IS, V3, Chapter 7: Invasion

When I finally returned to my senses: I had some delicious antler-bear blood, took a few sips from Ethir’s wrist, and took a short nap as the situation progressed. We had to leave the maglev because Ailyn had woken up, and was preparing to return to Black Mithril to pick reinforcements and supplies.

Julie and a small squad of guardians stayed with her, to protect her in case of an emergency. At least eight-hundred ex-slaves rode the giant worm; happy to be given their freedom, and a second chance at life. With the animals and equipment removed from the seat-less cargo compartments, there was plenty of room for even the biggest bull-centaur to fit comfortably.

By the time I had woken up, the jurors had finished discerning each individual dwarf’s guilt or innocence… and Conor was in the process of sentencing them accordingly. It was brutal, but not even I had sympathy for people who treated others like objects: to be owned, used, or discarded for a few pieces of metal.

When Ailyn finally departed, there were still a few thousand ex-slaves whom either didn’t wish to travel to Black Mithril; or simply couldn’t fit aboard, so they had to wait another day before she would return.

All of the dwarves that were still alive were free to leave the plaza and return to their homes throughout the city. Conor didn’t take prisoners; the guilty were executed and the innocent could join us, or leave: Very few people were foolish enough to attempt retaliation in such a situation.

There was a special looting squad, which removed any and all valuables from the corpses; before a team of fire mages casually incinerated the remains. A wind spell was required to prevent our basecamp from being showered in ashes.

Lorelei Inc. construction workers began tearing down the blood stained and mostly destroyed wooden stage, before they moved on to the rusted iron cages from the area. Conor stationed heavily-armored, shotgun wielding, guardians inside the giant triangular pyramid at the center of the city; to prevent anyone from entering or leaving without his permission.

Among the slaves we had freed, were several dozen dark dwarves; most of which were battle hardened men and women. Some of the soldiers actually recognized a few of them as former members of the royal guard in Black Mithril.

Many of the centaur and beast race children didn’t even know how to speak, because they were raised as nothing more than expensive livestock. Cat and fox tribe children were treated as pets by rich nobles, if they were lucky; otherwise they would be bought by a brothel or sold to a breeding farm.

Conor and the humans weren’t surprised at all; they had all lived in a disgusting world like that for most of their lives. The more I learned about White Mithril, the less remorse I felt over what I had done.

It was a patriarchal society, a relatively peaceful and industrious kingdom, filled with excellent craftsmen; they were supposedly a major power on the eastern side of the continent. The dwarven city-state, similar to our own country, encompassed a large amount of land on the surface.

They weren’t nearly as ambitious as Lorelei though, and hadn’t expanded their territory much: even after hundreds of years. Three-hundred soldiers, regardless of their combat potential, weren’t capable of conquering White Mithril in less than thirty days.

However, within a week, that number had increased tenfold; even General Beatrix herself came to reinforce us. Once she arrived, the discipline of the soldiers dramatically improved.

I had known her for a few years, but it was the first time that I ever thought she seemed… happy. Even though she never uttered a single word to anyone; she was constantly issuing orders telepathically.

My mark didn’t have that convenient function, but anyone who could hear mana, had the ability to eavesdrop on their conversations. Whether or not they could position their auras in between the two people; while they were communicating, and then understand anything that they were saying, was a completely different matter.

While Conor and his squad were going through the four mines, that were located to the left and right of the gigantic metallic tunnel; Beatrix was commanding the rest of the army to systematically annihilate any enemy combatants that were still in the city. She was personally responsible for executing the king and most of his royal court.

Ailyn kept ferrying more supplies, weapons, and reinforcements into White Mithril; while evacuating as many ex-slaves as possible with each trip. By the third week she was far too exhausted to continue, so we were only able to muster a little over nine-thousand soldiers.

For the whole month, Ethir and I didn’t do much of anything; we simply watched and waited. There were so many things that I had wished I didn’t see; too many for me to recount.

I didn’t even know what a brothel was until then; most of those girls weren’t even adolescents. They weren’t all slaves either, some of them had simply been dwarven children who were born into poor families.

