Chapter 149 - Delaying Action II

Leon, Alix, and three hundred other Legion soldiers went over the wall and charged into the forest.  They were being led by Jean and the other three fourth-tier mages.  Not counting Leon, there were eight third-tier mages leading the force as well.

In contrast to these mages, however, Leon wasn’t assigned any leadership role.  Jean may have told Leon upon his return to the wall that he needed every leader he could get his hands on, but in practice, he seemed to be reluctant to allow a Valeman to lead his soldiers.  Or maybe those soldiers didn’t want to be led by a Valeman and Jean was simply preventing any problems that may present themselves with Leon in charge of a couple squads.

Leon honestly didn’t care which it was, as it meant that no one was going to tell them what to do, to an extent—Jean and the fourth-tier mages could still do so, but they were attacking different camps than Leon.  Instead, Leon and Alix accompanied a group of about fifty soldiers toward one of the larger camps.  They were armed with bows, though Alix hadn’t much training in that area, and were ready to inflict some damage on the Valemen.

The opportunity to do so came early, as the soldiers in front of them spotted a few Valemen about a hundred feet from them.  The soldiers were marching in a rough line three men deep, so word was quickly spread, and the soldiers rapidly shot the Valemen dead before any alarm could be raised.  There were a couple more encounters that went similarly, and none of them held the soldiers back for long.  Less than half an hour after leaving the wall, Leon, Alix, and the rest of their group found themselves looking down at their target camp from a small hill.

“You’re up, let’s see what you can do,” the third-tier mage leading the rest of the soldiers muttered to Leon.

Leon smiled back, reached into his satchel, and pulled out a small stack of several dozen sheets of spell paper.  “Pass these out,” he said.  These were all fire spells.  The soldiers only had to tie them to their arrows, activate them, and then shoot them into the camp.  A few more volleys with regular arrows would be their follow-up, but the fire spells would do the bulk of their damage.

The third-tier mage started passing out the papers to the best archers present.  Naturally, Leon kept one of them, and he gave one of the spells to Alix.

“I’m not good with bows,” she said, trying to hand the spell back to Leon.

“You don’t need pinpoint accuracy,” Leon said, pushing the spell back into her hands.  “All you need to do is get it into the enemy camp.”

Alix sighed, then nodded.  “… I can do that much,” she muttered.

The two of them quickly wrapped the spells around the shaft of the arrows they planned to shoot, then tied the spells to keep them secured.

“Everyone ready?” the group leader asked quietly.  He glanced around at the fifty soldiers with him, none of whom said they weren’t.  “Good,” he whispered.  “Then nock your arrows and prepare to fire!”

“And don’t hit the trees!” said another third-tier mage who was essentially acting as second-in-command.

“Aim for the largest tents and any piles of boxes or barrels you see,” Leon added.

“Draw,” the leader whispered, and the soldiers drew their bowstrings back to their cheeks.

“Loose!” the leader said, and fifty arrows were launched toward the Valemen camp.  It was large enough that from their hill, the soldiers could see dozens of tents, with even more deeper in the forest.  Each likely held half a dozen or more Valemen, judging by their size.

Alix fired her arrow as well, while Leon had to prepare himself a little with his shot; he was still using the same bow he’d bought back in the capital, and like his armor, he hadn’t gotten around to enchanting it yet.  The other soldiers were using bows given to them by the Legion, which were lightly enchanted.  This made up for the strength difference between most of the soldiers and Leon, allowing all of them to have similar range.

Leon only delayed a second before firing his own arrow.  It sped through the air toward the largest tent he was confident he could hit.  A second later, the camp was rocked with dozens of explosions, and illuminated with bright white fire.  Tents went up in flames, as did the Valemen sleeping within.  There were dozens of Valemen still up and spending time around the campfires, but many of them were hit by arrows from the soldiers who didn’t have the fire spells, though few of the hits were fatal.

Leon’s arrow hit its mark.  Leon chose his target due to the size of the tent and the strength of the Valemen that surrounded it.  He guessed that it held the supplies for the Valemen in the camp, and he couldn’t help but smile as it was burned to the ground.  Unlike the last time he used these fire spells, which was to burn the supplies of the allied trainees back in the Knight Academy, these spells weren’t designed to contain the fire.  The tents burned, with white fire starting normal orange fires that the Valemen scrambled to extinguish.

