"Steady... Don't panic. The magical bull herd is incoming. Aim for the ones at the very front and lure them here. Alright, fire!" Lorist said as he flung his hand forward. The three steel ballistas let out three thunderous twangs as the bolts were fired across a distance of 300 meters, piercing deep into their targets' bodies.
Blood splattered all over as the deathly cries of the bulls echoed throughout the gorge. The magical beast wave seemed to have stopped in its tracks all of a sudden as the other bulls around the two collapsed ones looked around to seek out their enemy.
"Reload and keep firing."
After the second volley was shot out, the confused bulls finally noticed that the bolts had flown over from the top of a cliff nearby.
Loud grunts could be heard as the herd of magical bulls rushed towards the cliff with breakneck speed. In a few moments, the originally snow-covered surface of the hill slope had been run over by multitudes of stampeding bulls.
However, the bulls later noticed that the cliff they climbed up was not where the bolts had been fired from. Instead, the cliff where their attackers were was further down the other section of the mountains. Also, it wasn't actually a rock cliff but rather a huge wooden rectangular structure. By that time, the bulls which had low intelligence soon forgot about the 'ants' that had attacked them from the top of the rectangular structure and instead had their attention captured by a bright red cloth that was hung at the top of the wooden structure.
The stark contrast between the crimson cloth and the white snow-covered land instantly captured the attention of all the bulls there.
Angry moos and grunts soon erupted and echoed throughout the mountains. Anyone with common knowledge of bulls knew that they should never be shown the color red as that would cause them to go berserk and rampage around until they obliterate the red cloth altogether.
The bulls on top of the slope started to move. Lowering their heads and positioning their razor-sharp horns, they rushed straight towards the red cloth. However, not one of the bulls realized that the closer they were to the cloth, the steeper the slope got. By the time the bulls reached the ground, they were 2 meters beneath the red cloth they had loathed so deeply.
Some bulls at the front then raised their heads and realized that there was another red cloth not far ahead seemingly there to welcome their arrival. Needless to say, the bulls rushed towards it with abandon with their heads lowered.
That was how roughly 30000 magical bulls were lured to part with the magical beast wave. Upon being teased by red cloths, they lost all sense and rushed straight down the steep slope. By the time the ones at the front regained any semblance of 'reason', there was no way they would be able to make their way back up the steep slope. There was a tall 7 meter snow wall in both directions that completely blocked off their way. And there was no way for the other bulls that were still rushing down from the slope to head back up either as the other bulls behind that were not aware of the situation merely went with the flow and pushed down the slope.
When they all snapped out of their frenzied rage, the bulls realized that they were within a gorge that was bordered by tall cliffs in all directions. Those bulls still didn't know that they had fallen into a trap and continued rushing for tens of kilometers before stopping to rest and graze at the algae on the ground to replenish their energy. Thus, the group of magical bulls dispersed into smaller groups and headed their own ways within the gorge with some occasionally stopping to graze at the algae beneath the snow.
This was the Crewe Circular Gorge which was located within the Norton Family dominion. The whole gorge was shaped as if a child had dug a circular ring deep into the ground. While there were a few gaps that could be used to leave the gorge, those very gaps would spell the end of the magical bulls.
A few of the magical bulls headed towards the gaps and finally managed to step onto higher ground. However, what greeted them there were loud twangs of ballistas firing. Within a flash, the bulls were hit squarely by the bolts and killed within an instant.
"Quick, move those carcasses away. More bulls are coming from behind. Get ready!" said Dulles energetically as he ordered his carroballista division to proceed. This gorge was his battlefield, and the magical bulls, his enemy.
A few of the family soldiers stepped forward quickly and tied up the dead bulls in a practiced manner before they gave a signal to prompt the horses tied to the rope to move forward and haul the bulls away to an empty spot not far away. The carcasses that weighed hundreds of kilograms were rather easy to move as the the snow-covered ground decreased the overall friction. After being left at the empty spot, the carcasses of the bulls quickly froze over in the cold weather and would be dealt with at a later time.
A loud boom resounded as the rectangular structure shook, causing snow to slip all over the place. That green-eyed wild bull that rammed into the structure shook its head furiously and paced about in circles as it was a little disorientated from the collision. Regaining its balance, the bull retreated a few steps and readied itself for another charge.
"Good Sol!" Lorist exclaimed as he took control of one of the steel ballistas to aim at the bull. In the end, the green-eyed bull died from a ballista bolt just before it managed to ram into the structure again.