There were so many people with serious illnesses, that could have been easily treated with a simple herbal remedy or healing magic. They had the knowledge and ability to cure such ailments, but only nobles or rich merchants could afford to be healthy.

There was a “Trial” every day; thousands of dwarves were gathered in the plaza from around the city. The moment Beatrix arrived, White Mithril was already considered a part of Alfirin; and every new citizen was required to prove their innocence by attending.

If they had ever raped or enslaved anyone, their fate was decided the moment they stepped into her court. When we arrived; there were more than five-hundred thousand dwarves living in that city… by the time those monsters appeared, that number had already been halved.

I spent most of every day in that tunnel; listening to the turbulent mana swirling around in the darkness. The entrance was heavily guarded and brightly illuminated, but we were much farther inside.

Ethir was there with me the entire time; but he never made a sound, just stared into the abyss. Until our enemy appeared; and he whispered “What… are they?” in an anxious voice, close to my left ear.

As I raised my right hand towards the chaotic aura that was rumbling in the distance, the red gemstones on my bracer began to glow brightly. Then I released a massive arc of lightning from the ring on my middle finger; illuminating the metallic horizon in a blinding flash of white light.

Immediately following the reverberating thunder, was an even louder roar, followed by innumerable screams and growls. A hundred meters tall and wide… that was how massive that tunnel was; yet the whole ground, walls, and even the ceiling was covered by those things.

I nearly vomited as their stench, which was fouler than rotting meat, viciously attacked me. Their cries echoed around us; muffled by the sound of their seething auras.

It was only for a moment, but I was able to clearly glimpse at the colossal horde which was steadily approaching us. Those creatures weren’t blood elves; I had never seen anything so grotesque in my entire life until then, and I definitely didn’t want to to be devoured by them inside of that abysmal labyrinth.

Ethir and I used some wind magic and our convenient wing-like cloaks, to swiftly retreat back to the plaza; where the actual battle was going to take place. The massive gates were almost completely closed, with barely enough room for the two of us to glide in, side by side.

There was a very short, one-hundred meter wide, stone bridge; which all of those demons were going to have to cross, to make it into the city. Ailyn had the gigantic silver worm wrapped around the bottom of the pyramid, so that no one could enter or leave.

The entire plaza was empty except for Conor; who was the only person crazy enough to fight those monsters at close range. It wasn’t just that they were gigantic, disgusting, and terrifying… they were infected with vampirism; a single drop of blood was enough to transmit their disease.

Beatrix had all of her forces positioned on the roofs of the buildings, while she was sitting on her special perch; which was build on the tip of the distant white pyramid. When Ethir and I gently landed to the left of the seven-foot tall, mithril-plated man; I began to hear muffled explosions coming from beyond the gates.

Even if we weren’t in a hurry, there was another reason why we couldn’t simply walk back to the city. Thousands of devices that Ailyn called “Land Mines” were scattered throughout the first three miles of that metallic tunnel, which were triggered when someone accidentally stepped on them.

Conor started laughing, then cheerfully yelled “This is gonna be awesome!”; unlatching the fifty centimeter wide sword, that was at least as long as he was tall, and carefully bringing it to his side. His stance made it seem like he was about to start sprinting forward at any moment, but that was just because the weapon was far too heavy to casually wave around outside of combat.

Ethir unholstered both of his black-mithril coated pistols; which were relatively large, compared to the size of his hands. I had never actually seen him fire either one of those revolvers until then; or use either of the inconspicuous obsidian colored, single-bladed daggers that were sheathed on his lower-back: with hilts facing outward in opposing directions.

Seeing the two of them, with their various armaments; made me feel like I should have learned how to use a few weapons… or at least, had some kind of staff. I sighed as I looked around at my own arsenal; then pouted, while muttering to myself “After this is over, I’m definitely getting Ailyn to make me something special.” in an irritated voice.

An hour of ceaseless explosions passed, until there was finally a brief minute of silence. That horrible odor wafted throughout the plaza, mixed with the scent of burning hair and flesh.

Suddenly, a deafening shriek; drowned out by an ominous roar, vibrated the ground we were standing on. The terrifying aura; forced its way through the slightly opened, thirty meter tall, steel doors, creating an eerie whistle.

