Trance found Adela on the west side of the city. She was with a group of about 13 Southron archers. They were firing at some targets. Trance could tell that Adela was frustrated even though she had her face was veiled and much of the rest of it covered in a white Bedouin-style head wrap. She could see it in her eyes.
In a few more moments of observing she could see why. The archers were all rank 1 and seemed to be fairly unskilled even for rank 1. Only about half of their shots even hit the target. When Adela noticed Trance she pulled down her veil and smiled.
“It is good to see you sister!” Adela spoke. She took Trance in strong embrace. Trance could feel the bumpy texture of Adela’s chain shirt pressing into her. She then kissed Trance on her cheek. Trance could smell the slight fragrance of cigar smoke in her hair and the long braid falling back Adela’s back.
“Can you believe it!?! They gave me my own force to command on my second turn. Unfortunately they gave me bottom of the barrel Southron archers. Not a single Norst axe man. Apparently because of my low rank they are going to have me in a support position in the upcoming battle. Shoot arrows and protect you. What are you doing here? I thought you were going to be busy with more caster training for the rest of the turn?”
Trance looked down and a way a little bit. In a voice tinged with shame she spoke “I had no natural talent in anything other than healomancy and Governor Aref cut me loose early. He sent me here to train with you.”
“Hey!” Adela lifted up Trance’s chin and made her look her in the eyes. “There is nothing to be ashamed of. Healomancers are really useful.” Adela paused for a moment. “In fact that gives me an idea.” Adela reached into a small pack on her belt and pulled out sheet of paper. On the top of it was the heading ‘Southron Gift Briefing Report’. “Brilliant! This could work. Look here Trance.”
Trance read the bullet that Adela was pointing at. It read:
Some Kebler Elves working some ranches near the hills to the east of the city report hearing a large pride of wild lions in a neighboring hex. While wild animal units tend to avoid hexes with improvements, it is recommended that all units end their turns as close to the city hex as possible for the foreseeable future
“Adela hunting untamed animals is risky. They don’t have their own turn and have the unique ability to move into any hex that borders the hex they started the day in. As a consequence they could have moved on and we never know it. And if we end turn outside the city, they could move into our hex during the night and overwhelm us. Plus I am under strict orders to meet with Governor Aref tonight.”
Adela got a knowing smile. “We I don’t want you to miss that meeting. But relax. Everyone here has enough movement to get out past the improved hexes, check out two or three savannah hexes and make it home by the end of turn. With a little luck we will find them. And I am feeling lucky today! After all luck just gave me a healomancer and a Norst warrior to fill out my stacks.”
“Shhhhhh!” went Adela. Another roar came from the distance. Adela smiled brightly then motioned with her hand for everyone to get low to the ground. In a hollow tone meant to keep her voice from carrying, Adela addressed her force. “The Titans are smiling on us today. If everyone does their job right, we earn a place in the City of Heroes today and maybe even level. Adela is going to cast a luck spell from her scroll on us to give us a better chance of successfully sneaking up them lions. We will them stealthily track them down. Once we find them the archers are to concentrate their fire on the weakest looking lion until it is dead and repeat. When the lions charge us, I and Steve will take them on. Don’t waste arrows on the ones on me and Steve. I don’t want take the chance of you hitting us. Just focus on hitting the weak ones and the ones that charge you. Trance I want you to constantly cast healing spells on me and Steve. We will be in the middle of the lions and if you pause for a moment it could get us killed. Everyone understand their role?”
“Good. Weapons out. Arrows knocked. Trance cast your spell.” The archers pulled out their arrows and pulled the string taught. Steve took out a large axe off his back and double checked the straps on his plate armor. Adela drew her twin scimitars and pulled up her veil.
Trance pulled out the scroll. Trance could tell instantly that casting from a scroll was different from casting directly. As she glanced over the glyphs of the scroll she felt as though some one else was superimposed over where she was standing and she was guiding them as to what to do. It felt like Aref was here. ‘I want them to be silent.’ Virtual Aref understood and she could hear him thinking ‘Silent, Silent, Silent’ and then both Trance and imaginary Aref said the release word. “Vegas”. The scroll pulsed in a soft light and then faded away, leaving her hands clutching nothing. Adela beckoned them to follow her. Trance picked up her staff and followed.
