Federation-Apocalypse Session 170a – The Preliminary Assault

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OK, NO ONE is going to swallow THAT illusion!

It wasn’t long before the sixty-odd Thralls, with their shapeshifting animal-form “disguises” and anti-detection spells, had located and surrounded the Panther encampment.

Kevin had them settle in to report – and to be ready to catch minor attempts to escape.

It looked like the panthers had three encampments within a short distance of each other. The area was split by three small ravines or valleys spread out in a simple “Y”. Each camp was nestled in one of these little valleys – and the connecting area between the three valleys was a clear field with a number of circled caravans and what looked like the entrance to some caverns as well. Each of the paths leading to one of the valleys from outside the area had some defenses – but could serve as chokepoints from either direction. If they could get to the central area in force and hold it as a defensive position they could split them into four groups.

There were quite a few people between the three sites, and there was probably another site in the caverns. The Thralls reported roughly forty Panthers, 123 rabbits, ninety assorted bandits, and a small assortment of individuals. It also looked like there were a number of caravans mixed in with the encampments – all apparently voluntarily bringing supplies to the cavern system.

That was quite an operation for a single exiled family! It was surprising that they were getting away with it, even if they WERE officially only arguing with one clan! Foreign agents assisting subversive elements, maybe?

There weren’t any of the reptilian assassins around though. Kevin had half-expected some; their double-agent had been traced to this general area, but they’d never heard anything more from her. That had been a bit of a disappointment; they’d thought that the reporting-link was well enough buried that it would take a day or two to find – but no such luck.

That might be a bit much to just wander in on… Much as it pained Kevin to admit it, it might be advisable to take a few precautions first.

Marty kind of favored going in with everybody – but Kevin wasn’t so sure. Random bandits weren’t a big problem, and a lot of the rest would be noncombatants… Oh wait! The local gods were obliging enough to label everyone with power-signs! They could just have the Thralls look for those and get an estimate on the number of powerful individuals!

Raphael pointed out that – given the local magical birthrights – EVERYONE could cast some fairly effective low-level attack spells. Enough of those could swamp them. The Panthers were technically exiles from the Cat clan, and – to a lesser extent – from the rest of the city (apparently the original schism that had split the clan had brought ill-will from the rest of the city). The Rabbits were cooperating with, and possibly arming, bandits and city exiles within striking distance of the city walls. That was definitely going to look pretty bad for them barring a REALLY good explanation. Ergo, the Panthers and their voluntary associates were fair game – but did they really want to fight EVERYONE?

Kevin noted that situations like this were what Globes of Invulnerability were for!

Raphael pointed out that one higher-level caster could knock it down for him.

Marty was impressed! Raphael was actually THINKING! They rarely had an associate who did that! Most of the thinkers took a look at the things they got up to and went elsewhere!

Kevin still kind of wanted to simply stride forward. He was more than a bit intoxicated with his wolf-forms potential for physical mayhem.

For once, even Marty wanted to restrain him. That was a lot of people even by his standards, and he’d rather not have to commute back from Kadia at the moment, it was a pain.

Raphael wasn’t liking that “plan” too much either.

The Thralls estimates of power levels were rather rough. It lookws like the caravaners were all noncombatants and one-half to two-thirds of the rest were relatively “low-powered”. On the other hand, there was quite a bit of enhanced weaponry and armor about as well.

So twelve or so panthers (mid-powered and up), ninety Bandits (probably mid powered; high-powered individual could usually find better positions), maybe forty mid-powered and up rabbits, and a scattering of weird individuals. Probably no more than half a dozen or so with really powerful abilities – and even that was a bit weird for a little camp of outlaws!

(Raphael) “Too bad we cant just do an battlefield magic dispell followed by a battlefield magic globe of invulnerability… that would likely drop all the minor buffs and keep them down.”

(Kevin, with some surprise) “We can’t?”

(Raphael, also with some surprise) “Abjuration is not my thing… but you could do that?”

Marty sighed. Raphael hadn’t yet seen the records of Kevin’s spellcasting in the New Imperium had he? It REALLY wasn’t wise to push the boy… When he let it come through, the power of darkness was quite appalling.

(Kevin) “I can if necessary… Of course, it’s a “not too often” kind of thing.”

(Raphael) That would still leave us with some others capable of higher level spells to deal with, but that’s better than hundreds of minor spells on top of the higher-powered stuff.

(One of the aides, sotto voice) “Besides, just think of the ladies you’ll get for just strolling into a camp of more than two hundred enemies and fighting them all with your bare hands!”

