Kaga was rudely awakened when she heard loud bangings and frightened cries coming from outside the shared living quarters. She rolled off the wooden pallet and spied out the cracks of the wall panels. She saw several of the helpers that provided food to the people were holding burning torches and gathered at the main gate which someone or something was banging loudly at.
"What's happening?" Someone asked in the room as the people sleeping inside were waking up by the dim outside. "I don't know!"
The banging grew louder and yells and shouts could be heard coming from the gate, before it burst open, swinging creakily on the rusty hinges. Gasps were heard from the helpers who brandished their flaming torches at the intruders who barged in.
Kaga's eyes widened in fear as she thought that the Empire soldiers had come to arrest them and take them back to slavery. The others having the same thoughts panicked and started to flee out of the buildings, hoping to escape the Empire soldiers.
But she saw only several dark figures at the gate who entered and closed the gate before the firelight lit up their features and they do not dressed like any Empire soldier. One of them was even carrying a child on his back.
She walked out of the building and came up close until she could hear what the housekeeper and the newly arrived men were talking about.
"- move now!" The foremost scruffy looking male spoke sharply at the housekeeper, who face was turning pale at the bloodthirsty sight of his eyes. "There is no time, gather all the people and load up the supplies as fast as possible, we need to leave now!"
"But.. but!" The housekeeper sputtered, trying to reason with the tall scary looking man. "We do not have enough wagons! And some are still sick! Nor are the adventurers escorting them here! It is suicidal to go out there!"
"The Empire is coming!" The man angrily hissed, "If you stay any longer, everyone dies!"
The housekeeper paused at the man's angry words, "They know...? Oh, the heavens! Quick!" He turned around and gestured wildly at his helpers, "Wake them all up and get whoever is able bodied to help load the supplies into the wagons we have now! And hitch the dragons up to wagons too!"
The helpers hearing that quickly dispersed and started to call out the people still indoors and also rounded up those that went hiding away. Kaga watched as the leader of the fierce-looking group sat down at one of the outdoor benches and the rest of his party gathered around him.
Soon the whole yard was a hive of activity as workers and the ex slaves started to carry and hoist sacks of food and barrels of water onto the wagons while other harnessed the land dragons in the stables and led the sleepy beasts to be hitched onto the wagons. The word had spread that the Empire will be coming soon lit a fire under the ex slaves, who worked without complaint and rest, and soon everything that could be loaded up was done.
The weak and sick were placed on the remaining empty spaces onboard the wagons while the rest moved on foot, as they headed out of the yard led by the fierce looking mercenary who brought the news of the Empire's arrival. They hurried along with the wagons, using the dim stars lit sky to light their way as torches or lamps were forbid by the mercenaries, to prevent the Empire soldiers from spotting them, they said.
The camp was so abandoned as the housekeeper and his staff scurried away home, not wanting to be caught when the Empire's soldier came to raid.
Dante stepped out of the shower tub, and carried Evelyn's exhausted body out of the tub, wrapping them both with a dry towel. They have returned to Dante's room for another bout of intense lovemaking before showering.
Dante casually wiped himself dry and dress up, before un-sheathing his greatsword and used its edge to open a cut on his finger. He then used his blood to draw runes on the surface of the greatsword before imbuing it with his magic powers.
Evelyn woke up at some point and watched Dante at his work, only when he was finished did she snuggled up next to him. "How are you feeling?"
"Great!" Dante smiled, "Get dressed, its nearly morning, we will grab some breakfast before we head out."
Evelyn nodded and kissed the side of Dante's face before slipping on her nightgown and exited his room. Dante stood up and gave a few swipes of his sword in the room, making and blood red after image with each swipe, the force of the swipes shaking the room slightly. Finally satisfied, he returned his sword back into the sheath and headed down the inn to find some food.
Stab and Liz were surprised that they were moving out so soon after they arrived at the town. Dante just casually explained that they are hunting a group of adventurers who were holding a child and that the child was in danger.
Liz almost immediately stood up and said, "Evildoers! Bullying and threatening children! We must stop them!" And she almost stormed off, when Stab stopped her by pulling her robes.
"Where do you think you are going?" Stab sighed, he had heard of the commotion that was going on outside during the night when he was having several drinks at a pub a few streets away. He did not think that it was due to Dante trying to save the child and fought against several people and he wasn't victorious. It was almost impossible, thought Stab as he knew that Dante was one of the strongest fighters he ever has seen. "Do you know how to find them in the first place?"
"..." Liz froze and jerked her robes away from Stab before returning to her seat and buried her blushing face into her mug of hot milk. "..."
