Five years have passed since the veteran adventurers disappeared from the civilized countries of Drinaris.
When it had first happened, not many even noticed that they had disappeared. The adventurers always come and go, going off for weeks at a time without anyone hearing any word from them. But as the third month came, and none of them returned, it became obvious that something happened.
The countries quickly grew panicked, searching everywhere within their borders for any sign of the adventurers. The fact that so many powerful people had all disappeared at once filled them with dread. It would be foolish to believe, or even hope that something had managed to kill all of them. For one thing, it’s impossible for creatures with the power and numbers necessary to kill them all to appear without anyone noticing. For another, if that did happen, nothing would be able to stop such monsters if the adventurers weren’t able to. That meant that the other possibility was more likely. The adventurers were gathering at a location away from the Guilds. For some, that thought was even more terrifying than the first. If the adventurers were gathering away from the Guilds, then the gods above might not even know what is going on with them.
So the Human countries and Sonadis searched their lands. When they requested assistance from Ungerheimr, the Dwarves refused, saying that if the adventurers didn’t want to be found, the gods themselves wouldn’t be able to find them. The Dwarves themselves seemed on edge, as if expecting an attack at any moment.
As the months changed to years, everyone seemed to calm down. They were still nervous about the fact that no trace of the missing adventurers was found, but they stopped fearing an attack. There were some who still wondered idly where the adventurers went, and why, but for most, it was truly ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
A certain Dok Alv was one such that still wondered where they were, if only so that she could offer her assistance if they did intend to destroy Sonadis.
Sasha, of Clan Rihara, was sitting in her office, sipping on her wine as she stared at the full moon. Nights of the full moon and times when serious storms blew outside always made it difficult for her to sleep for the past eight years, ever since she was awoken from her sleep as head of her clan, her father and younger brother having died at the extermination of Clan Rashee.
While she didn’t know the details of that night, she did know that the gathering that night was not a meeting for revolt. But she couldn’t say anything for fear of her own clan meeting the same fate.
Sasha had an unusual appearance for a Dok Alv. Her frame and figure were standard, willowy and slim, and her eyes were the usual violet. But her skin was so dark, it was almost ebony, instead of the tone of dusky tan that her people are known for. And her hair was an odd misty gray instead of the silver or white most others have.
As she stared at the moon, she couldn’t help but to remember the person whose death caused her as much pain as her father and brother’s. The man she grew up with, viewing him as a brother, who always wandered outside no matter what when the full moon was out or a storm was raging, claiming that those were the times when he felt most at peace, most calm, and safest. It wasn’t until after he had run off to be an adventurer that she learned that most adventurers view the moon with the same reverence as they view the gods, some even claiming that they spent their entire lives most at peace with the full moon above them. There was nothing to suggest that adventurers had some special connection with storms, but Sasha had come to believe that he was born to be an adventurer, even before he left, because of how he always acted wildly instead of the calm that he was supposed to show as the son of a Clan Head.
As she stared at the moon, a tear fell, and she muttered his name, “…Modryn…”
Suddenly, a surprised voice came from behind her, “How’d you know I was here, Sasha?”
Sasha was so surprised, that she reacted without thinking. She threw the wine glass behind her towards where the voice originated, then drew her dagger hidden within the chair, spinning around, aiming at where she guessed the intruder’s throat was. She was only stopped by a longsword held in a back-hand, locking the dagger where the blade met the hilt.
As Sasha saw the intruder for the first time, her mouth gaped open. Dusky skin, hair black as obsidian, eyes like rubies, with crimson tattoos on his face. He was wearing a black, leather long-coat over a black shirt, pants, and boots. In his hand was a longsword, with a hilt carrying the images of dragons carved into it, and a red blade. “What?”
Modryn had a smile on his face, “So, is that how you greet guests now a days? Although, I am glad you haven’t lost your edge in the 23 years we haven’t seen each other, and I can’t complain about seeing you in a nightgown, either.” Modryn finished, indicating the white nightgown Sasha was wearing.
Sasha, taking the bait, fell into the same kind of banter the two had always had with one another growing up, “What the hell do you mean guest?! You came in unannounced with no meeting set up! And shut up about my nightgown you…you…” She slowly trailed off as she realized who she was talking to. “…Modryn?” Tears streaked down her face as she dropped her dagger and fell against his chest.
A short while later, after Sasha had calmed down and Modryn had cleaned up the wine and glass that had barely missed his head, refusing the offer for Sasha to call one of her night duty maids, the two Dok Alvs were sitting across from one another with new wine glasses filled in their hands.
