A few days after that meeting, Modryn and Angela left for Hopewell Kingdom. The messages to the mercenary bands requesting them to gather for a meeting to discuss a large payday was sent out the day after the Strong Horns’ goals were decided, and the two traveling were expected back by the time the mercenaries arrived.
As Tristan watched the two walking down the road, Gretchen walked up to him. “Are you sure about letting them go on their own?” She asked, looking up at her old friend.
“Hah. We don’t have much choice. Those two are the only ones who can travel through the Human Territories without too much trouble.” Tristan responded, “Besides, it’s not as if anything can actually hurt them.”
Chuckling, Gretchen responded with, “That’s what I’m worried about. Those two have little in the way of self-restraint. If they get pissed off at some bandits for whatever reason, they’ll likely light the forest on fire to make sure they got all of them.”
Tristan’s face cramped up at this, “Don’t remind me.”
Gretchen laughed at the look on his face as the two headed back inside. “Think of it like this, what are the odds that the one time those two go off into the Human Territories, they run across bandits.”
Boris was ecstatic. He and his boys had come across a huge payday. Not only did they find a beautiful woman, but also a Dok Alv. Sure, the Alv is a man, but even so, he’ll get a high price at the market from some noble. And the woman will sell well as a pleasure slave.
“I’m telling you Boris, something’s wrong here.” Frederick, the oldest member of his band, said for the fifteenth time since they captured the two an hour ago.
“What are you going on about, Fred?” Boris finally asked in exasperation.
“What are you going on about?! These two didn’t even fight back! Doesn’t that seem unnatural to you?!”
Frederick did have a point, Boris had to admit. In the two years since he started this little band, he had never seen anyone surrender so easily. But from the moment he saw the woman’s bright red hair while scouting them out, he knew that they’d make plenty of coin from her, and the added bonus of the Alv made this into an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.
He looked around at the men, who were starting to get uneasy with Fred’s mutterings.
“Quiet with you, Fred. They were obviously too startled at having ten horses bearing down on them that they couldn’t do anything. Besides, the Alv was obviously just carrying this sword to try and scare off any bandits. Didn’t work too well, did it, Alv?” Boris called to the amusement of his men. In their laughter, they didn’t hear the chuckles coming from underneath the sack covering the Alv’s face.
“Boris, there are stories of adventurers baiting slavers and bandits like this. Everything in me is saying that we need to get away from these two as fast as possible.”
“Oh, you mean the famous Black Knights? Come on Fred, everyone knows that the Black Knights have been dead for three years now. Some monster finally got them.” Boris retorted, not noticing the Alv’s shoulders stiffen.
“Look, Fred, we’re almost back to the base. We’ll check to see if the woman’s still a virgin, and if she isn’t, you can have first turn at her. Show her the real reason Human men are better than Alvs, alright?” This came from Edward, the second in command. This caused more laughter, and as everyone glanced back at the woman, they saw her shoulders trembling. Taking that as a sign of fear, they laughed more.
As they approached the cave the bandits had taken as their home, the man serving as lookout stepped out of the bushes.
“Any problems?” Boris asked the man.
“No, sir. All five of us are here.”
Nodding, Boris responded with, “Good. We’ll head out to the market tomorrow.”
As the eleven men brought the two captives into the cave, Edward grabbed Frederick to take the woman into the back section that is separated from the rest of the cave. As they walked away, a scent similar to a lightning storm filled the cave, causing a coppery taste to appear in everyone’s mouths. Before anyone could so much as look around, a red flash blasted a hole through Frederick’s back. The hole, about the size of a person’s palm, sizzled with heat, and filled the room with the smell of burnt flesh as the old man fell to the floor, dead before he hit the ground.
“What the-” before Boris could get anymore out, the sounds of two thumps caused him to turn around. There, he saw the Dok Alv, with his hands unbound, taking the sack off his head. But what caused Boris to gape was the fact that the two men who were guarding him were face down on the floor with the same holes in their chests as Frederick, and three orbs of what he could only call lightning was circling around the Alv’s head.
