“Modryn Rashee! You Bastard! If this was your idea of a joke, it was not funny!”
“It wasn’t. I swear. I just forgot that I hadn’t told you about our security measures.”
Angela was in the middle of screaming at Modryn at the top of her voice. Modryn was sheepishly smiling while trying to calm her down and explain himself. And the children and Golem were watching from a safe distance. Angela had already sent a few bolts of magic off in random directions in her rage, causing a few small fires to sprout, which were quickly smothered by the Golem.
“What security measures?” Angela asked, breathing heavily, as she finally calmed down.
“Bemar is a Golem we made in the second Ancient’s Mausoleum that we went through. We made it to guard our headquarters, and armed it with a Stygian Iron war hammer that we found in the same Dungeon. After thinking about all the ways a guardian of any kind could be fooled, we came up with a clever code. When someone approaches, Bemar is to ask who they are three times, and instead of the speaker’s name, the response needed to prove that nothing is wrong is what we informally adopted as our creed.” Modryn responded, obviously relieved that Angela was finally calming down.
“What happens if they give the wrong answer?” Angela asked with an, albeit unwillingly, impressed face.
“If they answer too soon, or not with the specified phrase, then Bemar uses its hammer to deal with anyone it doesn’t recognize appropriately.” Modryn chuckles. “Even if you know some of what to expect, it’s almost impossible for a stranger to react calmly to that. And we were careful to never speak of the entire method to have it stand down, so just eavesdropping on us, or shape shifting to match us wouldn’t work.”
“What if you were under Mind Control Magic, or a Slavery Magic? Or even under duress?” Angela asked, with a skeptical hint to her voice now.
“We were all immune to most Mind Control and Slavery Magics thanks to our time in the Ancient’s Mausoleums, and the glass pieces that serve as Bemar’s eyes have the ability to see most magics that affect the mind, including Slavery Magic, just in case they do manage to get us with something we don’t know about.” Modryn stated, indicating the blue glass pieces in the Golem’s head. “And if someone has us, or someone else, held captive, they’re more likely to hurt the captive if the one speaking doesn’t answer with their name the first time. And a massive war hammer coming out of nowhere and smashing someone into pulp will be just surprising enough to freeze everyone up while we get the hostage out of the way.” He finished with a laugh.
That finally got Angela to laugh, “I’d imagine. Kinda hard to not be shocked by that.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Modryn went on to introduce the other three to the Golem. “Bemar, this is Angela. And the children are Justin and Mary. Justin is Angela’s apprentice, and Mary is mine. You are to treat them the same way as you treat me, do you understand?”
“Yes, Master. Lady Angela, Lady Mary, and Lord Justin, I welcome you to the Home of the Black Knights.” Bemar answered in its deep voice, bowing at the waist with its right arm across its middle, similar to a butler, to Angela’s amusement.
Modryn suddenly asked, “So Bemar. When did you start developing sentience?”
Bemar paused for the first time, “I noticed it a year ago. I was uncertain how you would respond to it, but I thought that as long as it did not interfere with my service to the Knights, it would simply be bothersome to you, so I decided not to bring it up unless problems arose or one of you asked. If you don’t mind my asking, Master, how did you notice?”
“The first thing you said was ‘Allow me the pleasure’. Something that lacks sentience could not voice that thought in any meaningful way. It may seem odd that something so simple as saying ‘I’ and ‘me’ could have such a huge impact, but that’s how it is. And you don’t have to worry, I have no problem with this, I’m simply surprised. I had heard that it is possible for Golem to develop a sense of self, but only theoretically. I had never thought to see it myself. I suppose I should say congratulations, and condolences, because sometimes being able to feel emotions the way sentient beings do is both a blessing, and a curse.”
“I see. Thank you, Master.” Bemar paused for a moment, “If I may ask, where are the other Knights?”
Modryn sighed, “I had hoped to wait a little longer before you potentially learned exactly how much it can hurt to feel. They’re dead.”
Bemar grew as still as the statue that he appeared to be.
“My brother had my entire clan murdered. He took the opportunity of my homecoming celebration to drug everyone, and kill us all. I was the last one alive when my body was finally able to move, I barely escaped. And when I was heading here, I was betrayed by an ally, and forced to go into hiding in the Demon Territories.”
After a few moments, Bemar suddenly started walking across the clearing.
“Where are you going Bemar?” Modryn asked calmly.
“To the ones who took them from this world. I will end them.” Was the response from the suddenly quite Golem. Angela and the kids found this to be more terrifying than when it was yelling at them.
“Why?” Was all Modryn asked.
“I don’t know. It hurts. My purpose is to protect my masters and their belongings. I wasn’t there. I’m certain that if I did to them what they did to the other Masters, I can make this pain go away.” Bemar answered.
Modryn calmly continued speaking, “Possibly. But you will never get close enough to try. They will throw their armies at you until you are nothing more than dust, and the ones you seek will never appear before you. What you are feeling is many different emotions, Bemar. Rage and guilt. Sadness and heartache. These are just a few of what you’re feeling. The thing about emotions is that we rarely ever feel just one emotion, there is always at least four others at any one time. And depending on the circumstances, emotions can give you the mental strength needed to accomplish something, or make the correct decision on something. But if you allow them to rule you, they will destroy you. You must rule over them.”
“What would you have me do, Master?”
“Trust in me to bring them to justice. I will make them pay for what they’ve done. But now is not the right time. We are here to take everything with us. You now have the ability, and the right, to decide what you will do. But I would like for you to come with us.”
Bemar finally dropped his shoulders. “As you command, my Master.”
Due to the extra-dimensional bags, which had an infinite amount of space within them, that the Black Knights had found in the Ancient’s Mausoleums, most of the treasures were already packed, and ready for any situation. They had separated the items where one type of item went into a one bag, so there was one bag that held weapons, and another that held books on magic, with a third that had books on crafting techniques.
Justin had found one such bag devoted to Memory Crystals, and he and Mary were trying to figure out how to activate one.
“Let me show you how it’s done.” Said Angela walking up to them. “Watch carefully, this’ll be useful for anyone studying any branch of magic. Just channel a magic current through the Crystal. Before you do it for the first time, it’s hard, but once you get used to it, it becomes second nature.”
As the image flickered to life above the Crystal, the twins let out breaths of amazement.
The memory being shown was of a bonfire, with over a dozen people surrounding it. Angela muttered to herself, “Seems to be a wedding.” There was music and sounds of people laughing, drinking, and dancing. The person whose memories the Crystal held walked up to a young Human couple. The man was tall, well muscled and tanned, curly bronze hair topped his head, and his face had many laugh lines around his blue eyes, emphasizing his easygoing nature. The woman hugging him was a head shorter than her lover. She had a figure that most women would kill for, light brunette hair falling between her shoulder blades, and dark brown eyes .
“Congratulations to the happy couple on your wedding day! I’m going to put this on a Memory Crystal, so anything you want to say to your children when they see this?” Spoke the voice that the memory belonged to.
The woman laughed and said, “Yes! Boys, I just saw your Uncle Lance lead three women off, I’ve probably already told you this countless times, but don’t wind up like my brother! And girls, don’t fall for men like my brother!” The three broke down in laughter as she finished.
Justin and Mary laughed too, while Angela let out an “oh no”. She had heard enough stories about “Uncle Lance’s” escapades with women to figure out whose wedding she was seeing.
The memory continued on. “*Gasp* Look!” Spoke the woman who had to be Gwendolyn. As Arthas and the person whose memory was used, most likely Gawain, looked at what Gwendolyn was pointing at, they saw Modryn leading a beautiful woman out to dance to the fast paced music. She had a slim figure, smaller breasts and hips, but still beautiful enough to compete with any Alv. Her long, raven black hair almost seemed to absorb the light of the bonfire and the full moon, and her skin was as white and smooth as porcelain. As they danced to the almost wild beat of the music, a look of absolute joy and abandon were on both people’s faces.
Arthas said, “Well, it’s about time.”
Gawain chuckled, “Seriously, it’s pretty damn hard to figure out what those two want to do with each other. Half the time, they’re practically at each other’s throats. I knew it’d only be a matter of time before they either strangled each other, or went at it like animals in heat.”
“I didn’t know they made this.” The voice came from behind Angela and the twins, startling them.
“Modryn! I-I’m sorry. I was just showing the kids how to use a Memory Crystal. I didn’t realize-” Angela was panicking, feeling like she had been caught doing something she shouldn’t have. As she turned around, she saw Modryn watching the memory, with tears running down his face.
“No. No it’s fine. Memory Crystals are a useful tool, and activating one is a good mana control exercise.” Modryn said, as he wiped the tears away. “Are you three almost finished?”
“Yes, Master. Everything’s ready, this is the last bag.” Came Mary’s hurried response.
“Good. I actually need to ask you, Angela. You don’t mind if we make a small detour, do you? Something’s been bothering me for a while, and I don’t think I can rest easy without checking it out.”
“I don’t mind, but where did you want to go?” Was Angela’s confused response.
