Part 4: Henry Lucas
“Do you think that just because you’re the biggest and strongest boy in the village that you can fight off an army by yourself?! Aside from you, who else is there?! All the capable hunters either left with their families during the summer or decided to join those devils!”
Henry’s mother fell down to her knees and started begging “Please! Don’t do this! We can’t stay here! I’ll do anything you want, I’ll never scold you again for as long as I live, but I can’t lose you!”
He reached down with his giant left hand and picked her up by her shoulder, forcing her to stand. She was only a little more than five feet tall, so even when she was standing in front of him, her head barely reached his massive chest. Those huge pectoral muscles had claw marks on them and most of his sweaty skin was incredibly dark, from being out in the sun all summer long.
“Mom, life is precious… But there are many things that are far more important. What good is a life filled with terror and regret? I would rather die fighting, than watch this village burn to the ground. Mom… I’m sorry, but you’re weak. Not just physically either. Almost everyone else I’ve ever met is the same way. They have no faith… Not in God, but in themselves. They’re too used to begging and pleading for salvation, yet they aren’t willing to save themselves! Don’t worry though… Because God is definitely on my side. She helps those who have the courage and tenacity to help themselves!”
After giving that speech, Henry put down the sword on the table to his right and hugged his mother tightly. Of course, she continued panicking and crying all night, but the huge man held firm to his decision.
Henry and Joanna Lucas were the only two people left from the original twelve who escaped to Salmon Creek. The others either died or moved to distant towns and villages, outside the reach of the Rusty Saber Bandits. In fact, the total number of people who were still in the village was less than fifty. Most of which were either unable to leave or were too stubborn to flee.
Although the Rusty Saber Bandits were an extremely small group, there were still hundreds of them. Fortunately, they wouldn’t send their most experienced or skilled warriors to go deal with a tiny village in the middle of the winter. The most dangerous men would stay back, guarding their base and enjoying themselves, while the new recruits would do all the work.
It wasn’t as if they had no enemies either. Although it was unlikely, the Kingdom of Northland could send a battalion to wipe them. There were also the Coldstone Brigands, Northern Mountain Barbarians, roving bands of Dwarven Mercenaries. A single wandering Giant could pass by and annihilate them all. They had been unhindered recently, but there was no guarantee that an accident wouldn’t happen.
All the wealth that they had built up over the past two decades could be stolen away at any moment. That was why they would always keep the majority of their forces back at their base and only send out small hunting parties to steal from weak targets. Salmon Creek Village was their next conquest.
Part 5: An Auspicious Vixen
After Henry managed to convince his mother to calm down, he put on his coat and went outside. That thin greatsword was sheathed across his back and there was a longbow in his right hand, with a quiver on his right hip. He also had a large hunting knife sheathed on his left waist.
Although they had plenty of grains and dried meat saved up, he still preferred to hunt fresh game. He would normally go to the lodge and find a proper group to go with him. Unfortunately, he was the only hunter who hadn’t left.
There were a lot of fishermen, people gathering berries, gathering or cutting firewood, but the many of the villagers were too old to go outside in such a harsh winter. A terrible blizzard passed through a week before then, but it wasn’t snowing anymore.
As Henry was slowly walking through the woods, he saw a pure white fox in the distance. It stared at him with its bright-blue eyes and barked at him a few times, before scampering away. He followed after it, keeping his distance. Although it didn’t have much meat, such a fine pelt would fetch a decent price if he sold it to one of the wandering merchants that passed through town.
The tracks eventually led him to a small burrow. He decided to hide behind a nearby tree and wait for the creature to leave its den. There was no sign of the fox for several hours. He also didn’t see any reindeer, hares or even birds. It was eerily quiet in the dark forest. The stars were shining in the night sky, but the moon was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, a soft and feminine voice echoed within his mind.
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, while a tooth for a tooth causes everyone to starve to death. How many worlds have you blinded so far, Lightbringer?”
He jumped up and looked around, before yelling “Who are you?! What do you want from me?”
