My apologies for taking so long. Work got crazy, and I had some writer’s block that caused everything to come out in fits and starts. Here’s the new chapter now.
As Modryn’s group returned to Gradis, Garm’s presence caused everyone they passed to gape.
Garm, for his part, managed to remain stoic, keeping his tail still and his ears standing as he stared straight ahead while walking beside Modryn. That being said, the subtle tensing of his muscles told those who were paying attention of the beast’s surprise and apprehension of being surrounded by so many creatures that he had never seen before that day. Modryn chuckled, and brushed up against Garm to reassure him.
When the mansion came into sight, they saw Morgain and Kha’la coming out to meet them. They stopped in their tracks and stared as they saw Garm. When they finally reached her, Morgain remarked, “Well, Modryn, it looks like you have made a new friend.”
Modryn smiled, “Morgain, Kha’la, this is Garm. We think that he’s a Warg-Hellhound mixed breed.”
Morgain had a startled expression as she said, “I see. He certainly does look it. Does he understand us?”
Modryn shrugged, “I think so. But he doesn’t understand what the words are supposed to mean, seeing as he doesn’t have any reference for them.”
As Modryn spoke, Kha’la edged closer to Garm. The 20 year old Kobold wasn’t nearly as shy as when Modryn had first found her, but with a creature this size, anyone would be nervous. Seeing her approach, the Warg watched her come closer. When she reached his side, she started patting him. As he was showing no response, Kha’la was growing more confident until she was actively petting him. Mary and Justin stepped up to her and started talking about what happened that day.
Seeing how the Warg simply stood there and watched the children, Morgain smiled. “It certainly seems like he’s not going to do anything. This should be interesting.” Morgain’s expression suddenly turned serious. “Have you thought about what I told you this morning?”
Modryn grew thoughtful, as he whispered to her, making sure no one else heard, “My clan has always harnessed and used the power of our emotions to fuel our power. What I have is nothing more than that. Granted, they are more volatile, but there is no reason to believe that the meditation techniques for the Bloodrage will not work for this. I will not pretend that just knowing the source of the problem will make it easier to deal with, but it is the only way to begin working on fixing it, instead of just correcting the symptoms.”
Morgain was relieved. “Good. I was worried the knowledge would have put you at risk.”
After Modryn told her the events of their encounter, Morgain asked, “So, where do you all intend to go after this?”
Everyone had joined the conversation at this point, though Daphne had requested permission to be excused early on. Morgain judged from the fearful glances at Modryn that she had done something that she thought would draw his anger before she realized just how powerful he was, and she didn’t want to be around him in case he remembered it and demanded retribution.
“To the northern border of Sonadis. The Firyen Caves,” was Modryn’s answer.
Morgain’s face darkened. “I see. Be careful. The Drow can be unpredictable. If you can get them to swear loyalty to you, they will hold to their oaths, but before that, there is no telling what they will do.”
Modryn nodded. “I know. Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.”
Looking at him, Morgain sighed. “I hope so.”
One week later, Modryn and his party, with Garm and Sabrina, were approaching the Firyen Caves. The caves were the second forbidden area in Sonadis. The official reason was that it was owned exclusively by Clan Rashee, and anyone who approached would be executed without fail. But the true reason, the reason that only the Clan Head and his successor knew, was that this was the location that Teron Rashee had set aside for the Drow.
The Drow were a race that the Shee, and most other races, despised. They were a Dok Shee race, but they were hated even more than the violent Goblins and Trolls. They were similar to the Centaurs of the Shee, except their lower halves were not the bodies of horses, but of spiders. This caused horror and revulsion in most people. Because of this, Teron was forced to smuggle them secretly to a little traveled area of Sonadis after the war.
As their queen had sworn her people to him, he had tried to do it openly, but the royal family had refused to grant it, and had even ordered Teron to exterminate them. It took much effort to fool them and get the Drow to safety.
As they arrived at the entrance of the cave system, they stopped. Modryn announced in a loud voice, “I, Modryn Rashee, have come to speak with Queen Aradne! I request permission to enter, and swear on my honor that I carry no ill will!”
