Although the will of the forest was severely weakened near the devil’s gate, the gate didn’t cover a large area. Even the strongest of the invaders that tried to enter areas protected by the will were forced to retreat. This was something that had boosted the tribe’s confidence greatly.
However, the elven grand elder’s primary worry was the leader of the invaders. That was a frightening individual, possessing immense patience. He was in no rush to act, only cutting down the forest faster and faster. This was clearly a plot to weaken the will of the forest.
So far, the invaders’ progress was pitiable. Compared to the sea of trees covering tens of thousands of square kilometres, the invaders had only cut down a drop in the ocean. Still, whenever there was an ambush, the elves were sure to be decimated. This was a situation completely different from any invaders they had faced in the past.
This opponent was losing patience; in their unmatched arrogance, they seemed to be intent on flattening the entire forest. Such unmasked savagery was much more frightening than the previous invaders who had just let the ancient trees wilt in silence.
Jubu was far too young and had entered battle without consent. Losing him was even worse than losing all of the tribe’s warriors, but fortunately they had managed to capture one of the opponents’ important subordinates. Still, this was only accomplished with the sacrifice of a dozen of the ancient treant Uranor’s children.
No matter how much the grand elder tried to console himself, his worries refused to fade. Even the Tree of Life was showing fear…
Did the invaders really have no way of dealing with the will of the forest? Although his kin had relied on the will to fight back the invaders repeatedly in the past, he felt an omen of a disaster this time. He decided to wake the Tree of Life at next light, leaving this piece of earth that was full of life for the depths of the forest. He would completely ignore the druids’ objections.
As the first rays of green light began to flush out the darkness of the night, Richard was stood upon the crown of an ancient tree staring at the imposing Tree of Life that was several kilometres away. A smile hung on his lips.
They finished their last rest about thirty kilometres away from the elven tribe. Richard stroked the head of his unicorn, “Can you still go on?”
The sacred beast seemed somewhat tired, but upon hearing his words it gave a long, dissatisfied neigh. Its hooves started rubbing against the ground as it became alert once more; over the past two days, this beast had contributed the most by resisting the will of the jungle. Without it, it would be impossible for them to make it so far.
Everyone present was a battle-hardened warrior. Knowing a difficult fight was upon them, they spent their time eating, resting, and calming themselves so they would be at their peak for the upcoming confrontation. Nyris’ smile had disappeared as well, replaced by hints of aggression as he silently sharpened the legendary axe in his hands.
The only one not resting was Richard, who instead worked on inspecting the condition of his soldiers. The most detailed check went Demi’s way, so much so that she watched him with fear as she moved on to the next one. ‘Is this what a leader is?’ she couldn’t help but think.
“It’s what a leader should be,” Agamemnon’s voice sounded beside her. She couldn’t help but jump, startled that he appeared to know what she was thinking. It made her somewhat nervous.
“The battle will start soon, keep within ten metres of me,” he instructed her once more. Demi bit her lips, but despite her reluctance to do so she nodded. She now understood that war was no game; she could not burden others because of her own capriciousness.
The time for battle kept closer, and Richard started to grow a little nervous. This battle was unlike anything he had faced before, the enemies far more powerful. Without the soul links he relied so much on to control the battlefield, he wasn’t as effective either. His followers could fight as a cohesive unit, but what of the others? In such a small-scale battle, command was no longer a priority. The key to victory was in being able to react dynamically and coordinate.
This was the first instance in recent times where he felt like he didn’t have control of everything, and he realised just how much he hated such situations. His battles ended with powerful enemies being overwhelmed by hordes of weaker units.
No matter how uncomfortable it was, however, they had to fight. All he could do was prepare the best he could.
The time for rest quickly came to an end. Richard picked up the Twin of Destiny, slinging the inconvenient elven sword across the unicorn’s back before turning to his troops, “To battle!” Scherr, Waterflower, and Phaser moved first. The others spread out, slowly making their way to the destination.
