The earth magic users clearly had techniques for combining their efforts efficiently. Even for a handful of masters, tearing down a ridge was not an easy task. Though it was ultimately ineffective, they quickly transitioned to forming weapons out of the rock beneath the topsoil, forcing the duelists and archers to have to avoid their attacks as they landed. The curse-warriors moved together to attack, but they were pelted by arrows then intercepted by the duelists.
Even avoiding the spikes of stone and flying rocks, the duelists had sufficient maneuverability to still make attacks of their own… and that was where the difference between themselves and the other melee combatants came into view. The curse warriors could weaken their opponents and keep out of each other’s way. If they had an advantage in numbers, they could have coordinated attacks. However, the duelists from the Order of Four Winds created one large whirlwind which slowed their enemies and enhanced their own attacks. They did better than not just interfering, achieving greater effects than just the sum of their parts.
Not all curses were the same. Most weren’t willing to expend a part of themselves to make someone’s life constant trouble, like had happened to Barrett long in the past. Instead, a temporary weakening was good enough- especially if it led to killing the opponent. As several rapiers stabbed into one of the curse warriors at the same time and he died, his curse rapidly faded- leaving one unhindered duelist as well as a numbers advantage on their side.
Without the hindrance of a curse weighing him down, the warriors were less effective against him. It wasn’t that they were incompetent, but one generally didn’t expect an ephemeral attack like a curse to be sliced in half with no effect on the opponent. Barrett’s defenses were so strong they would have to open themselves to a possible counter if they gathered the energy to attack him, and their hesitation to risk themselves led to him taking out another warrior- and then disrupting the group of magic users. He ran through their ranks, sweeping his weapons towards them and sending some of them flying. Either way, they were all delayed for a few precious moments… which allowed the numbers of warriors uphill to be reduced to a mere three. Three warriors versus six duelists… and six archers. That situation only lasted for a moment before the curse-warriors turned and ran. It was possible they could have killed one or two of the injured duelists or combined their efforts to kill an archer… but that came with certain death. As they split their abilities between retreat and defense, they could hold out against a barrage of attacks for some time.
With the sudden retreat of their front ranks, leaving the archers all open to attack the enemies down below, the rest also began a retreat. They had thought this group would be easy prey- but an unexpected grandmaster had thrown a wrench in their plans.
Barrett didn’t chase after the group- he didn’t want to subject himself to the attacks of the remaining warriors and all of the mages at once. However, he didn’t just let them leave either. Half of his weapon melted into his armor just to get out of the way, while the other half formed into a sling. A stone pit quickly slipped into the pouch, and he began spinning it around. The string and pouch and pit were all part of him. It wasn’t just his body that imparted momentum through motion, but he also accelerated each individual part. Retreating might have been the best option, but if Barrett didn’t have to worry about defending himself at all…
The stone pit was released at the best time, where all its momentum pointed forward towards the retreating enemies. They already had to fight against the winds from The Order of Four Winds and defend themselves against arrows… the stone pit was a very dangerous addition to their situation. A half dozen mages formed a solid wall of earth and stone several meters thick. They seemed to have realized they needed to keep it secured- if they had let their control lapse it would have merely allowed the stone pit through. As it was… it still shattered its way through the wall, flying at an inescapable speed towards one of the mages. Dodging did no good- the momentum could be redirected in flight. An entire torso was removed from being in a moment, and the next mage behind the unfortunate soul barely managed to use his magic to deflect the remaining momentum, ending up with a shattered arm for his efforts.
The retreating squads took the most direct route out of the valley to escape, and the archers and duelists were falling behind their retreat- though the archers were certainly not out of their effective range yet. Their arrows broke through or twisted their way around various defenses, injuring some and killing a few more. Then there was suddenly a barrier blocking off their retreat.
Barrett’s magic wasn’t so strong he could normally prevent a dozen masters from breaking through a barrier, but he had more than a single day’s worth of magical energy stored in his talisman stone pits. They were already more efficient defenses, or otherwise it wouldn’t have been worth the effort to set up something that would only equal what could be done spontaneously. The barrier wasn’t so large that it couldn’t be gone around… but a few moments of delay allowed Barrett another two volleys of stone pits which killed one each, and arrows punctured a few more mages, bringing them down.
The brief delay also allowed the duelists to catch up without risking themselves by unbalancing their energy towards speed. It was only a few more moments before the remaining enemies were killed. As the squad bound their wounds, Barrett took stock of the situation. Killing two dozen masters was quite an important accomplishment, but this squad going missing would make the enemy armies more careful in the future. Unfortunately, grandmasters were the most important parts… and there had been some risk to himself in their endeavor. But if there weren’t risks, it was hard to achieve results. Though they had great success here, Barrett knew that elsewhere there would be losses on their side. Just because he hadn’t yet run into the most talented grandmasters from either Smiynia or the Ostain Empire didn’t mean they didn’t exist. They most certainly did… and they would be causing trouble elsewhere.
Nilima focused on the distance, sensing for slight changes in energy that indicated cultivators trying to conceal themselves. No matter how much they tried, they would add or subtract from the natural energy in the area. Even magic cultivators disturbed the energy… and the few Pure Body Temperers she knew had a slightly different effect. Alnherr was hard to sense because he let the energy flow through him, but it still slightly changed. Barrett just made himself feel like part of the natural terrain… but if she kept her eyes out for something that fit perfectly but was also shaped like a person, she could usually pick him out. Not that she expected to find many Pure Body Temperers. Nilima was pretty sure they were the only two grandmaster level Pure Body Temperers from Stredo and so the enemy alliance wouldn’t have more than a couple as well, if any.
Her senses brushed over her squad, and she wondered why she was given a leadership position. Nilima had to admit that she was much more qualified for the position than she used to be, but ‘less reckless’ wasn’t exactly a glowing recommendation. People just wanted grandmasters to lead everything. Then again, Nilima supposed she wasn’t exactly one for following orders either.
Einar made more sense. He led his squads to fights they would win overwhelmingly, even though it seemed like they should have been at a disadvantage. Barrett had the initiative to be able to protect his squad. She could… tell her squad to handle themselves?
One grandmaster. Off by themselves. Nilima nearly jumped at the chance to take them out. She wasn’t really one for accolades or even the more tangible rewards for taking out enemy combatants. Instead she wanted to continue improve herself through fighting… and if Stredo was protected as a result of that, she certainly wouldn’t complain. It was a nice place to stop by regularly.
Nilima was ready to jump at this opportunity to fight… but it felt awfully suspicious. “We’ll approach that way… slowly.” She gestured to her squad and moved ahead of them. She readied herself for battle, letting a bit of berserk energy slip out. As they approached it was clear the grandmaster had noticed them, the way their own energy fluctuated on a small level, ready to act. The same was true of the others in hiding. Just one other grandmaster, but more than a full squad of masters. Maybe they could fight them… but not in their chosen terrain. Nilima diverted her squad around the area. At least she’d managed to avoid a serious mistake… but she was disappointed she couldn’t bring home a victory.