yeah?"
There was a ragged chorus of "yes" and "yeah" before they were drowned out by the thud and roar of the approaching horde. All at once, a massive force hit Yvette's wall, and she nearly was knocked on her ass. Harn and Okar put their shoulders to the wall once again, pushing forward.
"Ranged! Shoot over the wall!" Okar grunted through his beard.
Atar immediately conjured his fiery crown and hurled ten Sparkbolts up and over the wall, while Alister thrust his rapier straight up. In response, blue-white columns of force speared upward on the other side, tossing Spawn bodies into the air, assisted by Atar's rapid-fire explosions. Vess leaped into the air, soaring far higher than the wall itself and conjured six silver spears above her outstretched hand. With a powerful throwing motion, all six spears blurred forward and embedded beyond their fortification, silencing several roars for a moment before all six exploded with an earth-shakingly loud detonation. For her part, Evie jumped forward, nearer the wall. Rising just high enough to see over it, she made a grasping motion and Felix sensed a series of bright, purple-white bursts of Mana on the other side as she worked her specific sort of magic.
Ice chains, Felix noticed. Man that's cool.
Not to be outdone, Felix gave into the competitive drive that pushed at his mind. With a blast of lightning and burst of Mana, Felix dragged both his arms from the left to the right, hurling five or six Spawn straight up and over the outer walls. Unable to stop themselves, they fell hundreds of feet below, screaming all the while. Light-headed, Felix stumbled for several steps before he caught himself, the drain on his Mana and Stamina prodigious.
"Did you just throw them off the wall?" Atar shouted at him as they kept running. He was panting but keeping up better than he ever had before. Felix nodded and huffed a breath. Atar looked impressed. "Yyero's breath, man! Can you do it again!"
"Probably!" Felix shouted back. As the roar and thud of the next wave hit the wall, Felix tried again. And again. Over and over, pushing himself to his limit as his friends and unsteady allies focused their far more directly damaging spells upon the horde.
Reign of Vellus is level 35!
Reign of Vellus is level 36!
It took only minutes to reach the stairs at the end of the battlements, but it felt like a more. Without stopping, they turned and headed down the stairs, three flights of them. From above, they could easily see the last dregs of Spawn that were headed their way, and beyond them, a courtyard filled with monstrous Revenants. They hadn't been quiet during their run, and the creatures were loping alongside the wall, rushing to meet them all with deadly violence.
"Don't stop! We can't hold out if we stop!" Harn forced them onward. "You stop, you die!"
A few Spawn made it up the stairs, but they all died in flurry of ice, stone, and fire. Then they hit the ground floor, and Yvette began to glow with a silvery vapor. Her steel wall shifted, twisting around them to form nearly complete circle, the outside of which was studded with deadly, razor sharp spikes. They charged forward, pushed on by Harn and Okar's strength, plowing through more of the Spawn before the first Revenant hit them.
The things were fast, each with a loping gait that ate up distance and afforded their sizable bodies considerable force. They also seemed to move together, like a flock of birds, swarming toward their front in an intimidating wave. That first Revenant hit, but it was followed shortly after by two, then three more. Their clawed appendages cut screeching furrows in the steel wall, and Yvette stumbled with the force of their strikes. Once more, Harn and Okar put their shoulders to the wall, forcing their advancement.
Skills burst on the other side of the wall, impossible to miss the massing of enemies, but the Revenants weren't going down fast enough. The wall was being shredded faster than they could kill the beasts, and Yvette had to funnel even more of her Mana into it to keep it repaired. Eyeing her sagging form, Felix knew that she was draining fast.
"Open a hole!" Harn yelled.
With a gasp from Yvette, a space opened up in the wall, one big enough for a single Revenant to fit within. Quickly, the Manawarped started pouring through, only to be met by Harn's twin axes. Yet despite the man's Strength and Skill, it still took two or three swings to put one of them down.
"Yvette! Keep movin' forward! Everyone, keep attacking with everything you've got!" Harn immediately followed his own advice and his axes blazed with a deadly heat. They kept moving, though their pace dragged slower and slower as the monstrosities piled on.
The Revenants meanwhile were trying to circle around them and climb the metal fortifications. Vess met them with furious precision, utilizing her Dragoon's Footwork to avoid the arcing strikes of the enemy while still wielding her floating spears and the one in her hand. Each strike was met by a pained scream, her conjured spears exploding within wounds and serving to knock prone several at once.
