Chapter 26:

Cliff's Edge

The Children of Eris

When Mimir had told David about Cliff’s Edge and how close it was to the Shadow Tombs, David had imagined a small, fortified place with hundreds of soldiers and quite a heavy, gloomy atmosphere.Bookmark here

However, the village was almost the exact opposite.Bookmark here

It was a normal, peaceful village bustling with life, even with the hundreds of adventurers and members of the Holy Legion walking around.Bookmark here

The Holy Legionnaires were all wearing steel plate armour, carrying large metal shields and spears, and they all had swords strapped to their waists. Every single soldier David saw was wearing almost the exact same suit of armour, aside from the family crests on their shields and some of the soldier’s helmets had angelic wings above the ears, denoting them as either knights or officers. Bookmark here

Even with all those heavily armoured soldiers and the undead at their doorstep, everyone seems to be more than happy here.Bookmark here

The Raven stopped the carriage outside the large inn, opened the doors and the two Kelseys stepped out. Bookmark here

“Stay with the carriage,” David ordered, handing Rebecca her suitcase. “Let’s go.”Bookmark here

“…At once, my lord,” Rebecca muttered.Bookmark here

I really hope people believe that I’m her dad, otherwise we might have some trouble, David thought, scowling a little.Bookmark here

He opened the door for Rebecca, then stepped in after her. As they entered the spacious, yet homely and welcoming tavern, they were approached by a man with short blonde hair, a roughly trimmed beard with green eyes dressed in patched clothing.Bookmark here

“Hi there, my name’s Nate. How can I help you lovely people?”Bookmark here

Wow, he’s very friendly.Bookmark here

“My name is Anthony and this is my daughter, Rebecca,” David said, smiling politely. Rebecca did a small curtsy behind him. “We were hoping to get a room here tonight, if you have any available.”Bookmark here

“We have plenty of rooms, sir. Just the two of you?” David nodded. Then, Nate quietly asked, “No guards, my lord?” Bookmark here

David’s eyes widened a little, but then he reassuringly smiled at Nate. “I’ve long since learnt that it’s best to keep guards hidden in case someone was to try something, friend.” David then nodded to a random person behind Nate. “We’ll be just fine.”Bookmark here

Nate glanced over his shoulder, saw a heavily armoured adventurer that David was looking at, then grinned. “Understood, sir. A room for two. Single beds or-?”Bookmark here

“Two singles.” David planted twenty Rhams on the table. “I take it that won’t be a problem?”Bookmark here

“Of course not, sir. Mellissa!” Nate beckoned over a woman with flowing ginger hair. “Would you please take these bags up to room six, dear?”Bookmark here

Dear? Bookmark here

Mellissa smiled and nodded. “Will do. A pleasure to meet you, dear guests. I’m Mellissa, this idiot’s wife.”Bookmark here

“Hey now, not in front of the guests,” Nate jokingly chided making Mellissa giggle. “How many bags do you have, sir?”Bookmark here

“Just the one. Rebecca.” Rebecca nodded timidly and handed her suitcase to Mellissa. “Feel free to get settled into the room, Rebecca. I’ll be up in a while.”Bookmark here

Rebecca didn’t respond as Mellissa escorted her upstairs. Once the women were gone, Nate asked, “Is she really your daughter, sir?”Bookmark here

“She is. And that’s a rather bold thing to ask someone you know is a noble.”Bookmark here

Nate chuckled, leant in close and said, “You’d be surprised, sir, just how many noblemen like to pop down here on ‘business’ with their mistresses. We got so many of them my wife and I turned our biggest bedroom into one befitting of such regal gentlemen.”Bookmark here

David laughed with Nate. “I see. Well, I can assure you that I won’t need that. We both wanted to get out of our home for a while, so we decided to come and take a small vacation down here at Black Port.”Bookmark here

“Were you worried about those murders in Stonefall, sir?”Bookmark here

“…Yes. Our estate is in the city and, bless her heart, Rebecca got scared that something like that might happen to us. So, in order to help her relax, I organised this trip south. It’s a terrifying prospect to imagine, isn’t it?”Bookmark here

“That it is, sir, but still no reports of anything like that happening to travellers yet. May Themis keep it that way.”Bookmark here

“Indeed. I take it nothing like that’s happened down this way?”Bookmark here

“No, sir. Cliff’s Edge hasn’t had a murder in years. Last time was a jealous lover who pushed a man off the rocks and into the sea. Horrible thing, but no one’s dared since.”Bookmark here

“I’m guessing that’s because of the number of soldiers and adventurers that are always in the village.”Bookmark here

Nate nodded proudly. “Some people hate it, but I love that they’re here. Nice to be able to go to sleep every night knowing there’s a small army just outside your door ready to defend you.”Bookmark here

David smiled sadly at the man as his wife came downstairs and re-joined them. “…I imagine it must be.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

After continuing his conversation with Nate and Mellissa for another half an hour, David checked up on Rebecca in their bedroom briefly, then went out into the village to explore.Bookmark here

It was the first chance he’d gotten since he’d been summoned to this new world to truly unwind and relax, and David wasn’t going to waste it.Bookmark here

Here, in a village where no one knew his name, he could be himself.Bookmark here

He could enjoy himself and he could be free of the stress of acting as the Demon Emperor. Bookmark here

With the money he’d taken from the Kelseys, David bought food and little trinkets for himself, then he went window shopping and spent time with the friendlier locals. He even played a short game of a sport that resembled football with a group of children who invited him to.Bookmark here

