Kan’thall was the Chieftain of the Dra’na Tribe.
The Dra’nas were the largest tribe of Kobolds there was. Most of the other tribes listened to their council, and those not on such friendly terms take care not to cross them.
Currently, Kan’thall was reading a troubling letter. Within it, a Dok Alv was requesting a meeting. He was apparently the commander of a mercenary band, and he had a business proposal for any Kobolds who might have been interested. That alone wasn’t the troubling part. It was rare, but there were adventurers and mercenaries who were on amicable terms with some Kobolds.
The troubling part was actually several things. Firstly, the Dok Alv in question arrived at the entrance to the tribe’s tunnels that morning with a Dwarf, a Werecat, a Demon, and a Kobold child in tow. They then sat in front of the main entrance and seemed content to wait. When the entrance guards sent out a squad to kill them, the Dok Alv raised his hand, and suddenly all 15 Kobolds were floating in the air, even those who had remained hidden in order to surprise them.
Then the Alv asked, in Kobold, who the senior most officer of the squad was. They were all so shocked that they all pointed at him without any hesitation. The stranger let the squad leader down, and took a letter out of his inner coat pocket. He asked that the Kobold deliver the letter to the tribe’s chieftain immediately, and that the others would remain there until the chief decided whether or not to speak with him.
The man then promised that those captured would not come under any harm. And if the chief decided not to speak with him, then they’d be released and the strangers would leave and never return.
When Kan’thall heard this story, he was incredulous. But as he read the letter, he realized that it wasn’t made up. The letter was written in the Kobold’s script. Few outsiders could speak Kobold, and fewer even knew of the existence of the Kobold race’s written word, let alone how to read and write it.
“The strangers. What are they doing now?” He asked his men.
The tribe’s guard captain spoke up, “They are still sitting in front of the entrance. The Dwarf started telling those who were captured stories of his adventurer days. They all seem entertained, although the Catwoman and Dok Alv’s faces suggest some exaggeration.”
Kan’thall raised an eyebrow. The captain, who immediately realized his mistake, coughed and said, “Sorry.”
Kan’cra, Kan’thall’s wife, asked, “What do you plan on doing?”
Kan’thall sighed as he looked at the letter. “I will see what this Dok Alv has to say. If only because of the odd way he went about asking to speak.”
Kan’cra nodded. She also looked at the letter. “I had never met one before, but I had heard that adventurers are an extremely odd and eccentric bunch. Perhaps this mercenary used to be an adventurer.”
Kan’thall laughed, “Maybe you can ask him if that’s why he is so weird.”
As Kan’thall’s group arrived, they heard laughter, and a voice booming out, “An’ that’s how I saved a Human duchess of Dram Kingdom 500 years ago!” The Dwarf was the one speaking, with all 15 Kobolds including the stranger child staring at him entranced by the stories, the Demon shaking his head obviously not believing the tale, and the Catwoman and Dok Alv with long suffering looks upon their faces that hinted that the Dwarf’s stories were mostly exaggeration, just as the captain had described. Kan’thall looked at the captain, who’s ears began twitching in embarrassment, but remained silent about it.
As the Alv noticed the new arrivals, he stood up.
Kan’Thall looked at him, “I am Kan’thall, Chieftain of the Dra’na Tribe. To whom am I speaking.” Kan’thall had decided to test and see if the Alv could truly speak Kobold.
The Alv smoothly replied in kind with no hesitation, “Greetings, Chieftain. I am Commander Modryn of the Strong Horn Mercenaries. I thank you for agreeing to speak with me.”
Even though he was expecting it, to hear the Alv speak Kobold was still surprising. Quickly getting over it, Kan’thall cleared his throat. “Yes, well, let us go to a more appropriate location for our discussion.”
The Dok Alv nodded, “Of course.”
Turning around, Kan’thall had a feeling that he was forgetting something. Something to do with Dok Alvs with black hair. Shaking it off, he proceeded into the tunnel, hearing the Alv inform his companions of what was said.
They relocated to the room where the chiefs of each tribe would gather and meet. They managed to find seats for the Alv, Werecat, and Dwarf, but the Demon was too large for any chairs, so he had to stand.
Kan’thall and Modryn sat across from one another. “So. What is this business proposal that you came here for.” Kan’thall spoke in Common so that the other three could understand the conversation.
Modryn now wore a smile on his face. “I would like to extend an offer to any Kobold who would like to be a blacksmith for me. I can promise excellent pay, and protection.”
