While Lisa was off to her second goal and Mary tried to find the way back to the picnic, said picnic proofed to be a total success. The children were all happily playing and eating around while the nuns – Farana had already returned – watched carefully over them, only intervening when the playing around seemed to go too wild for their taste.
While Mel found herself caught up in a game of tag with some children which age she resembled, Svetlana found a shadowy place under a big tree, perfect to keep an eye on the whole clearing. Someone who didn't knew her would have assumed she was taking her job as a guard really seriously.
Naturally she wasn't.
This one is too clumsy! She judged a eight-year-old girl that was participating in the tag game.
This one is too slow! She judged another girl that was sitting more aside from the others and slowly eating her dish. All of the other children had already finished eating.
And these three are the biggest disappointment! They might as well be human! She judged the three feline beastkins who had yet to show any cat-like behavior. Apparently beastkins who grow up under humans acted pretty much like humans.
But in the end, her disappointment was rather small, since she wasn't seriously looking. All of the girls here were at least ten years too young for her taste anyway, and even if she waited long enough or found a older, willing candidate, as far as she knew there were no cases of the natives of reinalld being allowed to travel to earth. However, it was thanks to her surveillance that she realized quickly that something was off.
Some of the children steadily seemed to lose their drive, getting slower or stopping for no reason. More and more of the children started with this, until they all had this tired look on their faces. Then the first boy simply lied down and started to sleep. It didn't take long for the others to follow him. Even Mel joined the napping, but Svetlana didn't believe for a second that an agent of the PID could be fooled by whatever was going on. And all the while the three demonic sisters were just watching without intervening, as if they had expected this to happen.
Figuring that she could no longer just sit there and watch, Svetlana rushed to action... by pretending to fall asleep as well. After all, she was really curious what the sisters were up to, so she didn't want to ruin it. So she slumped back a little and closed her eyes. Thanks to her senses being much better than those of a human, she could still 'see' everything that went on at the clearing.
“Is everyone sleeping?” Firana asked.
“Seems that way.” Forana answered after looking around. “Even the two adventurers are out cold. I guess this concoction was exactly the right dose. Now we should call Wadyn.”
Firana obliged by pulling out a small whistle Wadyn had given her during one of their meetings. It was a magical artifact that would be heard by Wadyn, no matter how far he was away. She blew it for a few seconds.
It didn't take long until they heard the sound of a carriage coming closer. The forest was pretty thin, which was a good thing for their operation. Otherwise Wadyn and his men would have had to carry the children several kilometers.
Eventually the carriage made her way onto the clearing, being drawn by two horses. It was a small wooden carriage, perfectly blending in with the forest.
Wadyn was the first one to exit and greet the sisters. “Nice day, dear friends. It looks like everything has gone well?”
“They are all asleep for now. It should take two hours until they begin to wake up. Two of the adventurer's are asleep as well, but the other two should arrive any minute.”
“Don't worry. Two of my men split off from us and will occupy them.” Wadyn said, not knowing that said two men just had been spotted and devoured by a – thanks to his thousandfold-year-sleep - very hungry apocalyptic dragon not too long after exiting the carriage.
“Okay. Then let's get started.” On this command, four more men exited the carriage while the driver too stood up. The men all looked even more dirty than Wadyn and two of them smelled of booze, but for some reason Firana barely noticed it.
“We will now carry all the children into the coach, where...” Suddenly, Wadyn stopped mid-sentence. “Oh right, I forgot something.”
“What is it?” Forana asked worried. She and Farana had come to greet Wadyn and were standing next to Firana.
“I forgot to tell you about my skill!” Wadyn exclaimed with a smile. “Listen up, this one is a real funny one:
“My skill is called 'Perception Warper'. Even I don't really get how it works, but it means that I can alter the impression that people have of me, how they think of me and how easy they believe what I say.”
He stooped to see the sister's reaction. But they just waited for him to continue.
“To put it simply, I can tell my victims any story and as long as said story isn't clearly impossible or doesn't has clear holes in its logic, they will believe me. Sadly it doesn't work if the person isn't willing to believe me a little bit, so I can't use it on important or strong-willed people. But using it on some dumb bitches who want to believe that there is a way to help the poor poor children at the orphanage turned out to be no big deal.” While saying all that, he kept on smiling. “But I guess this is no longer needed. Dispel!”
In the moment he spoke the last word, it was as if a veil had been lifted from Firana's mind. All of a sudden, a barrage of alarmed thoughts flow through her.
Was it really a good idea to trust this people?
Why are Wadyn and his men all armed?
Why had Wadyn never showed any actual proof of his village existing?
