Rraki threw out her fist, angled upwards with one finger out. A single range wall spell caused the ground to thrust upwards, shielding her group from the oncoming fireballs. The series of explosions on the other side of the wall preceded the gust of heat leaking down on them over the top.
The wall held.
She glanced back at the assault group she was leading. Three Fingers and eleven slave soldiers. One Finger was almost out of Potential. The man, dressed in Tos Clan's mottled brown, was already feeling the exhaustion as his body tried to replenish the Potential.
"Onni, use your remaining Potential to reinforce this wall then fall back to rest area. " Rraki commanded.
The Finger nodded then swung his hand out, two fingers outstretched. The ground beneath them shuddered and shifted, settling slightly lower than before. The foundations of Rraki's hasty wall were solid now.
With one finger to his left shoulder, Onni saluted them as a Finger and ran into the city. His camouflage browns quickly blended into the dusty rock buildings, the rubble of the street fighting aiding his flight.
There was no rest for the remaining assault group however. Rraki felt the globs of fireballs and their enclosed spell enter her detection range, aimed just above her barrier in hopes of burning what was on the other side. The Fingers of Naivi would have had better luck throwing normal fireballs, those couldn't be detected through Rraki's wall after all, but they were clearly inexperienced fighters. Trainees and reserves sent out in desperation.
Rraki clenched her fist, drawing it behind her and over her head. Once, twice, three times. Each swing sent a chunk of the pebbled street flying upwards, propelled like a rock out of a sling. The balls of viscous burning liquids exploded in mid-air as their spells set off prematurely, showering the area with burning rain. Her Fingers shielded them with sheets of stone at minimum thickness.
Naive. Detonate on contact was too easy to spoof.
She looked at the slave soldiers. Armed with short spears and short bows, as well as bearing thin metal armour to ward off flames, they were built for fighting a Fire clan in the city. And being slaves, disposable. Replacements were expensive to procure, train and equip, however, so she would get punished if she wasted them.
"Number one, check around the corner and tell me where the Fires are. "
The slave poked his head out and reported.
They were just standing out in the street, preparing to launch another attack. Rraki downgraded her estimation of them, this group was really green. All the other clans, but Fire most of all, made extensive use of cover. Only Earth could easily make their own.
"One and Two, run out the left towards that building and shoot them. While they're distracting the Fires, the rest of us will run to the right after a second. Shoot them if you can. All of you are to prioritize staying alive and drawing attacks. Troni and Uki, you're with me. "
The slaves changed their weapons from spears to the bows, stowing the spears across their backs,
Rraki closed her eyes as she envisioned the change she was going to make. Imagine a blocky volume in her wall, tall enough to walk through, thick enough to encompass the depth. The magic spread outwards as she touched the barrier.
At her command, the slaves charged out in two groups, the right side delayed just enough for the left side to receive a hail of fireballs. She ignored the dying scream of a slave soldier burning.
Meanwhile, Rraki loaded a different spell, one that normally broke up soil for easier digging. Instead of casting it with her hands like battle spell, Rraki fed the effect into the target volume she created on the wall. Done. That proficiency with free form casting was one of the requirements to be a Palm.
She nodded and the Fingers to either side slammed their shoulders against the wall like they had practiced.
The previously hard wall crumbled into dirt and the three sorcerers of Tos charged out into the street, ready to do battle.
Instead of meeting the expected hail of fireballs, Rraki saw a pile of bodies at the other end of the street. They sprouted feathered arrows, only slightly charred. The street still held small burning pools of the cloying liquid fire but no other threats made themselves known. Rraki flicked her wrist absentmindedly, a rock smashing apart the head of an opposing slave soldier. The street grew quiet as the charred corpses of One and Two were silenced by the others.
Heh. She had thought she had the measure of their incompetence, but clearly she was still overestimating them. They were Fingers, true, and Fire clan always had issues with defence. But for Fingers to get killed by mere mundane slave soldiers was an utter embarrassment.
Clearly it was time the Tos took over.
"Secure the side alleys, set a watch. Three, run to the back lines to inform them we have secured Sixth Avenue. Holding position until further instructions. "
That was as far as Rraki got. A Palm of Fire, lying in wait in the charred buildings to the side, staying just out of her detection range, stood up and waved a hand grandly. The plume of gaseous fire moved much faster than the liquid fireballs.
She barely had time to begin her defensive spell before the wave of flames filled the street.
"What in the world are the Tos thinking?"
Chesther examined the city map once again. Conflict points marked all over it.
In a surprise attack, the Tos Clan had simply began an all out assault on Naivi Clan held areas of the city. In less than a day, they were surrounded, besieged on all sides and cut off.
The Tos Clan must have brought out every single sorcerer, reserves and all, to pull this off. That they had been stealthily recalling all their village holding families and seeking help from other Earth Clans was obvious from the numbers they were fielding. That no one in Naivi had caught a whiff of any of those preparations was the biggest informant failure in the history of... Fire.
Chesther's leadership would have been in question if not for the fact that the dissatisfied Naivi clan heads had attempted to negotiate and got themselves killed. Chesther had known from the start the attempt was doomed to failure, but they would not believe a woman.
To war with another Clan in this way, unprovoked and apparently to extermination, would draw the ire of every other Fire clan. Trade would collapse, their representatives killed and the Tos would be fair game for any other non-Earth clan for the same level of retaliation.
The circle of advisors around her were worried, she knew. They could not hold under this level of assault for long. Already the Palms were being sent out before fully recharging their Potential.
The Naivi clan just had to hold on. Help would come from the other Fire Clans so long as they were still alive. The initial encirclement had not been perfect and messengers had managed to break through. The Clans simply would not accept this sort of attack without comment.
"I'm heading to the front," Chesther declared. Her grandfather's Potential crystal glinted in its necklace mounting, promising fiery death to all. With it, she was as strong as a Fist, the highest rank of sorcerer and rare even in the lands of the Empire.
"We just need to hold. "
The clay blocks were ready, the target metal rod was ready, crystal was charged. Alice grinned and inserted the generic Potential holder into its slot.
Further months of effort had allowed Alice to make a Record over the monster's crystal, along with Potential transferring runes to charge other Records that interfaced with it correctly. Modular items that each performed a function and combined to form something larger was an important step forwards and Alice was slowly building up towards making her first real transition.
Despite the difficulty in making and testing the interfaces, Alice did not want to write and rewrite Records just to shift the crystal around between different functions. She only had one after all.
This sort of bootstrapping, building a purely Record-based interface for reading and writing runes, was something that Petra's basic history classes had covered. Petra had known vaguely the general arc of progress that had taken humanity centuries to figure out, along with what names of Great People that history remembered. Records had gained in complexity and power, eventually reaching the heights and wonders of Petra's age just before the crash.
Alice set the Record off. Anticlimactically, there was no outward sign. Only the indicator light of the Potential storage crystal discharging.
She lifted the new item out of its holder. The single metal rod was one half of the most basic Record tools. With hands trembling from excitement, Alice plugging the Potential store into the rod and twisted the first ring into active position.
The flicker of light indicating consumption was the best thing in the world Alice had seen.
A Record writing tool. By clicking the rings into a combination of positions, the rod would inject the rune indicated by that combination into a Record created at the tip. No more clay blocks and stamps, no more writing!
Alice still wouldn't want to write something too long, but she could bid the wall of clay behind her goodbye.