“You know, Boris, you really should’ve listened to Fred. Although, it’s not like we would’ve let you lot run in the first place. This is just the best way to figure out where your base is.” The Alv stated with a blood chilling smile. With that, he snapped his fingers, sending out multiple bolts of lightning from the orbs, and everyone except Boris and Edward fell to the floor, dead.
“Now, of course, we have nothing against you personally. But if we just killed you when you attacked us, any of your men watching us from a distance would’ve escaped, and word about us would’ve gotten around.” Continued the Alv, as if he were talking about a business negotiation.
A grunt of pain caused Boris to turn to Edward, at which point he saw the woman taking the sack off from over her head, and he also saw that she had small horns on her head, as well as wings and a spaded tail. She stood above Edward with her green eyes flashing in anger. “Going to check my virginity, are you?” She then raised her foot, and brought it down between Edward’s legs with enough force to cause him to squeal like a stuck pig, his voice immediately rising two octaves.
“Ohhh. Yeah, I guess Ed there made it personal with Angela when he made that comment.” The Alv said, wincing in sympathy.
“W-who are you?” Boris asked the Alv, as Edward screamed in pain when the Demon woman started breaking his bones.
The Alv’s cruel smile grew larger. “Haven’t you realized? You’re in the presence of a ghost you know. Didn’t you say that my adventuring party was killed by a monster on the way here? As if a monster could kill us.”
Boris’s heart sank as he realized who he was talking to, and it sank even deeper as he realized what this Black Knight was saying. ‘If he lets me live, he’ll be running the risk of letting whoever tried to kill his group know that he’s still alive. I-I have to convince him I won’t tell anyone!’
“Please have mercy! I-I swear, I’ll never speak of this! I’ll give you my True Name, and swear on that if you want!”
The Alv looked thoughtful for a moment, “Hmm. No.” He said as that horrifying smile returned to his face.
Boris immediately took off, running for the cave entrance. Just as he made it out of the cave and thought he might escape, the Alv appeared in front of him, with a red orb of lightning in his hand.
There was a red flash. Boris immediately went numb. He looked down at the gaping hole in his chest, and looked back up at the Alv’s cruel smile. As he collapsed, he saw the ground rushing up to meet him, and everything faded to black.
As Modryn re-entered the cave, Angela was just finishing with the last human.
She looked up at him, “Well, that was fun. And you Black Knights did this on a regular basis?”
“Yeah. We usually used myself, or Morgiana as the bait. The others would watch, sometimes with some of our adventurer friends, and make bets on how long until the one used as bait would snap and slaughter the lot of them.” Modryn replied with a laugh.
“So what now?” Angela asked with a smile.
“Now we rob them blind, torch the corpses, and figure out what to do with the two human kids cowering in the back cave.” Modryn responded, causing a scream of fear to come from the two children that thought they were hidden.
Angela looked to the back. “Come out now, you two.”
As the children slowly came out, Modryn examined them. A boy and a girl, both similar enough to be siblings. Golden blonde hair, fair skin, and blue eyes clouded with fear. Modryn put them at about 10.
The boy started talking with the girl hiding behind him, “P-please, M’lord Alv. Do what you want with me, just don’t hurt my sister.”
Modryn was impressed. With the amount of terror evident in the boy’s eyes, it’s amazing that he was able to speak at all. Let alone barter for his sister’s life.
“No!” Screamed the girl, hugging her brother from behind, tears falling from her eyes. “Please! I’ll let you have my body! Just don’t hurt him!”
“First of all, I’m a Dok Alv. Not one of those bastard High Alvs. Secondly, I don’t hurt children. And I definitely don’t take a child into my bed. Now, why don’t you tell us how you wound up here?” Modryn responded, with exasperation evident on his face.
