Corra and the four, obsidian constructs arrived at Deta’s village before long, and they were met with a sight unlike anything they had ever seen before. While they were no strangers to battle at this point, they had zero experience with witnessing destruction and widespread chaos.
Buildings were destroyed. Some simply crumbled underneath the shaking while others were crushed from large rocks that fell from the ceiling. Some of the fallen rocks had pools of blood underneath them.
And then there were the ancients.
It was their first time seeing any of the ancients alive, and the menace from below quickly proved just how lethal it was as the swarm of insectoid monsters flooded out from the new passages that they created.
The vast majority of kobolds and aurbolds visible were already dead, and they did not die peaceful deaths. Corra turned to look at one kobold shouting for help just in time to see one of the ancients thrust its legs through his body before tearing them outward, severing the small body into halves and leaving him to bleed out on the ground.
It was not only my monsters’ first time witnessing such destruction and panic, but it was their first time being faced with such brutality as well. Even our fights against the humans were more… ethical. Excluding when the humans tried to kill us using toxic gas, we never ripped apart each other’s bodies to leave the other suffering on the ground. Well, there was that time with putting that one human’s face into magma. And pushing them all off the ledge into some magma. And using the toxic ash from my ashen firebones to kill intruders.
My point is that we did what we needed to in order to survive. But the ancients? It almost looked like they were killing for fun. Of course, that was not truly the case. They were hardly more intelligent than any bug you could find outside. But if you were to ever see a swarm of them flooding into a village to rip apart every single living being that they could find, you would think they were doing such for fun.
Corra could not even say anything when she first arrived. She was with me from the beginning and was among the most experienced in battle and death when it came to my monsters, but she was left speechless at the gruesome tactics of the ancients. She did not even know what she was supposed to do. The point of coming to the village instead of returning to me was to save those who could still be saved, but almost everybody already seemed to be dead.
Only a few remained who were trying to run for their lives, and those were the ones that Corra called out to. “Here! This way!” she shouted to them. Some kobolds and aurbolds were close enough to get behind them, but most were killed on the way over.
That should have been enough. Corra should have secured those survivors and then returned. Even if there were only a few, she gave them direction when they needed it and had the opportunity to escape.
But she was intent on looking for more survivors.
It was only when she looked near the back of the village that she saw where the remaining survivors must have been. Unfortunately, what drew her eyes to that location were the ancients all heading toward it.
A small hole in the wall near the back of the village led to where Deta and the other volhaguin resided. From what Corra could see from looking past the carnage, though, this entrance was sealed off by rocks and there appeared to be no insignificant number of ancients attempting to dig their way through. The ancient warriors at the front of this swarm repeatedly slammed the tips of their legs into the rocks to slowly chip away at them.
Given that the ancients were hunting down all of the village’s survivors, Corra realized that most of the survivors must have been behind those rocks. It was only a matter of time before the ancients broke through the rocks and reached where the survivors were. If Corra wanted to save more lives, she had to deal with the ancients trying to break through to the survivors.
And the ancients were all grouped up close together in front of those rocks for her.
While getting into that area herself was out of the question, preventing the ancients from getting into it was not.
Extending her arms forward with small embers sparking off from the tips of her fingers, she summoned forth her flames and shot them directly toward the crowd of ancients in front of the sealed passage. Given that she stood on higher ground due to the entrance of the village that she stood at being somewhat elevated, and far from her target, her flames extended over many of the short buildings and spread out the farther in distance they reached. This worked in her favor. Rather than her stream of flames hitting only a single target, they cascaded down upon the ancients from above. She lit their bodies aflame… but only for mere seconds.
As one may guess, fire does not work too effectively against an opponent who comes from deep beneath the ground where there are even larger chambers of magma and even hotter temperatures. Their chitin was immune to all but the hottest of flames, and it did not help that her powers were weakened due to being outside of my territory.
Meanwhile, as a result of using so much of her magic outside of the territory, I felt it.
I felt my aether draining with every use of her power. I never noticed it before, but I did this time due to just how much of a drain it was.
And I could tell what was happening. I could tell that she was using her magic and that she would only do so if she were in a fight.
She could also tell that she was drawing upon my aether to use so much of her flames beyond our territory. Not only was her magic weaker outside of our territory, but it also drained me of my aether. Between that and the fact that her flames were all but useless against the ancients, she quickly realized just how little she had to fight against them with.
When one of the ancients charged at her, all she could do was stand there and watch.
She knew that her flames would not be enough to save her.
But while she may not have had any faith in her flames, my obsidian constructs had faith in their spears.
Four spears were thrust into the ancient all at once as soon as it was close enough. Three went into its body while another went straight into its head, killing it instantly. The spears made from the ancients’ legs had no difficulty in piercing their hard exoskeletons.
When one of the constructs looked back at her for orders, Corra shook her head and took a deep breath. “What am I doing… I could never allow my lord to see such a shameful display,” she said.
As blood from the slain ancient spilled out from its body, so too did its corpse secrete pheromones that alerted the others of danger.
Far more than only a single ancient now charged at Corra’s position.
And among them was one with a large sac on its back that seemed to be glowing with an orange fluid of sorts within it.
