Chapter 36:

Harvest Festival

How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

Ezek always thought he put on a great facade. People that met him always saw him as someone who would stab you in the back and leave you for dead. He prided that view as it was the complete opposite of how he truly acted, and only his good friends knew the truth of that. He always looked calm, clever tongued, and brave. When the Dragon King’s executioner was raising his axe Ezek just smiled proudly at the crowd. Everyone thought it was because he had no fear of death, in truth it's because he spotted Garion in the crowd and knew he would be alright. He was brave, he faced death many times and smiled all the while, and he never felt fear in his heart. That was until that day.

Stealth was his specialty, most believed that the best way to stealth was to blend into a crowd. That came with issues, like what if there was no crowd? They say the master thieves only worked in cities, Ezek expanded his mastery of vanishing to all situations, if he wanted to canish he would. Sneaking into a village was a real struggle, they all knew each other, they would recognize an outsider. His first day at Criss was spent in a tree, motionless, watching the guards. Once he spotted their patterns he snuck quickly.

He spotted the Nagas and Kobolds immediately, but no Demon Lord. He found a shack that looked almost abandoned surrounded by three other homes, he took up camp atop it and would move across the roofs to avoid detection. He spent three days watching, and nothing. Then the waystone that was set up in the town square came alive with energy, and stepping out was the Demon Lord.

That was the first time Ezek had felt true fear, the ashy skin, the curved horns, that fiery aura. He began to shake, and his body moved on its own. Using his cloak he bolted over the city walls unseen and began back to Pierce. Garion needed to know of this quickly, or else Tirim may fall.

Nasui sat down the Dial, the nagas moving out from their gathering. Most would head out to their main duties, the rest would be working the fields with the farmers. It was the day of the final harvest, and everyone was going to work the harvest together so they could celebrate at night.

“Nasui.” A voice called out. Nasui turned to see Caase. She had joined the priestess hood of Secis at the same time as Nasui, and was one of the most devoted.

“What is it Caase.” Nasui said calmly, offering a warm smile.

She looked nervous. “What will happen now?” She asked.

Nasui knew what she spoke of before she explained it. They had gotten back only yesterday, yet Rath had locked himself away. Everyone was worried, even Mirv wasn't let into his room.

“It will be fine.” Nasui said, giving a warm smile. “He is just thinking things over. Give him some time and he will be back to normal.”

Fenrin pulled the cart proudly. He wasn't big on this harvest that everyone was doing, yet he was helping. Yun had said that his bull could pull a cart faster than Fenrin, Fenrin took offense and proved that he could pull faster than some four footed animal.

“You know if you would put in some of that effort to help us plow the field we would be done so much sooner.” Yun said, she sat in the cart with her chin in her palm.

“Farming is for the weaklings!” Fenrin yelled out, pulling the cart more. “The warriors fight so you may plow your own fields!”

Yun tilted her head. “Rath plows the field, he never looked at it as something for weaklings.”

“Rath is a weird guy!” Fenrin laughed. “His head is full of weird ideas, if he would just focus on fighting he would be unstoppable! But he wastes time on such menial tasks.”

“I'm not sure it's wasting time.” Yun said, her tone a little bored. “He does it because he cares. He likes working with people to do great things. I think you're just too big headed to look at others' needs.”

Fenrin laughed deeply. “I'm sure you don't need my help, you need me to keep you alive more than anything else!”

Yun tilted her head, then looked off. “Oh hey Lyn’s got a cart too, let's throw that into the mix.”

“What! Why!” Fenrin yelled out.

“Cause my bull could pull two of these carts no problem, can you not?” Yun said with a mischievous smile.

“Hah!” Fenrin yelled out. “Get me three I'll pull them all!”

“Great, I'd love to see you and my bull work the plow too, just curious about how that would go.” Yun said with a smile.

“I'll beat your bull at any contest you got!” Fenrin said, unaware of his mistake.

Mirv worked in the bakery with her family. They were preparing the treats for everyone after the harvest. Mirv had taken on the caramel apples, a task that Turv normally took on. However due to his health Mirv took over and learned the recipe from him.

