Chapter 14:


How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

Rath had felt it for the last few days. The guilt of Irin’s death. Whenever he fought together with the group he knew it was because he had killed Irin. While he was laying in the cave amongst them, he could feel Irin’s spirit weighing itself against Rath’s chest. As Rath descended down the stairs with Malphis, he could feel Irin again. He whispered in his ear “If I was here, you wouldn't have to worry about them, I'd have kept them alive. They might die down here because of you.” It burned in his chest, the thought of them dead, melting into the floors.

“Do you think they can kill a Demon Lord?” Rath asked Malphis as they continued down.

“Honestly?” Malphis asked, when Rath nodded to him he continued. “Yes, probably. They are smart enough to know when to turn back, and they have potential. Given enough time they could stand against a Demon Lord and probably kill one.”

“I never thought you would say that about them.” Rath said, shocked.

“I am just being honest.” Malphis said. “They may not look it, but they have grown a lot in the last few days, even Jeel. They all could stand up to a Demon Lord, though that's if they have the time.”

“Well they do.” Rath said.

“Not really.” Malphis began. “They are heading to the DreadFort, which is Kyol. Currently Kyol is being attacked by Tatalis, which will put pressure on them to push their limits, if they mess up, it might cost them.”

“Let's hope they take their time then.” Rath said somberly.

“Yes, lets hope.” Malphis said.

The two carried on in silence, the stairs eventually opened up to another floor. The walls were covered head to toe with crystals, showing no signs of the oddly black walls they were used to. The crystals jutted out wildly, looking larger than any Rath had seen.

“I'd say we get one or two each.” Malphis explained. “They are too large to take too many.”

Rath nodded and the two broke off their crystals and placed them into their travel bags, too large to fit into their normal holding bags. They continued on, the monsters were slightly bigger forms of the hulks they had fought on the fifth floor, Rath struggled for a bit against them but managed to take them down. Malphis, now able to bring out his large sword due to space, slice threw the hulks like they were barely there.

“Eighth?” Rath said, looking down the set of stairs they found oddly easily.

“Seems like it.” Malphis said. “We are having strange luck with stairs today.”

“No kidding.” Rath said as they descended down. “They said Eight is the last floor to have crystals.”

“Probably correct.” Malphis said. “Eight is as low as I have gone, no money, no reason for me to go lower.”

Rath stopped on the steps, Malphis carried on for a few steps then turned to Rath. They stood almost eye to eye in the odd lighting that the crystals gave off.

“You're not going past eight are you.” Rath asked.

“No I am not.” Malphis said, his face blank of expression. “I'll help you find the stairs, then that is it for me.”

Rath stood dumbfounded for a moment, then he pressed on. “Okay.” He said plainly.

“I'm surprised, figured you would snap at me like you did the others.” Malphis said, following behind Rath.

“No reason to.” Rath said. “You're helping me go deeper, I don't expect you to take me down where there is no profit. Even those guys I didn't expect them to go past eighth.”

“Glad we have an understanding then.” Malphis said. “I will help you till then of course, it will be nice to get a bit more serious in these fights.”

Rath peeked at the giant sword on the Goliath’s back, he had yet to draw it, does this mean he finally planned to? Malphis stayed a few steps behind Rath as they descended making them the same height.

“What is the Untamed like?” Rath asked curiously, filling the silent air.

Malphis turned to Rath, raising an eyebrow to him. “Who says I am from the Untamed?”

“Kider mentioned it.” Rath said, feeling like he stepped on a landmine.

Malphis puffed out air as if to say ‘Ah’ then turned forward again. “Cold.”

“Really?” Rath asked, more of saying ‘Is that all?’ in the hopes of hearing more.

Malphis sighed. “It is a wondrous place, imagine plains as far as the eye can see, at the horizons on all ends are hills. That is the Untamed.”

“I thought it would be more like an ice field.” Rath questioned, remembering what he was told by a traveling trader when he was a kid. “Spikes of ice reaching towards the sky and endless snowfall.”

