Scourge Fifty-Six - Advance
“Go,” I say, and with that order spoken, my monsters advance.
The mantis burst out of the foliage on the edge of the forest, hounded by elemental wolves and more wild monsters. The monster army--if I can call it that--doesn’t create a formation so much as it walks ahead in a rough line of growling, angry power.
I turn to the Commander. “After you, Commander Nunez,” I say.
He glances down at me from where he’s sitting astride his horse, then he nods once and gestures ahead. “Forward, Templars,” he says. I expected him to shout it, but I guess just saying it aloud in a deep, commanding voice works just as well.
The Templar step up behind the monster wave, horses moving at a quick trot to keep up with the monsters who are forging ahead already. I can tell the Templars aren’t too comfortable working with monsters, but they’re professional enough not to make a big fuss about it.
The line of Templars walk with a much neater formation than my monsters. Still, the two combined make for a pretty impressive group, one that will be impossible to miss from afar.
“Alright, let’s take to the air,” I say as I turn to my friends.
“Yeah!” Felix cheers. “Kind of wish I had a bow and arrow.”
“You don’t know how to use those,” Esme points out.
“I could figure it out, how hard can it be?” Felix asks.
Shaking my head, I lead my friends back to where all of the flying monsters are waiting. We don’t have that many of them, mostly just a dozen wyverns and some assorted monsters that we’ve picked up along the way.
For some reason, the pentagoose is here too. I told all of the bird monsters to gather here, and I guess it decided to count itself among those.
I nod to it, and two of its heads stare at me with narrowed eyes before it gives out a low greeting “Honk.”
I climb up onto one of the two love birds that we’ve been using to get around, then I glance to my friends. “Who’s coming with me?” I ask. I guess we haven’t worked out that part yet.
“I will,” Felix says. Before anyone can protest, she hops up and swings a leg over the bird’s back, then she grabs me around the waist and hugs me from behind.
I stiffen, but just for a moment. “Okay then,” I say as Felix places her chin in the crook of my neck and chuckles.
“Come on, Bianca,” Esme says. She sounds just a little bit annoyed. Did she want to fly with Felix that bad?
Once we’re all situated, I pat the bird on the neck. “Let’s go! Everyone else too! We’ll fly over the army and keep the skies clear!” A bunch of growls and squawks sound out as the entire flock of monsters takes off. The Pentagoose, rather horrifically, takes off too and follows us with huge beats of its massive wings.
We zip over the forest, staying low to the ground as we catch up with the Templars and my monsters. We have to start turning soon enough, because even if the monsters below are moving fairly quickly, they’re not nearly as fast as us.
“I see some dead folk,” Felix says. She points off to the side where a group of undead are moving to intercept the Templars and monsters below. There’s maybe a dozen of them in all, zombies, I think. They stumble forwards and into the path that our forces are taking.
I wince as I watch the mantises just walk right through the undead, they barely slow down to swipe a few heads off and stab into the bodies of the undead who trip back. Then the other monsters pounce on them and tear the undead apart before letting go to keep up with the mantises.
By the time the Templar are passing by, there’s only a single zombie left mostly intact, one who somehow slipped through the charging monsters.
One of the Templars casually chops the zombie’s head off on the way by.
“Well, okay,” I say. “I guess the undead aren’t that big a threat.”
“Yeah, when there’s only a few of them,” Felix says. “It’s going to be a lot tougher when there’s more. Look, I think they’ve noticed us.”
I squint towards the city. The undead patrols around the walls are pulling back, and there’s a growing clump of the undead forming up. The gates are opened, and I curse when I see the hundreds of undead shambling out of the city. A few of the distant figures are moving with more alacrity, and they’re wearing the sorts of robes that Altum’s cultists wear.
We’re going to have to plough through a whole lot of undead before we can make it to the gate. “Think you can do magic from up here?” I ask.
“Shouldn’t be hard,” Felix says with a grin. “Wanna see who can aliven’t more of them?”
“You’re on!” I say. “What’s the prize?”
“Loser... has to cook the winner’s favourite dish,” Felix says.
I laugh. “Alright, I can do that. Wait, do you even have a favourite meal?”
“Nope! I like everything.”
Felix squeezes me a bit harder as I laugh and tell her off for being unfair. Not that I intend to lose and be forced to cook one of everything for her.
“Princess!” Commander Nunez shouts.
I glance down and meet the commander’s eyes. He’s pointing ahead. “We must move faster! Before they are ready to meet us!”
I nod and give him a thumb’s up, then, with a bit of focus, I firm up my grip on my monsters. “Charge!” I shout.
The monsters reply with screeches and roars as they pelt ahead. The formation breaks apart, of course, some monsters are just faster than others and it shows as those zip ahead.
The necromancers have created a big lump of undead, all gathered together to block our path. Mostly they're zombies, which I can smell even from so far above and away. There are skeletons too, as well as some of those atrocities made of melded flesh and bone. I think we’re outnumbered three to one, and there are more coming from within the city and converging from the patrols dotting the countryside.
One of the mantises, faster than the rest, leaps up, wings beating fast to give it that extra boost of speed. It crashes into the disorganised lines of the undead, battering a dozen of them down onto the ground. Then the monster starts to fight.
Big, scythe-like legs rise and fall even as the mantis swipes out ahead of itself and chops into the undead. The zombies around it try to bring it down, but they can’t do much more than grab onto its legs between stomps, and it doesn’t usually end well for them.
Then an abomination joins the fight, bowling over some of its undead companions to ram into the mantis’ side.
The two roll across the ground, huge meaty limbs beating down onto the mantis while sharp claws rip and tear the abomination apart.
The abomination dies when the mantis chews its head off, but it’s too late for the mantis, the undead surround it and fall onto it, punching and kicking tirelessly.
I frown at the carnage. That was a lot more gross than I expected it to be.
Most of my monsters arrive a moment later, crashing into the undead with a stampeding roar and pushing the entire mass back with nothing but their weight and momentum. The elemental wolves immediately start using their cultivated magics, spraying angry fire across the undead and jolts of surprised lightning and disgust-fueled darkness.
I concentrate and form a brace of dark spears. The stench alone is more than enough to empower Disgust magic. With a careless wave, I send my spears flying towards the undead without even aiming. There are enough bodies packed in tight that none of them miss.
“Hey! No head start!” Felix says. Soon, large swipes of Joy magic are blasting ahead and into the undead, shoving them back and cutting into their flesh.
And then the Templars arrive.
Commander Nunez shouts something, and the ground ahead of the Templars bursts forwards, creating sharp rocky pillars about as tall as a man ahead of each galloping horse. The pillars move with them, cutting through the earth like massive knives jutting through thin cloth until they slice into the back of my monster formation, through them, then deep into the undead horde.
I glare. Some of those Templars took out my monsters! That’s just rude.
Vigilance magic is unleashed in great waves. The earth shakes and rumbles and the undead, already ungainly and clumsy, stumble around and fall over into pits that open up beneath them and which are lined with sharpened teeth of stones.
The necromancers don’t appreciate that. Their reply is just as swift, and they care as much about their undead as we do.
This isn’t the walk in the park I was hoping for.