Book 4, Chapter 29

A Fear Of Fate

Seeing Greenwind arrive, the elven grand elder pushed himself off his seat and asked with anticipation, “Greenwind! I hope you come bearing good news.”

“I do, we managed to capture an important figure amongst the invaders!”

“An important figure?” the aged elf grew agitated, but he immediately calmed himself down, “How can you tell?”

Greenwind was already prepared for this, handing over a large enchanted sword, “This is the weapon he used. You can test its strength.”

The grand elder raised the giant blade with his right hand, a bone dagger appearing in his left. This dagger was heavier and more finely polished than the ones most elves used, the patterns carved on it intricate and elegant. However, a single wave of the enchanted sword and it cracked apart. The cut was extremely smooth.

The elder heaved a sigh of defeat, “Marvellous! Even the daggers blessed by the Tree of Life cannot stop its blow. This person must have a high position!”

“We have a chance of rescuing Jubu!” Greenwind said happily.

The grand elder nodded slowly, “Young Quickwind is the only druid in the tribe who can also communicate with the Tree of Life. He is our ray of light! Be cautious, we cannot let the invaders realise how important he is. If they do, we will have no hope of recovering him!”

“It’s likely that we will manage to exchange this captive for Jubu, but what afterwards? Invaders are still surging out of the devil’s gate, their numbers are endless!”

The grand elder’s frown grew more pronounced, his voice turning low, “How many of our warriors have we lost already?”

“106 adults ever since the new invaders arrived, and 20 treants.”

“They also captured Quickwind. A full half of the warriors in the tribe…” the grand elder stated bitterly, and Greenwind’s affirmation was just as sullen.

The elder walked to the window, watching a few young elves jumping around between the large branches as they played, “Perhaps… We might have been better served with a diplomatic approach instead of this war. The original invaders were clearly different from those now.”

Greenwind froze up for a moment before shouting, “Grand Elder! These are invaders who came through the devil’s gate! Even if they are of different tribes, they are invaders nonetheless! We absolutely cannot negotiate with them and need to chase them out and destroy that gate! This is war!”

The grand elder sighed, “Is this the intent of all the druids?”

“There are six in support of me.”

The grand elder nodded, going silent for some time. There were a total of ten druids in the tribe, and with one injured and another taken captive this left only one more that wasn’t on Greenwind’s side. The rest were prepared to fight the invaders to the death.

“The three of us here are no match for these invaders, we should make preparations to move the Tree of Life.”

This statement enraged Greenwind, “That will not do! The Tree of Life has grown here for nearly a thousand years!”

“What, then?” the grand elder was finally angry himself, “If the invaders find this place, it will be too late to move!”

“Impossible! We certainly will not give them a chance to approach the Tree of Life.”

“Is that so? A mere few druids are confident in victory?”

Greenwind’s expression darkened, “We will defend the Tree with our lives!”

“And what if you all die in battle?!” the grand elder did not hold back.

The druid was startled, never having expected these words from the grand elder’s mouth. He had never considered the consequences of losing before; in the eyes of the druids, death was merely a process of returning to nature that didn’t need to be feared.

The grand elder pressed on, “If all of us die in battle, do you believe the invaders will let the Tree of Life and out tribesmen who aren’t yet of age go? If the invaders’ army makes their way here, do you even have a tenth of a chance to win?”

Greenwind’s face grew increasingly terrible. He might have been fired up for battle, but ever since the new invaders had reached this plane the situation was deteriorating. Ever since the devil’s gate had appeared, the power of their tribe was being worn down consistently. While the tribes beside them never stopped providing aid, numbers had dwindled and strength had decayed. The new invader was sly as a fox, using a number of terrifying powerhouses aggressively. Their weapons and armour suddenly had unimaginable strength, now able to cut treants apart in one slice.

