chapter 223 – new growth

Beyn was a Priest and he was proud of that class. He had worked hard in the seminary, his faith blazing with an admirable glow, such that he had earned promotion and placement into a small village at a young age.

He still thought back on his time at the college, within the Path Sanctuary in Luxon. A mighty citadel filled with learning, preaching and the contemplation of the Path. He’d been happy there, tearing through scripts and sitting at the knee of his teachers, absorbing their wisdom and delighting in his deepening knowledge of the System and the way in which it improved the lives of all peoples.

Respect was due to the System, reverence also! It was omniscient, it was omnipresent and it had saved all of the civilised peoples of the world from certain destruction. It had shown them the Path to salvation!

That is what Beyn had firmly believed his entire life.

Looking around the dusty people surrounding him now, it was hard to comprehend just how he had come to be here.

Such wondrous happenings, such revelatory events, they defied understanding, let alone explanation. If he were to take his lessons, relate his experiences to his old teachers he didn’t doubt that he would turned over the Seekers for questioning. Perhaps he would even be purged. Yet he could not deny the evidence of his eyes, nor the wellspring of hope that had erupted in his heart.

He had paid for his newfound belief with an arm, but it had been so worth it.

The evidence was all around him. The System had chosen to present its aid, its benevolence, through an entirely unexpected medium. Monsters! Ants from the Dungeon! It seemed preposterous, yet wasn’t it said, “The ways of the System are unknowable by mortal mind”?

Truly none would have expected this turn of events!

“Priest Beyn” he was greeted by a passer by.

“Good Morning. May the Path be clear before you and our saviours clack their mandibles with blessing upon you.”

The person smiled and nodded, their eyes flicking towards the direction of the colonies great mound, barely visible now from this place, before moving on. Indeed, the ants had done so much for these people and Beyn intended to be sure that they were properly grateful. The monsters infesting the nearby woods had been nearly eradicated by the tireless workers, wood had been provided that was now being made into houses, fencing and other such structures. Crude farms were being erected in order to secure a food supply for the near future and as more people came south, fleeing the violence that continued to ravage the surface, so too did the needs of the community grow.

He moved amongst the burgeoning village now, smiling, giving blessings to those who approached him. An encouraging word here, a smile or a nod there, a hug and compassionate prayer for those in distress. Beyn moved amongst his people and did his utmost to buoy their spirits so that they might take advantage of this wondrous blessing that had befallen them.

A sanctuary in such troubled times, protection, given by the System itself in the form of their ant guardians.

Suddenly inspired, Beyn stopped in place and raised is one hand to the sky and began to speak, his [Expert Preaching level 9] causing his voice to soar over the din of the village.

“Let us give thanks, O travellers! O weary folk of a fallen kingdom!” he cried.

The refugees were accustomed to his frequent outbursts of preaching, they were not surprised to hear his sudden oration. Compelled by his powerful voice, they turned to listen as they had many times before.

“We have suffered much. The pain of loss, the heartache of our destroyed homes. Monsters have risen to the surface in a way that hasn’t been seen for thousands of years!”

A ripple passed through the people at his words and the crowd slowly began to coalesce around the crippled priest. Monster pouring out of the Dungeon was the stuff of nightmares, a forgotten legend, that they had witnessed with their own eyes.

“And yet, the Path is never straight, the path is never clear before our feet. It is not for us to decide the way, but for the System! We have been delivered from Monsters, by Monsters! Our insect saviours, led by the Great One, have defended us, provided for us and granted us sanctuary in these times of fear and death.”

Beyn could see the faces of his audience. As an expert level Preacher, he was able to read the mood of the crowd, sense the ebb and flow of emotion as his words were absorbed by the crowd. These people were grateful. These people were awed. More importantly, these people believed.

There was a veneration in their eyes as he spoke of the Great One. They’d seen it for themselves. The creature had come right to the village, standing so unnaturally still, and communed with one of them.

Beyn wondered if the Great One had any idea how strange such an action was to the people here. To see a feared Dungeon Monster in the flesh, so close. For it not to harm them, but to SPEAK to them? Provide them with food? With wood?

Unheard of.

Only allowed on

It was unprecedented, it was unnatural. To Beyn, it was a sign of the Divine.

“A MIRACLE has occurred here!” he roared, “the Great One is a MIRACLE. Sent to grant us succour in our time of most dire need! The monsters rise, friends! They rise but they shall be defeated! Our guardians shall overcome them. They shall roll back the tides of darkness that sweep over the lands and we shall be saved!”

People cheered at his words now, raising their hands towards the ant hill and bowing as Beyn built towards a thunderous crescendo.

“Be glad, friends! Make a nest of gratitude in your heart and let the workers of your soul build a tunnel to praise! The Great One has shown care for you. Do not allow despair to overwhelm you! Ensure that the directions of our saviour are met! Be vigilant and educate any newcomers as to the ways of the colony! We must seek to emulate our saviours in our unity of purpose! Only then will we be worthy of the blessings rained upon us. That is our Path!”

The people cheered, clasped their hands and bowed towards Beyn and towards the ant hill. Some were overcome with emotion, unsurprising considering what they had been through, and fell to their knees.

Beyn ceased his preaching and began to move amongst the people again as they turned and resumed their tasks.

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“Do you really need to preach so often Beyn?” a weary voice asks from behind him, Enid.

The priest turned to face the de facto leader of this community. The elder of the village was looking careworn, her expression tired. However, in her eyes a small light burned dimly.

She worked tirelessly for these people, caring for them, struggling to meet the material needs of the people even as Beyn worked to provide nourishment to their souls.

“I only seek to instil a spirit of gratitude and cooperation in the people Enid, you know that.”

She sighed. “Yes I know that. I just wish you didn’t block the traffic when you did it.”

Enid eyed him  a little warily. “We’ve had some new arrivals today Beyn. I was hoping you could talk to them about the rules here. Make sure they don’t cross any boundaries. This group seems a little … different.”

Beyns face lit up with enthusiasm. “I’d love to!” he smiled.

“Don’t preach at them Beyn. Just talk to them.”


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