A sneak attack against Greenland City was especially unexpected. After establishing the protective enchantments, even Cloudhawk hadn’t given this possibility a second thought.
It wasn’t due to him being carelessness. They were supposed to be hidden. By all rights, outsiders shouldn’t have been able to sneak passed the borders without them knowing. As such, he had only a token force at the walls to protect against mutant animals that might wander too close, and that was all. Most of the army was in the city limits, helping to train or do other important work.
This attack got so close to the city because he wasn’t vigilant enough. Ten men from Copperhide’s unit were killed.
It was a small crew to begin with, and many died with the initial sneak attack. The remainder – including the captain – were picked off one by one by this translucent stranger. Copperhide tried to flee and let the city know what was happening.
But it was all to no avail. The translucent man was too fast.
Copperhide couldn’t see him, but he could get a basic idea of where he was by sound and smell. He knew the thing was getting closer. Unless he did something soon, he’d end up just like the captain.
Desperation and fear awakened something inside of him.
Aaaaarrrgghhh! He roared in panicked fury and flailed his ax wildly behind him. The ringing sound of his ax meeting something sharp returned. His foe easily deflected the blows and returned with a racking slash across the mutant’s chest. Copperhide’s thick skin split like paper.
A bone-crunching kick caught him next.
The mutant’s several hundred-pound frame was launched into the air and sent sprawling a dozen meters away. As he rolled he watched a field of snow-white mushroom caps split beneath him. Eventually, he came to rest in a patch of fungal bushes. With the patrol unit dealt with, a number of other figures began to emerge. One by one they stepped out from the forest, each one strong and imposing, ready to clean up any survivors. Few in number, they were nonetheless brutal and efficient.
They were here to feel out the situation. Discover what they could learn about Greenland City and report back to their superiors. Since they couldn’t afford eyewitnesses reporting back to the city, they had to make sure no one was left breathing.
Copperhide, badly wounded, lay among the mushrooms. He watched as the small fungi were crushed beneath invisible feet. His murderer was drawing near.
Who were they? Why were they trying to infiltrate Greenland City?
He was afraid. His life had only just turned around, his wife and son were finally happy. He didn’t want to die here.
Shimmers in the air told him the translucent attacker was raising their weapon. But before he could finish the mutant for good, the large mushroom behind him crackled with energy. It released a singular bolt of lightning from one of its spindles.
A peal of thunder shook the area.
Obviously, the translucent attacker was caught unprepared. It was too late to dodge, so the lightning struck the nearest item it was attracted to, his weapon. The figure was blasted off his feet and hit the ground a few meters away. Curling tendrils of smoke rose from a singed body.
The force of the blast was incredible to behold.
Others in range of the mushroom hadn’t figured it out yet. Bolt after bolt fired outward, but these men weren’t as lucky as their invisible comrade. They were struck straight on and detonated from the force. Chunks of burned meat and boiling blood were thrown across the fungus-carpeted floor.
“What the hell is this?”
The remaining invaders raised their weapons and started firing on the mushroom. Of course, these inferior weapons could do nothing. The sounds of their gunshots only managed to attract attention from the city nearby.
Nearby, the translucent figure rose on shaky legs. His invisibility faded, revealing a dreary looking middle-aged man. He glowered at the circumstance. “Retreat!”
The mushroom’s strike hadn’t caught him directly, but the wounds were still troubling. They were supposed to be here as scouts, but now they were exposed. It was time to leave and plan their next move.
In the midst of his planning a figure appeared directly in front of him, barring the middle-aged man’s path.
She was a woman, maybe in her early twenties and wrapped in a pretty green dress.  In her delicate fingers was a flute. A pair of cold and emotionless eyes held him fast. She looked over the group as though surveying a pile of corpses.
The boundary had been breached. Something abnormal had happened. Autumn was the first to recognize the danger.
The man’s first reaction when seeing the young woman was surprise. Then he saw her beauty, radiating from everything except her deathly-cold glare. But when all that passed what gripped him was her remarkable temperament, like a queen looking scornfully upon unruly subjects.
Two contrasting things in one body. She was like no one he’d ever seen before.
Though wounded, the middle-aged man looked dangerously toward Autumn. “You dare stand in my way? Do you know who I am?”
Autumn’s tepid voice returned, “I don’t care who you are.”