Corra remembered the explanations of the ancients. These ones with the glowing backs were called bursters. They were smaller and faster than most of the other ancients… and their glowing backs made them an excellent target to spot among a crowd.
Her flames may not have worked on the ancient warriors, but the bursters?
There was only one way to find out.
“I am sorry, my lord, but I need more of your aether,” Corra said as she aimed at the charging burster. Once more, flames erupted forward from the tips of her fingers to crash into the approaching enemies.
And once more, they did nothing against the ancient warriors.
But upon reaching the burster among the warriors, the flames did not go away after just a few seconds. Instead, they burned straight through that glowing sac on the back of the burster’s body until it reached the glowing substance within.
The monster erupted.
The explosive force behind its death sent all nearby ancients flying, shattering their exoskeletons and leaving a small crater in the ground as Corra’s hair was pushed back from the shockwave of the blast.
A satisfied smile spread across her lips. This satisfied smile soon turned into a sadistic smile, though, as she looked down over the ancients with smug pride in her eyes. “You insignificant pests are no match for the powers granted to me by my lord after all!” she shouted. “Take this as a warning and retreat into the holes you came from! Those who do not flee will perish under my lord’s authority!”
She was sure that the ancients would retreat after seeing what happened to their kin and hearing Corra’s warning.
Instead, even more charged at her.
And there was a far larger group of them this time. Most of the ones trying to dig their way into the sealed off passage had temporarily given up on that to deal with the threat posed by Corra and the constructs.
“Wai-wait… isn’t this too many?! Why aren’t you running?!” Corra shouted.
She was used to humans running away to regather their strength and to come up with new strategies whenever they suffered losses, excluding times when escape was not an option for them.
But these ancients did not behave like humans. They responded to death by sending even more of their own to their potential deaths. If there was a threat that they could not defeat by sending an endless swarm against, then it was a threat that could not be defeated and that they would go extinct against.
These ancients were nothing more than oversized ants. All they wished to do was spread their territory. Spread out, kill any and all threats, and repeat the process. They existed for nothing more than to spread out as wide as possible so that their species could survive.
Threats that were impossible to defeat would be swarmed by their simple minds even if it meant death.
They refused to ever surrender for any reason. The concept of running away simply did not apply to the ancients.
There was only spreading.
Corra looked behind her and saw that the survivors from before were still there with her. “What are you doing?! Run! Follow this tunnel to my lord’s dungeon!” she shouted at them, but their quivering legs prevented them from standing back up and running now that they saw just how many ancients were rapidly approaching.
It was only when she heard fighting behind her that she turned back to look at the constructs and ancients.
One of the constructs had a small ancient – an ancient pest, grappled onto its head as it desperately tried to bite my construct and stab it with its legs. However, it was small and weak enough that my construct could easily reach up with his shielded arm to grab onto pest and crush its head with its hand.
Normally, an invasion of ancients would feature mostly pests, but they were in the minority this time as the swarm consisted mostly of warriors.
And that just made it even more difficult to deal with.
Despite how large the warriors were, they were still fast. To turn and run at this point would have been met with being chased down and slaughtered.
All Corra could do was look around for anything to help. There weren’t any visible bursters in the crowd, so trying to thin out the ancients’ ranks via explosions was not currently an option.
What was an option, though, was a crevice just barely large enough to fit into.
“In there!” Corra shouted at the survivors. “Go!”
The survivors basically ended up their hands and knees as they crawled into the crevice, at least for a few moments before regaining enough of their senses to stand up and run as deep into as they could go.
“Hold them off in there until the rest of the Obsidian Guard arrives!” Corra shouted, taking the constructs with her into the crevice.
There was hardly enough room for all of them in there. With the survivors packed together at the very back of the crevice, Corra was between them and the four constructs who now occupied the front half of it.
It was only wide enough that a single construct could stand facing forward with a shield, so the constructs formed a line while extending their spears out around the one in the front. The first construct served as an immovable wall while the others focused on thrusting their spears and attacking whichever ancient tried to break through.
Any ancients killed by their spears were pulled away from the others so that more ancients would have an opportunity to try and break through. This process continued for quite some time, and it seemed like it was an effective strategy. Corra was able to breathe out a sigh of relief.
That was until she noticed the first obsidian construct’s body slowly being chipped away. A lone shield was not enough to completely cover up its body, leaving its lower half vulnerable to attacks. If this continued, its legs would be chipped away to the point where it could no longer stand.
But when Corra remembered the strategy we came up with for the constructs, she realized that it did not have to stand in the first place.
“Stop standing!” Corra shouted. “Get on your knee and cover up your front, let the one behind you cover you with their shield!”
The constructs realized what she wanted them to do and put the plan into action. While the first construct got onto its knees at the front of the line, the second construct in line raised its shield over the first to protect it from any attacks that might have come from above. The downside was that, because of the force of attacks against the construct’s shield, it had to use both of its arms just to keep the shield from being pushed back. This left only two constructs using their spears effectively. Fortunately, though, the front construct was now safe from being attacked.
But that was only until they could see the glowing, orange light from a burster’s back shining around the shields.