The Children of Eris
After a week had passed, David had realised that his hopes of having a small base in the hive weren’t going to come to fruition.
For starters, the goblins had nothing but rotten meat and dirty water in the hive to sustain themselves with, something that their kind didn’t have a problem consuming, but David and his generals did. As a result, Mania had to go hunting every night for animals in the nearby grasslands and fashioned waterskins to go to a nearby spring with from the animal hides.
Then, there was the problem with the hive itself as a base. It wasn’t as big as it had appeared to be given its large population and the numerous frail, dilapidated buildings and tunnels the goblins had made looked like they were on the verge of collapse. Further, because the goblins had no sense of hygiene nor concern for their physical health, the cave was filled with their excrement and their unfortunate kidnapped victim’s rotting corpses.
Finally, there were very few resources in the tunnels the goblins had dug out, meaning that they wouldn’t be able to create any equipment whatsoever. Abaddon had taken some of the undead workforce and a few of the Machai to dig deeper into the mountains, but hadn’t found anything of note yet.
When Mímir comes back, perhaps I should ask him to investigate this as well, David considered as he inspected the Machai that had come through Abaddon’s portal.
In total, twenty large, muscular demons with black steel armour and deer skull helmets had come through and sworn to serve him, and they did whatever they were asked of them to the letter.
If David asked them to mine for ten hours, they’d do it without a break. If he asked them to clear away dead bodies, they’d do it without a fuss. If he ordered them to hit themselves on the head with rocks, they’d do it until he told them to stop.
In addition to the Machai, Mania’s necromancy had summoned one hundred skeletons for his army and work force, which, given the size of their current base, was more than enough to do all the tasks David needed.
However, that number was smaller than David had hoped for.
He had hoped that by the time Mímir came back they would have a small army at their command of demons and skeletons, allowing David to potentially take over a nearby castle if he besieged it. Unfortunately, despite his and his general’s best efforts to preserve the goblin corpses, a lot of them had been too badly damaged by their attacks to be used as resurrection material, something that David made a mental note of.
With only a hundred and twenty soldiers at his command, it would be difficult to do much of anything, let alone attack a castle and set up a new base. Their best option, in David’s mind, was therefore to expand their current terrible little base and slowly build their numbers up more.
David let out a small sigh when he thought about that.
I didn’t think that this would be easy, but I can’t help but wonder if Eris has made it almost impossible for me to do this in year. One week’s gone by and I don’t have anything of note to show for it. If I can’t establish myself as the Demon Emperor by the year’s end, then everything else I’ve done will have been for nothing.
“Master?” Mania asked, snapping David from his thoughts. “Is something wrong?”
“No, it’s fine,” David answered curtly, turning his attention back to the Machai before him. “Abaddon guarantees their combat strength?”
David took one last look at the line of demons before him and nodded. “Then, you’d all best get back to work. I want ores and whoever finds one we can use first will become captain of your squad.”
The Machai eagerly rushed back to work.
“Are you displeased with them, Master?”
“Not at all,” David said. “They look like they’re strong, but I have no idea how strong they are when compared to the soldiers of this world. Until we learn what the average strength of a person is in this country, we cannot say if they’re sufficient or not.”
“If they have anything that they’re lacking in, we can train and improve them, Master. If you wished, I could take over their training for them whilst Abaddon overseas the mining operations in their entirety.”
“Perhaps that would be for the best. Tell Abaddon of the change.”
“At once, Master.”
Mania curtsied and walked away.
Once she was gone, David returned to what had become his temporary quarters, a square stone office Abaddon had made for him by beating into the side of the mountain, and slumped into his chair, dispelling his armour.
“This could be a problem,” he mumbled.
Then, someone knocked at his door.
David re-summoned his armour and yelled, “Enter.”
Mímir and one of his Ravens stepped into the room and knelt before David’s desk.
“Your majesty, I have returned,” Mímir said, holding up a pure white scroll.
“I am glad to see you again,” David said. “How did your task go?”
“Unfortunately, I was unable to fulfil your wishes to the level that you desire. I apologise for my lacking abilities.”
“It is fine, Mímir,” David said, beckoning him to stand. “As long as what you did learn proves valuable to me, then this offense can be ignored.”
After all, I never expected you to be able to properly carry out this order to begin with.
“I thank you for your kindness, your majesty,” Mímir said, standing up and handing David the scroll. “This map was a rough one that we were able to draw up of the surrounding thirty miles. However, we weren’t able to do a complete report of the terrain, but were able to learn of many areas of importance in the immediate area around us.”
“Then, give me your report in full,” David ordered, spreading the map across his desk.
“As your majesty desires. First, the mountain range that we are currently in appears to spread many miles to the north, east and west of us, so far in fact that I am willing to imagine it is more than a hundred miles long in some directions. To test this, I sent my Raven to the highest peak of one of these mountains and he confirmed that they stretched even further than what is on that map.
“Second, within these thirty miles, there is but a single castle and a handful of villages spread across the grassy plains. In total, I found eight villages in my search, all of which were agricultural based ones, which, if we took control of, would sort out any food issues we might have for the foreseeable future. Further, there was something most peculiar about these villages and that was that there were no guards stationed at any of them.”
“A lack of guards?” David repeated.
“Yes. From what I could gather from my observations, the only defenders of the villages would be the villagers themselves armed with their farming tools,” Mímir continued. “I had, at first, suspected that perhaps this part of the country we are in is simply that peaceful; however, upon eavesdropping in at many conversations at the tavern, it appears that the local lord and his men don’t bother coming to the villages, except when it’s time to collect their taxes and harvests.”
