Book 4, Chapter 65 - The Plight

Barb pulled out the Heart-scry Thorn. “It turns out every resident of Fallowmoor is implanted with a small ID chip. Even if we conceal ourselves, they know right away that we’re outsiders since we don’t have one.”

The information was extracted from a soldier they’d managed to capture. It explained why so many of the previous attempts at sending people in had failed. Fallowmoor had a fine method for making sure spies didn’t escape with important information.

Having lived in the wilds for a time, the old drunk knew a thing or two about how the wastelanders did things. “Heh, not a problem. Get his ID chip and we can stop worrying about these ants swarming us.”

“It’s not so easy.” Barb had learned more from the Heart-scry Thorn. “The chips have special restrictions. They activate when they’re implanted, then stop working if they’re removed. We can’t take it ourselves, not that way. We have only one option.”

“Well, spit it out!” Dawn was anxious. She could hear the sound of footsteps approaching. The city was still shrouded in fog, but if they had sensors like the Dark Atom soldiers, then they would be discovered eventually.

“This is old technology, precise and complicated – which also means it’s easy to break. They’re connected to a main sensor unit, so if we can find and destroy it they won’t be able to use the ID chips to determine who are outsiders.”

Frost de Winter regarded Barb with an aloof gaze. She was the weakest of their crew, yet here she was providing key intelligence just when they needed it. They had their next target: Head for the main sensor unit without further delay. 

One of the buildings in Fallowmoor looked like an enormous crystal ball. That was the building responsible for controlling all of the city’s systems, including its sensors. It kept track of incursions, irregular or unexpected deaths of citizens, and so forth. All manner of information was filtered into this building and parsed for critical intelligence.

When they arrived, Dawn wasted no time in drawing her sword. With both hands on the hilt of Terrangelica, she heaved it toward the structure. A streak of energy was expelled into the ground, which caused it to shudder and crack. A dozen or more fissures emerged and slithered toward the main sensor like angry dragons. Those fissures then spread into the sensor, causing it to crack and belch forth sparks and angry spurts of fire.

“All done!” Dawn looked at her handiwork with a lopsided smirk of satisfaction. Easy as pie!

She arrogantly rested Terrangelica on her shoulder and looked back at the others. Now they could find Cloudhawk, hunt down the Crimson One, and kill him dead. Their efforts would mean victory for the expeditionary forces.

“Careful!” Selene called a warning. “An attack!”

The black fog was lit up with an angry red light. All of a sudden, dozens of bull-sized fiery orbs burned away the darkness as they headed their way. They impacted, filling the area with ear-piercing explosions.

The orbs of fire detonated and spread across the ground, creating pools of fire. Before long the flames devoured most of where they were standing. Dawn had deftly activated her Aegis Mirror thanks to Selene’s warning, so their immediate location was safe. However the look on her face betrayed her struggle. Whoever was attacking them was strong.

A barefooted man descended from above, carrying a standard whose flag danced in the hot breeze summoned by the fires. There was only one man like that who could launch such a powerful attack; the Conclave’s second in command, Wyrmsole. He was accompanied by twenty or more red-robed missioners of the Church.

Wyrmsole glared at the invaders with hard, cold eyes. The bulk of his animosity seemed aimed at Selene and Clay. After all, Wyrmsole had at one time been from their same family. It was clear by his gaze that he hadn’t expected the Cloude family’s fixer to be here as well.

When Clay saw who it was, his pudgy and amicable face broke into a smile like he was seeing an old friend again. “I knew you’d have changed after all these years. Those fire orbs have gotten a lot bigger.”

Wyrmsole returned with a question, his face solemn. “Arcturus bade you come?”

“I’m here,” Clay replied in an indifferent inflection, “Just for a bit of housecleaning. The Crimson One is no match for the governor, you know that. He didn’t need to come and waste his time.”

Wyrmsole’s face retained its typical calm facade, however the flash in his eyes and the heavy presence betrayed what he really felt. “Hmph. Let Arcturus come himself, then we will see. Do you think this group is enough to contend with the Crimson One? You march towards your own demise!”

Frost wasted no time. He heaved Frozen Dirge in a deadly arm, releasing a wave of frigid energy that doused the fires on its way toward Wyrmsole. Ice and fire collided between them. The air was made thick with steam.

Clay had intended to speak more. He’d gotten under Wyrmsole’s skin, there was more he could achieve in undermining the man’s confidence. He had not anticipated Frost would be so eager to start a fight. He didn’t know Arcturus’ apprentice to be so quick to action, but now that the fight was on there was no wasting time. He looked toward the others. “The rest of you find Cloudhawk and the Crimson One. Leave this crowd to us.”

Wyrmsole was a formidable enemy, as were the twenty Conclave demonhunters he’d brought with him. While the invaders had a fair chance of victory, the longer they remained in one place the more likely it was more enemies would join in. Not only would it drain their enemies, it also robbed them of any chance to escape and find the Crimson One. If they had to fight all of Fallowmoor, they would surely die. hey were in the heart of enemy territory! Every second counted!

Wyrmsole brandished his battle standard, Skyfire. A gout of fire erupted forth toward Frost and his icy weapon. Arcturus’ apprentice swung his spear as deftly as a breeze, covering the area in frigid energy and causing the fires to wither and die.

