System Change

Chapter 11: Become an Asshole

Chapter 10: Escape

Brandi was walking home with her mother who was carrying a basket of wet clothing. They had recently finished washing their clothes in the stream at the back side of the village. “Do you think that dad and Chief Leon will have a good hunt?” She was always worried when her father went out on hunting trips. Sometimes, he would be gone for days, when that happened, the anxiety and stress would set in. But he always came back.

“They just went out this morning, Im sure they will be back with meat and skins, like always.” Brandis mother tried not to show her worry. But she had noticed the monsters around the edge of the forest were growing in number and becoming more aggressive.

The duo made it home and began hanging their clothes to dry. “We really do need more skins. Our old ones are getting worn down, maybe they will hunt a bear this time.” Brandi was excited at the chance to help work on making new leathers.

Brandi had just recently unlocked the Great System. She used her one skill point she earned on the Leatherworking skill. She was lucky to receive the extra skill point at all, so she wanted to pick a skill that would help the rest of the village. If she could help make leather armor for the hunters, she would be doing her part for the village.

Brandi was a squeamish little girl, and the sight of blood churned her stomach. She was unable to eat for the entire day after she had to kill the level 10 bunny. It did not help that the bunny was cute and fluffy. It also looked like the stuffed animal that she had been sleeping with since she was seven.

“Do you think daddy will let me tan the hide on anything they hunt? I want to increase my skill so I can help more.” Brandi asked her mother, hoping she would help talk her father into letting her help.

“That depends, are you willing to skin the animal too? That can be considered a part of Leatherworking.” Her mother jested, looking to see what kind of reaction the girl would give.

Of course, Brandi lost all color thinking about having to deal with an animal carcass. “Momma, do you think that I should have spent my skill point on something else? I only wanted to help, but wasnt thinking about having to touch dead animals.” Brandi was worried that she had wasted a skill point now.

Her mother giggled. “You will be fine dear, you will grow used to it later. Almost every little girl has the same reaction to killing monsters for the first time. It didnt help that your dad had to find the cutest level 10 beast Ive ever seen either.” She and her husband had fought about him bringing back the bunny, but she conceded that it was not simple to find such an easy level 10 creature to kill.

She continued. “But dont worry, I threw up and was unable to eat after my first kill too. Now look at me, I handle it fine. I guess thats what happens when you marry a hunter.” Brandis mother seemed genuinely happy when talking about her husband.

As the two were talking, they heard a loud crash. They looked in the direction of the sound, only to see the front gate swinging closed and some of the villagers straining to keep it closed. Then, Brandi could see a man running towards them, blood running down his chest.

“Daddy!” Brandi yelled out, seeing that the injured man was her father.

“Mal! Take Brandi, gather the other non-fighters and group up at the back of the village.” Brandis father had no time to calm Brandi as he directed his wife, Malorie.

“What happened?” Malorie asked as she ran inside to get a medicinal salve to help her husbands wounds.

“No time to explain, but beasts are attacking. Do what I said and someone will meet you to let you know what to do next.” He took the salve, smiled towards Brandi, then ran back to the front of the village.

Malorie picked Brandi up and took off running in the opposite direction of her husband, not willing to question her husband any further.

While being carried, Brandi still had a good view of the front of the village, specifically the closed gate. She could see her father meeting up with another man. Chief Leon. Brandi was able to recognize the chief of the village coming into view from the right side of the gate. He looked as bad, if not worse than her father had looked when he found them.

“Mom! Its Chief Leon, hes hurt too!” Brandi let her mother know about her worries. “Dad said that there are beasts, do you think theres a lot?”

“Im sure everything will be fine.” Malorie said to herself more than to her daughter. If its bad enough to have all of us move to the back of the village, either there are way more monsters than they can handle, or there are high levels. “Im sure Chief Leon and your father will be able to handle whatever happens.” Malorie said, trying to keep Brandi from worrying.

Soon, the duo arrived at the back of the village with others who were already waiting. Malorie noticed that Sana, the wife of Chief Leon, was among those already there. “Sana, did Leon tell you anything? All that Travis said before running off was that there was a beast attack.” Malorie explained.

“Leon said that there were at least 30 beasts attacking, possibly more. All from the forest and coming at the front gate. Leon thinks that the beasts are all around level 20. He wants us all to gather here in case we need to slip out of the back and try to get away.” What she did not say was that there was no way they would be able to defend the village and that Leon, Travis, and the others were there to try to buy enough time for the others to escape.

Malorie knew what Sana was implying. She felt a wave of sadness wash over her, but did her best to hide it from Brandi and the other kids. “When do we leave and where are we going.” She asked.

