The Children of Eris
When Mímir returned to the castle, he found Abaddon slumped against a wall in the courtyard, staring up at the night’s sky. Even though Abaddon was still wearing his helmet, Mímir could tell that he was clearly upset about something.
Mímir’s first instinct was to ignore him, for it would cut into his time to perform his other tasks, but he couldn’t afford to act like that now.
Mímir, Abaddon and Mania had been handpicked by the Dark Lord to serve him and to help him forge the Demon Empire. If they were to succeed, then they would need to be able to work together for that ultimate goal which meant they had to get to know one another, their strengths, weaknesses, personalities and anything that could cause possible complications for the Dark Lord’s goals.
This might be a good chance to gain some valuable information.
“What’s troubling you?” Mímir asked, folding his arms. “Surely you’re not still brooding over what you did in the goblin hive.”
Abaddon glanced at Mímir and grunted. “I wish that was all I’d done to screw up.” The demon sighed. “The Machai failed to carry out their orders properly.”
“Even though I’d given them the order to search everywhere, kill or capture the guards and take the servants and nobles hostage, they didn’t find everyone. They a prisoner in the dungeons.”
Mímir exhaled. “To think they couldn’t follow such simple orders properly. And, as their commander, responsibility naturally falls to you, correct?”
Abaddon nodded. “I’ve disappointed the Dark Lord twice in a week even though he chose me to be one of his generals. I’ve never been so ashamed of myself.”
“What did his majesty say?”
“He hasn’t said anything, yet. Mania was extremely angry though.”
“I can imagine. I’m rather angry with you as well, as another one of the chosen generals.”
“Hey, it’s not like you’ve done everything perfectly either!”
“Perhaps, but my Ravens follow their orders to the letter. That is the difference between us.”
Abaddon lowered his head against the wall. “I guess it is.”
“As we both know now what failures we are capable of, we must ensure that we do not make the same, or more serious, mistakes again. I’m sure neither of us intend to disappoint him, so it is our duty to make sure that that doesn’t happen again. Understood?”
“To that end.” Mímir stretched out his hand to Abaddon. “We should continue to work together for his majesty and his dreams. Wherever one of us has a shortcoming, the other can make up for it.”
Abaddon violently grabbed and shook Mímir’s hand.
“Mania as well?”
“Of course,” Mímir said.
Rebecca leant back in her chair and let out a weary sigh.
After what happened in the courtyard, she had been escorted by two of the monsters the black knight had called Machai to her room and that was it.
They didn’t even step foot into her room.
They just let her enter, said nothing and closed the doors, before presumably taking guard outside.
Since then, Rebecca had been restless and scared for her life.
Within the space of a few hours, her normal life had all been but destroyed.
The guards were all dead, her parents were probably in the dungeons being tortured, she didn’t know if the servants were being looked after properly, and she didn’t know what her own fate would be.
Even in her own bedroom, which had once served as her only sanctuary from her parents and their soldiers, she felt terrified of what came next.
Even if these people had given me their word, it doesn’t mean that they’ll keep it, Rebecca reminded herself.
She thought back to the way the tall black knight had acted, the way he commanded absolute submission and loyalty of his followers, and the way that they all seemed to tremble at his anger.
Rebecca knew that if she didn’t appease their master and meet his standards, she could be killed, or worse.
“Maybe my parents have just been replaced with someone exactly like them,” she wondered, lying on the table before her.
It would be quite poetic in a way if that was the case.
Just like every other room in Castle Kelsey, Rebecca’s room was filled to the brim with extravagant and beautiful items, from the chandeliers and the bed to the cupboards, wardrobes and even the windows.
Even though she wasn’t the perfect daughter her parents wanted her to be, Rebecca’s parents still dotted on her if only because she was their only daughter.
Her room made her uncomfortable because it was filled with things that her parents had bought with the extra taxes they had taken from the villages under their protection.
To her, they were things bought with stolen money.
It was worse that it was Rebecca’s only sanctuary from her parents and what they were doing.
Maybe it was inevitable that this happened to us in the end, all things considered, Rebecca wondered. Perhaps the Great Goddess is punishing our family for our sins?
Their sins would be all their terrible atrocities and my sin would be not being able to stop them.
Someone gently knocked at her door.
“…Come in,” Rebecca called, sitting up straight in her chair.
One of the Machai opened the door and the woman called Mania entered followed by one of the castle butlers; he was carrying a tray with a tea set on it and some cookies.
“Forgive me for being so late,” Mania said as the door closed behind her. “I had some other duties to attend to.”
The butler hastily, and shakily, marched to the table, set the tray on it and retreated several metres behind Rebecca.
“I asked the servants what type of things you liked to eat and drink and had them prepare it,” Mania continued, glancing around Rebecca’s room. “I hope you don’t mind me joining you, do you?”
Rebecca put on her bravest smile. “…Of course not.”
Mania smiled back, revealing the fangs hidden inside her mouth, and joined Rebecca.
“Butler, leave us,” Mania ordered.
The butler nodded a few times, bowed and almost ran from the room, causing Mania to giggle.
“It would seem that our new servants are quite scared of us,” Mania mused, folding her wings against her back and slouching in the chair. “Well, not that I can blame them. Who in their right mind would trust people like us so quickly?”
Rebecca’s eyes narrowed as Mania bit into one of the cookies. “…Does that mean that you intend to go back on your word?”
Mania blinked twice and licked her lips. “If I said we were, I wonder what kind of face would you’d make?”
Rebecca felt an icy chill rush up and down her entire body; the look in Mania’s eyes were those of a predator about to strike at its prey.
