“Why are they going to the cemetery?” asks Raven 6 as he trudges through the woods while fingering his rapier, ready and waiting to release a plethora of skills should a problem reveal itself.
Not that he is expecting one, but his training has taught him constant vigilance, even if Raven 4 can sense no creature touching the ground for an entire mile around him.
“It matters not,” Raven 7 says as he tracks the carriage by the needle he had hidden in its undercarriage. Unfortunately, the vehicle's warding restricts him from hearing any conversation inside, “our quarry will be in an open field. It should be a simple long-range kill, so long as you do your part.” He indicates at Raven 3, the [Sharpshooter Assassin] who carries a giant, enchanted arbalest on his back.
Raven 3 walks easily through the wilderness as though the siege engine’s massive weight doesn't bother the big man. He looks around, eyes seeing through the dense foliage with utter ease. If there were any threats, it would be Raven 3 who noticed them first, not the mage.
Behind the big man walks Raven 4. The [Geomancer Assassin] steps cleanly as the earth parts without making a sound before returning back to its usual position as he walks past.
Taking up the rear, Raven 9 strolls with a dancer's grace. Her movements are fluid, graceful, enchanting, and most importantly, completely silent.
The group reaches a hill and climbs upwards where they see the carriage park and the target dismount. No masks, but Raven 9 had already figured out what the target looks like from visiting the mercenary guild and talking to several [Guards]. She’d also heard an entertaining story about priests fucking children, but it doesn't concern them. Only the mission is important.
“Here,” Raven 3 marks the spot as he looks at Raven 4.
Without moving, Raven 4 releases mana through his feet to probe the ground. Stones and pebbles roll across the soil to where Raven 3 is pointing where they mold together, creating a flat and firm stone surface.
With the platform readied, Raven 3 unbuckles his ballista, folds down its bipod, lies down, and rests it on the stone. The matte weapon is a study in understatement. A dozen enchantments weave through the treant wood body, strengthening the frame, damping the kickback, smoothing the flight groove, perfecting the catch, and stabilizing the sight. A dozen more twine around the adamantine limbs and wrap the string braided from Royal Griffin hair, amplifying the already absurd pull and reinforcing the parts to match. Topping it all off are the many more enchantments that hide it all, cloaking the inner workings discreetly from sight, mundane or magical. The weapon matches the man: large, but otherwise plain, unassuming, and deadly.
And even so, it is never enough. Raven 3 reaches back and pulls out a ballista bolt teeming with powerful enchantments. The bolt is barbed to make it unremovable and a conical point so the projectile does not simply pass through its target. In essence, it looks like a huge darning needle with fletching and barbs. A massive, deadly, heavily enchanted needle with fletching and barbs.
Raven 3 hands the projectile to Raven 7 who wipes his gauntleted hand over the missile. A sheen of liquid poison lightly coats the metal, a different toxin for each barb.
He hands it back to Raven 3 and looks at Raven 9. “How is your skill holding up?”
“The glamour is working and our mana signature is hidden. I shouldn’t need to say this again, but the moment the projectile leaves my sphere of influence, all manner of skills will be able to sense it,” the [Enchantress Assassin] replies. Out of the group, she is the most ill suited to assassinations outside the confines of a city. Charming her target and then assassinating them during sex is her preferred method.
Each Raven has a preferred method. Different approaches are necessary for different situations. Raven 4, who excels at making deadly trap fissures.
Raven 3 grunts as he winches back the string and loads the javelin. The enchantments struggle to keep the potential energy from ripping the arbalest apart. “Ready,” he says and leans down as he grabs the trigger and aims the weapon at the target. He follows the target through the sights, eyes perfectly focused, easily seeing the man's skin.
He frowns. The target has no body hair. Not a single strand. Normally, he can see even the finest hairs and set his windage by their tell-tale motion. Not that he will miss thanks to his skills, but it’s better to take everything into account before pulling the trigger. Fortunately, the [Baroness] is uncoiffed. He sets the range and dials the windage.