Kan’thall had a bad premonition about why the man in front of him came to Kobolds for this. “Why us? You can see our weapons. Surely you realize that other races are more capable for this job than us.”
Modryn looked him straight in the eye. “The material being used is Stygian Iron.”
Kan’thall’s eyes widened in terror. “Kill them now!”
With that cry, every Kobold with weapons charged at the outsiders, and every Mage started chanting. Even with all this the expressions of the Alv’s four companions didn’t change. Modryn, never looking away from Kan’thall, unleashed his power. His eyes became completely red, no pupils or whites to be seen, and glowed. And his tattoos shined the same shade of crimson, glowing through his clothes and armor. At the same time, the Mage’s were thrown at the walls by an invisible force, and the Warriors were lifted into the air, unable to even approach.
Kan’thall stared at the Dok Alv in despair. He now remembered his father’s warnings of Clan Rashee, the Gods of Magic and Battle, and there was no denying that he allowed this doom into the heart of his tribe. They will likely become slaves, as their people were 3 millennia ago. Mustering the last of his defiance, Kan’thall said, “Do what you please with me, but we will never submit.”
Modryn had maintained his smile, even now. “I don’t want you to submit. I realize why your people have maintained the existence they have til now. Using substandard weapons and armor so that no one suspects that you have any kind of talent at the creation of these things. Continuously being paranoid that someone will realize your history with the Dwarves. I did not come here to enslave your people. If none of you wish to work for me, then I shall leave and never return. Just as I said earlier.”
Kan’thall thought this over. His eyes fell on the child that was with them. “Child, what is your name? What tribe are you from?”
Not expecting to be spoken to directly, the child who had been staring curiously at the Warriors struggling in the air jumped, “Ah, Kha’la, sir. My tribe was Fre’di.”
Kan’thall stared at her. The Fre’di Tribe had cut off contact with the other tribes a few years ago. They began thinking dangerous things, believing that Kobolds should rule over others, and claim larger territories. The Kha Clan were the only ones who maintained contact, but five years ago, they suddenly fell silent.
“We haven’t heard anything from the Kha Clan in five years. What happened to them? Why are you with these people?”
The child’s expression saddened. “Our tribe killed everyone. I barely escaped. I spent five years as an apprentice at a smithy, and I was found by Lord Modryn a few months ago.”
Kan’thall looked at Modryn. “I took her in both for her protection, and to prevent anyone finding out that she was able to flawlessly create Stygian Iron armor. Though she doesn’t forge anything unless she feels like it anymore. I’ve made sure she understands she doesn’t need to repay me. Her first set of armor that I’m wearing is payment enough.”
Kan’thall went back to thinking. “Why do you want this? What are your goals?”
Modryn replied with that same smile. “To conquer Drinaris. Stygian Iron weapons and armor isn’t completely necessary for that, but it would be useful.”
Kan’thall continued thinking, trying to find the best outcome that can be achieved from this situation. If any Kobold agreed to this, it will only be a matter of time before their secret is discovered by the rest of Drinaris. That means there is only one way to protect the Kobold, but it requires an immense amount of trust in the man sitting before him.
Coming to a decision, Kan’thall spoke, “When you said that you can offer protection, that will be for everyone who joins you?”
Modryn nodded, “Everyone who joins me, and swears fealty will be under my protection, for what that’s worth. They will face no discrimination, and be treated as equals to everyone else under me, and I expect my vassals to do the same. I promise you that I shall enforce this as much as possible.”
“And if all the Kobold tribes join you?”
Raising his eyebrows, Modryn replied, “That’s a bit more than I planned for, but I’m certain that if we do it slowly, we’ll be able to get them all situated smoothly. Is that what you are hoping for?”
Kan’thall nodded, “I will trust in your honor, God of War. I believe that the best way to protect my people when it is revealed what we can do with Stygian Iron, is to entrust our fates to you.”
The only reason Kan’thall was trusting Modryn so much was because he came in the way he did. It was obvious to anyone that, had he wanted, he could have just come in and captured them all. Why waste time talking, when you have a Dragon at your beck and call, after all.
A few hours passed, and the two finally finished this session of the negotiations, speaking not only of blacksmiths, but also soldiers, and logistics.
“I shall speak with the other tribes. I am certain that there will be changes to the terms before we can have it finalized.” Kan’thall said as they walked through the tunnels, escorting Modryn and his party out.
