Book 6, Chapter 85
It had been quite some time since Richard had come to the Forest Plane, but he still couldn’t reconcile the youthful voice with what he recalled. Thankfully, the Tree itself quickly realised its excitement and simmered down, returning to its dignified tone, “Ruler from another world, I have already finished preparing for my next evolution.”
“What enemies will there be this time?” Richard asked.
“Normally it would be myrmekes, cave spiders, and woodpecking crows. However, I feel the World Tree might also send rabid dwarves and beast tamers as well.”
The Tree of Life sent him mental images and detailed information about all of these predators. The myrmekes were ant-like creatures that were half a metre long, usually travelling in groups of over a thousand and turning the lands they passed through barren. Cave spiders could each grow up to two or three metres in size, and outside of their strong webs they were capable of digging through dirt to form large, complex tunnels. Roots were their favourite food. Alongside the woodpecking crows, this made for a combined attack from land, air, and underground. There would be no surviving a failure.
However, none of these three species were actually a major threat at this point. That came from the rabid dwarves and the beast tamers. Both had some modicum of intellect, and while the rabid dwarves were less than a metre tall with their heads taking up a comical third of their bodies, the beast tamers were three metres tall with long arms and legs that helped them leap from tree to tree.
The Tree of Life actually had little information about the latter, even the images being blurry, but it mentioned that the former could even eat rocks without issue. Combined with a tribal culture and ancestral worship, they were a force to be reckoned with. In fact, the only reason they weren’t the kings of this plane was that the will of the forest keeping them suppressed with short lives and low fertility.
Upon learning that the beast tamers had the ability to manipulate the creatures of the forest and acted as generals that coordinated the attack, Richard immediately had doubts about his strength. Facing a tribe where every adult had the strength of a saint, in their home field where they could control tens of thousands of creatures… He wasn’t certain of victory in those conditions.
“We might need to prepare a little more,” he said eventually, “It’ll take three to six months, maybe even a year.”
“A year to me feels only like a short rest, Master. Such a small wait is of no consequence.”
Richard’s party was currently exploring the boundless forest. A child of the forest had almost wiped out half of his troops alone all those years ago, but now any single one of them would be able to eliminate the threat in ten minutes.
At the front of the group was Tiramisu. The trees were a little too dense for the ogre lord, so both heads were constantly grumbling as he ducked his way through. Their most common complaint was the lack of any good meals in this place, followed closely by fears of mushrooms starting to grow on different parts of his body. The forest was naturally home to various predators, but they were all scared away by the sheer aura of power radiating from the group. The few horseflies the size of a palm that dared bite the ogre were blown apart by mere vibrations of his belly.
With only Phaser, Waterflower, Mountainsea, and the unicorn in the party, they travelled extremely quickly. Within a single day they started to feel the will of the forest suppressing them, and the forest grew darker as nightfall approached. Every single member of this team had extraordinary wills, so they were almost completely immune to this oppression. With no readily available campsites, Tiramisu just crushed several huge trees to use the trunks as a base for the camp. With a number of powerful weapons in hand, the party quickly tore up a small alcove for them to rest in.
Richard took out a small box and made eight holes in the earth, filling them with branches of stonewood and stuffing the gaps with a black powder. He then shot out eight small fireballs that immediately lit the stonewood aflame, forming columns of fire nearly two metres tall.
“What is that, Master?” Tiramisu asked with curiosity.
“Our campfire,” Richard smiled. This powder was the catalyst that aided in burning stonewood, and it burnt hot enough to keep the entire camp warm.
“How long will it last?” the ogre continued. Richard had only poured in a few hundred grams of the powder at best.
“Should be enough to last us through the night,” Richard said testingly. He didn’t have first-hand experience of this either.
“Good stuff… If we had this in our tribe back then, we could have moved up north… Maybe we might have survived…” Richard immediately froze at the ogre’s words, but then Tiramisu’s depressed smile turned back into his usual silly grin, “I’ll go get some food! Let’s see if this fire can roast things nice!”
“I’m coming,” Waterflower said softly as the ogre took large strides into the depths of the forest, standing up and hurrying to follow.
Richard turned to Phaser and Mountainsea, “Stay here. I’m going to hatch the broodmother’s avatar.”
He then chose a direction and headed deep into the forest, travelling at full speed for more than ten kilometres before he slowed down. Feeling the will of the forest starting to affect even him, he decided that this would be the location and pulled a huge black egg out from a sealing box. Placing the egg on the ground, he slit his palm and let the blood drip down on the shell.
A soft cry rang through the woods the moment the blood touched the egg, a low-pitched whine similar to a warcry. The smooth shell of the huge egg started emitting black smoke as numerous holes appeared on its surface, absorbing all of the blood he had spilt. It felt like his soul was pricked as the seed bonded to him, starting to hatch.
The heartbeat of the creature within the shell started growing faster and more urgent, a small voice ringing in his mind that was constantly crying in hunger and pain. The avatar was struggling to grow in the midst of the suppression from the will of the forest, but he took a step back to indicate that he had no desire to assist. The broodmother had told him that the avatar had to grow despite the bad conditions to remain strong upon maturity. If it could hold its own against the will of the forest, it would not be affected by the suppression in the future.
However, just as he was about to turn away, shock filled his face as he looked towards the sky. The clouds had formed an enormous spiral right around them, and an unprecedented strength of will was surging down to target the hatching egg!