“That is the farthest north.” Malphis said. “Only the tip of the Untamed is like that. Most of the land is plains and hills. In the hills is where you'd find the tribes. The plains were for war, the hill for living. It is considered sacrilege to fight a fellow tribe in their home.”

“Must make it hard to sneak up on someone when you can see them leaving home.” Rath laughed.

“That is why the practice was implemented.” Malphis stated. “It was about the fight itself, winning the fight made you the new leader.”

“Doesn't sound like the best way to keep long term structure.” Rath said. “Only the strongest gets to be leader? Sounds short sighted and only leads to more war.”

Malphis scoffed at Rath’s statement. “You're probably right there, maybe one day it will change.”

Rath thought more as they walked on. “What Lord do you follow that makes fighting in the plains sacrilege?”

“Ah, isn't that a question.” Malphis said in what almost sounded like a happy tone. “A lot of people up there don't know, it's a tradition passed on from father to son. They all are told that if they break it they will bring ruin and Hellfire down upon their tribe.”

“So you follow it blindly?” Rath asked.

Malphis turned his white orbed eyes back to Rath. “No, we follow it for the respect of our fellow warriors.”

Rath looked at the Goliath with proud eyes. “I can respect that practice. A place for war and a place for peace. I just would change a few things personally, I'm sorry if I insulted you or your customs.”

Malphis' eyes widened, then he laughed, a good hearty laugh. “Do not worry yourself Rath of Criss, you have not insulted me or my people, you ask valid questions.”

Criss, Rath thought to himself. He referred to Criss, knowing what Jeel and the others had said of it. Rath had assumed that Malphis just forgot about Rath’s home, but it was clear he had not.

Before he could question further, they reached the end of the stairs. The eighth floor was so much larger than Rath had expected it to be. The crystals matched the enormous size of the cave, the whole cavern seeming to be lit brightly by the swirling energy inside the crystals. The different colored lights were a kaleidoscope of wonder that made Rath’s head ache a little.

The hulks came quickly, bigger and faster than before. Rath struggled to keep up with the new hulks at first, but found his footing around the third wave. He realized the big exploit in the hulk's body, their legs. When the hulks tightened into a spring, Rath would simply slash at the legs, causing them to release the hold before they were ready, and off balance. The sudden surprise of the slash often would launch the hulks to the side where they were left open for attack.

Malphis had found his own way of dealing with the hulks. He pulled out his large sword and simply swung it down over the creatures, who could not dodge in time as the mass of metal split them in half. When he was outnumbered Rath would notice him throw out tiny knives from below his armor, hitting the hulks in the spring legs, distracting them so he could focus on the target he already set his sights on.

Five waves of hulks was all it took for the pair to reach the stairs. They sat at the top of the step, Rath looking down at them as they snacked on food. The stairs were dark and absent of crystal.

“Why don't crystal’s grow on the stairs?” Rath asked, chewing on the jerky he had.

“Not sure.” Malphis said, taking a sip from his waterskin. “Surprised you didn't ask that about the monsters.”

Rath turned in sudden realization. “I didnt even think about it!”

Malphis laughed again, leaning his head back as if to howl. “They say it is a break, the dungeon was meant to be beaten, so there needed to be somewhere safe.”

Rath reflected on the information, wondering why the dungeon was the way it was. “What made the dungeons?”

“They say the Lords did.” Malphis said casually. “Some say they were always here, though history says they weren't. No one knows the exact reason.”

Rath looked at the Goliath with intrigue. “So will you be continuing to travel down here after you get back up?” Rath asked.

“No.” Malphis said. “I have done enough here, I think it's time I move on.”

“Oh, you also are giving up.” Rath said sadly.

“Not quite.” Malphis waved away his sadness. “I have a home to get back to at some point, just like you.”

Rath nodded in agreement. “How much are the big crystals?”

“Oh they are rare, so they are worth a good amount, you may get mages fighting over each other to buy it from you.” Malphis said. He had more larger crystals than Rath due to the size of his bag.

Rath felt the two he had in his bag, the last one gathered on eight. He hoped to get some more gear before he left, maybe something for Nekra, or a special bow for Talon. He got to his feet and stretched. “Alright, i'm ready.” Rath said.