Kevin considered… OK, that was kind of tempting – it would really demonstrate his dominance (and impress the girl who’d been attacked by the Panthers through their Rabbit catspaws) – but if he exerted himself he should be able to blanket the area with an effect that would damp out low-order magic and would be almost impossible for anyone without his level of power to do anything about – and if anyone amongst this group had his kind of magical power, what were they doing lurking outside the city?

Marty did have Battle Magic as part of his dominion, and had recently acquired Math Magic. Given that the underlying rules of this world were those of a computer simulation, would that let him muck around with some fairly basic elements?

As it turned out, only to a limited extent. There was some awareness of underlying math, but the actual world was based on user perceptions, not the original underlying rules of the sim… Oh well! There were still some major tricks – like a multi-target power drain – that he could pull! He’d focus it on the most powerful ones to avoid hurting any of the lower-powered types.

Raphael sighed. The pair of them were actually worrying more about how impressive they could be than about survival!

Kevin worked up his grandiose low-level magic damper, Marty worked up his personal-power damping effect, and Raphael summoned some more “honor guard” constructs to help out (and to keep Kevin’s usual three servants company) – and to hide among. Unlike these two lunatics, HE had some caution! They could still be physically or magically overwhelmed by numbers!

Still, a lot of the minor opponents would probably look at the kind of magic that was being thrown around and run.

Oh wait! They’d need a teleport-blocker too!

Kevin opted to throw that in with his big spell. They were blanketing the entire area anyway, so why not?

They set up a couple of other enhancements (including Raphael’s anti-missile spell), dropped their big spells over the area – and strolled in down one of the main paths. The Thralls caught a few who did indeed try to run, but most of the group seemed to have a surprising level of confidence in their defenses.

That was a bit weird for a hunted group of exiles too!

There was enough shock when those spells went off to let them take most of the local by surprise…

Kevin promptly used his oratorical powers to demand a mass surrender – an effect which swept over the general horde (all the ones who weren’t either unusually powerful or possessed of mental defenses) quite easily.

Marty saw four likely targets with high-end power-signs on them… A lithe female rabbit with what looked to be rather loose-fitting chainmail, a HUGE male rabbit with a sword as long as he was tall, a female panther wearing a combination of leather and cloth who was balancing a knife on her finger tip, and a monkey mage digging through a batch of supplies.

He tried silencing and paralyzing the male rabbit. Sadly, it didn’t work… Oh well! Kevin was the magical specialist, he’d just have to go with knives!

The female panther fell into her own shadow and disappeared – reappearing behind Marty to knife him in the back, striking with an impressive impact. A few more strikes like that and he’d be in trouble!

Suddenly, the loose chainmail the female rabbit was wearing seemed to explode into a whirlwind of spiked chains – lashing out at Raphael and his collection of golems and inflicting considerable havoc.

The big rabbit pulled out his huge two-handed sword and charged Kevin – pointy end first, slashing him messily.

Raphael entrapped the chain-wielder in a dimensional maze.

The monkey mage scrambled to open a crate and pulled out a bushel of bananas. Why? It was kind of hard to say…

The general masses were mostly surrendering, as Kevin had demanded – but Kevin had other distractions and let the Thralls handle it. HE was cheerfully hammering away at the rabbit who’d attacked him. In this identity he could regenerate a lot more damage than THAT!

He scored several times, but evidently this guy was pretty tough! He was barely scratching him! (Although that did seem to mildly impress the man).

Marty decided to try to keep the monkey mage out of things. Whatever-it-was he’d wanted bananas for, he had them now… He pulled on his knife-related powers and flung a dagger at him that would have annihilated an old-style tank. The mage just barely survived the impact – but it didn’t stop him, although it did divert him to healing himself.

The pantheress with the shadow-powers stabbed Marty again – not quite so effectively – and vanished into the shadows once more.

The big rabbit hammered Kevin some more. That was getting annoying!

Raphael summoned more constructs to distract, grab, or attack the shadow-walking pantheress and guard their backs.

Kevin hammered right back at the rabbit – but it was becoming pretty obvious that his unenhanced fists weren’t accomplishing much. He was going to have to try some boosts!

Marty considered hitting the rabbit pestering Kevin with one of his trademark massive strikes – but Kevin didn’t get to do melee stuff often, and the kid seemed to be enjoying it. He decided to dispose of the shadows instead, and shed some brilliant, directionless, light on the area to wash them all out. He left hitting the rabbit to Minel – who uses an energy-draining ray that weakened him somewhat; Kevin might be tough as nails as a wolf-person, but he still really wasn’t all that skilled a fighter and could probably use a hand.

