The rats were in a frenzy, chasing and lunging and hurling themselves at anything they could get close enough to attack with a desperate fervor that almost perfectly encapsulated their verminous forms. Rain and blood and mud matted their hair, weighing them down, and almost tirelessly they threw themselves at their prey. On the other side of the fray, the fae were equally as ragged-looking, the proud, powerful centaur looking almost bedraggled, with their hides matted with water and filth. Rain and dirt sloughed out of their hair and ran in filthy streaks down their bodies. At least a few of the upright ones had been struck by oncoming rocks, knives or lucky blows by their Skaven attackers, and wounds oozed across their backs and bodies. Dwindled as their numbers were, however, they were still putting up far more of a fight than the ratmen could easily handle, and the fact that the Ent was up and moving again made things all the more difficult.
The Ent took an uncertain step, and Vance braced himself as he watched it give a clumsy kick. The blow struck a cluster of nearly two dozen skaven and scattered them like roaches. The centaur they'd nearly claimed quickly rejoined the offence, taking part in picking off other ratmen as best as they could. However, the flurry of arrows, the old guard noticed, were beginning to thin out, and it struck him then that he understood why the Skaven were so difficult for the fae to deal with. Even though the rats could be slaughtered easily, there were a lot of them, and they were oftentimes difficult to hit. The Skaven weren't the real threat; the lack of ammunition and weapons were.
A satyr attempted to spring around a crowd of Skaven that had cornered her, but the Boss-Rat lumbered over and snagged her hair between his claws. Even the big fellow, round and ugly as he was, was showing signs of wear. Arrows stuck out of his back and arms like a pincushion, and he gasped for each breath. This, however, did not stop him from jamming a knife into the side of the satyr's head and sending her, head over hooves, into the filth at his feet. Instead of taking the knife back, he just picked up another. Another blow from the Ent came crashing through, and swept the small contingent of skaven that had pursued that satyr off their feet, pummeling them into the filth as well. The Boss-Rat survived, somehow, and staggered back, glaring up at the tree-beast as if it were an oversized gnat. For vermin, he was awfully bold. At least, he was fond of forcing his men to die on his behalf, while he laughed cruelly and murdered things for sport. The Ent, however, posed a challenge that he almost hadn't seemed to recognize by now. That didn't bode well, as for all of his burliness, Vance doubted the boss rat could take a punch from the grand tree giant.
He looked around the battlefield once more. There were only a handful of centaur, satyr and a pittance of other fae around now, but the Skaven seemingly arriving with reinforcements now. A fresh gross of Skaven had hurried down the road, seemingly either watching the conflict from afar, or warned of the fight somehow. Interestingly, there almost seemed to be more Skaven then before arriving on the scene. However, none of these rats came with significant help, and all of them were unarmed. They bolted down the road, picking up what they could as they went, and immediately set about bolstering their own forces. With another swarm of Skaven on the job, things would clean up quicker, but the Ent was still an issue. Towering, fierce and terrible, the rain-drenched force of nature would flatten them all if they couldn't come up with a solution. He spied his charge, still standing not far from the conflict, completely aghast at the scene unraveling before them. Behind him laid the scattered detritus of their wagon. Metal and food and supplies and clothes and all, tossed to the road like common filth. He recalled, briefly, that they had yet to burn the rest of the lantern fuel. In fact, they probably had plenty of it remaining.
Vance made his way over to a confused and lost Lars, who seemed completely stunned by the ongoing bloodshed. He stood there, nigh motionless, as things whirled around behind him in a torrent of rain and blood. The old soldier clasped hand on his head, and tilted his eyes up. He tried to snap, but his fingers were slick with blood, and his gloves were heavy.
"Lars, Lars!" He gave the boy a brief shake. "Listen up, boy!" He gave him another jolt, and Lars blinked, completely out of it.
"I need you to find a lantern, or the fuel for it." He insisted, grasping him with both hands, staring him dead in the face. Behind him, the creaking of branches and the shaking of the earth announced the Ent's latest swing. "Find those, and bring them to--" He was interrupted by the Ent slamming something else around. Skaven corpses went flying everywhere. Somewhere, through the din of the rain and thunder and shrieking, he thought he heard the Skaven lost in the woods losing their minds as well. He steadied himself, and gestured vaguely.
"If they aren't dead and you can get to them, bring them the fuel and the lantern. They can figure it out from there." He backed up and turned back to the fight at hand, grasping his spear. The fight was creeping upon its conclusion; in the fighting he'd missed, more of the centaur had been driven away, and now a large force of skaven occupied themselves with trying to scale the mighty Ent's legs. Most of them failed, several were being crushed, and those that made it aboard had no idea how to injure the creature while on board. A few stragglers got higher and higher, only to be knocked down to earth by the creature shaking, or swiping at them. Vance was beginning to feel sick, just smelling and seeing the broken bodies everywhere.