From the darkness, an unbelievably massive; three clawed fist, wrapped its insect-like grey fingers around the top of the easternmost gate. Then an equally large, five fingered, humanoid looking hand, gripped the middle of the other gigantic slab of metal.

Conor started laughing again; then I furiously yelled “How the hell is this situation funny to you?!”, while glaring at him. He quickly stopped, then pointed towards the forty-meter tall, dark-elven monstrosity; that erupted from the darkness, while slamming to giant doors open.

The demonic creature lumbered across the bridge slowly for its size, but it was able to make it to the plaza in under three seconds. He had two stubby legs, but his titanic upper body was covered in a thick, grey, carapace.

Its arms were used to help it crawl like an infant… then I realized why; when its gigantic bald head entered my sight. The monstrosity looked like a baby, but there was nothing cute or adorable about that disgusting creature.

When the monster was almost within my range, a relatively small hole had opened up between its massive eyes; then a shot rang out from behind us. The creature’s face grimaced and it sat down; then it started bawling loudly while holding the sides of its head.

Conor boisterously shouted “Wait for it… there!”, as the demon’s face erupted into a massive red tree; then fell onto its back, while the plant kept growing at a rapid pace. He cackled deeply, then yelled “Wrecked! Anyway, there’s a lot more of them; so stop acting like a baby!” in a cheerful tone; as hundreds of much smaller, but still gigantic, monsters began pouring out of the wide open gateway.

Ethir sighed and whispered “Self… destruct.” in an irritated voice, as the jewels on his mask started glowing brightly; then the crimson mana-tree began to wilt and then ignite into a bright green inferno. The flames quickly engulfed and consumed the enormous corpse that its roots had spread throughout; with a wave of my left hand, a gust of wind turned the remains into a vortex of fire that was blown across the bridge.

Many of the giant, misshapen, dark-elves that were trying to reach the plaza; had been immolated, but were still trudging forward. They screamed in pain, and howled in anger, as their auras screeched wildly; and a volley of gunshots echoed throughout the city: silencing their charred, bullet ridden, corpses.

Beatrix’ sniper team was so far away; that I could see the impacts, a second before I could hear their rounds being fired. For a few minutes, the three of us could only watch, as the gigantic monsters struggled to cross an extremely wide bridge; only to be perforated and occasionally turned into mana-trees.

With the size of their bodies, they were easy targets; even if some of them had shells, thick muscles and skin, or chitinous plating, it wasn’t enough to protect them. However, once that first wave of colossi had been vanquished, the horde finally emerged.

Their sizes and shapes varied, but the former dark-elves were sprinting out of the gateway; in thick clusters of fifty to a hundred at a time. Many of them seemed to be falling off the edges of the bridge, into the bottomless oblivion below; only to be seen crawling up the sides of the plaza a few minutes later.

There was a constant, rhythmic, sound of rifles being fired from the buildings: two-hundred meters to my left and right. Dozens of arrows were falling onto the human-sized monsters, exploding upon impact; shredding the tightly packed hordes apart with sharp metal fragments.

Fifteen minutes after the battle started, the waves of bodies were still struggling to surpass that bridge. Conor was sitting cross-legged, with his giant sword laying next to him; while eating a haunch of mana-rich ham, making disturbingly loud crunching and slurping sounds.

Ethir mumbled “It should be… almost halfway… over.” in an anxious voice; he was still holding his pistols, and seemed to be waiting for it to end without anything unexpected happening. However, there was something missing that I had completely forgotten about, and they began appearing the moment I had remembered.

I yelped unconsciously, at the sight of those… creatures. They resembled red centipedes, but they were the size of the maglev; coated in a thick slime, and capable of easily climbing vertically and horizontally out of the gates; then crawling across the walls at an alarming speed.

Beatrix had stationed many mages, archers, and gunners all across the city; in the event that something like that had happened. Yet, it wasn’t nearly enough to stop the devastation that occurred because of those disgusting beasts.

There were only five of them, but riding their sticky bodies were hundreds of spider-like, obsidian-skinned, elven monstrosities. They had no legs, just eight arms that were attached to their torsos; their hands were closer to claws, and on their backs were wasp-like wings.