“So? Why are you here Modryn? It can’t be safe for you to be in Sonadis.” Sasha was very worried about this. She was obviously happy about him being alive, and glad to see him, but she knew that he was supposed to be dead as far as the royals were concerned, and he knew that it would be dangerous to enter the country, that was why he hadn’t come back for eight years, was her guess.
Modryn raised an eyebrow at her question. “Didn’t you receive my letter? It should’ve arrived today. That explains why you were in your nightgown. I thought you had read my letter and was waiting for me like I asked.”
Sasha had a bad feeling at his words as she looked to her desk. Sure enough, there was a folded paper, sealed, sitting on the desktop. She quickly opened it. Reading through it, her mortified expression became more pronounced on her face. She had woken in a particularly testy mood that morning and had put off all non-urgent business and paperwork until tomorrow, causing her to completely miss it.
As she looked to Modryn, he quickly guessed the reason for the confusion, and broke down in laughter. “You really never change, do you Sasha? How many times did your father scold you over the years because of that bad habit?”
“Shut up! As if you were any better!” Her retort simply caused his laughter to increase. After he finally settled down, she asked again, “Well? The letter doesn’t really explain anything you know.”
Modryn’s expression turned serious. “I came to Sonadis for several reasons. Firstly to insure that nothing much has changed in the layout of the cities. Make sure all of the old passages and escape routes were intact. My plans aren’t advanced enough for any major movements yet, but it doesn’t hurt to have an eye on things. Secondly, I have business to discuss with the slave traders of the country, I plan to buy all the non-human slaves they have, and give them motivation to send any others my way, as well as focusing on capturing any Humans that they find, including those of royalty or their vassals. For that, I intend to provide assistance with my own people. I already set up the same agreement with the Human slave traders, except they need to focus on the High Alvs and Sonadis’s royalty.”
As Modryn paused to take a sip of his wine, Sasha stared at him. “If you do that, it will cause a rift between the Human kingdoms and Sonadis. It will also effectively destroy lines of communication between them. If any of them come under attack, the others would never hear of it until it’s too late.”
Modryn grinned in response, “Taking advantage of both races’ vices to separate them and make it easier to bring both down. Like wolves on the hunt.”
Sasha felt a chill roll down her spine as she saw Modryn’s expression. She completely understood the strategy, and she approved of it, but the hatred and rage in that smile was something she had never seen on Modryn’s face. It caused her to realize just how much time 23 years was, that he had changed so much to have such an expression when he had always been so carefree.
“So, the adventurers really are planning on war.” She said before taking a sip of her drink.
“The adventurers, and everyone else forced out into the Demon Territories.” Modryn replied off-handedly, a smirk on his face. “Hopefully, I can get the Dok Alvs and Dok Shee in on it as well. Which is the third reason I’m in Sonadis.”
“The only person who can gather a force like that is the…there’s a new Demon Lord?!” Sasha exclaimed.
“Yes, there is.”
“And you’re working for him?”
Modryn raised an eyebrow, “Am I?”
Modryn’s expression caused Sasha to be certain that her assumption was wrong. “No…you are the Demon Lord, aren’t you? There’s no way you would kneel to anyone else after what happened.” As she finished correcting herself, she broke out in laughter. “Hahaha! Even if you didn’t have the Bloodrage, this is the worst case scenario for Sonadis. Someone who knows more about their own country than anyone in the royal family or their guard is the leader of the Demon armies!”
Modryn waited for her to stop for breath. “More or less. Listen, I need you to call the Dok Alvan Clan Heads together for a meeting. The sooner, the better.”
Sasha’s expression turned somber. “Ok. But I’m going to warn you now, some of them believed that pile of Warg shit Falyr told us about your father planning treason. It didn’t help that Clan Rashee was cited as the reason for the laws against us that were enacted eight years ago. You need to know what you’re walking into.”
Modryn sighed. “I considered that possibility which is why I prepared this.” As he finished speaking, he pulled a Memory Crystal from his pocket. “This Crystal holds my memories of the events of that night. If they are not traitors, they will either side with us, or stay out of the way.”