She had constantly worried about Turv lately, and after Rath’s return worry has been pressing down on her shoulders. Rath smiled at her, but when he got to his room she saw it drop as he asked to be left alone. She had knocked on his door many times, bringing food made by the red cap Reese, yet he didn't answer. The door was blocked, she couldn't enter if she wanted to, she just hoped he would open up. The transformation was a shock to her, but it was still Rath in there, she knew that.

“Mirv.” Mirv’s father said, holding up a wooden spoon with batter, waving it at her like a scepter. “Dont stress, that boy will be fine.”

“I'm not stressed.” Mirv lied.

“Oh hush you know he would just laugh at you for worrying about him.” Her father said with a smile. “When he comes out just look him in the eye and say ‘So let's get married now’ sound good?”

“Dad, come on.” Mirv laughed. “I'm surprised, he is a demon lord now, you still want me to marry him?”

“I don't care much either way.” Her father said, mixing more batter and pouring them into the molds. “Whatever makes you happy, and that boy makes you happy, always has.”

Mirv smiled and looked low at the syrupy caramel that she was mixing. Rath would come out, she just needed to give him a reason to hurry up, and these treats should help.

Nekra walked the main part of the village. He loved how the place felt, the decorations, the hustle of carts. The Nagas, Humans, and Kobolds worked together to make this harvest as efficient as possible. People talked about the final grain in the harvest being special, something about luck to the village for the winter.

This was what Nekra loved, the traditions that were being mixed with others. The Kobolds were excited to try the treats that Mirv told them about, even Nekra was excited to try the sugary apples. Everyone would come to town at night, light a big campfire, and dance around it while people played music. Even now he spotted Relund bringing large logs for the firepit, one that would be as tall as the fortress.

Nekra threw a look at the fortress, he could see the spec that was Rath standing in the balcony of his room. He wondered what he saw from there, what he was thinking. He had so much to talk to Rath about, but now was not the time, he had to be upset about what happened to him. Nekra turned back, heading towards Barder’s farm to help with the harvest.

Barder returned to his farm, his kids and wife had gotten all the tools pulled for the harvest. They would be the last to start, the rest of the farmers had already started pulling up their grains. Everyone always left Barder to harvest the final grain, more out of kindness then any superstition reason. Though it was never Barder who pulled the last one free, that always fell to Rath.

Barder turned to look at the fortress, seeing the speck on the balcony and sighing. Suddenly that spec launched in the air, flying towards Barder. The speck would stop mid flight occasionally before launching again. Barder smiled, stepping back to make room for his guest. Rath landed in front of him, just before hitting the ground he stopped and floated for a second, then dropped to the ground.

“You're late.” Barder said with a smile.

“You are the one who took too long to get started.” Rath said with a smile, his demon horns still a strange sight.

“My apologies to my Lord.” Barder said, giving a half hearted curtsy.

“Curtsies only work for girls ya dink.” Rath laughed. “Elane, could you and the kids get those carts ready? I'm about to make your husband look bad.”

“Big words, now that you're a demon lord you think you can harvest faster than me?” Barder laughed, rolling up his sleeves

“I could be a standard person with an arm tied behind my back and still out pace you.” Rath said. He wore a short sleeved shirt. Barder noticed that it seemed warmer out today.

“Why not put your money where your mouth is.” Barder said, holding out a hand. “Free drink from Turv’s to whoever pulls the most.”

“Sorry Elane.” Rath called out from over Barder’s shoulder. “Bout to take some this idiots' hard earned money.” With that he took Barder’s hand and shook it softly.

“As long as we aren't starving in the winter it's fine Rath.” Elane said coming up to the Demon Lord. “Thank you for the help.” She wrapped her arms around Rath in a hug.

“Of course!” Rath said, hugging back hesitantly. “I'm happy to.”

The two began the harvest, Rath moving much faster than Barder. Someone who didn't know better would think it was his Demon Lord abilities that gave him an edge, when in fact it was because Rath had harvested every year since he was a child. He always gave Barder advice to harvest faster, yet Rath would always find a way to stay ahead of his friend.

Nekra stood at the top of the hill looking down on the pair during their contest. Many other members of the village came to watch, cheering on the pair as they continued on. Rath cleared the first strip of field, chucking the grain into the cart that was pushed by two of Barder’s kids.

