(Continues from Last Chapter)
-Titan's Capital Ship, several days after the attack on Redwood Valley-
“Lord Titan has not seen such a failure from you since we destroyed the planet of the undying dragons.” Relicourse commented, watching as Callenfir quietly sharpened one of his swords. “Why was it that you were easily fooled I wonder? Was it your pride? No, Dragonkin aren't easily fooled in battle. Then maybe it was your lack of fighting elves on the Unicornicopian surface. After all, you were one of the ones who spent their time gathering our lord's armies... It is very curious indeed.”
Callenfir looked up from the weapon towards the centaur, the dim lighting of the forge only showed the Dragonkin's furious red eyes. Relicourse remained silent as the Dragonkin continued to glare as the tension between the two generals caused several Kobolds that were in the room to flee.
“You here to gloat or are you here to tell me something?” Callenfir said venomously, glaring at Relicourse as the Centaur said nothing. “I've got nothing to say to you unless it is the concern of Lord Titan.” He snapped, looking back down on his sword and continuing to sharpen it.
“But you do have something of a vendetta against the Unicornicopians now that they've bested you not only once but twice.” Relicourse scoffed, looking down on the Dragonkin. “I was just curious as to how you were going to make this up to Lord Titan. Not only has he lost a valuable piece of Gnollish magical technology, but he lost a full regiment in that attempt to attack the Unicornicopians farming center.”
“I'll make it up to him alright!” Callenfir snapped angrily, sharpening his blade as viciously as he spoke. “I don't need some half-breed telling me that I need to make up for my mistakes on the planet. And I don't need some pompous fool telling me that there isn't much that I can do to fix it.” The Dragonkin snapped, looking down the length of the blade and ignoring the sounds of Relicourse's fists clenching.
“Very well.” Relicourse snapped, turning to leave the Dragonkin to his work. “See to it that you do not fail a second time. Our lord is not so forgiving to those that fail him more than once.”
And with that the centaur left, causing Callenfir to snort angrily. He looked up from his sword, hearing shuffling from behind him and turned to see a group of Kobolds nervously standing behind several anvils on the other end of the room. “And what are you staring at?” Callenfir growled, getting up from the bench that he worked on and sheathing his sword. “Get back to work you lousy slobs. We haven't got all day!” He roared, watching as they all immediately rushed back to several smithing stations and began working again. “Lousy... no good... I'll show them! I'll show them all how strong I am!” He roared, causing several of the Kobolds to jump before leaving the forge himself.
Meanwhile, on the bridge of the vessel, Titan sat quietly on his throne calculating his next move. “That was only the beginning. Callenfir's mistake was of small cost, but there cannot be a repeat of said mistake. I need something done about the Unicornicopians themselves. Something to break their resolve with... But how?” The sorcerer remained silent, one of his hands drumming impatiently on the armrest of his throne as multiple ideas to retaliate at the Unicornicopians seemed to either be filled with glaring holes, or outright ineffective. Titan stopped only for a moment as one of the doors to the bridge opened up, revealing Coristia. “What is it that you want Lich?” Titan snapped, watching from the corner of his eye as she prostrated herself before him.
“My lord, I am honored that you would even see me.” Coristia began, a sort of sick pleasure emitting from her voice. “I have an idea in which we can break the Unicornicopians, if you would allow me to voice it.”
Titan didn't answer. Between his three Generals, he had a sort of sick respect for the Lich but it didn't mean that he couldn't vaporize her when he had the chance. Still, Coristia was useful due to her level head and lack of sympathy for their enemies. “Speak your peace Lich. Though I doubt that there would be anything that you could do to aid in the capture of this planet.”
“My lord honors his humble servant.” Coristia replied, before rising slowly to a standing position. Titan did not appear to move save for one of his hands that continued to drum on the base of the arm rest with impatience. “I have had spies that have been placed on the surface of the planet for sometime keep a log of every city's importance to the main continent. There is a port settlement more than a weeks ride from the capital that keeps their military well stocked in arms and armor, providing for more than forty-five percent of their military's offensive capabilities.”
“Get to the point.” Titan snapped, his patience wearing thin.
“My lord, I humbly request that you send me and a small squad of soldiers down to assault this village. With it's destruction, the Unicornicopian War Machine will be reasonably out matched by your own powers, which will force them to surrender.” Coristia replied, hearing a low rumble emit from underneath Titan's hood.
“And how do you suppose that a small squad of soldiers is going to assist you in taking a city?” Titan snapped as Coristia took a silent breath.
“Because my lord, there is one thing that I am capable of that they aren't.” Coristia replied, concentrating for a moment before firing a bolt of eldritch fire at a kobold that had entered the room from the other side. The kobold let out a horrifying shriek before crumpling to the ground, dying before hitting the cold floor. Titan cast a glance over at the dead Kobold, watching as it's skin turned into a sickly grayish purple as its burns began to immediately scab over in black. It's eyes were black, soulless orbs that showed no emotion, and it lurched slightly as it calmly awaited orders.
“I am capable of turning the Unicornicopian Soldiers against each other.” The Lich said before bowing low again.
Titan remained silent. He understood that Necromancers, especially ones that rose to become Liches in their own right, were capable of raising the dead. But he also understood that it required time for a Necromancer to do so. As he pondered the possibility of the idea that Coristia posed onto him, the now Living Dead Kobold collapsed onto the floor into a puddle of blood. “There's also the possibility of her maintaining the control of the undead that she summons. Not that it isn't impossible for her, she was the cause of the destruction of Vanitas, planet of the Sky Caller Elves... But it is dangerous to leave her alone... Especially this early...”
