“Is it a good idea to just walk into town like this?” Serena asked. She glanced at Inés, who was still leaning on her.
“Don’t worry about a thing,” Sylvie stated. “Now that I’m free, I can handle these brigands perfectly fine.”
“I’ll leave it to you,” Inés muttered.
The three strode into the village. Serena noted that several of the houses had shuttered windows. She thought that she saw some eyes watching them, but they quickly vanished from sight, leaving her questioning whether it was just a trick of the light.
Sylvie led them back to the Inn. The door was shut and bolted. The windows, shuttered.
Sylvie walked up and knocked on the door. “Open up and explain yourself!” she ordered. “You’ll find it most unpleasant should I have to open this door myself.”
She waited for several minutes, tapping her left foot.
“Fine, if that’s the way we’re playing it.” Sylvie raised her fist and began chanting, quickly. Sparks began falling from her hand as a ball of lightning began coalescing around her fist.
“Enough!” Miriam cried, opening the door. “Here I am. Do whatever you need to do and leave this town.”
“You don’t get to play the victim here,” Sylvie said. “We’re the ones who got chained up and thrown to a giant.”
“We had no choice,” Miriam stated, leaning against the doorway. “He came here and demanded that we feed him human flesh. We couldn’t fight him, our town isn’t that large. We had to give him what he wanted.”
“So you drugged strangers and used them for sacrifices!” Sylvie declared. “How many died because of your unwillingness to fight back?”
“We aren’t a big city,” Miriam said. “We can’t rouse an army to fight for us on short notice. We don’t even have a proper smithy to provide us with weapons. We had no choice but to give in. No choice at all. Giving him strangers spared us from sacrificing our own.”
“You keep saying ‘no choice,'” Sylvie said. “That’s nonsense. There’s always a choice. You could have taken what you had available and overwhelmed him with sheer numbers, but you hid in your homes and let yourselves be used as accessories to murder.”
“You can say that because you’re a warrior,” Miriam said. “We’re ordinary, peaceful folk.”
“Peaceful?” Sylvie asked, incredulously. “After what you’ve done, you dare call yourselves peaceful?”
“Sylvie, isn’t that enough?” Serena asked. “Let’s get our gear and be quit of this place. There’s no point to continuing this argument.”
“Actually,” Inés said. “I have a question for the proprietress here. What would you have done when the visitors stopped coming? We were warned against coming here. I suspect that you’ve been seeing less and less visitors these days. What would you have done when all you had left were your own people? Would you have finally fought or would you have handed over your own until you didn’t have a town left?” Inés pulled away from Serena and walked over to Miriam. “That’s the problem with your ‘solution.’ Once you give in to a bully and let them take something precious from you, they’ll keep demanding more until they’ve taken everything. I suggest you and the other people in your ‘peaceful’ little town think about that.”
“That wasn’t a bad little speech,” Sylvie said.
“What now?” Serena asked. “Do we turn them in?”
“Not much we can do,” Sylvie said. “Sadly. We can’t punish an entire town, as much as they deserve it. We’ll send word of what happened here to the Head priestess, let her decide how best to handle it. The giant is gone so they shouldn’t cause any more problems in the meantime.”
“We could punish all of them,” Inés stated. “In fact, I just might do that if we don’t get our gear back and three strong horses.” She glanced over at Miriam. “Of course, they could combine their strength and try to deal with us. We did deal with the giant that was giving them trouble, but we’re also their own size. Maybe they’d feel like they stand a better chance. What do you think, Miss Miriam?”
“We owe you three a great debt for what you’ve done,” Miriam said. “I’ll get your armour and weapons and find you horses, personally.” She sighed. “I’m relieved that he’s gone & I’m willing to take whatever punishment is appropriate for what I was made to do, but I ask that you tell your head priestess that it was the town elders, myself included, who insisted on giving in to his demands. Many of the youngsters wanted to try fighting, but we imposed our will on them. They shouldn’t share our punishment.”
“Is that really the case?” Sylvie wondered. “We’ll certainly include your statement in our report, but you can count on an investigation.”
“Thank you very much,” Miriam said. She walked off to retrieve the items.
“Do you think they’ll be okay?” Serena asked.
“Diana will go easy on them,” Inés predicted. “She’ll understand that they were scared and desperate.”
“We’ll certainly see regular patrols to this area,” Sylvie stated. “We are, after all, under the banner of the same kingdom.”
“I get it,” Serena said. “With regular patrols they’ll have protection they can see and rely on. To prevent anything like this from happening again.”
“Precisely,” Sylvie said. “I’ll write out the message tonight and we can have it sent back to the temple when we reach Mocoza.”