Chapter 9:

Flowers of the Free

How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

Guilt had sunk deep into Rath’s stomach, it sat there like a rock. The group had agreed to meet up after two hours, giving each of them enough time to do any shopping they needed for their trek into the dungeon. Rath moved swiftly through the streets, holding back the guilt that was trying to flow out of his throat.

During the night, the large courtyard was normally empty. During the day, the courtyard was full of carts and stalls, merchants selling and buying anything they could. It was here that Rath, after searching several other similar courtyards, had found Kider and Jen.

“Hello there.” Kider said with a smile. “Good to see you are well.”

“I need a favor.” Rath said, removing the sword and sheath from his belt. “Please, hold onto this for me.”

“Oh?” Kider said, taking the sword from Rath. “This is your sword though.”

“I will have to find another.” Rath said. “Can I trust you to keep it safe for a while?”

“Not sell it?” Kider asked, looking over the blade. “I can't say you'd get much for it, but if you get another blade you will have no use for this one.”

“No.” Rath said, his face serious, eyes daggers into Kider's soul. “It will return to Criss with me when I leave.”

“I see, sentimental.” Kider said, looking over the blade with new light, holding it more delicate than before.”Then I shall keep it safe until you ask for it back. But what shall you do for a new sword?”

“I hoped you would know of a smith who might have a good one on hand.” Rath asked.

“Sadly my knowledge of the craft world here in Kyris is limited, and only base level.” Kider said, scratching his head. “Though I do have something that might help you.” Kider pulled out a bag of coins and tossed it to Rath.

“What is this?” Rath asked, feeling the weight of the bag.

“Payment.” Kider said with a smile. “Your piece from the silver bars, don't worry I kept the profits for your miners separate.”

“I don't remember taking profits from the silver.” Rath said.

“You should, like a king taxing his people.” Kider said. “You're protecting them, they can pay you a little, don't you think?”

“I am not doing this for money.” Rath said, his face turning grave. “I protect them because I want to.”

Kider sighed deeply. “Fine then, consider it a loan. You can pay me back by selling me the goods you bring from Depths, I was going to pay you for the things you got anyways so it works out.”

“I can agree to that.” Rath said, hold the bag tightly. “Ill pay back every coin I have borrowed from you.”

“See that you do.” Kider said. “Good luck, both in finding a craftsman, and the Depths.”

“Thank you Kider.” Rath said, reaching out to shake his hand and heading off.

Rath had just left the courtyard when he caught sight of the Goliath standing with his back leaned against a building, watching him.

“What is it?” Rath asked.

“I see you lost your sword and got some coins.” Malphis stated. “Are you giving up already?”

“No, just looking for something better.” Rath stated. “Steel won't last long in Depth will it?”

“Steel will be fine.” Malphis said. “Severed me well so far, but should you want more, I know someone who will have better.”

“Show me.” Rath said, Malphis giving a smile.

The walk led the two out towards a quieter part of town, a smithy built against a forest. The door opened to reveal a large stock of weapons and armors. Weapons were organized by their types and armor by their sets. Behind a counter was a dwarven man with a short beard that framed his face in several points.

“Malphis, you want me to fix up that hunk of iron for ya?” the dwarf said.

“Not today Hetdrin.” Malphis said, tilting his head at Rath.

“I see, what is the greenhorn looking for?” the dwarf, Hetdrin said.

“A sword.” Rath said.

“Then grab one from the barrel.” Hetdrin said, tilting his head towards a barrel of swords.

“You know I didn't bring him out over here for those mass production wastes of time.” Malphis said.

Hetdrin looked over Rath a good few times. “Got gold?”

“Yes.” Rath stated.

“Good, come in back.” Hetdrin said, getting up and letting the two into a back storeroom.

The backroom was a mix of Hetdrin’s smithy and a treasury for his best works. Along the front walls were weapons of different designs and material types. The back part of the room was the smithy, a large furnace along the back wall, an anvil in the center, and a collection of tables and tools.

“Sword aye.” Hetdrin said. “I got plenty, swords are my specialty after all, so much personality to them. One sword and be so much different from the other. Tell me what type of sword are you looking for?”

“I use a hand and a half sword.” Rath stated.

“A versatile blade.” Hetdrin said. “Let us see, what would fit a man like you.”

Rath looked over the blades on the walls, they all were thick blades, very straight and boxy. He had heard legends of dwarven craftsmanship, how they were the sturdiest weapons and are nearly impossible to destroy. Each blade was a different color, one a pale blue, one a light green, another a blood red.

“What are these materials?” Rath asked.

“That is a complicated question.” Hetdrin said. “Though each blade is fantastic in its own right.”

Rath’s eyes locked on a blade on the wall, the blade a deep green like a forest. The blade is skinnier than the others, the handguard a boxy curve that turns upward. The handle was wrapped in a dark brown handle, the pommel a diamond shape of a bronze material, the same color as the guard.

“What is this one?” Rath asked, rubbing his hand across the flat of the blade.

“That one is made of what is called Flower Steel, it's known as the metal of the druids.” Hetdrin said, Rath unaware of his movements. “The guard and pommel are bronze, and the handle has Livingwood, making it a sword of nature.”

“Bronze does not occur naturally right?” Rath asked. “I was told it was an alloy of copper and tin.”

“That it is, but I had to make cuts somewhere.” Hetdrin laughed. “Druids might have another material to use for the guard but I do not have one.”

“It is beautiful.” Rath said, lifting the blade up, feeling how light it felt in his hand

“Give it a swing.” Hetdrin said, Rath doing just that, the feeling pleased him. “I craft many swords, ones that inspire me. It is said a dwarf can craft the perfect weapon for a man upon seeing him, I can do it without seeing. I crafted that blade over a year ago, and I can tell, that blade was fated to come to you.”

“I will take it.” Rath said, the sword feeling like an extension of himself.

“They also say a dwarf weapon is alive.” Malphis said, leaning against the doorway, looking out for any customers.

“Is that true?” Rath asked.

“It is a saying.” Hetdrin said. “I make no promises of life in a sword, though personally I do think that all my children are alive. I ask that you care for that blade, and name it.”

“Name it?” Rath asked. “If you're the father, shouldn't you name it?”

Hetdrin laughed. “I will not hold that sword any longer, as its new master you must be the one to name it, something you shall call it, if you do not, it will never answer you.”

Rath took a moment. “Freesia.” he said, looking over the blade again.

“The flower?” Malphis scoffed.

“They grow around my village.” Rath stated. He remembered giving Mirv some when they were younger, a promise formed between them all those years ago. “They have a special meaning to us.”

“Fressia.” Hetdrin said. “It seems to like that, you picked well.”

“What do they mean?” Malphis asked. “To your people that is.”

“They are considered the flowers of the free.” Rath said, lifting the blade up to the light, seeing how it gleamed. “It just seems fitting for me to name it that.”

“Very well, Fressia is yours, for the price of course.” Hetdrin said. “Since Malphis brought you ill give ya a deal, hope you can afford it.”

The haggling took longer than Rath wished it would. The two returned to the inn only a few minutes late, which annoyed Jeel to no end. Rath felt the stone in his stomach sink deeper when he returned to the trio.

“Lets go already!” Jeel said, leading the group up a stone path.

At the top of the hill was a large cave opening that sunk deep into the earth in a steady descent. The walls of the cave were no stone Rath recognized, a strange black that held many colors deep within them. The deep black felt like it circled around them as they traveled down into the Depths, into the unknown.

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