Chapter 47:


How I (Accidently) Became a Demon Lord

Nekra flew up in the darkness, the dragon skull above a silhouette in the night. He stayed close to the cliff wall, hoping to avoid the gaze of the city guards. He felt the pull hard as he closed the distance, floating in front of the skull, his wings flapping every few seconds to keep him up.

“Who are you?” a voice echoed in his head.

“The one you called out to.” Nekra said confidently, his voice a hush to avoid the sea carrying it to someone.

“Ah, the shaman.” The voice said, almost jovial. “You are no longer required, my pain has been removed.”

“So you are that skull, are you alive?” Nekra asked.

“Not quite.” The voice responded. “I am still alive, just in this land.”

“The land itself?” Nekra asked, he bobbed low as he was surprised. “How? What?” He was surprised.

“You know nothing, little shaman.” The voice echoed, its voice harsh on his ears. “You use our souls, which we allow you, but do not know about how they form. Not all dragons die, I am simply one of them.”

Nekra felt a slight bit of offense. “I'm sorry for not knowing about dragon life cycles, but I haven't seen one in this land. The souls who do help me dont talk much, I've tried.”

A sigh echoed in Nekra’s ear. “There are several ways that a dragon can die. Either but force, or by age.”

“Dragons can die of old age?” Nekra questioned. “I've never heard of such a thing before.”

“Because it happens rarely and when it does it is rarely documented.” The dragon’s voice echoed in his mind. “And it isn't quite age, I just use the term since it is close to what you would understand. A dragon’s age is not defined by the cycles of seasons, moons, or any passage of time you mortals would use. Our age is defined by experience and personal collections. Once a dragon has achieved all it can, it will ascend beyond itself, as I have.”

“But you are still here?” Nekra asked. “Your skull stands out of the stone, and you felt pain from the spear.”

“You are correct, this is still my body.” The dragon said calmly. “I have just ascended beyond the need to eat, sleep, or any other physical needs. My body has melded with the earth, and created this part of the land. A dragon sanctuary.”

“Dragon sanctuary?” Nekra questioned.

“Place of safety for dragons, somewhere those who hunt them would be unable to find.”

Nekra chuckled. “You're lying.” He said. “Rath told me how dragons haven't been spotted in Tirim for a long long time, even before this current king.”

“Yes.” The voice echoed. “You are correct, once this was a sanctuary, where dragons could fly about and rest at ease. It was when the humans arrived here on our coast, set themselves a home, and hunted my kind, that was when it stopped being a sanctuary. Now dragons avoid my sanctuary, knowing that it would mean death to come here.”

Nekra thought for a long moment. “I'm sorry this has happened to you.” He said somberly. “I don't know that I can change that, but I need your power, so please help me.”

“I will not.” The voice replied. “Leave me now.” The voice was assertive and direct, he was not moving.

Nekra grit his teeth. “I'll be back tomorrow night,” he said. “I need whatever you can give me, and soon. So I'll visit you again and again.”

“I will tell you the same answer each time, shaman.” The voice spoke.

“And I will come back till you change it.” Nekra said, letting his body fall away from the skull. He felt so angry as he flew away close to the ground towards the forest. He had failed.

Malphis wasnt a fan of the sewer grate they used to enter Pierce, but he did not outwardly complain. Yaki had it worse as her lower legs were far more exposed then his. Though if she felt uncomfortable she didn't show it. It was too hard to read her behind that mask, why had Rath allowed her in so easily? Rath was too trusting, that could hurt him in the future. The second someone betrays that trust it will break him.

Blood. The taste filled Malphis' mouth, he had bitten down on his inner lip subconsciously. That's right, he had already broken that trust, he had lied to Rath. They had to die, atleast at the time. Licking his wound, Malphis continued on.

The city was quiet when they emerged from the sewers. They were in the lower city, a market place nearby. Normally these streets would be packed with people, but due to the hour it was mostly dotted with drunkards and whores. Malphis had to hoist himself out of the sewer, then reached down to lift Yaki.

Yaki was using her illusion magic on herself, making her appear like a girl from the village. Elane, Barder’s wife, she looked unassuming enough. They needed to remove the stench of the sewers first, no one would interact with someone who smelled as they did. They used a fountain to wash themselves, not so much that they were too clean, they needed to be a little dirty. Then, they waited.

When the sun had risen they split into two groups, Malphis would hit the taverns and talk to the adventurers and off duty guards. Yaki went off to talk to the common people, Malphis was surprised that she was able to quiet her strange speaking habit, copying a standard women's speech patterns perfectly. Malphis walked the streets between taverns, he had a high tolerance for alcohol so as long as he didn't overdo it he could hit quite a few taverns in a single day with at least one drink.

The massive castle loomed over the western sky, during the sunset it would probably cast a terrifying shadow on the people. Malphis took this into account, he had to change the view of these people. He memorized the ways to the different districts, the market district was packed with many people but it was the industrial district that he would get the most success in. Most taverns in the market district were busy at all hours but set at nightfall, but the industrial taverns were designed for the workers on their breaks, it was quieter for the people's liking. Guards would frequent these to get away form the hustle and bustle.

Yaki would have taken to the market district, Malphis worried about how she would fare considering her dislike of large crowds. He also worried about her illusion not standing clear in the large groups. Illusion magic failed once someone started noticing inconsistencies. One such would be how her face looked slightly larger than it should be, on account of her covering her mask with the illusion. Once the mind began to notice the strangeness of an illusion it wouldn't be long before it all failed and the spell broke.

The first day was successful, people in the taverns listened to what he had to say. Malphis had taken on the role of an Adventurer that had seen what happened, mentioning how the king denied the challenge out of cowardice, describing how he was shaking where he stood, and people listened. The story was heightened all the more as a soldier who actually was on the wall agreed with Malphis, though he had not recognized the goliath who was a part of the invading force. When he entered the last tavern for the night he had found a group of people already spreading the word, some even saying how their wife heard the same thing.

“Yaki did well.” Yaki stated, her illusion breaking.

“Apparently so.” Malphis said. The two were hiding between buildings in a quieter part of town. Malphis munched on some dried meat he had bought, Yaki keeping her food to the side for when Malphis went away. “We should try a different part of the city tomorrow.”

“Yaki noticed something.” Yaki stated. “People talking about how the king sent his personal guard away.”

Malphis raised an eyebrow at this. “That doesn't seem good, why?” He thought long on it before he realized. “They figured out our plan in advance.”

“That would be bad, Yaki thinks!” Yaki said panicked.

“Maybe.” Malphis thought hard. “Can we take advantage of this?”

“Yaki is unsure.” Yaki said.

“We could try to flip this on him?” Malphis questioned. “Maybe say that lessening his guard is for show but he hired Adventurers to secretly guard him? Don't think it will change his appearance to them though.”

“Yaki can look into it.” Yaki explained. “Yaki can sneak in and observe.”

“Find out if any staff is still on hand and try to fill in there.” Malphis said, still contemplating. “I'll take care of spreading the word in the meantime, just don't get caught.” He still didn't trust her, but he didnt have alot of options. Though she most likely wasn't working for Tirim at the very least. Malphis tasted blood again. He was suspicious of her, yet what about him? “Make sure to eat.” Malphis said, keeping the blood from showing.

Yaki nodded, then began to move out of the alley. She recreated her illusion as she moved out. Malphis stood for a moment, then pressed his back to the wall, sliding down till he sat firmly on the ground. This was exhausting to him, he was still following Charoam’s orders though, and he would never fail his god. 

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