The sky was spotted with clouds when we left the safety of the dungeons and leapt into the fight, light fluffy things that scudded across the sky in ever shifting dreamlike patterns. Looking up at those clouds now and the darker central blue of the sky, the early afternoon sun strained to cast it’s light past the objects eclipsing it.
I could see movement, the beating of wings and the shine of bright steel. There was sound too, a faint drumming-humming thing that set the air on edge. It was the sound of those wings beating in asynchronous union, the sounds clashing and merging into something awe inspiring and uncomfortable in equal measure.
Then the whistling started, the chorus of the Ravensmith’s descent altering as they edged into a mass dive, thousands of feathers slicing through the air as their owners pulled their wings in close. It was hard to actually see them because they had chosen to attack with the sun at their backs. Wise move really, hard to shoot at them as they charged when you were taking solar damage like that.
A hail of spells and physical projectiles heralded their impending impact with those in the center of the valley. Arrows tore through bodies, fire seared flesh and arcane energy washed down to debilitate and confound their prey.
It was pure chaos even before the guild hit, so many different spells going off that it was difficult to tell what the damage even was. It was like someone had shoved an entire christmas tree worth of coloured lights up their nose and sneezed. Good luck to the game’s media producers making sense of that colour riot.
Into that offensively bright maelstrom of dissipating magic came the vanguard of the Ravensmiths themselves, each one using their enemie’s bodies to break their fall, taloned boots sinking into flesh and grinding into bone. Then the weapons came out, shortswords flashing, a symphony of scything steel as they hacked at the poor bastards around them.
The forward group all wore heavy plate armour like Taylor’s, each segment of it shining in the sunlight. The only adornment on their otherwise plain armour was the silhouette of a raven in black, crouched over an anvil. It seemed that at least for large scale stuff, they liked to use a uniform.
Above the forward group were the ranged ones, who’d swooped off to the side and were now circling the white hot inferno of combat below them, spells and projectiles raining down to hit their enemies.
The massive demon woman from before was desperately tearing at an Aurelling man that was almost as large as she was. Seriously, this guy would have given the Roc up above a run for its money. Okay maybe not, the Roc was huge… but you get the picture.
“Holy… fudge,” Civette whispered, coming up nearby to stare down in awe at what was happening. “That… that is the type of thing the bible was written about.”
“The Revelations of the Ravensmiths,” Taylor mused with a wistful smile. “I like the sound of that.”
I took a step forward.
“I think you have quite enough ego without a holy book in your honour, Taylor,” Dawn teased with a gorgeous laugh.
Lightning began to spark and crackle up my limbs as power built within me.
“Will there be a part about alchemy in there?” Millie asked, turning her eyes from the battle to look up at her girlfriend. “I feel like alchemy needs to be included.”
My stamina continued to drain, the bar in my vision dwindling even as I felt the might of its energy infused into my limbs.
“Looting too,” Rusti piped up, skipping up next to us with a look of mischievous glee. “Knowing where people keep their loose change is actually a bit of an art, you need to remember that—“
That now familiar boom of thunder rebounded through the valley like it was an ancient greek theatre, the roar of the engines in my gauntlets a quieter backing track as I screamed down at the enemy. Distantly, I heard Dawn swearing.
My fist lit up with lightning the moment before I drove it into the stomach of the large demon woman, only my emergency shield stopping me from liquifying on impact. Myself, the enemy chick and the big aurelling all tumbled through several people as the kinetic energy of my entrance refused to be dissipated in a single impact like that.
I was the fastest to get up of the three of us, rushing for the still dazed woman and wrapping both legs around her neck from behind, squeezing with all my might. She tried to buck me off, arching her back before smashing me down on the ground with all her might. I held on, my thighs were pretty well suited to this type of thing.
Leg hold secure even as she thrashed, I began to pound my fists into her skull as hard as I could, given the leverage and swinging room I had. That served to really piss her off, and a hand came up to grab my arm, using it and her muscled arm to haul me off like a wet T-shirt.
I was thrown clear of her just as Taylor’s guildmate came at her with his shortsword, getting in a vicious slash across the woman’s outstretched arm. She lunged at the really big pigeon boy like an enraged lioness, sweeping her axe up in the process to bring it down at him with brutal force. The shock of the blow to his armour staggered him, but I was able to dart in and catch her hand before the next methodical swing with her axe connected with anything vital.
Then the big woman laughed. “Oh, you are a fun one,” she grinned, eyes burning with the excitement of battle.
With impressively quick movements she drove a meaty punch at my side with her free hand, but I was already letting go, darting back with a lightning fast dash. My retreat took me right into her emo mage boy who’d apparently been trying to sneak up on me. I could tell because there was suddenly black cloth everywhere and a whiny little grunt from behind me.
Okay, now here was an appropriate target for headbutting. I slammed my head backwards as hard as I could, hearing the satisfying crunch of a nose breaking.
“Fuck! My nose!” he warbled like a broken music box still desperately trying to do it’s duty.
