Chapter 126: Please check again
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"Form a line here." Mason moved the two spearmen, Rebecca, and Phuong to the entrance of the tunnel. They had enough space between them to fight, but they could block off the tunnel and not get surrounded. "When you get tired or out of resources, back up and swap with Tomaso and Mateo."

"How many are they?" Mateo asked, obvious fear in his eyes. Mason ignored him.

"Wait, where are you going?" Rebecca asked as Mason tested his bow.

"To give them something else to worry about. Hold here. We'll be alright." Without much thought, he kissed Rebecca, about to run off and take a position facing the next closest gate. Then he heard three more sizzles, and Alex, Annie, and Carl appeared in front of the tower dungeon.

Mason saw their panic, and the almost frantic wild look in Annie's eyes, and ice sloshed in his gut.

"Where's Blake?"

"The dungeon..." Carl's dagger vanished and he put his hands behind his head. "Something happened. Some kind of event. It was locking down, so we ran. Blake...he..."

Behind them, Mason heard the gate popping and creaking as the locks were released and the iron started to move. He ignored it, pushing past the players to run straight at the tower doors.

 

[Error. Grey Tower is locked with a temporary event. Please check again in 24 hours.]

 

"What?" Mason slammed his palm into the gate again and again, watching the message display over and over. He turned to Carl and the others. "You left him in there? Alone?"

Carl's face was red as he looked at the floor and walls. "We only had seconds...there was something wrong. Something about an orc king and mortal peril...I didn't...I mean...we tried..."

Mason heard the orcs coming and turned, mind and emotions warring with practical reality. You can't get in, his rational brain took over. Therefore there's nothing you can do for Blake now. You have to stop these orcs.

He turned and ran from the group with Aspect of the Cheetah until he stood a dozen paces from the tower wall. Then he channeled at least two thirds of his mana, raising his tattooed arms as power surged through him, nymph charm glowing around his neck.

The gate swung open and the first batch of orcs came marching out with shields raised, growling as they saw Mason and shouting commands. Mason felt his helpless rage swirling like a storm inside him as the power released.

Thunder cracked as the lightning blasted into the cluster of orcs. Many of these wore metal armor and stood by a metal gate, so packed they practically held onto each other's shoulders and backs. Mason grit his teeth as the world rang, watching with vicious pleasure as the creatures still trembled and smoked, some simply collapsing to the ground.

Then he lifted his bow and loosed a Power shot at the first creature to drop its shield, following it with arrow after at any exposed flesh. Garet and Jason came running past to flank them on either side of the gate. The orc leaders were shouting to advance but the orcs at the front were trying to withdraw.

Mason saw more orcs coming through the portal behind them. Maybe dozens.

"Be ready to fall back," he shouted at the spearmen, glad for their quick thinking but knowing they couldn't hold it long. He loosed arrow after arrow until the creatures regained their discipline and lined up with shields. Then they growled, and pushed.

Jason and Garet stabbed with a series of phantom and real spears but couldn't stop them.

"Go, go!" Mason reset a trap behind the players and circled the other direction, trying to turn the orcs to face him. He saw Jason and Garet make their escape safely.

A loud orc voice was chanting in the back of the enemy now. A green mist was forming and surrounding the warriors, and as it did they seemed filled with renewed courage. The emerging orcs charged with wild abandon, chasing Mason back as more and more got free from the gate.

He shot them and moved because they weren't remotely fast enough to catch him. But they soon realized that, too, and turned towards the players at the tunnel.

"Ignore the wizard!" shouted what must have been an officer in the center. "Our shaman will protect us from his magic. His arrows are nothing. Kill the others!"

Mason growled, his feeling of helplessness rising, desperately trying not to think of Blake trapped in that tower. He could hear the players clashing with the orcs at the tunnel entrance now.

His traps exploded but wouldn't do much. There was at least forty orc infantry coming out to fight, and though in an open plain like this they were little enough threat to Mason, the others couldn't outrun them. Could they kill so many in a confined space?