When he heard a footstep behind the tree, he jumped backwards and nocked an arrow. However, it was only a young woman from the village. She had blonde hair and blue eyes, with pale white skin that was almost the same color as the dress she was wearing.
A fluffy grey fur hood covered most of her head, but Henry was still able to see her facial features clearly. He quickly stopped aiming his bow at her and asked “Sariel, what are you doing here? Why didn’t you leave with your father?!”
There was smirk on her lips, as she answered “That man wasn’t my father… Merely a slave that I purchased. He worked for several years and I granted him freedom.”
“That still doesn’t explain why you haven’t left! The Rusty Saber Bandits will be attacking us soon… You need to leave now, while you still have a chance! If those bastards catch you they’ll-”
Before Henry could finish speaking, she snickered and interjected “You’re the same as you’ve always been, Lucas… How many times have you died because of revenge? It was never about protecting anyone. You and Iris are always like that. Repeating the same tragedies over and over again. It starts with a vendetta, which leads you to power, then when you finally have something to protect… Karma truly hates the two of you.”
He frowned, yelling “What are you talking about?! Sariel, I’m serious, this isn’t a game! You need to leave!”
That beautiful woman grinned, extending her right hand and revealing a brownish-red chess piece in her right hand. Then she whispered “No, Lucas, that’s where you’re wrong. Life is a game and we’re all the players.”
Part 6: Prophesy
A wooden pawn fell down into the snow, as the woman who had been holding it transformed into a small golden fox and scampered off into the distance. Henry was staring blankly at that ridiculous scene when that soft and feminine voice appeared in his mind again.
“When the Angels of Death appear before you, give this chess piece to them. Whether they decide to fight or flee, follow them. They need you, even more than you need them. Good luck Lucas… Perhaps we’ll meet again.”
Henry reached down and picked up the mysterious wooden totem, then grumbled “I must be going crazy… I need to get home and make sure that Mom isn’t having another mental breakdown.”
That pawn was tucked away into his right coat pocket and he started jogging back home. However, on his way, he managed to find a large grey rabbit. Thus, his hunting trip wasn’t totally fruitless.
Meanwhile, ten miles to the north of Salmon Creek Village, there were two people crawling out of a tiny cavern. The small girl made it through without any problems, but the boy could barely fit. Both of them were wearing fluffy brown fur and leather winter clothing, which covered everything but their eyes.
“Ow~, ugh, damn it Yuri! I told you that this tunnel wouldn’t be big enough!” That young man was obviously Azra King and the woman was his twin sister.
“This is unfortunate… When I measured the size, I didn’t anticipate that your deltoid muscles would become larger. Stop moving for a moment. I will pull you through.” Those thick leather gloves reached out and connected together. Although Yuri’s body was tiny compared to her brother, she was still strong enough to pull him out of the hole in the side of the mountain.
“Shit~! Ah~, I think my left shoulder just popped out of the socket!” He rubbed the fluffy fur that was covering his shoulder and winced in pain.
Yuri reached over and checked on him, but immediately retorted “That is unlikely. You are exaggerating. At most, you may have a light bruise. It will stop hurting in a few minutes.”
“Damn, it’s already the middle of the night… Maybe we should go back inside the Chessboard World? I’m afraid to leave our avatars with DC for too long…”
Azra unfastened the strings that tied the front of his leather coat together and pulled the folded up, flexible ‘cardboard’ out from inside. Even though the material was indestructible, it was actually possible to bend and put pressure on it, but it would swiftly return to its normal state a few seconds afterwards.
When the Divine Chessboard was activated, it couldn’t be moved. When it was deactivated, the Chessboard World was still functioning. Time was even passing twice as quickly as it was outside. Thus, their avatars needed to be controlled by something, or they would simply have to remain unconscious. Since that would be unhealthy for the avatars, the AI was responsible for taking care of them.
Maybe I should just stop worrying about all the other tags and categories just stick with “TDD/Tower Defense Deities”?
Chapter 2: The Divine Chessboard World
Chapter 3: New Quest
Chapter 4: The First Pawn