"There are too many ranged enemies, magic's my only means of reaching them without breaking our line!" Trent shot back. The boy seemed stressed. He ignored the assimilated pixie flying back and forth above him, and went to help Steve with the green Slime by cutting it completely in half with a swipe of his sword. He glanced back towards the shoreline. "If we fall back towards the water, we'll be going back into the narrow part of the path! Our single file formation will put too much burden on those in front!"
The core-controlled pixie was in the midst of dive bombing the human, and almost reached him before Steve plastered it to the ground with another Web Spit. Asura yelled at Trent to go on the defensive, before transforming himself and Smashing right through the Skeleblin's ribcage. Its sternum and spine came apart in pieces, which also separated its arms and skull from its torso. The various bits of it clattered like a broken xylophone down the rocks, and the black miasma rising from it meant the body couldn't be used by the dungeon's captured souls anymore. As Asura felt his Stamina burning away, he went over to help Momma Slime. The Dire Rat had just popped back out, taking a bite out of her outer membrane, before the red slime filled its hidey hole and sprouted spikes like an angry porcupine. The creature was skewered from multiple directions, and its body jerked before it went still...then, the same black miasma from the Skeleblin seemed to collect around the Dire Rat's fresh corpse...
Momma Slime made to move forward, since the only enemies in view were in that direction. But she pulled up short as two blobs of poison splattered the ground in front of her. Then a Mana Orb struck her, driving her back another roll's worth as she gurgled in a mixture of anger and pain. Trent had stepped up now as well, and blocked another poisonous ball of phlegm with his shield. Its rawhide covering was in tatters now, revealing the sturdy wood and iron bands beneath. Just as Asura was coming out of the rat's hole, there were three more wads of Poison Spit heading his way in a wide spread--as well as another of the Zombie Goblin's accursed javelins.
The Zombie Fanged Lizards chose to advance after unleashing their volley, and they were rapidly closing in on the spaces that were left by the Skeleblin, Slime, and the earlier Wisps.
Further back, the 3 oncoming Zomblins passed their spear-hucking brother, and were continuing to charge up with roars as they dripped black bile. The 4 Wisps near the ceiling passed over the row of long-ranged attackers as well, as if they were racing the zombies to get closer.
Only a single Zombie Pixie and a Fanged Lizard were visible in the distance, but there were still various sounds of monsters getting ever closer. And although Ardur seemed to have led the flock of Wisps away, back towards the rear there were two familiar, eerie green flickering lights getting bigger by the moment.
Over the water, a dozen Wisps followed after Ardur. He barrel rolled this way and that, twisting and swerving wildly through the air. His wings felt sore all the way down to their roots over his shoulders, but he couldn't avoid to stop here. He managed to block one Mana Orb with his bone club, then dodge another, and several of the other shots missed due to the assimilated monster's inaccuracy. But one of them struck him, almost knocking him out of the air. He was so close...
"Incoming." he called to Undine as he recovered control of his flight just before hitting the water. As he zoomed past, the Wisps followed. Their lights crackled and pulsed angrily.
One of them ran right into Undine's blade, apparently unable to see it in the dark. The creature actually cut itself in half solely due to its own momentum. The Wisps that were directly behind and around it stumbled over its now-halved body as it fell out of the air, and with a quick lunge that seemed to take no more effort than riding the ripples of the pond Undine speared another Wisp on her tip.
But now the cloud of angry magic mobs had gotten all the closer to Ardur, and some of them had managed to angle away on his sides. From three directions, a barrage of Mana Orbs flew towards him--!
Femus dove out of the way of the claw, and it came down like a heavy rake into the earth behind him. As it carved a furrow through the herbs, the Wisp twisted and took aim before firing Shock Round II. The yellow sphere launched at higher speed now, and its movement was more like a zigzag than a lazy loop-de-loop. The Hobgoblin had to pull its arm, or its weapon, out of the ground before it could turn to face Femus again--giving the spell the time it needed to strike. The creature let out a high pitched yelp as electricity surged through its body from the leg upward--and then, as it fell to one knee, all of its muscles seemed to tense at once as its movements locked! That "paralysis" the Skill Update had mentioned must have triggered!
Femus pushed himself out of the way even further with his Lesser Force skill. The Hobgoblin continued to struggle, making grumbling and gurgling noises behind its mask. As the Wisp started the 10 second charge up period for Static Bolt, the creature seemed to be trying to force itself to move...
One Mississippi. Two Mississippi.
The hobgoblin gasped, and managed to clench and unclench its other fist. It clawed at the soil of the ground to try and push itself back up...
Five Mississippi. Six Mississippi.
With a snarl, the monster stood up. It yanked its bony arm out of the ground.
Eight Mississippi. Nine Mississippi.
It turned to Femus and looked at his glowing body. Then it noticed the glowing, crackling static building up in a small circle underneath its own feet. It pushed with both legs to launch away from the groun--
If it hadn't been for the sheer luck of paralysis triggering, there would have been no way Femus could have cast the spell in time. Even with that boon, he barely made it. But the bolt of electricity jumped from the Wisp, straight into the strangely clad Hobgoblin's chest. Its body actually lit up from the inside for a split second, showing a completely normal skeleton holding the arm of another skeleton under all the robes. The monster was knocked away by the blast, but because of Femus's change in position this meant it was actually knocked closer to the Great Kao Tree.
Meanwhile, in the tree, Nira had drank from her own Aqua Sphere. She received a notice from the System that her thirst had been quenched, once she had finished the whole thing. Only then did she look around and notice Femus being attacked near the herb patch. She cast her Shield spell quickly, and the protective glow enveloped her friend's body. But then, as she prepared a Mana Orb between her hands, Femus unleashed that brand new lightning skill he had apparently figured out. She watched as the hobgoblin was blown backwards, its black cloak even more black now that it had fresh burn marks. She had to struggle to hold onto her Mana Orb as she waited for the right moment--it seemed like power was actually building within the spell the longer she tried to hold on.
The hobgoblin hit the ground. Groaning, it began to push itself up...it was dazed, but not defeated. It turned towards Femus, and behind its mask its eyes actually seemed to glow with rage. Once again it snarled and brandished its long, skeletal hand--just as Nira shot it in the back.
The Mana Orb let out a crackling sound not all that dissimilar to the actual electricity spells, and once again drove the hobgoblin into the dirt. This time it was face first, however, knocking off that eerie facemask and revealing a somewhat regular, though scarred and wrinkled, hobgoblin face. And this time the creature did not get back up.
With the monster dead, Femus didn't get to use the next phase of his plan. But at least the threat was gone now...or at least, this particular threat. One could never be too safe out here...