Shadow led the way out of the city, Mia and the other Warlord following, each stacked with one of the units of Stabbers. The enemy were close now, within range to attack the city on their next turn. It didn't take much move to reach them.
"Take the archery stack on the right. I've got the Stabbers."
Frowning, but doing as instructed, Mia led the second Warlord and their two units in a charge against the full stack of Archers. Even with their poor combat ability, it wasn't a fight she thought she'd win, but things changed pretty quickly. A bolt of hissing black power tore through the hex, croaking a good quarter of the archers. Shadow had condensed into a sphere only a few inches wide, but roiling with incredible force, evidently about to launch another attack as the violence of the sphere increased. A beam of blackness leaped from the sphere, alighting on the level six archery-capable warlord stacked with the Archers. Now not only weakened but bereft of their leadership bonus, they were easy prey.
Shadow extended once again into a coil, then, with a sound like a whip, blasted forward. He punched straight through the Stabbers, leaving many of then dead with gaping holes in them that hissed black smoke around the edges. As he exited the other side of the stack, he fragmented into a screaming tornado of wisps that carved a bloody swathe through the woefully inadequate units in his way, utterly consuming anything he touched. Within a matter of moments, the hex was empty save for him.
He returned for a second to his usual form, but suddenly expanded out again, only to condense again a second later, noticeably larger and denser than before. Now, the coil was about six feet long and a foot or two thick.
"Interesting. I seem to increase in size as I level. Given the malleability of my substance, I wonder if it would be possible..."
A leg suddenly formed, then dissipated. An arm did the same. Gradually, the black mist coalesced into a humanoid shape. Faceless, featureless, but humanoid.
"It seems the experiment worked. I have achieved permanent physicality."
The King watched his battle map, disbelieving. If it wasn't for the assurances of Jeffrey, who had a Lookamancy spell running constantly to give him a personal view of events, he wouldn't have believed what was happening. A single unit had taken out a stack and a quarter, plus warlord. And it - he - was only newly popped!
Of course, the flipside was that this "Shadow" was not under his command, but somehow was autonomous. He could be dangerous, but also an asset. The King sighed. He knew he would have to weigh the gain with the risk very carefully. Shadow was their one hope, at least for now. If he turned against them, or even simply left... they would be no more.
"Bring the Knight up here. Tell him he is now my personal bodyguard. Then go to the Magic Kingdom and hire a Mathamancer, just for this turn. It will be expensive... but I need to run some calculations."
My Erfworld fiction, The Shadow
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