Mark of the Fool-Chapter 847: Army of Heroes

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Chapter 847: Army of Heroes

What remained of Errol’s corpse fell to the parapet.

His bottom half dropped.

The top half was gone.

But as horrified as King Athelstan was, he had no time to mourn.

He barely had time to throw himself to the ground as blasts of air ripped through stone all around them. Jagged rock, as sharp as spears, pierced defending soldiers and knights, stopping them where they stood. Fine armour soon resembled mesh.

The ground shook.

Ravener-spawn roared.

“Holy light burn our enemies!” A priest chanted from beyond the wall.

Monsters screamed and the barrage stopped for a moment. Only for a moment.

The king got to his feet.

Across the castle moat, an enormous insectile Ravener-spawn had burst from the ground, shooting potent air blasts from its shell. Dozens of gibbering legions and hundreds of chitterers swarmed near it.

The spawn’s attack had only paused when other monsters attacked them..

With his white hair whipping in the wind, a mercenary, one of the three who’d saved King Athelstan—had extended his arms, and all around him, his tattoos came to life. Monsters were peeling from his skin, growing to full-size in a breath.

Griffons, drakes, wyverns, chimerae and more flew from beside him, attacking Ravener-spawn from all sides, while Ezerak directed them against the enemy.

As the monsters swarmed, more of Alex’s mercenaries poured from the streets, falling upon the Ravener-spawn with metal and magic, splitting skulls, shedding blood.

But, the Ravener-spawn did not just lie down.

They kept coming.

Acrouched form—human-sized—sprang from a hole on the enormous Ravener-spawn’s back, shooting through the air and landing hard on the battlements among the knights. It rose to its full height and with no hesitation, attacked.

It stood as tall as a man, its hide was grey-black chitin. Spider-like legs protruded from its back, and clawed hands wielded weapons the same hue as its chitin.

Hideous rattling sounds came from somewhere between its neck and skull, but from where, the king could not know. It had neither a mouth, ears, nor eyes. Where a face should have been, there was only a blank mask made of chitin.

There was no way to tell where it was looking…or at least, that is how it should have been.

Yet, the creature’s head pointed directly at the king, and Athelstan could feel an unnerving gaze creeping over him.

Suddenly, it sprang.

Knights surged to protect their king, moving to meet it as it sped across the battlement with dizzying speed.

Its weapons struck as quickly as whips and with the force of battering rams; crumpling armour like parchment, breaking shields and bodies.

Knights fell like sheared wheat.

King Athelstan raised his sword.

The crimson-eyed warrior was quicker.

With an almost careless swipe, the monster struck at Kyembe’s head.

Metal met chitin, stopping the creature’s blow, splitting its armour.

It shrieked, oozing blood, yet still striking out with bladed legs and chitinous weapons.

The warrior met it head-on, speed obscuring his sword strikes as he danced past its blows. Slash upon slash crisscrossed the monster’s armoured carapace. The tips of many of its legs were sliced off, and bits of its weapons were chipped away.

The Ravener-spawn fought even more desperately.

The small woman loosed sharp rocks at its faceless head.

A weapon swept up to parry, opening its guard.

The crimson-eyed warrior swung his blade, splitting its head in two.

If it saw the blow coming, it was the only one that would ever know, as with a gurgle, it pitched forward, dead. Another pair—twins to the dead one—quickly leapt atop the wall, menacing the crimson-eyed warrior and the tiny woman, while another landed near the king, striking at him.

King Athelstan parried the blow, Uldar’s sword biting a back-leg in two. Its wound hissed and the creature recoiled, the king pressed it with cutting blows and it backed away, knowing what his blade could do.

It stayed out of reach, seven remaining back-legs stabbing at him like spears.

Now he was being driven back, desperately trying to parry, as the Ravener-spawn quickly recoiled its legs before he could even strike one.

Its speed doubled.

The king quickly glanced at the courtyard below.

All were locked in battle. No help was coming from there.

More Hunters had climbed the walls, attacking the troops in the courtyard.

