Glimmerglass dropped to one knee, exhaustion rolling over her and threatening to drag her into a blissful and unfortunately permanent unconsciousness. A long night’s sleep was what she needed, having missed at least one already thanks to the constant fighting, but falling asleep in the middle of a battlefield was typically a choice which turned out well.
“Glim, you still with us?” Mellisandra asked.
“Yeah,” Glimmerglass panted out. “I’m fine.”
“Liar,” Cambrell said. The [Goblin] [Assassin] positioned himself to Glimmerglass’s side, standing up to his full height to provide her with what cover he could.
“We have any mana potions left?” Glimmerglass asked. Her fingers where shaking badly enough that she wasn’t sure she could even hold the potion but pressing forward was their only option.
After the raid on the Consortium’s fleet, the adventurer’s had been prepared to launch another sorte immediately, but the success of their first run had apparently convinced the Consortium to pull their ships out of range.
That meant less loot for the adventurers but also less support for the ground troops the Consortium had already deployed around the [Fallen Kingdoms].
“I know this is asking too much”, Penswell had said as she marshalled the adventurers into new alliances as they returned from their ship-raids. “This is our moment though. We have to strike now, before the Consortium can setup any new supply lines for their troops. And before their forces can dug in any deeper.”
Glimmerglass had been up for the challenge at the time. She’d gained two levels and was demonstrably stronger than ever.
What she hadn’t considered was that there were limits to even her new strength.
She had been assigned with her new team as one of the spears to pierce the defenses the Consortium had erected around the [Elven] town of [Crystal Bower]. Glimmerglass had requested that they be sent to [Doom Crag] instead, hoping to liberate the town she’d failed to protect, but Penny had struck that down.
“We can’t win everything back,” Penny had said. “The demolished us last time because they forced us to spread our forces out. We need to focus in on taking back the most strategically important points first.”
It meant leaving people to the nonexistent mercy of the Consortium. Towns who had looked to the adventurers as their heroes. Towns where the adventurers had setup homes and shops, where people on the street were on a first name basis with each of them. Far too many of those places would receive no help at all. People who needed help getting rats out of their basement would be facing down the might of the Consortiums battle legions, all so that the [Fallen Kingdoms] would be able to mount any defense at all against the new wave of the invasion.
Not that even that sacrifice would be enough if the push to retake [Crystal Bower] and the other places like it was unsuccessful.
Glimmerglass rose to her feet.
Her party looked just as ragged as she did. Damnazon was below a quarter health, Mellisandra was debuffed to the point where she could barely make a static shock much less throw [Lightning Bolts], and the rest were even worse.
“[Casting spell: Cleansing Radiance]” Glimmerglass said, feeling the magic she’d spent five minutes recovering drain away into the spell.
“I’ve got a cheap magic potion here,” Cambrell said. “Don’t mind the flavor, it was poisoned at one point.”
Glimmerglass considered objecting but decided being poisoned might be a welcome relief and downed the vial of sparkly blue liquid without a care.
Cambrell was right. It was a cheap potion, suitable for adventurers less than a quarter Glimmerglass’s level but still able to refill enough of her empty magic pool for at least a few spells.
“How long until the next counter attack?” Mathi Automatics asked. He was leaning on his wizard’s staff, trying to recover his magic the same as Glimmerglass had been. As a [Wizard] he had the advantage that few of his spells were necessary out of combat, though Glimmerglass had seen him casting the simple mending and buffing spells he had well after the last fight against the Consortium had finished.
“They’ll be in range in about five minutes,” Kelindra, the group’s [Archer], said. She was as battle damaged as the rest of them, but since her abilities were mostly gear driven, she was arguably the most able to fight.
“I wonder if they’d take a rain check and just let us hold this spot for another hour or ten?” Cambrell asked.
A crossbow bolt whizzed past him, deflecting harmlessly off the [Evasion] enchantments woven into his doublet. They hadn’t completely eradicated the Consortium forces in the area but the ones which remained were as ineffectually under leveled as they were mindlessly loyal. It would take hours or possibly even days to clear out the skulking snipers but since their attacks had only the barest chance of connecting for the most trivial amounts of damage the party was treating them more as a nuisance than a proper threat.
They’d come in from the south of [Crystal Bower], teleporting as deep into the city as the Consortium’s barrier fields allowed.
Glimmerglass had expected the Consortium to rally quickly but hadn’t been prepared for the instantaneous counter attack they came under the moment the smoke from their teleport cleared.
They’d won that fight.
And the one after it.
And the dozens of fights after that.
It wasn’t like a raid though. In dungeons, each fight was usually separated from next by a small distance to traverse. Even if there wasn’t time to recover physically from one to the next, the short breaks allowed the party to mentally reset and brace for the next encounter.
The Consortium’s forces gave them no such opportunity.
From where they arrived at the [South Sentinel Tree], all along the [Great River Road] and up to the [Library of Lights], Glimmerglass’s party was forced to carve a path through a continuous stream of Consortium forces.
