Worlds that didn’t mind you splitting your attention into a thousand different shards weren’t that common. Jin was happy to see the [Fallen Kingdoms] were an exception.
“We..we made it?” Rachel, or rather Deadly Alice, asked, gasping for breath on her knees.
“Yep. First try. That’s pretty impressive,” Jin said. She had nine hundred and ninety nine copies spread out across the [Fallen Kingdoms] but each of them was holding back, observing the individual world ending events, but not interfering for now.
“I thought I was going to be ripped in half,” Deadly Alice said. “Or, no, maybe it was crushed into a singularity? Or both? How am I ever going to do that again?”
“It gets easier each time,” Beth said. “I didn’t have the torn-apart sensation that you did, but I can tell you that while everyone starts out with their own experiences in World Walking, after a while it all tends to converge and get easy. Too easy.”
“This was horrible,” Rachel said, “How can it ever be too easy?”
“If it becomes easy enough, you can do it without noticing,” Jin said. “And you can do it in your sleep.”
“So I could wake up in some other world?” Rachel asked.
“Or never wake up at all,” Jin said. “No worries though. You’ll figure it out. Now let’s go find someone for you to teach. That’s how you’ll learn the fastest!”
The chasm behind Mellisandra didn’t stretch down to the core of the planet. The dead [Terravorlings] at the bottom of it had been angling for that, but both they and their [Nightmare Terravore] progenitor had made a terrible mistake. They’d developed [Supreme Fire Resistance] rather than [Fire Immunity]. The difference should have been negligible, they’re ridiculous healing factor could have easily covered the small trickle of fire damage that came from burrowing through magma to the core.
What it couldn’t deal with was super charged [Lava Serpents].
Mellisandra had been one of the roughly 1,500 [Elementalists] who’d cast a near endless steam of max level fire spells, not at the [Terravorlings] but at the [Lava Serpents] who were able to absorb the blasts and grow exponentially stronger from them.
Even with that however the fight had still be a losing battle. Force of arms only went so far when your foe had near infinite spawning resources to draw on.
That changed rather abruptly however when Cambrell [Assassinated] the [Nightmare Terravore].
The Goblin hadn’t been alone. Damnazon, and the entire [Army of Light] under Cease All’s command had made the perilous trek up and into the Terravore.
It had been Cambrell though who’d penetrated into the swirling heart of the nightmare.
Mellisandra had asked ten different people what happened next and gotten twelve different stories.
In some, Cambrell has unleashed a secret [Goblin] technique where he self-destructed and took the monster’s heart out in one blazing explosion. In other stories, he’s carved a hole in time and space that drew in both the monster and himself. Variations of that one suggested that he’d known it would happen and resigned himself to his fate, or the monster had tried to hold on and Cambrell had pitched himself at it carrying them both through the portal, or the monster had made the portal and Cambrell had cut out its heart and carried it through to break its connection to the beast.
Whatever the truth was, the [Goblin] hadn’t made it back. Mellisandra knew that was absolutely not the same as saying he was gone for good, but she still found herself worrying about him. Just because someone might survive an impossible fate didn’t mean it would be pleasant for them.
Of course Mellisandra had plenty of her own troubles to worry about too.
With the victory over the [Nightmare Terravore], no time for rest had been given to them. Baelgritz and his crew had been recalled back to the defense of [Dragonshire], while the [Army of Light] had been assigned to act as rescue teams for parties that had been lost inside dead [World Serpents].
Mellisandra and Damnazon, along with the rest of their party and an raid teams worth of other parties had tasked with acting as forward spotters and dungeon cleaners for the [Wraithwing Air Assault] forces.
“There’s a level 20 dungeon up ahead,” Damnazon said. “Not capped. Pretty small but there could be some [Death Shadows] lurking in there.”
“How’s your [Life Ward] holding up?” Mellisandra asked. Fighting [Death Shadows] was a fatal endeavor unless you had access to one of the moderately high-level charms against instant death effects. Once you took away the [Death Shadows] most prominent ability they were somewhat pathetic. An overly specialized menace easily rendered inert – provided you could get ahead of their breeding rate. With an ever dwindling number of deaths to spawn new shadows, Mellisandra felt like they were close to solving a second apocalypse in as many hours.
Then the [Phantom Coursers] they were riding on crested the hill that marked the border of the next zone over and she saw the rabbits.
In low level zones there are typically an abundance of minor enemies who are capable of respawning at astounding rates, the monsters who lack that trait having been driven to extinction by the mad stampede of beginners who will slaughter everything in sight.
What Mellisandra saw over the rise should have been the typical low level rabbit enemies that nearly all fledgling [Adventurers] tangle with many times over in their careers.
Instead however, she saw death.
As each [Blood Thirsting Bunny] died, it spawned two more, and the [Death Shadow] that killed it spawned two new progeny as well, who immediately slew the new rabbits.
“We’re going to need more [Sun Bombs]. A lot more,” Damnazon said, though Mellisandra was pretty sure there weren’t enough [Sun Bombs] in the world to stop the spread she saw before her.
Being surrounded by monsters had never been Baelgritz’s idea of a good time. His strength and bulk had largely been a genetic legacy rather than something he’d trained for, at least not until recently. Despite all his recent experiences though, he still thought of himself as primarily a scholar, or if he was being honest, a student. Being surrounded by creatures out of nightmare, as he and the people he loved most in any world fought a desperate and, again if he was being honest, losing battle to save the world? That just wasn’t where he was supposed to be.
