Inhaling deeply, I steel myself for what’s to come. Having positioned myself in tandem with the archers, some of us were positioned behind what few bushes managed to grow in the barren landscape. Others were taking point behind the larger rocks and holing up in small craters in the ground.
For the moment our chances look good. But I know better, it always looks like this at the beginning.
I hold off on giving the order to attack, I’ve got to identify the leader first. The one with all the magical powers, the one that acted as a conduit for the other Cultists to tap into magic. I’d have to keep it occupied for as long as I could, and without killing it too.
Exhaling, the tightness in my chest gives way. This wouldn’t be easy, not one bit. Scanning the landscape from the ridge we’d started on gave me an aerial view with all the little heads of my allies and Cultists milling about.
The Necromage revealed his true nature at our breakfast. The man irritates me to no end, carrying himself with that smug attitude all the time, and for what? Because he thinks he can control me? Because he thinks I need him to save me?
No, it’s just the other way around. If I really wanted to, I would have killed him then and there and I’d be justified, after all, I’d be doing my civic duty to the Kingdom, protecting it from a most dangerous element as a Necromage.
Inhaling, I calm myself, but it will be all for naught. Despite his unwarranted pride, he still has his uses. As a Mage, whatever magic he has under his belt could prove useful in this assault. And I need useful, at least long enough for the Cultists to be chomped down to a nice crowd control portion.
Now I could only hope he is as competent as the letter said. But he’d have to be, killing a B-rank Mage is no easy feat.
Exhaling, I find that none of that matters now. Finally, I’ve found the Cultist leader. Quietly, or as quietly as I can, I hop down the ridge and head over to the nearest archer, hidden behind a bush.
“Let the others know, begin the attack.”
The archer nods and obediently starts heading out to the next nearest bow wielder whilst I head over to corner their leader.
I follow the unfortunate man as closely as I can without alerting any of the other Cultists. They are a strange group, there were no activities other than walking aimlessly around the camp, sleeping or praying in groups at their totem. So, it is especially difficult going unnoticed in a camp where the tallest structure is a totem.
The tents help, there are many scattered all about. Inside some I could see some weaponry. The thought of disarming the enemy comes to me but I dismiss it, there will be no stronger weapon than the shared magic of their leader. I have to stay focused and attack him the moment they notice they’ve been gradually losing numbers. If I’m successful then he’d be too distracted with me to distribute magical enhancements to the many other Cultists here, thus making them easier to kill.
By my count the archers have done well enough and taken out eleven of the Cultists, that’s a lot. Perhaps this will be to our favour for once.
Eleven seems to be the most we can get. A lump forms in my throat as their leader screeches out a terrible call to arms. There’s movement everywhere, from the militia, the Necromage and his companion and especially the Cultists.
A cold chill spills over me as I watch the battle begin to unfold. I turn my head around and I’m faced with an upset looking Cultist. The leader
“Rrrahhh!” He screams as his arm shoots out to my neck. With speed and unimaginable strength, he lifts me off of the ground only to slam me back with force enough to kill.
Only thanks to my quick application of my mana do I survive.
“Come child, be one with Lord Phien and your troubles will cease, you will know only pleasure, only peace and freedom!” His rapid speak has his saliva splashing all over my face.
“Ugh! Let me go!” I groan, slapping my hands on the ground I send a burst of mana through it, tether it to my being and mould and craft with haste.
A second later the result of my hasty use of Geomancy bursts out of the ground, slapping the leader away with its tail before presenting itself to me, a disfigured snake made of stone.
“Thanks, but you won’t do.” To prove my point the stone snake is blasted to smithereens from behind, showering me in rock.
“Embrace the Lord Phien and be forgiven!” he yells, hand still outstretched and glowing a bright sinister red from that blast of pure unbridled mana.
Of course, the leader is entirely unfazed by the snake’s attack.
Inhaling, I prepare a proper assault. At the tip of my toes, I send mana out into the atmosphere around me. With practiced ease I split the world open and feed the untamed beings from beyond my mana in exchange for their loyalty.
My little tear becomes a gaping hole, a gateway for my servants to come forth, and so they do, majestically my nine feet tall hounds step out of their home and growl at my enemy.
“Now,” I start, petting both red and blue, “Let’s have some fun boys.”
