The Children of Eris
Once David and his forces had started the attack on the castle, it had only taken ten minutes for it to fall.
The Machai were ruthless and efficient in cutting down the guards, capturing the servants and brutalising their way to the Lord’s chambers.
Now, with the castle completely under his control, the handful of surviving guards, the Lord, his family and all the servants had been dragged out into the courtyard by the Machai, who now surrounded them, fresh blood still on their weapons.
“Fifty-eight survivors, Master, including the guards,” Abaddon reported. “No alarms were raised, all parts of the castle have been searched and Mímir says no one saw the attack from the outside either. The castle is yours.”
“Excellent work,” David said. “Tell Mímir to keep a lookout in case and have a few of the Machai search the castle once more to be certain. Lead them personally, Abaddon, and do not harm any survivors you find.”
“As you command.”
Abaddon beckoned three of the Machai to follow him and they marched into the castle.
“Master, what shall we do with the prisoners?” Mania asked.
David turned to the crowd; most of them were sat on the floor, petrified. Some were sobbing, others were holding one another tightly.
In his heart, David didn’t want to spill any more blood tonight; he hadn’t personally taken any lives, but he was the one who’d ordered the attack.
Eris might’ve wanted me to kill someone tonight but, in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I thought I’d have to or else she’d punish me for breaking one of her rules, but she hasn’t appeared before me yet. Maybe it’d be more like a Demon Emperor to not take anyone’s lives yourself, like a: ‘You aren’t worth my time’ sort of thing?
However, even if that was the case, it didn’t solve the current issue before him.
Twenty-seven servants, three nobles and twenty-eight guards.
How many of these people can I save while still doing what Eris wants?
“W-Who are you?” The lord of the castle asked. “W-What do you want from us?”
The Machai hissed and several pointed their weapons at him, making the prisoners around him scream.
“You dare ask the Dark Lord questions?” Mania growled. “I could have your head for that.”
The lord shrieked and shuffled back, but a Machai kicked him hard in the back, knocking him onto his front. The Machai leant over him, placing his blade against the lord’s throat.
“Dear!” His wife screamed.
His daughter, however, while shocked, said nothing.
She closed her eyes and turned away.
“Stop,” David said.
The Machai stood back and lowered its weapon.
“I shall forgive your impudence this once,” David said as he and Mania walked towards them. “However, if anyone else dares to speak out of order again, you will suffer the consequences.” David leant down to the lord and asked, “Is that understood?”
“Y-yes,” the man flubbed, nodding repeatedly. Mania cracked her whip and it cut the lord’s cheek, making him squeal in pain. “Y-yes, my lord!”
“Good. Now, tell me, what is your name?”
“A-Anthony Kelsey, Lord of the Northern Hills. “P-P-Please don’t hurt-!”
The Machai kicked Anthony in the back again, harder this time, and the crowd screamed again. David roughly grabbed him by his head and dragged him into the centre of the prisoners, throwing him roughly to the ground.
“Don’t they teach lords in this Empire what respect is?” He muttered, pressing his boot into Anthony’s back, making the man cry out in agony. “Perhaps none of you deserve any mercy if you cannot respect their betters. What do you think, Mania?”
“Master, with your blessing, I would prefer it if you had a Machai pinning that rodent to the ground to the ground,” she said.
“Oh? And why is that?”
“Because that man does not deserve to touch your boot.”
David chuckled and stepped off Anthony. “No, no he doesn’t.”
When David took his boot off Anthony, a Machai eagerly stepped forward and placed its boot onto Anthony’s head, pushing him hard against the ground.
Inside, David felt sick, vomit crawling up his throat, but he had to hold it in.
He couldn’t afford to be weak.
He had to keep us his act not just to please Eris, but so that he could keep his own sanity as well.
After that display, they should be terrified for their lives and the life of their lord, he thought. Hopefully, that means they’ll answer my questions without hesitation.
“Now, I have more questions that I want to ask all of you and I want you to be honest with me, or else your lord dies,” David said, his voice resounding throughout the courtyard.
“You, guard.” He pointed at a random one. “Tell me, what sort of territory are the Northern Hills?”
“…I…I…” the guard mumbled; he was shaking in his armour so much David could hear the pieces clang together.
