Casters' burden Part 4
Part 3 here: http://www.erfworld.com/blog/view/56841/casters-burden-part-3
They came, on the wings of ice and darkness, as the battle song of the kingdom ended. They have waited for the infantry and they attacked the same moment the infantry had arrived, the sky filling with dark orbs and thrown knives in the same moment. And they were ugly as sin, as Novak knew they would be, their scream echoing in the sky, unnatural, magnified by their foolamancy in a try to sap the spirits of defenders.
Archons of Croaking, they were called, sometimes, the natural opposite of the Hellonurses (poetically called the Archons of Mercy), the way the deamons are the opposite of archons. And while Charlie's archons were both deadly and beautiful, these were just deadly, nasty skeletal shadows in dark robes, flying on the wisps of smoke and, if they were high level, wings of ice. Yet, the people called them archons, for they had natural shockamancy and foolamancy and they could fly and use juice, so what else would you call them?!
"Furians, for that is how they call themselves. Or at least those we captured did." Surgeon Amputate would have said, but he was not here. He was with the prince, doing what he did best, making sure the Side survived despite all odds.
"Hearts." Novak said, not very loudly, pulling an arrow from his quiver and nocking it. His stack heard his command and obeyed, a new song starting, as the shockamancy and knives hit the shields of the pikers and bounced, sometimes, or were dissipated by the armor, with luckless pikers healed by the tower.
"Hearts!" came the rhythmic answer from the pikers, giving tempo."Hearts! Hearts!"
"Hearts on fire, hearts on fire!" sang Roger and 9 more voices spaced among the archers, as they pulled the arrows as one, shielded by the pikers, one thousand steel heart-shaped points gleaming on the sun.
"Burning, burning with desire." replied the other archers, nocking their arrows, steel points turning to fire as the words were spoken.
"Burning for the CROAK!" replied the ten leaders and one thousand points of light flew towards their targets on the word croak.
"Hearts on fiiireeeee!" the other hundreds of archers said in answer, as the pikers raised their shields again, for they lowered them on the word "the", to let them fire.
"Hearts! Hearts! Hearts!" the pikers sang, as the enemy retaliation rained on them, but much weaker than before, for the enemy archons were retreating and enemy infantry below suffered croaking by fire. The battle has started in earnest. Despite their first volley, the chances were still 5 to 1. Lord Novak was not afraid. He was going to do his best and odds were not important.
High in the airspace, just one hex away from the enemy city, a stack of archons was waiting for the chance to enter the battle. They amused themselves by looking at the ground, watching allied shockamancer healing injured Furians with healing scrolls, scrolls that enemy themselves have popped. The irony was sweet, all according to Charlie's rules. The negotiations with Undertakers were going poorly, though, for they were expensive and they knew it. After the first enemy volley, the negotiations went much smoother and soon enough, the plan was a go. It was Lucy who was their communication officer this turn.
"Nuclear option Di-en-ay, as expected. Good luck." Lucy finished their briefing, then broken the thinkagram.
Eva and Elsa grinned, a little nervously. Among all of Charlie's archons, they were special. For a start, there was only 10 Archons like them with, what Charlie called, scrollcasting special. The knowledge of it even existing was on need-to-know basis. They didn't pop with it, but were remade instead, personally, by Charlie linking with Signamancer and Weirdomancer. One scroll per turn- that was what made their upkeep twice as expensive and their usage rare. Nuclear option, Charlie's rules, section 15, paragraph 10. Worth arm and a leg and a few toes on your other leg and few interior organs as well...
"You heard her, girls." Megann said, her green face spreading in a smile. "DnI scroll, the perfect spell for Furians to turn this battle in our favor. Now, get ready. I'll prepare the other two stacks." She tied her red hair into ponytail then flew away, to gather the screens.