“That is fine. These things shouldn’t be rushed. People are always surprised how much work it takes to negotiate contracts and treaties, and that’s before the damn things are put in place and reality fucks with the projected logistics.” Modryn answered with a wry smile.
There was some chuckling coming from the three adults that traveled with him. Kan’thall sent a sidelong glance at Modryn, “You’ve done this before?”
A complicated expression fell across his face, as if he was remembering something with both fond and traumatized feelings. “A Rashee is ready to do any job at any time, whether it is making a passable sword, and we have a very high standard in swords, or negotiating a peace treaty. My father insisted on running countless live simulations and trials to teach me how best to draw up a treaty and put it in effect. And he made sure to have every possible thing that could go wrong happen, and expected me to find the best way to solve every problem.”
Kan’thall nodded, “I see.” As they arrived at the entrance to the tunnels, Kan’thall turned to Modryn, “Then I shall send a messenger when we are ready for the next meeting.”
Modryn nodded, and offered his hand, “Until then.” The two clasped forearms, and the visitors left.
“Send a message to all the other tribes for a council. We have much to discuss. Including what to do with Fre’di.” This was said to Kan’thall’s advisers as they made their way to his chambers.
“At once.” As the advisers all left to carry out his orders, Kan’thall couldn’t help but think about how everything was changing.
The army led by Modryn was camped at the location of the Ogre’s largest settlement. Every Ogre in the Demon Territories had gathered to witness the duel between the Commander of the Strong Horns and Rall, the King of the Ogres.
As Sophia stood with the Strong Horns in the arena, she watched the arena floor where Modryn was looking at the 3 meter tall, green skinned Ogre. Looking at the difference in size alone, she couldn’t help but get nervous about Modryn’s chances of success.
“Are we sure that this is a good idea? Wouldn’t Tristan be a better choice to do this?” she asked, looking at the people she was standing beside.
Tristan shook his head, “Not if we want the Ogres loyal to Modryn. Besides, I’m not that good at hand to hand combat.”
“Oh. I see.”
As Sophia looked back at the two in the middle of the arena, the combatants were making their final preparations. Rall was rolling his shoulders, and Modryn activated the Bloodrage, his eyes and tattoos glowing crimson.
When Modryn had removed his shirt for the duel, the tattoos between his shoulder blades became visible, causing everyone who hadn’t seen Modryn in the Bloodrage to murmur amongst themselves. There were rumors floating around about the identity of the Commander of the Strong Horns among the many mercenaries that had joined a few months ago, and the Ogres had heard rumors of a Dok Alv joining the Strong Horns years ago. Rall especially was interested in these rumors when he heard of the Alv’s appearance. He knew full well that the Dok Alv’s appearance matched that of the legendary Clan Rashee, and in truth, after three years of hearing these rumors, he was very close to seeking out the man for a match.
The very day he was going to start preparing to leave, a messenger arrived from the Strong Horns, saying that Modryn, their Commander, was challenging him to a duel for dominance. He was ecstatic. The greatest fight of his 500 years, and it was coming to him! He immediately told the messenger that he accepted, and spread the word to every Ogre in the Demon Territories. He knew what would happen if he lost, and he could guess why the Dok Alv was doing this, these things only increased his excitement.
Many had tried to conquer the Ogres through war, but few actually had the audacity and arrogance to believe that they could defeat the strongest of the Ogres in a hand to hand duel. This seemed to confirm the suspicions of the Ogres that this man belonged to Clan Rashee. And when they saw the dragon entwined star that marked his back, they were beyond all doubt. As Jotunn-kind like the Orcs, the Ogres respected strength above all else, and Clan Rashee was naturally legendary among them.
As Sophia watched Modryn activate the Bloodrage for the first time, she gasped. It was as if a massive beast had appeared in the arena, smothering everyone in bloodlust. She looked to Rall, and saw that his expression was akin to a child’s receiving a gift.
Zacharias spoke up, “Are the lines like that because of the tattoos?”
Gortuk shook his head. “No, once a Rashee achieves the Bloodrage, the tattoos are placed where the lines appear. Each person’s markings are different depending on their personalities, magic, and various other things, but they all have the mark of the clan on their backs.”
“He’ll win, right? I mean, the Bloodrage makes him invincible, right?” Mari, who was standing between Sophia and Tanya, who had apparently decided to teach the Harpy advanced Rogue skills against her will, asked nervously.