“Answer me, or your lord dies. Aren’t you charged by God to protect and serve your masters? So, answer me. Now.”
“…Let him die,” a small voice mumbled.
David looked to his side and saw a blonde-haired maid, her eyes downcast and wet with tears, sitting on her knees. The Machai next to her went to strike her, but David held up his hand, ordering them to stop. He walked over to her and crouched beside her, before gently putting his fingers on her chin, forcing her to look into his eyes.
“Repeat what you said,” David commanded.
The maid, though terrified and shivering, scowled and said in a much clearer and louder voice, “Let the bastard die.”
The guards, Anthony and his wife gasped, turning to face her, but the lord’s daughter nor servants did so.
“You do know what you’re saying, don’t you?” David questioned. “Don’t think I won’t do it because you stood up to me. I could snap his neck like a twig. I could kill every last one of you before you drew your next breath.”
“…That man deserves worse,” the maid said firmly, not breaking her gaze. “If he and his wife die, then I’m okay with that.”
“You insolent wench!” Antony cried.
“How dare you speak ill of the lord and lady like that?!” A few guards asked.
“You bitch! How dare you say that about us!” His wife yelled.
They continued to voice their hatred of the maid until David said, “Silence.”
David let go of the maid’s chin and stared into her eyes for a few more seconds, the air still and quiet around them, before he chuckled quietly to himself.
“You truly meant what you said, didn’t you?” He asked.
“…I do,” the maid replied.
“Is he that terrible of a master then?”
She nodded. “He is.”
“My people have been watching this castle for the past few days and have searched everywhere, yet we have not seen anything that would warrant such a response. What crimes have they committed?”
The maid spat. “If you can say that after seeing what he did to that poor girl in the dungeons, then I-”
The maid, confused, said “You said you searched everywhere.”
A deafening silence.
For the first time, the hostages could see the look of fear on Mania’s face and the uneasiness of the Machai.
A sinister aura began to develop over David’s body as he ground his teeth.
“I was informed that we had searched everywhere. Thoroughly.”
“W-We did, but-!”
“But what?” David glared over his shoulder at her.
Mania flinched and took a step backwards. “…One of the Machai that went there said there was only a corpse in the dungeons.”
The servants gasped in horror.
“That’s impossible! She was alive an hour ago!” The maid yelled.
“You dare speak to me that way?” Mania roared.
She shrunk back. “Master?”
“Raise the dead guards and search this castle very thoroughly this time. If there are any other survivors, bring them here.”
“A-at once, Master!”
Dark magical energy flowed from her fingertips onto the dead bodies. The flesh on their corpses were torn to pieces until only their bones remained; then, the skeleton soldiers began to rise from the ground. Mania quickly told them David’s orders and sent them on their way.
“Now, maid,” David said, turning back to the woman before him. “All the other servants seemed to be just as horrified as you about the woman in the dungeons. Explain.”
“Might I explain, my lord?” A gentle voice asked.
It was the noblewoman’s daughter who had stood up and slowly walked towards David. A few of the Machai moved to surround her, but David waved them off. She stopped five feet away, curtsied and then sat down on both of her knees before him.
“Please forgive my rudeness, my lord. My name is Rebecca Kelsey and I have witnessed my father and mother’s crimes against our servants,” the girl said.
“You better not be lying to me,” David said back.
“S-She isn’t, my lord!” The maid cried out, grabbing his arm. She quickly let go and prostrated herself before him after realising what she had done. “F-F-F-Forgive me, please, my lord!”
One of the Machai drew its weapon back, ready to strike, but David simply shrugged it off. “I will hear what Lady Rebecca has to say first. Then, I’ll deal with you.”
The maid thanked David repeatedly and the Machai lowered its blade.
“Thank you, my lord, and I hope you forgive her for her disrespectful actions,” Lady Rebecca said. “My father has never once hired servants to work at this castle. They are all slaves bought in the city of Stonefall who he threatens into serving us.”
David turned to the servants. “Is this true?”
“It is, my lord!”
All of the servants quickly shouted their support to Lady Rebecca, ignoring the threatening glares from their former masters and their thugs. The guards had started to turn pale while Anthony and his wife were cursing at their daughter and the servants.
