"Let us conduct the test once more, this time with all of you focusing on her," the village chief commanded, his finger pointing towards Grandma Celia. The healers nodded in unison, their expressions determined. Activating their unique gifts, their hands emitted a captivating blend of soft purple and gold light, channelling it towards Grandma Celia's stomach. Time seemed to stretch as minutes ticked by in anticipation.

Finally, with a collective exhaustion, the healers deactivated their gifts and withdrew their hands. A weary sigh escaped their lips as they turned their gaze towards the village chief. Shaking their heads once more, the other healer spoke, her voice tinged with a hint of disbelief, "We have rechecked, Chief, but the results remain unchanged." Her eyes darted towards Grandma Celia, filled with swirling doubts and disbelief, before refocusing her attention on the village chief. In a voice heavy with certainty, she delivered the verdict, "She is indeed pregnant."

As soon as the healer uttered those words, a profound silence enveloped the room. Without uttering a single word, the village chief locked eyes with me and swiftly pivoted towards the door. His command lingered in the air, echoing through the room, "Orion, follow me." It wasn't just the words themselves, but the authoritative tone that conveyed the urgency and importance of his summons. I understood in an instant that compliance was not an option but a necessity.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, I exchanged a meaningful glance with my mother, Reena, and Grandma Celia, their worried gazes mirroring my own. I turned to the healers and urged, "Take care of them." With focused steps, I redirected my focus towards the path the village chief had taken, quickening my pace to catch up with him.

As I finally reached his side, I noticed his stern countenance, his gaze fixated downward, and his hands clasped firmly behind his back. Without even glancing in my direction for confirmation, he posed a question that hung in the air, "Do you understand the implications of these results?" It was as though he already knew of my presence, expecting me to be by his side.

"I can't say that I fully understand," I replied, my curiosity piqued. Although the expected answer would have been a simple 'yes,' the village chief's tone and choice of words hinted at something deeper.

"Indeed, you couldn't," the village chief affirmed, confirming my suspicions. He led the way, guiding us deeper into different corridors until we reached a small wooden door laid on the ground, near the dead end of the narrow passageway. With a forceful stomp, the village chief shattered the locks, obliterating them as if he had no patience for such formalities. Bending down, he swung open the door, causing it to crash onto the ground with a "Bam," revealing a hidden wooden ladder beneath.

Grabbing a lantern hanging on the wall, illuminating our surroundings, the village chief descended the ladder cautiously, ensuring his footing before motioning for me to follow. I observed as his head disappeared into the depths below, the only source of light emanating from the glowing lantern.

Aware that I was about to venture into a hidden place unknown to the majority of the village, I chose to silence the unsettling feeling brewing within me and proceeded downward, matching my actions to the village chief's lead.

As I descended further into the darkness, a flicker of concern crossed my mind regarding the depth I was about to reach. However, much to my relief, the descent didn't seem as daunting as I initially feared. Within a matter of minutes, I caught up with the village chief and, seizing an opportunity, leapt from the ladder while still a few meters above the ground. With precision and dexterity, I landed safely on solid ground, my eyes fixated on the village chief's unmistakable figure.

The air down here was cool and damp, and the soft glow of the lantern cast eerie shadows on the rough ground around us. It was a stark contrast to the warmth and familiarity of the village above.

"Do you have any idea what this room beneath my hut is used for?" the village chief asked, turning around as he began to walk forward, once he ensured that I had landed safely on the ground. Shaking my head in response, I admitted my ignorance. Understanding flickered in his eyes, and we proceeded through the expansive chamber, its vastness hinting at its capacity to accommodate a considerable number of people. However, the feeble light emitted by the lantern barely reached the walls, leaving their details shrouded in darkness.

He paused, his gaze sweeping across the chamber, before he began to clarify its significance. "This room, or more precisely, the underground chamber beneath the village chief's compound, was constructed in case our village was unexpectedly attacked and overrun by the menacing Vylkr vines once again," he explained.

"If you still had your memories...." he sighed, "I wouldn't have to recount the stories your mother must have shared during the night, to keep you and your siblings away from the river and the treacherous Vylkr vines." We continued onward, stepping into a larger room. "But since your memories are lost, listen closely," he urged, pausing intermittently before continuing, "It has always been a rule to ensure the younger generation bears enough children before their fertility wanes, securing the future of our village. Once, we fulfilled that goal, numbering in the thousands. However, in our pursuit of preserving our numbers, we forgot one crucial detail. The reason only a few Vylkr vines ventured into our village was their preoccupation with the forest. As our numbers swelled, we became their prime target."

He went on, detailing how the occasional encounters with the Vylkr vines escalated from a few times a week to several times a day. Initially, they were mistaken for increased aggression, until a horrific night when the Vyklr vines attacked from all directions. Lives were ruthlessly claimed before the warriors could rally for defence. The villagers, defenceless against the Vylkr vines, could only endure their homes being destroyed and their lives extinguished.