Chapter 48:

The Strength of the Enemy

The Children of Eris

In the war room at the Dread Keep, David, his generals, Jorōgumo and Rebecca had gathered, with Rebecca and Mania sat closest to David at the head of the table. Stood behind Mania was one of the masked adventurers from the Shadow Tombs, Jessica.Bookmark here

“Mímir, what were their casualties?” David asked.Bookmark here

“Before the Lich King was destroyed at the Shadow Tombs, the Holy Legion had defeated thirty thousand undead and only lost just over one thousand men,” Mimir stated.Bookmark here

“A thirty to one ratio?!” Abaddon yelled, dumbfounded. “How the hell did they manage that?”Bookmark here

“Organisation, experience, equipment, clear planning and an ability to not lose their cool even when being swarmed by tens of thousands of undead.”Bookmark here

“Indeed,” David said. “The Holy Legion is, without a shadow of a doubt, a highly skilled and organised force, one not to be taken lightly.”Bookmark here

Mania huffed and folded her arms. “It’s a good thing then that we didn’t try and take over a bigger chunk of the empire too soon then.”Bookmark here

“Agreed. If we had tried to make our move when our force consisted primarily of unarmed undead, then we wouldn’t have stood a chance.”Bookmark here

“Perhaps that is part of the reason the Holy Legion was able to fend off the undead horde, your majesty,” Mímir wondered.Bookmark here

“That and about half of the undead they fought were spawned from nothing, not from corpses, meaning that they would be weaker than normal,” Mania added.Bookmark here

“Do not just try to justify our loss like that,” David cautioned. “Ultimately, the undead horde lost because our enemy’s army was just that much stronger. A kill ratio of thirty to one cannot solely be explained by our men being weaker.”Bookmark here

“It is as you say, your majesty,” Mímir said. “When the undead horde originally sacked Black Port, they managed to overwhelm the city watch within an hour. The Holy Legion held out not only for longer than that against a much larger horde, but they also inflicted heavy casualties upon the undead as well.”Bookmark here

“So, our main army’s too weak right now then?” Abaddon groaned. Bookmark here

“How many Machai do we have now?” David asked.Bookmark here

“One thousand, your majesty. Nowhere near enough.”Bookmark here

So, we’ve spawned, on average, five hundred Machai a month, David pondered. That means if I waited until as close to the end of the year as possible to launch my attack, we would have about six thousand Machai. I know they’re fairly strong, but so were those adventurers at the Shadow Tombs. Bookmark here

David bit his lip hard. Six thousand Machai and a hundred thousand skeletons…that could be enough. But, if we’re discovered before we’ve got that large of an army, then it could turn into a complete disaster. It also took twenty liches a month of nonstop work to make thirty thousand undead.Bookmark here

How the hell am I ever going to be able to raise that kind of army again?!Bookmark here

How the hell am I going to be able to raise those kinds of numbers again?!Bookmark here

“Dark Lord?” Abaddon asked in a nervous voice which made Mania giggle. “Have we done something to displease you?”Bookmark here

Mania grinned and bore her fangs. “I think you mean ‘Have I?’ done something to displease you.”Bookmark here

“Rich coming from you.”Bookmark here

“What was that?”Bookmark here

“You heard me. What have you done to please the Dark Lord lately?”Bookmark here

Mania sneered and crossed her arms. “The Awoken.”Bookmark here

“Awoken?” Abaddon repeated.Bookmark here

“Ah? Weren’t you aware of them?” Mania asked with a wide grin on her face. “I thought that everyone on the council had been informed about them, but I guess only the useful people were informed. After all.” Mania bared her fangs at Abaddon. “Even Rebecca and Eva knew about Jessica and the others.”Bookmark here

Abaddon snapped, leapt up from his chair and slammed his palm on the table. “How dare you?!”Bookmark here

“…Lord Abaddon, Lady Mania, you are derailing the meeting,” Rebecca said quietly.Bookmark here

Instantly, both generals went to glare at her, but David dropped his hand onto the table, cutting through the tension like a knife. The two generals lowered their heads to David and apologised for their actions.Bookmark here

“Forgive me for speaking out of turn, Lord Allaric,” Rebecca whispered with a small bow.Bookmark here

“On the contrary, I appreciate you silencing those two,” David replied. “Abaddon, I’ve told you to not let your anger get the best of you before. Mania, do not bait Abaddon to aggression.”Bookmark here

Both generals apologised to David.Bookmark here

“However, Mania, I must admit, your Awoken have impressed me greatly.”Bookmark here

Both Mania and Jessica beamed happily at his words.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Master!” Mania cried. “I’m pleased that they lived up to your expectations. Aren’t you happy, Jessica?”Bookmark here

The adventurer nodded and bowed deeply to David. “Dark Lord, thank you for your kind words.” Her eyes became a deep purple colour. “I’m happy that we were able to live up to your expectations.”Bookmark here