No matter how much he tried to deceive himself, the druid could only say he would risk his life for the cause. While they had successfully captured an important figure amongst the invaders, they had paid the price of a dozen treants. Those treants had always known they would not escape; with their sluggishness, they definitely could not escape the powerful invaders. If not for Quickwind’s importance to the tribe, this would have been a complete defeat.

“Think it over, Greenwind. Do you wish for the tribe and the Tree of Life to be destroyed because of your honour and belief? Can you seven take on this heavy responsibility? There are hundreds of tribesmen that depend on you, and hundreds more who gave their lives for their kin.”

Greenwind opened his mouth, but the reply only came after a long time, “I do not believe the invaders can break the protection of the forest’s will.”

“Let us hope you are correct,” the grand elder answered with a sigh.

Greenwind did not say anymore, bowing and leaving the treehouse. He leapt into the air, turning into a falcon that dived down to the ground. Landing on one of the roots of the Tree of Life, he transformed back into his elven form as he approached a hidden hole guarded by two elven warriors.

“Open the passage,” he instructed, and one of the guards immediately patted the wall nearby. The vines sealing the hole immediately went soft, revealing a path spiralling downwards.

It was only a dozen metres underground that the earth levelled out once more, opening up into a cave with countless roots separating it into ten or so little rooms. One or more human warriors were held captive in each of the partitions, most of which were captured over a month ago. Ever since Richard had arrived here, the only addition to this prison was the elite humanoid knight.

The knight in question was seated on the ground, eyes closed and face blank as though he didn’t mind his predicament at all. Greenwind’s fury got no response, so he eventually turned to the other cells in helplessness. This knight hadn’t spoken a word since he was captured, regardless of how much they tortured him. Even his expression remained unchanging for the most part, the only fluctuations coming from the occasional hint of bloodlust that was difficult to detect.

This was not because of a language barrier. The druids had already found that many of the leaders amongst the invaders could speak their language, and although this one’s expression didn’t change much during the interrogation there was enough to indicate he understood at least a little. Even if he couldn’t understand at all, a knife on his neck should have been obvious, no? Greenwind felt extremely vexed by the situation. The knight was unbelievably calm, so much so that he instinctively felt a scheme brewing, but there wasn’t any other indication of the same.

He suddenly lost control of himself, looking at two humans neighbouring the knight.  “You’re of no use!” he snapped as he flicked a seed onto each, vines growing out at an unimaginable pace. In a mere ten or so seconds, the two soldiers were completely wrapped up.

These vines had sharp thorns that ranged from a few centimetres to over ten centimetres long, piercing into the warriors’ bodies. They began to throb repeatedly, the hollow barbs ripping the flesh apart and sucking it away. Mournful cries resounded throughout the prison, the sound so jarring the rest of the soldiers felt like they were in the same position. Some grew terrified and shouted as well, while others did their best to cover their ears. Only the knight remained seated quietly, occasionally glancing at the warriors who were being sucked dry.

The warriors’ cries eventually faded away into whimpers before disappearing completely. The stalks of the bloodsucking vines now had crimson veins upon them, starting to bloom brilliant white flowers. Ball-like structures formed at the base of these flowers, swelling at a speed noticeable by the naked eye. Within them were new seeds.

Greenwind turned grim and flicked out four more seeds, torturing as many more soldiers to death. However, the knight still didn’t respond. In the end, Greenwind found that there was no point to the exercise and snorted loudly, leaving the prison with an ashen face.

……

Within the house at the top of the Tree of Life, the grand elder was pacing around uneasily. Greenwind wasn’t wrong, but neither was he. This was a dispute over two paths to take, and which was right depended on perspective. One was to put principles above all else and fight the invaders to the death, while the other was to come to a compromise and eke out an existence.

Regardless, their forces were being worn down to the point that the tribe was already in danger. This was a choice between pride and survival, and no matter which was chosen it would be extremely painful.

The elder felt his heart skip a beat, a strong sense of uneasiness surging in his mind. The Tree of Life was warning of something that even it was terrified by.

But what could it be? They were deep inside the forest, protected by its will.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Ying

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA