Tristan had decided that he was going to kill Modryn and Angela when he saw them.
After all the assurances from the Dok Alv and Succubus before they left, they were still late! And if that wasn’t bad enough, the commanders of all the mercenary bands had arrived the day before. At the same time.
It would’ve been fine if they had arrived in a way that prevented them from meeting one another, but for some inexplicable reason, that didn’t happen.
Most mercenary bands are not on bad terms with each other. For the greater part, they were professionals. They had a healthy respect for one another, and didn’t usually hold grudges if they wound up on opposite sides of a war. It was just business after all. If you couldn’t deal with it, you had no business being a mercenary. It was this that allowed them to come together like this.
That being said, they were still business rivals. Most of the time, they were competing for contracts. When the messages arrived stating that all the bands were invited to this meeting, they assumed that they would be competing for a partnership with the Strong Horns in a contract that the younger band had managed to land.
Add to that the fact there were some bands that were more competitive than others, one in particular that none of the other bands liked due to their behavior, and they had been sitting around with nothing to do for 24 hours, and you have the formula for the perfect migraine that was currently attempting to kill Tristan.
The ten mercenaries have been in this meeting room for an hour, arguing amongst each other. Their lieutenants standing along the walls silently. The four Strong Horns in various states of aggravation. And Rom sitting in the corner, watching.
The old Werewolf had denied them the use of his inn, so they were meeting in what amounted to the village’s meeting house.
A voice suddenly called out to Tristan, “So? Isn’t it about time you informed us of what this job is that you were talking about, Demon?”
The one who spoke was a violet haired Lamia by the name of Sophia, Commander of Wrathful Dragon. Behind her was her two lieutenants, a Gorgon with green snakes for hair and the rose quartz glasses they used to prevent accidental use of their powers, and a white haired Harpy with bronze eyes.
As Sophia’s voice rang out, everyone turned to look at Tristan. Sighing, he responded with, “I tried telling you this before, but we need to wait until our new commander returns.”
Sophia arched an eyebrow. “He is making us wait?”
“No. He was scheduled to return a few days before we were expecting all of you. Which I feel the need to remind you was in five days. At least, that’s what was written in the letters I sent to all of you.” Tristan shot back firmly. Neglecting to mention the fact that Modryn was supposed to return exactly seven days before the mercenaries were scheduled to arrive.
Sophia chuckled and shifted the coils of her tail, the scales being the same shade of violet as her hair. “Point taken, I think. So where did he go anyways? And if I remember correctly, the Strong Horns have six leaders? I’m assuming that the other two either went with him, or one of them is the commander and the other went with him?”
Tristan studied the Lamia, wondering how much to tell her. “He is indeed one of the six leaders. And as for where he went, he went to collect the funds needed.”
They were then interrupted by one of the Strong Horns’ men entering. “S-Sir! The road to the west! There’s something coming!”
Tristan stood up, “What is it?”
“It’s a giant made of stone, sir! And it’s carrying a massive war hammer!”
“Oh? This sounds interesting.” This coming from Zacharias, a Werebear and Commander of Beastial Force.
While the Bearman said that, Tristan thought about where the stone giant was coming from. ‘The west? No it couldn’t be. But if I had to guess, my first would be…’ He quickly left, followed by everyone else.
As they arrived at the western entrance of the gate, they saw what had the guards so worried. It did indeed look like a giant made of stone, but what it really was…
“Is that…a Golem?” asked Sophia, voicing everyone’s thoughts.
“Biggest damn Golem I’ve ever seen!” This coming from Drnar, a Lizardman and Commander of Grthas.
The Strong Horns were shocked at the size of the Golem as well. It was 4.5 meters high! How could such a massive Golem be created!? They also saw that the war hammer it held was Stygian Iron. How in the 9 Hells did such a massive amount of Stygian Iron get forged like that?! But what really concerned them were the six figures walking alongside it. Two of them were awfully familiar. ‘Oh Gods. Please tell me they didn’t.’ was the thought that kept dancing through Tristan’s head.