The bridge remained silent as Coristia's proposal was being mentally debated through Titan's mind. After a few moments, the dark sorcerer turned to Coristia, his blood red eyes glaring at her viciously, “You have a week to prepare. I do not expect failure from you Coristia, don't disappoint me.” Titan commanded, glaring at the Lich.
“You honor me my Lord.” Coristia said a second time, prostrating herself before him. “Unicornicopia will fall before you. I shall not fail.” She said, feeling the gaze of her master penetrate her skull.
“See that you don't.” Titan snapped, turning his attention away from the Lich as she disappeared from whence she came. “Now Celesto... How will you respond?”
It had been almost a week since Coristia had requested to attack Unicornicopian surface. The Lich, while confident in her abilities, was noticeably keeping to herself as the Gnollish ship descended on the outskirts of the city. As most of the Gnollish soldiers were getting ready to disembark, the ship had almost made landfall, the door to the private compartment where the Lich was meditating opened. A thick billowing violet colored cloud plumed from her feet as she stepped forward, her eyes glaring at the Gnolls in front of her.
“M-M-My lady, we are making our final approach to the landing zone.” One of the Gnollish soldiers reported, watching as Coristia nodded.
“Excellent.” She replied. “Are we at the appropriate distance away from the target in question?” She asked, watching as several Gnolls nodded earnestly.
“O-Of course my lady, we are at the distance you've requested.” Another Gnoll reported nervously. “B-Begging your pardons though, w-w-why do we just not attack the city directly? It is just a small town.”
Coristia's eyes darkened to a dangerous looking black as she glared at the Gnoll. She watched as it's ears dropped low before the creature backed off, muttering apologies as it went. She then turned her gaze to her target, a modest looking town that was nestled in between two hills and a bay that led out into the ocean. Most of the buildings were made of some sort of stone, possibly marble from what she could guess based on the building materials that ran throughout the entire capital. She could see that there were several lights on in the streets, several of which still had yet to been paved, as several figures continued to walk along them. Most of the buildings were dark, save for a relatively modest sized fortification on the end of the city closest to the harbor. The harbor itself was also dark, and vacant as most of the ships she had assumed were gone off to other places on the planet.
“Milady, we're about to touch down.” One of the Gnollish soldiers, one dressed in a blood covered suit of chain mail, reported from the front. The Lich smirked, walking calmly over to the on ramp and remained silent as the craft's struts touched down. As the on ramp lowered from the main body of the ship, Coristia walked out onto it and calmly touched the earth of the planet. Gnolls followed her at a relatively safe distance, all due to the cloud of smoke that hovered and hung around her feet, and got ready to attack the city.
“Stonegate...” Coristia said, staring at a small sign that was posted at a cemetery nearby. “So that's what this place is called...” The Lich stepped closer to the cemetery, the cloud nearly doubling in size as she could smell the scent of the dead that was buried within.
“Milady, what are your orders?” The same Gnoll in bloody chain asked the Lich, watching as she turned to face them.
“You are to remain here with me while my spell does its work. You are also to remain silent while I work, no distractions. I want no one to interfere, and if someone does so much as think about breaking the perimeter I will have their heads as part of my next experiment. Is that clear?” She asked, watching as the Gnollish Soldiers all gave her a salute in understanding. The Lich nodded, turning her attention back to the city as who she assumed was the Lieutenant for the attack began whispering orders to his fellow soldiers and got them ready for battle. As they did so, Coristia took a seat on the cold earth, the cloud that now surrounded her slowly billowed out around her as she did so, before beginning to concentrate.
Several of the Gnollish soldiers stopped and stared at the sight of the cloud, which was now taking on more of a bubbling ooze-like quality and getting darker in color. The smell of pungent decay filled the air as the cloud touched the ground before oozing towards the city and getting bigger as it did so. As soon as it made it down the hill it was capable of filling a small pool, and the trail of death that it left behind was small compared to what was to come. They all shuddered, watching as the ooze dissipated and vanished before their eyes, appearing to cover the town in a thick blanket of fog.
“Now let their armies attempt to mobilize. This city will be nothing more than a skeleton by night's end.” Coristia said confidently, maintaining her position in what was now a barren patch of dirt. A black aura of magic enveloped her body soon after, breaking her disguise and revealing the corpse from within.
-Down in the City of Stonegate-
The City of Stonegate was normal enough in the daytime, the market square would be filled with different traders from all of the other ports in Unicornicopia, there would be weddings held in the church down by the bay, and there were plenty of ways that Goblin-kind and Orcs could work and live in harmony with each other. That and it was one of the Small-Arms capitols of the world. It was through the steel that the smiths and arrows that the fletchers would send to the capitol that most of the standing planetary army was outfitted and well equipped to handle any threat from simple marauders to the current crisis that was currently affecting their world. It didn't mean that they couldn't make a profit on the side though.
It was however on this particular night that the feel of the city was off. Everything seemed normal enough. Everyone was friendly during the daytime, but not so friendly as to let their guards down. But when the sun fell and the stars were revealed up above the city itself turned cold and unnervingly quiet. At least that's what the new recruit Galanog thought.
He was a soldier for the Unicornicopian Military. As was his father, and so on and so on. The orc really couldn't complain, at least he wasn't stuck with a birthmark that dictated and dominated his entire life like some of the unicorns that were stationed in the city. But he felt bored with being posted for guard duty, especially in a city that wouldn't see any fighting at all.