Instead of mouths and noses, they had a thick extendable tube; the only purpose of which was to make draining blood easier and more efficient. Their huge, red, compact-eyes; took up most of the upper portion of their faces. Perhaps the most disturbing features were their hair and ears; because they reinforced the fact that those monsters, had once been normal dark-elves.

While hundreds of earth mages bombarded the gigantic centipedes, with metal spheres filled with explosives; the spider-like creatures managed to escape relatively unscathed, using their furiously buzzing wings. Five separate swarms of those hideous demons; quickly dispersed throughout the two northern districts.

Luckily, the shotgun wielding guardians; combined with fire and wind mages, were able to counter them somewhat easily. However, with that little diversion, torrents of erratically sprinting grey-skinned monsters were scattering throughout the northern part of the plaza.

It was finally time for the three of us to enter the fight; I could hear an ominous mana lurking in the shadows, waiting to show itself. That deep rumble as it took every cautious step; told me that the beast within the darkness, was definitely a dangerous one.

Conor finished eating and stood up; lifting that giant blade with one hand, and resting the extremely long hilt on his right shoulder. Then he yelled “Okay, lets do this shit! Hey; you! Kid with the ugly face! Stop running around and let me kill you!” in an excited voice; as he started sprinting after a three meter tall blood-elf; which had metallic, scythe-like, blades instead of forearms, and dozens of wriggling tentacles instead of a mouth.

I sighed, sat down, and grabbed a hold of my two weapons; if they could have even been considered that. The handles were basically just thirty centimeter long, mithril-plated steel bars; they didn’t even have leather covers.

When they were barricading off the entire plaza, they overestimated the amount of steel razor-wire that they needed… so I decided to use it. Each handle was attached to a dozen, extremely long, incredibly sharp, relatively thin, metal chords; which I was able to manipulate pretty easily with a bit of earth magic.

Ethir quickly sat down with his back against mine; so that he wasn’t in my way, or maybe he just wanted to be close to me. Then the performance began; the hundred meter long wires that were spread out on the ground all around us, suddenly started to move.

I angrily shouted “Conor! Get the hell out of my range!”, as he finally bisected his target. He made an offensive hand gesture in response to my demand, so I didn’t feel guilty when he was forcefully removed by an ‘accidental’ attack. Well, his armor protected him from actually getting hurt, but it was still satisfying.

The majority of dark-elf sized enemies that managed to cross the bridge, foolishly chose the shortest path towards their goal; which I had assumed was either the portal or the southern district. Even though the razor-wire was sharp, it wouldn’t have lasted very long if I had just whipped it around needlessly; so I made sure that each of the tips was crafted from mithril.

It looked like twenty-four, almost completely flat, snakes were slithering across the ground; as they waited for their prey to mindlessly sprint past them. Then the serpents would strike; piercing through the tender flesh around their relatively unchanged necks: severing their spinal-cords, veins, and arteries.

Even a giant that somehow managed to survive being shot in the head several times; had his ankles slashed, forcing him to stop. The serpents slid inside the creature’s left ear canal; then out of the right, and back again.

I was even able to twist them all into two thick metal ropes, and clear away the corpses with a gentle push. Even though I was killing hundreds of ‘people’ every minute, I didn’t feel any remorse… it was almost fun.

However, my smile was very ephemeral, because the moment that the torrent of enemies seemed to die down; ‘she’ appeared, and everything changed. Conor was the first to even notice, and his response was the same as mine: despair.

All those years I mourned my children and cursed Eredhon, yet I never bothered to think about the rest of the village. There was barely anything left of my babies; so at least I didn’t have to worry about them becoming blood elves, but I didn’t know what happened to anyone else.

My nephew said that he buried everyone, including me; which meant that any person who died that night and wasn’t torn to shreds, could have been transformed like I was. I should have known that my sister; the former adventurer and fire mage, would have fought at least as hard as I did.

Almost every non-combatant in White Mithril was gathered in the southernmost district. It was supposed to be the safest place in the city; since all of our enemies were coming from only entrance we knew of, aside from the portal.