Cursing, the king tried driving the spawn back with greater swings of his blade, pushing forward while trusting in his armour. The creature skittered back too fast, lashing Athelstan with a blow from a back leg, catching his helm.

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He stumbled back.

It sprang, pursuing him.

Death closed, as a beam of light struck its chest.

The monster had no time to even scream before turning to dust.

Alexander Roth, the General of Thameland appeared beside the king.

“Are you alright, Sire?” he asked.

The king gaped, looking up from under his visor. Had he really just been saved by the young man he’d nearly sent to the dungeon?

“Your majesty.” The General pressed, looking out over the city. Ravener-spawn rampaged throughout.

Five small, orange beads of light emerged from his body, flying directly toward the enormous Ravener-spawn on the wall.

The orange beads dropped, settling in holes on its back, holes it had blasted Erroll,priests, soldiers and mercenaries from.

There came a dull whump.

The enormous Ravener-spawn exploded in blinding flame.

Alex turned back to the king. “Sire, are you alright?”

“Y-yes,” the king finally stammered.

“Glad to hear that, but I don’t have much time.” The General raised his staff, summoning hordes of monsters while he continued talking to the king. “I’m afraid it appears that the Ravener’s escalated, it seems to be trying to cull all of Thameland. Monsters like the ones here are cropping up in different parts of the kingdom, and the Heroes and my other friends have gone to stop, or slow them down. And believe it or not, they’re coming from the fae wild.”

“What?” Athelstan gasped. “But the Heroes struck a deal with—”

Alex shook his head. “Seems that doesn’t matter. He’s working against us: while I was teleporting to see what was going on, I saw Ravener-spawn coming out of fae gates, and it’s happening all over Thameland. None of the fae are trying to stop them, so it seems pretty clear he’s in league with them. We also think we know where the Ravener is and we’re going to try and destroy it to stop whatever it’s planning. I’ll try to get more support for you here, so I’ll be leaving soon. Just, hold on.”

The General of Thameland floated into the sky, spreading his arms wide.

Alex focused on his mana, preparing to cast not just one…but five ninth-tier spells.

The world slowed around him and he bent his mind to the magics.

With one limb, he summoned an astral engeli and called another with his staff; he'd enhanced it with more alchemical scripts for summoning magics and other spells.

He cast Phalanx of Wood and Stone three times with his other limbs, then Army of Heroes.

The world sped up.

Five spells activated.

Two astral engeli appeared—flanking him—quickly moving to set upon the Ravener-spawn on the battlements.

In the courtyard, the cobblestones shimmered.

Three squadrons of towering fighters of living wood and stone—armed with diamond-tipped spears and stone shields—emerged from the ground, each stood ten feet high. Following quick directions from Alex, the constructs engaged the Ravener-spawn around them.

The fifth spell brought Army of Heroes to the battle.

Power exploded from the young archwizard in a wave of blinding light, washing over the castle, the city, spreading to the outer walls.

Where the light touched, the army on this battlefield—soldiers, knights, priests, Alex’s summoned monsters, the phalanx of wood and stone and his mercenaries from the Whetstone Tavern—was outlined in radiance.

Their muscles twitched as power poured into them.

Their weapons shone with magical light.

Their skin toughened.

Their movements became more fluid.

And—most importantly—all fear that any felt, vanished, replaced by an unfailing courage.

Alex raised his sword-staff.

“For Thameland!” he roared. “Traveller’s blessing upon you all!”

“For Thamelaaaand!” the city roared with him. “Uldar and Traveller’s blessing upon us!”

The newly empowered army fell upon their attackers.

Soldiers who’d been fighting desperately for their lives, now pushed into the monstrous hordes, fighting them without fear, cutting them down to free Thameland of their scourge. Archers’ arrows—sheathed in light—found their marks in the sky, piercing tough Ravener-spawn hide and armour, dropping the creatures to their doom.

Hunters were slaughtered on the battlements and the courtyard was cleared.

Raising their glowing weapons, the Thameish army poured through the castle gates, and into the city.

They would retake their home.

