Broken Horizons – Vol 4, Ch 7

 Glimmerglass had been given command of one hundred adventurers and she was going to get each and every one of them killed. It wasn’t what she wanted, but it also wasn’t what scared her.

“Portals are opening within the city. Hundreds of them,” Damnazon said. The half-giant tank and her team were among the adventurers who had been assigned to Glimmerglass and she’d chosen them as a sort of personal guard. 

It was extravagant having a full team acting as her support when she was standing in one of the most heavily shielded rooms within the city of [Doom Crag]. Together the nine adventurers could have turned the tide of any of the battles being fought in the city. Glimmerglass had to hope they would be enough to hold the [Central Command Station], though a part of her was sure they wouldn’t be.

“Get the Chaos Incorporated team to the forges. We have five portals opening there,” Glimmerglass said, watching as a real time holographic map updated with the intel from over a dozen adventuring teams who were stationed along the city’s outer walls.

“They’ll need backup,” Mellisandra said. “From the reports, each portal is dispensing multiple [Boss] class enemies.”

“Call [Eastrun] and [Highroost], we can portal in reinforcements of our own,” Glimmerglass said. She wasn’t officially a [Tactician] but when she’d been active she’d been one of the main planners for the raids her guild attempted. 

Watching the invasion play out before her in miniature shifted Glimmerglass deep into her healer mentality. Unlike what others might have guessed though, that made her neither more compassionate, nor more merciful.

A healer’s job was to help the party win at any cost. Ideally, they did so by keeping everyone on their feet since a party with everyone still standing was far more functional that one with a bunch of corpses who weren’t doing any work. Sometimes however letting people drop so others could stay in the fight was the only option available.

As the Consortium’s forces spread out from their points of arrival, Glimmerglass could see that exact situation developing in front of her.

“The Society of Enlightenment is engaging with the invaders in the palace district,” Mellisandra said, tapping the display to highlight the green dots which represented the eight defenders who stood between the two portals which had opened already.

“What are they seeing?” Glimmerglass asked.

“Light troops,” Mellisandra said, zooming in the view of the Palace district so that the dots of the Consortium’s forces resolved into individual combatants.”

“[Clothwork], [Metal Mechanoids], and [Human] [Pyromancers]?” Glimmerglass asked, identifying each of the troops as her gaze swept the battle field. “There are no [Boss] class mobs in this group at all?”

“Maybe they need something from the forges so they concentrated their better forces there?” Damnazon asked.

“All of the other groups are coming into engagement range now as well,” Mellisandra said. “Reports are scattered of what they’re seeing though.”

“This is strange,” Glimmerglass said. “The last time they attacked it was as a single force and their troops were segregated by function.”

“Maybe they learned from us?” Damnazon suggested. “Split their forces into teams like we did with the adventurers?”

“They’re the first to do so if that’s true,” Mellisandra said. “None of the other invasions have been heterogeneous. It’s always waves of basically identical foes with more serious threats showing up late in the battle.”

“Yeah, that’s what they tried the first time they showed up,” Damnazon said. 

“They’ve apparently decided to try  some new tricks,” Glimmerglass said as the analytical part of her mind chewed away at the idea.

The “wave of faceless minions, all alike, with giant bruisers to finish things off” was a strategy which made the coordination of huge forces practical. When the tools an army had to work with were interchangeable, tactical questions could be boiled down to simple equations of raw might applied to crush the defender’s forces. 

Saving the specialized troops for later in the battle was also tactically sound. Faceless minions were by definition expendable and if used properly could draw out the defenders more devastating attacks. With the defenders’ forces diminished by initial horde, the high value units could be deployed to greatest effect. 

Glimmerglass considered how that held true on a smaller scale on some teams she’d run with, where a lower level or less well geared member would be allowed to soak up a boss’s special attack, getting obliterated in the process, in order to ensure that the stronger adventures would survive to be able to keep fighting.

Looking at the city map of [Doom Crag] before her, she tried to peer past the dots and numbers, past the movement of the figures, and past the avalanche of cries for help which were pouring into the [Central Command Station].

“Who are you?” she asked, trying to visualize the one behind the attack. She saw only waves of chaos everywhere she looked, as though as madman’s folly had set the battle’s pieces against her. From the efficacy of the attack though, it was a terribly effective folly, if any part of it was truly mad.

“We’re getting reports in from [Eastrun] and [Highroost],” Mellisandra said. “Well, not reports. Calls for aid. They’re being hit as hard as we are.”

“It’s more than just them,” Damnazon said. “The major cities are being hit too. All of them.”

“Some of those have to be illusions,” she said. “When they assaulted us the first time, they brought close to a hundred thousand troops. If everywhere is being hit like we are they would need over two million soldiers to deploy.”

“Probably closer to three million,” Penwise said as she finished teleporting into the room. “For this wave.”

A series of containment bands solidified around her before a trio of magical scans confirmed who she was. Given the enemy’s capabilities, the Coalition wasn’t taking chances with look-alikes or forged orders, which was why Penwise had to appear in person to deliver major directives.

Glimmerglass felt a sinking pit form in her stomach at the thought of what Penny’s ‘major directive was likely to be.

“What do you mean?” Mellisandra asked.

“Our deep scrying has turned up the source of the portals. There are ships the size of small moons above us, out farther than the [High Beyond]. We can’t see inside them from this distance, but we can see the weapons which cover their hull.They don’t seem to be in range to use those weapons yet, but they are approaching, slowly. We expect they’ll be within range to begin bombardment within twenty four hours.”

