Its eyes tracked me, and it roared, charging forward. I dashed to meet it. To hurt that thing was simple, I just needed it to enter my range. As its feet stomped onto the ground in front of me, it howled, the magic that formed what passed for its feet unravelling and scattering. The mana itself split and flowed around me like a stream against a rock.
The creature backed away, spreading out its arms with another howl. The air whistled, and the earth shifted beneath me, water seeping out from the rapidly cracking earth. The earth around me didn’t change, but the water spilled in all the same. As I glanced down at my feet in confusion, the water surged up, attempting to wall me off.
I moved forward, every step causing the walls ahead of me to fall. It shifted back some more, and a wall rose ahead of me to freeze outside of my range. I approached it and swung my blade, the ice blurred, shattering as I kicked it. I sprinted forward, managing to sweep at its feet with the Aesor.
From the side I heard a low whistle and a boom. I turned my head, another huge spectre stood at the other end of the army, a group of figures with glowing weapons facing them. For a moment I saw an arrow of light flash through the air, striking it. No other spectres… I thought to myself. How is that possible? I focused back to the spectre ahead of me, diving out of the way as it dropped a large chunk of earth where I had stood. Its eyes flickered with malice.
[They said that that spectre hadn’t been as large before. Could it have somehow… assimilated them?] Page asked, as I Delved to confirm that none lay beneath me. I leapt onto the small plateau it’d made, swiping my blade at the spectre. It pulled away, wary, fearful. I grinned viciously. Maybe, but I can deal with this one just fine…
It threw ice, made walls to drown me in, and in response I batted it further and further away. As I struck the final blow, it dispersed completely, its structure no longer coherent enough to house its soul. My shoulders sagged, and I took some time to catch my breath. I wasn’t sure why I moved aside at that moment, whether it was a subconscious reaction, or if I had seen something from the corner of my eye. An Edratchi barrelled past me, and I swung my blade.
It convulsed, falling to the ground. Their footsoldiers had closed on me while I’d been fighting the spectre, looking ill and uncomfortable thanks to the Aesor. I dropped into stance, taking a deep breath. Idiot… I chastised myself. We haven’t even begun yet… I charged forward, their magic fizzled on contact, flames disappearing as they closed and blades of air dissipating to nothing. Ice shards shattered against my armour, without the propulsion nor strength afforded by magic.
[They seem to have not learned at all from watching your fight with the spectre.] Page noted.
These are barely footsoldiers. I thought, rolling forward to jam the blade into one of their hearts. That’s probably their hammer, and everything’s a nail… I replied, as another Edratchi fell to the ground, its soul rent by prolonged exposure to the Aesor’s field. I forged forward, and like a scythe through wheat, I reaped a harvest of souls. This… is a lot easier than I thought it would be.
A rumble from the ground alerted me, and I Delved, seeing a soul come from under me. It was smaller than the spectre, but no doubt cut of the same cloth. Must be the behemoth I’ve heard about. I thought. I couldn’t see the ground as I Delved, but really… all I had to do to avoid that thing, was roll.
I ducked to the side, the earth beneath me rupturing from the behemoth, it knocked me aside along with several of the Edratchi footsoldiers. Considering the fact that I kill things just by being near them, that was a good plan. I thought begrudgingly. I pulled myself to my feet, the creature was a mess of flesh and bone. A single humanoid torso with six appendages and a stinger poking from it.
The torso was at an angle, facing me with one of the shoulders. On the shoulder was a jaw, a rictus grin filled with sharp dagger like teeth. Two black eyes stared at me maliciously, one on the other shoulder, and another on the opposing hip. Claws extended from the body, somehow symmetrical in arrangement despite their connection to the torso being anything but. My grip on the Aesor subconsciously tightened. What in the hells is this… It scuttled towards me, knocking me onto the ground again with a claw. The Aesor was knocked from my grip. Never grip your weapon too tightly. Alida had said to me, I grimaced. Well you never had to fight lite eldritch horrors Alida…
I gripped the mandibles, trying to pry them apart, while I used my foot to keep me from its jaw. Its grip tightened, and I grunted in pain, hand slipping instead to the pick at my waist, I stopped pushing, letting myself to pulled closer, and swung the pick at the eye on the creature’s shoulder. It howled, and I wrenched the pick, gouging deeper into the creature’s torso as I groped for the Aesor. I drew it back to me, jamming it deep into the creature’s open maw. It choked out a gurgle, almost instantly silenced as I twisted the Aesor within.
The stinger tried to pierce me as it released its grip and I fell back to the ground, deflecting off my armour and pushing me to the ground. I swiped at its legs, and its body buckled, letting me move up next to it and swipe at it with the Aesor until it stopped moving. I let out a shuddering breath, blood pounding in my veins. Have to ride the adrenaline. I thought to myself, ducking under a thrown rock as I swept into the demons.