Still looking at Modryn and Angela with an uncertain expression, the boy started talking. “My name is Justin. My twin sister is Mary. Us and our parents were traveling down the road, returning to our village from the market in the nearby city. Suddenly, we were surrounded by those bandits. They told our parents to give them all the money we had, and they also said that our parents could live if they gave us to the bandits to be sold as slaves.” At this point, tears started falling from his eyes. “Father said yes. The bandits grabbed us. Then they killed Father and grabbed Mother. They took us back here, and raped Mother until she died.” As he finished, Justin broke down. He hugged his sister, both of them kneeling there sobbing.
Angela walked up to them, hugged and started to comfort them. Modryn sighed, recognizing that she’s already grown attached to them, and proceeded to strip the cave of anything valuable.
As he got around to setting the bandits’ bodies on fire, the kids were finally able to calm down.
“Why are you burning them?” Asked Justin.
“Because the way I killed them is very distinctive. It’s been three years, but if the people in charge of this country learns of how these men died, they’ll realize I’m not as dead as they would like. And my true enemies will find out soon after that.” Modryn replied, as the magical flames quickly consumed the bodies.
“Are you a criminal, M’lord?” Mary asked, clutching at her brother’s shirt.
“No, we aren’t criminals, but we aren’t friends of this country.” Angela said. “So, what should we do with them?” She asked, as she turned to Modryn.
“Well, we can’t let them go, and I’m not going to kill kids.” Modryn said. He looked to the children. “You now owe us a Life Debt.” The in-taken breaths told him that they knew what that meant. “I have no intention to use this at a later date. You will both swear loyalty to me and give your True Names now, or I will leave you in the middle of a monster infested area. My honor won’t let me kill you outright, but this is about the safety of my people and my plans, so I have no problems doing that much.”
As he looked at the children, he saw Justin’s eyes change. “M’lord, if I join you. Will I be able to get stronger?” Justin asked as he clenched his fists.
Modryn studied the boy, then walked up to him, and placed his hand on Justin’s head. Modryn used his magic to search the boy. Nodding as if he confirmed something, Modryn turned to Angela. “Do you mind taking him as your apprentice? He has the talent for magic, but it’s more attuned to your style than mine.” He asked, switching to the language that all the Demon races spoke.
“I have no problem with it.” She said with a shrug.
Modryn turned back to Justin. “There are many ways a young man like you can become strong. But, if you want to make the most of the talents you were born with, then your best chance would be to become the apprentice of Angela here. You were born with the aptitude and potential of a powerful Elementalist like her.”
As Justin looked at Angela, she said, “It’s not going to be easy. I’m going to put you through all 9 Hells, and you’re probably going to hate me when it’s all said and done, but you’ll be stronger.”
At that, Justin nodded. He then kneeled to Modryn, and said, “I swear to always serve you loyally and without fail, M’lord Modryn, on my True Name, Justrus Lucas.” As he finished, he visibly shuddered as the power of his True Name bound him to this oath.
Modryn nodded. “I accept your oath.” This sentence sealed the pact, binding Justin’s fate to Modryn.
As Mary watched this, she looked to Angela. “Please, teach me to! I’m sure I can learn as well!”
Angela shrugged, “If you have the talent. But Modryn is the only one who can say either way. His magic is unique, and has many uses.”
Mary turned to Modryn, a look of almost desperation on her face.
He placed his hand on the girl’s head, and sent his magic through her. She gasped, obviously feeling it pass through her, unlike her brother. As Modryn removed his hand, he looked at her with wide eyes.
“Angela’s magic isn’t suitable for you.” He said. As Mary’s face fell, Modryn continued. “Instead, if you wish, you may be taken as my apprentice.”
This declaration caused everyone to stare at Modryn. The twins had seen Modryn’s magic as he killed the bandits, but Angela was the only one who understood the importance of what he said.
“Modryn, are you saying that she has the talent to be a Combat Sorceress?!” Shock plain across her face. “I thought only your clan could practice that branch of magic!”
