Antalia had her wrists bound as she sat in the chair that her captors had given her in the office she was left in. The 18-year-old High Alv glared at the Bearman sitting behind the desk. To one side of her was the head of her escort, Serfas, a member of Sonadis’s Royal Guard, and to the other was Frina, Antalia’s Dok Alv slave. These three were the only survivors of the fight with these bandits.
Currently, Serfas was also glaring at the large man that appeared to be the bandits’ leader. On the other hand, Frina was trembling in fear as a bandit was using magic on her.
Unable to keep quiet, Antalia finally asked, “What is he doing to my slave?”
The Bearman raised his eyebrows, “What does it matter to you? Don’t want anyone except you to beat her? Whatever. If you must know, he’s working on removing her Enslavement.”
The three Alvs were surprised at his words. “Your freeing her? But why? Aren’t you just going to sell her?” Antalia had a dumbfounded expression as her thoughts were voiced. The Bearman ignored her and went back to writing what appeared to be a report.
“What do you plan to do with us? Do you have any idea who we are?” Serfas asked.
Not looking up, the bandits’ leader answered, “Once the Enslavement is lifted, the Dok Alv will be given the choice of being moved to a safe place where she can live in peace.” At this he looked up at Frina, “That being said, you will be asked if you can work for us as a spy acting like a slave in whichever country we need you. You won’t be under Enslavement, but you will be asked to allow them to do as they like to you in order to maintain your cover. You have every right to turn this down, of course. This is just something that I need to offer you, it’s standing orders from the top to offer the chance to get back at the Humans and High Alvs.”
“As for you two,” he said as he turned to the High Alvs, “considering that you were in a carriage with Sonadis’ seal, we have only one thing we can do. Sending you to meet the Demon Lord. And no, I have no idea who you are. Go ahead and explain so I can put it in my report.”
As the Bearman spoke, the three captives had shocked expressions on their faces. The High Alvs’ complexions turned pale as they started to understand the implications of what he said. Seeing this, the Bearman said, “Yes, every slaver and bandit has been working for the Demon Lord for the last ten years. And every slave sold in the past ten years have been spies that we’ve placed in there. Including Sonadis, of course.”
Antalia was dumbfounded, “…why..?” The thing that she had set out from Sonadis to discover was right in front of her. She had decided to go to the Human kingdoms and demand explanations for why High Alvs had been going missing for the past ten years. People really very rarely travel from one country to another, but those who do are disappearing entirely, with no traces. Not just adventurers or regular travelers, but merchants and royal messengers as well. If it was monster attacks, then surely there would be some signs or survivors. But there was nothing “Why are you using that method to place spies?”
Shrugging, the Bearman replied with, “Got a few guesses, but I’m not saying them. Now, names.”
This caused Antalia to get angry. “I am Antalia Deniot! The fiancée of Crown Prince Vylir! I will not accept this!”
As she spoke, the slaver wrote down her name and what she said. “‘…will not accept this.’ There, your complaints have been noted. And you?” Looking at Serfas with a bored expression on his face.
His blasé response caused Antalia’s anger to spike. “This is Serfas of the Sonadis Royal Guard! One of the heroes of the Rashee Rebellion!” This proclamation caused the Bearman to freeze. Antalia grinned, believing that she had found a weakness. “Release us and you won’t have to deal with the might of Sonadis’ military that destroyed the dreaded Rashee!”
The slaver looked at Antalia incredulously. “First of all, you can’t threaten anyone unless you’re actually in a superior position to them. Secondly, that was the worst lie I’ve ever heard. ‘Release you, and the military won’t come after us’? Did you really think I’d believe that? Third, your disappearance will be blamed on the Humans or monsters, just like every other time. And finally, I’m surprised that ‘the fiancée of the Crown Prince’ doesn’t know the truth about the night that Clan Rashee was destroyed. Hells, I’ve heard the rumors, and I’m just a grunt who the Demon Lord and the Commanders probably barely remember.” He glanced at Serfas, who was staring at him in horror. “I’m not going to explain it to you. You want to ask someone, ask him. But I can promise you, sir, the Demon Lord is going to be very interested in meeting you.”
