Chapter 37:

Snow Packed

How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

The snow crunched under the wheel of the cart. The Olues pulled the cart without break even in the cold weather. King Garion Pierce sat in his wagon, looking at the snow covered world from behind wooden bars. Masti sat across from him looking over scout reports.

“They say it should be soon that we reach GreyHold” Masti reported.

“Yes I can see it from here Masti.” Garion said, bored and annoyed. He wished to get out and run, he could have made it to GreyHold days ago if they had let him. Sadly they all agreed that it was important he had an escort in these times.

“Is that so?” Masti said, moving to look out his window. “Would you look at that, it really stands out in the snow doesn't it?”

He was right, the castle stood out like a blob on a white canvas. The castle was made of a grey stone mined in the region, and built to tower over the land around. Long ago it was used to watch for Elf intruders on the border, how ironic that now it was being used to meet them.

They pulled up to the front gate, the scouts announcing the arrival of the king and showing their paperwork. Garion had sent word ahead, it was a common kindness to not show up unannounced. The gate was large and made of iron that had to be pulled apart by strong men after releasing a mechanism. As the gate slid it tossed snow into the air that danced frantically in the cold morning air.

Once fully opened Garion’s convoy was allowed into the city. This gate was one of the outer gates that protected the citizens from immediate attackers, the castle being in the center of the city itself. Most of the buildings were built of the same grey stone that the castle was. The material choice made the city look as if it was carved from a mountain even though it was built atop a hill. The buildings all were pressed close together in a grid format, something learned from Dwarven architecture.

The castle had several sets of gates that wound around the hill that it was built on, giving a defense against attackers. At each gate house they had to re-announce themselves, making the process take far longer than Garion would have liked. After an hour of announcing they finally reached the courtyard of the castle, a studious man met them from the front doors of the castle.

“Your Grace!” The man said, pushing his cloak back and kneeling in the cleared courtyard. “It is an honor to have you at the GreyHold.”

“You must be Korim?” Garion asked. “You were Tix Stuart correct?”

“Yes, your Grace.” Korim said, his face locked on the ground as if Garion would blind him if their eyes met.

“Please rise.” Garion said to the man, who followed suit. “I have heard you have done well running the GreyHold, I thank you for that.”

“You honor me, your Grace.” Korim said “I just follow the instructions that Lord Tix, may he rest in peace, have left for me before he left to fight the Nagas.”

“None the less you have done well in his stead.” Garion said with a kind smile. “I assume that my accommodations have been arranged?”

“Of course your Grace!” Korim said. “Do you plan to winter here?”

“No, just a meeting.” Garion chimed in. “Have our guests arrived yet?”

“King Venali should be arriving shortly.” Korim said. “Reports say he is only a few hours out.”

“Good, I would like to meet him at the gate when he arrives.” Garion said, turning to the south.

“We shall prepare transport for you then.” Korim began to turn.

“Don't worry about that, Masti make arrangements here for me, would you?” Garion said, bending his knees and casting his magic. “Ill be back shortly.”

With that, the ground below Garion launched itself up into the air, Garion riding the pillar of stone and dirt. Back where he launched himself, the ground filled itself with more stone, as if it had not left just a moment ago. The pillar arced across the sky, Garion catching sight of the caravan that the Oak king rode in. Garion gave a sinister smile and forced the pillar to fly towards them.

He kicked off the pillar, sending it flying off into the distance and landed hard in front of the lead cart. Several elven guards raised their glaves at Garion, an act worthy of execution. The lead cart opened to reveal an elven man with dark brown hair and deep green eyes.

“Garion.” King Venali, the Oak crowned king, began. “I did not expect to see you here.”

“I got bored of waiting.” Garion said with a shrug. “Figured you'd like to get out and stretch your legs as well.”

Venali gave a smile, pulling his cloak tighter around his shoulders. “You know we elves do not do well in the cold. Kolvar, Lyrei come.”

