"Milord, why did the wolves leave the carcasses of the ones who had swallowed the traps right there just like that? Didn't you say that magical wolves often cannibalize one another?" Nors asked curiously.
The sight before them was rather shocking with magical wolves dead all over the plains in all form and fashion after being trampled upon by some other magical beasts. Hundreds of their carcasses could be seen with some of them even having their mouths wide open as if they were in great pain. However, not one of them had a visible wound on their body. Had it not been for the fact that they already knew about the situation, the people would no doubt find that sight extremely odd and terrifying.
However, the ones who followed Lorist outside the town already knew about the rib bone traps and were merely shocked at how effective they were despite their simple design. Before them were hundreds of winter wolf carcasses. If they were alive, they would pose a huge threat to everyone who set out of the town and could even potentially wipe out a whole army.
"Magical wolves are rather intelligent beasts. Some scholars have hypothesized that their intellect were on the level of children aged five to six years and they were one of the magical beasts that knew how to coordinate with each other well. They only cannibalize out of necessity when the pack is too huge for the prey they hunt to be able to support the population, causing them to even feast on the corpses of their dead brethren to ensure the survival of the pack.
"However, they are also incredibly sensitive and suspicious. During the magical beast wave, they don't lack any food source. And the fact that many of their own collapsed due to reasons unknown to them should prove quite frightening as well and cause them to want to leave the place as soon as possible. Just like humans, when one or two of us dies, we would stop and investigate the cause. However, if one after another collapses dead, there is no doubt that the rest of us would prioritize our own survival and leave the area before doing anything else. The wolves are the same with us in that regard," Lorist explained.
"Alright, let's keep moving. We have to transport the wolf carcasses with our carts to be back. Hunting them this way really keeps their fur in perfect condition. I wonder how the fur merchants' faces will look like when they see all the fur we have for them," Patt said towards the rest of the garrison soldiers on the carriages.
After half a day of work, Nors came over to report to Lorist. "Milord, there are 745 wolf carcasses in total. Are we going to return to the town right now?"
Lorist furrowed his brow and said, "Hmmm, that doesn't seem right... We tossed out a total of more than 2000 goat rib traps. This number is a little too low. Josk, bring a group of people with you on patrol to check if we have any other gain. Be careful."
After Josk searched the area once more with his men, he discovered a few hundred other dead carnivorous magical beasts. Some beasts like cloud panthers and patterned panthers were discovered to be dead hanging from tree branches while others like ligers collapsed on top of mounds. There were also some tracks that led to a rather large catch.
It was a humongous iron-sideburned wild boar which weighed almost 1000 kilograms. It was apparent from the fallen trees and toppled rocks in the vicinity that the gigantic beast had rampaged around from the pain of the bone piercing its stomach and ended up in a snowy trench after breathing its last breath.
Seeing the state of the trees leading up to the boar's carcass, Lorist couldn't help but let out a cold sweat as he imagined whether his javelins would be of any use should he encounter a beast like that. The meter-long javelins seemed like a toothpick when compared to a beast of that size.
Els came over to Lorist side to look at the soldiers who were prepared to use tens of horses to pull the boar out of the trench. He asked Lorist, "Locke, are we going to tail the magical beast wave to the rest of the sectors?"
Lorist shook his head and said, "We won't be able to make it. When we departed from Maplewoods Bastide, the magical beast wave had just started to disperse, so we could still circle around them to reach the town ahead of them. Just look at the state of the land now: wherever the magical beasts passed, all that's left of it is muddy ground which we can't travel on even with our skis. Right now, we can only hope that the beasts will leave when spring comes."
"Locke, don't worry. With Knight Belnick and Knight Yuriy sending word, I believe that the magical beast wave will not cause too much damage to us. In fact, nobody here is afraid of the coming of the magical beast wave anymore," Els consoled.
"Els, to tell you the truth, I'm scared. I'm afraid of seeing how the other four villages fared when we visit them later. These people have toiled hard to follow the convoy all the way to the Northlands and thought they could start their peaceful lives anew. However, none of them knew that what awaited them was the magical beast wave. I truly have wronged them, so I feel really bad for that," Lorist said as he shivered slightly.
"Locke, this is not your fault. I'm sure none of us would have envisioned that things would turn out like this. But, since what's past is already past, we have to face the future with courage. Come on, let's head back to town. The soldiers have already hoisted the boar up with their horses," Els said as he patted on Lorist's shoulder. "Brother, don't forget that no matter what happens, I will always stand by your side."