He smirked while the other men in his crew looked at each other in surprise. This child had the gall to speak to him like that? They were here as a scouting party, but that didn’t mean they were weak. Each member of their group was a trained killer. Meanwhile, there didn’t seem to be anything special about this girl.
What these fools didn’t know was that when the discrepancy of power was too great – when they existed on entirely different levels – then intuition failed to show them the truth. It was like an ant trying to describe the power of a dragon. It was impossible for such a tiny thing to even see the majestic beast in its entirety.
“I don’t have time to play with you.” The man waved his hand toward his companions. “They’ll know something up in a few moments. But take this one with us, maybe the mission won’t be for naught. Grab her.”
Several men stepped forward to comply. They circled around the deadly mushrooms toward Autumn.
She didn’t move except to lift her flute and wave it lazily toward the men. An invisible force struck them with intense force, which caused their bodies to detonate from the inside out. Where muscled men had been were now piles of meat paste and pools of blood.
Dead in an instant!
Even in the moment of action there was no sense of murderous intent from the girl. She did it was easily and as thoughtlessly as someone might step on an insect. Whatever she was, she was on an entirely different level from them. Killing these gnats wasn’t even an afterthought.
Now the middle-aged man understood. His face darkened. He never would have imagined such a pretty, frail looking girl could command such power. How could this be?
His reaction was swift. The man threw down a handful of smoke and slipped away.
His ploy got him ten meters from the clearing, when suddenly he found his escape route blocked by vines. The man spun around to find another way, but more vines had appeared to cut off retreat. Before he could formulate another plan he found he couldn’t even lift his feet. They were pinned to the floor with writhing green tendrils that slithered like snakes. They started climbing up his legs.
“No!” A short, shrill scream arose and was suddenly cut short.
Autumn’s Dryad lumbered from the forest with a head in one hand.
By now, the entire city knew something was wrong. A contingent of Talon soldiers brought a hundred troops to the area, but they arrived to discover that the problem had been solved. Copperhide was saved from the mushroom grove and brought back to the city where his wounds could be looked at. His report was delivered to the Governor.
Afterwards Cloudhawk brought Barb and Gabriel to the scene of the attack.
“What happened?” Cloudhawk looked at the carnage and scowled. “Aren’t we supposed to be protected from this? How did these mice squeak through?”
Greenland’s protections were under Autumn’s purview. Seeing them fail was a distinct loss of face for this prideful ex-deity. She grumbled in his general direction, “The enchantments aren’t perfect. OOf course there are ways in and out. They must have used some special relics or methods to find the holes and slip inside.”
Cloudhawk scowled darkly as he checked the body of the man killed by the Dryad. He found a ring on the body he sensed was a relic. The inscription on it told him the relic’s name; ‘ring of concealment.’ Obviously, it was a tool to help the wearer remains undetected. Low-grade, really just a means of invisibility. It masked the user’s sound, temperature and aura as well. That’s why the mushroom hadn’t attacked him until his weapon was revealed.
“Are they from Skycloud?” Gabriel asked.
“We can’t rule it out, but I don’t think so.” Cloudhawk slipped the ring into his pocket. “Not Skycloud’s style. Arcturus wouldn’t have sent these sorts after us. My guess is they came from someplace else.”
Gabriel found it strange. “Someplace else? With relics?”
“Not unthinkable. Squall, Wolfblade – they have these kinds of powers and they aren’t from Skycloud, right?” As he then leveled his displeasure toward Autumn. “Why did you have to kill them all? You should have at least left one for questioning!”
Autumn just laughed coldly. Why bother? If this was all the mysterious outsiders could muster, coming here was suicide.
“Not a problem,” Barb said, stepping forward. “Let me try!”
Barb’s Heartscry Thorn was typically used on live targets. However, on those who were recently deceased, if their brain tissue was intact, she could still extract some memories.
Cloudhawk stepped aside so Barb could get to work. Meanwhile, he was worried about the safety of their city, so ordered that preparations be made for better security. This sort of incursion had to be avoided in the future.
At least the mushroom plot had proven to serve as decent protection. While its range of attack was only a hundred meters or so, strategically planted it could be a good defense against invaders and mutant creatures.
Hellflower’s experiments also had good news. Through exhaustive tests they found that the small mushrooms were not poisonous. In fact, they were quite nutritious. Nothing about them seemed harmful. It had potential to become a staple of Greenalnd City’s diet.
Cloudhawk’s next announcement was to begin planting plots of these mushrooms around the city.