Chapter 28 - The Battle Of Affinities Part 2
While Arthur, his escort, and the two battalions charged at the queen, who was feverishly preparing a spell of unknown effect, I recovered from the massive spell while analyzing the battle.
Our forces' strength was roughly equal, a great achievement on our side when taking into consideration that the driders were significantly stronger than us at the beginning. Though not only was Arthur’s and my strategy clever enough to bring the battle strength into equilibrium but we even held the superior position.
The driders had split up into two Battalions and were currently engaged with two of our own. Even though the troops that were currently engaged with them were on the losing side, this wouldn’t remain so for long.
The group Arthur led into a charge against the queen was seconds before their collision when the queen released the spell she had prepared. In the last second, Arthur pushed back the surrounding troops with a force wave, saving them from the queen's sinister spell.
The earth before the queen split apart and an eerie and bloody venomous light came forth from the depth. From the endless darkness, a hand touched upon the world of the living. After the one followed another and another, countless hands of different forms and sizes.
From the rift a figure rose itself up, countless skeletal or rotten hands adorned its fat putrid body. A headless body moving on its countless hands now stood protectively before the queen. With a soundless roar, a dreadful odor escaped the beast's mouth, threatening to kill the surrounding vegetation and suck the soul out of the living.
The troops that Arthur had helped escape continued on and joined up with the centermost battalion in a V formation. They were headed for the battle’s center and would split apart the driders forces while trying to surround them from all sides.
In the meanwhile, Arthur recovered from the taxing force wave and prepared himself, together with the rest of the escort, for the coming battle.
During my observations, I was able to recover from the massive spell I conjured and tried to search for a position in which I could make the most effect. After a while of searching around, I decided upon exploring the earth underneath the battlefield. Maybe there I could find something that could help us win the battle, especially the fight against the queen.
Taking on the form of the boring behir I explored the underground. The rich nutrients from the bustling forest from above gave birth to a diverse insectoid ecosystem. The environment though was split in half by the street of death, below which necrotic and lethally venomous insects made the area a hellscape for anything bigger than a mouse.
As I got a bit lower I finally found a solution that would drastically change the outcome of the fight against the queen. Beneath the earth, a giant lake of murky and stale water, mixed with some kind of black and sticky substance provided a perfect trap. Taking on the form of the deep aboleth I explored the depths.
Though there wasn’t a lot to see on one side of the lake I saw a large tunnel adorned with various and mysterious sigils. I surely wanted to explore the intriguing passage but time was limited and every second counted.
Using the intrinsic powers of the deep aboleth I transformed the underground lake into a vortex, eating at the earth from above. Again transforming into a boring behir I destabilized the earth together with my elemental human form. After boring up to the surface I sent a lightning strike deep into the earth.
The bright light got me the attention of the queen and Arthur, who were currently intertwined in a stalemate. Arthur’s escort lay around the chaotic battlefield, between rotting pieces of the creature the queen called forth from the abyss.
In no time my lightning strike connected with the oil floating around in the lake. At first, the sound of an explosion could be heard coming from the hole I dug up. Following it was a wave of searing fire that threatened to burn the skin of my behir.
While everyone was surprised by the lance of fire coming from the earth the ground began to rumble. Small cracks formed and split apart the “solid” ground. I started a spring towards Arthur, taking on the form of my displacer kantast for extra speed.
During my quick rescue mission, the cracks transformed into rifts and then canyons from which dark smoke covered the battlefield in toxic smog. Once I had reached Arthur, who had thrown himself of the queen, I took with him to the skies. Our ascent was slowed significantly by his large size, even still when he transformed into a humanoid.
Below us, we could see the queen desperately trying to escape the dwindling area to stay on. Under normal circumstances, she would surely have been able to, but the fight against Arthur and the entourage weakened her significantly. After long seconds of trying to escape the pit of Hell that opened up amidst the battlefield, she spotted us flying away.
After locking unto us she gave us a sinister smile, her lips contorting unnaturally and horrifically, showing rows upon rows of bloody teeth. We didn’t take our eyes off her until we saw her body vanish in the firestorm, sure that this would be the last we saw of her.
Though just a second after she vanished into the fiery hells a black beam shot towards the sky. The beam transformed into various glyphs that slowly infused mana into the earth surrounding the gigantic hole. After a while of being unable to stop the spell, the magic dissipated and the effect took place.