As the other, more experienced soldiers were off in the garrison, he was ordered to walk the streets with some of the other rookies, being one of the more experienced ones there to show them the ropes. He had to deal with whining and complaining from several of the other guards, mostly other unicorns who wanted to fight against Titan's army and didn't want to be stuck in the same position that he was in, which he promptly got under control. The orc was known for his dedication to the job, though his previous superiors refused to agree with that statement, and as he made his third round the main square, Galanog thought it was best to head back and rotate.
That was an hour ago, before the fog rolled in.
“Strange... I didn't think that there would be fog for this kind of night...” Galanog thought, making his way through the streets in the direction that he hoped would lead him to the garrison and eventually his bed. The orc stopped, tensing up as he saw a shadow move towards him in the dark. “Who's there?” He asked gruffly, watching as the shadow continued to advance.
The shadow said nothing, taking the shape of a unicorn that appeared to be walking with a limp. A pungent stench of decay met the Orc's nose which caused him to recoil slightly and take a few steps back. “Whoa, back up there buddy. You're just two days short from the Grim Reaper's fiesta.” Galanog said, watching as the shadow continued to advance. “Umm... Hello? Did you not hear me?” He asked, watching as the shadow stopped moving. After a few moments it started moving again, this time accompanied by the sounds of a hoof being dragged across the ground and a low groan emitting from it's direction.
The orc moved his hand to the sword at his side, and stood ready. He figured that it was probably a bunch of rich kids trying to scare and get the best of him, and part of him hoped that was the case, but he was ready for the worst. The groaning continued as the shadow began to take on a more defined shape, it was definitely a unicorn from what Galanog could see but it was also missing a wing. Something was definitely wrong, and the Orc was determined to find out what. He stepped forward, drawing the sword that he was given by his commanding officer from his first role as a leader and gasped.
In front of him stood a unicorn, or what was left of one, bleeding heavily from multiple bite wounds that were on it's arms and legs as a huge section of its chest was torn out viciously. Most of the feathers on one of its wings was gone as most of the other wing had appeared to have been chewed off as the horn on it's head was gone. Its eyes were also devoid of any color, and gave Galanog a look of emotionless hunger which seemed to last for eternity. It's left leg was twisted at such an angle as to have appeared to have been broken several times over, and an aura of black magic surrounded its frame.
“By the Grand Ruler...” Galanog whispered, taking several steps back. He watched as the dead unicorn slowly advanced on him, groaning in agony all the while, appearing to suffer at the same time. The Orc didn't waist any time. With a battle cry he charged, and swung his sword directly at the beast only to watch as it was blocked by a barrier. He turned and stopped with horror as several more unicorns, looking almost like the soldiers under his command, advanced from the darkness towards him. The Orc backed up, his soldiers surrounding him like mindless slaves to some puppet master, and attempted to swing his sword a second time only to have it stopped by an all black aura. The first undead unicorn's horn was radiating the same colored magic, and seemed intent on holding him in that position as they finally closed in on the kill. The orc, seeing that his sword was lost, released the blade and let it drop to the ground. But by then it was too late.
The sounds of the Orc's screams pierced the night as the undead soldiers tore into his flesh, gutting him and leaving his body to join their ranks. From the hill above Stonegate, Coristia smiled.
-The Rainbow Capitol, A week after Lightning's lesson with the Grand Ruler-
“Come on Lightning, don't give up!”
“You can do it!”
“It's all you. Just a little bit more and you've got it.”
Lightning strained against the stone block, his head and horn felt like they were going to split in half with all of the magic that he was using. His friends were asked to watch him as he attempted to lift the training stone and move it, but he could barely get it off of the ground even after a few days working on it, let alone lift it.
“I... Can't!” Lightning shouted, the yellow aura around his horn sputtering out and dying as the aura around the block disappeared. With a loud crunch the stone block smashed into the grass of Lightning's backyard, and sank in a little. It was closely followed by Lightning, who was down on his hands and knees panting as though he ran a marathon.
“Well... The good news is that you got it up about a half a foot.” Buddy rose replied, watching as Moonbeam and Krysta passed Lightning a glass of water.
“Yeah... The bad news is that I still can't last long enough to move it though...” Lightning groaned before taking glass that was in Moonbeam's hands and downing it. The unicorn wiped the sweat from his brow and groaned, moving to a sitting position as Drawn Out walked over to where he was sitting.
“I don't think that it's a matter of brute force Lightning.” Drawn Out said, watching as Lightning continued to pant. “If it was, then this whole exercise would have been over by now.”
“Why don't you think that its about brute force?” Krysta asked, looking up at the dark blue unicorn.
“Well when I was taught telekinesis, I was taught that the trick behind it was a balance of power and finesse. Something that some unicorns don't even understand until they use it almost all of the time.” Drawn Out said his horn flaring up with a blue aura as his sketchbook, which was right next to Buddy Rose who was sitting right where the workers finished patching up Lightning's backyard, before it floated over and gently landed in his waiting arms. “This is probably a test of your control. Something that we all need to know if not for once in our lives.”
There was a rumbling sound that came from the front door as Lightning attempted to understand what Drawn Out was getting at. They listened as the rumbling stopped before it was shortly followed by the sound of hooves running across the pavement. Lightning and Krysta both shared a look as Moonbeam went to get the door and saw that Ottavo was standing on the other side with an urgent look on his face.
“Ottavo, what's wrong?” Lightning asked, getting to his hooves.
“Everyone, get your stuff together. We're needed at the main gates.” Ottavo said urgently, causing everyone to share a nervous glance.
“What happened?” Buddy asked.