“Why launch a ground attack ahead of that?” Damnazon asked.

“To soften up our defenses first and keep the ship’s safe,” Glimmerglass said, the awful scope of the enemy’s plan unrolling in front of her.

The events were following the standard invasion protocol, just on a far broader scope than she was used to. The difference was that the “expendable minions” weren’t being treated as expendable, and the more powerful fighters who were being kept in reserve until later in the battle were behemoth warships which had to be closer in difficulty to entire raid dungeons rather than individual bosses.

“How are we going to hold against that?” Glimmerglass asked, turning to Penwise, hoping the coalition’s chief strategist had some brilliance which would turn the tide.

“We’re not,” Penwise said. “Start packing up here and call your teams in. The regular forces will have to hold the city’s for now. We need the adventurers to coordinate an attack on those warships once they’re in range.”

“They’re not going to be able to hold out,” Glimmerglass said, whirling around to face Penwise.

“I know,” Penny said. “They’re going to have to buy time though.”

“We can help with that,” Glimmerglass said. “We can tie down the invaders a lot better than they can.”

“That seems to be the invaders plan,” Penny said. “They’ve ensured that we’re scattered and pinned down fighting a thousand battles at once. We need to come together, and rally against those ships before they burn the [Fallen Kingdoms] to ash.”

“But their ground assault is going to take everything if we do that,” Glimmerglass said.

“Yes. They will,” Penwise said. “Get your forces together and meet at the [Astrologos Observatory].”

And then she was gone teleporting to the next command center.

“Are we going to give up just like that?” Damnazon asked.

“Not just like that,” Glimmerglass said. “We can still fight as we withdraw. Bring civilians with us out of the line of fire.”

“Good! We’re ready to go!” Damnazon said, gesturing to the rest of her team who were already on high alert.

The wall beside the half-giant exploded inwards, spell wards arcing and screaming in alarm as an irresistible physical force shattered them.

“[Greater Shield Empowerment],” Glimmerglass said, mentally verifying that all of the friendly targets around her were within range and still breathing. “[Casting spell: Aegis Wall]”

Mystic barriers several thousand times stronger that steel enwrapped each member of her alliance as they regrouped calling out skills and spells to bring the battlefield back under the control.

The monsters facing them didn’t rest after their grand entrance though. 

“[Casting spell: Annihilation Cloud],” one of the hulking brutes said and Glimmerglass swore.

“Enemy casters!” she yelled before using an unvoiced skill to [Slip Step] to the other end of the ruined [Central Command Station], away from the health and mana draining cloud that rolled from the brute’s out stretched hands.

The center of the room became a zone of chaos, barrier spells and barrier bursters crashing together while other attacks flew and began shearing off disturbingly large chunks of her party’s health.

“Petrified”, Damnazon called out as one of the enemy’s spells converted her flesh into unliving stone. 

Glimmerglass reversed the effect with a low level status curing spell, but was otherwise focused feverishly on keeping her troops in the fight long enough for them to regain control of the battle.

“Burning,” another party member called out.

“Doom,” from another.

“Petrified.” from another.

The status effects and damage rolled in as fast as Glimmerglass could process them.

That wasn’t a problem. Mad chaos and problems rolling in faster than the eye could follow were typical for high end raids.

Not that Glimmerglass had planned to be in a high end raid, but the possibility of things going horribly awry had occurred to her. 

“Mark Prime,” Damnazon called out, placing a targeting mark over the head of one of the casting brutes.

“Mark Prime,” one of the brutes replied, placing a target over Glimmerglass’s head.

The rest of the party closed ranks around her, but Glimmerglass still watched her own health plummet as range attacks and spells found their mark. 

“This is like PvPing,” Mellisandra said as she physically dodged a fireball and replied in kind with a bolt of lightning. 

Glimmerglass didn’t have time to think about that, despite how correct the words felt.

The Brutes were huge and well armored, but where that usually indicated they would be little more than giant punching bags, these fought with the same cunning and tenacity which the adventurers brought to the melee.

On her left, the party’s [Archer] splattered over the ground in a pile of gore, a spiked club having caved in her torso.

“[Casting spell: Rise in Valor]”, Glimmerglass said, and watched as they elf floated back to her feet, her eyes blazing with divine power.

The [Archer’s] shots blasted the far end of the room with enough force that the building vaporized around them, changing the battlefield from a constrained fight inside a protective structure to one which began to roam over the ruins of the city the adventurer’s had been fighting to protect.

That gave the adventurers more room to move and the ability to use stronger spells without fear of backlash but it also allowed their opponents to do the same.

“[Casting spell: Cerberus Inferno],” one of the Brutes called out and a monster of primordial flame roared onto the battlefield.

Glimmerglass wanted to object. [Cerberus Inferno] was an [Incarnate] level ability, meaning one which only belonged to people like raid bosses. Even the strongest players couldn’t cast spells like that.

Her objections were silenced by flame as the beast of fire raked a trio of claws through her, shattering the shields she’d recast and incinerating her body with a touch.

As a ghost she ran. She didn’t have time to stop and evaluate the battlefield. With so many dead, the [Hounds of Fate] were out in force and the nearest safe [Heart Fire] wasn’t going to be found anywhere within the burning ruins of [Doom Crag].

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