Chapter 23

“Fire!”

Whoosh!

Dozens of quarrels flew at Raven’s command.

“Kieeeeee!”

Snakeflies, winged snakes that were as big as a human child, fell from the sky like the rain while letting out horrible shrieks. It was reminiscent of a green rainfall.

“Is it snake meat again today? I’m getting sick of it. Sick of it I say!”

Karuta and the orcs jumped from rock to rock, hitting the snakeflies with their wooden clubs.

Some even took a bite at the snakeflies, instantly killing them with their teeth. The whole world was coloured with the remnants of snakeflies and green blood. The snakeflies, almost a hundred in numbers, turned into green clots on the rocky valley.

“Report any damages or casualties!”

Soldiers brought in reports at Killian’s command. Fortunately, no one had suffered from a major injury and there were no fatalities. A few soldiers had light injuries from the snakeflies’ bites, but the creatures’ teeth had not even penetrated the soldiers’ armors in most cases.

“Here you are. Kuhehe!”

The orc druid Kratul giggled while applying a reddish-brown paste over the wounds of a soldier.

The sticky plaster smelled like it had come from a rotting sewer, but the soldier didn’t flinch at the sight of the paste or at the touch of the bizarre-looking orc druid.

The lack of appalment was due to the effectiveness of the orc druid’s medicine. Over ten soldiers had quickly recovered from their wounds thanks to the druid’s medicine, and full recovery only took two or three days.

Raven, who was watching Kratul heal the soldiers, turned to the other two who always naturally came up to him after a battle.

“Where are we?”

“The wet valley. If you go up a little and take the side road, you will find the ruins of the abandoned quarry. Orcs don’t know what exists after that. The only thing I can tell you is that the cave that leads to the guardian deity is near that area of the forest.”

“Hmm.”

Raven sank his head in thought.

Karuta’s words aligned with what Attia had told Raven regarding the path to the mausoleum.

“So how much longer is ‘a little’. Tell me in human standards.”

“Weak scarecrows. With orc’s steps it would take about the time to eat. Scarecrow steps, it would take half a day.”

“I see. Sir Killian, how are the conditions of our soldiers?”

“They are a bit tired, but they should be able to endure for half a day. The only concern I have is if another battle was to occur during that time…”

Killian left his words hanging with a worried expression.

No one had died yet, but there were over ten injured in one day.

Of course, half of the injured were able to fully recover in a couple of days thanks to the strange power of the orc druid, but if they were to keep on marching while taking care of the injured, there might be more damage than anticipated.

“Karuta, what about your forces?”

“Ha! This isn’t even a battle. We haven’t even warmed up our bodies yet, of course, we don’t have any injured! Kuhem!”

Karuta gave a prideful snort, to which Raven slightly nodded. Killian licked his lips with an awkward expression.

Well, if it weren’t for Karuta and the orc warriors, they would not have been able to make it thus far. There were many different types of monsters in Ancona Forest. Beside the snakeflies, there were mud lizards the size of goats that hid in the ground, two-headed wolves, and others.

However, it didn’t matter to the orc warriors. They utterly destroyed anything that was in front of them as if they were beating up common mutts.

Last night, hundreds of giant tree spiders had ambushed their camp. The spiders were known to completely devour all living creatures, and the soldiers, watching the horrific sight of spiders the size of a child crawling towards them at a rapid speed, were perplexed and became disorganized.

But the orc warriors, who were still half-asleep, whacked away at the spiders while letting out yawns. They slaughtered the spiders by stepping on them, slapping them, and clobbering them with bone-embedded clubs…

Even though orcs had terrible vision at night, they used their astounding senses of smelling and hearing to completely annihilate their foe.

If the orcs were not accompanying them, the Pendragon soldiers might have been wiped out at the previous night’s happenings.

After spending five days with the orcs, Raven and Killian could only acknowledge the superior power of Karuta and the orc warriors.

“Any dangers until we reach the quarry?”