Suddenly, the Harpy called out, “Commander, there are six people walking with the Golem. One Dok Alv. One Succubus. One Dwarf. One Werecat. And two Human children.”
Hearing this, the Strong Horns groaned as one. Sophia looked at them, “You know them?”
Tristan rubbed his forehead as he answered. “Yes, unfortunately. That Dok Alv is the Strong Horns’ Commander, Modryn. And I swear, that man’ll be the death of me.”
Despite herself, Sophia was intrigued by the Strong Horns’ Commander, Modryn.
While most of the other mercenaries had most likely arrived at the meeting place early to try and get an advantage in the negotiations, her main reason for being early was to get a feel for the Strong Horns. She had heard many rumors of the Strong Horns, and she was curious about them.
She was surprised that Tristan, the one her sources told her was the commander, had stepped down and let someone else take over. She was even more surprised that the new commander was a Dok Alv.
Mari, the Harpy that accompanied her, was able to listen in discreetly as the Strong Horns had a quickly whispered conversation.
So, the children were a couple of orphans who Modryn and the Succubus decided to take as apprentices? And he took the girl? That’s odd. The Dwarf and Catwoman were old adventurer friends of his that decided to come with him? And apparently, the situation for adventurers has gotten to the point where they’d happily come to the Demon Territories? And the Golem is a possession of his from his adventurer days? Damn it all! That just brought more questions than answers!
Now they were back in the meeting room, the Dok Alv sitting at the head of the table with a slightly irritating smile on his face.
He had introduced the Human children to a Kobold child and asked her, in what Sophia was pretty sure was the Kobold’s tongue, to show the children around. The Golem couldn’t fit in the building. And the two adventurers joined them and were off by themselves in the room, observing everyone with the same smiles as Modryn. He couldn’t possibly have planned all of this, but he sure is good at taking everything in stride.
‘Is that an adventurer thing?’ thought Sophia in a brief flash of irritation at their smiles, before she smothered it, ‘No. There’s a chance that they are calculated. Can’t be distracted.’
“So, the reason I asked you all here. I plan on conquering Drinaris. I’ve asked you all here to see if you are interested in taking part and potentially acquiring any profits.”
Everyone stared at him. No hesitation. Just openly admitting to his plans. At first, Sophia thought he was joking, but there was no change in his expression. Then she thought that he was insane, but looking at the other Strong Horns revealed serious expressions on all of them. If he was mad, so were they, and they didn’t strike Sophia as that.
Sophia finally managed to say something, “You’re serious? You’re not just insane?”
Modryn nodded. “I understand your concern. I am serious. My sanity is as questionable as any other adventurer’s, but I do believe I’m not so crazy as to drag countless others into war for no reason.”
He certainly seems lucid. Sophia decided to go directly to the point that concerns the mercenaries. “Be that as it may,” she continued, “you are asking us to side with you for what? Potential profits?”
Modryn’s grin grew a little wider. He then grabbed a bag that he had sitting beside him. Opening it, he took out a money sack, and threw it to the middle of the table. As it landed, gold coins spilled out. “I have more than enough coin to pay for all of you for over five years, but I think it would be best if we simply restricted the contract to one year, and renegotiate when the time comes. I am not limited to money either. Magic, weapons, crafting and enchantment techniques. Fighting styles and the like. You can all take your pick. As a former adventurer, I know full well how valuable any one of these things are in the long run. Some of them are more valuable than all the gold and jewels I already have.”
As Modryn started talking about something that the rest of them understood, the other mercenaries finally got their wits about them.
Zacharias, whom Sophia had worked together with on occasion, cleared his throat. “Can you elaborate on why you plan on doing this? I don’t usually ask but this isn’t exactly the standard job.”
For the first time, Modryn seemed surprised. ‘So he didn’t expect anyone to ask why? Well, I can understand. Mercenaries don’t usually ask why their employers hire them. But he doesn’t seem unhappy about it. I see. Part of the reason he wants us is because of our individuality. From what I hear, the only people more eccentric than successful mercenary commanders are adventurers. As an adventurer himself, Modryn values that. He wants followers who can think for themselves, but that could backfire in a big way.’ This went through Sophia’s mind as she listened to Modryn’s reasons.
