One week had passed since the nine mercenary bands agreed to Modryn’s contract. The commanders had all left to gather the rest of their forces that they had left behind to attend the meeting. They each left one lieutenant to represent their interests in the case that any decisions are made while they’re away.
Salim, the Gorgon of Wrathful Dragon, was enjoying a mug of ale on her own in a back room of the inn, taking a break from everyone else. Suddenly, the door opened, admitting four of the founding members of the Strong Horns, the innkeeper, and the two adventurers.
Everyone paused as they stared at one another. Salim, feeling that she should conserve Wrathful Dragon’s image, was unsure how to proceed. Should she continue with her drink as if nothing is happening? Or should she leave the room to the ones who obviously come to this room regularly? The Dragon’s new employers might take either as a slight, one appearing like the representative of Wrathful Dragon thinks herself above them, and the other appearing that she is hiding something from them. ‘OhGods. Why did the Commander leave me here? I told her I wasn’t good at interacting with others. Now what am I supposed to do?’
The Dwarf spoke up, breaking the silence, “Good day, lass. You’re Miss Salim, if I’m not mistaken?”
Startled, Salim replied, “Y-Yes. And you’re Sir Bergan?”
“Heh, just Bergan’s fine, lass. Adventurers have no need for any of that formal speech.” Bergan responded with a chuckle. “While you’re here, you can join us. Me an’ Tanya were just about to tell the rest of these kids about some of Modryn’s not so glorious adventures. Taking advantage of the Lad being busy with his apprentice’s first lessons, you see.”
“Haha, now this I can’t wait to hear.” said the Strong Horns Cavalry leader, Gortuk with an evil grin on his face.
Embarrassed, Salim tried to excuse herself, but was caught by Tanya appearing right beside her, “Nonsense! This’ll be fun for everyone! Well, everyone except Modryn of course.” the Catwoman said with a grin stretching from ear to ear.
‘Again?! How did she move without me noticing?! Not even Mari can do that, and she’s the best Rogue I know!’ Salim was truly surprised at the Catwoman appearing from out of nowhere again, just like during the meeting when she approached the table without any of the commanders noticing.
Bergan, understanding her confusion, answered her unasked question, “Lass, Tanya there is the best Rogue in Drinaris. If she doesn’t want to be noticed, she won’t be. Not even if she slides a knife in your heart.”
“Don’t be so over dramatic, Old Timer. There are plenty of people who are able to notice me.” was Tanya’s dismissive reply.
“Really? I only know of six, and they can’t rightly be considered normal.” shot back the Dwarf with a wry smile. “Didn’t you meet the Knights because you wanted to see if they were everything you’d heard? You tried an assassination technique on Modryn while he was asleep, and was soundly beaten.”
“Hah! Just like you? ‘Arthas of the Black Knights! I challenge you to a duel!’ After saying that all grandly, you then proceeded to let a Human beat you like a drum!”
“Grr. Like I said, those lot can’t be considered normal!” Bergan then looked around at everyone in the room, all of them watching the argument with amusement. “We both racked our heads over how the Black Knights were so unnaturally strong, but never in our wildest dreams did we suspect that it was because they had conquered the Ancient’s Dungeons.” He took a swig of his ale. “Haah. Damn shame what happened to them. To be caught up in that trouble in Sonadis, and used as a way to kill all of Clan Rashee. That is not the way an adventurer should go.”
Salim was shocked. “What did you just say?”
Bergan looked at her, and as he was about to answer her, Tristan interrupted, “Bergan, I don’t think that you should tell her without Modryn’s permission.”
Tanya was the one who replied, “We pretty much have her measure, Tristan. And that of her commander. Neither of them are going to try and use it against him, even if they were the kind of people to do that. They value their lives too much for that.” she then turned to Salim. “When the Black Knights went to Clan Rashee’s home three years ago, Modryn’s elder brother had the wine everyone was drinking for the celebration of Modryn’s return drugged. The Sonadis Royal Guard proceeded to slaughter everyone. He’s been living here in the Demon Territories ever since.”
Salim shuddered. No wonder he was so angry at being accused of leading them into a trap for Sonadis. He must despise them.