“[Silence Weapon], [Unbreakable Thread], [Maximize Spring Constant], [Kinetic Absorption], [Increase Mass], [Dynamic Windage], [Dynamic Range], [Frictionless Projectile], [Enhanced Javelin], [Pinpoint Arrowhead], [Phantom Shell], [Reduce Cross-section], [Aspect Seeking], [Piercing Shot], [Harden Warhead], [Discarding Sabot], [Steady Hands], [Far Sight], [Nuanced Perception], [Improved Intuition], [Delayed Skills, 30, [Timeless Moment], [Perfect Equanimity]] [Delayed Skills, on trigger, [Lucky Shot], [Overwhelming Discharge]],” he activates skills, his brow furrowing as the crossbow grows warm with the concentrated power. Sweat streams down his brow as he barely keeps so many skills active all at one time.
As he continues following the target until the [Necromancer] stops moving near a large gravestone, he stabilizes his breathing and calms his heart. To Raven 3’s luck, the target turns his back to him. He tastes the air and feels the direction of the wind. He shifts his weapon by a micron. Raven 3 lets out a half breath. His delayed skills activate, and for an instant, the world holds still. In that timeless moment of perfect stillness, he pulls the trigger.
The crossbow limbs snap forward and launch the quarrel. The instant the bolt leaves the crossbow, the silent pantomime ends. The air thunders as the speed of sound is left behind; the shockwave sunders the earth; nearby trees are obliterated. The glamour placed by Raven 9 is shattered.
Even so, Raven 3 startles as he sees his target immediately react by turning around. For a moment, fear takes him as a memory surfaces of Zeek who had turned around and caught the projectile.
Thankfully, his fear is unwarranted as the projectile strikes through the target’s chest and then impales the target into the gravestone.
Raven 3 frowns as he blinks.
“Target hit. Still alive,” he says.
“Must’ve missed the heart,” Raven 7 exclaims as he squints into the distance. “No matter, he will die soon. We just have to make sure to destroy the body so that he cannot be resurrected.”
“If only we could kill the [Baroness],” Raven 6 comments.
“She is the only one with the skill. The chancellor may require it in the future,” Raven 7 says while turning his gaze to Raven 4. “Move us in, let's finish this quickly.”
Raven 4 doesn't comment. Instead, his earthen bubble reaches up and swallows them whole. A moment after and the earth shifts and accelerates to its target.
Ever gotten stabbed in the chest? How about having your heart obliterated in the process? Or that half-drowned feeling of just one lung collapsing? For most people, the answer would be no, because, well, you normally don't survive something like that.
Unless you have two hearts like I do, which doesn't actually make things much better. For example, I’m still getting blood flow to my brain, so I’m alive, but I’m also losing blood because, well, that's what happens when you have a javelin sticking out of your chest…
… When you think about it, didn’t I javelin someone yesterday?
I did, didn't I. Some priest guy whose name escapes me.
I’m distracted. Might be the shock getting to me already. For now, I should focus on getting the stupid Javelin thing out of me.
I cough up bloody foam and try to call up my mana, only for it to be suctioned into the javelin and then harmlessly dissipate into the air.
Well, that sucks. No magic then. Lets try to remove it the old fashioned way.
With a bloody grunt, I lift my arm… three inches before my energy is spent.
Huh, that's not going to work either. Weird though, I should be able to at the very least move my arm. It doesn’t feel like my spine was severed. I still have feeling in my limbs… Oh wait, it's numbed. Looks like poison. Damn, this is a pretty thorough assassination attempt. Got me real good. I wonder what my team is doing.
I move my head slightly to find my team. I watch with interest as both Juliana and Jessica are casting healing spells which are working as well as bailing a boat with a shot glass.
The javelin must have some anti-healing properties. They should probably remove the thing first, though it doesn’t seem like it would be that easy. It feels like the javelin is barbed. Smart. They would have to rip my body apart to get it removed, which would most likely finish me off.
Shifting my eyes, I watch as Abernick and Fiona channel their mana and prepare spells. As for Deflon…
Where the hell did he get that hammer? I don't remember him having a hammer on him? Is it some kind of skill that makes him create a hammer out of thin air? Or maybe he had it hidden on him.
But I would have noticed. His clothes are pretty tight. Hmm, I wonder if he shoved it up his ass. That would be pretty impressive, what with how long and thick the hammer is. That would really be some dedication.
“It's not working. Something is interfering with my healing!” I hear Juliana yell. Her expression is panicked but also focused. As for Jessica, she’s not panicking at all. Pure focus from her. Oh yeah, so much focus that I can even see a little smile on her face. Barely noticeable, and you would have to be looking for it, but it's a smile. Jessica really loves her violence…
Right, I’m in shock. That's not good. Nope, not good at all. I wonder if they know that I’m in shock? Maybe I should tell them? Yea, I think I’ll tell them.
