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.
However, the village was almost the exact opposite.
It was a normal, peaceful village bustling with life, even with the hundreds of adventurers and members of the Holy Legion walking around.
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.
Even with all those heavily armoured soldiers and the undead at their doorstep, everyone seems to be more than happy here.
The Raven stopped the carriage outside the large inn, opened the doors and the two Kelseys stepped out.
“Stay with the carriage,” David ordered, handing Rebecca her suitcase. “Let’s go.”
“…At once, my lord,” Rebecca muttered.
I really hope people believe that I’m her dad, otherwise we might have some trouble, David thought, scowling a little.
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.
“Hi there, my name’s Nate. How can I help you lovely people?”
Wow, he’s very friendly.
“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.”
“We have plenty of rooms, sir. Just the two of you?” David nodded. Then, Nate quietly asked, “No guards, my lord?”
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.”
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-?”
“Two singles.” David planted twenty Rhams on the table. “I take it that won’t be a problem?”
“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?”
Mellissa smiled and nodded. “Will do. A pleasure to meet you, dear guests. I’m Mellissa, this idiot’s wife.”
“Hey now, not in front of the guests,” Nate jokingly chided making Mellissa giggle. “How many bags do you have, sir?”
“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.”
Rebecca didn’t respond as Mellissa escorted her upstairs. Once the women were gone, Nate asked, “Is she really your daughter, sir?”
“She is. And that’s a rather bold thing to ask someone you know is a noble.”
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.”
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.”
“Were you worried about those murders in Stonefall, sir?”
“…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?”
“That it is, sir, but still no reports of anything like that happening to travellers yet. May Themis keep it that way.”
“Indeed. I take it nothing like that’s happened down this way?”
“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.”
“I’m guessing that’s because of the number of soldiers and adventurers that are always in the village.”
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.”
David smiled sadly at the man as his wife came downstairs and re-joined them. “…I imagine it must be.”
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.
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.
Here, in a village where no one knew his name, he could be himself.
He could enjoy himself and he could be free of the stress of acting as the Demon Emperor.
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.
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.
Remember, they aren’t people.
They’re NPCs…that’s all.
David’s eyes wandered from face to face, every single one seemed to be overflowing with joy, and forced his eyes closed.
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.
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.
Nate had been more than happy to accommodate their wishes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Lady Rebecca, before you retire, I wish to go over the plan once more before the morning,” David said.
With a weak nod, Rebecca looked at him.
“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.”
“…I understand, your majesty,” she whispered, gazing at the floorboards.
Please don’t show me such a sad expression, Rebecca.
He clicked his tongue and turned away from her.
“As long as you understand,” David muttered. “Get some rest. The Raven will wake us when it’s time to go.”
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.
For weeks, Rebecca’s mind had been overwhelmed by doubts and questions, so much so that she had headaches every single day.
Even when she had been left alone all day in their room, Rebecca’s mind hadn’t settled.
What am I doing?
Do you really have to order the destruction of a city?
Why do you have to kill so many innocent people?
Why is it that you only showed mercy to us and no one else?
Why won’t you show mercy to the people of Black Port?
Why didn’t you try to find another way of testing the Empire’s strength?
Couldn’t you just attack a military site or fortress instead?
Wasn’t it enough to fight my family’s guards to test your strength?
What is it that drives you to do this?
Why are you doing this?
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.
His own people called him the Dark Lord and they were ruthless, cruel, mechanical and heartless.
If they wanted to, they would torture people.
If they desired to, they would kill people without batting an eye.
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.
She’d had to force her vomit down her throat every single time.
It wasn’t the brutality itself that disgusted Rebecca so much; it was the fact that their acts reminded her of her parents.
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.
It’s almost like they’re still alive. Rebecca winced and curled into a ball beneath her covers.
The only thing that’s changed are the victims. That’s all.
After David was sure Rebecca fall asleep, he turned over and looked at the sleeping woman.
She looked more fragile than usual.
David’s heart twisted when he looked at her.
He could hear her uneasy breathing and he could see the way her body shivered in fear.
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.
But they all did.
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.
I knew it was too much to hope for one friend among the humans at the castle.