“Stonegate was attacked last night.” Ottavo replied quickly. “I can't explain right now, but the commander on duty will fill the rest of you in. We need to go now!” He said, watching as everyone else made their way to the front. Krysta stopped halfway and folded her arms as Lightning turned to her, his bow and quiver at the ready.
“You'd better come home okay? I don't want to be worried about you.” Krysta snapped, watching Lightning smile.
“Don't worry Krysta, I'll be fine.” Lightning said, watching as the fairy nodded before turning to go with the others. He thought he heard Krysta say something else, and turned to see only the fairy give him an earnest smile, before walking out the front door with the rest of his friends.
It didn't take them long to meet up with the military force that was stationed at the city gates, Ottavo's Sky-Rider made sure of that, it had appeared that they were just in time to get ready to head towards the affected area.
“There they are!” An orcish soldier shouted from the Unicornicopian ranks as Lightning and his friends dismounted from Ottavo's Sky-rider. Several soldiers turned as the unicorns walked over to where a very burly looking orc stood, appearing ready to cut through an entire enemy battalion.
“So, you finally made it huh?” The orc asked, watching as Lightning and his friends walked up towards him. His silvery armor appeared to be stained with dried blood as a massive battle ax rested on his back, which intimidated Lightning a little. He stepped forward, looking at their group until he spotted Lightning and nodded. “All right, now we're ready to go.” He said, giving a smirk.
“What's the situation?” Ottavo asked, watching the Orc smile.
“The town of Stonegate was attacked last night. It seemed to be that the entire town was devastated. Scouts reported that they saw some movement from several of the cemeteries nearby, and thought to report it. A team of Unicorn and Orcish mages confirmed that the area was affected by incredibly powerful Necromancy, and that there is a strong possibility that a Lich maybe involved.” The Orc explained. He watched as the unicorns all shared a look before smiling.
“Thanks for the brief sir.” Ottavo replied, watching as the Orc nodded.
“You needed the information and I gave it to you. It was as simple as that.” He said, before turning to a small table and grabbing several visors from it. He turned back to Lightning and his friends and passed them out, grinning at the look on Lightning's face. “Seems like you've got a greenhorn on your squad.” He said.
Lightning looked up from the visor that he was given, watching as his friends were all wearing theirs before blushing slightly. “Sorry... This is kinda only my third battle.” He said, watching the orc smile.
“Don't worry kid. I'm sure your friends will help you out with your Tactical Assistant Display.” The orc replied, watching as Lightning fit the visor over his face and eyes. He chuckled a little, watching as Lightning wowed when several windows popped up on the screen of the visor before the whole thing went completely invisible before his eyes. “Yeah, now you're ready to be fightin' in this army!” The orc exclaimed proudly. “Though it doesn't beat a good sturdy axe and a warrior's intuition. Those'll never let you down.”
The orc slapped Lightning on the back before redirecting his attention back to the rest of his men. As quickly as they had met, Lightning was immediately being led back to where Ottavo's Sky-rider was parked before he got a word in. “Who was that?” Lightning asked, watching as everyone else began to climb aboard the Sky-rider.
“That was the head of the Berserker Corps Commander Golgranesh.” Buddy explained, watching as Lightning clambered into the Sky-rider. “It's interesting that he would be handing out our Displays, as usually he's seen without them.”
“Why's that?” Lightning asked, staring at the Orc commander as he began an arm wrestle with one of his soldiers, deftly beating him with cheers all around.
“It's because whenever he get's in the thick of battle, half of them get smashed into oblivion.” Drawn Out replied. “He isn't a Berserker for nothing. Though I have to wonder why they gave him one in the first place.”
“All right guys, stow it for now.” Ottavo said, pushing a button on his Display. “Lightning, seeing as how this is your first time using the system, I'll explain how to use it on the way. We're gonna need you to be up to speed on how it works after all.” The pink unicorn said before the Sky-Rider's engine roared to life. “The detachment of the Berserkers from the Main Military force will arrive just as we do. So you should be ready by that time.”
“Oh... Okay.” Lightning replied, seeing the stern look on the daredevil's face. “Well then let's get this over with.” He said, watching as the numerous soldiers that were in formation had already begun their march towards Stonegate. The Sky-Rider followed closely only for the first mile away from the capitol before breaking off from the main force at a fork in the road and sped off.
The tutorial that Lightning's friends gave the unicorn on the Tactical Assistant Display was brief in most senses of the word. After three attempts to try and get him to register with the system before it actually accepted him and recognized his voice was the most daunting of the tasks as the unicorn wasn't totally tech-savvy. It eventually made them stop partway between the Rainbow Capitol and Stonegate to get the Display up. After that, it was smooth sailing relatively speaking with guiding Lightning through the menus and the readouts that were displayed on the screen in front of his eyes.
“All right, the situation is this. According to the display, scouts have reported that there's a huge surge of necromantic magics in the area. Almost double than that of normal.” Ottavo began, continuing to focus on the road as the sun began to set behind them.
“This could lead to two things: a group of Necromancers that let a Spell get out of control, or Titan's military has attempted to use their Lich in establishing a beach-head.” Moonbeam said, looking at the readout in front of her.
“But Necromancers have to get special permission from the Tower of High Magics back at the capitol to practice a spell, and even then there's a trained regiment of soldiers to destroy and disrupt the spell in case it gets too out of hand.” Drawn Out replied.
“So Titan's behind this.” Lightning said coldly.
“Right, so what's the mission Commander in Training?” Buddy asked, looking down from his seat towards Lightning.