When was the last time I felt like this? David wondered as he walked giddily down the streets. However, he slowly brought his feet to a stop as time crawled to a halt in his mind. I shouldn’t think like that. Forget everything you’ve seen and done today. In a few weeks, this will all be gone.Bookmark here

Remember, they aren’t people.Bookmark here

They’re NPCs…that’s all.Bookmark here

David’s eyes wandered from face to face, every single one seemed to be overflowing with joy, and forced his eyes closed.Bookmark here

His mind drifted back to the pleasant conversation he’d had with Nate and Mellissa; he dug his nails into his arm and bit his trembling lip.Bookmark here

That’s all.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Just like their journey before, David and Rebecca sat in silence that was only broken by the quiet sounds of them eating. David had asked Nate if they could have their food in their bedroom that evening.Bookmark here

Nate had been more than happy to accommodate their wishes.Bookmark here

After they finished their meal, David told Rebecca to put the plates outside their room for the barmaid to collect and then David went to work securing the room. He dragged a chest of draws in front of the door and then placed the wardrobe in front of the windows after pulling the curtains closed. Bookmark here

It’s not much of a barrier but, if someone were to try and get in, it would at least slow them down and make enough noise to wake me up, David thought. It also means that Rebecca would have a harder time trying to sneak out of the room if she tried to. We have an en-suite toilet in the room, so she can’t use that as an excuse either. Bookmark here

Even with the Raven keeping an eye out for threats outside on the roof, David didn’t want to take any chances, not when his safety was at risk.Bookmark here

He was hundreds of miles from his generals, the Machai and the undead soldiers and, while David was confident in his own strength, he didn’t know how strong the adventurers or soldiers in the village were.Bookmark here

While it was highly unlikely that Rebecca would try to betray David, he didn’t know if Rebecca had deemed her life and those of her servants as necessary sacrifices to save Black Port.Bookmark here

“Lady Rebecca, before you retire, I wish to go over the plan once more before the morning,” David said.Bookmark here

With a weak nod, Rebecca looked at him.Bookmark here

“Before dawn breaks, we’ll head to the Shadow Tombs and should arrive there before first light. If things go as planned, our task should be completed by noon; then, we’ll return to the carriage, travel for an hour or so and then teleport back to the castle. I shouldn’t need to remind you of this, but do not try to interfere with my plans.”Bookmark here

“…I understand, your majesty,” she whispered, gazing at the floorboards.Bookmark here

Please don’t show me such a sad expression, Rebecca. Bookmark here

He clicked his tongue and turned away from her.Bookmark here

“As long as you understand,” David muttered. “Get some rest. The Raven will wake us when it’s time to go.”Bookmark here

Rebecca nodded, went into the bathroom to change into her evening wear and then climbed under her covers. Just before she blew out the candle by her bed, she whispered, “Goodnight” so softly that David barely heard it.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

For weeks, Rebecca’s mind had been overwhelmed by doubts and questions, so much so that she had headaches every single day. Bookmark here

Even when she had been left alone all day in their room, Rebecca’s mind hadn’t settled.Bookmark here

What am I doing?Bookmark here

Do you really have to order the destruction of a city?Bookmark here

Why do you have to kill so many innocent people?Bookmark here

Why is it that you only showed mercy to us and no one else?Bookmark here

Why won’t you show mercy to the people of Black Port?Bookmark here

Why didn’t you try to find another way of testing the Empire’s strength?Bookmark here

Couldn’t you just attack a military site or fortress instead?Bookmark here

Wasn’t it enough to fight my family’s guards to test your strength?Bookmark here

What is it that drives you to do this?Bookmark here

Why are you doing this?Bookmark here

Since the first night that they had met, Rebecca had always wanted to ask and know the answer to this question above all else, ever since Mania had spoken so passionately about the Demon Emperor’s plans.Bookmark here

His own people called him the Dark Lord and they were ruthless, cruel, mechanical and heartless. Bookmark here

If they wanted to, they would torture people.Bookmark here

If they desired to, they would kill people without batting an eye.Bookmark here

What they’d done the night they took Castle Kelsey, what Mania had said they’d done in Stonefall and what the Demon Emperor planned to do to Cliff’s Edge and Black Port. Bookmark here

She’d had to force her vomit down her throat every single time. Bookmark here

It wasn’t the brutality itself that disgusted Rebecca so much; it was the fact that their acts reminded her of her parents. Bookmark here

It reminded her of the horrific state of the bodies of the discarded servants, of the vicious torture her parents had forced her to watch to teach her a lesson, and of the suffocating oppression she felt inside her own home.Bookmark here

It’s almost like they’re still alive. Rebecca winced and curled into a ball beneath her covers.Bookmark here

The only thing that’s changed are the victims. That’s all.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

After David was sure Rebecca fall asleep, he turned over and looked at the sleeping woman. Bookmark here

She looked more fragile than usual. Bookmark here

David’s heart twisted when he looked at her.Bookmark here

He could hear her uneasy breathing and he could see the way her body shivered in fear. Bookmark here

It was a reaction that David had expected and deserved, but he had genuinely hoped that Rebecca and the servants wouldn’t treat him like a monster. Bookmark here

But they all did.Bookmark here

He remembered how scared Eva was in every council meeting and the way that some servants were so scared of him that they would prostrate themselves on the ground as he walked past them. Bookmark here

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I knew it was too much to hope for one friend among the humans at the castle.Bookmark here

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