As I approached the coffee shop I finally took in its name. I kind of thought it was just a descriptor before, but it did have a rather large sign. Corner Coffee. Did someone from the Power Brigade name this? … Did they own coffee shops? Or it could be that more people had the same sort of naming sense.
Instead of stepping inside, I found Izzy waiting for me outside. “You wanted to call in a favor?” I asked.
The tiny woman looked up at me and nodded. I couldn’t really read the expression on her face. Impatient? Determined? Bored? I wasn’t good with any of that. “People are following me,” she said simply. There was no uncertainty behind her words, no possibility that perhaps people weren’t following her.
“I don’t have any invisibility spells,” I said.
“I don’t need magical assistance to disappear from view,” she pointed out. “But I also can’t always be hidden. And I would prefer to resolve the issue rather than hiding from it.”
“Do you know who it is? What they might want with you?”
“The same kind of people who attacked Midnight and me in that alley near your place. I assume they plan to kill me.”
“Based on my understanding of this world, they’d likely stop before that point, but nearly dying isn’t preferable. What do you want from me?”
“You’re going to come with me and we’ll lure them out. I’m certain they’re eager to find me somewhere out of the way.” Izzy nodded, “I’m just not fully confident in facing them alone, especially since I don’t have my swords.”
“What? Why not?” It was true, her waist was bare of weapons.
“Apparently I need a ‘license’ or something. As if my shortswords were much bigger than these,” Izzy gestured and with a click her hands suddenly had two daggers. “These aren’t that bad, but against a group of people with glowing magic armor, I’m not confident alone.”
“I should have brought Midnight, if we’re planning to fight.”
“I don’t want a friend to be in danger,” she commented.
For some reason, I felt a twinge of pain, but I couldn’t feel any injuries, and it was only for a moment. Nothing had broken through my Force Armor, either. “Well, alright. But he’ll probably head over this way once he senses me fighting. You really think they’ll attack us?”
“Of course. They’ve been looking for an opening for a while.”
“Sure, but that’s for just you. With me around we’ll have like ten times the mass, which is something people generally think about when attacking.”
“Are you saying you’re worth ten of me in a fight?” One of the dagger things was pointing at my waist, Izzy’s eyes glaring at me.
“No?” I tilted my head. “The point was anyone stupid enough to attack you doesn’t really know better.”
“Hmm. Right.” Izzy nodded. “I suppose you’re pretty obvious. Can you be… less… like that?” She gestured to me as a whole.
“Sure. I can- is anyone watching?”
“Not here,” Izzy shook her head. “They don’t like to be in the nicer parts of the city. They have people waiting all over, though.”
“Great, then I can look like I’m a lot smaller. And less… orcish.” I stroked my chin, “Think they’re more likely to attack us if I look like another girl, or should I go for a small guy?”
“Uh… go for a non-intimidating man, I guess.”
“Got it.” I cast Disguise, making myself appear about a foot shorter and about half as heavy. I was still actually six feet tall. Or six one or two or whatever I was now. But people wouldn’t be able to see that. My skin became a sort of light tan, and my tusks were concealed. Or rather, nothing about myself was visible and I just had a fake person projected over me- and an area of nothingness outside that. “How are the details?”
“Good enough,” Izzy said. “The angle of your head looking down at me could give you away, if people have that sort of observational skill.”
“Most don’t,” I said. “So, we’re expecting trouble within an hour or so right?”
“Yeah, I expect it to be quick… or not to happen today.”
“Alright,” I nodded, pulling little baggies out of pockets I didn’t visually have anymore. “Stoneskin time.” After casting it on both of us, I cast Disguise on Izzy too- because having gray, craggy skin was likely to indicate something was off. “Alright, gimme five minutes before we continue.” I pulled out some of my bigger mana crystals- they’d recover somewhere around three mana each.
“What are those?”
“Crystallized mana,” I said.
“I make them with mana. It’s pretty exhausting.”
“To have mana later, obviously,” I nodded. “I didn’t know I could do this, but it’s pretty useful. I can absorb one every minute, more or less.”
“Wow. That sounds great. A near-infinite supply of mana?”
“Ah, it’s not that good. Just way better than normal recovery.” Plus, there was the whole thing with using too many of them at once. But this was something important.
Once I was ready, Izzy led the way and I just kind of walked next to her. We hadn’t done a lot of that… just walking around. Of course, at the moment we were actively searching for enemies.
“Caught some,” Izzy said. “I’m gonna loop us through some alleys, see if they gather together. Try not to look for them. You’ll be fine in an ambush, right?”
“That’s right,” I nodded.
It wasn’t long before I heard people walking behind us, and noticed people hanging around the alleyways we were heading towards. Duos and trios gathered down certain paths, almost as if they were herding us somewhere.
Then something struck me in my upper bicep, nearly knocking me over. I was ready, but not that ready. I turned to see a decently sized guy, looking between me and his bat in confusion. What did he think was going to happen, hitting an orc right in the muscles? Even one just my size.
He hadn’t figured anything out before my fist was flying towards his jaw. He tried to react to that by blocking with his bat, or at least I presume that was what he was trying but he put it way too low. My fist struck him straight in the chin and he went down like a sack of potatoes. But before he even hit the ground, there were a dozen other people running towards the two of us.
More discount paladins with metal bats, lead pipes, and even chains. One person hanging around the back- a mage? and also a couple people with knives. They could be discount paladins, but most of the others had brilliant yellow glows around their weapons and some had golden armor around themselves. I suddenly wished I’d brought a weapon… then I realized I could just snatch one from one of these guys.
Before I could do that, I had to duck through a web of attacks, one of which clipped me in the side. These guys weren’t skilled, but they were at least coordinated enough to attack from multiple angles together. I grunted as I grabbed the bat. I held it in front of me, but something felt off. Well, whatever. I took a swing at one of the incoming guys and found his armor held up pretty well. It was a lot like my Force Armor, but way more visible. Typical paladin garbage.
Unfortunately, after exchanging a few rounds of blows and having my Force Armor shatter, I realized that these portal powers had actually been doing some training compared to the others. They had more than like, half an idea what they were doing, and a couple abilities. I had better combat training, but the numbers were going to trump that. I needed to use magic, but efficiently. I could maybe afford a Shocking Grasp on each if there were exactly a half dozen I had to fight. It seems they had split fairly evenly between myself and Izzy, but there might be more coming.
I should at least take down one or two quickly. I channeled Shocking Grasp into my hands… and saw arcs of electricity coming off the bat. Did that mean I had just wasted it, or would it still work? Only one way to find out. I took a swing at one of the guys but he blocked, our weapons clashing. Then he quickly spasmed and fell onto his back, smoke coming out of his ears.
Ah, damn. That was a full power Shocking Grasp, too. Well, if he died it was his own fault. I took a few hits for that, but against physical trauma Stoneskin was literally fifteen times as good as Force Armor. Either the blunt force or the paladin crap started to bruise me a little through my defenses, but I could endure more than that.
As I spun and fought I caught glimpses of Izzy. She was doing a lot of ducking through people’s legs, and if they were smart enough to narrow their stance she spun around them. I could feel the constant pour of mana from her as she used her abilities. Her movement and strikes were all enhanced, allowing her rather small weapons to break through the defensive barriers of some of the discount paladins.
Then I got blasted in the side, and not by some chump with a bat. I was left with a ringing sound in my ears even though I hadn’t been hit in the head at all, but at least as I was flung into the wall one of the thugs padded my landing. How nice of him.
I staggered to my feet as pieces of rock crumbled to the ground, dazedly looking for who launched that attack. Then I saw one of the mages grinning cockily, his hand outstretched. I was going to smash that grin off his face… except that he seemed to have done it for me. The grin got at least a little more dubious as his muscles relaxed and he flopped onto the ground from mana exhaustion. No, that wasn’t quite right. Even a level 0 mage had enough mana to cast Sonic Lance once… technically. Not that they should be able to learn it. Either way, based on how effective the spell had been he had to have a couple levels to not pass out before finishing the spell. There went a third of my Stoneskin… and if I were directly comparing mana to one enemy, I came out on top there. But there wasn’t just one.
I looked at the other mage as I heard her yell ‘Scatter!’. It was rather nice of her to warn me, because I was able to tackle through one of the group coming to dogpile me and use him as a shield when the fireball hit the middle of the alley. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything about Izzy, who was out in the open.
She seemed to be the primary target as the bead of fire rushed to a point just above her head… or rather, above the head height of a human, which left her a good three feet. The people around her were leaping back, but Izzy remained in the center of them. I only saw a flicker of movement from her before the explosion blinded me.
When I could finally see again, most of the thugs around us were out cold. Or out hot? A few of them were actually on fire, but that wasn’t my problem. There was one guy next to me and I swung my bat at his head but somehow hit his shoulder. Oh right, my bat was kind of affected by the disguise spell. I guess it was useful for tricking enemies of my own position, but I wasn’t familiar enough with this weapon to get the different angles. So I dropped the spell.
“Oh crap, it’s mage!” said the guy in front of me before I hit him in the face with an electrified bat.
I turned towards Izzy just in time to see one of the few standing combatants sneaking up behind her. One of those with the knives. I was too late to call out, my voice barely reaching my throat, when the knife stabbed right down towards Izzy’s neck. Then the guy yelled out, dropping his knife- probably because of the bloody hole in his hand. Izzy didn’t even turn towards him as she ran forward towards the other one, slicing at his wrist and making him drop his weapon.
“Well,” I said. “That was fun. So, is that it or…?” My question was answered by heavy feet thudding down the alleyway. I turned to see a hulking figure charging towards me. “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be in jail dude?”