As we poured into the room and attacks flew back and forth, I picked a target. I would have preferred to go straight for the most important figures, but Timmy was already on his way. Sage Norwood launched a fireball at the group in the middle, large enough to encompass all of them… but a wall of dirt pulled down from the ceiling, blocking it. Norwood’s spell had great force behind it, but the defenses created by the half-elf held up without wavering.
I moved towards an archer on the outside of the room, the closest person on the left. Perhaps not the most dangerous by himself, but while the four in the center were most important we couldn’t just ignore the others. The faster we took care of them, the quicker we would be able to focus on the important targets. He took note of my approach, firing several arrows in my direction. They flew on a predictable trajectory, and I was able to block them with my shield, but I felt the impacts. They were not insignificant. Clearly the archer had great Strength… but their skill was behind Halette’s. It only took a few moments to reach him, and I stabbed out with my spear even as he switched from his bow to a sword.
His sword pushed my spear to the side… and then my spear twisted around near his grip, disarming him. His grip was strong, but his technique wasn’t good enough. Nothing compared to Khyrmin, at least. I may have slightly leaned on my fifteen hundred Strength and not purely technique, but even as the sword left his hand I pushed forward into his chest. His armor was strong enough that he was carried backwards for a moment, before my spear broke through and pierced his chest.
I’d first killed a person when I saw bandits attacking a merchant on the road. I didn’t feel good about it then, and it wasn’t a memory I relished now. I’d later saved Kantrilla from assassins- more than once- and I felt significantly less bad about their deaths. I hadn’t known much about them at the time, but I had little mercy for the heretical attributists with what I knew now. Especially not ones here with Lionel Tenford himself.
The man in front of me didn’t immediately fall, even after I retracted my spear. The hole in his heart was clearly visible, but he reached down for his sword still. I kicked with my armored boot straight to his face snapped his head backwards, and he toppled onto the ground. I stepped forward and stomped my foot on his chest as I surrounded myself with a small bit of ice magic to counter fire washing over me from a mage just in front of me.
The fire was strong, fueled by stolen attributes but without the technique I had come to expect of excellent mages. The fire was of sufficient power to truly injure me, even with my elemental resistance trained. It washed over me in huge gouts, but that was its weakness. It covered many times the area it needed to, and the rest of that magic was just going to waste. Thus, the amount actually reaching me was a small portion of the power. I pushed forward through the flames, stabbing my spear into the mage. Retreat would only have caused me more harm. The mage had a barrier protecting them, but their focus was on their attacking- and my attacks weren’t something that could be resisted head on, even with my fatigue.
A large figure brushed over my head, landing with a loud thud. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Socks landing on top of a figure I hadn’t noticed, sharp blades out. The man quickly shifted his target to Socks, driving his blade into her belly… and finding that her fur was more than sufficient to count as armor. Perhaps if the man had been able to take the optimal angle he could have caused real damage to Socks, but a Blessing of Toughness wasn’t just for show- stolen attributes just wouldn’t make up for it.
It was clear that Timmy, Sage Norwood, and some of the others were only barely able to pressure Lionel Tenford and the others in the middle of the room. We had some immediate success with some of the weaker cultists around the outside, but some found them more difficult to defeat. Even with proper training, making up for stolen attributes without a Blessing or a higher level would be difficult. We still had the advantage for the moment, but I felt my attributes continue to drain. It wasn’t a good idea to check, but a quick flash of Martial Trance told me my attributes had dropped by another few points over the course of the last minute. Except… my Strength was the same. Probably. I wasn’t going to complain about that, but I needed everything else to support that.
I didn’t know the names of many of the other adventurers with us, but I had seen most of them around. Some did well, some struggled, but I noticed most the successes of my party members. Kasner redirected lightning spells aimed at him to the other side of the room, smoothly looping them in an arc back towards our enemies. Even if that was only his second best field of magic… he was very good at it. At the same, he slid ice magic under people’s feet- that wasn’t something people could directly resist, and the speed with which he did it quickly disrupted many people.
Alhorn was particularly effective against some enemies who were further away. They thought they were safe from attacks, or at least would be able to see something coming… but Alhorn used light as a weapon. You couldn’t see a laser coming, because at that point it was already hitting you. While not immediately fatal, it blinded people for a moment and stopped them from attacking- and those with slower reactions might not regain their sight, even with stolen Toughness.
Halette fired arrows at foes with less armor, catching scouts and the like off balance. Stolen Dexterity might have augmented their reactions, but if they reacted in a manner she predicted… they might dodge right into her arrows. Either way, she kept the scene busy, even while avoiding attacks aimed back at her.
Even Kantrilla pressed forward into the fight. We didn’t have so much of an advantage that we had the luxury of letting her stay back and watch the battle. In fact, standing off on her own would have just made her a target. She didn’t plow through enemies, but she managed to hold off one with a large axe… then someone trying to sneak up behind her found that they had put themself in the path of that axe as she threw herself out of the way. That was Luck- but not just relying on it. She’d dodged the attack all on her own… and the Luck just caused someone to send their ally flying. Sadly they weren’t dead, but Kantrilla kept several enemies busy while wearing them down, until there was a chance for our allies to finish them off.
We’d managed to defeat most of the cultists on the outer circle. As I turned to see Lionel Tenford and the others, I was ready to press for the victory. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be so easy.
None of Lionel Tenford’s inner circle seemed hard pressed to defend themselves. Lionel himself used magic freely, but he carried a sword and shield as well. The tusked person- perhaps an orc, there weren’t many of them in Othya- radiated power that supported the rest of them. The elf carried an iron staff, deftly fending off most of the melee attackers and even deflecting spells. The half-elf who controlled the earth blocked any powerful spell with seemingly little effort while still having the ability to counter with stone spikes that pierced a foot into the wall- and through anyone who got hit.
Timmy swung his axe at Lionel Tenford, who blocked with his shield, catching the handle of the weapon and keeping the blade away. He staggered backwards under the force of Timmy’s attack… but in the next few moves he held his ground more and more. I was already dashing towards that part of the battle, ready to provide assistance, but I saw Lionel Tenford grow stronger before my very eyes… and Timmy grew weaker. I could see a direct pull from one to the other. The magic was everywhere, but especially strong between the two of them.
After another block with his shield, Lionel chopped with his sword, knocking Timmy flying. I hoped he wasn’t injured… but I couldn’t do anything if he was. My spear was already on the way, along with myself. I aimed straight for the small of Lionel’s back, but he spun around to face me, blocking with his shield. He staggered half a step back as I impacted him, drawing on the full power of my Rage. He had enough skill to simultaneously swipe at me with his sword, and though I blocked… I felt my muscles strain. He had already been strong, and now with some of Timmy’s Strength… I could only barely overpower him. Then I felt the power focus on me, and I clenched my teeth. I wasn’t even sure if it could be resisted, but I wasn’t about to let my Strength go to someone like this guy.