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May 21, 2022 3:35 PM
The Graveyard Rose meets a town that's off to a good start.
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“By school, I mean one of the eight winds of magic. Where I was taught, people largely learn to manipulate one of the eight winds and then highly specialize within their chosen wind. Mine is the Amethyst Wind, Shyish. It is highly effective, but with occasional unfortunate aesthetics. Others include the lore of light, or fire, or beasts, life, metal, etcetera. I could speak at great length about the minutia of magical theory and I have devoted many lifetimes to its study, but I suspect we don’t have time for that. My species has innate magic, but my primary powers are learned, if that is what you mean by ‘natural.’”

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"Uh, no, we should be getting out there in a minute. But that doesn't sound at all like the way that magecraft works! If the domains are conceptual like fire or beasts, it sounds more like natural magic. How many people could learn your 'winds' if they tried? Does talent for it run in bloodlines? I know that natural fire magic runs in sorcerous bloodlines, sometimes. Or I've heard there's fire-men in the south, at least, who have the natural magic but look human."

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“Where I come from, anyone can theoretically learn magic but few are capable of the proper ways of thinking to learn anything beyond the basics, and errors can result in explosions… or worse…

Magical theory aside, which I will happily speak on for years at a time if given the opportunity, I did have two major questions about the upcoming battle. Well, three now. Four maybe. Three, and a sub-question. The first: of these giants and titans? How powerful are they, what are their principle powers, and are they likely to be present in the upcoming battle? The giants my country has fought stand over a hundred feet tall, and a force of your size would not be speaking confidently of victory without a large number of cannon which I do not presently see. 

Secondly, what is your plan, and how best would someone with a large amount of primarily offensive magic fit into it? 

Thirdly, because it seems as though your understanding of magic is very different from mine, does your sort of wizard do dispels, and would you expect to be able to dispel my magic? I should perhaps work a spell for demonstration if that would help, though I am wary to expend power given the weak winds here and the upcoming battle. The sun-question here naturally being; are we expecting to face enemy magic here?” 

It seems as though it would be unwise to mention that literally her whole family are practitioners of necromancy, and most were involved in a terrible unholy war against the living…

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The captain speaks, again. "The Empire is ruled and lead by beings often called titans, or giants, but we know little else of them. None have visited our city, or any of our neighbors. I know they are changed beasts, like how elves and goblins are changed men, but they are wise and cunning, unlike monsters. They can speak like humans, and are good strategists and mages. They are large, much larger than a man, but not so large as that. Sixty times the weight of a man, perhaps, but not sixty times the height. I do not expect to see one today, but the goblins have grown more numerous, and if the goblins are truly their servants I would expect to see one eventually."

His plan is simple. Form a line of shields, have some of the men limp to present a weak point, bait the goblins into a charge, then bring down spears and break the charge. Goblins break easily, and if they can defeat the main force quickly, the mage can mark and track any who run, or catch them if they make it to another shore.

The mage is happy to test dispelling, but also needs to conserve power. There's a few things he could try. He could make a permissions field that blocks all magic, he could try to shred the spell, he could try to siphon power from it, he could try to seize control directly. Regardless, the goblins rarely have mages. He's never seen one, and the few that other soldiers have reported used only the most simple of spells. Flame strikes or force blades, in general, with poor aim that a trained mage can usually distort. Goblins mostly use magic for sabotage, in groups larger and more clever than this.

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“If they are unlikely to have meaningful magic then there seems little point of testing dispels now, when it is important to conserve power. Approximately how many goblins are we expecting?” The countess had always said to use “we”… it makes her seem like the in group. Another quickly suppressed pang of loss. The countess was only human and unwilling to become something more. Whether it be today, or a few decades from now, mayflies are always fated to die… she tells herself that it makes it hurt less…

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The soldiers are incapable of reading her clearly enough to notice the pain. For perhaps-obvious reasons, they're a little distracted.

"More than us, but not a large horde. Perhaps fifty, per the original report."

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Oh. OH. Is that all? And they’re worried about some escaping? Well, Elspeth ought to demonstrate her worth early. It will save time later, and lead to fewer conversations with muscle-bound idiots. 

“That is a smaller force than I was expecting. I will remove it for you. Assuming they are not naturally ageless, I can even prevent any who escape for surviving more than an hour.” 

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The men look surprised, but not incredulous.

"I don't know much about the lives of goblins, but I would expect them to age. The Lord Archivist writes that some of the first elves still remain, but even they appear older than other elves."

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“Then I will solve your problem for you. You know more about their psychology than I do. What would you expect to cause them to group up? The tighter their formation, the larger the chance that I can rate them all with curse of years, and then the resultant surge of Shyish should allow a purple sun which they would be unable to dispel?” Worst case, the reserves in her Black Periapt should cover it, but with how weak the winds are here, she doesn’t want to risk burning through reserves that she may struggle to recover. 