She was quite surprised to find out his reasons, but she agreed with his thoughts. After all, that was why her people left the now, non-existent marshes she used to call home. And most of the other commanders were able to understand as well, except for that Incubus, Frey the Commander of Twisted Fangs. Mercenaries needed to understand terrains and how they change over the years. They knew better than most what was happening in the Demon Territories.
Drnar was the next one with a question, “How do you intend to unite the Demon Territories? What’s your first move?”
Modryn then pulled out a map of the peninsula, with areas labeled for the general territories of the warlords. These were shifting constantly, but there were some consistency in the general areas.
Pointing at one area in particular, he said, “First, I want to approach the Ogres. By challenging their leader to a duel, I can gain control of all of them in a reliable way.”
Everyone looked at him. “You do realize that a duel for dominance between Ogres needs to be fought bare handed, correct?” As Sophia asked this, she began wondering how she wound up needing to ask something that was so devoid of common sense in her life.
“Yeah, I know. Sounds fun actually. Been a while since I’ve had a good natured brawl with someone new.” was the completely confident answer that she received. “After that, I hope to be able to speak with the Minotaur. They are a more peaceful race than others, but I believe that I can convey my reasoning in a way that convinces them to join us. When that is finished, I expect we’ll need to fight against the other warlords. All said, I actually expect most of everything to be finished and at least partially stabilized in five years.”
He understands how each race in the Demon Territories thinks and acts, and he isn’t just going to war with everyone and force them to submit. Suddenly, another voice interrupts Sophia’s thoughts, “What about this one?”
Looking around, Sophia saw that the Catwoman, Tanya, had walked up without anyone noticing, and was pointing at a small area of the map.
Modryn let out a slightly frustrated noise. “That’s the territory of Lord Satrus, an Elder Lich who took over there about 500 years ago. He acts odd for a Lich, and seems content to just rule that territory. The people of the territory are actually doing well, and the only undead you can see are for manual labor on farms and construction. I honestly have no idea how to approach him, though. He throws back all attacks, and doesn’t seem to have any interest outside of his territory. I also have reservations about allying with a Lich as well, even one who seems sane.”
Tanya had a startled look on her face. “A Lich not trying to destroy all life? That is weird.” After that, her curiosity was apparently sated, and she walked back to her seat.
Sophia looked around to see if anyone else had been startled by Tanya. The only one who wasn’t surprised was Modryn. ‘How did she just walk up here without anyone noticing?’
Moving on, Grathas, Dragonkin Commander of Bloody Swords, asked, “It looks like you have it more or less planed out for the Demon Territories. But what about after that? How do you plan to even begin with the rest of Drinaris?”
Modryn looked at him, “I’ve already taken steps to bring the more powerful adventurers into this. After that, it’s the Dok Shee. But for them to listen, my bloodline won’t be enough. We’ll need to be in a position of power for them to consider joining us.”
“Wait a second! Adventurers? Dok Shee? Who are you to be able to move either of them like that?” Sophia was reeling. She had never heard of anything like this.
For the first time, Modryn’s face became truly serious. “I am Modryn, second son of Clan Rashee’s Head, and formerly a member of the adventurer party The Black Knights, known by adventurers as the Black Knight of Chaos.”
Everyone stared at him. Sophia finally managed to ask, “Can we trust you? How do we know you’re not just trying to lead us to our deaths?”
“Why would Sonadis send someone to kill all of you after 1000 years of ignoring you. Besides that, there are much easier ways to do that than this. No I have my own reasons for being in the Demon Territories for the last three years. Reasons I don’t feel the need to go into at the moment.” As Modryn replied to Sophia’s question, his voice grew colder, and when she opened her mouth to ask what reasons, he definitely held a small bit of killing intent.
