Chapter 34:

Gold Horns

How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

The Flighty Pony was a smaller bar in Kyrit, just the way Kider liked it. It was a place you could go, get some drinks, and talk with people. It was a popular place for the merchants to drink after they closed up for the day, which is what brought Kider here on this night.

“I tells ya.” Loin began, small hiccups broke his sentence up. “The elves got plans. The Oak king is setting up as many marriages as possible. The Birch king is making weapons too.” Loin was a lean merchant who often traveled south with his goods, Kyrit was just one of his restock spots.

“Birch is paranoid I hear.” Yoril said, his words slightly slurred. Yoril was a halfling that came from the west and dealt mostly in trading goods from across the Spirit Sea. “Man sees enemies in all shadows and the likes.”

“Dont change that he has increased production!” Loin yelled out, nearly spilling his drink.

Kider sat listening, his drink a similar color then his companions. However they were not the same drink. Kider had scouted this bar on his first trip to Kyrit, he told the bartender that if he ever asks for ‘What they are having’ to give him something lighter of a similar color. Due to this his drinking companions were very intoxicated while Kider was only starting to feel buzzed.

A new merchant came up to their table. His name was Gren, Kider had met him several times and thought he was a good merchant. Gren sat at their table, a large tankard frothing over the side. He wore a tired expression and sighed deeply.

“Any of yous got observation?” Gren asked.

The table looked at each other confused before Yoril spoke up. “Yeah why?”

Gren pulled out a coin pouch from under his shirt. He pulled a coin free and slid it across the table to Yoril. Yoril looked over the coin, it was a Kyol Gold Horn, one side showed the horn of an oni, and the other side the Kyol capital castle.

“Seems standard, not chipped or anything.” Yoril said, his slur not as bad as before. He was focusing on what he said so he didn't slur his words. “Seems freshly minted, no wear at all.”

“Lords.” Gren said, rubbing one hand on his face, the other raising the tankard to his lips. He took a deep drink before continuing. “They are fake.”

Kider stepped in now, taking the coin from Yoril. Pulling free his knife Kider began to drag the tip across the surface, revealing a silver metal below the surface of the gold.

“How did that happen?” Yoril asked, looking at the coin.

“Got it from my last trip east.” Gren said sadly. “Took it to a money changer, he was a dwarf of course. Told me they weren't even close to a gold Spearhead.”

Kider looked it over, a gold Spearhead is what the Tirim gold coins were called. If Kider guessed right this would only be worth a silver Hilt. “You got this from the east? How far did you go?” Kider asked.

“A few days east of Yorkir.” Gren said, waving for another drink. “I tells ya, if you're dealing in Kyol make sure to have a dwarf on hand. This might have ruined my season, gotta head back and hope to off load some of this grain.”

Kider looked it over the coin more. “Yorkir is more central to Kyol right? You were closer to Fort Bolin right?”

“Yep.” Gren said, taking another drink. “Though I wouldnt go anywhere near there.”

“Why not?” Loin asked, he had also gotten a new drink, his fifth tonight.

“Tatalis is wintering outside the place.” Gren said. “That monster plans to siege all winter.”

“Damns it all.” Loin said. “What does he hope to do? Hes been laying siege for almost a year now. Youd think that Demon would realize he cant get in.”

“Thats the thing!” Gren began quickly. “He hasnt been fighting! Hes letting his army fight! He just kinda sits there!”

“A true demon, wont even fight himself, no honor.” Loin said, taking a long drink.

“Demon lords dont follow the same code of Honor as Tirim knights.” Kider said, half paying attention. “He is actually being smart. He could take the fort when he wants, but he is forcing Kyol’s army to keep wasting resources to hold him off, weakening them over time. Not to mention that Tirim has been sending armys that way.”

The group all gave Kider a curious look. Loin and Yoril were both aware of the drinks that Kider had, just not of their contents. The coin interested Kider, he smiled at the realization of its significance.

“I'm guessing that Tatalis is sneaking these coins into the economy.” Kider said with a slight smile. “Probably plans to bring down the whole country thru money. That Demon Lord is smarter than I thought.” Kider got to his feet sharply. “Gren, how much grain you got?”

“Full wagon.” Gren said in shock.

“Good, Ill take it all. Ill give you a Hilt per bundle.” Kider said.

“A Hilt per!” Gren said wildly. “That is highway robbery!”

“Im buying in bulk for ya.” Kider began. “You can cut me a deal, we can even get a money changer to officiate it since you have bad luck with coin.”