Not for the first time my hastily made stone walls are torn through by the endlessly assaulting blades of wind the Cultist leader unleashed upon the Hounds and I.
I step away, barely getting my feet up in time to dodge another blade. Blue growls and barks at the man. Gritting my teeth, I relate with Blue’s frustration, the Cultists leader was barely fazed by our attacks, and has had us on defence for the past ten minutes or so.
It became clear very early into the fight that my aversion to killing the leader immediately wouldn’t matter a bit if I didn’t survive long enough to detain him like I intend to. Right now, I’d taken the leashes off and permitted Blue and Red to run free and bare their fangs as they please.
Yet, all three of us are cornered.
Red springs up from where it laid after taking a blast of wind to the nose and gets ready to pounce again. Blue corroborates this and begins to circle our opponent as his brother Red prepares himself. Subtlety, they both look to me.
The skill to telepathically communicate with summons is beyond me at the moment, but I’ve spent many years summoning Red and Blue, their request is obvious.
Tapping my foot on the ground, I prepare myself for their signal. And it comes almost immediately as Red howls and I will the moulded earth to my will, shooting the encircled leader through the air with a sudden, angry bump of the very earth he stood on.
Not leaving things to chance, especially as their prey already begun to right himself mid-air, Red leaps to the height of the rising Cultist and delivers an enraged smack, lifting the fiend upwards just as Blue uses his brothers’ body as a stool for a double jump over the furiously spiralling prey, delivering another vicious smack, this time downwards where my crudely formed stone spikes await him.
As he plummets, disoriented and confused from moving upwards and then suddenly downwards in speed, he barely gets his magic out in time, shooting out furious blades of wind to decapitate my stone spikes, but it’s too late. He slams straight onto a particularly spiky one.
I flinch as it just nearly tears his body in two, coating the spike in blood.
Exhaling, I let myself recognize how tired I am. Merely summoning the Hounds takes me down by sixty percent, with the persistent and slithery attacks of their leader I have to have some reserves to support and defend as I have. Right now, my body aches and cries out in protest just standing, the Hounds still fed on my mana to stay up world.
“Looks like…guh…I’ll have to let you guys go.” My knees buckle and I collapse, Blue and Red whimper. They’re so cute when they’re not trying to kill someone.
“Don’t let them go…” My heart stops at that voice. Our heads turn, surprised, at the now moving supposedly dead body of the Cultist, “Not if they can join Lord Phien.”
His body squelched and spurt with blood all over as he tries to let himself off of the near ten feet stone spike that impales him.
Red and Blue immediately jump into action, their paws raised to hammer the fiend into the ground one final time, but just as they do, a gust of wind expels everything close to the leader with force flinging them away like oversized rag dolls. The vibrations break the spike down the middle and set the leader free to float in his bubble of freak winds.
“Bahahaha!!” he lets out an insane bit of laughter as he pushes the remnant of the stone spike out of his body. It leaves a gaping hole right where his organs should be. “Lord Phien! Favour me! Favour me! Favour me! Favour me!”
Together, the Hound brothers muster their power into a bark they only use in desperate times, but now is as desperate as any. Their bark fights the winds of the fiend, it pushes back on his chanting and breaks his focus.
“WOOF!” they let out another. The wave breaks through at last and just in time for red to smack him down.
The leader stubbles to his feet, still alive yet. Blue follows his brothers’ example and pounces on the man, taking his leg in its mouth and shaking him about in it like a ragdoll as he screamed.
“Lord Phien! Favour me! Phien! Phien!”
His screams pierce the rage battle. Everyone watched the spectacle as finally, after being thrown into the air, he plummets down into Red’s gullet. A definite death. But it’s only his first life.
“You have done it again. You reject Phien yet the Lord is the only saviour you shall know.” A voice calls out, the red mist of revival is easy to follow to the new Cultist leader, the new face of it at least. “I will not deny you the privilege. Now join US!”
The Cultists feel their new leaders’ vigour and screech out yet another battle cry. Collapsed on the floor, I let the Hounds go lest they turn on me for owed mana. I’ve done all I can, now I leave it up to the dumbstruck Necromage standing in a circle of militia and dead Cultists.
“He had better not fuck this up.”