“Ah, come now! Enough with the depressing stuff! Let me tell you about the time Modryn and Gawain were forced to fight a Feral Dragon in the nude! It involves them trying to get Morgiana and Gwendolyn to go skinny dipping with them, and a couple mischievous wild dogs stealing their clothes!” Bergan said with a laugh.
The next few hours were filled with amusing tales of The Black Knights’ less glamorous escapades. The leader of the Strong Horns Mage Division arrived sometime in the middle, having given her own disciple study materials for his lessons. Even Salim found herself laughing along with the rest. After one particularly humorous tale about a so called “legendary sword stuck in a stone” and a mad old Mage called Merlin, there was a knock on the door.
As everyone looked towards the door, the voice of Mary, Modryn’s apprentice, came through it, “Miss Gretchen? Are you there? Master told me to find you, so you can heal my injuries now that the lessons are over for the day. Can I come in?”
Gretchen replied with a puzzled expression, “Of course you can dear. But to have you healed after only one day, he’s not coddling you, is h-WHAT IN THE NINE HELLS HAPPENED TO YOU?!” Her comment about Modryn being too soft on the girl changed to a scream as she saw what state the Human was in. The child was covered head to toe in bruises and cuts. One of her eyes was swollen shut, and the Kobold child, whom Salim remembered being named Kha’la, was supporting her on her right side. Of course, she was careful not to aggravate Mary’s bruises on that side.
As the Hobgoblin rushed the girls to a chair so she could start healing, Mary had a proud expression on her face. “Master said that I did very well on my first day. I was able to understand a good amount of the theory of Combat Sorcery that he told me today without needing to ask too many questions. I was also able to start moving magic after only an hour of meditation. And when he started teaching me how to create barriers under stress, I was able to put one up after five minutes of sparring.”
Kha’la spoke up then, “Lord Modryn said that it was good she was able, ahh, ‘get one up’?” Pausing as she looked for the right words, she continued after seeing Mary’s nod, “Get one up after only five minutes, and hold it for thirty seconds on her first try.” Salim had heard that it was only recently the Kobold had someone sit her down and teach her Common, and while the girl was still clumsy with it, she was getting better.
Mary continued talking about her training, “After that, Master had me continue until I could hold a barrier up for a full minute of both magical and physical attacks.”
“Hmm. Maybe the lad has gone soft? If it had been me, this’d only be the warmup for the rest of the training.” Bergan spoke up.
“Oh, hush you old goat! You know Combat Sorcery is just as taxing on the mind as the body! They can’t just work through the pain like we do!” Tanya immediately scolded the Dwarf. She turned to Mary, and said, “Don’t listen to him, sweetie. If Modryn said you did well, then you did. No one in the world knows Combat Sorcery like him, and the Dok Alvs don’t believe in taking it easy when it comes to training. He’s not going to do anything that you can’t take, but his people believe that letting their students take the easy path is robbing them of their potential strength in the long run. It’ll be tough, but I’m sure you’ll be fine, and you’ll be grateful for this when your power fully blossoms.”
Mary smiled at Tanya. Cu’thar cleared his throat, “Well, looks like we made the right choice not to become adventurers. I don’t think we would’ve survived the training.” he said, shaking his head.
“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that, lad. I’d say the five of you are maybe at the level of middling adventurers?” Bergan commented, shooting a look at Tanya.
Nodding, Tanya agreed. “Yeah, about right in the middle of the rankings. At least, lower middle-class. Which is impressive for mercenaries.”
The Strong Horns all stared at the adventurers. Angela finally managed to ask, “How? We haven’t been into any dungeons.”
“Oh, come on, Angela,” giggled Tanya, “surely you know that dungeons by themselves are useless. It’s all about the monsters that you kill. The only exception to that rule is the Ancient’s Dungeons.”
Tristan shook his head, “Yeah, maybe we’ve had more monster encounters in the last few years, but that couldn’t have that much effect on us.”
Gortuk suddenly had a puzzled expression on his face. “Hey, when did we start getting into fights with monsters so much? And they were all beasts that we could handle, never anything more. Not to mention the fact that it was when our men weren’t around.”
As the Strong Horns started thinking about that question, Cu’thar was the one who came up with the answer. “Wasn’t it about three years ago? …about the time that Modryn joined us.”
