We went with horses. All forty-one of us. Finally, a use for the overabundance of livestock.
Leriva, Anselm and I rode on at the fore front. I felt cool. Really cool. I played games where I led armies into battle on horseback like now but that was only immersion. Gangster that I was in my past life, I’ve rushed headlong into a firefight as well, but never as an important figure, never the man that if felled would end the fighting, never a valuable piece in the battle. Simply a pawn, a goon.
And I died a goon.
However, trotting out of the village at speed, with the wind whipping my lengthy hair about and my stead nearly knocking me off its back, I felt important. Glorious even. The fear and anxiety bubbled in my chest together and gave birth to excitement. I would yell out a whoop if it wouldn’t make me look absolutely cringeworthy to the two stiff faced fighters at my side.
Eagerly, I look forward to charging in and slaughtering my foe. Which, I idly pondered would be in sacrifice to Lotar. I’m not sure if I have to give a prayer, and if I do, do I do so before or after killing the Cultist?
I don’t know. Honestly, I’m hoping I could just kill one of them, whisper Lotar’s name and get the boon I’m owed.
Hearing Leriva call to slow our approach, I barely get my horse to stop in time. Riding an animal is a surreal feeling truly. You’re imposing your entire weight on the back of another being and pushing it to carry you all about. I mean, it’s fun, I get to be a lot higher off the ground than usual and there’s that feeling of power to it too. But it’s still pretty weird.
I hop down from my neighing horse, petting its head I lead it back to the rest of the assault group having over shot my stop.
“Nice riding.” Anselm comments. I ignore his snarky remark and place a hand on his shoulder, gently refiling him with mana. We’d ridden for far longer than I’m comfortable with concerning him.
“Good, we’re all here.” Leriva begins. “We’ll have to leave the horses here. No point alerting them to our attack if we can take a chance to pick them off one by one without them knowing.”
“Got an idea for silencing them that quickly?” I ask.
“Yes, the archers and I have practiced on them for long. But it will not escape their notice. They will feel their numbers dwindling eventually.”
“But by then we, the infantry would have circled around and taken point. We’ll charge in and hack them to pieces the moment they notice our presence.” Leriva’s man, who I’ve learned is called Oteri says.
“I suppose it is fortunate our target has chosen to set up in such a disadvantageous position.” Anselm grins, feeling smug at the pressing advantage the terrains elevation gave us.
The Cultist camp is right behind me now, over and down the deep decline of earth and into a relatively flat looking albeit, barren field. There is little light to be seen in their midst looking down on them. But as to be expected they have a totem placed smack in the middle of the brightest place in the camp, which so happens to be in the direction we were facing.
“Yes, it is fortunate.” Leriva agrees. “From our positions it will not be a challenge finding vulnerable targets and putting them out of their misery.”
“This is looking a lot better than on the map.” I smirk. What was I so worried about? “If you and the archers manage to take out at least ten of these Cultists, then we’d only have to worry about the remaining twenty or so.”
“Yes, against our numbers this might be too easy!” a nameless militia yells from behind.
“Don’t be foolish!” Leriva declaims, “We with experience know the true danger with the Cultists.”
“And what is that?” Anselm beats me to it.
“Their leader.” Again, the mood changes. “Each camp has one powerful Mage in their midst and with its magic it quickly changes the tide of the battle. I killed one of them once, a lucky shot. But…” she trails off.
“But it simply to possession of a different Cultist body, complimented our effort, killed more of our men and invited us to serve its lord just like it’d been doing.”
Well, that’s depressing.
After the brilliant pep talk from Leriva, everyone quickly got into position. Anselm, nine other militia men and I took the west side adjacent to the totem and the lights.
Classified as infantry, the nine militia men huddled behind me in the dirt wait with bated breath for the chaos to start for the signal of battle to be let loose. Already I counted three Cultists I’ve seen being executed by an arrow.
Leriva was at the east side of the camp with her own nine militia men or perhaps bowmen. I’m not sure what troops she took with her but all four of us got nine to enter the battle with.
But I’m curious. She said she and the archers would take out the Cultists silently and increase our numbers advantage even further but I don’t see her anywhere. Perhaps that’s a good thing, if I could see her then chances are the Cultists could. Her magics obviously granted her long-range capabilities though, that is what I’m truly curious about.
Could it be a water whip like Perlman? Another elemental perhaps? I’m not sure the applications of magic in this world and even less how this game system I had popping up in my face tied into any of it. Could they all be Elementals? No, they knew of Necromancers before me and the Diviner practices Divination magics.
So, then could they all have a game system popping up in their faces too? Was it a normal thing here? Did they choose their class as I did? At the push of an ethereal button?
So many questions and too little answers. Sighing, I give up on spotting her early on, I’d inevitably find out what her powers are once the chaos starts anyway.
Which just happens to be right now.
“Rrrahhh!” A terrible hiss resounds through the camp. There’s a heartbeat of silence afterwards before all at once, the militia on all sides of the camp charge in with a raging roar of battle.
Anselm is first in my group, flying straight ahead to the enemy. I shake my head but follow suit. My militia men rush straight ahead and into the centre of the camp where we are met by intense fighting and death.
