Despite the boulder providing him some cover, Kail didn’t quite manage to avoid all of the rocks being slung at him. One clipped his shoulder, and another impacted his thigh. Kail had managed to avoid nine out of ten attacks completely, but it wasn’t quite good enough.
Barrett picked up one of the rocks as it impacted in the sand, throwing it toward one of the Silver Blades. They hadn’t attacked yet, but they were the most dangerous. At most the mercenaries could cause physical damage- cuts and broken bones- but the Silver Blades had poison, and that could wear both Kail and Barrett down more quickly.
The target Barrett chose was the only woman out of the five Silver Blades. She seemed to be important… and if she wasn’t, it was still his best guess. Unfortunately she dodge his attack, vaulting off of the steelhead goat that had just pulled up to a stop. Unlike the Heavy Blades, she was not trained to fight while mounted.
Barrett stood away from Kail- and the cover of the boulder- hoping to draw some fire toward him. However, it seemed the enemy preferred to attack the easier target. Kail managed to just barely avoid all of the attacks aimed at him… except he missed the needles being thrown by the members of the Silver Blade. His movements still dodged half of them, but the rest stuck into his right hand and his neck.
Barrett had already discussed poison with Kail. He had some antidotes for poisons they might use, but nothing would help with all of them, and using the wrong ones could actually be worse. Once Kail noticed any symptoms, he would have to immediately tell Barrett, unless he could remember which antidote to take.
Barrett retaliated once again with one of their own rocks. He didn’t feel hopeful about hitting a Silver Blade- not without expending more energy than he was comfortable with, anyway. Instead, he targeted a Heavy Blade. With just one attack they would only have to lean in the saddle to avoid him… but the same was not true for the steelhead goats they rode. The rock hit directly on the front left knee, and even though steelhead goats weren’t just armored on their head, it wasn’t enough. A several kilogram rock thrown by Barrett’s brute strength with just a bit of berserk energy caused the knee to buckle, forcing the rider to jump off as the mount fell. Well, that was one.
The only consolation Barrett had during the next barrage of attacks was that the Heavy Blades didn’t have unlimited ammunition. They only had four or five of the large rocks each, and most of them didn’t have magic bags. Even if they did, pulling more ammunition from a magic bag would take some time, and Barrett had plenty of ammo over next to him. “Kail! Symptoms?”
“I’m fine!” Kail called back. He wasn’t fine though. Barrett saw him take a hit in the side, and could hear the strain in his voice. Furthermore, several more needles found their way into him. The actual damage of the needles was negligible- merely able to cause discomfort. It was the poison that mattered.
As the fourth volley was launched, Barrett noticed that the Heavy Blades’ accuracy was subpar. He didn’t want to discredit Kail’s dodging skills, but he just wasn’t good enough to avoid as much as he did. Yet the Heavy Blades had clearly practiced. Then Barrett took a closer look. They were breathing heavily. They had barely done any physical activity, and none of the running for the past hours. However, they still weren’t in peak condition. The same was true of the Silver Blades, though they did a better job hiding their fatigue.
Barrett saw the tattered clothes they all wore and remembered. Just because Barrett and Kail could traverse the area with little issue, that didn’t mean the technique the others used was as effective. They didn’t even have clothes meant for the task. The steelhead goats themselves were on the verge of falling over, and Barrett could see some redness in the eyes of at least half of the Heavy Blades. Perhaps they had a chance after all, though he wasn’t sure if Kail could hold up. He was looking unsteady… and then during the fifth volley, he actually staggered and fell face first into the sand. That mean the attacks actually missed, but that didn’t mean much if he died of poison.
Suddenly, Barrett found himself facing twenty five people alone. They didn’t immediately make a move. Instead, the Silver Blades spread out. It was obvious they had more needles remaining compared to the number of projectiles carries by the Heavy Blades. The needles were light and small. When they attacked, they threw one needle with each hand. That was a total of ten needles, of which Barrett dodged six. The other four hit his neck, left and right shoulder, and his thigh. They could clearly see where he had armor and where he didn’t. Unfortunately for them… it didn’t matter. The needles of the second tier members merely bounced off his skin. Perhaps if they had invested more energy they could have hurt him, but his skin was toughened by hundreds of hours of sparring and getting injured. The time all of his skin burned off in the volcano didn’t count- it didn’t heal naturally, so it nearly started that training over. However, the last few weeks he had spent many days getting his skin melted off… and he finally saw some payoff outside of being more comfortable.
There were another five volleys, but Barrett kept careful track of the killing intent and energy usage from each of the Silver Blades, dodging their attacks. The leader of the Heavy Blades indeed had some backup ammunition in a magic bag, but Barrett dodged his attacks almost as an afterthought. A single large rock didn’t mean much, especially with such undisguised killing intent behind it.
Just when Barrett thought they were out of needles, one struck his neck, sinking in. Barrett grimaced. That one had been well concealed, taking advantage of his momentary lapse in concentration. Then there were more, including those from the second tier Silver Blades. Each of them pierced his skin. Barrett stood unsteadily on his feet… and then a rock hit him in the head. He had far too much experience being injured on a battlefield. Still, it let him fall to the ground more gracefully than Kail… if stumbling backwards a few steps and falling into near boiling water could be considered graceful.