After waiting a few minutes, a response arrived. Three people emerged from the cave. Two men and one woman. They all had dusky skin, like Dok Alvs, and black hair and long pointed ears. Their torsos were in the same frame as Dok Alvs as well. The only difference that their faces had with others was their eyes. They were pitch black orbs, no whites, irises, or pupils to be seen. Of course, that was their upper bodies.
Their lower halves were the abdomens of massive spiders. Black carapaces gleaming in the light of the day. Eight legs moving swiftly, in perfect sync with one another.
They were wearing leather armor and had spears in their hands. Their expressions were serious and no nonsense types.
The man in the middle stepped forward. “I am Prince Arkos Acadis. You are Modryn Rashee?”
Modryn nodded. “Yes, I am Demon Lord Modryn Rashee. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Your Highness.”
Arkos raised an eyebrow at the response. “I see. I shall show you to the audience room. I am certain that my mother will be pleased to hear what you have to say. I will warn you now, there is no guarantee that you will achieve what you have come to do. The queen will hear you, but most likely, it is only to hear the news of the outside world.”
“I understand. It has been at least eight years since she last received news, correct? We shall tell her everything we can, but we haven’t left the Demon Territories in the last five years, so it might not be as detailed as she would like.”
At this, Arkos turned and led the visitors into the cave.
Two hours later, Modryn and his group were in Queen Aradne’s throne room. As he finishes informing her of Drinaris’s news from the past ten years, silence falls upon the room as the Drow surrounding them considered what they had heard. The queen looked down from her throne.
The Drow’s hair and carapaces were usually black, but they can vary greatly in bright colors. But the only way to describe Aradne was ‘white’. She was born with pale white skin, white hair and carapace, and red eyes. It was a rare color for a Drow.
As she spoke, her quiet voice somehow carried across the room, “So that is what is happening in the world. And that is why you have come, to request our participation in your cause.”
Modryn nodded once in response, as he opened his mouth to speak, Aradne cut him off. “I am curious. Can the genius adventurer of Clan Rashee not do this with the forces of the Demon Territories and the adventurers? Why do you wish for my people to join you?”
Modryn spoke carefully to convey his purpose. “You are correct. My forces can win this war we are planning, honestly, the adventurers alone would suffice. But if we were to do that, then nothing will change. The people of the Demon Territories would still be left on lands that are slowly dying.”
“So just give them the land that they need after you conquer it.”
“I could do that, but would that not set a precedent for them receiving handouts? For one thing, they are a very proud people. The pride that caused them to refuse to kneel to the races that acted superior to them is still strong within them. I doubt they would just take what they are given like that. Secondly, if they do take the land given to them, they would feel no connection to it. I believe, that if you wish to make a place your home, you must put blood, sweat, and tears into claiming it. Just accepting it as a handout will not make it theirs. And the same goes for your people as well.”
As Aradne’s expression became skeptical, Modryn continued, “I understand that your people would most likely prefer to remain living here. I am not going to think that the opinions of the other races that drove you to live here will suddenly change. That is childish. But if your people assist us, I can guarantee that you will have the choice to leave if you wish. The government I will set up, at least, will hold no discrimination against you, and neither will the adventurers if any of the Drow choose to become that. The general populace might have problems with it, but they will subside once they see that the Drow are no different from them. It will take time, though, so I wouldn’t expect a quick resolution on that front.”
The Drow who were in the room began murmuring amongst themselves as Modryn finished. Aradne, for her part, continued to stare at Modryn’s face. From the moment he entered, the Dok Alv before her had a pleasant, if slightly arrogant, smile on his face, but as he spoke of this, his face became serious and fervent. As she saw his expression, she couldn’t help but to compare him to Teron. ‘His methods may be different from yours, Teron, but he is your grandson, through and through.’
“So that is the price you offer for our participation?” As she asked this, she felt a pang at treating this young man like this, but no matter how much Aradne likes the man in front of her, she has a duty to her people to secure the best profits she can.
Modryn shook his head, “That is just what I can promise you if, and when, we attain victory. I have access to many ancient magics, powerful weapons, and various knowledges, each of which can be the foundation of great clans that I can give you immediately. We have stabilized the Demon Territories, but it will still be some years before we are ready to proceed with our plans. That is plenty of time for talented individuals to begin mastering the things that I offer, and by the time we are ready for war, they’ll have been well on their way to mastering them.”
