Chapter 23:


How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

The night was coming to a close, the streaks of smoke from fires beginning to fade into thin wisps. Rath stood atop a stone wall, looking out over the small city that the Nagas had built. He could see beyond the campfires was a large pyramid with a flat plateau at its summit. The summit was the location of worship, he was told it was massive and could house many priests and watchers, others staying along the gentle sloped ramp that covered all sides of the pyramid.

Even from here Rath could see the large stone slab that housed the Dial they used. Nasui had explained that it was a large circular disk made with a red sandstone from the nagas home land along with green emeralds that decorated its design. When asked, Nasui had explained that the nagas came from the far south and his tribe had moved far north to start a new form of worship, one less brutal than the ones other nagas used.

“Rath.” Nekra said, joining him atop the wall. The wall was the outer fortifications of the Nagas fortress, one that had been built into a cliff side. Apparently it was at one point just simple burrows in the stone that eventually grew into the massive fortress it was now.

“What is it Nekra?” Rath asked, turning his attention to the camp again, seeing subtle movements of people far below, some hidden by the small housings that the Nagas had made out of mud. He wondered how much of their things were pillaged from these people.

“Let me go with you.” Nekra said as Naga soldiers slithered by, all armed with bows. Some carried large quantities of arrows to fill buckets incase of assault. “It would be wiser than taking Fenrin since he would ruin any diplomacy, and I can back you up if there is a fight!”

Rath turned and smiled at Nekra. “That isn't wise. I'm not taking any of you, if the worst happens I need you to get back and let everyone know what happened, and I need Fenrin to help guide the Nagas back safely.”

“But Sir Rath!” Nekra said but was stopped by Rath’s hand.

“Remember, I have speed on my side.” Rath said, showing the ring on his finger. “My Zero Point is recovered, so I have been storing a lot of mana, if I need to, I can bolt away faster then they can hit me. Trust me I've had far harder things to dodge.”

“But Sir Rath.” Nekra began again. “They have adventurers.”

“From what Maski said, the adventurers they have are barely trained.” Rath began. “They didn't go to any of the dungeons, most stayed where they were born and joined the army, meaning they have limited training compared to those that fight at the dungeons.”

Nekra had to stand on his toes to look over the wall, a worried expression on his face. “What if there are too many like Quin?”

Rath clenched his fist. Nekra had explained Quin’s attack to him, he regretted not going after him the day he found him, if he had Nekra wouldn't have gotten hurt. All of Quin’s rings had been basic spells of different types, he even had a Angibolt ring. Rath had taken the ring he had mostly used against Nekra, an earth ring known as Terima which just allowed to move small pieces of stone and dirt.

“Then I'll kill them on my way out.” Rath said, looking out again. “Besides, it seems like you got them with that new power you got.”

“Toral’s power will help in a fight that is for sure.” Nekra said, his concerned look not going away. “But I still get hurt, it just stopped it from penetrating my scales.”

“Yes I know.” Rath laughed. “How is your arm?”

“All better.” Nekra said. “Those potions helped it alot.”

The potions that Mirv and Miss Korvi had brewed were stronger than the ones they had gotten from the adventurers and merchants. While they didn't completely heal Nekra’s arm immediately, it set the bone and accelerated the healing process. Knowing Mirv they were working to brew more, he wondered what it was the made them work better then others, they used the same ingredients as other potions.

“I should get ready to leave soon.” Rath said, turned to walk down the battlements. “I need you to look over Freesia.”

“You're not taking your sword!” Nekra declared. “Why! You'll be helpless!”

“Again, ring.” Rath said as they walked. “If I come with a sword, they will be alot more cautious of me, A ring probably looks less dangerous. Plus they can observe it and see it's a basic ability and probably calm down.”

“Unless they take Mastered abilities as a factor.” Nekra said, almost running to keep up with Rath’s stride. “What if they assume you have some more destructive spell mastered!”

“Then they are wrong.” Rath laughed. “We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Besides, stronger spells need longer casting times so they would have time to act.”

“I dont like this Rath.” Nekra said with concern.

“Me either.” Rath said. “But it needs to be done, let's trust that they dont kill me on sight, okay? And if they do, get them out of here okay?”

They reached the bottom of the battlements, seeing Nasui sitting against a wall, looking over his arrows. Rath approached, catching a look at the arrow. It seemed strange, it had a spiral design, as if it were a drill.

“Master Rath.” Nasui said, raising his body and bowing with just his torso. “Is there anything I can help you with before you leave today?”

“Those arrows.” Rath asked. “Why do they look like that?”

“These Master?” Nasui said, looking over his arrow. “They are shield piercing arrows.”

Rath was caught by surprise, his face lighting up in excitement. “How do they work!”

Nasui hesitated, not expecting the shift in his attitude. “The drill design, if fired correctly, will bore itself into a shield, shattering it. It will be launched back from the shield shattering, but one arrow has the ability to shatter even a full shield if not dealt with quickly.”

“Nasui.” Rath bega. “Please teach Nekra how to make these arrows. Nekra if things go bad make sure that info gets back home.”

“Yes Sir.” Nekra said and the two began to talk, Rath wandering away.

Fenrin was sparring with some of the Nagas, teaching them techniques that he had picked up. He also was insulting their current training, saying how they were far too weak to ever beat him, even if all of them attacked at once. He proved this correct as the large group attacked at once, Fenrin knocking them all down quickly and throwing his head back in a hearty laugh.

“Sir Rath.” Maski said, slithering to Rath. “Are you ready yet?”

“Of course!” Rath said. The two had spent much of the previous night discussing small things to make sure he was prepared. After that, he handed Nekra his sword and he traveled out of the Fortress front gate which was slightly cracked for him.

The large stone walls sealed behind him as he began to walk the empty streets of the naga city. Rath had wondered how many people had been lost already. It felt so empty, haunting, as if the spirits of the nagas that died still hung in the streets. A voice began to echo in his ear, it had become worse recently, he wasn't even sure whose it was anymore. It was a mesh of other voices he decided, all trying to beat him down with guilt. He needed to block it all out, he had to focus on the here and now.

The camp wasn't far, it was decorated in tents, troops rushing around, preparing for attack. The banner of GreyHold waved all over, out shining the Tirim banners. A group of guards on duty pointed their spears at Rath as he approached, Rath raising his hands in surrender.

“I wish to speak to lord Tix.” Rath said. The guards looked back and forth between each other, finally raising their spears and guiding Rath. Rath took note of the people he saw with shields, a good two thirds of the army he saw had the shield bar above their head. They all gave him weary looks as he passed, others confused looks. There were war to many adventurers, Rath thought to himself, one was already dangerous, but a full army?

Finally they reached a large blue tent with a silver trim, the entrance flap guarded by two Adventurers with swords. They both placed a hand on their swords, glaring Rath down.

“What business do you have with Lord Tix?” one of the guards said, lowering himself to strike.

“Peace.” Rath said calmly. “Is that an option?”

The guards looked amongst each other. “Has he been searched?”

“Yes, he had a ring and two necklaces, both weak.” The guard who guided him here said. “No other weapon on his person.”

“Very well.” The guard said. “I shall see if he will see you.”

The guard entered the tent. Rath focused, trying to drown out the other sound of the camp to listen in. It was to no avail, as the people were far too loud and before long the guard returned. “He will see you.”

Rath entered the tent, its interior furnished like it was a palace. A large bed sat in the back, a large war table in the center of the room, several dressers and cabinets, and a dining table. Sitting at the war table were three men, and one stood next to the man at the head.

The man at the head was clearly Tix, he was middle aged, maybe early forties, with shining blonde hair and barely a wrinkle to show, he dressed in blues and silvers, wearing his wealth. The man standing next to him wore a dark cloak and greens, a silver bow on his back that seemed engraved with strange symbols Rath couldn't make out. The one to Tix right was a general of some sort, his large frame and scowl emanated his strength. The last was a smaller man, far too small in fact. He was a halfling, he wore blacks and lounged back in his chair, tipping it on its back legs.

“Who are you?” Tix said, glaring at Rath.

“My name is Rath.” Rath announced himself. “I speak for the Nagas.”

“Bah.” The general said, waving Rath off. “Kill him then, any person working with those monsters doesnt deserve to breathe.”

“Now now Luid.” Tix said, his face softening. “Let us hear him out, it is brave of one to come all the way here.”