As the Troll finished his thought, Bergan said, “Oh, that’s how it is. Then it looks like Modryn’s to thank for that.”
“What do you mean?” Tristan asked.
Tanya laughed, “It’s an old trick us adventurers use to help people grow stronger when there’s no need to teach them the basics. The adventurer would lead a monster of appropriate strength to the people in need of training, and watch, ready to step in, in case of any unexpected circumstances happening.”
The faces of the Strong Horns suddenly started cramping up. Salim was amazed to see a vein visibly throbbing on Tristan’s forehead. “So that’s how it is?” he asked.
At that moment, the knocking at the door turned everyone’s attention in that direction. Modryn’s voice came through the wood, “Hey, is everyone in there? Did Mary get that healing?”
Gretchen called out, “Oh, yes, Modryn. I just finished. What are you waiting for, come on in.”
“…You know what, I actually have a bad feeling right now, so I think I’ll pass.”
“What are you scared of, Modryn? Come in. Now. Salim, from Dragon, needs to ask you something.” This came from Angela.
“Um, okay? Is something wrong?” He asked as he started opening the door.
“Si-!!” Salim tried to warn him, but she found her mouth covered by Angela.
As he came in, Modryn saw the cramping expressions on the Strong Horns’ faces, the extremely amused expressions on the adventurers’ and innkeeper’s faces, and Salim’s mouth covered by Angela. As he tried to turn and run from the room, the door was slammed shut from the impact of a dagger thrown by Gortuk hitting it.
As he turned around, the three men of the Strong Horns stood up. “So, you were training us were you?” As Modryn shot a look at the adventurers, they were barely able to contain their laughter. Tristan continued, “You didn’t even feel the need to inform us of this?”
Modryn obviously resigned himself to his fate. He knew that nothing he said would help at this point, so he went ahead with the truth. “Well, it’s been proven that that training is less effective if you know what’s going on.” He said with a shrug and a laugh, as they jumped him.
Modryn spent the rest of the day with his wrists, arms, and ankles bound, sitting on his calves, watching most of everyone else enjoying their ale.
Most of everyone, because Salim found herself in the same position as him, sitting beside him, for attempting to warn him. When she later told Sophia of this incident, the Lamia was laying on the floor laughing for a good five minutes.
As the first full moon after the mercenaries joined together approached, the different bands were just starting to come together. It was obvious that there were many months of work ahead of them before they were going to be able to do anything together.
The night before the full moon, Modryn was preparing for another trip. This time his destination was the location of the meeting arranged with the adventurers.
Going with him was Bergan, Tanya, Mary so as to not interrupt her training, and Gretchen who refused to stay behind if Mary was going to be trained. Even though Modryn swore to her that the only lessons they’d really only be able to do on the road was arithmetic, languages, writing, and minor beginner’s spell work, she still remained adamant.
A knocking on his door interrupted his packing. Thinking it was one of the Strong Horns, Modryn answered with, “If you’re a beautiful woman, go ahead and come in. If you’re a man, go away.”
“Oh? Then, I guess I’m free to enter then.” Sophia said with a laugh as she opened the door.
Modryn was truly surprised at who it was, “Oh. Uhh, sorry. I thought you were someone else. My apologies.”
Sophia chuckled, “It’s fine. I don’t take any offense at those kinds of jokes, especially when I know they are meant to be among close friends. Me and my lieutenants make plenty of jokes like that ourselves.”
“So, what brings you here, Sophia?” Modryn asked.
Sophia looked at what Modryn had been doing before she had arrived. “I was hoping that I could convince you to allow me to join you tomorrow.”
Modryn raised an eyebrow at her request. “Oh? Why would you want that?”
“As commander of the Wrathful Dragons, I wouldn’t feel right if I let my employer go off without one of my people assisting you.”
“Right, and it has nothing to do with the fact that you think something interesting is going to happen.” Modryn replied with a wry smile. “You know, you would’ve made a good adventurer. You’ve got the personality for it, at least.”
“So is that a no?”
“Heh. As long as your people will be able to do what they need to while you’re away, you can join us.”
“Thank you.” And with that, Sophia left Modryn’s room.
The next morning, the group left, heading east.