As he finished, the murmurs from before returned, slightly louder than before. As Aradne was going to respond, a loud voice cut her off, “Preposterous. Are we supposed to believe all of this? My Queen, this Dok Alv is weak. He has no presence. The Human children and Banshee have a greater presence than him. It is most likely that these are all just slaves and he’s lying to you.”
The Drow that had spoken up was named Kinec, and he was Captain of the Royal Guard. Aradne viewed him as a pompous fool, but his skill is legitimate. He was also ambitious, with a boorish attitude.
As he finished speaking, Garm, who had been lying on the floor and seemingly sleeping, opened his eyes and let out a low growl at Kinec. The Drow scoffed, and said, “Do you think that scares me, mongrel? You’re just as weak as your master!”
At these words, Modryn raised an eyebrow in surprise. He looked carefully at Garm and saw that the Warg was using the same method of suppressing his ability as Modryn. As Garm turned to look at him with his indifferent eyes, Modryn couldn’t decide which he found funnier, the way Garm so easily copied him, or the fact that this Drow hasn’t even begun suspecting that something was wrong. While it was true that very few Mages would be able to notice the fine magic control that allowed him to suppress his presence, the fact that a warrior wouldn’t be able to notice the inconsistencies with two individuals suppressing themselves like this was hilarious.
As Modryn burst into laughter, Kinec became angry, “What’s so funny, Alv?”
“Oh? Wouldn’t you find it amusing if you saw a fool pretend to be a politician, let alone a warrior?” As Modryn spoke, his laughter quieted, but the smile he had earlier returned, with more arrogance than before.
“You bastard! I will not forgive that insult!” As he continued, Aradne tried to stop him, but he then said, “I challenge you to a duel!”
Modryn’s next words caused everyone to stare at him, “I refuse.”
Kinec was gleeful, this was the perfect chance to discredit him and ruin the negotiations. “So you’re a coward!”
Modryn just started chuckling again, “No. I just don’t feel like killing anyone at the moment.”
“Strong talk from a coward!”
Modryn sighed at Kinec’s behavior. At first it was amusing, but it was quickly becoming tiresome. “If you insist, then fine, you will have your duel. But I won’t be the one you will fight. Mary.”
Mary stepped forward at Modryn’s call, “Yes, Master?”
Modryn turned back to Kinec, “You will be fighting my apprentice. This should make it more of a fair fight.”
Kinec grew livid, and his face darkened in rage. “Are you mocking me?!”
“Trust me, fool, if I was mocking you, you would know.” Modryn looked to Aradne, “Is this fine with you, Your Highness?”
“Yes. In fact, if your apprentice can defeat Kinec, we will agree to your proposal and the price you set earlier.”
With Aradne’s words, the duel was set for one hour later, and everyone dispersed to prepare.
Mary was just finishing her preparations. She went over the Stygian Iron/cobalt alloy armor and swords that Kha’la had made for her two years ago to ensure that everything was in the right place.
While she had experience fighting monsters and bandits, she couldn’t help but get nervous about the fact that this is the first time she’s fighting someone whose body was so different from her’s. She had never fought against someone who didn’t have a humanoid shape with sentience, and was worried about coping with it.
Mary heard the door open and looked to see Kha’la enter the room. “Are you alright?”
Mary smiled at her best friend. “I’m fine. Just the usual pre-battle nerves.” She was still getting used to the fact that Kha’la had stopped growing, and the girl who was five years older than her would always be barely taller than her waist.
Kha’la giggled at Mary’s predictable response, “Don’t worry. If Lord Modryn didn’t think you were able to do it, he wouldn’t have told you to do it. Besides, you have my armor and swords. You’ll be perfectly fine.”
Mary sighed, “Yeah, you’re right. Better go. Master left it to me to introduce that Drow to Lady Morrigan, can’t be late for something like that.”
Giggling, the two opened the door, only to find Garm standing there. After a moment of the three standing there, staring at each other, Garm lowered his head and gently tapped his forehead against Mary’s. The Warg then turned and walked down the tunnel to the seats of the arena where the duel would be, with the two girls staring after him.
“I guess that means he thinks I’ll be fine as well.”
