Chapter 26

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A horrendous groan carried throughout the plains with the descent of the Walker's legs as they carried it forward. Everyone gazed in absolute terror upon the damage done to Haven by the bombardment of cocoons. Pain seized Janus's heart as his body grew heavy with overwhelming concern for his comrades at the wall. With glances as hurried as his breaths, he looked between the destruction and its culprit time and time again.

It was then that Janus became aware of the cocoons that had dropped from the Walker's body and began cracking open in its wake. The humanoid abominations that broke forth from within now limbered in their direction, intent on slaughtering the Crows maintaining the ballistae.

"Marcin!"

Janus's call drew the vampire lord's attention toward him, his sight following the length of his arm as he pointed out the oncoming threat.

"Defend the ground units!" Marcin ordered.

A rain of fire was conjured forth by the vampires and showered the plains in its scorching fury. One after another, the creatures screamed out in agonizing pain as their charred corpses collapsed to the ground. Yet despite these efforts, the cocoons were seemingly resistant to the flames and simply dropped off of the Walker to unleash another assault.

"Ride with the Crows, Lord Janus! Keep your sights fixed on that monstrosity while we handle these spawn."

"Understood."

Amid the chaos, Janus rode by those stationed at the ballistae, advancing the mounted Crows onward toward Haven.

"Keep firing!" he addressed them, his voice carrying over the stampeding hooves. "Do not lose heart, even if the odds seem against us! This monstrosity covets, wanting nothing more than to devour our Lady Soleil's sheltering light!"

Janus wove a small flame in the palm of his hand before flailing it toward the Walker alongside the barrage of arrows.

"Show this horror that the Sanctified Lands belongs to those who have made incredible sacrifices to make it their own in this cursed world!"

Despite Janus's own words of encouragement, his heart felt heavy as he watched one bolt after another fire into the Walker's body, barely enough to deter it from once more reaching to collect more cocoons to bombard upon Haven.

***

The knees of one putrid creature buckled beneath its weight, collapsing to the cold streets after being cut down by the young Crow. Ellie stood several paces behind him, watching in repulsed fascination at the way the creature's flesh blistered and melted into the stone.

"They're not as tough as they look," the Crow panted. "They're slow and predictable. Probably more formidable in large numbers. Their flesh does burn if it touches you, though."

He outstretched his palm in front of him, observing how the bile that laced the creature's body had dissolved the fabric of his gloves. To his relief, the bile had fizzled away shorty after, leaving only a minimal mark upon his skin. Had it not been for his gear, the Crow would certainly have suffered worse.

"Come on, let's move."

Ellie nodded fervently and followed him into the nearby alley. They had only traversed half way to the other side when the horrible whistle of cocoons flying overhead returned to torment them. A pair crashed into the nearby rooftops and sent rubble collapsing down around them.

Her body took control before her mind could even comprehend what was happening, and Ellie lunged forward mere moments before the rubble fell where she once stood. A terrible ringing drowned out her hearing when her form hit the street. When it had subsided, Ellie threw herself to her back and stared at the mess of stone, lumber, and shingles. The Crow was nowhere to be found, and her blood ran cold at the thought of him having been crushed underneath.

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