“I don't think that Lightning's gonna be leading this one yet Buddy.” Drawn Out replied, looking to Ottavo. “But the plan is for us to find the source of the corruption along side the Berserker Corps, and eventually drive the Lich back to whatever hole it crawled out of.”
“That's the general idea.” Ottavo said, slowing down as the formation of Unicornicopian soldiers appeared from the other path that led into the city.
As the Unicorns pulled up, the city had taken on a dark and vile look, just like the Temple of Unity did when they fought Titan. Most of the buildings were mere ruins of what they once were, the stone of the buildings crumbling and disintegrating into dust as an all blackish purple miasma covered the ground before them. The pungent smell of death and decay hung through the air as they dismounted, giving Lightning time to recover from the smell before approaching the city.
“So... we all ready to rid the universe of another Lich?” The orc commander asked, hearing a cheer that sounded more like a blood-thirsty war cry come from most, if not all of the other Orcish and Unicorn soldiers under his command. He smiled before turning his back to his troops and drawing his massive Battle ax. “No one charges unless I give the go. Is that clear?” He asked, listening as the group behind him shouted, “Yes sir!” in acknowledgment. “Don't worry you guys. Stick with me and do what you're ordered and you'll make it alive.” Commander Golgranesh said, casting a glance at Lightning and his friends.
Lightning paled at the Orc commander's comment, but only slightly. Shaking off the rest of his nerves as best as he could, the yellow unicorn stringed bow and readied himself as his friends changed into their armor. After watching as the commander gave Lightning a curious eye, the Orc then stepped forward boldly into the city, the regiment of Berserkers and Lightning and his friends following behind him.
“Lightning, stay close until you're ready to change.” Moonbeam whispered as she and the other unicorns closed up in a tight formation near the yellow unicorn.
“Right.” Lightning replied, knocking an arrow onto his string as he followed the crowd of soldiers.
The search for the enemy went street by street, and block by block. The Orcish commander would stop every once and a while as a group of shadows would be revealed only to dash off before he could get a word. Several times Lightning could have sworn that he heard a groan of pain come from the distance, but even in the thicker parts of the miasma it seemed like a trick from the wind.
The darkness wasn't the only thing getting to Lightning, as several times he had to stop and catch his breath due to the stench of decay. He didn't appear to be the only one affected by the smog, as it was also taking it's toll on the berserkers that were with them. It didn't help that the unicorn couldn't help but feel like they were being watched, even as they approached what seemed to be the town square.
“Is it just me or is the smell getting worse?” Moonbeam whispered, watching as several Berserkers appeared to be ready to hurl.
“That's just it though. We can smell that they're here, but thanks to this fog...” Ottavo stopped, tensing up as a realization struck him. “Everyone, be on your guard!” He shouted, readying his hammer. The other unicorns nodded, following his lead as the Orc commander and his soldiers readied themselves.
A shrill laugh made itself known as the Unicornicopian soldiers got into a circular formation, with those with longer weapons, spears specifically, standing out in front. Lightning scanned the smog as the laugh continued, not daring to make a singular move as the one who taunted them silenced themselves.
“So... finally one of your number has caught on to the little game?” A familiar voice sneered, causing a slight amount of panic in the Unicornicopian troops.
“Who's there!” Commander Golgranesh roared, readying his axe and staring into the fog. “Show yourself!”
“Hmph, a barbarian such as yourself cannot comprehend the position that you are currently in and you are giving me orders?” The voice snapped coldly, causing a shiver to run down Lightning's spine.
“Well... That solves our problem of finding out who's the cause of this fog...” Lightning said, seeing Buddy nod from out of the corner of his eye.
“Yeah. But why here?” Ottavo thought, continuing to stare into the darkness.
“Oh, you poor pathetic coils of flesh. You try to understand why I am here, yet you have an ample chance to flee for your lives. It's a wonder the Unicornicopian Military was so easy to knock down during our initial encounter.” The voice shot back, as the group of soldiers continued to scan their surroundings.
As they all continued to look through the fog to see who was speaking, a pair of bright red eyes glared through the smog at them it was followed shortly by several others, as a mass of shadows formed around them in a complete circle. Everywhere they looked they could see a pair of vicious, glowing red eyes that was accompanied by a respective shadow, and after a few moments of silence, low ominous growls could be heard from said shadows.
“Lightning, get ready to suit up.” Ottavo instructed, tensing up as the growling intensified.
“Right.” Lightning replied, his horn flaring up with a gentle golden light. As soon as the light from his horn appeared, the shadows growled even more viciously, as they appeared to back off at the source.
“I'm afraid that it's too late for you to be thinking about counteracting my spell fools.” The voice said confidently, as the growls became snarls and howls of pain, “But it is time for you to become a part of the legion that will cause this nation to fall. End them.” The voice commanded, fading amongst the snarling and groaning of the shadows that surrounded Lightning, the soldiers, and his friends.
The shadows attack came in earnest, as they charged the regiment with full force. It took some time for the soldiers to register what was coming from the smog, but the source of the rotting stench was too much even for the most trained members of the berserkers to deny. There, doing a mix between a lurch and a shamble, was at one time the villagers from the City of Stonegate each now an undead mockery of what they once were, and out for their blood.
“Everyone, don't let them near you!” Commander Golgranesh shouted, pulling a double-bladed axe from his back and swinging it in a fluid motion, taking the heads of several undead in front of him. As their bodies dropped to the ground, several soldiers lowered their spears around Lightning as he and his friends backed off, impaling the advancing hordes as they continued to push onto their position.
“We're totally surrounded!” Lightning could hear one of the soldiers shout over the growling of the hordes, as they continued to be pushed back into the center of the formation. As Lightning fell back, he could see the growing panic in several of the soldier's eyes, and could tell that some of them weren't ready for this.
