Book 2 – Text Updates 051
The booms and cracking came in regular volleys of three. The walls shook visibly. Ornaments fell. Plaster snowed lightly from the ceiling.
And in these moments, Countess Artemis and her Knights moved through the carpeted hallways.
Four steps per boom, then hold. Twelve steps' progress per volley.
Her stack would not be able to move freely for long. There were enemy soldiers in these halls (soldiers who had arisen this morning in Jetstone colors). But the Countess needed a vantage for her longbow, somewhere far enough away from the siege dwagons that she could take a distanced shot at whoever was leading them. Ideally, that would be the Croakamancer with the Arkenpliers, but her Knights had said she had not been spotted during Prince Tramennis' ill-fated charge. There had been action in the Portal Room, and it was speculated that she had already escaped to the Magic Kingdom.
Well, so be it. Artemis would simply shoot out the leadership of the purples, whoever that was. If the Croakamancer had fled, then at least she could lend no bonus to these Decrypted units. And it was that much less likely that Artemis and her Knights might arise in new colors themselves.
All she needed was a crit, and she could feel she had one in her.
Her stack progressed at last to a small servants' corridor looking in on the Atrium, with a remarkably clear view to the red-headed Warlady's flank. Artemis peeked at her counterpart. She rode the most powerful purple, directing sonic blow after blow upon the tower.
The redhead was a Level 6, so a crit was not unlikely. But she was reckless at best and foolish at worst. She had done nothing to protect herself from this angle (or her other flank, for that matter). A shot from here, Titans willing, might save the Kingdom. For they would rush to the King's aid in the confusion, and retrieve His Highness as the Prince had attempted.
Should she miss (admittedly likely) then they would have to rush in and engage that stack. Her orders she gave with hand signals backed by the clarity of her leadership.
I will shoot on the third volley
upon a crit, withdraw
upon a hit or miss, engage the warlord's stack and croak purples
once engaged, screen me for another shot
so long as any of you live, keep screening for my bow
Her Knights looked to her with the gleam of absolute faith, and nodded their understanding. She drew an arrow, nocked it firm.
The red-headed Warlord paused, and looked up. With a businesslike point, she ordered another volley. Two dwagons inhaled.
The next pair of purples in the stack inhaled. The Warlord had not moved. Artemis drew back her bowstring.
The second volley seemed to do an unusually serious amount of damage to the tower. Portions of the stonework slumped and flaked away.
But Artemis was not distracted. She could feel the range, the distance to her target in her shoulders and her arms. This would be the shot. The third pair of dwagons inhaled.
Sitting upon his brother's carpet, Ossomer had been watching the tower top shake. He thought it odd to see men thrown about and shaken to their knees just a few feet away, though he could feel none of it.
His father, after a moment's initial panic, had taken to standing with his feet apart, hands on hips, looking to the horizon. Twice had the King stumbled, but he had yet to fall.
Ace was doing something with the Royal Scepter, with the Hat Magician close by. Pierce and the Dittomancer were arguing about something, and had once run into the main tower and returned.
Suddenly, a particularly violent blast shivered up the tower. A section of railing and part of the floor of the veranda crumbled away and fell.
In the unreality of the moment, Ossomer's only thought was for the fate of the odd-shaped stone tile he had been dwelling upon moments ago. Looking down, he could swear he spotted it in the falling debris.
He raised his head to the tower top's edge. Yes, it was gone.
The loss of it was...actually something to him. He looked again, unable to believe the stone wasn't there. Was that right?
It had been where it belonged, and now it wasn't. Was that fair?
He looked up at his father, who seemed oblivious to the shouts and rumbles and cracks around him. The stone tile was lost. The tower would crumble and fall.
A tear spilled over his eyelid, completely shocking him. Where did that come from? And where... And where would it fall? Did the Titans really know such things?
Inside him, the Tower Ossomer began to crumble as well.
Headshot. Artemis released, and felt the arrow arc as true as any she had ever loosed upon enemy or game. Her bow fell to her side as she watched it with a rising smile of joy. This arrow would do the Titans' work.
Only now, in the context of the arrow's flight, did she pay heed to the debris that was falling around her target's stack. Glass, masonry and splinters of wooden beams were striking the ground in front of, and even among the enemy dwagons.
The arrow could only be seen as a tiny sliver from here, as it homed true upon her counterpart's red pate. But Artemis' eyes were keen as a superb owl's, and though it took her a moment to understand what she had seen, she did clearly see it happen.
Not two yards from its target, the arrow had struck a falling stone tile and deflected slightly. The redheaded warlord had seen it pass before her eyes.
And then the enemy commander turned her head, locked equally-sharp eyes with Artemis, and grinned.