A week after the duel between Modryn and Rall, Modryn was eating lunch with the Strong Horns leaders. Mary, Justin, and Kha’la were with them, the three becoming inseparable in the past few months. After Modryn’s victory, they had moved into Rall’s home. A castle, rather small as far as they go, but Ogres had always preferred practicality over presentation.
It was just as they were finishing their meal that a soldier came rushing into the room. “Sir! Someone at the castle’s entrance requests an audience with you!”
Modryn’s eyes narrowed. “They asked for me specifically? There shouldn’t be too many who knows I’m here. At least, not anyone who can hear about what happened and arrive within the week. Did he say who he is?”
Another voice spoke up, “Well, Boss, that’s the problem.” The Foxman adventurer, Urel, had been standing behind the soldier, almost unnoticed. When Modryn raised his eyebrow at what the adventurer had said, Urel continued. “He’s a Lich. I’d assume that Lord Satrus I’ve heard so much about.”
Everyone stared at Urel. “What did you just say?” Modryn whispered. “Urel, can you bring him to a room to wait? You, send messages to Rall and the mercenary commanders to meet in the reception room immediately.” That second order was to the man that had brought the news.
As the two nodded and left, Modryn allowed a disturbed look to come across his face. “Why is he here? What the hell’s going on?”
Cu’thar took in his friend’s worried look. “Any idea how to deal with him?” The fact that Modryn was so worried caused some amount of fear to appear in everyone’s minds. Modryn was rarely worried, and anything that could cause this was something to be wary of.
“Ha. I only have a suspicion of who we’re dealing with. If I’m right, then it’s very likely that he holds a grudge against my clan. And even if he doesn’t, Liches can’t be said to be trustworthy. They’re usually insane, and only seeking to destroy all life, and the ones who don’t have that goal just want to research magic and push it to its boundaries, so that makes them predictable, even if they’re difficult to deal with. But this one has been active for 500 years, and he hasn’t shown any signs of either of these goals. I don’t know a method that’ll guarantee anything.” Modryn responded, while shaking his head.
Gortuk stood up, “Well, that just means we’ll need to wing it. Gretchen, think you can set up something to protect against Death Curses, so that if he starts anything, we’ll be safe?”
Gretchen looked thoughtful. “Without him noticing? It’ll be difficult, but it can be done.”
Tristan nodded at the two, “Good. We’ll do that then.” He clapped Modryn on the shoulder. “You good?”
Modryn nodded, with a relieved expression starting to appear on his face. “Yeah, sorry ’bout that.”
Chuckling, Tristan waved away his apology. “Don’t worry about it. We’re here to keep your head on straight, remember? Let’s go.”
Nodding, Modryn glanced at the children. Noticing their excited expressions, he was surprised to see it on Kha’la’s face as well, he said, “I want you three to stay away from this. I don’t want you to get dragged into anything.” Ignoring their disappointed faces, the Strong Horns left for the meeting.
Angela sighed, “Those kids are getting overconfident. Even shy little Kha’la is starting to become more adventurous. That’s all well and good, but to want to see a Lich? We might need to arrange something to put some fear into them soon, before they get themselves into trouble.”
“Yeah, but that’s a problem for another day. Right now, we need to focus on Satrus.” Modryn agreed.
As they arrived at the reception room, they saw all the mercenaries and Rall gathered. The mercenaries all had worried looks on their faces, while Rall actually had a serious look himself, which Modryn took to be his own worried face. As he took this in, Modryn saw Tanya and Bergan walk in behind them.
He turned to the Demon guard who had brought the news. “Samuel, right? Bring him and Urel. Alright, everyone, I know how we’re all feeling. But let’s get our game faces on.”
Zacharias looked at Modryn. “So, do you know anything that’s helping you stay calm?”
“Haha. Actually what I suspect about him makes me more worried. But we need to keep him from knowing that.”
As they all got settled at the long wooden table, with Modryn at the head, there was a knock on the door, and Urel, the guard Samuel, and three cloaked figures walked in. Urel waved the middle figure to a seat, the one opposite Modryn’s. As the man sat, he reached up with his skeletal hands and pulled his hood down, revealing a humanoid skull. The two black horns sprouting from his temples spoke to the fact that he was an Incubus in life. His eye sockets only had red points of light, unwavering from Modryn.