Tix waved a hand, allowing Rath to speak. “I ask that you allow the Nagas to leave, give them their religious symbol, and give back their elders.”

“The snakes that came yesterday I assume.” the halfling said with a small laugh. “Are they even still alive, Tix?” he turned to Tix with a wide smile.

“Yes they are.” Tix said, not breaking eye contact with Rath. he felt Tix pressure on him. “Why would we allow such a thing?”

“It will clear up the fighting.” Rath said. “The nagas will move away from your lands. You get the city and its stronghold, and you don't lose anymore men.”

The halfling laughed, slapping at his knee.

“Silence Elixa” Tix said, turning to the Halfling.

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry.” Elixa said, wiping a tear from his face. “It's just funny, he thinks we want the stronghold and city.”

Rath’s eyes widened. “I see.” He began. “You only want to kill the nagas, right?”

“Correct.” The hunter said, straightening.

“Griv.” Tix said, as if he had said to much.

“You know.” The hunter, Griv continued. “I heard that a naga got through our blockade, we sent hunters after them, and they never came back.”

“They are dead.” Rath said calmly. “I am sorry for your loss.”

“No you're not.” Gol’s voice whispered in his ear. “Don't lie to them.”

“And who might have done this?” Griv said, his eyes moving to a slit.

Rath stood firm, he needed to be strong here. “I did.” he said plainly, the tent becoming eerily quiet. “They hunted to kill, they had to be prepared to die themselves.”

“Griv.” Tix said calmly. “Dont.”

Griv moved faster than Rath had seen anyone move, pulling his bow and knocking an arrow in an instant. The only thing that had stopped Griv from firing was Tix. Tix appeared behind Griv, holding the back of the arrow that Griv had let go. He held it with his index, middle, and thumb only. The strength to hold the arrow had to be immense, and the speed he moved at was unrecognizable to Rath.

Tix slowly moved the arrow, the string losing tension. “Now, settle down,” he said, walking back to his seat.

Griv glared at Rath. “I also told my hunters to increase security in the area that naga was seen running from. We just got the blockade out there.”

Rath tensed up at the words. That was the nagas escape route, if it was blocked they were trapped. “I ask again. Let them free, give them their people, and their religious symbol.”

“That dial atop the pyramid?” Tix questioned. “We did have plans to retrieve it at some point, looks like we could sell it for alot.”

Rath clenched his fist again. “Why not let them go.” Rath questioned. “If you fight, you will lose men, men you need elsewhere from what it seems.”

“You are correct there.” Tix said with a sigh. “Once we are done here, we march east, its terribly tiring.”

Rath kept his face composed as he continued. “What is east that needs an army?”

“Tatalis you idiot.” Luid stated. “King Pierce plans to support Kyol since we are allies. Well kill that Demon Lord or atleast destroy his army.”

“Knowing Garion” Tix said with a smile. “He wants to take on Tatalis himself. He is yearning for a new title and some glory.”

Rath sighed in relief, they were not attacking Criss. “Then wouldn't it be best to save your strength? This siege must have taken a lot out of your people as it, resources and all that. You can leave knowing they won't affect these lands anymore.”

“And where will they go?” Tix questioned.

“I will not say.” Rath began. “Away from here is all that matters.”

Tix nodded to himself, his men seemed quiet now. “Very well, I make no promises, but I shall return their people in a few hours. Give me a night to think over the rest, and come back tomorrow and i'll give you my answer.”

Rath perked up, he didn't expect him to give so easily. “Thank you.”

“Yes, now please go tell your snake friends that they will have their captives back shortly.” Tix said, waving Rath off.

The walk back to the stronghold was in high spirits. This gave him another night, one that the nagas could use. Not to mention the return of the elders meant more to help Criss leadership wise.

Nasui and Nekra met Rath at the gate as he entered, returning Fressia to him. He explained the interaction to Maski and the others. They listened intently and their spirits were raised at the agreement of their peoples return.

“We still should leave tonight.” Rath explained. “Tix said he will think about it overnight, meaning he won't attack. We can take advantage of that to flee.”

“Thank you Rath.” Maski said, pulling him into a hug, he pulled back. “Alright people hurry! We need to get ready to move!”

“We have to watch for that blockade though.” Rath said. “We may need to fight quickly, let your soldiers know to prepare for combat.”