Delving pointed me towards the Edratchi leader, magic swirled around him like a nexus, a beacon visible for miles. It helped me, as the masses of Edratchi blurred around me. Sometimes I heard the sound of dragons and fire as they descended, but I didn’t bother to look, I didn’t have the luxury of a split focus. I rolled underneath a behemoth, bringing the Aesor up to its brain. With the pick I caught one of the claws of another, pulling it to block the next claw, as the Aesor moved to sever them.
Suddenly the ground crumbled underneath me, and I slid forward into the bottom of a pit. “Clever roach…” A voice spat from outside it, the same tongue that the dragons had used. “You will pass no more…” It raised walls over me, shrouding me in darkness, but leaving a single opening at the top. The wind began to howl, and I could feel the air whip past my armour. A vacuum? I thought, alarmed, quickly moving to the side and using the pick to pull myself upwards.
It wasn’t long before I found it impossible to breathe. The earth slowly crumbled around me as I scrambled upwards, on my hands and knees. I needed to reach ground level, to cut my way out. I had sheathed the Aesor, using the hand it freed to pull myself up faster. I should’ve seen this… I thought, head dizzy. Indirect means… So fast to adapt… For a second I blacked out, and the pick slipped down, pulling free of the earth. I slipped down, the pick finding purchase a short bit below. focus… I shook myself. cant let this stop me push forwardhate you have to makeHATE it
[Here!] Page shouted urgently. [Draw the Aesor. The other Edratchi are here.]
I drew it, precious seconds wasted as I fumbled with the switch. It lit up. beautiful
[Stop staring! Jam. It. In.] Page urged.
I pressed it against the wall, but as I began to move it the wall blew inwards. Dirt and rock slammed against me and air buffeted me, pulling my pick free. A single breath brought my mind back, and my hand whipped out to grab it, sinking it back into the earth. Right… Smart bastard… I thought, gripping the sides of the dome I pulled myself through. One of the Edratchi attempted to push me back in, and I dodged to the side, letting them be sucked in instead.
“Die.” I growled back to the Edratchi that had spoken when the dome had been made. It looked like a stereotypical lich, sans robe, it seemed to wobble a little as the Aesor rent at it. I charged at it, and panicked, it reflexively attempted to set me on fire. The flames dissipated as they came close, and I pounced, tackling it to the ground with the Aesor through its body. I quickly swiped the blade through its head, and stepped over it.
They tried the same trick sporadically, and though I managed to hook myself out before most of them closed, they were getting both annoying, and time consuming. It struck me as odd that they wouldn’t have more effective plans for aether users, especially since the last war.
[They have little to no infrastructure.] Page noted. [Most likely their histories are oral stories.]
I conceded the point as I ducked to the side, swinging the Aesor at another of the footsoldiers. I winced, I was tiring. Small as they were, the little cuts and bashes I’d gained were slowing me down, worse still were the bruises I’d gained from the traps. Once they had simply attempted to collapse the dome on top of me, and while I’d clawed my way our with a vengeance, it had definitely left its mark.
Their leader came to find me once I had come close enough. The miniature mana storm dragged along in its wake. “My respect. You have odd powers compared to your predecessors.” Its voice gravel, drowning out the cacophony. The other Edratchi hung back as it hovered above me, dark wings holding it aloft. “But we will not stop, and you cannot win.” It replied, and raised its arms aloft.
Water streamed from the earth, forming into huge spears that it hurled towards me. Aerial advantage. I gritted my teeth. I should’ve taken the bow. I rolled to the side, as the spears crashed against the earth, large enough to stay mostly intact as they struck. Another clipped my arm, sending me tumbling to the ground. As I rolled upright I could see it had ripped large chunks of earth up, ready to send them hurtling towards me. Stupid powerful goddamn… I thought, charging forward.
They crashed to the ground, and as I leapt out of the way a sharp pain jolted up my leg. I screamed, turning to the side and shoving off the rock that pinned my right leg. Blood seeped out of my boots, my foot bent at an unnatural angle that caused pain as I moved. The Edratchi leader formed more ice spears. “Die.” It commanded.
Something streaked through the sky at that point, a bright white light that exploded as it struck the demon leader. It tumbled to the ground. Numen… I thought, recalling the light of the bow. Thanks, I’ll make sure if nothing else I take this bastard down… I gritted my teeth, hobbling forward, and slicing at the creature’s wings. I took a breath, wrenching them off while rooting my feet to the ground. It rolled upright, grabbing my foot and tossing me to the side.
I dragged myself up, doing my best to ignore the pain shooting up my leg. It moved closer, forming a blade of ash and darkness within the Aesor’s range. Crap. I thought to myself. “You think this gives you an advantage Doombringer?” The creature spat. “Magic serves me, changes for me, acts for me. I AM THE CONDUIT, THE AVATAR OF MAGIC, AND YOU WILL NOT STOP ME.”
I gave a hollow laugh, readying the Aesor. “Then you can be my practice for killing gods.”