‘Ok. So he was an Incubus. That lends weight to my theory. Don’t know if that’s a good thing, or a bad one.’ Modryn thought to himself, as he waited for the Lich to speak.
“Modryn Rashee, I am pleased to make your acquaintance.” The Lich’s voice sent chills down the spines of everyone in the room. “I am known as Satrus.”
Modryn nodded to Satrus, “The pleasure is mine, Lord Satrus. While I am glad to meet you, I must confess, I have no idea why you have come this day.”
“There is no real reason. I just saw your duel with the Ogre King there, and I felt the need to come and offer my congratulations. I do not think any non-Ogre has ever beaten their king in a hand to hand duel, and I’d like to say, it’s an impressive show of power, as well as a good start to becoming the Demon Lord, not to mention unusual and imaginative.” Satrus replied, leaning back in his chair.
Modryn barely suppressed the look of annoyance that tried to appear on his face. It was one thing to suspect what he was planning, but the way Satrus said that left no room for doubt that the Lich had seen entirely through him and guessed what his next moves were. Modryn couldn’t say why, but it caused a great amount of annoyance to take root at being seen through so easily. ‘Two can play at that game, old man.’
Modryn quickly adopted an apologetic face. “I feel I should apologize.”
“Oh? And why is that?” Satrus’s voice took on a quizzical tone.
“Well, I addressed you as ‘Lord Satrus’ but everyone calls you that, and I’m certain that you would prefer to be addressed by your birth name. Right, Lord Krono of Clan Oronus?”
The room fell silent at the former Demon Lord’s name. Everyone who breathed held their breaths, while Modryn continued to stare at the Lich with his usual cocky smile.
Tristan looked at Modryn. Noticing the subtle signs of his friend being annoyed, he couldn’t help but think, ‘So much for holding that card until later. He must’ve annoyed Modryn with that comment more than I thought.’
After a few moments of silence, the Lich suddenly exploded with laughter, leaving everyone, including his own followers staring at him stunned. Continuing to laugh, he finally responded, “Well that’ll show me, I suppose. Geros always said that I loved showing off too much. Guess having that revealed to so many people is what I get for letting myself get carried away. Probably could have found a cleverer way to say what I did that wouldn’t have pissed you off. So, how did you figure it out? It’s a safe bet that your grandfather, Teron, told you that I was an Incubus, but just that shouldn’t have been enough to make the guess.”
Modryn still had a stunned expression on his face, but he managed to speak. “The land you took over 500 years ago. I found records that indicated that it was ruled over 1000 years ago by Clan Oronus, a clan of Succubae. That clan also had a history of being some of the most powerful Necromancers in Drinaris. Your attachment to that area, the former rulers’ histories, and your unusual behavior as a Lich caused me to suspect your identity. Although, I’ll admit, it was only a theory that was most likely wrong.”
Krono was still chuckling, “Ha. Probably your instincts telling you that you were on the right path. But both your information gathering and instincts are quite capable. You do your clan and Teron proud.”
Modryn looked at the Lich askance. Everything about this conversation was throwing him off. He still couldn’t get his facial expressions under control, and this fact was causing him large amounts of irritation.
Krono finally stopped laughing, and said, “While that was amusing, I would prefer to be addressed as Satrus. Krono died that day at the hands of Teron Rashee. I respect that man’s ability as a warrior too much to take that away from him. I am surprised that his grandson is attempting to become Demon Lord, though. I take it that he doesn’t know? Haha.”
Modryn’s face bore trace amounts of pain around his eyes. “He died 50 years ago, on a hunting trip with the Sonadis royal family. They claimed it was accidental, but recent events calls everything any of them have ever said into question. I wouldn’t be surprised if the king himself put the arrow through his back.”
Satrus was quiet for a moment. “Dead, huh? I’m not certain how I should feel about that. I spent so long trying to kill the bastard, that hearing he’s dead from someone else’s hands actually makes me angry. After watching him survive everything I threw at him, I had thought he was either invincible or immortal…” His thoughts trailed off into silence. “You said something about recent events?”
“Before I get into that, I feel I must ask. Do you not hold a grudge against my clan?”