My eyes refocused from the attack just in time. Oh fuck, an axe! I rolled to the side, cringing as the blow landed right in the chest of the mage who’d been underneath me with the sickening sound of bone and flesh parting. Holy shit, okay… clearly big demon lady didn’t give many fucks.
“Wow,” the aurelling blurted, pausing where he’d been about to swing at her. “That’s hardcore.”
“He’ll respawn,” she shrugged with a bloody toothed grin.
The guy blinked, his raised eyebrows just barely visible through his shining steel helmet. “Righto then… uh, back to it?”
The large woman just grinned, ripping her axe out of the corpse of her guildmate, which promptly de-gorified itself. Still… it looked pretty nasty. The game was trying, but there was only so much you could do when an axe with a blade that was two feet tall hit a little weed like this guy.
Rather than wait for her to come at me again with that thing, I dashed backwards, feet skipping across the ground with barely a microsecond of contact. She cocked her head to the side in interest as I summoned lightning into my hands, the energy rippling across them like some sort of strange liquid. With my right hand I reached for my left, grasping the power that had accumulated there and pulling it off and into my right hand like I was manipulating putty.
Right fist now blazing with the eager energy of two hands, I dumped stamina and launched myself forward. As I moved, I suddenly shifted my momentum, catapulting myself over her at the moment I released my fist of energy, using the same strange bug I’d discovered down in the dungeon. The blow lashed out, taking her by surprise as I flipped over the top of her, ending the move in a cartwheel to burn my momentum without exploding my knees. Gymnastics class was paying off!
Temporarily stunned as she was, the angel saw his chance and lunged, perfect form extending his reach out. The woman grunted as he stabbed her, but it didn’t seem to have done a whole lot. I couldn’t see the wound itself from behind her, but she was a big woman and a shortsword would probably need a little help.
A little help like me drop kicking her in the back with both feet. I was lucky not to get stabbed when the point of the blade came through the other side just below where I’d kicked her. Damn, was there a secret luck stat that I had maxed out or something?
Of course, she still didn’t go down with that, and my buddy on the other side of her realised this too. He jumped back and after a quick glance around us, he raised a fist to the sky, leaving his sword embedded in her. Golden light grew, haloing his hand as though reflected through a drop of water. The sky above us lit up in kind, a growing ray of sunshine like some sort of sign from the gods.
I had enough sense to scramble backwards, only barely avoiding the devastating pillar of light that rammed our enemy into the ground like she’d just been jackhammered. The torrent of white gold light didn’t let up either, it just kept going and going, even as the caster’s hand began to burn and sizzle with some kind of feedback damage.
Finally he let up, gasping and clutching at his blackened limb with a grimace of pain. “Fuck, I hate having to use that.”
“Yeah… but it’s effective,” I commented, staring at the pile of dust, bones and very melted shortsword where the large demon lady had been. Note to self, Taylor’s guild was just slightly higher level than me. Okay, maybe a lot higher level.
He shrugged, sweeping an arm around us. “Only reason I could use it is because we’re already cleaning this fight up. Hurts like a bitch too,” he laughed, then shook his hand in pain again before calling, “Can I get a healer over here?”
“Shut up Terry, you’re a tank, deal with it,” another angel guy laughed, landing gently next to us.
I cringed, losing my smile in an instant as an emotion somewhere between fear and anguish lanced into my chest like it was a hot spike of metal. It took me a second to realise that the new guy hadn’t been referring to me, but the big dude I’d just helped.
Sucking in a long breath, I plastered a smile back on and tried my best to look chill. I wasn’t chill though, hearing that name had rocked me, and not in a fun way.
“Thanks for the help, by the way,” the tank guy… uh, Terry, said. He was giving me an oblivious smile as the healer got to work despite his banter just before. To the healer he grumbled, “Come on dude, I know we know each other in real life, but I’d rather not get doxxed.”
“Sorry man, you know how hard it is to keep them separate,” the healer apologised, finishing with the healing. “Plus, you look so similar anyway.”
The big guy ignored his friend and jabbed a chin in my direction. “You’re Tami, right? Taylor’s sister?”
“Yeah, that’s me,” I said, then hesitantly, as my confidence was still gathering itself back together, I asked, “Uh… so what do I call you then?”
“Lauric, Guild Leader,” he told me jovially, sticking out a hand to shake. “And I guess we’d better go find that sister of yours so that we can get things moving, huh? Before more of these bastards arrive. God, I’m going to hate walking once we leave the mountains.”
“I guess we can’t fly with all our allies on our backs or something, can we?” I asked with a sigh. I knew how much of a struggle it was to carry someone. My wings just weren’t up to the task.
“That’s the plan,” he grinned, testing his hand with a few stretches. “Well, at least, we’re gliding out of the mountains.”
Before I could reply, another guild member wandered over, and I was struck by one thing rather quickly. She was gorgeous, but in that strong way that some women are, where their hips are wide but their shoulders almost matched them. She wore your standard medium armour, black leather with polished steel plates in a bunch of important places. Her eyes were radiant blue, her skin was darkly tanned and her hair was like rosewood, a dark brown that was almost red. If I’d been single right now… but no, I had my Dawn.