As the Bearman turned back to his report, Antalia looked at Serfas in confusion. Her father was the Captain of the Royal Guard when Clan Rashee rebelled. He had killed the most of the traitors, and it took Modryn Rashee himself to kill him. She had always been proud of her father, but what did this man mean? Seeing Antalia’s gaze, Serfas looked away in panic.
At this point, the Human standing over Frina finished his magic. “Sir, we’ve got a problem,” he said to his boss.
Raising his eyebrow, the Bearman asked, “What is it?”
“Whoever put the Enslavement on her, is beyond my ability. We’re going to need to send her to Serphen so they can undo it.”
The Bearman sighed. “I see. I apologize, miss. Please bear with it for a little longer. Looks like you’re all going to meet the Demon Lord.”
The past few weeks had been some of the worse of Serfas’ life. After letting the daughter of a dead brother-in-arms get caught by slavers, he learned that, for the past ten years, every slaver has been in the employ of the Demon Lord, and every slave bought and sold have been spies for said Demon Lord. How many slaves have been bought by nobles in the last ten years?! Slaves are the most trusted workforce there is! They see and hear everything! Nobles and kings of all countries are always left alone with them! Military secrets, secret partnerships! These can be leaked to enemies easily! Not to mention assassinations!
That was bad, but worse for Serfas personally was that the Bearman that had captured them seemed to know the truth of Clan Rashee’s extermination. That was supposed to be a state secret. Only the king and those who were there were to know of it. When the slaver said that, Serfas’ hands began to burn.
Serfas always wore gloves. There was a running joke amongst the Royal Guard that he didn’t want to touch anything with his bare hands due to a childhood trauma. The truth was that he was hiding the scars that he received from Modryn Rashee the night of Rashee’s extermination.
He was one of the Alvs who was holding Modryn Rashee and forcing him to watch the murder of his family. When the young Dok Alv was finally able to use his magic, he blasted Serfas and the other Alv with lightning to throw them off him. The other man was killed instantly. Serfas,on the other hand, was left with severe burns on his hands. Writhing on the ground due to pain, he watched as Modryn Rashee fought like a beast with all the hatred of hell etched into his face.
Afterwards, no amount of healing magic was able to completely remove the burns. The High Priest of Aengus Og himself was unable to remove the scars. It was rumored that Aengus Og was angry at Serfas for being unable to stop Modryn Rashee from rampaging, but Serfas had started believing that Aengus Og refused to heal him because he took part in Clan Rashee’s destruction itself.
Now, he hides the scars. At times, they felt like they were burning faintly. Every time it was when one of the men who took part in the extermination of Clan Rashee died from a monster or bandit. But they have never burned like this, and not for weeks at a time. Ever since he’d heard that he was going to meet with the Demon Lord, his scars have been aflame.
The three Alvs were now being led to the throne room in a castle located somewhere within the Demon Territories.
They had been shocked to see all of the races within the city. Dok Alvs, Banshee, even Drow that were supposed to be wiped out 1000 years ago were intermingled with the races one would expect to find in the Demon Territories.
The three captives finally arrived at the throne room. There they were obviously expected. The man sitting on the throne was wearing black armor and clothes with a hood covering his face. At his side was a massive black Warg and a Demon with red skin and rams horns spiraling from his head.
Spread around the room was an assortment of races; Goblins, Orcs, Beastmen, Kobolds, Demons, Ogres, Dok Shee, even a Lich. There was even three Humans who couldn’t have been much older than 20 there waiting for the captives.
Antalia had been keeping an impassive expression since they had left the country they had been captured in, but under the scrutiny of everyone in the room, she was beginning to crack. She had kept herself calm by telling herself that the entire situation was a mistake, and once she was in front of the Demon Lord, he’d apologize and release them. But finally arriving in front of him, she realized how foolish she had been. He didn’t seem particularly dangerous, especially with all the other people in the room, but Antalia couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was the single most dangerous man in the room. She was born with a strong sense for magic, so she could at least sense other people’s magic. The man on the throne had no magical presence, but with everyone around him having a presence, it was unnatural and frightened Antalia.
