Chapter 4:

Unwise Decisions

How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

Rath’s dreams continued to grow worse. At first it was Adris that haunted him, not it was the smug, happy face of Lees and the sad defeated face of Irin. The faces seemed to circle Rath, chained to his hands and wrapping him tightly, crushing his body under the pressure. Rath called out more and more into the deep blackness of his dream, but to no avail.

The shock of the dream shot Rath up, another early day. He had decided to turn in early to prepare for his trip north with Kider. Against the walls of his room laid the collection of weapons and gear from the adventurers he had fought. Preparing his traveling bag, Rath packed away two of the pink potions that his Observation skill identified as Health potions, able to heal most damage. He had found several of these in Irin and Lees bags, leaving a few at Turv’s incase they needed it while Rath was away.

Placing Irin’s sword on his hip he got ready to depart and do some rounds before he left. Irin’s sword had been a higher quality sword and felt more comfortable to wield in comparison to the last adventurer's blade. Opening the door to his shack, Rath left behind the one room building and left into the village.

The sun wasn't even up when he began his rounds. Rath checked the roofs, the walls, the fencing, everything he could. Whatever wasn't looking good he would come and fix when he returned. After his rounds were over, the sun had started to rise and people began to file out of their homes, tired from the late night celebration.

Kider was putting the reins on Jen when Rath approached. Rath expected bags under Kider’s eyes, but was surprised at the lack of them. The merchant stepped away from his Olues and faced Rath.

“Morning.” Kider said with his happy smile. “Fun night huh?”

Rath gave a light smile. “Yes very much so, how are you today?”

“Little groggy from the drink but nothing to worry about.” Kider laughed. “I'll clear up during the ride.”

“That's good at least, wouldn't want you driving us off the road.” Rath said, shifting his bag to his other shoulder.

“I got Jen here all ready so we can head out soon.” Kider said, patting Jen on her hip.

The two ate a light meal, Mirv packing Rath some traveling food for the journey. When Rath tried to turn it down she forced it on him.

“Just take it.” Mirv had said. “It'll make me feel like I'm helping you in some way.”

Rath took it and began to ride out with Kider. The ride would take a day with the Oleus and the two sat silently for a while, riding the western road for a while till it turned north. The day was refreshing, clearing Kider’s grogginess quickly.

“So.” Kider spoke after a while of silence, taking a sip of his water skin. “I looked around the village last night.”

“Oh ya?” Rath said, wondering at what he was getting at.

“I noticed you have a western gate built, but your eastern gate isn't set up.” Kider explained. “North and south you don't have trade roads so I understand why you don't have that but you should get an eastern gate.”

“We are working on it next.” Rath said, watching the tree move pleasantly. “We have most of our Adventurers coming from the west so it makes sense to fortify that first.”

“But what about the Adventurers coming from the east?” Kider began.

“We haven't seen one from the east in a long time, almost a year, I'd say.” Rath thought back. “So we can work on that when we can.”

“So your bigger focus is on Adventurers from the west?” Kider asked. “But look at the next step a bit.”

“We will get a gate built just not yet, we wanna get the eastern one fully set up first. We don't even have the gate part, just a gateway.” Rath explained.

“Well what happens when you get an Adventurer from the east?” Kider asked. “One returning from Depths? Right now you have been fighting greenhorn Adventurers. If an Adventurer from Depths comes back this way, they will be alot stronger with magic gear and experience. From what I have heard an Adventurer who survives the deepest parts of Depths and returns can fight Dragons. There is a reason it's a training ground for heroes going to fight Demon Lords.”

“Demon Lords.” Rath said to himself, Lees had mentioned them and he had heard legends of them. Powerful beings that send fear into the hearts of everyone who faces them. It's said that Demon Lords are conquering the far eastern and southern lands and the only thing holding them back are the Adventurers that fight them on the border. “Do you really think those Adventurers could beat them?”

“Not a chance.” Kider laughed. “They died to you, they were no match for a Demon Lord.”

“Even with training in Depths?” Rath thought back to Irin and tugged at the sword at his hip.

“Maybe.” Kider thought. “Though it has been a long time since a hero appeared. So many claim to be the next hero, but nothing has come. Ive seen Adventurers strong and smarter then the two yesterday, with much better morals, who died to a goblin.”

“It just means they have potential to grow.” Rath said, still looking away from Kider. “Maybe they could have gotten there if things went a bit different.”