“…No, surprisingly enough. I had decided when I set out to become Demon Lord that should I die before I was able to reach my goal, then I just wasn’t the one suited to the task. I used my clan’s ritual for Lich Transformation. It remains incomplete until an unnatural death is incurred. With that, I planned on becoming a Lich upon my failure so that I would be able to advise the next person who attempts to conquer Drinaris to bring unity between the peoples. As much as I tried to kill your grandfather and clan, I respected them as well. They held an overwhelming superiority over the majority of my armies, but they were not overly cruel in how they treated their enemies. They carried themselves with pride in their power, but in a way that brought honor to their race and clan. Now, did that answer your question?” Satrus finished, and if Modryn wasn’t mistaken, with a sarcastic tone to his voice. The Lich wasn’t showing any facial expressions due to the skull, but he was definitely having no problems conveying his feelings. Modryn was beginning to realize why his grandfather had a thoroughly infuriated expression whenever he spoke of Krono, and it wasn’t because of hating him for being the Demon Lord like he had thought growing up. The man before him just had a way of infuriating someone with his voice alone.
Modryn glanced towards Tristan. After seeing him raise his eyebrow, he looked back at Satrus. Deciding to take the risk and trust the Lich, considering he had come out and spoke of how he became a Lich in the first place, Modryn explained what happened three years ago.
Satrus’s response was, “…That fool. I had told him that Sonadis would betray him. Why didn’t he accept my offer? I, at least, didn’t reward loyalty with a sword through the gut. I’m assuming that you wouldn’t be attempting to unite the Demon Territories for revenge? No, a Rashee could deal with a single country easily enough. Hmm. Why are you doing this, boy?”
“It started with wanting to secure land for the people of the Demon Territories to relocate away from this dying peninsula. After that, I saw how the races besides Human and High Alvs were treated, and, more importantly to me, at least, how the adventurers were being trampled on. My vengeance is not as important as that. Besides, I’ll get what I want as a bonus. Sorry it’s not some noble desire like what you and Grandfather fought for, but I’m an adventurer at heart, and this is as grand and noble as it gets with me.”
“Hmm. I see. I won’t hold that against you. Although, from what you’ve told me about the behavior of the Humans, I think I might have a suspicion as to what happened to them.” At these words, everyone in the room turned to Satrus.
The natives of the Demon Territories were interested in the reason behind so many strange actions taken by the Humans so they will know what to look for in case any of their own people, or, Gods forbid, themselves, were to be affected by it. The adventurers wanted to know the reason even more so they could narrow down the cause of their brothers’ and sisters’ betrayals, and either destroy the item to prevent it happening again, or tie up the person responsible and torture them to death. The entire room held their breath, even Modryn starred at Satrus intently, waiting for the Lich to continue.
Taking in the intensity of everyone’s stares, Satrus was able to gauge how important they all viewed this information. The fact that they weren’t even trying to hide it spoke of how worried they were about the madness affecting the Humans, and whether or not it could affect them. “What do any of you know about Unique Abilities?”
Most everyone had confused expressions on their faces. Angela finally asked, “Isn’t that the same as Unique Magics?”
Modryn, the only one who’s expression darkened as if he were remembering something troubling instead of becoming confused, was the one who answered. “No. They aren’t. Unique Magics are rare, but not so rare as Unique Abilities. Maybe five people within a millennium will be born with a Unique Ability. The problem with Unique Abilities is that their effects are absolutely random, and completely singular. They can range from completely worthless, to surpassing the abilities of gods. And not even the gods know where they come from, what their purpose is, or how some people gain the power that they do.”
“What do you mean, they are completely singular?” asked Sophia.
