“Llorden will cease to exist? Please clarify what you mean by this.”
With Madame Sorena’s stern look, there was no way in hell I can interject regarding Vai’s earlier comment without ruining the mood.
“… the Serpent’s Shadow have rooted themselves deeply in this city… recently, have you people noticed any subtle changes within the populace? The soldiers? The adventurers?”
I don’t really remember much when I entered the city, but then again, much of my thoughts lacked focus before. I did notice there was a lack of activity for a city, but I didn’t think much of it. I should be ashamed…
“Hmm… rather than subtle, I’d say it was more abrupt. A few months back, Llorden was generally still a bustling city. It wasn’t until the arrival of that strange caravan that the city started to quiet down. A black carriage followed by a large group of cloaked people entered the city through the Northern gate… the one within the Margrave’s mansion…”
This Margrave sounds like a shady character to me if he let a group like that in. On the other hand, how often can you find not-shady nobles? Thanks to the fantasy genre in games and literature, I’m now afflicted with such a stereotypical way of thinking about nobles in general.
“I’m surprised you knew of our method of arrival, but yes, we have indeed entered the city using the entrance within the Margrave’s residence. Also… we weren’t alone…”
“… the False Church of Seraphaem?”
“That is correct. In truth, the “church” commissioned the Serpent’s Shadow for a job. I do not know the details, but I know it involves all the lives within Llorden. My former master had spoken of it before as he tortured the Margrave.”
Eh? Wait a minute, didn’t the Margrave let these guys in?
“I see the confusion in your eyes, my Master. The Margrave was indeed not involved with us. With a trap, he had captured the Margrave and has subjugated his forces within Llorden. That is how we were able to enter without notice from its citizens.”
Well, she answered my inner question for me, but it seems Madame Sorena isn’t convinced.
“Are you saying Margrave Harkwall was captured? That… can’t be possible! Harkwall is the First Guard and he earned that title years ago! His current strength could possibly even eclipse the Grey Lion’s when he was at his prime! Even a full legion of knights couldn’t stop him when he gains momentum in combat. Are you truly referring to Harkwall?”
Grey Lion? The only one I could think to fit that title is Gren. If what she’s saying is true, that means this Margrave Harkwall is even stronger than Gren when he was younger. Seeing Gren in action in that fight with the Avatar, even I’d hesitate to face him head on, and now she’s saying there’s someone this strong despite being human?
“Indeed, the very same. The Shadow’s order is old… practically ancient… their power and influence runs deep in every corner of this world. Very few know of their existence, but what many know of them is barely only the surface of the truth… …My Master… “
At this point, Vai turned to look at me with her ears plopped down and concern in her eyes.
“I know of your power… but please… you must never fight the one called Vulkratos. His power… is unfathomable… even Margrave Harkwall was simply toyed by him, and he was the very reason the Margrave was caught at all. Cyril the Red may be strong… but he was new to his power… Vulkratos… is not.”
I frowned as I heard this. Madame Sorena already pointed out how strong the Margrave is and now Vai is telling me that this order has someone capable of toying with him. This speaks volumes of this individual’s power and I can’t say I’m happy to hear about him being one hell of a challenge especially when everyone in the city’s lives are at stake.
Of course, just telling me he’s super strong doesn’t cut it, so I had to ask, “This… Vulkratos… what is he? And should he interfere with us, how should I deal with him?”
“I… am not sure. I have never seen him fight and I was assigned a different mission when he fought the Margrave. I only know that he is as old as the order and that… even some of the Elders feared him.”
Great… this just keeps sounding better and better. The only thing missing is some sort of moniker or title that everyone knows him by. Being some sort of secret weapon in an old order, I doubt he’d have one though.
“Though I know not his powers nor what he is, I do know of what he is referred to within the order. He is fearfully called… the Deathless.”
I stand corrected.
“That is the only clue to his power I can give… rumors within the order speak that he is immortal… that he cannot die. I can only pray it isn’t true.”
Fuckin’ Great. Though I shouldn’t really underestimate him, I can think of a few ways I can deal with those who simply can’t ‘die’. But that’s assuming that’s all there is to his abilities, and that’s a definite way to quickly getting myself corpsed.
“I’ll deal with him when the time comes, but I think we should probably get to the point of the matter. You said that the city itself is at risk, but you haven’t really said why.”
“I second Camus. Vai, please tell us. Why do you say the city is in danger?”
Vai visibly tensed when we asked her. With a deep breath, she finally responded… and then we realized how massive a headache the situation is.
“Underneath Llorden… the order has awakened a giant Nest… a Nest… of Devils…”
As soon as Vai said those words, Madame Sorena immediately left for the Adventurer’s Guild. She told me to inform Miss Arwen if there’s more to hear since she can’t delay informing the Guild regarding the situation. While I felt like she could have sent a messenger instead, Miss Arwen appeared out of nowhere and informed me that Madame Sorena would need to use her powers to confirm the validity of Vai’s claim with the Guild Head present so that they can act immediately.
