The moment they emerged from the Portal, they were attacked.
"They're here!" fighting erupted on all sides.
The Undead weren't just wandering around in the wilderness after the Elder Lich appeared. They had, in short, already surrounded the Portal after the Draconians made their hasty exit. The abandoned base camp, the Portal's vicinity, all of it had been overrun by hordes of Undead.
With one quick glance, Darian saw at least nine different Liches right in the Portal Square itself, none of whom were the Elder Lich. Didn't these Liches normally wander off with just their own gangs in the Wilderness? It was impressive that they had been forced to work together to surround the Portal…
There was an unearthly snort that was louder than a shout, but almost unheard in the physical realm, and then a teeming mass of bone was barreling down at Darian from the left.
"Death Knight!!" Ling Yun was among the first of the flanking formations to come through behind the central group, and the first thing he saw upon arrival was the skeletal stallion and its rider coming straight at his face.
BOOM! Before anybody could properly panic, Mindy had already crashed into the horse with an impact powerful enough to cause shockwaves. Several zombies, three skeletons and two nearby Draconians went stumbling or bouncing backward just from being too close to the center of that clash.
"Your Highness!" Ling Yun gasped and immediately threw himself into imminent danger trying to protect Mindy.
Mindy, on the other hand, wasn't quite happy about him attempting to protect her. "I'm NOT A DRAGON!!!"
This was her roar, but it was accompanied by an eruption of fire that pretty much reached the skies. Flames spread out as wings from her back, covered her form as armor, stretched out like a two-handed great sword from her hands…
"STOP CALLING ME HIGHNESS!!" Mindy raged as she tore into the Death Knight on the left.
Darian observed for a moment. Mindy didn't seem to need any help; in terms of brute strength she was quite up to the task, and the flames protecting and arming her more than made up for her lack of technique. While she didn't seem to be very skilled, the raw strength of her form and equipment was overwhelming in itself.
"She'll be fine." Darian concluded, and ducked as a skeletal lance poked at where his head had been.
Yeah, there was another Death Knight on the right. No, wait, there were three…
"Watch out!" Darian leapt into the fray trying to stop three Death Knights from trampling over an entire formation of desperate flankers.
As guests, Darian and Mindy were invited to join the Crown Century in the central formation of the assault group.
Among soldiers, the Crown Century's warriors were the best of the best in the Dragon Empire. They were the First Century of the First Cohort, First Draconian Legion, First Army . In terms of martial expertise, any warrior in the Crown Century was easily a match for a Captain commanding another Century. Each of their officers was on the same martial level as the Majors commanding other Cohorts. In terms of combat power, no other group of 100 men could match these elites in the entire world .
The central formation, therefore, was quite able to hold its own even against Death Knights. They trampled over zombies, crushed ghouls and broke skeletons to pieces. Under the leadership of Gar'na-dras, they headed directly for the Undead commanders, the nine Liches standing in a row hurling ice lances at them.
But the flanking formations were in trouble. A single skeletal warrior would be the limit for someone on Ling Yun's level. Being surrounded by thousands of skeletons supported by fleshier Undead put immense pressure on the flankers.
"Officer down! We need a medic! Where are the priests?!" someone on the right yelled.
Captain Yang Feng jumped. "NO! Don't bring them here! They're going to get killed in this mess!"
"Actually, I think they might be fine..." Darian dodged a skeletal lance, smoothly gliding forward past it to bury his blade in the face of the Death Knight that thrust it at him. "The priests I called over... most of them are Ex-Temple Knights turned Adventurers."
While nowhere near as numerous, generally speaking the Temple Knights were on par with members of the 1st Legion, most of them at the middle or high Innate Qi stages. Whatever the central formation could handle, the priests could probably handle just as well.
Not all the priests from Ecclesia were like that. Most of them remained in the Wildlands' new towns, teaching ex-refugee children how to read and write. The ones Darian called on, though, were the healers who were responsible for the well-being of the Temple Knights. In other words, veteran warriors more at home on the battlefield than at the pulpit.
While the loss of ambient mana severely limited their life magic, each of these battle priests had no such loss of ability when it came to their weapons and heavy armor.
