*3rd Person Perspective*
During the Great Northern Expedition, all the way down in the Third Ring of Lorthon, there was a group of sickly-looking Red Goblins on an adventure of their own. The one in the lead was a relatively tall young woman, with long gnarly black hair and glowing golden irises. The two behind her were a man and a pregnant woman, who both had silver irises and long, scraggly black hair. All of them had paler skin than ordinary Red Goblins, almost to the point where some might say they were actually ‘pink’.
“Hang in there Mary, we’re almost there…” The one in the lead looked back at the pregnant woman with concern visible on her face, as if she was looking at her own child. Then she turned back and pulled a large, frayed paper map out of her leather backpack. The three of them were barely clothed in what looked like torn-up rags for the most part, somewhat resembling grey cloth tunics, with thick leather boots on their feet.
“Hmmm, why haven’t we been attacked by savages yet?” That five-foot tall woman murmured to herself, looking up at the sun that was barely visible through the thick trees. Then she put away the map and used her sharp right-hand index fingernail to carve a few symbols onto the bark of a tree. There were no signs of civilization in any direction, only the occasional giant lizard or cat that would attack them. Hence why their clothing was so worn-out, but their bodies seemed relatively unscathed given the circumstances. It indicated that they were much more powerful than they appeared.
“The ancient underground city of the Dark Elves should be up ahead… Well, Angren is underground so we shouldn’t actually be able to see anything but an open field.” The woman let out a deep sigh, as a snake the width of her entire body, suddenly leaped down from a tree-branch above them. However, before it even reached within three meters, the creature was shredded into meat-chunks, which splattered in every direction but where those three people were standing.
Six bloody pink tentacles seemed to appear for a moment behind that Red Goblin’s back. Though they vanished almost as soon as they appeared. Her name was Bariel Gurguranor, Matriarch of the Red Goblin District of Black Mithril… Before she changed it to Ariel Cain, a Pink Goblin, hiding her true features with the help of illusory magic. A simple telepathic abilities that influences how weaker minds perceive her appearance, along with her two companions.
As they continued to delve deeper into the forest, the Mana Density became higher, to the point where Tommy and Mary were having trouble breathing. Not long later, they began hearing ‘whispers’: Voices of friends and family they lost along their travels, but it was too quiet. On the other hand, Ariel had a much higher mana-tolerance, yet that only made her more attracted towards the deep darkness to the south.
Before long, their group had come face to face with a massive barrier blocking their path forward, into the depths of that ominous jungle. The Forest of Corruption was something written in the archives of Black Mithril, and it was even visible on her map, but she was so ‘thirsty’ for whatever was beyond that enormous lump of wood, that she said: “Seems like we need to cross another one of these weird walls…”
“That would be a mistake.” An unfamiliar deep and masculine voice appeared behind the trio, causing all of them to quickly turn around. The two weaker and smaller goblins hid behind Ariel, as those six tentacles appeared high above her back, poised to strike should that person enter their range.
“Who are you?! How did you find us?!” She shouted angrily, but when she felt the massive amount of Mana emanating from that huge green-skinned ‘goblin’, she gasped in shock. He was three-meters tall, had rippling muscles all over his barely clothed body and seemed to be unarmed, at least from Ariel’s perspective. The man was wearing black ‘canvas-like’ shorts and no shirt, with a leather belt around his waist and a holster on each hip.
“Name’s Joshua Nine, but you can call me Quickdraw. I’m just a local Adventurer, headed to the Forest of Corruption.” He pointed over to the giant tree root and smirked, though it was hard to tell with the two big tusks jutting out of his lower jaw. He had a bald head, blue eyes and a red tattoo, in the shape of a skull, over his entire face. A fairly intimidating appearance, but at least he didn’t have any horns or giant tentacles whipping around behind his back.
“What?!” Ariel was shocked at first, but then immediately snapped out of her daze and grabbed her hallucinating ‘kids’, pulling them at least a few dozen feet away from that dangerous barrier. Once they got far enough away, the two Red Goblins snapped out of their daze… Of course, to an observer with a strong enough resistance to telepathic manipulation, all three of them were very clearly not ‘red’.
