Chapter 20

Tris was the first to head down the passage into the third floor in order to scout ahead of us.

Her role was important. She would scout out traps and try to disarm them as well as scout for enemies. If she found monsters, she would return as quickly as possible to warn us. She was very talented in spotting traps and enemies and could operate independently without trouble.

We had only been traveling for a short time within the ruins of the third floor when Tris returned to us. “Found enemies already?” I was surprised at how quickly she had returned. On the first two floors, monsters weren’t that close to the entrance of the floor.

“This floor doesn’t appear to be as large as the first and second from just my initial observations. There is a wide open space below and there is a lizardmen encampment not far up ahead. There are around a dozen or so of them. We appear to be the first to reach this floor since the group of monsters haven’t been cleared and they are very close to this passageway.”

“What’s the makeup of the monsters?” I wasn’t about to jump in without a plan so this was a basic question.

“They are all lizardmen, doesn’t look like there are any Kobolds mixed in, but they are lightly armored. We shouldn’t have too much difficulty with them. It does seem that most of the monsters left with the invasion force. There might be more encampments like this scattered about but I didn’t bother to check since I wanted to report back as soon as possible.”

I was somewhat concerned with the ‘other encampments bit’ of her report. If this area was smaller than the previous floors, then other lizardmen nearby might be alerted to our presence once we attacked this encampment.

Hmm, it might not be a bad idea to have the lizardmen in the area converge on one point. If we use a ‘Fireball’ here and cause a bit of a commotion, then other groups in the area will come charging in. We can set up an ambush if we move quickly enough. There is sufficient cover around this terrain and these lizardmen aren’t very intelligent. We could always fall back to the second floor if we run into trouble.

I decided on a plan and then addressed my party, “We should be able to get the drop on these lizardmen ahead of us. I think if we get into position and hit them with a well placed ‘Fireball’ and then mop them up quickly, we can set up an ambush for any other groups that might be alerted by our attack. Then we can hit them as they come into the encampment with ranged attacks. We can have Reia use the initial ‘Fireball’ attack and then have Allein prepare a second one for when the enemy reinforcements arrive. Once Reia hits the encampment with her ‘Fireball’, Nes, Tris and I will kill any of the remaining lizardmen and then fall back to cover. We can repeat as necessary, I think this is a good plan, any thoughts?”

“It sounds like a good plan to me.” Reia agreed with my plan and the others voiced their agreement as well.

“Alright, Tris, lead us to the camp.”

Tris led us quietly to a ruined building which had three floors and overlooked the lizard encampment. The ruined buildings provided excellent cover and it would be simple to launch attacks from the third floor because many of the walls of the building were partially destroyed. Only Reia, Tris and I went up to the third floor while Nes and Allein waited on the bottom floor. Nes would attack once Reia’s ‘Fireball’ hit. Tris and I both had ranged attacks and planned to hit them from above. After the attack began, Allein was to find a better position to hit any incoming reinforcements with a ‘Fireball’ of her own.

If the lizardmen had shamans with them, they would pose a significant threat to us because I didn’t think the building would hold up well against a large scale magic bombardment. We would most likely be crushed in the debris from the walls collapsing or the roof caving in. Thankfully, Tris hadn’t detected any lizardmen shamans in the camp below. There could be some in other encampments, but once this group was taken care of, we planned to move to a safer position to ambush the incoming reinforcements.

I surveyed the camp below and saw that what Tris had said was accurate. There were a little over a dozen lizardmen in the encampment below us. Most of the lizardmen below carried spears, but there were a few with bows. This vantage point was perfect for us because we could easily hit the lizardmen in the encampment without them even realizing we were here.

We would need to make sure all their ranged attackers were killed first if any remained after the ‘Fireball’ hit. Luckily, these lizardmen were not heavily armored like the group we faced during the invasion. They wore no armor, instead relying on their thick hide for defense. Their hide wouldn’t protect the lizardmen against our magic attacks. However, Tris might have some trouble piercing their thick hide with her arrows.

“Tris, I don’t think your arrows will have much of an effect on them. Let me try something, nock one of your arrows.”

Tris followed my suggestion and nocked one of her arrows on her bow. One of the advantages of my ‘Void’ ability was that my magic required no chanting and activated instantly. I placed my hand on only the tip of her nocked arrow and attempted to enhance her arrow with my ‘Void Flames’.