Well, not like it was my idea to begin with, David thought.Bookmark here

After David’s previous scolding of Mania’s actions, Mania had approached David with an idea on how to increase their strength; the Awoken. Bookmark here

Using both torture and her magic to warp their minds and dreams, Mania could manipulate people into serving David.Bookmark here

“I broke them down and made them realise how inferior their old selves were,” Mania explained to him. “Their old personalities are gone, but their memories will survive the process, a constant reminder of their weaker selves. They use their old memories as motivation to drive them to be better, to be what you need them to be.”Bookmark here

However, because of the strain the process would take on the subject’s minds and bodies, Mania needed somewhat strong test subjects and had taken the initiative to use the adventurers who had been suspicious of Mimir and Mania in Stonefall. Then, with David’s blessing, she had begun the process of awakening them but only three survived.Bookmark here

Roland, Jessica’s former lover, had died during the process but, much to David’s surprise, Jessica had been rather indifferent towards it.Bookmark here

“It’s a shame, but that’s just how it is,” she’d said. “Only the strong may serve the Dark Lord, after all.”Bookmark here

After seeing her response, David had decided to test Mania’s claims out and sent Jessica, Cain and Lucy in disguise into Prince Julius’s war camp. Then, when David struck at the surviving adventurers, the three of them had helped him finish them off.Bookmark here

“Putting aside the usefulness of the Awoken, we have confirmed that we aren’t strong enough to stand up against the might of the Holy Empire,” David said, leaning back on his throne. “The battle at Black Port proves that, right now, we are weak and I want an overwhelming victory, not a pyrrhic one.”Bookmark here

“Why is that, Master?” Jorōgumo asked.Bookmark here

“If we only won the war by the skin of our teeth, then the citizens of my new empire might get the dumb idea that we aren’t that strong and rebel,” David replied curtly. “If they rebelled whilst we were trying to hold off the armies from the neighbouring countries, we’d be slaughtered. However, if we defeat the Holy Empire so completely and utterly without room for them to think of standing up against me, then they’d become docile and submissive, which is what I need them to be.”Bookmark here

“Then, we would need more men or allies, would we not, Lord Allaric?” Rebecca asked. Bookmark here

David nodded. “As it stands now, we don’t have anywhere near the numbers or tactical advantage for an overwhelming victory. Do we have any more leads on that?”Bookmark here

“I have no other leads right now, your majesty,” Mímir answered.Bookmark here

“What about the Sons of Tartarus?” Rebecca asked. “As I understand it, one of their leaders has defected to our side, hasn’t he?”Bookmark here

Our side? David thought, smiling a little. I’m glad you think that way, Rebecca.Bookmark here

“A spymaster whose network Mimir has systematically destroyed isn’t worth much,” David said.Bookmark here

“It is as you say, your majesty,” Mimir added. “Because of my efforts, his network is all but gone. He has no fighting men, only a handful of spies and assassins, nothing that could help us win this war.”Bookmark here

“It pains me to admit, Master, that I and my brood are not strong enough to bring you victory,” Jorōgumo said. Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it. Both your brood and the giants will be invaluable to us in the long run,” David reassured her. “For now, we must accept the reality that the victory I want is currently unobtainable. Therefore, we shall wait until we have more allies.”Bookmark here

“I shall investigate every lead I can in the empire at once, your majesty,” Mímir answered. Bookmark here

“And we’ll continue to spread rumours of the Great Disaster in Stonefall,” Mania added.Bookmark here

“Not just that. I want to know about every single powerful monster, myth and legend that the Holy Empire has ever had,” David ordered. “I want to know what kinds of monsters there are, where they’re said to have been, when the last sighting of one was, and I want to know when and where I can speak with them. Jorōgumo, do you have any small spiders ready yet that could be used for information gathering at all?”Bookmark here

“I do, Master,” Jorōgumo replied. “Where shall I dispatch them to?”Bookmark here

“I’ll leave the finer details to Mímir, but I want to have as many eyes and ears across the empire as we can possibly manage. That means using whatever is left of this Sylvan’s information network and connections with the Sons of Tartarus as well.” Then, David paused and had a sudden hit of inspiration. “Find out what Sylvan knows of the slave auctions. See when they’re taking place, how much their slaves cost and what their security is like.”Bookmark here

Rebecca sharply inhaled and looked at David.Bookmark here

“I wonder how many slaves we could reasonably liberate from their cells to come and assist us here at the Dread Keep,” David said, putting some of Rebecca’s concerns to rest. “My council, obey your orders and continue to serve me well as we lurk in the shadows. When we are in a position of overwhelming strength, the Holy Empire will fall.Bookmark here

“However, as I have some other business to attend to, let’s end the meeting there.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.