Chapter 20:

Snake in the Woods

How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

An arrow came from overhead, piercing deep into the nearby tree. Its target had dodged just barely, its head hovering over the ground by inches. He made to be the smallest target he could be, or else he would be struck down by his hunters. He had his twin blades sheathed, and his bow across his chest. His arms were being used to push himself away from trees and other obstacles, his lower half that of a snake that slithered quickly across the grassy ground.

It had been four days now, running from his hunters in a desperate game of cat and mouse. He barely slept, bags under his eyes deep and purple. His body hurt from the constant running, his pursuers didn't give him time to recover. The more he ran, the harder it was to rest, the second he stopped he would collapse, and he needed to find help quickly. Tears were filling his eyes as he pushed off another tree. He hesitated for too long and an arrow hit his shield, shattering it.

Tumbling from the hit, he felt his body tense up. It was too sore to continue, he needed rest. He used his arms to crawl as much as he could, praying to Secis that he could escape, he needed to escape. He heard the sounds of bells in the distance, they were faint, he thought it might be the sounds of approaching death. He turned back to face his pursers, three men emerging from the trees.

Two had their bows drawn and arrows notched, the third had put his back, drawing his longsword. They all held the tabard of the Tirim kingdom, the dragon pierced by a spear. The one with the sword approached him, his smile a wide grin.

“Bought time you stopped scaly.” The man said.

“Careful Gol!” one of the archers, the one on the man's right, said. “These Nagas poision! Let's just shoot him and be done with it! We're already too far out.”

“We were told to hunt down any that escaped!” the man with the sword, Gol, said. “This one got out, so we hunted him, simple as that.”

“You heard the bells right?” the one on the left said.

“I don't hear any bells.” Gol said, the other archer agreeing. “Besides, bells mean our people.”

“Right right.” The left archer said.

The Naga began to back crawl away, not letting his eyes break from the attackers. The right archer pulled his bow back farther, halting the Naga in its place. The one with the sword approached again.

“Let me do it, I want its head.” Gol said, his eyes full of blood lust.

The Naga prepared itself, taking its right hand to the sword on his hip. He couldn't die, he needed to live, he had to kill them. His body ached as he began to pull the sword, Gol acting faster and preparing to strike. A sudden blur flashed across Gol and the Naga’s vision, and was followed by Gol’s shield shattering.

“What in the Hells!” Gol yelled out, backstepping. The hunters turned to the right, towards where the blur went, seeing a man standing with his back against a tree, a green sword in his hand.

“Hello there.” The man said. “Might I ask what is happening here?”

“We're hunting monsters,” Gol said, turning to face the man, but keeping the Naga in his view. “You missed him, broke my shield.”

“I didn't miss.” the man said, his eyes were almost glares. The Naga felt the rage behind the man's eyes, it was emanating like an aura. “Why are you hunting this?” he paused as he looked at the Naga. “Snake?”

“We have orders, hunt down any naga that escapes, and we chased him all the way here, if he escapes because of you there will be repercussions.” Gol said. The archers were still trained on the Naga as they spoke.

The man sighed, then turned to the Naga. “Have you done anything to wrong these men?”

The Naga was caught off guard by the question. “N. No.” He said, his voice holding a slight hiss to it. “They attacked me, I haven't fought back, I just ran.”

“Has he done anything to you?” The man said, turning back to Gol.

“What does it matter?” Gol said. “He is a monster, we hunt monsters!”

The man sighed again. “You three.” He raised his sword to the hunters. “Turn and leave now, this is your only warning.”

Gol laughed. “Leave? We are going to kill this naga, then we shall leave. How is that?”

“No.” The man said. “He is under my protection for the time being.”

“What!” Gol yelled out. “You're going to protect this monster!”

“I'm not protecting the monsters.” the man said. “Leave now or you will all die.”

“Like hell!” Gol yelled out. “You leave or we'll kill you!”

“What are your names?” The man asked, he leaned against the tree more, placing his foot against the base. “You may call me Rath of Criss.”

Gol laughed. “I am Gol, knight of GreyHold, these are my companions Yel and Moris.” he waved at the right archer, then the left. “And we will be killing you if you do not leave.”

“Gol.” Moris began, trembling. “He said Criss.”

Gol turned to Moris. “Yeah and?”

