Lionel Tenford could already basically match me in Strength, and then I felt the power tugging on me. He wanted to tear my Strength away from me. Add to that his insanely high Dexterity and I barely managed to keep him at bay, parrying his sword with my spear and shield. It didn’t help that he was being supported by the magic of one of his companions, but at least I had my own support to back me up.
As I fought back and forth with Lionel, I grew worried. He wasn’t a warrior, but he was keeping up with me weapon vs weapon. What had I even gotten myself into? Once he used magic I would be toast… except he never did. Or he couldn’t. All of his magic was focused on pulling away my Strength. What then, I was facing someone with great physical stats who wasn’t a warrior? I grimaced behind my helmet. Khyrmin would have been disappointed.
So what if his Strength matched mine and my Dexterity was behind? He could resist any move he saw coming… and that of course included crazy stunts. But I had more than that. I had very high Melee Weapon Mastery, and while my Disarm skill had fallen a bit behind where it should have been… skill levels weren’t a hard restriction. Occasionally people could do better than their average. All they needed was a source of inspiration.
Khyrmin might have been disappointed in my methods. I stabbed out my spear, activating Martial Trance as I did so. Time slowed to a crawl, and I saw the sword coming up to deflect my attack. Instead of striking against it or avoiding it, I let it come to my spear shaft… just where I wanted it to be. A flash of time, a moment passed and the next moment was burned into my mind. What I needed to do was move my arm just so, twist the spear and bend his wrist and hands. It wouldn’t look like an attack that would do anything, but experience would have told him what was coming. Lionel Tenford would certainly have experience in battle… but not this area of it. I twisted and… my grip slipped on my weapon.
It was the sort of thing that could happen in battle. A little bit of sweat ends up in the wrong place and things go awry. But it wasn’t the sort of thing that should have happened right at that moment. What were the chances of that?
My motion to disarm him failed and he held onto his weapon. Then I was struck in the side, not by Lionel but by the elf wielding the staff. The force knocked me back, staggering away. I was glad he hadn’t been the one to take Timmy’s Strength, but my breastplate still crumpled and my ribs broke even through a barrier spell. Lionel swung down with his sword and I readied my shield to block his attack, but I couldn’t also avoid the incoming staff.
Fire rolled over the elf… not a burst of fire or a powerful bolt, but just dancing flames. To be honest, I could feel the mana behind the spell was lacking. It should have been Sage Norwood’s power… but of course Timmy wasn’t the only one getting his attributes drained. The magic of their mage had increased in power, and I was just fortunate there were more opponents for them to deal with compared to just me.
I twisted my body, using my armor to its best effect to limit the damage of the quarterstaff. I even let it push me back further to reduce the impact and reassert myself. But my mind couldn’t quite let go of the flames. They covered his staff and were slowly crawling up it, climbing his arm and licking his magical robes. I knew that Toughness could mitigate the damage and even the pain from attacks, but even so it had to hurt. Maybe not enough, as the man kept a steady face… but even he seemed concerned about the fire after a moment. It wasn’t going away. It wasn’t strong enough to incinerate him in a moment- Sage Norwood didn’t have the attributes left to force that much power out- but it also wasn’t fizzling out. When the man’s hair caught on fire, he hesitated.
That was the moment Timmy leaped on him. It was a bit of a weak jump, and I could see he was barely able to move… and in fact it was more of a stumble and less of a leap. But just because Timmy had his Strength lowered significantly didn’t mean he didn’t have any… or that he stopped weighing a thousand pounds. It was possible he lost some muscle mass- I wasn’t sure if that would be an immediate effect or not- but he was huge regardless. His weight shoved the unexpecting man to the ground. I wasn’t sure if it was planned, but an instant later Socks jumped on top of the pile, pressing down on Timmy and the quarterstaff user. Her jaw snapped out and bit down where the quarterstaff was held by the man. He didn’t let go even as she clawed at his head, but I at least saw some blood.