He raised Frozen Dirge, ready to thrust it toward Wyrmsole. 

Clay called for his attention. “Don’t rush in!”

Wyrmsole had been a member of the Cloude family, and at one point was as strong as Clay himself. Frost, talented though he was, was still young. It was unlikely he could take the seasoned warrior one on one.

Nor was Wyrmsole by himself. The other demonhunters brandished their relics, including half a dozen exorcist bows. They fired toward Frost who was leaping through the air. Clay saw the critical error his ally had made and his eyes dimmed. He had no other choice but to attack despite the disadvantage. After all, Arcturus had high hopes for Frost. If the Master’s protege died here, Clay wouldn’t be able to face the Governor ever again.

He raised his hands overhead. Billowing steam continued to pour through the area as ice and fire waged their war. As mental energy reached out for it, that mist condensed into droplets of water. They rained down onto the field below like bullets, smashing into the ground with as much power and velocity and churning the earth.

The mists continued to aggregate, and once it became a deluge, Clay send it toward their foes like a tidal wave from an angry sea.

The missionaries were caught off guard. They hadn’t expected this one so dangerous. They were forced to retreat or be swept away.

Meanwhile Selene, Dawn and the others wasted no time. Although Frost and Clay were powerful, they could only hold out for so long deep in enemy territory. If they didn’t find the Crimson One soon, they would all drown in a sea of enemies.

What’s more, Fallowmoor was rife with dangerous foes. Who knew how many more powerful opponents were waiting in the winds, besides those they’d already encountered. Who knew when they would appear to block their path?

Suddenly a blast caught their attention from somewhere else in the city. Surely there was some sort of conflict, and more than likely it was Cloudhawk.

Dawn would wait no longer. “Let’s go!”

Before her words even had time to fade from the air, a shadow flit by from some indeterminable location. It was too fast to follow with the naked eye, but where it passed the ground was crushed and cracked. The power of it was of rare quality, and it was headed right for Dawn.

Too fast. Even Mr. Ink and the old drunk were slow to react. Mr. Ink only had time to cry out. “Miss, be careful!”

Dawn shoved Terrangelica into the ground and created several walls between her and her attacker. However when the mysterious assailant struck them the stone walls folded as easily as paper. However, by then Dawn had her second line of defense prepared, an invisible field placed right in front of her.

A bone-jarring crash sounded. Cracks appeared across Dawn’s translucent defense. On the other side was a figure, a ball of light.

She couldn’t dodge, her foe was too fast. All Dawn could do was summon her true power in straight martial combat, and hack at the attacker with Terrangelica. She was immediately swallowed by crushing force which knocked her a dozen meters away. After coming to a stop she fought for breath, coughing up a mouthful of blood.

“Dawnbreaker Armor? Hell’s Army!” Dawn stumbled back onto her feat, wiping the blood from her lips and throwing off her ruined cloak. Angry eyes glared at her foe. “Contemptible worm! Only brave when you can attack from stealth. Is that how you killed Aegir Polaris?”

As the energy dissipated off of Dumont Cenhelm’s armor, his towering armored figure was revealed.

Several more approached from different directions. Eckard Skinner, Toad, Canker, and a number of mutants. All of them were deadly wasteland killers.

Toad met the invaders’ angry glares with froglike laughter. “Should I call you brave, or foolish? Did you really thing such a small number of you could take Fallowmoor by yourselves?”

Canker said nothing. Tendrils of insects wafted around him like undulating lines of ink. As that darkness reached out the others adopted combative postures, ready to launch into battle in an instant. Support would surely be on its way, and if they didn’t do something they would surely die before they even laid eyes on the Crimson One.

Dawn audibly ground her teeth. “Hey, Selene. I can handle this. You take the drunk and get out of here.”

For the time being Dawn was forced to put aside her loathing for Selene. Though it rankled her to admit it, the Cloude bitch was a better fighter than she was, and all of them getting away from this situation was impossible. Besides, she had the benefit of her father’s relics, which likely made her the strongest of their whole group.

She didn’t know what the old drunk was capable of anymore, but he sure as hell wasn’t weak.

It looked like they were the best choice to join up with Cloudhawk. The three of them had the highest chance of survival. As for this group of mutants and traitors, she and Mr. Ink could hold them for a while.

“Most of the Crimson One’s lieutenants have shown themselves. Now is the best opportunity to go after the head of the snake! Don’t get fussy about it and just go!”

Eckard’s deep laugh rose from the darkness. He lifted his enormous sword, and rushed at them.

Barb was the one to meet with, swinging her exorcist rod toward the enormous sword he wielded. Between her rapidly improving martial abilities and the demonhunter relic, she was actually able to stop his advance.

It was a fact that surprised the former instructor. Where the hell had this little bitch come from? He’d never heard of her, but clearly she wasn’t as weak as she appeared.

Barb was under no illusions that she could help in a fight against the Crimson One, she would only hold them back. Better to be here, and help the others fight off a threat from behind. Selene and the drunk saw the truth in this and were forced to separate again. They turned away from Dawn and the others to cut a way out.

Eckard made no attempt to stop them. Three people against the Crimson One? As far as he was concerned, they’d failed their mission the moment Fallowmoor knew they were there. Trying to kill the Crimson One with a handful of children? They might as well throw themselves on their own swords.

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