Casters' burden Part 5

As the darkness spread, Lord Novak started a new song, all by his own. The 10 of his archers took it and then almost two thousand units in his stack took it as well, even as archons of croaking stabbed them left and right, one moment there, another somewhere else, swarming on some spots and croaking pikers and archers.
Aspirin had friends from all over the Erfworld and you don't change tactic that works. The thing was, letting Furians fight in the dark was tried before and it was successful. Not on Aspirin or anywhere near it, true, but it was tried before and not long ago either. Just around 5000 turns ago and innumerable hexes away.
That was not much, not if you had excellent trading relations with different sides from all over Erfworld for thousands of turns. Not when you had a papyrus in your library with a detailed note of a campfire story, straight from the faraway unit which saw it used by his own side with his own eyes. It was a good story, it had Furians in it, it made the Healaid's casters think... All in all, it was worth dollamancy, healomancy and shockamancy scrolls they gave to that unit for free, two of each. Healaid remembers. And when one of your main enemies has Furians as their natural allies, you get prepared. So, Healaid was prepared.

"We follow the will of the king,
through the darkness and into the storm,
and we follow the will of the king,
through the darkness and into the storm,
OUR KIIIIIIIIIIIING!"

"Green light show me,
where I'm going to goooo..."
sang half the pikers, shielding them.

"Green light show me,
where I'm going to -" archers answered...

The green lanterns in the courtyard burned, tiny dots of light in the all encompassing darkness...
***
In the tower, the king approached Nyx, with his bloody sword unsheathed, as the battle raged on and the units were hurt all around him. "This is the time of Nyx." he said to the tri-link, for those words were in the prophecy and Fate was hard on those who disobeyed her. "Lumen-ix, light our darkest hour." he ordered then returned to the fray, croaking attackers left and right.

Three pair of eyes blinked as one and the green lanterns of Aspirin's courtyard awakened, all 50 of them, filling the airspace with spears of light, showing the way for the archers, helping them distinguish friend from foe. And the song of the defenders came from the wall and through the tower window, loud and clear,
"-to SERVE!

' Cause we follow the will of the king,
through the darkness and into the STORM,
and we follow the will of the king,
through the darkness and into the STORM,
OUR KIIIIIIIIIIIING!"


as they shot down the enemies attacking the tower first, then the flyers attacking archers second, the lights of the lanterns shining off the pikers' armor and blinding the Furians who were trying to back-stab them. They took the counteroffensive.

***
When Lord Novak Bandage popped, the first thing he saw with his newly minted eyes was the green light of the lanterns. 'They are so beautiful.' was his first thought, the one before what his name was.

"Trust the lanterns. They'll show you the way home, no matter how far away you are." was the advice Prince Galen had told him only the moment later and it was true. And the lanterns all over the Aspirin's garrison were shining brightly now.
"They are so beautiful." was the last thought Lord Novak had while he slowly croaked, the poison eating his broken body, mangled beyond the healomancy but those of the Titans. He didn't realize he had said it out loud.
"They are, aren't they..." Lady Malef- Sue replied quietly, taking his damaged hand in hers as they croaked together.

***

"So, at long last, you stand alone." said Lord Hearse. His stack was large, flaming sourmanders mounted by reapers. More than two hundred stabbers on flanks. The throne room seemed small to accommodate them. King's own forces seemed tiny, like tourists lost inside archery range.

"No, not alone." said the pair as one, with Mary's voice lagging half a second behind, producing echo. King Galen smiled. His casters entered the room with the stack of cloth gollems, breaking the fourth wall in the process.
"Pfft, cloth gollems. And only 12 of them?" Lord Hearse mocked. "And you don't even have Dollamancer to fix them. Do you really think 12 dire bears can stop me from croaking you and capturing your precious trilink? Sourmanders, set them on fire."

His casters retreated to a spot behind him, King Galen saw. Gollems took the brunt of the fire storm. Then another. And another. But they didn't topple. They just stood there and were on fire. And sourmanders had no flame left for the fourth volley.

"Healaid was always diplomatic kingdom." King Galen said finally to wide-eyed lord, his face bathing in the fire of the bears. "Casters from all over Erf have bought our scrolls. For friendship. And alliance. I'll offer you one chance and one chance only. Surrender now and I'll spare your miserable lives."
"Never! Your tricks will not work on me!" shouted Lord Hearse.

"In that case..." King said simply then ordered "Gollems, transform and ROCK OUT!"

'Thank you, Sizemore the Brown. Old friend, I'll tell a good word for you in the hall of the Titans.' King Galen thought, as claws broke through the burning cloth on hands and feet, and hard rock golems removed their steel-wool hoods. Then the king got up from his throne, unsheathed his sword and lead his stack to their last battle. Lord Hearse was already croaked by then.
***

Lady Scar treated them with respect and shared some of her own rations with them from time to time. She was grateful for their help while the two kingdoms were at peace and wasn't happy with the current war, or so she had said while they talked by the campfire. And she loved casters, especially healomancers, since they were useful in battle which was what Lady Scar loved the most. At first, Luke and Nyx thought that she was trying to turn them but then Mary set them both straight, because she had worked with Lady Scar before and no, she wasn't trying to turn them, she was just a friendly person with keen tactical insight and pleasant demeanor. Lady's stack had saved Mary's life before and Healaid's units have saved Lady Scar's stack more than a dozen times in some better times, so it all sort of balanced out. Being a prisoner didn't feel so bad while they were with Lady Scar and Lord Cemetery came as a nasty surprise after those twelve turns with her.

***
It was a few minutes before dawn. Luke felt the stab of a steel-tipped boot on one of his ribs. It broke. It hurt. A lot. Yet, he still didn't open his eyes or give any indication that he felt it. It was a defiance thing.

