Alli remained hidden inside her shadows as the woman came to a stop in front of the duo.
“We came to retrieve some equipment. We didn’t realize that there were people living here.”
She looked them over and then turned to the gathering crowd of people behind her. “If you have food and water for us, then I can probably show you where whatever you are looking for is located.”
“You aren’t going to try to stop us?” Kira asked curiously, letting her hammer reform into a bracelet around her wrist.
The woman smirked deprecatingly, “If you are strong enough to make it here from somewhere else, then you are probably stronger than any of us. Not to mention what your weapon just did is beyond anything we have. You could obviously take whatever you wanted without us presenting much of an obstacle.”
“Well, you’re not wrong,” Charles said, calling to Alli at the same time. She stepped out of the shadows next to them, scaring the woman and the people behind her at the same time. “Luckily for you, that is not how we normally do things, at least not for people that seem to be nice and not utter trash.”
“There are plenty of those around,” She agreed as he pulled out a green town creation gem from his inventory.
“I think we can do better than just giving you some food and water that would only last a day or two.” He held up the glittering gem for her to see. “If you can show me where the middle of the base is, I can use this to create a system enforced town here.” He held up a hand as she opened her mouth. “I’ll explain what that means in a moment, but what you need to know is that it means safety and food for the people here.”
She looked skeptical at his words, but a spark of undeniable hope had been lit in the depths of her eyes. “I can certainly show you the spot, but you should know that two separate groups of monsters have claimed the area around it. They uh, well, the smaller green monsters seem to be in charge, but they work together.”
Charles felt his brows rise in surprise that was new. The only time he had seen the monsters working together before was when an enemy champion was leading them. He didn’t think that was the case here; besides, it had been a while since anything happened with the champions. It almost felt like a pointless title for the most part.
Disregarding his useless thoughts, he moved to the side of the entryway and motioned for her to take the lead. “You show us where, and we’ll take care of any monsters that appear. Out of curiosity though, how come we didn’t see more footprints in the snow?”
She sighed softly, keeping a careful eye on the three of them. “Most of the people that you see here only worked on the base before this happened. There are only a few of us that were in the military still alive today. Most gave their lives protecting the people back there.” A trace of bitterness at the losses they had suffered crept into her voice. “Only one of us goes out at time now, the rest stay and guard the civilians.”
Kira snorted at that, her breath pluming in the cold air. “There are no civilians these days, there are only those who are willing to fight to survive and the parasites.” The venom in her voice no doubt shocked Alli, whose head swiveled to look at her.
“This will not be the first town we will have created,” Charles explained before they could say anything in response to her. “We have come across a few places, where the people have done nothing but depend on others. A couple of them involved the people unwilling to fight or go out scavenging, straight up pressuring the few that were to do more. The town will stop that for the most part, if you want to live in it then you will have to contribute. It is one of the basic tenets they operate by. If you don’t without a good reason like injury, then the town will refuse you access to its resources.”
“What happened at those towns?” Alli asked, shocking the woman escorting them.
“She can talk?”
“Yes, Alli is rather special that way. To answer the question though, the people at those places foolishly agreed to the town rules and were then promptly kicked out. Last I heard from Krystal, a few of them had managed to become probationary members. Which apparently comes with some hefty restrictions that they have to live by until it is decided by a town council that they can become full citizens of the town.”
“Mom supposedly has to sit in on each of those,” Kira had never been the most patient or empathetic person, and while she had been making progress before, she had started to backslide recently. Charles was hoping that Alli might be able to curb that in some fashion. In many ways the once-husky was better than either of them.
“I can’t wait to see how the town has grown,” Alli told them happily, ignoring everything else they had said.
Charles and Kira shared a quick, concerned glance at the out of character response. She hadn’t expressed concern for the people or even asked about the ones she knew.
The woman ignored their back-and-forth banter, slowing as they neared the middle of the base. She motioned for them to be quiet, pointing to the large dark building in front of them.
Spread out in a loose circle around the building were the kobolds she had been talking about. Standing beside the larger lizards were the much smaller forms of the goblins. Each guard standing at attention held a knife of some kind, which was normal for the goblins but less so for the kobolds.
Though that was another thing that had begun to change within the last month. The monsters, which had originally been aggressive and intent on attacking everything, had become less so.
They still attacked, though now it was only when they had greater numbers than the other side. The weapons that they had used had also begun to change at the same time. The knives that they had begun to associate with the goblins became smaller, thinner, and more homemade-looking. Honestly, it looked as though they were making them now instead of however they were getting them before.
The group held back and watched what should have been two warring groups. Instead, they were working together to guard a group of workers stacking blocks of broken concrete. They were creating a wall around the building the soldier at their side had pointed to.
Strictly speaking, there was no reason he needed to use the gem inside that building. It was simply a location that would have allowed them to collect the most equipment with the least amount of fuss.
Now though, Charles was curious as to what they were doing. This was a chance for them to learn why the monsters had been changing, and with Alli’s ability to telepathically communicate she might be able to talk to them.
Few of them were able to speak the human languages. In fact, the only ones he had come across that could had been champions.
“What do you think Alli, do you want to try talking to them before we attack them?” Two heads swiveled and stared at him. The seemingly inane question throwing off Alli and the hard-faced woman beside them.
“Why would you want to talk to them?” Alli asked in confusion, a question repeated by the woman a beat later.
Abruptly he was reminded that they hadn’t had time to explain the changes that had occurred to her. She was still thinking of the world as it had been months before.
Kira snorted at his expression, and reached for his hand, casually giving it a quick squeeze. It was an action that she never would have done before, but now she was able to do it almost without thinking. Not that she was able to do much more than that. Her old hang-ups and trauma’s would rear their head at the strangest of times. Together they worked through them, but it made for slow progress on the physical side of their relationship. The emotional and trusting side, on the other hand, was far stronger. It was what they would depend on to see them through the hard times.
“The monsters have begun to change; they now act more like tribes of semi-intelligent beings than the berserkers they were before.” She pointed to the workers being guarded by two different species. “They never would have worked together in the beginning; they wouldn’t have worked at all. It was all about killing with them.”
Alli looked at the scene again, her intelligent eyes quickly taking in the new information and using it to reach her own conclusions. “What are the gods up to?”
Charles shrugged, “No idea. We haven’t heard anything from them since the night you were taken. All we have had to go on was a few messages Kate and Beth got from inside the tower back in town. Apparently, Gaia has taken control from them and is now running everything.”