Joshua chuckled and said, “I ain’t ever seen your kind before… Heard about ya though. Pink Goblins. From the rumors, ya’ll ‘re ‘posed to be a bunch uh rapists and loonies. Nothin’ but little monsters.”
“We aren’t like that! These kids are innocent… And I-”
Before Ariel could finish speaking, the green man raised his left hand and said: “It ain’t my place to interrogate ya and what-not. That’s your business. Welcome to Angren County. Follow that there root-wall East, and you’ll get where your goin’ soon enough. But jus’ keep in mind… The three uh y’all turn out tah be rapists or slavers, there’ll be hell ta pay. Jus’ keep that in mind. See ya ‘round.”
After he finished speaking, Joshua ‘Quickdraw’ Nine tapped a nearby tree with his right hand and vanished into thin air. After he was gone for a few seconds, Tommy whispered: “That was so scary…”
Then Mary asked, “Mama… What was that thing? It looked like a giant goblin! He was really sexy though…”
“I have no idea. Maybe Green Goblins that can survive in this type of environment are all giants?” Airel shook her head, turning to look at her two ‘kids’. After sighing softly, she said: “We need to keep moving. We should also be a lot more careful. That man may not have directly attacked us, but we have no idea whether other people will be the same way. Let’s keep heading towards Angren, and hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal with some of the Dark Elves there. The real question is… What the hell’s a ‘County’?”
*Third Person Perspective*
The United States of Alfirin only had a few actual states: Black Mithril, Beast Haven, White Mithril, Angren, Salvation and the relatively new ‘Snow Haven’. However, within those six states, there were a myriad of vast ‘counties’. For example, Hithu, Lum and even the uninhabitable southern end of Salvation, Agar, were all merely counties within the state of Salvation.
Since the overall population of every state was incredibly miniscule compared to the size, most of every ‘county’ was essentially just wilderness. There were also plenty of farms, orchards and other agricultural regions, but nothing like that existed in the Third Ring. Even the Second Ring of Lorthon was extremely dangerous, due to the massive quantity of magical beasts. There were people powerful enough to protect their land, but anyone that strong wouldn’t want to stay in the Second Ring.
There were no real rules against mass deforestation, because it simply wasn’t possible. Some trees and foliage could grow or spread within days. In fact, it wasn’t strange for carnivorous plants to consume unlucky foragers and lumberjacks that underestimated the forest.
Fortunately, Ariel was aware enough to either avoid or destroy any hostile planet life that got in her way. Of course, when she came across a 30 meter tall feral treant, the three goblins chose to hide instead of fight. It was during their stay inside a random small cavern, that a storm started brewing outside. The whole sky darkened when it was still the middle of the day. Though that was partially because of the massive amount of trees, making many parts of the jungle fairly dark even on the brightest days.
“So much thunder… Mama, why can’t I see any flashes in the sky?” Mary asked her ‘mother’, as the two of them were sitting on a rock near the cave entrance. Tommy was sleeping on the ground a few feet behind them and snoring softly.
“If I had to guess…” Ariel looked around and closed her eyes, then she murmured: “Maybe there’s a Lightning Mage? Or two? It’s possible that there are monsters that can control lightning too; you never know. Either way, we need to be careful. I’m starting to get a bad feeling, and I think we might be lost. Those maps are hundreds of years old, so a lot of the landmarks are missing or hard to see.”
They had to take a detour along a particularly dangerous river, so their actual position was further away from Angren than when they met that mysterious green man. At least 50 miles to the northwest.
“No… That doesn’t sound like thunder.” Ariel listened more closely, and noticed that she didn’t feel any waves of Mana, just short bursts of ‘popping’ noises from at least a mile away. Thunder did echo through the forest occasionally, but the majority of the noises were much quieter and more frequent.