It was not hard to trace the roars back to their source. The luckomancy seemed to be helping as intended. A steady wind carried their scent away and made the high grass wave with a slight rustle to drown out their approach. The group hugged the ground, hunched over and almost crawling. They found the lions lounging under a solitary thorny acacia tree. When Trance saw that there were 16 of them also, she looked with a little bit of panic at Adela. Trance tried to mentally project to her sister There’s way too many. We should retreat.
Adela smiled reassuringly. She gave the hand signal to release arrows.
A scrawny lioness pushed to the edge of the shade let out yelp as 13 arrows blossomed in her torso and the ground around her. She died immediately. The other lions immediately jumped to their feet with growls of surprise. Another 13 arrows slammed into another of the smaller lionesses and killed her. That would be the end of the free kills though. The lions had traced the whine of the incoming arrows to their source and charged.
“For Battlestrong!” Adela below and charged the incoming lions. Steve was at her side with his own inhuman and blood curdling roar. In an instant the two were in the midst of a storm of yellow fur. Trance could barely see the two in the chaos. The only visual clues she had to help her target her spells were flashes of metal. Space to engage the two was so tight that the extra lions could only circle, waiting for an opening. These extra lions became targets for the archers.
In moments Trance had went through half her juice. She thought to herself that there was no way that Adela would survive this onslaught. Just as she was about to lose hope, she saw that tide had turned in their favor. She could make up the blood encrusted faces of Adela and Steve. There was only one unengaged lion still circling now. A swarm of arrows fell around the unengaged lion. Few had struck him but they seemed to have only made him angry. He looked towards Trance and the archers and Trance realized that he had focused his rage at her.
He charged towards her. She could see that he was a very exceptional specimen. He was easily twice as large as any of the others. His mane was majestic and intimidating. He was definitely a king of all he surveyed. As he moved towards them the archers trained arrows on him and released. More arrows appeared in his hide. However the seemed to be having no impact. On him they looked that battle standards with their flags removed. They jiggled like they were being carried by a well-disciplined army marching double-time.
Trance was terrified the point of nauseousness. She fought it down and reflexively cast another healing spell on Steve. If she stopped casting to block or dodge the incoming attack Adela would likely be overwhelmed in those moments she spared to save herself. If she kept casting Adela would likely finish off the last of the lions, but she would get mowed over. She cast another healing spell on Adela without thinking. More arrows whined through the air and the lion closed in.
“Don’t you dare croak, Trance!” screamed Adela.
Obeying her sister’s wishes Trance put up her staff at the last moment and used it block a paw strike instead of casting a spell. For several tense moments Trance was the only one engaged with the lion that far beyond her ability to defeat. It took all of her concentration just to survive each of the next incoming attacks. Arrows whizzed dangerously close to her and imbedded themselves in the lion. I can’t keep this up! If it gets one good strike in I will be croaked.
Trance though. While back peddling away from the lion the stroke that she was dreading came. Trance’s block came too slow and the lion pawed her hard, she fell to the dry savannah ground with a whompf of dust. The lion reared up and prepared to lunge. She could see its mouth lined with large yellowed teeth. Its golden brown eyes glared into her.
Thwack, Thwack, Thwack. Three arrows embedded themselves in the lion’s face. One was squarely in its right eye. Trance saw the great beast’s eyes fade and then its huge bulk slammed into her. The air flew out of her lungs and she heard a dulled crack as one of her ribs broke. It was so much pain, but she focused through it. I have to save Adela!
she thought. With a spell she mended the rib and then using her staff she levered the lion off her. She got to her feet and scanned the battlefield. She could not see Adela. Steve was chopping up the last lion.
It was then that she noticed that she could no longer feel Adela's leadership bonus. That was not good. It meant that either Adela was dead or incapacitated. She saw a sight that chilled her blood. Adela lay like a limp rag doll abandoned on the ground. Her scimitars lay in the dust beside her. Her throat was ripped out and her eyes were vacant.
Without thought Trance ran to Adela and grabbed her up. She knew what she was doing was impossible. Only a high-level master healomancer could raise the dead. Trance also knew that she did even know the spell to do it. “Moonbrooke.” Trance channeled all her juice into the spell, pouring it out like an overturned jug. The staff then glowed brightly along with her hands and the glow sunk into her sister’s limp body. The wounds on Adela’s throat closed. Adela’s eye’s refocused and she blinked. She looked up at Trance and smiled. Weakly Adela spoke, “I told you it was my lucky day. I leveled and got to visit the City of Heroes too.”
Trance vomited white cream all over Adela’s chain shirt.
“I guess I deserved that.” The two sisters wept.