“This is a surprise. I expected this meeting to take place closer to the Human Territories.” Sophia commented.
Bergan laughed, “The place we’re heading to doesn’t have a name from the races. The only name it goes by is Demon’s Point, which was given to it by adventurers. We’ve been using it for meetings, celebrations, and funerals for a long time. If it’s important to us, it’ll take place there.”
Modryn punched the Dwarf’s shoulder. “She asked where it is, Old Timer, not what it is. It’s the easternmost point of the peninsula.”
Gretchen interrupted, “Wait, are you saying that adventurers have been coming to the Demon Territories for who knows how long for meetings and such? And nobody’s noticed?”
Tanya giggled, “Yeah, perfect right? Nobody would ever suspect. We can be very discreet when we want to be.”
Gretchen looked at Modryn. “You said that there isn’t any kind of observation of the Demon Territories.”
Modryn shook his head. “I said that the countries don’t monitor the Demon Territories. And honestly, adventurers don’t either. We stay well away from settlements, and don’t watch the people too closely. Let’s hurry, it should take us a month to get there.”
As the full moon rises, Sarah looks around. The 50 or so adventurers that have been camping here for the last couple of weeks have started to gather around a large boulder in the field.
She and the members of Tyrannical Boar had arrived a few days ago, mostly because Sarah had been slowing them down.
Every time she asked where they were going, and why, the people she was traveling with would just say “You’ll see.” So her fear of being in the Demon Territories quickly became irritation. That was exacerbated by the fact that the four adventurers seemed content to camp out and avoided all of the villages.
When they finally arrived at their destination, Sarah was startled to see so many adventurers already gathered. And more were arriving, some of them veterans from Riqel.
They all acted like it was a festival. There were a few people who looked as confused as Sarah did, but they were all rookies.
As the full moon approached, though, the stream of arrivals stopped. And on the day of the full moon, only one group arrived. They were led by a man with a black breastplate and black gauntlets shaped like claws. He was wearing a black leather long coat with a hood pulled up, hiding his face. With him was a Dwarf Warrior, a Werecat Rogue, Sarah couldn’t believe it, but a Hobgoblin Healer and a Lamia Mage? She didn’t think either of these races were intelligent enough to do either of these things.
But what truly surprised her was the Human child walking behind them. ‘That’s the girl that asked to post the translation request f What is she doing here?’
Sarah started running up to the group, worried that something had happened, and she needed help. “Hey! What are you doing with that girl?! Where’s her brother?!”
As she approached, the group turned to her. The girl smiled, “Hello, miss! Why are you here?” She then turned to the man in black, “Master, this is the guild receptionist who posted your message.”
The man in black said, “Oh? Then I must thank you, young lady, for helping my apprentice back then. If it wasn’t for you, none of what you see at this place would be possible.”
Looking at him, Sarah was confused. “What do you mean?”
The man chuckled, “You haven’t been told? That translation request that you placed on the sympathetic request board. That ‘language’ was the coded script used by adventurers to communicate with one another discreetly. It was a message to every adventurer who still followed the code to gather here, so we can discuss how to deal with the countries breaking the unspoken agreement to not interfere with one another.”
As he spoke, unnoticed by Sarah, a large number of people had gathered, looking at them. The man spoke louder, “We shall begin the war council once the moon has risen, as is proper. Young lady, what is your name?”
Startled to be spoken to again, Sarah answered, “S-Sarah, sir.”
Nodding, the man pulled his hood down, revealing the face of a Dok Alv with black hair, red eyes, and red tattoos on his face. He said, “Sarah, from now on, I, Modryn Rashee, the Black Knight of Chaos, am in your debt.”
Sarah had so many questions to that statement, but the only one she could get out was, “For putting a paper on the request board?”
“Hehe. You would be surprised how often the things that have the greatest impact on the world are as simple as ‘putting a paper on a board’.” With that, he walked away towards the only boulder in the area, sitting on it, obviously intending to meditate. He was followed by the Hobgoblin and Lamia. And after throwing her a wave and a smile, the little girl and adventurers followed as well.
Afterwards, Sarah asked the Boars everything she could about the message she helped spread, and the man who has the power to mobilize so many adventurers. Now with everyone gathered around the boulder, looking up at Modryn, he started to speak.
