Beyn found the new arrivals huddled under a tree towards the edge of the village. Refugees, fleeing the continuing destruction of the kingdom to the north arrived nearly every day. Sometimes in small groups of three or four, other times a collection of families, farmers usually, fleeing their holdings. Twice they had received a more significant number, over fifty in each, people feeling their town, moving together for safety.
There were almost two thousand people here now, and more trickling in over time. Enid was run off her feet trying to keep everyone housed, clothed and fed but she did good work. Her high level in the merchant class made it so organising provisions and acquiring goods happened as she breathed.
Beyn smiled to think of it. It felt as if everyone was falling into place as they were needed, at just the time their absence was most felt. Builders and carpenters had arrived two days ago, just in time to employ their skills and levels in the construction of more permanent housing. When they ran out of materials, the very next day blacksmith arrived, his equipment stacked on a cart pulled by an exhausted nag and watched by his young apprentice.
The priest had gathered the people and given praise for an hour, shouting and raising such a racket that the blacksmith might have turned his cart around and taken off if Enid hadn’t appeared and clapped a hand over Beyn’s mouth.
He shook his head at the memory as he approached the dusty group of travellers. He got carried away sometimes, he knew it. The passion, the faith that blazed inside of him felt so powerful that he struggled to contain it. The Great One, a divine miracle, had appeared to lead the people in their time of trial.
How was he supposed to NOT talk about it?!
Even now, the blacksmith was running out materials he could melt down and turn into nails. Many a wagon axle had been sacrificed to erect housing. No sooner did the need arrive than members of the community stepped forward and began prospecting in the nearby woods. Beyn had every faith they would find ore nearby. He felt it in his bones. Provision would come.
“Welcome travellers to our humble sanctuary” he greeted them warmly, “please be at ease, you are safe here and among friends.”
Before him sat five travel worn individuals. Enid has told him there was something odd about this group and on first inspection, Beyn had to agree.
It wasn’t the way they half sat, half squatted in the shade of the tree, resting yet alert. It also wasn’t that they wore leather armour and had blades on their hips. It was their eyes, hard, cold, and perhaps a little angry. They were mad about something, Beyn had no idea what.
He wasn’t phased though. It would take a lot more than a hard stare to wipe the calm smile of his face.
After a moment four of the strangers turned to eye one of their number. The thickset woman nodded shortly and stood. Beyn turned his peaceful expression towards this person, apparently the leader of this group and took in her features.
She looked strong. Not only that, powerful. Her shoulders were broad, her arms thick and her jaw looked like you could cut bread with it. A strong, calloused hand rose and rested on the hilt of her blade as she extended the other towards the priest in greeting.
“I am Morrelia. My group have been fighting monsters in this area for several months. We saw smoke from a few kilometres west of here and came to investigate”, she gestures towards the bustling people in the village with one hand, “I didn’t expect to see …. This? What has happened to the north?”
The smile finally slips a little on Beyn’s face. They haven’t heard of the trouble, of the kingdom in ashes, trampled into the dirt under the feet of Dungeon monsters.
Taking a deep breath, he tells them. Their faces go pale and their eyes wide with shock as he describes to them the horror that has occurred.
“… we are all refugees here Ms Morrelia. I led the people of my village here and in the weeks that have followed more have arrived with the same tale. It is a difficult time.”
Morrelia scrubs one hand across her forehead, still struggling to process what she has heard.
“Monsters on the surface? Are they attacking out of the Dungeon? It makes no sense! My Father… what of the Legion? They surely wouldn’t allow such a thing to take place! What has happened to them?”
Beyn can only shake his head. “I have no idea Ms Morrelia. I am only a humble preacher who has followed in the steps of our saviours, led by the Great One. Here we have found a place of security, for the time being.”
Confused, the young lady and Beyn has realised that she is quite young, turns back to her people for a moment and they shrug.
“Saviour? Great One? Is there some leader here? A Lord or Lady with a strong class?: she asks, turning back to the priest.
His smile returns at full beam, blasting these guest directly in their eye holes. There is nothing he would like to talk about more!
“Yes! The Great One and our saviours! From the Dungeon itself, they rose amongst us and did not do us harm! Instead, they had protected us, saved the city of Liria before its subsequent fall and then led us here to safety. We would be dead without them, and so we give thanks!” he shouts fervently.
“Give thanks!” nearby villagers echo his shout and raise their hands towards the ant hill in the distance.
Wide-eyed, Morrelia looks from the suddenly, extremely animated priest towards the villagers and back.
What the heck is happening here? She wonders.
“Just who is the great one? And your saviours? Some delving team?”
“No!” Beyn yells, full of the wonder of this miracle. He leans close towards his audience, his face only inches away from hers, his eyes afire with faith.
“They are monsters!”
A leather gloved fist crunches his nose before he says another word.
The following melee was short and thankfully deathless. When the people saw their beloved priest go down bleeding the refugees were incensed. Full of wrath they descended upon the five strangers, punching and kicking in a frenzy. The new arrivals were no slouches, their skills put on full display as they fended off the angry mob with fists and movement skills until Enid had arrived on the scene and shouted everyone down.
“How can you be sure you are safe from them?” Morrelia demanded, not for the first time.
Enid sighed once again. These people were exhausting, and she had a list of jobs as long as her arm that needed to get done. Instead, she was here trying to talk to one of the most stubborn people she had ever met.
She raised her hands from the crude wooden table in front of her to rub her temples and try to soothe her building headache. They were seated inside one of the few completed buildings, used by Enid and her helpers to try and
“We are safe here. The ants have protected us numerous times. I’m surprised you didn’t run into them if you were out there”, Enid gestured in the general direction of the woods, “they’ve been in and out of there killing the surface monsters for weeks.”
The young woman before her shifted uncomfortably.
“We had noticed that the pressure from the surface monsters had decreased lately. We thought we might have finally been having an impact on their numbers.”
“You’ve been trying to reduce the monster population here? Just the five of you?” Enid asked incredulously.
Morrelia turned her head to one side. “Fighting monsters is kind of my family business, and I’m damned good at it”, she brought her forceful stare back towards Enid, “and I don’t trust them. Dungeon monsters are killers, always have been. You want me to believe a colony of monstrous ants is peaceful? It’s insane!”
Enid readily nodded. “Yet it’s true. Their nest is right over there. You can see it from the edge of the village boundary. We are unharmed. Not only that, the monsters have provided wood and materials to the village to help us establish housing. I witnessed one of the ants fight to repel invaders from Liria. I have SPOKEN with their leader, using mind magic. They mean us no harm.”
If Morrelia was shocked before, she was gobsmacked now.
“You’ve spoken… With a MONSTER?! You could have been bewitched! If it can use mind magic it could have twisted your thoughts!” she exclaimed.
“I am extremely confident that is not the case” Enid denied firmly.
The younger woman stared, unable to believe what she was hearing.
“They’re monsters,” she said, “they kill people. They always kill people. How can you trust them?”
Enid could only shake her head. “They have proven to be trustworthy, so we trust them,” she said definitively, ” while you are here, you must respect the rules. If you cross the boundary and are attacked by the ants, you will defend yourselves, and the villagers will not take kindly to any casualties amongst their protectors. If you cannot accept this, then I suggest you leave.”
“What about this leader ant? Can I speak to it?” Morrelia asked suddenly.
“It’s gone into the Dungeon for a while” Enid replied warily, “I’m not exactly sure when it will be back. It isn’t particularly talkative, but you could try for an audience.”
The warrior rested one hand on the pommel of her sword.
“I think I shall.”