Lorist and the rest were on top of a rectangular structure that was 12 meters wide and 8 meters tall. To avoid letting the bulls ram at the base of the structure, Lorist intentionally decreased the amount of red cloth at the bottom of the structure so that the bulls would be lured to pass through the middle of the two pillars at the side which were the foundations of the structure.
However, somehow, that particular green-eyed bull fixated itself on the left pillar and began to ram into it time and again. The only option available to Lorist and gang was to shoot it dead on the spot. Otherwise, things would've turned out far worse if the structure had collapsed from the bull's incessant ramming. It was fortunate that the ballista fired by Lorist didn't attract the attention of the other bulls that were running towards the red cloth and passing beneath the rectangular structure.
"When this group of green-eyed bulls pass below us, pile up some snow around the pillars and splash some water onto it. We have to better secure the stability of the structure by letting it freeze over so that the frightening situation from before doesn't happen again," Lorist said.
"I think so too," Els said as he leaned on the wall nearby.
To deal with the magical beast wave this year, Lorist had mobilized almost all the forces available to him within the family dominion.
First, Lorist had made preparations to divert the larger herbivorous magical beasts away from the main group such as the various types of magical bulls into the Crewe Circular Gorge. That way, the rest of the magical goats, horses, etc. would be easier to deal with.
Lorist wasn't over ambitious about his plans either. If there was around 1 million magical beasts in the wave this winter, he only hoped that half would remain behind so he could deal with them when spring came at Felicitas Settlement. That way, only 300000 to 400000 beasts would be able to return to the wilderness. Lorist believed that if they repeated this process for a couple of years in succession, they would be able to thin the numbers of the beasts so much that the beast march will no longer occur and cease to be a threat.
To achieve his goals, he ensured that his family knights and soldiers had received proper training. The defensive structures at the second to seventh sectors of the settlement had also been built up properly. Additionally, the second to sixth sectors which would be the first to be engulfed in the beast wave each had a Gold ranked knight stationed at their respective central towns. The towns would also let the weaker magical beasts into the city periodically, effectively turning the winter into a crazed festival of in-town beast hunting.
As for the seventh sector where Wildnorth Town was located, it would not be visited by the magical beast wave, so there was no need to pay extra caution to the preparations there.
As for the sixth sector's central town, Beastguard Town, which was named by Lorist himself, chief Gold ranked knight Potterfang was stationed over there to defend it.
The central town of the fifth sector that was still unnamed was guarded by Gold ranked knight Fiercetiger Loze.
As for the central town of the fourth sector which was also nameless, it was guarded by the silver-haired Belnick.
The third sector's central town was guarded by Gold ranked mercenary Chino Freiyar.
And finally, the second sector's central town was guarded by the Gold ranked knight which had just broken through recently, former Whitelion Legion officer Iron-faced Mons Malek. After the convoy arrived at the Northlands, he was given a vacation by Lorist to focus on his Battle Force training. After one year of hard work, he finally broke through to the Gold rank and became the sixth Gold ranked knight under Lorist's command.
By the time everything was in place, everyone awaited the coming of the magical beast wave with full confidence and anticipation. As for Divine Marksman Josk, he followed Lorist and Els, the head of the guard division, to camp at a small mountainside. They carried out the most difficult part of the whole plan there, which was to lure the magical bulls away from the main wave into the Crewe Circular Gorge.
"This should be the third group to enter the gorge, right? How many bulls are there roughly?" Patt asked.
"There should be around 60000 of them, at least that's what I can see," Els replied.
Lorist said, "That should be about right. After this group enters the gorge, we'll head over to the camp over there for some rest. Have Josk bring someone to replace us for our shifts. Also, don't forget to have someone move the dead bull over there back to the camp. I feel like having some fresh meat after two days of eating nothing but dried food up here."
A temporary camp was set up at a small hill not far away from the slope where the rectangular structure was built. There was a waterfall over there which was the main reason it was chosen to be the campsite as water could be easily obtained there. However, when Lorist and the rest arrived at the camp, a heated battle was occurring. Around 100 winter wolves were surrounding and attacking the camp. Even so, under the fire of Josk's bow as well as four steel ballistas, the wolves didn't fare any better either. Many carcasses of wolves were littered all around the camp.
The temporary camp didn't span a huge area and it was surrounded only by a wooden fence that was five meters tall. At four corners of the camp were four lookout towers which were each equipped with a steel ballista.