“So did I. Mary, what Angela is going to teach your brother is how to command the elements to do his bidding. That’s not exactly the process that it sounds like, but it is the easiest way to explain it. What I’m going to teach you is going to be a combination of hand to hand combat, while channeling magic through your body and directing it with nothing but your imagination. Channeling the magic during combat is difficult enough, but directing it without words or instruments to give it structure makes it the most dangerous branch of magic there is. While I will insist on your oath, you don’t need to become my apprentice if you don’t think you can handle it. Actually, it would be better to not do it if you have any doubts whatsoever. Any mental weakness can prove life threatening.”
As Modryn finished, Justin looked at his sister, silently begging her not to accept the apprenticeship.
The elder of the two, Mary had always been the stronger-willed one. Her tomboy tendencies were always getting the two into trouble.
But this incident with the bandits caused her to break down. Now Justin is finding himself hoping that her tomboy nature won’t return, because he knows what her answer will be if it does.
Mary suddenly kneeled down, and said, “I, Maryelles Freya, swear on my True Name to always serve you loyally, and without fail, as your servant, and your apprentice, M’lord Modryn.”
Modryn carefully looked her in the eye, searching for any trace of doubt. He finally responded, “I accept your oath, my apprentice.”
The four of them returned to the road, riding three of the horses taken from the bandits, with the twins sharing a horse and being led by Angela. Modryn suddenly narrowed his eyes.
“Someone’s coming.” He said.
As they rounded a bend in the road that cut through the forest, they saw a troop of soldiers, led by a young woman who was obviously a knight. The woman yelled, “Halt! Who are you?”
Angela called out, “Adventurers, escorting two children hoping to be accepted by the Royal Magic Academy in Moshel.” She used the story Modryn came up with in case this happened, using the fact that even commoners can be accepted by the Magic Academy in Hopewell Kingdom’s capital, if they have the talent.
“Hmph. Adventurers.” The knight said in disdain, not even bothering to try and hide her voice. “Well, if they’re good enough to try, then you need to be warned. There’s a group of bandits around the area. You need to be careful.”
“Thank you for the warning, M’lady Knight.” Modryn replied.
At this, the knight’s face twisted in disgust. “I didn’t tell you for your sake, Dok Alv. If those commoner brats can be of use to the country, then the warning was useful. Adventurers can all rot as far as I’m concerned, and Dok Alvs all deserve to hang. You! Make sure you’re pet knows his place and doesn’t speak to his betters, understand?” That last was directed to Angela.
“I understand, M’lady. But, if I might ask, why do you feel that way about Dok Alvs?” Angela responded, knowing that Modryn would want to know.
The knight scoffed, “Everyone knows that the Dok Alvs are the source of all the problems within the civilized countries.” She spoke as if to someone who finds a conversation with a dog too complicated to understand, “If it wasn’t for the High Alvs discovering their treachery three years ago, who knows what they would have been able to do.” As she talked about the High Alvs, her face took on the look of a devout person talking about their god.
“Right, of course. Silly me.” Angela responded with a smile.
“Whatever. Let’s go men! We’ve wasted enough time with the filth. If you two children want to be any use to the Kingdom, you should cut ties with adventurers as soon as possible.” With that, the knight and her soldiers rode on. Modryn and the others bowed their heads as they passed.
After the soldiers had gone, Modryn said, “Those brats were going to subjugate the bandits we just killed.”
“So, even without you two, the bandits would’ve been killed M’lord?” Justin asked.
“No, the soldiers would’ve been crushed. Especially with that girl leading them. How old was she, 20? And still not properly blooded? Honestly, what are those moronic nobles doing? And that’s not even counting the fact that the upper members of that bandit group were fighters that even experienced knights couldn’t beat. They got very lucky.” Modryn answered indifferently.
“What do you mean, Master? Aren’t knights supposed to be the best trained?” Mary asked, confused.
