The whole journey to the Gryffons hideout was completely silent, but the entire journey back was filled with celebration. The people of the group started talking about their future plans, feeling for the first time that they had the right to. They had destroyed the fortress of their enemies, burying them all in it's remains. None of them seemed to have any fear anymore, not of the Gryffons or of the world they lived in their entire lives.
Derrick and Mia seemed happy that they could raise their daughter in a safer world. Jason even looked a little more hopeful, his lust for revenge having faded with the success of their expedition, he even seemed happy for the first time in a while. Jeanine's mood was even more celebratory than the others, she seemed to get her passion back after the expedition, with the threat of the Gryffons supposedly diminished. Travis, on the other hand, had no special reactions about what happened. In fact, he seemed a little dissatisfied with the results, he felt that Alexis and Jason won the day once again while he didn't do much of anything the entire time.
Even Alexis seemed more hopeful than Travis did. She seemed glad that they were going back to their old lives once and for all, something even she seemed to miss this entire time. Ames was finally talking to her, he saw an entirely different kind of person in his sister, completely different from the one he used to hate. Now, he wished he could be as strong as she was. Every time he looked at her, there wasn't any more resentment or deep hatred, there was only a proud smile.
They should've made sure they truly won.
During the week long trip back to the campsite, the entire group was talking about their victory and how they would use it to disgrace the Head, show the others how they won an impossible war against the Gryffons and did it by disobeying that cowards orders. But when they got to the campsite, all hopes were utterly dashed, and they all froze with shock at what they saw.
Nearly every single tent in that campsite was crushed and covered in blood, corpses were strewn about everywhere, whether they were of the guards or other people they had known. The corpses were all ripped apart, their blood almost completely covering the entire landscape of the campsite, hundreds of bullet cartridges were strewn about, but not a single one of the corpses had a bullet wound in them.
The group knew this could only mean one thing, the Gryffons attacked while they were away, and they attacked with a larger force than before.
"...How?" Derrick said, the fear in his voice made everyone else even more uneasy, "When...?"
The words wouldn't come out of his mouth, but everyone knew what he was trying to say. 'How could this have happened?' 'Didn't we destroy the Gryffons?' 'Are we the only ones left?' These were questions they didn't want answered, but they would the answers anyway.
The group went searching around the horrific, bloody remains of their campsite, looking for some meaning to all this. Derrick and Mia frantically searched for their child, Jade, fearful of the worst possible outcome. Jason went searching for more weapons, trying to prepare for another attack by the Gryffons, even though it was perfectly clear that they wouldn't stand a chance anyway. Jeanine, Travis, Alexis, and Ames went searching for any survivors or any clue as to where they were. Alexis couldn't find any survivors, only a bunch of barely-recognizable pieces of bodies. She did, however, find the Head, or what was left of him, that is to say, only his severed head. She didn't laugh at the horrible joke, but in a way, she was glad he was gone, his choices had lead to their near extinction, and now he would rot for everything he did. Perhaps a better leader could finally take his place.
Despite the horrific, gory, bloody sight in front of them all, the group was relieved to learn a basic fact. Despite how much blood there was, there weren't enough bodies to mean that everyone in the campsite was killed off. This especially relieved Derrick and Mia, as it meant that their daughter was still alive, the people they gave her to would never abandon her for any reason.
The group searched for any clue as to where everyone else was, but they couldn't find a single clue, and weren't about to risk certain death by splitting up and searching. Fortunately, another human came up to them.
"Hey, you guys." said the man. "We already abandoned this place. Follow me, I'll take you to everyone else."
Of course, they recognized the man, he was one of the few adults left after the expedition 4 years ago, and one of the even fewer left after the most recent attack. They had no questions about trusting him, after all, what reason would he have to betray them in this situation?
He lead them nearly a mile away, through a dense forest in the opposite direction of the Gryffon's hideout. There, they saw all the rest of the many survivors, all the recent adults like them, the children even younger than Ames, and a few of the adults who had miraculously survived this entire time. Derrick and Mia found the man and woman they had asked to take care of Jade, they still held her, kept her safe even now. The couple seemed relieved that they saw more humans instead of more Gryffons and handed Mia her daughter.
"They came out of nowhere." The woman started to say, the fear still readily apparent in her voice. "So many of them, we couldn't do anything to fight back. Why were there so many of them?"
As Mia tried her best to calm down the woman, Alexis reflected on what she just said. Of course, she knew the answer why, she proved herself to be even more powerful than the Defiler had once thought. This was another upgrade in his conditions, he was going to keep sending more Gryffons to weed out those who didn't deserve to live in his eyes, he wanted Alexis to fight back against him with enough power to defeat him. But this of course meant something else. The expedition failed once again, they may have destroyed the Gryffon's hideout, but they still failed to kill the Gryffons themselves, and now the outcome they all feared was coming to fruition.
But they didn't get any time to relax before more of them came.
"They're coming!" yelled an adult who was standing watch, "Everybody, get out of here, now!"
Sure enough, the Gryffons could be seen coming at them through the trees, but Alexis saw something else coming along with them, and there was no mistaking who it was. It was The Defiler, and he was back to exact his revenge on them. Every time they tried to make things better for everyone else, they always ended up making it so much worse instead. Everyone started to get up and run, even the members of the group, but they were all exhausted from the two long journeys they had taken before. How far would they be able to run this time?
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