(Wester lands- City of Relanter)
(Governor's Mansion- Dining Hall)
"Move the tables to the corner of the hall to make space for the beds," Claire ordered as she walked towards the center of the room.
High priestess Elisa and several nuns were currently handing out bread and bowls of soup to the starving dark elves.
The dark elves stared distrustfully at the humans but still took the pieces of food from their hands.
After not eating for several days, even if it were poison, they were still willing to eat in order to sate their hunger.
Elisa would occasionally talk to the young children and comfort them using a gentle tone of voice.
Her sweet smile was infectious, and she even managed to get a laugh out of one of the little girls who stared at her adoringly.
Meanwhile the knights in the room were moving the furniture to the side to create a wide-open space.
After Elisa had healed the dark elves, the question of what to do with the former slaves had been set aside until tomorrow.
Claire felt uncomfortable leaving them down in the musky basement where they would be constantly reminded of their torment.
After consulting one of the knights in charge of sweeping the mansion for any more traces of black magic, it was decided that the dining room was the best place to temporarily house the dark elves.
It was located near the kitchen and there was only one entrance leading in and out of the large space that resembled a grand banquet hall.
The floor shone with a golden luster and a magnificent crystal chandelier was hung high above on the ceiling.
Lord Cain was a man used to displaying his wealth so the space in the dining room was more than enough to hold the dozens of dark elf prisoners.
Claire's decision to take care of the dark elves was not without criticism especially from the reinforcements dispatched from the local church who arrived several hours ago.
But her cold demeanor and steadfast determination would not tolerate any protest.
It helped that no one in the city was a tier two paladin and just by using her holy aura alone she was able to crush any resistance.
Claire raised up her right hand and beckoned towards a few knights standing guard near the entrance to the hall.
They walked over immediately and bowed their heads respectfully.
While Claire may be suppressing the priests by force, the knights were convinced of her strength and her ruthless execution of Lord Cain had won their favour.
"Send out a message to the knights scattered around the mansion and tell them to check the bedrooms for any spare mattresses," Claire coldly spoke.
"Should there not be enough then feel free to take any couches, sofas or soft pillows that you can find."
The knights nodded in acknowledgement and then left the room.
Claire took over their position and kept a careful eye on what was happening inside the dining hall.
Food. Shelter. Safety.
Regardless of what decision was made concerning the dark elves, it was important to ensure that their environment was stable.
Claire was not made of stone and seeing their bruised and battered bodies in the basement horrified and sickened her.
How could Lord Cain be so cruel?
The holy paladin curled her fingers up into a fist and a brief aura of holy light appeared along the tip of her longsword.
She took a few deep breaths in order to calm down and the light gradually faded away.
Claire saw Elisa looking at her with concern, but she gave a small smile to show that she was alright.
Speaking of Elisa…
Claire's heart was still a mess after receiving an unexpected kiss on the cheek from the former saintess.
Obviously with everything that had just happened it was neither the time nor the place to discuss it, but the memory kept resurfacing in Claire's mind.
The soft feeling of Elisa's lips as she pressed them against her cheek made Claire's heart start to race uncontrollably.
No… no… get a grip… it was probably nothing…
Would she even be able to start a relationship?
The threat of Saintess Marie and Pope Emmanuel was like a dark cloud looming over the sparks of love in Claire's heart.
If she didn't stop them then this world would be destroyed, and Elisa would most likely die in the invasion.
While Claire was struggling to keep her emotions from appearing on her face, Elisa was showing kindness and empathy towards the former slaves.
"Would you like some more bread?" Elisa asked warmly as she broke off another piece from the loaf and handed it to a female dark elf.
"Thank… thank… you…" the dark elf whispered softly as she took the bread from Elisa's hand.
Although Elisa had healed their bodies… their minds were another matter.
The deepest scars were the ones that could not be seen.
It was impossible to heal trauma with holy light and Elisa could only pray that they would be able to come out of the darkness and resume their lives.
The former saintess did not reveal her true identity so none of the dark elves in the dining hall were aware that their princess was standing before them.
"One… two… three… four…" Elisa quietly whispered as she counted the number of dark elves in the room.
There were thirty-seven in total with the majority being women and children. It was not a small number.
Claire had made her the head of the operation and fortunately that gave her some much needed time to plan.
Elisa furrowed her brows as she tried to think about what to do next.
Summoning a portal to the dark elf homeland was an option but she could only open a gate twice per day with her currently strength.
At best she would be able to send back around ten dark elves after two days and that was assuming that her body would be able to handle the constant flow of black magic.
Wait… that was it!
She was already going to a city near the outer regions so it wouldn't be a big deal to take the dark elves with them.
Of course, there were several logistical concerns involved in creating an escort for a batch of former slaves, but it was possible.
Hiring a mercenary team for safety and a merchant organization to provide empty wagons was just a matter of payment.
Elisa's eyes brightened as she finally saw the path forward.
Obvious she would need to discuss this matter with Claire, but she was confident that she could get her guardian paladin to agree with her plan.
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