Chapter 40:

Birds of a Feather

How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

The harpies' homes were built into caves along the mountain ridge. Some could only be reached by flight, perfect defense against non-aerial combatants. Pelone led Rath’s group to a cave mouth that sat near the ground. The cave mouth was covered by a thick sheet that was pulled tight to avoid blowing in the intense mountain wind.

The interior was cozy, it looked like a meeting room of some sort. Rath caught sight of other harpies shooting glances at the group. Pelone waved them off, and they walked out of the room where they had entered. Rath found it interesting that he had yet to see a male Harpy.

“You stay.” Pelone yelled out as Fenrin tried to enter past the tarp. “You can listen from the door.”

“Why?” Fenrin asked.

“Probably for trying to kill her.” Rath quipped.

“What that little thing?” Fenrin said. “I didn't kill you, get over it.”

Pelone’s eyes closed to daggers, focused on Fenrin’s wide eyes. “Stay.” She said as if talking to a domesticated animal. Fenrin puffed out air and didnt move. “Alright.” Pelone began, taking a seat across from them. There seemed to be no table, just chairs of varying quality scattered about. “What do you really want?”

“We told you.” Nekra began, but Pelone cut him off with a wave of her feathered arm.

“You told me you wanted to help, but what are you gaining out of it?” Pelone stated.

“Good you already figured we would ask for something.” Rath began. The group turned a curious eye to Rath. “We will help you, get you guys away from the threat of those monsters, in return you help us in Criss.”

Pelone snorted, a small smile cracking her face. It was as if she had heard a hilarious joke. “How are we expected to help a village hundreds of miles away?”

Rath tilted his head. “By bringing your people there, I thought that was clear.”

Pelone laughed out loud. “Not a chance!”

“Why not?” Rath questioned. “You were willing to for Chaoram.”

“I moved a few of my sisters to Chaoram’s castle.” Pelone stated. “Not my whole family.”

Rath smiled at the statement. “Sorry, but I can't offer protection like Chaoram, I can only offer sanctuary.”

Pelone squinted at Rath. “And what would my people be doing exactly?”

Rath looked towards the ceiling. “I don't know, what can Harpies supply?”

Pelone snickered at that. “You haven't thought this through at all, your just saying things aren't you.”

“I thought this out.” Rath explained. “I dont see why your people cant come to Criss, Nagas and Kobolds are welcome, so are Harpies.”

Pelone sighed. “And how much food does Criss produce? You probably have enough to get through the winter, and get a head start for spring, but I have several hundred Harpies here. Did you think about what that influx in food usage would do to the village?”

Rath hadn't considered it. They did have a backup of food that could take care of a couple hundred Harpies, but more than that would be risky. He cursed to himself as he realized he had not fully mastered the knowledge he had learned from Chaoram. Pelone caught sight of Rath’s self loathing.

“I thought so.” Pelone said with a smile as if she won.

“Stop acting like you don't have an answer for that.” Malphis chimed in. Everyone turned to the Goliath as he stared his orb like eyes at Pelone. “Harpies are natural hunters, and hunting in the colder climates is no issue since you spend so much time in the north. Your people could hunt enough food to bring in ample supplies.”

Pelone grinded her teeth. “Yeah we could, but why would we huh?” she said annoyed. “You take us from our mountains and shove us in a small village, just for Tirim and some adventurers to destroy us?”

Rath took note of what Pelone said. “You stay, you die, you leave, you die, is that what you think?” Rath questioned.

“Augurials aren't as strong as Adventures.” Pelone said, annoyed. “We can fight them back over time, maybe.” Rath took note of Pelone’s hesitation.

“Or you could leave with us.” Rath explained. “We can make space for all of you, it would take time but we could.”

Pelone shot her daggered look at Rath. “Its not happening.”

Nasui sighed. “But we can all benefit from you coming to Criss, yes Tirim is a threat but we have a unified force.”

“And they have an army in each city that is twice the size of that unified force.” Pelone explained.

Rath grit his teeth before he spoke. “Tirim wont be a problem long.” The words shocked everyone around, even Malphis. “I plan to meet with their king, demand our freedom from them, a peace treaty of sorts.”

“And should he refuse?” Pelone questioned.

Rath didn't answer, he remained quiet for a moment. “You still would be safer in Criss than here.”

Pelone looked low for a moment. “No thank you.” she said with a wave of her hand.

“Sister.” Came a voice from the door, below Fenrin a smaller Harpy snuck in. “Why not?”

“Was she here the whole time?” Nekra asked Fenrin.

“Oh yeah, she never left.” Fenrin said casually, his head still sticking in the tarp. “Didnt have a reason to tell her to leave.”

“We could use the help, that is why you asked the Demon Lord in the first place.” the harpy said.

“You realize that it would mean moving our entire people south?” Pelone said to the girl. “Transporting people that far is hard enough.”

“We have a teleporter not far.” Malphis explained. “It still works back in the castle.”