“No, no. This valley is the border between the orcs and the horseheads. Any creature with half a brain avoids the place. The snakeflies are here because of its proximity to water.”

“Good, then we will set out for the quarry. We’ll spend the night there, then search for the path that leads to Soldrake. Have Kazzal scout ahead by climbing a tree first.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

Killian left and headed towards where the soldiers were camped.

“So what kind of place is the quarry?”

“Not sure. Old orcs say that goblins used to mine stones. Now, there aren’t any. Nothing comes out in the morning, and we don’t venture there at night because of our poor vision.”

Karuta shrugged his shoulders.

“Hmm…”

Raven had a bad premonition hearing that the quarry was a place where even the orcs avoided. But it was necessary to head towards the quarry in order to find the path to Soldrake, so Raven got on his horse and moved forward.

***

The ruins of the quarry was reminiscent of an ancient wall that was carved long ago. The atmosphere created by the quarry was spooky and ominous.

Swooosh!

The winds from the mountain range coalesced in the quarry and collided against the sharp edges of the chasm, reverberating creepy sounds throughout the area.

The soldiers and the orcs entered the quarry with Raven at the head. The quarry had tall rocks and short rocks, which intertwined to create a complex terrain similar to a maze.

Even though it was early summer, the sun set early in the mountain range. But thanks to having experience with setting up camp, the soldiers competently prepared the tents. The camp was divided into four sections with Raven and Killian situated in the center. Large bonfires propped up here and there, causing smoke to rise up high into the air.

The orcs also prepared to rest, not caring about the off gazes of the soldiers. Besides, the soldiers now knew how reassuring it was to have the orcs as allies. Even though the orcs didn’t specifically camp in a formation, they were ready to fight at a moment’s notice.

“Tomorrow morning, we will set out to find the path as soon as the sun rises. Get some good rest tonight.”

Soon, the darkness of the night spread over the valley, and the soldiers and the orcs fell into sleep except for those on night watch.

Woooooooosh!

As the night became deeper, the piercing sounds of the winds became louder. Raven, who was lying at an angle in his private tent, was unable to sleep because of the wind.

‘I have a bad feeling about this…’

Even though he had the body of Alan Pendragon, the intuition of Raven, the reaper of the battlefield, was still retained. That intuition, which had saved his life on so many occasions, was sending him warning signals. Raven was still wearing the white dragon armor.

‘Where did the goblin miners disappear off to? No, in the first place, goblins were working in a quarry, and not a mine?’

When Raven asked Kazzal, Kazzal had shaken his head. Goblins liked caves by nature. Although they had their differences amongst the tribes, goblins were creatures that lived in hiding in iron or gold mines where they stole and harassed humans for pleasure. It was extremely rare for goblins to work in groups at a quarry.

And that ‘extremely rare’ case only had one possible explanation.

“Someone must have been controlling the goblins…”

Raven muttered to himself. Additionally, It was strange that all of them disappeared together. From what Karuta had told him, Raven found out that the time of disappearance coincided with when Gordon Pendragon, the former Duke, formed an oath with Soldrake.

“There is something. Definitely…”

It was then. As soon as Raven finished muttering to himself, a shout was heard coming from outside.

“Enemy ambush! It’s the enemy!”

“Dammit. Of course, this would happen.”

Raven quickly pressed his helmet and ran out of the tent with Widow’s Scream and the scimitar.

Bonfires and torches shone brightly in all directions, and the soldiers were hurriedly getting into formations, while the orcs crouched, ready for battle.

“Sir Killian! Where are the enemies!?”

“Your Grace! O, over there…”

Raven turned his head towards the direction that Killian pointed at.

Kikikikik! Kakaakik! Kikik!

An uncomfortable noise echoed in the quarry, twisting and intertwining with the sound of the wind. A black wave was slowly headed towards the camp.

At that moment, the dark clouds cleared, and the surroundings lit up. It wasn’t purely due to the moonlight.

“That is…”

Raven’s eyes sank.