If Wadyn and his men had done this several times already, why had she never heard of children being stolen from orphanages?
As she came to a shocking realization, Wadyn's grin widened.
“Looks like you are not so dumb after all. Not that it makes a difference.”
She tried to run, but he easily caught up and slammed her to the ground. Two other men got a hold of her sisters.
“P-please, don't...” Firana could even finish her sentence before a shoe smashed into her face.
“Just stay on the ground and shut up, okay? And regarding the brats, you have no reason to worry. We won't hurt them.
“After all, our client wants the otherworldlers in the best conditions possible.”
“Client?” Forana managed to say in fear.
“Yup, our client. Half a year ago, pretty much every criminal in the whole kingdom got an interesting offer: 'I want to collect as many otherworldlers as possible. They have to be young and in good health'. Since then, the trafficking of otherworldlers has been steadily...”
“Hey Wadyn.” One of the other men shouted. “Why the fuck are you explaining our victims our plans? Get your lazy ass up and...”
“HUMANS BEWARE!! I, THE FEARFUL GRANATUS, HAVE RETURNED!!”
The voice was so loud that everyone instantly stopped what they were doing. Both the sisters and the slavers (some of which had approached the children but were still a few meters away from them), turned to the enormous dragon who stood at the southern side of the clearing. As he spoke, he seemed to grow a few meters until he easily filled their entire field of view.
“AFTER A SLEEP FOR FOUR MILLENIA, I HAVE FOUND TO MY WHOLE POWER!! YOU LOT SHALL BE MY MESSENGERS!! YOU WILL TELL THE WORLD OF MY RETURN, AND YOUR MISSION SHALL BE THE STARTING SIGNAL FOR FOR ME AND MY THREE FELLOW APOCALYPTIC DRAGON TO ENGUISH ALL LIFE ON THIS PLANET!!” The dragon named Granatus roared. Now that he had everyone's attention, he was a little bit quieter, but still very loud.
For a moment, the six men looked at each other. Then they started laughing.
“Apoca-what? Sounds like something a kid would come up with!”
“I know three illusion-spells who could create a 'dragon' like this! Does whoever is behind this really think we are that stupid?”
“Maybe my grandmother would be scared at this thing!”
And that was the last thing they did.
“HOW DARE YOU TO NOT TAKE ME SERIOUS! PAY YOUR FOOLISHNESS WITH DEATH!”
Granatus collected his breath. Then he unleashed a stream of blue fire on the men. Since the fire was intended as punishment for the men who mocked him, it made a berth around the orphans and the demonic sisters, instead completely engulfing the slavers and their carriage. Within seconds, all of them and the horses had burned to embers. The carriage hold out a little longer due to the bigger mass, but eventually it was gone without a trace as well.
“So! With that out of the way, now... Wait, are you listening?”
They weren't. The kids were still sleeping. Firana, Forana and Farana were literally frozen in shock and blankly stared at where the men had stood mere seconds ago.
Granatus fumed for a moment, but then he collected himself. After all, his plan was not to kill this people. He needed them to spread the word of his awakening, so his three comrades, who no doubt had waited all the years for his return, could locate him. Therefore, he used a special recovery magic on everyone at the clearing. Instantly,. All the kids awakened and the three sisters snapped out of their shock.
It didn't take long for the children to spot the dragon. Granatus readied himself for the usual freak-out that younger beings had when they saw him.
“Look, there is the dragon!”
“Wow, he looks really good this year!”
“I wonder who is behind that? Big sis Lisa or big sis Mary?”
To Granatus' surprise, the children weren't shocked in the slightest. But he didn't mind. After all, it made the whole thing easier.
“Listen up, mortals! You will tell the message that the apocalyptic dragon Granatus has awoken!”
“Granatus?” One kid asked confused. “Is that your name?”
“Indeed it is.” Granatus said.
“Never heard heard about you.”
That was when Granatus realized the flaw in his plan: Since four thousand years had passed since he was forced into sleep and since his comrades had probably been hiding in order to wait for his return, it was just logical that this humans with their pathetically short life-spans had already forgotten about the apocalyptic dragons. How was he supposed to spread fear when no one knew who he was?
“Listen up! I will tell you all about the things me and my fellow apocalyptic dragons have been doing so you can spread our stories into the world!”
And so the story-time began. The children, naturally interpreting this as part of the play, were enthusiastic. The sisters who knew that the dragon was real were too scared to stop what was going on. Mel figured that rash acting would just get her killed and observed, pretending to be one of the orphans.
And Svetlana was still lying in her shadowy place, bemoaning the lack of popcorn.