But, only a few of the Valemen tried to tend to the fires; the rest had grabbed their weapons and began running out into the trees, searching for their attackers.  Many of these Valemen were felled by the next volley of arrows fired from the soldiers, but again, few of these injuries were fatal.

“Fall back!” the leader said once the soldiers fired their third volley. 

“Come on, we can stay and kill a few more, can’t we?” one of the second-tier soldiers asked.

“No!  If we stay, we’ll be killed by all those Valemen!  Better to leave now and be satisfied with the damage we’ve already done!” the leader replied.  His words made the rest of the soldiers give the camp another look, and they saw that they had really kicked the beehive, and now hundreds of Valemen were streaming out of their tents to help with the fires and to find the soldiers.

“Staying here to fight would be tantamount to suicide,” the other third-tier mage said, backing up the leader.  There were no more arguments after that, and the soldiers melted back into the darkness of the trees.  They rapidly moved back south, stopping only to kill one more group of four Valemen they encountered along the way.

“There!  We’re almost back!” the leader said once the wall came back into sight.

“Get moving!” the other third-tier mage said, hurrying the men along and keeping them from getting complacent at this last leg.

And it was good that he did so, since just as all fifty soldiers had left the trees, another dark shape emerged barely a quarter mile from them and started barreling towards them at an alarming speed.  Most of the soldiers were too busy running for the doors in the wall to see it, but Leon noticed it just in time.

“Valeman on our right!” he shouted while slowing down and preparing an arrow.  But, before he could fire, the dark shape was upon them, ripping through one of the soldiers with its right hand and sending Leon flying over a dozen feet with its left.  Had Leon not been wearing his armor, he suspected he would’ve been torn in half, like the other unfortunate soldier.

The shape didn’t stop there; it slammed straight into three more soldiers and killed them almost immediately.  As Leon struggled to his feet, he took a moment to get a good look at it.  It was enormous, covered in thick black hair, had an extreme hunchback, and its body’s proportions were all wrong, being considerably top heavy.

It was the fourth-tier Valeman werewolf he’d seen the previous night.  It snarled and growled and lunged forward, striking with its sharp claws at the nearest soldier, who was so terrified that he’d stopped running.

“NOT SO FUCKING FAST!” the third-tier leader shouted as he stabbed at the beast’s outstretched claw with his spear.  The force of the claw and spear connecting was tremendous, as it shattered the spear and knocked the leader backward.  But, it had also thrown back the werewolf—though not as far as the leader had been—and saved the soldier from death.

Leon drew his sword and charged at the back of the werewolf.  Its attention was on the leader, as the soldier it was originally targeting had taken the opportunity to get moving again.  The soldier understood that he wouldn’t be any help in this fight, so he retreated as fast as he could.

Leon’s sword sank into the werewolf’s flesh, but not nearly as deeply as Leon expected it to.  The werewolf’s skin wasn’t particularly thick, but its freakishly big muscles in its back were like steel, and Leon’s sword barely drew blood.  But, the beast still felt the strike, and twisted on its stumpy legs.  Leon was thrown off its back and sent flying again, but he was able to use the momentum to roll and spring back to his feet almost immediately.

While the werewolf was reacting to Leon, the leader struck again, targeting the beast’s legs with his freshly-drawn dagger.  He slashed at the heel tendon, but just like with Leon, the muscle proved too thick to cut, though he still managed to draw a little blood.

With another swipe of the beast’s claws, the leader was thrown back with deep gashes in his chest.  Leon barely had time to process the potential fallout from that, as he was too busy lunging forward again; his fighting style relied almost exclusively on attacking, so he could ill-afford to remain on defense even if he were fighting an enemy of comparable power to him.

Unfortunately, like his last attack, Leon’s slash failed to penetrate the beast’s armor-like muscles, but he struck at the werewolf’s exposed flank and drew significantly more blood than he had before.  In fact, though Leon didn’t slice through the beast’s muscles, the werewolf still yelped in pain and slammed its claw into Leon’s chest again.  Fortunately, Leon’s armor wasn’t penetrated, but he was still thrown back again.

“… You…” the beast growled through its garbled snout, “… you are… the one that… killed Eirik?”

