The Laid Back Hero of Atlas – Chapter 7: The Grand Plains

Putting miles behind us I pulled over at a decent spot an hour before sunset. Piling out of the van we split off to gather wood, wild edibles, and water. Meeting up a short time later we started making dinner together. The four of them eager to show off their skills started furiously cooking food without skipping a beat. Sitting back with a bottle of beer I relaxed by the fire enjoying the nice weather. I would’ve helped them, but I was told not to because I lacked cooking skills. Previously, I had burned a few dishes while camping so I was banned from cooking. After having dinner we laid the back two rows of seats down into the floor so we could sleep in the van.

Spreading out some bedding on the floor Susan put her magic to good use, and cleaned the sweat off of all of us. Laying down for bed I started getting comfy till I was made aware that we already had plans. The next few hours the van shook slighty every so often, and the sounds of happiness filled the area. It was a bit awkward at first having a mother, and daughter fighting over me. Satisfying them by the early morning hours they fell asleep peacefully in my arms. Being pinned down on my back I got very little sleep since I couldn’t get comfortable.

The next morning I gave everyone personal attention for a few minutes after they woke up. Sitting down together for a cup of coffee all of us chatted about my plan for fighting. After listening to embarrassing critiques on my performance last night I suggested we get a move on. Laughing at my suffering I shook my head in defeat. Setting off soon afterwards we reached the border with Flamoria by noon.

“Just how fast is this thing?!”, Susan said in disbelief, “It should take a full week to get here by carriage.”

“I have no idea the top speed. I just know we were doing roughly two hundred miles an hour.”, I said with a shrug, “Don’t expect to get around that fast all the time. The fuel to reach the higher speeds is extremely hard to get.”

“What does it run on?”, she asked.

“An Evergreen Tree Sap, and Elder Dragon Blood mix. Both are extremely hard to get right now.”, I said, “The trees are almost extinct, and the Elder Dragons had retreated into the mountains thanks to the Decay. It is a benefit for the countries now, but the Decay are still a threat.”

Nodding the women looked at the Roegrain Wall that was now the marker for free land, and the land the Decay held. Rising fifteen feet off the ground, and running the whole length of the border this was Atlas’s attempt to contain the Decay. While it prevented massive groups of them from getting in this was a death trap to the soldiers. Daily groups of soldiers went off to beat back any approaching groups of Decay, and Monsters so the others didn’t get overrun. Meeting with the commander here I recognized him almost immediately.

“Is that you you grumpy old bastards?”, I said with a hardy laugh.

“By the King’s shit! What the fuck are you doing here you pervert!”, he said in return with a smile, “I see your harem is coming along nicely.”

Looking at me for an explanation I filled them in on the commander. This man, George, was assigned to me during my brief stay at the castle. Knowing all of the passages throughout the castle he lead me to some of the best spots for sneaking a peek at the maids, and servants. While he may look like your run of the mill sixty year old man he was anything, but that. He could still put a keg away without so much as batting an eye, and he was still a young man at heart. I heard stories while I was doing odd jobs about his reputation with young women.

“So what the fuck brings you out here? You think Verwest is still alive?”, he asked.

“Given the equipment, men, and supplies he took with him, no.”, I said with a sad expression, “You may not know this stationed here, but the rest of the continent is in a famine. If nothing is done before next winter we could easily see maybe five to eight percent of the population starve to death.”

“Yeah…all of us are painfully aware of it. We have had many deserters as of late, and I can’t blame them. These men are worried about their families starving to death. Many have returned home to try, and grow some food for winter…though you know it won’t be enough.”, he said.

“I made Verwest a promise to help the people of this country should he fall in battle.”, I said firmly, “I am here to retake a third of Flamoria.”

“What!?”, he said in shock.

The surrounding soldiers also perked up hearing my claim.

“You heard me. I am going to retake a third of Flamoria. Your men better be ready to defend it once we take it back. If they can hold it the people won’t starve this winter.”, I stated.

Hearing this some of the soldiers ran off to spread the word before George could stop them. With a sigh he looked at me with a grin.

“Your really a bastard you know that?”, he laughed, “Had one of the other Heroes said that to me I’d have called them a liar. I personally know what you can do in a fight, and your record needs no looking up. All the men know you are the reason the Decay didn’t over run this area when Flamoria fell. These men will more than likely follow you to the death…the idiots…”

“And let me guess you’ll go to a bar, and flip a pretty girls skirt up?”, I laughed.

“I am more into the accidental motorboat now.”, he said with a dirty grin.

“Try that with one of my companions, and these men will be needing a new leader.”, I said with a scary smile.

“I wouldn’t do that to a friend!”, he said sternly, “What do you think I am?”

“Do you want me to answer that?”, I asked raising an eyebrow.

“…no…”, he said softly.