“Are you feeling guilty about your kills?” Kider asked.

Rath turned to Kider. “No, they had the chance to leave and didn't. Lees attacked first, I don't feel guilty over the kills. It was to protect my village.”

Kider laughed. “Fine answer. Though only a little dishonest.”

“Can I ask you something.” Rath began, turning away from the topic. “How does a merchant get an Olues? Aren't they used for war carriages and such?”

“You are correct.” Kider said with a smile. “The king keeps most Olues herds under his control, and use them for war times. But that doesnt mean one does not slip out from time to time. Me and Jen have been together for years, she got lost from her herd, and is considered a runt for her kind, I am guessing that she was left behind so she did not spawn more runts.”

“I see, I figured there had to be a reason since Olues are much more expensive than a Mule or even a strong horse.” Rath said, looking at the large creature and wondering how it could be considered a runt. The Olues Rath had seen were quite large, standing over twice his height, but Jen was still a good amount taller then Rath.

“An Olues is a worthy investment for any merchant.” Kider said, patting Jen’s rear from his seat. “They grow fast, and can run at a full pace even with a cart attached. Jen and I are going to be taking the trip back and forth from Pierce to Depths a lot, and we expect monsters and such so being able to get away fast is a necessity for us.”

“Speaking of Depths.” Rath began. “Could I ask you to keep an eye out for something?”

“Of course, you're one of my future best customers!” Kider laughed.

“You have a lot of faith in this future.” Rath laughed. “Can you get me anything on magic? Mostly spell casting of some sort. I don't think Agnibolt will be strong in the long term, and if I have to prepare for Adventurers from the east it would be a good idea to learn some more ways to fight against them.”

“I'm sure I can find some books, maybe even an Adventurer trying to offload a magic focus they found in Depths.” Kider said. “Though if you ask me, the best way to prepare against them, is to go to Depths yourself.”

“Leaving that long is a no.” Rath said, waving off the idea. “Depths is too far, and going into it and training would take a long time, too long of the village being unprotected.”

“You make a point.” Kider said. “Though it's a good idea to try if you get the opportunity. If Adventurers start avoiding your village that would be a good time to try. In the meantime I'll gather what I can from Depths. Give you any kind of advantage.”

“I appreciate it.” Rath said, returning to silence.

“Wanna see how fast an Olues can take us?” Kider asked, a cunning smile crossing his face.

Rath returned the smile, Kider giving the reins a snap and Jen launched forward. Rath had to hold the sides of the cart to ground himself, the cart pulling hard, but not shaking as much as he had thought. Jen’s run was perfect, no wavering or changes in speed, just constant smooth ride.

They had arrived outside the village north of Criss sooner than they had expected. What was a two day walk and one day cart ride, was only a little over twelve hours thanks to Jen. She had great stamina and kept up the run for a few hours, before dropping to a casual pace.

The village had less people then Criss, most likely due to the better trade route running just a little ways south. Its name was Kiris, or at least that is what Kider said it was called. Kiris suffered a similar fate that Criss did, not being named by its inhabitants but instead by merchants passing through. According to Turv, Criss used to just be called Pierce since it was originally just an extension of it, but then merchants named it Criss since it wasn't the growing city of Pierce.

Kiris inhabitants were very wary of strangers riding through town on a war beast. The duo spent little time in Kiris, as the look of the travelers, one wielding a weapon visibly, set them on edge.

“Seems like they have had rough encounters with Adventurers” Kider stated after they were a bit out of town.

“I doubt there are many villages that have not.” Rath stated. “Do you carry a weapon?”

“Oh yes” Kider said, pulling out a large two handed sword from under the seat of the cart. “I would have to be an idiot to not.”

Rath was caught off guard by the sheer size of the sword and the fact he hadn't noticed it till now.

“Though you should know it's mostly eastern villages that suffer from Adventurers.” Kider said, putting the sword back under the seat. “Northern and southern villages are mostly ignored, since Depths is the closest dungeon. Though some started going north to help the tribes.”

“What is happening north?” Rath asked.

“Not sure myself, rumor has it something is happening.” Kider began. “My assumption is the tribes are infighting and the Adventurers went north to help establish a central government.”

“Wha.” Rath said, lost.

“Nothing interesting really.” Kider laughed. “South hasn't seen much attention at all though, most people want to head east towards the Demon Lord territory.”