Immediately, all around us there were men being thrown over head and limbs being sliced off and cauterized into stumps. The screaming is terrible.
How the hell did it devolve to shit so fast?
Barely, I dodge a swing of an oversized machete trying to take off my head. My frothing assailant is soon after speared through the chest before he could raise for another swing.
“If I’m to protect you, please help me out!” Anselm pleads, retrieving his spear from the back of the low growling, mouth foaming, Cultist.
Right. I nod and he flies away, dealing death from above with a spear and his spiritual invulnerability.
Quickly getting over the roar of battle, death and pain in the background, I ready myself and identify my victims. Many of them held off at the back, while the main attacking force persisted at our front and sides. With each dead cultist a new one came up from the back, from their reserves.
The militia men that surrounded me were beginning to dwindle, my circle of protection can barely hold off against the constant onslaught. Again, I wonder how this all happened so fast.
Scanning the scene, I find men that desperately need a break, men that will flatter. Canon fodder is fodder but important nonetheless.
“Death Grip!” Shooting out my necrotic mana from both my hands I latch onto the necks of the clawing Cultists. Many of them didn’t wield any weapon, but the ones that did caused the most damage; my next targets.
Squeezing their necks so tight that their heads pop off and their bodies fall from the sky I’d raised them into.
For a moment there is relief but then the onslaught continues.
“Death Grip!” I call out again. The circle is getting smaller, then militia men were falling around at my feet, but so were the Cultists.
My grip latches onto an old man wielding a sickle. Old as he is he’d cut out the tendons from most of the militia men, leaving them vulnerable long enough for my other victim, a swordswoman to deliver the final blow.
With a sickening crunch and squelch I flatten their skulls and toss them into the incoming reinforcement of Cultists.
“Uh…I think they’re a lot more than anticipated.” I groan as Anselm drops by me for a recharge.
“You’ve noticed.” He sounds almost proud, “Yes, they are severally more than we anticipated. At least double.”
“How did we not know this?” I complain, cracking yet another skull under the pressure of Death Grip.
“I don’t know. Maybe they have spies in our midst? They could be more organized than we think.”
Looking at the roaring and chanting crowd of assailants, mindlessly throwing themselves at us invoking the name of Phien whilst dying, maiming and killing.
“I think not. Where is Leriva? Where are her men?”
Anselm chuckles, “These are her men.” He shouts, spreading his hands over the many dead bodies. “If you want out, just call me, I’ll fly us away.”
Fully recharged he takes off with his spear in hand. I huff. My mana expenditure is dangerously high. If it were just Anselm, I had to sustain then I’d be in full bars, but with the constant attacks, fending off the Cultists. It is a strain.
Worse is, I’ve killed several Cultists with my grip and the one that got too close with a dagger through its eye but, I’ve yet to receive any boon.
Have I been tricked? Did Lotar simply send me to my death? Or send me on a wild goose chase? Why haven’t I gotten my cake!
It frustrates me to no end; however, the experience is not in vain. Despite the utter lack of a blue box alerting me to Lotar’s boon, I have several alerting me to changes in my ‘character information’.
“Help! Help! Somebody help me!” one of the militia men screams as he’s dragged away from the circle by three Cultists.
I flinch, it’s a scene straight out of a zombie movie. Outstretching my hand, I deliver him from his prey with a shot of Death Grip. First, the one at his legs.
“Death Grip!” My mana shoots out, the spell snaking about to reach its target, however I do not expect another Cultist to jump at the spell and take the hit.
“Rraghh!!” It hisses spitefully at me.
I groan as the militia’s screams become even more desperate. Snapping the neck of the self-sacrificing Cultist, I fling it at the others, temporarily ridding the militia of them.
“Get up!” I yell, shooting out two more streams of Death Grip, crushing the skulls of the unfortunate Cultists it lands on.
The militia hurriedly picks up his pike and head back while his comrades cover him from the sides, albeit with difficulty. Again, I groan, all sides were being beset by the Cultists, it’s getting increasingly difficult to fend off these men without help.
Where the hell is Leriva?
With that question unanswered I face many more unanswered questions. Where is my boon? Why aren’t their numbers dwindling? And I’ve levelled up four times, why isn’t my mana full?
The last one particularly disturbs me. In an RPG you get a refill of health and mana every time you level up, and I really needed one now. So why aren’t I at full power damnit!
My heart skips a beat at the terrible loud barks coming from the straight ahead. The militia, the hounding Cultists and I all stop what we’re doing and stare dumbstruck as two ridiculously large wolves or dogs descend on one Cultist with all their might, biting at its legs and shaking it about like a rag doll as it screams into the dead silence of Phien just to be tossed into the air and swallowed whole.
In the split second I take to digest all I’d seen and what I am still seeing. A tall figure with a loud voice proclaims, “You have done it again. You reject Phien yet the Lord is the only saviour you shall know.” A red mist begins to fall off the figure as it gives its arm out, “I will not deny you the privilege. Now join US!”
I think that’s the boss. I think that’s the only Cultist that matters to Lotar. I think I have to fight it.