It takes several more hours of hard travel before we make it to the first group of building we've seen on our journey. A small cluster of farmhouses built close to each other, a family holding perhaps or a collection of folks gathering together for protection and company.
We spot the buildings a long way out. The tall, pointed roofs of the barns poked themselves above the tree line letting us know well in advance we were close to our destination. But even from a distance we could the damage that had been done. Jagged edges ran down the side of the barn were smooth lines were expected, open holes in the thatch work and the lack of smoke from the chimneys spoke to what we could expect to find when we arrived.
I hardened my heart and continued to run forward. I couldn't help but glance toward Morrelia the closer we got. Her eyes were tight with emotion, whether worry or anger I couldn't be sure. I hope she doesn't get too angry when we get there. Going on an anti-monster rampage might be understandable when surveying their wreckage, but in her present company it might make things a little awkward.
Our steps were inevitable and it didn't take long to close in on the buildings, their condition exactly what I had imagined it would be. Crumbled walls, smashed doors, claw marks on the ground, the stones, the trees … claw marks pretty much everywhere.
It was obvious that monsters had run through here, destroyed this small settlement and moved on. The most unfortunate thing were the clear signs of a struggle. A twisted pitchfork lay on the ground between two sturdy tables that had been braced against the door of the largest stone house. To one side I noticed an old, rusted sword, snapped in half. On closer inspection, the indentations of powerful teeth could be seen on the blade, a sign of where a creature had bitten the sword to pieces.
It was horrible to imagine, a group of farmers, gathering together to try and hold of a swarm of creatures from the Dungeon below, something they didn't know much about, something they would never have expected to see. How would they have felt during that final struggle?
Most chilling of all is the complete lack of any sign of the people who had fought here. No remains for burial, no torn limbs, not even a blood stain.
As if a monster would ever leave Biomass behind.
Crawling over the buildings, up the walls and over the shattered ceilings, hit me hard. This was what the refugees were fleeing from, this was the fate of the thousands, tens of thousands of people who hadn't made it out. Perhaps they hadn't heard in time, perhaps they'd underestimated the danger, perhaps they just didn't believe it could happen. Whatever the reason, it had cost them dearly.
Against my will, horrible visions of returning the nest, only to find it destroyed and despoiled fill my mind. My siblings vanished, eaten by our hated foes, the Queen, my mother in this life, left a lifeless shell in her royal chamber. All signs of the brood would be gone, no eggs, no fat, squiggly larvae, no future for my kind at all.
Terrible! Unforgiveable! I would be heart broken, filled with anguish and rage should such a thing come to pass!
Which is exactly why I'm avoiding Morrelia….
The leather clad berserker stomped around the sight, her tension rose with sign of futile combat we uncovered. Her fists clenched and her neck muscles grew taught until I was concerned her head would snap off from sheer pressure.
Even Tiny can see it and despite his normal, fight happy attitude, he doesn't appear to want to draw the attention of the dark haired warrior right now. I suspect he just doesn't want to be a punching bag since he's able to recognise that Morrelia is an ally and he wouldn’t be able to fight back.
Finally, unable to restrain her anger any longer, Morrelia exploded with a guttural roar of fury and smashed one backhanded fist into a barn wall. For moment the only sound is the echo of her rage as she stood, breathing deep, before the barn wall collapsed, crashing into the ground and bringing the roof down with it.
After a few more moments to gather her thoughts, Morrelia started looking about and I had a sinking feeling she was looking for me. Sure enough, she managed to spot me in my totally obvious resting place behind the chimney of another building. After waving to indicate I should join her on the ground level, she taps one finger to forehead, a frown creasing her face.
Not very patient are you?! Sorry if I can't wave the mystical fibres of this world into a universal translating mind joining bridge of sparkling complexity that would put a hundred spider webs to abject shame!
The nice thing about having multiple minds is that I can quite comfortably weave my spells whilst complaining internally, plenty of spare brain power to go around.
[You ok over there?] was my tentative opening line.
My concern only served to upgrade her frown into a glare.
[I'm. Fine. I want to move on, find some monsters to kill.]
[Of course we would have to move to find those, since, there sure isn't any of them here! Ha! Ha! Haaaa.]
Please don't berserk and kill me crazy lady.
Morrelia only snorted at my words.
[Where are we going?]
[Well] I wondered, [I suppose we keep heading north, find the nearest town. If we come across any fresh looking monster tracks, we could follow them, try to track down any bands of wandering beasties. Are you good at tracking?]
I'm sure not.
[I'm a fair tracker] Morrelia assured me. [Let's get going. I don't want to stick around here any longer.]
Leaving the depressing ruined farm buildings behind we continue on our scouting mission, three monsters and one human berserker. Our steady pace ate away at the distance as we moved further away from our allies and deeper into unknown territory.
The ant trails were starting to go cold this far out from the colony, the scouts unwilling to travel too far from the nest, which is only fair enough. Morrelia seemed to have an excellent idea of the lay of the land in what used to be southern Liria, so she guided us toward the closest town. Hopefully what we find there isn't the same as what we just left behind, but on a larger scale.