Moshel, Hopewell Kingdom
As the door of the quiet Adventurer’s Guild opened, the people inside all looked at the two walking in. A red haired, beautiful Human woman in Magician garbs, and a silver haired Dok Alv man walked in and paused as they looked around.
Bergan and Tanya knew what they would see. The Adventurer’s Guild was a shadow of its former self. Even though it was the time of day when adventurers would be returning from work to collect their rewards, there were only a couple handfuls of adventurers there at the moment. This was the usual scene nowadays. And not just in Moshel, but all of the Human and Alv Territories are like this.
Now the Guild was nothing more than a pig sty, with filth accumulating in the corners, and old alcohol and blood stains on any surface that would stay still long enough.
After that first impression, you’ll then notice a small roped off area. This is where those who aren’t Human or High Alv are made to stay. The new laws of the Human Countries, prescribed by Sonadis Kingdom of course, forbids any non-human that isn’t a High Alv from being free. They’ve all been forced to be subjected to the Slavery Magics. Now, the only two non-humans there are Tanya, a Werecat, and Bergan, a Dwarf.
The two of them had tried to escape with their parties when they realized what was going on, but they were too late. Now, here they were.
As they watched the two who just walked in head up to the desk, Tanya narrowed her eyes. “Does that Dok Alv look familiar to you?”
Bergan looked from above his mug. “Not tha’ I can tell. But he looks to be a damn good swordsman.”
Bergan was a Warrior, spotting another’s skill was as easy as breathing for him. Tanya on the other hand, is a Rogue. For her, body language and the way someone walked could easily indicate their identity. It also helped that as a Werecat her senses, mainly hearing and kinetic vision, were much keener than others.
The Dok Alv’s gait and posture were very familiar, but there was also something about it that didn’t match with anything in her memory. ‘Is he changing it on purpose? It’s impossible to change it completely, but someone skilled might be able to change it enough to throw off someone watching for those things.’ She thought to herself.
The clerk at the reception desk looked to the woman, and nodded to indicate the slave area. The woman nodded, and looked at the Dok Alv. The Alv bowed, turned, and headed to the slave area with a slight smirk on his face.
As he approached the table Tanya and Bergan were sitting at, he showed a sincere smile. “Mind if I join you, Miss? Old Timer?”
Bergan growled, “Listen here, brat-“
“Oh, hush, Bergan. I’m sorry about that, he’s always like this. You can go ahead and join us.” Tanya cut in.
“No, it was my fault, I’m sorry. It was presumptuous of me. My name is Teron.” Responded the Alv as he sat down.
“I’m Tanya, and this crotchety old goat is Bergan.” Said the grey haired Beastwoman, her amber eyes studying Teron carefully.
“Pleased to meet you both.”
“So, Teron. I don’t think I’ve seen you around. How long have you been an adventurer?” Tanya asked, crossing her arms on the table.
“Oh, a few years now. Me and my partner have spent the last three and a half years out in the forests, so we’re a little surprised at all the changes we’ve been seeing. How long has these policies been going on?” Teron easily responded.
‘Hmm. He doesn’t seem to be lying. But he could be skilled enough to lie to a Rogue and get away with it. It has happened before, although if this guy is the same kind of monster as him I don’t want to get on his bad side.’ Tanya thought to herself. ‘Wait…If they’ve been away that long…’
“Are you saying that you haven’t had any Slavery Magic put on you?!” Bergan asked, his voice deathly serious and quiet.
“No, I haven’t. Why?” Was the confused reply.
“You need to get your partner, and get out of the country, now!” Tanya whispered.
“Before whatever’s been poisoning the Humans’ minds gets ahold o’ her!” Bergan finished.
“What’s going on?”
Bergan started talking, keeping his voice low, “Three years ago, something happened. We don’t know what, but something started affecting the Humans and High Alvs. It’s turned them against the other races. Th’ Humans believe they’re above every other race, except the High Alvs, which they as good as worship.”
“The High Alvs always had a high opinion of themselves, but it’s gotten to the point that they almost believe they’re gods.” Continued Tanya.
Teron got a serious look on his face. “You asked me about a Slavery Magic. You were both Enslaved? And your parties let this happen?”
Bergan scoffed, “Let it happen? They made it happen. I was eating with them, talking ’bout heading to Ungerheimr, next thing I know, it’s the next day, and I was Enslaved. The men I’ve trusted to watch m’ back for years went and drugged me!” Bergan finished, clenching his fist in anger.
Teron looked at Tanya. She smiled sadly. “Yeah. My husband did it to me while I was asleep. I wish the Black Knights were here. They probably would have been able to do something about this.”