Evie was a whirling dervish, her chain never stopping and hitting the Revenants with brutal force. She danced along the wall itself, her Agility more than enough to make such a thing possible, but even she was hard pressed to avoid all of the Revenant's strikes. The creatures fought with a tenacity and fury that was terrible to see and harder to counter. Wounds didn't slow them and unless it was completely debilitating, they would crawl back toward the Humans with nothing on their minds but a terrifying bloodlust.
Felix himself made use of his Reign of Vellus to push the Revenants back, but they were harder to hurl than the Spawn had been. They weren't necessarily more hefty than the Spawn, but they were harder to pin down. The rabid, frenetic energy of the monsters had them wriggling out of his kinetic grip more often than not. So instead Felix pushed back where he could, and laid waste with Wrack and Ruin.
Reign of Vellus is level 37!
Wrack and Ruin is level 29!
Cloudstep helped him stay above the wall, keeping line of sight on the Revenants and increasing his precision with his condensed acid orb. The concentrated acid tore some wounds in the Manawarped creatures, but they were sturdier than the Spawn by a significant margin. It often took two or three hits for them to actually penetrate and do damage, and by then most of the power had leeched from the spell.
Cloudstep is level 11!
Cloudstep is level 14!
Mana Manipulation is level 23!
Felix had unleashed Pit as well, to the surprise of some of the others. The chimera kept up his Dire Hound disguise, and after he made it clear it was his pet the Iron Rankers stopped trying to kill him.
Since Pit couldn't stay above the wall as Felix could, he had the tenku focus on assisting Harn at the front. Warbling out an aggressive cry, Pit did just that, and soon the sound of Frost Spears flooding the front opening filled the air.
"Focus on the wounded, Pit!" Felix heard Harn shout, and the sounds of battle redoubled.
To the rear, Sparkbolts rained down on the enemies, followed by flowering explosions that set many of the Revenants aflame. Yet they still didn't stop. Annoyingly, Felix had to make sure he kept the burning enemies away from himself, but the heat was starting to build and his broken nerves were twitching. It wasn't enough to disable him, not anymore, but it wasn't pleasant.
Pit's Bite is level 25!
Pit's Bite Has Reached Apprentice Tier! Congratulations!
Pit's Wingblade is level 27!
Pit cried out, his voice jubilant as he dove into the fight.
Despite the endless, oncoming tide, Felix grinned. He felt more comfortable here than he ever did in Haarwatch. His Body reveled in the exertion as he hurled spells and punches at their monstrous foes, while his Mind feasted on the complex calculations of battle. And if Pit was any indication, his Spirit was just as joyful in the continuous cycle of violence.
Okar, Alister, Lilian, and Dabney all made impressive showings, but only a part of Felix was keeping track of that. His true focus was on the enemy, or else he knew that he would be overwhelmed. Mana burst all around him, kinetic force and earthen spikes, vapor swirling and dissipating in the air in the same breath. The Nym swung his fists at any Revenant that got too close, easily launching them back over the wall, though it was often not enough to do significant damage. Regardless, it was paying off.
Unarmed Mastery is level 32!
Corrosive Strike is level 32!
Dodge is level 28!
The reserves within him, the essence he had absorbed within the Domain's Void barrier, were running low once more. He could feel it as an ache in his gut, a hollow that tore at him. The essence was his ticket to faster Skill gain, which meant survival. So he didn't hesitate as he ripped the jaw off of an injured Revenant, and took a deep, terrible breath.
The creature burst into incandescent smoke. Far from being the normal black, it was a desaturated crimson, streaked with various rainbow hues and it was sucked into Felix's body in an instant. Immediately, a swirling cloud of essence formed above his core, one that he immediately put to work.
He rose up on platforms of crackling Mana, climbing higher than the steel wall. They had come to a near total stop, the pressure of the horde too much to simply force their way through. They blocked the way to the Larval Ravager, a meat wall. Harn, Okar, and Pit were at the front, fighting the ceaseless tide of malformed flesh. Yvette struggled to maintain the wall, and in a few places Felix could see the silvery Mana vapor was growing alarmingly thin. The Apprentice Tier fighters all were becoming more and more drained as the fight went on, and he suspected Dabney was reaching the end of his Mana pool. All of them were fighting battles to the sides, too preoccupied with surviving to focus their fire.
