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Benzhi stopped in his tracks, he was supposed to be fighting Gnolls but had become distracted.
“Benzhi,” Reyas screamed at him, shocking him back to action just in time to block a Gnoll spear.
Benzhi began to fight a retreating withdrawal, walking backwards to Gisael and Anastasia with Reyas. Stabbing any Gnoll stupid enough, to come within reach, of his spear. The bodies piling up did an adequate job of slowing the Gnoll advance, not to mention the loss of moral when their four elites went down in so quickly.
Reyas had taken out her two elites fairly easily, just not with the sudden impact of Benzhi’s onslaught killing them both in moments.
As they fought in withdrawal, Benzhi began to communicate with Huineng again, half his mind on stabbing Gnolls the other half on the conversation.
|‘All, of who,’ Benzhi sent Huineng.|
|‘Well QWP thought you were dead and that Huan brought down the shield,’ Huineng sent, ‘then…|
| ‘Wait,’ Benzhi sent, ‘are you in the cave?’|
|‘Yes,’ Huineng sent.|
Benzhi stabbed a Gnoll, shield bashed another and jumped back five paces.
|‘The Gaels have been missing you, you need to tell me what your intention is concerning them’ Benzhi sent Huineng.|
|‘We can discuss that after, this is important,’ Huineng sent.|
|‘Why,’ Benzhi sent, ‘if they knew I was here they would be here already.’|
|‘No, the QWP thought you were dead, the Myrkalfar told them you were not,’ Huineng sent. ‘I have been sent here to look for you. Fortunately, the QWP have not told the Myrkalfar about this place. There is an infinite amount of planes, but, you have three groups searching for you now.’|
|‘What three? Who is the third?’ Benzhi asked.|
|‘The Demon Lords, the enemy of the Myrkalfar,’ Huineng sent.|
Benzhi scoffed, out loud, received a flashing gave from Reyas. She could have used the connection, but she preferred to yell if time permitted.
“You are distracted, what’s the matter?” She yelled as she cut off a Gnolls sword arm with her bladed staff and proceeded to spin it and stab another in the chest. She then took another step back towards Gisael, who was only killing Gnolls on their flanks with arrows. Anastasia was running to them to engage in melee as well.
|‘You are going to have to explain in detail, what you know from the beginning. This is getting confusing,’ Benzhi sent Huineng.|
|Huineng sent a mental intake of breath, ‘QWP thought you were dead and that Huan brought down the shield,’ Huineng sent, ‘then they finally met with the Myrkalfar after three months. I do not know what happened at the meeting, but they had to beg the Myrkalfar for mercy and paid some massive amount of compensation. I shudder to think what that was.|
Amongst everything else, like establishing QW10 with the aid of the Myrkalfar and a Myrkalfar overseer to ensure it is run properly, you came up in the meeting. The Myrkalfar were aware you had almost killed the Grandmaster and incensed the pawn Demon Lords and that the Demon Lords were searching for you.’
| ‘Wait,’ Benzhi sent, ‘almost?’|
|‘Yes,’ Huineng sent, ‘he is alive apparently a pawn of the Demon Lords. He dares not show his face again to anyone from QWP, let alone the Myrkalfar. However, he is less wanted than you despite his betrayal. But this is fortunate for you because he lived they do not suspect that you could have restored the shield and chose not to, they just assumed you were chased off by a swarm of lesser devils or demon lords.’|
|‘So, why am I wanted if they don’t suspect me of wronging them?’ Benzhi asked.|
|‘Think. They don’t care, you have not trained a replacement to qi heal, you possess the holy grail, and you left with it,’ Huineng sent.|
Benzhi, Reyas and now Anastasia had worked their way back to the rubble and Gisael. The few archers from Vaugend were now shooting Gnolls too, from their vantage on the nearby rooftops.
“You are fighting poorly,” Gisael scolded him.
“I am doing two things at once, but, it is enough,” Benzhi replied as he stabbed another Gnoll.