"Wake up, prisoners." Lord Cemetery shouted and kicked him again. This cracked the rib on Luke's other side but didn't break it. "Our turn is almost starting and we have a lot of hexes to cover, casters." he said, spitting the last word as if he had said crap. Luke felt Nyx sitting up and watching Lord Cemetery with open hatred.

The time stopped. Mary sent them both a thinkagram, audio only. "This turn." it said and nothing more. "Finally." was his thought and he knew it was shared with Nyx.

Luke's healomancy senses told him of interesting interplay of muscles and forces inside Lord Cemetery's body... and he stirred, fast as a snake, moving a couple of inches to the left.

The third kick missed Lucas entirely and Lord Cemetery hit a very sharp rock Nyx had found the night before instead. With the back of his head, because he had slipped on the wet ground and fell, cracking his skull in the process. He was incapacitated and looked at still lying Luke in shock while his stack panicked all around him. Lord Cemetery couldn't move, not even blink.
"Sergeant!" shouted stabber Sixfeet, pulling his sword out of the scabbard and swiftly moving into the position between Luke and his lord. He gave him the look full of hatred and fear but didn't really have time to say or do anything more...

The dawn was upon them and Lord Cemetery was no more. Luke didn't feel sorry for him. The man was a bully and a torturer, wholly unpleasant enemy unit who relished in pain and suffering. He did more horrible things in 3 turns than his predecessor did in 12. He was not going to be missed, not even his +2 leadership bonus. And he really got it on himself.

"Nothing to see here." said Lord Hack, the second squad's sergeant, as they moved between the casters and shocked stabbers. They all had swords drawn.

"I wouldn't say that." Nyx said, innocently, raising her chained hands in the air, in pose of surrender. "There's a lot to see. Too bad that you're blind." The ring of her finger caught the light of the morning sun, reflecting green.

"They croaked him!" Sixfeet said, with tears in his eyes, and moved towards Luke, his sword shaking from anger. Two of his stack friends caught him before he could do any damage and get croaked by his own side. Lord Hack turned to Nyx, with murder in his eyes.

"Shut the heck up!" he yelled at her. "Are you trying to get yourself croaked? You dumb..."

There was a hiss and a thump. Then three more hisses and thumps, half a second later. Lord Hack grunted and looked at the three stabbers from Lord Cemetery's stack. They slowly slid to the ground, arrows in their heads. Then he looked down and saw an arrowhead coming out of his own chest. Before he could comprehend what had happened, there were more hisses and thumps. Half of his stack dropped, croaked from head shots, every single one. The others raised their hands in surrender, all as one, though he couldn't see why. It was uncanny.
He charged at the cursed girl, although stumbled would have been more appropriate, since his vision was darkening and the right side of his chest was burning. Just a couple more inches and his sword would have reached her neck... but his hand hit something solid in front of him instead. There was a shiver in the air where there was nothing before.

Hellonurse smiled at him instead of the caster he thought he was attacking, her tiny claws at his throat while her other hand blocked his striking arm.

"Mercy." Lord Hack cried weakly, dropping his sword. There was an arrow in his lung, he knew that now because his cry was no more than a whisper.
"As you wish." the nurse replied, a sudden shy smile behind her green mask. She stabbed him then, right in the throat, injecting some cocktail of poisons as she did so. The pain in Lord Hack's chest was no more, his vision clear again.

The hand which wasn't stabbing him moved to his back, almost gently. She got the claws out of his throat then half pushed, half pulled the arrow out of his chest, painlessly. She helped him lie down on the soft grass, because he couldn't move by himself. Then she removed her mask and Lord Hack was in heaven for the next thirty seconds. 'She is so beautiful.' he thought, before the darkness claimed him.

"Nicely done, Akali." Lucas said, as the chains left his wrists and prisoner garb was no more then healed the cut on Hellonurse's hand. "Well fought, all of you." he said to the rescue squad, as more Hellonurses decloaked and stabbed their own soldiers, knocking them out with the cocktail of soporifics and anesthetics. Then they hauled them onto their shoulders, now clad in prisoners garb.

"Very nice. Now, let me have a look at you." Nyx said, then went to look at the archers hiding in the brush. "Serviceable. I can work with this." she added, looking them closer, then using juice here and there, her expression intent. There was a sound like tiny bells every time some of her juice was spent, *glingle glingle*.

"Nice work, Surgeon." Merry said quietly, then hugged him. "All those critical headshots. Very nice."
"I'm glad to hear it." said their Chief Caster to Merry then looked at Nyx. "This one was easy. Your scroll though... That one was a heck to cast. If it wasn't for the lanterns and hundreds of turns we spent training the units, it would have been practically impossible."

"It had to be done. You know that." Luke said, still moving from hellonurse to hellonurse and healing minor injuries, despite them being fully capable of doing it themselves, while all the enemy units slept over their shoulders. Then he leveled up all of a sudden.

"Congratz." Surgeon said with a smile."Our king is encamped two hexes in that direction. Shall we go?"

"Just a minute..." Nyx said, still excitedly moving from unit to unit. "Whoops, that shouldn't be poking out. There..." she added, and spent some more juice. *glingle glingle* "Nice and snug...*glingle glingle* And that should be tucked in...*glingle glingle*" She finally stopped and smiled, proud of her handwork.
"These should last for 7 more turns. I better take a look at the others, though. Lead the way." Nyx said, then took Luke's hand, happy like a clam. If there were walls around them, she would have been bouncing off them with giddiness, because she didn't get a lot of chances to practice that part of Findamancy. Titans, he loved her.

Nurse Akali pacifying captured feral amumu before turnamancy is applied

Nurse Akali pacifying captured feral manwich before turnamancy is applied
(Btw, still didn't finish all pictures to go with this post. This placeholder picture will have to do)