As word spread through camp of my arrival droves of men came rushing over to meet me. Apparently I was more popular with the people than I thought. Most of the men that showed up were here solely because of the work I did in the past. Saving several villages a month tended to spread rumors easily. Hoping to fight alongside a Great Hero the men enlisted to fight solely because they believed I could bring the peace they longed for. Watching me get overwhelmed by the men the women smiled happily. That all ended when the nurses came over for a visit. Seeing them coming the girls quickly dragged me into George’s tent for a briefing.

“Alright, the first nest is roughly five miles from the wall. If you leave through the gate, and head west by northwest you will see in roughly an hour or so. The terrain is quite difficult to trek through.”, he said.

“It won’t be an issue. I will handle that one first as it is the closest. Can you have scouts check out the other areas to see Decay numbers? I am sure they have moved around since I got my last update from Charles.”, I said.

“Already done. I had more men than usual ask for the job.”, he said with a grin, “These morons will do anything to impress their Hero.”

Leaving his tent laughing we reboarded the van, and drove through the gate. Driving along an old wagon trail Almina spotted the nest before any of us. Telling me to find a clearing once I found one all of us were shocked. This nest was much larger than we were used to. The size of four football stadiums side by side the nest could easily house a group of thirty thousand Decay depending on size.

“According to the report only three Beohemoth class Decay are here. The rest should all be small fry General class decay.”, Amber said reading me the report, “So what is your plan?”

Zooming in with my cellphone I snapped a view half decent photos before putting an extra mile between us, and the nest. Stopping for break I looked at the photos carefully. Voicing my thoughts the women agreed that it was likely that the Decay here were all tied to a Sub Queen class Decay that wouldn’t leave the nest. As the nest was similar in design to a honeybee box beekeepers used I assumed the Sub Queen would be near the center, or back of the nest. If we could successfully kill her we could effectively kill the other Decay without touching them. The sudden loss of command would render them unable to function since they couldn’t operator with orders. If the nest didn’t have a Sub Queen, or a Queen they could function normally meaning I’d have to kill them all one by one.

“Okay, here is the plan. They are generally asleep at night with no guards outside the nest.”, I explained, “I am thinking if we can cause the main supports for the nest to collapse we could crush the Sub Queen under the debris. The issue is making enough explosives, and getting them in place undetected. Using my Jack-of-All skill I could change my class to Ninja which would help increase my stealth, but it still isn’t one hundred percent safe.”

“What are the percentages?”, Susan asked.

“I’d say thirty percent success to seventy percent failure.”, I stated, “I don’t think I’d be killed, but being found would set the whole nest into a frenzy. It would become a serious danger for all of us.”

“Fair enough.”, said reluctantly, “Let’s get moving. The longer we wait the greater chance we get caught.

“Calm down!”, I said, “It is a few hours till nightfall. I suggest we relax, and-”

Before I knew it I was pulled into the back of the van. I was thankful I managed to put the van in park, and shut the engine off before getting yanked completely back. Cuddling up with me the women said they wanted to take a nap. After last night I was more than happy to take a nap so we threw our bedding down, and took a nap. Holding Susan closely I was able to smell her fruit scented hair she loved so much. Kissing her neck she smiled looking over her shoulder at me. A few hours later we got up, and made the necessary explosives with magic. Carefully tying them down in the van we silently drove near the nest as the sunset. Cautiously watching the guard Decay’s retreat inside for the night we waited roughly thirty minutes before moving in. Popping our heads in we confirmed no Decay were near the entrance so we quickly mounted the explosives in key locations just on the inside of the entrance.

Running the long fuses outside we cut them at about the same length. Putting several barrels sized loads of explosives near each corner we ran everything back to a point where all of them would go off together. Now came the dangerous part of the operation. Carefully making our way inside we silently snuck passed several sleeping Decay. Making our way to the center a ghastly smell reached our noses. Following the smell we found several human corpses in a pile rotting away. Recognizing the emblems we knew they were from Atlas, and more specifically the defeated soldiers from Charles men.

“Damn it all…”, I said in a low voice after saying a prayer for them.

Leaving the scene in a hurry we stumbled into the main chamber where the support columns were. Looking around the immediate area we spotted the Sub Queen surrounding her eggs. This Sub Queen happened to look like a giant earthworm with razor-sharp teeth around its mouth. Feasting on other living things she would continuously lay eggs till she passed out from exhaustion. Carefully placing the explosives on the main columns I set them with a primitive timer that would in twenty-four minutes would self-destruct.

Hurriedly making our way back to the entrance we lit the fuses as we left. Making it back to the van as the main column explosives went off I pushed the girls to the ground. Shielding them with my body I waited the remaining few seconds for the others to go off. In mere moments the area was filled with the sounds of animatistic screams of dying Decay. Unable to stand the weight of their own nest on them they slowly succumbed, and died. Waiting an hour after the collapse we were confident the Sub Queen had died.

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