Another uneventful morning passed in the jungle. Several elves were arguing in the meeting room at the top of the Tree of Life. On one side were the seven druids, and on the other the grand elder and another druid who seemed to have a weak position. The subject of the argument was whether they would relocate the Tree of Life to evade the invaders.
The seven druids were strongly opposed to the notion, but with the support of the ancient treant Uranor the grand elder wasn’t as week as he seemed. Uranor was second only to the Tree of Life in the tribe, beyond any elven elder. In addition, the grand elder was the only elf capable of communicating with the Tree. If he wanted to have the Tree relocate, nobody could stop him without killing him. However, with Jubu still in Richard’s hands, that would leave nobody in the tribe capable of communicating with the Tree of Life. The Tree would eventually stop releasing the breath of life, and the eternal springwater would cease as well. It would leave the entire tribe headed to their doom.
On the other hand, relocating the Tree of Life would have severe consequences. The Tree wouldn’t be able to produce eternal springwater for at least a decade, and the power of its breath of life would be halved as well. The elves had a symbiotic relationship with the Tree of Life; they were its guardians, while the tree released the breath of life to nourish them. The eternal springwater was even more important; it was the key to increasing their pitiful birth rates. Every few years, the Tree of Life would produce a small stream of eternal springwater. The elves that drank this water were guaranteed to bear children in the coming year.
The stronger the Tree of Life was, the more eternal springwater it could produce. However, it was because of its special nature that the Tree attracted natural predators and was reliant on the elves to fend them off. If its protectors were not strong enough, the Tree wouldn’t dare to grow beyond a point. The more powerful the Tree, the stronger the predators that were pulled. This was how its relationship with the elves grew.
While the elves were busy bickering, the smell of blood started to waft through the jungle. Scherr dropped down from an ancient tree, the tips of his twin swords covered in blood. The corpse of an elven warrior was hung upside down from a branch, fresh blood gushing out from his back.
Several kilometres away, Waterflower sheathed the Shepherd of Eternal Rest and turned ethereal once more, walking leisurely towards her next target. Behind her were the corpses of a small hunting party, the quarry on their shoulders still warm.
Even further away, Phaser was hanging down from a branch with both legs anchored firmly on the tree to steady her body. Her right hand was on the throat of an elven sentry, preventing him from alerting others, while her left was buried into his heart. She stared intently at the face right in front of her own, expression innocent and empty.
Feeling the life force surge into her body, she felt quite warm. On the other hand, the elf in front of her quickly withered into a corpse. As far as she was concerned, this was a feast.
Because the Tree of Life was so enormous, it was impossible for any other trees to grow around it. It was surrounded by a green meadow for a few hundred metres, with the elves enjoying some rest in the area. The natives loved the simple pleasures of life, and many were spread across the meadow as they relished it in their own ways.
Half of the resting elves suddenly found themselves covered in an enormous shadow. Bolts of lightning started to rain down from above, turning the open field into a hellscape of sparks and flames. The moist environment of the Forest Plane greatly increased the coverage of the grade 8 Lightning Storm spell. The shower of lightning didn’t have any additional effects, but it was lethal to any elf below level 10. Even those up to level 15 would be severely wounded.
A single spell had sent the elves into chaos. Invaders that were armed to the teeth finally showed themselves on the edge of the meadow, triggering mass panic. A small detachment of elven warriors charged towards the attackers without hesitation, but they were crippled by a fear spell. A mere two managed to continue advancing.
Agamemnon swept across the two elven warriors with a giant sword, cleaving through them and their weapons. He didn’t forget to use the momentum to turn back and drop a compliment, “Perfect timing.”
Crippled by Demi’s spell, the terrified warriors offered no real resistance. The royal guards moved in and pounced on them, cutting them apart like prey.
Richard went forward in big strides, not even looking at the dying elves nearby as he cut through the lightning storm towards the Tree of Life. His followers were right behind, causing Pamir’s eyes to strain.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translated By: JH
Edited By: Theo
TLC'ed By: OMA