“What gave you that idea?” asked Bergan, looking at her askance.
“It doesn’t?” Salim asked.
Tanya replied, “No, the Bloodrage doesn’t make someone invincible. It’s a technique that increases a person’s ability for Combat Sorcery, but that’s it.”
“What? What do you mean?” Sophia asked looking at Tanya.
She answered with a serious face for once, “The Bloodrage increases a person’s cognitive functions, their senses, and their magical ability. It does this so that the person can more easily use magic in close quarters combat. Their perception of time slows down, allowing them to analyze everything surrounding them and implementing the best way to change everything to their favor. It does slightly increase their strength, but only so the speed of their body can keep up with their increased perception. Usually, that’s enough to turn any situation in their favor. But this is a fight with no magic. That means Modryn is not in his element. There are some things he can do to keep from losing even now, but it will still be difficult against the brute strength of an Ogre.”
The leaders of the other mercenary bands who heard this became worried. Seeing this, Angela spoke up, “Don’t worry. Modryn knows his own strengths and weaknesses better than anyone. He wouldn’t challenge someone to a fight if he didn’t think he had a chance of winning.”
As they were discussing this, the duel began. Within a second, Modryn was standing directly in front of Rall. His arm almost blurred as he quickly released at least five punches to various vital points of the Ogre’s torso. Rall retaliated with a single punch, hitting Modryn in his own torso, and causing the smaller man to fly back several meters, his feet skidding across the ground. As he came to a stop, those closest to the arena floor could see a trickle of blood come from the Alv’s mouth, and a similar trickle was coming out of the Ogre’s. As they wiped the blood away, matching smiles appeared on their faces. Smiles that reminded everyone of bloodthirsty beasts.
After what was obviously a testing of the waters between them, the duel began in earnest. Modryn’s speed allowed him to rain down dozens of blows on Rall’s vital points, but the Ogre’s massive build caused even his vitals to be well protected. While Rall’s overwhelming power was able to cause great damage, the Alv’s speed resulted in these bone shattering punches only grazing Modryn at best, rarely resulting in a solid hit, and each of those were sacrifices for Modryn to land a flurry of punches on targets that were difficult to reach otherwise.
Within five minutes, both men were panting, coughing up small amounts of blood, but they were still laughing, sporting their bloodthirsty smiles. The entire arena was silent, everyone watching this.
As the Ogre and Alv closed again, there was a certainty that this would be the last exchange. Modryn quickly released two dozen punches into Rall’s chest, all of them landing above his heart. Rall put all of his remaining power into an earthshaking punch that landed on Modryn’s chest, sending him skidding across the ground, just like their first exchange. As the dust settled, they both coughed up a large amount of blood and fell to one knee, never taking their eyes off the other.
Modryn chuckled. “You really are one tough bastard, you know that? Haven’t had this hard a time since me and my brother Gawain were forced to fight that Feral Dragon naked.”
Rall laughed in return. “And this is what I hoped of the legendary Rashee. Tell me, is all of your clan like this?”
“No. Everyone kept calling me a prodigy. And now, me and my older brother are the only ones left, and he is in no way a warrior.”
Rall was surprised, “You’re the last one?”
Modryn’s smile was filled with a different kind of bloodlust than what he had until now. One filled with a murderous rage. “Except for my brother. Something that I plan on rectifying soon enough.”
During this conversation, the two’s consciousnesses were constantly fluctuating, fading in and out. Rall chuckled, “Well, from now on, you’ll have the Ogre race’s help with that.” As he finished, Rall fell to the side, finally losing consciousness. Roars and cheers filled the arena, as the Ogres gathered celebrated being able to witness such a magnificent duel.
Gretchen and other healers rushed out, to tend to the two men. Gretchen remained with Modryn, while the others focused on Rall.
Nobody noticed the three cloaked figures standing at the back of the arena, away from everyone else. One of them spoke to the one standing in the middle, “Milord, how shall we act?”
The man in the middle chuckled. “We shall give the two children time to rest before we approach. A few days should be enough.” The man’s voice was deeper than his slight frame would suggest, and it had an odd echo that caused chills to spread across any that heard it, although his companions were well used to it.
As the three turned to leave, the leader thought, ‘He is truly your heir, Teron. You’re grandson is just as powerful and magnificent as you were.’ As they walked away, there was a flash of the man’s hand. It was skeletal and devoid of flesh.