It was a telltale sign of what awaited the Skaven, and Lars, if they insisted on trying to worm their way through the rest of the woods.
Vance made his way over to the Boss-Rat, who was still alive, but occupying himself with bullying his underlings.
"Coward-rats! Weak!" He berated them repeatedly. He tossed one into the woods, just for the hell of it. He heard Vance approaching, and turned to sniff at him, suspiciously.
"Ah, the man-thing." He grumbled, turning to face the haggard old guard. "Why are rats dying for wander-men, anyway?"
The Boss-Rat talked as though he was perennially speaking around a mouthful of old flesh, or a wad of fat, and it made the guard want to recoil in disgust. He balled up his fists, and turned, to look at the Ent. It was busy crushing other Skaven.
"We're here to help." He put simply. "Do you know how to set this thing on fire?"
"Is not dead-tree, stupid-man." It scoffed. "Walking-trees, harder to burn." He paused, and added craftily, looking up at it. "Maybe not impossible to burn. Rats need fire, however, and wet-rats have no fire."
"I'm trying to solve that." Vance replied stiffly, pressing the Boss-Rat further. It snorted, and spat out a wad of blood, into the filth that was the ground.
"You fire-find, then rats can tree-burn." He brushed off Vance's further attempts at communication. Annoyed, he turned back towards the fight to observe the Ent stepping down on a group of rats, crushing them underfoot. He grimaced at the way their screams turned into gurgles, then faded to nothingness.
Lars continued to scour the ground, as Vance demanded, searching for the lantern fuel. He'd found an intact lantern already, thankfully, but with boxes smashed and scatted to the winds, it proved difficult to find what he was looking for. Worse still, water clung to his clothes and mud sullied his pants and his heart was racing and his lungs burned and everything was going to hell, as each second he couldn't find the fuel the Ent was going to kill even more of the Skaven and--
He stopped what he was doing to give an animalistic, frustrated scream at the sky, releasing his pent-up terror and annoyance and anger in a primal noise that was ultimately lost under the thunder and rain. It helped, but it wasn't enough to alleviate the tension he felt in his body, and he punched the mud at his feet in frustration. Damn it all! This was going so poorly, he was losing dozens upon dozens of potential customers, and to make things worse, he couldn't do anything to help them! He wished, in that moment, that he still had the sword that Xylex had given him, even if only to swing it in manic frustration at the Ent. He wanted to do something, anything to make things better, and instead he was standing in the filth and mire, playing in a pool of blood, looking for a fuel canteen.
He was losing his temper, giving in to hysteria wasn't much further off. He took a deep breath, and tried to focus, tried to relax. He couldn't help anyone if he didn't find what they needed. He stood up, and took several more deep breaths, looking around the debris for what he needed. The majority of it was scattered to shit, and he doubted he'd have much of a chance to search further down the road right now. Lightning crashed overhead, and he looked around for inspiration. Relief struck him then, as he spotted the fuel. It rested, almost neatly in its crate, against a tree, a mere few feet inside of the forest. He took a step towards it, but then recalled why the woods were so dangerous. Would going that deep into the woods yield any dangerous results? Could he, possibly, grab the fuel and get back out before anything bad happened? He looked at it for a good long minute. Behind him, more cries of death, as the tree spirit slammed another cluster of Skaven into a fleshy pulp. He needed to grab the fuel. He had to.
He braced himself, and hurled himself into the woods as fast as possible. Trees swept past, he leapt over upturned roots and evaded trunks and their low-lying branches. He didn't stop at the fuel alone, and as soon as he clutched it in his hands, he turned back around and ran out of the woods at another angle, bursting into the clearing again. Uncertainty and hysterics crept through his mind as he raced to figure out what being in the woods had cost him. He paused, trying to remember what he'd forgotten, but the familiar weight of the large, glass jar in his hands forced him to the present.
Xylex was nearby, dodging arrows and trying to do...something. Lars sprinted over, calling for him. Once he had the wolfman's attention, he handed him the jar.
"This is the accelerant for the lantern...." He explained through strained breaths. "Vance told me to give it to someone competent and alive. Said we could use it."
The bottle of fuel was heavy and large, and contained a fair amount of fuel, enough for several lanterns, even. It was hydrophobic, and fire burning upon it would persist, even in the presence of water. The hole blasted in the Ent went deep, perhaps even to the heartwood of the creature. If Xylex, or indeed anyone else, could get the accelerant inside, and set it ablaze, the tree could potentially burn up from the inside.
It took another heavy swing at the ratment, and scattered another six or so. Time was wasting.