Serfas was barely keeping himself from falling to his knees due to the intense pain from his scars. The pain had been growing more intense since he entered the castle, and now it was almost unbearable.
Frina was openly nervous. She had been told that her restraints would need to be maintained as her master was so close at hand. Now, she didn’t understand why she was brought into the audience with the Demon Lord. She had no real complaints about being Antalia’s slave. The girl had never hit her and protected her from being raped and mistreated by others. She had been with the girl since she was a toddler. She didn’t want Antalia to be hurt, and she was planning on asking for leniency, even putting that as her demand for becoming a spy for them. But she didn’t expect an audience as soon as they arrived. She thought she would have time to figure out who to ask for mercy.
The captives stopped in front of the throne. They stood in front of the Demon Lord nervously. Without speaking, he pointed to Frina, and motioned her forward. As she stepped up to him, he placed his hand on her shoulder. The next instant, Antalia’s gasp filled the room. She had seen how that moment of contact had removed the Slavery Magic on Frina. Guessing what she had seen, the Demon Lord chuckled. He motioned for Frina to step back where she was, and she immediately complied.
At that moment, Serfas let out a bloodcurdling scream of terror. “NO! IT CAN’T BE! THE HUMANS SAID THAT YOU WAS KILLED! HOW ARE YOU ALIVE?!” He struggled as the guards grabbed and restrained him. They finally gagged him and the room fell silent again.
Antalia stared at Serfas as he looked at the Demon Lord, absolute terror in his eyes. Trying to understand what had frightened the man so much, she followed his eyes and saw the sword on the Demon Lord’s hip as he stood up.
The Demon Lord laughed as he stood and reached up to bring the hood down. “I’d say you remember this sword, High Alv. And yes, I remember you as well.”
His face caused the High Alv to restart his struggling, muffled screaming leaking out from the gag. Antalia recognized the appearance of a Rashee Dok Alv, and she had been told of this one’s appearance. “How is this possible? The Rashee were all killed. My father injured you enough so that you could be killed. How is Modryn Rashee alive?”
Modryn stared at the girl for a few moments, then, “Ahahahaha! Who was supposed to injure me?! The only reason that pack of fools was able to kill everyone like that was because Falyr drugged the wine we were drinking and nobody was able to move as they slaughtered everyone. After I was finally able to fight, the only injuries I received were mild annoyances, especially when I was going berserk the way I was.” He said this as he sat down. “Anyways, I apologize for the theatrics, it’s just that I felt I had to do something special for the fiancée of one of the men who arranged for the murder of my family and one of the men who forced me to watch their deaths. You understand.”
“What are you talking about?! Prince Vylir wouldn’t do something like that! And neither would any of Sonadis’ Royal Guard!” Antalia was red faced as she yelled at Modryn. She had forgotten her fear of him in her anger. She didn’t know Vylir very well, but him saying that meant he was insulting her father.
“Hmm. I see. Want to see for yourself child?” He reached into his coat and withdrew a Memory Crystal. “I always keep it with me to remind me of what needs to be remembered most.” With that, he started the Crystal.
As the Crystal finished, Antalia was on her knees sobbing at what she had seen. Tristan walked up to Modryn and whispered to him, “Was it really necessary to show her? She’s just a child.”
“Justin and Mary were younger than her when they saw it. Besides, she does need to understand what started all of this. As someone involved with royal politics of any kind, it’s her duty to see and acknowledge the truth. Even if the public never learns of it, the leaders must see and know everything.” Modryn responded just as quietly, and after a second Tristan found himself agreeing.
When Antalia started pulling on the necklace she was wearing, Frina panicked, “My Lady, please, stop! You’re going to hurt yourself!”
“What is that?” Modryn called out, curious as to what the young girl was doing.
