Chapter 32:


How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

Breakfast was light. It was just Rath, Nasui, and Fenrin who sat at the table. Malphis had to beat Reese back so he could serve the food, then he led the Red Cap away so they could eat in peace. The group ate quietly for a while before Nasui spoke up.

“I should accompany you Master.” Nasui said. “Chaoram is a demon lord, we should not underestimate him.”

“Dont worry.” Rath said casually. “I doubt we are in any threat here, plus I would like you to explore the castle for me, and keep an eye on Fenrin.”

“I do not need a watcher!” Fenrin said angrily. “Besides, I was just going to find somewhere to train.”

Rath glared at him. “Promise?” He asked.

“I won't get up to anything bad today.” Fenrin said.

“Today?” Nasui questioned.

“Fine, I'll take it.” Rath said with a sigh. “Nasui can you explore for me while I talk with Chaoram.”

“Yes Master.” Nasui said proudly. “You can count on me.”

“Then if your ready.” A voice said from behind the group, they all turned to see Chaoram standing there in his brown outfit. “We may begin, please walk with me.”

Rath got to his feet and followed the Demon lord out a back door. Rath wore a jacket made of deerskin, it kept him warm in the cold weather even though the castle itself was quite warm.

“Tell me Rath.” Chaoram began. “What do you know of Demon Lords?”

“Very little.” Rath began. “I know about Tatalis, and Lightkiller.”

“Lightkiller?” Chaoram said with a laugh. “That is the name you know him by, I see. What else?”

“I know they are powerful beings.” Rath began carefully. “I know they are looked down on, and that one was killed around fifty years ago.”

“Do you know the name of that Demon Lord? Or the one that killed him?” Chaoram asked.

“Im sorry I do not.” Rath explained.

Chaoram nodded as he walked forward. “They called the Demon Lord ThunderStrike, I knew him as Yoman. We were friends many centuries ago, but he was never a patient one. How many demon lords do you think exist?”

“Before yesterday I only figured two.” Rath explained.

“Then you met me.” Chaoram laughed. “So now how many?”

Rath stopped in his step. “Demon Lords are a race of people aren't they, there are many of you, thousands maybe aren't there.” His eyes were wide and full of terror.

“Oh no no no.” Chaoram waved away Rath’s fear. “We are no race. We are actually few, eight to be exact.”

“Eight?” Rath questioned. “How have I only heard of two?”

“Demon Lords such as myself allow themselves to be known when they so choose.” Chaoram said, the two continuing to walk. “Most wait patiently for their time to strike. Others, like Tatalis, tend to strike out. He is an interesting one for sure, he has the largest land of any Demon Lord now.”

“Do you all have some grand scheme?” Rath asked.

“We don't talk much.” Chaoram said. “In fact, I have only met Tatalis and Lightkiller once each. Whatever plans they have, they don't involve any other demon lord.”

Rath nodded along. “Can I ask you something?”

“You have been asking questions already.” Chaoram laughed. “Please speak freely.”

“Do you know about the Growth ability?” Rath asked.

“Of course.” Chaoram said with a nod. “It is an uncommon human ability. It allows one to learn abilities faster, though it takes longer to master them.”

“Is that so?” Rath said, looking at the ring on his finger. “I still havent mastered this one, its a simple earth ability, its taking longer then AgniBolt did.”

Chaoram laughed. “You affinities yourself most likely.” Rath looked at him confused before the Demon lord continued. “You picked a magic type to specialize in, usually through using it too much, thus other abilities take longer to learn. Most of the time it is the first elemental type you learn that you affinity towards, you'll always be stronger with that magic.”

“So I locked myself into fire magic?” Rath questioned.

Chaoram gave him a sly smile. “That is a useful one to be aligned to.”

Rath looked at the ring again. “What about the red words? From Juxalaxe.”

“Ah that.” Chaoram said. “I cant go to deep into it right now, just know that its an ability that signals a change.”

“A change in me?” Rath asked.

“Maybe, or maybe the world.” Chaoram said. “Not all that beat the end of a dungeon unlock an ability, only those that get the blessing, or the red words.”

“So there are two abilities I could have gotten?” Rath asked.

“Yes, though the one you got is much better.” Chaoram said, a wide smile on his face. “At Least to me it is better. Come, I have something I would like you to see.” Rath followed the demon lord on as they walked the echoing halls.