“We ready to gather up the troublemaker?” she asked Lauric, although her eyes drifted to me and I watched her give me a once over that had a little smile rise to my lips.
“Are you referring to me, or my twin sister?” I asked, placing a hand on my hip. Nooo, down Tami. No flirting. My eyebrow went up. God damn it.
“The light mode twin,” she said, returning the sass like it was a tennis ball.
I gave a chuckle that was just a little huskier than normal. “She’s up there, hiding with the crown.”
“Typical,” she smiled, eyes lingering before she drew them up the slope. My group were slowly making their way down, along with what remained of Hale’s Hope. Actually, not all of my group… where was Rusti?
They weren’t hard to find, flitting from corpse to corpse, looting away with a blissful expression on their face. Even their big cat ears were pointed forward with excitement. Why were SAI so weirdly cute? They all had this unique brand of innocent strangeness about them that was sort of endearing.
“Tami!” Oh crap. I turned to see Dawn striding over ahead of the rest, brows furrowed. She stopped before me with a confused, irritated look, like she couldn’t figure out if she wanted to kiss me or yell at me. Eventually she just sighed and leaned forward, letting her head bonk against my breastplate. “God, you are such a trial sometimes. At least take me with you when you do crazy shit.”
“Okay, okay,” I murmured apologetically, wrapping my arms around her. She was so cute in her smaller Cora body. Outside this place she looked sorta like the angel chick standing nearby. “Love you.”
“Love you too.” she grumbled, raising herself so she could place her lips to mine. Oh, they were so soft. A quiet moan escaped me before I could help it, and I felt a rumble as she chuckled into the kiss. Okay, yup… Dawn was definitely the girl for me. My chest felt so full of love, as heavy as the center of a neutron star and as light as a helium-filled party balloon.
“So we have enough?” I heard Taylor ask from nearby, and we parted to look over at her. She was talking to her two guildmates, although only one was listening to her. The angel chick was laughing silently at us and rolling her eyes. I liked her. I decided that I was going to befriend her, then we could find more sapphics and make a posse.
“Have enough what?” Dawn asked, detangling herself from me.
“Enough people with wings to glide out of the mountains, carrying everyone who doesn’t have wings,” Taylor explained, glancing at us before she looked back at Lauric expectantly.
Dawn groaned, expectant eyes finding mine. I nodded and whispered, “Yes, I will be carrying my warrior princess down out of the mountains.”
Her pouting return expression was so cute.
“Yup,” the guild leader nodded, then grinned ruefully. “Especially with how many of the Hope folk are respawning elsewhere. They’re going to want a piece of the pie, you know that right?”
“They’re welcome to a piece,” Taylor shrugged. “They did a hell of a good job holding that door, all things considered.”
They had too, especially considering how outnumbered they had been. Sure, they had been almost to the point of breaking when we got out of the dungeon, but the feat was still impressive.
“Wait… but…” Civette squeaked, eyes wide and anxious. “Isn’t this plan dangerous? What if someone drops me? I don’t want to go splat!”
Humming contemplatively, the hot aurelling girl stared at Civette like she’d just found a tasty treat. Without any warning, she took a few steps forward and swept the worried healer up into her arms. “Hey, the name is Ethilie. Let’s see how long I can hold you. Hopefully that can prove that you’ll be safe, hmm?”
Civette for her part screamed and threw her arms around Ethilie, face red and eyes even wider than before as she stared at the woman holding her. She was breathing fast, chest fluttering like a rabbit’s as she gulped, but she didn’t take her eyes off the taller, stronger woman.
I was almost choking on my own surprised laughter, desperate to keep it in as I witnessed the moment. It lasted for several tense, sexually charged moments before Civette finally looked away, her face completely and utterly pink. “O-okay… you seem like you can carry me… I think. If you drop me though I’ll… I’ll…”
I was biting the inside of my cheek to stop any outbursts. This was too good. I fucking knew that there was a little bit of gay in Civvie. I’d fucking sensed it! Dawn was giving me a look too, an oh my god look, and I sent a subtle nod back in her direction.
Near Taylor, Millie opened her mouth to speak, I quickly shook my head, giving her a shut up stare. Her little face scrunched up in confusion but she otherwise stayed silent, thank goodness.
“You’ll what?” Ethilie asked with a smooth smirk, face leaning in just a little closer to Civette’s.
“I don’t know,” was the beetroot healer’s mumbled reply.
“Well, I think we can safely say that you two will be just fine on the flight down,” Lauric said, clapping once cheerfully, expression full of mirth. “Ethil, treat her nicely. I hear she has a bit of a bite, if the stream was anything to go by.”
“Oh, I saw,” the tall angel woman laughed. “I definitely saw.”
Civette groaned, covering her blushing face with her hands. Goodness, I kinda felt for the poor girl, that was a whole ton of embarrassment to deal with, but at the same time… it made for extremely good entertainment.
“Well… if you know the risks…” Lauric said with another rueful laugh. “Guess we should get going then!”