They were losing.
The Larval Ravager towered a hundred feet and a horde of enemies away. If they didn't make it through...Felix checked his Mana; he had enough to try and make a difference.
"Harn! I'm gonna try and open things up ahead of us!" Felix shouted and the man grunted. "Anyone who can help, focus fire on the front!"
"Get ready ta move, people!" Harn hollered at the rest of them.
Influence of the Wisp!
Reign of Vellus!
Manawarped Revenants (x13) Are Enthralled For 5 Seconds!
Every single area of effect spell he had poured out onto the field. Wisplight flared around his body as one, four, a dozen Revenants fell under his Enthralling Will. He nearly smacked himself for not trying this earlier. Their bodies ignited like torches as they froze, and then the ground buckled beneath them, dropping slightly before a forest of spikes thrust upward. An area approximately twenty feet in diameter was affected, hitting far more than the ones he had Enthralled. Each spike stabbed and bruised the Revenants, some doing little damage, but the accumulation destroyed their footing and their momentum. Then, with a furious wave of azure lightning, he pressed them down, shoving their bodies into the earth like a massive hammer.
The spikes shattered, but so did many of the Revenants. The rest were suddenly immolated by a swirling firestorm that arose among them, along with shafts of blue-white force, fists of stone, and exploding silver spears.
Kill notifications flooded Felix, but he put them out of his mind, watching his depleting Mana. They rest had piled on, and it was working.
"Again!" Felix shouted, and poured out the rest of his Mana.
Influence of the Wisp!
Reign of Vellus!
Manawarped Revenants (x9) Are Enthralled For 5 Seconds!
Just as his Voracious Eye indicated, the Revenants' had little Willpower. They were easy pickings for his Influence Skill. Each one hit with Influence of the Wisp died, regardless of the stone spikes and kinetic strike. The blue-white fire ate through them at a prodigious rate, dropping them before the Enthralled Status Condition lapsed.
More fire and force, earth and ice hit the same group, cutting them down even further. The Revenants stumbled, many of them broken if not dead.
Influence of the Wisp is level 28!
Influence of the Wisp is level 30!
Stone Shaping is level 29!
Stone Shaping is level 30!
Reign of Vellus is level 38!
With a grunt, Felix fell from the air, his Cloudstep dissipating once his Mana drained dry. Exhaustion gripped Felix for a moment and a massive headache stabbed at his head, neck and shoulders. He stumbled forward, trying to keep pace with the now-rapidly moving wall. He felt hands under his arms and looked up to see Vess holding him up.
"I have you, Felix," she said and smiled. Despite the gore on her face, it was a really good smile. In fact, as his regeneration started to rally and his Mana refilled, Felix was almost loath to pull away. But he did anyway. There was fighting to be done.
"I'm okay now," he said, not quite meeting her eyes. "Thanks."
The wall shuddered as it pulverized the bodies ahead of them, while most were shunted to the sides by the 'V' shape of the steel fortification. Revenant's threw themselves at their wall, but now that they were moving fast again, the blows were glancing. Damaging, yes, but the team moved on. They were steadily getting closer to the Ravager.
We're gonna make it.
A trumpeting cry shook the air, literally vibrating it, and Felix clapped hands over his ears reflexively. But there was nothing that could stop the sound from piercing his Body and resounding within his Spirit and Mind. Rage and disdain filtered out from within his Bastion as the cry washed over it, strong enough now that Felix could almost mistake those emotions for his own. He looked up, and all of them saw the Larval Ravager had reared up and was affixing them with a single, baleful eye.
As one, the Revenants began to surge, shifting their positions around their island of battle while still throwing themselves against their diminishing steel wall. Felix looked around them gasped past the painful sound which still had not abated. "What's it doing?!"
Harn looked at them all and he gripped the hafts of his weapons tighter. "It's changing the field."
The area before Felix had filled in once again with bodies, while the flanks had depleted. Their path forward, toward the Larval Ravager was blocked once again and Felix could almost swear that it's rallying cry became repugnantly pleased near the end.
Okar cursed. "Pathless forfend, it's intelligent?"