She must be a vampire of some sort, Rebecca thought, thinking back to the sharp teeth that she had seen.
Vampires were creatures who possessed great physical and magical power, but the Church said that they had been wiped out centuries ago. Rebecca had read many books about them and most portrayed them as ruthless killers that drank human blood with their dagger-like fangs.
The woman before her definitely felt like she was one of those monsters.
Even in the face of such a powerful mythical creature, Rebecca’s gaze and posture didn’t falter.
Mania sighed and leant back against the chair. “Relax, little one. The Dark Lord has ordered us not to harm any of you and we won’t.”
“…What guarantee do I have of that?”
Mania frowned. “What I just said, you stupid woman. The Dark Lord has spoken and so we obey. Don’t ask any other stupid questions like that, or else I’ll really get angry.”
Rebecca flinched and dug her nails into her thighs, hoping to focus her mind more on the pain on her body than the fear in her heart.
“…If you did that, wouldn’t that go against what the Dark Lord said?” Rebecca asked.
Mania smiled. “It would. However, you’ve seen what happens to those who disrespect him, haven’t you? Never forget what you saw tonight, little one. And never think of defying or disappointing the Dark Lord.”
“…I understand,” Rebecca said.
“Good. Normally, if we were going to interrogate one of Master’s enemies, then we wouldn’t hold back and use whatever methods necessary to get information from you. However, rejoice, little one.” Mania grinned. “The Dark Lord has agreed to an equal exchange of information.”
“Equal exchange of information?”
“Before we ask you our questions, we’ll let you ask a few first. Answer all of ours truthfully, leaving nothing out, and the Dark Lord will be pleased. Otherwise.” Mania leant forward and giggled. “You can figure out what’d happen then, right?”
“So, for tonight, hmm, let’s see, you can ask me any three questions you want and I’ll answer them as best I can.”
Rebecca smiled weakly. “So, I have to tell the whole truth and you don’t, Lady Mania?”
Mania nodded and smiled playfully. “That’s how it is, little one. The Dark Lord doesn’t want any of you harmed, but he doesn’t want to share everything with you just in case you do try to betray us. Well, I doubt any of you’d dare after today.”
“…Yes, Lady Mania.”
“So, ask your three questions.”
Rebecca thought hard about what to ask as she tried to determine which information would be the most valuable to her right now. If the Dark Lord and his followers weren’t going to hurt them as long as they did what they wanted, determining what they wanted would help Rebecca and the others survive. Likewise, if she knew what sort of person their leader was, Rebecca could determine how best to conduct herself before him and what he could possibly need from her.
No matter what he asks from me, I have to do it. She winced and resolved herself, clenching her hand into a fist. No matter what.
“…Might I ask one thing before we begin, Lady Mania?” Rebecca asked.
“Hmm, depending on what it is, this might count as one of your three.” Mania shrugged. “Ask away.”
“Will I get a chance at another occasion to ask you more questions?”
Mania smiled. “Serve well, and loyally, and you will.”
…Then, determining how best to serve them is of the utmost importance.
“Very well. May I ask my three questions then?”
“Go for it.”
“Firstly, who exactly are you people?”
“I guess I should’ve expected that, huh?” Mania laughed a little. “Well, the Dark Lord is just that and we’re all his summoned servants who exist only to do his bidding. There’s Abaddon, myself and Mímir, and then the skeletons and the Machai.”
“Only some of you have names?”
“Is that really how you’re going to use your second question?”
“N-No, forgive me, Lady Mania,” Rebecca quickly said. “It’s just strange to me is all.”
Mania hummed and glanced off to the side. “Is it? I guess all humans have their own names, don’t they? The Machai might, but I don’t care what they’re called as long as they do what the Dark Lord wants. The skeletons definitely don’t have any names. So, if you’re looking for people to talk to, then speak with either myself, Abaddon or Mímir. The Machai can talk but they just don’t bother most days.”
Rebecca narrowed her eyes and nodded.
So, the only ones that seem to have any sort of power or freewill among the Dark Lord’s forces are his generals. Given how they were acting, it seems like everyone is truly loyal to him. Rebecca smiled bitterly, thinking of the former family’s guards. That must be nice.
“Little one, what’s your next question?” Mania asked.
“…Then, forgive me if this might be bold, Lady Mania, but who exactly is the one you all call ‘Master’?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s clear to me just how powerful and ruthless he is, but he’s not merciless. I don’t know what he desires, what he looks like beneath his armour or what makes you all so loyal to him. Is it because you were summoned as part of a contract or something similar?”
Mania shook her head. “That’s not quite right, little one. It’s true that I, Abaddon and Mímir were all summoned to him, but we wouldn’t be following him if we didn’t believe in what he was doing.”
Mania took a deep inhale and smiled blissfully.
“The Dark Lord’s vision is so grand in design that it gives me shivers to think about it, to see it brought to life, and the way that it will break-”
Realising how excited she had become, Mania quickly cleared her throat and closed her eyes.
“The Dark Lord summoned us, shared his dream with us and we all swore to see it realised in reality. That’s it,” Mania summarised.
Rebecca shuddered. I can’t even begin to imagine what sort of ‘grand vision’ a man like that has.
…I can’t help but fear what sort of ‘grand design’ someone who is addressed as the ‘Dark Lord’ by his subordinates can envision.
“…Then, this is my final question for this evening. What will happen to me and the servants?”
“If you obey, nothing bad will happen to you. If you serve, you will be rewarded for what you do. If you rebel, then you will curse yourself until your last breath for doing so.”