Kha’la nodded in agreement. “Yeah. Guess so.” She then got a mischievous look in her eyes as she said, “But, you would’ve preferred if it was Lord Modryn giving you a kiss for luck, huh?”
Mary’s face immediately turned bright red. “No! That’s not true! Besides, I don’t need luck!” With that, she shoved her helmet on her head and left her laughing friend almost at a run.
Kha’la returned to the seats where Aradne, Modryn, and the others were right after Garm, who had already laid down. Everyone glanced at her as she sat down, but quickly looked back at the arena floor.
Down there, Kinec was already in the center of the arena, glaring up at Modryn. At that moment, Mary walked out and quickly stood a few paces away from him.
Aradne raised herself and said, “Warriors. This is a duel to the death. The fate of the Drow will be decided with this duel. There is only one rule: win at any cost. Begin!”
As she returned to her seat, the two combatants readied their weapons, Kinec with his spear, and Mary with her short swords. Mary made the first move, looking to get into her swords’ range.
This was stopped neatly by Kinec, whose spear handling was obviously at an expert level. The duel quickly became a stalemate. While Mary was able to dodge most strikes, and parry the others, Kinec was more than capable of keeping her at a distance.
Seeing this, Justin and Kha’la couldn’t suppress their groans. Sabrina accidentally asked what was on her mind, “Why hasn’t she finished this already? There shouldn’t have been anything stopping her.”
Tanya answered her. “It’s probably because this is her first duel in this environment. She’s killed plenty of bandits and monsters, but the only time she’s fought while being observed like this is during sparring matches. There, she was expected to not finish it quickly, and while she knows that this is different, her body is reacting the way it has been. I would imagine that her nerves are causing her to retreat to what’s familiar for her as well.”
As Tanya spoke, Modryn’s expression grew more and more displeased. And as everyone reacted to what was happening in the arena, Aradne was becoming bewildered. As far as she could tell, the Human was doing very well. Aradne had been skeptical of how the girl would do, but this was better than she had dared imagine. But according to the girl’s companions, she should’ve already finished the fight.
On the arena floor, Mary had managed to get behind Kinec and was moving quickly for the kill, when her front was covered in spider silk produced by Kinec, blinding her and causing her to drop her swords. He immediately turned to drive the spear through the girl’s chest.
At that point, blue flames exploded into life, removing the silk to reveal Mary’s enraged face. She quickly registered the spear coming at her, and jumped up to avoid it.
Kinec was a skilled enough spearman to change the direction of his thrust so that Mary would land on the spear tip as she came down. His face showed obvious anticipation for the sight of the little girl impailing herself on his spear, until he saw her jump off of the air, flip over his head, and land on his back.
Before he could even register what he saw, let alone the weight of the girl standing on his spider abdomen, there was a flash of blue light and a searing pain ripped through his chest. Kinec looked at his chest, and saw the hole burned through the center of it, the intense heat cauterizing the wound and preventing blood gushing from it. With a gasp, Kinec fell to the ground, barely understanding what killed him.
As Mary retrieved her swords, all of the Drow who had gathered to observe the duel gaped at her. Aradne looked to Modryn who had a satisfied smile on his face, even if there was still some annoyance. “Modryn, she’s a Combat Sorceress?”
Modryn nodded, “Mmhmm. I’ve been training her for five years now.”
“And you taught her the Rashee’s Air Walking technique?”
Modryn simply chuckled at that.
In truth, the mystical ‘Air Walking technique’ didn’t exist. It was actually just an elementary level aeromancy spell, modified to suit Clan Rashee’s needs.
Air Compression was a spell that formed a pocket of compressed air. It was mostly used as a method to force enemies away from, or to, a certain area. In an emergency, the caster can use it, then release the compressed air in an explosion, allowing the caster to fling themselves away from a dangerous position.
A member of Clan Rashee wondered if this spell could be used in conjunction with Combat Sorcery, and this was the result. A Combat Sorcerer could create and use the compressed air pockets similarly to rocks when crossing a stream, jumping from one to another. The technique could be used normally as it didn’t require a great deal of magic, but it was difficult to measure all of the variables that could come into play when jumping from place to place using invisible footholds without the Bloodrage. At Mary’s current ability, she can only safely use one or two footholds in succession. Even Modryn, who was always more capable with pyromancy excepting his affinity with lightning which is within the domain of air, is only able to successively use a half dozen in one go, and that is only increased to nine in the Bloodrage. It should be said that it is possible to compress and stabilize enough air to stand on it, but, while impressive, it is a colossal waste of magic, and can only be held for a few seconds.