“Get it off! Get what that monster gave me off!” Antalia was shouting hysterically as she pulled on the necklace.
“It’s a protective Charm she received from her father as a baby, My Lord.” Was the Dok Alv’s response.
“Her father again, who was he?”
“He was the Captain of the Royal Guard. H-He was the man who killed your wife.” She responded hesitantly.
“Hmm. I see. It’s obvious the conversation won’t proceed with her like this. Help her with it.”
“Y-yes. Thank you. My Lady, please.” As the Dok Alv touched the girl’s shoulders, she calmed down.
“Wait. Someone remove their restraints.” Modryn suddenly said.
One of the guards said, “Yes, My Lord. And him?” He indicated Serfas who had been quietly trembling, still terrified of Modryn.
“Right. He’ll keep for now. There’s no rush.” The guard removed the restraints on the two women. Frina was apparently having trouble with the catch on the Charm. “Is everything fine? Is there a Charm to prevent its removal?”
Antalia answered, “No, it was supposed to just be a Charm for protection.”
“Kha’la, you’ve been experimenting with Charms, right? Think you can remove it?” Modryn asked the Kobold who was standing beside the Humans.
“I can try, My Lord.” Kha’la said as she stepped forward.
Modryn chuckled at her response. She liked to act humble in front of large crowds, but she is one of the most skilled craftsmen he’d ever seen at her age, so he had every confidence in her being able to remove it.
As she examined the Charm, her tail started twitching. “You said that it’s just a Protection Charm, correct?”
“Yes.” Was the High Alv’s confused response.
“Hmm. Well, obviously, someone lied to you. The only Charms I can see is one to prevent removal and an illusion for disguise that is constantly active.” At that, Kha’la started using her magic to unravel the Charm’s magics.
Antalia was shocked to hear this. “What do you mean?! How can I have an Illusion Charm?! I wouldn’t even know what I looked like with that!”
Satrus spoke up, “Girl, who told you the effects of that Charm?”
“…It was the king and queen…”
“Got it!” With Kha’la’s satisfied proclamation, the Charm’s catch came undone, and the illusion was broken. “Ohhh.”
Silence fell as Antalia’s true face was revealed.
Gortuk muttered, “Oh my gods.”
Gretchen said, “Shit.”
“Oh, Hells.” Came from Tristan.
Modryn’s face had become serious as he looked at Antalia.
“What? What is it?” Antalia was looking at everyone, even Frina was starring at her strangely.
Christy stepped forward, “It’s better if you see it yourself.” With that, she created a reflective object with magic, and showed it to Antalia.
What the girl saw was impossible. Instead of her blonde hair, green eyes, and white skin, she was looking at a girl with dark skin, black hair, and red eyes.
The image reflected to her was that of a Dok Alv of Clan Rashee.
“How? How is this possible? What does this mean?” Antalia was panicking, clutching her head as she tried to come to terms with what she saw. Others in the room were muttering. “If I’m not a High Alv, if I’m not Antalia Deniot, then who am I?”
Modryn spoke up then, his quiet voice causing everyone else to fall silent. “Artemis Rashee. You are my sister, Artemis Rashee. The age matches. And you should be the only Dok Alv child born in the last five decades. Everyone except my personal advisors and the guards leave. Now.” Everyone except the original Strong Horns, Satrus, Tanya, Sasha, the twins, Kha’la and Christy left. “I can’t believe I didn’t realize this sooner. I never should have assumed that you were killed. I could never understand why they did it at that time.”
Angela asked, “What are you talking about, Modryn?”
Modryn dryly chuckled. “I’m talking about the reason why Rashee was destroyed at the time it was. My appearance was just convenient so they could get everyone with the blood of Rashee in one place without having to worry about picking us off piecemeal. The only one who personally wanted me dead was Falyr. Clan Sonadis’s true goal was always her. Or, more specifically a method to bring the Bloodrage into their bloodline and remove the only ones who could oppose it.”
