The Game: Chapter 20.2 (part 1 finale)

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"Well, it was like, totally scary." Casey shivered. "Dang, thought we were done in for sure. But Kana somehow got the shield up and did her floaty thingamabob and well, it worked out?"

"Why couldn't we get through to you?"

Sara the Scythe stepped out of the shadow of a tree, scaring James half back to death. "We surmised that the enemy was jamming transmissions in the area. We were unable to contact anyone."

"After we scaled the cliff," Julia said, "we double-timed across the plain and through the forest."

Kanade stood up. "And got here just in time." August's wound was gone, but Kanade was glaring as if she wanted to put it right back.

"Well ... thanks," James said. "For saving us, and healing us."

Kanade turned away and cleared her throat. "It's my job."

"Kana luv," Julia said, "the all in a day's work bit is very sweet, but a teense more honesty couldn't hurt."

"Oh, be quiet."

"What's the state of the battle?" James asked.

"Big D said things at the gate're bad," Casey said. "Whadda we do? Protect the duke?"

"No," James said. "I have a plan."

***

James took out his phone and sent a three word message: light it up.

Several miles away, the city's outer wall rose up out of the plain; clouds of smoke billowed from the holes that had been blasted through it. The defensive line was barely holding.

A cloud appeared over the enemy force at the gate. With magnified vision, James watched the cloud accrete substance from thin air, growing rapidly and deepening in color until it was black as night. In minutes a thunderhead spanned a third of the horizon, darkening the plain on which the enemy troops were located. James could hear spreading confusion and uncertainty on the ground, and the rumbling crackle of electricity inside the cloud.

Then the lightning began.

Untargeted bolts shot down toward the plain. There were so many enemy troops that some were inevitably struck and annihilated. The screams of panic and drumming of feet became audible even over the storm.

The defending Laurentian forces poured through the openings in the wall. Battle cries and magic spells and steel on steel rang out in a hundred places. The enemy formations faltered and fell into disorganized retreat. Daisy and company's mage-storm began to move, following the Grendelheimian army scattering into the open plain.

James turned his attention to the NPC reserve encampment. It was already stirring. Less than a minute later, the majority of the enemy reserve had assumed marching formation, heading toward the east gate as reinforcements.

Exactly as planned.

"Almost time."

"I don't like this," Kanade said, chewing on her lip. She squatted next to James, peering out of the final line of brush at the forest's edge.

"Give me an alternative, then. Last chance."

Kanade blew out a warm gust of frustrated breath. "I don't have one."

"We can end this. And if not, we'll go out on our own terms." James put a hand awkwardly on her knee and patted it once.

Kanade jerked and nearly fell over, caught herself, and cleared her throat. "Are you sure you need that ring?"

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