Pelone shot an angry glance at Malphis. “We still would be entering a war zone, maybe not at first but this guy is dangerous.” She said the last part pointing at Rath.

“But the other one helped us.” The harpy said, looking at Rath with a nice smile. “And he is like him.”

“He absorbed him!” Pelone yelled out sharply, causing the younger Harpy to flinch. “He took away our protector! You really want to live with someone like that?”

The smaller looked at Rath, taking in his appearance. “I don't think he's a bad guy.”

“You never met him before!” Pelone said loudly.

“Instincts are our greatest weapon.” The smaller harpy said with a smile.

“Don't you throw my words back at me you brat!” Pelone said, though she seemed playful in how she talked. “My instincts tell me not to trust him!”

“I think your instincts are stupid.” The smaller harpy said with a laugh.

“Why are mine stupid huh!” Pelone yelled out.

“Cause you didn't like him from the moment he became a Demon Lord, the others told me so.” The harpy said. “Did you even give him a chance?”

Pelone squinted her eyes, she shot a look at Rath and sighed. “Will you guarantee my people's safety?”

“Of course.” Rath began. “Any who try to hurt a citizen of Criss will face me.”

“Lame.” Pelone said. “Cringy and lame. What do the harpies have to provide and what benefits do we get besides protection?”

“Harpies will help with the farms, and hunting. Any that are willing to assist in defense would be appreciated but not forced.” Rath began to explain. “Construction would be helpful, and scouting since you have aerial advantage. You will have the benefits of our mines and farms, housing and all that we can provide. We will even set land aside for you once we have a better estimate of your numbers. As well, your people are welcome to our village council.”

Pelone sighed, looked at the smaller harpy, sighed louder. “Fine!” She yelled out. “Let me talk this over with the rest of the harpies, we will give you an answer in the morning, should we agree we will leave tomorrow.”

“You can mobilize everyone that quickly?” Nasui questioned.

“We dont keep much.” Pelone explained. “It will take us all short time to gather our stuff.”

Rath bowed his head to her. “Thank you.”

Pelone gave him a disgusted face. “Please dont do that ever again.”

“There is something else.” Malphis said, facing Pelone. “You must swear allegiance to Rath.”

Pelone gave an even more disgusted face. “Why in all the Hells would I do that!”

“Because you serve as the harpies leader.” Malphis said. “And you will be under Rath’s rule, it is expected the same as you did for Chaoram.”

“I actually prefer you not.” Rath began. “Instead I would prefer you to swear allegiance to Criss. Swear that you will protect your home and do what you can to help it flourish.”

Pelone looked away. “If we agree to go there, I will swear allegiance to the village.”

Malphis shot Rath a look. The young harpy girl began to lead them to a cave they could spend the night in while the other harpies spoke. The cave had several bed rolls, extras even.

“Why did you not let her declare herself to you?” Malphis asked Rath when the group was alone.

“I don't enjoy people being dedicated to me, I already got Nasui for that.” Rath laughed. “I want the people of Criss to focus on what is best for the village, not just appease me. If they declared allegiance to me, whatever I say is law. However, if they dedicate themselves to the village they focus on what's best for everyone, even if it goes against what I say.”

Malphis nodded along as he spoke. “I understand what you are saying,” he said. “As such I will let the matter sit for the moment, but we should discuss this more in the future.”

“Of course Malphis, thank you.” Rath said, bowing his head.

“Stop that.” Malphis said. “You are a leader, you do not bow to those below you.”

“I dont see anyone as being below me.” Rath said.

Malaphis sighed. “As you say. We should be prepared for tomorrow, if i'm going to teleport so many harpies I will need all the energy I can get.”

“Could I help?” Rath offered. “I seemed to have energy to spare recently.”

Malphis pondered it for a moment. “That may work, though I will still have to be there, so the two of us could do it.”

“Great, then you three can serve as guards for them, is that okay?” Rath questioned. Nekra and Nasui nodded to Rath, Fenrin simply pouted in the corner, snot running from his nose from the onslaught of snow.

“I dont wanna.” Fenrin said, holding his arms. “That bird sucks.”

“Fenrin please.” Rath pleaded.

“Please don't do that either.” Malphis said quickly.

“Fine.” Fenrin said without much fuss. “I'll take up the rear though, if we are attacked by those other birds it'll most likely be from there, and I want to kill something.”

“I can take the middle.” Nekra said. “Since I can fly I can easily get to the front and back, providing support where it's needed.”

“Guess I am leading then.” Nasui said.

“In that case you all should rest up as well.” Rath explained. “We have a long day ahead of us.”

With the command from their lord, they all began to lay in their beds. Fenrin laid silently, unable to sleep. He way to pent up. He wanted to fight something. Pelone’s words echoed in his head, the way she looked down on him pissed him off. Before he knew it the sun was up, and the voices finally quieted as the others began to stir. 

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