Silence met his words as everyone thought about what he meant. Satrus was the first to realize the implications. “If Sonadis had the Bloodrage, then Clan Rashee would have just been a hindrance when they decided to conquer the continent. Has Sonadis always been trying to get it?”
Modryn nodded to the Lich’s question. “As far as I know, they’ve been trying to have a Rashee girl marry into their clan for the last millennia. They’re the only royal or noble clan that has been so insistent on marrying outside of their race. We’ve always been careful about who a Rashee married, and tried to make it people that had no connections to any political powers. We never interfered if we judged it to be legitimate mutual love, like with Morgiana and me, but it was preferable that they had few connections. The men who married a woman of the Rashee weren’t even allowed to remain with their families. They married into Clan Rashee, and if they felt unmanned by it, the relationship wouldn’t have proceeded to that point. This was all done so that the children would be raised by our traditions and protection. We wanted to prevent anyone abusing the Bloodrage. So, you see, Sonadis’s request for one of our daughters marrying their heir couldn’t be allowed. Of course, this policy meant commoners were prospective partners before they were, so I’d imagine that rubbed Sonadis the wrong way as well.”
Tanya asked, “Is it even possible for someone of mixed-blood to inherit the Bloodrage?”
Modryn shrugged, “Who knows? For the most part, Clan Rashee had taken a very liberal view on experimenting with the Bloodrage, and everything else for that matter. ‘Do what you like, research what catches your interest, so long as the clan isn’t placed in danger. Just always remember your position and duties as my son.’ My father always said that to me as a child. But nobody’s ever had a mixed-blood child. We definitely wouldn’t have one just to see what happened. I would’ve been the first to have one. So it’s unknown if a person needs to be pure Dok Alv, or if the blood of Rashee in their veins is enough.”
“Wait. If what you said is true, why would they agree to let Lady Ant-…I mean Lady Artemis leave Vanarous? Wouldn’t it have been better to keep her locked up?” Frina asked, changing the way she addressed Artemis at Modryn’s short glare.
Modryn thought about that question. “Artemis, I’m going to guess that you’re the type of person who doesn’t let anything go once you start trying to figure something out right?” At her nod, Modryn continued, “Right. So you continued to pester people until they finally agreed to let you go out and find the source of the disappearances.”
The girl’s face became flushed with embarrassment hearing it described like that, but she confirmed that was how it happened. This caused Modryn to chuckle, ‘Not too different from me at that age.’ Was what Modryn thought to himself.
Continuing, Modryn said, “I highly doubt that the person who finally agreed to your request was aware of how important you are. Plans like this require absolute secrecy, the fewer people know about it, the safer it is. That being said, I’d imagine that they regretted their decision not long after. Send messages to the slavers, tell them to go to ground and cease all activities. If they see Sonadis military, they are to withdraw and not make contact. All of the bases and slave stores are to be abandoned as well. There should still be time before they realize something is wrong and mobilize.”
At his orders, a guard saluted and rushed out.
Artemis asked something that had been bothering her, “If my marriage to Vylir is so important, why didn’t they ensure that I would do it? Why didn’t they enslave me to do it?” Everyone in the room looked at the young girl as if she had asked what color the sky was. Confused about the looks she was receiving, she looked to Modryn.
“To use Slavery Magic to force someone to marry another is taboo, by order of the gods,” was his response. “The gods view marriage as sacred. That being said, if someone marries a person that doesn’t intend to treat them properly, or used mundane methods to trick them or a magic to make them more attractive, or even threatening them to comply with the marriage, then it’s the fault of the person fooled, and the gods won’t become involved. It’s just not their problem. But forcing someone into swearing oaths in front of the gods by removing their free will is something that all gods view as an insult, and take it very personally. Sonadis also couldn’t make you just a concubine as that would cause problems with the right of succession according to their traditions. This should all be common sense. Haven’t they taught you any of this?”
Frina sighed, “My Lord, that was likely one of the many lessons that she didn’t pay attention to. I apologize.”
