Even as they began to make their way over to the signal, other signals were released into the sky, specially formed energy meant to draw attention. If there were no obstacles, it would only take the various groups scattered through the areas several minutes to converge. However, there were dangerous plants and beasts along the way. Anton and the other scouts did their best to avoid trouble quickly, and when there were simply a few lone beasts they didn’t bother to circumvent them. Elder Tshering contributed his efforts in slaying some of the beasts, crushing the heads of great cats under his heel.
Around the time they were able to pick out specific individuals from the mass of energy signatures in front of them, everyone was also able to spot something looming over the man-height grass, and even some of the nearby trees. A boar with tusks as long as pikes and a body nearly the size of a barn. It swept its head along the ground, flinging piles of dirt, trees, and people about. So far it seemed everyone had been lucky enough to not be impaled on a tusk, but that certainly didn’t mean they were left unharmed.
“Looks like I might be needed,” Elder Tshering said, “The rest of you make your way around to meet up with the rest of the Temitope clan. I’m heading ahead.”
With that, he vaulted through the air, bounding ahead. None of the others could match his movement, and they had to watch for dangers along the way. They circled around towards where they felt more Temitope clan members, avoiding a large patch of western creeper and some grasping grass.
As they approached closer they were better able to see the damage to the battlefield. Trees were torn up and snapped in half, dirt scattered all over, trenches gouged in the ground by the overlord’s tusks and the attacks of surrounding cultivators. Though the base form of the giant magical beast resembled a boar with mighty tusks, it had other protrusions along its spine and the sides of its four legs. In addition to that, it had a long tail with thin spike a meter long at the end. At a smaller scale they might have seemed like the spines of a porcupine, barbs included.
The beast overlord wasn’t alone in the battle. A number of smaller boars with more standard features also trampled around the area, as well as other sorts of creatures. Snakes and great cats were expected, but there were also herbivores like a pair of elephants and a wide mouthed hippopotamus involved in the skirmish. Not all of the beasts seemed to be on the side of the overlord- the beasts also clashed against each other, some of them having their own cultivations to match. No single thing was even close to the power of the gargantuan boar, not even the few Essence Collection cultivators.
The Temitope clan had many of its members formed up with shields and spears at the ready. While organized lines weren’t always the best idea when fighting against powerful cultivators, it still allowed those who were weaker to supplement each other’s strength. The more powerful cultivators could move around on their own, wherever the battle led them.
Though the Temitope clan had hoped to not be immediately drawn into the battle, the general chaos in the area meant they were unable to truly avoid the battle. At the current moment, the Essence Collection cultivators and those at the peak of Spirit Building were engaged with the overlord. While they might have liked to let the other powerful cultivators wear themselves down, the current battle revolved around directing its wrath towards enemy cultivators. While most of the cultivators redirected it with threatening attacks, Elder Tshering prevented it from charging the lines more directly, with a kick to the side of its head. It barely moved the beast, but its charge turned to follow the line of its head enough that the cultivators of the Temitope clan were able to move aside and let its charge go past.
Anton found his way up into a tree covered in spikes- but the mundane sort. With just his tempered skin he could ignore any danger it might have posed. There were similar trees around that were older, bigger… and possessed of sharper thorns. Arrows flew from his position and any of the other archers. Alva was riding back and forth throughout the area, firing arrows at anything that approached the line of spearmen to lessen their ability to overrun the mostly Body Tempering cultivators.
At the moment, there was little direct combat between the three clans and the mercenaries they had each hired. But as the battle shifted, it seemed more likely that they would come to blows. Anton surveyed the battlefield, firing shots at quite a significant distance to damage or even distract the beasts. When a large black panther snuck around the others and leapt up into his tree, he tumbled backwards and drew his axes out. Unlike Velvet’s new daggers, the two axes didn’t match- except in how effective they were. The thorns of the tree and the thick branches only slowed the panther for a second as it fell down atop Anton, but he held his ground and even stepped forward as it fell downward. He slashed up at its belly as it tried to focus on him with its claws. His right axe dragged a deep impression along its ribs as he stepped to the side so it wouldn’t fall directly upon him.
Spinning around to his left, he slashed at the creature’s shoulder forcing it to back off or receive greater wounds. If this was any sort of normal beast, it would have never joined the battle to begin with. At its current strength it should have known it didn’t stand a chance against Anton, but the emotions of everything in the area were greatly heightened. Anton took a stance, preparing to finish the creature off quickly so he could return to his archery.
Dozens and dozens of scents permeated the air, making it a rather useless form of perception. Was the big cat still in that grass or moved on already? Perhaps it was the one behind him being impaled by a spear. There were so many other animals, too, and humans. Impossible to keep track of it all. So Fuzz relied on his eyes and ears most of all. He could see the various things that made a distinction between allies and enemies, and when he couldn’t… he would rely on Alva.