“I understand a Nest being underneath the city is a pretty big deal, but why didn’t Madame Sorena stay to hear the rest? Wouldn’t it have been better to head to the Guild after gaining more information like where the entrance to the Nest is?”
“You… do not understand… since… you do not live here…”
Riiight… I’ve only noticed but… Miss Arwen seems to like taking pauses between words… I dunno if it’s a quirk of hers or she just likes talking that way. In any case, that doesn’t really answer my question.
“I… understand your confusion… Llorden… isn’t just… an ordinary city. It is a city… designed to face Argodia’s enemies… that… and more. When you arrived here… did you notice anything… about the city?”
“You mean anything besides the strangeness caused by the Serpents?”
Hmm… when I first arrived, all I thought was that I finally got to the city. Also, all I kept thinking about after that was getting most of my business out of the way like showing myself at the guild, and finding lodging. Now that I think about it… I was really absent-minded for the most part…
“You… really didn’t…notice?”
Miss Arwen narrowed her eyes as she looked at me. Her judging stare hurts, so I just ashamedly looked away.
“*sigh*… not sure how deep problem of madlust goes... but you must learn of what is important… your mark of Mithril should not be just for show… I trust you understand?”
I simply nodded in response while not saying anything more in hopes that we could just forget about this topic.
“Very well… Llorden… is generally shaped like a big bowl… or to be more precise… a funnel. In the center is a tower, secretly an entrance to the Nest below… once, it was a Devil’s Nest.”
Huh… now that I think about it, I did think it was odd that the Adventurer’s Guild was situated close to the center of the city. Whould’ve thought there was a Nest in the center?
“Back in the time of the Kingdom Wars… a large Nest was found… the first of its kind… so large was the Nest that it couldn’t be cleared completely… the city of Llorden was built upon it to suppress the Devils it spawned… more than five kingdoms aided in the city’s creation during the advent of the first High Table of Kings…
In time, the Nest became dormant… almost forgotten… that is until today…”
“Hold on… So from what I could understand… basically this city was designed to keep a large Nest from unleashing its monsters?”
“… in a sense… yes. But not just any monsters… Devils… the fiends of the Undervoid…”
Undervoid… from what I remember learning about this world; the Undervoid should be this world’s closest version of hell. Very few places could compare to it in terms of vileness and depravity.
Then there’s the actual Void, which I managed to rip through a hole before – a massive space that separates this world between the other planes that exist around it. It’s not really a place of darkness, but there are still some fearsome yet enigmatic entities that are said to thrive within it, though not much is known about it in entirety.
Another place of supposed evil that actually exists within the plane of this world is the Netherdark… I don’t know much of this place due to some missing records, but it’s said to be the "home" *cough*prison*cough* of the Dark Gods. Knowing it exists in the same plane as this world means it’s simply like another continent I can get to, only I have to find it first.
There are other places still, like the domain of the Undead, but those things should be left for another time.
“Devils eh… from what I recall, they shouldn’t be a problem as long as we have the support of any of the religious orders… but…”
Arwen nodded solemnly on my words since she understood what I implied.
“Indeed… from what we’ve learned… because of the extreme actions of the Church of Seraphaem... the Church of Dominion… the power of the other churches within the city... have been thinned out… Now ruled by fanatics who perverted the Laws of Authority… the divinity within the city has been weakened…”
Damned heretic hypocrites… I heard Seraphaem is supposedly the strongest among the Light Gods, so why can’t he get his shit together and properly deal with his people? I probably shouldn’t be saying this considering how gods usually are (at least as depicted in novels) but if the Dark Gods are so active, then why can’t the Light Gods? And they’re the ones who are supposedly not imprisoned… There better be a good reason for this BS.
I was still in the middle of my annoyed ramblings when the bunny girl slowly raised her hand.
“Um… if I may. We may not be able to stop the seal on the Labyrinth from fully opening, but… there might be a way we can help strengthen the city’s forces.”
Arwen reacted immediately when she heard that and suddenly stood uncomfortably close to Vai.
“Do you speak truly!? Please… tell us what you know!”
I can visibly see her sweat as she tried to explain, “Months before, just before the Serpent's Shadow arrived within the city, the former leaders of the Dominion Church’s faithful have been imprisoned on claims of heresy. If we could free them, they may be able to rally the remaining true priests and clerics who are in hiding or forced out of the city.
With their attained faith, killing them would have been sensed by Lord Seraphaem thus rousing his anger, so the false leaders chose to remove their influence and positions instead.”
I see… I didn’t think that there were real church leaders that were imprisoned and simply thought the churches were corrupt. I really shouldn’t judge religious entities based on what I read in fictional literature.
“Now the only problem remains… is that they are imprisoned underneath the head temple… guarded by the entire false Church… and one of the most cunning and sinister of the Serpent’s Order Masters… my former mentor… Korvo... the Crow Herald.”