|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: ScribbleHub|
Obviously, Carmen could escape by running, but if she did, those knight-class undead might turn on Barsig and the others. While Barsig could probably handle those three with the help of the other knights and the clerics, she shouldn’t forget that Barsig probably drew some other knight-classes from the center of the fortress.
“I guess my only choice is to stay and fight.” The corner of her mouth twitched in a barely suppressed grimace. If only Barsig didn’t come, she could be out of here by now. Instead, she was actually going to risk her life in a battle she knew she was going to lose.
Fighting one against three, with all three of them being knight-class undead…she could probably stall them for a while, at least until she found out if there were going to be any other undeads coming for Barsig.
On the other hand, if things got dangerous, then she was going to run. Although she didn’t want Barsig to die considering the decent relationship she used to have with him, he should have known the risks of coming in here, especially on a night of the full moon.
She chuckled at her mindset. “I’ve grown cold. Where was the Carmen that could cast aside everything to help others?” Were all vampires this selfish, or was it merely her true nature showing through?
Having decided on her course of action, Carmen looked around from an appropriate location for a battle. She quickly found a bell tower not too far away. It was tall, built solidly out of stone and towering over almost every structure nearby. It was quite thin too. If she made her stand at the top, she could prevent herself from being surrounded.
Even if she found herself losing too hard, she could simply jump off—her newly empowered undead body could easily take a fall from that height.
Still keeping an eye on the incoming undead, she rushed toward the tower. As she ran, she noticed something strange. The three undead were actually quite slow, even if they were newly evolved zombie knights.
Focusing on the auras they gave off, Carmen found that the most powerful one in terms of raw mana was also the slowest. The other two constantly pulled ahead, and then waited for the big one to catch up.
When Carmen reached the top of the bell tower, taking advantage of all the hand and foot holds that time and weather had carved out for her, she flipped gracefully over the ledge and landed inside. From her tall vantage point, she peered into the darkness at the three dark shapes that were drawing closer, hopping from roof to roof.
Despite having one of their numbers slowing them down, slow is only relative.
Finally, the shapes were close enough for Carmen to make up more details, and the reason the most powerful undead was also the slowest became clear. A long, tattered robe flared out from behind the skeleton while it gripped in its bony fingers a staff of carved wood.
Purple flames in its empty orbs glowed, casting the rest of its face into a deeper shadow that hid the teeth that were drawn back in a grin.
“A skull lich!” Carmen muttered under her breath in awe. Despite being only a knight-class undead, a skull lich was far stronger than its peers. A skull lich was born when a skeleton evolved to be able to cast spells. A normal lich, which evolved from zombies, was a much weaker caster on average.
A zombie knight like her simply couldn’t compare.
She had only seen one once, and that was early in her knighthood. She had been helpless against all the curses and spells it could cast.
Right now, she was about as strong as she had been back then, so she didn’t think the results would be any different. Although being an undead meant she was less susceptible to its spells, she had lost too totally back then.
And that was if she went up against the skull lich one on one. There were two other genuine knight-class skeletons, both which were physically stronger than she was. Dented armor covered their bodies, age wearing away their polished luster, but the powerful dark imbuements that covered its surface ensured the armor did not lose its toughness.
One of them dragged a huge hammer behind it, while the other one hefted a double-bladed battle axe on its shoulder.
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“This might be more difficult than I expected,” Carmen muttered, wincing. Three zombie knights? Hard, but doable. But two skeleton knights and a skull lich was way more than she could handle.
“So, should I run? There’s no way I can win…” As she turned to leave, something stopped her feet. She slowly turned around with a growl and raised her weapon, glaring at the knights and clerics who seemed to have no intentions of running away. “Fine! I’ll take on those sacks of bones!”
Her eyes flicked between the three undead. The unearthly glows in their eyes were locked onto her, leaving no room for doubt who their true target was.
First, she had to take out the skeleton knights. While they were strong, they were less dangerous than the skull lich if only because they could only use physical attacks. If she went for the skull lich right away, the skeleton knights will intercept her and force her back, putting her on the defensive.
Therefore, she needed to focus on one or the other. Both were terrible options due to their armor.
Carmen squeezed the worn handle of her rusty sword. Compared to them who had armor, all she had was her dress, barely any defense against a thrown rock, let alone a hammer blow.
“Come, I’ll take you on.” She took a deep breath, trying to concentrate. Joints. She had to pierce the joints and then dismantle the skeletons. “Damn, I can’t concentrate. If only I learned how to imbue my weapons!”
Like dark shadows, the three knight-class skeletons jumped over the rooftops toward the faraway bell tower without bothering to hide their appearance from anyone. They were so focused on Carmen that they didn’t even give the knights and clerics on the streets a glance to acknowledge their existence.
Higher undead were no longer strictly driven by their hatred for life. They could pursue more abstract goals.
The three undead would have continued to ignore the Church task force, focusing entirely on Carmen, had five scorching rays of burning light not shoot out from the crowd of war clerics.
One of them missed completely, while three struck the skull lich, burning three holes into its robes, but leaving the undead itself no worse for wear. The last ray smashed against the armor of the axe zombie, whose head snapped around to train its glowing orbs on the force from the Church.
It lifted its axe and jumped off the rooftop, swinging its huge weapon. A Cloud Knight with a huge glowing shield stepped forward and caught the axe. A gust of wind swept through the air and the Cloud Knight stumbled back from the impact.
The skull lich stopped as well and lifted its arms and staff, its robes billowing as black mist rose from its body. Five spears of smoking darkness formed above it and shot towards the cleric, only to be intercepted by a huge shield of light formed by several war clerics.