Supposed to be, or not, the end of the world was where he was standing though. In a small, only partially repaired fort that had delusions of being a castle, as sentient virus named the [Brain Scourge] drew the forces it had collected up to the door.
The [Brain Scourge’s] minions didn’t need to outfight the fort’s defenders, they just needed to touch them. That was all the contact the [Brain Scourge] required to infect and corrupt a host.
Behind Baelgritz’s forces lay a stretch of barrow hills and then the all-but-helpless town of [Dragonshire]. If Baelgritz’s troops fell, the [Brain Scourge] would roll through the town and gain the power of several thousand mid-level [Adventurers] who were busy training themselves up as fast as they could in order to join the battles to save the world.
They would be too late though, if Baelgritz’s tactical assement of their situation was even vaguely accurate.
“They got Gray,” Vixali said, noting the loss of one of their least vulnerable allies. “Which settles our bet on whether it can affect immaterial beings.”
“I’ll pay you when the battle’s over okay?” Baelgritz said.
“I will expect payment when I find you in Hell then,” Vixali said.
The [Adventurers] were going to be too late, but the one ray of hope was that the monsters Baelgritz was surrounded by were on his side.
[Wraithwings], it turned out, had a natural [Necro Immunity] effect. A nice wizard-ish [Adventurer] had explained that meant the [Death Shadows] couldn’t directly harm scary bird things, which in turn made Grunvan very happy that she hadn’t set off the load of [Sun Bombs] she’d been hauling to the staging point in an attempt to burn up the [Wraithwings] that had been chasing her.
Of course if there had been an army at the staging point like she’d been told there would be, things would have been perfect. Instead it turned out that there was an army there, but it was not an army of [Soldiers], it was an army of [Wagon Drivers]. Specifically [Wagon Drivers] who were being recruited to become [Wraithwing Pilots].
Wagons, Grunvan felt it should be pointed out, kept in contact with a solid surface at all times. Should they lose contact with a solid surface, they were sure to regain it within seconds. The more seconds there were, the worse regaining contact tended to be.
By that reasoning, climbing onto the back of something that would not be returning to solid ground for several hours seemed absolutely disastrous.
Which was why she wasn’t surprised to find herself several hundred feet in the air on a [Wraithwing] that was loaded down with as [Sun Bombs] as it could carry and still fly. Today was a day for disasters it seemed.
“Apple Plate flight team, head northwest following the [Greenling River Basin],” Ryschild said telepathically to Grunvan and the rest of the [Wagon Drivers] from her home town.
“Copy that. Changing course to [Greenling River Basin]” Grunvan said, as she’d been coached to respond.
She’d made two bombing runs already, clearing [Apple Plate] and [High Mourn Monastery] of the [Death Shadows] that had invaded and taken root there. [Adventurers] had followed in her wake and done the final cleanup while she and the other pilots moved on to blast every other location with sunlight strong enough to fry a living shadow. It was terrifying work but also strangely fulfilling. Grunvan had no interest in pursuing it as a career but pitching in to prevent the end of the world filled her with a real note of pride.
Which was quickly nibbled away by anxiety.
“Does anyone else see that cloud formation ahead of us?” she asked over the pilots’ general channel.
“It’s pretty high up,” one of the pilots said.
“It’s red though?” another asked.
“And is it growing or am I just seeing things?” Argwin said.
“It’s not you, it’s definitely getting bigger and it’s moving fast,” Grunvan said.
“Apple Plate flight team, we have a situation at the end of the [Greenling River Basin]. I’m diverting all others flight teams to join you,” Ryschild said. “Do not wait for their arrival. Begin bombing runs as soon as you arrive and drop your entire payload. No aiming will be required.”
That sounded like exactly the kind of thing Grunvan did not want to hear, except the chatter on the pilots’ channel that followed was even worse.
“The red cloud’s over the basin,” a pilot said.
“It’s over us too.”
“Is it raining something there?”
“That’s not rain!”
“What is it?”
Meteors. The cloud was raining flaming meteors on them. Grunvan jerked hard on her [Wraithwings] bridle pulling it into evasive maneuvers she had never been taught and it was barely capable of performing as the skies rained down balls of molten, rocky death on them all.
Grenslaw’s plans were falling into ruin. Which was expected. They were plans drafted from incomplete information against novel threats. The victories the [Adventurers] were able to obtain were only barely due to Grenslaw’s tactical acumen. The lionshare of the credit there went to the [Adventurers’] ability to think on their feet and adjust to changing situations at a speed no Consortium troops could have ever hoped to match.
Similarly their losses weren’t an incrimination of their abilities. Some of the apocalypses had truly unfathomable structures. Others were overwhelming within narrow channels which the forces assembled to stop them simply didn’t have the power to mitigate.
Each loss was a catastrophe of its own regardless though, requiring rapid redeployment of the available forces and the expenditure of resources which could not be replaced and by all projections were not going to be sufficient to see the battles to their end.
Which meant Grenslaw wasn’t fighting for a victory any longer.
Victory wasn’t an option, but neither was failure.
Which left only one option.
Fight for every moment the world could get.
And hope for a miracle.