Then Lionel Tenford was charging towards me. My Strength… was still at least mostly my own. I wasn’t sure if I had held onto it all, and I certainly couldn’t check in the middle of battle, but I had enough. I had to. Though I would barely need any to deal with the current situation. The sword came straight towards me, as if to pierce straight through me. I didn’t doubt the possibility. I turned my body to the left, stabbing out with my spear… not towards his body but straight towards his hand. If he wanted to keep his hand he would redirect his sword himself. I thought that, anyway, but instead he let me hit him.
Among the various attributes he had stolen, of course, was Toughness. I couldn’t say how much, but he had at least a thousand. Instead of my spear taking of a finger or three I only managed to break one finger. Meanwhile his sword cut through the front of my breastplate, dragging a line of blood across my chest. I had around four hundred Toughness of my own, and that had likely saved my life… but I felt my already broken ribs collapse even more.
Most of the weaker heretical attributists were already defeated, leaving us with the numbers advantage. Halette was currently firing arrows in rapid succession towards the tusked orc supporting the group with magic. They seemed easy to dodge at first, but he kept moving into them no matter how he tried. He had armor and Toughness, so each arrow barely pierced into him, if at all… but it kept him occupied. Enough for several others to move up behind him and pull him to the ground.
The enemy’s mage was still dropping earth on people… but Sage Norwood was managing to keep him somewhat occupied with Kasner’s help and some others. Kasner kept creating tiny patches of ice, right under the half-elf’s feet or just little cubes of ice that fell from the ceiling or a collar of ice around the man’s neck- prevented from actually touching him by a shield spell. Nothing immediately deadly… but as the man called upon his stolen power and admittedly not well practiced fire magic to melt the ice away, something happened. I didn’t have the chance to see it at the moment, but he was getting covered in water. Just a bit… but soon the floor had a nice little trail towards him.
Kasner raised an arm, holding a lightning bolt above his head. It must have hurt to actually clutch lightning in his hand, but that was a thing he could do if he really wanted to. The bolt was tossed overhand, condensed lightning flying towards the mage’s face. Of course, an entire earthen wall came up to block it, dissipating the bolt. But he didn’t notice that as Kasner stepped his foot down lightning crawled along the ground, using the water as a guide. It crawled up the man and inside his shield- not completely, but enough to stun him for a moment.
In that moment, Alhorn took the power he had been storing and directed as much light as he could, concentrated into a laser, into the man’s face. The shield spell would of course stop offensive magic. Fire and lightning would be resisted, cold couldn’t freeze him, earth and pure force would be deflected… but light had to get through or he would be blind. To his credit the shield slightly weakened the laser, but the light struck his eyes during that moment where he couldn’t move. Even with much stolen Toughness… at least one of his eyes would be out of commission.
The quarterstaff wielding elf was still on fire. No, perhaps it would be best to say he was now completely on fire. It wasn’t fast, but it was persistent. The power was low… but the skill behind it was great. If Sage Norwood had been able to get off a similar spell before being drained, the man would have been burned to ash. Timmy had rolled off of him at that point, unable to endure the fire… but Socks kept him pressed to the ground, adding fire of her own. The man looked up at her, focusing the draining magic on her. Maybe it did something, but in the heat of the battle we couldn’t be sure. However, their magic was tuned towards humanoids. Humans, elves, halflings, and the like were all quite similar. They might have had the methods to drain attributes from monsters- but that wasn’t what they had ready at the moment, what their whole big magic circle did. And Socks was tougher than the man- no matter what his stolen numbers said. He screamed in pain, losing his grip on his spear and opening his throat up for Socks to chomp down on. It took a long moment… but there was a crunching sound as armor eventually lost to teeth and then muscle and bones followed behind.
At the moment, I was barely holding my own against Lionel Tenford- and not even actually just myself. There were a handful of others now, blocking for me and swinging their own weapons at him. However, whenever it seemed like someone might land a solid blow something happened. They lost their footing. Their grip slipped. Two people accidentally blocked each other. Even Lionel occasionally stumbled out of the way of an attack. None of the others were having such clear signs of stolen Luck… and it was clear Lionel had taken more attributes than anyone else. And enough of my Strength that I could barely keep going. He wasn’t even done yet.