Those were his last words, as his throat was slit in an instant. The Naga turned to the left now, Rath now faced away from them, turning to face them. Gol dropped to the ground, grasping at his throat as blood shot out with every breath he took. How Rath had launched himself was a mystery to the Naga, but he thought he saw a small casting bar above his head. Rath rushed forward, advancing on Yel before he could react. Rath slashed across his shield, dropping it low and rushing past, striking at Moris as well.

The two hunters turned and fired arrows at Rath, he shot to his left, dodging the arrows and spinning himself around. The hunters both had their shield as half now, dropping their bows and pulling out their swords. Rath moved in a zig-zag, weaving behind a tree. He shot out to the side again, vanishing behind another tree, then emerging from Moris’s side. He shattered Moris's shield and then launched back as he swung at Rath.

Rath stood firmly on the ground, he glanced past the group, towards where he had come, then smiled. A casting bar appeared, lasting slightly longer than the other before, and he shot straight up into the air. Suddenly the trees from where Rath had emerged suddenly burst apart, revealing a Minotaur that came charging through at Yel.

The two hunters were completely caught off guard as the beast entered. He charged at Yel, and swung a giant hammer across against Yel’s head. Yel’s shield shattered, but the hammer did not hesitate even slightly, and suddenly Yel went flying, his head smashed in as if by a cannon. The minotaur struck a pose, raising his hammer high.

“Yes!” The minotaur yelled. “That is the might of the great Fenrin! You are next puny man, raise your sword! For we will have a duel of the century!”

With that declaration, Rath dropped down from the sky, his sword planting itself deep into Moris head. Fenrin dropped the pose, disappointment filling his bull face. Rath pulled his sword free and swung it to clear the blood. Gol finally stopped moving, lying in a pool of his own blood.

“I had that one!” Fenrin said angrily.

“I know you could have handled it.” Rath said casually. ‘I needed the practice though, I have to catch up to your greatness after all.”

Fenrin’s expression was raised. “Yes of course! You do need the practice to catch up to the might of the great Fenrin!” He gave a hearty laugh after that.

Rath turned to the naga, who was pushing himself forward. In a quick motion, the Naga flipped forward, his forehead planted to the dirt in a bow. “Thank you! I owe you my life!”

“No worries.” Rath said.

“No, this is a great debt that I cannot repay!” The naga said. “I am in your service Master.”

“Master!” Fenrin laughed. “Hear that Rath, the snake says you're his master.” He laughed loudly.

“Raise your head.” Rath said, the naga followed. “What is your name?”

Before the naga could respond, a kobold with a staff made of bones emerged from the trees. He panted heavily and looked among the corpses.

“Did I miss the fight?” The kobold said.

“Only barely.” Rath said with a jolly look in his face, the opposite of the rage he emanated before. “As you were saying?” He said, turning to the naga.

“I am Nasui” The naga said, his body still throbbing in pain. “Master Rath, I am forever indebted to you! Please allow me to serve you!”

“You dont have to serve me.” Rath laughed. “Though, if you would like, you can come stay at our village. You are more than welcome.”

Nasui paused, thinking. “I am sorry Master Rath, but I cannot. In fact I apologize for I cannot serve you yet, I have a task in front of me already.”

“I am assuming it has something to do with why those people were hunting you?” Rath asked. Nasui nodded. “Alright, come, you can explain your task over a hot meal.”

The village Rath led him two was amazing, a great fortress was being built in between two walled districts. Nasui caught sight of kobolds and humans living together, a sight he had not expected to ever see. Nasui forced his body to keep moving, he could not rest yet. Rath sat him in an Inn run by an old man they called Turv.

“So what is so important?” Rath asked after Nasui had devoured a large sum of meat.

“I have to find help.” Nasui said, looking low into his cup of mead. “My people need allies to push back the army that marches on us.”

“Tirim.” Rath began. “I'm assuming their army is attacking you?”

“Yes Master.” Nasui said, gripping his cup harder. “They attacked our home, declaring us monsters, and are trying to wipe us out. My people were housed in our fortress, defending against the attackers, and snuck me out to find help.”

“I see.” Rath began, Fenrin and the kobold, Nekra, sitting next to him. “Why not run? Tirim is strong, how long can you hold out?”

“We can hold out for a long time.” Nasui explained. “Our defenses are strong, and our soldiers are well trained. It is only a matter of time before we fall though if we do not get allies.”

