Chapter 40: Alliance of Beasts and Men
Vilnol walked with Knight Commander Rober as they trudged through the muck that was the streets of Peelers Pit. This situation was strange to say the least. They were both in common clothes with nothing but simple swords at their waists. Vilnol wasn’t afraid of being robbed, he used to be a Mithril Ranked adventurer and now he was the leader of the Adventurers guild. If he could kill basilisks he could handle any thugs that lived in this cesspit.
Still the thugs… they all took one look at the pair of them and they almost seemed to scurry away in fear. They should have no idea who they are, yet Vilnol could sense their fear wasn’t for the two of them, it was for something else...
Knight Commander Rober had said this was of utmost importance. Vilnol respected his fellow member of the Council of Lords, the Knight Commander was a good man, an honest man. Vilnol knows Knight Commander Rober would not ask him to be here if it wasn’t important.
Eventually the pair reached an unassuming wooden door. Vilnol watched as the Knight Commander calmly rapped on the door with a pair of knocks. Vilnol heard the sound of latches being undone and a latch opened at the top of the door revealing a pair of eyes.
“The Red Hood comes.” Rober said calmly.
The latch slammed shut and the sound of more latches being undone were heard. Then the door was open and Vilnol followed Rober into a dark musty corridor. The events of the last months have been stressful to say the least. The appearance of the beast for one and then the loss of so many of his adventurer teams. It hurt his heart every time he got news that another team didn’t return or that a team of guards was lost as well. There were times where he was tempted to pick up his old sword and go into the forest himself. But again and again, he chided himself, remembering that his fighting days were over. With him half way through his fifth decade on this world he would be just another meal for the beast. No, his experience and leadership was what his younger fellows needed most...
As Vilnol walked deeper underground his keen ear picked up something odd. Was that music? A harpsichord… and… he heard a pair of voices singing, one female, the other low and rumbling… one of them sounded really familiar…
The low voice was singing now and it was loud. Vilnol could hear his voice rumbling through the walls…
When once, long ago, I was worn down and abused
The strongest took the spoils, and then we fell at their shoes
Then Vilnol heard the more familiar female voice sound out.
But now they are gone, and my sanity's kept by my chains
So I bear them both in faith, for my birthright and all that remains
Then the male voice again
Fight, to ignite, not for gods nor the coming of night
If I am the last to fall, then I am growing in might
Now switching back to the female voice… It was an oddly beautiful duet. The pair of voices seemed to go well together when they for all intents and purposes they shouldn’t.
For fear and for mine, and survival when push comes to shove
The red hood is coming home...
With the heir of old and ancient might…
With that Vilnol opened the door and what he saw almost made him draw his sword, but what he saw next would have made him drop it.
Before him stood a face he thought he would never see again, and behind her stood a visage he never wanted to see…
“Hello Vilnol, I hope the years have been kind.” Cecilia said as she stood up from the seat in front of the harpsichord.
“Princess… I thought you were dead.” Vilnol said in shock as he turned to look at Rober but he saw him looking up at the massive beast behind her eyes wide in shock.
“So that’s why all the adventurers died…” Rober muttered as he gazed at the massive creature. The Princess was telling the truth, if they chose to fight this thing... the only thing left of Averlon will be rubble...
“You didn’t know? I thought you knew, isn’t that’s why you brought me here?” Vilnol asked in confusion.
“I knew about her majesty’s alliance with the great beast, she told me fighting it was folly but I have never seen it myself.” Rober replied.
“I see… but your majesty, how are you alive?” Vilnol asked.
Cecilia smiled as she calmly began to explain...
As I listened to Cecilia spin her little lie I could see the old leader of the adventurer guild start to tense. To be fair it is a lot to take in, and honestly right now, I don’t think there is anyone in Averlon who can stop me. I can raze this city to the ground if I wanted to just by myself. Throw in my army and I’m sure I can level this region until nothing is left but rubble.
But why would I do that? As the Eternal Mother said, tribute does not flow from a dead race, or in this case it’s more like dead nations. With the danger of Tralis on the horizon it shouldn’t be that hard to sway the people of this nation to Cecilia’s side.
The throne as it stands is as good as hers, even if subtlety fails we now have brute force as a solution. I’m sure we can think of something if we have to resort to that. We can always use the Tralis fear mongering thing as justification for me kicking down the front door in the event of that eventuality.