Malphis got to his feet, taking a big gulp of water from his skin. “I should get moving too, night will be falling soon, I wish you luck down there, Rath of Criss.” The Goliath held out a hand for Rath to shake.

Rath took Malphis hand and shook it firmly. “Take care of yourself Malphis. Get back safe.”

“You as well.” Malphis said, a smile crossing his face as he let go of Rath’s hand, turning to leave.

“If you see the other guys up there.” Rath yelled back to him. “Tell them I'm sorry.”

“I doubt I will get the chance.” Malphis said, raising a hand to wave back at Rath.

Rath smiled at the response. “Fine I will tell them myself when I get back up.” He then turned and took a deep inhale, braced himself, and took the first step down to nine.

When he first stepped onto nine, Rath noticed the difference immediately. The walls were bare of crystals, and they now were much smaller and more cramped than before. The other big difference was the hulks.

It was almost as soon as Rath stepped on the floor, a hulk began to pull itself free of the wall. Rath was prepared, jumping forward as it moved itself free from the wall. It was strange that it didn't come out as a droplet like the others, but he moved anyway. He struck the creature before it was fully free, and it simply faded back in. Inhaling deeply, Rath was ready to move forward, before his instincts kicked in. He felt the sudden shift in wind from behind him, LongJumping to the side.

Rath was thrown against the floor from his spell, shifting his body to get himself turned and on his feet. He saw a large spiked pillar diagonal over where he stood. Following the pillar back Rath caught sight of a new hulk that had not been there before. Again his instincts kicked in, launching himself to the side again, sliding to face the hulk that appeared behind him.

He realized that more hulks were coming from the walls every second, even as he processed the new one, another was moving out of the wall. There was no rest on the ninth floor. Rath knew he could not fight them endlessly, he would eventually have to fall back or die. He then thought about it, there was another floor, was it like this? What was on the tenth floor, Kyrit had done it, and he was an adventurer. Rath had to get to tenth, there was no turning back.

Rath took a different action, he ran. He didn't run for the stairs he had just come from, he ran deeper into the cave. As he ran he passed more hulks emerging in front of him, leaving them to his back. Instinct was kicking in, any shift to the world around him triggered him to move in response. He would LongJump up, to the side, or forward, all depending on what kind of assault he was faced with. The tunnels were long and every turn was a risk. Whenever he had to take a turn, he took it in fully, LongJumping hard around it.

His body was getting worn, his battery still held a good amount of charge, and he hadn’t even started to use his daily energy. It was his body, his legs were worn from the hard landings and sharp stops. His muscles ached for rest, he was no longer sure how long he was running, just that he was. Rath saw it suddenly, at the end of a long hall where hulks emerged, a stairway down deeper.

Rath focused hard, the hulks were already out of the walls, and the pillars would block him soon, he had to be fast. He poured energy into his LongJump, hoping it would do something. He charged back and felt his body get lunged forward, harder than before. He flew threw the hulks as they prepared to strike. He flew straight onto the stairs, where he crashed down and began to roll.

Rath had to use every bit of energy that he could to stop himself from rolling down the entire steps. He reached out wildly, his nails grabbing at the stone steps, his feet trying to stay planted. Finally he slowed his roll to a stop, and he just sat for a moment.

‘Heighten Spell Unlocked’ were the words that appeared in his vision. He breathed deeply, he realized what the ability was as soon as he saw the words. He had heightened his LongJump, by putting more energy into it then he normally did. Tivis had mentioned that there were different ways to enhance a spell, but that it was hard to learn and master. Rath had wondered why he had learned it suddenly.

Looking up the stairs, Rath saw the opening to the cave, expecting to see pillars shot down at him, or hulks chasing him. To his surprise, nothing followed, he heard nothing but silence, as if they all simply stopped existing. Turning his attention downwards, Rath saw the end of the stairs was closer than the other floors had been, he could nearly see the bottom from where he stood. Readying himself, Rath began the final descent, to the tenth floor of Kyrit Depths.

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