If he ran straight towards something and she didn’t fire an arrow at it, he could presume it was some sort of ally. Thus he was not supposed to leap onto it and bite into its neck. Though he rarely had a chance to do that anyway, because he had to keep moving. Alva still wasn’t so strong that she would be safe against the various threats in the area.
Fuzz of course stayed well away from the disturbingly large boar and the cultivators with powerful suppressing energy, but there were intermediate threats as well. Humans with large curved blades were often foes, like the ones with the particularly choppy axes. Not Hoyt of course, because his axe was quite different. For one thing, it was on fire.
There was one scent Fuzz couldn’t ignore. It was the strangest thing. Something powerful. But he couldn’t see it at all, despite the way it suffused throughout the whole area. Then Fuzz realized. Of course, it was underground. Not a threat, but a target. Something that smelled good to eat, which was especially strange for Fuzz because he couldn’t even begin to describe what sort of meat it was.
He was quite surprised when, dashing through the battlefield, he came across a dug up chunk of the thing and found it was just a big root. He picked it up in his mouth to make sure it was the right thing, and it was. But roots weren’t meat. How odd. He ran back behind the wall of allies, dropping his small portion of root. Battle wasn’t a good time to eat, even if he was hungry. He’d learned that fighting with a stuffed stomach was not pleasant at all.
“Fuzz!” Alva called to him, her hand pointing in front to the left, “Bring us past that!”
Past it? Fuzz looked at the big grey monster with tree trunk legs. It had various appendages with significant reach, so he couldn’t move too close. But it was clearly what she pointed at. So he did. He planned to run behind, but she directed him to go around its front. He made sure to give some extra room, but the strange twisty-grabby appendage on its front flailed out towards them. He dodged to the side and Alva ducked flat on his back, and together they barely avoided the attack.
“That’s it, we have its attention!” Alva stooped down to pick up a rock and threw it at the big creature, instead of just shooting it with an arrow. “Now run that way!”
‘That way’ was towards the biggest thing. Fuzz had to protect Alva, but he also had to listen to her commands. How frustrating. But he also had to run from the ‘elephant’ anyway, because it was not happy with them. Fuzz was planning routes to circle around either side to avoid getting too close to the dangerous center of the battle, but Alva had another plan.
“That’s far enough! Stop! One-eighty!” Fuzz had no idea what that number had to do with turning directly around, but humans were confusing things. Perhaps it was the one hundred and eightieth tactic they thought of, though that made him wonder why it took them so long to get to hard turns. That was one of the first tactics, behind jump, bite throat, and claw. But he had no time to think about that. He dug his front paws into the ground, grinding to a halt as he spun about. Alva held onto the front of the saddle he had on, keeping her position. “Now jump over it!”
Somehow, Fuzz had forgotten the elephant was directly behind them. He’d gotten quite a bit of distance on it, but stopping had practically negated that gap. Still, he had to admit that Alva’s judgment was reasonable. He had enough room to get up to speed and do his biggest jump. Surely he could go over that thing.
Paws tore into the ground as he pushed his energy to the maximum. He reached top speed then slammed his energy downward as he pushed off, up, up, up. Over the creature’s head… but only barely. The thing’s ‘trunk’, which was not at all like the tree trunks that were its legs, flailed up towards him. He couldn’t possibly dodge in the air, but Alva was already ready with her own response. An arrow struck the nose, pushing it down and to the side. It still nearly brushed against Fuzz’ leg, but he found that to be quite a success.
Then for a moment his feet were on the elephant’s back before he pushed off once more. He dug his claws into its hindquarters and shoved it back as he propelled himself forward.
Alva’s sounds indicated she was happy with the results as the elephant continued forward towards an old man with a large curved blade. It was certainly much less agile than himself, and in fact it didn’t even seem to care to turn around. The man moved out of the way, but the elephant battered its head and tusks into the boar that was only slightly larger than itself. That was where energy came into play, as Fuzz was well aware. Muscle and size were good, but energy was the most important- and the boar had plenty of it. In fact, it smelled good. Just like… the root. Maybe the root was made of boar. Or the boar ate the root, but that wouldn’t explain why it smelled good.
A human warrior stood between Fuzz and his target trajectory, passing Anton. One of the ones with an axe. He must have thought he was so clever, waiting for Fuzz to approach. He would certainly have the advantage with his feet planted like that. But Fuzz had an archer. He wasn’t sure how to do ranged attacks himself, but Alva had shown him many times how powerful not having to worry about the enemy ripping out your own throat when you attacked was. She was able to fire several powerful shots that the man had to deflect with his weapon, sending him staggering back. Seeing his weapon was poorly aligned, Fuzz had no problem leaping onto his chest. He raked him with his claws but didn’t move in for the kill. He felt the stares of other warriors who might target Alva if he lingered too long. He kept moving, the warrior bloody but alive behind him in the dirt.