They had no choice but to try.

Mason slung his bow around his neck, and summoned his Claws. If they thought 'the wizard' didn't have other ways to hurt them, they were very, very wrong.

 

* * *

 

"Well. This isn't ideal."

Blake drummed his fingers on his mana gem and sighed at the dungeon messages telling him to go fuck himself. Apparently he was now signed up for ‘mortal peril’ with an orc king. And trapped. Very trapped.

A vague and unfamiliar fear shivered through his body, but he put this away behind a wall of will. It wasn't useful, first of all. And probably not necessary. However bad things seemed, Blake always found a way.

He turned back towards the ramps leading up and down, and decided a king would live in the top. Probably best to go the other way.

But then it wasn’t like he could hide from anything. At least not for long. With a frown he went up the ramp and made his way to the many dead orcs lying on the floor. Nothing had changed, so Blake risked moving to the corpses to find bits and pieces of clothing he might take to ‘blend in’.

"Very nice." He soon found a cloak that somehow avoided getting cut or pierced or covered in blood, and tied it around his shoulders. With a grimace he switched out his shoes for a female orc's smaller boots, and wore something like a leather doublet over his clothes.

He didn’t have a mirror, and it was far from perfect, obviously, but it might buy him a moment of confusion or doubt. He hurried back down until he reached the descending ramp, stopping to take a long, deep breath.

Unfortunately, the way down smelled like the floor of a bar bathroom, and looked about as appealing. It was dark, first of all, with drafts of icy cold air like a winding descent into Dante's lowest hell. But since it was that or fight some special, giant boss brute that was almost certainly coming for him, or eventually required to be dealt with...

Blake crept down the filthy ramp. He tried not to think about how exactly he was going to do a four man dungeon entirely by himself without getting slaughtered. He was basically full mana, at least, and fingered his mana gem absently. But the tower could only be so large. If this ‘event’ meant the orc was looking for him, sooner or later it would find him. And then what exactly would he do?

Could he fight some orc king in a deadly duel? No. Obviously not. He would therefore have to hide and wait for Mason and the others to figure out some way to get him. Or if that wasn’t happening to dominate a small army of orcs to fight for him. Neither seemed wildly likely. But Blake would find a way.

He moved slowly and carefully down the ramp, resisting the urge to ask if anyone was there. He could hear orc voices, then steaming of something hot. Metal clangs. Was it some kind of forge? Did they make their weapons and armor here?

Blake crouched and tried to see what he was dealing with, but saw little in the gloom. Eventually he just walked down like he belonged, doing his best to sneak along the wall with his hood raised. Somewhere ahead he could see light and movement in some kind of cavern, but all around there were corridors leading off, and more ramp leading down.

He turned down a random corridor, made it about two steps, and practically slammed into the biggest orc he'd seen so far.

"Watch where you go," the orc growled, then squinted and stared directly into Blake's big, very blue, very human eyes.

Time seemed to slow as Blake activated Mental Influence. A small piece of his brain told him he had Telekinesis and could use it in several ways to deal with this, but his instinct always went to the powers of the Psion.

His new friend’s name was apparently just ‘Smith’. He was growling and lifting a hammer from his side as Blake activated Mind Control.

Like the others, his mind was an open book. He had no mana, no great will or mental discipline. Blake felt his power wrap strands of control around Smith’s senses and memories like roots digging into soil. But he had to decide what to grow.

"I am the king's human traitor ally," he said and felt a strange arcane tremble in his voice. "You are to help and obey me in all things. And when we're finished, the king will reward you greatly."

Smith’s red eyes blinked in confusion, then calmed. A smile touched its lips. "King Gromsh reward Smith greatly."

"Yes," Blake matched it. "King Gromsh is powerful, and generous. Now, take me somewhere secluded." When the creature stared at him blankly he tried again. "Take me somewhere there isn't any other orcs."


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