Unfortunately, we were far too preoccupied with the massive horde of humanoid vampires, to notice the swarms of pestilence; that were flooding in from the tunnels which were all over the cavernous walls, that surrounded the city.

She was waiting to make her grandiose appearance; until Beatrix, and nearly her entire army, were completely focused on the millions of infected mosquitoes and cockroaches, that were terrorizing the already panicked civilians. Six more giant centipedes emerged from the abysmal gateway, carrying with them a total of at least four-thousand of those spider-like creatures; all of which focused solely on attacking the general and her snipers.

Conor and I had just finished wiping out the last wave of ‘normal’ grey-skinned blood-elves; when my sister Faelin, entered my sight. She was perched on the shoulder of a three meter tall, full-plate armored, humanoid man. Her bodyguard was dragging a huge, black, hammer behind him; while struggling to walk forward at an incredibly sluggish pace.

Their combined aura sounded like a deep roar; that was so violent and powerful, I temporarily lost control of my mana. I quickly stood up and turned toward my nephew, whom had dropped his giant blade and was about to remove his blood-smeared helmet; when Ethir suddenly appeared next to him, and whispered something that made him stop.

Then I heard her boisterously shouting “Aww, look honey, it’s Conor! Rae, is that you?! It’s been forever, how have you been?!”; filling me with a sense of dread that I hadn’t experienced, since my short conversation with Belial. She was definitely one of them; there wasn’t even a hint of my coldhearted, scornful, eternally angry, sister left in that vampiric body.

I turned towards the irritating scraping noise, of metal against stone; then took a closer look at Faelin. The scarlet-haired, crimson eyed, large breasted, pale-skinned woman; who was at least a head shorter than me, looked almost exactly the same as I remembered her.

Obviously, her irises weren’t red when she was a wood-elf, but her facial features remained the same; it was completely different from all of those other, horribly deformed, people. Conor yelled “Who the fuck are you?! Did you really think that we would fall for such a simple illusion?!” furiously; while picking up his sword and holding it to his right side, in his usual fighting stance.

Ethir was already standing to my left, when I quietly asked him “Is that what you told him?” in a worried voice; as I continued staring at the two enemies, that were very slowly crossing the bridge.

He softly murmured “It’s a believable… lie. They’re powerful… I’ll kill the woman. You need to… distract her.”, close to my left ear. Then his presence completely vanished and when I turned to look for him, he was gone; I still had no idea how he did that back then.

I leaned over and picked up the two mithril-coated handles, then stood up; my legs felt like they had lost circulation after sitting for too long. Faelin shouted “That’s so cute; our son is delusional! Oh well, he’ll understand as soon as we make him one of us! Rae, why are you on their side?! Lord Belial is going to conquer the world regardless of what any of you do, so why don’t you join us?!” cheerfully, while wearing a sinister smile.

She hopped down off the giant’s shoulder and began levitating a meter off the ground, while quickly traveling towards me. I frantically screamed “Conor, kill that armored monster! I can handle this bitch by myself!”, as I readied my twenty-one razor-wire serpents: three of them had already broken.

That woman was wearing thin, white, silk-like cloth; that was barely covering her body, she was practically naked. It was common sense that she should have been completely defenseless against incredibly sharp steel, but she had obviously been practicing more than just fire magic since becoming a blood-elf.

I couldn’t hit her with any of my attacks, she wasn’t avoiding them though; her trajectory was pretty straightforward, but with a wave of her left or right hand; my weapons had become completely useless. Ethir may have told me to distract her, but I wanted to actually beat her myself.

Obviously, my pride as Michael’s student had gotten to my head; in the face of someone who was close to my ability. Quickly dropping the two useless instruments; I released an explosive flame-thrower spell from my heels, and launched myself a few hundred feet into the air.

She didn’t seem even slightly fazed, and just continued to use wind magic to fly towards me at a comfortable pace. I charged and fired a burst of air pressure in front of me from my left hand, pushing myself towards a loud buzzing sound; then gathered a rather large electrical charge in my right.