Leon had no intention of replying, but he also didn’t know what he could do in this situation.  He didn’t want to rely too heavily upon Xaphan’s fire, especially in a place that could be so easily seen by the soldiers on the wall, but he didn’t feel like he had much choice.  He started to call upon the demonfire and felt the familiar feeling of being burned from the inside.

The werewolf had waited a moment for Leon’s answer, and when no answer came, it snarled and leaped forward with its claws outstretched, ready to cleave straight through Leon.  However, before it closed the distance and before Leon could raise his left arm, a hail of arrows rained down upon the werewolf.

Leon glanced over and saw the last third-tier mage, Alix, and about two dozen of the soldiers about a hundred feet away, continuously firing arrows at the werewolf.  Their fire was supplemented by the arrow fire from a dozen more soldiers from the nearest tower and a few more along the wall.  This amount of force stopped the werewolf’s charge cold.

“Come on!” the third-tier soldier shouted to Leon, beckoning him to run to the wall.

Leon took off sprinting for the wall.  He didn’t stop for the dead men as they were close enough to the wall that they could be retrieved once the werewolf had been killed or chased off.

“You’re not leaving!” the werewolf shouted as it lunged at Leon again, but the arrows that pelted its body didn’t let up.  None were causing serious damage, but all those that hit its skin tore it open and drew blood, not to mention blunting its charge.  Leon managed to scramble away, but the werewolf ignored its mounting injuries and pursued.  It quickly closed the gap between itself and Leon, then extended its claws to try and tear through Leon’s midsection…

… and hit a sword.

“Not a fuckin’ chance, monster!” shouted Edmond, one of the fort’s fourth-tier soldiers.  He stood between Leon and the werewolf, his sword raised and blocking the werewolf’s razor-sharp claws.

“Animals like you should be killed on sight!” added Gaston, another fourth-tier soldier, as he appeared from behind the werewolf and struck into its back with his sword.  He wasn’t able to drive his sword any deeper than Leon had, but he leaned forward and put all of his weight on the hilt, slowly driving the blade further into the werewolf’s back.

The werewolf howled in pain, but just as it was about to shake Gaston off its back, another soldier appeared: Jean.  These three fourth-tier soldiers had finished their attacks and returned to the fort before Leon, and they had come running as soon as they saw the attack take place.

“Creatures that feast on men are lower than dirt,” Jean said as he slashed at the werewolf’s heels.  Unlike when the third-tier mage leading Leon’s did the same, Jean’s sword managed to cut through the beast’s thick muscles and cripple its legs.  The werewolf fell to the ground with a tremendous crash.

But, it wasn’t done.  It swiped at Edmond to its front, knocking the fourth-tier mage back, then shook its back and threw off Gaston.  But just, as it was about to try and turn itself to face Jean, Leon and the remaining third-tier mage of his group sprinted forward and went for its throat and eyes, respectively.  The third-tier mage sank his dagger deep into the beast’s left eye, while Leon’s sword slashed its throat open.

The five men then jumped back, while the werewolf slumped over with a quiet gurgle.

“Shoot this monster!” Jean shouted, and dozens of arrows fell upon it from the watching soldiers.  Without mana supplying magic to its muscles, the arrows sank deep into the werewolf’s flesh.  The beast twitched and struggled a couple more times, but then it ceased to move.

“AGAIN!” Jean bellowed, and the beast was pelted with more arrows.

“Grab our men and get back south of the wall!” Edmond shouted to Leon’s group of soldiers—specifically, he shouted at those who weren’t shooting at the werewolf.  These men surged forward and grabbed the men who had already been killed by the werewolf, as well as their leader, who was still breathing but had two massive gashes in his chest that were leaking blood at an alarming rate.  Then, everyone beat feet and sprinted for the wall.

The strongest mages took the casualties and jumped right up the wall, alongside the unencumbered second-tier mages, though the latter had to get some help from those already on the wall.  The first-tier soldiers, however, had to have a number of rope ladders lowered to them, something which the men on the wall would never have done if three of the fourth-tier mages weren’t present.

But, in minutes, all fifty of Leon’s group had made it over the wall.  The werewolf was left there lying motionless in the dirt, surrounded by bloody grass and a couple hundred arrows sticking up from the ground.

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Chapter 150 - Ulfr

Chapter 148 - Delaying Action I