“Gisael, you lead, I am talking with the Seer, something has happened,” Benzhi ordered. He continued to fight on autopilot while telepathically discussing the events outside of Basal with Huineng.
|‘Ok, so what danger are we in?’ Benzhi sent Huineng.|
|‘The good news is, the Myrkalfar will have little chance of finding you, from what I could learn, but they have sent the equivalent of Bounty Hunters or Rogues looking for you. These beings are qi masters who travel the planes looking for power, adventure and in this case a favour from the Myrkalfar. For if they find you, they will be handsomely rewarded,’ Huineng sent.|
|“What why? I thought you said they don’t know I stiffed them with the shield and slaves, and if anything they think I helped,” Benzhi sent.|
|‘I may be able to work out the motives of the powers in QWP, but I cannot fathom why the Myrkalfar want you, did that Daughter take a liking to you when you met?’ Huineng asked sheepishly.|
|‘Oh fuck, I hope not, she was trouble,’ Benzhi sent, ‘and by trouble I mean sadistic, psychopath qi monster who makes a swarm of Demon lords look like a three-year-old kids party.’|
|‘What about the Demon Lords? What do you know about them?’ Benzhiu sent.|
|‘Well, they will have information from Huan, he has joined them, assuming they haven’t eaten or sacrificed him yet,’ Huineng sent, ‘as to why they want you, I doubt that Huan’s hatred of you is an influence, but you never know. In the end, you could have stopped them retake their land, and you did not. Maybe they just want you because everyone else does, just like the Myrkalfar I have no clue to their motivations.’|
|‘How do you even know they are searching me?’ Benzhi asked.|
|‘There was a negotiation between the Myrkalfar and the Demon Lords, some information was passed to the QWP from this negotiation. It was in the report I received, as you may suspect I am tasked to monitor this location for clues or your whereabouts,’ Huineng sent.|
|‘And am I here old man?’ Benzhi sent quizzically. The fact Huineng was telling him all this spoke volumes, but Benzhi wanted to hear it.|
|‘You never did like this place, the QW6, and were quite happy to leave, I nor the locals have seen you since the healing event. Plus it is an obvious place to look, perhaps so obvious, me checking is enough,’ Huineng sent. ‘There is the precedent, you are not the first rogue from QWP. They travel the planes like your bounty hunters, QWP generally thinks you are similar.’|
Benzhi yelled, “fuck, this is all we need, fucking Myrkalfar,” and stabbed a Gnoll viciously pushing it back into the Gnoll behind skewering them both on his spear. Rather than pull it back, he left them pinned to each other, drew his sword from within the binding on the inside of his shield and proceeded to slice the throats of each of them.
There was a mass of bodies piling up amongst the rubble, the dead from this battle alone was closing in on a hundred at this location, the stragglers had trouble making their way to the Vanguard. They have moved from the site of the first battle, for the very reason of too many corpses.
“Let’s finish them,” Benzhi yelled, he needed to work out some frustration. The news was making him anxious. At the same time he charged over the rubble, stabbing gnoll after gnoll with his spear, through the heart or head, Benzhi danced the dance of death.
|‘Old man, will you continue as Seer?’ Benzhi sent quizzically.|
|‘Yes, I can now, I need to stay here and keep watch for you, reporting periodically,’ Huineng sent.|
|‘Well that was convenient,’ Benzhi sent.|
|‘Maybe for you, but I am the one who has to live in this cave eating gruel,’ Huineng sent.|
|‘Then go live with the Staggan clan,’ Benzhi sent, ‘for a wise man, you are such an idiot at times.’|
|The seer laughed through the link, ‘Very well, I may do that.’|
|‘Close the portal if we have anything to worry about,’ Benzhi sent.|
|‘We do not, only you and I can enter the Cave, you are the only one who I showed the portal to,’ The Seer sent.|
|‘You said it was constructed at great expense,’ Benzhi sent.|
|‘Did I? I don’t recall, I am getting old,’ the Seer replied.|
Throughout this conversation Benzhi had been massacring Gnolls, he now stood, searching the landscape. He could not see any more Gnolls on their feet.
“Is that it?” He called.
“You idiot, I had to protect you three times,” Gisael said sternly.
“We’re training aren’t we?” Benzhi asked rhetorically.
Gisael merely glared at him, “You were not fully aware of your surroundings.”
“I was training multitasking,” Benzhi joked, no one laughed, more seriously he said, “I have news, we need to discuss, but first, let us find our support and bring them here.”
Benzhi called over to the Vaugend contingent, consisting of ten now, including the overzealous young women and boy.
“You lot got home and get some rest. Leave these bodies, my people will take care of them,” Benzhi shouted.
“What people?” Asked the boy.
“No wonder these people defeated the Old Duke so easily,” the young woman said awestruck to the Vaugend contingent.
Benzhi ignored them.
The Vanguard headed back to the main contingent, who were busy harvesting the many gnoll carcasses strewn between the Alpine Forest border and Vaugend.
Benzhi instructed them to collect the grey elves and head to Vaugend, they would make camp there.