Carmen took the events in from her vantage point at the top of the bell tower before she squeezed the bridge of her nose. The action offered her no relief. “Now they’ve gone and done it! Why did they do that? Does none of them recognize a skull lich? Barsig, you absolute idiot!”
Barsig probably won’t die, but there will be deaths. He could protect those behind him from the skeleton knight, but the skull lich was out of his league.
Individually weak clerics, no matter how many there were, weren’t enough to stop a skull lich. There will always be someone slow to react, and the casualties added up.
She half expected the hammer skeleton to turn on the Church’s people as well to add fuel to the fire, but fortunately for Barsig and his team, the hammer skeleton remained focused on Carmen.
Still, that meager silver lining was not enough to quell Carmen’s anger. She could only calm herself by making up excuses for Barsig. “It’s okay. It’s okay. Barsig has always been impulsive. It’s not going to change, so stop being angry.”
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She took a deep breath. Working hard to push her frustration levels back below the threshold, she lifted her sword to greet her sole attacker. No longer have to match the skull lich’s pace, the hammer skeleton’s speed exploded.
At the same time, Carmen felt another ping on her senses. There were more incoming knight-class undead, this time from the north—the direction of the citadel. She groaned. “Of course they came to make things go from bad to worse.”
She only sensed two. While two knight-class undead were easy to deal with normally, Barsig already had a skeleton knight and a skull lich on his hands. Even though Barsig could hold off the skeleton knight by himself, the skull lich was causing havoc in the cleric lines.
The Cloud Knights couldn’t reach the skull lich. Despite being slow compared to other knight-class undead, the skull lich was still a nimble skeleton. The spells that the clerics could cast couldn’t even scratch the skull lich under its cloak.
Their limit was creating shield after shield to resist the skull lich’s attacks and keep casualties to a minimum.
“They’re already having so much trouble…” Carmen gritted her teeth and extended her senses up north, trying to find out more about the undead, but the undead were too far. All she could tell was that they were definitely not skull liches.
Carmen offered a quick prayer to the Gods that those two undeads from the north were zombie or skeleton knights. Barsig’s group faced possible annihilation if even one of those incoming knight-classes was a zombie lich.
“Even if you don’t answer me, at least do it for these humans…”
Opening her eyes again, she pushed undead mana into her sword. The hammer skeleton was finally close enough to be a threat. At the edge of the roof on the building closest to the bell tower, the hammer skeleton crouched and jumped.
One moment it was still far below Carmen, and the next, it was right in front of her eyes. It pulled its hammer back, winding up its power, before it swung.
Carmen jumped back while she tried to parry the hammer, but the hammer was too large, too heavy. Her sword was easily knocked aside, the vibrations traveling up the blade and into her arms. If not for her imbuements, the sword would have shattered.
The hammer slammed into the ground where she had just been standing, easily caving in the floor. Countless stones flew from the destruction, many of them hitting Carmen, almost knocking her off balance, but she managed to safely land on the ledge behind her.
Before the hammer could fall through, the hammer skeleton landed too on a ledge and pulled its hammer back, easily canceling out the remaining momentum.
It had to crouch to fit under the arch. Its massive frame was much larger than that of a human’s, having evolved to look more monstrous, to be stronger.
Two horns protruded from the top of its forehead as its bared teeth grinned at her.
“Greetings, Impure One.”
Without a word in reply, Carmen swung her sword at the skeleton, aiming for its neck. She had to finish this skeleton knight off quickly so she could go help Barsig.
However, the hammer zombie merely raised its free hand. Carmen’s sword bounced off of the plate metal, unable to leave a single scratch.
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“Tch.” Her imbuement was too weak. It was incomplete.
“Impure One, you—”
“Don’t call me that,” Carmen growled. “I don’t even know what that means. You heard it from that sword skeleton I took this weapon from, didn’t you? Where is it? Where is he?”
“In that case, I will call you the Weak One. Stay still, Weak One, and let me destroy you.”
The skeleton’s eyes glowed brighter and it lifted its huge hammer once more. Carmen leaped backwards just in time as the skeleton swung its hammer at her. When it missed, the hammer crashed through the pillars that made up the legs of the arch that held up the bell tower’s roof. With a loud crash and a plume of smoke, the top of the bell tower collapsed inwards.
“Good riddance. That place is too small to fight anyway. What was I thinking when I picked that spot?” Carmen growled as she fell.
However, before she could reach the ground, a shadow fell over her as a figure jumped out of the smoke straight toward her. She held up her sword, bracing the blade with her left hand, just in time for a crushing blow to shatter the bones of her left arm through the sword, which miraculously remained intact.
The force propelled her the remaining distance to the ground until she crashed into the streets in the center of her very own crater, blowing away several undead. Before she could even register what was happening, her body pushed itself out of the crater on its own.
The instant after, the ground erupted as something crashed into her crater. The force sent her tumbling along the ground until she came to a stop against the wall of a house.
As Carmen staggered to her feet, she coughed a few times. She felt like every one of her bones had been broken and all her internal organs were ruptured. In truth, the only real damage she took was her shattered arm. Her current body was just that resilient.
What wasn’t as resilient was her dress, which was in tatters, shredded by flying rubble. With shaking hands, she raised a fallen shred of cloth to her face, squeezing it tightly.
Wiping her mouth, she stared at the dark silhouette standing in the dust rising from the giant crater in the middle of the streets. The hole she made from her fall was at least doubled in size.
A grim smile crawled onto Carmen’s face as she coughed again. “I guess knight-class undead are as powerful as I remember.”
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