Chapter 19:

Tax man

How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

Nekra awoke in his tent. He had no clue how he had gotten there from the night before, but he managed. Fenrin had filled up a tankard for Nekra and convinced him to drink it, even though the tankard was half as big as Nekra himself.

“You gotta keep up, even Spring man over there can take down as much as me!” Fenrin had laughed, pointing out Rath who didn't even look tipsy.

“I can do it!” Nekra said, wanting to not look weak in front of the minotaur. “I'll drink even more than you!”

That was all he remembered clearly, after that was a blur. He had a weird memory of dancing on a table, everyone around clapping for him. He thinks he challenged Fenrin to an arm wrestle, and was flipped upside down. That memory probably happened, as his shoulder hurt from where it hit the back of the chair.

Moving slowly, Nekra got out of the tent and began walking towards the main village, using his staff as a walking stick. He prayed that he didn't have to fight anyone today, as the world around him was spinning slightly. As Nekra walked up the path to the main village, he caught sight of Rath.

Rath stood in the inbetween section of the two walled areas. He was in the area that they were planning to set up the fortress, holding a hand out and straining himself. Nekra decided to approach, hoping to not interrupt. After a moment Rath turned to face Nekra.

“Hello there.” Rath said, lowering his arm. There was sweat on his brow, and his face was red from strain. “Surprised to see you up this early after last night.”

“I am myself.” Nekra said, holding his head.

Rath smiled wickedly. “You know what would help?” he said it quietly, getting close to Nekra, then screeched loudly in his ear. Nekra fell back, his brain bouncing around wildly in his skull. Rath fell back laughing to the ground.

“Not funny.” Nekra said, getting back up to his feet. “What are you doing out here?”

“Training.” Rath said.

“Training what?” Nekra asked.

Rath pulled out an amulet from under his shirt, it had a blue gem with a silver frame over it. Nekra Observed it, ‘Disc’ was all that displayed. “This spell caught my interest.”

“Disc?” Nekra questioned. “What is special about that ability?”

“The fact that someone took it down to the tenth floor with them.” Rath said, looking it over with amazement. “I don't know how they used it, but I figured something out that I could use.”

“What is that Sir Rath?” Nekra said in wonder.

Rath held out his hand, a cast bar blinked into existence and just as quickly disappeared, a small almost see thru disc appeared in front of Rath. Nekra moved to touch it, it felt solid and when he pushed on it, it didn't move.

“I feel like it can be useful, but my Zero point is still making my body hurt, a little more time and it will be gone.” Rath said. “I had hoped to learn to use this quicker, but it seems I'll need more time.” He turned to Nekra curiously. “Do you have Zero point?”

“I have not heard of the term Sir Rath.” Nekra said.

“It happens after you exhaust your mana.” Rath explained.

“Ah then no, because I don't have mana.” Nekra said. “I use the power of my dragon souls.”

“Lucky there.” Rath explained. “This feeling sucks, hopefully I won't be over doing it like that again, yesterday took a lot out of me too.”

Before Nekra continued, he caught sight of several farmers heading towards the village, with carts full of crops. “What is that about?” He asked.

“Oh that?” Rath began. “We talked about it yesterday, the taxes.”

“Do the kobolds owe anything?” Nekra asked, worried.

“No, our village only owes food to the kingdom, they don't know about the mines.” Rath explained. “Though after today im sure they will, so time is running out.”

“Running out?” Nekra asked.

Rath turned to Nekra, a cheery expression on his face. “Nevermind that for now. Could you house Fenrin while the tax collector is here? And keep the kobolds in the district? Would save some time, and hopefully we can sneak the mines being there for a bit longer.”

“Will do.” Nekra said happily. “They can still mine, right?”

“Of course, just try to keep them away for a bit.” Rath said. He looked off to the west, he looked off as if preparing for battle. Nekra thought that these ‘Tax Collectors’ must be terrifying monsters.