Two other elves emerged from the cart, one male one female. Both held the dark hair and deep eyes of their father. The male held a thin curved blade at his hip, its pummel decorated like a tree. The woman wore an elegant cloak with a dress that matched it perfectly, her hair tied into a braid that circled her head.

“These are two of my children.” Venali said, waving to the two. “My son Kolvar, and my daughter Lyrei.”

“It is an honor to meet you both.” Garion said with a bow. The two of them looked younger then Garion, however that most likely meant they were still as old as him if not older. “I am King Garion Pierce, at your service.”

“It is a pleasure!” Kolvar said, a twinkle in his eye. “Is it true that you are as great of a warrior as they say?”

“Better if I say so myself.” Garion laughed.

“I would love to spar with you if that is okay!” Kolvar said.

“It would be an honor.” Garion said.

Lyrei gave a graceful curtsy to Garion. It was clear she was showing her manners to the king of the humans.

“Now then.” Velani walked next to Garion and the two began to walk towards GreyHold. “How have things been boy?” Velani put an arm around Garion. They were close, ever since they had met and Garion got Velani’s support during the rebellion.

“We were well till just recently.” Garion began to explain.

“What has happened?” Velani asked, watching to make sure they were far enough from the guards, the only people in earshot were Kulvar and Lyrei.

“A Demon Lord has appeared in Tirim, not far from the capital.” Garion said, his fist clenching. “We do not know his plans but he has taken a village as his own. He killed adventurers that passed through, and he's recruiting an army.”

Velani let go of Garion’s shoulder. “What a predicament, another Demon Lord is becoming active huh.”

“Two is a threat.” Garion explained. “It seems they are going after humans, maybe for retribution for the one that killed the last Demon Lord?”

“Fifty years is a long time to wait even for those that live extended lives.” Velani explained. “I believe they have other reasons, besides they aren't just going for humans.”

Garion stopped in his step. “What do you mean exactly?”

Velani sighed. “There have been reports of LightKiller making moves on Karkien’s borders.”

“The Dwarves!” Garion said, astonished. “But LightKiller has been inactive for so long. Why now?”

“Something has stirred them.” Velani explained. “I have scouts checking on the others. They have all gone unaccounted for for too long. MoldMaker still remains locked up. There were reports of the dragon Velis flying south some years ago, and most likely that means SquallBurst is most likely with it. TyphoonTide has yet to be spotted in the last few decades. That leaves BeastBark, Hellfire, and the Ancient unaccounted for.”

“Four we have nothing on.” Garion said. “But we know one is in Criss.”

“Do you have an idea of which it is?” Velani asked. “A description?”

“My scout said he looked young, ashy skin, curved horns, and a fiery aura.” Garion explained, remembering Ezek’s report.

“The skin makes me think of Hellfire.” Velani said. “But he was old when I last had a report on him, even my own eyes told me he was old. But a fiery aura was unique to him.”

“Could it be a new one?” Garion asked.

“Perhaps.” Velani said, thinking things over. “However this is bad news, three active Demon Lords could spell disaster, it's an event that has never happened. If they are unifying this could be the end of the world.”

“That is why we should strengthen our alliance now!” Garion explained. “If the elves work with the humans of Tirim we can kill this Demon Lord, then assist Kyol!”

Velani sighed. “Perhaps.” he turned to Kulvar. “We are currently working on an alliance with the Oni’s, it would be a beneficial agreement, once that is complete we can work on Tirim.”

“We don't have that time!” Garion said, his emotions spiking. “We attack in the spring. We need help before then. Criss is too close to Pierce to leave it for too long.”

Velani looked over at Garion and sighed. “Very well, you will have some of my troops, some. Though it won't be till late spring will that be alright?”

“Of course thank you!” Garion said happily.

“However I ask something.” Velani explained. “First, my daughter Lyrei, I request you marry her. As well whoever takes hold of the GreyHold I would like to offer one of my daughters to as well, is that possible?”

Garion gritted his teeth and looked over Lyrei. “Yes, that should be a fair deal, I appreciate the offer. We would be wed at the end of the Spring, once this Demon Lord is dealt with.”