I had been successful enhancing my own weapons and of course my own body, but I had yet to try it on someone else. Part of the reason why I hadn’t tried it before was because I was concerned about my control over the flames. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but I was confident in my ability to control the flames and thought this was a good opportunity to try it out.

The arrowhead was suddenly engulfed in my ‘Void Flame’ and I was able to localize the flame over only the arrowhead. I was extremely pleased that I had been able to control the flame and use it in this way. This meant that I could enhance the weapons of my allies.

Tris was surprised by my action and her eyes went wide as she stared at the black flame which was burning on the tip of her arrow. Even though the arrowhead was iron, it didn’t deflect the flames since this wasn’t a direct attack, but instead an enhancement. Since I had already used the enhancement on my own blade in the past, I knew that iron posed no problem for this particular purpose. Of course, I originally got the idea from seeing Reia use elemental enhancement techniques as part of her fighting style.

“Wow, I didn’t think you could do that.” Tris said.

“I wasn’t sure either, but it looks like it works! You should be able to pierce the lizardmen with that arrow. Only use it once Reia finishes her attack and aim for an archer if any survive.”

Tris acknowledged my order and readied herself.

in the encampment below, the lizardmen were communicating with each other in their guttural language. Some were guarding the encampment while others stood around a large bonfire at the center. I was somewhat curious what exactly monsters did in their downtime, but it wasn’t a mystery I was about to solve now since they would all soon be dead.

I was beginning to feel the excitement that came before battle as I waited for Reia to finish channeling her magical energy. A few months had passed since I had come to this world and I had begun to develop a fondness for fighting and enjoyed seeing a well-planned out attack go smoothly. I was no longer the novice I was when I had come here, and my knowledge of battle tactics and strategies from Earth, due to my interest in history, was a great help as the leader of an adventuring party.

Tris and I waited silently, the only sound was the rapid beating of my heart in my chest and my heavy breathing. Reia’s spell was now ready and she sent her ‘Fireball’ attack soaring down upon the the group of lizardmen standing around the large bonfire at the center of the encampment. I could feel the intense heat of the flames as it flew down from our hiding place. The ‘Fireball’ exploded sending dirt, debris, and flames everywhere. It made me think of an artillery strike from a movie or video game.

With that, the attack began and Tris and I quickly scanned the encampment for targets. The area around the bonfire was a complete mess with the body parts of lizardmen flung about. There were dark soot marks where the ‘Fireball’ had struck and flames spread violently throughout. Most of the lizardmen that had been standing around the bonfire had been killed when the attack hit, only a couple were thrown from the impact and had survived. Tris fired her arrow killing one of them and I launched an attack with my ‘Void Flames’ killing the other survivors.

Nes had made his appearance and began attacking the lizardmen who had escaped the blast. Reia, Tris and I provided cover fire from above and the remaining lizardmen went down quickly. We had caught them completely off guard and they posed very little trouble for our group. Our battle had caused quite a commotion and soon a horn blew somewhere nearby.

“Alright, looks like we are going to have visitors, let’s move to a different position.” I gave out the orders and the three of us ran downstairs to join up with Allein and Nes.

With Tris and the Demihumans present, it would be a simple matter to discover which direction the enemy would be approaching from. Allein had been waiting nearby at a location at ground level behind some ruined walls we could use for cover. Allein had already begun summoning her magic power and began chanting in order to launch a ‘Fireball’ attack of her own once the enemy made their appearance.

It didn’t take long before we could sense the enemy draw nearer. They had responded much more quickly than anticipated and had even organized themselves properly to respond to our attack. We could see an enemy formation approaching down one of the pathways leading to the encampment. There was at least twenty of them, but their formation would prove to be their folly. They weren’t aware of what exactly was going on and so had formed a tightly packed formation. If they had been heavily armored, it would have proved to be formidable for us, but they were only light infantry.

“Allein, now! Aim for the center of their formation!” I yelled towards Allein and she unleashed her ‘Fireball’ attack which devastated the approaching lizardmen.

Their formation was broken as the ‘Fireball’ hit and the lizardmen were sent flying. The attack hadn’t killed all of the lizardmen, but many of them were killed in the initial explosion while others were sent flying and had varying injuries.

“Let’s go, finish them off quickly!” My orders spurred my companions on and we ran towards the frightened and bewildered lizardmen, finishing the survivors off easily.

