44: Sizzle
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We found the war camp hidden within the forest and guarded by a whole bunch of goons. Way more than Col and I could handle on our own. Assuming, of course, that the paranoid part of my brain was wrong and he wasn’t just going to betray me at the worst possible moment. Yeah, that had only just occurred to me as a possibility.

Still, I had to operate on the assumption that he was trying to redeem himself, so here I was, peering out of a very useful bush.

The camp was pretty barebones, no wall or anything, just a clearing full of tents and trampled grass, along with a respawn totem in the middle. The totem itself appeared to be a block of marble that had been set into a steel base and placed onto a cart. The cart had big steel pinions to keep it stable and immobilised, which I vaguely remembered was a requirement for all respawn thingies. No respawn thingy was allowed to be mobile because that was the rules.

There hadn’t been a whole lot of effort by Blackfeather’s guild to line up the tents or anything, apart from the central area where there was an open space to gather. It wasn’t hard to spot the tent of the big man himself, it was much bigger, not to mention coloured black and green.

“There’s got to be like… fifty of them there,” Col groaned, voice hushed to keep from alerting the guards. “How the hell are we meant to make it through all of them?”

“Don’t know,” I whispered, staring about the place for inspiration. “I’m thinking.”

Col fell silent, but his staring at me was incredibly distracting and it like completely threw my train of thought off the proverbial bridge.

“Stop staring at me like that,” I hissed.

“Stop st— oh okay… sorry,” he mumbled, quickly jerking his gaze off my face.

I winced. Reconciled we might be, but he apparently still had a crush on me. That was definitely going to be a problem still… but gah, I had bigger ones. Big. Really big ones… like… wait… big trees…

My eyes blew wide as an idea slammed into the back of my brain. Oh hell yes.

“Col, do you have like, any spells to create fire traps or something?” I asked, excitement bubbling out of me.

“Yeah, I guess…” he nodded, giving a shrug. “They’re not like, super powerful or anything. Just small explosions.”

“But they set shit on fire and create an explosion, right?”

“Yeah, I honestly just use them for that reason, to start a fire,” he said, giving me another nod.

“Can you get them to—“ A commotion from the camp had my sentence falter as we both turned to look. People were respawning over at the totem thingy. Just ten or so, all in a group, but it heralded the start of the battle proper. I turned quickly back to my newly refound friend. “Can you make them explode remotely?”

“Yeah… I can,” he agreed, giving me a funny look. “What is that tiny but intelligent mind of yours planning?”

“We’re not quite back up to flattery levels yet buster,” I told him with a suspicious glare. “Buuut, here’s the plan…”

 

****

 

Explosions rippled outwards from our position, detonated at Col’s command. Each one of those explosions occurred at the base of a redwood-alike tree that had been strategically hacked to bits by yours truly. Crazy knives made of light were good like that, especially when you’d spent a while leveling them up.

The flame mines sealed the deal, exploding and taking the rest of the massive trees down. Well, I’ll be honest, the mines did most of the work, my carving was just to direct them. Small explosion my ass, they damned near blew halfway through the massive six foot plus wide monsters.

Silence echoed as everyone within the camp froze and turned outward, expecting attack. Within that silence, the sound of wood cracking and rupturing rose.

Watching a tree fall is the most mundane yet surreal experience. It’s like it’s submerged in water or falling in slow motion, given how glacial the initial movement is. Then it gets progressively faster, until your eyes widen at the sheer inevitability of something that massive and that heavy falling over.

The blackfeather folks had nowhere to go, nowhere to run. Death descended on them from all sides in wooden form, crashing, smashing, and exploding into splintering shrapnel.

Shrapnel was actually a very accurate description really, and I winced as one guy was impaled by a spinning piece of wood that was as tall as I was. Others lost limbs or otherwise had speeding chunks of wood embed themselves in their flesh. The scene was nightmarish. People forget that kinetic energy isn’t just a speed thing, but also a weight thing. The amount of energy that must have been expended when two of those massive trees collided at the apex of their fall must have been incredible.

Back at the base of each truncated tree, the secondary effect of the mines began to take effect. Fire began to spread, slowly at first, but the brush of the forest floor and the sticky sap of the trees themselves quickly helped it along.

“And… the last one, go,” I said with wild excitement. Yeah, people were like, dying and shit down there, but they were players, they’d respawn. I hoped… no, no doubt.

The last explosion went off, right at the center of the mess that had been the Blackfeather camp. How did we get a mine to the top of a tree you might ask? Well, let’s just say that Col didn’t have nearly as much fun with lightskating as I did. He also squirms so much. Like a wiggly worm. The wiggliest worm.

Anyway, now there was like, fire everywhere and people were screaming and… oh that was the smell of burning flesh. Very gross… time for Col to do the last thing.

“Wow, that is pure carnage,” my friend said with wide eyes. “You know, I feel like you are entirely wasted as a healer.”

I turned and stared up at him with my most innocent and cutesy expression. “Whatever do you mean?”

“Terrifying,” he muttered, giving me a shake of his head as he raised his hand to do as I’d told him, like a good boy.

The beam of fire that lanced out at the nearest group of scared and huddled survivors was white-hot and very very angry.

As it impacted the first person, I watched their skin melt and bubble, but also transform. It blackened, like cooling magma, and began to expand like a balloon. The laser didn’t stop for anything, burning right through and onto the next poor helpless asshole, who reacted in a similar manner.

The chain reaction was far more devastating than anything I had seen out of Col before his dumbass mistake, and I had to step back as the heat of it seared my face. What the fuck had he been eating to cause that?

“You call me terrifying?” I asked incredulously.

“I mean yeah,” he shrugged, looking a little shy now. Was he blushing or was that the raging inferno of death we’d just created?

“Yeah, what dude?!” I exclaimed, waving my arms in the general direction of chaos. “You just… exploded those people!”

“I mean, yeah… I can explode a bunch of people, but someone like you who is all zippy and fast can just shank me before I can get a hit in,” he explained. “Trust me, I’ve been leveling and surviving in this god damned mother fucking forest for weeks on my own. I’m like, maximum glass cannon. Plus, that spell has its limits, I can only use it three times a day and each successive explosion is weaker. The targets have to die for the secondary explosion to go off.”

“Oh no, woe is you, the death laser only explodes whole squads, not platoons,” I giggled, pretending to swoon from sadness.

“You know, back when you were… you know, him, you were never this sassy,” he noted, face aglow with the light of the rapidly spreading forest fire.

I gave him a nostalgic smile, my giddy mood simmering down a little. “Thanks for not saying his name, but yeah. Guess I’m just finally coming out of my shell. I wonder what I’ll be like in two, three years time…”

“If your current trajectory is anything to go by, you’ll be sass-queen, the queen of sassville,” he grumbled, turning to squint into the blaze. “Do you think the totem is destroyed?”

“For our enemy’s sanity, I sure hope so…” I said with a grimace.

“Why?” he asked, before his eyes went wide with horror. “Oh god…”

“Sizzle,” I nodded gravely, turning to make for the main battle. “Come on, let’s go. We have the rest of their army to set fire to.”

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