As time passed by and the storm grew more fierce, those noises started getting closer and closer. Eventually, Ariel murmured: “Damn, hide behind the boulder.” Although she could use her telepathic abilities to make the entire cave seem like it wasn’t there, that approach would actually have the opposite effect if the people or creatures were strong enough to see past the illusion. Essentially, if they were weak enough to be tricked so easily, then they weren’t dangerous enough to hide from in the first place.
“Tommy wake up…” Mary patted the snoring man in the cheek, and he immediately opened his eyes and was about to shout, when she whispered: “Shh~, don’t make any noise.”
“Look, a cave up ahead!” A loud but extremely high-pitched voice screamed out.
Then a deep voice bellowed, “Be careful! It might be a trap!”
“Shit, everyone get to the back.” Ariel whispered to her companions, as she rushed to the back of the cave and used her tentacles to carve out a hole on the eastern wall. Since it was so dark, she figured they probably wouldn’t notice a little dip in the very back of the cavern. As the three goblins crouched down and peeked out towards the entrance of the cave, a series of loud *Banging* noises erupted. Followed by the metallic clanging of weapons that Ariel was all too familiar with.
“Ryan, look out!” An even deeper voice roared, before a terrifying *Boom~!* resounded. The whole cave shook, and some stalactites fell to the ground, shattering. Then five people finally made it into the cave. When Mary and Tommy saw them, they both gasped in shock. While Ariel just furrowed her brows.
The first three were familiar looking, at least to the former Matriarch: A female Red Goblin Fire Mage, a male Dark Dwarf Earth Knight and a female white-furred Rat Tribe Assassin. Of course, those were just the occupations she assumed they had, after a cursory glance at their attire and weaponry. The Red Goblin was wearing a crimson cloak and holding a long ‘staff’, the Dark Dwarf was almost entirely protected by thick black mithril plate-mail and wielding a warhammer, while the Rat Tribe woman was wearing dark leather and had at least two knives on her hips.
“Fuck! Where did they get grenades?!” A huge, three-meter tall Tiger Tribe man coughed up blood after roaring in anger. His left arm was missing, and there were dozens of bloody wounds all over his left-side chest and waist. He was completely naked, though his fur almost entirely covered his genitals anyway. There was a long ‘spear’ hanging on his back, while he drank a strange luminescent green potion in his right hand.
The last and final person was a Dark Elven woman. At least from the waist up. Her lower-body had the appearance of a black panther. She had a strange contraption in her hands. Somewhat similar to the ‘staff’ and ‘spear’, but with three tubes, a bunch of circular metal rings connecting them, and a metal ‘belt’ coming out of the left side of the device.
“Set up the… Ugh, radio.” The tiger growled, before collapsing onto the ground and groaning in pain. However, his left arm miraculously started growing from the stump on his shoulder, at a fairly rapid pace. Instead of flesh, the new limb was green and seemed to be covered in bark, with small green leaves sprouting here and there.
The Dark Dwarf and Red Goblin both got to work, putting together a fairly large, rectangular device. Each of them had to carry half of it in separate backpacks. Meanwhile, the panther-centaur was sighing as she checked her own bag, grumbling: “Almost outta ammo… We underestimated those fucking roaches.”
*3rd Person Perspective*
“Fuck, they’re coming!” The panther-centaur shouted, as she quickly moved back towards the middle of the cave and lifted her weapon. She channeled some mana into the device, and two metal poles shot out of the bottom, embedding themselves into the stone floor.
The Tiger Tribe man crouched behind the boulder, pulling the long ‘spear’ off his back and mounted it over the rock. He pulled back on a piece of metal that was sticking out of the side, then pushed it back into place, growling: “Don’t let any of those fucking roaches through!”
The Dark Dwarf and Red Goblin finally finished setting up the device, which had a myriad of metal poles sticking out of the top. Once they flicked a switch, it started making out screeching noises, before eventually a muffled voice could be heard through the speaker on the front: “Alpha-Minor, this is Outpost-Five, do you copy?”
“Alpha-Minor, this is Outpost-Five, we’re picking up your signal, but we need a sitrep.” The voice sounded feminine, though it was fairly deep.