“I remember being told how a summons like that would gather 100 powerful adventurers. Now the only ones left to answer are this many.” A look of intense sadness settled on his face. “We have lost many good friends and loved ones over these last three years.”
“Yes, WE have. But let me ask this, where were the Black Knights when our brothers and sisters were forced into slavery, and we had to put up with everything that the governments have done with us? Why are you only appearing now after three years?” As an adventurer stepped forward, voicing this, there were some men and women who nodded, agreeing with his questions.
The Dok Alv and the man stared at one another. Finally, Modryn replied, “I have spent the last three years in the Demon Territories as a mercenary, after being forced to watch my older brother drug and murder my family, my party, and my new wife who was carrying our unborn child. Shortly after that, I was betrayed by Horus Hopewell as well.”
As he said this, everyone fell silent. The faces that were showing anger quickly changed to apologetic faces as they realized that Modryn had been hurt as much as the rest of them. Everyone else’s faces showed shock. Suddenly being told the truth of Clan Rashee’s executions was almost too much to take, and the Black Knights’ deaths struck everyone. There were some mutterings of disbelief.
A Werefox stepped forward. “Modryn, allow me to introduce myself, I am Urel, of the party Rogue Trick. If you don’t mind my asking, why did you call everyone here, and not request everyone to destroy the Human countries and Sonadis? After the last three years, we’d all have done it gladly.”
Modryn nodded. “A good question, and something I had considered myself. But I’ve noticed something that I feel I can’t ignore. You have all noticed it as well, right? The peninsula that the Demon races are forced to live on will become a desert in a matter of centuries. I have grown close to the people of these lands, and I can’t help but remember the dreams of unity between races that both my grandfather and the Demon Lord Krono desired to bring to pass. The only way the Demon Races will be able to relocate to suitable locations, is if the other races are forced to meet them at the negotiating table. When I was broken, it was the people of these lands that helped me from making a mistake that can’t be taken back. I decided that I will put the needs of these people and of the Dok Alvs ahead of my need for revenge. You are right, of course. It would be all too easy for us to grind the countries to dust, but if we do it that way, nothing will change. You are all adventurers, so I won’t ever try and force any of you into something that displeases you, I know better than that. But I ask of each of you. Help me give these people the best chances of survival, and if that isn’t to be, help them make it to where they won’t fade away from history like they had no worth.”
As he finished, with his head high, everyone was silent. Sarah looked around at everyone, wondering how they would respond. Herin stepped forward, “You have our support, Brother! For honor and glory!” he shouted as he raised his fist in the air. Everyone followed suit, letting loose with the same shout.
Modryn smiled and lowered his head, “Thank you, Brothers and Sisters.”
Herin chuckled, “Well, I myself do it for entirely selfish reasons.” At Modryn’s raised eyebrows, Herin grabbed Sarah around the waist, and pulled her over, “Right here, right now, I want you to officiate mine and Sarah’s wedding.”
At this, everyone started cheering. It took a minute to get everybody calmed down, and at that point, Sarah got over her shock. “What?! But I’m not ready yet! I don’t have a dress, or a dowry, or anything else!”
Modryn chuckled, “I’m not hearing a ‘No’.”
Sarah looked at him, “Of course not, but I can’t just get married without any of that!”
Modryn’s smile grew larger, “Sarah, this spot we’re standing at is nothing less than the adventurers’ sacred ground. Meetings, weddings, funerals. If it’s important to us, we do it here. We don’t believe in the need for anything fancy like that for our weddings. You two are together, you love one another, the full moon is watching over us giving us her blessing and protection in the most auspicious time of the month. All we need now is a roaring bonfire, and that’s all you need. But if you insist, I’m sure we can help you get what you need.”
As Sarah thought about what he said, she realized he was right. She chuckled, ‘Wouldn’t be the weirdest thing about our relationship, I guess.’ Out loud, she said, “No, you’re right. This is perfect.”
Herin’s smile grew larger as he turned to Modryn, “I haven’t heard your answer yet, Modryn.”
Modryn laughed, “Isn’t it obvious? I’d be honored!”
And the wedding proceeded, leading to a party that ran through the entire night.