Rath watched the tax collector ride up. They had an empty covered wagon larger than Kiders by a long shot. The cart was pulled by two beautiful draft horses, the tax collector holding the reins. Rath hated the tax collectors, they always gave him an odd feeling, but now he liked them even less. He watched, the two guards that accompanied the cart walked alongside, shield bars above their heads.

“Hello there.” the collector said, his fine mustached thine on his lip, a green hat sat on his head, a feather sitting atop it. He wore fine clothes, light green in color, that showed he was wealthy. “I am sir Tilm. I have come by request of King Garion Pierce, the first of his name, The Tyrant Killer, Piercer of Dragons. Will you allow me into your village?”

Rath was currently sitting on the ground outside the western gate, he watched them slowly approach for the last several minutes. He got to his feet and walked up to the cart, the guard had halberds held and swords sheathed. The smell of the Tax collectors perfume caught Rath’s nose, smelled like a woman.

“As long as you promise no harm comes to my people, then yes.” Rath said, watching the way the guards shifted uncomfortably.

Tilm looked at his guards, then turned towards the signs he passed. “I did see the signs, we had heard rumors of this place. We promise no harm will come to your people as long as no harm comes to us.”

“The laws of adventurers do not apply here either.” Rath said to the guards. “You have the same rights as any other person, no more no less, understood.”

“They have the rights the king provides them.” Tilm said with a smile. “Do not worry, they will remain at my side and do no harm unless harm were to befall me.”

Rath nodded, turning to signal them into the village. The cart began to trudge along, Rath walking alongside it, a guard on the other side. “I have heard rumors about this place, the king himself talks about this place frequently.” Tilm said.

“I assume only the highest things have been said.” Rath said as he walked, the village close now.

“Sadly no.” Tilm said with a slight laugh. “He loves his adventurers, some call him the adventurer king, you know? A village denying his loved adventurers at the time of a Demon Lord attack, not going to be looked upon highly.”

“The Demon Lord is hundreds of miles away.” Rath said calmly. “Tatalis has to get through Kyol before he even comes close to here, and even then has to get past Kyrit.”

“That is what people have said, though he believes it is a matter of time.” Tilm said as they entered the village gates. “Kyol is our ally, he does not wish to see an ally burned to the ground.” There was a pause as Rath stood silently, then Tilm continued. “Last time I was here there were no walls, you built these fast.”

“We are hard workers here.” Rath said.

“If you fear monsters we can assign guards out here.” Tilm said with a smile.

“We fear no monsters.” Rath said, shooting a look at Tilm.

“Very well, though I also noticed another set of walls south of here.” Tilm said. “What might that be?”

“Expansion.” Rath said. “We are starting to get overcrowded in the walls, and so we set up another.”

“Interesting.” Tilm said slyly. “You know, there are other rumors about Criss.”

“Oh I think I would like to hear them.” Rath said. He had placed himself here on purpose, he could strike the guard quickly and kill the Tax Collector, the last gaurd would be no match after that, assuming it got to that point.

“Most I do not care for, like that it was taken over by monsters.” Tilm said. “The one that matters is the rumor about a silver mine.”

Rath cursed and bit his lip, he had hoped the news of the silver wouldn't reach the capital just yet. People must have figured out Kider’s trade routes, this was bad. He continued walking into the town, the cart stopping by the local well.

“From the looks of it, those rumors are true.” Tilm said. “Have no fear, I have no orders to collect any silver on this trip, just the usual. Though I think it is in your best interest to gather some silver and any other resources you have gathered for my next visit.”

“I shall see what I can do.” Rath said angrily.

“I hope you do.” Tilm said. “Last time I was here I was met by Turv, has he passed?”

“No, he has just passed this duty onto me.” Rath said.

“So you are the leader here?” Tilm said.

“I serve on our council but I am not the sole leader.” Rath explained.

“Very well.” Tilm explained. “Then I should tell you.” Tilm pulled out a rolled up sheet of paper, showing Rath the wax seal. The seal was of a spear through the head of a dragon, the seal of the king. Rath took the letter and unsealed it, reading from it gravely.

