Book 4, Chapter 146

Unexpected Dangers

The troops on Richard’s side had been training for this exact situation over the past two weeks. One warrior jumped across the steel barricade and struck the woodpecking crow with his axe, the sheer force almost splitting the creature in half. He didn’t even check to see whether it had perished before jumping back to the safety of the steel wall.

Seeing the strategy working, Richard suddenly felt a wave of relief.

The silent forest erupted into chaos. Flocks of woodpecking crows suddenly charged out from the treeline, circling around the Tree of Life. Their ear-piercing shrieks covered the entire area, the sheer volume leaving some of the soldiers dizzy. Many couldn’t help but drop their weapons, blocking their ears to muffle the cacophony.

The number of crows grew quickly until they seemed to cover the entire sky. The whole forest seemed to be shrouded in darkness in a few minutes, as though the sun had disappeared. Richard squinted and scanned through the sky, quickly calculating the number of crows present. About 4,000 crows had gathered and the number was rising, but it was still far from the 10,000 that the Tree of Life had claimed. In the depths of the forest, woodpecking crows continued to form up and fly towards the forest. 

Seeing that the birds were yet to attack, Richard had twenty magic archers start shooting them down. The formidable arrows were shot with unerring precision, burying themselves into the targets’ torsos and dropping them from the sky. The flock immediately erupted into chaos, hundreds of crows charging towards the archers down below.

The elves typically wouldn’t attack the woodpecking crows until they were focused on the tree of life. This was an extremely violent species, and the flocks easily shifted attention if they weren’t already focused. The elven archers had to wait until they were in the midst of attacking the tree to start firing. Thus, even if a tree of life advanced it would still be pecked full of holes. More than a decade would have to be spent on recovery alone before the advancement posed any benefits.

Of course, Richard didn’t have the luxury to wait that long. Fortunately, he wasn’t as cowardly as the elves either; he would take the initiative in this defence. As the flock of woodpecking crows flew past the Tree of Life towards the humans below, the bird-eating spiders finally sprung the trap and started spinning their webs at top speed. Only ten-odd of the hundreds of crows managed to escape the giant combined web, the others all brought to the ground.

The magic archers had already hidden themselves within the barricade. Replacing them were a batch of warriors equipped with thick tower shields, trained and prepared for this exact situation. The warriors jumped out with their shields above to block the attacks from the remaining crows, axes raining heavy blows on the trapped crows before kicking them away.

The crows swiftly perished under the attacks of the soldiers. These warriors were systematic in their motions, attacking every crow once with as much strength as they could muster before moving on. There wasn’t a guarantee of killing these creatures instantly, but so long as they were too wounded to fly these crows would be able to accomplish nothing.

The flock circling above went into an uproar, folding their wings as they dived towards the spiders on the tree. However, what greeted them was more webbing that seemed to be infinite in its coverage. Even though the charge was extremely quick, a single bird-eating spider could spin at least three webs of its size in under half a second!

Thousands of crows were trapped within the blink of an eye, eventually all falling to the floor. However, many of these crows also managed to break out of the web and peck at the bird-eating spiders with their sharp beaks.

Facing the danger of death, these spiders burst forth with astonishing agility as they sprung off the Tree of Life and onto their attackers. Their fangs pierced through the steel-like feathers on these crows without issue, delivering a lethal dose of venom designed to kill. Even the minority of spiders that couldn’t avoid the beaks in time proved their worth as the broodmother’s drones, lasting long enough to bite their killers and go down with them.

The venom of the bird-eating spiders had been specially designed for the woodpecking crows. The creatures shrieked in pain as their bodies started to decay, feathers and skin rotting visibly as they fell to the ground. Still, more and more crows charged through the sky and nailed the spiders into the Tree of Life, killing many at the cost of their own lives.

2,000-odd spiders fought more than three times their number of crows that were double their size, but they still retained the upper hand. On the tree, in the air… wherever they fought, each spider took down at least one enemy with it while many took out far more than that. Even the dead spiders played their part. Any bird that accidentally swallowed some of their meat was paralysed and fell to the ground, where the bloodthirsty soldiers killed it and kicked the body away.

However, the crows were equally valiant as they threw themselves at these spiders again and again, depleting them with numbers alone. Thousands of woodpecking crows dropped from the sky, but thousands more took their place. Richard’s face was starting to show signs of worry; almost 10,000 crows had already entered the battlefield, but more seemed to be on the way. With the spiders starting to die, his soldiers and the elves were in peril.

At this point, the glow of magic started to flicker across the sky. Seeing the death toll starting to rise, the mages were called in. The elven sword in Richard’s hands was glowing green as it reaped the life of crow after crow. He immediately called out to the Tree of Life and bellowed, “Didn’t you say there would only be 10,000 crows?! I see 12,000 already, what’s this about?!”

The Tree of Life was pretty frantic as well, “It must be the World Tree! It found out about our relationship, so it is sending more crows than normal! This is the only time it can pose a threat to me!”

“The fucking World Tree… Alright, how many more? I want to hear the truth!”

“There are only 17,000 woodpecking crows in this region,” the Tree answered quickly, “That is the maximum it can send!”

A freezing cold appeared in Richard’s eyes, “Fine. If the number rises beyond that, my troops are falling back!”

“Alright!” the Tree said with determination. Richard then broke off contact and continued to battle.

Clouds of fire occasionally burst through the skies. Kaloh had made his appearance, but the enormous dragon looked less imposing than he normally did with crows clustered around half of his body drilling in to get his meat. The tough dragon scales seemed extremely weak, broken through in only a few pecks. Although a single injury was nothing more than a prick, with hundreds of crows on him it felt like he was covered by a blanket of needles. Every breath attack sent dozens of burnt crisps to the ground, but even so the crows seemed to be endless.

By this point, all Richard could see was the flood of woodpecking crows. All he could hear was their caws and shrieks. All he could think of was for his sword to cut as many of them apart as possible. The defensive lines were a mess, but the strategy had been prepared and there was no way for him to regain control in the midst of his chaos. His greatest contributions now came in the form of killing as many as he could.

Time passed quickly. More crows than he cared to count had fallen at his hands, but they still continued to charge towards him. He, Nyris, and Agamemnon had formed a small circle, positioned back to back protecting Flowsand in the middle. His body was drenched with fresh blood, some his own, some belonging to Nyris or Agamemnon, while most had come from the crows. The three of them had blocked so many attacks for each other that they had lost track of who was where.

The remaining soldiers had done the same thing, groups of three or more standing back to back while protecting a cleric or mage, killing the endless swarm. The bird-eating spiders were all dead, but they had brought down many times their number of crows. The pressure of the battle now lay on the humans and elves, the daunting sight of the flock starting to grow suffocating.

Just as Richard felt like he couldn’t take it anymore, the Tree of Life suddenly jerked. Powerful life energy flowed down into everyone present, revitalising them so they could continue their battles.

……

Both his minds had lost track of time when he shoved his blade into the last crow, collapsing to the ground without an ounce of strength as he looked around to see a clear sky. Nyris and Agamemnon dropped their bloodstained weapons as well, seemingly confused. They couldn’t believe that they had won.

The skies were clear, but all one could see on the ground was a huge pile of carcasses of spiders, elves, crows, and humans. Some of the soldiers fell to the ground and retched. Others just watched on, paralysed by the violent scene.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Jessa

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA