The Children of Eris
In his office, David looked down at the documents lying before him with a frustrated sigh.
He didn’t have much paperwork to do nor did he need to micromanage everything that was going on at the castle anymore, thanks to Rebecca and Eva.
However, with every passing day, his task of creating his own empire looked to be growing more and more impossible.
Even with the twins, his allies, and the newly raised Karak-Harth on his side, David was nowhere near close enough to achieving an overwhelming victory over the Holy Empire.
He had destroyed one of the five massive cities in the country, but the Holy Legion still had more than a hundred thousand members, and every city had thousands of guards. Then, there were the Adventurers Guild and the Paladins, and there could be other powerful forces or people he didn’t know about lurking in the shadows.
He’d heard of the Divine Paladin and Caster, but David had no idea how powerful they were.
In comparison, all David had was one castle, a few caves full of undead miners he’d taken from various goblin tribes, less than a hundred giants, some Hysminai and Machai, and then some weak undead soldiers.
“It’s nowhere near enough,” David mumbled.
Without careful planning and execution, there was no way David could take down the Holy Empire.
He walked over to the map of the Empire Mimir had bought from Stonefall and studied the flags and blocks on it.
They represented the Holy Empire’s armies and were spread evenly across the land.
When Prince Julius had marched his forces south to recapture Black Port, he’d shown David just how quickly the Holy Empire’s forces could assemble when faced with a crisis.
To defeat the Holy Empire, David needed to find a way to destroy most of the empire’s forces in a single swoop.
If I wait until the time limit’s almost gone, I’d have the largest possible army I could muster to do it, but then I wouldn’t have enough time to secure my new empire and invade the north like I want to, David thought.
On paper, David’s plan was simple.
Slowly weaken the Holy Empire from within, create chaos in the nations to the north, then take full control of the Holy Empire’s territories within a month, then invade and take the north-west.
David wanted to achieve at least that much before Eris’s summoned heroes arrived.
Mímir’s currently on a mission in the north to cause chaos, which is why I added that part into my plan. Abaddon’s not got much he can do right now and Mania’s busy managing the Hierophant. I don’t know what to do with the twins either. They’re strong, but I don’t know where to send them or what tasks to give them other than just protecting the Keep.
Karak-Harth and his liches should be able to raise a very large undead army, hopefully one large enough to rival the Holy Legion’s in numbers if not in strength. David frowned. On the two hundredth day, when I get to summon my next general, I’ll have Karak-Harth march.
Hopefully, he can destroy another one of the empire’s cities before marching on their capital. If there’s any place that the empire would defend until their last, it’d be the capital named after their beloved saint.
A soft knock came from beyond his door. “Lord Allaric, it’s Rebecca. May I come in?”
The Machai opened the door and Rebecca entered carrying a stack of papers, bowed, then stood a few metres across from David.
“Forgive the interruption, Lord Allaric,” she said.
“Interruption?” David laughed a little. “The only thing you interrupted was my boredom. Did you need something from me or were you dropping off paperwork?”
“I just wanted to give you my report of what’s been going on at the castle lately since I hadn’t had the opportunity to do so before, but it isn’t anything urgent. If it’s not a good time, then-”
“It’s fine.” David beckoned to his desk and asked, “Shall we?”
Rebecca nodded and the two sat down at his desk. She placed the documents on the table and took a handful off the top.
“Where shall we begin, Lord Allaric?” Rebecca asked.
“Wherever you want,” David said.
“Then, with your blessing, I would like to start with the slaves you recently liberated from the Sons of Tartarus.”
“Ah, yes. How are they faring?”
“They’re all healthy and are all staying in the barracks and in the servant’s quarters, my lord,” Rebecca pleasantly reported with a small smile. “For the time being, the youngest children have had to share their beds with their parents or siblings as we don’t have enough beds at the moment, I’m afraid.”
“That was to be expected. However, it’s better that they’re here than back in those cells in chains.”
“I couldn’t agree more, my lord. I did draw up plans for more expansions for the Dread Keep and perhaps even a castle town in the surrounding area for more people to live in.”