Fenrin entered the large courtyard, the cold air unaffecting him. The snow had been pushed to the sides, straw training dummies sat on wooden poles around the yard. Malphis held out his sword about to swing at one.

“What is it bull.” Malphis said without turning.

“We did not finish what we started.” Fenrin said, drawing his weapon.

Malphis sighed, lowering his sword and turning to Fenrin. “I thought it was clear that I won. Is that not enough for you?”

“I will beat you this time then.” Fenrin said, determination in his voice.

Malphis raised an eyebrow. “Do you have magic?”

Fenrin puffed out hot air. “No.” He said, trying to sound proud.

“A minotaur without their Labyrinth magic. That is interesting.” Malphis said, looking him over. “I have not heard of it personally.”

“I do not need it.” Fenrin said. “I am strong enough without it!”

Malphis sighed. “Very well, ill spare with you, just expect me to not go easy on you. I could use the practice.”

Fenrin smiled widely .”That is right! This time the mighty Fenrin shall defeat you!” He charged the Goliath, the sounds of their weapons clanging together resounding through the open space of the castle.

Rath stood in front of the stone door that Chaoram had led him to. The hall they were in was cold, yet Chaoram was unfazed in his light clothing. With a push of the door Chaoram revealed the interior of the room.

Along the back wall of the room were ten sets of orbs with blue mist circling inside them. A few chairs were set to look at the orbs with cushioned seats, other than that the room was completely barren. Chaoram took a seat, offering another to Rath, who took it casually.

“What are these?” Rath asked hesitantly.

“Look into them.” Chaoram said, eyes darting between them all.

Rath looked deep into the mists of one of the orbs which parted to reveal a room. The room was decorated with braziers and red banners, a long hall stretching out to a large set of double doors. “Are you spying on people?” Rath asked.

“In a sense.” Chaoram said. “We set these up in temples to me, watching for prayers.”

“You have temples?” Rath questioned, raising an eyebrow to the demon lord.

“Well not me exactly, to what I represent.” Chaoram said. “Has Malphis told you about his home?”

“Yeah a bit.” Rath began. “He said he lived in a tribe built in the hills surrounding a large plains. He mentioned that to fight outside the plains would bring about ruin to the tribe.”

“Hellfire.” Chaoram said. “The term he would have used is Hellfire, it actually is where the name of that area comes from. It is called Hellfire Basin, due to the legends surrounding it.” Chaoram pointed at one of the orbs. “That is the one that Malphis is from, though its not the same as when he last was there. I believe it is now run by a man named Gorino or something like that.”

“He was kicked out of his home?” Rath asked in shock, it would explain why he tried so hard to be strong.

“No no far from it.” Malphis said, looking at the orbs. “He left when he was young, looking for the deity that they believed in.”

Rath looked at the orbs. “So these are the tribes of Hellfire Basin?” Rath asked. “Did Malphis ever find that deity?”

Chaoram laughed. “Yes, and to an extent yes.” he stood, holding out his hands wide as if to say ‘Tada’

“You?” Rath questioned.

“My title has always been Hellfire.” Chaoram said, sitting back down. “Oddly fitting that. I started the belief of the tribes, back when I used to rule them. I eventually decided to step back and let them rule themselves, and they have done so without my interference for well over a century.”

Rath was agasp. “How have you gone so long without being killed by a hero?”

“Because the hero's forgot about me.” Chaoram laughed. “They only go after the ones that are making a big impact on the world, like Tatalis. The others prefer to keep themselves a little secret, just living. Even LightKiller seems to have retired into his lands.”

Rath sat in amazement. “So seven demon lords are out there, plotting, and people just forget about them?”

“Oh yes.” Chaoram said. “Though sometimes hero’s find out about us and challenge us, none have really succeeded.”

“Well one did.” Rath stated.

“Yes, one.” Chaoram said. “And even he failed in a way.”

“So there were once nine of you?” Rath questioned.

“No, always eight.” Chaoram said. “Tell me Rath, what do you know of leadership?”

The swerve of the conversation caught Rath off guard. “I know that you need to do what you have to for the people you lead.”

“That is a simple answer.” Chaoram said. “There is so much more to it. You need to always be confident even if you dont feel it, you cannot show weakness to your people. Doing so would throw them into a panic. Even if you feel unsure, you must convince your people you have everything under control.”

