Henry and Joanna had finished removing all the corpses from the great hall of the Silver Keep shortly after settling things within the village. Of course, there were nearly fifteen other people who helped out, so it wasn’t that difficult. In fact, the blood and gore was all frozen anyway. Thus, there was very little mess. Many of the bodies were already broken up into pieces, which they shoveled into wheelbarrows and dumped into a mass grave.
The villagers who died were cremated and the ashes were kept in ceremonial jars, according to the common tradition in the area. They would have just left the bandits out in the sun to rot, if they weren’t afraid of spreading diseases or being cursed.
As Henry and his mother were exploring the huge building, they discovered that most of the rooms were unlocked and totally empty. At the top of the keep there was a large stone house, with a wooden ceiling.
“This place is really incredible… It’ll take a lot of work to renovate, but this tower could house at least a few dozen people.”
“I’ve never been this high above the ground before in my entire life… It’s really amazing up here. You can easily see the village too!” Joanna chuckled, standing on the battlement next to her son. Then she asked “Do you hear that? It sounds like… babies? Where is it coming from?”
Henry placed his glove-covered hands on the icy stone railing and leaned over a bit, immediately noticing the light shining out from the room directly below them. He yelled “I hear them too! It sounds like there’s a bunch of babies crying and it’s coming from the third floor!”
The two of them went over to the southeastern stairwell and quickly found the only locked door in the entire keep. Joanna tried to twist the iron knob, but there was no use. She shouted “Hello?! Is anyone in there?!”
“I’m pretty sure that this place is empty or we would have noticed something before now!” The giant man began pounding his shoulder against the wooden door, in an attempt to break it down. However, a voice was suddenly heard from the other side.
“Stop! Shit! I’m going to be really pissed off if you assholes-! Uh, um, hi there…” Ailyn unlocked and opened the door, while Azra was wearing nothing but boxer shorts and sitting with his back against a mysterious silver pillar.
“Timothy?! And what’s wrong with those creatures?! Wait, why is she naked?! What is that thing behind you?!” Joanna asked a rapid series of questions, but none of them were answered.
Azra gently laid the babies onto the floor and then he disappeared, along with the tiny grey-skinned woman. Henry quickly looked around, but there was nothing in the room except that silver device and those crying multicolored infants.
“What kind of magic are they using?!” Henry grumbled “It’s like they just show up and disappear at their own convenience!”
Joanna hurriedly knelt down in front of the tiny squealing girls and boys. Half were female and the other half were male. Although they were created at the same time, they weren’t even slightly close genetically. In fact, some were so diverse that it was a mystery whether or not they were even the same race. Their size ranged from six inches long, to a foot and a half. They were all significantly smaller than full-term human babies, but each of the Goblins had long and pointed ears. One of them had a small tail, while another had vestigial wings.
“They’re like little monsters… Adorable little monsters, but they certainly aren’t human. What should we do? If we don’t take care of them, then they’ll die… I’m afraid that the others wouldn’t understand though.”
Humans were fickle creatures, Joanna and her son had been ostracized by the other residents of Salmon Creek at first, simply because they were from Raijin Village. Their facial features, skin tone, eye and hair color were all slightly different than the other residents. However, just that alone was enough for them to be treated like outcasts.
Over the course of sixteen years, people of various skin-tones and body shapes started coming from other destroyed villages, but the prejudices still remained. If they started raising inhuman creatures, it wasn’t hard to guess the reaction of the rest of the villagers.
As the mother and son were deep in thought, a young woman suddenly appeared behind them and suggested “The answer is simple. Live here, in this keep.”
“Cathrine? What’s going on…” Joanna turned around and stared at the girl wearing a white gown, “Do you know what this strange place is? It can’t be Heaven or Hell…”
Henry towered over the two of them, but he couldn’t help but feel slightly intimidated by Yuri’s cold gaze. She briefly explained “My name is not Cathrine. I am Uriel and my brother is Azrael. This is the world within that Chessboard… The ‘game’ that you thought was so unimportant. Do you understand its value now, Joanna Lucas?”
The huge man furrowed his brows and muttered “How is that possible?”
“I do not know.” Yuri looked up at him and then stared at then whining babies, “I will however reveal to you both, that it is in fact possible to leave this world. I do not know if you desire to leave. Using the souls of the bandits as payment, Azra and I moved Salmon Creek Village inside of this Chessboard World.”
“Thank you… But if this place is separated from the outside world, is there any danger? For example, could those Rusty Saber Bastards find a way in here?” Henry was having a hard time wrapping his head around the whole situation and his mother was even more confused.
Yuri started shivering and walked closer to the silver cylinder, murmuring “It is not necessarily safe. However, no one may enter this world without our permission.” Then she knelt down and started examining the conditions of the ten infants, “These children are very important to us. They should require seven years to fully mature into adults. If you are able to raise them successfully, then we would be very grateful.”
Before Henry and Joanna could say anything else, the mysterious young woman vanished into thin air.
“The first thing we need to do is cover up those two windows. I have no clue how this weird metal thingy works, but it seems to be generating a lot of heat. The problem is that it just flies away. We need some help… I know that I can trust Yolanda and Katia to help me take care of the babies. But if we want to fix this place up fast, we’ll need more people to be involved…”
Joanna didn’t trust most of the villagers, especially with something so important and controversial. If they started freaking out, it could be disastrous.
However, Henry just unsheathed the greatsword from his back and growled “If those ungrateful bastards try anything stupid, then there’s no reason to allow them to stay in this holy land with us!”
“Henry, stop. We just escaped disaster… This should be a safe haven for all of us. We shouldn’t be fighting amongst ourselves now. There’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to stay in here forever either…”
He sighed, put away his sword and muttered “Uriel said that they needed to use those bandits as ‘sacrifices’. Nothing as powerful as this tiny world would be free.” Then he gazed down upon the ten shivering Goblin babies and took off his coat. After wrapping them up in it, he said “I don’t know what these creatures are, but they’re obviously very important. We can’t let them die.”
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