"Don't worry," Dante smiled and patted Liz's head, her fuzzy red hair standing out without her usual pointed hat. "Evelyn has gotten their scent, she can track them easily."
Evelyn nodded, "As long as it does not rain, I can find their tracks."
"Good, everyone full?" Dante asked, "Alright, let's go!"
After a few hours of tracking and searching, the Hero's party arrived before them a large camp surrounded with wooden palisades and a stout gate. Pushing the gates open, showed the camp had an abandoned feel to it. The party stayed within sight of each other and they checked each and every building, finding it empty and the signs showed it was abandoned in a hurry.
"Looks like everyone left in a hurry," Stab said as he came out of the last building shaking his head. "No one is home."
Dante nodded, as he sat on the bench which Tyrier and Claymore One had sat on a few hours earlier. "Evelyn?"
The Huntress stood braced on top of one of the roofs of the buildings, staring out into the sea of trees surrounding them. "They left that way, at least nine wagons and dragons, almost 300 people." She pointed towards the south.
Next, she gestured down to the tracks on the ground floor from the roof. "You can roughly see how many different sets of feet there and the lines drawn by the wagons."
"I found several sacks of dried rations and some water barrels in the stores," Stab said, as he joined Dante and Liz at the bench. "I think they took what they could and left the rest."
"This group looks quite big, are you sure this is the correct people we are supposed to go after?" Stab asked Evelyn who had nimbly climbed down the side of the building and joined them.
She nodded and indicated to the bench which they were sitting on, "I can smell the same scent which Dante gave me to track them with." She bent down and sniffled the wood, "No doubt about it, it's the same scent!" She rubbed her nose.
"I thought we are going after a small group of people over a child, but this looks like more than that," Stab said, "Could it be some kind of kidnapping racket?"
Dante gave a good natured shrug, "We will know when we find them," He turned to look towards the south, his eyes turning cold.
Southwest of Falledge, Uncharted Forest
Two untidy lines of tired people were walking on the sides of the row dragon pulled wagons. The lines weaved around the massive tree roots and disappeared from view in the forest. Kaga slowly put one put before the other as her healed sores on her feet were started to hurt again after more than half a days travel.
As she rounded a bend, she saw the head of the column had stopped and the people were gathered around a clearing. Her stomach rumbled when she saw some people starting to take out cooking pots from the wagons and remember the last time she ate was dinner the other day.
The people surrounding her saw that the cooking pots were being laid out over cook fires, forgot about their tiredness and pushed themselves faster, flopping down on the green grass when they reached the gathered wagons.
Kaga headed for the water barrel set out with ladles for people to drink and pour a mouthful into her parched throat. The mid-spring weather made the forest humid and hot, making her sweaty and sticky. She wished that there was a river for them to wash up as the water in the barrels were limited and precious.
"Alright, people listen up!" The mercenary from before stood on top of one of the wagons yelled, "I will form every one of you into teams. Each team will be responsible for one aspect of workload, be it cooking, driving the wagons or collecting firewood."
"There are no maids or servants here," Tyrier continued, "Everyone has to play their own parts if we are to survive the trek to safety! After getting fed, I want to start organizing every one of you. Now, drink more water, get some food and rest!"
Kaga nodded, thinking that what he said was right, and headed to one of the cookpots was an ex-slave was stirring some grain porridge with strips of dead meat inside. Several chipped bowls were set to the side and Kaga took one and had the cook serve her up one big bowl of porridge with some chunks of vegetables and strips of dried meat and started feasting.
Tyrier hopped down the wagon and looked worriedly to the rear, where small groups of stragglers were coming in slowly. "Shit, this is not good. We have too many people lagging behind."
Young stood next to Tyrier and said, "If the Hero is chasing her, he should have come by now. I don't think we need to worry much about pursuit now."
"I don't think that S O B will give up so fast," Tyrier said. "There is only seven of us to guard this rubble of over three hundred, we can't be everywhere if they are strung out too far back."
"Hitsu, Loke, and Tavel are acting as the rearguard," Young said, "They should be able to handle anything that comes their way."
"I seriously hope so," Tyrier said grimly.
"Yup, the campfires are still warm," Stab dug his fingers into the soil covered campfires. "I say, half a day ahead of us?"
Dante smiled, "We are getting close." He looked up to the sky, "It will be dark soon, but we should be able to catch up with them before the sun sets."
"Let's go!" Liz waved her staff threatening, "I want my bed! And a shower! I will make those people that forced me out here to suffer!"
Dante laughed and patted Liz's shoulder, "Get them we will! Let's go!"