“Buddy, Moonbeam, you guys think that you can blow some of this gas away?” The yellow unicorn asked, watching as they turned to him. They both shared a glance before nodding just as Lightning nocked an arrow. “Don't worry, I'll cover you!” He said, watching as both unicorns took off in their armor, their horns aglow with magic.
Just as Moonbeam and Buddy left, the unicorn saw several arrows fly towards their positions only to get stopped by a multicolored barrier generated by Ottavo and Drawn Out. Using what he saw as a guide, the unicorn loosed an arrow before quickly repeating the process. Both arrows sailed over the crowds around him, and disappeared into the smog only to be met with several screams from above the carnage. Lightning smirked slightly, repeating the process as several more arrows came from every possible direction around them, and was soon followed by more of his fellow soldiers.
As Moonbeam and Buddy concentrated, a heavy cyclone of water and ice began to form around them. It started from the base of their hooves and began to extend outward, growing bigger and bigger as the seconds passed. As the cyclone grew, the miasma that hung around the undead began to clear which allowed the Unicornicopians to better assess the situation. In less than half a minute(And with other unicorns in the unit feeding into their spell as it grew) the cyclone had managed to dissipate the fog surrounding and cloaking the undead that surrounded them.
As the fog lifted, the Unicornicopian Soldiers could see that they were outnumbered from the size of the undead citizens that had surrounded them both. What worried the Commander, and to some extent Lightning, were the Gnolls that had taken to hiding on the rooftops on the buildings that surrounded the square that they were in. The unicorn narrowly dodged an arrow that came whizzing by his head seconds before, only to respond with an arrow of his own.
“Guys we're pinned down here, we need to take down those archers!” Ottavo shouted over his radio, launching a rocket that he had summoned from thin air. The unicorn used his magic to hastily throw up a pink barrier to protect himself as three more arrows were directed at his head, but couldn't get another shot off as several more arrows pounded into his barrier, shattering it and knocking him into the ground.
Drawn Out also had trouble with the archers, the dark blue unicorn was just as pinned down as the others were and could only defend as several Gnollish archers continued to rain down arrows on top of him and the rest of the Unicornicopian soldiers. “I can't do too much here, these guys just don't know when to quit!” He shouted, getting knocked back into Ottavo who was generating an equally battered barrier. Both unicorns' barriers had taken a beating, appearing close to shattering due to the bombardment, but just as quickly as the arrows had begun to rain down on their heads they stopped.
The soldiers on the ground watched as Buddy Rose and Moonbeam, along with several other Unicorns that had flown up with them after the cyclone they generated, had begun their own counterattack on the Gnollish positions.
“Nice work guys...” Lightning thought before concentrating his volley of arrows at the undead surrounding their unit. In less than a minute the unicorn readied and loosed three arrows, each of them burying themselves into the body of one of the undead soldiers before it fell from a blow by another orc's spear.
“Commander, we need to take out the Necromancer!” One of the soldiers shouted towards Golgranesh as the carnage continued. The orc commander looked around and stopped, pointing at Lightning, Drawn Out and Ottavo along with several other soldiers. “When I say go, you break through the undead lines and make a break for the cemetery! Is that clear?” He smiled slightly as they all gave a resounding, “YES SIR!” And readied their weapons.
The orc commander raised his axe high before letting out a mighty roar. The undead that had managed to stay alive through the initial clash only stopped for a moment before growling and roaring in response. Commander Golgranesh then charged forward, plowing into several undead and pushing them backwards with a might that Lightning hadn't seen before. The Unicornicopian Soldiers all shared a glance before following the commander through the crowds of undead and the hail of arrows before actually breaking free of those that surrounded them. Lightning stopped only once, watching as the orc commander began carving up several undead that had charged after him, only to have a hand plant itself on his shoulder and drag him away.
“He's going to be fine Lightning.” Drawn Out whispered into his ear as he and the other soldiers pulled him along. “We need to get going.”
“Right...” Lightning thought quietly, watching as Buddy and Moonbeam left the other unicorns that were flying above the battle and joined them. “Come on, let's go!” He shouted, running to keep up with the rest of the group.
As the battle below continued, Coristia mentally cursed. She had hoped that the soldiers of Unicornicopia had already been bitten, but had not counted on the unicorn's shielding capabilities in protecting them. Yes, she was about to lose the minor foothold that she had worked hard to establish but in other ways the Lich figured that she could break their morale.
“Milady Coristia, a smaller squad of Unicornicopian soldiers have breached the undead formation and are approaching from the town square.” A Gnoll reported, taking a step back as Coristia turned to look at him. Gone was her pale skin, replaced by rotting and dead flesh as gaping holes where her nose and eyes would be radiated with black magic.
“And what, pray-tell, do you expect me to do about it?” The Lich snapped, her words echoing with a slumbering and powerful voice that intimidated the Gnoll.
“I-I-I... I was ju-
Silence fool.” Coristia snapped, as a black tendril of magical energy erupted from underneath where she sat and impaled the Gnoll. As the tendril sank below the ground, a small smirk could barely be seen on her decayed face. “Let them come. They shall know my true wrath soon enough.”
The road to the cemetery was just as eerie as the way into the city. Lightning could barely make out several Gnoll-shaped targets in the trees around them, but his focus was the cemetery ahead. He could see the outline of a Gnollish shuttle sitting in the center of the cemetery through the trees, appearing to remain in an idle state. The unicorn returned his focus to the path ahead, following his friends and allies up the slope of the hill as they neared their target.