Well, even if they’re lying, I can still recover from this later.
David grunted and stood back up. “Then, that makes things easier. Kill the guards.”
Instantly, the Machai acted.
They stabbed the guards in their backs repeatedly, a horrific, bloody scene, as David and Rebecca kept their eyes fixed on each other.
Her body might have been trembling, but Rebecca didn’t flinch even once as people died all around her.
As expected of a noblewoman’s daughter, David thought. She’s able to keep her composure even in this situation. He glanced down at her hands and saw her fingers tightly wrapped around her skirt’s hem.
“I trust that you don’t have any objections to what I just did,” David said.
“…Of course not,” Lady Rebecca replied. “I can only ask that you spare at least the servants from your wrath in exchange for me giving you anything you want.”
Rebecca dug her nails into her thighs. “…Yes, anything.”
Yes! This is what I was hoping for!
“Quite a generous offer, one I might even consider accepting,” David said. “If you were to uphold your end of the bargain, then I wouldn’t harm a single servant in this castle. I would give you my word if you give me yours.”
“…And what of my parents, my lord?”
David folded his arms. “What would you do to two criminals?”
Lady Rebecca’s eyes narrowed and she held her head slightly lower in shame. “…I would make them confess first and…give them a proper punishment.”
“Well said. Mania, have the Machai escort Lady Rebecca to her bedroom for the time being and see to it that her needs are attended to. Have someone handle that filth over there.”
He lazily waved his hand at Lady Rebecca’s parents who were then dragged by their necks away, cursing and begging for mercy.
“As for the servants,” David started to say, but he cut himself off.
The last thing I need is for them to fear me even more than they already do. It’d be better in the long run if I took a carrot and stick approach.
“Show them to the guest bedrooms and see to their needs with the skeleton soldiers,” he ordered. “I don’t know how your former master treated you before nor where you used to stay, but you deserve better than it, I am sure.”
The servant’s faces all looked slightly comforted, but the most relieved one was Rebecca, even as she was escorted away by two Machai. Just before the servants were led away, David stopped the blonde maid with his arm.
“Show me the girl in the dungeons.”
“…As you wish, my lord,” she said.
“Tell me what life was like here before,” David ordered as they walked.
“…As you wish, my lord,” the maid said.
David stopped and turned to face her. “I am no lord; I am an Emperor and you will address me as such from now on. Understood?”
“…Yes, your majesty.”
“Good. Now, what is your name?”
“Eva, your majesty.”
“Eva, huh? While I have no doubts you are suspicious of me and my people, I assure you that as long as you cooperate and perform your tasks like a normal servant would, then then no one will suffer. You have my word.”
“Thank you for your kindness, your majesty.”
“Tell me everything you know and do not lie to me.”
“…I was originally from a village called Loggers’ Cross and I was seventeen when I was first kidnapped and forced into slavery. Some bandits raided us and I was one of the girls taken on wagons to their camp. From there, we were taken to a smugglers den where they ‘stored’ us before taking us to Stonefall.
“We were then sold to the highest bidders and sent all across the country. I had been sold to a few other lords before being sent to Lord Kelsey’s after the others had…used me enough. After three years of being passed around at auctions and between nobles, Lord Kelsey’s wife picked me out at an auction in Stonefall and brought me here.”
“…I see,” David mumbled, grinding his teeth together.
I have to get better at controlling my emotions.
“How long have you been here for?” He asked.
“Almost five years now, your majesty,” Eva answered.
“And how bad was it here compared to the other places you were enslaved?”
“…Worse, your majesty,” she whispered. “At the other estates, I was at least paid and given a proper bedroom and looked after if I fell ill, but there was nothing like that here. I have been beaten, taken, abused, left to starve, left locked out in the rain, forced to work whilst ill and more. Those of us who couldn’t do that and live up to the castle’s standards were taken to the dungeons as their ‘plaything’.”
“Not a single person in this castle helped you once?”
Eva shook her head. “Lady Rebecca has tried her best to, but her parents would hit her if she raised any objections to them and none of the guards wanted to help her. Why would they?” Eva clicked her tongue. “I wish they hadn’t died so quickly.”
