The Devil's Evolution Catalog Chapter 105: Plateau Hamlet
Putting aside the Canine Special Forces Brigade issue for now, they were in the end, just wolves, it’s just that they were smarter than your average wolf.
Seeing her first fireball miss, Ancarin continued chanting a second, unfazed by her failure. Even so, the fireball’s sudden appearance had the effect of scaring the wolves even if it missed, especially that wolf who almost got roasted. It immediately fled behind a nearby rock, its tail hiding just in time to avoid the second fireball.
The fireball exploded harmlessly on the rock, clearly not powerful enough to shatter the rock or harm the wolf hiding behind it.
Not one to take this failure lying down, she began chanting a third mini fireball. However, her mana had almost been expended by now and her spell was forcefully cancelled mid-chant. Thankfully, her mana pool was relatively small and the mini fireball was the lowest grade of spells. The backlash from the spell failure merely caused her chest to tighten slightly.
It’s worth mentioning at this point not to underestimate these wolves. While their individual strength wasn’t much, they were extremely coordinated and more than a match for anyone stronger than them thanks to their superior numbers. If I had to face these wolves alone, I might even suffer some losses.
By now, the wolf pack had noticed the lack of fireballs on the part of Ancarin and had begun to stir once more. Under the assumption that she was out of mana, the wolves left their hiding spots and started closing in on us, their aim, to cut off our escape routes.
It was at this moment that her lips cracked into a roguish grin. Her plan had worked! A clenched fist punched into the air, aimed directly at one of the wolves. Flames condensed around the ring in an instant, and shot off a fireball a split second later...that was the fire ring Duran had on!
The wolf barely had time to react to the sudden attack before scorching flames consumed it within a fiery explosion. Its fur instantly caught fire while the sheer impact of the explosion tore through the wolf’s hide and flesh, killing it as it stood there…
Not bad...its destructiveness was passable for a fireball, the damage wasn’t bad either. Basically a one-star warrior would get burned to death if he ate that head on. Against a life form that’s weak against fire, it could probably cripple it.
Without waiting for the flames to die she punched out with her right fist which still clasped her staff firmly and fired an ice spike.
The translucent cone soared towards its target, covering the same distance in a fraction of the time it took for the fireball to do so. In the blink of an eye, the ice spike pierced through a wolf with energy to spare, landing a few meters away freezing the patch of earth around it.
With that, Ancarin was well and truly out of mana.
Even so, the wolves seemed to have learnt their lesson as they gave a few silly howls before turning tail and running.
It wasn’t just me who was left speechless either, even Ancarin who had just popped the cork on a recovery potion was equally surprised.
In the past, I had pestered Roscar to bring me along on one of his hunting trips; during which we encountered a wolf pack as well. Back then, those wolves were ruthless to say the least. Even in the face of the vastly superior Roscar, they didn’t back down one bit and instead focused their attacks on me who was still a human kid back then.
Wolves hunted by first scouting out their prey, after which they would attack if and only if they were sure of their superiority in terms of numbers and strength.
And yet the wolf pack we encountered surprised me. They actually fled after merely losing two of their members. I still clearly remembered those wolves I met while hunting with Roscar. They fled after losing half of their numbers, only because they had determined there was nothing to be gained…..How should I say this, the wolves we met today are a bunch of wusses.
With the imminent threat gone, it was time to divvy up the loot. Due to the abundance of actual food in the Western Human Realms, I actually had the chance to eat proper food for once, thus I didn’t need to feed on souls.
The two wolf souls were handed over to the grimoire, who by now was hopping around in my pocket. Having gotten what it wanted, the book quietened down as expected.
As the last of the wolves left my sight, I turned around to face a masked Regine staring at me.
“There’s something suspicious going on here.” said Regine in a bland tone.
“I know.” I nodded in assent without elaborating, their behavior was strange, but I couldn’t say how or why. After all, their reaction was normal by any definition of the word. With the roles of hunter and prey switched, it would be stranger if they chose to stay after discovering we were stronger than them.
I hadn’t encountered any wolves on Earth before but if the other animals in this world were anything to go by, these wolves should be a lot smarter than their Earthborn counterparts. That’s why I could sort of accept the fact that they retreated so decisively…
“It’s time to leave, the scent of blood is starting spread out, it might attract other beasts to our location. Besides, their retreat still seems a little fishy to me, continuing to stay here is too risky.”
The wilderness was a totally different beast in the night compared to the day, who knows what might show up after being attracted by the smell of burnt wolf meat and blood. Plus, there was no guarantee that those wolves won’t just circle back and ambush us, which made staying here an even worse idea.
“I’ll go pack up the tents.” said Ancarin, tacitly approving of my idea as she ran off to take down the half pitched tent.
Today was a particularly hectic day, by the time we set up camp it was already dark outside. Thanks to that, the tents hadn’t been fully pitched during the wolf attack, which ironically saved us a lot of effort since we decided to abandon this site.
It didn’t take long for Ancarin to pack up the tents; after which we rode off in a hurry. Roughly two hours later, we came upon a hamlet by accident.
The entire hamlet only had about fifty or so households within it, bringing the entire population to slightly over a hundred people. As our carriage ground to a halt at the entrance of the hamlet, the men began streaming out of their homes to investigate while the women and children peeked out from their windows.