“Makes sense.” Rath said, looking off eastward. “They are glory seekers, and what bigger glory then being named a hero of the age.”

“Exactly.” Kider said with a smile. “Second a Demon Lord over steps south, a flurry of Adventurers will head that way.”

“Is there a dungeon that way to train in?” Rath asked.

“Oh yes.” Kider said. “Though it's in a different kingdom, so most prefer to train in Depths where they have more free rein.”

The pair exchanged idle small talk for a while, the sun setting on the horizon. The two looked towards the side of the road for a place to camp through the night, not finding a suitable location. Rath held a hand up for Kider to stop the cart, Jen coming to an abrupt halt that shocked the cart.

They caught the sound of moving brush, the sound of something moving quickly through the woods. Rath stood on the cart, drawing his wand and sword. He looked towards the brush as several creatures came pouring out.

The creatures were tiny, shorter than the dwarves that Rath had encountered years ago. Lizard like with red scales and large yellow eyes, tiny arms, and rags to cover their modesty. Several of the creatures carried weapons, wooden clubs mainly. Rath almost jumped to attack until he realized the creatures were not focused on them, they were focused on the tree line they had run from.

“Those are the Kobolds!” Kider yelled out, reaching for his sword.

The Kobolds, still pouring out, turned their attention to the pair. The group raised their weapons to attack, but were stopped by one of their own who held up a clawed, skinny hand.

“Please.” The Kobold said, his voice a tiny growl. “Please spare us!”

“Well this is an interesting tactic.” Kider said, pulling forth his sword. “Don't fall for it.”

“Why would we spare you?” Rath asked, his wand pointed at the group.

The Kobolds all looked around nervously, until the lead one spoke again.

“You have no reason.” It growled. “We ask you out of the kindness of your heart to let us go.”

Rath took a moment, taking in their appearance. Some were hurt and bloodied, and they all had the look of fear on their faces. They kept taking glances back at the tree line, as if expecting something to pop out.

“You are running from something.” Rath stated.

“Yes!” the lead Kobold said. “A monster! It attacked our home! We had to flee.”

Rath looked on at the lead Kobold, he seemed honest for a lizard creature. He realized that the lead Kobold had a necklace adorned with small bones, his arms in gauntlets of bones as well.

“Good.” Kider said, ready to fight. “Serves them right for all the people they raided. I say let them face whatever attacked them.”

“We did it to survive!” The lead yelled out defensively. He was the only one not carrying a weapon Rath realized. “Humans, Elves, Dwarves, all of them hunt us like animals! Destroy our homes! What else can we do! You Adventurers make us like this!”

“We are not Adventurers” Rath stated.

“You use their magic!” The lead called out.

He could see Rath’s shield? Rath checked again, none of them had a shield that he could see. Was it Observation?

“I fight Adventurers,” Rath said. “And monsters now.”

The Kobolds began to back away slowly. The lead held strong, staring Rath down. Rath could feel that this Kobold would do whatever he could to keep his people alive. He smiled and lowered his weapon.

“Fine.” Rath said, Kider noticing the weapon being lowered. “You say a monster attacked your home? Show me where. I'll kill it.”

The Kobolds faces were almost as shocked as Kiders. Almost.

“You're going to help them!” Kider said loudly.

“Yep.” Rath said, jumping down from the cart. “So you all will show me the way.”

“No!” the lead yelled out again. “I will not send my people back to their deaths!”

“Well I need someone to guide me, can't find it on my own, and it's getting late.” Rath stated. “The dark is hard to navigate.”

“I take you.” the lead said. “My people stay away.”

“Fine.” Rath said, approaching the lead, the rest backing away. “Kider, watch over the rest okay. And you Kobolds, can we have a truce? No killing each other.”

They all seemed hesitant till the leader spoke. “They will not harm your companions, but should you return without me, then they will attack. Is that understood?”

“Perfectly.” Rath said, smiling and lowering himself down to the Kobolds level, holding out a hand. “I'm Rath.”

The lead hesitated before reaching out, taking his hand. “Nekra.”

Kider laughed loudly, startling all involved. “Rath, you are one strange guy, but I like that, let's hope we live from this cause you owe me a drink.”

“If we live this I'll buy you two” Rath said, getting to his feet. “Now, Nekra, let's go get you guys home.” 

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