Chapter 22 – The building threat
John kept himself awake through a cold night in the cave, shivering both from the temperature and a fever. He could, at times, still feel his missing leg. Far worse than that, however, was when the delusions made his see it still there, only for them to pass and he would once again find the sense of loss reunited. He had a ready supply of liquid from the plant liquor and meat from the rats, and with them he survived not just the first cold night, but several that followed.
When he found that his mind had cleared and the fever had passed he tried to move around more. He used a sturdy branch as a crutch and started limping towards a distant light. A thin tear leaked from one of his eyes when found an exit and the light of the sun warmed his body. Although he was out of the cave, he was still in the forest and far from out of danger. Knowing there wasn’t much he could do about that, John continued to move slowly forward, simply hoping that the world would be kind and he would make it out alive.
A couple hours later he found a small lake with a church-like building. From inside he could hear voices, many angry voices. Despite the hard wood between them, on hearing their words, John knew that they were like him, that they were the allies he needed.
“Brothers! Sisters!” The voice leading the others cried out, “The undying beasts that plague our lands and where masks of men have struck again. The creatures that haunt and hunt us have once again struck a heavy blow against us. Treebourne, the town to our south, our greatest trading partner, has been destroyed. Make no mistake; this is far from the first time that the creatures that the vengeful thirteenth word made have destroyed villages. Normfalk, Bellsville and Frostland; each was slaughtered by the beasts known as players. Each was destroyed because the monsters felt that ending those lives would be fun.”
John was filled with a deep and building rage. He had believed that there wasn’t a single thing that could make him loath players more, but the voice continued to speak.
“Brothers! Sisters! Treebourne was not like the wanton slaughter of a farming town. Treebourne was a village, they had guards, ironworks and walls. It was the foundation of a city. It was a place like our own. For such a place to fall, it would take an army. But the beastly players can’t co-operate in an army for long without falling apart. Knowing that, a cunning and deceptive player used the kindness of the Treebourne villages against them. When they accepted him into their fold, despite him being a stranger, he called down a calamity upon them. The Beast! The Fiend! He angered the demi-goddess of demons, Lucy, and waited for her in the middle of the town. Death means nothing to those players; he accepted his own death in order to bring about everyone else’s.”
By that point John had entered the church and had joined those around him in cheering on the speaker. He noticed that he and everyone in that group had gained a level in a class he hadn’t heard of; lynch mobber. He knew that while they stood together, and acted towards the same passionate goal, their total stats were spread evenly across everyone in the group then increased by 20%. While some members would have been weakened, the total group was far stronger. The speaker, whose class had changed to mob leader, called out to them. He spoke and they responded. He called for arms and arms were gathered. With a righteous anger, they left the church and headed straight for the nearest player camp.
If they players wouldn’t stay dead then they just needed to make sure they couldn’t do anything. The leader had a plan; a plan that would ensure that their world would be free from those monsters. They would go from camp to camp, destroying ever campsite they found till only their first camp remained. From what they had heard, that camp couldn’t be destroyed. However, its destruction wasn’t the plan. They would build a wall around it. They would enclose it from the world with every tool and technique they could muster. With the camp sealed, the beasts would never escape and they would be free from the undying menace.
The first camp they found was only lightly guarded. A group of six players pretended to welcome them. On the leader’s instructions, they pretended to be deceived by the monsters and approached the camp peacefully. When they let down their guard, believing that their ploy was working, the mob drew their weapons and ended the players before they could even realise what was happening. With the players dead, they destroyed the camp before they could revive.
With the success of their first raid, the group was encouraged. They striped the place of all its valuables and returned to town. Hearing what they had done, the town’s council became angry. They couldn’t understand their group’s noble purpose. With the council replaced, the villagers came round to their message; with a village backing their work they were able to rapidly increase the tempo.
Raid after raid followed and their army grew. When they started, they worse clothes and were armed with farming tools. Now, after only a week of raids, they were an army with weapons, armour and supporters. Their cause spread quickly but the players didn’t seem to find it strange. They didn’t learn from the mistakes nor warn each other. The disorganisation of their enemy was their most powerful ally.
After the week, John stood at the front of a pack. They were preparing to attack one of the largest gatherings, one that had personal meaning for him. He bent down on his prosthetic leg and picked up a hand full of ash. The charred wood was all that remained of the cart he and his brother had travelled on. Standing there, with a fortified cave in the distance and his allies around him, he knew that he had a purpose. Over his chain armour he wore a bandoleer of drinks. He and the other bartenders and alchemists would have a key part of the attack. While the rest of the mob held off the players, they would fill the cave with acid and fire. Their group’s goal was to destroy the camp to prevent revival. If they failed, it was only a matter of time till they were killed by the immortal enemy.
The battle rested on their actions, and it was a tactic that they had employed several times without fail.