The Fate Of The Frozen Throne
Richard didn’t even have the time to talk to Tiramisu before he and Nasia returned to the messenger to leave for the next battlefield. However, Mountainsea suddenly leapt into the sky as the drone took flight, landing right behind him and hugging him from behind. The messenger wailed as she landed, heading straight for the ground, but Richard chuckled and threw her warhammer down to the ogre and stabilised the situation. The head of that hammer weighed more than a hundred tonnes, heavier even than Tiramisu’s, and a drone built for speed naturally couldn’t lift it.
With the three of them on its back, the messenger left for the battlefield at full speed. Richard met a number of smaller detachments along the way, but without the time to waste he simply headed straight through. Two of the three legends here were severely injured, but even with half of the saints dead he managed to take control of the situation and beat back the reaper soldiers. There were two more battlefields as well, but by the time he was done they had already sent word that both had fallen into enemy hands. Fortunately, both were of lower priority and had been given to the other countries of Faelor to handle, and some of the stronger warriors had even managed to escape.
However, this was only the area around the Crimson Empire. What surprised Richard the most was that the Frozen Throne was still standing, with the enemy beaten back. This was supposed to be excellent news, especially since Richard had barely sent any reinforcements, but when he found out the specifics of just how they had managed it he found himself unable to smile. Salwyn had abandoned the surroundings and pulled all of his troops back into the city, giving any warriors above level 10 an unusual weapon. These were basically balls that contained three reaper energy cores each, with a spell formation engraved on top to break the energy balance. As the reapers charged into the city, they were forced into the narrow streets where the warriors rushed towards the more powerful drones and activated their bombs. The explosions could turn even the mechanical elephants into scrap metals with three or four such attacks, while spider warriors went down in one. However, the warriors who placed the bombs down were certain to be blown to bits as well.
The battle against the reapers would have resulted in heavy casualties, so Salwyn had hardened his heart and gotten the soldiers who were destined for death to engage in a suicide attack. Even a one-for-one trade with a flesh warrior wasn’t too bad, but at a minimum these bombers took out a handful of the enemy drones.
When Richard’s messenger flew above the skies of the Frozen Throne, he could no longer see the lofty fortress that he had once brought down himself. Occupying its place was a ruined city that spanned several kilometres, with bomb craters all over. People were working like ants amongst the debris, some dragging the remains of the enemies while others dug out blankets and food from the ruins to stave off the frozen death in the night. In the crowd were the elderly, women, and even children as young as five or six years old. Not many were wailing, but it was obvious that the tears had already dried from their faces. Time was precious and it was impossible to know when the enemy would return; there was no opportunity to grieve even if they were dragging the bodies of kin away.
Most of Salwyn’s warriors had been blown up with their skeletons, leaving only the metal frames of the reaper soldiers intact. However, the mangled bodies of the soldiers were still stacked up in small mountains, even if no one seemed to want to go near them. There were signs of three processing centres on the outskirts of the city, and Richard was informed that the defeated reapers had chosen to stall with their drones while the transporters took entire cabins full of flesh and left. The fact that those processing centres didn’t have a single noticeable chunk of flesh was a testament to the cruel efficiency of the machines.
Within the Frozen Throne, the soldiers lucky enough to survive were dousing the mountain of corpses in oil. Mages started to cast fireballs onto the heaps of bodies, raging flames slowly engulfing them all. It was only as night fell that one could hear sobbing from around these mountains, slowly growing to a crescendo. Unfortunately, there wasn’t even much time for those wails to build. As the flames started to burn, people started yelling to clear some of the ruins.
Richard took some time to locate Salwyn who was helping transport some reaper flesh just like a commoner. A few mages were busy at work picking the energy cores out of the weapon arms, casually throwing them into their pockets before shifting the corpses to the side. These cores were extremely dangerous and would certainly cause damage to the bodies of those who contacted them for too long, but these men were unwilling to even walk a few more steps to put the cores in one of the chests until their pockets were full. It would take half a month to go through it all meticulously, but they were working like mad men to have it done as quickly as they could. After all, these cores were the key to the next battle.
“Why aren’t they putting those things in the chests immediately?” Mountainsea asked as the trio landed, a look of worry on her face.
The mages hadn’t even bothered to acknowledge Richard’s arrival until now, but a middle-aged man finally raised his head and glanced at her for a moment, “We don’t know if we’ll even make it through the next battle, kid. We’re almost guaranteed to die anyway, so might as well make our deaths worthwhile and open as much of these things as we can.”
The girl’s mouth gaped open in speechlessness, only to close as Richard patted her gently on the head. She had clearly woken up very recently, and wasn’t completely aware of the situation. He took her along as he met Salwyn, who was currently throwing some wreckage into the pile.
“Didn’t expect me to win, did you?” the Emperor asked with a bitter smile.
“Mm. Their numbers were far greater than expected.”
“Sigh. What is the situation on the other battlefields?”
“4 and 5 were a total disaster, barely anyone made it out. We’ve held the fort at the other three, but they were cruel victories.”
“So we’ve lost half our forces?”
“More like two-thirds.”
“What? How many enemies were there?”
“About three times the ones that attacked you.”
Salwyn’s eyes went wide, “Then your troops…”
Richard nodded, “Only a fifth are still alive. We’ll need to make some adjustments to the second line and activate the reserve guards. I also plan to recruit more troops from the south, I’m pulling all of their elites.”
“The kings and dukes there won’t agree.”
“Then their entire royal lines will be destroyed.”
Salwyn nodded and looked at the ruins around him, “Richard, you’ve seen the situation here. We can’t survive the next battle without reinforcements. Is there anything you can do?”
“Err…” Richard started muttering to himself, unable to reply immediately. The most ideal plan for all of Faelor was to gather the humans into one cohesive force. However, the journey from the Frozen Throne to Bluewater Oasis was a few months long for the ordinary citizen, and most of them would die to the reapers even if it was only a week.
Even Richard’s own soldiers weren’t gathered together. With the Bridge of Hope still under construction, he had deployed Gangdor with 50 rune knights, 300 night elves, and four saints to Goldflow Valley to clear up space for those that would move there. Unfortunately, that stretched him even thinner than he hoped. With most of the remaining soldiers having died just at the second line of defence, dividing his troops further was a death wish.
The most rational course of action was to give up on the Frozen Throne entirely, allowing the people there to be destroyed. The third wave of reapers could only be stopped by a combined effort, not a number of distant cities fighting for survival.
Richard looked Salwyn in the eye, only to see a frozen calmness without hope nor apprehension. This puppet ruler had obviously thought of the very same thing.