“Well I would offer to help fight them back.” Rath said with a sigh. “Sadly, our army isn't large whatsoever, and we can't spare many people.”

“I understand Master.” Nasui said. “Then I hope you will give me leave to find allies for my people, once we have fought the enemy back I shall return to your service.”

“If you return.” Fenrin said, poking his meaty finger into Nasui’s arm. “You're too weak, and you won't find allies in time, Tirim is much stronger than you, not me though, I can beat them.”

“Big talk.” Nekra said as he sipped at the tiny drink next to him. “It's an army, do you really think you could take them on?”

Fenrin laughed. “Of course! I would slay hundreds! Call me Fenrin the Slayer of Millions!”

“Those numbers don't seem to fit.” Rath laughed. He turned to Nasui. “I said we can't offer to come fight them off, but we can offer your people safe haven here if you would like.”

“Here Master?” Nasui began, his eyes lighting up in excitement.

“Are you sure Sir Rath?” Nekra asked.

“I took the kobolds in.” Rath said. “Criss is a place where Adventurers are unwelcome, and a safe haven for those that would be hunted by them.”

“I did not know about that last part.” Turv said from behind the counter. “Is that a proclamation?”

“I dont have the ability to do that, I just think that is the way it should be.” Rath explained.

“Actually.” Turv said, coming out from behind the counter. “The council has been talking about it, outside of meetings. Since we're building a fortress, we need a lord. It would stop the king from putting someone else into it, and the best option is you.”

Rath stared blankly at Turv. “Um, i'm not sure the king will be fine with that.”

“Who cares?” Turv said.

“Good point.” Rath said. “Well talk about that later. But for now, Nasui. What do you think, your people can come here, we don't allow Adventurers in. of course your people would have to work, and if you have the soldiers like you say, we would love the support in defenses.”

Nasui looked into his drink. “I am unsure if I can speak for my people.” Nasui began. “However, I believe they will be fine with it. Assuming that we are allowed to worship in peace.”

“Who do you worship?” Rath asked.

“Secis.” Nasui explained.

“Oh the snake lord.” Rath said. “As long as there is no sacrifices it should be no issue.”

“We do not use those archaic ways!” Nasui shot up in defense. “Our people broke off from those that did such acts, we worship through prayer and fasting!”

“Okay okay I understand.” Rath said, waving to calm Nasui. “Then it should be no problem right?”

“I believe so, the leaders will have to say for sure.” Nasui said.

“Alright then, lets go get your people.” Rath said, getting to his feet and stretching.

“I'm sorry Master?” Nasui said, shocked.

Rath turned an innocent look to Nasui. “We will go get your people, I can support you in defending them until they come to a conclusion, and if they agree I can help transport them here.”

Nasui felt so much joy at the statement. “Yes Master!”

“I'm coming too!” Fenrin said. “A chance to become slayer of Trillions is too great of an opportunity!”

“I don't even think there are that many living creatures!” Nekra said. “But I want to come to, Rath you will need back up.”

Rath looked at the two of them. “Very well, Urin can lead everyone while we're gone, how far is your home?”

“Only a few days travel if we move at a good pace!” Nasui said.

“Good, hey Turv.” Rath began. “Well leave in the morning, I need you and the council to handle a few things while we're away.”

“What are we preparing?” Turv asked.

“First, get together as much food as you can for our return, expect a large group.” Rath began. “Next, plot out some lands to the north, use the river as a northern boundary. We'll make that area the Naga’s district. Have Talon serve as a scout, watch for us from the south, we may be coming in hot. Have Peel prepare arrowheads and have Urin get us a stockpile, most likely we will need them on the kobold walls. Make sure a guard is with the miners. Oh and we need to accelerate the fortress. All that sound good?”

“Lots of orders, my Lord.” Turv said keenly.

“That is weird.” Rath said with a shiver. He turned to Nasui. “You rest for now, we'll need you to guide us, and be an ambassador for us.”

“Of course Master!” Nasui said, joy overflowing from him.

Turv offered Nasui one of the spare rooms, letting him lay in a comfortable bed. Slept took him quickly, his muscles aching from travel. He dreamed of his people amongst the humans and kobolds, sharing and talking. They laughed and joked, played and ate together. This was a very happy dream, one he hoped would come true soon. 

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