Now the real question is not Averlon but the region. I want the whole region under my thumb because of one simple reason… me and Cecilia’s co-owned thumb anyway. This place used to be a part of the Elysian Empire and Tralis was part of the Volerian Empire. From what I’ve read about them, many of the old empires have a tendency to have secret vaults. Some hide treasure and powerful artefacts, those might be useful if I create some creatures that can use them. But what I am most interested in is that the Elysian Empire used to field monsters in their armies and some vaults may contain some of those monsters. Who knows what might be in there, because now I don’t grow strong alone. With every ounce of strength I gain, my hive grows stronger too. So with control of the region I can start to hunt for these vaults.
Yeah I want all the shinies…
“But your majesty… how do you know you can… trust… it.” Vilnol said cautiously
“Because I have no reason to betray you.” I said as I lowered my head and loomed over the small little human. He took a shaky step back but he held his ground at the end... brave or perhaps foolish?
“Where are we right now? I am inside your little city. I can burn this place to the ground if I wanted to, why use subterfuge when I can take it at my leisure?” I said as I slithered closer and bent down until my face was almost right on top of him.
“Then what is to stop you from killing us all?” Vilnol asked as he put his hand on his sword.
Cecilia told me this might happen. You don’t just forget the fact that you spent your whole life fighting monsters afterall. The Averlon Beastiary Institute and the Adventurers Guild often get into disagreements on how to handle monsters. The Beastiarians often wanted the monsters for study but the Adventurers just wanted to kill them and be done with it.
“Hahahaha…” I laughed and I saw Volnil’s eyes narrow slightly.
“You humans are so hung up on appearances… nothing much has changed I see…” I said with a wry smile.
“The answer is nothing, there is nothing to stop me from killing all of you. But I have no reason to… so I suggest you don’t give me a reason.” I said calmly.
“We were slaves to monsters once, the beasts were once our masters, but no longer.” Volnil said.
“And you think you are free? There can only be one who is free, he who stands above all. Everyone else kneels to something. Does it really matter if you kneel to a human with a shiny hat or a monster?” I asked.
“A human treats other humans with basic decency.” Vilnol retorted, at those words I smiled.
Hook, line and sinker… I love my new found intelligence…
If I pressure him I’ll get him to say what his real issue is. Once I figure out what the problem is, then I can try and fix it.
“Like your king? I heard one of your villages is rubble now. Or has the definition of decency changed these few thousand years?” I asked and I saw Vilnol eyes shift downwards, thoughts racing through his mind.
“What makes you think I won’t treat you all with decency? I don’t get pleasure from torturing you lot, there’s nothing in it for me. If I torment all of you, more of you will just try to kill me. It makes much more sense for me to help you and in exchange we cover each other. Isn’t it better to have allies rather than enemies?” I said as I backed off slightly, giving him some space.
“Do you know how long I’ve been alive? I’ve seen so many of you humans kill each other for stupid things. If anything monsters are far more reasonable, we at least kill for good reasons. Food, survival, potential threats, getting rid of really annoying individuals, we don’t kill just because we can. Not worth the effort honestly.” I said calmly, as I spotted Cecilia step forward.
“My friend here is very reasonable. You aren’t familiar with noble courts, the nobility can be as barbaric as any beast. My cousin, heaven protect her, has been sold to that brute in Tralis. Lady Sarana’s spies tell me that he defiles her every chance he gets. Her screams and sobs echo out into the night every time they share a bed.
My friend may be a monster but he is direct and to the point. He does not indulge in our silly games, nor has he any interest to play. I offered him a mutually beneficial agreement, that is why we are allied.” Cecilia said.
“What agreement?” Vilnol asked.
“Simple really. Oh yes you should also know I am not a solitary creature…” I said.
“What does that mean?” Vilnol asked warily.
“Well simply put, I am a leader of a Hive.” I said as I snapped my fingers.
Instantly around me some of my new toys exited invisibility. You see I’m a king now, and a king needs an honour guard. Or so Cecilia tells me anyway, adds to gravitas or something, helps me seem more human.
Six new creatures I have named Adjutants appeared, I have six more but I left them with Legiana just in case. They were humanoid in shape, similar in design to Legiana just that these were more combat focused. That had wider torsos and plair of bladed arms similar to mine. They had weaker secondary arms with taloned hands for grappling and in case they needed to do anything that required fine motor skills.
Unlike Legiana they were covered in armored plates and had much better physical strength. They were designed to look a bit like knights but the armor was not that heavy. My adaptations weren’t that good in terms of defence honestly. So I built them with offense in mind. I gave them digitigrade legs, the plantigrade legs that humans have would be better in terms of applying force but digitigrade legs could achieve higher speeds. So my idea was for them to hit hard and fast, end fights quickly or at least put up enough pressure for me or something else to intervene. Their role wasn’t full scale warfare, I had other designs for that role, these were more for indoor combat and to protect someone important.