Until everything was set up, the grey elves would stay, it should be fairly safe now the two main raids, and the roaming bands were mostly taken care of. Also, the fifteen defenders had no problem taking down six to ten normal Gnolls.
While the small force harvested and set up camp at Vaugend, Vanguard scouted towards the Gnoll camp and portal.
While travelling he shared with them what the Seer had said, it was Benzhi everyone was chasing, and if it came to it, he could lead the pursuers away. He ordered that the people of the Alpine Forest would give any details they had regarding Benzhi’s whereabouts if any invaders were to land on their doorstep. He did not want the people threatened, tortured or killed because of him.
“So, the QWP from Earth, the Myrkalfar and a group referred to as Demon Lords would like to find you?” Anastasia summed up the factions.
“Ahuh, yep,” Benzhi answered.
“No one else? Are you sure you aren’t forgetting the Dragon King or something else?” Anastasia asked sarcastically.
“I don’t know of any Dragons, they would be frightening, but cool, very cool,” Benzhi replied.
“Dragon’s are like men,” Gisael said.
Benzhi, Anastasia and Reyas just stared at her waiting for an explanation.
“They think everything else is beneath them and most of it food,” Gisael explained.
The conversation ended abruptly as Gisael sensed the Gnoll city, she held up a hand and indicated quiet through their link.
The Gnoll encampment was massive. The Gnolls had burrowed through numerous large hills turning them into one large interconnected hive while adding a few towers to the top, made from wood and crude bricks.
The extent of the underground works was an unknown, but judging from the area it encompassed, from the outside, it was the size of a large town.
The Vanguard proceeded to pick off one of the patrols, unlike other portal spawn they had encountered, this patrol summoned help, and before they knew it, they were facing hundreds of Gnolls.
“We’ve poked the hornet's nest now,” Benzhi stated as he speared another Gnoll warrior. They were all using melee weapons, Gisael and Anastasia had only thirty arrows between them, they would conserve these for when needed.
The Vanguard enacted a fighting withdrawal, this is where they engaged the front rank of Gnolls, and after they killed them, they walked backwards. This kept their footing clear of bodies while hampering the enemy. It also spread the enemy out, reducing the flanking effect when they had twenty or more Gnolls attempting to attack them at once.
The Vanguard formed a diamond, with the addition of Anastasia, placing her at the rear, with Benzhi at the point with Gisael on his left and Reyas on his right.
It was not long before the stream of Gnolls were all elites, better armoured, stronger. These Gnolls would cause an issue for the fighters of Vaugend, but not for the elite group from the Alpine Mountains. Due to the reduced number of elites, it was not much more difficult than killing regular Gnolls.
The Vanguard simply overwhelmed the defences of the elite Gnolls, striking through armour and shield, while not only matching their strength and speed but eclipsing it by a large margin.
“I am interested to see what wave three consists of,” Benzhi said during a short break in the hostilities, “any guesses?”
“I would guess a Shaman and Warlord,” Reyas offered.
Benzhi nodded that was a logical choice. Gisael remained quiet, thoughtful.
“The elites are larger than the patrol Gnolls,” She said after some time, “perhaps there would be giant Gnolls,” Gisael hazarded a guess, “there are some stories of giants.”
The Vanguard’s fighting retreat killed off another three hundred regular and almost one hundred elite Gnolls before the stream of foe slowed and finally stopped.
The portal was at the centre of the burrow complex, it had turned a deeper red and had grown in size, indicating the third wave was incoming, and perhaps Gisael had guessed correctly.
The portal remained quiet.
The Vanguard returned to Vaugend to ensure all was in order. Due to the massive number of Gnoll corpses, the grey elves had elected to stay and assist the gatherers. They even armed themselves, Benzhi opened a portal to the Glade, and the grey elves borrowed bows from the gatherers not attending the expedition and brought more food supplies.
The Gael leather crafters arrived and formed a group with the grey elf tailor. The elite Gnolls hides would provide good material for general armours, due to the qi talent of the previous owners. These hides would also provide good practice before placing any runes on a high-quality divine beats or magical beast hide.
Benzhi relaxed, everyone knew their roles, and there were enough leaders in each respective group to ensure a smooth operation and encampment. He did not need to ask Skandear to set guards, or the Grey Elves to gather timber for fires or to dig trenches for the dead Gnolls.
Benzhi just relaxed and thought about the next day briefly, but more importantly contemplated his next moves. A wrong move now could have severe consequences for the people he cared about.