“Marshall will be here soon, he will guide us away from the village and the beasts. If possible, we will go towards Raynas village, she should be strong enough to help. If we cant make it to Rayna, then well go to Phillips village since its not much further away.” Sana explained the plan to everyone there. “Right now, we need to gather enough water to last us, but not more than we can carry.”

Everyone went and collected water while waiting for Marshall to arrive. Brandi could hear all the older people whispering to each other. Her worry for her father grew greater and greater with every passing second.

Finally, after waiting for what seemed like ages, Brandi saw Marshal heading their way. Brandi picked up a small water skin to carry and joined everyone else.

“Quiet everyone!” Marshall yelled, but in a hushed tone. The murmurs and whispers came to an instant halt. “Ok, listen. Chief Leon and the other hunters are doing what they can to keep the gate closed. A few of the smaller, more agile monsters have been able to jump the gate, but they were taken care of. If it keeps going like this, they may be able to whittle them down and get away.” Marshall was trying to boost the morale of everyone there. Higher morale meant moving faster.

“Still, we are going to go ahead and escape to Raynas village. If we move fast enough and there are no problems, we should be able to get there in less than a week.” Marshalls gaze shifted to the adults. “I know this group doesnt have many fighters, but some of you are decent. I will do my best to escort everyone, but if needed, you may have to help.” Marshall looked at Sana and Malorie and nodded. They nodded back in understanding, making sure their small, but able weapons were fastened tightly to their bodies.

Noticing that everybody was as ready as they were going to get, Marshall moved to the small exit gate and opened it. “Alright everyone. Its as clear as its going to get. Its now or never, lets go.” Marshal was the first out of the gate. He continued to keep a vigilant eye on his surroundings, in hopes that his small band of escapees made it out alive.

The group of villagers kept a brisk, but quiet pace as they escaped. Soon, they were a good distance away from the village. The fighting was becoming barely audible.

Finally, unable to take it anymore, Brandi whispered to her mother. “Mom, is daddy going to be OK? Hell make it back to us, right?” Brandi was visibly distressed.

“Hell catch up to us, now hush.” Malorie knew that the chance of survival for the others was low, especially with the number of monsters that were said to be attacking. All she could do to not think about it was push forward.

The group kept moving and time passed. Once they were a few kilometers away from the village, the tension started easing. With the tension gone, the gloom began to set in. All the adults had already come to the conclusion that those left behind would probably not make it back. So, though the tension had lessened, the quiet march continued.

It went like this for hours until one of the older female villagers finally dropped to her knees and began hyperventilating. “Theyre gone, theyre all gone!” She cried out. “Andrew, Jack, theyre dead, both dead.” Both her son and her husband were left back at the village. They had stayed behind to give the escapees a chance at survival. The hours of silently thinking about them had finally broken her.

With the older womans cries, others began to break. The children started crying out. Brandi was doing her best to stay strong and believe in her father and Chief Leon, but with the adults breaking down, it was all she could do to hold back her tears. The morale was broken and the quiet escape had turned into a sad trudge.

The group was no longer in silence. Marshall was walking at the front with a frown, his eyes and ears listening for anything abnormal. He heard a rustle from the forest in the distance. When he turned, he saw two wolves break out of the tree line and dart to their group.

“Everybody behind me!” Marshall yelled as he unsheathed his sword. He took a fighting stance, ready to confront his assailants. But, just as the two wolves drew near, two more appeared. “Weve got four wolves coming our way, Ill hold them off, run!” Marshall decided.

Marshall lunged forward at the leading wolf, thrusting his sword. It connected. The sword went through the right shoulder of the wolf. When his momentum stopped, Marshall pulled the blade out, ripping through the skin of the wolf. Theyre not too high of a level, I may be able to do this. Seeing that his sword was able to do a moderate amount of damage, Marshall was relieved.

Malorie was carrying Brandi as she sprinted away from the battle. Occasionally, she would take a glance at what was happening behind her. When she saw that Marshall was not being overrun, she let out a breath. Then, to her horror, another wolf came out from the tree line, and it was much bigger than the four before.

Sana also saw this sight at the same time. They glanced at one another, an agreement made. Malorie put Brandi on the ground, giving her a sad smile in the process. “You run ahead, were going to help Marshall. Well catch up.”

“No! Im not leaving.” Brandi refused to leave without her mother.

“Be a good girl and go. Youll only make it harder on us if you stay.” Malories tone got heavier as she commanded Brandi. “Now!” She yelled.

Brandi sniffled a few times, but, in the end, turned to run toward the rest of the group.

“Lets go!” Sana said, and the duo ran back towards Marshall.

Not long after the group broke apart, Brandi saw two figures in the distance, one big, one small. After some time, she was able to make out one of the figures. “Thomas!” She yelled.

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