Looks like our speedy but noisy arrival got us a welcoming party…
While Regine and I had strange outfits on, Ancarin wore the telltale garb of a mage and even had a staff in her hand to sell that image. Our horses were barely fatigued even after pulling the excessively opulent and heavy looking carriage behind us. All these signs made it abundantly clear to the villagers that we weren’t ordinary folk.
As they watched us from a distance, some of the villagers wore a look of worry on their faces. The Western Human Realms was after all, not a very safe society. There were bandits who threatened villages, the lord’s henchmen dressed as bandits who threatened villages and then there were just the plain old lord’s henchmen who...threatened villages, not to mention the usual evil mages.
Regarding these evil mages, there was really nothing much to explain. They were people who as the name suggested did evil acts like razing, kidnapping, raping, murder etc, kind of like Duran...Strictly speaking however, Duran was nothing but a small fry compared to the established evil mages. He didn’t even have the qualifications to lick their boots.
As the brains of our group, Ancarin quickly noticed the strange looks the villagers were giving, some even had pitchforks ready in hand. Seeing more and more people begin to gather, the beautiful apprentice flashed a sincere and radiant smile, charming some of the teenagers present.
Noticing the drop in hostility, she began to explain our intentions in a soft soothing voice: “Be at ease everyone, we aren’t bandits or bad people. We’re just ordinary mages on a trip, as we were in a hurry, we ended up in your village at an inopportune time. We won’t interfere with your lives in anyway, we just need to make camp for the night and we’ll be gone by morning.”
With that, the villagers lowered their weapons, and some returned to their homes. Seems like they believed her words. Were they just that trusting or was it simply because she was beautiful? To the point where they actually forgot about the not so normal looking pair of masked and robed characters standing by her side.
At least, they weren’t bold enough to invite us into their homes, so they still had some sense of vigilance which was fine with me. I didn’t intend to involve these ordinary folk in my business after all.
As we began to set up camp at an empty plot of land next to the hamlet, the majority the villagers dispersed back to the homes; satisfied that we meant them no harm. Only a small portion remained led by a buff grandpa of sixty to seventy years old.
The buff grandpa wore a white short sleeved villager’s frock that looked like it had been washed countless times. Beneath his loose garments was a relatively shredded body that while burly, wasn’t fat. Unlike a typical person of his age he didn’t require a walking stick to support himself, and he seemed to walk even faster than the youngsters behind him. Even though, he had a full head of white hair, his disposition was not diminished by it.
“It’s an honor for our tiny hamlet to welcome Your Excellencies, this old one is Dylan, the chief of this hamlet.” He greeted us with a smile after which he stated his true purpose for approaching us: “ May I know if sirs have encountered anything unexpected on the way here?”
“Unexpected?” Knowing that I didn’t wish to expose myself and that Regine wasn’t that good at talking either, Ancarin took the lead in this conversation. She pondered for a moment before smiling at the village chief.
“We originally made camp in the wilderness but we encountered a wolf pack. Even though we managed to chase them off, we decided to continue travelling through the night, just to be safe.”
“Wolf pack…” His face blanched as those two words left her mouth. At his side, the other villagers seemed equally alarmed as they began whispering to each other in hushed tones.
“What’s the matter?” Even under the dim illumination of the torches, his sudden change was not missed by Ancarin who immediately sensed that something was wrong.
“Is there something wrong with that wolf pack?” asked Ancarin.
“Sigh...truth be told, those wolves are…” The village chief breathed a helpless sigh and began explaining to us.
According to him, those wolves belonged to the local bandit troupe known as the Wolf’s Fang Bandits. Their leader had the ability to train wolves which he used to turn the wolves into scouts and hunters.
Normally, these wolves would be out searching for prey. Should they encounter a small merchant convoy, they would kill the merchants and guard the loot while one of them reported back to the leader. If it was a larger merchant convoy, they would stalk the convoy while one of them sent word to the leader; after which the bandit troupe would sortie to rob the convoy.
Even though this was a remote village, it wasn’t strange for merchants to come here. Being in the mountains, this village mostly relied on hunting to sustain themselves. Whenever there were extra pelts, they would store them up to sell to the people living in the city.
However, the road here wasn’t easy and so a bunch of entrepreneurial merchants realized they could capitalize on this to make a profit. They would take make the arduous trip here to purchase the furs at a lower price for resale. And wherever there were merchants, their nemesis, the bandits, wouldn’t be far off.
The Wolfsfang Leader wasn’t an idiot either; he knew not to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. Most of the time, the bandits wouldn’t raid the village which formed the basis for their wealth. After all, if you killed everyone, there would be no more merchants to raid. Plus, killing this many people might just attract the attention of the army. Given all these negatives, it made no sense for him to raid the village.
The bandit leader knew that the key to their survival was patience; other than the usual displays of dominance, the bandits would rarely approach the hamlet. Of course, there was still a need for the bandits to prove their dominance from time to time.
Robbing some supplies, kidnapping some beautiful girls and heckling were all part of the course. Not only did these acts maintain their control over the village, it was fun too.
Yet, in the midst of that explanation, we obtained a certain piece of information from the village chief: we had been followed by the wolf pack...
Special thanks to Steve Granger!!