“There’s a difference between better trained, and better fighting style.” Modryn said, falling into lecture mode the way he does when explaining something complicated to Cu’thar. “A knight’s fighting style is really only useful against other knights and nobles. It’s too rigid, not enough variations. Say, if you’re sword is locked with an opponent’s the natural thing to do would be to kick out and force your opponent to either gain distance, or lose their balance. Nobility believes that kicking like that is disgraceful, and something to be scorned. Adventurers, mercenaries, and bandits who fight in an “anything goes” style, are able to easily beat a knight with the same level of experience. And that girl, who has neither drawn her blade in true anger, or spilt blood, would never be able to defeat that Boris. If we hadn’t come around, those soldiers would’ve been dead, and she would’ve joined you two for the auction block. Even if she is a noble, once the Slavery Magic was placed on her, well, basic Slavery Magic would’ve prevented her from ever saying that she’s a noble again once she was ordered to never reveal it. And I’ve seen what you’d call an advanced form of Slavery Magic that could cause her to forget that she was a noble and that she loves being a pleasure slave with just a word from the master. Although that is considered an Unique Magic, but so is my Combat Sorcery, and well.” Modryn finished, glancing at Mary with an expression that says ‘here you are ‘. “All said, it’s good that I made sure that no one can tell you two were ever kept there. All anyone can tell is that someone came through, killed the bandits, took their valuables, and scattered the horses, burning the bodies in the process. But what I don’t understand is why they’re sending soldiers to do what’s so obviously an adventurer’s job. Or that reaction to us claiming to be adventurers. Just three years ago, soldiers and knights all respected us as brothers-in-arms.”
Before anyone could think of something to say to that, Modryn turned north, heading off the road, and into the forest. “We’re almost there. We’ll head into the woods a bit, then let the horses go and walk the rest of the way. It’ll be another couple hours after we leave the horses.”
A couple hours later, Modryn and Angela found themselves carrying the twins on their backs.
“S-sorry, M’lord.” Justin said, embarrassed.
“No, it’s my fault. I forgot how children are, and even if I did remember, human children can’t be compared to children of Clan Rashee.” Modryn replied.
After walking forward a few more minutes, they reached a clearing. “Angela, stop. We’re here.”
Angela looked around, “I’m not seeing any adventurers’ secret bases, Modryn. Are you sure this is the place?” Angela was right to ask, as there was no change in the surrounding forest.
Modryn chuckled. “Wait for it.”
After a minute, suddenly a voice rumbled out. “WHO GOES THERE???”
It sounded like a mountain speaking, and it was even more disconcerting because this voice sounded like it came from nowhere and everywhere at once, with the one speaking nowhere in sight.
Angela looked to Modryn, who had a peaceful expression on his face, and as far as she could see, didn’t intend to answer.
“WHO GOES THERE?!?” Shouted the voice again, even louder, if that was possible.
Angela looked at Modryn again, who still didn’t look like he was going to answer. Just as she was getting nervous about where this was going, the voice shouted out for the third time, even louder than the first two times.
“WHO GOES THERE?!?”
Modryn finally responded in a clear voice that rang across the clearing, “Family, honor, and money, in that order, are the most important things in a man’s life.”
Angela panicked at that point. “Modryn?! Isn’t he asking for our names?!” Mary and Justin were trembling, terrified at what was about to happen.
Then, there was a ripple across the forest in front of them, and suddenly the forest immediately in front of them disappeared, revealing a hillock and the entrance to a cave. But what attracted the eye the most was the giant of stone holding a massive war hammer, standing between them and the cave.
As Angela and the kids gaped at it, what had to be the biggest Golem Angela had ever seen dropped to one knee as he knelt to Modryn, and said, “Allow me the pleasure of welcoming you home, one of my beloved Masters, Lord Modryn Rashee of the Black Knights.”
As the Golem’s deep voice rolled over them, Modryn smiled, “Yes, Bemar. I’m home.”