Faelin sneered for a moment, then whistled; by the time I released the bolt of lightning, at least ten of those disgusting winged spider-elves had flown up between us: protecting her. Their charred corpses were callously blown away by her own attack; which was just a simple bolt of compressed air, that I easily deflected. Unfortunately, I lost sight of her in the process.

I heard a sinister rumbling aura from behind me; and quickly turned to defend myself, but it wasn’t her. My left arm was completely crushed, and probably would have been torn off; if the black-mithril reinforced, magical-beast leather armor, wasn’t holding the mashed up pieces together.

However, before any ‘serious’ injuries occurred; I was able to use my right hand to spew a powerful inferno into the dented, slashed, and pierced silver-colored chest-plate. Even though I had already guessed it from the way that she was speaking; I was still slightly surprised to see my brother in-law’s face again… but even more confused as to why he was flying.

Although, I quickly realized that he had just used earth magic, in conjunction with his steel armor to jump: because he was falling quite rapidly. While I can casually mention that now; at the time, I was more focused on regenerating my left arm than anything else.

As I was soaring eastward, away from the terrifying giant with the massive hammer; a small hand tightly gripped each of my incredibly delicate ears: mildly disorienting me. However, it didn’t stop me from releasing an enormous surge of electricity, into her evil little fingers.

There was no thunder; but I did hear a comforting shriek, followed by a deafening bang. I quickly turned around to see Ethir hovering there; looking down at the lifeless eyes of that demon who used to be my sister: a gaping hole in the upper-left side of her forehead.

Then I saw Conor’s body laying in the center of the crater filled plaza; his chest-plate was caved in and a huge pool of blood was flooding the dented stone he was sprawled out onto. Obviously, I wouldn’t have been worried if it was just an injury of that caliber, but his helmet was completely flattened.

My voice couldn’t even leave my throat; no one could have survived an injury like that, and I couldn’t hear his aura because my ears were still damaged. Ethir mumbled “We need to… finish this.” in a solemn tone, as he vanished; while I was staring at the monster that killed me nephew.

The demon was just standing there, looking down at Faelin’s corpse with a stupefied expression; as if he didn’t know what to do without her orders. It wasn’t just him either; I quickly scanned the rest of the city as I was slowly gliding down to the plaza, and noticed that the swarms of winged spider-elves were actually attacking each other.

I could hear muffled gunshots and explosions; accompanied by yelling, screaming, crying, and screeching, but nothing beyond that. After a few seconds, I landed in front of the hammer-less giant, who had the left half of his face charred off; the right side was deathly pale, revealing dark-red veins on his cheek and around his scarlet-colored eye.

His name was the same as his son’s; I glared at him and said “Conor… it’s over now… both of you can finally leave this world.” in a shaky voice. My arm was still throbbing, and I didn’t have enough mana to do anything but heal my injuries.

When he looked at me; I could feel an incredible amount of danger, but I didn’t back away. There was a large chunk of his left flank missing; where a massive blade obviously sliced through: armor, flesh, bone, and muscle had been gouged out.

Blood was pouring out from his chest-plate, onto his greaves; and even if his gaze was threatening… he was already dying. He growled at me while opening his massive maw, exposing his broken and bloodied teeth.

The giant blood-elf hunched over, preparing to lunge at me; but a massive blade erupted from the center of his dented chest-plate. I smiled and yelled “Conor, you’re alive!” excitedly; as the armored man fell to his knees, but I couldn’t see anyone there.

When I heard the loud gunshot coming from behind the kneeling monster’s head, my momentary glimmer of hope was crushed. Standing there was the masked red-goblin; who must have used a massive amount of mana to move that sword, almost entirely, with earth magic.

Even though the battle was still raging; for the two of us who were exhausted and out of mana, there wasn’t much else that we could have done. Without Faelin to command them, all of the remaining blood-elves only cared about quenching their unending thirst.

All of the disgusting creatures that had were still alive; had been more interested in devouring each-other, than Beatrix’ surviving soldiers. While they were fighting amongst themselves, they became easy targets and were quickly wiped out.

We had won that little skirmish… but our real enemy was still out there. Belial was growing more powerful by the day; while we were still picking up the pieces of our hollow victory.

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