The things that were shining white, reflecting the light of the fire as well as the moonlight. Those that filled the quarry, and slowly made their way towards the camp. They were…

“S, skeleton…”

Killian spoke in a barely audible voice, and the legion of skeletons, composed of creatures small and large, slowly approached them.

“Defensive formation! Shield spearmen, form a defensive formation! Archers! Triangular formation!”

Raven let out a thunderous roar which woke the soldiers from their daze. The soldiers hurriedly got into their respective formations.

“Karuta! Take charge of the orcs!”

“You don’t have to tell me!”

The orcs spread out among the soldiers.

Growl…!I

Orc Fear rose like a wildfire and headed for the skeleton legion, but it had no effect against the undead.

The legion, composed of the skeletons of humans, goblins, and even twin-headed wolves, moved as if it was alive.

Swish!

“Javelins! Lift up your shields!”

Spears made of bones soared from the corps of skeletons, covering the dark night sky and dying it in pure white. The javelin struck the soldiers.

Thud! Thwaack!

“Agghhh!!”

“Kwahhk!”

Some spears made their way between the gaps in the shields and the stricken soldiers let out screams. But the shield formation held strong. The javelins were made of bone, and they couldn’t pierce shields which were reinforced with steel and wood.

“Good! They can’t pierce our shields! Fire! Fire at will! Return fire!”

Raven blocked the bombardment by deflecting them with his weapons, then shouted at the soldiers.

A quarrel flew through the air and crushed the skulls of two skeleton soldiers with one blow. Following suit, the second, the third, and many more quarrels were fired from the crossbows.

Smash! Thud!

Skulls were helplessly crumbling and being destroyed. However, the skeletons were rushing in, and the loading speed of the crossbows could not keep up with the advancement of the numerous skeletons. Besides, each archer only had 30 quarrels each.

“Karuta!”

Raven shouted urgently.

“Orrrrccccc!”

Karuta let out a shout that caused the entire quarry to tremble, and the orc warriors who had spread widely spurred into action simultaneously.

“Roaaaaaaaar!”

Over thirty beasts broke into the side of the skeleton region, their red eyes gleaming under the moonlight with madness and frenzy.

With every swing of the wooden clubs, bone fragments sprang up and sprinkled the air with white powder. However, the thirty orc warriors could not hold back the entire legion by themselves, and the distance between the soldiers and the skeletons was gradually narrowing.

“Everyone, get ready for battle!”

The soldiers grasped their spears tighter and pointed it towards the enemy at Raven’s command. At that moment, a brown light appeared from behind the soldiers.

“Hmm!?”

Raven immediately turned his head, then widened his eyes in wonder.

“Kuhehehehehe!”

Swoosh!

The brown light originated from the orc druid, Kratul, and it made its way from his staff into the ground.

Ruuuuumble…!

The soldiers swayed at the sudden movement of the earth. Dozens of brown vine broke out from the earth and made their way towards the legion.

“Huh?”

The vines made their way past the surprised soldiers, slithering between their legs to avoid them. The vines instantly stretched out and paused for a moment in front of the skeletons after narrowing the distance of 100 yards.

Then, they struck, wrapping around the feet of each skeleton, as if they were alive.

“The earth god says that those who are already dead can continue to stay in the ground!”

Kratul pulled back his staff like a fishing rod. The skeletons who had their feet bound fell, causing the skeletons behind them to also get caught up.

“Kuhehehehe! The earth god will be pleased that I’m giving him so many sacrifices. Kuhehe! Hehe!”

Kratul fell back after casting his spell, his forehead dripping with reddish sweat peculiar to orcs.

Raven regained his focus and turned his body.

“Crossbows, fire as soon as you are able to reload!”

Thanks to Kratul’s spell, the advancement of the skeleton legion was temporarily halted, and the archers were able to reload their crossbows in the meantime.

‘There must be someone who is controlling these skeletons... Where. Where are you?’

Admist the confusion, Raven carefully examined his surroundings as orc warriors went on a rampage and the skeletons poured in.

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