Alex teleported back beside the king, who was standing over the corpses of three Hunters, his blade dripping.

“Your majesty,” he said. “My spell will empower every fighter here for a time. Take back your capital: the spell will last for about four hours, then I’ll have to come back and recast it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, so please, make this time count.”

“We will,” the king said. “Thank you, General. And may the Traveller watch over you and the other Heroes. Thameland needs you.”

“We’ll defend her, and thank you,” Alex said, looking to Kyembe, Ezerak and Wurhi. “Please, defend the king. That’s your job for the night. Make sure he does not fall.”

“We will,” Ezerak said. “I swear it.”

“He shall be as safe as a babe in its mother’s arms,” Kyembe added.

The small woman shrugged, not understanding Alex’s words.

“I have to go for now,” he told them.

He turned away, preparing to teleport.

“Wait!” King Athelstan cried, catching Alex’s forearm. He held it in a death grip. “My wife and son…they are somewhere in the secret passages of the castle. My knights are charged with getting them to safety, though…if what you say is correct, then nowhere in Thameland is safe enough. Is there somewhere you can take them? To Generasi, perhaps? I must know no harm will come to them.”

Alex looked at him with empathy.

He knew that feeling well.

“I’ll take them,” he promised. “Please, go with the Traveller, your majesty. And pray to her. Have everyone pray to her. We’ll need her strength to get through this, and she needs ours.”

“I am in your debt,” The king saluted him. “General…may you and the other Heroes save our people, and all who have come to our aid.”

“Yes,” Alex said. “We’ll end this.”

He teleported away.

Alex appeared in the courtyard of the villa in the Generasian countryside—a heartbeat later—Thameish knights and Queen Rosalind appeared around him.

An infant’s cry pierced the night.

“You’ll be safe here, your majesty,” he promised. “I’ll take you inside and talk to Mr. and Mrs. Lu. They’ll take care of you. And please…pray to the Traveller as hard as you can.”

“By the Traveller, thank you! Thank you!” Queen Rosalind cried, clutching her son to her chest. “Please, I am counting on you to save my husband and our homeland. Please!”

“We’re going to do our best to end this for good so our people never have to go through this hell again,” Alex said. “That, I promise you.”

With a final nod, he took her inside and talked to the Lus quickly before teleporting away. They peppered him with questions as he left, but he didn’t have time for long answers.

While images of the planes swirled around him, he sped up his mind.

He needed a moment to think.

Too much had happened too quickly.

One moment, they were agreeing to prepare for an attack on Och Tir Nog, and—the next—Thameland had exploded.

Teleporting to different parts of the realm had confirmed that the entire kingdom was under attack.

The vision Alex had seen in the dungeon core…was becoming reality.

The companions had split up, fighting across Thameland and gathering the resources they’d need for striking into the fae wild. Baelin had gone to councillor Kartika, while Alex had teleported across his kingdom, summoning monsters and casting Army of Heroes again and again.

That would buy them time, but how long? Alex couldn't begin to guess.

They’d need more fighters to defend the kingdom.

And Alex knew exactly where to get some.

He let his mind slow down, appearing in the lab beneath Shale’s workshop.

Toraka—who’d been working on a golem core—screamed, whirling on him.

“Alex? What in—” She started.

“There’s no time,” Alex cut her off. “The Ravener’s trying to kill everyone in Thameland. It’s suddenly escalating in a way we haven’t seen before in this cycle, and if we don’t respond hard now, Thameland’s going to be destroyed. My home…and your supply of dungeon cores will be lost, so I’m here, Toraka, to buy or borrow as many golems from you as you can spare: any dungeon core-infused models that we have. I’ll need all of them.”

She paused, processing what he was saying.

Then squared her shoulders.

“I imagined this might happen,” she said. “Though I was hoping that if it did, it wouldn’t happen for a long time.” She growled. “I can’t offer you golems already promised to customers…but, I have something better. If you could teleport us to my manor. I have something there to show you.”𝐟𝐫eewe𝗯𝐧𝚘ve𝐥.c𝚘𝚖