Enid sighed as she stretched out her aching spine. She'd been on her feet for almost two days and she just wasn't as young as she used to be. If this catastrophe had occurred twenty years ago, she'd have been in much better shape for one, and Derrion would have still been with her.
Her heart panged as she thought of her departed husband. The memory of him still ached and she tried to avoid thinking of him too often. You could only prick your finger on a thorn so many times before you learn to stop poking.
She'd thought that with the disaster that had befallen her nation, and the hectic days that had followed, she wouldn't think of him much as she'd be occupied. And she had been occupied, to an absurd degree. Enid wasn't certain that even at the height of her trading enterprise that she'd ever worked this much. Despite the lack of rest, the endless list of problems that people insisted on dropping on her table, she found herself thinking of Derrion more and more.
He would have been the perfect person to lead these people.
His slow, warm smile, his quiet strength and the short cut hair that he never bothered to take of that hung in his eyes. Even as he aged he'd never lost his affable nature, able to talk to the powerful and the poor in exactly the same way with nobody taking offense.
A legend with the sword, able to unlock a rare class after years of training and delving, he'd achieved a level of skill that Liria had perhaps not seen since its founding. In this situation, his strength, his confidence and his compassion would have seen these people through, Enid had no doubt about that.
But they didn't have Derrion Ruther, the legendary sword demon, they had Enid Ruther, the merchant, and she was doing the best she could.
Straightening up, Enid spotted a figure in dark leathers at the end of the street and quickly called out.
"Morrelia! Are you back!"
In answer to her call a hand was raised and soon the too serious face of the mercenary came into view.
"Enid, how are you holding up?" Morrelia greeted the older woman gruffly.
Enid tried and failed to keep a scowl off her face. Old she may be but she hated when the younger folk treated her as if she were made of porcelain. She'd been running trade caravans north to the Iron Kingdom before they'd even been born!
"I'm fine" she snapped, then sighed. "Sorry Morrelia, I'm a bit tired, but I'm fine."
The mercenary just grunted and leaned against the wall next to her.
"You're holding up better than I am then, I'm absolutely exhausted. I swear you're made of something different, mana infused bones or something. How are you still going?"
"Someone's gotta" Enid said simply, "it may as well be me. Maybe what they say is true and people get wiser as they get older. In that case I'd be the wisest person about town."
"I could drink to that" she groaned as she straightened up, "if we had any time. Have you seen Beyn? He was supposed to organise the next group heading to the Dungeon and it's time to be going."
"You only just got back!" Enid protested, "aren't you the one pushing yourself too hard?"
If there was one person pushing themselves harder than Enid was, it was Morrelia. Whilst Enid had been working non-stop, all she had to do was organise people, make decisions and calm tensions. The young mercenary had been fighting with the risk of death hanging over her head as she led the inexperienced villagers into the teeth of the Dungeon. During a wave no less!
Morrelia could see the look on Enid's face and shrugged.
"It's not as bad as all that. The monsters are low level and to be honest, these villagers are as determined and disciplined as any Legion recruit I've seen."
The older woman nodded slowly. It was true. The people who had washed up in the village from destruction of Liria had proven to be resilient and driven to an almost absurd degree.
"Let's go and find Beyn, I think I know where he'll be."
The two of them set off through the village, frequently having stop as Enid shared an encouraging word with the people she came across. The smiths were still working hard, pounding the metal that had been dug up by workers three kilometres from the village and smelted at a facility they'd completed not a week ago.
The two of them found Beyn where Enid had suspected he would be. He'd recently asked Enid and other senior members to allocate a parcel of land close to the center of their planned town to him, supposedly for the church.
The only question Enid had in her mind was, what exactly he was planning on worshipping?
She had a fair idea she knew the answer but she hadn't felt brave enough to ask yet.
The one armed priest had a small crowd around him, Enid recognised them as the next group to head to the Dungeon. They each had their heads bowed in reverent prayer as Beyn spoke to them.
"… the spirit of the Great One watch over you and encourage you to embrace the creed of his kind. Selflessness, cooperation and unrelenting, unwavering faith. With these virtues as our cornerstone we shall fear no danger, overcome all obstacles and conquer all foes! What say you, brothers and sisters?"
"Aye!" they answered his call passionately.
"When we are beneath the ground, and the foe presses on us from all sides, remember our creed! Remember that your brother and sisters are with you! Do not falter, be not afraid! We will rise as a collective or fall as independent creatures. Will you be able to cast aside your ego and unite?"
"Aye!" came the response.
Enid was confused. What was going on here?
The two women watched as Beyn completed his service before he walked over to join them.
"Did I hear correctly, priest?" Morrelia asked quietly, "did you say that you would be joining us in the Dungeon?"
His face a mask of peace and serenity, Beyn nodded.
"Indeed, I have decided that I should join with my brothers and sisters and experience the peril of the Dungeon alongside them."
"What is happening here, Beyn?" Enid demanded, "you know that you have no business being in the Dungeon!"
The priest simply smiled. His expression was calm, but flickering light burned in his eyes.
"I've said it all along Enid Ruther. I've been clear from the beginning, in fact. What is happening here?" he waved a hand at the buildings and hardworking people around inhabiting them, "the world is changing, right here and now. We need all embrace the new order, I shall support our people until it is so."