[Clothworks], [Metal Mechanoids], and so, so many [Crystal Constructs], all in the Consortiums livery piled out of buildings, and alleys and the thick groves of trees to reinforce each other and chip away, bit by bit, at the party’s resources.
It wasn’t until the party had reach a spot they couldn’t run from that they’d allowed the full weight of the Consortium’s troops to catch up to them.
By the time the fight was over, Glimmerglass had leveled up twice more and even those extra reserves of strength had been depleted.
“If we’ve only got a minute, should we stick to the plan?” Damnazon asked.
“What other choice to we have?” Mathi asked.
“We could go look for a [Heart Fire] to convert back,” Damnazon said. “This is so hard because we’re playing this like a Rogue-like. One life and we’re done. That’s not how this is supposed to work. If we could respawn we could hold this place forever.”
“We checked for the [Heart Fire] at the [South Sentinel Tree] though and it wasn’t there,” Mellisandra said. “How would we even know where to go?”
“If we’re on the move, the mobs won’t be able to pin us down?” Damnazon suggested.
It wasn’t a great plan, but sometimes even mediocre plans could be the key to winning the day.
If they’d been in a similar position in a normal dungeon run, Glimmerglass would have jumped at Damnazon’s idea. Risky, high reward plays were an adventuring party’s forte. Even when they failed, it was usually a spectacular enough failure that people were happy to have stories to tell and songs to sing about it.
But failure wasn’t going to be spectacular here.
If they failed to hold the [Library of Lights], Penny’s plan to take back [Crystal Bower] would grind to a halt. From the library, Glimmerglass’s team had an optimal firing position for their long range attackers on the entire southwest quadrant of the city. The library was also protected by some of the strongest enchantments in the city, which meant only a force willing to slug it out in a melee to get through the [Seven Gates of Knowledge] which led into the library proper would be able to retake it.
From their experience with fighting through the Gates, Glimmerglass had a keen appreciation of how hard it was to dislodge the library’s defenders. If her team had been at full strength, she knew they could have held off every Consortium soldier in the city with the defense bonus the Gates provided.
As it was, the incoming strike force the Consortium was sending had probably an 80% chance of retaking the library and forcing them to make a long and dangerous ghost run to the nearest [Heart Fire] they knew of. Those were bad odds, made even worse by the stories that had spread throughout the adventuring teams. Stories of the people who didn’t make their ghost runs successfully.
Everyone knew the [Hounds of Fate] were traveling in packs. Big ones, and closer in than anyone had ever seen before.
Finding a new [Heart Fire] was the smart and safe play.
It was a real shame they couldn’t take it.
“We can’t leave,” Glimmerglass said.
“I know we’re supposed to stick to the plan…” Damnazon began to say but Glimmerglass cut her off.
“The [Great Goblin Grenadiers] are pushing in along the route we took right now,” Glimmerglass said. “They’re only level 60. If we don’t act as a lightning rod to pull in the Consortium’s forces, they’ll catch the G3’s out in the streets before the can reach the anti-teleport anchor for this zone.”
“Maybe we can try to head to them then?” Damnazon asked.
“She’s right, we can’t do that,” Mellisandra said. “Think of the [Razor Shard Bombs] the [Crystal Constructs] were throwing around? They tore us up pretty good. If they hit a level 60 they’ll obliterate the poor goblins.”
“Nice to see somebody cares about us,” Cambrell said.
“Live or die, we’re in this together,” Mellisandra said and offered a fist bump to Cambrell.
“We don’t have much at the moment, but we can work with what we’ve got,” Glimmerglass said. “Our healing spells will go a lot farther thanks to the damage reduction from the gate.”
“I can take our other ranged dps up to the central tower,” Kelindra said. “That should keep us out of their AoEs and we’ll have a huge advantage firing from the right side of the wards this time.”
“Sounds good, but don’t engage them early,” Glimmerglass said. “They’ll definitely have aerial units who are capable of transporting their ground forces. We want them to drop off their troops at street level where our heavies can engage them.”
“Won’t they drop them off everywhere and just swarm us?” Mathi Automatics asked.
“That hasn’t been their M.O. so far,” Glimmerglass said. “Plus they held the library long enough that they should know the upper levels can be secured a lot more strongly than the public areas on the ground floor here.”
“Yeah, and we don’t want them getting locked out and then roaming away to look for trouble. Our goblin friends wouldn’t find that too fun,” Damnazon said.
With little time left to spare, the adventures picked themselves up, dividing into sub-teams and taking up their positions even with long term debuffs weighing them down.
For her part, Glimmerglass knew that she needed to summon up all of the strength that she could.
On the ship, she’d touched on something powerful within herself. Something that had put her feet on the road to adventure long ago. Something she desperately needed again.
For a moment, the world around her was quiet. The rest of her team had assembled elsewhere, and their enemies (apart from the underleveled pests) had not yet arrived.
Glimmerglass reached within herself, searching for the feeling, the wordless voice which had always inspired her.
All she found though was silence.