“The kid loves this.” A voice called out. Nekra turned to see Turv walking up. “Usually he helps everyone with the harvest, he must really have been bothered by something if he let him hold him back for so long.”

Nekra smiled as Barder finished his strip and spun on his heels to start the next strip. “Maybe he just waited for this moment.”

Turv gave a laugh. “Sounds like something he would do.” The old man sat in the grass and watched them work. “A demon lord, if it was anyone else we wouldn't follow them, but since it's Rath, everyone in this village is willing to serve a monster.”

“He's no monster.” Nekra said, turning a sharp eye to Turv.

Turv smiled at Rath proudly. “No, no he isn't. He's a good boy.”

“He will do it.” Nekra said quietly. “So hold strong will you?”

“Of course I will, I need to see the world that he will make.” Turv said, stifling a cough.

Nekra looked back, Rath was over a strip ahead of Barder now. The contest was pretty much over already, what a strange way to use your demon lord powers.

The night came and the fire was about to burn. Small carts were put up for food and small trinkets that the kids loved. The village was filled with people partying and talking to each other. Everyone mingled at tables just outside the dance area of the massive fire pit.

Rath approached the pit, the crowd watching him intently. He raised his hand and let the AgniBolt be cast, the large bolt erupting the firepit in light. Rath guessed right, his AgniBolt was much stronger than before. He turned to talk to people and let others begin dancing.

“Rath! Rath!” Nekra yelled out, rushing to his side with a candy apple in each hand. Fenrin followed right behind. “These are amazing!”

“How many have you had?” Rath asked, concerned for his tiny body and being overloaded in sugar.

“More than Fenrin! I beat him!” Nekra yelled out, bouncing up and down.

Rath threw the minotaur a curious eye. He simply shrugged. “I'm not big on sweets.”

“Well you take care of him.” Rath said sternly. “Nekra your going to crash really hard make sure you are sitting down when you do.”

“I'm fine!” Nekra yelled out, biting into another apple. “I gotta get more though!”

“There are other foods to eat!” Rath called out as Nekra ran off.

Nasui was talking with a group of female Nagas. Rath smiled at the snake as they all hung on his every word, oohing and aahing every few seconds. He was unsure what they were talking about but he was happy to see his friend so popular.

“They are all having fun.” Mirv said, walking up next to Rath.

“I'm glad everyone can relax.” Rath said with a smile.

“It's thanks to you.” Mirv said, wrapping her arm around Raths. “You should be proud.”

“I am.” Rath said.

“Good, now we got some stuff to talk about.” Mirv explained, pulling Rath along.

“Such as?” Rath asked.

“Well first.” Mirv said, stopping and tapping her thumb on her chin. “We can start with your wedding proposal. I'm thinking something flashy! Maybe you could propose to me with sky writing or something. What do you think?”

“You're assuming I'm going to propose?” Rath laughed, his face feeling hot.

“Oh you better.” MIrv jabbed Rath with her finger. “No Lord should have a mistress when a wife is an option.”

“I'm surprised you want a Demon Lord for a husband.” Rath explained.

“I don't.” Mirv explained. “I want you, you just happen to be a Demon Lord now.”

Rath Laughed. “Well see where life takes us. What else do we have to talk about?”

MIrv gave a wicked smile. “Well, my lord, I request a dance of course!”

Rath gave a wide smile. “Very well, My Lady, shall we dance?”

They entered the dance floor, hand in hand. Everyone gave space for their lord as he began to dance with MIrv. They were used to this dance, they held each other close, Mirv listening to Rath’s heart.

“It sounds the same.” Mirv said, her eyes closing to the sound. “You're still the Rath I know and love.”

“I'm different in small ways.” Rath explained. “But i'm still mostly me.”

“I'm glad.” Mirv said. The two danced close as the fire burned on, the world around them going blank as they entwined themselves together. Rath felt a peace in the world, as if all the things he had spent the last day worrying about were meaningless when he held Mirv. he smiled, pressing his face into the top of her head. He just wanted this moment to go on for a few eternities more, then he could worry about the next step. 

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