The Dark Dwarf removed his gauntlet and pulled a small rectangular object away from the radio transmitter, which was connected to the device via a snort wire. He pressed the button and said, “This is Alpha-Minor… Or what’s left of us. Shit, we lost half our squad fighting our way outta that shithole! We killed the queen and burned the nest, but then this goddamn storm started and… Put out the fire. We need backup… I repeat, we need some fucking backup!”
“Copy that Alpha-Minor! We’re sending in the cavalry… Delta-Major is headed your way now. E.T.A. seven-minutes. Hang in there, Outpost-Five out.” After that last message, the radio went quiet and the dwarf placed the microphone back onto the device. Then he picked up his warhammer and walked over to the right side of the panther-centaur.
“Well, I guess this is it, heheh~…” The white-furred Rat Tribe girl snickered, as she pulled out a ‘short-staff’ and aimed it at the entrance. While the Red Goblin was already standing in the very back and doing the same. If they weren’t so tense, at least one of them should have noticed the three pink people poking their heads out of the side of the wall.
Although the rain and thunder outside were loud, an eerie *Hissing* sound started to echo through the cavern. Then a group of humanoid creatures suddenly appeared. They made *Clicking* and *Clattering* noises as they charged into the cavern. Those ‘people’ were covered in chitinous armor, with scythe-like appendages on their forearms. The giant brown bipedal cockroaches swarmed into the room, some of them spitting acid out of their mouths, while most of them simply charged forward recklessly.
“Open fire!” The tiger roared, as he pulled the trigger on his spear. At that same instant, both the short-staff of the Assassin, and the long-staff of the Mage released smoke, fire and cacophonous rumbling. Obviously the weapons were firearms.
The loudest noise of all was the triple-barrelled gatling gun that the panther-centaur was wielding. Not only did it make a whining sound as it turned rapidly, but the dozens of rounds firing per second were also deafening.
Without much suspense, the various guns tore the roach-men apart… However, even after dozens of them were slaughtered, the creatures just continued charging into the cave. The most dangerous of the insects were the ones that had humanoid hands. They were intelligent enough to understand how to use all manner of weaponry, including firearms.
*Bang-Bang-Bang~!* Three of the cockroaches fired off rifles at the same time. Fortunately, everyone was behind cover… Except one person.
“Agh, I’m out! And I’m hit… Fuck!” The panther-woman had a gaping hole in her lower-left side. After being pulled over behind the boulder by the dwarven man, she lost consciousness. Fortunately, they still had plenty of healing potions left.
“Shit, there’s just too many of them! We’ll never be able to hold out for five more minutes!” The Red Goblin ‘Mage’, actually started casting fireballs while she was shoving a new magazine into her rifle.
Both Mary and Tommy were holding their ears and moaning in pain. They weren’t scared, so much as deafened by the various noises. Ariel on the other hand, was quickly able to adapt to the incredible volume. She was extremely conflicted by the ridiculous situation.
‘If I help them, they might repay me… On the other hand, they could think I’m a monster and use those weird staves on me instead… No, I’ll probably be fine, but the kids are way too weak to survive. Hmmm, but if I do nothing and they die, when their so-called cavalry arrives, they might blame me, and I have no idea how powerful they might be.’
“Oh fuck it! If they try to kill me, I’ll kill them. It’s as simple as that!” The pink-skinned woman walked out from behind the rocky wall. Unlike in the outer Rings of Lorthon, the Third Ring’s mana density was far too high for her to conjure a fireball without any practice. Thus, she simply used the strongest weapon at her disposal: Her mind.
“I’m on your side.” She whispered into the minds of the five people in front of her, but before any of them turned around to look at her, she reached out her six tendrils and released a massive amount of Mana.
“Die!” As she roared, half of the roaches started slaughtering the other half. The ones with weapons and the acid-spitters were the first to be eliminated, mainly because there were no longer any meatshields protecting them. It’s not as if the four men and women stopped attacking after all.