I open my mouth to speak, but the ground interrupts me with a rumble. A dozen meters away, a dome of earth rises and slowly opens to reveal an eclectic team of assassins. A tall woman with an attractive figure, a short skinny guy with his mouth covered, a creepy, smiling guy with his eyes covered, a big man carrying a huge crossbow, and some token normie with a rapier.
Wait… rapiers aren’t normal. Only somebody with a small dick would choose a rapier over an epee or a saber. This doofus’ very pointy rapier is covered in seven enchantments made to penetrate. Clearly, he’s got an extra small dick. Probably a virgin too. Like, who wields a rapier as an assassin? Do you, just, like, stab people? Well, probably, but you can use a dagger for that. Or a spear. Or a crossbow like the big guy.
“We’ve come for Bone,” the weird smiling guy with a blindfold declaims. “If you value your lives, then I suggest you remove yourselves from the premises.”
“You motherfuckers,” my darling wife curses as her mana trembles around her. Her hands are aglow with some kind of magic. I can't tell what kind, what with my blood loss making me woozy.
Next to her, my fellow [Necromancer], [Prince], and all around good chap stands ready to fight, his own hands aglow with power.
“Josephine, get behind me,” I hear Juliana order as she steps in front of her daughter. She wraps her mana around herself, infusing it into her skin, and takes a fighting stance.
Yah know, if the enemy were not a bunch of skilled and experienced assassins, then I would feel quite safe in their presence. Unfortunately, they're not, so I don't feel very safe.
I open my mouth and cough up blood, freeing my lungs.
“Run,” I croak in a hoarse voice. Jessica turns to look at me and I stare her dead in the eye. “Go,” I cough again, “now!” I start coughing harder as my remaining lung fills with blood.
Jessica looks upon me, body ruined, about to perish. She slowly nods.
“Let's go,” she orders.
“What?” Fiona asks, bewildered that they would abandon me so easily.
“Quasi said to run. We run,” Jessica says as though it is the most normal thing ever. She grabs her mothers hand and starts pulling her away from the assassin group. A second later of feeling her daughter’s pull, Juliana obliges and allows herself to be pulled.
Deflon, hammer raised, frowns as he glances at Quasi before he follows Juliana.
“We need to help him!” Fiona shouts, arms still raised and ready to fight the assassins who are waiting for me to die.
“Not if it means we die,” Abernick replies back. The [Grand Necromancer] gives me one last look before he runs after Jessica and the rest of the group.
Only Fiona, my wife and [Queen], stands ready to fight. Funnily enough, she is arguably the weakest of our little group. Still, it would not do for her to waste her life.
“Go-ughahaha,” I try to speak, but blood and spittle is all that makes it past my lips. She looks at me, scared for her life, yet ready to fight for me.
“I, I- can't-” she begins but I stare at her. I call up what little stamina I have left and ignore the dizziness from my blood loss.
“RUN AWAY!” I roar before I start choking again.
Thankfully, my words seem to finally penetrate. She sheds a tear for me, which I never wished to see, and mouths the words ‘I’m Sorry’ before running after the rest of the group.
After they all leave, the assassins come forward, confident and curious.
“I have to admit, it's rather impressive that you are still alive,” the first to speak is the blindfolded one as they all arrive near me, “but I guess it works to our advantage since it looks like you convinced the others to abandon you.”
I hear his words, the confidence in them, but I can no longer reply. My body has lost too much blood. My organs are shutting down and the blood reaching my brain has slowed.
“Maybe we should hunt them down too, to keep them from talking,” the bored boor with the Rapier suggests.
“Not job,” the crossbow wielding guy states.
I try to move, to say something, to do anything, but I cannot. My bleeding has reduced to a trickle. Only my high stats let me cling to life even now.
Now how the hell am I supposed to tell the rapier dumbass that he’s an idiot?
The assassins continue saying things, but I don't listen. My second heart slows, the thumping barely even present. The blood stops reaching my brain.
Brain cells die.
My breathing stops.
The weight of my consciousness loses its luster.
Skill Requirements Met…
Mana quantity Exceeds minimum requirements…
Activating Legendary Skill [Undying Apparition]