The Game: Chapter 20.1

6.8K 168 14

Chapter 20.1

At 9:40 AM, James received a text message from system administration explaining the rules of engagement. Victory could only be achieved by defeating the commander of the enemy force—Duke Galwyne for Laurentia, Baron Albern von Fleckert for Grendelheim—and if you were killed during the battle, you would become an invisible observer until the event's completion.

"The enemy forces are gathered in three camps." James drew a rough map in the sand at the foot of the Laurentian city wall. "One at the east gate. One at the north gate. One in reserve, half a mile back."

"Our objective is the enemy reserve?" Julia said.

"Yes." James pointed to the east and north gates. "These forces are mostly players. Humans will want the bounties for defeating enemies and accomplishing objectives. Therefore, the reserve will be mostly NPCs."

"So," August said, "plan is get out of the city, sneaky flank the reserve and grab the baron? Seems a bit ... reckless?"

James shrugged. "If it works, it will be the fastest way to end the battle." He stood and wiped his hands on his pants. "We may all die horribly. I just don't want to sit inside the city and turn this into a siege. It will be a slaughterhouse."

August nodded. "Bloody bit of business. Well, what do those science-fictiony warrior types always say? Lovely day to die?"

"It is a good day to die," Kanade said, expression unreadable.

Sara stepped quietly out of the shadow of the wall, sharpened scythe at the ready. It was easy to forget she was even there. She gave the impression of intensely controlling her emotions, but the longer James watched, the more it felt like those emotions just weren't there.

What had made Sara this way? And what did she gain from hanging around with people she didn't seem to either like or dislike?

A deep awoooooooooooooooooooooooooo echoed through the streets of the city, rebounding off the wall and traveling back the other way. A few seconds later, an answering brrroooooooooooowwwwwww rolled in from outside.

"Let's move," James said.

Whether his team could even work together was in question, but the outcome would be instructive either way. Getting to the bottom of all the mysteries surrounding him was a battle James intended to win.

***

No one was expecting an easy mission, James least of all, but it was appalling how fast everything went to hell.

Less than two minutes from the wall, James glanced out over the cliff face that hemmed the city in from the south and hardly had time to yell, "Get down!" before the enemy was among them.

"Witches!" August shouted.

They were on a flat, open plain with nowhere to run or take cover. James ducked and threw up his arms to ward off a sword wielded by a robed figure on a broomstick. Right before impact, a warm and comforting nimbus of light extended around him. The sword wedged into the white bubble as if into a solid object. The broom rider gave a savage but fruitless tug, then left the sword and flew off. The white light melted away and the sword clanged into the dirt. James stared at it, then picked it up.

"Thanks," he said.

"Any time." Kanade moved next to him, one hand extended forward and one to the side. The air around them was calm and dead, but her hair was billowing in a dark halo, sparking with the force of her energy.

No Life to LoseRead this story for FREE!