Lorist and the rest were quite surprised when they visited the other villages in the sector later. The villages that they thought had been utterly destroyed were not in that bad a state they originally imagined. Faced with certain demise with the approach of the magical beast wave, some of the villagers had all thought up various means to struggle for their survival.
The fourth village was located atop of a small mound and the Silver ranked fighter stationed there was one of Lorist's old acquaintances, Paulobins. He currently held the position of a squad leader of one of the light cavalry scout squads and had been sent along with his men to that very village during the winter season. When he realized that the magical beasts were on their way, he had the villagers build a wall with snow to surround the village which was later strengthened by the freezing temperature, causing the magical beasts to have a hard time climbing up the walls, thus securing the lives of all the villagers.
However, after the herbivores passed by the village, tens of snow panthers attacked and ten plus villagers were either hurt or killed. Even Paulobins himself was injured, but they still managed to chase the panthers away. Greeted with such an optimistic outcome, Lorist was so elated that he knighted Paulobins as a family knight on the spot, thus fulfilling his long time wish.
The third village however didn't share the same good fortune as the casualties were rather bad. The womenfolk and the elderly managed to escape the horrors of the beasts by hiding within an underground tunnel. The rest of the youths and the garrison soldiers as well as the squad of light cavalry scouts led by a Silver ranked fighter had perished in a fight with a huge group of big-horned bulls that assaulted the village.
The second village contained yet another surprise for Lorist and the gang. Apart from the fact that the buildings of the village were completely razed down, the people there and other resources were completely fine. The main reason for that was that the village had been built upon a mountainside where a cave was located not far away. The moment they detected the coming of the magical beasts, the villagers escaped into the cave and sealed the entrance, thus managing to evade a catastrophe.
Even so, the first village fared the worst among the rest with only 17 survivors out of the original 3000 plus people. When the magical beasts arrived there, it was only midnight and the guards on the walls thought that only a small group of magical beasts were trampling the farmland they had cultivated. As a result, they shot fire arrows from the walls and provoked the whole group of magical beasts which proceeded to launch a full-on assault on the village. The remaining 17 villagers only managed to survive by hiding amidst the rubble of the wooden houses.
On the 18th day of the 3rd month was a gentle spring rain. Many people were gathered within the main hall of Firmrock Castle. Every family knight and administrative officer listened carefully to the report given by Charade about the passing of the magical beast wave.
"During winter, the magical beast wave caused the family to lose near 10000 citizens and more than 1000 heroic soldiers, including 7 Silver ranked fighters and three family knights. The one who should shoulder most of the responsibility for this is me as I have began the development of the wasteland without first doing proper research and understanding the situation of the family dominion, causing us to suffer from something we could have planned ahead for.
"When I received milord's urgent warnings about the magical beasts from his messengers, I still didn't take it seriously and even gathered the soldiers to form a defense line in the third sector's central town to resist the magical beast wave. Had it not been for Knight Belnick and the rest who informed us of the idea of securing the town walls by letting water freeze over it, I would've sacrificed even more of our forces to fight against the magical beasts. My failures for this incident cannot be excused and I hope that milord will give me a fitting punishment..."
Lorist currently wore a very stiff expression as he never would've dreamt that Charade would perform so terribly in the onset of the arrival of the magical beast wave. After Jim and the other three traveled two days and one night to Firmrock Castle to report on the news of the wave's approach, Charade didn't take it seriously and believed that the magical beasts they mentioned were merely weak little herbivorous ones like magical goats and deers with their only advantage being their numbers. He even boasted to Potterfang that the magical beasts came just at the right time to help the dominion relieve its food shortage problem.
After spending seven days preparing, Charade and Potterfang left with their troops and they spent tens of more days to travel to the third sector because of the road conditions from the snowfall, only to meet Belnick and the rest who were splashing water on the town walls urgently. After that, despite the objection of Potterfang and Belnick, Charade even ordered more than 20000 family soldiers to erect a snow wall and get into position in preparation to fight the magical beasts.
When Lorist heard about that, he could only laugh bitterly. Charade had underestimated the magical beasts severely and treated them as if they were human enemy troops who wouldn't be able to withstand even one assault from them. He didn't even stop to consider whether the longbows and crossbows his soldiers were equipped with would even be able to cause the magical beasts significant casualties.