The Rashee suddenly able to jump off of thin air without reciting a spell caused most to assume that it was an almost mystical art. This was not truly a great clan secret, the Rashee just never bothered correcting anyone. If someone who had mastered aeromancy were to observe it, they’d immediately recognize it for what it was, but most others would not believe that an elementary level spell could be used in such a way.
Modryn simply dodged around Aradne’s question by shrugging, and changed the topic. “Your Highness, will you require assistance mobilizing and moving your people? If you do, I would be happy to provide whatever you need.”
Aradne shook her head at the offer. “We’ll be fine, thank you. And I would prefer for you to call me Aradne. After all, you are my lord now.” At Modryn’s acknowledgment of her request, she continued, “You should go and see to your apprentice. I would imagine you have need for a few words with her.”
Modryn sighed, “Yes, yes I do.”
With that, he left with his companions. Aradne was certain from the expression on his face that the Human child was in for a scolding and a long lecture.
Christy was wandering through the forests a few days travel from Vanarous, enjoying the night. When she stumbled upon the small camp, she thought it was a good time to get a small meal. It had been a long time since she’s been able to eat anything.
Unlike what other races thought, her kind didn’t have to feed unless it was an emergency. It all depended on their age, Christy herself only really needed to feed every few years or so. They also rarely kill those that they feed from. The amount of blood taken in a single feeding is negligible, less than a standard mug of ale. The only times someone dies is if the Vampire in question is sloppy and neglects to heal the person they feed from, or if they repeatedly take blood from the same person over a short period of time.
Christy turned into mist and crept into the camp, using her Unique Magic to increase her stealth. The first thing she saw was the massive black Warg sleeping peacefully close to the fire and the young Human Mage standing guard. She gaped at the Warg for a moment before moving on, staying far away from the two by the fire. Glancing into the first tent, she saw a young Human girl and a Kobold girl sleeping.
The other tents were singles, an empty one, probably for the boy, and the others with a Banshee, a Succubus, and a Werecat. When she came to the last tent, Christy’s eyes lit up as she found her favorite, a male Dok Alv. Every Vampire had their own preferences on blood types, usually based on what race they were before they changed, and while Christy was born Human, she just found Dok Alv blood to taste best. She always felt that a Vampire’s favorite blood indicated their sexual preferences.
She quietly slipped into the tent, and carefully stepped over to him. Her mist transformation and Unique Magic had never been discovered, but she always believed that getting complacent would be dangerous, which is why she always used both her racial ability and magic. As she knelt beside the Alv, she took a moment to appreciate his appearance. The finely toned muscles across his chest and arms that she favored in men, the sharply defined face, she also liked the red tattoos that formed flame-like patterns weaving across his body.
The only thing that she disliked about him was the distressed expression on his face and tears rolling from his eyes that spoke of a very bad nightmare. Christy didn’t like seeing such an expression on a face like his. She decided to make sure he felt particularly pleasurable while she drank from him. Vampires can control the feelings of pleasure and pain to an extent in the people they feed from. Christy always preferred to have her prey feel pleasure, she felt she owed it to them for taking their lifeblood, even if it was such a small amount.
She returned to her corporal form, and held her black hair as she bent over the Alv’s throat, to make sure she won’t wake him. The general opinion of Vampires caused her to prefer to be remembered as nothing more than a pleasant dream to her prey, so taking these little steps went a long way to making her life easier.
Just as Christy was going to bite him, she heard a voice that made her freeze. “Excuse me, miss, but can I help you?”
Slowly, she looked up and saw the Dok Alv looking at her, an amused look on his face. “Ah-,” with that, Christy quickly turned into mist and attempted to run away, only to have the Alv grab her shoulder. ‘How?! No one should be able to grab me like this while I’m incorporal! Wait, he’s channeling magic directly through his body?! It’s possible to channel magic through weapons and hit me like that, but the body with no preparation time?!’