“They wish to place a lord here?” Rath questioned.

“That is correct, the king has come to believe this to be a good location for a stronghold, they are selecting a lord and will place him here after my next visit.” Tilm explained.

Rath bit his bottom lip hard, he tasted blood. This was bad, a lord meant guards, both under the rule of the king. This would take away the freedom the Criss has enjoyed, and ruin Rath’s plan. No, he thought, this could be a part of my plan.

Tilm didnt have to go far for the taxes, as the villagers were more than happy to help fill his cart. The whole while Tilm was checking off a list, each time something was put in his cart he would nod his head. It was a quick visit, Tilm left just as quickly as he had arrived, slowly trudding back with a full cart.

“So what is the need?” Rath asked Fenrin. The minotaur had been forced from his slumber by Nekra, and was forced into the Kobold District. From what Rath was told he stayed in Nekra’s tent and was a constant annoyance.

“Well!” Fenrin said. “We minotaurs are known for something very important!” he shifted to a proud pose, his weapon hanging from his hip on a loose rope.

“Is it your pretty eyes?” Rath joked. The two sat in Turv’s tavern, Nekra and Turv being the only other two in the room.

“Not last I checked!” Fenrin said, shifting poses. He refused to sit, standing instead. “We are known for our labyrinth! Any minotaur who settles somewhere must build a labyrinth! That is my request for you.”

Rath thought about it for a moment. “Does the location matter?”

“No, as long as it has tall walls for me to fight in.” Fenrin said.

“We can arrange that.” Rath said. “Ill have you meet with Kokin, were building a fortress and will need underground tunnels. We can use the labyrinth as a method of deterring people that try to invade through out exit tunnels, is that okay?”

“Of course!” Fenrin said. “I can build you the best Labyrinth ever!”

“I would appreciate it, though I will need you to show people how to get through it since it will be our escape tunnel.” Rath explained.

“Hm, Very well Spring Man!” Fenrin said with a pose.

“Turv, Nekra, we need to get this fortress finalized and begin building it.” Rath said.

“Why Sir Rath?” Nekra asked, pushing away a drink that Turv kept trying to force on him, holding his head.

“We need to get our defenses up as soon as possible.” Rath explained. “This Fortress will do more then we think, the king wants to install a lord here, meaning the king will enforce his will on us, meaning Adventurers free roaming.”

“Have you seen this?” Turv said, tossing a pin at Rath. Rath caught the pin eyeing the king's sigil with a blue background. “They mark the Adventurers now apparently, meaning we can find them by that badge.”

“They will have to wear these exposed then.” Rath said looking it over, he smiled and pocketed the pin. “This may come in handy in the future.”

“So how do we stop a lord from being installed?” Nekra asked.

“Not sure yet.” Rath lied. “For now I want to focus on the fortress, keeping out people safe is step one. Even if a lord is installed we will need the fortress, better have one now then later. Can we get the council together to finish the designs?”

“I can call everyone here.” Nekra said. “Will Fenrin be joining us?”

“I only wish to know enough for my labyrinth!” Fenrin explained. “I have no interest in polisicks!”

“Politics?” Nekra questioned.

“Those!” Fenrin said with a shift of his pose.

“You'll serve us well as a soldier so you don't need to worry yourself.” Rath laughed. “Speaking of, once we are done, I would like you and Nekra to do some training, I have to watch sadly. Once I am recovered I shall train with you.”

“Wait me!” Nekra said, looking at the hulking beast. “Ill die!”

“Only if you fail!” Fenrin said with a laugh.

“That instills no confidence in me!” Nekra said frantically.

“Don't worry, you got scales.” Rath laughed.

“I'm going to break something!” Nekra said frantically.

This went on for a while, Rath enjoyed these moments already. The council converged and finalized their plans. Kokin and Fenrin planned out the perfect Labyrinth for the minotaur. Construction had begun quickly after, Fenrin being the perfect muscle that the village needed. Soon Criss would have its own fortress, and they would be one step closer. For now, they just needed to build fast. 

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