Sophia shuddered. ‘He’s been forthcoming, and in a pleasant mood this whole time. To react like that. His circumstances must be something else.’
Modryn closed his eyes for a few moments. When he opened them again, he had the same warmth from before. “So? Any other questions?”
Frey suddenly started laughing. “I’ll be honest with you, Modryn, I really don’t care about all this reason and plans and such. Just pay me like I ask, and I’ll do whatever you say. I don’t even want gold or weapons. I’ll settle for that Succubus and Werecat over there. Give them to me, and I’m your man.”
All across the room, there were looks of disgust directed at the Incubus. While Twisted Fang was considered a successful band, it was because they were the largest. The casualties they had after every campaign were massive. They truly didn’t care for their men, and the leadership were always making small, but numerous mistakes that could be easily avoided. Every mercenary band that interacts with them views Frey as no better than a mad dog.
Sophia looked towards the Strong Horns, knowing that they had never interacted with Frey and his men. She was surprised to see a thoughtful look on Modryn’s face. ‘He’s not seriously considering this right?’
“I see. So I take it that you and your men will have left by sundown?” Modryn’s response froze everyone in the room.
“What did you say?” the Incubus’s expression grew cold.
“You heard me. I have no need for anyone who can’t work seriously.” Modryn said dismissively.
Frey jumped up out of his seat, his face twisted in anger. “You came to us on this!”
“And you seem to be misunderstanding why I invited you here. I didn’t invite all of you here because I absolutely needed you. I invited you here because I felt that my goals would be more easily reached with everyone here working for me. The fact that you would joke around like that, especially once money has been put on the table, tells me that we can’t work together. I myself enjoy good humor, but for those of us who view this as serious business, someone immature like yourself will only get in the way. So I’m asking you to leave.” Modryn’s face had grown progressively colder as he spoke, and now, everyone who had been sitting between him and Frey began subtly edging themselves out of the way.
“Bastard!” With that, Frey drew his sword and jumped at Modryn. Without even glancing towards him, the Alv raised his fingers up, and Frey was suddenly pressed against the room’s ceiling.
The Orc and Troll that had come with Frey yelled and started rushing at Modryn. Two blurs suddenly intercepted them, and the Troll found himself laying on the floor against the wall with the Dwarf standing over him, and the Orc was being held up by the throat with one hand by the Catwoman. Both adventurers had bloodthirsty grins on their faces as they began taunting the two mercenaries.
Ignoring this, Modryn continued to move his fingers, from one direction to another. Each time he did, Frey would slam into a wall, floor or ceiling. He finally threw the Incubus through the door, the wood gave out under the sudden force, shattering and sending splinters everywhere.
As Modryn followed him out the door, everyone was behind him. The adventurers dragged Frey’s lieutenants out and tossed them away. From the way they were groaning and holding themselves, it’s obvious that the adventurers had broken the Troll’s arm, and the Orc’s ribs.
Frey groaned as he stood up, glaring at Modryn with a look of pure hatred. Modryn, on the other hand looked at him with an expression as if the Incubus was beneath his notice. “If you continue with this foolishness, you will die. Just walk away, Frey.”
“DAMN YOU BASTARD ALV!” Frey screamed as he drew a dagger and charged at Modryn.
Modryn only said, “Bemar.”
Just as Frey was right in front of Modryn, a massive hammer came down on him. There was a sound like thunder, and dust exploded everywhere. As the dust cleared, Modryn stood with that same expression on his face, the Golem’s enormous war hammer inches in front of him. There wasn’t any trace of dust on him. Or any trace of Frey in front of him. “Thank you, Bemar.”
“It was my pleasure, Master.”
As Modryn turned to everyone else, he had a small apologetic smile on his face. “I apologize for that. Now that that’s finished, why don’t we head back inside and finish up?”
As she returned to the meeting room, Sophia found herself thinking, ‘He won’t have any problems controlling his subordinates,’ thinking back to when she realized why he wanted the mercenaries. She had decided to agree to his proposal. The pay was too good to ignore, and she wanted to see what he would be capable of doing.