Rath thought for a moment. “Will you teach me to be a better leader?”

“Of course.” Chaoram said. “I will teach you what I know about leading, and ruling for that matter. You wish to rule your people right?”

“I dont.” Rath said. “I want my people to be safe and living long and happy lives.”

“Then rule them.” Chaoram said. “A man with that view of his people is one they will want to rule, but you must learn to rule. You must make decisions that others cannot. Trade, resource management, politics, military, it is all important to rule. However, you will need strength as well. A weak king will be usurped quickly by a stronger one.”

“Teach me.” Rath said, almost begging. It seemed odd to him to get advice from a demon lord, but there was no other option. He decided to trust the demon lord and listened intently as he spoke.

Nekra walked the streets of Criss, the autumn air filling his lungs. The people all seemed in good spirits, Barder explaining that it was almost time for the harvest festival. Nekra had agreed to help with the harvest which was only a few weeks away. Even with the time being far, the people decorated the village in celebration.

Streamers were being hung, a large pool with ribbons was raised in a clearing. The nagas and kobolds were asked to incorporate their own traditions and decorations into the mix, leading to some interesting additions. The kobolds had hung small animal bones from strings, and the nagas had put up the holy symbol of Secis, a coiled snake.

“Nekra!” Barder called out, rushing over to the kobold. “Any word from Rath yet?”

“No, waystone hasnt activated, its only been a day give it time.” Nekra said.

“I see, lets hope he is back before the festival!” Barder said with joy, though a sense of worry was behind that. It was a feeling most people had since Rath had left, a feeling of being exposed. Is this how it felt when they went to save the nagas?”

“I would like to learn more about your traditions.” Nekra began. “What is this ‘Bobbing for apples’ Ive heard about.”

“Youll love it!” Barder laughed. “Though with that snout you may kick our asses.”

The two shared a laugh. “Have you seen Turv?” Nekra asked.

“He should be hold up in his bar, probably getting ready for the lunch rush.” Barder said.

“Thank you Barder.” Nekra said, excusing himself. He wanted to ask Turv about how to decorate in the Human tradition so that the Kobold district could look more festive. He stopped just outside the bar, his keen ears catching voices through the door.

“Please Turv, take it.” Mirv’s voice pleaded.

“Its fine its” Turv’s voice began, but broke off in a cough.

Nekra’s eyes widened as he pushed the door open. Turv sat at a table, a fist to his mouth to take a cough. Mirv stood next to him, trying to force a potion on him, her eyes full of tears.

“Your sick.” Nekra said, aghast.

“Nekra.” Turv bega. “Close the door, your letting a draft in.”

Nekra did as he was told, entering the bar. He stepped up to Turv who looked like a great secret had been revealed. Mirv said looked sad.

“Dont tell anyone, especially Rath.” Turv explained.

“Why not.” Nekra said, stunned. “He might find a cure for whatever it is.”

“He has enough on his plate.” Turv explained. “He doesn't need to worry about a dying old man.”

“Turv.” Nekra said, not sure how to react.

“Promise me!” Turv yelled out, causing MIrv to flinch, pulling the potion close to her chest.

“I promise.” Nekra said sadly. “Mirv, can you cure it?”

MIrv looked low. “I can push it back with potions, but I haven't found anything to cure it yet.”

“There ain't no cure to old age.” Turv said. “Humans live only a certain amount of time, we ain't elves who live far too long. This is just nature running its course.”

“So your just giving up and willing to die?” Nekra questioned, pleading in his voice.

“By Lords no!” Turv said angrily. “I still got stuff to live for! Look at this place! I'm not going anywhere till I see Rath’s dream for Criss come true.”

“And what if it takes years?” Nekra questioned.

“Then I guess I'm living a hell of a long time.” Turv said with a toothy smile. “Dont worry your scaly little butt about me, Ill be just fine, MIrv give me that gruel.”

“If it tastes bad it means its working.” Mirv said as she handed the bottle to Turv. Turv took it down in one big gulp.

“See?” Turv began. “Good as new, I feel ten years younger.”

If Rath were here he would make a joke, say something like ‘You feel a hundred?’ Nekra was never as good on the jokes, and didnt feel like this was the time for jokes. The bar didn't match the atmosphere of the village, everyone was out there getting ready to celebrate, and these three stood quietly, a shared secret between them.

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