The thought of objecting to Modryn’s assumption that she would be joining him never even crossed Sasha’s mind. Even if she didn’t trust him completely, the past eight years have proved that anything is better than living under the High Alvs’ rule. They didn’t outright make the enslavement of Dok Alvs legal, but they certainly condone it, and a great number of Dok Alvs were actually taken from their homes in broad daylight to be sold as slaves simply because a few thugs felt like it. When ever the Dok Alv Clan Heads went to complain, they were sent to speak with low level bureaucrats whose only jobs seemed to be losing the paperwork that the Dok Alvs filled out. So she had no qualms about helping Modryn burn the country down, and she was sure that the other Clan Heads wouldn’t either, as soon as Clan Rashee’s innocence was proven.
As Modryn set the Crystal on the small table between them, Sasha kept her eyes on it. When she reached to pick it up, Modryn grabbed her hand. In response to her look, he said, “You might want to wait, and give yourself time to brace yourself before you watch it. None of it is good.”
The look in his eyes told her all she needed to know about her father and younger brother’s deaths. “Okay. I waited this long, right?” Trying to play it off with a laugh, she sat back.
After a few minutes of silence, Modryn said, “At the time, I was disappointed that you weren’t there. I wanted to apologize for what happened back then, and show you that there were no hard feelings, that I had moved on, after you turned me down. Now I see it was a blessing that you were ill then.”
Sasha flinched. “I wasn’t ill. That was just an excuse. The first thing I thought when I heard you were getting married, was that I didn’t want to see ‘my Modryn’ in the arms of another woman.” She laughed scornfully at herself. “I thought I was so in love with your brother when you proposed to me, but when I heard you had fallen in love with another woman, I couldn’t stand it. I’m sorry.” she finished with tears starting to fall from her eyes.
Modryn stared into space, considering this. “Do you know how we activate the Bloodrage for the first time? As the name suggests, it is primarily based on our rage and other negative emotions, as well as our ability to control them through meditation. But someone at a mere 85 shouldn’t have enough negative emotions to fuel the explosion that is the first instance. It was always considered rude to ask about the origins of the emotions used. It was surprising for a lot of people that I, who seemed the most easygoing person there was, had enough rage to serve as the catalyst, but they were courteous, and didn’t pry. Although, I feel that Mother had figured it out. What I used was the anger from you turning me down, the jealousy that you were in love with my brother, the only time I felt jealousy directed at him, the humiliation that I never saw your interest in Falyr before you pointed it out to me, and the rage that I could have any woman I could see, except for the one I wanted. As all this threatened to consume me, I knew that I needed to get it under control before I did something I would regret. So I started using the meditation techniques best suited to controlling rampaging emotions. The ones used when activating the Bloodrage, centuries before I was meant to. They say it was genius that led me to the breakthrough, but it wasn’t. It was 10 years of desperation to prevent myself from doing things that couldn’t be taken back. I had always been told that the nature of my particular magic and affinities would cause me to be more animalistic and prone to emotional instability than others. I never understood why Father was so strict with my education and training until that day.” As he finished, Modryn met Sasha’s eyes.
Holding his gaze, she asked the question that she had been wondering ever since Modryn appeared that night, “We don’t have a chance of working, do we?”
“…We can return to how it was before, but no. I don’t think there is any chance of romance between us.” Modryn answered with a sad glimmer in his eyes.
After a few more minutes of silence, Modryn picked up the Memory Crystal, and stood. “I should go. I have a feeling that if I take any more time than this to return, my apprentice will come and rip the place apart to find me. She is a good child, but she is still uncontrollable at times.”
Sasha giggled, “Sounds like someone else I know. I’m surprised you took in an apprentice. How did that happen? What race is she?”
Modryn shrugged, “Human. I rescued her and her brother from being sold into slavery five years ago, and saw she had a talent for Combat Sorcery. Now she’s 15, and her power has grown well beyond my expectations.”
Sasha stared at Modryn. “I thought only Clan Rashee could use that form of magic. And you’re saying that she’s Human?”
Modryn nodded, “Completely. You’ll meet her and her brother at the meeting.”
As she stood, Sasha said, “I see. I look forward to it.” The two hugged tightly, and Sasha whispered, “Stay safe.”
“You too.” And with that, Modryn left as quietly as he came.
As far as appearances went, Demar was an average High Alv. He might’ve had what could be considered a weasel-like look in his eyes, but nobody would easily guess that he was a slaver, and they never would’ve guessed that he was the man in charge of every slaver and slave trader in Sonadis.
They all answered to him, and it was at his behest that the ones leading the different branches of his little empire meet in Vanarous in response to a letter he had received from some noble named Lord Modryn about a business proposal.
The letter said that he wanted to meet all of the leaders of Demar’s group in his store. So they were all gathered in the basement where he kept his wares, the only place big enough to hold them all in the store.
