Chapter 70: the final debt

I sat there, staring at the screen in surprise. It wasn’t anything too great that they had managed to defeat a herd with only so few losses, given the difference in numbers. What surprised me was their viciousness. When they decided to attack, they were like a swarm of rabid animals that had been unleashed. They even severed the heads of the centaurs to stick them on their own spears. According to Savir, that was to show the others that they brought this on themselves.

Even more surprising was how they let the last centaur go, just because he hadn’t attacked them. I had never expected the halflings to be so united when they had always been so spread out, to be so honorable after being so vicious. Then again, I could see how this could happen. They follow the goddess of love, so their connections with one another can’t be underestimated.

However, how much could this one band of halflings really do? Without reinforcements, they’ll never really make any significant impact. As a band of barely three hundred, it’s a bit illogical to expect this to turn into a full blown war between the races. To confirm that, I once again checked the map for the halfling population. Most of them were too far north to have even gotten the message that the southern continent existed. At most, a third of them had gotten that message.

Of that third, less than half actually made the journey, or were in the middle of making it. So, at most, the halflings had access to a sixth of their population if this did escalate further. However, their full population was quite a bit higher than the centaurs, but I couldn’t see it being enough to make up the difference.

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In the best case scenario, they would find their target herd and take them out, then disappear into the woods. Unless the one that got away informed others and started a full scale war, this should be able to end with just that. Of course, I had no doubt that he was going to do just that, as he was even deliriously saying as much while he ran.

I was tempted to just have Tryval go down there and get rid of him to indirectly prevent the war from getting too far, but I saw another herd already moving towards the site of the battle. The halflings had just finished burying their dead, and were once again on the move, so there was little risk of them being discovered.

As such, I could only shake my head helplessly. Even if I were to have Tryval dispose of the bodies of the herd, and then also kill the centaur that fled the battle, there was no guarantee that the halflings wouldn’t encounter another herd and cause more problems. At this point, there was little we could do but watch, as any kind of direct interference would cause ripples that negatively affects both races in the long run.

Pulling out the piece of paper Terra had given me, and began writing. Terra, did you make another incarnation yet? Recalling how she said she could probably handle one more, I had to go ahead and ask. However, even if she did, there was no guarantee that this conflict would last long enough for the incarnation to grow up.

After a few moments, the words I wrote on the paper were replaced, showing that Terra had replied. Yes. I decided to make a halfling, since they are at the disadvantage here. I’ll try to raise myself up to be a leader eventually to stop the fighting, if it lasts that long.

I nodded my head, seeing that Terra had the same line of reasoning as I did. Even if the battle didn’t last that long, then Terra would still be able to help with the recovery. As far as the halflings go, there is no real threat of extinction no matter how big the war gets. After all, they are spread out so far that the centaurs would need several centuries of active searching just to find them.

The halfling party had searched for weeks, following the tracks that Makin had found until the rain washed it away. After that, they spread out more, relying heavily on their flying companions to assist with their tracking. Yet, over a month later, they had found the herd that they were looking for.

It was hard for them to tell just how far into the plains that they had gone, but they knew that it would take several days of traveling in a straight line to make it back to the forest. They had done their best to stick to the areas with taller grass, making use of it to hide from the passing herds. There were some among the party that wished to make their presence known, but Savir would not allow it.

Savir knew that the creatures were a bloodthirsty species. If they appeared before a herd, then the only possible outcome would be another battle. He had seen it in the ways that they hunted, so different from how the halflings did so. Although halflings did eat meat, they never actively hunted for it. If they came across a monster or a beast, they would attempt to calm it, either make it their friend or simply allow them to pass unharmed. It was only when the other party struck first that they would have meat that night.

Yet, these savage creatures he was watching would actively seek out and hunt defenseless creatures. Even when they turned to run, their arrows would find them. If they tried to fight back, they would be met with spears. Such a manner truly reflected how the race had acted during their few meetings so far. Still, even though he knew this, he did not wish to kill them. He was here for a specific task, and would see it through to the end. After they returned, he would send word through the Rests that this field was a forbidden land.

It was only after they found the herd that they were looking for did he feel his blood begin to boil again. The young creature that had aided them so long in their tracking let out a tiny growl, his hair standing on end as it faced in the direction of the enemy herd. Savir hushed him with a quiet tone, placing his hand on Makin’s back. “It is not the time.” He said, shaking his head.

He had found the herd, yet it was bigger than the information Makin had sent originally. Perhaps they were split up when they found Makin’s friends, or they had joined a larger herd later. Either way, it did not matter. Now, he counted roughly twenty of the creatures, all travelling together as one group.

Savir controlled his voice, using the skills he had learned as a Scout and a Hunter, projecting it only towards those around him. “We will attack when night falls. Remember our targets. Let them sleep, and then let them never wake again. Try not to wake the others if possible, but if it can’t be helped, then so be it.”