It did seem to weary the rabbit a bit. Not enough to stop him though, as he hewed at Kevin again – this time ineffectually. With the chain-scythe wielder still on an involuntary dimensional vacation, the shadow-dancer in parts unknown, and the mage working something up, it was about time to begin advancing again…

Kevin was wondering why the Rabbit was focusing on him. He wasn’t actually doing much of the big attacks – and the big spells had been cast before they came out. Was it related to the earlier rabbit attacks?

(Kevin, to the Rabbit) “Well this is good fun! I may have to start hitting harder though!”

(Rabbit) “Yeah, you are obviously the most powerful one in this bunch! I can tell just by looking at you! Plus you’ve taken a number of blows from me and are still standing!”

Hm… Most of the others who had managed to resist the oratory had fled back towards the other encampments. They just had the chain-scythe specialist (in another dimension), the monkey-mage was hiding and healing, and the shadowdancer was nowhere to be found.

Raphael accelerated the group – including the golems and the constructs.

About then, the monkey-mage popped up again – standing up, lifting the lid off a sealed barrel, and dropping the bananas in. He then proceeded to shout “Bananas!” and ran for the pass leading to the other camps.

The barrel then proceeded to bounce violently and spewed forth a thick yellowish fog around itself as it made belching sounds.

(Marty) “Yech, it’s a banana barrel golem!”

Kevin, now that the Thralls were collecting the non-combatants, fell back to work some self- enhancements, somewhat like the ones he’d used against he invisible golem…

Marty was no specialist mage – but, at least to him, it looked like the barrel was using a combination of the bananas as a material component and a command word to initiate some sort of high powered conjuration effect.

Hm. He might be able to slow that down with his own magic, but he probably couldn’t stop it.

He took a shot at it – but the blasted thing was tougher than was even remotely reasonable. It didn’t quite break, although it cracked and splintered the barrel significantly. He could see foam and banana cream beginning to leak out of the cracks in the barrel though, somewhat reducing whatever effect it was working on producing.

There was a moments pause as the chain-scythe specialist failed once again to escape her dimensional maze, the shadowdancer failed to reappear, the monkey-mage had fled, and the big rabbit was taking a moment to catch his breath while Kevin enhanced himself.

Raphael had one of his constructs pick up that pesky barrel – and then cast it, and everything it was carrying, into another dimensional maze.

He followed up by ripping open a pit in the ground where the chain-scythe specialist would re-appear and had his summoned golems stand around holding the debris to drop them in after her when she re-appeared. That almost certainly wouldn’t kill her, but it should at least be a great inconvenience – and give his summoned golems an advantage.

Marty was keeping an eye on the Wolf-Versus-Rabbit battle – but he wouldn’t intervene unless Kevin was REALLY getting pummeled.

Kevin, however, was now putting serious power into it (and throwing in a a multiple-image illusion-trail just for fun), boosting his movement, and closing to dance around Mr Rabbit and pummel him!

That was considerably more effective – although Mr Rabbit wasn’t going down as of yet. Worse, it made Kevin a lot harder to hit – and Mr Rabbit wasn’t having much luck.

It took a few more exchanges, but Kevin was now winning easily – and the golems readily captured the scythe-chain specialist when she popped back in.

The prisoner roundup was going nicely; all the ones who were capable of resisting had already fled to the rest of the camps. Kevin set up a gate for the Thralls to take them through – and they started advancing on the central area – where a defensive line was forming, combining most of the remaining defenders from the caverns and the other two camps.

Well, that wasn’t a bad tactic. Strength in numbers always had it’s point, and that way they could get some use out of the less-powerful ones before the oratory and other persuasive powers could get to them.

According to Marty and Raphael it looked like… about two-thirds of the initial group was still over that way. Of them, it looked like there are still four powerful rabbits, another five panthers of similar power levels, and four bandit leaders. They were all moving into the central section to work on repelling the assault… Also present were a trio of powerful monkey mages, one of whom Marty had nearly managed to kill. There are also about a hundred and sixty low level fighters and mages of various sorts over there too. The power levels for the more powerful ones were similar to the ones they’d just fought.

Sixteen powerful targets? Seventeen if the Shadowdancer turned up again? That was REALLY impressive for a bunch of exiles and bandits! What was going on here?

Kevin was still all for heading on in… The low-level guys weren’t too important. Sixteen major targets was harder – but they just needed to drive them into retreat, and their resources were in fairly good shape outside of being down a fair chunk of regeneration and some of Raphael’s power.

At least the Thralls could provide plenty of healing quickly enough.

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