Most of them were in a daze after the ‘Fireball’ hit and were in a state similar to shell shock, so they could barely even respond to our charge. More horns sounded, some coming from further away. It seemed as if our attack had woken up a hornet’s nest. This was somewhat unexpected, but we could always fall back if necessary and there would be other adventurers on the floor above. I had no intention of retreating unless the enemy was absolutely overwhelming.

Smaller squads of lizardmen came pouring into our surroundings in an attempt to cut us off. Several lizardmen with spears and a few lizardmen archers attempted to surround us.

“Reia, with me. The rest of you clear out the ones to our rear.”

My ‘Void Flames’ had become much more powerful than they were when I first came to Aergan. They could now cover a large portion of my body and I was wondering if soon I could call myself the Human Torch. With the way things were going, it wouldn’t be long until I could cover my entire body in flames. I laughed while enhancing my body with ‘Void Flames’. I was now able to cover my arms and my entire torso if I wanted to. Since it activated instantly when I summoned my power, I could even rotate the flames around my body to deflect most incoming attacks.

I ran into the group of lizardmen in front of me with Reia following close behind me. My body ignited in flames and I launched straight into an attack which took them by surprise. I activated one of my newly obtained martial arts skills, ‘Sword Whirlwind,’ and spun in a deadly dance, cutting the two lizardmen in front of me in several places, my ‘Void’ enhanced sword easily slicing through their hardened skin.

The two lizard archers who had been to the rear of the lizardmen spear users, had already nocked their bows and were aiming to fire straight at me. Their attempt to fire arrows at me was put to a quick end by several of Reia’s ‘Flame arrows’ that had punched holes in their bodies.

There was one more archer who had survived our initial attack and he had time to fire an arrow at me. An attack this weak would not be sufficient to break through my ‘Void Flame’ defense and I deftly deflected the arrow with my left arm. Reia hadn’t been fast enough to strike the last archer before it could attack, but it was fine since I was unharmed. She slashed the remaining archer after the arrow was released and then finished it off, stabbing it through its chest.

Allein and the others had finished off the lizardmen squad to the rear and after surveying the battlefield, there appeared to be none left. A good number of lizardmen lay sprawled across the surrounding area, dead and mostly in pieces.

We made our way back to the center of the lizardmen encampment to see if there were any stragglers in the area. Flames from the disturbed bonfire were now spreading everywhere and at the center there was a huge conflagration. We were unable to get any closer and had to back away from the flames. The entire encampment seemed to be catching on fire at this point. Even though the encampment was in the middle of what looked like the ruins of a city, the lizardmen had built crude temporary structures which were now in flames.

Since we couldn’t head in further, we decided to backtrack to where we had come from and headed back towards the western entrance of the encampment.

After catching our breath, I turned to Tris and said, “Tris, try to scout the area and see if there are any more lizardmen approaching. We won’t be able to rest easy until the area is clear.”

“Alright, be back soon.” Tris replied and then ran off.

We waited for a while, mostly in silence. Even though we weren’t under attack, we were all on high alert as we waited for Tris to finish her scouting.

After some time passed, Nes who had been carefully looking out for Tris turned to me and said, “Fayde, I can see Tris running this way.”

Tris came running up to me temporarily out of breath, “Fayde! A large group….. of lizardmen….. coming….” She was panting hard.

“How many?” I asked.

“I don’t know the exact number. I ran here as soon as I detected them, but there are a lot of them.”

“So what’s the plan, oh fearless leader?” Nes had to get his two cents in.

“I don’t need your snide remarks Nes.”

He shot me a glare when I said that. Allein gave him a nice smack on the back of his head.

“Nes!”

He rubbed his head and mumbled an apology. Allein was useful during times like these. Nes had become more outspoken in his disdain towards me. Well, his disdain towards Humans in general, it was just that I spent more time with him than any other Human other than Tris. He hardly ever spoke to Tris, so it was left to me to be the target of his ill will.

“It’s annoying, but let’s fall back for now. There was supposed to be two other advance parties heading down to the third floor. We set out ahead of them but they should be close now. If we can meet up with them, then we can form a plan of attack.”

Allein wasn’t happy with that, “I don’t like having to run away.”

“It’s too great a risk Allein. Even if we have to share the rewards, it’s better to be safe than dead,” said Reia.

“Reia’s right, we shouldn’t risk it.” Tris agreed with her.

“We don’t have time to sit here chatting, the monsters will be here soon.”

I reminded them of our predicament and we made our way back towards the second floor and away from the approaching monsters.

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