Savir pulled out a bone knife that he had retrieved from one of the dead halflings after their first run in with the creatures. “The final debt is about to be repaid.”

Only allowed on

Elter Greymane laid sleeping among his hard. While his lower half sat down on all fours, his upper body was bent forward, propped atop a contraption which had been introduced in recent years. Apparently, it had been invented by the first King, and he called it a bed. It was rather difficult to put together, but once one did they could use the promise scrolls to move them around. A frame of sticks, atop which was a soft hide to lay the body against while one slept. Admittedly, it was far more comfortable to sleep like this then it had been before, with their backs straight up throughout the night.

Long after he fell asleep, he thought he heard a sound in the back of his mind, slowly rousing him from his dreams. Then, as he heard the screams of his sons, his eyes shot open. An attack! He thought to himself, shooting up to his feet. Before he even had a chance to register what was happening, his hand was already reaching for his bow.

Soon, he saw the assailants. The same little abominations his hunting party had killed weeks ago had apparently returned with greater numbers. By the time he awoke, he saw that two of his sons had already fallen, knives stuck into their throats while they slept. If not for him being awoken by the startled cry of another, he would have joined them.

Standing atop his bed was one of the little things, a bone dagger in his hand and a bloody handprint across his face. “Everyone, awake!” Elter shouted while he backed up, quickly pulling out a handful of arrows from his satchel. He had still yet to notice just how many enemies he was facing, or he would have perhaps chosen to run away.

As he nocked his arrow, there were the startled gasps of the rest of the herd awoken by his call. Some grabbed for bows, others spears, but all quickly readied themselves for battle. The thing that had been standing on his bed called out in a shrill voice, and lunged towards Elter with dagger in hand. More and more emerged from the darkness, joining him and causing the herd to pale in terror.

Yet, Elter showed his prowess with his bow. Pulling the arrow back, he quickly shot it and nocked another, firing it immediately. This was his Power of the Archer, the ability to fire multiple arrows and have them all land at the same time. For this, he fired three arrows, one directly at the lunging creature and one to either side. He had seen his share of agile beasts, and was used to firing arrows to prepare for their dodge.

What he had not prepared for, however, was one of the birds circling overhead to swoop down even faster than the arrow he had released. At first, he had thought that it was diving at himself, but soon found himself proven wrong. Instead, it intercepted the arrow which had been aimed at the thing attacking him.

With this technique, the first arrow fired was always the slowest. But to dive down and catch it in mid-flight, when there were only a few lengths between him and his target, this was truly the first creature he had ever seen with such speed. However, a shrill scream brought him back to his senses, as the thing that had been attacking him looked down to the fallen bird. Elter had thought that it merely caught the arrow with its beak or talons, yet it had actually used its own body to take the attack. Just what kind of loyalty was that?

Still, he was not about to offer his enemy time to mourn. He kept nocking more and more arrows, each one flying along a slightly different path as Elter continued backing up. By the time that the thing had looked away from the dead bird, the arrows had already arrived in front of him.

The night grew silent as four arrows pierced into the body of the small creature, causing its knife to fall from its hands. The rest of its fellows momentarily paused in their attacks as they looked over and saw the red bar of its life to rapidly dwindle. Soon, it had faded away entirely, and the thing fell to the ground dead.

One cry after another emerged from the darkness, and an ominous feeling arose in Elter’s heart. He continued backing away, even though he knew that he had already killed the enemy. His hand trembled as he saw the light of the moon reflecting off of eyes that emerged from the grass. They dotted the field like the stars above, their numbers beyond measure. He had known that there were plenty of enemies when they had first been attacked, yet he had not known that most chose to stay behind, not wishing to get in the way of the more skilled fighters.

Now, however, they emerged. Each one wore a red print somewhere upon their body. Some carried weapons, smaller versions of what the centaurs themselves wielded, while others walked alongside beasts. Yet all of them had a single, murderous look in their eyes that struck fear into the greymane’s heart.

When the first one ran forward, it was as if the ground began to shake, a signal for all of them to charge at once. Elter hurriedly fired his arrows into the crowd, slaying two more of their number before they arrived at him. He cried out in pain as he felt daggers, spears, and claws tearing into his body faster than he could have imagined. His feet bucked wildly as he tried to kick them away, to earn some space to run.

Yet one of them had clung to his chest, slowly climbing up it until the two were face to tiny face. Elter trembled as he looked into the cold eyes of this creature as it said something in that same shrill voice, its hands on either side of his head. However, he could not understand its words, and would never have the chance to do so. He felt a strange energy flowing into the hands of the thing, before his vision faded. His head had been crushed between those tiny, frail looking hands.

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