Elspeth is very much looking forward to trying a purple sun outside of a research room, but it would be responsible to tag them all with a curse of years first… and embarrassing should any escape. 

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The winds remain thin and languid, but a little livelier than they seemed in the distance when she first arrived.

"They press together when cornered. If you can strike firmly at the center, we can risk a charge of our own, and send our mage to hassle them from the rear instead of remaining distant. I would not expect they can dispell strange magics."

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“Are there any terrain features against which they could be cornered? I would rather not risk mortal lives if it could be avoided.” 

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"This block is two farms. They've demolished the one, they'd demolish the other if we pushed them up against it. If we move quick we might be able to cut them off before they get closer, run them up to the cross-canal. They might try to swim it but they aren't good swimmers."

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“Then let’s try that. Corner them against the canal, and I can exterminate them. If your men can get behind them, even better.” 

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"Understood. Time to move, then."

The soldiers run to the line, calling the others together and briefly explaining the plan. They start moving in a wide arc towards the field where the goblins are grouping, planning to rush them towards the cross-canal that meets the spoke-canal further downstream.

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Elspeth gathers the winds of magic, and readies a curse of years whenever it looks like the goblins are sufficiently grouped that it will reach all of them. 

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The goblins begin moving forward to meet the oncoming soldiers. Spears and swords raised the two forces clash.

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The Oikonian soldiers are larger than the goblins, with broad, round shields that the goblin weapons can't pierce. They manage to push the edges of the line inwards, shifting the mass closer together and back towards the water.

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They are forced back and back, into a tight group, exactly as planned!

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This is the cue General Sirati has been waiting for!

Suddenly there is a titan carrying 12 goblins and a force of a hundred more directly behind the human line. The fields beneath them immediately turning to hard-packed earth, General Sirati passes her spyglass to one of the goblins on her head.

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The humans whirl about, reorienting to being surrounded. The mage yells in a magically-amplified voice. "Before they spread, Lady Wizard!"

Sure enough, the teleported goblins are rushing away from the titan to meet the soldiers and block a retreat.

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Is that… some kind of hairless mammoth? It doesn’t matter. They’re all in range for a curse of years. She pulls the winds of magic tight about herself, and weaves them into a complex tangle. All metaphorical gears and shafts and relays of power. Elspeth lays it carefully, just so, over the assorted goblins so that the spell hooks into their mortality. 

Simultaneously, because she recalls that goblins occasionally bring magic- and one can assume whatever wizard cast the teleportation came with- she raises her hand. The Ruby Ring of Ruin gleams there, sunlight refracted red and orange. Brighter than it should, until a roiling smoking ball of condensed flame streaks up towards the hairless mammoth thing. 

A flashy bound spell that draws its own power, to distract any potential wizards and draw out dispels. The subtler more dangerous one to doom every single goblin present to age through the entire rest of their lifespans in an hour or less. 

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73rd Curator of the Oncoming Night Sirati waves her trunk, watching the battle before her, and raises a great wall of force between this strange mage and the fighting. Flame collides and splatters against the transparent wall.

"Archers, mage to the rear!"

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The wall behind falls and the goblin archers focus their fire beyond it, and their saggy, wrinkled skin sags and wrinkles further, their hair begins to turn from black to grey, but what do goblins care? They shoot and fight.

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Well that’s an unconventional way of stopping a simple fireball. Less efficient too. Interesting. 

Arrows rain down around Elspeth, but she doesn’t particularly mind. Mundane wood and… steel? Flint? Doesn’t matter. Mundane materials will not end her life. And if any are too serious, she has only to upend the hourglass…

Many are deflected by her ward, but not all. Nowhere near all. Many more shred her robes, but scatter off the gromrill scales she wears beneath. Some find their mark though. In her hand, her wrist, where her neck and shoulder meet  lines of blood scored along her skull. She ignores the damage. None is sufficient to incapacitate her, and what is pain beside the twin loss of her lover and her dragon? 

Already the conflict has drawn Shyish to the field, sufficient for a purple sun. If the enemy wizard- wherever they may be- is creating walls of force instead of dispelling, perhaps they can’t dispel? In any case, they won’t know to save their dispels for a purple sun if they’ve never seen one before…

 

Purple Sun of Xereus. She draws the winds of magic to herself once more, and sets them turning a great metaphorical driving gear. Power splits, and refracts back on itself, again and again, denser and denser. And then… a good target? The densest concentration of goblins? Try to break the horde? That sounds right to her. Mammoths are frightening, but without a controller- or with a panicked controller- they aren’t much threat. She casts. 

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The soldiers have pressed together, holding back goblins from both sides with spear and shield. They push back, trying to avoid the surge of magic.

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