chapter 182 – rumour has it

[Yes, you] I snap.

Enid immediately stumbles forward until she reaches the side of the still sonorously praising one-armed priest.

I see her concentrate and then her voice appears in my mind.

[Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to communicate with this man?] she indicates the priest, [it was he who led our people to this place].

This priest?! How the heck did he find me?! Does he have some sort of tracking device on me or something?! More likely he was able to follow our trail somehow but the bottom line remains, what the heck are these people here for? They certainly don’t look as they’ve come to fight, judging by the number of women and children in the crowd, not to mention the sheer lack of arms.

Only allowed on
[I will speak to you since I have had dealings with you before. Make it clear to the others I am speaking to you].

I don’t want to talk to that guy. He makes me a nervous.

Enid take a moment to gingerly touch the priest on the shoulder and indicate that I am communicating with her using mind magic. Rather than disappointed, the priests face is overcome with enlightenment and he bows low before me, head nearly touching the ground, before he backs away to speak animatedly to the crowd. Nothing phases this guy…

[Enid. Tell me why these people have followed my family here to the wild lands]

She hesitates a moment before she speaks. [Our homes have been destroyed. After you vanished following the assault on the castle things settled down at first. Many of the villagers wanted to know where you went but we weren’t told anything. Things were calm for a week but then…]

She shivers then, her recollections are apparently still terrifying.

Enid draws a deep breath before focusing her mind once more. [Then the capital caught fire. We could hear the roaring of beasts from our houses and flames reached the so high it was sky was burning. We were terrified, nobody knew what to do. Then monsters burst out of the Dungeon and into the church, dozens of them. Some of the villagers fought for a time but they were never ending. Then the big ones came…]

She pauses for a moment, unable to go on. I’m not as good at reading human expressions as perhaps I was before but she seems overwhelmed with sadness and tears are streaming down her cheeks.

[Giant crocodiles came out. The children of Garralosh. They killed so many… Only thanks to Father Beyn did we survive. He rallied the survivors and organised a retreat. We ran from the town with nothing but what we could carry on our backs or throw onto a few carts. With the capital burning we had nowhere to go].

She gestures to the broken and desperate people behind her. [Without food or supplies, without knowing what was happening we decided to flee south. We heard word of the colony’s passage as we travelled. Father Beyn believed that perhaps you would be able to help us as you had in the past and so we came here looking for you].

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Looking me in the eye I can see she doesn’t hold much hope. Having interacted with me directly and taken part in the deception to save her village from themselves she knows that I am not an altruistic saviour from the Dungeon as the priest believed.

[I just hope that you will let us settle nearby and leave us in peace, that’s all we can ask. If you aren’t willing then you may as well eat us] she says bitterly, [we’ve lost everything and have nowhere else to go].

I don’t think I’ll be eating anyone here, even if I do need Biomass. I’ll be getting that from the Dungeon in short order, I need to prepare myself before the future generation of ant workers is born! This is a critical time for me and the colony! I don’t want any of this crap to interfere with me raising the future workforce!

[Tell your people to go make camp at least one kilometre in that direction] I point with my antennae in front of the shocked woman, [tell Beyn I want him to get them settled make sure they don’t interfere with the workers or approach the nest, he’s in charge. I want you to stick around so I can ask more questions].

Surprised and joyful, Enid passes my words onto the others. The people appear glad to some extent, a little light returns to their dark and dull faces. With a little more energy and spring in their step they turn as Beyn, delirious with joy at being entrusted with this task begins to lead the others across, helping them to their feet and urging them with his persuasive voice.

[Enid, sit there] I point the tired old woman to a nearby stone and she gladly hobbles over to it and sits. I have no idea how she managed the journey at her age, trudging by foot over such a large distance. It was tiring enough for me and I’m a monster!

[What has happened Enid? Tell me what you know].

She shakes her head, grey hair swaying around her ears. [I don’t know much. I think the monsters have invaded the surface. The capital got the worst of it, I can’t imagine any other reason for the whole city to be torched like that. Those poor people…]

There would have been thousands of people trapped inside those walls. It isn’t hard to imagine the chaos that would have occurred.

[I know a little about the Dungeon] Enid continues, [my husband taught me a lot about his work. It isn’t normal for monsters to approach the surface like this. Something strange is happening].

I have no doubt about that. To me, strange stuff has been happening ever since I arrived here, so I’m not too fussed by it.

[You mentioned the Croca-Beasts? I mean the Garralosh Infants? Why bring them up in particular?] [There were a lot of them. More than you would normally expect. You usually only find those things around here when their Mother has been past and lain a clutch of eggs somewhere deep but these ones were young. I have to think they were lain somewhere close to the surface, which would mean…] [Wait a moment] I interrupt, [their Mother?!]

The older woman looks at me somewhat confused. [Of course, didn’t the Queen tell you about Garralosh?] [… not really].

[Garralosh has been around this area, deep in the Dungeon for hundreds of years. A century ago the beast decided to try and raise its own young. Ever since then it’s hateful offspring have filled the Dungeon under Liria].

So all of those damnable Crocs actually DID come from a single parent? Like.. ALL of them? I know how that process works now, unless there is some crazy variant of it. That Garralosh monster would have had to have eaten an absolute mountain of Biomass to produce so many large and complex creatures.

Enid breaks into my thoughts with her mental voice. [I think Garralosh must have risen up in the Dungeon and assaulted the surface. It sounds insane, since something like that hasn’t happened for thousands of years but it’s the only thing I can think of that fits. Just… How? WHY?] [Oh, that’s easy] I say absentmindedly, [the mana level in the Dungeon is still getting higher is all].

First shock, then horror overtake Enid’s face before her eyes roll back in her head and she passes out.

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