“Now, why are you trying to run? You came all this way into my tent, surely you have time to chat.” The Alv still had that amused expression.
Then another voice rang out, “My Lord? Is everything alright?”
“Yes Justin, we just have a visitor. Can you get everyone up so she can introduce herself?”
“Of course, my Lord.”
“You know, this is pretty tiresome holding you like this. I promise I won’t hurt you, so could you return to your corporal form?” This was said to Christy, who felt she didn’t have a choice in the matter. She shifted to her corporal form, and the Dok Alv let her go.
As he stood to walk out of the tent, Christy spoke up, “Um, sir?” When he looked to her, she continued, “I don’t think you want them to see the tears?”
Startled, he reached up to his face. Seeing that he did have tears on his face, the Alv quickly retrieved a shirt and wiped his face with it. “Thank you.” With that, he continued outside.
Christy followed him out to see the entire camp watching her. After a quick round of introductions, everyone sat around the fire. The Human girl, Mary, handed her some food.
Modryn told her to wait a moment. He then picked up a cup and a knife, then cut his forearm directly over the cup, letting the blood fall into it. He then covered the cut with some fabric, stopping the flow. Christy felt his magic healing the cut. After that was finished, Modryn held the cup of blood out to Christy.
“I guess Vampires prefer to drink straight from the vein usually, and I’m sorry, but I can’t bring myself to let someone who can influence minds within my defenses. Even if it’s nothing more than pleasure and pain.”
Christy accepted his apology and blood, “It’s fine. People don’t usually offer their blood like this.”
The next few minutes were silent as Christy ate the offered food. When she finished, Tanya was the first to speak. “How did you get so close to us? Nobody should be able to get that close, not even a Rogue.”
“I’m not a Rogue. I’m a Mage.”
“It’s Umbramancy, correct?” Everyone stared at Modryn as he said that. Umbramancy was considered a forbidden magic, like Necromancy. Unlike Necromancy, Umbramancy wasn’t something that could be taught. It was a Unique Magic, like Combat Sorcery, you were either born with the talent, or you weren’t able to use it. “Elementary level Shadow Magic combined with the Vampire’s racial abilities would make for an excellent stealth ability. Am I correct in assuming that Unique Magic is why you became a Vampire? I must admit, I’ve never met a Vampire before.”
Sighing, Christy answered, “Yes. I performed the ritual to become a Vampire so I could escape from the people who were chasing me. They wanted to kill me, simply because some priests said that Umbramancy is evil. It also had the added bonus of giving me more than enough time and youth to completely master the art.”
Everyone stared at her, even Modryn was surprised. “You’re an Origin Vampire? A Vampire that wasn’t made by another?” Modryn whispered.
Christy just shrugged in response, “I’ve never turned anyone into a Vampire, but yes.”
Angela then spoke, “And you’ve mastered your Umbramancy?” The reason Umbramancy was forbidden wasn’t anything like it being evil, there was no such thing as power itself being evil. Umbramancy was forbidden because if it was mastered, the Mage in question could cause untold amounts of destruction. Mastery leveled Shadow Magics contained spells that allowed the Umbramancer to bend the force of gravity itself to their will. It was an all-out attack discipline of magic that threw away the concept of defense in the name of spreading chaos and destruction upon the surroundings. The greatest drawback of Shadow Magic was that it took decades of research to master, and by the time it was mastered, the body was to old and frail to use it effectively in most cases. But, if a master Umbramancer with their body in peak condition were to become serious, it would be an extremely difficult battle for even the greatest fighters.
Christy shrugged again. “I’ve never had an opportunity to use it in battle, but I have mastered it. Now, it’s time you answered my questions. How did you notice me, how did you grab me, and how did you know I was an Umbramancer?” All of these questions, and her glare, were directed at Modryn.
With the Vampire’s brown eyes glaring at him, Modryn nonchalantly replied, “In order? I didn’t wake up until you shifted to your corporal form. I didn’t know I could grab hold of you like that, I just wondered if it would work. And ‘shadows’ is the only way I can describe your magic.”
Christy stared at him. The expression on her face caused everyone to laugh. “Yeah, the Demon Lord is this erratic.” Angela said.
“You get used to it.” Added Tanya.
“Yes, I am. Now Christy, I have one more question. Would you like to join us?”