Modryn replied. “The information I read of them in the Ancient’s Mausoleums described them as ‘completely singular’. Meaning, there is just one facet to them. Say someone was born with the ability to control the mind of an animal. It’s a straightforward ability, yes? But it has multiple facets to it. First, is the ability to read the animal’s mind. Second, is the ability to implant orders, or a certain way of thinking into their mind. And third is the method of forcing the mind to follow your implanted order or line of thought. Without the first part, you’d be working blind. Without the second, you’d have no way of making the animal’s subconscious know your will and intentions. And without the third, you’re voice in their head would just be ignored, with no way to enforce your will. An Unique Ability only has one of these parts. The first part would be useful on its own, as you could imagine, but it would only affect one species or race. Say for instance, if you were able to read the minds of only flies. No way to control them, and that’s even if you are able to understand the way they think and understand the world. The second part of the power would only show it’s effect over time. A voice constantly whispering into a being’s subconscious will eventually be able to brainwash that being. When even their dreams are flavored by the voice of someone else, no matter how strong their will, it will eventually crumble. But that also has shortcomings in the fact that it could take a long time. The third is thoroughly useless alone due to the fact that it has no way to direct the subject’s thoughts or even know what they are. Someone born with a Unique Ability would have one of those three things, but nothing else. But, because it is completely random, the chances of an ability that surpasses the gods appearing are just as likely as one that’s absolutely useless.”
Bergan’s voice came out, “If it’s an ability to implant thoughts, couldn’t we detect it with magic?” He had already realized why Modryn used that example, and come to the same conclusion as the Alv.
Modryn shook his head. “It doesn’t use magic, so there’s no way to use magic to detect it. The mind itself doesn’t even realize that it’s under attack, so there’s no way to tell what’s happening. It just believes that the effects are a natural change. The energies given off by the Ancients could probably prevent it, but that won’t be because of any magic, and instead because those energies change a person into something more than they were. Bergan, you’ve always said that the Black Knights weren’t normal people, and you’re right. The Ancient’s Citadels changed us utterly, all the way through the foundations of our being and souls. I can’t truly be considered a Dok Alv anymore, and the rest couldn’t have been considered Humans anymore. Because of that, they wouldn’t have been affected by the ability anymore than any other non-Human.”
Gretchen asked with a frown on her face, “Is there any way to reverse it?”
Modryn shook his head again. “Once a person’s mind has been altered by that kind of brainwashing, it’s impossible to reverse, because there’s no true damage. Even if some kind of damage did take place, the mind would naturally work continuously to repair its own way of thinking, but it would be constantly diverted and interrupted by the alien thoughts until those thoughts take the mind’s natural thought processes’ place. It can be interrupted by changing the victim’s entire being, but it can’t be reversed once it has fully taken root. It’s a truly insidious ability. The only saving grace is that it appears to be something that can only affect people by meeting the ability’s wielder personally. Everyone who’s been affected, as far as anyone who’s seen it can tell, has been either high ranking adventurers and royalty. That points to someone in the Sonadis Clan or someone extremely loyal to them, considering they didn’t use this power to over throw the royal family.” he finished with a musing look.
Tristan asked, “Could it have been your brother?”
That question caused Modryn to laugh, “Oh, he’s certainly spineless enough to do anything for Sonadis, but that power hungry waste of space wouldn’t have treated the High Alvs so well if he was going to abuse this power. He isn’t so stupid as to make his own people the target of the Human race’s hatred if he was going to use that power to claim the throne. No. This is either a Sonadis themself, or one of their more loyal servants. Either way, nothing’s changed. The plan proceeds as is. We’ll need to be more careful around the Humans when the time comes, and we’ll probably need to kill more of the Human royalty and nobility than I would’ve liked, considering that we’d have needed them to run things once we brought them under our power, but that can’t be helped.” Modryn finished with a shrug. He looked at Satrus. “Thank you for this information. It’ll be very useful now that we’ve narrowed down the possible reasons for what happened. We’ll certainly be able to create countermeasures for this. Honestly, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of Unique Abilities being in play. I was beginning to worry that we’d be dealing with a god or something.”
Satrus nodded his head in response, “Just consider it my way of applying for a position in your army.”
Modryn looked at him carefully. “You have been straightforward with us so far, but I hope you will forgive me for being skeptical. I ask all of my vassals to swear to me under their True Names. I do hope you won’t have any issues with this.”
Satrus laughed, “Of course not. You’d have to be a fool to blindly trust a Lich, and with most Liches, you’d end up getting what you deserve for it. I, Krono Satralus Oronus, swear to serve you, My Lord, Modryn Rashee, fully and faithfully, until the day of my death.”
Modryn nodded, “I accept your oath.” As he accepted, he felt the power of the name cause fluctuations within the room, telling him that there were no tricks or falsity within Satrus’s oath.