“And the girl in the dungeon was their last plaything, correct?”
“Yes, your majesty.”
They started walking again.
“What do they do to them?” David asked.
Eva said nothing and looked away from him.
“No matter. I will soon see for myself.”
“…Yes, your majesty,” Eva said.
Upon seeing her downtrodden and anxious expression, David frowned.
You know what, I can’t stand this. Even if it’s just for one person, I hate just being called your majesty or Master or any titles like that. I want someone at least to call me by my name, but I can’t use my old one.
His mind drifted back to the name he once used when playing an RPG cooperatively with Hailey five years ago, a time he held very fondly in his heart.
David sighed. “Call me Lord Allaric instead. I have put you in an uncomfortable position and no doubt made you more terrified of me than I had intended.”
“You intended to scare us?”
“Of course. If you didn’t fear me to some extent, you could act against my interests. I do not wish to rule as your former master did, so, I grant you and Lady Rebecca permission to call me ‘Lord Allaric’. Is that understood?”
“Yes, your maje-I mean, Lord…Allaric,” Eva nervously whispered.
The Machai behind her didn’t react which made David sigh in relief.
“Make sure the others know as well when you next see them,” David told the Machai and they nodded.
The two resumed walking and soon found themselves in a dirt, dimly lit hallway with a thick wooden door at the end of it.
“I take it this is it,” David said.
“…Yes, Lord Allaric,” Eva said, biting her lip. “May I go first so not to startle her?”
“You may. Machai.”
The Machai handed a torch to her. Eva pushed her entire body against the door and struggled to force it open. She walked into the room and lit the four oil torches in the room before returning to the door.
When David walked in, his eyes shot wide open at what he saw.
In that dark stone chamber, trapped in an iron cage, sat a lone, naked woman with chains wrapped around her limbs.
Across the woman’s chest were countless wounds caused by cuts and burns, some of which seemed fresh. The skin around her neck was completely scarred; her left eye was a constant blood-red and she had a long mark along that side of her face as well.
Her hair was so dirty that David couldn’t even tell what colour it was meant to be. Her entire right arm had a horrific burn mark on it, and she was severely malnourished.
How is this woman even still alive after everything they’ve done? David thought, doing his best not to shout.
“What’s her name?” He asked.
“…I don’t know,” Eva whispered. “We were never told.”
David had to fight the urge building inside him to kill Lord and Lady Kelsey himself.
No doubt another one of Eris’s schemes! She must’ve made this castle like this so I could get used to taking human lives quicker, all to help me become the Demon Emperor sooner. After all, how can I feel disgusted with what I’ve done now I know what they’ve done?
“Are there others?” David asked.
“…Not anymore, Lord Allaric,” Eva said. “The others…were…left in the old quarters outside the castle…for the birds.”
“…I see.” David grabbed the metal door with his hand and ripped it free with ease, throwing it with great force into the wall. “Eva, see to it that this woman is looked after. See to it that she recovers and no harm is done to her.”
“Thank you, Lord Allaric,” she replied.
“Machai, assist her with whatever she needs to tend to this woman’s wounds. Tell Mania to treat them both kindly and not to harm them. Understood?”
The Machai nodded.
“You are now the Head Maid of this keep. Do your duty well and no harm will come to any of you. You will be given proper working hours and compensation, which we’ll discuss another time. However, you cannot leave this castle, nor can any of the other servants, without my permission. If even one of you did, I’d kill the rest of you. Understood?”
“…Yes, Lord Allaric.”
The three left, leaving only David behind. He took several long inhales and exhales.
“Yes, Master?” The figure asked, emerging from the darkness.
“Tell Mímir to find out exactly what they did to this woman,” David commanded. “I want them to be paid back tenfold.”
Hi everyone, I just wanted to quickly say why these last two chapters came out on a day that I didn’t list as an official update day. Basically, I made that schedule after I considered how long I thought this story was going to be, as well as my writing speed.
I was well-off on both accounts.
Writing this has gone better than I ever expected it to, so I’ll be posting at least 2 chapters daily until the book’s done AND there should be just over a hundred chapters in total before the story’s done (if all goes according to plan).
Thank you guys so much for reading the Children of Eris and I hope you’re all excited to see where the story goes.