Gren sighed in defeat. “Fine, but what are you doing exactly?”

“And army at seige in the winter needs food dont you think?” Kider said with a large smile.

“You plan to go into that war zone?” Gren said, astonished.

“I plan to make runs, I got an Olues, can get me in and out quickly.” Kider explained. “Oh Yoril can you send a letter for me? I know you got contacts.”

“Where to?” Yoril asked.

“The village of Criss.” Kider said, the tables eyes widening at the mention. Even Gren had heard of the village even though he was mostly east.

After hashing out the details with the other merchants Kider went out to feed Jen. He had recently upgraded his wagon to be covered, it now had a small living area for Kider to sleep in on the road. He pet Jen’s coat and laid in his bed roll. The note was for Rath, letting him know that he had decided to winter in Kyol and that he would return after a time.

Kider wondered about things as he laid in the wagon. He had passed Malphis on the way to Kyrit, he was headed for Criss. The fact that those two became friends was strange to him, though he was glad for it. It worked in his favor if Malphis and Rath got along, maybe there was profit in that friendship.

Nekra sat in his tent, looking over the scrolls that he had gotten from his master. He still had found nothing of use to help him figure out the weird pulling he felt constantly. It was like a nagging in the back of his mind.

“Nekra?” came a voice from the flap of the tent. Nekra told them to come in, revealing Kokin.

“What is it?” Nekra asked.

Kokin was carrying a stack of papers and placed them on the table infront of Nekra, taking a seat across from him. “These are the reports from the mines, we had a larger haul this month then the last few.” Kokin explained.

Nekra read it over with a nod. “That is good we will need it, Iron for weapons and arrows.”

“Nekra.” Kokin began, his voice stern. Nekra looked up from the paper. “When did the Kobolds learn to read?”

Nekra stopped short. He was right, he remembered going over things with Rath and the other members of the council. Nekra realized it was when the nagas started working with the Kobolds that the rest learned, as they made sure to help track everything.

“What is happening to us?” Kokin asked, leaning back in his chair. “Last night you over saw another funeral. We never had those before, even our words are better.”

“Were growing.” Nekra explained. “We were used to being a closed community, always ready to run if we needed to. We have settled somewhere and with other people, we are bound to grow in some ways.”

Kokin looked low. “I still feel we arent quite like the rest.”

“How so?” Nekra asked.

“Feelings.” Kokin said slowly. “I dont think we have the same ones as the rest. Like that feeling Rath and Mirv have for each other, or Elane and Barder. Yet we have children, but something is different. Have you noticed that we aren't producing as many children?”

“We aren't?” Nekra asked. Kokin had alot to say and was obviously jumping from topic to topic as they came up.

“We have very few offspring recently. Im not sure what is happening.” Kokin said. It was strange to see the kobold so deep in thought over this.

“I wish master was here.” Nekra said, the two shared a silent moment.

“He would have been proud of you.” Kokin chimed in. “I was told he wanted a better life for our people even before I was born.”

Nekra nodded along, then stopped. He looked up at Kokin. “Before you were born?”

“Yes.” Kokin nodded. “He was the shaman at the time of my birth.”

“But, you're the oldest kobold here.” Nekra said, confused. “And you're near the end of your life cycle. How could Master already be a full shaman at the time of your birth?”

Kokin cocked a head at Nekra. “Did you not know?” Nekra shock his head. “Full shamans have extended lives. Master was many generations older than me.”

Nekra looked on in shock. “You mean.” He trailed off in thought.

“I mean that you are the future of our people.” Kokin explained. “You will outlive even those that are just born. You can pass on our teachings to the next generation, and the one after that. Eventually you will find a pupil to teach your ways of course, but you will still live for sometime after that.”

Nekra sat back in his chair, thinking deeply. “Thank you for telling me this Kokin.” He began. “I must talk with Rath once he returns, this is a development.”

“Of course.” Kokin said, getting to his feet. “The little ones already look up to you, they say your “The Dragon Speaker” what a name right?” WIth that, Kokin left the tent.

Nekra sat there, contemplating his place. Not just his place in the kobold society, but his place in the world. Have kobolds ever gotten like this before? He was unsure what to do, he wanted to discuss it with Rath. He should be back soon.

With that thought, Nekra got up and walked back into the town square. He looked at the waystone, it sat undisturbed still. Suddenly the stone erupted in light, the doorway appearing. Nekra smiled until he saw what stepped thru, an aura seemed to overwhelm him immediately. Horror covered Nekra’s face as he looked on, jaw dropped. 

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