From all over the battlefield skeletal hands broke through the soil and took a hold of our soldiers' legs. They had, in the time it took us to win our battle, surrounded the remaining driders. The enemy was close to a total loss and absolute annihilation, though this changed with the arrival of the skeletal warriors.
Our generals did certainly react quite splendidly to the unpredictable threat by trying to push them driders and the skeletons into the depths. This surely worked, though when the skeletons began to appear behind our forces and began to push them into the pit, the troops were called back.
All of the soldiers were dead tired, wounded, and would need a lot of rest. The skeleton problem could wait, the queen's spell could not be powerful enough to do any more significant damage once we all rested. While our soldiers marched back and rested in the garrison and Arthur and I meditated in the royal chambers the scouts observed the development of the skeleton army.
On the next day, as the sun was just about to greet me with her light beams an urgent scout arrived at my room. He reported about how the skeletons continued to arise from the, now plowed soil, creating a force to be reckoned with. This surprised me and Arthur, who had listened in on the report, quite a bit, but the source was found quite quickly.
Apparently, the queen had sacrificed her evolution second before her death and the resulting spell, fueled by her burned power and the death mana on the battlefield, devolved into a curse. It corrupted the earth and fed off the death street, creating a swath of land uninhabitable to the living and home to the dead.
Though this was not the only report we received this morning. The draconic and vulcanic races from the north had united once they heard of our pyrrhic victory over the driders. This transformed the situation we were in into an abysmal one.
On the one hand, we certainly won some additional land which we could use to strengthen our troops and economy, but this would take time. Time we didn’t have, we needed our soldiers right now and a lot of them, to cope with the coming trouble from two sides.
After calling together all the generals that remained after the war we came to an atrocious inference. There was no way to go and no one to call. We were cornered with no way out but to flee, to abandon the land Arthur called home for decades, in which he buried his true love.
Some tyrannical kings may send their soldiers into their deaths in a situation as the one Arthur found himself in. Even though he was closely knit together with the land I stood upon he was no Tyran or martyr. A king guided by honor and rightfulness. He saw the situation his kingdom was in and made the hard decision, instead of the easy way out.
Within a day the kingdom's inhabitants and people packed their things. Sons and daughters said goodby to the graves of their parents, partners mourned at the resting places of their significant others and families left their generation-long inheritances. All to follow the “cowardly” call of their king, a heavy decision that would change Arthur in the coming future.
While the people of the kingdom were already over the next hill, out of sight of the jungle, Arthur and I gave our last goodbyes to the place we both once called home. As we turned back I could see him wipe away a tear of deep loss and connected with him on another level.
We left the bustling jungle, over the plains biome splitting it from the next area of vegetation. The refugees numbered around 50.000 thousand and our resources were stressed to the limit. Our travels passage was clearly visible from above, a deserted and pillaged swath of land forming behind us.
Slowly our resources were dwindling and we were unable to support the weak. The wounded soldiers were the first, our supply of medicine not enough to cope with their injuries. After they followed the elders, they were not able to cultivate further and increase their maximum age. At last came those of low Tier, that were not able to keep up with the caravan, that had to move fast enough to always get new land to pillage.
To see his people die like cattle, left alone in the pasture, broke the king's hearth. At least the immeasurable deaths stopped once we crossed the first mountain passage, killing all those that were too weak. From the 50.000 at the beginning only around 25.000 remained to be met by the dwarves.
Due to the kingdom's previous trade relations, they let the refugees continue on through the mountains and even provided us with rations. The battalion they send to escort us through their kingdom also made the travel significantly easier, their eye for the right passages was unprecedented.
After we made our way through the mountains we took a hard right to the west, to travel along the coast. I didn’t feel comfortable traveling with a group of 20.000 through a possibly darkness-corrupted area.
Close to one month after leaving Arthur’s kingdom and two months after leaving my dungeon I again touched down on my domain. I was immediately flooded with an amount of information that would destroy any normal person below Tier 10.
After I awoke from falling unconscious due to the information overload I found myself laying in front of the primal, secret entrance. The three leaders of the generals, diplomats, and wardens stood before me. An alarmed look on their face was more than was justifiable for me falling unconscious. Before I could ask them what was concerning them so much a critical piece of information bore its way up from the memories I just received. After having a look at the piece of memory and the alarming situation I was in I looked directly at Arthur.
“The Orcs are here“