David’s eyes narrowed. “You’re certain of this?”
“I am, your majesty. To verify this, I sent my Raven into the lord’s castle and had him listen in to their conversations. The only time the villages were mentioned was when they talked about a lack of funds, despite how wealthy the castle appeared.”
“So, they are being neglected then, not because they don’t need their lord’s protection.”
“If they’re being neglected and the lord truly keeps to himself, then it makes it easier for us to operate in this region,” David explained. “Further, if we were able to increase our military power and take control of the castle, no one would find it strange if we kept to ourselves. However, if it’s because this land is just that peaceful, then an attack on anything near here might be noticed.”
“…I am ashamed to say that I had not thought that far ahead, your majesty,” Mímir said, lowering his head a little. “However, you raise some excellent points that I wish to investigate as soon as possible.”
“That might have to wait, depending on the rest of your report.”
“Of course, your majesty. May I continue?”
“Thank you. Third, I was able to discover some basic information about the country that we have found ourselves in. We are currently in the Holy Empire of Themis and it spreads across roughly a quarter of the continent. As for specifics on its actual size and the size of the continent itself, I’m afraid that will require much more time to figure out, as would mapping it accurately.”
“That won’t be as much of an issue if we manage to get our hands on maps from a cartographer in a city or town at some point,” David said. “Speaking off, were you able to learn of any near us?”
“The closest city to us is one called Stonefall, roughly twenty miles from this village here,” Mímir said, pointing to a village two miles south of them and a mile from the castle. “The closest one after that is one is about sixty miles from this village in the south-west we found called Elvast. It borders both a forest and a lake.”
That’s irritating, David thought, frowning. Even though I and the others can open teleport portals, it’d still make it somewhat difficult for us to collect information in the city and report back to the cave. The castle would make a better place for us to operate out of, but it’d also be harder to hide ourselves there.
We don’t know enough about the local lord to make a move as it is and if he has regular business in the city. If he does and suddenly stops making it for said business, people could start asking questions and come looking for him; the longer the trail of bodies, the easier it’d be for people to find us.
David’s right hand clenched tightly into a fist. I can’t let that happen, no matter what. I want to remain undetected for a few months at least, preferably longer, but-
“Your majesty, might I add two more thoughts before I conclude my report?” Mímir requested.
“You may,” David answered.
“Then, I shall speak quickly. Given that this empire is a religious one, it stands to reason that there might be powerful members of its faith that could pose a threat to us, such as Paladins or Priests. If so, they could pose a threat to our undead forces and potentially myself, depending on their power.”
“Technically, yes.” Mímir reached up and pulled down his scarf, revealing a white, spiked scar running around his neck. “However, I believe that only the highest level of holy attacks or spells would be able to wound me, and barely even at that level.”
How reassuring. Knowing Eris, there might be someone capable of that in this world already, or one of the summoned heroes she brings later on might be, David thought.
“What was your other thought?” David asked.
“More an observation, your majesty,” Mímir said. “The local lord’s castle, based on my evaluation, seems to be poorly defended, even with around five hundred or so guards.”
“I observed the guards on duty for two nights three days apart to see how they would react, but they all seemed quite bored, relaxed and lazy when it came to performing their duties. If we were to strike during the night, I believe, with your guidance, that we could take control of the castle and kill all its defenders. That concludes my report.”
David leant back in his chair and folded his arms.
Five hundred human guards, plus the lord and whatever family he has, plus however many servants there are at the castle, he thought. That’s a lot of bodies to pile up in a single day, but. He frowned. That’s nothing compared to how many I’ll have to pile up in the end. Best to get used to it as soon as possible.
It wouldn’t be very fitting for a Demon Emperor to be squeamish about killing people, not that I want to. I just…can’t afford not to.
Eris’s threat about killing me if I didn’t act like a proper Demon Emperor is still a very real danger.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, I need a good base to start operating out of and need to be prepared to wage war against an entire country.
If, as Mímir says, the lord of the castle is withdrawn from the world around him, then it’s the most ideal place to take. Or this could be a trap that Eris is waiting for me to spring. Even if it is though, I don’t think I have much choice but to take it.
Right now, the cave is barely sustainable. We have little food and clean water and hardly enough room for our small force as it is. The castle, however, would be big enough for more than ten times are numbers, maybe even more if we renovated it and dug chambers beneath the castle.
Truth be told, I imagine that we could definitely take the castle and use it for our purposes, but the problem comes after we take it. What if we fail to uphold a routine that someone at the castle has? What if an inspector or guest comes along and finds out the truth?
We could kill them or maybe try and trick them with illusion magic, but both of those could go terribly wrong or backfire on us.
If we killed an inspector or guest, it would buy us some time but it’d leave a trial right back to our doorstep and sooner rather than later, someone would realise what had happened and come after us.
David stroked his chin and stared down at the map.
The Holy Empire of Themis is no doubt large, probably because Eris wanted to make it as difficult as possible for me to conquer. However, I can also use that to my advantage.
David smiled, the plan forming in his mind.
“Call Abaddon and Mania,” David said to the Raven. “And tell them to gather the Machai.”
“Only the Machai, your majesty?” Mímir asked.
David grinned. “We only need them, after all, so let the skeletons keep working.”
Mímir smiled back. “Understood, your majesty.”