“I see. No need to apologize. She just requires a firmer hand in her education. I was the same way at her age. Father’s methods for dealing with me should work just as well for her, but that’s for later. Do you need to rest?” At Artemis’ nod, Modryn continued, “I’ll have someone show you to a room. Frina, you obviously care for her. If you’d like I can hire you as an attendant for her.”
Frina agreed instantly, “Yes, thank you.”
“Well, we should have left by now. Bergan should have reached Angheim. Tanya, are you ready?”
“Yes, I’m ready,” she responded.
“Good. We’ll be back in a few weeks. Tristan, if anyone needs anything, I made sure they know to come to you.” Modryn said to the Demon with a smirk.
“Of course you did.” He said with a much put upon expression.
“What’s with that face? Everyone knows that you’re my right hand.”
“Yes, ‘right hand’ meaning that all of your work gets dumped into my lap.” Tristan shot back at Modryn’s joke.
“What are you talking about? I am going to do work. It’s time to declare war and make the most important wager of my life.” Modryn’s easygoing expression changed to an arrogant smile with cunning flashing through his eyes.
“Erm, My Lord. The prisoner?” Spoke up the guard.
“Oh, right. Forgot about him.” Modryn sighed. Then with a glance at the High Alv, he turned to Garm and pointed at the prisoner. “Garm, enjoy your meal, just be sure to take him outside. I’m still getting complaints from the cleaning staff about that time you ate those boar inside. I told them to take any complaints they had to you, but they were too scared to bring it up apparently and felt I was the better one to talk to. I don’t think it’s a good idea to antagonize the cleaners, so we should go with what they said.”
Garm let out a dissatisfied huff, and flicked his ears in irritation, but picked up Serfas and proceeded out of the room. As soon as Serfas had heard that he would be the Warg’s meal, he started struggling and letting out muffled screams again, which only increased when he was picked up.
Once the Warg had left, the occupants of the room left for their duties. Modryn had returned to his rooms with the excuse that he needed to retrieve something before they left, and spent a few minutes alone weeping with joy at the fact that one of his family was alive.
King Bjorn was heading to his office wondering who exactly had come, and what business they had.
His guards had come to him in a panic, and it took him yelling at them for them to calm down and explain what happened. ‘Gods, when did my men become so pathetic, the fools were incoherent until I threatened to send them to prison.’
Once they were able to speak, Bjorn had been informed that a mysterious Dwarf had appeared out of nowhere in his office. When the guards found him, he didn’t try to flee, he simply fought them with his bare hands. After soundly beating them, the intruder said that he had important business with the king, and he would be waiting in the office for him.
Preparing for a fight, Bjorn and Dungan readied their weapons as the door was thrown open. What they saw was Bergan Ungholdt relaxing in one of the chairs in the room. “”Bergan?!”” They were unable to prevent their surprise from leaking out. It was now easy to see how a single man was able to sneak through the castle, beat the castle’s guards, and calmly wait for the two of them in Bjorn’s office. The question was, why has he appeared now, after having disappeared 15 years ago?
Bergan just greeted them as he always had, as if he had only just seen them yesterday. “Oi, what’s with you lads? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” With a laugh, he then said, “What’s a Dwarf gotta do to get some mead around here?”
After the three were settled in and already half-done with their first mugs of mead, Bjorn looked at Bergan and started questioning him. “Uncle, where have you been the last 15 years? Why did you return now?”
Chuckling, Bergan answered, “I’m here because my current employer is requesting a meeting with you. He will be here in a couple weeks, he just had business to attend to before he was able to get on his way.”
Confused, the two younger Dwarves glanced at one another. Dungan asked the obvious questions. “Is your employer the Black Knight of Chaos? Why does he want a meeting?”
“Hahaha. Why to declare war of course. As well as offer a proposal that is most definitely in your favor to listen to. Don’t worry, the new Demon Lord is a very reasonable man. I think you lads’ll like him.”
At Bergan’s response, the two younger Dwarves dropped their mugs, their mead spilling out across the floor.