It is a beautiful day of spring. The most important fact is the name of that day. In Astria, there are seven days each week and the final one is named Aria, because it is the goddess that has allowed our wonderful world to exist. Today is Aria. In the Aria's Orphanage of Ronta, this day is special. When a family can't have a child, it is that day that they visit the orphanage for adoption. But those situations are scarce. Most of the time no one comes to see the children. Only one person visits regularly the orphanage. It is Max, the baker. When the new orphans see him for the first time, they run or even pee themselves. But he knows it, and even jokes about it. He brings fresh pastries and cakes. The 3 sisters running the orphanage are really grateful and each they bless him with the grace of the goddess.
"Do you think he will give us cake again?"
"Of course, Max always brings cake."
"I wonder if he will have the pastries from the last time, they were so sweet."
"Yes, they were the best I have ever eaten."
One can see all the children playing in the garden, expecting the arrival of the gentle giant. Of course, in that state of excitement, injuries happen more often than usual but sister Gerande was here. She prays to the powerful goddess and Pouf! No more wound and the orphan can play again. Even herself was waiting for Max. No one said that the sisters can't have some pleasure once in a while. And the products of Max are so good. Unfortunately, that bright day was tainted by the weird atmosphere of the city. Everybody is talking about a curse or a spell touching the birds. An entire flock of them were found dead near the western Church.
Immersed in her thought, the sister doesn't even notice that a troll was staring at her. When she raises her head, she sees a weird looking smile on its face. She knows that the smile is supposed to be friendly but if she didn't know him, she would think that he is planning his next meal while looking at her.
"Good morning sister Gerande."
"Good morning to you Max, happy Aria."
"How was the business these days?"
"A lot worse than usual, that bird event truly ruined the appetite of the citizens."
"I am so sorry to hear that, I really hope it will pass and your shop will be as flourishing as it was."
"Thank you Gerande, can you pray on that?"
"You know very well that I can't pray for the success of your shop Max, but I will pray that you are successful."
"That is good enough."
They both laugh at this conversation. It has been many years that he tries to make the sisters bless his bakery and he never succeeds. But they always bless him personally so he takes it with a smile. At this moment, one of the children noticed that sister Gerande is missing and after looking for a bit, see her and Max and shout to the others to come. The horrible and dangerous ogre is soon submerged by a wave of children. They break open his cart and begin to fight over the cakes. In the end, thanks to the intimidation of Max and the severe tongue of Gerande, they stop fighting and line themselves to receive their gift. Everyone is happy and everyone get something. Shortly after, Max leaves, his job is done. The rest of the day passes quickly, with the habitual prayers, teaching with sister Margareth and sister Maria and the play time with sister Gerande. It is already the time for dinner. While Maria is preparing the food, Margareth and Gerande are drawing water from the well for drinking and are talking while doing so.
"Has Max come today as usual?"
"Yes, full of cakes."
"Do you manage to grab some of them for us right?"
"Yes don't worry, he discretely gives me them before the kids saw us."
"That is good, we have to put a strict front for them, but he is truly too talented for a baker, the cake from last week was sumptuous. Did he bring any news about the bird incident?"
"No, unfortunately, the only news he brought was the decline of his bakery because of it."
"So we still don't know what has provoked the death of so many pigeons? Was it the Mage Tower? Something that they ate? Something they drank?"
"No, nothing, but for the food, they always ate the garbage or the waste of real meals they probably ate something bad. As for the drink, I hope it is not that, our well is not connected to the water of the city so we won't have any problem if their water is contaminated."
"Finally, we have enough water, those evening exercises really make me feel my age."
"You are fine, you have at least dozens of years in front of you."
"Only dozens? Don't make me die too quickly young lady, or I will report it to the goddess Aria when I will see her."
While chatting no one saw a weird rodent spying on the roof. Or the evil glow in his red eyes, when they were talking about the well.
The night was really calm, as each Aria is. That day, the kids exhaust them so much over the pastries that they all fall asleep quickly. After fixing two or three miscellaneous problems in the management of the orphanage, the sisters recite the night prayers and then go to sleep.
In the shadow of the night, the calm and silent Aria's Orphanage of Ronta is disturbed by a single thing. A creature is slowly approaching the well, and after reaching the hole, begins to create a liquid between his claws. The green looking liquid fall down and mix itself with the water. After a long time, that creature leaves, without even looking behind her.
In the next morning, sister Gerande and sister Maria are one more time near the well for the early water. The kids are always very thirsty after they wake up. During that time, it is the turn of sister Margareth to prepare the food. The breakfast was nice even if some kids already want the cakes of Max after only one day. But it is not up to them whether or not they will get a cake. The usual routine unfolds. Prayers, studies, play time. It is only in the evening that some of the children are beginning to feel unwell. The weaker ones have even problem breathing. The sisters are taking that lightly and perform a minor prayer that makes them feel better.
But as time goes on, more and more kids are experiencing those problems. Their state is worsening with each minute. While they are official sisters of Aria, they have not a lot of spells, in fact, they only have the minor prayer that can cure the most basic injuries and diseases.
Even if they keep praying, they can already see some of the children throwing up not only food but blood too. They are quickly overrun by a situation that none of them are prepared. In a last hope, sister Gerande proposes to run toward the quickest Church to inquire help from the more powerful priest. Both Maria and Margareth agree since Gerande is the youngest and quickest of the three. She begins to run as fast as she ever runs, praying that she can be fast enough to save the poor orphans. But the Church is at 1km, and she takes several minutes to reach it. Out of breath, she barges into the evening prayers.
At first, the father Gregory that was presiding this ceremony is outraged. Who dares to disturb the rites in honor of the goddess Aria? But after seeing sister Gerande, a member of his Church, panicked, out of breath and incoherent, he calms himself. To afterward enter a state of panic. From what he understands, the nearby orphanage can be wiped out of the city of Ronta because of a strange disease. He quickly calls all of the brothers and sisters in the building, and the large group run towards the orphanage. The passers-by are shocked to see so many priests running. Normally, they always see them calm, collected, even when death is close.
Unfortunately, when they arrive at the local orphanage, all that was left to save was the two crying women, buried in a sea of dead bodies. The bodies were all tainted by a black liquid. Some of their arms and legs were turned black and when they touch it, it disintegrates. The vision of horror shocked the priests and they immediately put the two women in quarantine. The escort the sister that warned them back to the building and sealed all the doors and windows. Afterward, they begin to collect the different information, how did it start, when, who was the first victim, how much time before they die? Maria and Margareth answer robotically, without a single tear left inside their bodies.
While all of this was happening in the East of Ronta, a rodent, in the South of Ronta, was smiling and laughing at the sight of his level rising. Not only his level was rising, he found out that his skills were all improved too. He began to wonder what other targets he would need before turning this city in ruin. As for thinking about how he achieved that rise in his level, he never really thought too deeply about that.
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