Josk laughed bitterly and said, "Milord, it seems that we've neglected to weed out the carnivorous magical beasts around the area. It's fortunate that only a hundred plus wolves attacked us this time. We would've fared much worse if there was more than a thousand."
Within the camp lived around 100 elites of the guard division along with Josk, Els, Patt and Jim. In the coming days, the snowfall was rather heavy, so Lorist instructed his men to construct another 5-meter-tall snow wall surrounding the camp which was completed within three days. After solidifying the walls using the water splashing technique, Lorist led the rest up the other slope and began to lure more beasts away from the main wave again.
Within the span of a little over ten days, Lorist and Josk alternated their shifts and managed to lead 7 groups of huge magical bulls into the gorge. They now numbered around 100000 and the main wave seemed to have passed the area already. The only beasts that remained were the carnivorous ones. Following that, Lorist and the rest were held back at the camp for 7 days as they defended the camp against a few waves of attacks by magical wolves and panthers. Only after having their numbers culled substantially did the carnivorous beasts cease their attacks on the camp, allowing Lorist and his group to finally leave the camp and head to the gorge.
By that time, the gorge had already turned into a huge bull slaughtering center. The bulls that found their way to the gaps at the gorge numbered thousands daily as opposed to the hundreds in the beginning. The carroballista division commanded by Dulles set up multiple defense lines outside the gaps and fired whenever any bull made its way through them. The moment when each bull struggled to regain balance after stepping out of the gap, the ballistas were fired and that bull would fall dead to the ground. The process then repeated as one bull after another squeezed out of the gaps.
The carcasses had already piled up so high that it started to seem like a small hill that was roughly seven to eight storeys high, thus establishing the need for more piles to build up at the empty lot. Dulles had already sent Firmrock Castle an urgent request for an additional thousand plus people and horses to move the carcasses of the bulls away to make more space.
The land around the gorge had long been stained crimson from the blood of the dead bulls. Even so, with the constant influx of bulls into the gorge day after day, the algae within started to run out and some bulls which weren't able to find any were forced to find a way out of the gorge. Some of them even turned back and wanted to leave from the way they came.
While Dulles's whole unit had 2500 ballistas in total, only 400 were situated at the gaps. Lorist had arranged for another 1800 plus ballistas to be placed at both sides of the road which the bulls used to enter the gorge. As a result, the bulls that attempted to exit the gorge through the way they came were completely lacerated by the ballista bolt storm. The carcasses of the bulls only continued to stack up, with their leaking blood forming a small river that flowed downhill.
During the whole winter season, Dulles's newly-expanded carroballista unit had spent the whole time killing bulls at the Crewe Circular Gorge. Within two months time, they had finally exterminated around 170000 of those magical bulls. Everyone in the unit was completely worn out with over a thousand steel ballistas going out of order from overuse.
By the time the last group of bulls collapsed dead on the spot after being shot when they made their way out of the gaps, Dulles, who was seated on a carriage and operating the ballista on it said to Lorist, "Milord, I don't think I want to shoot a bull ever again for the rest of my life. I already feel a little sick after looking at these bulls."
With the coming of spring and the departure of the magical beast wave, one piece of good news came after another. Firstly, the sixth sector's central town, Beastguard Town, was one of the first areas to face the magical beast wave. Thanks to Lorist and the rest's efforts to redirect most of the bulls from the magical beast wave, Potterfang managed to open the town gates more than ten times to let in around 200000 weaker magical goats and deers, causing Beastguard Town to be the town that profited the most from the magical beast wave. Following that, they made large amounts of goat rib traps and managed to get a haul of thousands of carnivorous beasts.
Following that, the fifth to second sectors' central towns also had huge hauls. Most of the herbivorous magical beasts had already been wiped out by them with only less than 300000 of the original million plus magical beasts returning to the wilderness.
Incredibly delighted by the results, Lorist predicted that the magical beast wave would be completely wiped out within another two years. By then, he can finally begin to develop the farmland without any worries.
Patting Dulles on the shoulder, Lorist said, "Alright, let's head out now. Josk's mounted archer division will escort your carroballista division to wipe out the magical beasts that remained within Felicitas Settlement. Fiercetiger Loze's heavy-armored cavalry troops are already waiting for your arrival at the third sector. While there might be some bulls within the settlement, most of the beasts there will be carnivorous ones, so you have to watch out for your own safety. When you return from your mission, I promise that you will have new ballistas waiting to replace your broken ones."
"Yes, milord," Dulles said as he saluted.