One of the guards came downstairs and informed him that the guest was there with two others. Demar nodded, “Bring them in.”
As the three came down the stairs, there were some mutterings from the people gathered. The man in the lead wore a black long-coat with the hood up, a black breastplate, clawed gauntlets, pants, and boots of the same color. He also had a longsword on his hip. It was in a way that none of the man’s skin could be seen. Similarly, the two with him were covered in hooded cloaks as well.
“I assume that you are Lord Modryn? I must apologize, but I do not do business with people whose faces I have not seen. If you insist on hiding your face, I am afraid I cannot deal with you.” Demar said, not bothering to stand for the so called ‘lord’. He had never heard of any noble named Modryn. The only reason he had agreed to this meeting was so he could trap the man passing himself off as a noble and sell him to the royal family.
The man chuckled. “My apologies, Sir Demar. I am just in a position where the public cannot see me entering any establishments of ill repute, but if you insist, I will gladly show my face. Mary, Justin. It’s fine.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“As you wish, Master.”
As the two followers replied, the three of them pulled down their hoods, revealing their faces. Everyone was shocked to see that Modryn was a Dok Alv, and his followers were Human twins barely out of childhood. The Dok Alv’s face had an arrogant smirk, and his red eyes were dancing with laughter. While the Humans had completely opposite expressions from one another. Going with their blonde hair and blue eyes, the boy had a serious look on his face in his violet Mage’s robes, while the girl had a pleasant smile on her face wearing a mix of chain mail and light plate armor that for some reason was a dark blue. If it hadn’t been so dark colored, Demar would’ve thought it had been made of cobalt.
The entire room was shocked. For a Dok Alv and Humans to walk into this building, were they asking to become slaves? Taking advantage of the silence, Modryn continued by throwing a bag into the center of the table. Jewels spilled out, each one enough to guarantee a luxurious lifestyle for decades. “I wish to buy every non-human each of you have in stock. Also, if you deliver the ones you capture from this moment forth, there will be much more. I am also willing to pay you to capture every Human that enters Sonadis, no matter what their rank or business. That means traders and merchants, even royalty and their official messengers. I will provide an appropriate amount of man power to ensure complete coverage. While I don’t ultimately care what happens to the Humans, I would like first pick on their fates. So? What do you think about my terms?” Modryn finished with a smile.
Demar was livid. These weren’t terms he could accept! He might as well hand the man every business he owns and call him ‘Boss’! The expression on the Dok Alv’s face so much as broadcasted that he knew as much. Demar’s face twisted. “I have a counter proposal for you. We take these jewels, and have you three captured and sold to the royal family!”
Modryn sighed, as if he was disappointed in the answer. “How unoriginal and shortsighted. If you accept my terms, you’ll have a steady supply of wealth flowing in, instead of a small bag full of jewels and three slaves to sell. Are you sure that you won’t consider my offer?” Upon seeing Demar’s expression, Modryn sighed again. “Justin.”
As his name was called, the Human boy raised his hand and pointed at Demar. Suddenly, Demar felt the ground beneath his feet become soft. When he looked down, he saw that the ground around him had become gelatinous, and he was sinking into it. Screaming, he struggled to try and free himself, but that just made him sink faster.
He finally stopped when he had sunk into his waist. He looked up, seeing the looks of horror on his men’s faces. When he looked at Modryn and the Humans, they were absolutely calm. “You know, Demar. When I offered that proposal to your Human counterparts, they gave me the same answer. Now, they are where you will be going, and their men all work for me, but the profits aren’t nearly as good as they could have been. Actually, they’re not making any profits at all. Gentlemen, here’s my new proposal. Your boss is dead. Give up on him. Anyone who wants to join him, speak up now, so we can do that and be done with it. As for the rest, you all work for me. You’ll all receive just enough to keep you clothed and fed, but that’s it. You will all swear your loyalty to me under your True Names. Do you all accept?”
As Modryn’s voice faded, everyone looked at one another, taking glances at Demar. One by one, all of them knelt and swore themselves to the terrifying man in front of them. Modryn nodded, “Gentlemen, welcome to the Demon Lord’s army.”
Demar had grown increasingly desperate. “W-wait! I-I’ll swear! Please! It was just a joke! Don’t do this to me!” Tears were streaming down his face as he begged for his life.
Modryn glanced at him. “Justin?”
The boy replied, “At once, my Lord.”
Those were the last words Demar heard before he was swallowed by the earth.