When the magical beast wave eventually made its way to the defense line, the longbows of the family troops were still able to harm the smaller herbivorous magical beasts. However, when the magical bulls and 6-meter-tall mammoths showed up from behind, everyone was shocked into stupor. Fortunately, Potterfang managed to take quick action and ordered the soldiers to retreat to the third sector's central town to fortify the walls using the water freezing method, thus ensuring the survival of the 20000 plus troops.
In the end, the 20000 plus troops that Lorist had placed his hopes in were trapped within the central town for more than a month. Not only did they consume the food reserves of the town incredibly quickly, they were also forced to starve for days until the magical beast wave thinned and allowed them to hunt some scattered beasts for sustenance. They eventually returned to Firmrock Castle with the last bit of morale drained out of them.
"I hereby renounce Knight Charade's position as chief officer of the Felicitas Settlement development project and also his title as the chief knight of the Norton Family Knights. Shadekampf will temporarily be in charge of the development of Felicitas Settlement," Lorist stood up and announced his decision.
"It's only the first time that we've witnessed the magical beast wave within the dominion. However, does that mean that we've lost confidence to develop Felicitas Settlement? In actuality, we shouldn't fear the magical beast wave. While we aren't able to prevent it from happening, we can still give it our all to make the best of this situation," Lorist said.
After that, he briefed the rest about the methods they used within the sixth sector's central town and even demonstrated how to make the rib bone trap. "It is apparent that as long as we have a secure and stable wall to protect us, the magical beast wave is actually a good hunting opportunity. With enough preparation, we can even make the walls into a trap for hunting magical beasts. However, we must also be careful and not provoke them when the gigantic ones are around. When the time is right, we can even let some of the weaker beasts into the town. Not only can we obtain more fresh meat and furs, we can also decrease the fear the folks have for the magical beast wave so that they will be confident in their future lives here."
Lorist then proceeded to describe the situation of the four other villages within the sixth sector. "From these examples, it can also be seen that the villages can also survive the magical beast wave, provided they have good defensive preparations and an escape route to a cave or an underground tunnel. That way, they can survive the winter without any worries.
"That's why, with the coming of the new year, the family will focus on developing the defensive walls and other necessary infrastructure of the towns and villages within the second to seventh sectors for the well-being and safety of the citizens. Even though the magical beast wave has receded, huge groups of magical beasts still remain within the dominion. So, from tomorrow onwards, the family forces will be tasked to eliminate those magical beasts both to ensure the safety of the citizens within the dominion as well as to replenish our food stores so that our hard-working citizens can live with a peace of mind without worries.
"Shadekampf, this year, you must focus on developing the six central towns. I will have Telesti arrange for her designers to draw up some plans for the towns soon. Additionally, make sure that walls are built around the villages and plan a reliable escape route should anything go wrong. As for the farmland, we can plant some beans to relieve the food consumption temporarily. The family will also try to help by purchasing huge amounts of food.
"Also, the 16 Silver ranked fighters that have performed exceptional feats will also be promoted to family knights. The others who have contributed will also be rewarded. I hope that all of you here will brainstorm hard for more methods that the family can use to mitigate the damage brought by the magical beast wave. You can send your thoughts in a letter to me personally. The prosperity of the family dominion will depend on the our combined efforts. So, I will be counting on you all."
After the meeting adjourned, Lorist had Charade stay back. Even though he had relieved Charade of his duties, that didn't mean he didn't intend to give him other tasks.
"Brother Charade, I will leave Firmrock Castle and the valley city in your hands because those parts didn't incur any damages from the magical beast wave. You have to work hard on the development of the valley city and the nearby farmland as well as plan for the development of the wasteland near Firmrock Castle. Before Felicitas Settlement can be free from the harm brought by the magical beast wave, these two locations I want you to work on will be the cornerstone of the family's survival by ensuring a continuous food output. I am prepared to set up another town at the intersection of the Bladedge Mountains and the Morgan Hills. That will be where the smiths and miners of the family will live and it will become the main industrial city of our dominion that will produce most of the weapons and equipment for our family forces. Do you understand the importance of this place now?"
Charade nodded and said, "Locke, I thank you deeply for this opportunity. As your brother, I promise that I will no longer let you down."