45: Suicide Charge
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Arriving back at the edge of the forest and looking back to the battle, my heart dropped when I saw what was happening. They had pushed up the hill and over the beginnings of our wall. The fighting was now in the dusty streets of our makeshift town, with Alexia’s cabin already burning.

“Why are they burning it?” Col asked, aghast. “I figured they were at least attacking to take it and use it for themselves, but this is just… destruction for destruction’s sake.”

“They’ve blasted away some of the work we did on the wall foundations too,” I pointed out with a depressed sigh.

“Wow… assholes,” he muttered.

I gave him a look. “You were going to ally with them.”

“No I wasn’t I was… I mean I was just hanging out with Juliet…” he said, speech slowing down as I watched him make the same conclusion that I had in real time. “No… I mean… we know there’s girls who play with Blackfeather but… I mean… she’s not that bad. There’s a nice person underneath all that popular girl ice queen crap…”

“Sure thing, bud,” I told him with a shake of my head. I cut the conversation off with a gesture at the battle. “That isn’t looking like um… yeah. We’re losing.”

Losing slowly, sure… but definitely losing. I watched with a sinking stomach as our people gave another ten meters or so of ground. It was too far away to make out who was who, but I swear I saw Karen and her massive blade hack some poor idiot in half. My girl was strong.

“If I die, will I respawn up on the hill or…” Colourless mused from beside me. “Because I’m pretty sure I’ll be dying before we link up with everyone.”

“Oh, shit,” I swore, slapping myself on the forehead. Opening up a menu with the wave of a hand, I sent the respawn location request over to Col. His eyebrows rose when he got the notification, and a moment later I got one that told me he’d accepted it.

“Nifty,” he commented. “Now we have a surefire way of rejoining everyone.”

I gave an absent nod, but his slowly growing grin clued me into what he meant. “Yeah… oh!”

“Let’s go make a mess,” he said with a whole ton of false confidence. “My turn to be batshit insane.”

“Glad to have you back, dude,” I said with a smile that was meant to be all joking and stuff but came out really genuine. We had a lot of shit to unpack between us but… well, we were still besties. The natural platonic chemistry between us was too strong to get more than a dent from recent events.

****

Col’s second death beam of the day tore into the rear of the enemy with devastating results. All along the initial beam, blackfeather goons expanded and detonated, creating a chain reaction that caused their whole backline to falter and turn.

Whatever god Col had made a pact with to get that spell must be one scary dude, because holy shit nobody else had anything even close to that level of destruction. Not even me, and I was the closest person I knew of to the situation behind the game.

Immediately, a bolt of lightning lashed out at my friend, but I was there to throw a glowing golden shield around him. The energy crackled around him, scarring the grass beneath our feet and setting it alight.

“Now what?” he asked, tone high and scared.

“Keep fighting til we die,” I told him, letting off a double handed blast of my shotgun shard spell.

It didn’t do a whole lot, I was still underleveled compared to them, considering I’d spent my time building a town while they were tearing them down.

Col’s fireball on the other hand took one of them down nice and clean, burning a hole right through the guy’s torso. Fireballs in Pellan weren’t some slow moving blob of fire, they were more like a high speed and very targeted projectile that just happened to be made of flame. They were also pretty effective.

An arrow flashed out towards me, and thanks only to my naturally fast reaction times was I able to capture it on one of my shields of light. It skittered off into the sky, and the next thing I knew I was catching a blade on the other arm, sparks of golden light rippling in all directions.

I leapt backwards and flipped, bringing my heel down onto the ground with a resounding crack. A wave of light rippled out from that point of contact, and every enemy it hit was singed with golden fire.

Shouts rose as people tried to put out the flame, giving me enough time to drop low and use my residual momentum to put myself into a deadly spin, one foot gaining a light skate that slashed shins and tendons.

Something hard and made of metal slapped me out of my graceful spin like a shotgun pulls a duck from the sky. Pain shuddered through me and I crashed to the ground, fire lancing up my leg.

“Syl!” Col’s voice was a distraction in that moment as I forced healing magic into myself.

Even in my pain-dazed state, I saw the sword that sought to end me and raised a hand, summoning one of my shields in the same instance I fired a shard of light into the wielder. It detonated into smaller shards as it landed, exploding gore out behind him in a grisly shower.

A hand closed around my arm, pulling me to my feet. A wave of heat seared my face, Col letting off a flamethrower with his other hand while he rescued me.

This was considerably harder than I had thought it would be, not to mention way more painful.

“I don’t think we’re going to achieve much here.” Col told me, shouting over the roar of his flames.

Not in your current state you won’t. A voice intruded into my mind, like an oiled eel, invasive and repulsive to my thoughts. I shuddered, confused horror churning my guts and on pure instinct, I forced it out of my head. What the fuck?

I must have made some sort of sound, because my friend turned to me, worry etched in lines across his face. Then a sword sprouted from his chest and I was rendered blind as blood drenched me.

All too quickly, I followed him.

One moment I was in pain as something cold and hard slid into me, the next I was gasping on the ground, the sounds of battle blessedly distant. It was even overshadowed by the gentle rustling of the wind through the leaves that hung above our little shrine to Feslia. Holy moly.

The fight had been so fast, just images hitting my retinas in a rapidfire rhythm. It was a far cry from combat with the comparatively slow and sluggish monsters around here, and I felt my confidence in our victory sink further. Everyone outside our little paradise hill had been fighting each other for months of ingame time now, and it showed in their brutal efficiency. Hell, they hadn’t even flinched when their own number went down, blood flying.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Karen’s voice broke my introspective peace, and I blinked my eyes open to see her with her massive blade to Col’s throat.

He gave an ignominious squeak of fright and tried to back away, but the sound of a bow string drawing tight held him in place. Amra was here too, arrow sighted directly at him.

I gave a cough and quickly kicked Karen’s sword from Col’s throat. “He’s fine! Don’t hurt him!”

Fine?” Karen hissed, giving the idiot mage a glare. “He tried to force you into… god knows what. How can that be fine?

Amra, for her part, lowered her bow and a sort of hopeful expression came over her beautiful elven features. It was pretty obvious who’d been friends with Col previously out of the two of them.

“We talked, h-he apologised,” I stammered quickly, scrambling to my feet. “He’s just a dumbass guy with a crush.”

“Really dumbass,” Col said from the ground. “Like, the dumbest brick you’ve ever met.”

“Dude,” Amra laughed, stepping forward up to Karen’s side. “Don’t insult bricks like that.”

Karen’s anger ebbed and she flicked a glance between the three of us. “You sure? He was like… really shitty to you, Syl.”

“I know,” I said soothingly, running a hand up one of her very well defined biceps. No, bad Syl… concentrate. I lifted my eyes up to her face, but then they got distracted by the gentle curve of her horns. Or as I hoped to one day call them, handlebars.

I gave another cough, pretending to still have respawn sickness problems. “He uh, he helped me take out Blackfeather’s warcamp, by the way. Probably the most urgent information right now. Other than that though, I think we just throw him to Dana when this is all over and stand back to watch the show. He’ll properly realise the gravity of his mistake after that.”

“Hey, hold on a minute!” Col squeaked, eyes wide with genuine fear.

Karen’s eyes lit with an inner evil that had my toes tingling in some interesting ways. “Good point… very good point.”

“I’ve made a terrible mistake,” the boy on the ground whimpered.

My girlfriend shot him a look. “It’s what you get for trying to steal my girl.”

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