"For the light!" a grizzled battle priest charged out next to Darian, his great warhammer sweeping three skeletons to one side in a single broad stroke.
"For dinner and a warm blanket!" a somewhat skinner, but just as heavily armored friend of his wielded a halberd with a combination axe and hammer head at its tip. This halberd chopped into the fallen skeletons' ribs with all the weight and momentum of the hammerhead behind it, then reversed at its users' tug and smashed into the skull of another offending skeletal creature.
"For my paycheck!!" an even more enthusiastic warrior yelled, twin steel clubs in either hand, flailing about to knock down four different skeletons in rapid succession.
Darian stepped back to take a breather while the battle priests charged into the fray and allowed himself a small grin. [My dear general, no offense meant, but it seems to me like these priests are even more effective in battle than your elite legionnaires.]
A good part of that was likely due to their weaponry. The battle-priests mainly used heavy, blunt weapons. Clubs, maces, hammers and mauls were much better at breaking bones than swords were at cutting them, not to mention the poor spears trying to poke at fleshless targets. That annoyed spearman over there, for example, had had enough of trying to stab his target and was taken to wielding his armored boot in his hand as a bashing weapon instead.
Then again, there was a captain up ahead using a spear just fine. It was surrounded with a Qi aura, and a single sweep of it was enough to crush the spines of the two skeletal warriors that got in its way. On a hunch, Darian stretched out a Psi Blade the size of a great sword and slashed that at the oncoming foes.
Yup. Psi Blades worked great too.
Several skeletal archers seemed to take special offense at that. They started shooting at him. Darian raised a hand and surged Psionic Power in a kinetic barrier. The incoming arrows stopped in mid-air as if they struck a wall and hung there until he lowered his hand. Then they dropped to the ground.
By this time, Gar'na-dras was halfway to the line of Liches. He was going all-out to end this quickly, so as to reduce his losses, but then another surge came from the left.
"There! THAT'S the Elder Lich!" Captain Yang Feng shouted.
Indeed it was. This creepy skeletal figure was robed in red, eyes glowing green over a ghastly face of seemingly withered gray skin. It was actually a bit shorter than the normal liches, partially hunched over as if leaning on its staff, but obviously it didn't need to, because it pointed its staff directly at the soldiers in front of it, and...
"Shields!" Darian shouted.
But it was too late. A broad beam of semi-opaque green energy swept out, and where it passed, soldiers fell screaming, writhing in pain. Smoke sizzled from their skin, as if some acid was burning at them while at the same time their joints and muscles spasmed uncontrollably. Seeing that, Darian wasn't sure if shields would have helped in any case.
A whole swathe of legionnaires was brought down in a cone-shaped spread from that sweeping beam. Seeing it, Gar'na-dras shouted his orders. "Get back! I'll handle that Elder Lich!"
Leaving his captains to charge the liches, the general went for the Elder Lich intending to end the battle with a duel. But before he could take more than a single step, someone else already reached it first.
"Mindy?!" Darian gaped. His feet started to move before he could think, instantly rushing over to her side.
Mindy, with her wings of fire, was the most mobile combatant on the field. She landed right in front of the Elder Lich and swept both wings out at it. A gust of wind and fire gushed out into the Elder Lich's face.
The Elder Lich raised its staff, and a bubble of green energy surrounded it, shielding it from her flames. Fire and corrosive energies clashed, but the fire kept advancing, forcing the Lich several steps backward as it rushed to reinforce its shield. For a moment, the Elder Lich was held down, hunkering in defense.
"Go, Princess!" Ling Yun cheered. "Bring on the flames!"
"Princess!!" a whole smattering of similar cries arose to cheer her on.
"I'm NOT a Princess!!" Mindy half-screamed even as she intensified her attack with a surge of powerful fire.
The glowing eyes of the Elder Lich flared. It raised its staff, and then an even stronger green beam blasted out towards Mindy. Mindy closed both wings around herself, blocking it, but even then, she was knocked off her feet, sent flying three feet through the air and all but bowled over upon landing.
Darian, without thinking, attempted to catch and steady her, but miscalculated the force and angle of her arrival. In short order, Mindy crashed straight into his face, the back of her head hitting his nose painfully as everything shortly turned black and he went sprawling onto the ground with an "OOF!"
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