“Oh, I’m sure Modryn would have raised a right loud fuss about this. But I’m not so sure about the others. They’re all human as well y’know. They might not have been able to resist whatever is happening now. I know I wouldn’t have believed my boys coulda done this to me.”
“Shut up! Morgiana and the others never would have went along with this! Bergan Ungholdt! If you say one more word implying that, I’ll rip that beard off your face, and shove it down your throat, friendship be damned!” Teron said in a furious whisper.
Bergan and Tanya stared at Teron for a few seconds. The Alv finally realized what he said. He looked at Tanya. “Shit!”
“Mo-?!” Tanya started to say, but he quickly covered her mouth and looked around.
“Damn it, Tanya! How can you be the greatest Rogue in Drinaris, and still yell out the first thing that comes to mind when you’re surprised.” Seeing that no one noticed, he continued, “Come on, both of you!”
He led the two shocked adventurers to a conference room, making sure no one saw them. After they entered, Teron muttered under his breath for a few seconds. The few words that Tanya and Bergan heard were unintelligible.
“M-Modryn?” Tanya finally managed to ask, with tears starting to fall from her eyes.
“Hah. The world might’ve gone to Hell in a hand basket, but at least you two haven’t changed.” Modryn said, letting the illusion go, revealing his black hair, red eyes, and red tattoos on his face.
“It is you!” Tanya shouted as she rushed in to hug him, sobbing.
“Oof. Guess it’s a good thing I sound proofed the room.” Modryn stated wryly.
“By th’ Gods, lad! Are you a sight for sore eyes!” Bergan said as the two men clasped forearms.
“Same to you Old Timer.”
“What happened? Where have you kids been?” Bergan started asking.
“Before all that, what’s it worth you two to have those Enslavements removed?” Modryn said with a grin. Everyone started laughing at the old joke that they’ve been doing since some drunk farmer yelled at them about adventurers only caring about money.
“I’ll give ya m’ weight in the finest Dwarven mead for that.”
“And I’ll give you my five best daggers.”
“Haha, sounds good to me.”
As Modryn clapped the two on their shoulders, Tanya and Bergan sighed in relief as they felt the Slavery Magics lift from them.
“Oh, but it does feel good to be a free man again.” Commented Bergan, clenching his fists.
Modryn asked something he’d been dreading. “Bergan. Daniel, everyone else. Where are they?”
Bergan’s face fell. “They’re dead, lad. Ever since this madness started, we’ve been nothing more than meat shields for our parties. The two of us are the only ones left in this branch.”
Modryn collapsed into the nearest chair, grief etched into his face. “We’re adventurers. The only things we should have to worry about is the monsters and bandits in front of us. Not our allies. Not our families.”
Tanya placed her hand on Modryn’s shoulder. “Modryn. Where are the others? Who is that woman?”
Modryn took a deep breath, and explained the events of the last three years to them.
As he finished, Tanya collapsed to her knees, sobbing, and it was Bergan’s turn to fall into a chair.
“By the Gods. Sonadis! It all comes back to Sonadis! They’re the root cause of all of this!” Bergan’s face was first white with shock, then red with rage.
“I agree that they had a hand in some of this. But I can’t believe that it’s all their fault. Something is going on here, and I can’t think of any other way to draw them out than what I’m already planning on doing.” As Modryn said that, he had a grim look on his face.
“Become the Demon Lord, and conquer the continent, right? I’m in.” Bergan quickly said.
“Me too. I’m coming with you.”
Modryn looked between them. “Alright, I’m not going to insult you by asking if you’re sure. Adventurers wouldn’t live very long if we couldn’t make the best decisions in the shortest amount of time.”
“Aye to that.”
“Besides, other than killing my husband and our parties, we have nothing else for us in the Human Territories.” Tanya put in with a terrifying grin.
“Right. We need to do that tonight.” Bergan agreed with a bloodthirsty grin of his own.
Modryn couldn’t help but remember the stories he’d heard of the unfortunate souls who incurred the wrath of a Dwarf or a Werecat. “Well, this should be entertaining. Mind if me and Angela watch?”
As the three of them crept back into the Guild’s main room, they saw that Angela had kept everyone’s attention focused on her. As she saw them sit down at their table again, Angela released whatever Succubus trick she had been using since they got up from the table.
She got up and made her way to the three non-humans. “Everyone is going to meet at the home of Jasper after this, and they invited me as well.” Angela paused as Modryn sent her a quick hand sign to say agree to it. “I accepted naturally. Alright everyone, I’m ready.”