Rebecca took two groups of papers from her stack and gently placed them before David. One of the bound groups of paper was titled ‘Dread Keep Expansion Plans’ and ‘The Profiles of the Liberated Slaves from Stonefall’.
“The profiles of the freed slaves consist of their names, family members, characteristics, former jobs and their hometowns, and what Eva and the other servants have observed about them, Lord Allaric,” Rebecca said. “It isn’t as highly detailed as Lord Mímir’s reports would be, but I hope that it has some information in it that’s useful to you.”
“Thank you, and don’t worry about trying to match Mímir and the Ravens’ abilities,” David replied. “When he wants to be, he’s an overachiever who can’t be matched. If only he was like that all the time.”
Rebecca wasn’t sure how to react to David’s comment and so remained silent for a few seconds, before carrying on.
“The renovations for the Dread Keep are coming along nicely, my lord,” she said. “Lord Abaddon has also volunteered to help dig tunnels and passageways beneath the castle, and to help with the foundations of any further expansions you might want to make to the Keep.”
“I’ll make sure to have a few words with Abaddon before he tries anything like that. Rebecca. If he tries to start digging tunnels beneath the castle without written orders expressively saying to do so, do not let him. If he questions you, tell him to come see me.”
“…Yes, Lord Allaric.”
“As for the other plans, I do like the idea of the castle town and other expansions but, for now, those might have to be put on hold until the Holy Empire has been defeated.”
“As you wish. Although, I had a few thoughts about how to make your empire more official when it’s declared.”
“I was thinking, Lord Allaric, but do you have an idea for what symbol you want to be on your standards and banners?”
“I hadn’t given it too much thought. I take it you have an idea then?”
Rebecca nodded. “As I was walking through the castle halls the other day, I remember seeing the Machai everywhere and thought that the symbol for your empire could be derived from them, specifically their helmets. Eva told me the other day that she once thought the Machai were Satyrs, and then I had a flash of inspiration.
“What if your empire’s symbol was something terrifying and mythical to reflect your and your empire’s nature, Lord Allaric? What if the symbol for the Demon Empire was a Satyr’s Skull?”
A Satyr’s Skull? David pondered. A skull definitely screams ‘bad guys’, so it’d fit and Eris shouldn’t have any complaints about it either. It’s edgy, but it works and it’s got a good ring to it.
“I quite like it,” David said, smiling. “It’s a wonderful suggestion and a worthy symbol of my empire.”
Rebecca smiled happily and bowed slightly to David. “I’m pleased you like it, Lord Allaric. Then-?”
David nodded. “As for the slaves we liberated from Stonefall, I was intending for them to be put to work around the castle, either as servants or soldiers, but what were their former jobs? Is there anyone with a high value trade like a blacksmith?”
“I believe there were a few blacksmiths and apprentices among them, as well as a dozen or so herbalists. Most of the them, however, were stolen away from small farming or lumberjack villages, Lord Allaric.”
“They could be of some use to us once my empire has been formed, but they wouldn’t be of too much use to me right now. Perhaps they could make for decent soldiers or guards.”
“…Lord Allaric, it might be worth asking them if they wish to become soldiers before trying to order them to do so.”
“I agree, but we can’t give them too much freedom because if even one of them manages to leave the Keep, they could be a threat to our operations. Therefore.”
When David trailed off, Rebecca’s expression became bitter and she lowered her head a little. “I know, Lord Allaric, but I don’t want to force them into work.”
“They won’t be forced to work, but they won’t be allowed to leave,” David said. “We’d pay them appropriate wages for their work using your father’s fortune and if they don’t want to work, then we won’t force them. However, I plan on charging them for any future food, water or other supplies they need.”
“We’ll charge them for their supplies, my lord?”
“We have no choice but to in order to motivate them to work and to try and ration the castle’s supplies. I know your family has years’ worth of supplies, but that was for a castle of less than seven hundred. Our current number here is more than double that and will only get bigger, meaning that we’ll burn through those supplies faster than expected.”
“Do we not have other ways of acquiring food or other supplies right now, Lord Allaric?”
“Not sustainably, no. I’ll mention to Mania the next time I see her that she needs to order extra food and supplies for the Hierophant and send some of them to the Dread Keep. I might even send the twins on a shopping mission to the capital if necessary.”
“Very well, Lord Allaric.”
“Was there anything else substantial you wished to report?” Rebecca shook her head. “Then, you may return to your duties.”
Rebecca bowed to David and went to leave, but she stopped when she saw the displeased look on his face.
“…Is there something bothering you, Lord Allaric?” She asked.
David was about to dismiss her, but stopped himself before he did.
Rebecca’s knowledge has helped us in the past. Maybe it could help us here now?
Even if it’s just rumours, stories or whispers, any leads on new potential allies can help. That and the only person I currently trust wholeheartedly on my council is Rebecca.
David rose from his chair and told him of the issues that had been plaguing him before she’d arrived and the two stood beside the map together.
Then, he asked her if she knew of any other leads to follow, just like he’d asked his council after the destruction of Black Port.
Maybe she’ll have looked into it a bit more or remembered something, David hoped.
Rebecca hummed to herself and glanced down at the map of the empire, gently brushing her fingers over the cloth before she came to a stop over a large forest in the western part of the empire near the city of Adetite.
“I have heard that in the Beast Woods there were once werewolves and vampires living there, but they were thought to have been wiped out centuries ago,” Rebecca said softly. “When I saw Lady Mania, I thought that she might be one of those vampires, so I believe that they might still exist somewhere in this world.”
“Vampires and werewolves both live in the Beast Wood?” David asked; she nodded. “Do they fight with one another or live-in harmony in the stories?”
“I’m afraid to say it’s both. Some say that the werewolves were the servants of the vampires and others say that they were constantly fighting one another.”
Hmm, that’s annoying, David thought as he stroked his chin. If Eris lied to me and she has interfered with this world a little, then there’s no way those two species won’t be fighting one another. After all, it’d be harder for me to recruit them if they were. However, if she’s telling the truth, then perhaps the werewolves are the servants of the vampires.
The only way to find out would be to go there and see for ourselves whenever we can.
“Do you know where exactly in the Beast Wood they live?” David asked.
“I’m afraid not, Lord Allaric,” Rebecca said. “The myths only said the Beast Woods themselves and not where exactly within them.”
“…I see. Then, do you know of any others?”
“I know of one other group who might still exist. Here.” Rebecca pointed to the steep mountains near the Goddess’s Eye Lake, about fifteen miles from where they’d found Karak-Harth’s tomb. “They’re known as the Gørviligr.”
“In reality they're elves. The elves that live in the capital city of Elvast call themselves the Trú. Based on what little I know, the Gørviligr are a separate political faction that were possibly chased away from the mainland due to civil war. Most accounts suggest that they were all wiped out, though there have people who have claimed to see elves around this area.
David nodded and looked down at the map once again.
Three more potential allies and all of them could be extinct for all we know, David thought. I’ll have to send the Ravens and spiders to investigate but, hopefully, at least one or more of these groups exist and want to join me.
If there’s one that I hope are still alive above the others, it’s definitely the ones living in the Beast Woods: the vampires.
Hidden within the thick, tall trees of the Beast Wood, sat beside a beautiful, crystal lake was a magnificent castle with strong grey walls and beautiful interiors befitting royalty.
From her bedroom balcony, the young vampire princess sang softly to herself with a small smile on her lips, letting her top fangs poke through her lips. She was gently swaying her head in the cool night breeze when someone knocked at her door.
“Lilith, it’s me,” a deep voice said.
Her heavy white-gold doors were pushed open and her father, dressed in a smart black suit, stepped in, followed closely by two maids. Lilith didn’t turn around to face them and instead kept singing and staring out of the window.
“I have some good news, Lilith,” her father said. “Do you remember the great disturbance we felt a few months ago?”
Lilith’s song went silent.
“We think we’ve found the one responsible for it.”