The stronghold was a buzz of nagas rushing, gathering what they could as close to the escape tunnel as possible. Finally came the time for the Elders to be returned.

Rath stood atop the battlements with Maski, Nekra, Nasui, and Fenrin as well as many guards. Tix approached, just out of arrow shot, behind them four elderly nagas were guided in chains with two guards each. Behind them was a group of soldiers with a cart with large beams in it.

“I bring you your people back snakes.” Tix said waving at the people. “Just as agreed upon.”

Maski and Nasui smiled at the sight of the elders. The elders looked up at the stronghold, hopeful. The soldiers at the carts began to lift the beams from the cart, slowly.

“But first.” Tix said, smiling wide. “A gift! A show even! From my army to yours!”

Suddenly Rath became aware of something. The beams were in an L shape, and at the end of the shorter part, were nooses. The elders caught sight of the nooses and began to struggle. Guards pulled weapons and held them to the elders. Soldiers began to put the nooses around the Nagas necks, planning to raise the beams to raise them from the ground.

“The Hells!” Rath yelled out. “You said you'd give them back!”

“I never said alive” Tix called back, giving a sly smirk at Rath.

“Kill them!” Maski yelled. The archers at the wall weren't ready to fight, they had relaxed at the sight of the elders. They rushed to draw arrows but they wouldn't reach.

Arrows fired at the top of the walls, Archers revealing themselves from the buildings they hide behind, Griv being one of them. They were trapped, forced to watch. Atleast, the nagas were trapped.

Rath threw himself off the wall, LongJumping off the side towards the execution. The poles were beginning to be raised now, the Elders struggling in vain, fear overcoming them. Rath could hear people calling out for Tix to spare them. He had heightened his LongJump, but still wouldn't reach it completely, he would have to hit the ground. He didnt have faith in his new ability yet, and let his right foot hit the ground hard, he felt pain shoot up through him as he launched forward, he could reach one no issue.

Freesia was drawn now, he had to slice quickly, maybe he could used Agnibolt to free another before he landed. None of it mattered, as Tix met him head on. The sound of steel hitting each other rattled the world, the two had swords pressed against one another. Rath could not do this match right now, he had to save them. He tilted his body to the right, hoping to reach the elders on the other side. He launched, but was met again by Tix. How was he keeping up with him, Rath thought.

The nagas were now handing, their necks did not snap as they would from a normal hanging, instead they were being strangled slowly. Rath felt helpless, Fenrin and Nekra couldn't help, they weren't as mobile. The naga Archer’s arrows were falling too short to help, they couldn't hit.

“Master!” A voice yelled out. Rath felt his instincts yell out, he ducked low as an arrow flew into Tix shield. Both stood in shock, how did this arrow hit? Nasui had to have shot it right? The arrow shattered Tix shield, Rath hesitated. He had to save the elders, but Tix was open, he should kill him now.

Rath moved past Tix, biting his lip as he did so. He shot at the elder, his face a purple color. Just as he was about to cut him free, something slammed into his side. An arrow, shot from Griv hit him in his side, there was magic behind it, the strength of the shot sent Rath flying into the mud house, shattering its walls with his impact. Dazed, Rath stood to recover, but he was too late. The Elders hung limply from the nooses, eyes vacant, all looking at Rath.

Rath felt tears streaming down his face. Their faces looked at Rath as if he would save them, but he didn't. He felt defeated, he lost. He felt angry. His vision went red, he stared at Tix, who smiled widely.

“Rath!” voices yelled. “Dont!” these werent the voices of those he killed, it was the voices of the people he cared about, he breathed.

“Tix!” Rath yelled out, the lord turning to him. “We are leaving! And if you stop us! I will kill you!”

Tix’s expression broke, he stared at Rath, fear overcoming him. “Let us return. We have done what we came for.” Tix began to march off, Rath stared him down, eyes wide.

A bolt of fire was shot at Tix, who dodged it barely. The bolt was bigger then any Agnibolt he had seen before, and it had come from Rath. He raised a hand to the man, his eyes daggers.

“Run.” He yelled out, shooting another shot. The soilders and Tix ran, the Archers shooting at Rath and he returned to the fortress. His mind was made up, Tix needed to die, but he had something more important to do first, get his people to safety, he wouldnt lose anyone else. 

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