As everyone left the Guild with the Dok Alv, Dwarf, and Werecat trailing behind, none of the Humans noticed the smiles on their faces, or the barely suppressed bloodlust leaking out of them.
After they arrived at Jasper’s home, Jasper being Tanya’s husband, everyone gathered in the main room.
Angela clapped her hands for attention. “Everyone. I’m going to have my Dok Alv perform some tricks for our amusement. Teron?”
“Of course. I’d be happy to.” Modryn agreed, wearing a smile that made more than a few people uneasy. After a few seconds of incomprehensible mutterings, there was a red light. “There. Now this building is soundproof, and it’s impossible to escape.” Modryn smiled as he released his illusion.
“Modryn?! But you’re de-urgh!”
The second person who spoke stopped because of a sharp pain in his chest. He looked down to see Tanya looking up at him with a smile on her face, holding her dagger in his heart.
Jasper shouted out, “Tanya?! What’s the meaning of this?!”
“Come now Jasper, surely you remember what Modryn can do,” said Bergan as he used his battle axe to spill a person’s organs all over the floor. “All it took was a touch, and the Enslavements were undone.”
Jasper looked towards Angela. “Martha! Stop th-.” He stopped as he saw ‘Martha’ with horns, wings, and a whipcord tail that was currently strangling one of his party members.
Angela looked at him with an amused smile. “Hmm? I don’t know a Martha. I’m Angela.”
As Modryn drew his sword to take part, Jasper started appealing to him. “Modryn! You can’t do this! The Guild will never forgive you for breaking their rules! You’ll be hunted by adventurers for the rest of your life!”
Modryn looked at him thoughtfully. “Did you really forget? I guess that’s why they all became so willing to do all of this Bergan. They forgot about the Code.”
“Damn! These brats would really go and forget the most important thing to us adventurers? What in the 9 Hells! After us veterans went through the trouble of teaching you?”
“Umm, Modryn? It might be that I’m just a mercenary and not an adventurer, but aren’t you supposed to listen to the Adventurers’ Guild?” Angela asked.
Modryn looked at her surprised. “I guess this isn’t as widespread as I thought. Well, you know how when someone kills something, they absorb a bit of the magic of that being, wether they be one of the races or a monster?”
“Yeah, that’s common sense.” Angela replied impatiently.
“Lass, adventurers have a job where they regularly come into conflict with extremely powerful monsters, more so than your typical soldiers, mercenaries, or bandits. As they absorb more energy, they become more powerful. Do you get where we’re going with this?” Bergan cut in, dodging someone with a sword and easily cutting him in half.
“Ohhh.” Was Angela’s response as she saw their point. ‘If it’s like that, then…’
“Of course, bandits and soldiers could bring down an adventurer if they outnumber him, but it’s rare for a soldier or knight who’s never really fought the more powerful creatures or people to bring down an adventurer of the same years of experience.” Tanya said as she smoothly slid between two opponents, leaving their throats cut.
“The governments established the Adventurer’s Guilds to try and gain control of us,” continued Modryn as he met another adventurer’s sword. “But we had already developed a way to keep each other in check.”
“It’s more or less the adventurers’ religion. Because no one can overpower us, we needed to establish our own rules and regulations. They include never interfering with another’s hunt without being asked to, ignoring each other as much possible out in the field, and never hurting innocents unless there is no other choice, which there rarely is. If these rules are broken for whatever reason, it’s the duty of all adventurers in the area to investigate and administer punishment.” As Bergan finished, he cut down his last opponent, and all that was left was Jasper. He knew the strength of these three people, and he thought that if he didn’t fight, he wouldn’t be killed.
“The reason adventurers frequented the Guilds is because they are convenient places to find jobs, but adventurers really only pretend to follow the Guild’s rules. The Guild knew this, so they looked the other way, at least they used to. It didn’t hurt that there are rumors running around that the more adventurers kill monsters, the more like monsters we become. Which may or may not be true. There’s certainly some adventurers who start acting more like animals. Like Modryn.” Tanya finished as she walked up to Jasper and kicked him across the room.
Modryn looked at Jasper as if he was a particularly disgusting insect. “Most laws can be overlooked with a small beating as a lesson. But there is one part of the Code that if broken, cannot be forgiven. Never betray family. The only punishment for betraying a party member is death. This has always been our rules. No matter what the Guild had to say.”
“No, wait, plea-urghk!” That was the adventurer, Jasper’s, last words.
That’s Chapter 8! I’m going to admit, I’m definitely questioning whether the scene with the Memory Crystal of the wedding was a good idea. Any thoughts on if I placed it in the right location in the story?