The Attack — Part 1
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
The city-state that was the elven village was incredibly well defended by barriers both natural and artificial. The natural ones stemmed from the forest’s layout. The countless, similar-looking trees were more than capable of confusing any outsiders. The artificial ones were magical spells, various literal barriers capable of detecting and repelling the undesired. Combined, all of these various protective measures were known to members of the races as the Forest’s Secret Shroud.
The near unbreachable shroud was well known to be one of the most comprehensive defensive networks in the world. Only a select few had ever made it through in the countless years in which the elven race had thrived.
To the long ears, it was a source of pride. But even so, not a single one of the many soldiers stationed around the village’s perimeter were acting even the slightest bit complacent. Each had been made to understand the importance of the conference taking place within. They knew that if undisturbed, it could very well end the long, bloody war between two of their neighbours.
Its location was one of the main reasons that the elven village had been chosen, with the other being their neutrality. Elves had ties to both races, and being chosen as the mediators was yet another source of pride. The soldiers were tense, on guard, and had every reason to ensure that nothing went awry.
“Odd…” One of the guards scrunched up his brow.
“You spot something?” His partner, the other member of his team, caught on to the action and perked up immediately.
“One of my familiars has spotted an undead…” he said curiously. “I doubt it’s a threat. It’s still far away from even our most distant barrier.”
He himself hadn’t seen the creature. One of the small woodland creatures with which he had formed a contract had instead relayed its presence to him telepathically.
“That is odd. You don’t normally see any undead around these parts…” muttered his partner. “Do you think it followed some of the envoys?”
“It’s possible. They’re attracted to the force of life. And if there is one thing that a group that large has in excess, it’s vitality.”
There was no reason for either soldier to doubt the familiar’s words. The use of various creatures was a technique that elves commonly employed. They were a society of hunters; techniques to improve the efficiency with which they could gather food, such as using other creatures to artificially extend the reach of one’s eyes, had been passed down and refined for generations. But that wasn’t to say that it was perfect.
Its greatest drawback was that the familiars were only capable of conveying information that they themselves could process. The soldier’s small critters had equally small brains. They were able to recognize that the creatures they’d spotted were undead, but they weren’t able to provide any sort of meaningful description.
Normally, such a shortcoming was thought of as a non-critical trade off. Small animals, being more difficult to detect, provided an advantage in the sense that the target would remain unaware of the surveillance. But in this case, the lack of information was a fatal flaw.
“Strange… it’s heading right for us.”
“What direction is it coming from?”
“Northeast. It’s still a ways off, but it’s definitely coming for us. Seems like your theory on life force was right after all.”
“Got it.” The other elf pressed a hand to his ear and cast Whisper. “HQ, this is security team seven. We’ve detected the presence of an undead creature. Moving to engage. Over.”
He pulled an arrow from the quiver mounted on his back and nocked it. He didn’t draw the bow just yet, but stayed on high alert. Eventually, a looming shadow appeared from within the forest’s depths.
The moment he realized it was far larger than what he had expected was the moment he breathed his last.
Everything around him was instantly blown away.
What seemed like an explosion suddenly shook the conference hall. Splinters of wood and bits of stone flew all over as a cloud of dust rose off in the distance.
All the individuals attending the conference immediately looked towards the source. Guards of all different races evaluated the states of VIPs and got ready to draw their weapons at a moment’s notice.
“Provide Us with a status update immediately. What is happening!?”
The elven queen’s shouts were answered by one of the guards standing outside the door. “Your Majesty, the seventh squad went silent after encountering an undead! That’s all we’ve heard so far!” He raised a hand to his ear immediately after speaking. “Another update, Your Majesty, several dozen undead abominations have been spotted inside the village. Our men have already begun engaging!”
“Did you just say they’re inside!? How!? What of the Warden’s Barrier? Did We not order it set to its most powerful state!?”
The Warden’s Barrier was a powerful defensive shield capable of repelling even a pair of breath attacks from members of the draconic race. It was one of the most vital parts of the elves’ defenses.
“I-I’m not sure! But seeing how they’re already inside, it’s most likely been broken!”
The queen frowned. “Have the men retreat into the village and set up a new line of defense. Instruct any remaining units on standby to sortie immediately. What of our monster-based units?”
“Monster units one through four are already engaging. Five is securing a nearby area!”
“Good. Keep a close eye on the situation and do not allow the enemy to progress any further. If any member of another race comes to be harmed, it shall leave a stain on Our honour!”
Hearing the report caused Phynar to groan.
“Undead abominations, you said? My apologies fellas, I think one of my enemies is behind this whole thing.”
“Are you referring to the ‘fiends’ we discussed prior to the conference?” asked the Allysian king.
“That’s them! Those silly little things love using modified undead as weapons. They probably thought that this would be a good chance to assassinate me, as well as a few other potential enemies. I could’ve sworn that I had an eye on their plans, but I guess they must’ve outmaneuvered me this time.” After a brief explanation, he turned to face his own subordinates and began issuing orders. “Well, boys and girls, you heard me. We’re responsible here, so let’s take care of things ourselves. Any personnel not vital to security should head out right away.”
As the demons acknowledged their orders and jumped into action, Reiyd also began giving instructions to his subordinates.
“We should cooperate as well. Nell, Remiero, could I ask the two of you to join Carlotta and her men outside? I believe she is likely to be already in the midst of the fray.”
“I’ll get right to it, Your Majesty!” said Nell.
“Orders received, Sire.” The guard dressed as a butler nodded, then turned to the other human soldiers present. “The rest of you, I expect you to keep His Majesty and the other monarchs safe in our places.”
“Of course, sir!”
After returning the salute offered to them by the soldiers, the heroes of present and past followed the elves and demons outside of the conference hall.
Upon leaving the building, which had been built into the trunk of an enormous, ancient tree, they spotted many an elf in combat. None of the grace and refinement typical of the forest folk remained as they scurried about in a hurry. Many roared in a seemingly feral fashion as they charged in the direction of the battle.
“A word of caution.” Remiero spoke as the two moved through the crowd. “The mutant undead attacking this village are abominations. I’ve fought several of them during my time in the demon realm, and they’re rather powerful from an individual perspective. If the situation starts looking dangerous, I suggest you flee.”
Nell gave him a puzzled look, but he raised a hand to stop her from commenting and continued.
“You’re a newlywed. Normally, that would be a good enough reason to have you removed from dangerous missions like this one altogether, but we decided to have you come along regardless for our own conveniences. There’s no need for you to be exposed to so much danger when you have a family to think about,” he said, grimly. “So don’t be afraid to abandon us and run.”
“Thank you, Remiero. But I’m not going to run.” Rather than being offended, Nell was glad that the older man was worried about her. “My marriage is my business, and it’s something that I did on my own terms to begin with. I’m not going to be so selfish as to abandon my mission just because of it. Besides, there’s something that I’ve resolved myself to do.”
“And what would that be?”
“To make it back home alive even if it kills me. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but I’m going to do my best to be the sort of hero that lives up to everyone’s expectations.” She tightened her grip on her sword. “Besides, I’m pretty hard to kill when I get serious, and I have a really easy way to make an emergency escape even if things do go wrong.”
For a moment, Remeiro was stunned, but before long, his expression relaxed into a wry smile.
“You really have gotten much stronger…” he said, quietly. “Alright, in that case, I’ll explain how to defeat the abominations so you can survive your encounter with them.”