On the note of defending someone important I gave them these wings that were covered in armored scales. It was an odd design yes and the weight meant they couldn’t fly that well. The wings were good enough for short flights like repositioning, not so much for sustained flight. But the armored wings did allow these guys to shield the important target from some light damage, well light is a relative term. I think they could eat a fireball but probably not a meter long ballista bolt or any of the really high damage attacks.
Of course since they needed to watch for threats I gave them a sensor dome so they could track enemies easier. As for the brain, well they were smart enough to do their job but not smart enough to do any fancy thinking on the level Legiana or the queens can.
As for how I got the power necessary to create these guys, well the hive took a while to tunnel to Averlon. It wasn’t enough time for me to convert some phoenixs using Mutagenic Parasite but there were still trolls living in the mountains. The trolls were just bad honestly, Armazaftund had better soldiers so I don’t see much need for them. Plus I could just put the troll traits into the soldiers so there wasn’t much reason to convert them. If they were smarter I would consider it since intelligence is by far the most expensive trait.
The phoenixes had enough innate power that converting them would be worth it plus they came with intelligence packed in so I would probably get around to assimilating them into the hive at some point.
“You are a Hive creature?” Volnil said as his face went pale.
Oh yes the adventurer guild leader would be very familiar with Hive creatures. Hives were limited by their strongest individual, but if I’m at the top imagine what my army is going to look like…
“Yes, if you are really curious I’m Elysia’s dirty little secret…” I said with a smile.
I now had a lot of information on the old empires thanks to the Eternal Mother’s memories. It was incomplete and disjointed at parts but that’s to be expected I could never fully assimilate memories from the stuff I eat. I mostly just get the important ones or at least the ones that stand out in the mind of the person or thing at the moment I ate them.
“Elysia?” Volnil asked.
“Why yes, I’m sure you know most of the old Empires had monsters in their armies. I was an ally. As for why, it’s simply because if I decided to wage war I would lose. But... I would do so much damage that the empire would fall as well. So with mutually assured destruction on the table they offered me a deal. If things ever got really dicy they could ask me for help.” I explained.
“Then how did you survive the great fall?” Rober asked, this was news to him as well.
“It’s a long story, I’ll tell you when you’re older.
I do owe some of my old friends many debts. They are dead and gone now, I don’t know where their descendants are, if not I would have sought them out. So I am no stranger to working with you humans.
With me on your side, you won’t have a bandit problem, your roads will be safe and I can even help you with farming and construction. My Hive is quite useful in that regard…” I said.
“And in exchange?” Volnil asked.
“In exchange the forest belongs to me, this is my home and I have had enough of you humans trying to storm my house and kill me. It’s very annoying…
Also I will get jurisdiction over the monsters in your territory. No more cullings, I will bring them to my side and I will keep them in check. You will provide the food needed for them to survive and with my help your farming output should increase so that won’t be a problem. You will respect my domain and I will respect yours.
In addition I hear you might have an invasion problem with a certain rogue state to the north. Let’s just say this is my home too and I would rather that idiot not mess up my house. If he decided to march south well… let’s just say he can try, corpses are food too…” I said calmly.
Volnil and Rober both looked down slightly as if lost in thought. I know this is a good deal, afterall they lose nothing practically and there are only benefits.
“Sounds fair? Well your princess thinks so anyway.” I said.
“It is a good exchange, it will only benefit us if you do as you say.” Volnil admitted cautiously.
“I think this is for the best, this is the wiser choice.” Cecilia said gently from the side.
“The people will suffer if we do not act, my father will run this nation into the ground and does my brother seem like a good ruler?” Cecilia asked, Their silence and averted gazes was all the answer she needed.
“Tralis is known to let their army rape and loot their way through cities. I will not let that happen to Averlon. That bandit prince thinks of us as easy prey, he thinks he can march into our home and face a calm breeze as resistance.
But no, I am Cecilia Averlon the rightful ruler of Averlon. My bloodline goes back to the aristocracy of the Elysian Empire. I will not let him do as he wishes. If he wants to face us thinking we will meet a light breeze we will show him a thundering gale.
I will break his ambition if he wants to test us.” Cecilia said, her regal bearing shining through.
“And you will help us in this fight?” Volnil asked, still struggling to believe a monster is willing to fight alongside them.
“If that Tralis prince wants to come down here I will show him why the Elysian Empire kept me as a secret trump card…” I said.
He can fuck around and find out...