“Perfect, we can talk about it more over dinner.” Velani said with a clap of his hand. “Lyrei you must be astounded right?”

“Yes father.” Lyrei said shyly, giving a small blush filled smile to Garion.

“My son Kulvar will be marrying the Oni princess.” Velani said to Garion. “They are being very difficult though, apparently the princess is a little stubborn. You should meet the head of the Oni’s, he is a good guy. I think you would get along. Maybe even get an alliance of your own.”

“Perhaps i'll take your offer.” Garion said, giving a silent apology to the woman he loved. He had to do this for his people, no for the world. The party moved to GreyHold to feast, Garion glad to make the deal he did. The Demon Lord of Criss would not last long, though he still had one last ally to call on.

It was several days later, and Garion walked outside Pierce. He found a cottage built against the river. He knocked but received no answer, so he pushed the door open.

The interior of the cottage was unkempt, the fire dead in the hearth. An old man sat at a table, looking over something in his hand. Garion grabbed a log from next to the fireplace and began the task of lighting it. With it lit he turned to the old man.

He had a long white beard and was balding on the top of his head, revealing spots on his head. His blue eyes stared into whatever was in his hand, unbreaking even when his king was in front of him.

“Osir.” Garion said to the old man. “Normally it's polite to bow when your king comes to visit you, however for an old friend I'd never ask that. Though I expect some kind of response.”

“They are dead.” Osir said, tears welling up in his eyes. “Both of them are dead.”

Garion took a seat across from Osir and spotted what was in his hand. It was a mana battery, a blue stone with a gold trim. It was a sign that one finished training with Osir.

“Tix died, yes.” Garion said sorrowly. “We believe he died fighting a Demon Lord, I know you were close to him.”

“He got what he got.” Osir said. “She didn't deserve it.”

“You're talking about that newer apprentice aren't you?” Garion asked. “What was her name? I met her but it was so long ago now.”

“Tivis.” Osir said, gripping the battery in his hand tightly. “Her memento was found in Depths.”

“I'm so sorry.” Garion said. “The dungeons aren't for everyone, i'm sure she was a fantastic apprentice.”

Osir pulled out a sheet of paper from his robes and slid it to Garion. “She wrote this to me before she died. Talked about how she met this great guy, how they were going deeper into Depths then ever before thanks to him. Called him Rath, said he made her want to do more. Said she was confident that her group could kill Tatalis.” he dropped his head, pulling the mana battery close to his chest. “She could have been so much more! She didn't deserve this!”

Garion looked low for a moment, got to his feet and crossed the room. He pulled out a bottle from the cabinet, two glasses to accompany it. He returned to his seat and poured the drinks. “I met her once when she came for the adventurer's blessing. I remember her. She was very sweet, and had three great friends with her. Ion, Jeel, Quinn. They all were dedicated to becoming stronger and defeating Tatalis. I believe that she fought bravely till the end and did her master proud.” Garion raised his glass. “To Tivis.”

Osir hesitated, then took the glass, clinking it against Garions. “To Tivis.” With that, they both drank half their glass. “To Tix.”

“To Tix.” Garion said, clinking the glasses together and drinking deeply.

“What brought you here?” Osir asked, still looking over the battery.

“I need your help.” Garion asked. “I need help killing the Demon Lord that killed Tix.”

“Very well.” Osir said. “But I ask for some assistance.”

“Whatever you need.” Garion said, glad to see his old friend agree.

“I ask for help in finding this Rath fellow.” Osir said. “I want to ask him about Tivis, and show him this letter. The others of her party were also found dead, he was the only one that was accounted for from what I was told.”

“I will do what I can.” Garion said with a smile. “I'm sure if he is still in Kyrit we can find him.”

“Thank you.” Osir said, filling his glass and taking a deep drink.

“With you, we can do this.” Garion said. “We can kill the Demon Lord.”

Osir nodded sorrowly. “I'll do it.” He looked over the words again, she spoke so highly of him. She loved him, what kind of man could earn that from Tivis? He needed to know. 

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