Soon, too soon, a huge stack of Furians came to screen them, their icy wings glittering on the noon sun, their shadows hiding the blue of Charlie's uniforms. There were two more stacks, just like them, slightly farther away. Eva took out a scroll, while Annie and Harley prepared their instruments of Rock. Then they moved one hex forward entering the city's airspace and right into the range of enemy arrows.
Novak knew something was wrong almost immediately. The second enemy attack was mostly siege and infantry, with just a token air support. The third one... it was going to be something else, he felt it in his bones. He saw three huge stacks of archons entering the range of his bow, in screening positions. Whatever was behind those screens, it must have been important, for the army in front of the walls increased the ferocity of their attacks, filling the air with boulders and arrows. While his stack continued with "Hearts!" chant, sending volley after volley of arrows, Lord Novak ducked lower behind Lady Maleficient and sent a message by hat. His King's response was immediate and Lord Novak ordered his archers to ignore the enemy at the walls and focus on the archons. Tower shockamancy started firing, each bolt hitting at least one screening archon for there was a findamancer in the tower and those do not miss... The air filled with ice crystals torn off the archon's icy wings.
High in the tower, King Gallen received his Warlord's message. He sent reply immediately then turned to his own stack.
"Shockamancy. Blast those things out of the sky." he said to his tri-linked casters then turned to his bowmen. "It was easy until now, just a few token sorties by their flyers. This is where it gets hard, my friends. You know the drill. Shoot down anything that gets near the windows. Protect the casters!" Then he took a bow himself and nocked the arrow, taking a careful aim.
One stack went straight towards the tower. They got it the worst. The other two were circling in a terrible dance around the defenders, shooting orbs and knives at them, their wings protecting them from arrows, their foolamancy hiding them, blinking them from position to position in the cloaks of shadow. A soft keyboard music filled the air in the middle circle as Annie started playing her instrument of destruction. Eva unrolled the scroll and started singing the rhyme, summoning the spell.
"Cold goes down from airspace this turn,
not a unit to be seen,
a kingdom of air and darkness,
and it looks like I'm the queen."
The music got louder as Harley joined the spell with her axe-base, the arrows started hitting around her stack yet Eva went on, the power of spell becoming clearer in her mind. The wind was starting to rise, a most disconcerting sound.
"The wind is howling like a burning spell inside,
shouldn't keep it in, shouldn't even tryyyy."
The enemy tower was shooting bolts now and doing damage to her screen, but Eva knew it to be too late, for the spell was almost done... the juice levels out of the measuring scale...
"Let it go, let it go,
can't hold it in anymore,
Here I stand and here I stay,
let the darkness flow!
she gasped, as shockamancy charge hit her, cutting her across midsection. Elsa was there to catch her, and they finished the spell together.
"never bothered me anyway! Lights off!"
Darkness, the deepest night black as shadowine, covered the battlefield.
Furians let out a victorious scream, for darkness belonged to them. They were the sound in the night, they were the creatures in the darkest of the deep forest hexes, they were the nightmares at the end of the turn; they were attacking, going into low dives so they could use their claws and scythes, backstabbing where they could.
Their work done, Charlie's archons ran the heck away from the Aspirin's airspace. Eva was almost unconscious and barely felt Annie and Harley flying her out, as Elsa used healomancy scroll on her, with Megann screening them and shooting at the enemy to cover their retreat.
Charlie's archons, Elsa and Megann. Available for hire for scroll-casting, leadership, foolamancy and thinkamancy purposes at appropriate prices for that level and ability.
Slight explanation, just in case it wasn't clear: Only Eva and Elsa have scroll-casting special. The others are there as supports. Megann is green because Charlie experimented on her with the Dish and Carnymancy, in a try to increase her thinkamancy and foolamancy beyond that given by level. He succeeded but there were some unwanted effects, green skin among them.
As for the looks of other archons, Eva looks a bit like Evelyn from League of Legends, Annie looks like Anna from Frozen and Harley is blonde like Harley Quinn without make up. Enjoy!