Just as they made it halfway the hill, a group of thirty or so Gnolls emerged from the trees that surrounded them and leapt out to attack. Lightning parried a spear thrust from one of them before retaliating with a strike from his bow. Several other Gnolls leapt at Lightning, only to be cut down by a combination of spells from Drawn Out and Buddy Rose.
Several soldiers continued to clash with the Gnolls just as Lightning pushed through the group in front of him. He turned, readying and firing several arrows into a group of the enemy soldiers, dropping a few with several well-placed shots. The other Unicornicopian soldiers continued to hold off the gnolls, which forced Lightning to turn and rush up the hill with his friends following close behind. “Everyone stay alert!” Lightning could hear Ottavo shout just as they reached the top of the hill.
The cemetery was quiet, too quiet even for a cemetery in the dead of night. Lightning couldn't hear too much of anything, no wind, no sound, it was even too quiet for a pin to drop. The stench of death and decay was heavier here than in the town square, and forced the unicorn to put a hand to his nose.
“So... The Grand Ruler's precious hand-picked squad has come to save the day haven't they?” The voice of the Lich Coristia echoed throughout the graveyard.
“Come on out and fight Lich!” Moonbeam snapped, stepping forward as Lightning readied another arrow.
“No... I don't think I will. But...” Coristia's voice paused just as several black tendrils erupted from around the unicorns, each grabbing and lifting several tombstones that were around the area. After a few moments the tendrils threw the stones at the unicorns, causing them to scatter.
“You guys okay?” Lightning asked, leaping over a tendril as it attempted to smash into him. He ducked another one that took a swipe at his head before readying an arrow and loosing it at the shadow in front of him. Mentally the unicorn groaned, watching as it harmlessly passed through the mass of black magic only to avoid being smashed by it seconds later.
Moonbeam leapt and avoided several tendril strikes as her horn glowed a bright white. After a few seconds, a snowball roughly the size of a melon appeared in her hands before she threw it at a tendril that flung itself at her. She avoided the incoming mass of magic, readying and throwing another snowball only to watch as it harmlessly passed through them without any effect. “Nothing I do is working!” She cried before getting smacked back to the ground by her magical adversary.
Ottavo darted and dodged as several tendrils were on him at once, each trying to grapple and throw the nimble unicorn to the ground. The pink unicorn didn't have time to charge up for a spell only because as soon as he did, another tendril would be on him. The unicorn landed, his back pressing against Buddy who was using his flail to block hit after hit. “It's like nothing we do can do anything to these things!” Buddy shouted, blocking another attack from one of the tendrils as Ottavo landed.
“I've got nothing!” Ottavo snapped, summoning his hammer and following suit with Buddy.
Drawn Out was also unable to do anything against the tendrils that were plaguing them, his sketchbook was knocked out of his hands as several of the magical constructs smashed him into where Buddy and Ottavo were standing, knocking the two unicorns over. Quickly, he threw up a shield which blocked several blows from the magic just as they recovered only to look towards Lightning. “We need something to take these things out with!”
Lightning did his best to remain as calm as he could. They needed a way out, and his friends were looking to him to provide with an answer. He stopped, only for a second as the realization dawned on him. Quickly he nocked an arrow and concentrated, calling on the Uniforce that slumbered inside him. His bow then changed into its dragonic form as the mouth where his left hand let out a low-pitched roar. “Everyone's counting on me... Gotta make this shot count.” Lightning thought, calmly sidestepping a tendril that attempted to smash into him. The unicorn closed his eyes, thinking back to how his father taught him how to shoot and turned on instinct.
Coristia, who was well outside the range of her own illusion watched curiously as the unicorn drew back the arrow on the bow and waited, dodging several tendrils in the process. She could see that his eyes were closed, and that he appeared to not pay attention to the battle around him at all. “What does he think he's doing?” Coristia thought, her eyes narrowing. Calmly, she took a step back only to hear a branch crack from under her boot which caused the unicorn's head to shoot up into her direction.
The sound was all he needed.
Concentrating on where the sound came from, Lightning pulled the bow-string back as far as it would go before releasing the arrow, opening his eyes and watching it fly beyond the tendrils that were around him. The unicorn heard a dull, “THUNK,” and watched as the tendrils around them all disappeared. Lightning smirked, watching as Coristia struggled to remove the arrow that was buried in her left shoulder from the tree for almost a minute as his friends rushed over to him.
“Nice shot there Lightning.” Buddy complimented, watching Lightning ready another.
“Thanks, but this isn't over yet.” He said, watching as the arrow finally snapped, causing the Lich to step forward.
“You think that you can take me?” Coristia snapped. “A bunch of foals that haven't even seen the true terrors of battle? Don't make me laugh.” She snapped, charging forward as balls of black magical energy formed in her hands.
“Let's go guys!” Lightning shouted, firing another arrow at the lich before charging towards her with his friends. The initial arrow didn't make an impact with Coristia's body as she summoned a staff that looked like a pair of snakes intertwined with each other whose heads were mounted into a ribcage of a humanoid in between the two black orbs of energy and blocked the arrow before closing the distance with Lightning and his friends. The stock of Lightning's bow and her staff struck together with a resounding, “THUNK,” before Coristia used the butt end of her staff to knock Lightning to the ground. She then turned, bringing her staff upwards to block an attack sent her way by Buddy's flail before rounding on Moonbeam and placing a smart kick in her chest.
Drawn Out and Ottavo leapt at the Lich, each of their weapons connecting with her staff before being forced back off of her. Coristia's eyes began to radiate an all black energy just as Buddy and Ottavo's horns flared up with magic, before unleashing a wave of magic at all of the standing unicorns, knocking them flying. As she did this, Lightning rolled out of the way and swung his bow at her head, landing a decisive strike against her. The Lich turned before swinging the staff she wielded back at Lightning, and knocking him backwards.
“You've got some skill... for mortals.” Coristia sneered, blocking several attacks from Buddy before receiving a strike from Moonbeam's whip from her side. The Lich turned, swinging her staff wildly at Moonbeam, who deftly dodged, before taking a blow from Ottavo's hammer to one of her legs. “But even skill will only take you so far.” She snapped, rising again to swing her staff at Drawn Out before blocking an arrow that was launched by Lightning's bow. She concentrated a second time, creating a shock wave of black energy which knocked the unicorns to the ground before turning towards the Gnollish ship.
“Where do you think you're going?” Lightning snapped, an arrow of raw magical energy glowing inside his bow as his horn radiated golden magic. The Lich turned and stopped ever so slightly, watching Lightning as he continued to aim at her.
“Hmm... It's such a shame that I cannot stay. My master has recognized the failure of this mission, and I am to return to him with any survivors.” Coristia said, unblinking as she watched Lightning continue to concentrate. “Oh, you think you can destroy me with your control of the Uniforce boy? Please, I'm more afraid of Callenfir's breath weapon than your light show.” She snapped, holding up a barrier of magic just as Lightning let his arrow fly. The arrow of magic slammed into her barrier with unprecedented force, causing Coristia to slide back several feet before redirecting the arrow skyward. “Then again... You could prove to be a decent shot.” She said finally, calmly striding on board.
Ottavo, Buddy, and Drawn Out charged after her only to be held back as several arrows from a group of Gnolls that remained on the ship kept them back. The volley continued until the gangplank lifted out of their reach except through flight, and closed before they could get close. As the shuttle took off, the three unicorns rushed over to Lightning, who was kneeling in the grass, panting for breath as his armor disappeared.
“Damn... She got away...” Lightning cursed, glaring at the shuttle as it flew off. He got to his hooves with the help of Moonbeam and Buddy just as the sounds of a victorious horn could be heard from the town below.
“Looks like the berserkers made it out all right.” Moonbeam said calmly, looking down as the darkened form of the city of Stonegate was brightened up for them to see.
“Yeah, let's get down there.” Ottavo said calmly, walking forward before stopping. “Lightning, you did good out there. Give yourself another battle or two and I'll be sure that you're squad leader material.”
Lightning smiled lightly. “Well thanks, but I couldn't do it without you guys.” He said, resting the bow over his shoulder. “I just wish that we could have gotten her sooner...” The yellow unicorn paused, taking a few steps towards the city. “We could have prevented this.”
“But we know that Titan's playing for keeps.” Drawn Out said, as they all nodded.
“Well next time, we need to be ready.” Lightning said finally before walking forward, his friends following him.
-Back on Titan's Ship-
The Kobolds on the bridge ducked for cover as bolts of black colored lightning streaked from Titan's Hands, slamming into Coristia and knocking her backwards. The Lich did not make a sound as the electricity appeared to be capable of killing a lesser being. Titan stopped his assault moments later, watching as Coristia returned to prostrating herself before him.
“My lord, I humbly and most sincerely apologize for my failure on the attack on the planet. Words cannot express-
Be silent Lich.” Titan snapped darkly, cutting Coristia off. The sorcerer, who had been standing over the course of Coristia's torture sat down on his throne and glared at the prostrated Lich. “You have failed me. That is not excusable. However...” Titan paused, his eyes glowing for a second as a ball of black energy appeared in front of him before revealing the Rainbow Capitol's citizens all silent for the people that once lived in Stonegate, “You did damage their morale, and their war effort. While I would have preferred you to have captured the city and set it up as a base of operations for a land invasion of the planet, you did manage to cause damage and that is commendable. But, do not take this as a compliment. The next time that you fail me, I will cast you out into the black voids of a black hole where your kind belong. Is that clear?”
The Lich remained silent, only nodding slightly as Titan's words fell on her dead ears. “Of course my lord. I shall not fail you again.” She said, looking up as the dread sorcerer waved her off. The Lich then rose before leaving the sorcerer alone on the deck, not making so much as a sound as she left the throne.
“So... Lightning Dawn is the one who is your herald Celesto?” Titan thought, continuing to glare out into the black void of space. “Interesting...”
The following day, news of the attack reached the citizenry. Most were outraged at the lack of honor that Titan's forces had in the merciless slaughter of hundreds of civilians in the city. The blow to their industry was less than expected, but Stonegate was not suitable for occupation until the city was cleaned up from all of the necromantic energies that permeated through the area.
Lightning hadn't heard anything from The Grand Ruler, and only imagined how angry he was. The unicorn had read that the losses that the Berserker Corps were minor as reported from those that were on the scene. However, Lightning could count on several hundred dead due to the pain suffered from the arrows that the Gnolls that were using. He knew that coming home alive was the bright side of things, but there was something in his gut that told him he had failed.
“Lightning... Lightning what's wrong?” Krysta asked, looking up at Lightning as he stared out into their backyard.
“Nothing Krysta.” Lightning lied. “Nothing's wrong.”
The fairy remained silent, feeling it best not to press the matter, and went back to reading as Lightning continued to stare out into the backyard. They both knew the problem, but it was something that Lightning didn't want to say. It was something that was caught in his throat and didn't want to leave.
He failed and he knew it.
-end of Chapter 4-